Angela Couloumbis of Spotlight PA and Cynthia Fernandez of Spotlight PA
Photo: YONG KIM / Philadelphia Inquirer
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HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday he had tested positive for COVID-19, and the state health secretary and several other members of his staff are quarantining.
“I have no symptoms and am feeling well,” he said in a statement, adding that he and First Lady Frances Wolf, who is awaiting test results, are in isolation. The governor said he plans to continue working remotely, “as many are doing during the pandemic.”
The announcement comes as daily COVID-19 cases in the state continue to shatter daily records and hospitals contend with severe shortages of staff needed to care for infected patients as well as Pennsylvanians experiencing other health issues.
Wolf was last seen in public during a Monday news conference with Health Secretary Rachel Levine, where they both wore face masks, even while speaking.
Lyndsay Kensinger, a spokesperson for Wolf, said Levine, as well as senior members of the governor’s staff, have tested negative for COVID-19 but are quarantining. She added that “multiple members of the governor’s security team recently tested positive for COVID.”
“The Department of Health is in the process of conducting their contact tracing investigations,” Kensinger said. “Everyone meeting the definition of a close contact has been notified and is following Department of Health and CDC guidelines for quarantine.”
Wolf is a cancer survivor and, at 72, in an age group the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns is at risk for severe symptoms. He said his positive test shows “no one is immune from COVID” and “that following all precautions as I have done is not a guarantee.”
But such precautions are “what we know to be vital to stopping the spread of the disease and so I ask all Pennsylvanians to wear a mask, stay home as much as possible, socially distance yourself from those not in your household, and, most of all, take care of each other and stay safe,” he said.
In the spring, as the coronavirus first emerged in Pennsylvania, Wolf and Levine put the state under a stay-at-home order and temporarily closed all non-essential businesses. As cases have surged this fall, the governor has repeatedly said he would not return to the widespread lockdowns seen in early 2020.
But on Monday, as he warned the state’s hospitals were headed toward a “dangerous, disturbing scenario,” he did not rule out instituting additional restrictions and said those decisions would be made “soon.”
A Capitol source said a ban on indoor dining and the mandatory closures of gyms and casinos were under consideration, though a spokesperson for Wolf stressed that no decisions have been made at this time.
Republican leadership in the state House on Wednesday issued an anti-restriction statement “in anticipation of several new COVID-19 mitigation mandates.”
“I recognize we are facing a serious resurgence of COVID-19 and our health care systems are struggling to keep up with the increased demand; however, job-crushing, harmful government mandates are not the answer,” House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff said in a statement. “Canceling Christmas is not the answer.”
The news release included an image of a deflated Santa Claus lawn decoration overlayed with the words: “Gov. Wolf, don’t cancel Christmas!”