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Local coronavirus briefing - March 20, 2020

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COVID-19 cases confirmed in eight Bucks County municipalities
The Bucks County Department of Health has confirmed 18 presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Bucks County, with cases in the following municipalities: Buckingham, Doylestown Township, Lower Makefield, Northampton, Upper Makefield, Upper Southampton, Warminster and Warrington.


Statewide total of COVID-19 cases rises to 268, with 83 new cases statewide
The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed that there are 83 additional positive cases of COVID-19 reported, bringing the statewide total to 268, including 18 in Bucks County. “Our notable increase in cases over the last few days indicate we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. Statewide, there are 268 cases of COVID-19 reported from commercial, hospital and state labs. There are 2,574 patients who have tested negative, and one death. With commercial labs being the primary testing option for most Pennsylvanians, data is not available on the total number of tests pending.


Governor orders closure of non-life-sustaining businesses
Governor Tom Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations as of 8 p.m. Thursday, to slow the spread of COVID-19. Enforcement actions against businesses that do not close physical locations will begin at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 21. Here is the link to the list of life-sustaining businesses.
https://htv-prod-media.s3.amazonaws.com/files/color-20200319-life-sustaining-business-1584714384.pdf


New Hope mayor declares state of emergency
Mayor Laurence Keller of New Hope declared a public health local disaster emergency in the Borough of New Hope. He directed the New Hope Emergency Management Coordinator or his designee to coordinate and oversee the emergency response. He authorized officials of the to act as necessary to meet the current exigencies of this emergency, namely: by the employment of temporary workers, by the rental of equipment, by the purchase of supplies and materials, and by entering into such contracts and agreements for the performance of public work as may be required to meet the emergency, all without regard to those time-consuming procedures and formalities normally prescribed by law. The New Hope Borough Police Department will enforce any executive order, proclamation, or regulation regarding mandatory closures or other mandatory directives issued by the governor under the code in connection with this present public health local disaster emergency within the department's area. The declaration is in effect from 11:00 a.m. on March 20, 11 a.m. on March 27.


PA Turnpike reopened all 17 Service Plazas starting Friday morning
Restrooms and limited food items will be available inside each facility.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission reopened all 17 of its service plazas today at 7 a.m., restrooms inside all service plazas will be open 24 hours. The outdoor portable toilets will remain in place at the service plazas for approximately one week. Limited food options will be available at all service plazas starting tomorrow at 8 a.m served from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. except at North Midway and Valley Forge locations which will offer food 24/7.) All service plazas will have limited staffing for the safety of the employees of HMS Host and 7-Eleven, which operate the PA Turnpike service plazas. Fuel and all convenience stores inside the service plazas will continue to remain open 24 hours a day.
REMINDERS:
The PA Turnpike is not accepting cash or credit cards at its “ticket system” interchanges. All tolls will be assessed electronically via E-ZPass or the PA Turnpike’s TOLL BY PLATE program as vehicles travel at posted speed limits through tolling points. Cash tolls will still be in place on the Mon-Fayette Expressway (PA Turnpike 43) via the current Automated Payment Machines.


PUC’s March 26th public meeting to be conducted telephonically
the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) announced that its upcoming public meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 26 – will be conducted telephonically. The PUC public meeting will begin at 10 a.m. on March 26, and members of the public, the media and others can begin accessing the telephone conference call starting at 9:45 a.m. that day. Interested parties can listen to the meeting by calling 1-888-917-8050, and then entering passcode 9570961.


Palisades School District outlines plans for this period
Technicians have been working on organizing the chromebooks for distribution to all elementary students. Chromebooks will be distributed at Tinicum Elementary School and Palisades High School during the hours of 11a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (the breakfast and lunch bag disbursement hours) beginning Monday, March 23. Chromebooks are available for all elementary-aged students. Tinicum Elementary School continues to be the only location approved for lunch distribution for all students (grades K-12) in the Palisades School District. This week, the district received a waiver from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to begin serving breakfast and lunch “go bags” to K-12 students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch. Beginning Monday, March 23, the district will distribute FREE breakfast and lunch “go bags” at Palisades High School for students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunches. Only qualifying students will be served at this location; however, all students will continue to be served at Tinicum. signs will be posted and administrators will be on site to guide you. Drivers are asked to stay in vehicles when picking up your food items. Due to a change in family income, if you feel as though your family may now qualify for Free and Reduced Lunches, please go to this website to complete the application www.paschoolmeals.com.


