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Local coronavirus briefing - March 26, 2020

Gov. Wolf announces $50 million to fight COVID-19
Today, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that he will spend up to $50 million in transferred state funding to purchase medical equipment and supplies for hospitals, nursing homes, and emergency workers to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania. “We need more beds, more ventilators, more personal protective equipment, and so much more and we need it as soon as possible because the virus is here,” Wolf said. “I am working to get this funding moving as quickly as I can. We need to do everything we can to support our front-line medical workers to protect them and ensure they have the equipment to care for patients. This funding is a step in the right direction.” The $50 million in funding will be deposited into a restricted account under the governor's jurisdiction and funds will be used if there are insufficient funds available from the disaster proclamation “to buy medical equipment and supplies for health care entities to meet urgent patient and staff needs to address surge demand. Health care entities include hospitals, nursing facilities and emergency medical services” according to the legislation - House Bill 1232. The governor is expected to sign the bill tomorrow. Yesterday, Wolf announced the COVID-19 Capital Working Access Program (CWCA) to provide $60 million in loans to small businesses. For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, Pennsylvanians should visit:

Department of Health confirms 560 new cases of COVID-19
The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed that there are 560 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 1,687 in 48 counties. The department also reported five new deaths, bringing the statewide death total to 16. The number of confirmed cases in the region now stands at 107 in Bucks County, 84 in Chester County, 156 in Delaware County, 282 with two deaths in Montgomery County, 63 with one death in Lehigh County and 402 with one death in Philadelphia. All people with confirmed cases are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital. Statewide, there are 1,687 cases of COVID-19 reported from commercial, hospital and state labs. There are 16,441 patients who have tested negative, and 16 total deaths. With commercial labs being the primary testing option for most Pennsylvanians, data is not available on the total number of tests pending. All non-life-sustaining businesses are ordered to be closed and schools are closed statewide at least through April 6.

County Theater remains closed until further notice, offers streaming films
The County Theater in Doylestown will remain closed until further notice. The theater has disabled the purchase of advance tickets through June. “We will continue to share updates regarding when we anticipate reopening, but expect it will not be until late spring or early summer,” the theater said via email. “Despite being closed, we will continue to be a gathering place for people to connect and enjoy great film. We are still your community theater. We will continue to offer ways to engage and share great films, and find virtual ways to meet, share and discuss. Visit to explore the online and virtual programming.

Bucks County Free Library branches closed through April 5
Bucks County Free Library has been closely monitoring information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and is actively taking steps to help protect its staff and library users and reduce the spread of the virus. Per the recommendation of the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, all Bucks County Free Library branches will be closed through Sunday, April 5, a period in alignment with school closures. At that time, BCFL will evaluate whether the library can reopen. In the interim, due dates will be adjusted accordingly, holds extended, and fine accrual will be suspended. The library will continue to follow the guidance of local, county, and state governments and the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). When the time comes, the library will provide updates through its website and social media.

Although BCFL’s branches are closed, the library is hard at work making sure people can stay connected to a wide variety of online and digital resources. Library staff have also been busy curating a number of activities for adults looking for inspiration and for families to enjoy as they explore the adjustment to online learning and schooling at home. Visit for links to these resources. The library’s e-library is always open for users to borrow e-books, e-audiobooks and e-magazines, and stream music and videos. In addition, the library knows that people have questions about their library cards, borrowed materials, and what the library’s closure means to them. Answers to these questions can be found at

New funding available for small businesses in PA impacted by novel coronavirus
Governor Tom Wolf announced that new funding is available to help small businesses impacted by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, through a new program under the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority’s (PIDA) Small Business First Fund, the COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program (CWCA). The Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) recently authorized the transfer of $40 million to the Small Business First Fund for CWCA. PIDA authorized making $60 million available to provide loans of $100,000 or less to for-profit businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees. Funds are expected to become available this week.

Allentown Art Museum closed until further notice due to pandemic
The Allentown Art Museum will remain closed until further notice. The date of the museum’s reopening will be determined when conditions allow.

