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Local coronavirus briefing - April 7, 2020

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Sen. Steve Santarsiero hosts Telephone Town Hall tonight
Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-10) hosts a telephone town hall at 7 p.m. tonight. His guest will be Jennifer Kitchen, MD, PhD. On the call, Dr. Kitchen and Santarsiero will be taking the public’s medical and policy questions about COVID-19 and the current state of emergency. To sign up for the town hall or to submit questions in advance, visit https://www.senatorstevesantarsiero.com/townhall/. To listen live on your phone, computer or tablet, visit vekeo.com/senatorstevesantarsiero.


PA Department of Health reports 1,579 new positive cases of COVID-19, bring statewide total to 14,559
The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed that as of noon today there are 1,579 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 14,559. 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 240. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital. The number of cases per county stands at Bucks, 690 cases and 21 deaths; Chester, 355 cases and six deaths; Delaware, 898 cases and 20 deaths; Lehigh, 1,146 cases and 10 deaths; Montgomery, 1,359 cases and 30 deaths; Northampton, 744 cases and 14 deaths; Philadelphia, 4,012 cases and 58 deaths. There are 76,719 patients who have tested negative to date. Of the patients who have tested positive to date the age breakdown is as follows: less than 1% are aged 0-4; nearly 1% are aged 5-12; 1% are aged 13-18; 7% are aged 19-24; early 42% are aged 25-49; nearly 29% are aged 50-64; and nearly 20% 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.


New Jersey reports 837 positive coronavirus cases in Mercer County
The New Jersey Department of Health announced that as of April 7 there were 837 positive cases of COVID-19 in Mercer County and 24 deaths. Trenton had 148 cases, Princeton 41, Hopewell Township 33, Hopewell Borough two. No deaths were reported in Mercer County. The state total is 44,416 with 7,232 deaths.


Hunterdon County, N.J., cases reach 236
In Hunterdon County, N.J., the total number of cases is 236, with three deaths. Flemington reported nine cases, Frenchtown three cases; Stockton zero cases; Milford one case; Lambertville nine cases; Alexandria Township three cases; Clinton 29 cases; Delaware Township six cases; East Amwell five cases; Kingwood two cases and West Amwell four.


Inovio Pharmaceuticals begins clinical trial for Experimental COVID-19 Vaccine
Inovio Pharmaceuticals created a potential vaccine for the coronavirus on Jan. 10, just three hours after Chinese researchers publicly released the genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 the virus that causes the illness. Now, it's starting human clinical trials for that potential vaccine, INO-4800. The trial will involve up to 40 healthy adult volunteers, each of whom will receive two doses of INO-4800 four weeks apart.


Bethlehem company earns federal grant to develop at-home COVID-19 test
OraSure Technologies of Bethlehem landed a federal contract from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to develop a rapid in-home self-test for COVID-19. OraSure said it has a $710,310 contract from the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to develop a pan-SARS-coronavirus antigen rapid in-home self-test. The test uses saliva samples and provides results in 20 minutes. The grant will help OraSure file for Federal Drug Administration Emergency Use Authorization.


PA Department of Health to provide more support for long-term care facilities’ COVID-19 response
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has signed a contract with ECRI, an independent, nonprofit health services research organization based in suburban Philadelphia, to help with the COVID-19 response across the state, particularly in long-term care facilities, as the pandemic continues. “It’s imperative that the state do all that we can to protect all Pennsylvanians, but especially those most vulnerable to COVID-19, and so the Department of Health made the right decision to enlist experts in the field of infection control to help protect those in the state’s long-term care facilities,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. With decades of experience in assisting during outbreaks, ECRI will provide individualized infection control and prevention assistance to long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania. Staffers will be available over the phone for 12 hours a day on weekdays and will coordinate with the Department Operations Center, currently providing support to those working in coronavirus response. ECRI will also help the department evaluate PPE and research different ways to maximize available resources.


Ciresi calls on community to sound bells in unity to thank first responders, health care workers
State Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery, encourages fire stations and buildings of worship across Montgomery County to show solidarity by extending appreciation to first responders, health-care workers, educators and others for their service during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. First responders and religious leaders, if they choose to participate, should activate sirens or ring bells for up to five minutes on Monday, April 13 (fire stations at 7 p.m./ houses of worship at 7:05 p.m.). Similar displays have occurred in New York. “Since last month, our citizens have shown tremendous resolve, kindness, and poise in the face of unprecedented uncertainty,” Ciresi said. “I cannot thank our EMTs, nurses, doctors, police officers, and all health and safety workers enough for persevering in the face of this invisible enemy. They are keeping us alive. So, I am asking for a public show of solidarity – that we can all find joy in while staying safely at home.”


