Gov. Wolf Signs COVID-19 Disaster Declaration to Provide Increased Support for State Response
March 06, 2020
Following a press conference announcing the first two presumptive positive cases of coronavirus, known as COVID-19, Governor Tom Wolf today signed an emergency disaster declaration to provide increased support to state agencies involved in the response to the virus.
“It’s imperative that we continue to respond quickly and accurately to the coronavirus and its introduction into Pennsylvania,” Gov. Wolf said. “First and foremost, we want all Pennsylvanians to be safe and remain healthy and follow the practical advice of the Department of Health on ways to protect yourself from any virus and that’s by washing hands, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough and staying home if you are sick.
“It is critical to prepare for and respond to suspected or confirmed cases in the commonwealth and to implement measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The disaster declaration is an additional way we can be prepared, so I authorized the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director or his designee, to assume command and control of all statewide emergency operations and authorize and direct that all commonwealth departments and agencies use all available resources and personnel as is deemed necessary to cope with this emergency situation.”
The disaster declaration follows the Department of Health’s activation of its Department Operations Center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters to conduct public health and medical coordination for COVID-19 throughout the commonwealth and the governor’s announcement earlier this morning about two presumptive positive cases in Pennsylvania.
The one individual is an adult from Wayne County; the other is an adult from Delaware County.
To date, there are nearly 100,000 cases worldwide, including more than 3,300 deaths. There are 233 cases and 12 deaths to date in the United States. The CDC expects cases to continue to be confirmed in the upcoming days and weeks but wants everyone to take action to help prevent the spread of the virus. CDC also said due to the rapidly changing nature of the spread of COVID-19 around the world, it is important for families to be prepared.
Individuals who intend on traveling outside of the United States are urged to check the CDC’s and the federal Department of State’s travel guidance. Currently there are outbreaks of COVID-19 occurring within numerous countries across the world. The number of countries seeing new cases has increased significantly over the last week.
“As this situation evolves, we will continually update Pennsylvanians through our website, health.pa.gov, our Facebook page and our Twitter account,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “It’s important to remember that the most accurate and timely information regarding this outbreak is available through the Department of Health.”
Symptoms of the COVID-19 can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Individuals most at risk for severe symptoms include elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.
Anyone who does not feel well should:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol- based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Cover any coughs or sneezes with their elbow, not their hands.
- Contain – If someone is sick, they should stay home until they are feeling better.
In addition to the emergency disaster declaration to date the Wolf Administration has:
- Activated of the Department of Health’s Emergency Operations Center to allow for enhanced response coordination;
- Began testing for COVID-19 at the state laboratory;
- Maintained communication and outreach with federal, state and local partners;
- Provided symptom monitoring for residents returning from areas impacted by coronavirus;
Provided health care providers, businesses and education providers with information;
- Reviewed and adapted current pandemic flu plans to prepare for spread of COVID-19;
- Increased testing capacity to test 20 to 25 individuals daily;
- Purchased equipment to increase testing capacity to 125 to 150 individuals within a day.
- Partially activated the Commonwealth Response Coordination Center at PEMA.
PROCLAMATION OF DISASTER EMERGENCY
March 6, 2020
WHEREAS, a novel coronavirus (now known as “COVID-19”) emerged in Wuhan, China, began infecting humans in December 2019, and has since spread to 89 countries, including the United States; and
WHEREAS, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) have declared COVID-19 a “public health emergency of international concern,” and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Secretary has declared that COVID-19 creates a public health emergency; and
WHEREAS, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (“Commonwealth”) has been working in collaboration with the CDC, HHS, and local health agencies since December 2019 to monitor and plan for the containment and subsequent mitigation of COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, on February 1, 2020, the Commonwealth’s Department of Health activated its Department Operations Center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters to conduct public health and medical coordination for COVID-19 throughout the Commonwealth; and
WHEREAS, on March 4, 2020, the Director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency ordered the activation of its Commonwealth Response Coordination Center in support of the Department of Health’s Department Operations Center, to maintain situational awareness and coordinate the response to any potential COVID-19 impacts across the Commonwealth; and
WHEREAS, as of March 6, 2020, there are 233 confirmed and/or presumed positive cases of COVID-19 in the United States, including 2 presumed positive cases in the Commonwealth; and
WHEREAS, while it is anticipated that a high percentage of those affected by COVID-19 will experience mild influenza-like symptoms, COVID-19 is a disease capable of causing severe symptoms or loss of life, particularly to older populations and those individuals with pre-existing conditions; and
WHEREAS, it is critical to prepare for and respond to suspected or confirmed cases in the Commonwealth and to implement measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, with 2 presumed positive cases in the Commonwealth as of March 6, 2020, the possible increased threat from COVID-19 constitutes a threat of imminent disaster to the health of the citizens of the Commonwealth; and
WHEREAS, this threat of imminent disaster and emergency has the potential to cause significant adverse impacts upon the population throughout the Commonwealth; and
WHEREAS, this threat of imminent disaster and emergency has already caused schools to close, and will likely prompt additional local measures, including affected county and municipal governments to declare local disaster emergencies because of COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, this threat of imminent disaster and emergency situation throughout the Commonwealth is of such magnitude and severity as to render essential the Commonwealth’s supplementation of emergency resources and mutual aid to the county and municipal governments of this Commonwealth and to require the activation of all applicable state, county, and municipal emergency response plans.