New Hope Arts and Crafts Festival organizers hope to host event as scheduled
In an email letter to vendors, artisans and attendee's, in response to recent inquiries as to the status of the 27th Annual New Hope Arts and Crafts Festival in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic., Kelleen Gebler, event director, said the following: “At this time we are proceeding as normal in hopes that in 6 months from now the world will be returning to a different state of normalcy; and the general population comes out of hibernation with a newfound appreciation for the arts. We have high hopes that at that time the New Hope Arts and Crafts Festival will be an outlet for the energy that is currently being stifled by social distancing, 'stay in home' orders, and other restrictions. We will be starting the judging process within the next month and will keep you updated appropriately. In the meantime we wish you bounties of health and wellness for you and your loved ones.”
Local winery, brewery contribute wine, beer for hand sanitizer creation at area distillery
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, hand sanitizer has become a scarce and valued commodity impacting communities, health-care systems and first responders’ ability to do their job of protecting the public. Boardroom Spirits, a craft distillery located in Lansdale, is uniquely positioned to meet this increasing demand. Boardroom Spirits is licensed by the TTB and FDA and has ample capacity to produce ethanol, the key ingredient to make hand sanitizer following the World Health Organization’s approved formula that’s effective against COVID-19. To help the community with an immediate need, Boardroom Spirits started supplying complimentary four-ounce hand sanitizer rations per person, per day on March 16. Beyond that, Boardroom Spirits realized the need is far greater. Boardroom Spirits has lined up raw material supplies from fellow businesses Free Will Brewing and Sand Castle Winery, both located in Bucks County, and is ready to scale. On Wednesday, Sand Castle Winery had 6,500 gallons of its wine transported to Boardroom Spirits. Sand Castle Winery Managing Partner Chad Sletten said the wine would be converted to pure alcohol for use in hand sanitizer creation. When asked why the winery got involved with this initiative, Sletten said “philanthropy. I knew we had the resources they needed.” Active immediately, Boardroom Spirits is selling sanitizer in bulk for as fair of a price as possible while paying bills, providing employment to the people making the product, and supporting fellow businesses’ employees while continuing to provide the public with free sanitizer.

Mercer Museum postpones Henry’s Flights of Fantasy fundraiser due to COVID-19
Mercer Museum and Library & Fonthill Castle, which have been closed since end of day March 13, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has postponed its Henry's Flights of Fancy fundraiser, originally scheduled for April 19. “While we do not have a reschedule date at this time, we look forward to celebrating with you the Mercer Museum’s new event space, and the possibilities it holds for future gatherings and special occasions. We miss sharing time with you – our museum family of supporters, visitors and friends – but we will get through this together. Be safe and take good care….,” Kyle McKoy, president and executive director, wrote in an email to members.

Philadelphia Bar Association issues statement on COVID-19 and racism
Chancellor Hon. A. Michael Snyder (retired) of the Philadelphia Bar Association, the nation’s oldest metropolitan Bar Association, issued the following statement regarding COVID-19 and racism: “As an association of lawyers and judges, we stand firm in our commitment to protecting the rights of all, and to stand firm against the recent incidents of racism and violence that have been directed against those of Asian-Pacific heritage. These men and women have suffered, as have the rest of humanity, from this disease; they should not also have to bear the pain of racist, xenophobic acts and statements directed against them. When we have defeated this disease, and we believe that we shall, we need to know that each of us can return to a world of compassion, understanding, and hope. We will need to be strong and united to rebuild. Let this be our challenge and our goal.”

Hunterdon County Freeholders Call for Congressional Action on Business Interruption Insurance
On behalf of the Hunterdon County Freeholder Board, Director Shaun C. Van Doren called upon U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker along with Rep. Tom Malinowski, to address the virus carve-out contained within business interruption insurance policies as part of any bipartisan economic stimulus package under consideration in the Congress. “I’ve heard from far too many small-business owners that they cannot access business interruption insurance because losses associated with a virus, like COVID-19, are not considered an eligible claim. Now more than ever our small business owners need access to liquidity so they can continue to pay their bills and provide for their families,” Van Doren said. “Unfortunately for small businesses like restaurants, this news is devastating and could result in them closing their doors forever,” he added.