MCCC fashion design students to hold virtual ‘Sew-a-Thon’
With the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) now recommending all citizens wear facemasks when venturing out in public to help curb the spread of COVID-19, Mercer County Community College (MCCC) fashion merchandising and design students and faculty will launch a virtual “Sew-a-Thon” to help meet the local need. “This is a great time to band together and do what we do best – sew,” said Katina Lindsay, coordinator of the MCCC Fashion Merchandising and Design program. “So we thought: Why not do something as a school, and as a community? Why not do something that is community driven?” Lindsay, along with students and faculty of the MCCC fashion program, will be hosting the virtual sew-a-thon each Saturday in April from noon to 3 p.m., and invites “anyone with a sewing machine” in the community to join in. Participants can sign up at www.mccc.edu/mask-team to receive the Zoom login information. She notes that Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores is providing facemask kits, free of charge, as well as instructional videos on its website on how to make them. Thus far Lindsay has made about 100 of the masks on her own, which she has distributed throughout the community. She said she is in the process of reaching out to community organizations throughout the region to determine where the masks are needed and will be directing items produced from the sew-a-thon to those organizations.


Webinar slated for NJ businesses impacted by COVID-19
A special webinar, “NJEDA Programs to Support Business Impacted by COVID-19,” takes place 5 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 8. The speakers will be Paul Ceppi, NJEDA managing director of finance and development, and Congressman Tom Malinowski. The congressman will provide a current overview of federal matters relevant to local business. Ceppi will provide an overview of NJ programs to support businesses impacted by COVID-19. Register at https://hunterdonnjcoc.wliinc15.com/events. The Hunterdon County Office of Economic Development and the Hunterdon County Chamber have created a Business Resource page with latest information to assist organizations. Visit https://www.hunterdon-chamber.org/covid-19-business-resources.html.


COVID-19 complaint filed against Pennsylvania’s medical treatment rationing guidelines
The Disability Rights Pennsylvania (DRP), together with other disability advocacy organizations from across the state, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights challenging Pennsylvania’s guidelines for rationing of health care in the event that the COVID-19 pandemic leads to a shortage of health care resources. Pennsylvania’s rationing scheme titled “Interim Pennsylvania Crisis Standards of Care for Pandemic Guidelines (March 22, 2020) (PA Guidelines), which were developed without any input from the disability community, discriminates against and jeopardizes the lives of people with disabilities, DRP said. The PA Guidelines violate Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). DRP requested a determination that the PA Guidelines discriminate against individuals with disabilities in violation of federal law. The PA Guidelines unlawfully exclude or limit individuals with disabilities from access to health care based on, among other discriminatory factors, myths, stereotypes, and unfounded assumptions about people with disabilities. Under the PA Guidelines, people with disabilities are deemed to be a lower priority simply because of their disabilities despite their ability to survive COVID-19 infection with appropriate critical care treatment. The Pennsylvania Guidelines also raise concerns about the reallocation of ventilators used by patients in their daily lives unrelated to COVID-19. Such individuals must be allowed to continue to use this life-sustaining equipment while receiving COVID-19 treatment at the hospital without risk that they will be subject to the PA Standards’ criteria for withdrawal of care.


Pennsylvania First Lady Frances Wolf: Volunteerism remains essential with stay at home order in place
Today, Pennsylvania First Lady Frances Wolf reminded Pennsylvanians that volunteer efforts to distribute meals and other life-sustaining services in Pennsylvania remain an essential activity, even with a statewide stay at home order in place until April 30. She encourages residents who are able to continue assisting local organizations with delivering services to their communities, while also following necessary safety precautions. “Although many of the state’s operations have slowed down dramatically, we still desperately need volunteers to deliver life-sustaining services to our fellow citizens,” stated Wolf. “Ensuring that Pennsylvanians continue to have access to food, medical services, and other essentials remains a priority for the administration. As a consequence, we ask local communities across the state join us with our work to guarantee that all residents receive the services they need during this COVID-19 pandemic. The work that each of us puts in each day to help our neighbors will determine how we fare in this global crisis.” Several options exist for individuals seeking volunteer opportunities in their areas, as well as organizations and agencies in need of volunteers. The PA Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters, whose mission is to serve the citizens of Pennsylvania in times of great need, has compiled a host of resources to assist volunteer efforts throughout the state. Visit https://pavoad.communityos.org/cms/.


