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Daily local coronavirus briefing - April 17, 2020


Gov. Wolf unveils plan for Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 recovery
Today, Gov. Tom Wolf announced a Plan for Pennsylvania that he says will provide citizens and businesses relief, allow for a safe and expedient reopening, and lay a road to recovery from the challenges and hardships created by the 2019 novel coronavirus. With new case counts showing that aggressive efforts have flattened the curve, the governor and his administration will begin to plan for a reopening process that protects Pennsylvanians and helps to stabilize the economy. The administration will work with economic and public health experts to determine the metrics used for safe reopening by taking a regional, sector-based approach.

In consultation with Team PA, the Department of Health, the Department of Community and Economic Development, the Department of Labor and Industry, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, and others, the administration will develop guidance for businesses, local governments, workers, customers, and others and guide a safe reopening process.
• Our approach will be data driven and reliant upon quantifiable criteria to drive a targeted, evidence-based, regional approach to reopenings in Pennsylvania.
• We will put forth guidance and recommendations for employers, individuals, and health care facilities for assured accountability as we reopen.
• Reopening necessitates that adequate personal protective equipment and diagnostic testing are available.
• Reopening requires a monitoring and surveillance program that allows the commonwealth to be deploy swift actions for containment or mitigation.
• Protections for vulnerable populations must remain steadfast throughout the reopening process, such as limitations on visitors to congregate care facilities and prisons.
• Limitations on large gatherings unrelated to occupations should remain in place for the duration of the reopening process.
Find the complete report at Governor's Office of Communications

Department of Health provides update on COVID-19, 1,706 positives bring statewide total to 29,441
The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed as of noon April 17, that there are 1,706 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 29,441. All 67 counties in Pennsylvania have cases of COVID-19. The department also reported 49 new deaths among positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 756. Bucks County has reported 1,524 cases and 64 deaths; Chester County 739 cases and 30 deaths; Lehigh County 2,092 cases and 29 deaths; Montgomery County 2,684 cases and 97 deaths; Northampton County 1,335 cases and 27 deaths; Philadelphia 8,138 cases and 136 deaths.

New Jersey, Mercer and Hunterdon counties report on positive COVID-19 cases, deaths
The New Jersey Department of Health has reported 78,467 positive cases of COVID-19 and 3,840 deaths as of today. The state said that as of April 17, a total of 2,123 Mercer County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 101 people have died. Mercer County is also tracking data at the municipal level. To view statistics by municipality, visit the Mercer County COVID-19 dashboard at In Hunterdon County a total of 385 people have tested positive and 16 have died. In Hunterdon County, as of April 16, there were the following number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in these municipalities: Flemington 13; Frenchtown 4; Stockton 0; Milford 2; Lambertville 13; Town of Clinton 19; Clinton Township 43; Delaware Township 10; East Amwell Township 9; Kingwood Township 7; Raritan Township 58; West Amwell Township 6.


Pennsylvania Distillers Guild produces 1.3 million bottles of hand sanitizer for frontline workers
The Pennsylvania Distillers Guild (PDG) has galvanized its membership to shift manufacturing operations to produce 1.3 million bottles of hand sanitizer following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recipe. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) is processing inquiries and fulfilling the distribution. Organizations in need of hand sanitizer can submit a request through the PEMA website.
Formula #1, which has proven effective against COVID-19, is a state-funded, collaborative guild effort which has secured approvals from the Liquor Control Board and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to waive taxes and fees that would typically apply to the production of alcohol. Its primary ingredient is ethanol, a neutral spirit distilleries derive their final products from.
Hospitals, first responders and law enforcement can receive the sanitizer free of charge through their hospital HCC or PA County EMC. Everyone else can purchase, at cost, with no markup. Many of the participating distilleries are now in need of labor and are offering jobs for fair living wages. To inquire about job opportunities, please email

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board continues to increase e-commerce sales, deliveries, through
Now fulfilling e-commerce orders from 49 facilities across Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has significantly increased the number of orders it is accepting on a daily basis at

“After ramping up 46 additional Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores and licensee service centers in the last few days and aiming to have 121 fulfillment centers picking and packing e-commerce orders this weekend, we’ve made significant progress in improving service to Pennsylvania consumers seeking access to wines and spirits,” said Board Chairman Tim Holden. “Today (April 15), we’re accepting 6,500 orders through our website, an 850 percent increase since April 1, when limited e-commerce sales resumed, and a 261 percent increase over the 1,800 orders we had been consistently accepting each day for a number of days.”

