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More Pennsylvania counties poised to enter ‘green’ phase

June 11, 2020 GMT
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Robert Chandler, 70, and his wife Sadie Chandler, 69, residents of the Richford Arms apartments in Erie, sit outside on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. One-third of Erie County COVID-19 cases are African-Americans. "I am susceptible to the virus because of pre-existing conditions," said Robert Chandler. "I'm very concerned. I don't see a lot of people wearing masks." (Jack Hanrahan/Erie Times-News via AP)
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Robert Chandler, 70, and his wife Sadie Chandler, 69, residents of the Richford Arms apartments in Erie, sit outside on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. One-third of Erie County COVID-19 cases are African-Americans. "I am susceptible to the virus because of pre-existing conditions," said Robert Chandler. "I'm very concerned. I don't see a lot of people wearing masks." (Jack Hanrahan/Erie Times-News via AP)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The coronavirus caused 51 additional deaths among Pennsylvanians and about eight times that number in new infections, health officials said Thursday, while Philadelphia kept close tabs on its virus numbers after recent protests.

There were 467 new infections, the state reported. It has reported 6,113 total virus deaths, and more than 77,000 people have contracted it. Residents of nursing and personal care homes account for more than two-thirds of the state’s death toll.

Pennsylvania has been reopening in phases under a plan designed to relax restrictions in places where the outbreak is less severe. A dozen more counties were poised to enter the least-restrictive phase on Friday, meaning gyms, hair salons, theaters and other businesses that had remained closed since March may now reopen at reduced capacity, restaurants may offer limited table service and gatherings of up to 250 people are permitted.

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State lawmakers passed a resolution this week to end Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s business shutdown entirely and lift other restrictions, and Senate Republicans asked a state court Wednesday to enforce it.

Philadelphia’s health commissioner, meanwhile, said Thursday there is concern that protests following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota will lead to a spike in virus infections in the city, but so far, “there’s no evidence of transmission yet.”

Dr. Thomas Farley said at an online news conference that many of the protesters in Philadelphia were wearing masks and that “in many cases they were keeping a distance from other people.”

On Saturday, thousands jammed the city’s grand Benjamin Franklin Parkway to demonstrate against police treatment of black people and racial injustice.

“It’s still early. We’re going to have to watch this for at least another week, but so far, so good,” Farley said.

Officials have urged demonstrators to get tested.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. More than 70% of the people with confirmed infections have since recovered, Pennsylvania officials said.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the confirmed count because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.

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