Gov. Tom Wolf will announce that 13 more western counties, including much of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, can shed his most restrictive pandemic orders on movement and businesses next week, joining much of northern Pennsylvania that began emerging Friday.
The counties to be announced Friday by Wolf are Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland, comprising nearly 2.7 million residents.
The only western county held back, Beaver County, is home to perhaps the state’s worst nursing home outbreak, where dozens have died and a congressman is calling for an investigation.
Otherwise, the area of approximately 10,000 square miles (15,000 square kilometers), can reopen next Friday, the governor’s office told The Associated Press.
When it does, it will join people in 24 counties across a swath of primarily rural northern Pennsylvania who are the first to have pandemic restrictions eased under Wolf’s reopening plan, including Williamsport, State College and Erie.
They began opening stores Friday that had been shut down since March under Wolf’s orders, while residents began leaving their homes unfettered by a just-expired stay-at-home order that had been in place since April 1.
The 24 counties have been only lightly impacted by a pandemic that has killed more than 3,600 people statewide.
At Gerlach’s Garden & Floral in suburban Erie, the garden store and flower shop opened its doors Friday to people seeking seeds, seedlings, flowers, shrubs and more. Social-distancing markers were on the floor, plexiglass was by the register, employees were wearing masks and a huge chunk of its big selling season is past.
“Those weeks we’ve missed, those are gone, we can’t get them back, we cant make them up,” said Adam Gerlach, one of the owners. “So we’re looking to the future, looking to see what we can capitalize on a little bit more these next couple weeks.”
It helps that the flower shop is open in time for Mother’s Day on Sunday — missing Easter was a devastating hit — but Gerlach estimates that the business has lost at least 20% of its revenue for the year.
That said, people were coming into the store, and it felt good to open up and see customers, Gerlach said.
“Letting people in definitely feels good, for people to come in and do their shopping,” Gerlach said. “So far, everyone I talked to is happy to be out and be able to go get stuff.”
Most of Pennsylvania, including the heavily populated Philadelphia area and hard-hit eastern Pennsylvania, remains under Wolf’s strictest shutdown orders, called the “red” designation, with no timeline to emerge. There, Wolf’s stay-at-home orders extend until June 4.
Wolf has granted the “yellow” phase to the two dozen counties that emerged from lockdown Friday.
The 24 counties are home to 1.5 million of Pennsylvania’s 12.8 million residents, and is nearly one-half of its geographical area at about 18,000 square miles (27,000 square kilometers).
The counties are Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango and Warren.
They will be joined by 13 more counties next Friday, under Wolf’s plan.
Along with retailers and other kinds of businesses that can reopen, gatherings of up to 25 people are now allowed. But gyms, barber shops, nail salons, casinos, theaters and other such venues are required to remain closed and other restrictions will remain in place, including a ban on youth sports.
Republicans and some business owners have complained that Wolf is moving too slowly to reopen Pennsylvania’s economy. More than 1.9 million people, including self-employed and gig workers, have filed for unemployment since mid-March.
COVID-19 is caused by a new coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus, named SARS-CoV-2.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.
Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside Hubei and in countries outside China, including in the United States. Most international destinations now have ongoing community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19, as does the United States. Community spread means some people have been infected and it is not known how or where they became exposed. Learn more about the spread of this coronavirus that is causing COVID-19.
For the latest and most accurate information pertaining to COVID-19, visit cdc.gov and follow guidance issued by local, state and federal authorities.
About COVID-19 via Center for Disease Control and Prevention
The COVID-19 pandemic is a serious global health threat and CDC is committed to stopping the global spread. CDC has a long history of improving public health capacity throughout the world to contain outbreaks at their source and minimize their impact.
CDC’s technical support to ministries of health and other local and international partners is delivered in coordination with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, other U.S. government agencies, and other stakeholders including multilateral organizations.
