Pennsylvania officials stress need for widespread testing before social distancing measures can ease

UPDATED: 3:05 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania health officials announced additional positive cases of coronavirus Saturday, a day after Gov. Tom Wolf's appeal to residents for continued social distancing as well as announcement of a forthcoming plan to reopen the state's economy.

The Department of Health reported 1,628 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 30,792 cases. 80 additional deaths were also confirmed, raising Pennsylvania's death toll to 836 people.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine cautioned Pennsylvanians to continue social distancing. 

"Even though the daily increases are not exponential, now is not the time to become complacent," she said. "We must continue to stay home to protect ourselves, our families, our community."

In her Saturday briefing, Levine said there are various types of coronavirus tests that are being developed right now.

"In the future, I think it would be useful to do viral testing and perhaps even antibody testing perhaps from a population point of view, but we're not able to do that," she explained. 

However, there are still limits to the number of people being tested for COVID-19, so only symptomatic people are tested.

But widespread testing is one of the key elements that would be needed in order to reopen the state's economy. "That's why you're not going to have a grand opening," Levine said.

While Levine was not able to give an exact date as to when the first phase of relaxing some of the mitigation efforts would take place, she did say the state would take its time. 

"We're going to go in a very slow, careful, progressive fashion, in terms of relaxing any social distancing measures especially in terms of businesses and the economy."

Philadelphia tops 9,000 cases

Philadelphia's Department of Public Health announced 451 new positive cases of coronavirus, which is in line with the trend that officials say the curve is flattening. Overall, there are 9,014 positive cases citywide.

45 additional fatalities were also reported, lifting Philadelphia's death toll to 343 people.

Of the total number of cases, 858 patients have been hospitalized.

KYW Newsradio's Hadas Kuznits and Pat Loeb contributed to this story.
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