Flemington’s new virtual fitness/lifestyle studio launches to provide support for women who are isolated
Most people don’t set out to launch a new business during a pandemic. For the past year, Sphericality owner Dorian Madreperla had been preparing to launch a virtual fitness and lifestyle studio. However, when her Flemington, N.J., fitness studio faced mandatory closing due to the coronavirus, she accelerated her plans. The sphereLIFE Limitless Lifestyle Virtual Wellness Center is now open to anyone who needs support during this time. Women all over the country exercise together and support each other through professional live-streamed workouts, video chats, weekly group coaching, meal plans, a wellness resource library, live events and special guest speakers. Sphericality’s virtual fitness and lifestyle studio is available to anyone for $1 for 30 days. Visit

Beware of coronavirus stimulus check scams
As the coronavirus takes a growing toll on people’s pocketbooks, there are reports that the government will soon be sending money by check or direct deposit to citizens. The details are still being worked out, but there are a few important things to know, no matter what this looks like.
1. The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.
2. The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.
3. These reports of checks aren’t yet a reality. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
If you become a victim of one of these scams, contact the Bucks County Consumer Protection Department via email at If you do not have access to a computer, call the office at 215-348-6060.

HHS announces grants to provide meals for older adults in Pennsylvania
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced $250 million in grants from the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to help communities provide meals for older adults. Pennsylvania received a grant for $10,196,062. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law by President Trump on March 18, provided the additional funding for the nutrition services programs authorized by the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965. These programs provide meals to more than 2.4 million older adults each year, both through home delivery and in places like community centers. The need for these services, particularly home-delivered and packaged meals, has increased as community measures to slow transmission of COVID-19 have closed meal sites and have left many family caregivers unable to assist their older loved ones. In addition to meals, Older Americans Act programs provide a wide range of services, such as help with bathing and dressing, rides to doctors’ offices, education on managing chronic illnesses, support for family caregivers, and much more. Provided by a network of community-based organizations, such as Area Agencies on Aging, local community and senior centers, faith-based organizations, and other non-profit service providers, these programs work together to help millions of older adults each year stay healthy and continue living independently.

Pennsylvania to allow retired health care professionals to bolster COVID-19 response
Pennsylvania is acting to enable retired health care professionals to assist with the COVID-19 response by waiving certain licensing regulations. Previously, the Department of State waived some regulations for nurses, removed barriers for pharmacies to provide services, and announced that in-state and out-of-state health care practitioners can treat patients via telemedicine during the coronavirus emergency.

“Many retired and inactive health care professionals want to help bolster our health care system during this crisis,” Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said. “This action will allow people with inactive or retired licenses in good standing to reactivate their licenses and immediately lend their assistance in this challenging time. We thank these retirees for their willingness to serve.”
The Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) requested, and Gov. Tom Wolf granted, suspensions of several regulations related to the state boards of medicine, osteopathic medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy for the duration of the coronavirus emergency. A previous suspension allows for retired nurse-midwife license reactivations. These new regulation suspensions increase the number of available and qualified health care practitioners in Pennsylvania by allowing retired practitioners to re-enter their field more easily without paying reactivation fees. The Department of State website will be updated regularly as additional requirement suspension information becomes available.

Penn State Extension’s commitment has not changed
For over 150 years, Penn State Extension has fulfilled its mission of delivering science-based education to Pennsylvania communities. Services still continue, however, Penn State Extension is adjusting its delivery of programs and services in order to protect the health of extension personnel and the public. In accordance with Gov. Tom Wolf’s guidance: Extension office spaces have closed in all 67 counties; face-to-face events have been canceled through May 15; and educators are limiting in-person contact.

