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Local coronavirus briefing - March 21, 2020

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announces statewide stay at home order, closure of all non-essential retail businesses, manufacturing stays open
New Jersey announced Executive Order No. 107 on Saturday, March 21, effective at 9 p.m., containing new standards for businesses which supersede previous announcements. Gatherings of individuals, such as parties, celebrations, or other social events, are cancelled unless explicitly authorized by Executive Order 107. CDC guidance defines a gathering to include conferences, large meetings, parties, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies.
 
 
Pennsylvania reports 103 new positive cases, one additional death
The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed that there are 103 additional positive cases of COVID-19 and one additional death in Allegheny County, bringing the statewide total to 371 in 28 counties. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital. “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. “Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now: stay calm, stay home and stay safe. We have seen case counts continue to increase and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home.” Statewide, there are 371 cases of COVID-19 reported from commercial, hospital and state labs. There are 3,766 patients who have tested negative, and two total deaths. With commercial labs being the primary testing option for most Pennsylvanians, data is not available on the total number of tests pending. Bucks County listed 24 cases; Montgomery County 71 cases; Northampton County 17; Philadelphia 69. With commercial labs being the primary testing option for most Pennsylvanians, data is not available on the total number of tests pending.


Waiver extension, revised timing of business closures
Due to the high volume of waiver requests, the Wolf Administration is delaying enforcement of Gov. Tom Wolf’s order and the Secretary of Health’s order that all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania must close their physical locations to slow the spread of COVID-19. Businesses that were non-life sustaining were ordered to close their physical locations on Thursday, March 19, at 8 p.m. This order stands, only the enforcement timing will change and become effective at 8 a.m. Monday, March 23. Businesses requesting clarification on whether they are defined as life-sustaining should check this list, email the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) customer service resource account at ra-dcedcs@pa.gov, or call 877-PA-HEALTH and select option 1 to reach DCED staff. For businesses that determine from the list that they are non-life-sustaining, but would like to seek a waiver, there is an online waiver application. DCED offers working capital loans that could be of assistance to businesses impacted by COVID-19.


Make-A-Wish finds ways to bring hope and joy during uncertain times
Make-A-Wish Philadelphia, Delaware and Susquehanna Valley faces a record number of wishes waiting to be granted as a result of the recent need to postpone all wishes that involve travel due to the public and medical concerns of COVID-19. The challenging circumstances have inspired Make-A-Wish to think creatively about how to bring hope and joy to Make-A-Wish kids during unpredictable and scary times. Make-A-Wish has announced “Messages of Hope” to give supporters and the general public alike a fun, easy way to help children with critical illnesses without needing to leave the house. Through “Messages of Hope,” Make-A-Wish invites the public to spread hope and anticipation by writing, recording or photographing themselves delivering messages of encouragement for wish kids waiting for wishes impacted by COVID-19. Before sharing their messages, participants should consider a donation at WishesAreWaiting.com to prepare Make-A-Wish to grant the unprecedented number of pending wishes once normal operations resume. Learn more and help at WishesAreWaiting.com.


Pennsylvania suspends some nurse licensing requirements to aid coronavirus response
The Department of State has suspended certain administrative requirements for nurses, including temporarily extending license expiration dates and waiving associated fees during the coronavirus emergency. “We are taking this action to ensure that Pennsylvania has plenty of nurses available to treat patients and that these nurses do not have to worry about renewing their licenses while responding to COVID-19,” Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said. “This measure also frees more than 14,000 nurse practitioners to be more flexible in meeting public-health needs in the weeks to come.” The Department of State is working with the governor’s office, the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services to identify regulations and requirements that can be suspended to give medical providers and facilities the flexibility they need to respond to COVID-19. The Department of State website will be updated regularly as additional requirement suspension information becomes available. For information, visit https://www.dos.pa.gov/Pages/COVID-19-Waivers.aspx.


Hunterdon County moves some employees to offsite work
Hunterdon County Freeholder Board Director Shaun Van Doren said county government continues to operate, while employees that are not providing absolutely essential services have been directed to work off site for the next week, to create needed social distancing and protect employees’ health.

