Blair County has reported its first positive test, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow in Pennsylvania.

There were 560 new confirmed cases, bringing the total confirmed patients to 1,687, the Health Department reports.

On Sunday, the state total was only 479 cases.

No other additional cases were reported in this region on Thursday. Cambria County has one confirmed case; Somerset and Clearfield counties have two each; and Westmoreland County has 16 cases.

“Our notable increase in cases over the past few days indicate we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously,” Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said.

Sixteen Pennsylvanians have died from the virus, with Butler, Delaware, Lehigh, Monroe and Montgomery counties reporting one new death each. Monroe and Montgomery each have two deaths now.

In addition to Blair, new counties on Thursday’s list were Susquehanna, Indiana and Columbia.

Indiana Regional Medical Center announced the county’s first case on Wednesday. The patient was self-isolating at home, the hospital said.

No information was released on the Blair County patient. UPMC Altoona spokeswoman Danielle Sampsell said, “We have not had a patient test positive for COVID-19 at UPMC Altoona or UPMC Bedford thus far.”

Conemaugh Health System, which includes Conemaugh Nason Medical Center in Roaring Spring, responded with a statement that there is no update from the Blair County network.

Blair County’s third hospital, Tyrone Hospital, did not respond to a request for comment.

During Thursday’s press briefing Levine and Gov. Tom Wolf stressed the importance of social distancing mandates and recommendations for slowing the exponential increase in cases.

All of this information underscores the need for us to stay home as much as possible to prevent the spread of this virus,” Levine said. “Our mitigation or prevention efforts are critical to prevent the spread of COVID-19 so our health care system has time to prepare.”

Wolf warned that the situation will likely get worse before it gets better, noting the disease takes up to two week from exposure before symptoms appear.

“This virus hides for 14 days so we don’t know who has it and isn’t showing yet,” he said. “We don’t know if we have it. We must act as if we all have it.”

He also pointed to the expected capacity, equipment and supply shortages,

“The reality is: We are just seeing the beginning of this crisis,” Wolf said. “We don’t know how bad the surge will be or when this pandemic will end.

“We must prepare ourselves mentally and physically to be in this for the long haul.”

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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