COVID-19 Update, April 21: State’s death toll passes 1,500

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

While the toll on Pennsylvania and Chester County from COVID-19 is evident, new information gathered by the state Department of Health (DOH) suggests the amount of loss to the virus statewide has been heavier than originally thought.

DOH has been updating how it gathers information on COVID-19 deaths and added 360 new fatalities to the overall statewide number, bringing the death toll from the virus to 1,564.

New cases ticked back up Monday, with 1,296 reported, totaling 34,528 now to date. Even as Gov. Tom Wolf announced some slight loosening on the business shut down, state officials said it was important for residents to continue social distancing practices, noting the stay at home order had been extended through May 8.

“As we see the number of new COVID-19 cases continuously change across the state that does not mean we can stop practicing social distancing,” Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “We must continue to stay home to protect ourselves, our families and our community. If you must go out, please make as few trips as possible and wear a mask to protect not only yourself, but others. We need all Pennsylvanians to continue to heed these efforts to protect our vulnerable Pennsylvanians, our health care workers and frontline responders.”

In Chester County, new case number continues to slow — just 28 new cases reported Monday. The death toll remains a bit elusive, however. Chester County Health reports 49 deaths, while state DOH reports 65 total in the county, closer to numbers revealed last week by County Coroner Christina VandePol.

Wolf signed Senate Bill 841 Monday, designed to help local communities and businesses respond to the COVID-19 emergency and protect the public. The bill provides flexibility on property tax deadlines, allows remote public meetings and notarization of documents so online vehicle sales can resume.

“This bipartisan legislation gives local governments and businesses additional options to help property taxpayers and address various needs,” said Gov. Wolf ion a statement. “COVID-19 remains a very real threat and each of us needs to continue doing our part to cut back on physical interactions. This new law is a measured and safe way to provide relief as we continue to monitor the spread of the virus.”

Wolf’s office said the bill does the following:

  • Reauthorizes the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council and requires it to study the impact of COVID-19 on hospitals and health systems.
  • Allows local governments to conduct remote public meetings.
  • Provides property tax relief by allowing taxing districts to waive late fees and penalties for property taxes paid by December 31, 2020.
  • Allows school districts to renegotiate contracts with service providers to ensure payment of personnel and fixed costs during the school closure.
  • Allows remote notarization of documents.
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