CDC works globally to limit human-to-human transmission of COVID-19, minimize the impact of COVID-19 in vulnerable countries with limited preparedness capacity, and reduce threats that pose current and future risk to the United States. Globally, CDC works to:
- Strengthen capacity to prevent, detect, investigate and respond to local COVID-19
- Mitigate COVID-19 transmission in the community, across borders, and in healthcare facilities
- Support governments, nongovernmental organizations, and healthcare facilities to rapidly identify, triage, and diagnose potential cases to improve patient care and minimize disruptions to essential health services
- Address crucial unknowns regarding clinical severity, extent of transmission and infection with support for special investigations and other forms of cooperation between CDC and country partners
- Ensure readiness to implement vaccines and therapeutics when available
Since 2015, CDC has been a key implementing partner of the USG Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). GHSA investments have helped countries build national capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats. These investments and partnerships have laid foundations to rapidly and effectively prepare for emerging threats, including the current COVID-19 pandemic. Lessons learned from addressing HIV, influenza, Ebola, dengue, Zika, and many other viruses are being applied to the COVID-19 response.
Outbreaks can be stressful
The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations
How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in.
People who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include
- Older people and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19
- Children and teens
- People who are helping with the response to COVID-19, like doctors, other health care providers, and first responders
- People who have mental health conditions including problems with substance use
Take care of yourself and your community
Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress. Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger.
Ways to cope with stress
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body.
- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
- Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
Know the facts to help reduce stress
Sharing the facts about COVID-19. Understanding the risk to yourself and people you care about can make an outbreak less stressful.
When you share accurate information about COVID-19, you can help make people feel less stressed and make a connection with them.
Take care of your mental health
Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. Additional information can be found at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Disaster Preparedness page.
Risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people
Some coronaviruses that infect animals can sometimes be spread to humans and then spread between people, but this is rare. This is what happened with the virus that caused the current outbreak of COVID-19. However, we do not know the exact source of this virus. Public health officials and partners are working hard to identify the source of COVID-19. The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person.
The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and talking. Recent studies show that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.
Risk of people spreading COVID-19 to animals
We are still learning about this virus, but we know it is primarily spreading from person-to-person and it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations.
The first case in the United States of an animal testing positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 was a tiger with a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City. Samples from this tiger were collected and tested after several lions and tigers at the zoo showed signs of respiratory illness. Public health officials believe these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. This investigation is ongoing.
CDC is working with human and animal health partners to monitor this situation and will continue to provide updates as information becomes available. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.
Running Essential Errands
As communities across the United States take steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting close contact, people are facing new challenges and questions about how to meet basic household needs, such as buying groceries and medicine, and completing banking activities. The following information provides advice about how to meet these household needs in a safe and healthy manner.
Find additional information for people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Shopping for food and other household essentials
- Avoid shopping if you are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19, which include a fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
- Order online or use curbside pickup.
- Order food and other items online for home delivery or curbside pickup (if possible).
- Only visit the grocery store, or other stores selling household essentials, in person when you absolutely need to. This will limit your potential exposure to others and the virus that causes COVID-19.
Protect yourself while shopping
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others while shopping and in lines.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering when you have to go out in public.
- When you do have to visit in person, go during hours when fewer people will be there (for example, early morning or late night).
- If you are at higher risk for severe illness, find out if the store has special hours for people at higher risk. If they do, try to shop during those hours. People at higher risk for severe illness include adults 65 or older and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.
- Disinfect the shopping cart, use disinfecting wipes if available.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- If possible, use touchless payment (pay without touching money, a card, or a keypad). If you must handle money, a card, or use a keypad, use hand sanitizer right after paying.
- After leaving the store, use hand sanitizer.
- When you get home, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Follow food safety guidelines: clean, separate, cook, chill. There is no evidence that food or food packaging has been linked to getting sick from COVID-19.
Accepting deliveries and takeout orders
- Pay online or on the phone when you order (if possible).
- Accept deliveries without in-person contact whenever possible. Ask for deliveries to be left in a safe spot outside your house (such as your front porch or lobby), with no person-to-person interaction. Otherwise, stay at least 6 feet away from the delivery person.
Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after accepting deliveries or collecting mail
- After receiving your delivery or bringing home your takeout food, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- After collecting mail from a post office or home mailbox, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- If you must visit the bank, use the drive-through ATM if one is available. Clean the ATM keyboard with a disinfecting wipe before you use it.
- When you are done, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home.
- Use disinfecting wipes on handles and buttons before you touch them (if available).
- After fueling, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds when you get home or somewhere with soap and water.
