Wolf Administration to Provide Details on COVID-19 Testing, Contact Tracing Benchmarks on Friday
As Gov. Tom Wolf prepares to announce on Friday which communities in the Commonwealth will begin the process of reopening next week, his administration will also unveil details of vital coronavirus testing and contact tracing benchmarks that are vital to the state's reopening plan.

Last week, the governor announced his proposal to slowly reopen the Commonwealth and loosen stay-at-home orders beginning May 8 with communities located in the northwest and northcentral regions of the state. Under Gov. Tom Wolf's three-phased, color-coded plan to reopen certain counties and regions in the Commonwealth, the administration said that appropriate testing will be one of many factors taken into consideration when deciding which communities will be allowed to relax stay-at-home and business closure restrictions.

Pennsylvania's Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said that expanded testing is needed in Pennsylvania, and that the standards and benchmarks for testing will be "aspirational." She reiterated, however, that several statistical and public health data metrics will be used to determine when a county or region can reopen. The administration has said previously that in addition to testing, the state will use data relating to the number of new cases that exist within a county or region.

Many public health experts are sounding the alarm that any plan to reopen states and communities must include vastly expanded testing and rigorous contact tracing standards to prevent future outbreaks. And many are saying that Pennsylvania needs more contact tracers to adequately investigate coronavirus cases.

As the governor prepares to announce on Friday which areas of the state can begin to reopen, he has already approved the loosening of restrictions for all construction projects and certain outdoor recreational activities that follow state-issued guidelines on social distancing and other disease mitigation efforts. In addition, health officials reported this week that hair and nail salons, as well as pet groomers and libraries, could reopen as counties shift from "red" to "yellow" phases under the governor's plan.

At the same time, Republican members in the General Assembly continue to challenge the administration's business shutdown order and the governor's plan for reopening the state's economy.

On Thursday, the state House passed additional measures to require the administration to allow lawn and garden centers to reopen statewide. Earlier this week, the House moved forward with legislation to allow all real estate related activities, as well as law practices, to resume across the Commonwealth.

Also on Thursday, the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee voted along party lines to subpoena records held by the Wolf Administration relating to the governor's business closure order. Specifically, Republican legislators expressed their frustration over the governor's unwillingness to release details on the process used by the Department of Community and Economic Development in issuing exemptions and waivers to the order. Pennsylvania's Auditor General, Eugene DePasquale, announced on Thursday that he will also be looking into the administration's handling of the business closure waiver process.

In a moment of bipartisanship, the House unanimously passed House Bill 2435 on Thursday. The bill would create the Food Establishment Pandemic Disease Remediation Cost Reimbursement Grant Program under which food establishments could obtain reimbursements for costs associated with COVID-19 pandemic disease remediation and mitigation.
Daily COVID-19 update for Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported nearly 1,400 new positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, bringing the state total to 45,763. In addition, 2,292 Pennsylvanians have died from complications from the virus. To date, there have been more than 175,000 negative cases across the state.

Gov. Tom Wolf is still asking all Pennsylvanians who must leave their homes for life-essential reasons to wear a mask to help stop the spread of the virus . An executive order was issued on April 15 requiring customers entering a place of business to wear a mask.

Daily COVID-19 update for Ohio

The Ohio Department of Health reported 18,027 cumulative cases of COVID-19 and 975 deaths, including probable cases, by Thursday afternoon. There have been 3,533 hospitalizations and 1,035 ICU admissions.

As previously reported, Gov. Mike DeWine is requiring all employees and customers entering a place of business to wear a facial covering.
Other News...
Pa. Council on Aging releases results of statewide survey on COVID-19 pandemic. The Pennsylvania Council on Aging released its findings of a statewide survey it conducted of older adults in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Collected during the first week of April, over 3,700 responses were received from Pennsylvanians over the age of 60 who live in communities across the state. Read the full report here.

International Paper, Rep. Toohil work to stabilize food pantries in Hazleton area. Through the donation of corrugated boxes to deliver donated meals throughout the Greater Hazleton area , International Paper, and other Hazleton-area businesses, teamed up with Rep. Tarah Toohil to help stabilize food resources for those in need impacted by the the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Wolf announces new funding for hospitals across the state. On Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that nearly $324 million in funding has been awarded to 31 hospitals across Pennsylvania. The funding was provided through the Hospital Emergency Loan Program, or HELP, which offers short-term financial relief as hospitals combat the surge of COVID-19 cases in their area.

After vetoing tele-medicine legislation, Pa. governor issues cross-agency guidelines. In response to vetoing legislation that would have expanded tele-medicine in Pennsylvania because of concerns over anti-abortion language contained in the bill, Gov. Tom Wolf issued cross-agency guidelines to assist the state in providing telehealth as an important health care delivery option during COVID-19. The guidelines issued on Wednesday will look to ensure that patients in need of vital health care services are receiving them in a timely, appropriate manner.
Unprecedented times, but McNees is here to help
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing by the hour. Capitol Buzz will do its best to keep our readers as up-to-date as possible as to local, state and federal actions relating to the virus.

As we have stated in previous editions, for those businesses seeking guidance or assistance on how to proceed during this unprecedented time, please contact the McNees Labor and Employment Practice Group , or for government relations assistance please contact the McNees Strategic Solutions Group (MSSG) .

You can also visit the McNees COVID-19 Article & Resource Page for more information on various legal and political issues created by the novel coronavirus.

For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and others, check out the CDC's coronavirus information page or visit www.health.pa.gov .

The Senate stands in recess until the call of the President Pro Tempore

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The House stands adjourned until Monday, May 4 at 1:00 p.m.

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