As the novel coronavirus continues to disrupt all areas of American life, LebTown is here to keep you current with hour-by-hour developments.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has already released its daily update of confirmed coronavirus cases, with Lebanon County adding only one case since yesterday.
But the biggest expected news of the day has not yet occurred – an addition of Lebanon County to Gov. Tom Wolf’s “Stay at Home” order.
Here’s what else we’re tracking…
President Trump declares major disaster in Pennsylvania
Yesterday we reported that Governor Wolf asked President Donald Trump to declare a major federal disaster in Pennsylvania, so that the Commonwealth would be eligible for a variety of federal assistance.
The president approved the request last night.
Local hospitals systems differ in how they publish COVID-19 information
Yesterday, Penn State Health System announced a new “dashboard” website specifically targeted at giving current data on COVID-19 activity at its two hospitals, Hershey Medical Center and St. Joseph’s in Reading.
HMC spokesperson Barbara Schindo explained that the dashbard is designed “[t]o provide the communities we serve with a true picture of how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our staff and health care facilities.”
Schindo explained that “[t]he dashboard provides the number of confirmed and suspected patients that our hospitals . . . are caring for.”
The dashboard shows the latest figures for confirmed COVID-19 positive patients at each facility, and for “patients under investigation,” defined as “patients who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 but do not yet have a confirmed positive test.”
The dashboard totals will be updated daily.
Here’s a screenshot showing numbers as of Monday, March 30:
WellSpan Health System, which operates Lebanon’s Good Samaritan Hospital, is not publishing similar data.
“We do not share daily census data at our hospitals as that number is always changing,” said WellSpan spokesperson Cindy Stauffer in an email to LebTown. “The daily county-by-county data released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health provides the best level of detail for COVID-19 spread in our communities.”
Senate Republicans ask Gov. Wolf to classify residential construction industry “essential.”
In a March 30 letter, eight Pennsylvania Republican senators asked Governor Wolf to “consider placing all residential construction on your essential business list” in order to make the commonwealth consistent with the March 28 United States Department of Homeland Security “Advisory Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response.”
At present, residential building construction businesses, among others, have been ordered by the governor to stop physical operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The governor had not responded by publication time.
State Sen. Arnold backs request, co-sponsors legislation to put construction firms back to work
State Senator David J. Arnold, Jr. (R-101) announced on March 30 that he is a co-sponsor of a bill that would “allow for waivers for construction activities that use appropriate mitigation measures to prevent exposure to the [COVID-19] virus.”
The bill requires the Department of Community and Economic Development to issue waivers for public and private construction activities that adhere to social distancing practices and other mitigation measures set by the Centers for Disease Control to protect workers and mitigate the spread of the virus.
Arnold’s press release says that “Pennsylvania is the only state to shut down all active public and private construction sites,” and that “[u]nfinished construction projects create public health and safety hazards that will increase as the sites are exposed to the elements.”
Regarding DCED waivers, LebTown publisher Davis Shaver had previously editorialized that Gov. Wolf should release the specific guidelines used to evaluate waiver applications as well as the list of companies that had been given waivers.
Lebanon Federal Credit Union offering member hardship assistance
The Lebanon Federal Credit Union is offering loan relief assistance to its members. Qualifying borrowers can request to skip a payment, penalty free, temporarily pay interest only, or even delay a payment for up to 90 days while only interest continues.
Quitty Audobon Society cancels events through May
Local environmental conservation organization the Quittapahilla Audobon Society has cancelled all programs and field trips, which are normally open to the public, through May, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The society’s online newsletter will notify members and the public when activities resume.
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Davis Shaver contributed to this report.