COVID-19 update: Hospital, commissioners ask travelers from NYC to self-isolate

Milford. With New York the nation's epicenter of the pandemic, health care workers are asking anyone coming from the city to self-quarantine for 14 days. Wayne Memorial Hospital is now screening all patients and visitors before they enter the hospital. The Pike County Economic Development Authority fielding many requests from local businesses about funding options to get them through the crisis. Governor issues "stay at home" order to hard-hit Monroe County and extends school shut-down to April 6. Pike County limits access to administration building. The Pennsylvania agriculture secretary says hoarding is hurting food banks. Health insurance consultant remains in service in Pike County. Corrections officers want to stop prison transfers. PennDOT reopens rest areas in Pike County to enable hand washing.

25 Mar 2020 | 01:09

Hospital, commissioners ask people from NYC to self-quarantine

Wayne Memorial Hospital in Honesdale and the Pike County Commissioners are asking anyone coming from an area significantly affected by COVID-19, such as New York City, to self-quarantine for 14 days.

"You may be coming here to get away from COVID-19," said Lisa Champeau, public relations manager for the Wayne Memorial Health System. "Please help us keep it away from here. Welcome and thank you from your friends, neighbors and all the healthcare workers of Wayne Memorial Health System. And, if you need medical care, we are always here for you. If you need a primary care provider, please call our referral line at 570-253-8990."

Under the latest guidance from The White House Coronavirus Task Force, which cites concern about the high coronavirus (COVID-19) infection rate in the New York City area, the Pike County Commissioners urge everyone who has recently travelled to Pike County from the New York City metropolitan area to self-quarantine for 14 days.

According to Dr. Deborah Birx, Response Coordinator for The White House Coronavirus Task Force, 60% of all new COVID-19 cases in the United States are from the New York City metropolitan area.

“It is critical to the health and safety of everyone that people follow this guidance and take the proper self-quarantine precautions right now,” says Pike County Commissioner Chair Matthew Osterberg. “We will overcome this public health challenge by working together as a community to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”

In Pennsylvania, the current travel guidance from the PA Department of Health urges people to “stay home as much as possible. Try to get groceries once per week instead of daily. Freedom of travel remains, but please refrain from non-essential travel. Essential travel includes things like commuting to an essential job, picking up supplies like groceries and medicine, and checking on family and pets in other households. Do not host or attend gatherings.” This guidance currently applies to counties such as Pike, which are not under Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay at home order.

At a briefing on Tuesday, the same 14-day self-quarantine request was made by the White House coronavirus coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Birx said new cases cropping up in Long Island point to a spread of COVID-19 from the city. Fauci said New Yorkers escaping their hard-hit city must make sure they are not "seeding" other areas.

Lake Wallenpaupack, which has many second homes, is seeing summer-like levels of activity.

New York City is the new epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. As of Wednesday morning the city reported 14,904 confirmed cases.

At a virtual news conference on Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said anyone on a flight from the New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut area to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Florida.

“After the stay-at-home, shelter-in-place order was issued, you started having a flood out of New York City, taking hundreds of flights to the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “Those flights became the hottest ticket.”

Resources for those under self-quarantine

● Senior citizens can contact the Pike County Area Agency on Aging at 570-775-5550 regarding nutrition services.

● PA 211 NE is available to people in need of food, clothing, shelter, drug and alcohol rehab or detox, or crisis intervention. For help, dial 211 or text your zip code to 898211.

● An updated list of Pike County Government public services and resources available remotely can be found at PikePA.org.

● Many local restaurants are providing take-out or curbside service, and some supermarkets are offering home delivery. Contact establishments directly for more information.

Hospital now pre-screening all patients and visitors

Wayne Memorial started on Tuesday to pre-screen all patients and visitors at the main entrance and the emergency department before they enter the hospital.

All patients and visitors will be asked if they have any COVID-19 symptoms, have been exposed to someone with the disease or who is under investigation for the disease, or if they traveled to an affected area.

Patients who answer yes to any of these questions will be given a yellow sticker and asked to put on a mask. Patients who answer no will be given a white sticker.

A visitor who answers yes to even some of the questions will be asked to leave and encouraged to call their medical provider immediately. A visitor who meets the criteria will be given a vistor's badge.

All badges and stickers will be dated with the intended destination -- lab, X-ray department -- written on them.

Temperatures will also be taken. A fever of 100.5 is considered a symptom.

Champeau said screening protocols are subject to change. For more information, visit wmh.org.

Help for small businesses

The Pike County Economic Development Authority (EDA) is currently fielding many requests from local businesses about funding options to help them through the COVID-19 health crisis.

News is available on the Pike County Coronavirus COVID-19 Update page: bit.ly/pikepa11

"There is one thing you should do right now for your company: make an application with the SBA loan," said. EDA Executive Director Michael Sullivan.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the pandemic. All of Pennsylvania became a "designated state" late last week.

These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75 percent.

"This is a long-term loan that can be for as long as 30 years and the amortization payback is terrific," said Sullivan. "This option is ready for you now and the sooner you apply, the sooner the resolution."

The U.S. Congress is expected to pass additional emergency funding that could exceed $1 trillion.

"The Pike County EDA is continuing to monitor progress in Congress and will be available to advise small businesses when the legislation is been passed," Sullivan said.

