Philly’s coronavirus response

First PA coronavirus cases are quarantined in Delco and Wayne County

Two people are “presumptive positive” for COVID-19, Gov. Wolf announced Friday.

An state health worker in Virginia adds chemicals in the second step of testing a sample for the coronavirus

An state health worker in Virginia adds chemicals in the second step of testing a sample for the coronavirus

Joe Mahoney / Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP

The novel coronavirus has reached Pennsylvania. Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday morning announced two individuals with presumed positive cases of COVID-19 — one in Delaware County and one in Wayne County.

Samples that tested positive are now on their way to the CDC for confirmation, said Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine. For privacy’s sake, officials aren’t releasing many details about the people under investigation, including exactly where they live or how old they are. Levine did confirm they are both adults.

“They are both at home, they are both in isolation or quarantine,” Dr. Levine said at a press conference. “They are also in good physical condition.”

Health officials will look for anyone who came into contact with the two people and quarantine them, Levine and her team confirmed, including their families.

The COVID-19 quarantines will last 14 days, and though there is legal weight behind them — people are required by law to stay home — they’re basically self-reported, as they have been across the U.S. The state has been in touch with the two people with presumptive positive cases via phone daily, according to Pa. Director of  Epidemiology Dr. Sharon Watkins.

These incidents are not related to the exposure that closed five Bucks County schools, per Levine. She also said they are not considered “community transmission” cases — both people are thought to have contracted the disease through travel.

Without providing more details, officials said one person traveled extensively in Europe and the other person was exposed in another state. Neither of them are thought to have moved around a lot or attended any large events in Pennsylvania upon their return.

Right now, all testing in Pa. is being done at the state lab in Exton — for free. There is no backlog of testing, Levine said, and the lab is about to ramp up capacity. While it can do 20-25 specimens per day now, by the weekend that’ll be up to 100-125 per day.

Levine also expects commercial labs to start testing soon, “likely billed to insurance.”

Gov. Wolf said he’d like to declare a public health emergency, but needs approval from the Pa. Legislature, which doesn’t return until next week. Instead, Wolf intends to make a “disaster declaration.” That doesn’t open up funding, but does give the ability to work across agencies — “like we do for the opioid crisis,” Wolf said.

How is the state paying for the COVID-19 effort? “We have funds internally that we’ve taken steps to access,” Wolf said, noting that’s how new equipment for the testing lab was procured. “If we get help from the federal government, that’ll be great,” he added.

What should you do about all this? Dr. Levine recounted advice you’ve heard already:

  • wash your hands with warm water and soap
  • cover coughs and sneezes into your elbow
  • clean surfaces
  • don’t touch your face
  • if you are sick, stay home

Although the state is not releasing details on how many people have been tested or are under investigation, Wolf said updates on presumptive positive COVID-19 cases will be given as soon as he has them.

Want some more? Explore other Philly’s coronavirus response stories.

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