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Local coronavirus briefing - March 17, 2020

Posted
Doylestown Hospital opens drive-through testing for COVID-19
Individuals who are preregistered may be tested for COVID-19 (coronavirus) at a drive-through tent at Doylestown Hospital. Only those individuals who receive a physician order for the testing from a member of the Doylestown Hospital medical staff may be tested. Physician offices will notify the hospital about the need for testing, and the hospital will call those individuals to schedule a time and date to arrive for testing. Coronavirus testing at Doylestown Hospital will take place from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, for those who are preregistered. Hours will likely expand in the future as physicians screen more individuals.

“Doylestown Hospital currently has adequate supplies for drive-through testing, and staff is well prepared to collect specimens for the lab tests,” said Dr. Scott Levy, vice president and chief medical officer. “In providing drive-through testing to community members who are preregistered, we are using this tactic to more rapidly assess the health status of individuals in our community, and ultimately contributing to public health surveillance. Specimens are sent to laboratories off the hospital campus for results. Currently there is rising demand for lab services, partly responsible for delayed results.” For information about Doylestown Health’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit
DoylestownHealth.org
 
 
Pennsylvania reports 20 additional positive cases of COVID-19 bringing state total to 96
The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed that as of noon today, March 17, there are 20 additional positive cases of COVID-19 in the commonwealth, bringing the statewide total to 96. All are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital. The additional cases are as follows: two in Allegheny County; one in Beaver County; three in Bucks County; two in Chester County; five in Cumberland County; two in Delaware County; two in Montgomery County; two in Philadelphia County; and one in Washington County. “Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now: stay calm; stay home and stay safe,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. “We have seen case counts continue to increase and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is stay home.” Statewide, there are 96 cases of COVID-19 reported from commercial, hospital and state labs. There are 879 patients who have tested negative. With commercial labs being the primary testing option for most Pennsylvanians, data is not available on the total number of tests pending.
 
 
Pennsylvania workers affected by COVID-19 may be eligible for unemployment and workers’ Compensation benefits
PEMA Directive 2008 addresses use of commonwealth roadways during a state of emergency, and it contains a news media provision. The press is defined among the other ‘essential services’ like health care workers, first responders, etc. under the directive. The directive was passed in 2008, with no expiration, but it could be updated at any time.


Press defined as an essential service
PEMA Directive 2008 addresses use of commonwealth roadways during a state of emergency, and it contains a news media provision. The press is defined among the other ‘essential services’ like health care workers, first responders, etc. under the directive. The directive was passed in 2008, with no expiration, but it could be updated at any time.
 

The first day of trout fishing season has been moved to Saturday, April 18
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has changed plans for stocking trout and the 2020 trout fishing season because of guidelines on large gatherings and the coronavirus. Those changes, which are effective immediately, include consolidating the 2020 trout season schedule into a single, statewide schedule for all Pennsylvania counties, accelerating trout stocking operations and limiting volunteer participation. The statewide opening day for trout season will be April 18. There will be no regional opener two weeks earlier. There will also be one Mentored Youth Trout Day on April 11. The March 28 date for the regional Mentored Youth Trout Day will no longer take place.
 

Conversation with Elected Officials to take place online
The Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Committee’s Conversation with Elected Officials will take place Friday, March 20, 8:30-10:30 a.m. The event has been moved to an online forum in a Zoom webinar. A recording of the event will be available afterwards.
 
 
Red Cross faces blood shortage
The American Red Cross now faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Healthy individuals are needed now to donate to help patients counting on lifesaving blood. Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood with the Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device. Blood donation is a safe.
 
 
House Passes Historic Rule Changes in Response to COVID-19
Rules allow members to vote remotely and keep House operating
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is no longer requiring all members to be present on the House floor. Members voted unanimously to adopt a rule change that strengthens the body’s ability to take efficient and effective legislative action during these difficult times. “Under our current rules, members must be present in the Capitol to vote on legislation. We had to convene a quorum of members in Harrisburg today to vote to change our rules,” Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said. “Under the new rules, members can vote on bills before the House and in committees without leaving their districts.”
 
 
Regional Planning Commission switches to virtual meetings
DVRPC staff are working from home for the time being, and will remain available via email, phone, and virtual meetings. “As a regional convener, we understand the importance of collaborating with one another and continuing to move our work forward. DVRPC’s meetings in March are postponed or offered virtually. The March DVRPC Board Meeting will be held as a virtual meeting. We are evaluating options for meetings held after March as well. Please check DVRPC’s calendar to access agendas and links to join the virtual meetings,” the commission said.

Phoenix Art Supplies & Framing is open
Phoenix Art Supplies & Framing is open for regular hours. However, until April 1 it will be acting as personal shoppers. It is currently offering the following shopping options: Shoppers access to the store will be restricted to just inside the entrance; Call 215-345-0980 or email create@phoenixartsupplies.com to place your order ahead of time; If you are within 5 miles of the store, we will deliver your order for free. Delivery fees between 5 to 20 miles are $17. Use this options only if you are unable to make it to the store.


