78 More Virus Deaths Set New Single-Day High In Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania smashed its single-day high for reported coronavirus-related deaths, recording 78 more fatalities and nearly 1,600 more cases of COVID-19 as the state Department of Health confirmed Tuesday that every county now has an infected resident.
The count more than doubled the previous single-day high of 34 deaths, and boosted the statewide death toll to 240.
New cases — confirmed Monday through midnight and announced Tuesday — raised the statewide total to more than 14,550, according to the department. Monday's total of new cases was close to Pennsylvania's previous high.
“Now more than ever, as we continue to see COVID-19 cases and deaths rise in Pennsylvania, we need Pennsylvanians to take action,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement. “Those actions should be to stay calm, stay home and stay safe."
Not every state agency is necessarily urging people to stay home: The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission opened trout season Tuesday, although the abrupt announcement was two weeks ahead of schedule in a move designed to preempt big gatherings of anglers and travel that typically occurs on the traditional April opening day.
Meanwhile, Chester County launched a plan to test thousands of first responders and other essential workers for coronavirus-fighting antibodies in their blood. In Harrisburg, a federal judge ordered the release of more immigration detainees and Pennsylvania's highest court put county judges on notice to be prepared to release incarcerated juveniles.
More on those developments:
TROUT SEASON BEGINS
Though trout season is open, anglers and boaters must abide by social distancing guidelines provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Gov. Tom Wolf, the Fish and Boat Commission said.
“The trout we have been stocking have had time to spread out, and so should you,” Tim Schaeffer, the agency’s executive director, said in a statement.
The commission nonetheless urged anglers and boaters to fish close to home, cover their faces with masks or cloth coverings, keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others, only go fishing with family members living in the same household and never share fishing gear with others.
Not all waters have been stocked, and the commission said it won't provide a stocking schedule or a list of stocked waters, to further discourage group gatherings.
RELEASING IMMIGRATION DETAINEES
A federal judge ordered the immediate release of 22 people who were being held in civil detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at county jails in Pennsylvania while they await final decisions of their immigration cases.
The 22 people held in prisons in York County and Pike County each suffer from chronic medical conditions and face “an imminent risk of death or serious injury if exposed to COVID-19,” Judge John E. Jones wrote in Tuesday's decision.
Their release is effective for two weeks.
In a separate decision in recent days, Jones also ordered the release of 13 others held in the prisons in which he wrote that, “in times such as these, we must acknowledge that the status quo of a mere few weeks ago no longer applies."
In Tuesday's decision, Jones wrote there is “clear evidence that the protective measures in place in the York and Pike County prisons are not working.”
Anticipating an increase in COVID-19 cases, "we cannot leave the most fragile among us to face that growing danger unprotected,” Jones wrote.
The released detainees must self-quarantine for two weeks, Jones wrote. He gave ICE one week to argue why the detainees' release shouldn't last longer than that.
The U.S. holds around 37,000 people in immigration detention. Detainees and advocates say many are vulnerable because of age and pre-existing medical conditions, and because they are often held in open rooms, beds 3 feet apart, and without adequate supplies of masks or other protections.
In addition to Pennsylvania, immigrant advocates have filed lawsuits in California, Maryland and elsewhere.
BLOOD ANTIBODY TESTS
To fight the spread of COVID-19, Chester County will start testing the blood of essential workers in an effort to determine who has developed coronavirus antibodies and can fight off the disease.
The tests will be administered to emergency responders, prison staff, health care workers and long-term care facility staff in Chester County, officials said.
County officials acknowledge the accuracy of such testing is unclear, and it is unclear how long immunity lasts for people who have had the virus.
The county has received a shipment of 10,000 blood test kits and expect a second shipment of 10,000 to arrive next week. With 307 confirmed cases, Chester County is in the middle of the pack of Pennsylvania's counties in terms of number of confirmed cases per 100,000 residents.
JUVENILES IN CUSTODY
Pennsylvania’s highest court is telling county judges to identify incarcerated juveniles who are good candidates to be released to help mitigate COVID-19.
The Supreme Court issued a 6-0 order Tuesday that told president judges in each county, or someone they designate, to check into how well their juvenile residential placement facilities can prevent the virus from spreading.
The high court declined to issue a blanket release order for juveniles in detention, correctional or other residential facilities. The justices said many counties already began looking into whether some juveniles should be released.
Local judges were also told to try to limit how many juveniles are added to residential placement during the crisis.
PRISONERS MAKING MASKS
State prison inmates have manufactured more than 180,000 cloth masks for use by Corrections Department staff and prisoners.
The prison system said Tuesday that its garment factories began converting to mask production on March 17. Each employee has received three masks, each prisoner two.
The system’s manufacturing arm, Pennsylvania Correctional Industries, is also making gowns, anti-bacterial soap and disinfectant, the department said.