“The Health Department, 9-1-1 County Communications Center, OEM, and the Sheriff’s and Corrections Officers must continue to serve the public and we are tremendously grateful for their continued service,” Van Doren said. “Most other employees have been directed to telecommute and work offsite. All employees are on standby for recall to provide assistance where needed.” The public can access all county offices for regular business via phone and email. To reach the various offices, visit co.hunterdon.nj.us/covid19-countyoperations.html.


Department of Health announces temporary changes to medical marijuana program
The Pennsylvania Department of Health today announced that in light of the COVID-19 outbreak in Pennsylvania, the department is taking steps to assist those who need this form of medication. As of March 20, certain statutory and regulatory provisions have been temporarily suspended in order to implement the following changes in response to the COVID-19 emergency: Allowing dispensary employees to provide medical marijuana to a cardholder in their vehicle on the facility’s property; Remove the current cap that limits the number of patients assigned to one caregiver, to allow for more caregivers to patients in need; Eliminate background checks for caregiver applications, limited to renewal applications only, in order to expedite the caregiver renewal process; Waive in-person consultations and allow for remote consultations between approved practitioners and medical marijuana cardholders for renewal certifications only; and Waive limits that allow for medical marijuana to only be dispensed for 30 days by requiring approved practitioners to notate on the patient’s certification to dispense a 90-day supply.


SBA offers disaster assistance to Pennsylvania small businesses economically impacted by the coronavirus
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Pennsylvania small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). SBA acted under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the president, to declare a disaster following a request received from Gov. Tom Wolf on March 18. The disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available in Pennsylvania; and the contiguous counties of New Castle in Delaware; Allegany, Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, and Washington in Maryland; Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Sussex and Warren in New Jersey; Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Delaware, Orange, Steuben, Sullivan and Tioga in New York; Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull in Ohio; and Brooke, Hancock, Marshall, Monongalia, Ohio, Preston and Wetzel in West Virginia.


No evidence that AIDS treatment drug is effect for coronavirus
Early expectations that antiretroviral drugs might prove effective against COVID-19 were dimmed with the results of a trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine, March 18, according to AmfAR, the AIDS support organization. Researchers in China tested the effect of a lopinavir/ritonavir combination in about half of 199 COVID-19 patients with advanced disease. The drugs did not affect how long it took for patients to experience clinical improvement, nor did they have any effect on the rate of death. The researchers who conducted the study suggest that further testing may be warranted in patients with less advanced disease. For now, though, these data indicate that the lopinavir/ritonavir combination is not useful for treating advanced COVID disease. Furthermore, at present there is no scientific evidence that people taking any form of antiretroviral therapy—whether for HIV treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)—are protected against COVID-19 or will experience any lessening of symptoms if they get it.

As the situation evolves and new knowledge comes to light, amfAR will continue to provide updates.


NJSNA rallies nurses to fight COVID-19
Nearly 500 More Nurses Raise Hand; Outreach Begins for Retired Nurses
The New Jersey State Nurses Association (NJSNA) has issued a call-to-action to support the Garden State’s effort to contain the COVID-10 outbreak. To date, NJSNA has identified more than 470 additional nurses throughout New Jersey who are willing to help the afflicted. Hundreds of company nurses, school nurses and advanced practice nurses (APNs) are ready to join the front lines. NJSNA will also reach out to nurses who have been retired for less than five years. An analysis, released earlier this week by The Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs at Rutgers-Camden, estimates that New Jersey could face a hospital bed shortfall of 300,000 in a worst-case scenario. If you are a nurse who wants to join the growing ranks of volunteers, please contact COVID19volunteer@njsna.org.


Greater Easton Development Partnership Launches SupportEaston.com Website
GEDP launched a new website, supporteaston.com, which allows a customer to scroll through one site and find exactly what they’re looking for by category: restaurants and businesses offering curbside pick-up, delivery, online retail or gift cards. Links then take a customer right to the shop or restaurant’s Facebook page or website.


Mercer County, N.J. has 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases
The New Jersey Department of Health today announced that there are now 30 positive cases of COVID-19 in Mercer County, which includes Trenton, Princeton and Hopewell. Contact tracing, including information gathering, is underway on the new cases and continuing on the remaining ones where needed. The department expects that these numbers will continue to grow as more testing sites come online.

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