COVID News Update

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26  May – News Talk 103.7FM  – On April 1, 2020, the Borough of Chambersburg stopped the practice of disconnecting utility services as a result of unpaid balances. In a typical year, there is a winter moratorium on residential disconnection from December 1 to April 1 for electric and natural gas service. Typically, there is no moratorium on the possible disconnection of water service or for commercial customers. However, on April 1,
2020, in response to the COVID-19 health crisis, the Borough directed that all terminations stop immediately regardless of unpaid balances.

The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a similar directive to all utilities under their oversight. Chambersburg utilities are not subject to PUC regulations (other than a few dozen water customers outside the Borough). Town Council approved a policy on April 27 for Borough utility customers. On Monday, May 18, Council approved a change to the Borough policy to permit limited resumption of disconnection for delinquent utility customers, but not before July 13, 2020.

According to Borough Manager Jeffrey Stonehill, “Chambersburg Council wanted to find a way to provide additional time for utility customers who are struggling with the economic downturn caused by the current health crisis. It was their goal to balance customers’ challenges, with household and business finances, without causing a fiscal strain to the overall Borough. In my opinion, Council did a yeoman’s job of balancing the needs of the community with the fiscal reality of the current crisis.”

Chambersburg is the only municipality in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to operate both a non-profit electric public power system and a non-profit natural gas utility for the benefit of the homes and businesses in the Borough.

This policy, according to Stonehill, “splits customers into two groups: those who were struggling before the impact on the economy, and those who have become delinquent since the crisis occurred. Had this been a normal year, some customers would likely not be delinquent, and therefore the extraordinary events of the crisis having rendered them in danger of disconnection, they will be given extra time to come up with the resources to fully pay down their accounts by September 1, 2020.”

In addition, each account will receive one re-connection, per account, for their first reconnection in 2020 at no charge; just in case they are struggling to make their final payment.

“The Borough wants to get the word out,” added Council President Alice Elia. “We want to inform customers of these deadlines so we are sending out notices to customers with unpaid balances, in addition to handing out notices at our drive-thru teller window.” President Elia added, “Customers should contact Customer Service at once if they are unsure about the status of their account, to confirm their disconnection date, or to discuss their eligibility for payment assistance, which may be available through State and Local programs.”

Chambersburg participates in the LIHEAP program recently reopened by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. LIHEAP provides assistance for home energy bills, helping ensure continuity of utility and other energy services for low-income Pennsylvanians. Assistance is available for both renters and homeowners.

Additional information about the LIHEAP program can be obtained by going to or by calling the Franklin County LIHEAP assistance number at 717-262-6579.

Chambersburg is a unique community. Chambersburg supplies more services than any other municipality in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In addition to typical town functions, Chambersburg is Pennsylvania’s only municipality supplying electric and gas. Chambersburg is 1 of 35 Boroughs to operate a municipal non-profit electric utility. Chambersburg is the largest municipal electric utility in the State, twice as large as the second largest, Ephrata, Lancaster County; and, the only one to operate generation stations. Chambersburg is 1 of 2 municipalities in PA to operate a natural gas utility.

The other is Philadelphia, which does not operate an electric utility. Nationally, Chambersburg is 1 of 2,000 communities to have its own electric system and 1 of 800 communities to have a natural gas system but 1 of only about 50 to operate both. Chambersburg manages a regional water system, a regional sanitary sewer system (not through an independent Authority), and a new storm sewer utility; one of the first storm sewer utilities to form under the new Federal mandate to regulate stormwater. Chambersburg currently has 20,508 residents (2013).

26  May – News Talk 103.7FM  –  There were 13 additional deaths linked to COVID-19, raising the statewide total to 5,152, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported Tuesday.

State health officials also reported that 451 more people have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Since early March, infections have been confirmed in more than 68,600 people in Pennsylvania. Health officials reported that 61% of the people who have tested positive for the virus are considered to be fully recovered, meaning it’s been more than 30 days since the date of their positive test or onset of symptoms.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the state’s confirmed case count because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

26  May – News Talk 103.7FM  –  As the number of new virus infections continues to fall throughout Pennsylvania, officials say they’re making strides in their ability to manage flareups.

Virus testing increased from 50,000 in the last week of April to nearly 80,000 last week, Wolf said Tuesday. And a new contact tracing program — in which infected people are swiftly isolated and people they came into contact with are quarantined — has ramped up as well, he said.

Wolf is moving 18 counties from the “yellow” phase of his reopening plan to the “green” phase, meaning most restrictions are lifted.

