Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday that the metric regarding a 14-day coronavirus case limit to allow a county to move from red phase restrictions to yellow phase was given too much weight in the public domain.

During a Friday briefing, Wolf said epidemiologists’ understanding of the disease has improved and, “We’ve broadened the metrics we look at.” 

For Berks that benchmark was a total of about 210 cases over 14 days, a level that still might be far away. 

“Our focus is changing to keeping people safe and we know better how to do that,” Wolf said.

The governor was asked about whether he was abandoning the metric, and he was also asked to respond to critics who say he’s been making things up as he goes.

“The original intent was to keep people safe and that remains the goal,” Wolf said. “It looks to us that within the next two weeks the state can move into the yellow phase. We know more than two months ago and even a few weeks ago.”

He pointed to better testing and better modeling.

“We are adapting,” Wolf said

Dr. Rachel Levine, state secretary of health, backed him up: “We feel very comfortable with the approach the governor is taking.”

Berks County registered 54 new coronavirus cases Friday, pushing the outbreak total to 3,838 in state Department of Health reporting.

Four more deaths of Berks residents were added for an outbreak total of 283, which includes some residents who didn’t die in Berks, the state reported.

The 54 cases was the highest number since 63 on May 15. The 14-day count was down to 648 cases.

“It’s less critical now as a metric,” Levine added.

Statewide, there were 866 new positives Friday, pushing the outbreak total over 65,000. Another 115 deaths were reported statewide, pushing that total to just short of the 5,000 milestone at 4,984.

The southeast, which includes Berks, was once again trending up as the rest of the state continues to see cases dwindle.

Reading Hospital had 53 patients Friday, and has been discharging patients rapidly in the past three days after hitting a peak number, 83, a week ago. Penn State Health St. Joseph hospital remained at 15 patients Friday, well off the peak of two weeks ago.

Also Friday, officials announced the opening of a drive-thru COVID-19 test site in the parking lot of the Walmart at 5900 Perkiomen Ave., Exeter Township. The site will be open next week Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 7 to 9 a.m.

According to a press release: “The site is supported by Walmart, eTrueNorth and state and local officials to test anyone who meets CDC and state and local guidelines on who should be tested, including first responders, health care providers and others with symptoms of COVID-19 and those in high risk groups without symptoms. Those interested in being tested need to visit www.DoINeedaCOVID19test.com to see if eligible for testing and to make an appointment.”

Also, the Berks County coroner’s office reported two deaths Friday for an outbreak total of 286. That total includes 13 people who were not Berks residents, which the state doesn’t count against Berks.

Any discrepancy between the state and county is likely to be that some Berks residents died outside the county, but the state doesn’t provide details of those cases.

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