Extension educators and faculty will continue to conduct on-property visits and research, while following disease-control guidelines to minimize risk, and consults will be made by phone and online. County office webpages, found on the Penn State Extension website, contain a directory with contact information for individual educators and staff members who can answer questions and direct you to the information you need. Penn State Extension is also expanding online resources. Visit to connect or to access online learning resources or call 1-877-345-0691 for assistance.

Airmid Wellness offers free online classes
During this difficult time, it’s essential to practice personal self-care, perhaps in ways that may be new to you. Airmid Wellness in Warminster is currently offering Tai Chi, meditation and yoga classes with seasoned teachers who will guide individuals on a journey of releasing the stress from their body and mind. These classes are being offered online to help people during this social isolation. There is no cost, however individuals are welcome to make an optional contribution to help provide support for teachers in order to continue these online classes from their homes. View the online class schedule at

St. Luke’s: COVID-19 community spread in Lehigh Valley and Poconos
Community spread of COVID-19 has reached the Lehigh Valley and Poconos, St. Luke’s infectious disease specialists have confirmed. Community spread means the virus is being transmitted among members of our community, in our community. Because of this, St. Luke’s University Health Network is urging the public to shelter at home. Stay home to stop the spread.
“We’ve been tracking the number of cases,” said St. Luke’s infectious disease specialist Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, senior vice president of Medical Affairs. “Community spread indicates that the region will experience a rapid surge of cases in the next few weeks.”
That surge will tax the region’s health care resources.

“It is critical that the public heads the advice to stay home,” Jahre said. “We all can do our part to stop the spread. Most important right now is to stay home unless you are providing ‘life-sustaining’ services. Our health care workers, our grocery store employees, people in distribution – they can protect themselves by practicing good hygiene and social distancing when possible.”

Note, there are some valid reasons to leave home, for example, obtaining groceries or pharmaceuticals, medical visits or checking on a relative when there is no other means to do so. For many at home, it is important to keep regularly scheduled medical appointments. St. Luke’s is offering telehealth virtual visits for individuals who still need to receive care. Call your family physician for details or call St. Luke’s InfoLink at 1-866-STLUKES (785-8537).

St. Luke’s implements universal masking for employees
St. Luke’s University Health Network has implemented a universal masking policy for its patient-facing health care workers (HCW) and employees. St. Luke’s made the universal masking decision to protect its patients and staff and to help reduce the community spread of COVID-19.

“We currently have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to undertake this important safety initiative,” stated Dr. Kara Mascitti, St. Luke’s medical director of Health Care Epidemiology and Infection Prevention. “Our ability to socially distance when providing patient care is limited, so we are implementing this policy to protect both our patients and our staff. We remain grateful to the community for its outpouring of donated masks and other supplies – keep it coming.”

Patients at St. Luke’s facilities will not need to mask, unless they are exhibiting symptoms or have known exposure to COVID-19. Virtual telehealth visits are also available for individuals looking to connect with their primary care or specialty doctor from home. To arrange for a telehealth visit, contact your doctor. To find a doctor, call 1-866-STLUKES, option 4. For more on the COVID-19 pandemic, visit

Yoga Loka offers free classes and recordings
Yoga Loka in Frenchtown, N.J., is streaming free classes and meditations for people to join online. Free offerings include Yoga Nidra (guided deep relaxation), Kids Yoga, Meditation and Tension Reducing Exercises. There are also many meditation sessions and yoga asana classes available for free download on the website with more being added over the coming weeks. In addition, there are yoga classes for every level that are being live streamed. Attendance is available for a reduced fee for people who are out of work or currently have restricted incomes. All classes are accessible by the video conferencing app Zoom, which is free and easy to use. Directions for accessing the classes can be found at

