HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) – A rally is planned outside the State Capitol in Harrisburg to protest the Pennsylvania store closings and statewide restrictions.
The organizers say that thousands of people plan to attend the demonstration on Monday lunchtime.
Health Secretary Rachel Levine was asked about the planned protest against social distancing during Wednesday's briefing.
"If such a gathering takes place and they don't practice social distancing and don't wear gloves or wash their hands, etc., they are at a higher risk of contracting the dangerous COVID-19 virus," Levine said.
Organizers promote social distancing at the event, and attendees are told that wearing a face mask is the best strategy.
Governor Tom Wolf said Thursday he had not set a schedule for unnecessary businesses to reopen or leave their homes, and insisted Pennsylvania had not made enough progress to declare "victory" over coronavirus and social distancing to decrease.
GOP lawmakers pushed Wolf to ease his economic shutdown, more business owners feared bankruptcy, and at least 1.4 million Pennsylvania residents were unemployed during a pandemic that killed more than 700 people across the state.
Wolf acknowledged catastrophic damage to the economy, but said that in Pennsylvania or elsewhere there weren't enough testing facilities to get back to normal.
"I think we should stay on course now," the Democrat told reporters on a conference call. "It's hard, it's ravaging the economy, no question about it, but to let this virus overwhelm the healthcare system and the Pennsylvanian ability to fight back would be even worse for the economy."
He suggested that many people still feel unsafe about going to work or patronizing companies, and that reopening isn't as easy as it sounds.
"At this point there is no reason to take your feet off the brakes," said Wolf. "We have to get through this phase as quickly as possible and ensure the safety of the Pennsylvanians. That's what I'm focusing on."
When asked about plans for a protest at the Capitol on Monday, Wolf said he had not heard of it. Wolf said it would be "unfortunate" if it were to come off, suggesting protesters could expose themselves to the virus by gathering in a group.
"The damage they do is basically to themselves and to each other," said Wolf.
For other coronavirus-related developments:
The Pennsylvania test numbers are way down.
In early April, the state health department reported the results of more than 7,000 coronavirus tests a day. For each of the past three days, health officials have reported results of fewer than 4,000 tests.
State health officials said they wanted to do more tests but couldn't get the supplies they needed. A mass test site in Philadelphia was also closed.
"We had great difficulty accessing the reagents and chemicals," said State Health Minister Dr. Rachel Levine on Thursday. "We want to do much more extensive testing."
Fewer people could show up to get tested, according to Nate Wardle, health department spokesman.
RELATED: The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Resumes Limited Online Sales at Fine Wine & Good Spirits
Workers are returning to more than 100 shuttered state liquor stores to process online orders, the Pennsylvania alcohol agency said Thursday.
Wolf's office approved the reopening of 106 of the state's 600 stores to aid online compliance, a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board spokeswoman said. They remain closed to the public and do not have any retail sales.
Store closings were largely unpopular, especially as the state's overcrowded online ordering system failed to meet customer demand in a state where the alcohol authority controls the vast majority of retail sales of hard liquor.
According to the Spirits Agency, 46 establishments have started work, most of it in the past few days, and dozen more stores are expected to open by the weekend.
Wendell Young IV, president of Local 1776 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents approximately 3,500 of the store workers, said the PLCB plan was designed to meet a heavy demand for online sales.
Before the COVID-19 crisis, online sales were a small fraction of the state's $ 2.7 billion in annual alcohol system sales. The agency also sells much of the wine consumed in the state.
Through online fulfillment centers in Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia suburbs, the agency was only able to fulfill approximately 9,600 orders valued at $ 2.1 million from April 1-8.
On Wednesday the system more than doubled its daily capacity and filled 4,400 orders. The PLCB expects to reach 10,000 orders per day or more in the near future.
Producers, breweries, wineries, and distilleries, and privately owned beer distributors, were allowed to sell while businesses classified as "non-life sustaining" were closed.
WOLF warns of a large budget deficit
Pennsylvania faces a projected budget deficit of up to $ 5 billion, Wolf warned in a letter to President Donald Trump.
Wednesday's letter supported calls by other governors for an additional $ 500 billion in federal aid to states battling the spread of the coronavirus. It was signed by Wolf and two other Democratic governors, Tony Evers of Wisconsin and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.
Wolf said the projected deficit of between $ 4.5 billion and $ 5 billion will make it difficult for the state to help workers and businesses rebuild its economy.
The Pennsylvania death toll rose 60 to 707 on Thursday, the state Department of Health reported. More than 1,200 other people tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Nursing homes are particularly badly affected. More than half of the state's deaths occurred in more than 300 nursing and nursing homes across Pennsylvania, according to the Department of Health. Nearly 3,300 long-term care residents have contracted the virus.
According to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Health, more than 27,700 people across Germany have tested positive.
BERKS COUNTY SOUNDS ALARM
A sharp spike in coronavirus cases threatens to overwhelm Berks County's hospitals, officials said Thursday.
Tower Health's Reading Hospital and Penn State Health St. Joseph have released a model showing an impending shortage of regular hospital beds and intensive care beds. Hospital officials said they are working to avoid this worst-case scenario by creating additional bed capacity, adding staff and sourcing supplies.
The hospital directors attended a press conference organized by Berks County officials.
The chairman of the board, Christian Leinbach, said that virus cases are increasing in Berks more than in neighboring countries. He accused local residents and businesses of not following social distancing guidelines.
"The numbers in Berks County are grim," said Leinbach. "We're not doing well. Corporations and individuals aren't doing enough of the basic things like wearing a mask."
More than 1,400 Berks residents have tested positive for the virus, according to the state health department. Quoting data from the coroner's office, Leinbach said 52 had died.
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