|Coronavirus 101 – What is it and how do I protect myself?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new virus that causes respiratory illness in people and can spread from person-to-person. Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying.
The CDC and PA Department of Health (DOH) suggest some simple steps you can take to protect yourself and others:
• Cover coughs or sneezes with your elbow. Do not use your hands!
• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
• Clean surfaces frequently, including countertops, light switches, cell phones, remotes, and other frequently touched items.
• If you are sick, stay home until you are feeling better.
Why did the governor close our schools and businesses?
Information from the World Health Organization, the CDC, DOH and others, clearly shows that Coronavirus has been taking a toll on countries around the globe and is now having wide impact across the United States. Cases have been reported throughout the state with the first death reported in Northampton County on Wednesday. More than 100 people have died across the nation, and more than 8,000 worldwide according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
The vast majority of people afflicted with COVID-19 recover; however, it is especially dangerous for senior citizens and others with compromised immune systems. The closures outlined by the governor are designed to help prevent the spread of the virus to protect those vulnerable populations using the concept of “social distancing” – simply keeping people apart so as not to pass the virus from one person to another. Since a person may be a carrier of the virus for as much as two weeks without displaying any symptoms, simply telling people to stay home if they are not feeling well is not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
With regard to businesses, the governor late announced around 5 p.m. Thursday the mandated closure of all “non-life-sustaining” businesses by 8 p.m. that evening until further notice. The governor claims he has the authority to make such orders based on the emergency declaration issued as a result of the spread of COVID-19. A chart from the governor that outlines what must be closed and what may stay open is available here. Any further guidance issued today will also be available here.
Currently, grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations are among the businesses that may remain open, as well as bars and restaurants offering take-out or delivery services (no dine-in service is permitted). Businesses that must be closed, based on the governor’s guidance, include things like hair and nail salons, gyms, theaters and sports venues. Even before businesses were urged to close temporarily, many had seen a significant drop in traffic, affecting both their bottom line and in many cases, that of their employees. For more information concerning unemployment compensation for EMPLOYEES, click here. For more information concerning EMPLOYER unemployment relief, click here.
As suggested by the CDC, it is important we all stay calm, limit unnecessary travel and interactions with others, wash our hands, pay attention to how we are feeling and be patient. The House was in session earlier this week to vote on a rules change that will allow us to cast votes on legislation remotely if necessary. We will be looking at legislation to address unemployment needs, business assistance and more.
If you have questions, please feel free to contact my office online or by phone 570-420-8301.
Price Gouging isn't only wrong, it is illegal. Should you witness any price gouging in our area, submit a complaint using the resource email listed above.
Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding has issued guidance for accessing emergency food assistance for Pennsylvanians at risk of hunger due to measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
He offered specific instructions for those seeking emergency food assistance which can be found by clicking here.
Gov. Wolf has ordered all K-12 schools to remain closed through at least Friday, March 27. The administration will reevaluate when it is safe for schools to reopen. No school will be penalized for failing to meet the mandated 180 days of instructional time for the 2019-2020 school year.
A number of school districts are developing alternative education plans and continuing to offer lunches for students. Parents and guardians of students are encouraged to learn more about how their school district is responding to the school shutdown by visiting their school district's website or calling the school.
My staff and I will be available to respond to emails and phone calls during this time as we work remotely.
Community residents who need help with any problem related to state government are encouraged to visit my website or call us at 570-420-8301.
• Driver and Photo License Centers
• District and Maintenance Offices
Expiration dates for driver licenses, identification cards, vehicle registrations, and safety and emission inspections will be extended.
Additionally, construction projects have been suspended in all counties until further notice; however, PennDOT crews are available to perform critical functions and emergency maintenance, as needed.
In order to address safety concerns raised, PennDOT announced all rest areas will be reopened tomorrow, March 20.
These are the locations:
o I-81: Luzerne northbound/southbound, Cumberland northbound/southbound;
o I-80, Venango eastbound/westbound, Centre eastbound/westbound, Montour
o I-79: Crawford northbound/southbound, Allegheny northbound only
Barricades will be removed on some facilities in critical locations and available for truck parking. Portable restroom facilities will be available at these locations; each location will have five portable toilets (one of which is ADA-accessible) that will be cleaned once a day.
Electronic message signs will be used near the applicable centers to notify drivers near the opened areas. In order to prevent further spread of COVID-19, PennDOT will NOT be opening any of the indoor facilities because there is no staff to keep them clean and properly sanitized. PennDOT will continue to evaluate and will determine whether additional rest areas can be reopened.
Also, the PA Turnpike making the below changes to the Turnpike travel plaza restrictions. These changes apply to all Turnpike travel plazas and will be implemented by this coming Saturday at the latest:
*Indoor bathrooms will be open 24/7.
*One restaurant at each location will be open 7am to 6pm and will serve a limited take-out menu.
*All tables and chairs will be removed from the inside of the plaza.
*The convenience store will be open 24/7.
The following is a list of resources available to local residents affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
East Stroudsburg Area School District
East Stroudsburg will give out lunches between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. at both high schools and Middle Smithfield Elementary every weekday. The meals are for anyone 18 and younger. Meals are also being dropped utilizing normal bus stop locations. Please check their website.
Pleasant Valley School District
As of Tuesday, meals will be provided via drive-up at the high school from 9 a.m. to noon.
Families should drive to the cafeteria at the back of the building, where they will receive a breakfast item and a lunch for each student. Parents will need to provide school-issued student ID numbers or driver's licenses to pick up food.
Pocono Mountain School District
As of Tuesday, Pocono Mountain is providing meals from 9 a.m. to noon starting at both high schools and at Clear Run Intermediate School. One bagged lunch and one breakfast item will be provided for each child each day for as long as supplies last. Families can drive up, and food will be brought to the vehicle. They can visit any school regardless of which school their child attends. Visitors will not be allowed to enter the school buildings.
Stroudsburg Area School District
Stroudsburg is offering breakfast and lunch pick up from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Staff will directparents to pick-up locations at Arlington, Chipperfield and Hamilton elementary schools, as well as Stroudsburg High School. Parents can pick up food at any of those four schools, regardless of which school their child attends.
COVID-19 Testing Information:
Residents need to contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) or their family physician FIRST if they are experiencing symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) to see if they need to be tested. If a test is required, residents can go to their family physicians for testing.
For the latest information on COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website cdc.gov, or the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.
Small Business Information:
As per the governor, the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) is offering working capital loans that could be of assistance to businesses impacted by COVID-19. Resources and information will be posted to here as they become available. The U.S. Small Business Administration, in addition to local funding partners, may also be a source of assistance for affected businesses. Click here for more information.