Gov. Wolf, Congresswoman Houlahan, Sec. of Health, Sec. of Education Outline COVID-19 Mitigation Guidance for Pennsylvania Schools and Additional Closures in Bucks and Chester Counties
March 14, 2020
PA Total Cases Now 47
Governor Tom Wolf, United States Representative for Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District Chrissy Houlahan, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, and Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera this afternoon provided an update on the state’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including further guidance for schools following Governor Wolf’s announcement yesterday of the closure of all Pennsylvania schools beginning Monday, March 16. Schools to be closed include public K-12 schools, including brick and mortar and cyber charter schools, career and technical centers (CTCs), and intermediate units (IUs). All other schools – including private, parochial, and institutions of higher education – should be consulted directly for the most current closure information.
Gov. Wolf also announced mitigation efforts expanding to Chester and Bucks counties beginning tomorrow, March 15. The governor previously announced mitigation efforts in Montgomery and Delaware counties.
The total number of positive cases in Pennsylvania as of 1:15 p.m. includes two new cases: two adults in Allegheny County, bringing the state’s total to 47, with six of those cases confirmed by the CDC.
“Over the past two days, we enacted significant social distancing in Montgomery and Delaware counties and starting tomorrow, we will expand these mitigation efforts to Bucks County and Chester County,” Gov. Wolf said.
“Where there is evidence of exposure to COVID-19, the commonwealth has taken decisive action – closing both public and private schools and early learning centers, prohibiting visitors from entering senior care and long-term care facilities, and closing government offices. We have initiated these actions in places where we have confirmed evidence of risk, like Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, and Chester counties, and we will continue to monitor this situation as it unfolds to determine if and when we will do this in other counties in Pennsylvania. Individuals, businesses, and communities across Pennsylvania are already stepping up to the challenge. If we succeed in slowing the spread of COVID-19, it will be because we all do our part.”
Congresswoman Houlahan announced the passage today of federal legislation to support the efforts of states to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and offered support to businesses and communities in the 6th Congressional District.
“We are called upon to be our best selves in an unusual and stressful time,” said Houlahan. “This is about our community as a whole – it is as much about protecting our friends and neighbors as it is about protecting ourselves. In Washington, we just passed a second package of legislation to help families, including free testing, paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, and more Medicaid funding. As a former entrepreneur and chief operating officer of a company in Chester County, I know how hard this is and will continue to be there for our small businesses. If you are struggling, please reach out to me and my team. We are here to help.”
Dr. Levine encouraged all Pennsylvanians to take steps to protect their mental health as well as their physical health.
“We are all working hard to protect our physical health, but it’s also important to make sure we are taking care of our mental health,” Dr. Levine said. “As our commonwealth moves forward through this, it is important to know that there are mental health resources available. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis contact the crisis text line by texting PA to 741-741.”
Pennsylvania Department of Education Sec. Pedro Rivera offered guidance to parents and school administrators regarding the closure of all Pennsylvania schools for two weeks and efforts to ensure students have access to meals while schools are closed.
“I am incredibly proud of the education leaders who have been navigating this extraordinary situation,” Sec. Rivera said. “Since the announcement was made to close schools, we have already heard from several schools that have rallied their staff and started emergency food programs so they can continue to provide food in this critical time to their students.
“Pennsylvania sought and received approval from the federal government to allow schools the option to distribute meals at no cost while schools are closed. PDE is partnering with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, other state agencies, the American Red Cross, and public and private partners to expand these efforts.”
Guidance for Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, and Chester Counties and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- The following guidance was in place beginning Friday, March 13, in Montgomery County; Saturday, March 14, in Delaware County; and Bucks and Chester counties tomorrow, March 15, for fourteen days.
- We will evaluate our options throughout that period and continue to communicate as we learn more.
Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, and Chester Counties
- A no visitor policy has been implemented for correctional facilities and nursing homes and will be evaluated for other facilities.
- Freedom of travel will remain, but the governor and his administration ask all people to refrain from non-essential travel.
- All child care centers licensed by the Commonwealth will be closed beginning Monday, March 16.
