PA mitigation efforts underway at state and county levels

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PENNSYLVANIA — On Monday, March 16, as Gov. Tom Wolf held a virtual press conference urging all “non-essential” businesses throughout the entire commonwealth to close down for two weeks, the Wayne County Commissioners declared a state of emergency in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

At press time, there have been 76 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. One of those cases is in Wayne County and one is in Pike County. The Governor and the Department of Health have been imposing mitigation efforts on a county-by-county basis until Monday when they ordered statewide restrictions.

“All non-essential stores are to close in Pennsylvania, as well as bars and restaurants except for takeout. This also includes facilities and programs for seniors during the day,” Wolf said during the conference. “Essential services including municipal services like trash collection, grocery stores, medical facilities are to remain open.”

The state-defined non-essential businesses as “gyms, including yoga, barre and spin facilities; hair salons, nail salons and spas; casinos; concert venues; theaters; bars; sporting event venues and golf courses; retail facilities, including shopping malls, except for pharmacy or other healthcare facilities within retail operations.”

He expected the restriction to stand for two weeks but said that they will lift the mitigation efforts as soon as possible. New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Connecticut have all imposed similar restrictions, Wolf said. During the conference, Wolf clarified that these restrictions are not being enforced by the state government.

“This has to be self-enforced, this is not your government mandating anything,” he said. “This is your fellow public servants telling you what the right way to handle this public health crisis is.”

Wolf also closed all K-12 schools in PA for 10 days, effective Monday, March 16. In response, Wayne Highlands is offering a free grab-and-go lunch program until Friday, March 27. Lunch is available between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Damascus Area School, Honesdale High School, Preston Area School and The Cooperage Project in Honesdale.

At the county level, the commissioners have declared a state of emergency. “This declaration allows us to access additional federal streams, gives the county additional flexibility and restricts public access to certain county facilities,” commissioners Brian Smith, Joe Adams and Jocelyn Cramer said in a joint statement.

At press time, the county has taken the following measures to reduce the risk of spreading the virus: county senior centers are to provide take-out meals and home-delivered meals but will not be open to the public for gatherings; no non-essential county business travel outside of Wayne County will take place; if county employees have a fever or are showing any signs of illness, they are asked to please stay home; the Wayne County Emergency Operations Center will be closed to all non-employees; and there will be no visitors allowed at the Wayne County Correctional Facility, including volunteers.

The Wayne County Area Agency on Aging also announced Monday that all activities at the Honesdale, Hawley and Hamlin senior centers are canceled until further notice.

The Wayne County Transportation System released the following statement: “In response to federal and state recommendations, the Wayne County Transportation System is announcing that all trips for medical and medically-related needs, as well as access to food, are continuing as scheduled. For at least the next two weeks, however, trips for other purposes, including senior-centers, employment, religious services, funeral homes, retail shopping, library and personal visits, and other recreational activities, are being canceled or postponed. These adjustments have been made in order to do our part to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

According to a press release sent on March 13, Wayne Memorial Hospital announced that, while no cases of COVID-19 have been detected there, the hospital is placing some visitor restrictions:

“If you have respiratory symptoms—a cough, fever, shortness of breath—and your visit is not essential to a patient’s well-being, the hospital asks that you do not visit at this time. If you have those symptoms and your visit is essential—you are a parent, spouse, adult child, primary caregiver—ask for a mask at registration or the nurse’s station on the floor you are visiting. If you have a scheduled appointment and respiratory symptoms, ask for a mask at registration. Children under 12 with some exceptions are discouraged from visiting. Call ahead to the unit for instructions.”

According to the release, the hospital has also canceled its support group meetings for multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, stroke, compassionate friends and Pike County’s tick-borne disease emotional support meeting.

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