After initially asking the state to remaining in yellow, commissioners in Centre County, home to Penn State University, opted Tuesday to go along with Wolf and move to green on Friday. The commissioners had cited concern about protecting poll workers during the June 2 primary.

In the green phase, restaurants and bars, salons and barber shops, gyms, theaters, malls and casinos can all open at reduced capacity, according to Wolf’s reopening plan. People will still be asked to wear masks in public and observe social distancing.

Additional details on the green phase are expected to be released this week.

25  May – News Talk 103.7FM  –  The coronavirus pandemic has forced charities or nonprofit groups to cancel or postpone an untold number of walks and runs that raise money for everything from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s.

There is, however, room to evolve.

When the Arthritis Foundation’s Pittsburgh chapter scrubbed its annual “Walk to Cure Arthritis Event” scheduled for May 16, it gave the 242 registrants a certain freedom.

“People could kind of do what they wanted at their own pace and at their convenience,” said Linda Glace, development manager for the foundation’s western Pennsylvania and West Virginia chapter.

The Pittsburgh Marathon’s “Run for A Reason” program generates around $1 million annually for 35 various nonprofits, most of them locally based. Though organizers offered refunds when the race weekend scheduled for early May was canceled, about 1,100 who signed up to run for charity stuck it out and completed their prescribed distance on their own.

“They still all got their medal and their shirt and their sunglasses,” said Allison Corbett, senior vice president for P3R, which helps organize most major road races around the city, including the marathon and half-marathon. “People are still excited to get the race swag that they earn. It all comes back to that sense of community.”

A sense that will be tested in the coming months and perhaps years as charities and those that support them deal with a new normal. Charity runners by the tens of thousands flood courses across the country each year. They run for their parents. Their siblings. Their friends. Themselves. Exercising and raising money for a cause close to them scratches two itches at once.

24  May – News Talk 103.7FM  –  Several state lawmakers, religious leaders and other plaintiffs are appealing a federal judge’s refusal to strike down a stay-at-home order and other restrictions that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opened a docket for the case on Friday. The appeals court didn’t immediately set deadlines for attorneys to file briefs or schedule a hearing for the case.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake in Baltimore denied the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of Hogan’s lockdown orders.

On March 30, Hogan issued an executive order requiring residents to stay at home except for essential activities, such as grocery shopping or seeking medical care. The governor also closed nonessential businesses.

The governor lifted the statewide stay-at-home order effective May 15, but many hard-hit counties elected to extend their own stay-at-home orders.

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs include Del. Dan Cox, a Frederick Republican. Cox claims he was threatened with criminal prosecution if he attended or spoke at a May 2 rally protesting Hogan’s lockdown orders.

The plaintiffs argued the governor’s prohibition on gatherings of over 10 people infringed on their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. The judge, however, said the order still allowed for a variety of religious services, including “drive-in” services.

24  May – News Talk 103.7FM  –  As Americans continue to emerge from quarantines and stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump declared this week that “we are not closing our country” if the United States is hit by a second wave of infections.

But in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, one of the leaders of the government’s response to the virus, said it is “difficult to tell” whether such a step may be necessary.

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“We’re trying to understand during this period of coming out of the closure: How do we maintain openness and safety? And I think that’s what we’re going to be learning through May, June and July,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.

“And also, I want to be very clear to the American people, we are preparing for that potential fall issue, both in PPE, which is protective devices, both in ventilator stockpiles, and ensuring that we’re really pushing on therapeutics and vaccine development so we can be ready if the virus does come back in a significant way,” she continued.

23  May – News Talk 103.7FM  –  In case you missed the rally in Chambersburg hosted by Franklin County Green, here’s another look.

23  May – News Talk 103.7FM  –  There have been 1.64 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. as of 6 a.m. ET Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 96,300 deaths and 317,000 people recovered.

Worldwide, there have been 5.22 million confirmed cases with 338,000 deaths and 2.06 million recovered.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

23  May – News Talk 103.7FM  – A vaccine expert at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Dr. Larry Corey, told Reuters, somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 people are expected to be enrolled in a massive coronavirus vaccine testing program.

Corey says a highly effective vaccine could be tested in about 6 months if researchers see a large difference between the vaccine and a placebo.

Another possible time frame for what researchers are calling a “modestly effective vaccine” could take nine to 12 months.

A public private partnership being called Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) was announced last month and it’s part of a massive effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

Vaccines will be tested with healthcare workers and in communities where the virus is still spreading. Washington, D.C. has not reached the peak of the outbreak so the nation’s capital is one likely test site according to Reuters.

