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Local coronavirus briefing - March 22, 2020

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PA Department of Health reports 108 new COVID-19 cases statewide
The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed that there are 108 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 479 in 33 counties. That includes 32 in Bucks, 87 in Montgomery, 21 in Northampton and 91 in Philadelphia. 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. “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 479 cases of COVID-19 reported from commercial, hospital and state labs. There are 4,964 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.


Mercer County, N.J., has 40 confirmed COVID-19 cases
The New Jersey Department of Health today announced that there are now 40 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.


Pennsylvania extends Personal Income Tax Return filing deadline to July 15
The Department of Revenue announced the deadline for taxpayers to file their 2019 Pennsylvania personal income tax returns is extended to July 15. This means taxpayers will have an additional 90 days to file from the original deadline of April 15. The Internal Revenue Service also extended the federal filing deadline to July 15. The Department of Revenue will also waive penalties and interest on 2019 personal income tax payments through the new deadline of July 15, 2020. This extension applies to both final 2019 tax returns and payments, and estimated payments for the first and second quarters of 2020. The filing deadline is being extended at a time when Governor Tom Wolf has ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to close to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Under Pennsylvania law the filing deadline for personal income tax returns is tied to the federal income tax due date. Although the filing deadline has been extended, the Department of Revenue is encouraging taxpayers who are able to file their returns electronically to do so. Taxpayers can electronically file their Pennsylvania tax returns for free through Padirectfile, a secure, state-only electronic income tax filing system that is available through the Department of Revenue’s website. For information or to begin filing, visit Padirectfile. Free electronic filing options are available to file state and federal returns using software from a reputable vendor (income limits may apply). More vendor information is available on the Department of Revenue’s website. Paid tax preparers and commercial tax preparation software providers that offer electronic filing, or e-filing, for a fee also are an option for Pennsylvania taxpayers.


Hunterdon County, N.J., seeks medical equipment donations
Hunterdon County is coordinating donations of needed personal protective equipment for health care employees and first responders. There is a nationwide shortage in the supply chain and you can help. For more information or to donate, visit: http://www.co.hunterdon.nj.us/Coronavirus/PPE-Donations.html.


The show must go on with virtual screenings
A few of Lambertville’s Acme Screening Room film distributors have come up with a way to provide you with films to screen at home, while still supporting the ACME Screening Room. These will be first run films that would only have been available in theaters. Just follow the link provided and create a free account with your name and email address. Then purchase the $12 advertised film. The first release “Bacurau,” will be available for you to watch for five days from March 21 through April 5. Keep checking back for more titles to be added on our website under "Virtual Screenings." Email acmescreenongroom@gmail.com.


New Hope Photo offers free shipping
To protect you and those around you, New Hope Photo has temporarily closed to abide by Gov. Wolf’s order for all non-essential businesses. The online ordering is available 24/7 at GreatPhotosNow.com or on the New Hope Photo iPhone App. The shop is offering FREE shipping for all orders placed online. Please be sure to select the option to ship, rather than pick up in store, and pay for the order at the time you place it. New Hope Photo plans to complete and ship your orders as quickly as possible. If you have questions or need assistance please email info@NewHopePhoto.com or call 215-862-9333.


State Police to assist in enforcement of closure of non-life-sustaining businesses, encourages compliance
Enforcement action begins at 8 a.m., Monday, March 23
Col. Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), issued the following statement on the agency’s enforcement of Gov. Tom Wolf’s order closing physical locations of non-life-sustaining businesses: “The priority of the Pennsylvania State Police is protecting lives and maintaining order in the commonwealth. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, troopers and liquor control enforcement officers are prepared to ensure compliance with Gov. Wolf’s order.

“Private businesses, organizations, and other noncompliant entities face possible criminal penalties under the Administrative Code of 1929, 71 P.S. § 1409 and/or the Pennsylvania Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955, 35 P.S. § 521.20(a). Both violations are summary offenses punishable by fines and even jail time. Violators may also be subject to additional administrative penalties under certain circumstances.

“We believe most Pennsylvanians want to act responsibly and do their part to help slow the spread of this deadly virus. Troopers and liquor control officers will make every effort to achieve voluntary compliance by educating business owners and using discretion when appropriate. But our message is clear: COVID-19 is a serious health and public safety risk that requires an extraordinary response from law enforcement and the public. I urge everyone to stay home, stay calm, and stay safe.”

The governor has directed the following state agencies and local officials to enforce the closure orders to the full extent of the law: Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania State Police, local officials, using their resources to enforce closure orders within their jurisdictions.


Governor, First Lady Wolf: Pennsylvania’s food supply is reliable, accessible, and life-sustaining
Wolf Administration provides information to prevent food insecurity
Gov. Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf reminded Pennsylvanians that grocery stores, food processors, and food banks remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic and the administration is working to expand resources for those who are food insecure. Pennsylvanians should feel confident in the food supply and shop for food at their normal rate.
“Even in a pandemic, grocery stores and food banks are life-sustaining and accessible; food production and distribution are continuing,” Gov. Wolf said. “I urge all Pennsylvanians to have faith in our food system. If each one of us commits to only buy what we need; there will be enough for everyone and their neighbors.


