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Daily local coronavirus briefing - April 16, 2020

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Department of Health provides update on COVID-19, 1,245 positives bring statewide total to 27,735
The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed as of noon April 16, that there are 1,245 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 27,735. All 67 counties in Pennsylvania have cases of COVID-19. The department also reported 60 new deaths among positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 707. Bucks County reported 1,407 cases and 56 deaths; Chester County 699 cases and 28 deaths; Lehigh County1,999 cases and 28 deaths; Montgomery County 2,544 cases and 89 deaths; Northampton County 1,296 cases and 25 deaths; Philadelphia 7,684 cases and 134 deaths.


NJ Department of Health reports Mercer and Hunterdon COVID-19 cases
The New Jersey Department of Health announced that as of April 16, 2,037 Mercer County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 87 people have died. Hunterdon County Reports 373 cases and 15 deaths.
 
Business

Peddler’s Village offers customers “Virtual Village” shopping
Many merchants in Peddler’s Village in Lahaska are continuing to provide products and services to the community during the coronavirus pandemic via new business models and delivery methods, including shipping and/or curbside pick-up services. A full list of operating shops—the vast majority of which are locally owned small businesses—can be found at PeddlersVillage.com. Available products in the “Virtual Village” include beverages, baked goods, cooking materials, books, toys and games, home furnishings and hardware, clothing and accessories, self-care soaps and other products, art, specialty foods, and more. Many merchants are also offering discounts and other purchasing incentives.


Jake’s Restaurant & Bar in Flemington is closing for good
The owners and operators of Jake’s Restaurant & Bar on Route 202 in Flemington, N.J., said they have decided to retire from the restaurant’s daily operations and permanently close after three successful decades in the community.

The casual dining restaurant opened its doors in 1991 with Stephen Little at the helm and Chef Bill Kinslow running the kitchen. After restaurants were forced to serve take-out only due to restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Little and Kinslow began reviewing costs and options for the business and its 35 employees, and the decision to close was ultimately made.


Polinchock introduces legislation to allow safe real estate transactions
State Rep. Todd Polinchock (R-144) has introduced legislation, House Bill 2412, to require the secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development to issue a waiver to the COVID-19 Business Closure Order to allow all real-estate-related activities that can adhere to social distancing practices and other mitigation measures defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“Pennsylvania is the only state to shut down all real estate activities, while issuing some waivers on an ad hoc basis,” Polinchock said. “There is no consistency. While governors in New Jersey, California, Illinois and New York have issued shelter-in-place orders, they have all included exemptions for real estate.” Polinchock questioned the governor’s decision to deem the purchasing of a house as non-essential.


Education, Courses & Online Learning

Pennsylvania 4-H offers home activities program to keep youth engaged
Parents looking for creative ways to keep their children engaged during this time of social distancing are encouraged to explore the new, in-home activities offered by Pennsylvania 4-H. “Inspire Kids to Do Home Activities” was developed in response to the COVID-19 regulations as a way of providing 4-H youth and families, as well as non-4-Hers, with activities to keep them learning and growing from the comfort of their own homes.

“The program spans a wide range of topics and provides a glimpse into the variety of projects and programs offered to Pennsylvania 4-H members,” said Joshua Rice, Penn State Extension assistant director for 4-H programs.
The program provides parents with easy-to-follow instructions on executing fun yet educational activities with household items. These activities encourage self-guided learning, creativity and problem-solving. Activities include a Photography Challenge, The Exciting Egg, Food Challenge, Nature Scavenger Hunt and more. Visit https://extension.psu.edu/4-h-home-activities for a complete list of activities or follow Pennsylvania 4-H on Facebook or Instagram to find out the featured activity of the week.


Health & Wellness

St. Luke’s Anderson Campus discharges 100th COVID-19 patient
St. Luke’s Anderson Campus discharged its 100th COVID-19 patient Wednesday. The Anderson Campus in Bethlehem Township is one of the network’s 11 hospitals. Curtis Ding of Forks Township, the 100th patient, spent 10 days at the Anderson Campus.

He started his journey on the medical/surgical unit, and after a few days he was transferred to the ICU. He remembers the fear of knowing he was going into the ICU. When it was clear that he might have to be intubated, he called his parents to say goodbye. He knew there was a chance he would never see them again. He was not able to call his 16-year-old son to say goodbye – the idea of not seeing his son again or not seeing him graduate was too overwhelming. At that time, he said to his care team that he would do anything to avoid being intubated.

The members of his care team encouraged him to do special breathing exercises and spend time in the prone position.
 
Ding was scared but motivated by a desire to live and see his family. Despite his discomfort, he continued to push himself, and the protocols St. Luke’s has developed since the start of the COVID-19 crisis proved successful: Ding left the ICU without being intubated and returned to the medical/surgical unit to recover.

“I am grateful for the care I receive during my stay at St. Luke’s Andersen Campus, and I truly credit the staff for saving my life,” Ding said. “I specifically want to thank Rita Gencarelli, my final nurse … I wish I could’ve given her a hug as I was being discharged. Rita was a godsend to me. All staff were excellent and were all truly instrumental in helping me heal to where I could be released and complete my recovery at home. I will forever be grateful.”

Across the network, St. Luke’s has discharged about 450 COVID-19 patients who are now recovered or on the road to recovery. Among the discharged patients are many who were on ventilators. Network-wide, St. Luke’s has extubated about 50 patients thus far.

Photo Caption: Nurse Rita Gencarelli and patient Curtis Ding.
 

