Like many of you, I have been very concerned about the increasing pervasiveness of the Coronavirus. To be clear, the large majority of cases appear to be mild and so far, the number of cases in our area is limited. In addition, there are a wide variety of projections as to how many people will ultimately be exposed to the virus and what percentage of those people will become seriously ill. However, the projections on the higher end are very concerning. Some epidemiologists have said that something approaching 100 million Americans could ultimately be exposed.
This is not a reason for panic. But it is a reason to act prudently and proactively to address the situation.
The scientists know the best ways to reduce the number of people exposed. They offer a number of suggestions, but virtually all of them involve reducing human contact. While the message from the experts on the importance of social distancing is consistent, there has not been clear guidance on some of the specific steps we should take. Should offices be open? Should concerts be cancelled? My son's school is open, my daughter's is not.
Thus, it has been left to each of us to determine our course of action. The purpose of this statement is to announce mine.
To be clear, I'm not a doctor or an epidemiologist. However, based on the briefings I've received from the PA Department of Health, the County Office of Public Health as well as data available from the CDC, the World Health Organization and others, I've come to some conclusions. My goal is to do all I can in a proactive, rather than a reactive way, to ensure the health and safety of my family, my staff, my constituents and the public at large. Here are the steps I am taking.
First, effective at the end of work today, my Senate office will be closed. I am simply unable to assure that my staff, and the constituents, stakeholders and service personnel that come to my office won't be exposed to the virus.
This doesn't mean we are unable to serve our constituents. If you call our office, your call will be re-routed to me or my staff, and we are available to help you in any way we can, including coming to a convenient location to meet with you one-on-one or in a small group. We will be answering calls, and addressing constituent needs as effectively and expeditiously as possible.
So if you need something after today, please call. We will help you. But do not come to the office as nobody will be there. Emails will still be responded to as always.
Secondly, we are cancelling all outreach and other events until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience. But I feel it would simply be irresponsible to bring large groups of people together at this time. These are the things that I can directly control. Beyond that, I do have some suggestions.
Given the consequences of a worst-case-scenario, I believe the following:
- Those charged with making the relevant decisions should consider the importance of having a consistent policy on school closings. Having some schools open and some closed makes no sense, and only closing a school once there has been proven exposure is reactive and is likely to be ineffective.
- I suggest people consider avoiding public transportation for at least a while. Entering an enclosed space with an uncontrollable number of other passengers whose exposure risk is unknown seems inordinately risky.
- Some have suggested avoiding visits to nursing homes for a while. Seniors are our most vulnerable population and are at the greatest risk of having serious complications
The steps we are taking are difficult and inconvenient to us and others. But we simply must do all we can to flatten the curve. If we have a full-blown, out-of-control pandemic, hospitals could be overwhelmed, essential services may no longer be available, our economy can be devastated, and many could get seriously ill.
But if we take difficult but manageable steps now, we can hopefully avoid the worst outcome. And if in a few weeks we can look back and say we overreacted, that would be fine. To me, the bigger danger is in under-reacting. So, let’s all do all we can, and please stay safe.
As of this email, we’ve been notified of 17 presumptive positive cases of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Pennsylvania. Most of these individuals have mild symptoms and are in isolation at home.
We anticipate that there will be more Pennsylvanians with COVID-19 in the coming days. As new details begin to come in, my office and I will do our best to keep you updated. Please consider reviewing this email for updated news, prevention tips and more information on this ongoing situation. Always feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610.768.4200 with questions and/or concerns.
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- Older adults and individuals who may be considered at risk populations may wish to consider the new mail-in (or no excuse) voting option. As opposed to the absentee ballot, which can only be applied for if you have a reason such as an illness or plans to be out of the municipality a mail-in ballot can be applied for without reason. Registered voters can easily apply for a mail-in ballot online between now and 5:00 p.m. on April 21, 2020. The deadline to return your voted mail-in ballot is 8:00 p.m. on election day. If you are unable to return your ballot by the deadline either in person or mail, you may only vote by a provisional ballot at your polling place. Learn more and apply today at votespa.com!
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask:
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
- The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a healthcare facility).
- Avoid crowded places and limit activities in public.
- Consider preparing an at-home emergency kit with non-perishable foods, water, medications, batteries, first-aid, baby and pet supplies
- Governor Wolf recently announced that all major health insurers providing comprehensive medical coverage in PA will cover medically appropriate COVID-19 diagnostic testing and associated treatment for consumers and have committed to waive any cost-sharing for the testing. Pennsylvania’s major health insurers include: Highmark, UPMC Health Plan, Geisinger, Independence BlueCross, Capital Blue Cross, Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealthcare, Pennsylvania Health & Wellness, and Oscar. The Insurance Department, in partnership with the departments of Health and Human Services, also developed an FAQ that provides information and answers to common questions related to insurance coverage and COVID-19.