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Local coronavirus briefing - March 27, 2020

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Department of Health provides update on COVID-19, 531 new positives bring statewide total to 2,218
The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed as of noon March 27, that there are 531 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 2,218 in 50 counties. The department also reported six new deaths among positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 22. Bucks County has 124 cases, Chester County 107, Lehigh County 93, Montgomery 374 and three deaths, Delaware County 185 and three deaths, Northampton County 79 and three deaths, Philadelphia 530 and two deaths. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital. There are 21,016 patients who have tested negative to date. Of the patients who have tested positive to date the age breakdown is as follows: Less than 1% are age 0-4; Less than 1% are age 5-12; Nearly 2% are age 13-18; 11% are age 19-24; 40% are age 25-49; Nearly 28% are age 50-64; and 18% are age 65 or older.


First confirmed COVID-19 case in Solebury Township; patient recovering
There is one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Solebury Township, as of the end of the day on March 25. “We understand that this individual was tested in mid-March and has since remained isolated at home with mild symptoms,” the township said on its website. “Solebury Township respects the privacy of its residents, particularly in health matters. The Bucks County Health Department is the public health authority for the township, and we will follow their guidance in releasing any and all information necessary to protect the health of every person in the township,” the website said. Twenty-eight municipalities in the county have had at least one resident counted as a positive case of COVID-19, including Solebury. “This first local case in Solebury reinforces the importance of adhering to CDC guidelines for social distancing, and to Gov. Tom Wolf's order to stay at home. With community spread declared in Bucks County, we must all assume that anyone we come in contact with might be infected without displaying symptoms, and act accordingly. It is unlikely that this will be Solebury's only case of COVID-19,” the website said.


Gov. Tom Wolf signs four bills today to fight COVID-19 pandemic
Governor Tom Wolf signed four bills today to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania that bolster the health care system, benefit workers and schools, and reschedule the 2020 primary election for June 2. The governor signed House Bill 1232, which provides $50 million for the Wolf administration to purchase medical equipment and supplies for hospitals, nursing facilities and emergency medical services to meet the urgent needs by patients and staff. The governor also signed, Senate Bill 751, which waives the requirement for schools to be in session at least 180 days, provides for continuity of education plans, ensures school employees are paid during the closure, and provides the Secretary of Education with authority to waive student teacher and standardized assessments. The Department of Education previously announced the cancellation of all PSSA testing, Keystone exams and the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment for the 2019-20 school year. The governor signed Senate Bill 422, which reschedules the 2020 primary election from April 28 to June 2 and makes other election process changes, including some due to the COVID-19 emergency. The governor reminded voters of the new option to vote by mail-in ballot rather than going to a polling place on election day. Already more than 215,000 registered voters have signed up for either a mail-in or absentee ballot, with nearly 78 percent using the commonwealth’s new online application. Those voters do not need to file new applications despite the change in primary date.The governor also signed House Bill 68, which makes applying for unemployment compensation easier for workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Federal REAL ID enforcement deadline postponed to October 2021
The Department of Homeland Security has postponed the enforcement date for REAL ID from Oct. 1, 2020, to Oct. 1, 2021, in response to COVID-19 and the national emergency declaration. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) closed all driver and photo license centers on March 16 and paused REAL ID issuance in the state out of an abundance of caution and in the interest of public health. Centers will reopen no sooner than April 3. PennDOT also sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, requesting that the agency consider extending the Oct. 1, 2020 REAL ID enforcement deadline. More information about REAL ID document requirements, including a printable document checklist, can be found on the Document Check page of the PennDOT Driver and Vehicle Services website. Customers may complete various transactions and access multiple resources via www.dmv.pa.gov.


THE GIANT Company donates $250,000 to support COVID-19 mitigation efforts at five local children’s hospitals
To help provide assistance for the youngest members of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, The GIANT Company is donating $250,000 to support COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Penn State Children’s Hospital, The Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger, Children’s National Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Children’s Center will each receive $50,000. Each of the hospitals has mobilized its teams to combat COVID-19 in its communities. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Children’s National Hospital have established drive-through COVID-19 testing centers for children who are most-at-risk. In addition, the hospitals are working to ramp up their telemedicine programs to make care as accessible as possible during this time, providing the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and resources to support the well-being of their medical staffs and helping to accelerate research efforts to improve treatments. “While there has been a great focus on the effects COVID-19 has on our older population, children fighting cancer or other serious medical conditions with weakened immune systems may need further specialty care,” said Nicholas Bertram, president, The GIANT Company. “The GIANT Company has long supported our local children’s hospitals, and we are proud to continue doing what we can to assist in providing quality care to those children and support for the dedicated medical staff on the front lines of this pandemic.”


