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Local coronavirus briefing - March 31, 2020

PA Department of Health says 756 new positive COVID-19 cases brings statewide total to 4,843
The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed that there are 756 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 4,843 in 60 counties. The department also reported 14 new deaths among positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 63. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital. The number of cases and deaths by county is as follows: Bucks, 286 cases and three deaths; Chester, 159 cases and one death; Delaware, 338 cases and five deaths; Lehigh, 272 cases and four deaths; Montgomery, 570 cases and six deaths; Northampton, 245 cases and five deaths; Philadelphia, 1,197 cases and 10 deaths. There are 37,645 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 aged 0-4; less than 1% are aged 5-12; 1% are aged 13-18; nearly 10% are aged 19-24; nearly 41% are aged 25-49; nearly 29% are aged 50-64; and nearly 19% are aged 65 or older. Most of the patients hospitalized are aged 65 or older, and most of the deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older. There have been no pediatric deaths to date.

Work continues on PennDOT emergency and critical highway and bridge infrastructure projects
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced today that 61 emergency and critical highway and bridge projects will be active statewide this week. While the normal highway and bridge construction program has paused as the commonwealth addresses COVID-19 response, urgent emergency work has continued to ensure a reliable transportation system as circumstances surrounding COVID-19 continue to unfold. The emergency work that continues addresses specific safety need criteria, such as landslide repairs, or critical bridge, tunnel and drainage repairs, and work needed to eliminate roadway restrictions that could impede the ability for the movement of life sustaining goods and services. Conditions are continuously evaluated to determine the appropriate response.

Special Equestrians provides COVID-19 update
Special Equestrians (SE) in Warrington will remain closed until such time as Gov. Tom Wolf lifts the current stay-at-home order. SE’s administrative staff is working remotely, and barn staff are at the facility on a rotating basis to care for the herd of 12 therapy horses there. SE’s instructors and program staff have created “Rider Recess,” a series of online activities to keep their majority school-aged participants engaged. The program features puzzles, games and videos of staff reading horse-themed children’s books. For more information or to donate visit the SE website To access Rider Recess go to the Special Equestrians Facebook page

St. Luke’s Virtual Visits connect patients to care
By now, most people know what to do if they have COVID-19 symptoms. But during a quarantine, what do you do if you need to see a doctor for another concern? St. Luke’s has the answer with its Virtual Visit option. Patients who already have a scheduled appointment or need a new appointment are encouraged to call their physicians’ office to schedule the virtual visit in place of their typical in-office visit. Then it’s simply a matter of connecting via phone or computer. Call your St. Luke’s doctor or Physical Therapy at St. Luke’s office to schedule a virtual visit. If you are looking to find a provider, call 1-866-STLUKES (758-8537), option 4 or visit

Hunterdon and Warren Freeholders seek governor’s help to gain COVID-19 federal test site
The freeholder boards in Hunterdon and Warren County, N.J., have petitioned Gov. Phil Murphy to request a federally supported COVID-19 test site for the western New Jersey area, similar to the request the Governor made for South Jersey last week. Freeholder Board Directors Shaun C. Van Doren of Hunterdon and Richard D. Gardner of Warren, in a letter to Murphy, wrote, “We are encouraged to learn of your request to the federal government for a COVID-19 test site for the southern New Jersey area and respectfully request that you also seek a federal test site for the western New Jersey area. Presently the test sites in Bergen and Monmouth County are too far for residents of Hunterdon and Warren counties to access, particularly with the ‘stay home’ order in effect. Having a test site located in our region would be immensely valuable to the health of our residents.”

The letter noted that Hunterdon County’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) submitted to the New Jersey OEM a resource request for a Mass Testing Drive Thru Site Task Force on March 20, and Warren County’s OEM has also requested resources to increase testing in the region. The Freeholder directors wrote, “A drive thru test site requires, in addition to test kits, the medical personnel needed to administer tests, a substantial quantity of personal protective equipment (PPE), security resources, and a convenient site. Both counties are jointly able to contribute significantly to the security resources needed for a test site, however, the state needs to meet the Hunterdon and Warren OEM Resource Requests to affect a western New Jersey test site.”

