Responding to a request for help, Carbon County-based Sharps Compliance Inc. is shipping critical medical supplies to the region from their main location in Texas. The response came after the Carbon Chamber and Economic Development Corp. and state Rep. Doyle Heffley for help.
Supplies, which were shipped out within hours of the request, include 3,700 isolation gowns, 2,700 mask and 1,500 nitrile gloves.
“We are incredibly proud of amazing business partners like Sharps Compliance who immediately stepped up to assist our community during this most challenging time. It is a true testament as we receive support from our Chamber of Communities network,” said Marlyn Kissner, executive vice president, GLVCC and CCEDC. “President/CEO Dave Tusa is a stellar leader, serving our county during such a crucial time”
The CCEDC and Heffley will work with department coordinator, Mark Nalesnik, Carbon County Emergency Management Agency, on a distribution plan.
As of March 19, there have been 185 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. Carbon County has not yet had a confirmed case.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has asked the U.S. Small Business Administration to implement an SBA disaster declaration so businesses and nonprofits in the state can access SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans in all 67 counties.
The SBA said it anticipates the request will be approved within 24 to 48 hours. The loans can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the impact of the coronavirus. The loans offer up to $2 million in assistance for each affected small business.
The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits and can be paid off over as long as 30 years.
With 185 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 22 counties in Pennsylvania, state Health Department Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, is calling on business leaders to do their part to help stem the progress of the virus, including shutting down.
“Now is the time for you to act in your role as business leaders,” she said during a webinar on how businesses should respond to the coronavirus organized by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “If a local business stays open, our local residents will think it’s OK to gather and congregate and it is not.”
Speaking to more than 2,600 participants, Levine warned that the state was in a rapidly changing situation.
“This is a very serious community health threat,” she said. “Participation of business leaders is essential.”
State officials are “keenly aware” of the monetary impact on business, Levine said, but the human toll of COVID-19 could be much, much worse if protocols put out by the governor are not followed. The state still has a chance of slowing virus if people stay home and limit their exposure to each other.
“It’s critical to keeping our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed,” said Dr. Levine. “If we wait two weeks it will be much worse. We need your help.”
It is impossible to say if the current call to keep non-essential businesses closed for two weeks would be extended, Levine said, but it’s assumed it will take six to eight weeks or longer for the viral threat to pass.
But keeping businesses closed or having employees working from home, causes a number of legal and procedural issues.
Jonathan Segal, an attorney with Duane Morris LLP, said there are numerous factors that a company must consider when dealing with the various COVID-19 preventative measures, and reminded business leaders to remember they are dealing with human beings.
His first recommendation is for companies to have a rapid response team to handle any coronavirus concerns. The team should be made up of a diverse group of leaders within a company – ideally with representation from human resources and someone with a health care background – to focus on ways to handle any cases of exposure, or possible exposure within the workplace.
The first line of action should be with managers and the team should explain how to properly handle concerns employees may have about exposure, Segal said.
Under or overreacting to an infection concern could be a problem. Managers should thank an employee for coming forward with information about a positive case of COVID-19 and say that the team will be contacted to make a proper response.
Because circumstances are changing so rapidly, Segal suggests keeping all guidance as general as possible. If employees have questions about the virus, instruct them to contact their health care provider or obtain more information from www.cdc.gov.
Pay is also a concern, and that, too, is a rapidly changing issue with the federal government working on bills to address financial support for those displaced by the virus.
Paid time off, insurance and in some cases, workers’ compensation, can help with those who can’t work. The federal government is also working on support for people who can’t work because their kids’ school is closed, Segal said.
Those working from home should be paid as normal with non-exempt employees generally given a schedule of hours to work so there is less question over what time is worked and how much compensation is due.
The most important thing is to keep lines of communication open and try to be a resource for employees.
Not all staff will have access to email, he said, so make sure they have a way to communicate with each other – even if it’s about non COVID-19 things, to keep up a sense of camaraderie.
“We can talk about employee engagement all we want, but this is where the rubber meets the road,” Segal said.
For the next 60 days, Service Electric of Allentown will open Wi-Fi hotspots to all who need them, and will not terminate services to residential or small business customers who can’t pay their bills due to complications from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company has joined the Federal Communications Commission’s Keep America Connected Pledge, which asks U.S. telephone and broadband service providers to keep users connected during this period.
Hundreds of communications providers have already agreed to the pledge, including RCN, Verizon and Comcast, which provide services locally.
The pledge asks providers for the next 60 days to:
Not terminate service to any residential or small business due to the inability to pay their bill.
Waive late fees that residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstance related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Open its Wi-Fi hotspots to everyone.
Additionally, SECTV said it will offer free broadband modems to qualifying customers during this ongoing national emergency.
Many national wireless phone companies have also taken the pledge.