States form coalition to coordinate CID-19 response
(The Center Square) – A coalition of four Northeast states is once again acting in concert to issue restrictions designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania have been coordinating in recent days to create a uniform response to the growing number of cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The latest step by the four governors came Friday with an order to close all nail and hair salons, barbershops and similar businesses. The moves follow a similar decision Thursday in each of the four states to mandate the closure of the interior of all shopping malls, amusement parks and bowling alleys. Those restrictions went into effect at 8 p.m. Thursday. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf has decreed that law enforcement will begin to more strictly enforce the closure directives that have been issued because of reports of widespread defiance. As of Friday morning, New York has seen 5,711 confirmed diagnosed cases of COVID-19, with 38 deaths. New Jersey has seen 742 cases and nine deaths, Pennsylvania 206 cases and one death, and Connecticut 159 cases and three deaths. -- Dave Lemery The Center Square


A milestone in China: No new local cases
For the first time since the virus broke out, China reported zero new local infections on Thursday. The only new cases, and it was just a handful, were people who had come from abroad.


CBP temporarily closes area Trusted Traveler enrollment centers
U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporarily suspended operations at Trusted Traveler Program enrollment centers nationwide from March 19 until at least May 1, 2020. This suspension includes Global Entry Enrollment Centers at airports including Philadelphia International Airport. This suspension does not impact CBP’s Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival program, where conditionally-approved applicants may still complete their enrollment process as they return on an international flight or at a CBP Preclearance location at any of the 60 airports that offer this program. CBP is taking this precautionary measure to minimize the exposure of CBP personnel and the public to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). This temporary closure includes all public access Global Entry enrollment centers, NEXUS enrollment centers, SENTRI enrollment centers and FAST enrollment locations. Global Entry mobile enrollment events are also paused until further notice. Conditionally-approved applicants who seek an enrollment center interview will need to reschedule after May 1. These applicants are encouraged to monitor their e-mail and Trusted Traveler Program accounts for further information. Applicants can also follow @DFOBaltimore and @CBPMidAtlantic on Twitter for the latest updates. Learn more about CBP at www.CBP.gov.


BCCC cancels Nurse Aide Training Program
Bucks County Community College’s Nurse Aide Training Program classes, scheduled to begin March 30 and April 4, have been canceled amid closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Program coordinator Karen Souvigney urged prospective students to check back at the program’s website, bucks.edu/nurseaide, for announcements as to when the programs will be offered again. “There is likely to be even more demand for trained, certified health care workers when the coronavirus pandemic passes, and we look forward to resuming this important training in the near future,” said Souvigney.


Travis Manion Foundation makes Character Does Matter program available online
In response to the nationwide quarantine and school closings due to COVID-19, one of the nation’s leading veteran nonprofit organizations, Travis Manion Foundation (TMF), has decided to adapt its Character Does Matter Program to now be available online for students throughout the country.
Beginning Monday, March 23, TMF’s team of trained, vetted and inspirational veteran leaders will implement the Character Does Matter program to youth throughout the country via social media. Each week day at 1 p.m. ET a TMF veteran mentor will host a Facebook Live video around character development, aimed at an elementary and middle school audience. Jimmy White, a U.S. Navy veteran and recipient of TMF’s 2018 “If Not Me, Then Who…” award, will kick off the program by teaching lessons about kindness, hope, humor and appreciation of beauty. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to log on along with their children to receive each day’s lesson and character activity. During the session, veterans will discuss a particular character strength, share their personal stories, work through a definition and activity that demonstrates that character strength, and challenge the students to continue to develop that strength. The veteran will then be available to respond to youth in real time via the comments section.
Visit the organization’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TravisManionFoundation/.


