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As Virus Ebbs, Wolf Touts Increased Testing, Contact Tracing

Matt Rourke
A couple wearing protective face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus walk in Philadelphia, Thursday, May 21, 2020.

With 18 counties preparing to move to the least restrictive phase of Gov. Tom Wolf's reopening plan, the number of new virus infections continues to fall throughout Pennsylvania and officials say they're making strides in their ability to manage flareups.

Virus testing has increased from 50,000 in the last week of April to nearly 80,000 last week, Wolf said Tuesday. And a new contact tracing program — in which infected people are swiftly isolated and people they came into contact with are quarantined — has ramped up as well, he said.

Wolf is moving 18 counties from the “yellow” phase of his reopening plan to the “green” phase, meaning most restrictions are lifted.

After initially asking the state to remaining in yellow, commissioners in Centre County, home to Penn State University, opted Tuesday to go along with Wolf and move to green on Friday. The commissioners had cited concern about protecting poll workers during the June 2 primary.

In the green phase, restaurants and bars, salons and barber shops, gyms, theaters, malls and casinos can all open at reduced capacity, according to Wolf’s reopening plan. People will still be asked to wear masks in public and observe social distancing.

Additional details on the green phase are expected to be released this week.

In other coronavirus-related developments in Pennsylvania on Tuesday:


There were 13 additional deaths linked to COVID-19, raising the statewide total to 5,152, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported Tuesday.

State health officials also reported that 451 more people have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Since early March, infections have been confirmed in more than 68,600 people in Pennsylvania. Health officials reported that 61% of the people who have tested positive for the virus are considered to be fully recovered, meaning it’s been more than 30 days since the date of their positive test or onset of symptoms.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the state’s confirmed case count because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.



At least nine confirmed cases of a serious rare inflammatory condition in children linked with the coronavirus were reported Tuesday by the health department.

The rare condition has been reported in scores of New York children and in several children in other states. A few children have died.

Some children may have symptoms resembling Kawasaki disease, a rare condition in children that can cause swelling and heart problems. Symptoms include persistent high fever, rash or change in skin color, swollen lymph nodes, red eyes and abdominal pain, said the Pennsylvania state health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine.

She said there have been a total of 17 reports of the illness in Pennsylvania, of which nine were confirmed, two were ruled out and another six remain under investigation.

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