22  May – News Talk 103.7FM  – Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate skyrocketed in April, at the height of the pandemic-driven shutdown, to its highest rate in over four decades of record-keeping, the state said Friday.

Meanwhile, payrolls fell by more than 1 million to the lowest level in at least three decades, according to the Department of Labor and Industry.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate more than doubled to 15.1% in April, up from 5.8% in March, the department said. It had initially said Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 6% in March, but that preliminary figure was adjusted to 5.8%.

The national rate was 14.7% in April.

Pennsylvania’s highest unemployment rate was 12.7% in 1983, according to federal data that goes back to 1976 under the same methodology. It is a dramatic change from last year, when Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate hit a nearly two-decade low of 4.1%.

A separate survey of employers showed seasonally adjusted nonfarm payrolls fell by more than 1 million in April to just above 5 million. That’s the lowest recorded payroll figure for Pennsylvania, according to federal data that goes back to the start of 1990 under the same methodology.

21  May – News Talk 103.7FM  – Pennsylvania must boost its testing numbers several times over to meet Gov. Tom Wolf’s goal of administering a weekly coronavirus test to well over 100,000 people in long-term care facilities across the state, a gigantic undertaking that health officials are scrambling to make a reality in less than two weeks.

It’s unclear who would administer the tests, who would supply them — and, despite Wolf’s assurances that emergency federal aid will cover the tab — who would pay.

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have struggled for months to contain the virus, with many lacking the trained staff, testing supplies and personal protective equipment in the early going that could have helped them slow the spread, according to public health experts.

Residents of long-term care homes account for roughly two-thirds of the statewide death toll of more than 4,800, a higher proportion that in most other states.

21  May – News Talk 103.7FM  – Maryland is widely expanding access to coronavirus testing, to people without appointments or symptoms — a step that epidemiologists say is key to containing the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced 17 new COVID-19 test sites at CVS Pharmacy drive-thru locations across the state, with more test sites to be opened by month’s end, his office said. And when the state opened a drive-thru testing site at the Timonium Fairgrounds in Baltimore County on Thursday, it reached its capacity of 1,000 tests early in the day.

“I think the fact that we were at capacity so quickly speaks to the incredible need out there in the community, and meeting this need is critical,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, who posted a video of remarks he made at the site on his Twitter account.

Additional drive-thru testing to people without appointments or symptoms is scheduled to open Friday at the Glen Burnie Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program site in Anne Arundel County and at the Hyattsville VEIP station in Prince George’s County, the governor’s office announced this week.

Hogan also announced Thursday that Maryland’s statewide contact tracing operation across all 24 of the state’s jurisdictions will be fully operational next week. Maryland will have more than 1,400 case investigators statewide, the governor’s office said.

20  May – News Talk 103.7FM  –   A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a request to issue a temporary restraining order sought by people challenging Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home order in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake issued the order in response to a lawsuit filed by a group that included Del. Dan Cox, a Frederick Republican.

The plaintiffs were identified in court documents as individuals threatened with arrest if they violated the executive orders or who objected to having to comply; businesses deemed non-essential; and religious leaders whose ability to hold religious services has been affected by the orders, which they called unlawful.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announces that a person confirmed to have the new coronavirus attended a gathering at a retirement community in Rockville, Md., during a news conference Friday, March 6, 2020 in Annapolis, Md. The state health department says people who attended the event on Feb. 28 at The Village at Rockville may be at some risk for acquiring COVID-19. Fran Phillips, Maryland’s deputy secretary for public health, is standing right. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

Also, the plaintiffs argued that Hogan violated a portion of the Maryland Declaration of Rights by “silencing a legislator who wished to speak about an issue and by refusing to exempt legislators from the prohibitions in his executive orders.”

Court documents indicated Cox said he was threatened with criminal prosecution if he attended a ReOpen Maryland rally on May 2 which was held in protest to Hogan’s executive order. At issue was the prohibition on large gatherings.

“I think everybody has a right to protest and express their feelings,” Hogan said on CNN on May 3. “A couple of dozen people did so yesterday. And they have every right to do that. We — sadly, we had far more people die yesterday in Maryland than we had protesters.”

20  May – News Talk 103.7FM  –  Pennsylvania must boost its testing numbers several times over to meet Gov. Tom Wolf’s goal of administering a weekly coronavirus test to well over 100,000 people in long-term care facilities across the state, a gigantic undertaking that health officials are scrambling to make a reality in less than two weeks.