State treasurers call on manufacturers to release ventilator repair manuals
Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella joined with Delaware Treasurer Colleen Davis, Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs, Rhode Island Treasurer General Seth Magaziner, and Colorado Treasurer Dave Young to call on manufacturers of ventilators to release service manuals to repair ventilators, for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. Without this critically important information, hospitals are unable to make repairs to ventilators, rendering them unusable during a time of dire need.

“In a public health crisis, every second counts,” said Torsella. “There shouldn’t be a single ventilator sitting in a closet because a hospital, already under extreme pressure, isn’t able to make necessary repairs to it. I call on manufacturers of this lifesaving equipment to release this information and remove this barrier that hospitals are facing.”

In a letter, the treasurers expressed their concern for hospitals that have ventilators in stock, but are unable to use them due to repairs that are needed. It is of particular concern that rural or needy hospitals that may use secondhand equipment without a service contract are unable to make their own repairs without the proper manuals from the manufacturers.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group recently delivered a petition with 43,000 signatures to 25 ventilator manufacturers, asking them to release service manuals, service keys, and schematics, as part of its ongoing Right to Repair campaign. While some manufacturers have taken meaningful steps, state treasurers are asking all ventilator manufacturers to release all necessary information to repair ventilators, immediately.

Repair information is not made readily available by manufacturers, limiting who can fix the equipment when it malfunctions. Releasing these manuals during this crisis would empower hospitals to take matters into their own hands, treat more patients in critical condition, and protect third party repair companies from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 when making repairs.


Bucks County parks set to reopen Monday, commissioners said today
Bucks County plans to open county parks to the public on Monday, the Bucks County Commissioners announced today during an online press conference. Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia said she wanted to remind residents to adhere to social distancing requirements of six feet.

“Park Rangers will be there to enforce social distancing,” she said. Ellis-Marseglia also urged those with yard space and neighborhoods where they can walk to consider doing that, rather than going to the parks to make room for others who do not have space to be outdoors at home. She added that she did not believe reopening the parks, which have been closed since March 24, due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, was a good idea. Nevertheless, she said, it is what taxpayers want, and it is the only outdoor access some residents have.


Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission open to help those struggling with addiction.
Bucks County Commissioners, during a press conference Thursday, said help is available for those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. The Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission is available to assist county residents, and for those who do not have insurance, funds are available to help pay for treatment, said Bucks County Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo. He said some residents who are dependent on alcohol might be struggling with detox problems as a result of Pennsylvania State Store closures. The Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission can be reached at 215-444-2700.


Local Fundraising

Virtual Paint and Sip fundraiser to benefit Special Equestrians
Special Equestrians (SE) in Warrington will remain closed until such time as Gov. Tom Wolf lifts the current stay-at-home order. Caring for the horses is a 24/7/365 job. Dedicated staff are working through rotating shifts to feed, exercise, groom, and look after of their magnificent herd of 12 therapy horses. Now, more than ever, they need the help of neighbors and the community.

In an effort to ensure horse care standards remain high, Special Equestrians has created an online Paint and Sip fundraiser. No experience is necessary, just log-in and prepare to paint and party in the comfort of home. It will be a fun evening where SE’s Program Director Claire will be providing step by step instructions to create a personal masterpiece. Join SE on May 8, from 7 to 9 p.m. Reserve a spot and art kit as space is limited. Purchase tickets by visiting https://www.eventbrite.com/e/virtual-paint-and-sip-date-night-tickets-102640211636fbclid=IwAR2uRbmZvjlZAwnuj2waSrkrx8ZJqfVAbqITNtXdui5Ez5MCw8d_R4MtKtc. For more information on Special Equestrians’ mission or to make a donation, visit www.specialequestrians.org.


Government

Human Services secretary encourages Pennsylvanians to help report child abuse amid COVID-19 public health crisis
Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller and Angela Liddle, president and CEO of the PA Family Support Alliance, reminded Pennsylvanians that DHS’ ChildLine, a 24/7 hotline for reporting concerns of child abuse or neglect, is still fully operational and available at 1-800-932-0313 for Pennsylvanians seeking to report potential cases of child abuse or neglect.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and as scheduled recognition activities and regular life has shifted due to COVID-19, DHS and child welfare advocates implore all Pennsylvanians to learn signs of potential abuse or neglect and, if they suspect abuse, make the call to ChildLine. “As we navigate this public health crisis and the necessary disruptions, we cannot lose sight of our obligation to do all we can to keep kids safe and prevent child abuse, and the Wolf administration is not compromising that duty,” said Miller. “Life has changed, but we all can still do what we are able to look out for children in and around our lives. Whether it is a neighbor, family member, student, client, or someone you encounter in a store – if you suspect something is wrong, anyone can call ChildLine and make a report.”


OCR resolves civil rights complaint against Pennsylvania
Today, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is announcing that it has resolved a complaint filed against the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PDH) after PDH revised its Interim Pennsylvania Crisis Standards of Care for Pandemic Guidelines (CSC Guidelines) to ensure that persons will not be discriminated against based on disability if providers in the state were to begin triaging life-saving health care services.

OCR enforces federal civil rights laws, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, among others. On April 3, OCR received a complaint from a number of disability rights advocates, including Disability Rights Pennsylvania, alleging that Pennsylvania’s CSC Guidelines were not in compliance with Section 504, Title II, and Section 1557. Based on Pennsylvania’s responsive actions and the revisions it has made to its guidelines, OCR is closing its complaint investigation as satisfactorily resolved without a finding of liability. This result does not, however, preclude future OCR enforcement in cases of potential discriminatory implementation of Pennsylvania’s policies by any covered health care provider.

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