Student athletes create Last Shift Campaign to provide the opportunity to play one last time
Calling all student-athletes, your season isn’t over yet! Three student-athletes are leading the charge and taking one last shift on April 6, National Student-Athlete Day, to be the difference for cancer patients who are at the highest of complications due to COVID-19 by participating in the Last Shift Virtual 5k Race.

Ally Kennedy (Stonybrook), Grant Ament (Penn State), and Michael Sowers (Princeton), have come together to lace up one final time, now they ask that you join them in their efforts. “These folks rely on the HEADstrong Foundation’s services. We are all at home, in shape, collectively upset that our season was cancelled, willing and able to do something together for the greater good.“said Michael Sowers.

While many schools, parks and tracks are closed, participants should run through their neighborhoods, on their treadmills or can even jog in place. The key to this campaign is broadcasting your run via social media and uniting with fellow athletes across the country using #LastShift2020.

There are three easy ways to support the Last Shift Campaign, so the HEADstrong Foundation can strengthen their commitment to those at highest risk as they fight cancer through financial, residential and emotional support.
1. Register for $20 at http://bit.ly/lastshift2020
2. Donate via Venmo @HEAD-STRONG.
3. Donate via www.HEADstrong.org/donate


Visit the National Museum of American Jewish History from anywhere
The Museum is temporarily closed to the public, in support of the global efforts to slow and contain the spread of COVID-19, but you can enjoy the Museum and its content from anywhere with free digital resources for all ages and backgrounds. Take a virtual tour, explore our collection, relive special exhibitions like Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American, Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music, and 1917: How One Year Changed the World.

Stay connected by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for a daily dose of American Jewish History.


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.


St. Luke’s accepting medical supply donations
As COVID-19 spreads throughout the United States, health care systems are preparing for potential nationwide shortages of critical supplies. While St. Luke’s University Health Network currently has an adequate stock of necessary items, it wants to remain agile by ensuring it is prepared for any shortages that might occur in the future. As such, St Luke’s is accepting donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies from employees, patients, friends, family members and community partners. The types of PPE and supplies St. Luke’s is specifically interested in are: surgical masks, N95 masks, goggles, face shields, vinyl gloves, hand sanitizer, Lysol and Clorox, including wipes. St. Luke’s is also accepting hospital-grade cleaning supplies and disinfectant. Additionally, St. Luke’s is accepting donations of fabrics for making its own masks, including cotton, denim, duck cloth, canvas, twill, silk or other tight woven fabric, as well as elastic or rubber bands.

St. Luke’s has set up donation drop-off centers at the following Urgent Care locations whenever these sites are open: Allentown, 501 Cetronia Road, Allentown; Whitehall, 2402 MacArthur Road, Whitehall; Quakertown, 157 West End Blvd., Quakertown; Hamburg, 9 Dave’s Way, Hamburg; Lehighton, 575 S. 9th St., Lehighton, Suite 7; Bethlehem, 153 Brodhead Road, Bethlehem; Wind Gap, 487 E. Moorestown Road, Wind Gap; Brodheadsville, 111 Route 715, Brodheadsville; Phillipsburg 200 Stryker’s Road, Phillipsburg, N.J.

Contact Ben Guerin to arrange a pickup directly from your company. He can be reached at 610-739-9332 or Benjamin.Guerin@sluhn.org. If you have questions, contact us at 1-866-STLUKES (785-8537), option 7.


Pennsylvania expands access to pharmacy services
The Wolf administration is removing barriers for pharmacies to provide services for Pennsylvanians in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Gov. Wolf has granted a request from the Pennsylvania Department of State to suspend certain pharmacy regulations to enable more flexible and available services during the coronavirus emergency. The temporary changes include helping pharmacies practice social distancing for staff and allowing for the licensure of out-of-state pharmacies to ship goods into Pennsylvania. 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 information on suspended regulations becomes available.


Department of Aging releases COVID-19 guidance on protective services for older adults
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging has released COVID-19 guidance on handling protective services for older adults. This temporary guidance provides operational flexibility to protect older adults and staff during investigative cases while following the ongoing directive from Gov. Tom Wolf to stay home and practice social distancing. The guidance addresses how protective services workers can protect themselves and limit contact during each phase of an investigation, from the intake process, to understanding when face-to-face contact is required under the current circumstances, to preparing for an on-site visit when necessary. The guidance will be updated on a recurring basis, as needed, when new information becomes available. Anyone suspecting elder abuse should call the statewide abuse reporting hotline at 1-800-490-8505, which is operational 24/7, 365 days per year. All Department of Aging guidance related to COVID-19 is available at https://www.aging.pa.gov/service-provider-quicklinks/covid-19-provider-guidance/Pages/default.aspx.

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