TIMELINE: Pennsylvania coronavirus updates March 31

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania up to more than 4,800

PITTSBURGH — Pennsylvania has more than 4,800 cases of the novel coronavirus and 63 people have died. Keep checking back for the latest COVID-19 updates throughout the day.

Have questions about the spread of the coronavirus? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak. CLICK HERE for more.

UPDATE 9:40 p.m.: One of the Pittsburgh catholic diocese priests in isolation after exposure to coronavirus has tested negative for COVID-19, according to a release from the diocese.

Father Thomas Gramc tested negative but will continue a 14-day quarantine out of caution.

“One of the priests in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh who had been in isolation after exposure to someone in the faith community who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) has tested negative for the virus. However, out of an abundance of caution, and on his doctor’s recommendation, Father Thomas Gramc has begun a voluntary 14-day quarantine. Father Gramc is Parochial Vicar of the Dormont, Mount Lebanon, Scott Township grouping (Our Lady of Grace and Saint Bernard), as well as chaplain for Seton La Salle High School. He has not had any contact with students or faculty of the high school since its closure on March 13. Other priests in that grouping remain in voluntary quarantine in the interest of the safety of their parishioners and the general public.”

UPDATE 7 p.m.: There are now 325 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Allegheny County and almost 5,000 in Pennsylvania, so what do those new numbers mean?

Health officials said they expect to see more cases across the state despite social distancing and at-home orders for a few reasons.

There is more screening being done, and officials said there are “likely many more undetected cases” in the community.

Allegheny County Health Department officials said the county is testing about 500 people per day for the novel coronavirus.

In a press conference Tuesday, Dr. Debra Bogen -- head of the county health department -- said they are also practicing “smart testing,” which means only people who meet specific criteria for COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath, underlying health issues, age) are getting tested right now.

UPDATE 6:40 p.m.: Two people at Beaver County’s biggest nursing home died after testing positive the coronavirus, but the state health department said Tuesday that of all the positive test results, only one percent of those are coming from nursing homes.

At the Brighton Rehabilitation & Wellness Center, 20 residents are in an isolation unit inside the facility, four are getting treatment at the hospital, and dozens of other patients have not gotten results back yet.

Brighton officials said both patients who died were in hospice, and they have traced all of the people who came in contact with them.

Nursing home hit hard amid coronavirus pandemic

UPDATE 6:20 p.m.: In the past two weeks, the Allegheny County Jail has released 622 inmates as COVID-19 continues to spread across our region.

Officials did not identify any of the released inmates, nor did they specify what they had been charged with prior to release.

UPDATE 6:05 p.m.: Allegheny County officials have begun to secure the David L. Lawrence Convention Center as an “alternate care site” for non-coronavirus patients if needed.

According to a release Tuesday, the convention center would allow hospitals to transfer their least at-risk patients to open up additional hospital space for COVID-19 patients.

The full statement is below:

“The job of Allegheny County Emergency Services (ACES) is to anticipate needs in response to disasters or other emergencies. As part of that process for the COVID-19 pandemic, the department has begun work with the Sports & Exhibition Authority to secure the David L. Lawrence Convention Center as an alternate care site if needed. The purpose of this site would be to allow hospital systems to transfer their least acute patients to open up additional hospital space for acute COVID-19 patients.

“The US Army Corps of Engineers has assessed the site and will identify potential gaps that would need to be addressed before the site could be used in this manner. Under the auspices of ACES, healthcare providers and systems in the county talk daily about their needs and this effort is part of that process.

“To be clear, this work is anticipatory at this time. There is not a current need for an alternate care site in our community. We are preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best, as is often the mantra of emergency services personnel.

“Conversations will continue and, if a site is needed, additional details will be worked out and information provided to the public as appropriate.”

UPDATE 4:25 p.m.: Allegheny County Health Department officials said the county is testing about 500 people per day for the novel coronavirus.

In a press conference Tuesday, Dr. Debra Bogen -- head of the county health department -- said they are also practicing “smart testing,” which means only people who meet specific criteria for COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath, underlying health issues, age) are getting tested right now.

You can watch that full briefing below:

UPDATE 4:10 p.m.: Carlow University has offered its medical equipment and facilities in its College of Health and Wellness to health care providers.

