COVID-19 UPDATE: Resources, information, and helpful tips to protect you and your family!

Senator Santarsiero Hosts Telephone Town Hall on COVID-19

May 19, 2020

Senator Santarsiero Hosts Telephone Town Hall on COVID-19

April 7, 2020

Senator Santarsiero Hosts Telephone Town Hall on COVID-19

April 28, 2020

Senator Santarsiero Hosts Telephone Town Hall on COVID-19

March 2020

Welcome to my resource page on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19.  Understandably, there are many concerns regarding the health and safety of the public as we continue to assess the situation.  I hope these resources and the information provided will answer your questions.

I will continue to monitor the situation here in Pennsylvania and remain in contact with health and emergency officials.  As always, we will provide additional information as it becomes available.  To stay up-to-date with the latest developments here, please sign up for email and text alerts below.

Check out the letters below to see how we have been working to help Pennsylvanians:

Department of Health Resources

LIVE daily briefings from the PA Department of Health:
pacast.com/live/doh or www.governor.pa.gov/live/ or watch on Facebook

Symptoms & Testing

Stop the Spread

Social Media Resources

FAQs

Fact Sheets & Resources

Global Map

Dept. of Health News

En Español

Latest News

Department Of Health Provides Updated Travel Order

Harrisburg, PA - Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine today updated the travel order issued on November 17, to clarify testing and quarantine requirements for people entering the commonwealth or returning home. “This update keeps in place...

Governor Wolf Signs Renewal to COVID-19 Disaster Declaration

Yesterday Governor Tom Wolf signed a third renewal of his 90-day Proclamation of Disaster Emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic. The first proclamation was signed on March 6, following the announcement of the first two presumptive positive cases of the virus...

What You Need to Know About COVID-19

The Coronavirus was first discovered during an outbreak in Wuhan, China. The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new virus that causes respiratory illness in people and can spread from person-to-person. Symptoms of COVID-19 can include: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms often do not appear in a person until 2 to 14 days after exposure.

Prepare Yourself and Your Family

The best way to avoid contracting COVID-19 is by practicing vital social distancing procedures. It is recommended to work remotely and severely limit contact with others.

If you think you have come into contact with someone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or are exhibiting them yourself, please follow the instructions on the graphic below:

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others circulating among animals, including camels, cats and bats.

The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new virus that causes respiratory illness in people and can spread from person-to-person. This virus was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Symptoms of the COVID-19 can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath 

The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. 

How can the Coronavirus spread?

Human coronaviruses spread just like the flu or a cold:

  • Through the air by coughing or sneezing;
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands;
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it;
  • Occasionally, fecal contamination.

How can I help protect myself?

Prevention:

  • Cover coughs or sneezes with your elbow. Do not use your hands!
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Clean surfaces frequently, including countertops, light switches, cell phones, remotes, and other frequently touched items.
  • Contain: if you are sick, stay home until you are feeling better.

In addition, it is recommended that Pennsylvanians take time to prepare now. View the PA Emergency Preparedness Guide.

 

New Mitigation Efforts to Fight COVID-19

Updated November 23, 2020

New modeling from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington projects upwards of 22,000 new COVID cases per day in Pennsylvania in early December, the same month we are projected to run out of intensive care beds. The modeling also projects that if mitigation efforts are not adhered to, Pennsylvania could have more than 32,000 deaths from COVID by Feb. 23, just three months from now. With universal mask-wearing, those deaths can be reduced by half.

As a result of these projections and with the number of COVID-19-attributable deaths quadrupling in the past week, yesterday the governor announced new mitigation efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.

Requiring Strict Safety Measures in Our Schools

Summary: The Wolf Administration is requiring Pre-K to 12 public schools in counties that have been in the substantial transmission level for at least two consecutive weeks to commit to safety measures to ensure the safety and well-being of students and educators. If they choose not to, they must move to fully remote learning without all extra-curricular activities. As of Friday, Nov. 20, there are 59 counties in the substantial transmission level for at least two consecutive weeks.

Requirements for Pre-K to 12 public schools in substantial counties for at least two consecutive weeks:

  • Schools are mandated to comply with updated protocols if a COVID-19 case is identified in the school building.
  • By 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30, chief school administrators and the governing body president/chair must sign an attestation form stating they have either transitioned to fully remote learning or are complying with the orders if they are conducting any in-person instruction while in the “substantial” range of transmission.
  • Those schools that do not sign or comply with an attestation are required to provide only fully remote learning and suspend all extracurricular activities as long as the county remains in the substantial transmission level.

Keeping Businesses, Customers and Employees Safe

Summary: The administration is revising and reissuing its orders to protect businesses, customers, and employees. This order will consolidate previous orders and includes reiterating cleaning and social distancing requirements, mandatory telework requirements unless impossible, and other safety measures.

  • Telework is mandatory unless impossible; safety measures required for businesses including cleaning, social distancing and masking.
  • Online sales and curbside pickup for all shopping are encouraged.

