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Daily local coronavirus briefing - April 10, 2020

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PA Department of Health reports 1,751 new positive COVID-19 cases, bringing statewide total to 19,979
The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed that as of noon there are 1,751 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 19,979. All 67 counties in Pennsylvania now have cases of COVID-19. The department also reported 78 new deaths among positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 416. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital. Reported cases by county stand at: Bucks, 958 and 26 deaths; Chester, 485 and nine deaths; Lehigh, 1,562 and 16 deaths; Montgomery, 1,889 and 50 deaths; Northampton, 994 and 21 deaths; Philadelphia, 5,521 and 110 deaths.


America’s oldest Memorial Day Parade canceled due to coronavirus pandemic
The Doylestown Borough Memorial Day Parade for 2020 has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, borough officials said Thursday. Despite the cancelation of America's oldest Memorial Day parade, the borough is planning a way to honor veterans that is not a health risk. "Parade or no parade, Doylestown will honor its fallen heroes in 2020," the borough said.


Mercer County, N.J sees 1,282 positive COVID-19 cases
The New Jersey Department of Health announced that as of April 10 there are 1,282 positive cases of COVID-19 in Mercer County and 39 deaths. Hopewell Township reported 39 cases; Hopewell Borough two cases; Princeton 47 cases and Trenton 229 cases. To view data by municipality, visit the Mercer County COVID-19 dashboard at https://arcg.is/uuav5


Hunterdon County, N.J. reports 292 COVID-19 cases
Hunterdon County reported 292 cases and 10 deaths. Flemington has 10 cases; Frenchtown four cases; Stockton zero cases; Milford one case; Lambertville 10 cases; Clinton 12 cases; Delaware Township nine cases; East Amwell six cases; Kingwood four cases and West Amwell four cases. Raritan Township, which surrounds Flemington, had the highest number in Hunterdon at 51 cases.


Bucks County Community College to keep tuition at current rate next year
In a move designed to soften the economic impact faced by most Bucks County residents amid the Coronavirus pandemic, Bucks County Community College’s board of trustees voted Thursday to keep tuition at its current rate for the 2020-21 academic year. The unanimous vote took place April 9 during the board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting, which was held remotely and streamed in real-time on the college’s YouTube channel. For the 2020-21 academic year, tuition remains at $165 a credit for Bucks County residents, $330 a credit for Pennsylvanians who live outside of Bucks, and $495 a credit for out-of-state residents. Fees also remain unchanged. A typical returning student – a Bucks County resident taking a full-time course load of 12 credits a semester – will pay about $4898 in tuition and fees for the 2020-21 academic year. The college has been operating remotely since March 16, following state guidelines to close non-essential businesses. On April 8, the college announced to students and faculty that remote operations will continue through the end of the Spring semester. The college’s annual commencement will also take place remotely using online technology on May 28, with details to be announced later.


St. Luke’s: Feeding the frontlines during and after their shifts
Employees across St. Luke’s University Health Network have been working tirelessly to keep communities safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. To show gratitude and support their efforts, the network has launched two initiatives to keep frontline caregivers well fed during and after their shifts on campus: free cafeteria meals and the “Feeding the Frontlines” fundraising campaign to provide them with local restaurant gift cards. Beginning in late March, employees were provided free breakfast, lunch and dinner at all St. Luke’s cafeterias. The meals consist of a variety of items from a predetermined menu and include vegetarian options as well. In addition to campuses providing meals, the community is also actively supporting employees and local restaurants. Through the “Feeding the Frontlines” initiative, monetary donations will be used to purchase restaurant gift cards for frontline staff. To make an online gift designated to the “Feeding the Frontlines” initiative, visit sluhn.org/COVID-19Support and select “Feeding the Frontlines” from the drop-down menu. To give by check, make payable to St. Lukeʼs University Health Network, indicate that you would like your gift designated to “Feeding the Frontlines,” and mail to: St. Lukeʼs University Health Network, Development Office, 801 Ostrum St., Bethlehem, PA 18015


Nonprofit Credit Counseling Center offers remote financial counseling during COVID-19 crisis
Credit Counseling Center, a nonprofit organization that has provided financial counseling services to the Bucks County community for more than 26 years, is offering assistance for people who are concerned about paying their mortgage, utility, credit cards and other bills because of the COVID-19 crisis. The center is open and operating remotely, and phone counseling appointments are available. Professional counselors are ready to assist people who are dealing with income or job loss, to explore options relieve their financial burdens. This includes strategizing about: which bills to pay first; mortgage issues; credit card concerns; bankruptcy questions; student loan payments; and budget review and emergency budget planning. The center’s certified financial counselors say: be proactive and call your lender if you’ve lost income - mortgage and credit cards; companies, and other loans; be patient - it may take a while before you get through; revise your budget and develop a plan that will get you through this uncertainty; and review your spending priorities and eliminate non-essentials. Contact the lender, credit card company, or utility company; explain how COVID-19 has affected you financially; and ask your lender to consider hardship options due to loss of income. For help with any of the above, call 215 348-8003, email contact@ccc-credit.com, and visit https://www.ccc-credit.com.