Going to the doctor or getting medicine
- Use telemedicine, if available, or communicate with your doctor or nurse by phone or e-mail.
- Talk to your doctor about rescheduling procedures that are not urgently needed.
If you must visit in-person, protect yourself and others
- If you think you have COVID-19, let the office know and follow guidance.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering when you have to go out in public.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Use disinfecting wipes on frequently touched surfaces such as handles, knobs, touchpads (if available).
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others while inside and in lines.
- When paying, use touchless payment methods if possible. If you cannot use touchless payment, sanitize your hands after paying with card, cash, or check. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home.
Limit in-person visits to the pharmacy
- Plan to order and pick up all your prescriptions at the same time.
- If possible, call prescription orders in ahead of time. Use drive-thru windows, curbside services (wait in your car until the prescription is ready), mail-order, or other delivery services. Do the same for pet medicine.
- Check with your doctor and pharmacist to see if you can get a larger supply of your medicines so you do not have to visit the pharmacy as often.
- If you or a member of your household has signs of COVID-19, call your doctor first, instead of going to the office or the emergency department.
Staying physically active is one of the best ways to keep your mind and body healthy. In many areas, people can visit parks, trails, and open spaces as a way to relieve stress, get some fresh air and vitamin D, stay active, and safely connect with others.
Visit parks that are close to your home
- Traveling long distances to visit a park may contribute to the spread of COVID-19 as:
- Most travel requires you to stop along the way or be in close contact with others.
- Travel may also expose you to surfaces contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19.
Prepare before you visit
State or Local Parks: State and local authorities will decide whether parks and other recreational facilities will open. Check with the park in advance to be sure you know which areas or services are open, such as bathroom facilities and concessions, and bring what you need with you.
National Parks: The National Park Service will decide on a park-by-park basis whether a national park will be open. Please check with individual parks for specific details since, in many cases, visitor centers, concessions, and bathroom facilities might be closed.
Beaches or Other Swimming Areas: State and local authorities will decide whether natural bodies of water and beaches or swim areas will be open. Please check with individual beaches or swim areas for specific details.
Stay 6 feet away from others and take other steps to prevent COVID-19
If a park, beach, or recreational facility is open for public use, visiting is okay as long as you practice social distancing and everyday steps such as washing hands often and covering coughs and sneezes. Follow these actions when visiting a park, beach, or recreational facility:
- Stay at least six feet from others at all times. This might make some open areas, trails, and paths better to use. Do not go into a crowded area.
- Avoid gathering with others outside of your household.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Bring hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to use if soap and water are not available.
Play it safe around and in swimming pools, and keep space between yourself and others
There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the water. Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (with chlorine or bromine) of pools should kill COVID-19.
Swimming and other water-related activities are excellent ways to get the physical activity needed for a healthy life. If you are not sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, it is safe to use swimming pools as long as steps are taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19:
- Practice social distancing by staying at least six feet (two meters) from others.
- Avoid large gatherings of more than 10 people.
- Keep your hands clean by washing hands with soap and water, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
Testing for COVID-19
- A viral test tells you if you have a current infection.
- An antibody test tells you if you had a previous infection
An antibody test may not be able to show if you have a current infection, because it can take 1-3 weeks after infection to make antibodies. We do not know yet if having antibodies to the virus can protect someone from getting infected with the virus again, or how long that protection might last.
Who should be tested
To learn if you have a current infection, viral tests are used. But not everyone needs this test.
- Most people will have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care and may not need to be tested.
- CDC has guidance for who should be tested, but decisions about testing are made by state and local health departments or healthcare providers.
- If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, call your healthcare provider first.
- You can also visit your state or local health department’s website to look for the latest local information on testing.
- Although supplies of tests are increasing, it may still be difficult to find a place to get tested.
- If you test positive for COVID-19 by a viral test, know what protective steps to take if you are sick or caring for someone.
- If you test negative for COVID-19 by a viral test, you probably were not infected at the time your sample was collected. However, that does not mean you will not get sick. The test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing.
If you test positive or negative for COVID-19, no matter the type of test, you still should take preventive measures to protect yourself and others.
If you or a member of your household has signs of COVID-19, call your doctor first, instead of going to the office or the emergency department.
Call 911 if you believe it is an emergency. See also: What to do if you are sick.
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