The Latest COVID-19 Updates (March 28)

Staff Writer

-- NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — President Donald Trump backed away from calling for a quarantine for coronavirus hotspots in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, instead directing Saturday night that a “strong Travel Advisory” be issued to stem the spread of the outbreak. Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that the CDC was urging residents of the three states “to refrain from non-essential travel for the next 14 days.”

-- Just one day after a letter from Governor Tom Wolf to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding received approval for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to operate a Disaster Household Distribution program, through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), to provide critical food supplies to Pennsylvanians adversely affected as a result of statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts. "Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians have applied for unemployment compensation after just two weeks of COVID-19 mitigation efforts. I'm incredibly grateful for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's acknowledgement of our need to feed Pennsylvania," Wolf said. "This waiver lifts a weight off the shoulders of our food banks and families across the commonwealth."

2:15 p.m. -- WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is raising the idea of what he's calling a quarantine involving New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut, states hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. But Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York says he "doesn't even know what that means,'' and says the subject never came up in a conversation he had with Trump earlier Saturday. Trump tells reporters at the White House that he had just spoken with some governors and the idea of a quarantine was discussed. Trump says it would be for a "short period of time if we do it at all.'' The federal government generally doesn’t not have the power to impose such restrictions on states. They have the power and responsibility for maintaining public order and safety. Trump made the comments on his way to Norfolk, Virginia, to see off a U.S. Navy medical ship en route to New York City to help with pandemic response there.

12:30 p.m. -- As the state continues to seek relief to save lives and stop the spread of COVID-19, today Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine revised their "Stay at Home" orders to include Beaver, Centre and Washington counties, bringing the state total to 22 counties under a stay-at-home order. This order takes effect at 8 p.m. tonight and will continue until April 6. The order now includes these 22 counties: Allegheny, Beaver, Berks, Bucks, Butler, Centre, Chester, Delaware, Erie, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Washington, Wayne, Westmoreland and York counties.

Noon -- The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed that as of 12:00 a.m., March 28, there are 533 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 2,751 in 56 counties. Jefferson County currently has not had a confirmed case to date, according to the DOH statistics, while Indiana and Clearfield counties currently have two confirmed cases each -- no increase from Friday's report. The department also reported 12 new deaths in the state among positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 34. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital. "Our notable increase in cases over the past week indicate we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously," Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. "Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now: stay calm, stay home and stay safe. We have seen case counts continue to increase and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home." There are 25,254 patients who have tested negative to date.

The latest as of 10 a.m.: WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon says it's made no decisions yet about calling up reservists following President Donald Trump's order authorizing the call-up of an unspecified number to help with the coronavirus response. The Pentagon's chief spokesman says the Defense Department anticipates tapping people mainly for administrative duties and "high-demand medical capabilities whose call-up would not adversely affect their civilian communities.” Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman says before calling up any members of the National Guard, the department would consult with state officials. Hoffman says its “a dynamic situation” and the Pentagon currently doesn’t have “a projected number of expected activations.” Trump said in a letter to Congress on Friday that he had authorized Defense Secretary Mark Esper to order units and individual members of the Selected Reserve, as well as certain Individual Ready Reserve members, to active duty. The reserve call-up likely will assist the military as it deploys field hospitals to cities hard hit by COVID-19 and provide medical support to state and local authorities.


WASHINGTON — The civil rights office at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is issuing a reminder that discrimination during COVID-19 care is prohibited. Civil Rights office director Roger Severino says Health Human Services is committed to leaving no one behind during the crisis. Discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex and religion is prohibited. Officials say they're particularly focused on making sure medical professionals don’t discriminate against people with disabilities.


PARIS — French police are uncovering an underground business in protective face masks, locating more than 23,000 masks stuffed in a small truck in a chic neighbourhood of western Paris. Stocks of masks have turned up in other surprising places. The masks, in short supply in France and other countries, are needed by health workers amid the coronavirus pandemic. The French government requisitioned all masks in early March. Police found 20,000 illegally held masks in a tourist agency in southern Paris and 15,000 masks in a natural foods shop in an eastern neighborhood of the French capital, the newspaper Le Monde reported on Saturday.


MADRID — Spain has seen its deadliest day yet during the coronavirus crisis with 832 deaths reported on Saturday for a total of 5,690 fatalities. Infections have increased by over 8,000 in 24 hours to reach a national total of 72,248. Spain is approaching two weeks of its stay-at-home restrictions and store closings but its infections and deaths keep rising. On Friday, Spain reported a total of 64,059 cases and 4,858 deaths. The medical system is being pushed to the limits in the hot spots in Madrid and northeast Catalonia with doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers falling ill at an alarming rate and working non-stop. Pablo Rojo, an ambulance medic at Barcelona’s Dos de Maig hospital, says the average age is decreasing. He says: "They’re not 80 years old anymore, they are now 30 and 40 years old.”


BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff says Germany won’t loosen its restrictions on public life before April 20. German authorities closed non-essential shops and banned gatherings of more than two people in public at the beginning of the week. Schools, bars, restaurants and clubs are also closed. Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, told Saturday’s edition of the daily Tagesspiegel that “we are not going to talk about any easing before April 20 – until then, all measures will remain in place.” He said that officials will say “in a timely manner before then” what will happen after that date. Braun said that “the older and the sick will have to reduce their contacts for significantly longer.” Germany has recorded more than 50,000 cases of the new coronavirus, according to a tally by John Hopkins University, with 351 deaths - a lower death rate than in many other countries.


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka police say they have arrested thousands, including many who were praying in a mosque, for violating a countrywide curfew imposed as a part of stringent measures designed to contain the spread of coronavirus. The number of positive cases has risen to 106 and the government has ordered police to strictly impose the curfew to ensure social distancing across the country. On a tip that a group of people were praying in a mosque in the town of Horowpathana, about 124 miles (200 kilometers) north of Capital Colombo, police and health officials went to the mosque and arrested 18 while several dozens have fled. The government has banned nonessential travel. Police have arrested 4,600 and seized 1,125 vehicles for violating curfew since March 20.