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November 16, 2020

Monday's new COVID-19 cases top 4,400 in Pa.; health secretary urges virtual holiday celebrations

Illness COVID-19
Rachel_Levine_MG.original.jpg The Office of Governor Tom Wolf/

At a COVID-19 press briefing on Monday, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine reiterated that the state's residents should practice social distancing, avoid large and small gatherings, and staying away from people who are not members of their households.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported more than 4,400 new coronavirus cases in the state on Monday morning, and the health secretary asked Pennsylvanians to "answer the call" to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, recommended residents avoid gathering in groups and instead connect with loved ones virtually this holiday season.

"We need people to answer the call when a case investigator calls, a contact tracer calls, and provide them with information that can actually save someone's life," Levine said. "We can answer the call by wearing a mask … we can answer the call by practicing social distancing, avoiding large and small gatherings, and staying away from people that are not a part of our immediate household."

As of 8 a.m Monday, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Pennsylvania had risen to 2,374 patients — 510 of those cases are in the ICU, and 258 are on a ventilator. One week ago, there were just 1,735 people hospitalized due to the coronavirus, Levine said.

"This number is rising rapidly and highlights the role we all play in preventing our health systems from becoming overrun from COVID-19," she said.

On Monday, the health department reported 4,476 new positive cases; that's on top of the 5,199 positive cases from Sunday. Pennsylvania's total COVID-19 is 269,613, and Levine said the rise in the number of new patients is the greatest that Pennsylvania officials have seen since the pandemic began.

Patient questionnaires show those contracting COVID-19 attended small gatherings, went to businesses or restaurants within 14 days of contracting the virus, Levine said.

COVID-19's earlier restrictions have some business owners worried for the future, but state officials do not have plans at this time to return to the color-coded, stoplight phases implemented county-by-county, as they were earlier this year. Levine reiterated that social distancing, wearing masks and frequent hand washing are simple and important steps to stopping the virus.

Levine's briefing follows Gov. Tom Wolf's virtual "emergency summit" with the governors of over the weekend. The goal of the meeting was to establish aligned policies to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Philadelphia officials detailed the city's new COVID restrictions on business and indoor and outdoor gatherings at a press conference Monday afternoon. 

Also on Monday,  New Jersey tightened its restrictions on indoor and outdoor activities. Previously as COVID-19 infections rose, New Jersey halted indoor dining between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in an effort to reduce community spread. Bar seating was prohibited and indoor groups can only be seated next to each other if plexiglass partitions are installed.

Pennsylvania has not implemented any statewide restrictions as of Monday afternoon.

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