Following a press conference announcing the first two presumptive positive cases of coronavirus, known as COVID-19, Governor Tom Wolf today signed an emergency disaster declaration to provide increased support to state agencies involved in the response to the virus.
“It’s imperative that we continue to respond quickly and accurately to the coronavirus and its introduction into Pennsylvania,” Gov. Wolf said. “First and foremost, we want all Pennsylvanians to be safe and remain healthy and follow the practical advice of the Department of Health on ways to protect yourself from any virus and that’s by washing hands, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough and staying home if you are sick.
“It is critical to prepare for and respond to suspected or confirmed cases in the commonwealth and to implement measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The disaster declaration is an additional way we can be prepared, so I authorized the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director or his designee, to assume command and control of all statewide emergency operations and authorize and direct that all commonwealth departments and agencies use all available resources and personnel as is deemed necessary to cope with this emergency situation.”
The disaster declaration follows the Department of Health’s activation of its Department Operations Center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters to conduct public health and medical coordination for COVID-19 throughout the commonwealth and the governor’s announcement earlier this morning about two presumptive positive cases in Pennsylvania.
The one individual is an adult from Wayne County; the other is an adult from Delaware County.
To date, there are nearly 100,000 cases worldwide, including more than 3,300 deaths. There are 233 cases and 12 deaths to date in the United States. The CDC expects cases to continue to be confirmed in the upcoming days and weeks but wants everyone to take action to help prevent the spread of the virus. CDC also said due to the rapidly changing nature of the spread of COVID-19 around the world, it is important for families to be prepared.
Individuals who intend on traveling outside of the United States are urged to check the CDC’s and the federal Department of State’s travel guidance. Currently there are outbreaks of COVID-19 occurring within numerous countries across the world. The number of countries seeing new cases has increased significantly over the last week.
“As this situation evolves, we will continually update Pennsylvanians through our website, health.pa.gov, our Facebook page and our Twitter account,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “It’s important to remember that the most accurate and timely information regarding this outbreak is available through the Department of Health.”
Symptoms of the COVID-19 can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Individuals most at risk for severe symptoms include elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.
The recent widespread outbreak of the respiratory disease stemmed from a novel coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in 60 locations internationally, including in the United States.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.
During the week of February 23, CDC reported community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 in California (in two places), Oregon and Washington. Community spread in Washington resulted in the first death in the United States from COVID-19, as well as the first reported case of COVID-19 in a health care worker, and the first potential outbreak in a long-term care facility.
The CDC affirms that there are ongoing investigations to learn more. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.
How will the coronavirus impact my community?
More cases of the coronavirus are likely to be identified in the coming days, according to the CDC. That includes a rapid increase in cases in the United States. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in communities in the United States. It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of the coronavirus in the United States will occur.
Widespread transmission of the coronavirus would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and transportation industry may also be affected. Health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed. At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against the coronavirus and no medications approved to treat it. Nonpharmaceutical interventions would be the most important response strategy.
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