The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed another 276 cases of COVID-19, along with four new deaths, bringing the statewide total to over one thousand cases as of March 25.
On Wednesday afternoon, the DOH confirmed 1,127 cases of COVID-19 reported from commercial, hospital and state laboratories, along with 11,193 patients who have tested negative, and 11 total deaths.
"More than 120 Pennsylvanians have required hospitalization since March 6, when we confirmed our first case of COVID-19," Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. "This is about 10% of the people who have tested positive. Approximately 38 of the total that have been hospitalized have required treatment in an intensive care unit, and about 18 of those have required the use of ventilators or breathing machines."
The new deaths were reported in Lackawanna, Luzerne, Northampton and Philadelphia counties.
At the moment, the bulk of the deaths due to COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – seven out of 11 – have occurred in counties within or surrounding the Poconos.
Statewide, Monroe County has reported one death due to COVID-19, Northampton has reported three, Lackawanna has reported two, Luzerne has reported one, Allegheny has reported two, and Montgomery and Philadelphia have reported one death each.
The increased caseload marks another daily jump of 32% in reported COVID-19 patients in the Commonwealth.
Those confirmed to have COVID-19 are either being treated at a hospital, or are in isolation at home, according to the DOH.
Monroe has led the regional count with 51 cases of the virus thus far. Carbon County has reported one case, while Lackawanna has 18 cases, Lehigh has 38, Luzerne has 27, Northampton has 44, Pike has nine, Schuylkill has six and Wayne has four.
"Our notable increase in cases over the past few days indicate we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously," Levine said. "Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now: stay calm, stay home and stay safe. We have seen case counts continue to increase and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home."
On Wednesday, St. Luke’s University Health Network issued a release confirming that community spread of COVID-19 – meaning the virus has been among members of the community within the community – had hit the Poconos and the Lehigh Valley.
"We’ve been tracking the number of cases," St. Luke’s infectious disease specialist and Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Jeffrey Jahre said. "Community spread indicates that the region will experience a rapid surge of cases in the next few weeks."
Wolf and Levine have both frequently noted that "flattening the curve" through social distancing and other mitigation efforts is integral to preventing Pennsylvania hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. Levine noted that Commonwealth hospitals have sufficient amounts of certain supplies, though some items – namely N95 masks and other personal protective gear – require the DOH to reach out for assistance throughout and outside the country.
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"There are approximately 3,400 licensed intensive care beds in Pennsylvania," Levine said. "Nearly 40% are still available, but that is a number that continually changes. There are approximately 3,000 ventilators or breathing machines that are available across Pennsylvania from health systems, emergency medical services, and what are available in our storage supplies. Nearly 75% of them are still available, but again, that is a number that continually changes."
In order to procure enough supplies to address a potential COVID-19 case surge, Wolf implored at Pennsylvanians to practice social distancing and to stay at home to stem the spread of the virus.
"Staying at home is vital to saving lives in our Commonwealth," Wolf said. "If our number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase at its current rate. our hospitals will soon be overwhelmed, so we need to buy time."
Wolf and Levine also added Northampton and Lehigh counties to their stay-at-home order list, which also includes Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Erie, Monroe, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties, as of Wednesday evening. Levine noted the increased number of cases and deaths in Northampton as driving factors to add the county to the list.
Residents in those counties are to stay in their homes unless they are required to leave for a life-sustaining reason, such as shopping for groceries or picking up prescriptions.
"We’re going to recover from this crisis, but first we must get through it," Wolf said. "Let’s do it together."
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