Carlow’s College of Health and Wellness is home to the nursing and respiratory care programs. Lynn George, the dean of the college, said that Carlow President Suzanne K. Mellon had asked for a survey of resources that could be offered to health care providers in need in the event that a surge in cases causes an overflow in area hospitals.

“Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) has now reached out to us about any ventilators we have that could be shared if the need arises,” said George. “We have shared our list of supplies available for emergency use with them.”

UPDATE 2:56 p.m.: Gov. Tom Wolf announced that the Department of Human Services has directed the state’s Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) to let Medicaid recipients obtain early refills of all prescriptions at their pharmacy point-of-sale.

The MCOs are also being directed to be flexible with issuing prior authorizations for longer durations when medically necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and follow the stay-at-home orders, we must all reduce trips and interactions with others in order to limit the chance of coming in contact with or spreading the COVID-19 virus,” Gov. Wolf said. “By asking Medicaid providers and pharmacists to allow for earlier prescription refills and longer prescription supplies, we are all doing our part to practice social distancing to keep everyone safe and well.”

“During these stay-at-home orders, we strongly encourage Medicaid recipients to use this option to reduce the need for unnecessary trips out of the home that may jeopardize their or someone else’s health,” DHS Sec. Teresa Miller said. “We appreciate our Medicaid providers and pharmacists’ participation in this initiative to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”

UPDATE 2:29 p.m.: Two New Castle firefighters are in quarantine after coming in contact with an 88-year-old who died from coronavirus.

Officials confirmed to Channel 11 the man didn’t test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms at the time of the call, but died in the hospital a few days later.

The firefighters have been quarantined since last Thursday and aren’t showing any symptoms.

UPDATE 1:30 p.m.: First National Bank has agreed to join the PA CARE Package, Pennsylvania’s consumer relief initiative.

Under the ‘PA CARE Package’ initiative, banks and financial institutions are working with the Office’s Bureau of Consumer Protection to both comply with the recently-passed CARES Act and offer additional important protections for consumers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To commit to the ‘PA CARE Package’ initiative, financial institutions and banks must offer additional assistance to Pennsylvanians facing financial hardship due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Expansion of small and medium business loan availability
  • 90-day grace period (at least) for mortgages not already covered by the CARES Act’s 180-day grace period
  • 90-day grace period for other consumer loans such as auto loans
  • 90-day window for relief from fees and charges such as late, overdraft fees
  • Foreclosure, eviction, and motor vehicle repossession moratorium for 60 days
  • No adverse credit reporting for accessing relief on consumer loans

UPDATE 1:02 p.m.: Gov. Wolf and Secretary of Health Rachel Levine has revised their stay-at-home order to include several more counties, including Lawrence.

The order will take effect at 8 p.m. and will continue through April 30.

UPDATE 1:00 p.m.: Allegheny County has made a food distribution map to show where available food resources are around the county.

UPDATE 12:36 p.m.: A federal court in Harrisburg ruled that federal immigration authorities must immediately release 10 people who sued for their release from facilities in York, Clinton and Pike counties.

According to a release, all of the people who filed the lawsuit are at high-risk of contracting COVID-1 due to their age or medical conditions.

UPDATE 12:05 p.m.: There are 756 additional positive cases of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania, bringing the total to 4,843, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Of the total number of cases, 589 are in western Pennsylvania.

In addition to the new cases, 14 more deaths have been reported. The statewide death total is now at 63.

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Here is a breakdown of cases in western Pennsylvania counties:

  • Allegheny County: 325
  • Fayette County: 14
  • Washington County: 33
  • Beaver County: 52
  • Butler County: 60
  • Lawrence County: 13
  • Westmoreland County: 61
  • Mercer County: 8
  • Greene County: 9
  • Armstrong County: 5
  • Indiana County: 6
  • Venango County: 3

There are 37,645 patients who have tested negative, the Department of Health said.

Of the people who have tested positive, here is a percentage breakdown by age group:

  • Less than 1% are aged 0-4
  • Less than 1% are aged 5-12
  • 1% are aged 13-18
  • Nearly 10% are aged 19-24
  • Nearly 41% are aged 25-49
  • Nearly 29% are aged 50-64
  • Nearly 19% are aged 65 or older

UPDATE 11:45 a.m.: The Beaver County Sheriff’s Office is again processing License to Carry permit applications, both initial and renewal.

The process, which had been suspended since March 23, will now be done by mail to keep in line with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order.

