Schools, long-term care facilities getting guidance for reopening

Several state government agencies have released new guidelines as Pennsylvania continues the detailed process of reopening the state after the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education released on Wednesday the guidelines that schools must use to reopen in the fall.

The requirements are stricter for those counties still in the yellow phase of the state’s reopening strategy, but schools can begin reopening after July 1.

Before a district can reopen, however, the school board must approve a health and safety plan that will detail how social distancing will work in this new day and age and then that plan must be presented to the state Department of Education.

The districts will also be required to pose those plans online for public inspection as well for families to know what to expect.

The Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Human Services issued guidance for nursing homes, personal care homes, and other long-term and congregate care facilities as counties enter the green phase of the Governor’s Process to Reopen Pennsylvania. To further prevent outbreaks within these vulnerable populations, ongoing restrictions in long-term and congregate care facilities will remain in place at least 28 days after the respective facility’s county enters the green phase.

“We continue to take a careful, measured approach to ensuring that Pennsylvanians can resume work and normal routines safely – especially in our nursing home facilities across Pennsylvania,” Secretary of Health Dr. Levine said. “We need to continue this mitigation effort to make sure that our most vulnerable individuals remain safe. We encourage alternative means of communication for residents to stay in touch with their family, friends, community members, and advocates while we take necessary health and safety precautions.”

On March 18, the department issued guidance for nursing home facilities on COVID-19 mitigation. This guidance required visitor limitations, personnel restrictions, and other measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in nursing facilities. This guidance has since been updated on May 12.

On Friday, Governor Wolf announced the latest counties that will be going into the green phase of reopening, with Northumberland County making the list. Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Northumberland, Union, Wayne, Wyoming, and York counties were all designated to move out of the yellow phase at 12:01 a.m. on June 12 after spending all of next week still in the yellow phase.

According to figures released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania added 443 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday. The state has 74,385 cases of the virus since the first case was discovered in March.

The death toll was increased by 69 souls, putting the count at 5,886.

Dauphin County added 30 cases and one deaths to its total, while Northumberland County added five new cases, while Schuylkill County added two new cases and a death. Dauphin County currently stands at a total to 1,434 cases with 88 deaths, Schuylkill stands at 653 cases with 38 deaths, and Northumberland County is at 206 cases and three deaths.

In comparison, Philadelphia County, the hot spot of the state, added 89 cases and 20 deaths, putting their totals at 18,977 positive cases and 1,399 deaths since the coronavirus first hit in March..

Officials say that the public’s effort to fight and prevent the spread of the disease must continue.

“As Pennsylvania continues to move forward in the process to reopen, we need to remember that the threat from COVID-19 has not gone away,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “As counties move into the yellow and green phases, we must take personal responsibility to protect others. Wearing a mask, continuing to maintain social distancing, and washing your hands frequently are all steps we can take to help protect others, including our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians, our essential workers and our healthcare system.”

As far as negative tests for each county, Dauphin is listed as having 11,098 negative tests while Schuylkill reported 5,570 negative tests and 1,612 in Northumberland County.

The state also updated numbers of age ranges of the positive cases and hospitalizations to date. Currently 1,174 Pennsylvania residents are hospitalized with the virus and its complications, no change from yesterday.

In nursing and personal care homes, there are 15,929 resident cases of COVID-19, and 2,768 cases among employees, for a total of 18,697 at 611 distinct facilities in 45 counties. Out of our total deaths, 4,077 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities. Approximately 5,659 of our total cases are in health care workers.

The breakdown is as follows:

Positive cases

Ages 0-4, <1%; 5-12, <1%; 13-18, 2%; 19-24, 6%; 25-49, 37%; 50-64, 25%, 65+, 28%


Ages 0-4, <1%; 5-12 <1%; 13-18, <1%; 19-24, 1%;  25-49, 15%; 50-64, 26%; 65+, 57%

The counties affected and the number of confirmed cases, with the number of deaths in parentheses, are:

Adams-264 (8), Allegheny-1,973 (168), Armstrong-64 (5), Beaver-598 (74), Bedford-43 (2),  Berks-4,167 (329), Blair-53 (1), Bradford-46 (3), Bucks-5,197 (525), Butler-239 (12), Cambria- 59 (2), Cameron-2, Carbon-250 (24), Centre-154 (7), Chester-2,959 (296), Clarion-27 (2), Clearfield-43, Clinton-60 (3), Columbia-352 (31), Crawford-30, Cumberland-659 (56), Dauphin-1,434 (88), Delaware-6,608 (591), Elk-6, Erie-332 (5), Fayette-95 (4), Forest-7, Franklin-788 (39), Fulton-16 (1), Greene-27, Huntingdon-234 (4), Indiana-91 (5), Jefferson-15, Juniata-95 (4), Lackawanna-1,575 (185), Lancaster-3,337 (317), Lawrence-82 (8), Lebanon-1,000 (36), Lehigh-3,829 (245), Luzerne-2,782 (157), Lycoming-166 (17), McKean-13 (1), Mercer-110 (6), Mifflin-59 (1), Monroe-1,335 (102), Montgomery-7,416 (721), Montour-53, Northampton-3,136 (229), Northumberland-206 (3), Perry-67 (3), Philadelphia-18,888 (1,399), Pike-478 (20), Potter-8, Schuylkill-653 (38), Snyder-53 (1), Somerset-38 (1), Sullivan-3, Susquehanna-124 (15), Tioga-19 (2), Union-70 (1), Venango-15, Warren-5, Washington-141 (6), Wayne-123 (9), Westmoreland-456 (38), Wyoming-34 (7), York-1,040 (28).

As of midnight June 4, there have been 424,201 negative tests for the coronavirus, 8,673 more than the day before. The state also said that 70 percent of the confirmed cases have recovered. If a case has not been reported as a death, and it is more than 30 days past the date of their first positive test (or onset of symptoms) then an individual is considered recovered.

The two stages of reopening and the counties that are in them are:

Yellow counties (counties going green on June 12 in bold) — Adams, Beaver, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Franklin, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lebanon, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh,  Luzerne, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuylkill, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, Wayne, Wyoming, and York.

Green counties — Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Bradford, Butler, Cambria, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton,  Crawford, Elk, Fayette, Forest, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Somerset, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango, Warren, Washington, and Westmoreland.

What is coronavirus?

According to the Pa. Department of Health, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common throughout the world. These viruses can live in animals and at times, evolve and infect people before spreading through human to human contact.

Human coronaviruses are spread just like the common cold or the flu — either through the air through coughing or sneezing, through close personal contact like touching or shaking hands, or by touching an object or surface with the virus on it.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The symptoms can appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after a person is exposed to the illness. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to severe illness and death. As of June 5, the U.S. Center for Disease Control reports there have been 1,862,656 cases of the Coronavirus reported in the U.S. with 108,064 deaths.

What can you do?

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
Clean surfaces frequently.
Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
If you must go out for a life-sustaining reason, please wear a mask.
The Pa. Department of Health offers these guidelines as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

Stay home as much as possible. Try to get groceries once per week instead of daily. Freedom of travel remains, but please refrain from non-essential travel. Essential travel includes things like commuting to an essential job, picking up supplies like groceries and medicine, and checking on family and pets in other households. Do not host or attend gatherings.