Pennsylvania reports 6,339 additional COVID-19 cases, marking highest 1-day total

Pennsylvania COVID-19 live updates, news and information

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020
How will officials enforce Pennsylvania's new COVID restrictions?
The guidance come as health officials confirmed 6,339 additional positive cases of COVID-19, marking the highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic.

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Pennsylvania is working to curb the sharp increase in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations by issuing strict testing guidelines surrounding people traveling to the state.

The guidance come as health officials confirmed 6,339 additional positive cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, marking the highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic. The statewide total is 281,852.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said the IMHE at the University of Washington showed that Pennsylvania could run out of hospital ICU beds as soon as next month.

Health officials said the new requirements come as a new study showed that Pennsylvania could run out of hospital ICU beds as soon as next month.

Among the new requirements: anyone who travels to Pennsylvania needs to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the commonwealth. If for any reason a person does not want to get tested, or cannot get tested, they must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The new policies go into effect at 12:01 a.m., Friday, November 20.

As far as enforcement goes, Levine said the expectation is people will comply.

"We're not looking to take people to court, but I do have that authority and so we cannot check every car driving into Pennsylvania and we have no plans to check everyone coming off every airplane," Levine said.

According to Nate Wardle, a spokesperson for the state's health department, the order is enforceable as a disease control measure under the Disease Prevention and Control Law.

So how much power does the government have to enforce such restrictions ?

Villanova Law Professor Michael Moreland says government entities may hope people listen to the orders and they never have to act

"There are protections against reasonable searches in ones home. The government has the ability to enact fines against people or to break up gatherings, but both from the standpoint of just logistics of enforcing these measures, and the optics of busting open peoples doors at Thanksgiving dinner, I think for all those reasons this is left up to peoples own abilities to take the advice that's being given to them," he said.

A Philadelphia International Airport spokesperson told Action News in part: "PHL supports efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the commonwealth. For those who must travel, the airport will remain operational, safe and accessible."

The spokesperson said at this moment, there are no additional mandates for screening from the FAA.

Health officials are also tightening mask-wearing requirements.

Levine said masks must be worn any time you are indoors with people outside your household, even if you can remain socially distant.

Dr. Rachel Levine say anyone traveling to Pennsylvania needs to get a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival.

Masks must be worn in every indoor facility, including schools; gyms; doctor's offices; public transportation; anywhere food is transported, packaged or served.

Pennsylvania health officials are also calling on colleges and universities to implement a testing strategy to prevent outbreaks and a plan for when students return to campus after the holiday break.

Colleges and universities should have adequate capacity for isolation and quarantine and should be prepared to enforce violations of established policies such as mask wearing and physical distancing, Levine said.

Health officials say there are 2,737 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. Of that number, 579 patients are in the intensive care unit.

According to the Action News Data Journalism team, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Pennsylvania is approaching the peak reported back in the spring.

Five of the 10 counties with the most hospitalized COVID patients in the state are in the Delaware Valley. The list includes: Philadelphia, Montgomery, Lehigh, Berks and Delaware counties.

"Hospitals should also be working now to move up elective procedures and prepare to reduce them if our health care system should become strained," Levine said.

Statewide percent positivity for the week of November 6 - November 12 stood at 9.6%.

PSAC cancels winter sports season

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference announced it is canceling all regular season and championships for winter sports due to the pandemic.

The board made the decision to cancel fall sports last week, including football.

The PSAC did say it would reinstate a championship season for any sport that has six or more schools commit to participating.

Those schools wishing to compete must express their interest by the end of the workday Wednesday.

Low percentage of Pennsylvanians cooperating with COVID-19 tracing efforts, officials say

Officials said a startling trend has begun in Pennsylvania. As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to climb, the number of people cooperating with the state's efforts to contact trace has plummeted.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said of those people contacted, only 16% were willing to say whether they visited a business or large gathering.

"More and more people are not providing this information as part of a case investigation. That's a real challenge for us," said Levine.

Contact tracing is a way for the state health department to contact people who have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

That way, those people know to quarantine to help prevent it from spreading any further.


Philadelphia announces new restrictions

Mayor Jim Kenney and Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley announced sweeping new restrictions during a news conference on Monday afternoon.

"I know these restrictions are tough. People are going to be put out of work, and some businesses may go under. We also know that the consequences to health of not doing it are really bad," Farley said. "If we do this right, our businesses will recover faster because the epidemic wave will subside sooner."

The new restrictions impact indoor and outdoor dining, schools, businesses and sporting events. CLICK HERE for the full list.

Montco Schools Ordered to go Virtual

Health officials in Pennsylvania's third-most populous county ordered schools Friday to temporarily halt classroom instruction in what they said was an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The Montgomery County Board of Health mandated that all public and private K-12 schools in the suburban Philadelphia county offer virtual instruction for two weeks beginning Nov. 23.

The unanimous vote came one day after dozens of parents and school administrators expressed vehement opposition to the plan, calling online education insufficient and accusing the health board of failing to present any evidence linking schools to the wider outbreak.

Board members said Friday that rising cases counts and hospitalizations, along with the potential that children will contract the virus over Thanksgiving break and then spread it in schools, required them to act.

"I completely understand their concerns," said board member Dr. Francis Jeyaraj, a pediatrician. "But these are difficult times for all of us. It's a total community effort."

The Montgomery County Office of Public Health said they will now vote Friday at noon on whether to start two weeks of virtual-only school beginning November 23.

Central Bucks School District has no plans to suspend in-class instruction

Sports and in-person classes will continue as planned for the foreseeable future for the Central Bucks School District, the third-largest in the state. The decision was confirmed by Superintendent Dr. John Kopicki, which resonated well with students and parents.

Delaware, Montgomery counties sounding alarm on COVID-19 surge

Officials in Montgomery and Delaware counties are sounding the alarm on COVID-19, warning that the surge is putting a strain on the hospital system.

Ivy League is canceling winter sports for the 2020-21 season

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FDA approves 1st rapid virus test that gives results at home

U.S. regulators on Tuesday allowed emergency use of the first rapid coronavirus test that can be performed entirely at home and delivers results in 30 minutes.

Health experts warn against holiday travel, unnecessary COVID testing

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As COVID cases rise, no need to stockpile supplies, expert says

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CDC says masks protect you, not just those around you, in updated guidance

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CDC releases updated guidelines for Thanksgiving

The CDC posted its most specific guidance yet on Thanksgiving Monday, which emphasizes that the safest option for the holiday is celebrating only with people in your household or taking extra precautions like wearing masks and keeping your distance if you celebrate with others.


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