Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine gave her daily COVID-19 update, including new numbers, word on what businesses can and cannot open beginning May 8 and some hope for the Philadelphia region.
In southeast Philadelphia, Dr. Levine says she believes the region has passed the peek of COVID-19 cases. As the Philadelphia area starts to re-open, there must be close monitoring and that if there are any outbreaks, that “we deal with it very quickly,” Dr. Levine added.
There are 1,214 new cases across the state. In total, there are 43,264 cases in all 67 counties. The death toll has reached 1,716, which have all been adults. As of noon, there are 2,777 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, with 611 of those that require a ventilator or some sort of breathing machine. The total coronavirus cases across America have officially surpassed one million, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
In the question and answer portion of the briefing, Dr. Levine says that libraries, barbershops, and other businesses can open, but still must practice social distancing and wear masks. She added that when business is in a county that goes yellow, to still be encouraged to work from home if able. But if businesses do need their employees to work in-person to maintain the same guidelines of wearing masks, staying 6 feet apart, and to wash their hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
Dr. Levine added that by this Friday there should be enough qualitative and quantitative data to determine which counties are safe to go into the yellow phase on May 8. In a question to the Secretary asking if a county fails to reach the go-ahead for the yellow phase, if there will be open information as to why their county must stay in the red phase, Dr. Levine said there can be an open discussion as to why these decisions were made.
On the topic of testing, for those who are elderly or disabled and feel they should get tested, but are not in a hospital or in high-risk counties like Montgomery County, Dr. Levine says they should call their physician and they will give a recommendation on where to go or how to receive a test. She added that Rite and CVS pharmacies are now testing, and people can call the pharmacy to ask for a test.
When asked how close Pennsylvania is to testing nursing homes and personal care homes, Dr. Levine says the state is first and foremost focusing on expanding testing for those who are symptomatic, but hopes that in the near future, there is the ability to not only have a wider range of testing, but to keep a regular pattern of testing.
Another question during the briefing asked not about access to testing for whether someone is infected with COVID-19, but rather, a test to determine if someone has antibodies. For an individual patient, antibody tests do not provide useful clinical data, Dr. Levine said. It does not mean you are immune to the virus and there is still no solid data about not only how long-lasting antibodies are, but how powerful the antibodies will be in preventing a second infection, she added.