HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf's administration reported more coronavirus-related deaths in Pennsylvania on Wednesday and ordered residents of Lehigh and Northampton counties to stay home, with few exceptions, as more of the state is put under the directive in an effort to slow the virus' spread.
Wolf's office said the order will take effect at 8 p.m. for the two counties, home to more than 670,000 people.
Before Wednesday, Wolf's orders covered eight counties, including Philadelphia, Allegheny County and Philadelphia's four heavily populated suburban counties. The 10 counties account for half of Pennsylvania's 12.8 million residents.
The order requires residents to stay home, except for certain allowable travel or errands for health or safety purposes or going to a job designated as part of a life-sustaining employment sector.
Also Wednesday, the state Department of Health said it had confirmed 276 more cases of coronavirus — an increase of one-third — and four more deaths for a total of 11 statewide.
Meanwhile, the state House of Representatives has resumed a voting session in Harrisburg to consider a package of coronavirus-related legislation, including $50 million in aid to help hospitals, nursing homes and emergency response teams afford masks, gloves and other personal protective gear.
A look at other coronavirus-related developments in Pennsylvania:
With the cases confirmed by the state Department of Health, there are now more than 1,120 cases in 44 counties.
Delaware County reported its first two coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday, the latest toll in the hard-hit southeastern part of Pennsylvania.
Delaware County said one coronavirus victims is an 85-year-old man and the other victim was an 86-year-old woman. Both had been hospitalized.
More than 400,000 Pennsylvanians filed for unemployment compensation benefits last week amid a tidal wave of coronavirus-related business shutdowns, eclipsing the high-point during the recession a decade ago, the state's top organized labor leader said Wednesday.
Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the AFL-CIO, said Gov. Tom Wolf's administration briefed him on last week's figures as the union urges Wolf and lawmakers to expand unemployment compensation benefits to replace a full salary, rather than a half salary.
Wolf last Thursday ordered a statewide shutdown of all "non-life-sustaining" businesses in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus and buy time for the state's health care system to expand staffing, equipment and bed space.
Even before that order, unemployment compensation filings in Pennsylvania and many other states had skyrocketed, underscoring how many businesses had already closed or shed workers.
A review of weekly data going back to 1987 shows a high-point of 61,000 in early 2010, when the effects of the Great Recession were taking hold.
The agency would not release last week's figures to The Associated Press, saying the federal government has embargoed the figures until Thursday.
Pennsylvania State Police issued warnings Tuesday to 17 more "non-life-sustaining" businesses that failed to comply with Wolf's directive to shut down.
State police issued a total of 44 warnings, but no citations, during the first two days of enforcement, the agency announced Wednesday. The greatest number of warnings, nine, were issued by a state police troop that covers four counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Wolf has ordered all nonessential businesses to shutter their physical locations to help slow the spread of the virus.
A measure to delay Pennsylvania's primary election by five weeks, potentially past the spike of the state's spreading coronavirus cases, could pass both chambers of the state Legislature to Wolf's desk on Wednesday.
Wolf, a Democrat, will sign it, his office said.
The measure also has high-level support from top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature and won a unanimous preliminary vote in the House on Tuesday.
Under the bill, Pennsylvania would hold its primary election on June 2, instead of April 28, when the state could be in the thick of a surge of coronavirus cases.
Training and recruiting poll workers in the thick of the coronavirus crisis could prove impossible, lawmakers say.
In addition to delaying the primary date, the legislation would give county election offices a head start on processing and tabulating mail-in ballots, newly allowed under a five-month-old election law.
Letting election workers start at 7 a.m. on election days, instead of after polls close, is designed to help them avoid a massive backup that county officials have warned could extend vote counting in the presidential race for days afterward.
Primary voters will pick candidates in contested races for president, Congress and the Legislature.
PITTSBURGH TRASH PICKUP
Sanitation workers were sent home for the day in Pittsburgh as city and union officials met to clear up precautionary instructions and other issues that drew protests from those workers Wednesday morning.
Several workers complained that they had not been given enough protective gear after a sanitation worker's wife had a presumptive positive coronavirus test Tuesday. That worker was sent home to self-quarantine.
Mayor Bill Peduto's office said the city has provided wipes for equipment, cleaned trucks and buildings, provided gloves and protective glasses as well as plastic gloves to go under the larger outer gloves if workers wanted them.
Collections are expected to resume on Thursday.