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

Governor Wolf:

  • “Wolf Administration Highlights Comprehensive Food Security Efforts” : https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/wolf-administration-highlights-comprehensive-food-security-efforts/
  • Press Briefing:
    • Gov. Wolf summary:
      • Before this crisis began Pennsylvanians ate about half their meals outside the home, now almost every meal we eat is at home. This has had an inevitable effect on our food supply chain.
      • Our farmers are working hard to continue to feed PA and I am eternally grateful for them. We are living in unprecedented times and so we need to adjust the way we do things to accommodate the things we just cant control.
      • PA has plenty of food but we need to make sure Pennsylvanians have plenty of food- and to do that we need to make sure the food supply chain can deliver on that promise.
      • Early on, we made the decision to retool the school meal programs to provide school meals to children even when the buildings are closed. We have taken similar actions with the Dept of Aging at senior centers and with the Dept. of Ag to provide soup kitchens the ability to do takeout meals.
      • We also need to change the way we think about food access. COVID has caused an unprecedented number of Pennsylvanians to lose their incomes. Many of them have had stable jobs and have never had to seek any kind of assistance. So we are working to make more Pennsylvanians aware of how to access SNAP, EBT, WIC or find a food bank and we are making it easier to get assistance by eliminating certain paperwork. We are also increasing the benefit amounts wherever possible.
      • We also are increasing support to food banks who are our invaluable allies who have been working tirelessly to ensure the well-being of their communities. About 2 weeks ago, I announced $16 million in funding to support PA food banks through the federal Families First Act and we are going to receive another $16 million through the federal CARES act.
      • We are partnering with as many organizations as possible. This includes maximizing the PA Ag Surplus Assistance program to reimburse the agriculture industry for their excess harvest and put into the hands of our charitable food system. It includes working directly with organizations like Operation BBQ Relief to deploy the power of closed restaurants and restaurant workers to get food to those in need. It includes working with the United Way 211 program to connect individuals with local assistance programs and we are going to continue to identify partners as well as develop volunteerism opportunities as many Pennsylvanians are looking for ways to help their neighbors.
    • Sec. of Agriculture Redding
      • COVID has increased the number of people experiencing food insecurity, many of them unaware where to find food resources and a lot of them never thought they would be on the receiving end of a food bank. There are folks who need the service but cant bring themselves to accept the offer, please know that we want you at this table and that we want to help you. The charitable food system was designed for times like this and we have adapted the system in a number of ways to serve everyone and remove the barriers to access such as:
        • Individuals applying for Unemployment Comp. now receive an email and a print letter in English and Spanish to connect with food resources
        • Those with severely reduced hours due to COVID are eligible to receive state and federal food resources from the PA Food Banks and the pantries.
        • We have made it easier- you no longer have to complete the long paperwork and income verification requirements to prove that you are eligible. We issued guidance to food banks, pantries, and feeding sites for how to continue to distribute food with limited contact and reduced risk of exposure to COVID-19
      • Dept. of Ag advocated for and is now implementing the Disaster Household Distribution program which allows us to provide critical food and supplies without verification of eligibility.
        • The PA Dept. of Education received approval from the Dept. of Ag to allow schools to distribute meals at no cost while closed due to COVID. They also received a waiver that allows schools doing modified food schedule distribution to distribute larger containers of milk, as one example, to children at breakfast and lunch. When you think about this as a school that goes to a once a week feeding, instead of 10 half pints of milk you now have a half gallon or a gallon. There is sense to that- to not only nourish our children but support our dairy farms in PA.
        • Soup kitchens and senior centers are now allowed to offer meals as curbside pick-up.
        • SNAP benefits have been expedited, those eligible have benefits issued within 5 days. SNAP is critical in our food security efforts.
      • Ways we have been working to ensure all people have access to the food that they need:
        • Issued guidance to employers to minimize risk of agriculture workers
        • Modified requirements for seasonal farm labor facilities to protect workers
        • Approved providing priority COVID testing for food supply chain employees working in regional hotspots
        • Adopted the FDA’s temporary food labeling policies allow bulk food to be sold directly to consumers in restaurants and grocery stores
    • Reporters’ Questions
      • Essential employees are continuing to raise concerns about workplace conditions not improving- what assurances can you give them that your health and safety measures order will be enforced in light of the lack of citations issued against businesses?
        • Gov. Wolf: If employees don’t feel safe, if the frontline workers don’t feel safe going to work each and every day they are not going to go. So the enforcement really comes down to the employers, it comes down to the workers to say ‘I am not going to go to work unless I feel safe’ and that means every employer, including most centrally the essential employers and businesses, they have to make sure their employees are safe. So we will absolutely give guidelines and we will do what we can to provide materials to help employers, especially in essential services, to do the right thing by their employees and their customers.
        • Sec. Redding: There isn’t too much more to say. When we designated the industries as life-sustaining it did not mean ‘business as usual’. Very important. A lot of mitigation efforts had to be implemented and we continue to work our way through that. It is disappointing to hear that there are employees who don’t feel safe working all this time into COVID-19. Raise that concern with employers, with us, with the Dept. of Health, etc.
      • You mentioned the FDA label changes- why should an average community member care about these changes and how does it impact them?
        • Sec. Redding: There is a tremendous amount of food that is packaged for the commercial side/the food service sector so we are trying to make sure we don’t waste that food and make sure that we bring that food into the supply chain.
      • Your reaction to the President’s recent executive order directing meat processing plants to reopen- do you agree with that? Does it align with PA’s social distancing plans? How does it balance out the critical need for the Commonwealth’s supply chain?
        • Sec. Redding: That has been one of our daily conversations, with how fragile that system is and we had our own experiences in PA with some of the plants being closed. In some regards, what we are doing in PA is now captured by the executive order the President issued last night because these are the best practices. We have been there and are very confident in what we are doing.
      • Can you comment on the possibility of food shortages and when they are expected and where?
        • Gov. Wolf: We follow this every day, to the point of actually having a county by county breakdown of where there might be problems. And we actually communicate regularly with counties about this to make sure there are not problems. If we see a problem, we make sure that we rush resources, whether its staffing, volunteers, money, or food to places that need it. But this is front and center one of the key issues we have to grapple with, its one of the big challenges of this epidemic.
        • Sec. Redding: That is the motivation for the conversations we have every day- are there shortages? Where are they? Where do we anticipate them based on unemployment, based on historical data of underserved populations, looking at the difficulty in the food supply system, where we have got interruptions, etc. That became the basis of developing the food security plan for PA that will be released today, so we know where to find to food, we know where are partners are, we know how to link up if someone needs food in our community, with the United Way as an example. It really gives us a good catalogue of all of the services that are available but its also the basis of what we use every day to monitor and make sure that we are on top of if there are interruptions somewhere, or if there is a local need in a county, or even at the individual level. We now have the resources to do it both financial and volunteers but we also have a written plan that guides all of us to achieve that.
      • Is PA’s excess food being shared with neighboring states? Where does PA’s milk supply stand?
        • Sec. Redding: We produce a lot and are blessed to have what we have but we are also in one of the most densely populated metropolitan areas of the country, so food flows across state lines, it flows across international countries as well. So it is triaged at all times, there is product that flows in and out, so that is a good thing in that it gives us capacity but it also allows us to share particularly to other states due to their seasonality that might not have the same access to products that we have.

