HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- In an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced a series of orders and advisories during a news conference Monday afternoon.
Levine urged all Pennsylvanians to avoid leaving their homes, unless it is absolutely necessary.
"Please stay at home," she said.
The guidance is an advisory, not a shutdown order, officials said. The administration said telework is now mandatory if it's possible.
Levine also issued an order to suspend alcohol sales at all bars and restaurants - for one night only - beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The order will stay in effect through 8 a.m. Thanksgiving Day.
The order comes as 4,762 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Monday in addition to the 7,075 cases reported Sunday for a two-day total of 11,837. The statewide total is now 314,401.
There are 3,379 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19, officials said. Of that number, 775 patients are in the intensive care unit and 371 patients are on a ventilator.
"This week's data, in terms of hospitalization increase, an increase in the use of ventilators, case increase and percent positivity are worrisome," Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said.
Statewide percent positivity for the week of November 13 - November 19 stood at 11.1%
Health officials said there were 69 new deaths reported this weekend for a total of 9,870 deaths attributed to COVID-19.
Striking nurses have returned to their jobs at Saint Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.
Nearly 800 nurses walked off the job last week to protest what they consider dangerous understaffing at the hospital.
At first, the nurses were expected to strike for two days, but the hospital decided to bring in temporary nurses. The walk-out ended up being extended another three days.
Talks will resume as the nurses return to work.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said Thursday the health department is monitoring both Pfizer and Moderna, who are close to finishing their Phase 3 trials for each of their COVID-19 vaccines, as the state reported more than 7,000 new cases.
Levine said soon after Phase 3 is complete, both companies will request an Emergency Use Authorization through the FDA. Once the FDA completes their review on the vaccines, the FDA will grant an EUA. The CDC will then review and provide recommendations for the vaccines.
When the companies are given the green light, she said the state will be ready but admits the process will be challenging.
"It could take a significant amount of time to immunize everyone in Pennsylvania. I anticipate will be wearing masks in 2021. Well into maybe the end of 2021," said Dr. Rachel Levine.
Once approved, the state Department of Health will work to ensure the vaccines are distributed from manufacturers to providers.
"It is important to remember that when the vaccines are available, there may be a limited supply, which means that not everyone will be able to get the vaccine right away," Levine said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health's vaccine plan has three phases of distribution.
The first phase: It will focus on reaching critical populations due to the limited supply, which includes health care personnel, EMS first responders, critical workers maintaining core functions and essential workers, people 65 and older, and residents in congregate care settings.
The second phase: The health department anticipates a large number of vaccines will be available.
"This will allow us to ensure that those in Phase One who were not yet vaccinated can do so," Levine said.
The department will then expand its efforts to targeted populations, including vulnerable populations and those with health conditions who may be at high risk.
The third phase: This begins when the state has sufficient supplies of the vaccine or vaccines.
"In this phase we will begin to ensure the entire population has access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations," Levine said.
If the Federal approval process remains on the track, Levine said, there could be a vaccine in the next month. However, she said, it is not known how quickly the vaccine supply will meet the demand.
"A lot will depend on how much vaccine we get, which will determine how many people we vaccinate and again both those produces require two vaccinations," said Levine.
Montgomery County health care worker, Kim Allen, volunteered for the Moderna vaccine trials. She is excited about the promising results.
"Our immunization programs in the United States are credited with having controlled and eliminated the spread of epidemic disease like small pox, measles, mumps, rubella," said Allen.
Pennsylvania health leaders said there will be logistical challenges and other obstacles with distributing and administering a vaccine to the entire state, but say they are ready and are confident it will be safe.
"Every treatment can have some side effects but there have been no serious side effects. Most of the side effects have been some soreness at the site, maybe some tiredness or headache but the evidence so far is that they are very well tolerated," said Levine.
Levine said while it's good news about the progress of the COVID-19 vaccines, it is important for Pennsylvanians to follow the targeted mitigation orders set in place.
"It is important to remember that when the vaccine becomes available, it will not be a cure - certainly not an immediate cure or end to the coronavirus pandemic," Levine said.
Bars and restaurant owners in the Philadelphia region are reacting to new restrictions that bring a screeching halt to sales on Thanksgiving eve. On Monday, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine ordered the suspension of alcohol sales at all bars and restaurants - for one night only - in an effort to slow down the rise on COVID-19 cases.
Throughout the country, the surge in COVID-19 cases is translated into a surge of hospitalizations, with ICU beds approaching capacity in many locations. On Monday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf sounded the alarm.
Starting Nov. 23, through December 6, all private and public schools in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania are ordered to go virtual in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19. For the last two weeks, concerned parents and students have protested as they fight against the order from county health officials.
As the second wave of COVID-19 hits the Philadelphia region, doctors and medical professionals discuss how the virus is impacting hospitals.
Pennsylvania is working to curb the sharp increase in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations by issuing strict testing guidelines surrounding people traveling to the state.
Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said the new requirements come as a new study from the IMHE at the University of Washington showed that Pennsylvania could run out of hospital ICU beds as soon as next month.
Philadelphia restaurant owners are hoping for booming outdoor dining sales as they have been forced to close their indoor dining rooms to patrons amid new COVID-19 restrictions.
Health officials in Pennsylvania's third-most populous county ordered schools 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.
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.
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 are urging caution ahead of the holiday season, asking that you think twice about traveling - and getting unnecessary COVID-19 tests.
As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, consumers are stocking up, and grocery stores are responding. But before you go on a spending spree, there are some things to consider.
As the U.S. sees a nationwide spike in coronavirus cases, the Centers for Disease Control released new mask guidance. The latest update says wearing a face-covering doesn't just protect the people around you, but it also protects the wearer from incoming virus projectiles.
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.