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Local coronavirus briefing - March 24, 2020

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Department of Health provides update on COVID-19, 207 new positives bring statewide total to 851
The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed as of noon, March 24, that there are 207 additional positive cases of COVID-19, and four new deaths, bringing the statewide total to 851 in 40 counties. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here. Bucks County had 65 cases, Montgomery 144, Philadelphia 177, Delaware 84, Chester 40, Northampton 33, Lehigh 26. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital. “Our notable increase in cases over the past 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 851 cases of COVID-19 reported from commercial, hospital and state labs. There are 8,643 patients who have tested negative, and seven total deaths. With commercial labs being the primary testing option for most Pennsylvanians, data are not available on the total number of tests pending.
 
 
PA stay-at-home order issued to seven counties, including Bucks, to mitigate coronavirus spread
Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine issued "Stay at Home" orders to Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties, effective 8 p.m. last night, as the state seeks relief to save lives and stop the spread of COVID-19. This order will continue until April 6. All schools statewide will also remain closed through at least April 6. "I remain deeply concerned about this public health crisis and we must continue to take careful but critical steps now to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Gov. Wolf said. "We are issuing these orders because Pennsylvanians' health and safety remains our highest priority." Added Levine, "The number of cases continues to grow and so we must take further steps to stop the spread of this contagious and dangerous novel virus to protect the public's health and mitigate the risk to our hospital system. There is one way to make sure people don't need to be hospitalized and we don't strain our health-care system: Stay calm. Stay home. Stay safe."
 
 
Troopers issue 27 warnings to non-life-sustaining businesses on first day of enforcement
The Pennsylvania State Police released data on actions taken against non-life-sustaining businesses that failed to comply with Governor Tom Wolf’s order closing their physical locations. Enforcement began on Monday, March 23. “As expected, we found the overwhelming majority of people and businesses across the commonwealth are voluntarily complying with the order and doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Colonel Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. “This process is two-phased, beginning with warnings to gain voluntary compliance, followed by enforcement as necessary.” There were three citations issued by Troop M, which covers Bucks, Lehigh and Northampton counties. There was one citation issued by Troop K, which covers Montgomery, Delaware and Philadelphia counties. 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; municipal police; and local officials, using their resources to enforce closure orders within their jurisdictions. The Wolf administration has provided all local law enforcement with enforcement guidance that mirrors PSP’s. To report a noncompliant business, contact your local law enforcement agency’s non-emergency number. Do not call 911 to file reports.
 
 
Palisades prepares online learning opportunities
With schools remaining closed until April 6, work is underway to prepare online learning opportunities for Palisades School District students in the near future. In preparation, elementary-aged students are beginning to receive Chromebooks; distribution will continue through the remainder of the week. Also, teachers have been asked to participate in virtual professional development on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week with their building administrators and colleagues. A link to enrichment opportunities compiled for students to use during the week can be found at https://www.palisd.org/for_parents_students/enrichment_learning_opportunities.
 
HHS awards more than $2.8 million to Pennsylvania to boost COVID-19 response
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, today awarded more than $2.8 million to 43 health centers in Pennsylvania stemming from the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020. Health center recipients in Pennsylvania may use these awards to address screening and testing needs, acquire medical supplies and boost their telehealth capacity in response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Health centers that received awards include Neighborhood Health Centers of the Lehigh Valley, Allentown ($57,400).
 

Pennsylvania Department of Education extends school closures through at least April 6
Due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak, all Raritan Valley Community College classes will continue online only for the remainder of the semester. No decision has been made yet for RVCC’s Commencement, which had been scheduled for May 16.
 
 
PBS39 creates online education offering
Bethlehem, PA. - March 23 - It has become apparent that distance learning is absolutely vital as children may not get back into a classroom for weeks or months. Therefore, PBS39 has worked with educators locally and nationally to create Lehigh Valley Learns – an over the air educational offering, launching Monday, March 30. Lehigh Valley Learns will broadcast over PBS39’s channels in the mornings, with grade specific programming at the same time each weekday. Recognizing that a portion of the community does not have access to the internet, the sole medium that can reach nearly 100 percent of students is broadcast television. By airing Lehigh Valley Learns on PBS39, anyone with a TV can watch over-the-air. Programming by grade level will be as follows on PBS39 and PBS39 Extra:
PBS39 #39.1 by antenna (Also available on Service Electric #512/12, RCN #1008/8, Fios #539, Dish #8168/39, DirecTV #39) : 7:30 a.m. – 10 a.m. Kindergarten; 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. 1st Grade; 12:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. 2nd Grade.
 
