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COVID-19 Update: Thursday, December 10

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the state and federal governments as 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 10.

Pennsylvania Update

Governor Wolf

In a news conference held Thursday afternoon from his home in York, where he is under quarantine because he was diagnosed with COVID-19, Governor Wolf announced new state mitigation efforts to attempt to stem the current surge of cases in the state.  Joining Governor Wolf for the news conference was Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine, who also is under quarantine because she recently was exposed to people who have tested positive for the disease.  (Members of the governor’s staff and security team have tested positive for COVID-19.)

The new mitigation steps take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning, December 12, expire on January 4 at 8:00 a.m., and include:

  • All in-person indoor dining at restaurants, bars, and other such establishments is prohibited.  Outdoor dining is permitted, as is take-out service.
  • Indoor gatherings and events of more than 10 persons are prohibited.  Places of worship are excluded from this limit but urged to find alternative methods of worship.
  • Outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited.
  • All in-person businesses, such as retail, may operate at only 50 percent of capacity.
  • Indoor operations at gyms and fitness facilities are prohibited.  Outdoor facilities and classes are permitted but participants must wear masks.
  • All in-person businesses in the entertainment industry serving the public within a building or indoor defined area, including but not limited to theaters, concert venues, museums, movie theaters, arcades, casinos, bowling alleys, private clubs, and other such venues, are prohibited from operating.
  • Voluntary activities sponsored by or approved by school systems are suspended but may be held virtually.
  • All sports at K-12 public schools, non-public schools, private schools, and club, travel, and recreational, intermural, and intramural sports are “paused.”
  • Professional and collegiate sports activities may continue, subject to current CDC and Department of Health guidelines, but spectators are prohibited.

The governor said his administration has engaged state and local law enforcement and other state agencies to help enforce these new requirements.  These steps are necessary, he said, because “This virus continues to rage in Pennsylvania.”  He also noted that his latest COVID-19 test was negative.

To learn more, go here to see the governor’s news release about the new mitigation efforts; go here to see the governor’s limited-time mitigation order; and go here to see Department of Health Secretary Levine’s limited-time mitigation order.

Department of Health – by the numbers

  • Pennsylvania’s number of new COVID-19 cases was in five figures yesterday for the sixth time in the past eight days.
  • The state’s number of COVID-19 cases to date now exceeds 450,000.
  • Pennsylvania’s overall COVID-19 death toll surpassed 12,000 on Thursday after one of the highest single-day totals the state has suffered since the pandemic began.

Around the State

  • Pennsylvania State MapThe Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that “Allegheny County on Wednesday reported 34 new coronavirus deaths, a record for a single day, and 727 additional coronavirus cases.”
  • “Uniontown Hospital has run out of intensive care unit or medical/surgical beds available as it deals with a flood of Covid-19 cases that has hit Fayette County over the last week and forced a significant number of staff to quarantine or isolate due to the virus,” reports the Pittsburgh Business Times.   The report continues that “The 145-bed hospital has about 50 Covid-19 patients, up from 25 or so a week ago and the previous peak, earlier in the pandemic, of about a dozen.  The ICU unit has been completely converted to COVID-19 care and a secondary ICU unit has been set up within the hospital, and there are COVID-19 patients on multiple floors and in multiple areas.  Patients are being held in the emergency department sometimes until a bed opens up.”
  • With a 43 percent test positivity rate last week, Lycoming County officials, reports the web site northcentralpa.com, are

…putting tighter restrictions on accessibility to public buildings and services.  To enter any county facility, a person must be masked.  “We are not making exceptions,” said Lycoming County Sheriff Mark Lusk. “We’re going to ask you to go back to your vehicle.  We’ll give you a sheet to make the calls that you need to make to make an arrangement with the particular office in the courthouse, to discuss how you want to transact your business.”

Visitors to the courthouse will have to make appointments before arriving.  No extra family members will be permitted into courtroom proceedings.  Essentially the courthouse will be operating on a “call before you come” basis.

  • On Wednesday the New York Times published an interactive map that presented the degree to which hospital intensive care units across the country are occupied largely because of COVID-19 patients (based on a data set made available by the federal government on Monday).  Among the Pennsylvania areas showing especially high occupation rates were:
    • Easton – 104 percent (all ICU beds occupied plus one patient)
    • Allentown – 90 percent of 135 ICU beds occupied
    • Norristown – 95 percent of 27 ICU beds occupied
    • Erie – 94 percent of 111 ICU beds occupied
    • Philadelphia – 84 percent of 1113 ICU beds occupied
    • Pittsburgh – 87 precent of 698 ICU beds occupied
    • Harrisburg – 85 percent of 67 ICU beds occupied
    • Reading – 90 percent of 60 ICU beds occupied
    • Lancaster – 87 percent of 72 ICU beds occupied

Federal Update

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

See the announcement (ZIP) for more information about assignment of these new diagnosis and procedure codes under the ICD-10 Medicare Severity Diagnosis Related Group (MS-DRG).

CMS COVID-19 Stakeholder Calls 

CMS hosts recurring stakeholder engagement sessions to share information about the agency’s response to COVID-19.  These sessions are open to members of the health care community and are intended to provide updates, share best practices among peers, and offer participants an opportunity to ask questions of CMS and other subject matter experts.

COVID-19 Office Hours Call

Tuesday, December 22 at 5:00 (eastern)

Toll Free Dial In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  3968359

Audio Webcast link:  go here.

Conference lines are limited so CMS encourages interested parties to join via audio webcast.

To listen to the audio files and read the transcripts for past stakeholder calls, go here.

Department of Health and Human Services

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Congressional Research Service

Resources to Consult

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

Main COVID-19 Page

COVID-19 Provider Resources

Press Releases

Pennsylvania Department of Health

Main COVID-19 Page

PA Health Alert Network

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Main COVID-19 Page

FAQ

 

Filed in Coronavirus, COVID-19.

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2012 Safety-Net Association of Pennsylvania