You can support Doylestown Health in response to COVID-19
Doylestown Health Foundation welcomes in-kind donations of equipment and supplies to Doylestown Health during the COVID-19 crisis. Donations of this kind—as well as direct contributions of funds—will help to offset expenses and keep shortages at bay. The hospital also welcomes gifts of prepackaged food and meals for clinical workers on the front lines. We are welcoming donations including, but not limited to: 3M N95 masks, new and unused (preferably small); surgical masks; goggles; face shield; vinyl gloves; hand sanitizer; Lysol and Clorox; germicidal wipes; bouffant caps; thermometers (infrared, glass, and digital); disposable gowns. The hospital is now accepting donations of homemade masks that meet the following criteria: Material: cotton; Style: Pleated, double-layered with a pocket; Closure: flat or round elastic (to be fitted around the ears); no loose string ties.

Directions for Delivery:
Please mark “DONATION” on all packages. Deliveries are accepted on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Doylestown Hospital receiving dock, located next to the cafeteria entrance at the rear of the hospital. Enter the hospital campus from State Street, proceed past the parking garage, and make a left on Brownlow Drive. Proceed through the stop sign and continue straight until you arrive at the loading dock on the left. Use the receptacle marked “Medical Supplies Donation Drop-off” for a contact-free delivery of your donation. Should you require assistance, please ring the bell at the door.

New Hope schedules teleconference March 27
In support of Gov. Wolf’s declaration, New Hope Borough Council is holding a public meeting via teleconference this Friday, March 27, with the sole agenda item being to authorize an extension of Mayor Keller's Declaration of Disaster Emergency. The public can join this meeting via telephone conference by following the instructions posted on the Borough website. Council President Connie Gering said, “The extension of the Emergency Declaration allows the borough to continue to respond to the COVID pandemic by authorizing the borough’s Emergency Management Coordinator Chief Cummings, under the advice and guidance of council, to expend funds and resources associated with the emergency to allow the borough to quickly take necessary administrative actions to address the emergency.”

Legislators lead effort to convert PA distilleries into hand sanitizer production facilities
State Senators Vincent Hughes and Tim Kearney, U.S. Representatives Mary Gay Scanlon and Brendan Boyle announced Wednesday that they have successfully broken down the regulatory barriers preventing more than 130 small craft distilleries in Pennsylvania from producing needed medical supplies such as hand sanitizer, which have all but disappeared from local shelves in recent weeks. The federal and state lawmakers have worked in tandem with Rob Cassell, a Philadelphia-based distillery owner and operator, to coordinate efforts statewide. The legislators worked together to: Remove regulatory restrictions from the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of the Treasury preventing this transition; Secure startup capital to convert these facilities, and supply the necessary ingredients and packaging.

Restaurant prepares Sunday dinners for staff
The new seasonally-driven restaurant that had its grand opening at the Village at Newtown Shopping Center on March 9 has started a Sunday Supper service for its staff after temporarily closing its doors last Monday due to the county’s COVID-19 advisories. Every Sunday, staff will be able to come by the restaurant where Chef Jason Audette will oversee the preparation of a meal for two for each employee to take home. Pickups will be staggered so as to avoid any gatherings within the establishment and only two senior management staff will be onsite to ensure the recommended social distancing is still maintained.

Gaming Control Board slates public meeting by phone
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has announced today that its public meeting on April 1, at 10 a.m. will occur as scheduled. The meeting will occur telephonically to minimize any risk associated with public gatherings. In order to assure transparency and public visibility, the board is providing opportunities for the public and interested persons to link to the meeting through an audio interface. The board is recommending that the public attend the meeting through its website by choosing the live link on the PGCB Meeting Videos section on the homepage. The board’s website address is Persons accessing the website will be able to listen to the audio of the meeting.

Gov. Wolf urges USDA to waive Food Assistance Eligibility
Gov. Tom Wolf sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking that USDA waive eligibility requirements for the Emergency Food Assistance Program; reconsider Pennsylvania’s request for temporary waivers to allow more food to be distributed at school feeding sites and food banks; and to be flexible and change its interpretation of recent changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. “It is inhumane to consider that Pennsylvanians who are doing the responsible thing by staying home to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities would go hungry because of USDA’s limiting interpretations and refusal to cut bureaucratic red tape during a national crisis… Our food banks are working around the clock to help those in need,” Wolf said. “These waivers would remove the burden of extra time spent on paperwork and also remove the delay in access to food.”