Hunterdon Chamber, County Office of Economic Development provide information, resources
The Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Hunterdon County Office of Economic Development, has been working to ensure community residents, businesses and county organizations are being provided with the most recent and accurate information relative to the Coronavirus, COVID-19, as well as provide relief and resources to the business community. The Chamber has participated in conference calls with state and county officials, local mayors and governing bodies, and the leadership of various business organizations, etc., which have given everyone an opportunity to keep the lines of communication open and share the various resources that are available for the business community. The Chamber continues to add to its knowledge bank of social media, website, and other means to disseminate information to the business community. Find resources and up to date information via the Hunterdon County Chamber website at hunterdonchamber.org. The Chamber set up a Business Resources page, with the Office of Economic Development, on its website, which is being updated with daily information. Visit the Resource page at hunterdon-chamber.org/covid-19-business-resources.html.


Small business loans available for businesses, nonprofits affected by coronavirus
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest federal disaster working capital loans to Pennsylvania small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). SBA acted under authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act recently signed by the President, following a request received from Gov. Tom Wolf March 18. The disaster declaration makes SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) assistance available in the entire Commonwealth. Eligibility is based on the financial impact of the COVID-19. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses, and 2.75% for private nonprofit organizations. SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years and are available to entities without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship. Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing & Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155. The deadline to apply for an EIDL is Dec. 19, 2020. For information about COVID-19, visit: Coronavirus.gov. For information about SBA resources and services, visit: SBA.gov/coronavirus.


Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development offers loan status information
If your business has been affected, and you are applying for a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, you may email the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Business One-stop Shop information regarding your status at business.dced@pa.gov, using the form “ESTIMATED DISASTER ECONOMIC INJURY WORKSHEET.” Pennsylvania Business One-Stop Shop can be reached at 1-833-722-6778, Option 0 or online at https://business.pa.gov/


Pennsylvania Department of Education cancels statewide assessments
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced the cancellation of all PSSA testing and Keystone exams for the 2019-20 school year as a result of COVID-19. This includes the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA). “Our school communities are operating within unprecedented conditions,” said Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. “Schools are making extraordinary efforts to remain connected to students and families, to provide food service and to put appropriate systems in place to continue student learning. Assessments should not be the focus of school leaders right now. “To be clear, all assessments are cancelled for this year,” he added. “The department will submit the requisite waivers to the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), but no schools in the Commonwealth will be administering these tests this year.”


Spread some sunshine to residents at Pine Run Retirement Community
Nursing homes and personal care residences are restricting visitors in order to protect their vulnerable residents during the Coronavirus outbreak. For seniors, that means big changes to their daily routines, including the loss of visitors, time with loved ones, and social time. Pine Run Retirement Community in Doylestown launched a social campaign to make it easier to stay in touch with residents. The new Spread Some Sunshine program aims to lighten moods and bring some smiles to the community’s seniors.
 
Spread Some Sunshine is an opportunity for children and the young at heart to get creative coloring, drawing or designing cards, artwork and letters to brighten the day of residents while visitation is restricted. All artwork needs to be submitted electronically – not mailed physically. Photos and images can be sent to sunshine@pinerun.org. Items can be addressed to a specific resident by including their name in the subject of the email. Staff at Pine Run Retirement Community will print out all of the submissions and give them to residents, particularly those in its Health Center and Lakeview Personal Care residences. For information on the Spread Some Sunshine Program, pinerun.org/spread-some-sunshine.


ArtsQuest launches “At Home” programming
Live streaming concerts, movie talks with the staff of the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas, livestreamed Toddler Storytimes and “Improvised Standup” comedy programming are just a few of the art- and music-related programs the nonprofit ArtsQuest will be sharing digitally in the coming days and weeks as it looks to use the power of the arts to keep people connected to their communities. The collection of curated and original content will be aggregated on the new ArtsQuest@Home webpage, artsquest.org/athome, as well as shared out via ArtsQuest’s social media. Starting today, ArtsQuest will regularly provide links to live streaming concerts of artists who have performed at Musikfest and/or SteelStacks over the years. The Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas will offer Live Movie Talks on topics ranging from the best shows to catch right now on streaming platforms, to critiques of new movie releases from the past few weeks. Comedy fans can also check out ArtsQuest’s Improvised Standup program hosted by Addyson Teal. The first episode will take place this Saturday, March 21, at 8 and 9:45 p.m. Starting next week, ArtsQuest Sr. Director of Visual Arts and Education Lisa Harms will offer Facebook Live presentations of Toddler Storytimg for families, especially those with children ages 2-5.
 
