HARRISBURG — As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday extended his stay-at-home order to all 12.8 million people in the state.
“This virus is spreading rapidly. It’s in every corner of our state. It’s gotten into our nursing homes and our prisons. And it’s filling up our hospital beds,” Wolf said in announcing the order, which will remain in effect through April 30.
“Every day we wait, the coronavirus spreads further and becomes more difficult to suppress. We need to act now,” he added.
Wolf’s move to enact a statewide order comes as COVID-19 continues its unrelenting spread into more counties. On Wednesday, state health officials reported 962 new cases, the largest single-day increase, bringing the statewide total to 5,805.
Sixty of the state’s 67 counties have confirmed cases, and 74 people have died after becoming infected with the virus. Among the infected: 286 health care workers and 200 nursing home residents.
“It is critical that we follow all the mitigation and the prevention efforts and the stay-at-home orders,” Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Wednesday, adding: “If we do not do this correctly, then there is going to be a significant surge of patients” that could overwhelm hospitals.
Over the past week, Wolf had issued stay-at-home orders for counties where the virus’ spread was most acute. As of Tuesday, 33 counties were on that list, covering large swaths of the state. But the governor had stopped short of a statewide order, saying he wanted to take a measured approach to limiting people’s movements.
The governor has so far opted against enforcement of the orders, relying instead on voluntary compliance. He reiterated that stance Wednesday, saying all Pennsylvanians “have a vested interest in staying home.”
“I am optimistic that people across the state will comply and remain in their homes,” he said. “We will all work together in this. It’s our only choice.”
Under a stay-at-home order, residents are urged to only leave their homes for items that are essential for living. They can go out to buy groceries for themselves, family members, or as a volunteer effort; take a walk, hike, or run, as long as they practice social distancing; or care for family members or pets in another household.
Also permitted is travel to care for seniors and people with disabilities. Travel to or from schools or other educational institutions to obtain meals or pick up materials for distance learning is also allowed.
Since the first cases of coronavirus were reported in Pennsylvania on March 6, the governor has shut down schools statewide and ordered all but “life-sustaining” businesses to close their physical operations.
The closures have taken a toll, with the state’s economy already taking a beating.
Officials from the Department of Revenue said Wednesday that tax revenues fell 6% short of what the state had been estimated to collect in March. That trend is widely expected to continue — and accelerate — in the coming months, especially if businesses begin to close and more people lose their jobs.
And the state’s unemployment compensation system is already buckling under the weight of a sudden and steep surge in claims. In the last two weeks in March, more than 830,000 Pennsylvanians applied for unemployment benefits — a number that surpassed the total for all of 2019.
100% ESSENTIAL: Spotlight PA provides its journalism at no cost to newsrooms across the state as a public good to keep our communities informed and thriving. If you value this service, please give a gift today at spotlightpa.org/donate.