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Coronavirus In Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf Orders Mass Closings In Montgomery County Following More Coronavirus Cases

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) -- Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is ordering mass closings in Montgomery County in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the county. During a press conference Thursday, Wolf says the closures include all schools, gyms, community centers and entertainment venues.

The state is taking "significant and decisive social distancing" and will begin putting the plan into effect tomorrow. It will last 14 days in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19.

"No mass gatherings should be held, including conferences and rallies. By closing these facilities, we can control the spread of this disease, that's the hope. And we can redirect our public safety and health officials to where they are needed the most," Wolf said.

Wolf says all critical infrastructure will remain open, including all health care facilities, gas stations, grocery stores, government and mass transit.

Wolf says Montgomery County is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak where there are 13 of the state's 22 cases. Among the cases are a doctor and a police officer -- people with broad contacts in the community.

"The goal is not to shut anybody down, the goal is to keep Pennsylvania safe and by taking action, decisive action to mitigate, we're moving beyond simply containing," Wolf said.

The governor's closing order covers places like the Ardmore train station. Suburban Square is currently open.

The King of Prussia Mall says it will remain open and is leaving it up to retailers to decide whether or not they will close.

"King of Prussia will remain open for our retailers, and we are leaving it to them to decide whether they remain open or close. With respect to Governor Wolf's statement today, the Governor did not mandate store closures and did not define what nonessential retail is. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will comply with any federal, state or local government requirements as they arise. We will keep you posted on any new developments," the mall said in a statement.

Plymouth Meeting Mall and Willow Grove Park Mall will be closed for two weeks effective Friday.

The Valley Forge Casino Resort will close to the public on Friday and will remain closed through Friday, March, 27.

Shoppers stocked up at local groceries stores in preparation.

"We are topping up from our previous pandemic shopping," Lower Merion resident Brian Gordon said. "There's long lines, but people are really polite and sane. Montgomery County is functioning well."

Another shopper headed straight to the gym after her shopping.

"It closes tomorrow so it will be my last night at the gym," Jill Diamond said. "So I'm looking forward to seeing my friends and then I don't know what, I'll take a lot of walks."

Any state employee traveling in and out of Montgomery County is now being directed to work remotely.

Wolf is also encouraging large gatherings to be canceled or postponed; discouraging people from going to recreational activities in public places; and asking religious leaders to use their discretion to prevent the spread of the virus through their congregations and their communities.

"These actions may seem severe but they're far less draconian than what we have to do in the future if we don't act now," Wolf said. "We will begin putting this plan into effect for 14 days, beginning tomorrow."

Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, also announced the banning of all big gatherings in the county.

"We, here at the county, are imploring our community to cancel non-essential public and private gatherings, both indoor and outdoor," Arkoosh said.

She says the county supports the governor's actions.

"We're hoping to slow the rate of spread of disease and to decrease the ultimate total number of individuals who are impacted," Arkoosh said.

Arkoosh also recognizes this will not be easy on county residents.

"We know that this is difficult," Arkoosh said. "We urge you to continue to remain calm all week."

Earlier Thursday, four more presumptive positive coronavirus cases were announced in Montgomery County, bringing the total to 13. The statewide total climbed to 22.

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There are 20 presumptive positive cases and two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. The cases confirmed by the CDC are in Delaware and Wayne Counties.

Coronavirus School Closings: Area Schools Closed Over COVID-19 Concerns

The counties impacted to date include:

      • Bucks (2)
      • Delaware (1)
      • Monroe (2)
      • Montgomery (13)
      • Northampton (1)
      • Philadelphia (1)
      • Pike (1)
      • Wayne (1)

CBS3's Stephanie Stahl and Kimberly Davis contributed to this report.

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