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State posts single-day high in new COVID-19 cases

State workers’ paid leave will end April 10

Pennsylvania residents should wear cloth masks in public to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, the governor said Friday as the state recorded another single-day high in new cases and surpassed 100 deaths.

Gov. Tom Wolf, noting the federal government is readying guidance about wearing masks, urged Pennsylvanians to make their own and put them on when they go to the grocery store, pharmacy and other places where people congregate.

“Wearing a mask will help us cut down the possibility that we might be infecting an innocent bystander, like that grocery store cashier, the pharmacist or someone stocking shelves,” he said in a video news conference. “These folks are keeping us alive by getting us the supplies we need. We owe it to them to do everything we can to keep them safe. Right now, that means wearing a mask.”

In other coronavirus developments Friday:

Cases

The Department of Health reported more than 1,400 additional people tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number to over 8,420. There were 12 new deaths for a statewide toll of 102.

More than 70 nursing homes have reported at least one coronavirus patient. Health Secretary Rachel Levine said the state is looking to hire a company that can act as a “SWAT team” to help nursing homes struggling with infection control.

County jail ruling

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered judges statewide to take steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in jails.

In a ruling Friday, the high court declined to order the release of some inmates from county jails. The justices said the request by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania “fails to take into account the potential danger of inmates to victims and the general population.”

But the court, in its ruling, also ordered president judges in each county court to make sure the jails are addressing the virus threat.

Jails should apply federal COVID-19 health guidelines for correctional facilities, reduce inmate populations to the extent possible, and try to limit the introduction of new inmates into the system, the court said.

State worker pay freeze

Pennsylvania plans to stop paying thousands of state workers whose offices have been closed as a result of the pandemic.

Paid leave for about 9,000 state employees who are unable to work remotely will end April 10, Wolf’s office said.

The pay freeze affects about 12% of the state workforce, though individual agencies were hit much harder, with the state departments of Transportation and Revenue halting pay to more than half their employees. The state will continue to provide health and life insurance benefits.

Many of the impacted employees perform clerical work, according to their union.

State workers can use paid vacation days, sick leave or compensatory time to continue to receive a paycheck. Otherwise they will be eligible to apply for unemployment, officials said.

About 5,700 PennDOT workers will go without pay, primarily in Driver and Vehicle Services. Workers assigned to high-priority highway and bridge construction remain on the job, Wolf’s administration said.

Philly has NY patients

Philadelphia hospitals have been treating patients from New York City, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said Friday, responding to persistent questions about whether the city is prepared to handle an influx from hard-hit New Jersey and New York.

Farley was unable to say how many New York patients are being treated in Philadelphia, noting hospitals don’t report data on place of residence.

“Some people want us to build a wall between us and New York City, and we are not going to do that,” Farley said.

Mayor Jim Kenney said there are no plans to turn people away.

“We are going to plow through it and help everyone we can help,” he said.

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