An independent news publication of
United Way of Lancaster County


Daily Policy Update

Each day a summary of news and information that has been gathered from community partners and credible news sites will be posted.


State Government:

General CoVid resources:


Dept of Education:


Dept of Human Services:


Dept of Health:

  • “Department of Health Provides Update on COVID-19, 1,296 Positives Bring Statewide Total to 34,528” :
  • Link to Statewide map of testing sites:
  • COVID-19 Data: (now available at zip code-level data)
  • Lancaster Stats: 1,295 cases. 5,956 negative tests. 88 deaths. (According to DOH website- updated today at 12:00pm)
  • Daily Press Briefing:
    • Dr. Levine summary: “Stay Calm. Stay Home. Stay Safe.”
      • As of 12am this morning, statewide total is 34,528 cases with 1,296 new cases which includes 981 confirmed cases, and 315 probable cases. Confirmed case is a person who has tested positive for COVID, a probable case is a person who has symptoms of COVID and was a close contact or otherwise linked to a confirmed case of COVID but who did not have testing done.
      • In addition, over the weekend we announced an increase in our total death totals because we have worked to reconcile several different reporting systems to get the most accurate picture possible. That work has continued and we will now be reporting probable deaths related to COVID in addition to confirmed deaths. Confirmed deaths are those who have died and for whom we have a positive test result for COVID, probable deaths are those who have died and their death certificate lists COVID as a cause or a contributing cause of death but who did not have a positive COVID test result. Our total deaths reported is 1,564 which includes 1,264 confirmed deaths and 300 probable deaths due to COVID.
      • Remember, we are basing decisions for public health based on data trends, not on a single day’s increase or change. To help the public better understand this, we have added trend animations to the data section of our website. These animations will help you see how the disease has progressed in PA.
      • If you need mental health resources please contact the mental health crisis line by texting “PA” to 741741 or call the statewide support and referral helpline at 1-855-284-2494
    • Reporters’ Questions:
      • Today, Senator Bob Casey said he secured a commitment by the Trump Administration to publicly release the names of nursing homes across the country who have cases of COVID. Right now PA does not release that information citing patient privacy- does this commitment now require the state to release the names of these facilities to the public? And if so, when should we expect this info?
        • We will strongly consider doing that, we will have to figure out the right way to do that so that we give the most information to the public but also protect patients’ privacy, so we will look at doing that over the next number of days.
      • Early antibody testing results in CA indicate its possible that people infected by COVID are 50-80x greater than we know- when and where in PA do you anticipate antibody testing? And how might similar results impact our mitigation and containment strategy?
        • We are working to be able to obtain antibody testing in PA. Actually it is possible to get an antibody test through Quest (commercial lab) with a doctors prescription, but we don’t quite know what antibody testing means. We have reviewed that study from CA and there are interesting pieces of information in the study, there are also some concerns with the methods of how it was done and the statistics. That’s the way science works, a study will come out and we will analyze it and we will look at other studies and repeat studies, and we will analyze whether that study was more accurate or other studies would be more accurate. We are looking at different antibody tests, our state lab director was on a call yesterday with the American Lab Association and the CDC to discuss that type of testing. The CDC does have an antibody test and they are piloting that, basically looking at random blood samples that have been obtained from other states and including PA. We would like our state lab to start to do antibody testing when the testing is available that fits our platforms and is possible to do. But its going to be more of a surveillance technique, it does not diagnose COVID, to diagnose you need to do the viral testing which is what we have now.
      • If you recover from COVID, after testing positive for it, will you be immune to it in the future? And if so, for how long?
        • As we have discussed previously, this is a novel coronavirus so we don’t really know. With many viruses, if you have a virus, like chicken pox, before we had a vaccine, then you would have chicken pox, develop an immune response, and then be immune to chicken pox. But there are other viruses where that’s different. Sometimes the immune response is partial and sometimes it’s not very long-lived. So we will have to see about what the antibodies mean, in terms of COVID, whether it doesn’t really offer any protection, whether it offers partial protection, or full protection and then how long that protection lasts. I know there are some studies out of South Korea which has looked at that, but again science takes time and we will learn more every day.
      • Can you please speak to testing in PA- where are we in relation to where we are and what is an adequate level of testing?
        • We want to expand testing throughout PA. We have done a good job doing that, we are actually in the top 10 in the country, but we are not where we want to be. We want to be able to expand testing even more through our public health lab, through hospitals and health systems, through commercial labs (Quest and LabCore), and then we want to do the mass testing. Just this week we set up a mass testing site in the northeast, which started yesterday, and is continuing to gear up to do more testing. We might consider other mass testing sites. We have also heard that RiteAid has started to test, and we want to highlight that with a doctor’s order that might be a very convenient place to get a test. And these tests are the viral tests we have been talking about- different types of nasal swabs. But we would like to expand it more throughout the state so we can get more info about how many patients have COVID.
      • Can you give us a status on the number of ICU beds across the state- how many are occupied and is there a county that is seeing problems?
        • Approx 41% of the ICU beds are available. But the question is correct, there are specific areas that are more challenged. And that would specifically be in Philadelphia and in the suburban counties in the southeast. That is of course where we have seen the most cases, and as I have mentioned before, it is the most population dense area of PA so it’s not surprising. We actually have opened the alternative care site at Temple to take care of patients as they convalesce from COVID and to decompress the hospitals. Throughout the state we are good on ICU beds and in the southeast we are watching very closely.
      • Given that it is common knowledge in public health that congregant facilities have a high risk of spread of communicable illnesses- why was there not more in March to require universal testing of long-term care center staff and residents, prioritizing them for PPE to the same extent as other healthcare workers.
        • We are prioritizing testing and PPE to long-term care living facilities. At the beginning of March, if you will remember, we just started to do testing. Our first day, I remember, we were excited that we could do 5 tests that day at our lab in Exton. We certainly have prioritized the vulnerable populations in that type of congregant setting. We have also prioritized PPE to those vulnerable sites as well as doing everything we can in terms of our infectious disease consultations, our contract with ECRI for more consultations, the courageous work of the National Guard. Whatever it takes to do the best we can to protect those vulnerable seniors as well as staff in those settings.