PBS39 Extra #35.1 by antenna (Also available on Service Electric #53, RCN #38, Fios #35, DirecTV #2183): 9:30 a.m. – noon 3rd Grade; Noon – 2:30 p.m. 4th Grade; 2:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. 5th Grade.

Bucks County Recorder of Deeds assures residents that electronic recording and online searches will continue
Recorder of Deeds, Robin Robinson, urges residents to comply with Governor Wolf’s stay-at-home. Robinson has made sure that while the office is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are employees who are able to remotely work from home. For companies or individuals that electronically record on a normal basis, those services will still be provided. If a company wishes to record electronically with Bucks County, they can contact one of the following companies to set up an account; Simplifile (https://simplifile.com/), CSC (https://www.erecording.com/), and ePN (https://www.goepn.com/). Please know that any documents mailed to the office will still be recorded in a timely manner. Since the majority of the public is now ordered to stay home, Robinson has opened all records, dating back to 1684, to the public. The office uses recording vendor, Landex (www.landex.com), who normally charges 15 cents per minute to search. With the current situation having an unknown timeline, Robinson has decided to waive the 15 cent per minute fee. To contact the Bucks County Recorder of Deeds office, please call 215-348-6209 or visit us on the web at http://www.buckscounty.org/government/RowOfficers/RecorderofDeeds.
 
 
Mercer County Community College Announces Initiatives to Aid Students, Employees During COVID Crisis
Mercer County Community College (MCCC) is West Windsor, N.J., has announced new initiatives aimed at providing critical assistance to members of the college community in a time of need. “Over the past few weeks, you have collectively stepped up and risen to the unprecedented challenge caused by COVID-19. As a result, the college is better prepared to continue our services for students, employees, and our communities at-large," said MCCC President Dr. Jianping Wang in a message to college employees. Wang told employees that MCCC “is in a very strong financial position” and continued that “there is no possibility of a reduction in workforce due to COVID-19.” To assist employees whose households have taken a financial hit in the wake of the COVID-19 health emergency, MCCC will immediately launch a Voluntary Full-Time Employee Assistance Program for employees with an annual base salary of no more than $60,000. The college will offer a $1,000 salary advance, with six months to repay the college through payroll deductions, beginning in May.
In addition, programs have been launched to assist students who, through the loss of a part-time job or the lack of financial resources, have been particularly challenged by the COVID-19 crisis. The college is in the process of launching the Student Food Assistance Program, which will provide gift cards to area grocery stores for food-insecure students. And through a partnership with United Way of Mercer County and TDI (formerly Trenton Digital Initiative), the college is distributing free refurbished computers to students in financial need.
 
 
Wolf Administration Reminds Pennsylvanians of Food Assistance Programs and Resources, Encourages
The Wolf Administration today reminded Pennsylvanians of food assistance resources available and what actions it is taking to ensure access to food does not stop in spite of the COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Pennsylvanians who need help feeding themselves or their family should find and contact their local food bank or pantry through Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania. DHS is continuing to process applications and benefit renewals for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Emergency SNAP applications can be expedited and issued in five days. Pennsylvanians can apply for SNAP online at www.compass.state.pa.us.
 
 
Photographers offer online workshops
Brokaw Photography and The Photographers Group LLC are teaming up to provide online, 1- hour photography workshops beginning at 1 p.m. Friday, March 2. No hand sanitizer needed. Attend in your PJs. Workshops will be held three times a week to start, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 2 p.m. Each workshop will feature a different fun aspect of photography from basic camera operations to advance Photoshop techniques. Anyone can join using Zoom. There is no fee to participate and donations are gladly accepted. Preregistration is required in order to receive the link to join the workshops.
 
 
PennDOT Reopens Additional Rest Areas
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is reopening indoor facilities at 23 select rest areas across Pennsylvania to all motorists, including the 13 facilities in critical locations that were reopened March 18 with portable restrooms and handwashing facilities. PennDOT’s 30 rest areas were temporarily closed statewide on March 17 in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s mitigation guidance regarding COVID-19 to ensure that proper safety and sanitation protocols were in place. “While unnecessary travel is discouraged as we all do our part to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we understand that some trips are necessary and that access to rest areas is important,” said Acting PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “We are constantly evaluating our actions and services in responding to this emergency and will make adjustments where we can safely do so.”
 

