The Pennsylvania Department said Friday that 200 more people with COVID-19 have died, raising the statewide death toll to 3,616.
The deaths took place over the past several weeks. The Health Department has been reconciling its records with data provided by hospitals, health care systems, municipal health departments and long-term care centers.
Residents of nursing homes and personal care homes account for more than two-thirds of the overall death toll, although the state Department of Health has not disclosed the number of deaths or cases by nursing home.
More than 1,300 additional people have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. To date, the virus has been confirmed in over 54,000 people in Pennsylvania.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. There is no data on how many people have recovered.
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.
In other coronavirus-related developments in Pennsylvania:
Some elective dental procedures can resume statewide, the state health secretary announced Friday, though cleanings and other routine dental care are still off-limits.
Gov. Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine revised their business closure orders to lift the prohibition on “non-urgent and non-emergent” dental procedures.
Dentists and staff must have personal protective equipment and use infection control practices that adhere to federal guidance, Levine said. And all patients must be screened for symptoms of the virus before arriving.
“This isn’t a return to routine dentistry,” Levine said.
BARS AND RESTAURANTS
Bars and restaurants in counties that have been minimally impacted by the coronavirus are asking to be allowed to seat customers again — but outside.
Even as Wolf eases pandemic restrictions in dozens of counties, dine-in service is still off-limits at eateries statewide.
A trade association for restaurants and bars that have liquor licenses wants Wolf to loosen restrictions on establishments in the so-called “yellow” zone, counties where Wolf has lifted stay-at-home orders and allowed retailers to reopen. Those bars and restaurants should be able to open decks, patios and courtyards, at up to 50% of the outdoor maximum seating capacity and with tables at least 6 feet apart, the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association said.
Parking lots also could be used to offer limited seating, roped off with a single entry point, while the bars and restaurants could offer live entertainment, with restrictions on noise levels, the group said.
As the virus continues to ebb, the association said it wants establishments to be able to seat patrons inside, with the same social-distancing rules as outside.
A suburban Philadelphia county said it spent a month fighting red tape at the state Department of Health before winning permission to offer coronavirus antibody testing to first responders, health care workers and their families.
Chester County said Friday it’s the first county in Pennsylvania to offer the blood tests, which can detect whether someone was infected with the virus in the past. Researchers are trying to determine whether people who have already fought the virus have some level of immunity.
Marian Moskowitz, chair of the Chester County Board of Commissioners, said the Health Department set up regulatory road blocks that delayed the rollout by a month.
“So instead of channeling our efforts into getting the tests up and running, we have had to focus our energy on overcoming the red tape,” Moskowitz, a Democrat, said in a written statement.
Levine, asked about the delay at a video news conference Friday, said the county went through a “process” to be able to offer the tests.
The testing began Friday at two locations.