HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) - Gov. Tom Wolf has announced new details in his plan to reopen the state economy shutdown by the coronavirus outbreak.
At a Monday afternoon press conference, Gov. Tom Wolf announced small steps like lifting restrictions on online car sales, reopening some state stores for curbside pick-up and allowing construction to resume on May 8.
"There is still a statewide stay-at-home order, and that's going to last until May 8," Gov. Tom Wolf says.
He calls this a target date and says at that time, other restrictions may be lifted on what he calls an evidence-based, region-by-region approach.
He says this doesn't mean life will look like what it did in February. He went on to say there's still no vaccine or cure for COVID-19 and without precautions, the state could see a surge in cases.
"We cannot relax," he says. "We're going to continue to take precautions that limit our physical contact with others, cutting down transmission links while we move toward an opening on May 8."
He says the amount of coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania have stabilized and that the state didn't see an overwhelming of the healthcare system like health officials feared.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald translates this as good news for our region where the virus numbers have stayed low and are now declining.
"So at that point, we'll see some lifted. I would expect in Western Pennsylvania, because our numbers have been so good, that we would fall into that category," Fitzgerald says.
But how much our economy opens will be based on data and testing, which would allow any resurgence of the virus to be identified, isolated and contained.
"We need to have the testing in place so that we know how many infections there are and whether it's getting out of hand or not," said Pitt professor and epidemiologist Donald Burke.
He says the U.S. has been far behind countries like South Korea and Singapore in testing, and here in Allegheny County, he says we've tested about one percent of our residents when five times that is still needed.
Still, he's optimistic we can get there in short order.
"This will be a ramp up process. It'll come into play over time. I'll be surprised if we're not up to speed in a month," Burke said.
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The Pennsylvania Department of Health is reporting 948 additional positive cases of Coronavirus statewide, as well as 92 more deaths. Total cases of the virus statewide now stands at 33,232 and the death toll is now up to 1,204. The Health Department says all 67 counties in Pennsylvania now have cases of COVID-19.
Gov. Wolf's announcement comes after he laid down the framework of a plan for reopening the state on Friday, but did not provide a timeline. He said the state would take a "data driven" and "regional" approach to opening back up.
The stay-at-home order, when first issued, was supposed to end April 6. It was then pushed back to April 30, in line with President Trump's guidelines. At that time, Gov. Wolf said schools and non-essential businesses would be closed indefinitely.
When Gov. Wolf announced the gradual reopening of the state, he said the plan relies on science and that there needs to be adequate PPE and testing available.
He also said the vulnerable population would be protected by limiting visitors to nursing homes and jails. Large gatherings "not limited to occupations" will be restricted during the whole reopening process.
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