One of the interesting developments is the awareness of local agriculture and folks looking for local sources of food that has evolved out of this COVID-19 and this sort of revelation that people start asking ‘Who is feeding me?’ I think it’s a great rediscovery of what is here.

        • Sec. Redding: In terms of milk, that has been of the most painful pieces to watch in the last 6 weeks. We entered 2020 with some optimism after 3.5 years of really tough dairy markets. In the course of 6 weeks, consumption increased by 200% initially in the first 2 weeks of COVID and it has now dropped off to be 15-20% up. The milk situation I would say is stable, compared to a few weeks ago, in terms of supply. It is significantly depressed in price which is going to have an impact on farms and the economics. We have worked with USDA asking for assistance but the dairy industry is 30% of the agricultural industry in this state so what happens to dairy has a lot to say about what happens for PA agriculture.

 

State Government:

General CoVid resources: https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/

 

Dept. of Aging:

 

Dept. of Human Services:

 

Dept. of Health:

  • “Department of Health Provides Update on COVID-19, 1,102 Positives Bring Statewide Total to 44,366: https://www.media.pa.gov/Pages/Health-Details.aspx?newsid=790
  • Lancaster Stats: 1,703 cases. 7,423 negative tests. 103 deaths. (According to DOH website- updated today at 12:00pm)
  • Daily Press Briefings:
    • Sec Levine summary: “Stay Calm. Stay Home. Stay Safe.”
      • As of 12am this morning, 1,102 new cases bringing statewide total to 43,802 (I am aware this number is different from the press release.. but this is what she said so that’s what I type!) in all 67 counties. Approx 2,634 of total cases are in healthcare workers. Approx 7,698 of total cases are associated with 461 long-term care living facilities.
      • Our work to reconcile data among several sources regarding deaths among patients who have tested positive for COVID continues. Today’s update includes data matched from our electronic death reporting system over the last 10 days, this brings our statewide total to 2,195 COVID-19 patients who have tragically passed away- and to date, all deaths have been in adult patients. It is important to remember, with this data reconciliation and analysis, this is in regards to the reporting of deaths that have taken days or a week or more to occur. It is not one day’s reporting. The count has gone up because of the reconciliation of our data systems.
      • As of noon today, hospitals are reporting that approx. 2,781 patients are currently hospitalized due to COVID. 602 of those have required the use of a ventilator. Across our healthcare system, approx. 47% of hospital beds, 40% of ICU beds, and nearly 70% of ventilators are still available.
      • I know Pennsylvanians are eager to get back to their routines, but it is important to remember that wearing masks and social distancing will still be important as we move from Red to Yellow. So if you are able to work from home, please continue to do so, even in counties that go from Red to Yellow. When we move from Red to Yellow, it is not a signal that we are releasing everyone to go about their regular, normal activities. It is a staged process. Yellow actually means we need to ‘proceed with caution.’
      • 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
    • Reporters’ Questions:
      • In the Lehigh Valley, homeless encampments are popping up as resources shut down. What has the state done to help protect the health of the homeless population and how does it plan to bolster its efforts in the coming days and weeks?
        • This is a very significant issue. I know we have had discussions with the county and municipal health department partners about homeless populations, we discussed the homeless population in Philly and in Pittsburgh with the Health Commissioners, and we work with the Dept of Human Services. I think that we really need to work to help the homeless and provide housing whenever possible and it is a significant public health concern because of the spread of COVID. So we are working on that.
      • Has a list been finalized of which types of businesses will be allowed to open and which will not in the Yellow Stage? And when will that be made public?
        • We have been working with the Governor’s office in terms of which will be able to open and which will need to remain closed and later this week we will be discussing those specifics.
      • Has the state made the determination yet as to whether childcare centers, some of which have large enrollments, will be allowed to operate in the Yellow phase when people start going back to work? And if yes, what kind of guidelines will they have to follow to safely operate?
        • Childcare centers will need to open in the Yellow phase so families can go back to work. We are working on those guidelines with DHS and they will be released soon.
      • Will a determination be made separately as to whether or how summer camps can reopen?
        • Again, we have not made that determination but that is under discussion with the Governor’s office.
      • According to an NPR report yesterday, PA does not meet the estimated need for contact-tracing with only 160 staff members or 1.2 staff members per 100,000 residents. To handle COVID-19, the state would need nearly 30x that- how does the Health Dept plan to address this?
          • We have pretty much finalized our contact-tracing plan and we will be releasing that later this week. We understand that it wont just be our staff, we will be working with many local county and municipal partners on that, as well as our county/municipal health dept partners, we are going to collaborate with hospitals and health systems. So, we really have an excellent plan from our staff and we will be releasing that later this week.
