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Starting Friday Wolf is moving eight more counties to the yellow phase, 18 mostly rural counties to the green phase

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Starting Friday, Wolf is moving eight more counties — Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike and Schuylkill — to the yellow phase and 18 mostly rural counties, including the home of Penn State’s main campus in Centre County, to the green phase.

On June 5, Wolf is moving the remaining “red” counties — Philadelphia, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton — to yellow.

In other coronavirus-related developments in Pennsylvania:

STRICKEN VETERANS HOME

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration announced a new leader Wednesday at the Southeastern Veterans’ Center, where nearly three dozen residents have died from the coronavirus and a state senator urged the replacement of its leadership.

The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has named an acting commandant at the center, the agency said it a statement. It did not name the person, explain the circumstances that led to the appointment or what happened to the prior commandant.

Asked about the reasons for the move, Wolf, in a video news conference, said he was responding to the “general concern” that had been expressed about the situation at the center. He did not elaborate on that.

The Southeastern Veterans’ Center had been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, with at least 35 residents dying from the virus, according to state data provided last week. The five other state-run veterans homes appear to have been far more successful in keeping the virus out.

The Southeastern Veterans’ Center has one of the highest death tolls among Pennsylvania’s homes and residential facilities for older adults. Residents of those homes have accounted for roughly two-thirds of the state’s 5,200 coronavirus-related deaths.

However, the scope of the outbreak inside the 238-bed Southeastern home had long been unclear, since the state health and veterans affairs departments did not report on cases and deaths there until recent days.

Relatives of residents have told The Philadelphia Inquirer that they were unaware of how widely the virus had spread — or that anyone had died there — until the newspaper reported it April 17.

A state lawmaker, Sen. Katie Muth, whose district includes the home, had urged state officials to remove its commandant and its nursing director, the Inquirer reported.

Maj. Gen. Tony Carelli, the state veterans affairs secretary, told lawmakers May 6 that he had sought inspections of the Southeastern Veterans’ Center as the death toll rose.

Federal, state and county inspections came back clean and showed the center had sound protocols in responding to the spread of the virus, Carelli told them.

State health inspectors visited May 1, Carelli told them, after he asked the health secretary to make an exception to her policy of suspending nursing home inspections during the pandemic.

Given the number of coronavirus deaths in state-run veterans homes across the country, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania was one of several U.S. senators who asked this month for an investigation by the federal Government Accountability Office.

LAWMAKER TESTED POSITIVE

A Pennsylvania state lawmaker said Wednesday he tested positive for COVID-19 and spent the past two weeks in isolation. Rep. Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin, said in a statement that other members and staff he was in contact with also self-isolated.

Lewis said he kept his positive test a secret out of consideration for his family and others who may have been exposed. He had a fever for a day and a brief cough, but has fully recovered and completed a quarantine period, he said.

Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, who sits in front of Lewis in the House chamber, said he was notified of the potential exposure by the human resources department on May 21, shortly after testifying at a legislative committee meeting.

Diamond said he also isolated himself for two weeks from the date of his exposure to Lewis, on May 14. Diamond said two others with seats near Lewis’ also were notified. Diamond said he has not experienced any symptoms.

House Democrats reacted to the news with outrage.

“From the timeline we’ve been provided, and we still have questions about that, we believe that the Republican leadership at least has known about this probable diagnosis for at least a week. And they failed to tell us anything,” caucus spokesman Bill Patton said.

The House has been holding session under special rules that allow representatives to cast votes without being in the Capitol.

CASES

There were 113 additional deaths linked to the coronavirus in Pennsylvania, raising the statewide total to 5,265, the state reported Wednesday.

Officials also reported that 780 more people have tested positive for the virus.

Since early March, infections have been confirmed in more than 69,417 people in Pennsylvania. Health officials reported that 62% of the people who have tested positive are fully recovered, meaning it’s been more than 30 days since the date of their positive test or onset of symptoms.

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.

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.

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