As order fulfillment capacity increases, the PLCB will continue increasing the number of orders it takes each day, expecting to be able to accept 10,000 or more orders daily in coming days.

PECO extends COVID-19 customer support efforts through June 1
To offer continued assistance to customers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, PECO is extending its support policies, which include suspending service disconnections, waiving new late fees, and reconnecting customers who were previously disconnected, through at least June 1.

The company's COVID-19 policies, designed to help ensure all customers have access to safe and reliable electric service during this critical time, launched in mid-March with PECO's announcement to suspend service disconnections and waive new late payment charges for all of customers. The commitment was extended shortly thereafter to reconnect customers who previously had their power disconnected.
"We recognize the impact of COVID-19 on our customers and communities has been greater than anyone could have imagined, with many experiencing financial difficulties and uncertainty about the future," said Mike Innocenzo, PECO president and CEO. "We remain committed to every customer through difficult times, and we will continue to support our communities in need. During this pandemic, we will power through together."

Customers who are challenged to pay their energy bill should contact PECO customer care as soon as possible at 1-800-494-4000. PECO will work closely with customers to waive late payment fees, avoid having their service shut off, discuss reconnections, and determine eligibility for assistance programs. PECO representatives can also discuss payment options, like budget billing, which averages payments over a 12-month period to help customers manage their monthly energy bill, or flexible payment arrangements that offer individually tailored payment installment plans.

Education, Courses & Online Learning

Hunterdon Chamber offers workshop on challenges of COVID-19 Workforce
Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce in Flemington, N.J., hosts “The Challenges of the Covid-19 Workforce,” such as phising, bombing, hacking and etiquette, from 9 to 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 22. Log on to to register, and for information. The cost is $25, and registration is required.

PennEnvironment releases parent resource: “50 environmental activities kids can do at home”
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center has released a list of “Fifty environmental activities kids can do at home” as a resource for families across the state. With Pennsylvania schools physically closed for the remainder of the school year in order to promote social distancing during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the set of activities provided by PennEnvironment offers a broad array of easy-to-do endeavors for Earth Day and beyond. For teachers looking for curriculum ideas, the organization is also providing specific Earth Day materials as well.

The list, which links to further information on subjects throughout is broken down into six different areas: Learn about solutions to climate change; learn about ways to reduce waste; learn about plants; learn about waterways, parks and conservation; learn about and protect birds, bees and other wildlife; and create a healthier home and community. Activities range from making your own solar oven from a pizza box to creating a bird feeder out of an apple, peanut butter and birdseed. Educational opportunities vary from calculating your family’s carbon footprint to taking a virtual tour of Yellowstone National Park.

At the same time, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center is also engaging Pennsylvanians of all ages in 50 Climate Actions to help celebrate the anniversary of Earth Day with strong calls for climate action across the state. Activities range from collecting renewable energy petitions, taking “Pets for Climate Action” photo petitions, writing letters to the editor, and attending a series of climate-themed webinars.

Virtual learning resources for Earth Day and beyond
For those craving nature while staying inside and hunkering down, there are plenty of opportunities to connect with the outdoors without leaving home. Through virtual programming for adults and children, you can learn about migratory birds and butterflies, meet the animals that live in our forests and rivers, and learn how rain barrels in your backyard can help reduce stormwater pollution. Alliance for Watershed Education of the Delaware River (AWE) environmental education centers are bringing nature directly to you by offering a smorgasbord of mostly free, fun and eco-conscious virtual programming for every family member to enjoy. Find all virtual programming events and videos at,

Health & Wellness

PA Health secretary signs order providing worker safety measures to Combat COVID-19
Dr. Rachel Levine, under her authority as secretary of the Department of Health to take any disease control measure appropriate to protect the public from the spread of infectious disease, signed an order directing protections for critical workers who are employed at businesses that are authorized to maintain in-person operations during the COVID-19 disaster emergency.