        • Is it conceivable that parts of the state would move to the Green phase while other parts are still in the Red phase?
          • It’s kind of hard to speculate that- a lot depends on the situation on the ground in terms of the spread of COVID in rural areas and suburban areas, and of course in the large metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia, so it is very hard for me to determine that.
        • There was another spike in cases today and we have seen ups and downs over the past couple of weeks- how will these spikes, attributed to data collection, affect a county or region’s chances at reopening?
          • Well we didn’t have a spike in cases today, we did have an increase in deaths due to the reasons I explained before. But we are looking over time and looking at a framework over at least 2 weeks to look at the data for any county or region, so one day’s change would not influence that.
        • How many deaths and cases of the seasonal flu have we had this year compared to this time last year? Are all flu cases being added to our total as COVID-19 cases?
          • Certainly, the flu cases are NOT being added to the COVID cases. It is a completely different virus and different situation. So they are completely separate. But we did look at that data, so we had 130,000 lab-confirmed cases of influenza this year and 102 deaths. But again, COVID-19 is a completely different virus, this is a novel coronavirus. No one, when this came out, had immunity to this virus. Studies have shown that it is more contagious than the flu and potentially more lethal than the flu- probably at least 10x, maybe between 10-20x more lethal than the flu. From the numbers that we have seen in just 2 months, from PA and nationally, you can see the risk from COVID-19.
        • As counties reopen, will elderly and at-risk workers be required to return to work? Will the state offer any guidance to physicians about doctor’s notes for these individuals to stay home for a period of time?
          • We want everyone that can stay home and work remotely to do that. In terms of places that have to reopen to be able to continue their business, we will take that on an individual basis in regards to age and vulnerabilities of specific workers. That is part of that process as we go from red to Yellow, working through all those specific details.
        • The state continues to have daily, more than 1,000 new, positive cases. Has the state analyzed who makes up these cases now that we are 6 weeks into the lock down? Are these new, positive cases mostly from nursing homes, first responders, other essential workers, or is there evidence that people are still contracting COVID from say, going to the grocery store or something else we are still permitted to do?
          • Really all of the above, but it depends upon the location. As we have been saying, there have been regions and counties in PA that have had much less community spread than other regions/counties so that is going to form the basis of the Gov’s plan to go from Red to Yellow and then from Yellow to Green. In the most hard hit areas, such as the Southeast, there is still evidence of community spread. But the question does bring up a very important point- we are seeing many new cases in long-term care living facilities and those types of congregant settings as well as in healthcare workers and they are both challenging and vulnerable populations.
        • Gov. Wolf said yesterday that there will be a lot of subjective decisions regarding opening up regions or counties. Can you talk about some of those factors you are looking at when you are deciding to open up a county?
          • We are looking at many different factors, as the Governor has said and I have repeated in my press conferences. One is that quantitative metric that we have discussed a lot, but others would be the ability for us to work with our partners on testing, on contact-tracing, the ability of the healthcare system in those counties and regions to be able to deal with patients with COVID-19 if there is a cluster or an outbreak. So there are a number of different factors that will go into our recommendations to the Gov and then the Gov’s final decisions.
        • Regarding contact-tracing, the electronic version from Apple and Google say it will be strictly voluntary- could that be a problem? What if lots of infected people don’t buy in?
          • Well contact-tracing by definition is voluntary, we have no legal authority to make people talk with us or us that type of technology. But I believe, as the Governor does, that Pennsylvanians want to do the right thing and if part of that is working with our disease investigators, working in terms of contact-tracing, using simple technology in order to help us, we believe that Pennsylvanians will do the right thing and will help us.
        • How long will it be mandated that Pennsylvanians wear masks when entering businesses and at the workplace? At what point in the reopening process will the mask order be relaxed?
          • Certainly not when we go from Red to Yellow. Yellow will mean that we continue to wear masks. Even when we go to Green, COVID isn’t just going to be gone from the US, so we are going to have to watch for clusters and for outbreaks and resurgence in the future. I think it would be prudent, and our general recommendation would be, when people are out and about seeing other people that they wear a mask. It is a simple but powerful way of protecting the community- remember, my mask protects you and your mask protects me and if we are both wearing masks then it protects our community.
        • During the yellow phase, should people refrain from socializing in small groups outside their home?
          • So the rule will be to avoid groups of 25 or more. But I think it is still prudent for people to stay home as much as possible and to not socialize, especially in large groups.