      • Will the Dept require universal testing in long-term care centers of all staff and residents now?
        • Universal testing might not be the best way to do that- again, we are prioritizing testing symptomatic people. A negative test, if you have no symptoms, only proves that you don’t have active virus on that day. It doesn’t say what you have the next day or the next day. So we certainly are not going to be able to test every patient or staff every day. Universal testing, that type of population-based testing, is really more for surveillance. In terms of clinical care, testing every patient once really won’t give us the information that we need.
      • .. Asking you to compare PA with other states, which have fewer COVID restrictions, or other countries, with fewer restrictions
        • We have of course looked at other states, there have been some with more severe restrictions and some with less. There have certainly countries that have had more severe restrictions, particularly Italy. The Governor has always wanted to based a science-based, progressive approach in terms of the establishment of those restrictions and that is the approach we will take when we start to begin to let people return to work in a progressive, iterative, phased approach.
      • On the map that breaks down the number of cases by zip code, what does it mean when the displayed result is “positive redacted- positive cases 1-4”
        • It means there are less than 5 cases in that area. As we have done with all of our infectious disease reporting, if there is less than 5 cases we don’t report it because we are concerned about patient privacy and confidentiality.
      • UPMC appears ready to resume elective surgeries despite your order- what concerns do you have about this and will your office take any response?
        • We have had extensive discussions with UPMC and they are fully onboard with our current order and we are pleased to work with them and other hospitals and health systems to be able to allow, if not elective, more urgent procedures when the time is right. The time is not right yet, but we will continue to have those discussions with hospitals and health systems.
      • As of today, a specific type of probable COVID death is being included in the state’s official count, that’s ‘deaths without known transmission from a confirmed case’ listed on the death certificate. Are there other types of probable death cases that the DOH is currently investigating and trying to reconcile into the data that don’t yet appear in our official death count?
        • No, but I want to highlight that this is not unusual. This is the way that infectious disease deaths are usually reported but we don’t usually spend as much time delving into it. And of course, with a global pandemic we are looking at all of our data really carefully, we are presenting it in a really robust, transparent way to the public and the media and we want to be as specific as we can. But with our great epidemiologists, who are like disease detectives, this is how they report it usually, according to CDC guidelines, but obviously we are paying much more attention now.
      • Do you believe that the number of deaths caused by COVID are being underreported and if so, by how much?
        • No, I don’t think they are being underreported. Especially now that we are able to reconcile our different systems and we are reporting confirmed deaths and probable deaths. Of course there is going to be some reconciliation with the time of reporting, so there is bound to be some differences but we are very confident in our data.
      • For the second time in 3 days, the state reported a huge increase in deaths. What is exactly the reconciliation that you are talking about and what are the new sources of information?
        • In the last number of days, we are reporting more deaths but it’s not like that many deaths occurred in 24 hours. This is a collection of reports over the last number of weeks- so it is probably better to say we are reconciling our data. In terms of our data sources we have our NEDSS system, our vital records office system, and then deaths reported from coroners so we are working on reconciling all of that data and then reporting it to you. The difference today, is that we have added probable deaths in addition to confirmed deaths.
      • The NY Times yesterday had an article written by a doctor who suggested that COVID-19 is sneaky and that it compromises lung function significantly before people feel that they are having trouble breathing. They said that the pulse oximeters that you can buy at a drugstore and use at home could be used as an early warning to alert people before they were well on their way to needing a ventilator. Do you have any thoughts on this?
        • I am not sure I would use the word ‘sneaky’, sneaky has a certain connotation that we would usually use to describe a person in terms of their motivations. COVID-19 is a virus, it doesn’t have motivations. It just causes infections and then spreads those infections to other people and some people are very vulnerable to it. So sneaky wouldn’t be the word I would use, but it is complex. Its also new so we are learning new things about it all the time. It certainly does cause significant lung damage, particularly in certain patients, and it can cause other organ damage as well so it’s a very serious infection for many people. So measuring oxygen level can be very important, but my feeling is that should be done under a doctor’s care. A doctor may recommend a patient have a home pulse oximeter and then that oximeter is reporting electronically or the patient reports that data to a doctor who then can make decisions about whether the patient needs to come in to seek care. I would be considered about the interpretation by the public without a healthcare provider’s monitoring to help interpret it and make the right decisions for that patient.
      •  Though deaths are rising rapidly, it appears today was the first time in quite a bit that hospitalizations today at noon were lower than the previous day at noon- would a continue decline in hospitalizations be a sign that the virus is petering out?
        • First, that large of a jump in deaths we are seeing a different way that we are reporting deaths, so that explains those changes. But we have been noting the data in terms of hospitalizations, and we watch the trends over time. If there is a continued trend in terms of a decrease in hospitalizations that of course would be a really good sign.
      • Does the Dept know the percentage of the state’s population that has been tested?
        • We know the number of positive and negative tests that we have so we could come up with something but I think the fact is that we need to do more testing and we realize that. So even though we are in the top 10 of states in testing, we want to expand that. What is challenging is trying to get the reagents and materials for testing but we are doing our best to get them.
      • Why did the state decide to start using probable death reporting now?
        • Again, this is part of the work of our epidemiologists, this is how they usually report infectious illnesses it just has taken time due to the scope of COVID to be able to get to this place so that we can get to this reporting.
      • You said that contact tracing will be really important as PA begins reopening. Earlier today the Gov said there is no budget for contact-tracing nor has the DOH found the best way to do that. Can you provide an update on Dept’s efforts in this area and will the inability to do contact-tracing hamper the state’s ability to open?
        • We will have the ability to do contact-tracing and we are working right now on exactly what that plan would look like and what kind of personnel we would need. We have received funding from the federal govt and the CDC so I have complete confidence in our epidemiologists that we are going to come up with a very robust plan to do contact-tracing which will be a very important part of future plans.