There is still time to apply for SBA Paycheck Protection Program
C&N reminds small businesses there is still time to apply for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Starting today, Friday, April 10, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and C&N will begin accepting online PPP applications from independent contractors and self-employed individuals. C&N encourages those independent contractors or self-employed individuals who are facing hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic, to apply for one of these relief loans as soon as possible. C&N’s COVID-19 site: offers information about this program and others. Visit CARES Act for Small Businesses: explanation of relief options available to small business under the Act. Visit COVID-19 Relief Request: to request a modification for an existing loan.


Penn Community Bank donates $30,000 to COVID-19 Fight
Penn Community Bank is donating $30,000 to the Bucks County Health Improvement Partnership (BCHIP) to establish the Penn Community Bank Healthcare Operational Priority Emergency (HOPE) Fund which will cover the cost of care for some of the community’s most vulnerable residents. In concert with Bucks County hospitals and local officials, the HOPE Fund is established to provide resources to support individuals who are unsheltered due to COVID-19; these may include shelter clients or those who cannot safely return to group homes. The six Bucks County hospitals affiliated with BCHIP are: Grand View Health, Doylestown Health, St. Luke’s Hospital – Quakertown, Lower Bucks Hospital, Jefferson Bucks Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center. Other partners include the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, Bucks County Medical Society, Bucks County Department of Health, and other community organizations and nonprofits. The donation is Penn Community Bank’s second major contribution in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. In March, the bank partnered with the United Way of Bucks County to launch the Bucks County COVID-19 Recovery Fund, including a $25,000 initial contribution. To learn more and to contribute to the recovery effort, visit http://www.uwbucks.org/COVIDrecovery.


Dentist urges Congress to pass NOPAIN Act as part of next COVID-19 relief package
Dr. Brice Arndt, a practicing dentist in Pennsylvania, who also serves on the PA Dental Association’s Government Relations Committee, is urging Congress to pass the NOPAIN Act as part of any COVID-19 upcoming relief package so patients have access to non-opioid therapies sooner, rather than later. The bipartisan Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation (NOPAIN) Act, H.R. 5172, would modernize Medicare to fully reimburse providers for non-opioid pain therapies used after outpatient surgery. Currently, Medicare does not reimburse sufficiently for non-opioid pain therapies if used after an outpatient procedure, Dr. Arndt said, adding, hospitals and clinics would have to bear the cost. Many cannot afford it, he said, and therefore do not offer non-opioid pain therapies to patients. Arndt said this means millions older and disabled individuals are still being treated with unnecessary quantities of opioids.


PennPIRG Education Fund offers tips to help consumers avoid COVID-19 related scams
In the midst of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, American consumers are experiencing numerous public health and financial challenges, including virus-related scams, fake products promising cures and price gouging. To help address these concerns and more, PennPIRG Education Fund is publishing new guides and tips each week to help consumers navigate this crisis. This week’s consumer tip guides are Top 6 coronavirus stimulus check scams; How to pay utility bills during COVID-19; and Receiving your stimulus check for COVID-19.

PUC’s April 16 public meeting to be conducted telephonically
In response to the ongoing threat to public health posed by the COVID-19 virus, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today announced that its next public meeting - on Thursday, April 16 - will be conducted telephonically. The PUC public meeting will begin at 10 a.m., and members of the public, the media and others can begin accessing the telephone conference call starting at 9:45 a.m. that day. Interested parties can listen to the meeting by calling 888-917-8050, and then entering passcode 9570961#. The commission will follow its customary public meeting protocol with only commissioners and the PUC’s secretary permitted to speak on agenda items. A final agenda for the public meeting will be published on the Commission website on Wednesday, April 15.


Unionville Vineyards donating revenues to support health care workers
Hunterdon County’s Unionville Vineyards is donating all profits from sales of Dry Riesling in the months of April and May to support front line health care workers in the battle against COVID-19. The winery will purchase lunches and other requested items for the nurses and doctors tending to COVID cases at hospitals across the region. After announcing the campaign on social media late last week, already over $1,500 has been raised and the winery made their first contribution on April 8. Each meal donation will use a different restaurant, giving a needed boost to these small businesses as well. Unionville’s wines are available online at unionvillevineyards.com or over the phone at 908-788-0400 x2. Free shipping to anyone in New Jersey, Pennsylvania or New York is offered on purchases of six or more bottles. Contactless pickup at the winery’s parking lot at 9 Rocktown Road in East Amwell, N.J., is available seven days a week from noon to 5 p.m. Orders can also be picked up at Unionville’s wine bar at Ferry Market, 32 S. Main St., New Hope, noon to 7 p.m. Thursday to Sunday.


