Gov. Tom Wolf asked President Donald Trump to declare Pennsylvania a major-disaster area on Sunday, key to unlocking millions of dollars in federal aid to help the state battle the sickness and economic devastation of the coronavirus.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has taxed our commonwealth and our communities in ways that are almost incomprehensible,” Wolf said, calling for assistance “that will make a tangible difference in the lives of our friends and neighbors, and the dedicated public servants who are working in overdrive to support them.”
Fifteen other states, including New Jersey and New York, already have the major-disaster designation.
Meanwhile, the financial pain of the pandemic reached Pennsylvania state workers, as the Wolf administration laid off about 2,500 part-time and seasonal employees and interns as the crisis strains cash flow, Spotlight PA reported.
Across the Philadelphia region, a rainy, overcast Sunday proved to be a day of deepening disruption. If a “new normal” lies ahead, as emerged in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, then it remains somewhere in the future.
SEPTA announced the suspension of overnight service on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines, starting Monday, to allow more time for cleaning vehicles and stations.
The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Pennsylvania grew, again, in the previous 24 hours, while researchers at University of Washington forecast more sickness and loss.
They estimated that more than 3,000 Pennsylvanians may die by August, with 4,100 fatalities in New Jersey.
The national toll was predicted to reach 81,000 — and that was based on states implementing strong social-distancing measures, according to the university scholars.
The United States continues to have more confirmed cases than any other country, more than 142,000 as of Sunday evening, compared with 98,000 in Italy and about 82,000 in China, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, predicted on Sunday that 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from among “millions of cases.”
He cautioned, though, that it could be too soon for firm projections, given that the impact of the virus is “such a moving target.”
In New Jersey, Sea Isle City joined Ocean City in restricting access to its beach and promenade.
An additional 2,316 people tested positive, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Twitter, bringing the statewide total to 13,386. An additional 21 people died, increasing the state toll to 161.
Pennsylvania health officials announced on Sunday that 643 more people had tested positive for COVID-19, for a total of 3,394. Four more people died, raising the state toll to 38, according to Health Secretary Rachel Levine. So far, no children have died in the state.
Levine said 10.4 percent of all those tested were positive, about what was expected. “If it was rising consistently more than 10 percent, that would be concerning.”
The state is consulting a number of different models to prepare for a potential surge in cases and hospitalizations, she said.
The state health-care system has more than 4,000 ventilators, and her department also has a supply “to deal with any surge,” she said, touching on the shortages of important medical equipment. “We’re working to have ventilators for any patient who needs it.”
The safety of elderly people remains a concern as the virus spreads. About 5% of nursing homes in Pennsylvania have had positive tests among seniors, who are often medically fragile and particularly vulnerable to the virus.
As of Sunday the state confirmed 64 cases in 36 nursing homes across Pennsylvania.
Levine pleaded with families to put off visits “to make sure that our loved ones stay safe,” adding that her mother lives in a personal-care home, and that she herself can no longer go there.