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Wolf says health care surge is still coming; Levine updates number of beds, ventilators available

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Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday that the surge to the health care system is still on the horizon because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said at this point there are plenty of beds and ventilators still available.

Levine reported that 51 percent of hospital beds, 40 percent of ICU beds and 70 percent of ventilators are available during the daily press conference that she holds, often joined by Wolf.

She also said the state has given the following equipment to health care systems, EMS services and long-term care facilities in the state:

• 1.5 million N95 masks.

• 106,000 gowns.

• 701,000 procedure hospital masks.

• 560,000 sets of gloves.

• 990 goggles.

• 120,000 face shields.

Other points made at Monday’s press conference:

• Levine, on the number of new cases announced Monday being slightly less than the previous two days: “It is good news whenever we have a plateauing or even a decrease in terms of the numbers of new cases. … However, it is way too early to tell whether we are seeing a true plateau in the numbers of new cases. We watch these over three- and seven-day intervals.”

• Wolf, on why lottery tickets are still being sold during the pandemic, said that they are sold in convenience and food stores, which are open, and those funds go toward senior services, which is important at this time.

• Wolf, on why stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s can remain open, said that such businesses are considered like pharmacies are food stores, and that they sell cleaning products and items to maintain the home, which are considered vital.

• Wolf, on the current stay-at-home order in place through April 30, said he believes it is having the desired effect. “I’m not moving it beyond April 30 but that might happen,” he said.

• Wolf said the current state budget, which wraps up at the end of June, won’t be close to what was anticipated because of the shortfalls due to the pandemic. Working ahead to the next budget, he said he is talking to the Legislature about how to proceed.

• Levine reiterated that the state is not tracking coronavirus recoveries because there is no way to do it. The state can’t track residents who never tested positive but recovered at home. She said the state is looking to get data on discharges, however.

• Levine was asked by the Press & Journal about comments White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx made Saturday. Birx said Americans should try to avoid stores and pharmacies in the coming weeks. “If there’s an urgent need to get medicine or get food, then certainly people will need to do that. If you do that, then please wear a mask. Your mask protects me, and my mask protects you,” she said, adding: “It’s very important that people in Pennsylvania not become complacent, that they have a false sense of security. This is a critical time in Pennsylvania in terms of the pandemic.”