- Adult day care centers will be closed beginning Monday, March 16.
- Essential services will be available: police, fire and emergency medical services, and essential services for vulnerable populations.
- Supermarkets, pharmacies, and gas stations will remain open. The administration issued guidance for non-essential businesses during county-specific mitigation periods to protect employees, customers, and suppliers and limit the spread of the virus through personal contact and surfaces.
- The Office of Administration provided a message to all Commonwealth employees regarding those who work or live in Montgomery and Delaware counties. This same guidance will be sent to employees who live and work in Bucks County and Chester County.
- This includes individuals who live in Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, and Chester counties and work in other counties and those who live in other counties and work in Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, and Chester counties.
- Individuals will be instructed to work from home.
- The Commonwealth is authorizing a 10 workday paid absence for individuals who don’t have telework capabilities.
- Facilities that are in Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, or Chester counties that are Commonwealth facilities and provide essential services will remain open.
- Facilities that are administered by Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks or Chester counties will follow the same procedures as those counties.
- The Wolf Administration strongly encourages the suspension of large gatherings, events, conferences of 250 individuals or more.
- The Wolf Administration discourages individuals from traveling to recreational activities like gyms, movie theaters and shopping malls.
- The Wolf Administration encourages religious leaders to exercise discretion in order to mitigate the spread of illness.
- Initiated a no-visitor policy at all State correctional facilities and nursing homes to ensure the safety of inmates, residents, staff and visitors.
- Restricted visitors in state centers effective today to ensure health and safety for individuals with an intellectual disability.
- Restricted visitors in assisted living and personal care homes to minimize exposure to our seniors and individuals with disabilities.
COVID-19 Case Information Update
The Department of Health stressed the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19:
- 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.
- If you are sick, stay home until you are feeling better.
Quotes from Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary Rachel Levine
“Pennsylvania has taken a different approach than most other states and countries,” Gov. Wolf said. “We’re trying to approach the coronavirus outbreak in a measured way. Where there is evidence of exposure to COVID-19, the commonwealth has taken decisive action. Closing schools and early learning centers – both public and private, prohibiting visitors from entering senior care and long-term care facilities, and closing government offices. We will continue to monitor this situation as it unfolds to determine if – and when – we will do this in other counties in Pennsylvania.”
“I want to personally thank everyone for doing their part in helping contain COVID-19,” Gov. Wolf said. “That includes the business owners who have shifted their operations to offer no-contact points of sale, work-from home options, or other changes to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Thank you to everyone for doing your part.”
“I strongly encourage the statewide suspension of large gatherings, events, conferences of 250 individuals or more and discourage people from traveling to recreational activities such as gyms, movie theaters and shopping malls,” Gov. Wolf said. “And while people are free to travel, I ask that everyone refrain from non-essential travel. We all need to do our part to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The time to do this is now. We cannot wait.”
“Essential services – police, fire, and emergency medical services, public transportation, essential services for vulnerable populations such as our facilities for people with intellectual disabilities and autism – will still be operational,” Gov. Wolf said. “Supermarkets, pharmacies, and gas stations will remain open, but we do recommend that non-essential retail facilities close.”
“This situation is quickly evolving, even for us here at the Department of Health,” Dr. Levine said. “It can be overwhelming and scary to hear that you should stay home. Aside from practicing good health habits, we want you to practice good self-care to ensure your body is getting the proper nutrients from fruits, vegetables and getting enough sleep.”
“As this situation evolves, we will continually update Pennsylvanians through our website, health.pa.gov, our Facebook page and our Twitter account,” Dr. Levine said. “It’s important to remember that the most accurate and timely information regarding this outbreak is available through the Department of Health.”
Updated Coronavirus Links: Press Releases, State Lab Photos, Graphics
For the daily COVID-19 Report, visit here.
For all press releases regarding coronavirus, please visit here.
Find the latest information on the coronavirus here.
Photos of the state’s lab in Exton are available for download and use here.
Coronavirus and preparedness graphics are available here near the bottom of the page: On.pa.gov/coronavirus