Bradford County’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to date continued to creep higher Wednesday with a 46th reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Across the state, 780 additional positive cases were reported, bringing the statewide total to 69,417. There are also now 5,265 deaths reported, which is 113 more than was reported as of midnight Tuesday.
Bradford County’s COVID-19-related deaths remain at three, according to the DOH.
In her briefing Wednesday, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said the number of new cases being reported each day has continued to trend down overall, even with the expansion of testing. In addition, she said an estimated 62% of people who have tested positive for the virus have since recovered, but also noted that the Department of Health would not be breaking down recovery estimates to county level data at this time.
Bradford, Sullivan, and 16 other counties are getting ready to transition into the green phase of reopening on Friday. Expanding on a continued push for workers to work remotely, if possible, and 50% occupancy guidelines for in person dining at restaurants and personal care services, Wolf provided some additional guidance for what this could mean to the public on Wednesday:
- Events such as concerts, festivals, fairs, conferences, sporting events, theater performances, or movie showings, cannot exceed 250 people;
- Hospital and prison visitations can resume at the discretion of the facility;
- Hair salons, barber shops, and similar personal care services can do business by appointment only;
- Reservations and appointments are encouraged for gyms and spas;
- Places of worship are exempt from limitations, but are encouraged to implement social distancing and require masking;
- No more than four customers with a common relationship can sit together at a bar, and social distancing of at least six feet must be maintained between groups or unrelated customers unless a physical barrier is between them.
A number of questions posed during Wednesday’s briefing focused on life after a transition to the green phase, including what Wolf would say to businesses that fear they cannot survive on 50% occupancy.
Wolf said they’ve been working with the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association to develop guidelines for both the green and yellow phases, “and are doing the best we can.”
“This is not a matter of regulations. This is a matter of what it’s going to take to make patrons confident that they can come back to eat in a restaurant, what it’s going to take to make employees feel safe working in a restaurant,” he said. “What we’re all trying to do is identify those things that will most likely keep the virus at bay, and whether you are a restaurant owner or public policy maker, that has to be your priority. It’s certainly mine.”
Precautions such as mask wearing would be up to each individual business to implement within their walls, Wolf added. For other precautions such as occupancy and social distancing, Wolf urged local law enforcement and licensing organizations to make sure businesses are compliant.
“The big challenge is keeping people safe. If I’m a business owner, I’m going to keep my workers safe, I’m going to keep my customers safe. And the ultimate sanction here is not some regulation or some law enforcement official, it’s what’s best for the people I care about the most, my employees and my customers,” he said.
Asked what counties can expect after proceeding to the green phase of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan, Wolf said there will be a new normal, but “none of us at this point can tell.”
“The hope is we’ll get a vaccine or therapies. Companies are talking about working feverishly to develop therapeutics to address the needs here, so we’re all waiting,” he said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty. We don’t have enough testing. I think we have bought time, which was the idea over the past two months, to allow our health care systems to build up the capacities that they need.”
“We expect for the foreseeable future that we will recommend that people wear masks when they are outside, that they be really careful about washing their hands and using hand sanitizer, that they continue to practice social distancing, and that they just be careful about their exposure to this respiratory virus,” Levine added.
In the meantime, she said state officials are continue to perform and expand testing, investigate positive tests, perform contact tracing, quarantine as needed, and try to keep any potential outbreaks under control.
“There has been discussion that there could be a resurgence in the fall, Dr. Fauci said the last day or so. Maybe or maybe not,” she said. “We’ll have to see. What we’re going to do is be prepared.”