National News:

Washington Post:

 

Recurring Resources:

  • OneUnitedLancaster.com
    • United Way of Lancaster County has launched a new website, OneUnitedLancaster.com. 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. In these times of uncertainty, our community seeks answers, reassurance and trusted sources of information. Creating this new site brings together multiple trusted voices from agencies to individuals providing daily updates of information needed to thrive amidst our daily strife.

 

  • Lancaster Chamber:
    • Website updated daily: https://www.lancasterchamber.com/Apps/Pages/coronavirusnews
    • Unemployment Compensation Details: https://www.lancasterchamber.com/Apps/Pages/page-slug-92504?formEntryId=17851
    • NEW WEBINARS:
      • Nonprofit Peer Group/Developing Lancaster: Fundraising during COVID-19: Moving Beyond The Immediate Crisis [Virtual Peer Group] When: Thursday, April 30 from 3:30-5pm
        Join Dani Beam, expert fundraising consultant and facilitator for a special 1.5 hour Developing Lancaster Webinar.  This session will address what you can do NOW to recoup fundraising losses as well as prepare you to hit the ground running once the economy opens again. The discussion will focus on how to: Analyze previous year’s fundraising data so you know where to focus to get your best ROI moving forward; Prioritize and segment your donor base so that you know what mediums and messages work best with each group; Craft a compelling appeal and learn how to ask donors about their ability to give to your organization in this new climate; Create tactics to help you replace event revenue.
        REGISTER NOW 
      • COVID-19: The Provider Perspective And What's Next
        WHEN: Friday, May 1 from 8:30-9:30am
        As we have endured weeks of social distancing, there are some signs that the worst may be behind us. But, what does that mean? How do we transition back to a more normal existence? What do employers need to know as they work to keep their employees safe while still meeting the demands of their business? What does care look like if you need healthcare services or are about to deliver a child? Join us and the Penn Medicine HealthWorks leadership team from Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health as we catalogue changes made and the reasons behind the changes. 
        REGISTER NOW
    • Past webinars are listed on the Chamber’s site listed above!

 

 

  • Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health:

 

 

 

 

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Melina Godshall
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