"This order will ensure continuity across all life-sustaining businesses and will further our efforts to protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians," Dr. Levine said. "Together, we can all help mitigate the spread of COVID-19."


PSBA asks Gov. Wolf to expedite GEER Fund grants to school districts
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) is asking Gov. Tom Wolf to expedite funds made accessible to school districts through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Read more

On April 14 the U.S. Department of Education made $104 million available to Pennsylvania as part of the nearly $3 billion allocated to the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund authorized under the CARES Act. These funds are a lifeline to public schools, which are presently experiencing increased costs because of the demand to ensure that students can access meaningful learning opportunities via virtual and other remote means. Overnight, public schools have changed the manner in which they deliver education to the students of Pennsylvania. For the good of Pennsylvania’s public school students these funds should be distributed quickly and efficiently to their school districts so these programs can continue to sustain and evolve in support of student needs, the PSBA stated in a news release.

PSBA is asking the administration to quickly access these funds utilizing the student-based basic education funding formula. This could provide a start to distribution of funds to those districts with the greatest need. It is asking that the funds go directly to the districts rather than being funneled through intermediaries, which could result in prolonged timeframes and unnecessary administrative costs. PSBA will continue to work collaboratively with the administration in purposeful efforts that support districts in the delivery of high-quality public education to Pennsylvania’s students.

Emergency SNAP benefit distribution begins
Gov. Tom Wolf announced yesterday that the Department of Human Services (DHS) has begun an emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit issuance in line with the federal government’s interpretation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Payments include a supplemental increase for both March and April and will continue to be issued for current SNAP households through April 29. DHS is also advising Pennsylvanians in need of food assistance of local supports that can help meet essential needs during the public health crisis. Read more

DHS received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to issue emergency payments that will allow DHS to increase a household’s currently monthly payment up to the maximum benefit amount for each household size. DHS had requested authorization to issue an additional benefit equal to a household’s monthly payment to all SNAP households and was denied.

Emergency payments are for March and April and will be distributed as a one-time issuance distributed on a staggered schedule continuing through April 29. This payment is in addition to a household’s normal April benefit issuance that’s made in the first half of the month. These payments will be placed directly onto a recipient’s EBT card. Supplemental payments are in addition to the normal May payment beginning May 1.

Department of Agriculture provides guidance for community gardens to continue amid COVID-19
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture today issued guidance for volunteers and employees of community gardens to continue working, with precautions, in recognition of them being critical to the resiliency of local food systems in Pennsylvania.

The guidance issued today is in effort to protect the volunteers and employees who keep community gardens in Pennsylvania operational and includes the following:
• Garden leadership should notify all members of new garden protocols;
• Post signage restricting access to only those who are healthy to protect the well-being of all volunteers and employees;
• If there is a shared tools library for gardeners, leadership should establish a protocol for sanitizing tools after each person’s use with EPA-registered disinfectants;
• Gardeners should wear a cloth face mask and frequently wash or sanitize hands;
• Gardeners should practice social distancing with at least six feet of separation at the garden site and avoid gatherings of people to avoid risk of exposure during off hours;
• High contact surfaces (locks, gates, tools, etc.) should be disinfected.

In addition to the outlined recommendations in the guidance, volunteers and employees at community gardens should adhere to all guidance and orders by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. For a complete list of guidance documents and information as it relates to agriculture during COVID-19 mitigation in Pennsylvania visit

Community Support

Hunterdon community comes together one stitch at a time
Hunterdon Medical Center has received an outpouring support from the sewing community in Hunterdon County, N.J. In an effort to increase PPE supplies, Hunterdon Medical Center created an employee sewing group as well. Ten employees at Hunterdon Medical Center have temporarily stopped their day jobs to focus their efforts on sewing. 

