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Local coronavirus briefing - April 1, 2020

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PA Department of Health confirms 962 new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing state total to 5,805
The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed that as of noon today, there are 962 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 5,805 in 60 counties. The department also reported 11 new deaths among positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 74. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital. The number of cases per county in the region are: Bucks, 312 with six deaths; Chester, 183 with one death; Delaware, 390 with seven deaths; Lehigh, 374 with five deaths; Montgomery, 649 with eight deaths; Northampton, 312 with five deaths; and Philadelphia, 1,478 with 10 deaths. There are 42,427 patients who have tested negative to date. Of the patients who have tested positive to date the age breakdown is as follows: nearly 1% are aged 0-4; nearly 1% are aged 5-12; 1% are aged 13-18; nearly 9% are aged 19-24; 40% are aged 25-49; nearly 29% are aged 50-64; and 19% are aged 65 or older. Most of the patients hospitalized are aged 65 or older, and most of the deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older. There have been no pediatric deaths to date. All non-life-sustaining businesses are ordered to be closed and schools are closed statewide indefinitely. Currently 33 counties are under stay-at-home orders.


New Hope-Solebury Community Association holds supply drive in support of first responders
The New Hope-Solebury Community Association has launched a supply drive to combat COVID-19, collecting non-perishable food and supplies for community food banks and material to use in sewing protective masks for local first responders, health care providers and in-home use for families requiring protective measures. The organization is collecting:
 
• Sewing supplies: Bed linens (please launder first), bolts of cloth, elastic, and thread. If possible, please place in a sealed plastic bag and the contents of the bag (i.e., two laundered bed sheets) identified on a piece of masking tape attached to the plastic bag.

• Nonperishable food, protective gloves, and hand sanitizer. Please place the items in paper bags.

• Financial donations to purchase items. Checks should be made payable to New Hope-Solebury Community Association, Memo: COVID-19 Relief, and mailed to PO Box 62, New Hope, Pa. 18938.
Drop the items off under the carport of the Wedgwood Inn, 111 W. Bridge St., New Hope. The materials and items will be distributed to local sewing circles and food banks by members of the New Hope-Solebury Community Association board. The collection will continue through April 30. For more information about these relief efforts, contact the New Hope-Solebury Community Association at 215-862-5665 or Wedgwood Inn at 215-917-3972.


RVCC Honors College plans Virtual Information Session
Local high school juniors and seniors interested in learning more about Raritan Valley Community College’s Honors College are invited to participate in a Virtual Information Session, 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 16. The session, which will be offered via a Zoom webinar, will include information about admission to RVCC’s Honors College and transfer opportunities after graduating from RVCC. Students in the top 20 percent of their high school class who possess a grade point average of 3.5 or higher, or have a cumulative SAT score of 1100 or higher, are encouraged to participate. The webinar also will include information about the NJ STARS Scholarship program. To register for the Honors College Virtual Information Session and for information about how to participate in the session, visit www.raritanval.edu/visit. For additional information, email honors@raritanval.edu.


State Police refine response guidelines for certain non-emergency incidents
Harrisburg, PA – Col. Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, announced a temporary change to the way troopers respond to select non-emergency incidents. With the goal of limiting in-person contact and mitigating the spread of COVID-19, the department has identified certain types of calls that may be resolved with limited or no on-scene response. The change went into effect April 1, and will remain until further notice. “To enhance social distancing and keep our personnel and the public safe and healthy, we will begin collecting information via telephone for incidents that do not require an in-person response from a trooper,” said Evanchick. “This change affects only a limited number of call types, and the public can be confident that the PSP has the personnel, equipment, and plans in place to respond to emergencies and other critical incidents.” Call types eligible for a modified response include lost and found items, littering, identity theft, and general requests to speak to a trooper. While limiting in-person contact and collecting as much information via telephone is the goal, the actual response will be based on the totality of the circumstances of each unique situation in consultation with a supervisor on duty. State police response protocol to emergencies and crimes in progress remains unchanged. The department asks the public to be mindful of social distancing if they need to visit their local PSP station. Signs have been posted at each entrance instructing visitors not to enter the facility if they are experiencing symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Instead, they are instructed to contact the station by phone to speak to a trooper who may come outside to resolve the situation one-on-one if needed. For a list of PSP stations, visit psp.pa.gov.