Bristol Cultural and Historical Foundation cancels events
The Bristol Cultural and Historical Foundation has canceled the following two events, in keeping with the coronavirus precautions: the March 29 presentation on “Little Street, Big City: How Elfreth’s Alley Tells the Story of Philadelphia” and the 25th Anniversary Tea on April 19.
 
 
Gaming Control Board suspends casino operations
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board ordered all casinos that were still open to close by 6 a.m. today, following the rapid expansion of reported COVID-19 cases with the goal of mitigating the spread of the virus. While the closure of the casinos is temporary, there is no specific indication of when reopening will occur. Parx Casino in Bucks County and Wind Creek Bethlehem had both closed prior to this notice. Up to date information on the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the Commonwealth's gaming industry regulated by the Gaming Control Board can be found on the agency's website, gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
 
 
Elmwood Park Zoo provides live and virtual content online
Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown offers its new online destination for fun and educational content, "EPZoo2U.com." The website provides guests with links to the zoo's various videos, live streams, games and lessons that can be enjoyed for free by both children and adults. The highlight of the zoo’s online educational offerings is "Bubby's Club." Named after the zoo's bison mascot, "Bubby's Club" features a number of activities, such as browser-based games that task children with identifying animal sounds, and finding the creatures that use camouflage to disappear in their environment. Visitors can also watch videos, and read through the books selected by Bubby in his very own book club. Beginning today, the zoo will also broadcast "Zoo School Live!" through Facebook Live. The 15- to 20-minute program will feature the zoo's Education Team presenting a lesson along with an animal from the zoo's Ambassador Program. "Zoo School Live!" will stream live Monday through Friday at 11 am. The zoo will be working in the coming days to add content to EPZoo2U.com, such virtual tours and live streams of exhibit animals. Updates will be announced and made available on EPZoo2U.com, as well as elmwoodparkzoo.org. On Friday, March 13, the zoo began a drive to support its Emergency Fund. The fund seeks to offset the zoo's substantial financial loss caused by the loss of daily visitors. For information on how to support the Emergency Fund, visit elmwoodparkzoo.org.
 
 
United Way of Bucks, Penn Community Bank establish COVID-19 Recovery Fund, seek contributions
United Way of Bucks County, with the support of Penn Community Bank, today announced the creation of the Bucks County COVID-19 Recovery Fund to help people in Bucks County who may experience a financial crisis as the result of the pandemic of COVID-19. Launching with $25,000 in donations from each organization, the fund will be used to assist residents with basic needs such as food, shelter, utilities, and transportation. Funds will flow through United Way’s member agencies, who will be able to request support for COVID-19-related services to clients. No administrative expenses will be attached to the fund; all money raised will go directly to help people and agencies with short-term and long-term financial recovery. To learn more and to contribute to the recovery effort, visit uwbucks.org/COVIDrecovery.
 

Potential postpones fundraising gala
Due to concerns over COVID-19 and the governor’s restrictions on large gatherings, Potential is postponing its March 21 Saturday Night Fever Gala until Friday, Oct. 16.
 

NAMI moves support groups online
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Bucks County has made the decision to move all support groups to a virtual model to reduce the risk of illness. Those who do not have computer access will be provided with a telephone number and access code to participate via phone. Anyone concerned with privacy issues should know that NAMI Bucks County will not record virtual sessions, capture personal information, or use any information you provide during groups for any reason unless Pennsylvania laws for mandated reporting and mandated reporters dictate otherwise. The same group guidelines and principles of support that apply to in-person meetings will be used to guide NAMI Online Support Groups, and each NAMI Online Support Group will be led by two NAMI-trained facilitators who are either family members or individuals in recovery themselves. These groups are offered free of charge, as are all NAMI programs. Visit namibuckspa.org/.
 

Sellersville St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Celtic Festival cancelled
Concerns over the novel coronavirus, which causes the illness known as COVID-19, have prompted organizers to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Celtic Festival planned for March 21 in Sellersville. Sellersville Borough Manager David Rivet said organizers had no choice but to cancel amid the escalating public health risks that come with large crowd gatherings and the potential to spread COVID-19. “The Pennridge Chamber of Commerce organizing committee has worked hard all year to plan for this event, but in the face of recent developments had to make the difficult decision to cancel,” Rivet said.
 

Staats temporarily restricts walk-in service to district office
Rep. Craig Staats (R-Bucks) issued the following statement today regarding action he is taking in response to COVID-19 to minimize risks to public health and safety: “Due to the national health emergency, my Quakertown office is closed to walk-in service through March 27 at which time the policy will be reviewed. Meanwhile, I am urging my constituents to call or email my office if they need our assistance with any state-related matter. Residents can call my office Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 215-536-1434 or email cstaats@pahousegop.com.
 