National News:

Washington Post:


Recurring Resources:

  • Penn Med/Lancaster General Health:


  • Lancaster Chamber:
    • Website updated daily:
    • Unemployment Compensation Details:
      • PA Chamber on "Bringing PA Back" Initiative 
        Wednesday, April 22 from 11am-Noon
        As the Commonwealth works to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pennsylvania Chamber is helping businesses re-open their facilities safely and jump-start the economy through the initiative, "Bringing PA Back." This webinar is designed to describe the initiative and to solicit feedback from leaders across Pennsylvania's broad-based business community regarding the specific economic, policy and resources needs in their communities.


      • Lancaster Chamber - "Bringing the Local Community Back" Discussion
        Friday, April 24 from 1-2pm
        Tom Baldrige, President & CEO, will be joined by Lisa Riggs, President of Economic Development Company of Lancaster County, to discuss the local Economic Recovery Plan being actively developed by the Chamber & EDC.
      • Workplace Considerations & Compliance
        When: Monday, April 27 from 3:30-4:30pm

Join us for a webinar featuring Steve Matzura and Austin Wolfe of McNees Wallace & Nurick as they discuss workplace safety measures, employer mandates related to building safety, cleaning measures and employee requirements, and OSHA guidance and compliance.


      • Beyond PPP: Loan Forgiveness & Cash Flow Strategies
        When: Tuesday, April 28 from 3-4pm

In this session, you’ll hear from Ryan Hurst and Bethany Novis, partners in RKL’s Consulting Services Group, who will provide insights and strategies into putting your company in the best possible position for loan forgiveness amid current ambiguity and making informed business decisions around your workforce, revenue planning and operating expenses to protect your company’s short and long-term success.

      • Non-Profit Peer Group – Communications & Marketing
        When: Thursday, April 23 from 1-2pm
        Join your peers for a discussion on best practices and tips to communicate and marketing your organization during the COVID19 pandemic. Featuring Tony Gorick, Lancaster Chamber; Brian Nguyen, Community Action Partnership; Gretchen Lusby, ASSETS.





Landlord Forum: