Wolf asks non-essential Chesco business to close down; 2nd COVID-19 case ID’d in county

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Gov. Tom Wolf is asking all non-essential businesses in Chester County and Bucks County to shut down, days after doing so in Montgomery and Delaware counties to respond to the spread of the COVID-19 virus — as county officials confirmed a second COVID-19 case has been identified in the county.

“Over the past two days, we enacted significant social distancing in Montgomery and Delaware counties and starting tomorrow, we will expand these mitigation efforts to Bucks County and Chester County,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement Saturday.

Wolf said the state government is taking broad action to attempt to slow the spread of the virus that has infected nearly 3,000 people in the U.S. with at least 60 deaths attributed to the virus, also referred to as Coronavirus. Wolf had already closed all public schools in the state — the new guidance requires all schools, private or public, to close.

“Where there is evidence of exposure to COVID-19, the commonwealth has taken decisive action – closing both public and private schools and early learning centers, prohibiting visitors from entering senior care and long-term care facilities, and closing government offices,” Wolf said. “We have initiated these actions in places where we have confirmed evidence of risk, like Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, and Chester counties, and we will continue to monitor this situation as it unfolds to determine if and when we will do this in other counties in Pennsylvania. Individuals, businesses, and communities across Pennsylvania are already stepping up to the challenge. If we succeed in slowing the spread of COVID-19, it will be because we all do our part.”

County officials were immediately supportive of Wolf’s decision and said they would continue closely coordinating with state officials to battle the crisis.

“We are doing everything that we can to try to keep Chester County residents healthy, and this includes supporting – in Governor Wolf’s own words – the drastic but necessary measures that will slow the spread of COVID-19,” Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz said Saturday in a statement.

“We are doing our part as both an employer and a service provider to County residents, and we encourage other businesses to do the same,” she said. “We are also putting together plans now to support Chester County businesses, with advice on any funding opportunities there may be that could compensate them for loss of revenue during this time.”

County health officials released information about the second reported infection in the county, this time a 30-year-old male. Officials said that Health Department is conducting contact tracing and is reaching out to individuals who may have been in contact with this individual.

The individual is an adult male, age 30, and is isolated at home with very mild symptoms and recovering. The initial infection was a 57-year-old woman, who is also said to have mild symptoms and is recovering at home in isolation.

U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan joined Wolf for his press conference Saturday and spoke about the emergency legislation passed by the house in the early morning hours Saturday — the Senate will take up the bill Monday and President Donald Trump has said he will sign it.

We are called upon to be our best selves in an unusual and stressful time,” said Houlahan, who represents the 6th District which encompasses all of Chester County and parts of Berks County. “This is about our community as a whole – it is as much about protecting our friends and neighbors as it is about protecting ourselves. In Washington, we just passed a second package of legislation to help families, including free testing, paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, and more Medicaid funding. As a former entrepreneur and chief operating officer of a company in Chester County, I know how hard this is and will continue to be there for our small businesses. If you are struggling, please reach out to me and my team. We are here to help.”

State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine advised county residents to be mindful of their mental health during the crisis.

“We are all working hard to protect our physical health, but it’s also important to make sure we are taking care of our mental health,” Dr. Levine said. “As our commonwealth moves forward through this, it is important to know that there are mental health resources available. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis contact the crisis text line by texting PA to 741-741.”

With schools closed across the commonwealth, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera offered advice to parents with schools to be closed for at least two weeks.

“I am incredibly proud of the education leaders who have been navigating this extraordinary situation,” Rivera said. “Since the announcement was made to close schools, we have already heard from several schools that have rallied their staff and started emergency food programs so they can continue to provide food in this critical time to their students.

“Pennsylvania sought and received approval from the federal government to allow schools the option to distribute meals at no cost while schools are closed. PDE is partnering with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, other state agencies, the American Red Cross, and public and private partners to expand these efforts.”

County government will be cutting back to only essential services, the Commissioners said.

“A few weeks ago we asked our County department leaders to review already existing plans that would allow essential services to continue in situations of extreme emergencies; to prepare for the coronavirus situation, should it escalate,” Commissioner Michelle Kichline said.

“It has escalated in the region, which is why we decided that Chester County Government move to two weeks of essential services starting from today.”

Chester County essential services include the 9-1-1 Center, the Chester County Prison, Youth Center and long-term care facility Pocopson Home.  Many of the Chester County Court and court-related services, including the Coroner’s Office, remain unaffected.

Following state guidelines, Chester County Prison has implemented a no visitor policy and prison employees will be tested for coronavirus symptoms at the start of each shift. 

Chester County’s long-term care facility, Pocopson Home, has also implemented a no visitor policy.

Visitors to the Chester County Youth Center will answer a series of questions to determine if they are showing signs of coronavirus.  If they are, they will be turned away.

Chester County Library and the Henrietta Hankin Library will remain closed until the morning of March 30, 2020.

Chester County Parks – Hibernia, Springton Manor, Nottingham, Warwick, Wolf’s Hollow, Black Rock and Exton Park – are closed until the morning of March 30, 2020.  Chester County’s three trails – Chester Valley Trail, Schuylkill River Trail and Struble Trail – although initially closed, are now open but with limited staffing and no amenities.

Information on the status of all other Chester County Government services during the two-week period of essential services can be found at www.chesco.org.

Up to the minute information and advice on coronavirus can be found at www.chesco.org/coronavirus

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