Hiway and Ambler theaters close for at least two weeks
The Ambler Theater and the Hiway Theater have temporarily closed for a minimum of two weeks. The closures began last Friday. All scheduled programs during this time are cancelled. This decision has been reached in recognition of the theater’s role as a significant community gathering place. It is very possible that this closure will be extended. The theaters hope to reschedule as many cancelled events as possible. Theater employees will continue to receive full pay and benefits during this immediate closure. The theaters will continue to accept memberships and financial donations. Public support is especially appreciated during this challenging time, as it will help support the theater’s staff and will help the theaters reopen with minimal disruption when the time comes. Those who have unused tickets may retain them and redeem them for another show when the theaters reopen, with no time limit; a ticket also may be converted into a charitable donation to the theater simply by not using it. Ticket-holders may request a refund for tickets purchased in cash or by credit card (online or in-person). Contact Lauren at the theaters’ administrative office at: 215-348-1878, x115.


Denny’s Restaurants in Pennsylvania offering free delivery through March 30
In an effort to manage the evolving impact of Coronavirus/COVID-19, Denny’s restaurants in Pennsylvania will offer carryout and delivery only in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. All delivery fees will be waived through March 30. For both carryout and delivery, guests can order online at dennys.com. “In addition to strong routine cleaning and sanitation standards that have always met or exceeded all CDC guidelines, Denny’s is taking the following steps to enhance cleaning procedures around the country:
• Eliminating all condiments, silverware and placemats from each table
• Cleaning chairs, tables, hi-chairs, and condiment containers after each guest
• Cleaning critical high touch areas in dining rooms and restrooms every 30 minutes
• Requiring each employee to wash their hands every 20 minutes with soap and water then apply an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Denny’s restaurants are open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. for carryout and delivery only.


Perkasie waives late fees, suspends shutoff on electric accounts
Effective today, Perkasie Borough is suspending service disconnections and waiving new late payment charges on residential and commercial electric accounts through at least April 30.
“We are committed to helping every customer through difficult times, and we know there will be many challenges associated with this pandemic," said James Purcell, council vice president and chair of the borough’s Public Utility Committee. Customers who are unable to pay their electric bill should contact Perkasie Borough Electric Department at 215-257-5065. Perkasie Borough will work closely with customers to waive late payment fees and to avoid having their service shut off. “Perkasie Borough understands that many of our electric customers are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are taking steps to help,” said James Ryder, Borough Council president. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps families living on low incomes pay their heating bills in the form of a cash grant. Households in immediate danger of being without heat can qualify for crisis grants through LIHEAP. More information and application guidelines are available at dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/LIHEAP.aspx


Music Mountain Theatre closes due to virus concerns
Due to increasing concern over the COVID-19 outbreak and based on recommendations from its Board of Directors, management, and health and safety experts, Music Mountain Theatre is presently closed. The theater’s top priority is the health and safety of its patrons, as well as the protection of its performers, employees and students. “While we have in recent weeks implemented enhanced cleaning and sanitation procedures, we will use the time to do a deep and thorough cleaning and sanitation of the theater,” MMT said. “We anticipate being closed for several weeks. During this unprecedented time, we have no way of knowing how things may change in the coming days and weeks. We will continue to monitor the evolving situation, adjust as appropriate, and keep you informed of any changes as decisions are made. We thank you all for your understanding and support, and look forward to being able to bring you high quality entertainment again in the near future!”
 

Kingwood Township Historical Society cancels meeting
Due to the state of emergency, the March 26 meeting of the Kingwood Township Historical Society has been cancelled. The next scheduled meeting is April 30. More information is expected to follow.
 

DCNR closing State Park and Forest facilities statewide, open spaces will remain accessible
Today, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced that all facilities at state park and forests in Pennsylvania will be closed for 14 days effective March 17 to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The public will still be able to access trails, lakes, forests, roads, and parking areas for passive and dispersed recreation, such as hiking. All buildings at state parks and forests, including the park and forest offices and all restrooms will be closed, and all events and public educational programs are canceled. Campgrounds, cabins and all forms of overnight accommodations also are closed. Information about state parks and forests is available on the DCNR website. Updates also are being provided on DCNR’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
 
 
Lambertville Shad Fest, poster auction postponed
Delaware River Towns Chamber of Commerce said Tuesday it plans to reschedule the Shad Fest and Jim Hamilton Shad Fest Poster Auction, based on directives from local and state governments regarding COVID-19. “Our first priority as the Delaware River Towns Chamber of Commerce has been how to best protect the safety and health of our Shad Fest 2020 guests, vendors, and community,” said Executive Director Cindy Kunnas in an email, announcing the postponement from the festival’s scheduled weekend of April 24 to 26. “We look forward to planning a future date that will give us an opportunity to safely host a successful event,” Kunas wrote, adding, “Thank you for your support during this challenging time.” Visit delawarerivertowns.com for up-to-date information; for information on COVID-19, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
 
 
New Hope Arts Center closes due to virus
The New Hope Arts Center closed to the public today, March 17, and will remain closed through April 4, in an effort to limit opportunities for transmission of the coronavirus. The gallery will continue to monitor the progress of COVID-19 in the state and the government guidance to determine whether the closure should be extended beyond that date. “We believe that (by) adhering to the recommended Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for social distancing, and avoiding events greater than 10 persons, we will be a healthier and stronger community. For updates, visit newhopearts.org.

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