Music Mountain Theatre hosts online classes
Music Mountain Theatre hosts online classes and informational videos at 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday on its Facebook page. The theater asks it loyal patrons for their patience and support during this challenging time. “As the situation evolves and changes, we will be working on our schedule so that we are able to provide you with the best possible season,” the theater said via email. It asked those who are able to make a donation or purchase a subscription or a gift certificate for a friend during this time.

State Education Department offers statewide resources to schools to continue instruction
Continuing its efforts to provide guidance to schools during the COVID-19 closures, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) today released a set of statewide resources educators can use to provide continued instruction to students. The resources secured by PDE are intended to help all schools that want to use them – including those not currently offering online platforms, those requiring additional technology support and those that may rely on traditional methods, such as paper lessons, to continue educating students. These additional resources follow the technical support that was formally initiated last week through the state’s intermediate units.

Beginning today, schools interested in establishing new course offerings or supplementing existing continuity of education programs can subscribe to the online learning platforms Odysseyware and Edgenuity. These online learning platforms, offered through Pennsylvania’s intermediate units, provide access to coursework in English Language Arts, math and many other subjects for students in grades K-5 and 6-12 respectively. There is no cost to schools or students for these resources. Schools should contact their local intermediate unit to subscribe to the platforms or for more information.

Also, the department is allocating up to $5 million in state funding for equity grants for schools to purchase computer equipment, such as laptops, tablets and internet hot spots, or to use towards providing instructional materials such as paper lessons and coursework. The department will also allocate new federal monies to these grants as the federal appropriations become available. Schools with the highest percentages of students lacking access to resources will be given priority in receiving the grants. Grant applications will be available on April 6 and must be submitted through the PDE e-Grants system by April 10.

In addition, the department has partnered with Pennsylvania’s public television stations to provide instructional programming to students through the seven individual Public Broadcasting System (PBS) member stations in the state. These free “Learning at Home” resources are available to families and educators at Additional information will be added as the partnership expands. For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs please visit the Department of Education’s website or follow PDE on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Ken Burns, Jeffrey Rosen to teach online class for high school and college students on the Constitution during American crises
As a part of its ongoing focus on online learning resources, on Friday, April 3, at 1 p.m., the National Constitution Center will host a free online interactive course featuring its President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns discussing “The Constitution in Times of Crisis.” The program will take a look both at moments in history during which constitutional battles emerged amidst moments of crisis, including the American Revolution, Civil War, World War II, and the Great Depression, as well as what constitutional issues may arise out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents, teachers, and students can register for the class at This is the latest installment of the National Constitution Center’s series of free daily online courses for middle school, high school, and college students, engaging them in lively conversations about the basic principles of the U.S. Constitution while they are home as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Mercer County, N.J., coronavirus cases at 268
The New Jersey Department of Health today announced that there are now 268 positive cases of COVID-19 in Mercer County. For data specific to a municipality, please contact the local health office. Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes announced that the county would open an appointment-only, drive-up testing site for COVID-19 on Tuesday, March 31, at Quaker Bridge Mall in Lawrence. The testing center is by appointment only for symptomatic Mercer County residents age 18 or older who have a prescription from their primary health care provider (PCP). If you are symptomatic for COVID-19 and want to be tested, contact your PCP. Patients will not be permitted to leave their vehicles. Walk-ups are not permitted.

The testing center, which initially will be open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., is a collaborative effort between the County of Mercer, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, Capital Health System, St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton and the Trenton Health Team.