Department of Corrections to establish Temporary Program to Reprieve Sentences of Incarceration
Under the authority granted to him by the Pennsylvania Constitution and the Emergency Management Services Code, Gov. Tom Wolf today ordered Department of Corrections officials to establish a Temporary Program to Reprieve Sentences of Incarceration to help aid the department in the transfer of qualifying individuals to community corrections facilities or home confinement amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “We can reduce our non-violent prison population and leave fewer inmates at risk for contracting COVID-19 while maintaining public safety with this program,” Wolf said. “I am pleased to direct the Department of Corrections to begin the process to release vulnerable and non-violent inmates at or nearing their release dates in an organized way that maintain supervision post-release and ensures home and health care plans are in place for all reentrants.” The Temporary Program to Reprieve Sentences of Incarceration only applies to state prison inmates who have been identified as being non-violent and who otherwise would be eligible for release within the next nine months or who are considered at high risk for complications of coronavirus and are within 12 months of their release. As of this morning, there are 11 COVID-19 cases at one prison, SCI Phoenix in Montgomery County, but concern for cases spreading to other facilities is another reason for the expedited release of eligible inmates. The releases could begin as early as Tuesday, April 14.


Pennsylvania hospitals, health care providers to receive $1.25 billion
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey announced today that Pennsylvania hospitals and health care providers will receive $1.25 billion of the first $30 billion disbursement of the Provider Relief Fund authorized by the CARES Act. “Pennsylvania’s hospitals and health care providers are leading the charge in the fight against COVID-19,” said Toomey. “Pennsylvanians have access to dedicated health care workers, world-class care, and the top medical innovators in the world. Implementing the CARES Act and delivering $1.25 billion to hospitals and providers in Pennsylvania will help cover COVID-19-related expenses and care for patients in need.” The CARES Act authorized $100 billion to support COVID-19 expenses and lost revenue for hospitals and health care providers. This first round of funding is disbursing $30 billion. 12,661 Pennsylvania health care providers are receiving $1,246,250,076.


Merchants keeping Bethlehem engaged
Game No. 2 of “Downtown Bethlehem Duel” will be aired at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 12 on the Heart of Bethlehem Facebook page. The Duel is a virtual game of “families” made up of downtown Bethlehem business owners, employees, volunteers and nonprofit organizations, working together in teams of five, to answer a series of popular-opinion questions, both random and about Historic Downtown Bethlehem. The intent is for winning teams to proceed to the semifinals, and then to a final showdown. The overall winning team will receive bragging rights, and an advertising benefits package from the association. The Downtown Bethlehem Association felt a “feud-style” game with merchants working together showcased its mission. DBA Manager Tammy Wendling, said, “The association continues to meet on a weekly basis, and now with the help of virtual meeting applications. We are a family and this game was a perfect fit for us.” The Downtown Bethlehem Association is fundraising for merchants playing in the “Downtown Bethlehem Duel.” Donations are being raised to help those merchants with immediate needs. Donations can be made through Venmo and PayPal. Venmo: @DowntownBethlehem-Association; PayPal: DowntownBethlehemAssociation@gmail.com.


Easton Swimsuit Manufacturer makes and donate PPE for local hospitals
SWIM USA, the manufacturer of Miraclesuit and many other swim brands, is marshaling its resources to support the efforts of local hospitals near its corporate headquarters in Easton. SWIM USA staff have volunteered to produce masks and gowns in the company’s sample and design studios.

Placing an emphasis on smaller towns and hospitals, the company hopes to reach those who may not be getting the same aid and attention as larger urban areas. Susan DeMusis, president of Miraclesuit, said, “We are proud to be producing masks for health facilities within the tri-state area including St. Lukes University Hospital, Lehigh Valley Hospital and Hoboken University Medical Center. We feel fortunate to be able to have our teams move from making swimsuits to producing desperately needed masks and other PPE, hopefully helping medical workers feel more protected during this unprecedented time.”


Gov. Wolf announces $450 million loan program for financially strained hospitals
Gov. Tom Wolf today announced a new loan program – the Hospital Emergency Loan Program, or HELP – that will provide short-term financial relief to Pennsylvania’s hospitals as they prepare for the growing surge of individuals infected with COVID-19 and the economic fallout of the nationwide pandemic. The $450 million loan package will be available to the commonwealth’s hospitals to provide immediate financial support for working capital to ensure that these facilities have sufficient personnel, equipment, and personal protective equipment. The funding was dispersed by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) and will be administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development through the Pennsylvania First Program (PA First). It was approved by Treasurer Joe Torsella, who played a crucial role in the expedited release of this emergency funding. Pennsylvania health care facilities licensed as hospitals by the Pennsylvania Department of Health under the Health Care Facilities Act of 1979 that are eligible to receive federal grant funding through the CARES Act are eligible for HELP. The maximum loan size is $10 million per hospital at an interest rate of 0.5 percent. Applications will be available on DCED’s website starting at 10 a.m. April 13 through April 20. The costs must be incurred between March 1 and Sept. 1.

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