Raritan Valley Community College creates 3D-printed face shields
Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey is joining efforts to help those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic by creating personal protective equipment (PPE) to be donated to area hospitals. The college’s advanced manufacturing program has teamed up with Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School, with assistance from RVCC’s engineering program and the arts and design department, to create 3D-printed face-shields. RVCC was asked to join the effort in producing the much-needed PPE by the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs of Rutgers University. The PPE is being distributed to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital New Brunswick and Somerset. Production on the face-shields began March 30, and approximately 30 shields are being created each day. The goal is to eventually create 60 face shields per day, according to Conrad Mercurius, coordinator of RVCC’s advanced manufacturing program. The devices feature a headband and plastic face shield.


Correctional Industries is making COVID-19-related supplies
Beginning March 17, Pennsylvania Correctional Industries (PCI) stopped production at its garment factories system-wide to focus on manufacturing cloth masks to be used by Department of Corrections employees and inmates. To date, PCI has made a total of 185,136 masks, which have been supplied to all DOC facilities and offices, including parole agents and parole supervision staff. DOC employees were provided with three masks each, and every inmate was provided with two masks. “Over the weekend, at the request of the governor’s office, we manufactured and shipped cloth masks for essential commonwealth employees,” Secretary John Wetzel said. Other COVID-19 related items now being made daily by PCI include: 36,000 bars of anti-bacterial soap; 255 gowns; and 1,620 packs/27 cases of PDF-45 Disinfectant. Inmates are working 12-hour shifts, six days a week to produce these items. PCI is a bureau within the DOC that employs inmates to produce a variety of items that are available for sale to nonprofit organizations and government entities located throughout Pennsylvania. It is self-sustaining through the sale of products and services and receives no taxpayer money.


New Hope Arts enhances online offerings
New Hope Arts is continuing to enhance its online program with the exhibition series, and new programs focused on art at home for all to use and enjoy. With home schooling in place NHA will be posting resources for parents to use for entertainment and education. Check out NHAs new pages of resources and projects at http://www.newhopearts.org/default.aspx?pg=1548.


YOBC continues mission during social distancing
Youth Orchestra of Bucks County is continuing to fulfill its mission of creating opportunities for young musicians to achieve artistic excellence through enriching classical music experiences. YOBC conductors and staff are still interacting and communicating with students but in a different way….”cyberly!” “We have embraced Zoom pro and enhanced our website to create opportunities for student, staff and volunteer communications, virtual meetings and to provide many musical experiences for our students so they can continue to grow musically in a safe environment. These opportunities include: virtual, interactive workshops for YOBC students; live sessions with guest Maestros; a special Awards Ceremony to honor YOBC graduating seniors, which will be held via Zoom; orchestra auditions via Zoom with individual students one on one; and enhanced emails, now two to three times per week, to students and their families updating them on the new opportunities available to them and providing additional exposure for YOBC sponsors.


St Luke’s one of first in world to pilot remote patient monitoring for COVID-19 patients
St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) is one of the first institutions worldwide to use Masimo SafetyNet to monitor in-hospital patients, as the network seeks innovative solutions to care for the surge of patients infected by COVID-19. Masimo SafetyNet is an economically scalable cloud-based patient management platform designed to help clinicians care for patients remotely in hospital settings and in non-traditional settings and circumstances. The telehealth solution uses a tetherless, wearable single-patient-use sensor to monitor patients with clinically proven Masimo SET® pulse oximetry, and is designed to help manage the surge in COVID-19 patients while maintaining the safety of other patients and providers, allowing hospitals to expand patient remote monitoring into alternative care spaces, including overflow locations, emergency recovery facilities, and home care settings. Designed to track the blood oxygen saturation and respiration rate of patients who are hospitalized or quarantined at home, Masimo SafetyNet combines tetherless SET pulse oximetry with a proprietary remote data capture and surveillance platform accessible from a patient’s Android or iOS smartphone or smart device. Monitoring key physiological data can help provide clinicians with an accurate snapshot of a patient’s systemic health and facilitates awareness of the need for rapid execution of treatment decisions that can be life-saving.

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