Pennsylvania extends license renewal deadlines for nurses and others during coronavirus emergency
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of State is giving nurses, graduate medical trainees, nursing home administrators and other professionals more time to renew their occupational licenses. April, May and June license renewal deadlines for these professionals – as well as for barbers, navigation pilots and real estate professionals – have been extended to July, August and September. 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. Visit https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/ for the latest guidance and resources for Pennsylvanians or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.


Eiseman Construction gets exception by governor to continue essential home-repair services
Eiseman Construction has been granted an exemption by the Office of the Governor of Pennsylvania thereby allowing Eiseman to continue to provide its essential home-repair services. “We're still here to serve our community and we're available should you need us. We wanted to ensure our customers we understand that there may be emergency exterior needs during this time and that we're open and available should you need our services. As a precaution, we will be staying only on the exterior of homes or projects and practicing social distancing. Home repair services are considered essential at this time and we’re here to help,” said Melissa Eiseman in an email.


Easton Farmers’ Market Winter Market discontinued; local farmers filling orders
COVID-19/Coronavirus is prompting another round of postponements for events run by the Greater Easton Development Partnership (GEDP).Easton Farmers’ Market (EFM) said it would discontinue Winter Market for the next three weeks. The three-week closure will allow the market’s team to find the safest, most effective way of serving customers moving forward. The market district will still support local farmers by offering fresh, local produce, dairy, eggs, meat and other provisions for curbside pickup at the Highmark Farmstand at Easton Public Market from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Call 610-250-2072. EFM vendors will also offer online ordering on their own sites with curbside pick-up on Saturday mornings at the Church Street entrance of Easton Public Market. Vendors participating in online pre-orders include: Apple Ridge Farm (meat, stock, produce, eggs, jam, honey, breads and more): appleridge.net; Breakaway Farms (meat, eggs): breakawayfarms.net; Primordia Mushrooms (mushrooms): primordiafarm.com. Check vendor websites for specific pick-up times. EFM will take guidance from Buy Fresh Buy Local Greater Lehigh Valley, the Penn State Cooperative Extension and the PA Department of Agriculture on solutions and protocols to reopen. Updates will be shared to eastonfarmersmarket.com and Facebook.com/EastonFarmersMarket. Another event that will be postponed is GEDP’s annual “Spring into Easton” tasting and shopping crawl through Downtown Easton, originally scheduled for April 11. Updates will be posted to springintoeaston.com.


DHS launches new tool to help essential workers connect with child care providers
The Department of Human Services (DHS) announced a new tool available on the department’s website designed to help essential workers connect with child care providers that have been granted a waiver by the department’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) to continue serving the families of essential personnel during the COVID-19 emergency. OCDEL continues to receive and process waiver requests for child care centers and group child care homes seeking to continue to operate during this time with the expectation that providers operating with a waiver serve only the families of essential personnel such as health care providers on the front lines, emergency and first responders, home care workers serving vulnerable populations, grocery and food service employees until the governor’s closure order is lifted. OCDEL is processing waiver requests based on the information provided in good faith. If a child-care provider reports that they need to remain open in order to serve the families of essential personnel, OCDEL will grant that request. To date, OCDEL has processed and approved more than 700 requests for waivers.
 
The public can access information about child care providers that have been granted waivers on the department’s website, which includes a map linked on the citizen resource page of the COVID-19 section. DHS encourages essential workers to use this information as a resource to find child care options available in their community. The new online took can be found at https://www.dhs.pa.gov/providers/Providers/Pages/Coronavirus-Child-Care.aspx.


Phillips Mill Photo Exhibition canceled; online show being produced
In response to the unprecedented public health crisis related to coronavirus (COVID-19), the Phillips Mill Photo Exhibition Committee is cancelling the Phillips Mill Photo Exhibition as well as its March and April meetings and instead producing an online exhibition. The committee said this decision was made after careful deliberation and its priority is to do all it can to ensure the safety and well-being of its artists, patrons and community. The committee asked for patience as it moves forward in producing the show online.


