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Beaver County now at 13 cases; state total nears 1,700

Ellwood City Ledger, Pa. — J.D. Prose and Daveen Rae Kurutz Ellwood City Ledger, Pa.

March 26-- Mar. 26--As the number of Pennsylvania's coronavirus cases nearly reached 1,700 on Thursday, the state secretary of health said nearly half of those testing positive are 50 and older with 25- to 49-year-olds accounting for almost 40 percent of cases.

During her daily coronavirus, or COVID-19, daily livestreamed briefing with Gov. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine also said state's increase had more than doubled, from 276 on Wednesday to 560 on Thursday.

There were 1,687 cases statewide on Thursday with the death toll at 16, up from 11 on Wednesday, including two in Allegheny County and one in Butler County that was announced on Wednesday. Forty-eight of Pennsylvania's 67 counties have confirmed cases.

"This demonstrates that exponential rise that we have been discussing," Levine said.

"We're not fighting a battle here," Wolf said, "we're fighting a war."

Beaver County's cases numbered 13 on Thursday, nearly double that of the previous day's total of seven, while Lawrence County had one case, according to data provided by the state Department of Health.

So far, there have been eight positive test samples taken at the Community Outreach Wellness Center site in Aliquippa, where 72 people were tested on Wednesday. By ZIP code, the positive tests include Beaver Falls (three), Aliquippa (two), and one each in Ambridge, Conway and Ellwood City.

A letter was sent to Ambridge employees Thursday indicating that a member of the police department had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Beaver County Commissioner Tony Amadio said he knows residents are struggling with Wolf's requests to stay at home and not socialize with friends and family.

"It's tough. I know it's tough," Amadio said. "Once that door is closed and you're at home and you can't go anywhere or do anything, it's tough, especially if you have children or grandchildren. But, please, do not have contact with people outside of your household."

Amadio's colleagues, Chairman Dan Camp and Commissioner Jack Manning, echoed that plea to follow the state's guidelines and limit personal interactions. Camp stressed that residents should realize that the number of cases will rise as more testing is done.

"We know there's got to be other cases, the numbers for Beaver County is not the final count," Manning said. "This is going to continue to bake for the next several weeks or months."

Levine said that 46 percent of confirmed cases are affecting those 50 and over and that 39 percent are between 25 and 49. "It's very important that younger adults not be complacent about their susceptibility to COVID-19," she said.

More than 170 Pennsylvanians have been hospitalized with coronavirus since March 6, Levine said, which is about 10 percent of the state's total and which is consistent with what officials have seen in other states.

Fifty-six of those hospitalized have required intensive care treatment and 32 of those have needed ventilators or other breathing assistance, Levine said. Of those hospitalized, 40 percent were over 65 and many have underlying health conditions, she said.

Eleven of the state's 16 coronavirus-related deaths have been residents over 65. All of the deaths have involved adults.

The Allegheny County Health Department said it now has 133 cases, up from 88 on Wednesday, with 20 victims hospitalized.

Fifty-two of the confirmed cases are residents between 25 and 49 years old, followed by 37 residents between 50 and 64, 21 residents between 19 and 24, 18 residents 65 or older, three residents between 13 and 18, one between 5 and 12 and one 4-year-old or younger.

Females account for 70 of the cases while 63 men do.

Statewide, Philadelphia continues to have the most cases with 402, followed by Montgomery County with 282 and Delaware County with 156. With Greene County reporting its first three cases, all southwestern Pennsylvania have confirmed infections.

Besides Greene, Westmoreland County has 24, Washington County has 12 and Fayette County has eight.

Levine said the state has been providing much-needed medical supplies to hospitals and health-care systems with personnel on the front lines of the fights against COVID-19. By Thursday, Levine said, the state had distributed nearly 680,000 N95 masks, 207,600 procedure masks, 380,000 gloves, almost 37,000 gowns used for personal protective equipment, and more than 44,000 goggles or face-protection pieces.

Pennsylvania officials are "scouring the state and the country" to ensure that state medical workers have sufficient supplies, Levine said.

Wolf announced that, per legislation approved by the General Assembly, there would be $50 million available to purchase medical supplies for medical facilities. "The reality is we're just seeing the beginning of this crisis," he said. "We don't know how bad the surge will be."

Also on Thursday, it was revealed that about 650,000 Pennsylvanians had filed unemployment claims since March 15, a staggering number that represents about 10 percent of the state's workforce.

Wolf said, though, that the number could reach 800,000 by the end of Friday when pending claims are processed.

Responding to a question about lifting his ban on construction work that is part of his effort to mitigate the spread of the virus, Wolf said he knows there were projects left unfinished that need to be addressed.

State Rep. Josh Kail, R-15, Beaver, on Wednesday called on Wolf to lift the ban so that work could continue on now-abandoned sites that pose a health and safety risk to the public.

"I think we need to be smart about this and apply common sense," said Wolf, adding that if there is a way to lift the ban "in a safe and sound manner" then he would consider it, but that limiting people from congregating and spreading the virus is his main goal.

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