Pa. officials confirming inflammatory syndrome cases; Wolf says 'green' phase coming Friday

UPDATED: 5:57 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania health officials say there are now several reports of MIS-C, or multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, within the state. The CDC said the serious condition is a complication of COVID-19.

At Tuesday’s daily coronavirus media briefing, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said there is little information known about the disease.

“Currently we are aware of 17 reports of MIS-C in Pennsylvania. Nine of those are now confirmed. Two have been determined actually not to be a case. And the remaining six are under investigation,” Levine said.

Levine said the condition is very similar to Kawasaki disease, with symptoms including persistent fever; rash or change in skin color; swollen lymph nodes; red eyes or conjunctivitis; and abdominal pain.

“We do not know if it's specific to children or if it can also occur in adults,” she said. “We also do not know the specific risk factors or how it is transmitted. This is why it is important for parents to be aware of the symptoms of the condition.”

Levine said if parents notice any symptoms in their children, they should contact their health care providers for guidance on what to do next.

Move toward reopening

Virus testing has increased from 50,000 in the last week of April to nearly 80,000 last week, Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday. And a new contact tracing program — in which infected people are swiftly isolated and people they came into contact with are quarantined — has ramped up as well, he said.

Wolf is moving 18 counties on Friday from the "yellow" phase of his reopening plan to the "green" phase, meaning most restrictions are lifted.

After initially asking the state to remain in "yellow," commissioners in Centre County, home to Penn State University, opted Tuesday to go along with Wolf and move to "green" on Friday. The commissioners had cited concern about protecting poll workers during the June 2 primary.

In the "green" phase, restaurants and bars, salons and barber shops, gyms, theaters, malls and casinos can all open at reduced capacity, according to Wolf's reopening plan. People will still be asked to wear masks in public and observe social distancing.

Wolf said he's working with the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association on proper guidelines.

“Ultimately what's going to work is not enforcement,” the governor said. “What's going to work is each and every individual Pennsylvanian, each and every business owner, doing everything they can to protect their employees and their customers and protect each other from this disease — which is an infectious disease that can be very, very deadly.”

Additional details on the "green" phase are expected to be released later this week.

Meanwhile, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh is just as happy to likely move from “red” to “yellow” on June 5, along with other counties in southeastern Pennsylvania.

She said the county is prepared to do all it can to help prevent a spike in new cases, as they’ve already resumed contact tracing and plan to expand it.

“To quickly identify and isolate cases and contain the spread by quarantining each case’s close contacts,” she explained, “that is how we are going to keep the curve flat.”

She said the move to “yellow” isn’t rushed on behalf of the state Health Department, as it has been “looking at our case trends, looking at our ability to do contact tracing and how we were ramping that up, looking at hospitalization data and number fo available beds and the overall status of PPE in our county.”

Arkoosh is hopeful that people will continue to follow guidelines once in the “yellow” phase.

“I don’t have the power to make 830,000 people do what I might like,” she said. “I can give my best advice. I can present people with the data and the facts. I can present guidance, but then it’s up to them.”

Case count

The Department of Health reported 13 additional deaths linked to COVID-19 since the last press briefing, raising the statewide total to 5,152.

State health officials also reported that 451 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus. Since early March, infections have been confirmed in more than 68,600 people in Pennsylvania.

Health officials reported that 61% of the people who have tested positive for the virus are considered to be 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 state's confirmed case count because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.