Distillers join forces with marketing guru
The number one and number two production distilleries in Pennsylvania, Jacquin’s and Faber Liquors, are joining forces with Quaker City Mercantile and Art in the Age. These giants in the spirits industry are combining resources, distribution channels, production capacity and marketing know-how to deliver ethanol-based hand sanitizer to area hospitals and other life-sustaining service providers in this unprecedented time of crisis. This past weekend, Faber Liquors in Trumbauersville, with the new-found support of its strategic partners, pivoted from producing 45,000 bottles of spirits a day to 120,000 bottles of Faber Hand Sanitizer daily.
Faber Hand Sanitizer is packaged in traditional spirits bottles (because plastic bottles are currently impossible to find) and while many companies have been forced to shut down under government mandates, Faber has retained its entire workforce and are currently hiring in order to add additional shifts to meet the rapidly growing demand. Faber Hand Sanitizer will be distributed, in bulk to area hospitals, police departments, fire departments, various National mail carriers, and more. Consumers also have the opportunity to purchase Faber Hand Sanitizer through Philadelphia retailer, Art in the Age, which is owned by Quaker City Mercantile. The sanitizer will be available as production allows, in 1 liter glass bottle via for $8 per bottle.

President Trump approves Pennsylvania disaster declaration
President Donald J. Trump declared that a major disaster exists in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and ordered Federal assistance to supplement commonwealth and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic beginning on Jan. 20 and continuing.

The president’s action makes federal funding available to commonwealth and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, for all areas in Pennsylvania impacted by COVID-19. Pete Gaynor, administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named MaryAnn Tierney as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected areas. Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the commonwealth.

Philadelphia Orchestra members take salary cut
The Philadelphia Orchestra Association and the musicians of the orchestra today jointly announced that musicians have volunteered to take a temporary salary reduction of 20%, beginning April 1, to help counter the significant financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis. This cooperative step to preserve institutional financial progress of recent years is complemented by a 20% net reduction in staff salaries, based on salary level, also beginning April 1. Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin is forgoing 20% of his March and April compensation. These steps are among a series of measures the organization has been taking since the last concert performed on March 12.

A call to donate tickets to cancelled concerts has been met generously by dedicated Philadelphia Orchestra audience members, and additional financial gifts made in the context of the crisis have contributed to the initial phase of a plan for long-term financial recovery.

To enable ongoing connection to the Orchestra during a time when music is vitally important, audiences can engage with the Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra. Through three specific endeavors—WATCH, LISTEN, LEARN—the Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra offers access to past and previously unreleased performance videos, specially-created content from musicians of the orchestra, online learning, new Listen On Demand audio, and more at The Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra is generously funded, in part, by the William Penn Foundation. LEARN initiatives of the Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra are supported by Wells Fargo.

Construction organization supports resuming infrastructure work
Robert Latham, executive vice president of Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, issued the following statement regarding the resumption of critical highway projects:

“APC supports the governor’s leadership in combating the spread of COVID19. We also applaud the efforts by Secretary Gramian to keep Pennsylvanians moving by ensuring that critical repairs to our Commonwealth’s infrastructure be allowed to move forward. The highway construction industry pledges to incorporate stringent COVID-19 safety procedures onto any project that is operational.”

APC is a trade association consisting of more than 400 members that includes contractors, consulting engineers, material suppliers, manufacturers, and others with an interest in Pennsylvania’s road and bridge construction industry.

22nd annual Kiwanis-Herald Sesame Classic Race cancelled
The 22nd annual Kiwanis-Herald Sesame Classic Race is cancelled in light of the current health crisis and uncertainty of the times. In the past, proceeds from the race were used to honor 34 senior Scholar-Athletes from 18 high schools in Bucks County. The Levittown-Bristol Kiwanis Club is committed to continuing that tradition. Because of the health crisis and through no fault of their own, these young men and women will not have the opportunity to experience the process of a “normal” senior year. In an effort to bring some normalcy to them the race committee is committed to award them an honorarium for their stellar work both athletically and in the classroom. Those who have registered have a choice of receiving the registration fee in its entirety or, choosing to donate the registration fee towards honoring the Scholar-Athletes. One hundred percent of any donations will go directly to honor the students. The committee is e looking forward to continuing the Kiwanis-Herald Sesame Race tradition in 2021.