It’s unclear who would administer the tests, who would supply them — and, despite Wolf’s assurances that emergency federal aid will cover the tab — who would pay.

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have struggled for months to contain the virus, with many lacking the trained staff, testing supplies and personal protective equipment in the early going that could have helped them slow the spread, according to public health experts.

Residents of long-term care homes account for roughly two-thirds of the statewide death toll of more than 4,800, a higher proportion that in most other states.

The White House has strongly urged testing of all residents and staff at the nation’s hard-hit nursing homes. On Wednesday, Wolf said his administration has a plan in place starting June 1 “that we will be testing every employee and every patient once a week.” He repeated the vow in a call with reporters Thursday.

19  May – News Talk 103.7FM  – If you missed Senator Doug Mastriano’s appearance on the Tucker Carlson show, here you go…

19  May – News Talk 103.7FM  –

19  May – News Talk 103.7FM  – Nearly 50 Pennsylvania nursing homes have reported 20 or more deaths related to COVID-19, according to partial data released Tuesday by the state Department of Health.

After weeks of delay, state health officials released a list of 557 long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania reporting cases of the novel coronavirus among residents or staff.

Nursing homes and personal care homes have struggled for months to contain the virus, with many lacking the trained staff, testing supplies and personal protective equipment in the early going that could have helped them slow the spread, according to public health experts.

“All of those things are a challenge, and each one of those things together creates a high barrier for nursing homes, even today,” said Tricia Neuman, executive director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s program on Medicare policy.

The administration of Gov. Tom Wolf has faced criticism that it didn’t do enough, soon enough, to keep the virus from spreading among some of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents. Residents of facilities that care for older adults account for more than two-thirds of the state’s overall death toll of 4,624 — a higher proportion than in most other states.

“There is no question, in Pennsylvania and all across the world, long-term care facilities have been places where this virus has wreaked absolute havoc. And we keep trying to figure out what we can do better as we move along in this pandemic,” Wolf said at a video news conference. “I think in hindsight there are a lot of things that maybe we’ll learn, and I hope we do, that we can do better.”

18  May – News Talk 103.7FM  – The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed as of 12:00 a.m., May 18, that there are 822 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 63,056. All 67 counties in Pennsylvania have cases of COVID-19.

There are 4,505 total deaths attributed to COVID-19, an increase of 87 new deaths. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

“As counties move from red to yellow, we need all Pennsylvanians to continue to follow the social distancing and mitigation efforts in place,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “We must continue to protect our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians, which includes our seniors, those with underlying health issues, our healthcare workers and our first responders. I am proud of the work that Pennsylvanians have done so far, but we cannot stop now, we must continue to take the necessary steps to protect ourselves from COVID-19.”

18  May – News Talk 103.7FM  – Governors around the country are warming to the idea of the return of professional sports to their states, with two caveats: continued progress against the coronavirus and no spectators in the stands.

The heads of California, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania spoke Monday of the return of professional sports to their states, possibly as soon as next month. Florida and Arizona earlier this month gave the go ahead for professional sports.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom tied the return of pro sports with the state’s continued progress against the virus. The state has posted a 7.5% decline in hospitalizations over the last two weeks.

Newsom said if that trend continues, pro sports could be back in the “first week or so of June without spectators and modifications and very prescriptive conditions.”

That’s welcome news for California teams wondering if they would have to make contingency plans to play elsewhere.

Major League Baseball and its players association are in negotiations about starting the season around July 1, with spring training to resume either in a team’s ballpark or in Florida or Arizona.

The NBA and MLS have allowed practice facilities to reopen for limited workouts. The NFL announced its schedule two weeks ago and intends on having a complete season. The National Hockey League is still assessing its plans.

17  May – News Talk 103.7FM  –  Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday that NASCAR can hold its races at Pocono Raceway in late June if the coronavirus situation improves in the area, though the races might have to go off without fans.

Pocono Raceway is in Monroe County, which currently is under Wolf’s strictest pandemic orders, or a red designation. But Wolf said that if Monroe County moves to yellow before the races, then NASCAR may hold the two races as long as there are no spectators present and guidelines are followed to keep competitors safe.

Wolf on Friday said he had told NASCAR officials that his state wasn’t ready to make a decision on the reopening of Pocono Raceway, which is scheduled to host races June 27 and 28. Parts of Pennsylvania have moved to the yellow designation.

16  May – News Talk 103.7FM  – A prominent Baltimore pastor plans to hold two services for 250 people each Sunday, defying an executive order from the city’s mayor that extended stay-at-home directives.

