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 Agriculture:


Dept. of Labor & Industry:


Dept. of Health:

  • “Department of Health Provides Update on COVID-19, 822 Positives Bring Statewide Total to 63,056” :
  • Lancaster Stats: 2,552 cases. 11,807 negative tests. (According to DOH website- updated today at 12:00pm)
    • # of Deaths: 252 deaths. (updated 11:59 pm on May 17, 2020.)
    • Percent: 5.60%.
    • Population: 543,557.
    • Rate: 46.4%
  • Daily Press Briefings:
    • Dr. Levine summary: “Stay Calm. Stay Home. Stay Safe.”
      • As of 12am this morning, 822 new cases bringing statewide total to 63,056 cases in all 67 counties. This includes 4,479 positive cases in healthcare workers and includes 13,626 positive cases among residents of 561 long-term living facilities. 2,422 positive cases have been found in the food industry in 159 facilities. 4,505 deaths.
      • We have done a lot of work to analyze the tremendous amount of data we continue to receive around COVID deaths. Under the best of circumstances, it often takes us several months to quantify and qualify this info. Our team of epidemiologists and data analysts have done extensive work to prepare more refined data for us and I want to thank them for their extraordinary efforts. We have made a significant push to not only reconcile our data but to report it in a timely way. For example, we are now reconciling data with the Philly Health Dept on a daily basis. Previously our data regarding deaths from COVID came from our disease surveillance system, PA NEDSS, this process involved taking info reported about deaths from providers and matching that up with people who had tested positive. PA NEDSS is extremely effective in reporting disease outbreaks but as we all know now, we have never seen a disease outbreak like COVID-19 in 102 years with such a high and rapidly changing mortality rate.
      • Today’s data report regarding deaths will now look different among the countries. We have transitioned to using the electronic death reporting system (EDRS) to get as near to real-time info regarding people whose deaths have been attributed to COVID in addition to those who have tested positive for COVID. We have done a significant amount of work to look at these official death records and counties will now see some differences in their counts.
        • For example, if a person who resided in a nursing home, died of COVD but actually maintained a residence in another county, their death will be reported in their county of residence listed on their death record according to the CDC guidelines about how we are supposed to report deaths. That might be very different than how the county coroners report deaths because of differences in their regulations.
        • However, it is still very important to know how many people who reside in a specific long-term care facility have been impacted by COVID. So, if someone who resided in that nursing home went on to die from COVID, we will be informing the public about their death in two different places on our website. Now, that is not being double counted, but we will be reporting it in 2 different ways to relay both of those pieces of information. First, they are included based on their county of legal residence and that is listed on their death record, but that might not be their nursing home. They will also be included in the count of cases attributed to the facility, even if that is in a different county of their county of residence. So, we are not double-reporting but it will be listed in 2 different data sets. This means that these 2 charts on our website, our total death count and our long-term care facility death count, may not exactly match up because of the difference in terms of their county of residence where the CDC mandates we report our data.
        • In addition, we have worked to add more information, more granularity, to demographics associated with people who have died from COVID. We will be reporting this information on a weekly basis and have broken down the data into categories which include race, ethnicity, gender, age, and their comorbidities and we are doing this statewide. This info is available now on our website. As we go on, we will continue to add data to our website to make it as transparent and clear as we possibly can.
      • If you, or someone you know, needs 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
      • If you, or someone you know, is suffering from an addiction you can call the Dept of Drug and Alcohol Programs helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
      • Please remember to wear a mask if you are going somewhere in public and will be around other people.
    • Reporters’ Questions:
      • When is the Secretary rolling out the plan to do mass-testing at all long-term care facilities, residents and staff on a weekly basis? What are some specific details such as will 100% of the staff and residents be tested weekly, will there be retests, how will the department determine if long-term care providers are doing the testing?
        • We are going to be rolling out that plan this week and not necessarily every facility will be tested weekly. It is going to be individualized to the facility depending upon how many cases of COVID they have. We have facilities that unfortunately have significant amounts of COVID cases, they will be tested differently than a facility that has a few, than a facility that has no cases.
      • When is the Secretary going to release the department’s early plan to battle the COVID virus in long-term care facilities that was not implemented?
        • A lot of that was actually discussed by the Governor and Director Padfield. So we had talked about previously having teams, sometimes they are called strike teams, to go out to nursing facilities to help with infection control and staffing. We have implemented that with the National Guard teams that were discussed. We actually now have some CDC teams that are going out, so that will be announced, and then we are working on further strike teams. It was that strike team plan that was in our original drafts and there was some delay in rolling that out but it has been rolled out.
      • According to your office, the collection of specific data from nursing homes in the state only started yesterday, there was some confusion that those numbers were to be reported last week so did something change in that process?
        • I think there was some hope that we would be able to report it last week, but it turns out that the data started being collected yesterday and we are going to start the reports tomorrow.
      • Your office said the deadline for facilities to cooperate was today, what happens if they don’t?
        • If they don’t, we will be contacting them and asking them to cooperate. This is the same data that they are being mandated to report to the federal govt and CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services). We did wait on our data reporting plan so that our data system, in terms of this reporting, was the same as CMS’ so that the reporting would be consistent.
      • Why does the Dept. of Health need additional time to release the long-term care facility-level infection and death data? Your department says it started collecting May 17th , hasn’t it been collecting it all along and if so, why the delay in releasing it?
        • We have been collecting info but in a completely different way. Again, we have different data reporting/internal systems, as we have been talking about today in terms of death reporting, and we wanted to make sure ours was consistent with CMS otherwise it would be apples to oranges. So we waited for the CMS guidance, that came about 10 days ago, then we worked on it last week, and now its going to be started to be reported tomorrow.
      • Are you seeing improvements in nursing homes since the new testing strategy was released?
        • I think we are seeing progress in long-term care living facilities with all of the different measures we have in place: the infectious disease consults with our team and ECRI’s team, the work of the Patient Safety Authority, the work of the National Guard, and the many different programs we have to help these facilities. But I don’t want to underestimate the challenges- you do have seniors, many if not most with chronic medical conditions, in a congregate setting. So our state, as well as many other states, have had significant challenges with these facilities and to repeat myself, we are going to do everything we possibly can to protect the residents and the staff of these facilities.
      • What is the suicide rate since the shutdown? What has the suicide rate been since the Stay At Home orders first began?
        • I don’t have that specific information. Suicide rates are challenging to get, we get that info from our county coroners, and as we have discussed we have absolutely wonderful coroners working with the Coroners Association, but there are 67 of them and so reporting from the coroners can be delayed somewhat as they do their investigations. But we are concerned, in terms of people who are depressed and anxious and feeling isolated and might be at risk for suicide. We are also extremely concerned in terms of substance abuse, particularly opioid abuse, and those are all things we are going to be working on with our sister Departments of Human Services and Drug and Alcohol Services.
      • The data you gathered indicates an age breakdown showing almost 88% of deaths were people 65 or older. Are you surprised by the magnitude and what does the data about comorbidity tell you?
        • I am not particularly surprised, I think that clearly the data from PA and other states and other countries, shows that seniors are most at risk for having complications from COVID and tragically passing away. The seniors that would be most at-risk would be seniors with other medical comorbidities.
      • If and when, youth are allowed to resume sports/other organized activities, is there evidence to suggest the virus could spread among them asymptomatically and potentially infect their parents, grandparents, and other caregivers? Are youth being found less likely to contract the virus altogether?
        • We are still learning a lot of information about COVID. In general, youth are less likely to have severe symptoms and be either asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms, course they could then carry that to their parents. So that is one of the concerns in terms of this type of community spread. Now, the multi-system inflammatory disease is actually post-infectious, it can be often several weeks after the COVID infection and seems to be an inflammatory response to the virus that the body is mounting. So that is a separate issue.
      • Can you give an update on antibody testing in the state? Is it widely available  and can Pennsylvanians easily access it with low cost?
        • We are working on getting that lab testing available at our lab, we should have that by the end of the month, there are some hospitals that are doing antibody testing and I know that the commercial labs are doing antibody testing. So someone could obtain that test by talking to their doctor and having their blood drawn to look for antibodies. What we don’t know yet, is how long lived those antibodies are and how much immunity they convey to the person so we are going to be looking for that type of info as we get into the summer.


