Cumberland County has three presumptive cases of the pandemic coronavirus, state officials said Friday evening.
Two adults and one child in the county are presumed positive, according to Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.
Those cases are pending confirmation by the federal Centers for Disease Control. Pennsylvania has 41 known cases of COVID-19, six of which have been confirmed by the CDC, and 35 that are presumed positive pending confirmation.
None of the cases in Cumberland County are the result of community spread, Levine said at a press conference Friday; all but one of the Pennsylvania cases has been successfully traced to the infection point. The department of health will not release specific location information of patients, but will provide updates on their status.
Gov. Tom Wolf also announced at Friday’s briefing that the lockdown put in place earlier for Montgomery County will be extended to Delaware County starting Monday.
The suburbs surrounding Philadelphia appear to be the epicenter of the disease in Pennsylvania, with Montgomery County having 18 presumed cases and Delaware County having six.
“We have initiated these actions in areas where we have confirmed evidence of risk,” Wolf said, describing the state’s approach as “measured.”
The lockdown for the two counties involves Wolf ordering the closure of all schools and licensed child care and adult day care centers, as well as requesting that all retail businesses, except for essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies, and gas stations, close as well.
These lockdowns are still self-enforcing, Wolf said Friday.
“This is self-enforcing. I’m not sending the state police or the national guard out,” Wolf said.
Gene Barr, head of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, appeared with Wolf Friday to encourage businesses to use “common sense” in deciding if it was in the best interest of their customers and employees to remain open.
Barr encouraged Pennsylvanians to support local businesses while still maintaining social distance — buying a gift card to support their favorite restaurant, for instance, in lieu of actually eating there.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera also said Friday that his office will apply for the maximum possible waiver from the federal Department of Education on testing requirements.
The state’s standardized testing such as the PSSA and Keystone exams are done to meet federal accountability requirements; if these are waived, the state could modify the timing and amount of testing students are subject to in order to adjust for school closures, Rivera said.
Wolf announced earlier Friday that all schools in the state would be closed for two weeks; the time lost would be waived from the 180-day attendance requirement.
Wolf and Rivera also said they are working to come up with ways to deliver school nutrition benefits to students who are not physically in school, which Rivera described as “noncongregate” food options, a particular concern in low-income areas of the state as students leave school and parents see a slow-down in work that could heighten food insecurity.
Wolf also said he and the Legislature were in agreement on postponing the special election in Bucks County later this month.
No discussion has occurred on making April’s primary a mail-in-only affair, Wolf said, but he encouraged voters to sign up for the state’s new mail-in ballot option. He also indicated that the Legislature was open to modifying the election code to allow counties to begin counting absentee and mail-in ballots before the close of polls, in order to handle the expected increase in vote-by-mail caused by pandemic concerns.
Here is a look at some of the frequently asked questions on the coronavirus:
What is the 2019 novel coronavirus?
The 2019 novel coronavirus is a virus that causes respiratory illness in people and can spread from person-to-person, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The virus was first identified after an outbreak in Wuhan, China, and is related to the family of coronaviruses that have origins in bats and can be spread by other animals, including civets, a catlike mammal in China.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
According to the state Department of Health, the main symptoms are fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Symptoms can appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Symptoms can range from being mild to being severe and causing death.
When is someone infectious?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the period of infectiousness for COVID-19 is not yet known. Existing information on other coronaviruses, including SARS, suggest the incubation period may range from 2 to 14 days.
What do you do if you get the symptoms?
According to the CDC, those who have COVID-19 or believe they do should stay home except to get medical care, separate themselves from other people and animals in the home, wear a face mask, cover coughs and sneezes, avoid sharing personal household items and clean hands often.
Someone who is sick should also monitor their symptoms and seek prompt medical attention if their illness is worsening. According to the CDC, signs that someone should seek medical attention includes persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips.
Before you seek medical care, call your health care provider and tell them that you have COVID-19 or are being evaluated for it. Put on a face mask before entering the facility to prevent others there from being infected.
The state Department of Health also recommends infected persons call them at 1-877-724-3258 so they can help with monitoring and instructions. The department and health care providers will also help determine when home isolation should end if someone who is infected does not need medical attention.
How do you get tested?
According to the CDC and the state Department of Health, health care providers will determine if someone with symptoms of the disease will get tested.
In CDC guidance to health care workers, the agency said priorities for testing include hospitalized patients who have signs and symptoms of COVID-19, other symptomatic people with chronic medical conditions and any health care workers who within onset of symptoms had contact with a COVID-19 patient or have traveled to an affected area of the world.
The state Department of Health said doctors can contact them for advice about testing, but even if the department does not believe testing is necessary (there are no symptoms or mild symptoms involving runny nose and cough), a doctor can order a test through a private, commercial laboratory. Any presumptive positives that come from those tests will be communicated with the department.
The CDC said its diagnostic test can have a negative result if someone is in the early stages of infection, though usually a negative test means the symptoms a person is experiencing is not caused by COVID-19.
Who does COVID-19 affect the most severely?
According to the CDC, some people at higher risk of getting very sick from the disease includes older adults and people who have serious, chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.
How can the virus be spread?
The Department of Health says the coronavirus spreads just like the flu or cold, through the air by coughing or sneezing, close personal contact (shaking hands), touching an object or surface with the virus on it and occasionally through fecal contamination.
The Associated Press reported that tests by U.S. government and other scientists have found that the coronavirus can live in the air for several hours and on some surfaces for as long as two to three days. The study found that the virus was detected in the air up to three hours after being sprayed (or coughed), and up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
How can you protect yourself?
The Department of Health suggests hygienic practices to help ward off the communicable disease. The department suggests those who are sick to cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbows instead of their hands to prevent the spread of the virus on surfaces, and those who are sick should also stay at home until they feel better, especially if they have a fever.
Both those who are sick and those who aren’t should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap is not available. People should also clean surfaces frequently, including countertops, light switches, cellphones, remotes and other frequently touched items.
The department and other health officials are also pushing “social distancing,” in which people stay at least 6 feet apart from one another.
As of March 13, the CDC is not recommending that people wear masks or respirators, since the department said the spread of viruses tends to be from close contact and because those masks should be readily available for health care workers and others who need them, including those who are sick.
The CDC also recommends people, especially those at higher risk, to stock up on supplies, including over-the-counter and prescription medication.
What is the treatment for COVID-19?
The CDC said not all patients with COVID-19 will require medical care, and clinical management for hospitalized patients is focused on supportive care of complications, including advanced organ support for respiratory failure, septic shock and multi-organ failure.
There are currently no antiviral drugs licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19.