Richland Township Police Department offers new online reporting option
The Richland Township Police Department has a new online option for reporting incidents in Richland Township. For all non-emergency incidents, residents and businesses can use this option, if they are not in need of an officer or a response. By utilizing Online Reporting, members of the public can contact the Richland Township Police Department; maintain social distance and help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19/coronavirus; receive an automated e-mail receipt and reference number; and be contacted by a police officer regarding their submission. Go to the banner on the department’s web page and select “Submit Online Report” on the right side. Those who are reporting an emergency or a crime in progress should not use this online web form; they should and dial 911 immediately. Those using the online reporting system will not get an immediate response and law enforcement does not see this submission in real time. Those who submit something on the weekend, will most likely not get a response until the following business day.


Hunterdon Freeholders respond to COVID-19 issues during special meeting
Hunterdon County’s Freeholders, at a March 31 special meeting, called for county departments to reduce discretionary spending, authorized a $100,000 budget for costs arising from the County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and approved the expansion of the County’s Economic Development Municipal Grant Program. The action taken were in response to economic concerns stemming from the restrictions put in place by Gov. Phil Murphy. Freeholder Director Shaun C. Van Doren said the County needed to create the $100,000 COVID-19 response budget line to assist in the purchase of needed protective equipment. He said the County’s Health Department and Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has already distributed more than 110,000 protective items to Hunterdon County first responders, Hunterdon Healthcare, nursing homes, care centers, and medical providers. The municipal grant program was expanded to include more eligible grantees, including local merchant groups or business associations that are nonprofits The Freeholders also approved resolutions in support of several legislative bills that are ready for Governor Murphy’s signature that help residents and businesses, including A-3841, which extends the State Income Tax and Corporate Business Tax to match any extension of the federal government’s tax filing deadline and A-3857, which makes $15 million available for grants to food banks.


District Courts in Bucks County closed, with exception of four
As of April 2, per Executive Order 2020-09, all Magisterial District Courts in Bucks County will be systematically closed, except for a total of four district courts which will be operational during business hours each day with one court covering Upper Bucks County; one court covering Central Bucks County; and two courts covering Lower Bucks County. Payments are encouraged to be made online or by mail. Bail payments are encouraged to be made via certified cashier's check. Contact MDJ courts directly for specific case information. All Traffic, Non-Traffic and Civil hearings scheduled between March 17 and April 14 are continued. All Criminal hearings with non-incarcerated defendants scheduled between March 17 and April 14 are continued. All evictions are postponed effective immediately until after April 14.


PA General Fund Revenue for March falls short of expectations, in part due to COVID-19
Pennsylvania collected $4.4 billion in General Fund revenue in March, which was $294.6 million, or 6.2 percent, less than anticipated, Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell reported today. Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $25.3 billion, which is $45.6 million, or 0.2 percent, below estimate. “The shortfall in March is only partially related to the COVID-19 outbreak. We expect the pandemic will have a greater impact on revenues in the coming months, particularly in a month like April when many of the tax filing due dates are pushed back,” Hassell said. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely and work with the Governor and members of the General Assembly so that they have the latest information as it becomes available.” A portion of the March shortfall is due to the delayed depositing of paper checks while the Department of Revenue’s offices are closed.


Supermarket group kicks off hiring push for to retail, warehouse positions
Wakefern Food Corp. and its cooperative members have kicked off a major hiring push to fill a variety of positions at both retail stores and warehouses to help service the dramatic increase in demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Store associates across the cooperative’s five retail banners – ShopRite, The Fresh Grocer, Price Rite Marketplace, Dearborn Market and Gourmet Garage – are working around the clock during this challenging time to provide essential services to communities across the Mid-Atlantic. The supermarkets – along with the warehouses that supply them – are seeking to fill hundreds of positions to ensure communities have access to fresh foods and necessities. Workers hired will also benefit from a temporary $2 per hour wage premium that went into effect March 22. New associates may also benefit from enhanced sick leave and attendance policies designed to assist with financial and health concerns. Individuals interested in joining the team are encouraged to visit: ShopRite Career Center; Price Rite Marketplace Career Center; The Fresh Grocer Career Center; Dearborn Market; Gourmet Garage; and Wakefern Careers.


Pineville Tavern offering take-out, delivery of family food packs
Pineville Tavern has started stocking grocery items at its Bucks County restaurant to reach customers and stay afloat during coronavirus. The Abruzzeses are offering takeout or delivery of family packs of food, including butcher-quality proteins (hand cut steaks, whole chickens), produce, and bread -- and they throw in a giant roll of toilet paper. They're also offering beer and bottles of wine for their customers.

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