Between the Hunterdon County sewing community and the employee sewing group, 940 isolation gowns were created, 480 caps have been sewn and 3,100 masks have been made. The employee sewers are currently working on masks for all the children that attend Hunterdon Healthcare’s Bright Tomorrows Child Care Center.

The hospital is currently accepting masks from the community to be used for patients being discharged from the hospital, home health clients and employees in non-clinical areas of the hospital. The masks must be made with 100 percent cotton fabric and can be dropped off at the main entrance of the hospital. For more information or questions, email: Karen Dipaola, director of volunteer services, at

Photo Caption: Margaret Grande, office coordinator, medical staff quality and patient safety, sews masks at Hunterdon Medical Center.

6-year-old philanthropist and anonymous donor spur almost $50,000 in donations for Grand View Health
A matching gift from an anonymous donor and the generosity of a Perkasie kindergartner spurred donations nearing $50,000 to aid healthcare providers at Grand View Health. The money was raised over a two-week time period and will be used to offset expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic. “This all began with a gift of $10,000 from a local family who saw the reports of the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the media and wanted to make a difference,” says David Alderfer, Grand View Health Foundation director of development. “They said they would match donations up to $10,000 and our generous community quickly responded.” Read more

Six-year-old Sophia Myers answered the call, donating the entire contents of her small ceramic bank, shaped like a unicorn, along with a hand-decorated card, to Grand View Health. Her gift, which she says she’s been saving “since she was maybe four,” totaled $14.77 and represented the quarters she earned watching her sister and “sometimes cleaning up her playroom.” Her motivation? “People are sick,” and in her video interview she added, “I think the nurses are working very hard.”

Jane Ferry, chief medical officer at Grand View Health, accepted the gift on behalf of the medical team. “In these difficult times, we are so grateful for the kindness and encouragement we continue to receive from the community. We want people to know the gifts of food, PPE, homemade masks and notes of gratitude provide daily inspiration for our team and mean so much to all of us.” Donations to the Grand View Health COVID-19 initiative continue to be accepted through the Grand View Health website,

Photo Caption: When a matching challenge benefiting Grand View Health was issued, Sophia Myers, 6, answered the call by donating $14.77 – the entire contents of her ceramic unicorn bank.

Sesame Place lights in blue in tribute to front-line health care workers
Sesame Place in Langhorne, the nation’s only theme park based entirely on “Sesame Street,” joined other landmark locations across the nation in displaying blue lights on April 16 in support of health care workers and first responders on the front lines against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The lighting campaign delivered a unified thank you to those who are risking their own health to help people during the ongoing crisis. Of particular note, the Jefferson Bucks Hospital is located across the street from Sesame Place’s iconic Rubber Duckie, part of the Sky Splash water attraction, which sits approximately 50 feet high and was lit in their honor. The park’s front entrance was also lit in blue.

Arts & Culture

Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra will present Temple student’s canceled graduate recital live on Zoom
During an April 7 panel discussion with Assistant Principal Cello Yumi Kendall on motivation during difficult times — part of the Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra’s offerings — Temple University student Brooke Mead asked how to cope with the disappointment of canceled performances, particularly ones of personal significance. Mead, who is pursuing a Master of Music degree in Viola Performance, had recently canceled her graduate recital due to COVID-19 closures. In a show of support, Kendall and the online attendees — many complete strangers to Mead — offered to serve as a virtual audience for the graduating violist. Mead will now perform to a worldwide virtual audience via Zoom at 7 p.m. April 24, as part of the Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra. Registration is available here.

Originally scheduled for April 18 with traditional piano accompaniment, Mead’s recital will now be solo and from her home in Northern Liberties in Philadelphia. The program includes the fourth movement of Bach’s “Violin Sonata No. 3”, in a transcription for viola; Hindemith’s “Viola Sonata, Op. 25, No. 1”; and Ungar’s “Ashokan Farewell.” Kendall will emcee the event and host a Q&A with Mead following the recital. Audience members will have the opportunity to submit questions and messages of support during the performance through Zoom.
Mead began playing the viola at age 7 and received her Bachelor of Music from Temple University in 2018. [Click here to watch the panel discussion and this special moment at 48:43].