Call 570-296-7332 for more information.

Governor issues 'stay at home' order to Monroe County

Monroe County, which borders Pike County to the south, is among seven counties issued a "stay at home" order by Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. The order took effect at 8 p.m. on Monday, March 23.

As of Wednesday morning: Monroe County was reported to have 45 confirmed COVID-19 cases; Pike and Wayne counties four each; and Orange County, N.Y., 498.

The other counties affected by the governor's order are Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties, as the state seeks relief to stop the spread of COVID-19.

In addition, all schools statewide will remain closed through at least April 6.

"The number of cases continues to grow, and so we must take further steps to stop the spread of this contagious and dangerous novel virus to protect the public's health and mitigate the risk to our hospital system," Dr. Levine said. "There is one way to make sure people don't need to be hospitalized and we don't strain our health care system: Stay calm. Stay home. Stay safe."

Pike County limits access to administration building

Public access to the Pike County Administration Building is limited until further notice.

Krista Gromalski, communications director for the Pike County Commissioners, said the public should call ahead for necessary business.

Information about county services available online along with frequent updates may be found at bit.ly/pikepa12.

Hoarding is hurting food banks

Russell Redding, the Pennsylvania secretary of agriculture, urged Pennsylvanians on Tuesday to resume their normal shopping habits to allow the supply chain to recover and free up essential products for everyone.

"Over-purchasing affects the food system, particularly the charitable food system that's currently working overtime to meet increased demands as thousands of Pennsylvanians are finding themselves out of work as a result of necessary COVID-19 mitigation efforts," Redding said.

The Ecumenical Food Pantry of Pike County was open on March 20 for its regular distribution, "providing what we can to our neighbors that need help in Pike County. We are facing the same challengesobtaining many food items. Much of the donations we usually receive from local food stores are not available to us right now. The good news is that our volunteers have pre-packed bags that are ready for today. We have limited the number of volunteers who are working, and we are urging social distancing for everyone involved at the pantry. Thank you to Ed Gragert for volunteering to make a trip down to Second Harvest in Nazareth, PA to pick up free groceries for us. Thank you everyone for your support!"

For more information or to support the all-volunteer food pantry, email pikefoodpantry@gmail.com, call 570-618-1568, or visit goodshepherdmilford.org/food-pantry.

Corrections officers want to stop prison transfers

(AP) Pennsylvania's state corrections officers' union wants the state prison system to stop all transfers of inmates as a preventative measure against potential spread of the new coronavirus from one institution to another.

Meanwhile, more businesses are challenging Gov. Tom Wolf's order closing the physical locations of businesses determined to be "non-life-sustaining" as state officials warn that coronavirus cases will continue growing.

Health insurance consultant remains in service

Although it has temporarily changed procedures from face-to-face to telephone assistance, the APPRISE health insurance consultation program remains in service.

Offered by Diakon Community Services, APPRISE assistance remains available in Pike County through Christine Crossley, local coordinator, who may be reached at 570-775-5550 ext. 1313 or crossleyc@diakon.org.

APPRISE offers free health-insurance counseling to people with Medicare and can assist individuals in navigating the Medicare system and help them to understand all available insurance options. The program is operated under a contract with the Pike County Area Agency on Aging, with funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and the Administration on Community Living.

PennDOT reopens some rest areas

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is reopening indoor facilities at 23 rest areas across the state to all motorists, including the 13 facilities in critical locations that were reopened March 18 with portable restrooms and hand-washing facilities.

PennDOT’s 30 rest areas were temporarily closed statewide on March 17 in response to Gov. Wolf’s mitigation guidance regarding COVID-19 to ensure that proper safety and sanitation protocols were in place.

“While unnecessary travel is discouraged as we all do our part to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we understand that some trips are necessary and that access to rest areas is important,” said Acting PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “We are constantly evaluating our actions and services in responding to this emergency and will make adjustments where we can safely do so.”

All reopened rest areas will return to normal service with additional cleaning and maintenance. Among the rest areas reopened are:

● Interstate 84 eastbound in Pike County, 6 miles east of Exit 20

● Interstate 84 westbound in Pike County, 1 mile west of Exit 26

● Interstate 81 northbound in Lackawanna County, .5 miles north of Exit 202

● Interstate 81 northbound in Luzerne County, 1.5 miles north of Exit 155

● Interstate 81 southbound in Luzerne County, 1.5 miles south of Exit 159

● Interstate 81 southbound in Susquehanna County, 4 miles south of Exit 211

The department will continue to evaluate and will determine whether additional rest areas can be reopened.

For more information visit dmv.pa.gov or PennDOT.gov.

Tristate tallies:
Here follows the number of positive cases in the tristate area and beyond as of March 25:
New York State: 25,665
Orange County, N.Y: 498
Sullivan County, N.Y. 30
Pennsylvania: 1,127
Pike County, Pa.: 4
Wayne County, Pa.: 4
Monroe County, Pa.: 45
New Jersey: 3,675
USA: 55,568
The number of positive cases is highest in states that have administered the most tests. The number of tests administered in the three states, according to the COVID Tracking Project, are as follows:
New York State: 61,401
Pennsylvania: 5,443
New Jersey: 2,290