LGH (copy)

In this file photo, Lancaster General Hospital is seen from its trauma center entrance side. On Wednesday, March 18, Lancaster General Health announced that it is caring for a patient who tested positive for COVID-19, the first in Lancaster County. 

Lancaster General Hospital said Wednesday it is treating a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19 in what is the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Lancaster County.

The Lancaster city hospital, which is part of Penn Medicine, in a written statement said "most normal operations" were continuing at the facility today. The hospital did not identify the patient or provide an age, occupation, hometown or details about the patient's condition or severity of symptoms. 

It is unclear when the hospital began treating the patient.

The number of cases confirmed in Pennsylvania by midnight Tuesday is 133, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. About two-thirds of confirmed cases have been in southeastern Pennsylvania.

The case count issued at noon did not show a case here, either because the person lives in another county or because the confirmation wasn't received by midnight Tuesday.

County or municipal health departments are permitted to release as much patient information as they deem necessary to the public. Chester County has one, and has chosen to maintain a map showing the age and gender of each person who tests positive, which municipality they live in and whether there was a known exposure to another case.

Lancaster County does not have a county or municipal health department, so is defaulting to the state Department of Health. In the past, the department has reported only whether the patient was an adult or child; if they were at the hospital or in isolation at home; if there was known exposure and whether it was travel-related; and if the patient was in critical condition – so far only one has been, and no deaths have been reported.

But in an email Wednesday, spokesman Nate Wardle said because of the volume of cases now being reported, the department is no longer indicating whether an individual is in the hospital or if there was exposure to a known case. Additionally, he said, it is no longer doing in-depth contact tracing, as its focus is shifting from containment to mitigation.

Asked how many tests were done so far in Lancaster County, he answered that the department does not have “great visibility” on that number, “due to the fact that many of them are not going from our lab anymore.”

Lancaster General said it was following federal guidance from cancel elective surgeries. It is extending those cancellations for two weeks, tightening up its visitation policies and screening patients and their companions when they enter the building.

"The safety and protection of all patients and staff remain our top priority," the hospital's statement read. 

Dr. Joseph Kontra is the Chief of Infectious Diseases and Director of Infection Prevention at Penn Medicine LGH and has held a board certification in infectious disease for over 30 years. He answer five questions about COVID-19, also known as coronavirus.

The hospital's statement says it "is caring for this patient using all precautions recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)."

"This includes utilizing infection-control guidelines designed for both optimal medical care of patients with infectious diseases and the protection of staff, other patients and visitors," it says.

Danene Sorace, Mayor of Lancaster City, speaks about the first COVID-19 case in Lancaster. She also addresses the vacant UPMC building (formerly known as St. Joe's Hospital) on College Ave. and the efforts the city is implementing to slow the spread of this virus.

What to Read Next