Cases down, deaths up in Pennsylvania’s battle with COVID-19

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HARRISBURG, Pa, (WHTM) — Daily COVID-19 numbers from the Pennsylvania Department of Health were a mixed bag on Tuesday. For the second straight day, there were less than a thousand new confirmed cases, 865, bringing in the statewide total to just under 51,000 since the outbreak began.

“That is promising,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania Health Secretary. “But we’re gonna need to see if that trend continues over time because numbers over time is the most important metric.”

Less celebratory were the death statistics. The state reported a whopping 554 deaths bringing the Covid-19 fatality figure to 3,012 in PA. Levine says that’s mostly clerical and blames backlogged data predominantly from Philadelphia.

“That does not represent the number of deaths in one day, it really represents the number of deaths over several weeks,” she said, noting that her office is troubled by the lack of reconciliation in the numbers and that her team and Philly officials are working to fix the problem.

Covid-19 has sickened PennDOT’s finances and may effect upcoming projects, according to officials. With fewer drivers, fewer gas tax dollars, fewer licensing dollars and word now that the Pennsylvania Turnpike likely won’t be able to make its $125 million payment in July that funds mass transit. The kings of the orange cones will soon be maneuvering around red ink.

“Traffic numbers have dropped drastically for the Pennsylvania Turnpike and, as a result of that, the revenue that’s coming from their tolls has been reduced,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian during an afternoon press briefing. She said projects that have been started will be completed but tough decisions lie ahead once the full depths of the budget hole are more clear.

Governor Tom Wolf was pressed in a morning press briefing about his strategy for re-opening more of the state.

“The virus hasn’t told us what its intentions are,” Wolf said.

The governor says the state is issuing strong recommendations like the wearing of masks and social distancing for regions re-opening. But he admits enforcement won’t be strong, adding it’s up to every Pennsylvanian  to do the right thing.

“This is something we’re all gonna have to get used to, that this virus is dictating a whole new way of living and a whole new way of interacting with each other and we’re gonna have to get  used to it,” Wolf said.

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