COVID-19 cases increase in Tioga, Bradford Counties as Wolf increases stay-home order

Coronavirus

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Seven people in Bradford County and two people in Tioga County have contracted the COVID-19 virus, according to the Pennsylvania Health Department.

Gov. Tom Wolf added seven more counties Tuesday to his order to stay at home as the new virus expanded its reach and Pennsylvania reported another big jump in confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Wolf told residents of Lebanon, Franklin, Somerset, Lawrence, Cameron, Crawford and Forest counties to stay home at least through April 30, bringing to 33 the number of counties under the governor’s order.

Nearly 11 million Pennsylvania residents, or 85% of the state’s population, have now been instructed to remain in their homes, with exceptions that include working at a business that’s still open, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, visiting a doctor, caring for a relative or heading outside to exercise.

One day after President Donald Trump declared a major disaster in Pennsylvania, the state’s emergency management agency said it would begin contacting potential applicants, which include state, county and municipal governments and eligible nonprofits.

Trump’s order allows for federal assistance to supplement state and local pandemic recovery efforts.

In other developments Tuesday:

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CASES

The Department of Health reported more than 750 additional coronavirus cases, bringing the total number to over 4,800. There were 14 new deaths for a statewide toll of 63.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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STATE BUDGET

The pandemic has already dinged the state’s bank account.

Tax collections in March were about $300 million shy of expectations as COVID-19 shut down businesses, put hundreds of thousands out of work and kept consumers home.

The shortfall wipes out a $250 million surplus that had been built up over the first eight months of Pennsylvania state government’s fiscal year.

The economic slowdown is also expected to have a dramatic effect on tax collections in coming months, promising a difficult budget season for Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a left-leaning organization based in Harrisburg, projected that state revenue could drop by a total of $4.5 billion to $9 billion in the current fiscal year and the next one.

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ROAD, BRIDGE PROJECTS RESUME

PennDOT has resumed work on limited number of highway and bridge projects after a statewide pause.

The state Department of Transportation halted all nonemergency construction work on March 17 to minimize coronavirus exposure for its workers, private contractors and others.

PennDOT said Tuesday that 61 highway and bridge projects considered to be emergencies or of critical importance will be active this week. The agency said it is taking steps to minimize COVID-19 risk, including protocols for social distancing and handling deliveries of materials.

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IMMIGRANTS RELEASED

A federal judge ordered the immediate release of 10 people from civil detention as they await resolution of their immigration cases.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and other lawyers filed suit last week. The lawsuit said the detainees are older or suffer from medical conditions that put them at greater risk of COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ordered the detainees’ immediate release from jails in York, Clinton and Pike counties, noting: “At this point, it is not a matter of if COVID-19 will enter Pennsylvania prisons, but when it is finally detected.”

The lawsuit had initially been filed on behalf of 13 detainees, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released three of them before the judge issued his order.

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COVID ADDRESSES SHARED

Allegheny County said it will start sharing addresses of COVID-19 patients with first responders.

The county’s health department agreed to provide the addresses, but not the names, of confirmed coronavirus patients to the 911 system. Then, if an emergency call comes in from a flagged address, a dispatcher will alert first responders so they can take appropriate safety precautions.

The flag will be removed from the system after 30 days.

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Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania. Associated Press writer Marc Levy in Harrisburg contributed to this report.

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