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Local coronavirus briefing - April 9, 2020

PA Department of Health Provides reports 1,989 new positive cases of COVID-19; bring statewide total to 18,228
The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed that as of noon there are 1,989 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 18,228. All 67 counties in Pennsylvania now have cases of COVID-19. The department also reported 29 new deaths among positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 338. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital. The number of cases reported by county in the region stands at: Bucks, 871 and 23 deaths; Chester, 425 and seven deaths; Delaware, 1,222 and 26 deaths; Lehigh, 1,466 and 13 deaths; Northampton, 949 and 20 deaths; Philadelphia 5,029 and 86 deaths.

Governor Wolf extends school closure for remainder of academic year; PSBA supports decision
Gov. Tom Wolf today announced that all schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision applies to all public K-12 schools, brick and mortar and cyber charter schools, private and parochial schools, career and technical centers and intermediate units. All Department of Education early learning program classrooms, including those for Pre-K Counts, Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP) and Preschool Early Intervention, will also remain closed. Colleges and universities may not resume in-person instruction or reopen their physical locations until the governor permits them to open or lifts the closure of non-life-sustaining businesses. Schools are strongly encouraged to provide continuity of education for all students in the most appropriate and accessible ways possible. PDE has secured resources intended to help all schools that want to use them – including those not currently offering online platforms, those requiring additional technology support, and those that may rely on traditional methods, such as paper lessons, to continue educating students. There is no cost to schools or students for these resources. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) said it supports and appreciates Wolf’s decision.

Newtown Sports Training Center to be used as a field facility during COVID-19 crisis
Three weeks ago, Newtown Athletic Club (NAC) owner Jim Worthington reached out to local, state and federal government to donate the NAC facilities and the Newtown Sports Training Center for any emergency use due to the COVID-19 crisis. Bucks County Emergency Services has accepted this offer and this space is now being prepared for 300-plus beds for overflow hospital needs. The space will be ready for patients by Friday, April 10. As a large open indoor space, it is suited to house this type of temporary emergency service. Having this overflow space available so close to area hospitals is critical to dealing effectively with the potential community need during this time.

Gov. Wolf signs order to provide targeted distribution of COVID-19 PPE and supplies to hospitals
Gov. Tom Wolf signed an order Wednesday to provide critical aid to hospitals with targeted PPE and supplies distribution. "Combatting a pandemic means we all have to work together and that means we need to make the best use of our medical assets to ensure the places that need them most have them," Gov. Wolf said. "Today, I am signing an order that will allow us to transfer supplies and information between medical facilities to both high-population, high-impact areas and lower population areas that might not have as many existing medical resources. This will also prevent sick Pennsylvanians from having to choose which hospital to go to for fear that some have less access to equipment than others and it will help us make use of every ventilator, every piece of PPE, and every medical worker." The order will ensure the efficient allocation and effective use of critical medical re-sources, such as N95 face masks, ventilators, respirators, face shields, safety goggles, disinfectants and other sanitizing solutions by hospitals in the state.

Bucks County one of few in state offering marriage license services and probate during pandemic
Linda Bobrin, Bucks County’s register of wills and clerk of orphans’ court, is operating one of the only county offices in all of Pennsylvania offering marriage license services and probate during the statewide lockdown. Bobrin has expanded online services amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Bobrin has launched a new pilot program allowing marriage applicants of any residence, as long as they are getting married in Pennsylvania, to apply for their marriage license online and complete the process by videoconferencing. The demand has exceeded expectations, being one of the only offices in the state to provide these crucial services during this time. With safety and service as priorities, Bobrin is operating on a limited staff and closed physically to the public, utilizing available technology. The process to probate and open an estate for a Bucks County decedent is also similar and may be started and completed remotely. Visit for information.

Hunterdon Freeholders ask governor to reconsider order to close county parks
Hunterdon County’s freeholders have called on Gov. Phil Murphy to reconsider his decision to close all county parks and trails in the state, calling it a one size fits all decision that punishes county residents who have been following the social distancing rules. Freeholder Board Director Shaun C. Van Doren said he is forwarding a communication expressing the board’s concerns to Murphy. “The governor should have left the decision on county parks to county governments, as he did in leaving the decision on municipal parks with local officials,” Van Doren said. “The one size fits all statewide decision punishes our residents who have been complying. The reports from Hunterdon County Park Rangers is that the many residents using our parks and trails have been observing social distancing.” Van Doren noted, “Our residents who are remaining at home to help flatten the curve need access to county parks and trails more than ever for fresh air, exercise opportunities and physical activity that studies demonstrate reduces stress and improves mental health, in addition to physical health.”

Pennsylvania issues 30 licensing waivers allowing professionals to respond to COVID-19 emergency
The Pennsylvania Department of State announced today that it has issued 30 licensing waivers since March 17 to allow licensed professionals, facilities and trainees to respond to the COVID-19 disaster declaration. “During this unprecedented emergency, the Department of State is committed to reducing as many burdens as possible for licensees to practice and serve Pennsylvanians,” Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said. “We’ve included a wide spectrum of professionals in these temporary waivers, recognizing that each professional we can empower to help is another critical part of the solution to ending this crisis.” The Department of State website will be updated regularly as additional requirement waiver information becomes available. Licensees with questions should contact their state licensing board via the email addresses on the Department of State website.

Perkasie sets community bell ring to honor helpers
Perkasie Mayor John Hollenbach named Monday April 13, 2020 as “Helper Recognition Day” via special proclamation issued April 6, during the borough council meeting. The council and the mayor invite everyone in the borough to join them in a Community Bell Ring at 8 p.m. Monday April 13. “If you don’t have a bell,” suggests Borough Council Vice President Jim Purcell, “then use something similar, a wind chime maybe. Bring your noisemakers to your front door or window and ring out joyously for two minutes!” Communities across the world are ringing bells in support of health-care and other frontline workers. “We may be physically apart but this will be a symbol that we are 100% together as a community,” said Borough Council President James Ryder. Added Hollenbach, “Our health-care workers, grocery store clerks, delivery and truck drivers, police officers, Borough crews and many others are taking a risk every day on our behalf. I’ll be ringing my bell on Monday as a small way to say “God Bless” to everyone who is working to secure and serve our community in the face of this virus. For information, email or call 215-257-5065.

Twenty Pennsylvania legislators urge online marketplaces to crack down on coronavirus price gouging
Twenty Pennsylvania state legislators are calling on the country’s top online marketplaces to crack down on price gouging amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Together, 346 legislators representing 45 states, joined PennPIRG Education Fund in sending a letter Tuesday urging Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Walmart to quickly implement preventative measures on their platforms to ensure that consumers don’t get taken advantage of during this public health crisis. Less than two weeks ago, 33 attorneys general, led by Josh Shapiro, sent a similar letter to the same companies. “We believe you have an ethical obligation and patriotic duty to help your fellow citizens in this time of need by doing everything in your power to stop price gouging in real-time,” the letter reads, in part. Since the beginning of the outbreak, the cost of critical health supplies has spiked dramatically on online platforms. An analysis last month from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund found that existing monitoring on Amazon’s platform was not preventing significant price hikes. In particular, the cost of most hand sanitizers and masks rose at least 50 percent higher than the 90-day average.