The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced Thursday that Westmoreland County has its first two confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Our notable increase in cases over the last few days and our first death in Pennsylvania 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.”
The state saw its first death from COVID-19 on Wednesday in Northampton County, near Allentown.
Levine said 1,608 patients statewide have tested negative for the disease. The state is no longer able to track how many tests are pending.
Westmoreland County Public Safety Director Roland Mertz said state officials have not shared specific information about the local cases.
“All we know is the tests were conducted in Westmoreland County and came back as a presumed positive. The next step will be for the Department of State to conduct contact tracing to see if it is in the community,” Mertz told the Tribune-Review. “We don’t know if it’s a Westmoreland County resident or someone just tested in Westmoreland County.”
Excela Health chief medical officer Dr. Carol Fox said the health system had not processed any positive tests for COVID-19.
“This is the moment we all dreaded but, fortunately, we all anticipated,” Westmoreland County Commissioners Chairman Sean Kertes said in a video statement released Thursday. “We now know that COVID-19 is in our community, and we have to do everything in our power to stop its spread.”
The Westmoreland County Commissioners on Saturday declared a state of emergency in the county.
“The county is taking proactive measures by declaring a disaster emergency as a result of COVID-19 creating a public health emergency,” Kertes said Saturday. “The declaration has the effect of temporarily suspending certain procedures to mobilize emergency response for the (coronavirus).”
The commissioners on Tuesday announced that beginning the next day, the county government will be limited to “essential functions only,” through 8 a.m. March 30.
The commissioners in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic charged each county department and row office with evaluating essential and non-essential personnel and functions based on county statutes.