Applications will be accepted by the Sheriff’s Office by mail and processed through the Pennsylvania Instant Check System. Applicants will then be notified by phone of the results of their background check and, if approved, will be sent a certified copy of that approval.

Once the stay-at-home order is lifted, applicants will be contacted by the Sheriff’s Office to complete the process, which includes obtaining a signature, a photograph and payment of $20.

UPDATE 11:35 a.m.: The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said 61 emergency and critical highway and bridge projects will be active statewide this week.

“While the normal highway and bridge construction program has paused as the commonwealth addresses COVID-19 response, urgent emergency work has continued to ensure a reliable transportation system as circumstances surrounding COVID-19 continue to unfold,” a news release said.

UPDATE 11:25 a.m.: Eleven more businesses have been given warnings by Pennsylvania State Police for failing to comply with Gov. Tom Wolf’s order for non-life-sustaining businesses to close.

Since last Monday, a total of 107 businesses have been given warnings.

UPDATE 11:15 a.m.: Allegheny County Emergency Services will be given locations of positive COVID-19 patients after an agreement was reached with the Allegheny County Health Department.

The state gave the county Health Department the authority to make the decision. The information about patient locations will be given to police, firefighters and paramedics. No names will be provided.

In a letter to the emergency services director, the county health director outlined the new policy. Information will be updated in the 911 system every day.

A COVID-19 flag will be placed next to the address, and that flag will expire 30 days after the positive test.

UPDATE 11:10 a.m.: There are 35 new positive cases of the coronavirus in Allegheny County, bringing the total to 325, the Allegheny County Health Department announced. Fifty-one people have been or are currently being hospitalized, and the number of deaths has remained at two.

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Here is a breakdown of cases by age group:

  • 0-4 years: 1
  • 5-12 years: 1
  • 13-18 years: 5
  • 19-24 years: 33
  • 25-49 years: 140
  • 50-64 years: 92
  • 65+ years: 53

Of the cases, 165 are female and 160 are male.

UPDATE 10:20 a.m.: The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has cancelled concerts scheduled through May 21.

Officials said they are looking at all options through the summer for rescheduling concerts.

“We are all so disappointed not to be with everyone in person at Heinz Hall and out in the community, but we are no less committed to continuing to bring music to connect with each other and to support each other in the best way that we know how. We invite all to join us online for our musical initiative, Extraordinary Measures, and thank you for your continued patience, flexibility and support as we navigate these challenging times,” Melia Tourangeau, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, said.

The Extraordinary Measures initiative is a series of musical offerings presented throughout the orchestra’s website and social media channels.

UPDATE 10 a.m.: Pennsylvanians cannot be evicted from their homes during the COVID-19 state of emergency, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is reassuring residents.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered courts closed to eviction proceedings, and the order applies to all Pennsylvania property owners, managers and landlords, as well as mortgage brokers and lenders.

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“With millions of Pennsylvanians following Governor Wolf’s direction to stay at home, it is critical that rental evictions cease for the duration of this emergency,” Shapiro said in a letter to landlords and mortgage lenders. “Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians have lost wages and jobs during this crisis and we will need time for businesses to reopen and for our economy to come back when the emergency is lifted. Stable housing is part of the foundation we need as a Commonwealth to fully recover.”

Shapiro’s letter seeks to build on the Court’s order to suspend evictions for a period of time after the lifting of the COVID-19 state of emergency, a news release said.

UPDATE 8 a.m.: Making sure vulnerable babies safely get the milk they need during the coronavirus pandemic, the Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank in Pittsburgh is taking extra steps.

Helping babies in neonatal intensive care units, the milk bank is seeing more demand from the hospitals it serves for breast milk. That demand is anticipated to get bigger.

“We want to make sure that these parents and hospitals don’t have to fret about where their milk is coming from,” Denise O’Conner, the milk bank’s executive director, said.

While trying to deliver as much milk as it can to hospitals and NICUs in the four states it serves, the milk bank has added an extra day of processing to test, bottle and pasteurize the breast milk.

UPDATE 4:30 a.m.: The total number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus rose to 4,087 Monday, the same day Gov. Tom Wolf extended a stay-at-home order.

For counties under the stay-at-home order, it is now in effect until April 30.

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Wolf also announced schools across the state will stay closed until further notice.

Late Monday, President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration for Pennsylvania, which was requested by Wolf on Sunday. The order opens federal assistance for the state to supplement local recovery money.

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