The Rev. Alvin Gwynn Sr., pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in northeast Baltimore, told The Baltimore Sun he will not comply with the city’s order that limits gatherings to no more than 10 people. He said his congregation will follow social-distancing guidelines and the 500-seat church will be at 50% capacity.

“I don’t know what the mayor’s trying to do,” Gwynn said. “He wants to have a knock-down about First Amendment rights? He’s the mayor, not the pastor of churches in the city.”

On Friday, Maryland businesses began a  of retail and gradual opening services as a stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Larry Hogan about six weeks ago in response to the coronavirus ended, though the governor left flexibility for counties to decide how much they want to reopen. Baltimore is among the jurisdictions in the state that are not easing restrictions.

Under the governor’s stage-one reopening, churches and houses of worship can begin holding religious services at up to 50% capacity with outdoor services strongly encouraged.

16  May – News Talk 103.7FM  – The 145th Preakness Stakes has been rescheduled for Oct. 3, an announcement delivered Saturday less than hour before the original post time for the Triple Crown race.

Traditionally held at Pimlico Race Course on the third Saturday in May, the Preakness was postponed April 3 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The weather Saturday turned out to be ideal — slightly breezy with temperatures around 80 degrees — but there were no patrons in the Pimlico grandstand or infield, and no horses in the starting gate for the scheduled 6:45 p.m. race.

The parking lot of the track is currently being used as a drive-thru coronavirus testing center.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan disclosed the new date for the Preakness on NBC, which also had a hand in the decision because it televises the race.

“Under normal circumstances, I would be standing at Pimlico … presenting the Woodlawn Trophy to the winner of the 145th Preakness Stakes,” Hogan said. “But as we all know these are not ordinary circumstances. However, I am proud to make this announcement on behalf of the state, the Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland’s historic racing industry that Preakness 145 will be held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, on Oct. 3.”

15  May – News Talk 103.7FM  – Governor Tom Wolf announced 12 additional Pennsylvania counties will move to the yellow phase of reopening at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 22. Those counties include Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Wayne, and York. Twenty-four counties moved into the yellow phase of reopening on May 8 and another 13 moved to yellow beginning May 15.

With these additional 12 counties, there will be a total of 49 counties in the yellow phase. The remaining 18 counties are in the red phase.

“Through our social distancing efforts, we have not only reversed a trajectory of exponential new case growth – we have cut it in half,” Gov. Wolf said. “And some of the counties that will be shifting into the yellow phase next week eliminated concerns that we had just two weeks ago. So please, keep up your efforts in the fight so we can continue to add counties to t he list of those in the yellow phase. Thank you again for your patience and your hard work.”

14  May – News Talk 103.7FM  – Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said his audit of the waiver process for businesses that appealed Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 shutdown order is moving forward.

“Business owners deserve to know if waivers were granted consistently and without undue outside influence,” DePasquale said. “Because COVID-19 is going to be with us for a while, I want to make sure the waiver process truly reflects the delicate balance of protecting lives and livelihoods.”

DePasquale announced on April 30 that he would audit the waiver process being managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED).

On March 19, Gov. Wolf ordered that businesses that were not categorized as “life-sustaining” must close their physical locations to help slow the spread of COVID-19, which so far has killed nearly 4,000 people in Pennsylvania and claimed more than 83,000 lives across the Un ited States.

14  May – News Talk 103.7FM  –

14  May – News Talk 103.7FM  – In response to recent remarks from Governor Wolf related to coronavirus reopening delays, Congressmen Joyce, Keller, Kelly, Meuser, Perry, Reschenthaler, Smucker, and Thompson issued the following statement:

“In a statement issued on Monday, Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf insulted residents across the Commonwealth by threatening to withhold millions of federal dollars from counties that challenge his arbitrary color coding system for reopening the state. We remind the Governor these funds were appropriated by Congress for all of Pennsylvania’s counties, not just those who will bend to his will.

Contrary to the Governor’s assertion that individuals who choose to open their stores are surrendering to coronavirus, these brave individuals are standing strong in an effort to financially weather this storm—to keep delivering paychecks to their employees, to put food on the table, and to provide services to their communities. To suggest otherwise is a slap in the face to the millions of Pennsylvanians who are simply trying to make ends meet.

The Governor’s rhetoric is irresponsible and continues to put miles of distance between Pennsylvania and a solution. He needs a reality check and more sensitivity to the hardships that families across the Commonwealth are experiencing as a result of his continued shutdown. Enough is enough.”