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2020 News

Wolf Issues Stay-At-Home Restrictions as PA Deaths, Bucks Cases Rise

March 23, 2020

Contact: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 death toll rose to six and Bucks County’s positive cases jumped by nearly 50 percent today as Southeast Pennsylvania dug in against a worsening coronavirus landscape.

Gov. Tom Wolf ordered residents of Bucks and six other hard-hit counties to stay home for two weeks, while extending statewide school closures by another two weeks. Also included in the stay-at-home order were Allegheny, Chester, Delaware, Monroe, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties, which, along with Bucks, have accounted for 75 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases.

The order covers more than 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s population, or about 5.5 million people. Wolf stay home

“The novel coronavirus has halted life as we knew it,” Wolf said. “I won’t pretend that things will not get worse before they get better.”

Six people now have died from COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. Allegheny, Lackawanna, Monroe and Montgomery Counties have reported one death each, while Northampton County has reported two.

In Bucks County, 20 new positive test results brought the county’s total cases to 61. Dr. David Damsker, director of the Bucks County Health Department, attributed the spike to more testing becoming available.

Damsker said that the county has yet to have a clear picture of the effectiveness of recent social distancing measures and closings of schools and non-essential businesses.

Of today’s new cases, he said, “almost all of them were infected prior to the social distancing measures being implemented.”

Montgomery County closed all of its schools on March 12, and the next day Wolf shuttered schools throughout Pennsylvania. He followed that with restrictions on social interactions and orders to close non-life-sustaining businesses. Enforcement of the latter order began at 8 a.m. today.

“By the end of this week or early next week, the only positive cases should either be in people who have to go out to an essential job, or those that are contacts to confirmed cases in their household,” Damsker said.

Wolf’s office issued a detailed list of individual activities and essential travel allowed under the stay-at-home order: https://tinyurl.com/uff79lt

The order prompted Bucks County officials to close all county government buildings to the public, as well as the county parks system, while they assured residents that essential government services would continue.

County Commissioners’ Chair Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia urged the public to abide by Wolf’s directive. She strongly urged anyone leaving home for groceries, medicine or other essentials to go alone, and to keep a six-foot distance from others. Marseglia vid

“The most important part of this stay-at-home order is that it is helping us keep the calls to emergency services lower,” she said. “That means our police are not having to respond to as many instances, and there are less calls for ambulances and the emergency rooms. That lets us respond to the illness that is out there.”

Commissioners’ Vice Chair Bob Harvie called compliance with Wolf’s order “critically important” to stopping the spread of COVID-19. “This is a virus that feeds off of human interaction,” Harvie said. “If we can choke off that fuel to the virus by having everybody stay at home as much as possible, we can hopefully flatten the curve and save as many lives as possible.”

Two of the county’s COVID-19 patients remain hospitalized, Damsker said. One is in serious condition, while the other is in critical condition. Both are older adults with underlying health issues, he said.Map

Nineteen Bucks County municipalities have had at least one resident counted among the 61 coronavirus cases. A map showing those municipalities on the county’s data portal https://covid19-bucksgis.hub.arcgis.com/ will continue to be updated as new cases arise.

Bucks County Consumer Protection Director Michael Bannon said his department’s hotline at 1-800-942-2669 remained busy with questions and complaints as businesses, employees and residences struggled to discern what constitutes a “life-sustaining” enterprise.

“We understand that it is not easy for anyone to navigate the somewhat gray areas, us included,” Bannon said. “However, leaning towards safety first along with some common sense is the best way to go.”

Bannon directed businesses that have questions or that want to apply for an exemption waiver to visit  www.dced.pa.gov  for the most up-to-date information.