Pennsylvania officials say number of new cases still rising, but slowing

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine reported 1,676 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday, bringing the state's total to 21,655. 

78 additional deaths were also confirmed, raising Pennsylvania's death toll from the coronavirus to 494.

Of the total cases, 1,067 are healthcare workers, and 1,409 are reported in 195 long-term care facilties such as nursing homes.

Despite the continuing spread of the virus, Levine said the state still has approximately 46% of hospital beds available, as well as 38% of its ICU beds and nearly 70% of ventilators. 2,189 patients are currently hospitalized and 617 are using ventilators or breathing machines.

She also said the predicted surge in cases through southeastern Pennsylvania is likely due over the "the next week or more," according to a model from the University of Washington.

While the state eventually will re-open for business, Levine said that cannot happen until the number of new cases drop significantly. While she could not give a date as to when that will will happen, she said when the governor does lifts restrictions on business and movement, it will be done in stages.

"We're going to be looking at the numbers of new cases and then we're also going to be looking at the numbers of new cases that are positive per capita and then when we see that the incidents are going down and that there is much less community spread, then that is the time in certain areas of Pennsylvania to lift the ban and to allow people to go out and then we're going to watch it really closely in those areas to make asure that there are no new spikes," she explained.

In the meanwhile, she urged people to continue to stay at home and only leave the house for essential purposes, while continuing to practice social distancing, which could mean stopping until another person passes, or even crossing the road.

And with Easter taking place this weekend, Levine acknowledged Pennsylvanians might not be able to come together with family over the holidays.

"While these are challenging and uncertain times, I am certain of one thing," said the secretary. "We will get through this because of each other, and we will be stronger for it."

Philadelphia gives update on new cases

Philadelphia health officials announced 359 new positive cases of coronavirus Saturday, raising the city's total to 6,152 cases.

23 new deaths were also reported, bringing Philadelphia's death toll to 160. 101 of those deaths were in people over the age of 70.

Five new cases in prison inmates were announced, bringing the total of positive cases in correctional facilities to 63. The Department of Public Health noted of clusters of positive cases in settings such as prisons, nursing homes, and behavioral health facilities.

Officials pointed out that the lower count of new cases is due in part to some labs not reporting over the weekend.

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley stressed the need to continue social distancing measures.

"We must continue to do our part to help flatten the curve in Philadelphia. We need all Philadelphia residents to stay at home unless absolutely necessary to leave for an essential job or critical activity like buying food or medicine. We need everyone to wear a face covering if they must go outside and maintain at least six feet between themselves and others when out in public. And of course, everyone needs to continue to wash their hands frequently," he said.

Montgomery County officials announced an additional 120 positive cases, bringing the county total to 1,815 cases. With six additional coronavirus-related deaths, the county now has a total of 68 deaths.

KYW Newsradio's Hadas Kuznits contributed to this story.
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