NOW THEREFORE, pursuant to the provisions of Subsection 7301(c) of the Emergency Management Services Code, 35 Pa. C.S. § 7101, et seq., I do hereby proclaim the existence of a disaster emergency throughout the Commonwealth.
FURTHER, I hereby authorize the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director or his designee, to assume command and control of all statewide emergency operations and authorize and direct that all Commonwealth departments and agencies utilize all available resources and personnel as is deemed necessary to cope with this emergency situation.
FURTHER, I hereby transfer up to $5,000,000 in unused appropriated funds to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency for Emergency Management Assistance Compact expenses related to this emergency, to be decreased as conditions require, pursuant to the provisions of section 7604(a) of the Emergency Management Services Code, 35 Pa. C.S. § 7604(a). In addition, I hereby transfer up to $20,000,000 in unused appropriated funds, to be decreased as conditions require, to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency pursuant to section 1508 of the Act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.343, No. 176) (the Fiscal Code), 72 P.S. § 1508. The aforementioned funds shall be used for expenses authorized and incurred related to this emergency. These funds shall be credited to a special account established by the Office of the Budget. I hereby direct that any funds transferred herein that remain unused after all costs related to this emergency have been satisfied shall be returned to the General Fund.
FURTHER, All Commonwealth agencies purchasing supplies or services in response to this emergency are authorized to utilize emergency procurement procedures set forth in Section 516 of the Commonwealth Procurement Code, 62 Pa. C.S. § 516. This Proclamation shall serve as the written determination of the basis for the emergency under Section 516.
FURTHER, I hereby suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of Commonwealth business, or the orders, rules or regulations of any Commonwealth agency, if strict compliance with the provisions of any statute, order, rule or regulation would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with this emergency. Commonwealth agencies may implement emergency assignments without regard to procedures required by other laws, except mandatory constitutional requirements, pertaining to performance of public work, entering into contracts, incurring of obligations, employment of temporary workers, rental of equipment, purchase of supplies and materials, and expenditures of public funds.
FURTHER, pursuant to the powers vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth pursuant to 51 Pa. C.S. § 508, I hereby authorize the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania to place on state active duty for the duration of the emergency disaster proclamation, such individuals and units of the Pennsylvania National Guard, for missions designated by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, as are needed to address the consequences of the aforementioned emergency.
FURTHER, I authorize the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police to use all available resources and personnel in whatever manner he deems necessary during this emergency to assist the actions of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency in addressing the consequences of the emergency.
FURTHER, I hereby authorize the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in her sole discretion, to suspend or waive any provision of law or regulation which the Pennsylvania Department of Health is authorized by law to administer or enforce, for such length of time as may be necessary to respond to this emergency.
FURTHER, I hereby authorize the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, in his sole discretion, to suspend or waive any provision of law or regulation which the Pennsylvania Department of Education is authorized by law to administer or enforce, for such length of time as may be necessary to respond to this emergency.
FURTHER, if investigations made on my behalf determine that the Commonwealth needs greater flexibility in the application of state and federal motor carrier regulations to accommodate truck drivers involved in emergency activities during this emergency, I hereby direct the Commonwealth Department of Transportation to waive or suspend any laws or federal or state regulations related to the drivers of commercial vehicles.
FURTHER, I hereby direct that the applicable emergency response and recovery plans of the Commonwealth, counties, municipalities and other entities be activated as necessary and that actions taken to implement those plans be coordinated through the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
STILL FURTHER, I hereby urge the governing bodies and executive officers of all political subdivisions affected by this emergency to act as necessary to meet the current exigencies as legally authorized under this Proclamation, namely, by the employment of temporary workers, by the rental of equipment, and by entering into such contracts and agreements as may be required to meet the emergency, all without regard to those time consuming procedures and formalities normally prescribed by law, mandatory constitutional requirement excepted.
GIVEN under my hand and the Seal of the Governor, at the City of Harrisburg, this sixth day of March in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty, and of the Commonwealth the two hundred and forty fourth.