State and County Record “Spikes” in COVID-19 Cases, Gov. Announces Waivers for Health Care Workers
12 more people died in Pennsylvania health officials announced bringing the total number of coronavirus deaths to 34 state wide as of Saturday. Its the largest single day increase of reported deaths since the outbreak came to the state earlier this month.
Meanwhile Bucks County officials reported 53 new cases reported Friday evening the biggest single day spike in confirmed cases, saying increased testing availability and options are the reason for the jump in cases, after a one day lull in positive case reporting on late last week, bringing the number of cases in Bucks to 181.
It doubles our largest increase to date,” Dr David Damsker director of the county’s health department, said, adding that he remains encouraged community spread is diminishing.
Larger testing sites have been sampling several hundred people per day accounting for the cases conformation increases, he said.
Most of the new positives resulted from known contacts with confirmed cases, often family members, Damsker said. Others were people who had taken airplane flights recently or had been to New York.
A handful of first responders and healthcare workers, whose essential jobs bring them into contact members of the public, were also among the new patients, officials said.
“I want to make it clear; we have a lot more than 144 cases in Bucks County, at the early Friday press briefing.
Results later Friday evening bore that out. “Long story short, we had a large influx from some of the large testing sites,” Damsker said
Fifteen patients are now hospitalized, six of them on ventilators in critical condition, officials said.
Pennsylvania officials said the number of confirmed cases also also jumped- by 531 on Saturday, approximately the same number of cases confirmed on Friday by Department of Health officials.
The economic impacts being felt throughout the county started showing up in numerical form as Bucks County saw 2,500 people file for unemployment this month, a 200 percent increase, County Commissioner Bob Harvie said.
“We’re still trying to digest everything that’s coming out of Harrisburg and D.C,” said Harvie.
Residents of 34 Bucks County municipalities have tested positive for the virus, as New Britain Township and Langhorne, Newtown, Sellersville and Tullytown Boroughs were added to the map on Friday.
With Governor Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order now extended to 22 counties, adding three on Saturday (Beaver, Centre, Washington) Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said she didn’t see the order being lifted anytime soon.
“Our notable increase in cases over the past week indicate we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously,” Levine said. “Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now: stay calm, stay home and stay safe.”
In a related move Wolf announced reinforcements for health care providers to fight the outbreak with a series of temporary licensing waivers for medical professionals and others during the COVID-19 disaster declaration.
“We have streamlined the process for retired health care workers to return to work and provide relief so those on the frontline can focus on providing care to patients. We’re also expanding the use of telemedicine and supporting and protecting health care workers by helping to purchase the necessary equipment and supplies they will need,” Wolf said.
The temporary license waivers for health care workers include:
Health Care Professionals:
- Streamlining the reactivation of licenses for retired Medical Doctors, Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, Physician Assistants, Respiratory Therapists, Perfusionists, Registered Nurses, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioners and Pharmacists to return to their field, and 119 applications have been received in the past three weeks.
- Allowing licensed health care practitioners to provide services via telemedicine.
- Allowing doctors with institutional licenses to practice at more than 2 facilities.
- Encouraged the use of telemedicine access for opioid use disorder Centers of Excellence patients.
- Allowing more than 14,000 Certified Registered Nurse Practitioners to assist in the COVID-19 response by lifting the requirement that they practice within a specialty.
- Extending license deadlines, temporary nursing permits and graduate permits.
- Allowing certain nursing school graduates to apply for an immediate graduate permit.
- Allowing out-of-state pharmacies to ship goods to Pennsylvania.
- Allowing temporary expedited licensure for certain pharmacy practitioners and pharmacies.
The Department of State has a dedicated webpage with information about all of the temporary licensing waivers.
To further bolster the health care systems, Wolf also signed legislation yesterday to spend up to $50 million to purchase medical equipment and supplies, such as more beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment, for hospitals, nursing homes, and emergency workers to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Wolf administration is also expediting the purchase of critical medical supplies for the health care system with a new Critical Medical Supplies Procurement Portal. A joint effort between the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Health, the Department of General Services, and the Department of Community and Economic Development, the portal is for manufacturers, distributors and other suppliers to inform the state of supplies that can be quickly purchased for medical providers, emergency responders, and health care professionals.
According to the CDC and the World Health Organization the U.S. now leads the world in the number of confirmed cases; more than 100,000. Over 1,700 people have died in the country. And doctors say cases are nowhere near peaking, officials of both health related organizations said as of Saturday morning, 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.