National News:

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Senior Survey

  • Please help distribute a county-wide senior risk assessment survey created in coordination with Lancaster County Office of Aging, Age Friendly Lancaster City, the Meals on Wheels Network, and United Way of Lancaster County. Copies to print or the online version are found below. Urgency is important but information will be looked at on rolling basis. We hope to have a strong push over the next two weeks:
    Spanish version:
    English version:

UnitedWay--English Survey UnitedWay--Spanish Survey

Recurring Resources:

    • United Way of Lancaster County has launched a new website, This digital source of information for our community works in tandem with United Way's 2-1-1 resources to connect people and resources during this time of upheaval.
    • The Asset Map is a county-wide resource for all to utilize. If you need to add/update/delete information please follow the link here:


  • Lancaster Chamber:
    • Website updated daily:
    • Past webinars are listed on the Chamber’s site listed above!
      • Work Wisdom Series: Authentic Communication In The Remote Era [Virtual Event]
        WHEN: Wednesday, May 27
        Authentic Communication is the make or break factor for leaders, teams and organizations during the remote era.  During this interactive workshop, Kedren and Sarah will teach three remote communication techniques to enable you and your teams to practice Authentic Communication to foster efficiency, psychological safety and joy.  Join us to learn how to mitigate zoom exhaustion, select the proper medium for communicating, and techniques for co-creating clear, realistic expectations.



  • Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health: