There are now ten Pennsylvania counties under a stay-at-home order. The latest two are Lehigh and Northampton. "People in these counties and others already under the stay-at-home order should not leave their residences unless they absolutely must," says Gov. Tom Wolf. He and State Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine say the stay-at-home order was extended due to a rapid increase in cases here and a third coronavirus-related death in Northampton County.
Included in a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill is $150 billion go directly to states. Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey answers the question how much Pennsylvania should expect to get. "Pennsylvania's share of that will be, I think, a little bit over $5 billion and the state government will have a lot of discretion on how to spend that, provided that it is spent directly on fighting this very serious public health threat," Toomey says. Also included in the bill is help for businesses of 500 people or fewer. Toomey says the bill essentially will cover those business' payroll for the time being. Many individuals will receive $1200 per adult and $500 per child living in their home. Those eligible to get that money are all individuals who earned under $75,000 and couples who earned less than $150,000. Toomey says that money could come as soon as the first week of April.
New Jersey state Senate President Stephen Sweeney thinks the $2 trilion COVID-19 bailout bill that was approved by the U.S. Senate last night short-changes the state. Sweeney says the bailout does not provide enough money for New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy thinks the bill is a step in the right direction toward helping the state and the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
The number of coronavirus cases continues to increase rather dramatically every day. The state added 276 cases Wednesday and unfortunately more deaths as well. "We have had 11 Pennsylvania adults die as a a result of this virus," says Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine. She said Wednesday afternoon that's an additional four from the previous total. Northampton County saw it's third death and since Levine's statement, Monroe County reported its second death, bringing the state's total to an even dozen.
New Jersey health officials say it may be three weeks before coronavirus cases peak in the state's hardest-hit counties. New Jersey remains second behind only New York with the greatest number of coronavirus cases in the country. As of Wednesday, New Jersey recorded 4402 cases and 62 deaths.
Both Allentown and Bethlehem city halls are closed to the public until further notice. City Hall employees in each city will be able to assist residents by phone or email.
Kutztown Univeristy has postponed this spring's commencement ceremonies. Graduation was scheduled for the weekend of May 8th but that has been pushed back to a date to be determined. Lafayette College had previously announced it was moving graduation to August.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are approving several COVID-19 response measures, including postponing the April primary election. With a signature from Gov. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania's primary will move from April 28th to June 2nd. The bill also allows county officials to start processing absentee ballots earlier to help report election results sooner.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections says they're extending their inmate visitation suspension through April 10th. They're also continuing to thoroughly screen all of their employees during that time as well. The state prison system has had no positive cases of COVID-19 in the inmate population so far.
The state House of Representatives is pushing forward a bill that would make sure public school closures don't cost teachers their paychecks. The bill ensures anyone employed by a school on March 13 would be paid the same as before the closures began. The bill also guarantees teachers' pension credits or contributions aren't reduced.
Pennsylvania Ag Secretary Russell Redding is asking people to only purchase what they need when they go to the supermarket. Redding says hoarding is not necessary and has led to food banks having shortages at a time when their services are needed more than ever. "They need our help. They need our patience. They need our understanding right now that everyone needs access to food. But that's our responsibility, collectively," Redding says.