By Jessica Kartalija

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania reported nearly 1,700 new coronavirus cases on Saturday. Health officials announced 1,676 new cases, bringing the statewide total to 21,655.

Officials expect a surge in cases this week.

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“There will be a wave of new cases that will come up and come down, but it won’t be a tidal wave that would completely overwhelm our health care system,” Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said.

Around 2,000 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19, and Levine says there is adequate hospital space and 70% of ventilators are still available.

“But we’re watching that data very closely,” Levine said.

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Officials also announced 78 additional COVID-19-related deaths as the state’s death toll stands at 494.

Among some glimmers of hope, Levine says the number of people testing positive is starting to level off.

“We have been successful in terms of flattening the curve,” Levine said.

But don’t expect business to reopen.

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“I understand legislature’s concern about the economy and to stimulate the economy, but now is not the time,” Levine said.

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Or for social distancing to end any time soon.

“We are still having significant numbers of COVID-19, and we have to protect the public health and save lives,” Levine said.

Marlene Downing says she plans to attend Easter services Sunday at Greater Exodus Baptist Church in North Philly. The pastor is opening his church to 50 congregants and will provide face masks and gloves.

“I’m not really going to let fear stop me from doing what I believe that God wants me to do,” Downing said.


Levine discourages all gatherings — even for the holiday.

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“People, especially during these troubled times, will turn to their faith,” Levine said. “It is dangerous, especially in the southeast and northwest, to be out congregating with other people.”

Jessica Kartalija