Furthermore, to help with enforcement of existing masking orders in businesses, the administration is introducing liability protection for all businesses that maintain in person operations and are open to the public. Businesses will receive immunity from civil liability only as related to the Secretary’s masking order given that individuals and entities are engaged in essential emergency services activities and disaster services activities when enforcing the order.

Strengthening Gathering Limitations

Summary: As Pennsylvania sees an increase in cases, the commonwealth is strengthening gathering restrictions. All large events and gatherings are now reduced until further notice. In addition, the retail food services industry, including bars, restaurants, and private catered events must end alcohol sales for on-site consumption at 5 p.m. on Nov. 25, 2020 only.

  • All indoor and outdoor events/ gatherings categories size limits will be reduced
  • New limits are as follows:

Maximum Occupancy Calculator for indoor events:

Maximum Occupancy Allowable Indoor Rate
0 – 2,000 people 15% of Maximum Occupancy
2001 – 10,000 people 10% of Maximum Occupancy
Over 10,000 people No events over 500 people

 

Maximum Occupancy Calculator for outdoor events:

Maximum Occupancy Allowable Indoor Rate
0 – 2,000 people 15% of Maximum Occupancy
2001 – 10,000 people 10% of Maximum Occupancy
Over 10,000 people 5% of Maximum Occupancy up to 2,500 people

 

  • Household gatherings are also advised against when attendees include non-household members as noted through the Secretary of Health’s Stay at Home Advisory.
  • To specifically address large crowds, on Nov. 25, 2020 only, all sales or dispensing of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption at businesses in the retail food services industry, including bars, restaurants, and private catered events must end at 5 p.m. Indoor dining may continue, takeout is encouraged.

Empowering local government

  • The governor and Secretary of Health’s orders were issued pursuant to the authority granted to them under the law, and as such they have the force and effect of law. This authority extends to all local enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania. Local law enforcement received guidance on enforcement of the various COVID-19 orders in place from the Pennsylvania State Police through the PA Chiefs of Police Association.
  • Given the importance of local engagement, the Department of Health has provided recommendations for local municipal leaders, as well as county-wide leadership. While statewide mitigation steps are necessary, local leaders can implement their own orders, ordinances, or directives in order to protect health and safety as long as they are stricter than those mandated by the state. Additionally, counties and municipalities are authorized to enforce state law, including orders from the Secretary of Health or Governor.
  • Local leaders at all levels of government should exercise their authority and influence to support public health efforts that will protect residents and local economies. When local leaders engage, their constituents understand that they are supported in adopting and sustaining preventive behaviors.
  • The Department of Health has established thresholds representing low, moderate, or substantial community transmission of COVID-19, and corresponding actions that can be taken by county and municipal leaders. A county’s threshold may change week-by-week as incidence and percent positivity rates rise and fall. Leaders should implement more public health actions rather than fewer if their county is between thresholds. To determine level of community transmission, counties should use the Department of Health’s COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard. The Department of Health and the Department of Education use the same metrics to recommend instructional models for school leaders.
  • Recommendations for each level of community transmission include increased communication, collaborative planning, stricter directives, and working with school leaders.

Ramping Up Enforcement

Summary: Orders already in place and those announced today are all enforceable, and law enforcement and state agencies will be stepping up enforcement efforts, issuing citations and fines, and possibly regulatory actions for repeat offenders.

Given that this is a critical time for mitigation efforts and orders to be followed, the Wolf Administration is stepping up enforcement on the following orders:

  • Out of State Travel
  • Mask-wearing
  • Business Safety, including telework, occupancy, cleaning, social distancing
  • Restaurant Mitigation, including occupancy, masking, social distancing, self-certification
  • Gathering Limits
  • School Attestation and Mitigation
  • Orders are enforceable as a disease control measure under the Disease Prevention and Control Law. Citations may be written under the Administrative Code of 1929 71 P. S. § 1409 and/or the Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955 35 P.S. § 521.20(a). The decision whether to issue a warning or a citation is made on a case-by-case basis and determined by the unique circumstances of each encounter.
  • Persons who fail to comply with an order may be fined between $25 and $300 dollars.
  • Enforcement agencies include the Pennsylvania State Police, local law enforcement, personnel from the departments of Agriculture and State, and PA Liquor Control Board stores who interact with visitors.

Because a component of enforcement is investigating complaints, the Department of Health, with assistance from other agencies, is bolstering its ability to receive and respond to complaints from customers and employees. The department will continue to investigate complaints provided via its webform and plans to use additional staff from other state agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction to process complaints.

Following a complaint about a business, the Department of Health will send a warning letter informing the business of the potential consequences, including fines and closure if the business is not compliant with the mitigation orders. If a business continues to receive complaints, it risks referral to the Pennsylvania State Police or regulatory agencies, further fines and possible closure. 

