Edwin Hurston, Lancaster County Public Health Emergency Adviser,  speaks at a news conference at the Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center on Thursday, May 14, 2020.  (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)
Edwin Hurston, Lancaster County Public Health Emergency Adviser, speaks at a news conference at the Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center on Thursday, May 14, 2020. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

Lancaster County personnel are making swift strides to make sure first responders and elder-care facilities have what they need to deal with Covid-19, Edwin Hurston told reporters Thursday in his first appearance at a county news conference.

Hurston is Lancaster County's public health emergency advisor, brought on board last month to help local officials respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Hurston:

  • The Lancaster County Emergency Management Agency (LEMA) has filled 84 requests to date for personal protective equipment submitted by first responders and health facilities, distributing more than 73,000 surgical masks, 36,000 N95 masks and 32,000 gowns. Work is ongoing to make sure local organizations and facilities have what they need, Hurston said said.
  • ┬áLEMA has arranged for an advanced cleaning and disinfection contractor to clean long-term care facilities upon request; so far, 12 have undergone the process;
  • ┬áThe county has arranged for rapid, comprehensive Covid-19 testing for nursing homes;
  • The county also has arranged for consultation on Covid-19 best practices. Four site reviews were done by the volunteer Medical Reserve Corps, led by safety expert Joseph Cocciardi. The MRC is a volunteer organization, and that limits its capacity, Hurston said; on Wednesday, the county approved a contract for additional site visits with Cocciardi's firm, Cocciardi & Associates.

The costs of the county's efforts, Hurston said, will be covered by its $95 million in federal CARES Act funding.

LGH's report

Also Thursday, Dr. Michael Ripchinski, chief clinical officer at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, said Lancaster County has had five straight days of with 40 or fewer new Covid-19 cases.

"I think that's a reassuring sign," he said.

Ripchinski said LGH is caring for 46 of Lancaster County's Covid-19 inpatients, or 88%. Of those, 14 are in critical care and 6 are on ventilators.

Ripchinski reiterated his statement at Wednesday's commissioners' meeting that the decision to reopen the county is "reserved for" elected officials. As before, he declined to weigh in on whether it's safe.

No matter what the county's declared status is, everyone is responsible for slowing Covid-19 and protecting the community by practicing social distancing, wearing masks and washing their hands, he said.

Tim Stuhldreher