Foundations Community Partnership announces COVID-19 Response Grants; suspends others
As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, BIIG, Capital, Technical Assistance and Emergency grants for the spring 2020 grant cycle will be suspended so that Foundation Community Partnership can direct all resources to support Bucks County nonprofits during this unprecedented epidemic. Currently submitted LOIs will not be reviewed, but staff will contact individual organizations in coming days to discuss future re-submission. In lieu of our traditional spring cycle grants noted above, FCP is announcing COVID-19 Response Grants available to nonprofits serving Bucks County children, youth and families. Visit this web page for full details: https://www.fcpartnership.org/grants/covid-19/


Academy of Vocal Arts cancels remainder of season
The remainder of the AVA season, which includes “Un ballo in maschera” and the Graduation Recital, has been canceled. “Below are three options regarding your tickets,” the AVA said in an email. “The first two options would be a greatly appreciated show of support to AVA at this uncertain time. When you have made your choice please email our Box Office Director, Bill Buddendorf, directly at bbuddendorf@avaopera.org. If the only way for you to contact us is by phone at 215-735-1685, please call and leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Option 1 – Donate the total sum of your ticket purchase to AVA and receive a tax-deductible donation. Option 2 – Receive a credit for the total sum of your ticket purchase, which may be used toward future ticket purchases at AVA, without an expiration date. Option 3 – Receive a full refund to your credit or debit card. Refunds can be made to credit or debit cards regardless of how you originally paid and cannot be processed via check or cash. If you haven't done so already, please include your choice for your Jubilate tickets, as well.”


EPA ceases enforcement of pollution rules
Reports today indicate that the Environmental Protection Agency has indefinitely ceased enforcement of key industrial air and water pollution rules, citing the coronavirus pandemic as justification. In response, Food & Water Action Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued the following statement:

“ To use a disease that specifically attacks human respiratory function as justification for enabling more air pollution is not just counterproductive – it’s inhumane.”


Wolf Administration launches critical medical supplies procurement portal
Today, Gov.Tom Wolf announced the creation of a new web portal that will expedite the procurement of critical medical supplies for Pennsylvania’s health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The commonwealth, and the nation, is facing an unprecedented and uncertain time, and as we work to flatten the curve we must also ramp up efforts to provide Pennsylvania’s health care system with the critical supplies it needs to treat individuals with COVID-19,” said Gov. Wolf. “By consolidating the efforts of various state agencies, we will streamline the procurement process and allow these supplies to get to our health care providers and medical professionals as quickly as possible.” The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Critical Medical Supplies Procurement Portal was developed through a joint effort between the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Health, the Department of General Services, and the Department of Community and Economic Development to source the most needed supplies for medical providers, emergency responders, and health care professionals.


Mercer County, N.J., announces new COVID-19 cases
The New Jersey Department of Health today announced that there are now 131 positive cases of COVID-19 in Mercer County. Mercer County releases no identifiers other than the number of cases, and does not tally by municipality. Contact tracing, including information gathering, is underway on the new cases and continuing on the remaining ones where needed. The numbers will continue to grow as more testing sites come online. For data specific to a municipality, please contact the local health office.


Palisades School District online learning begins Monday; free meal distribution changes
Palisades School District is working to begin online learning starting Monday, March 30, Superintendent Dr. Bridget O’Connell wrote in a letter to the Palisades Community. She said faculty and administration are planning instruction that will meet the needs of district students to the best of their ability. She urged everyone to be flexible, since this way of learning might be easier for some than others. For information, visit “Palisades Learns” on the bottom left of the home page at www.palisd.org. To reserve a Chromebook for your elementary school student, fill out the Elementary Chromebook Request Form. (Children are welcome to use their own devices; however, the district devices come loaded with applications and settings for students as well as filtering for their protection.) Those who are unable to complete the form, may contact Donna Holmes at 610-847-5131, x 2401. Chromebook distribution next week (March 30) will be Durham Nockamixon Elementary, and the timeframe may change from this week. Families without reliable internet service, or without any access should call 610-847-5131, x 2401. To swap Chromebooks that are in need of repair make an appointment via http://cbrepair.palisd.org. The district has been distributing free breakfast and lunch “go bags” at Palisades High School only for students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, and serving all students at Tinicum Elementary School. Beginning immediately, the district is able to distribute breakfasts/lunches at Tinicum Elementary for all children in the district and surrounding areas - pre-kindergarten to age 18. Starting Monday, March 30, at the two distribution locations, the schedule will change to distributing breakfasts and lunches on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On each of these days, breakfasts/lunches will be distributed for the upcoming (off) day. Therefore, on Monday and Wednesday, students will receive two breakfasts/lunches, and on Friday, they will receive 3 breakfasts/lunches. For the safety of everyone, stay in your vehicle when picking up your food items. Children no longer need to be with you when picking up breakfast/lunch bags. Email questions to closureconcerns@palisd.org.


Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Trail sees uptick in visitors; asks them to practice proper etiquette and social distancing
“During this difficult time, the D&L is proud to be a respite for the community. As of now, outdoor recreation is still an approved reason to leave your home, so long as social distancing is observed. Because of this, open trail and parks are seeing increased visitation. In our case, D&L Trail counters have seen a 174% increase in visitation from this time last year,” D&L said. Visitors are asked to practice proper trail etiquette and social distancing while getting outdoors. Visit D&L’s COVID-19 update page for information, based on CDC and industry recommendations for social distancing while recreating outdoors, and for updates on closures that affect the D&L Trail and trail amenities.


Governor and health secretary expand ‘Stay at Home’ order to nine more counties; counties now total 19
As the state continues to seek relief to save lives and stop the spread of COVID-19, today Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine revised their “Stay at Home” orders to include nine additional counties -- Berks, Butler, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Luzerne, Pike, Wayne, Westmoreland and York – bringing the state total to 19 counties under a stay-at-home order. This order takes effect at 8 p.m. Friday, March 27, and will continue until April 6. The order now includes these 19 counties: Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Butler, Chester, Delaware, Erie, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Wayne, Westmoreland and York counties.

Individuals may leave their residence only to perform any of the following allowable individual activities and allowable essential travel: Tasks essential to maintain health and safety, or the health and safety of their family or household members (including pets), such as obtaining medicine or medical supplies, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies they need to work from home; Getting necessary services or supplies for themselves, for their family or household members, or as part of volunteer efforts, or to deliver those services or supplies to others to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences; Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking or running if they maintain social distancing; To perform work providing essential products and services at a life-sustaining business; To care for a family member or pet in another household; Any travel related to the provision of or access to the above-mentioned individual activities or life-sustaining business activities; Travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons; Travel to or from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning, for receiving meals, and any other related services; Travel to return to a place of residence from an outside jurisdiction; Travel required by law enforcement or court order; Travel required for non-residents to return to their place of residence outside the commonwealth; Anyone performing life-sustaining travel does not need paperwork to prove the reason for travel.

The following operations are exempt: Life-sustaining business activities; Health care or medical services providers; Access to life-sustaining services for low-income residents, including food banks; Access to child care services for employees of life-sustaining businesses that remain open as follows: child care facilities operating under the Department of Human Services, Office of Child Development and Early Learning waiver process; group and family child care operating in a residence; and part-day school age programs operating under an exemption from the March 19 business closure orders; News media; Law enforcement; The federal government; Religious institutions.


Pet Valu updates hours, offers new purchasing options, limits number of customers in store
Pet Valu, classified as an essential retailer, has announced temporary changes to store operations to limit the physical interactions between associates and customers, as well as ensure the continued safe operation of all stores. Change include:
• Limiting the number of customers that can enter the store at any time to two (for safe social distancing).
• Making call-ahead ordering for customers available.
• Updating hours of operation to 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. to allow associates time to re-stock and sanitize stores (store hours may vary).
• Currently not accepting returns and extending the return policy period.
• All customers are asked to have a list or photos of supplies ready, so that associates can help retrieve products. Customers will be directed to wait at the sanitized checkout counter to complete all in-store transactions (using debit or credit is preferred at checkout, whenever possible).
• Temporarily closing all self-serve dog wash stations and grooming salons.
• Cancelling all local events and postponing the annual April charitable event, Pet Appreciation Month and National Adoption Weekend, supporting local animal shelters and rescues.
In addition, home delivery is available through Pet Valu’s sister company, Pet Supermarket. Customers can still earn Pet Points Plus rewards with purchases made on PetSupermarket.com and are asked to save receipts and confirmation emails for future credits to accounts. Visit https://us.petvalu.com/ for information and updates.

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