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From the archives 2020

Gov. Tom Wolf’s office says he was tested for coronavirus, then backtracks and says he wasn’t

by Angela Couloumbis of Spotlight PA |

Gov. Tom Wolf's office backtracked Monday and said the governor had not been tested for coronavirus.
Commonwealth Media Services

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HARRISBURG — Just hours after saying Gov. Tom Wolf had tested negative for the coronavirus out of concern he had been exposed, the governor’s office inexplicably backtracked Monday and said he had in fact not received a test.

“The information we provided to you was an error,” Mike Brunelle, Wolf’s chief of staff, said in an apology to Spotlight PA.

Brunelle did not explain how the error happened. Lyndsay Kensinger, a spokesperson for Wolf, said, “Incorrect information was provided by an administration official.”

In its initial response, Wolf’s office explained that the governor’s office was contacted by a person who had feared exposure and said they had been near Wolf. As a result, the office said, Wolf was tested and was confirmed to be negative.

But in its reversal, Brunelle said enough time had elapsed between when Wolf may have been exposed to the person; and because the governor was showing no symptoms, he decided to forgo a test.

The governor is working remotely but is not in quarantine. The same applies to his cabinet secretaries and executive and management staff.

Wolf has in the past week been conducting briefings separately from Health Secretary Rachel Levine, who has been providing updates from the state’s emergency management headquarters outside Harrisburg. His public schedule, which is posted on his government website, has not been updated since March 5, the day before Wolf declared a disaster emergency as the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Pennsylvania.

That week, his schedule shows, the governor was in Philadelphia, Montgomery, and Monroe Counties — areas that reported some of the earliest cases of the virus.

Most of the state’s six legislative leaders, some of whom are scheduled to be in the Capitol this week, said they are not exhibiting any symptoms and had not been tested.

One — House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) — said he did not want to share any medical information about himself. Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) did not respond to questions.

Though testing for COVID-19 has increased in the past week — with hospitals, health systems, and private labs either taking samples, administering tests, or both — mass testing is not widely available.

Levine has urged people who are asymptomatic or who have mild symptoms to stay home and reach out to a doctor if needed. She said testing is being prioritized for people who are exhibiting severe symptoms, have an underlying health condition, are elderly, or are health care workers.

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