Other highlights of ArtsQuest@Home include Spotify playlists of Musikfest and other, digital exhibitions of ArtsQuest exhibits and a collection of at-home programming resources being offered by other arts and cultural organizations around the nation. The visual arts staff of ArtsQuest will also be promoting the hashtag #BFQuarantineArtClub on Instagram (@bananafactory_pa) as part of a larger #QuarantineArtClub initiative to share art created by the community. The ArtsQuest@Home page will be updated daily. While programming content is free, some programs, such as the Improvised Standup, may require advance registration. Visit artsquest.org/athome for dates, times and sign-ups.


Department of Agriculture issues guidance to animal shelters; offers advice to pet owners
In recognition of the critical role boarding kennels, doggie daycares, shelters, sanctuaries and rescues play in ensuring essential workers and at-risk individuals have a safe place to house dogs and the need for continued care for Pennsylvania’s strays, the Department of Agriculture today issued guidance for protecting staff and volunteers of such facilities. Advice was also offered to pet owners to protect themselves and their furry friends during COVID-19 mitigation. Boarding kennels, doggie daycares, shelters, sanctuaries, and rescue facilities are encouraged to continue operations, but the decision is a voluntary, business-by-business decision. Those that remain open should apply this guidance to their operations in an effort to minimize risk for exposure to COVID-19 for employees, volunteers and Pennsylvanians using their services. The Guidance for Boarding Facilities and Shelters includes procedures for preparing the employees and volunteers, preparing facilities, and how to intake animals being received from COVID-19 positive homes.
 
Pennsylvania pet owners were also offered the following advice:
– Identify a family member or friend who can care for pets in case of illness.
– Have crates, food and extra supplies on hand for quick movement of pets.
– Be sure all vaccines are up to date, in the event boarding becomes necessary.
– Make sure you have proof of current vaccinations.
– If you do not have paperwork, reach out to your veterinarian for a copy (a digital version on a mobile device is acceptable proof).
– Failure to have proof of current vaccinations could result in your dog needing revaccinated.
– Ensure all medications are documented with dosages and administering directions, including the prescription and contact information for your veterinarian.
– Pets should have identification: collar with dog license and rabies tag, or any other vanity style tag with owner information. Information can also be placed on the pet’s cage depending on the type of pet.
– Place a list of pets in the home on your front door for emergency responders. Include a description of each animal, location in home or on the property, and any other pertinent information specific to each animal.
 
According to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 is not zoonotic and cannot be contracted or transmitted by cats and dogs.


Medicaid providers encouraged to use telemedicine technology
The Department of Human Services (DHS) has issued guidance to Medicaid-enrolled providers and managed care organizations that encourages the use of telemedicine as a way of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 through reduced person-to-person contact between health professionals and Physical HealthChoices members and fee-for-service beneficiaries, particularly those who are in quarantine or isolation as a result of possible COVID-19 exposure. The Office of Medical Assistance Programs’ (OMAP) most recent guidance establishes a preference for the use of telemedicine as a delivery method for medically necessary health care services when the patient is quarantined or self-isolated due to exposure or possible risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Telemedicine can be delivered through audio-video conferencing hosted by a secure mobile application. During this state of emergency, telephone-only services may be utilized in situations where video technology is not available. As a next step, OMAP is encouraging the Physical HealthChoices managed care organizations to work proactively with providers to disseminate information to Medicaid members about the availability and coverage of telemedicine services.


YMCA of Bucks County staff provide community resources during pandemic
The mantra for YMCA of Bucks County is “Here for You” and during this time of social distancing and self-isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Y is taking this promise seriously. All branches of YMCA of Bucks County closed on March 14 with a plan to create an online library to help the community continue to stay healthy and active. The webpages found at ymcabucks.org/online are filled with at-home videos from Y staff, including pages aimed at supporting all age levels and topics including at-home fitness, youth physical activities, youth crafts, cooking & learning, nutrition, stress management & mindfulness, and a Women’s Book Club Zoom. Staff immediately jumped into action, filming videos in a variety of ways. The website will be continuously updated and is available to the entire community.

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