Last week, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, announced new mitigation efforts as Pennsylvania has seen a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.  The efforts announced include:

Strengthened Making Order

This new order strengthens the initial masking order from April 15, 2020 with the following inclusions:

  • Masks are required to be worn indoors and outdoors if you are away from your home.
  • When outdoors, a mask must be worn if you are not able to remain physically distant (at least 6 feet away) from someone not in your household the entire time you are outdoors.
  • When indoors, masks will now be required even if you are physically distant from members not in your household. This means that even if you are able to be 6 feet apart, you will need to wear a mask while inside if with people other than members of your household.
  • This order applies to every indoor facility, including homes, retail establishments, gyms, doctors’ offices, public transportation, and anywhere food is prepared, packaged or served.

Protecting Our Health Care System 

Dr. Levine issued a memorandum to acute care hospitals outlining expectations to care for Pennsylvanians who need care during the pandemic.

Hospitals are to work through the established health care coalitions and other partnerships to prepare for how they will support one another in the event that a hospital becomes overwhelmed during the pandemic. Hospitals should also be working to move up elective procedures necessary to protect a person’s health and prepare to suspend them if our health care system becomes strained.

Restrictions on elective surgeries put into effect in March and lifted in April were to help with both PPE and bed capacity and were considered successful.

Hospitalizations are increasing, as are ICU patients, and according to modeling from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, which does not take into account hospitalizations from influenza, Pennsylvania will run out of intensive care beds in December if ICU admissions continue at the current rate.

The same modeling indicates we will have sufficient medical-surgical beds with some uncertainty as to capacity from region to region.

Traveler Testing

Dr. Levine issued an order requiring anyone who visits from another state to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the commonwealth.

If someone cannot get a test or chooses not to, they must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvanians visiting other states are required to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to their return to the commonwealth or to quarantine for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania.

This order, which took effect on Friday, November 20, does not apply to people who commute to and from another state for work or medical treatment

Colleges and Universities

The departments of Health and Education issued recommendations for colleges and universities to implement a testing plan for when students return to campus following the holidays.

These recommendations include establishing routine protocols for testing.

Colleges and universities should have adequate capacity for isolation and quarantine and should be prepared to enforce violations of established policies such as mask wearing and physical distancing.

Every college and university should test all students at the beginning of each term, when returning to campus after a break and to have regular screening testing throughout the semester/term.

Protect Yourself

Medical Costs

As of March 9, the Governor announced that all major health insurers in Pennsylvania have agreed to cover “medically appropriate” COVID-19 testing and treatment.

The 10 major insurers are:

For anyone with questions about their insurance policy, please contact your insurer or the Pennsylvania State Insurance Department with questions. They can also be reached at (877) 881-6388.

Remote Medical Attention and Care

Health officials are urging people who have symptoms to stay home and contact their doctor remotely rather than opting for an in-person visit. Nearly all major health systems offer some form of virtual visits and assistance. Some insurers do, too. People interested in a specific virtual visit should check to see what illnesses it can be used for. Be sure to reach out to your insurance provider to verify this service is covered with your plan.

Here’s an brief overview of virtual visit services offered to local residents:

Capital BlueCross – is offering free medical Virtual Care visits for members who currently have the Virtual Care benefit.  The waiving of fees will be effective March 13 through April 15, 2020.

Highmark – is providing many of their members with a virtual clinic visit service. Any fees related to COVID-19 will be waived.

UPMC Pinnacle – is welcoming Online Video Visits for those experience flu like symptoms or just in need of a follow-up appointment.  Video visits are available through the MyPinnacleHealth portal for $49.

WellSpan Health – WellSpan Online Urgent Care offers a video visits with Teladoc physicians for patients 3 months and older for their standard fee of $49.

CALLING ALL PSYCHOLOGIST! Things may be picking up for you at this time, so we want to make sure you are covered too. Here are some COVID-19 resources on how to best protect yourself and serve your patients from the Pennsylvania Psychologist Association.

Feeding Kids During COVID-19: Emergency Grants and Updated Resources

No Kid Hungry is offering real-time emergency grant funding to schools and community organizations that are making sure kids have access to the meals they need as schools close due to coronavirus. The need is devastating; we received thousands of requests for grants in the first few days, and heard heart-breaking stories. To date, they have awarded more than $3.9 million in grants to 147 organizations across 40 states and DC. 

No Kid Hungry is providing millions of dollars in additional grants in the coming weeks for schools and local non-profits in our communities that could benefit from this program to continue providing critical nutrition assistance.  For additional information on the program and application process, please CLICK HERE.

How to Stay Informed

Below is an extensive list of information, statistics, and resources to ensure you stay up-to-date with any changes happening due to COVID-19.

Pennsylvania Department of Health

A complete list of information and resources available to you by county:

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization

  • Learn what’s happening Worldwide with the WHO’s Daily report. The most recent report is located at the top of the page. It includes confirmed case and death tallies.
  • Additional COVID-19 information is provided on their website.
  • Stay informed on Twitter.
  • Follow their Facebook page.

Stay up-to-date!

 

 

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