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Pa. database shows beds, ventilators available, in use

Pennsylvania is succeeding in flattening the curve of new coronavirus cases, as cases continue to grow at a slower rate than they did last week.

But the Wolf administration wants to continue ongoing efforts to limit the spread of the virus and prepare hospitals so they don’t become overwhelmed.

On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an order which allows the state to take personal protective equipment and ventilators from any facility in the state and allocate it to areas where they feel it is needed.

"This will all prevent sick Pennsylvanians from having to choose which hospital to go to for fear that some may have less access to equipment than others. And it will help us make use of every ventilator, every piece of PPE and every bed,” Wolf said during the daily press briefing on the state’s coronavirus response.

Along with the order, the Department of Health has unveiled an interactive map which shows cases, available ICU beds and ventilator usage. Anyone can view the map and breakdowns by county. The map is available at health.pa.gov.

As of Wednesday at noon, Carbon County was using none of the four ventilators available in the county. Schuylkill was using none of its 17 ventilators.

Lehigh County had 196 ventilators available and 126 more in use among patients with and without COVID-19. Northampton County had 47 ventilators available, and 51 more in use.

Monroe County had 70 ventilators available and 26 in use.

Wolf said the goal of his order is to make sure that the state’s limited medical resources are being used to their full effectiveness.

“We need to be open to this type of coordination so we’re taking this scarce set of resources and make sure they’re being used in the places that need them the most,” he said.

The state has been trying to increase those supplies in the past few months. Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said that as of Wednesday, her department has distributed 1.8 million N95 masks and another 900,000 surgical masks to health care facilities statewide. They’ve worked to get those masks from manufacturers in Pennsylvania, nationwide and worldwide.

“We will do everything we possibly can to supply these needed resources to health care professionals in the field,” she said.

Northeast Pennsylvania remains a priority area for the Wolf administration. Levine said her department is considering adding a temporary hospital somewhere in the region, as well as a mass testing facility. She didn’t have more details about a timeline or location.

Officials said the state is no longer experiencing “exponential growth” in the number of coronavirus cases. As recently as last week the number of cases was doubling every two days. On Wednesday, the Department of Health announced 1,680 cases, bringing the state’s total to 16,239.

They also reported 70 additional deaths, bringing the statewide total to 310.

Locally, The breakdown of cases is 76 in Carbon County, with one death; Lehigh County, 1,319 cases; Monroe County, 671 cases; Northampton County, 857 cases; and Schuylkill, 136 cases and no deaths.

Kinsley’s ShopRite of Brodheadsville reported on Facebook Wednesday that one of the works has tested positive for the virus. The store assured customers that a deep cleaning has been done and any workers in contact with the patient are in 14-day quarantine.

Levine said the slowing growth in the number of cases is good evidence that stay-at-home orders and restrictions on schools and non-life-sustaining businesses are working. But Wolf warned that we could see increases in the number of new cases if we abandon the current efforts.

“We need to buckle down and recommit ourselves to eliminating as much contact as we can with people outside our homes. If we all continue to work together we can push down that growth rate,” he said.

Republican legislators have said they feel that Wolf’s restrictions, particularly on businesses, have been overreaching and are causing unneeded damage to the state’s economy.

Wolf responded to Wednesday’s debate in the capitol by saying that all state lawmakers want to keep Pennsylvanians safe and avoid overwhelming the state’s health care system.

“I think all of us - the Legislature and the executive branch, we’re trying to buy time, we’re trying to get ahead of the spike in demand on our health care system, we’re trying to keep people safe,” he said.

One activity that the Wolf administration has allowed to go forward is the annual trout fishing season. The season opened on Tuesday, two weeks early. Wolf said he feels that fishing is something which can be done while practicing social distancing. He said he doesn’t feel the same way about golf.

“Going out in the middle of a stream and trout fishing by yourself is something I think could actually be good for your mental health and not contribute one bit to the spread of this virus,” he said.

The Mauch Chunk Creek along Flagstaff Road is empty of fishermen after a surprise announcement Tuesday from the Pennsylvania Fish commission that they were opening the trout fishing season early. Gov. Tom Wolf recommended people go out and fish for their mental well-being. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS