The coronavirus is spreading faster now than it did in the spring, and the number of cases is climbing each day. We’ll keep track of the virus’ spread and impact in this running live blog.
Nov. 24, 2020 // 5:34 p.m.
Pennsylvania could see more than 22,000 new coronavirus cases a day in December, Gov. Tom Wolf tweeted today.
Those numbers, which come from prediction models shared with Wolf’s administration, would represent a 300% increase in new coronavirus cases.
During the eight days from Nov. 14 to 21, the state averaged 6,258 cases a day.
And those numbers are a significant increase from October, when the state had never seen more than 3,000 cases in a day. November has seen the first days with 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, 6,000, and 7,000 new cases. —Patrick Abdalla
Nov. 19, 2020 // 2:54 p.m.
Levine Says Vaccines Could Be Available Within a Month
If the development of the coronavirus vaccines continues at its current pace, Pennsylvanians could begin seeing the vaccine within a month, state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said Thursday.
“We could have vaccines within the next month,” Levine said.
That is welcome news as the state—and nation—continue to reach record numbers of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
Nov. 19, 2020 // 9:28 a.m.
PUNXSUTAWNEY — The coronavirus pandemic means Groundhog Day won’t be the same in a Pennsylvania town long associated with a prognosticating rodent.
Organizers said Punxsutawney Phil will predict whether spring will come early or winter will last longer in 2021 without the usual crowds who gather at Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill just outside the town about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Phil and his inner circle on Feb. 2 will deliver the prediction virtually by means of a live internet steam and website, organizers said. “But it has been determined that there will not be any in person attendance or guests on the grounds as the potential Covid risks to overcome are too great,” they said.
Organizers will continue to monitor the pandemic.
“It is very unlikely, but it if it is determined that we can logistically and safety hold any in person activities related to Groundhog Day, we will make that information available if developed.”
The annual event has its origin in a German legend that says if a furry rodent casts a shadow on Feb. 2, winter continues. If not, spring comes early.
Records dating to 1887 show Phil has predicted longer winters more than 100 times. The 2020 forecast called for an early spring. —Associated Press
Nov. 19, 2020 // 9:18 a.m.
Gov. Tom Wolf joined six other northeastern state governors in asking residential colleges and universities to test their students for coronavirus before they travel home for the holidays.
They asked any student who tests positive to quarantine on campus before they go home.
“These efforts will help mitigate the threat of college students returning home for the holidays importing COVID-19 into their communities,” the governors said in a joint statement.
“The combination of rising cases across the country—including in the northeast,” the statement says, “due to increased transmission of COVID in small, residential settings and Thanksgiving travel has created the perfect storm for viral spread. If people proceed with celebrations in small gatherings outside of their immediate families, they risk generating a dramatic spike in cases after Thanksgiving.”
The governors also recommend the universities finish their fall semesters by expanding virtual learning.
If students do return to campus, they should be tested, the governors said.
“Colleges and universities should prioritize on-campus programs for students who did not travel or who need in-person exams or clinical and laboratory experiences,” the governors said.
The governors making the statement include Wolf, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, Delaware Gov. John Carney, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. —Patrick Abdalla
Nov. 18, 2020 // 5:12 p.m.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is distributing millions of rapid coronavirus tests it received from the federal government to vulnerable communities in counties with substantial spread of the virus.
State officials expect to get—and distribute—3.8 million tests before the end of the year.
Michael Huff, the director of testing and contact tracing for the state government, said the tests are one important way to get the virus under control. Quick test results allow those who test negative to go back to their normal coronavirus routines, while quick positive tests allow the contact tracing process to begin.
The tests are allotted to the state on a per-capita basis weekly by the federal government. The state started getting them in October and will continue to get them through December.
Huff said the state has gotten better at getting results back to patients in a quicker time than it did in the spring.
He admitted that some delays can occur. They can arise because of issues in the supply chain, like having enough plastic casings or chemical reagents that are used in the testing process.
Other mitigation issues like mask-wearing and social distancing are also crucial.
“If we can keep individuals away from other individuals if they have the disease and have no symptoms, we can control the spread,” he said.
He talked about another tool that could help in the fight against the pandemic: The Food and Drug Administration has approved rapid home tests that will soon become available. The tests will only be available by doctor’s orders and for people who are symptomatic.
“We’re very anxious to have that as another tool in our tool kit,” Huff said.
Huff reinforced the personal responsibility rhetoric regularly repeated by Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.
“Public health controls are only as effective as the public is willing to carry them out,” he said. —Patrick Abdalla
Nov. 18, 2020 // 12:32 p.m.
LANGHORNE — Hundreds of nurses have gone on strike at a Bucks County hospital, citing low staffing levels amid rising coronavirus cases.
The walkout that began at 7 a.m. Tuesday involves the 700-plus registered nurses at St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne and their allies in the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, the union they joined last fall.
The nurses said the main issue is low staffing due to low wages, and they fear the situation will only grow more dire as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise this winter.
“Nurses are literally fleeing to other hospitals 20 minutes away where they can make $6 to $7 more an hour,” nurse Kathy McKamey, who’s worked at St. Mary for 10 years, told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Trinity Health, the Catholic health system that owns St. Mary, said in a statement that it will hire “qualified, professional agency nurses” during the strike so that the hospital can remain open.
Officials said the union rejected a compensation offer that it called “very competitive for nurses working in Bucks County” while also taking into account the financial impact of the pandemic. They criticized the nurses for striking “when the country and our local community contend with a COVID-19 surge.” —Associated Press