Gov. Wolf announces streamlined licensing rules to bring more medical professionals into coronavirus fight

UPDATED: 4:40 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 533 new coronavirus cases in the state Saturday, bringing the total number of state COVID19 cases to 2,751. Now the state is taking aggressive measures to try and ease the burden on the healthcare system.

In addition to the new cases, 12 deaths were reported as well, bringing the total to 34 fatalities to date. 

With more than 500 new cases diagnosed per day, Wolf said the state needs as many healthcare professionals as possible working right now. "To do this quickly and efficiently, we're temporarily lifting certain regulations," he announced.

For example, the state is now allowing any licensed healthcare professional to provide tele-medicine services. And healthcare retirees who are in good standing will be be allowed to reactivate their licenses without fees or continuing education classes.

"These retirees don't necessarily need to help COVID-19 patients to be a huge help," Wolf said. "By taking patients who have everyday concerns, they're helping to reduce the overall burden on our medical system and they're freeing up others to assist with the pandemic."

Wolf added the state will also be waiving restrictions on certified nurse practitioners to allow then to work in any field of medicine. Regulations on pharmacists will be eased as well, Wolf explained, "by allowing retired and inactive licenses to renew without paying fees, without taking continuing education credits."

The governor also announced medical professionals from out of state will be able to practice in Pennsylvania.

More information on the new waivers and regulations can be found on the state's website.

Suburbs report more casualties

As construction began on a new overflow medical facility in Glen Mills, Delaware County officials on Saturday confirmed an additional death due to COVID-19.

In a statement, Delaware County Council confirmed a 65-year-old man from Springfield Township had died, bringing the county's coronavirus death toll to five.

Hours later, Montgomery County officials also reported a 61-year-old Norristown woman died, the county's fifth death. 

Board of Commissioners Chair Dr. Valerie Arkoosh issued a statement offering condolences to the woman's loved ones, but also reiterating the need for social distancing. 

“While most people with COVID-19 exhibit mild or moderate symptoms, this loss of life underscores the urgent need for everyone to stay at home, unless absolutely necessary, to protect individuals who are particularly vulnerable to developing more serious illness, including the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, as well as our critical workforces like healthcare workers and first responders," she said.

Montgomery County reported an additional 33 people who tested positive, bringing the county total to 404 cases.

KYW Newsradio's Hadas Kuznits contributed to this story.
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