Philadelphia Archdiocese calls off all public Masses for Holy Week and Easter
In a directive to priests Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia called off all public Masses and services for Holy Week and Easter. The decision, which landed the same day President Donald Trump said he hoped Easter would bring “packed churches all over our country,” came after orders last week suspending public Masses indefinitely at the archdiocese’s more than 250 parishes, as the coronavirus spread in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Though the directive will keep the region’s 1.3 million Catholics away on the holiest day of their religion, churches remain open for the faithful to pray, under new restrictions on social distancing. The archdiocese is still encouraging parishioners to participate from home in livestreamed celebrations.

Father Ken Brabazon, pastor of St. Isodore Parish in Quakertown was quoted in a Philadelphia Inquirer article about the Archdiocese decision.

Mercer County, N.J., updates corona virus cases
The New Jersey Department of Health on Wednesday announced that there were 82 positive cases of COVID-19 in Mercer County, which includes Trenton, Princeton, Titusville and Hopewell. Contact tracing, including information gathering, is underway on the new cases and continuing on the remaining ones where needed. For data specific to a municipality, please contact the local health office.

Stockton Market is open for business
The Stockton Market remains open daily and is approved to be open by N.J. State, 7 a.m. to at least 3 p.m. daily (seven days), sometimes 5 p.m. Call ahead to place orders or come to the market. Produce, fresh local eggs, cheeses, fresh bagels and breads, salads, gloves, toilet paper, coffee and specialty drinks. The market is operating with a small staff and wearing masks and gloves. Staff will also deliver to your car.

Regular shopping habits encouraged
Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding urged Pennsylvanians to return to their normal shopping habits to allow the supply chain to recover and allow enough essentials for all. Over-purchasing impacts the food system, particularly the charitable food system that's currently working overtime to meet increased demands as thousands of Pennsylvanians are finding themselves out of work as a result of necessary COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Wolf Administration Submits Waiver for Greater Flexibility in Medicaid, CHIP Programs During COVID-19 Mitigation Efforts
The Wolf Administration submitted a waiver to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to temporarily grant flexibility of requirements for providers of Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to ensure availability and access to health care and public assistance programs for people who need them in light of COVID-19 mitigation efforts. “The Wolf Administration will do everything in its power to ensure that people have access to health care coverage to protect themselves and their families during this time. That’s why we are urging the federal government to grant us flexibility to ensure our programs are able to meet this public health challenge,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “Medicaid and CHIP enrollment are open year-round. Everyone who needs health coverage should get it so they have the peace of mind that if they need care, their insurance will cover it.” The waiver can also ensure that regulations around health care providers serving these programs are able to adequately respond to and adjust care in light of a public health emergency.

Legislators lead
Under the CARES Act, the United States Senate is currently considering an expansive federal relief package to assist individuals and institutions in need, including K-12 schools, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Father Ken Brabazon, “There is language in the legislation that allows non-public schools to benefit from the relief package (this currently includes parochial schools, like our own St. Isidore School). However, some legislators are seeking to disqualify private schools from eligibility. It’s critical for schools like ours to have equal access to Federal funds; so I am asking you to take a moment to contact your United States senators and urge them to make sure private schools, like St. Isidore, remain included in this important legislation.”

The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) is providing a simple and efficient way to contact your elected officials online. By clicking the link below you can reach out to their offices and voice your support for Federal relief funding for private schools.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Cancels April Session
Amid continued COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has canceled the upcoming oral argument session scheduled in Pittsburgh from April 21 through 23. Cases scheduled for argument during that session will be decided on briefs previously submitted. The announcement from the court comes during a statewide court closure and judicial emergency, as directed by the Supreme Court’s Order of March 18