PECO to reconnect any disconnected residences
PECO is taking several steps to help ensure all customers have access to electric service during this critical time. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to close physical locations to slow coronavirus spread. With more people, including children, at home during the day, PECO will be working with customers who have had their service disconnected to reconnect service and help ensure access to safe and healthy environments. Customers who have had their electric service disconnected should contact PECO at 1-800-494-4000 to begin the reconnection process. No new connection fees or deposits will be required, however customers will continue to be responsible for previous unpaid balances. As part of this process, PECO Customer Care Associates will work with customers to help identify assistance programs that can supplement bill payment and can help ensure service remains on after this pandemic. PECO is committed to the safety of its employees, customers and communities. PECO will not restore service where unsafe conditions exist and will work with agencies, where possible, to identify support to assist in correcting unsafe conditions before service is reconnected. Visit peco.com/myaccount or PECO’s free mobile app to learn more about programs to help customers stay connected to service.
 

St. Luke’s partners with local businesses to produce 3D printed masks
St. Luke’s and Filament Innovations of Coplay, as well as 3D manufacturer ProtoCAM of Allentown, have teamed up to produce 3D printed masks and face shields for health care providers in the wake of COVID-19.
“We’ve been following the news in Europe related to medical supplies, and I knew we had to act quickly,” said Megan Augustine, director of St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Simulation Center.
She began working with her team and the 3D printing community to custom print N95 respirator masks, additional masks and face shields – some of the highest-demand protective products for health care workers. The masks currently being printed at St. Luke’s could be custom-fitted to an individual’s face, maximizing protection. Due to the materials they are printed with, she and her team are researching options for sterilization and reuse.
“Because of COVID-19, we are seeing a strain on the supply chain – we are asking ourselves ‘how do we rethink the manufacturing of these items?’” stated Michael Gorski, owner and founder of Filament Innovations, a 3D printer manufacturer. “This process is showing what local manufacturing can do right here in the Lehigh Valley by utilizing 3D Printing, an advanced manufacturing method. We all want to do what we can for our community.”


The GIANT Company updates in-store pharmacy services
The GIANT Company today announced several updates to its 132 in-store GIANT and MARTIN’S pharmacies in response to its ongoing commitment and service to customers and local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Beginning Wednesday, March 25, all in-store pharmacies will open at 6 a.m. every Wednesday until further notice to accommodate older and immunocompromised members of the community. This change aligns with the modified store hours of 6 a.m. – 7 a.m. daily announced last week to service customers who are age 60 and older and for those who are immunocompromised. For the hours of the pharmacy at your local store, visit the GIANT or MARTIN’S websites.
 
Senior customers can now pick up their prescriptions using the GIANT Direct or MARTIN’S Direct parking spaces at their local store. The prescriptions will need to be paid for (by credit card) in advance by calling the pharmacy. Once the customer arrives at the store, they call the pharmacy regarding their prescription pickup. A pharmacy team member will then deliver the prescriptions to the customer’s vehicle, verifying the customer’s information while having them sign in order to receive.
 
For senior customers who do not wish to come into the store, The GIANT Company is now offering UPS mailing of prescriptions. The prescriptions will need to be paid for (by credit card) in advance by calling your local GIANT or MARTIN’S pharmacy. The prescription will arrive in two business days and there will be no shipping charge at this time.


Melinda Rizzo hosts virtual poetry readings
Melinda Rizzo, poet and author of “Late Snow & Hellebore, Poems” will lead three free virtual poetry workshops: 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, March 24 and 31, and April 7. Navigating the Wilderness through the remainder of Lent, through Cathedral Church of Nativity. ZOOM link https://zoom.us/j/193610871
 

Music Mountain Theater offers online classes
Music Mountain Theatre in Lambertville, N.J., hosts online classes and informational videos on Facebook Live at 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during its closure due to the threat posed by the coronavirus. The theater also asks those who are able to make a donation or purchase a subscription or a gift certificate for a friend during this time.


Hunterdon Freeholders ask U.S. legislators to push FEMA for test kits and equipment
Hunterdon County’s Freeholder Board has reached out to New Jersey’s U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker and Congressman Tom Malinowski, asking to push forward the County’s request to FEMA for 5,000 COVID-19 test kits and medical protective equipment for Hunterdon’s medical providers.

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