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County commissioners field questions on COVID-19, election and more


From the continuing rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths at Neshaminy Manor, to the June election and the pandemic’s impact in the jail, Bucks County Commissioners discussed a range of issues during a recent virtual news conference.

April 27 was the deadliest day in the county, with 20 virus-related deaths reported by officials. Dr. David Damsker, director of the county’s health department, pointed out that all the deaths did not occur on a single day, but represented the total number of deaths over “several days.”

While the number of COVID-19 cases in Bucks keeps climbing, Damsker said, “It’s clear the vast majority are in nursing homes.” The county has 61 licensed long-term care facilities, but Neshaminy Manor is the only one owned and operated by Bucks County.

“It’s a very large facility,” said Damsker of the 360-bed Neshaminy Manor home in Warrington Township. “It’s hard to process that many swabs.”

As more employees have become infected, Damsker said, the county is using staffing agencies to keep operations running at Neshaminy Manor. “Everything is still stable in the county health care system,” he said.

The Bucks County jail had 33 inmates and 19 staff members with the virus, at last count in late April. All new offenders entering the facility are being tested, although it’s unclear how many new inmates are entering the jail, as officials have been releasing offenders in order to reduce the spread of the virus. Those who test positive during targeted testing at the facility are being isolated, said Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia.

In other matters, Marseglia strongly encouraged voters to mail in their ballots on June 2, when the state holds its postponed primary election. However, she noted, the county “will be prepared for a safe election,” with voters and poll workers protected with plexiglass barriers, gloves and masks.

Commissioner Bob Harvie said the board will be creating an economic recovery task force to discuss the economic impact of the public health crisis and how best to address it.

Responding to questions about when county offices will begin to reopen, Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo said, some may start having limited hours and staffing May 18.

As the state and Bucks County begin preparation for the next phases of the unprecedented pandemic, Damsker warned that the public needs to be prepared for social distancing, masks and hand-washing for the foreseeable future.

“That’s not going to stop,” the doctor said.

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