“As the coronavirus outbreak spreads and causes a series of disruptions to the economic, educational, medical, and civic life of our country, it is imperative that Americans stay connected. Broadband will enable them to communicate with their loved ones and doctors, telework, ensure their children can engage in remote learning, and—importantly—take part in the ‘social distancing’ that will be so critical to limiting the spread of this novel coronavirus,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
Chairman Pai also continued the FCC’s ongoing discussions with service providers regarding their efforts to ensure that changes in usage patterns occurring during the pandemic do not impair network performance, as well as their plans to ensure network resiliency.
Pennsylvania has had its first COVID-19 related death and it was in Northampton County. The individual was being treated in a hospital. No further details were given in a release from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Statewide there have been 133 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
There are 1,187 patients who have tested negative. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has confirmed 133 cases of COVID-19 in the state, up from 96 yesterday.
A total of 1,187 people tested negative for the virus.
Here is a county by county of confirmed COVID-19 cases:
Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf, earlier this week ordered non-essential businesses to close to help stem the spread of the virus.
“Non-essential businesses include public-facing industries such as entertainment, hospitality, and recreation facilities, including but not limited to community and recreation centers; gyms, including yoga, barre and spin facilities; hair salons and barber shops, nail salons and spas; casinos; concert venues; theaters; sporting event venues and golf courses; retail facilities, including shopping malls except for pharmacy or other health care facilities within retail operations,” a statement said.
Restaurants and bars should close their dine-in facilities, but can continue to offer carry-out, delivery and drive-thru service, and a number of area restaurants have, the governor said.
“According to Wolf, businesses considered essential services and sectors include but are not limited to food processing, agriculture, industrial manufacturing, feed mills, construction, trash collection, grocery and household goods (including convenience stores), home repair/hardware and auto repair, pharmacy and other medical facilities, biomedical and healthcare, post offices and shipping outlets, insurance, banks, gas stations, laundromats, veterinary clinics and pet stores, warehousing, storage, and distribution, public transportation, and hotel and commercial lodging.”
He also said businesses that can have employees work remotely should do so.
“Other businesses, including but not limited to legal services, business and management consulting, professional services and insurance services are encouraged to have employees work remotely or telecommute,” he said. “If that is not possible, they should employ social distancing best practices and be aware of the Trump Administration’s guidance to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.“
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said today that his office has now received more than 1,000 tips reporting price gouging.
As of today, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General has received 1,171 reports, of which the Office has followed up with 45 verified complaints and dispensed 34 cease and desist letters and subpoenas.
For example his office was able to stop a suburban Philadelphia store from selling a $2 bottle of hand sanitizer for $19.
“I’m grateful to everyone in the Commonwealth for reporting their concerns to our Office,” said Shapiro. “During these uncertain times, taking advantage of consumers in need of cleaning supplies and paper products is not only outrageous, it’s illegal.”
Shapiro said his office is following up on every tip regarding price gouging reported. To make a tip, email the office at [email protected].
Your employer temporarily closes or goes out of business because of COVID-19
Your employer reduces your hours because of COVID-19
You have been told not to work because your employer feels you might get or spread COVID-19
You have been told to quarantine or self-isolate, or live/work in a county under government-recommended mitigation efforts
Those who believe they are eligible to file an unemployment claim can apply HERE.
Those approved to receive benefits should expect to receive their first compensation within four weeks.
For those who may be eligible for workers’ compensation there are two filing options. If you believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19 in your workplace, you may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation by either:
Notifying your employer to file a typical “disease-as-injury” WC claim, which requires you to provide medical evidence that you were exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace
Notifying your employer to file an “occupational disease” WC claim, which requires you to show that COVID-19 is occurring more in your occupation/industry than in the general population
The federal Small Business Administration (SBA) is working with state officials to support small businesses impacted by the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) with up to $2 million targeted, low-interest disaster recovery loans.
President Trump’s National Emergency declaration — the “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response and Supplemental Appropriations Act” — in response to the COVID-19 spread in the U.S. authorizes the SBA to offer Economic Injury Disaster Loans to struggling small businesses, according to the SBA.
“The president’s declaration, coupled with the administration’s unprecedented efforts to mobilize and involve the full force of the federal government and the private sector — including leaders in science, medicine, transportation, finance and business — will help save lives and reduce economic disruptions in every community,” said SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza.
“The agency is working closely with governors to make up to $2 million in targeted, low-interest disaster recovery loans available to any small business enterprise that has been severely impacted by the situation,” she said.
Loans can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact, according to the SBA. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofit organizations, according to the SBA.
Local banks are working with business clients to ensure they have the resources they need to support their businesses at a time when they are sure to see a decrease in revenue as state officials call for the closure of nonessential businesses due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in the commonwealth.
In a statement, Customers Bank applauded the effort by the SBA to mitigate the economic and financial shortfalls on the small business community. President and CEO Richard Ehst said the bank has “committed to provide $200 million in new small business lending to qualifying companies.”
“We value the health and wellbeing of our clients and team members above all else and want to make sure the business community is aware of this important program,” Ehst said. “We want businesses throughout the community to know we are available to help them navigate the complexities of the SBA loan process. We can also provide other financial solutions, including lines of credit, to help mitigate any issues caused by this situation.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered all non-essential stores, bars and restaurants in the state to temporarily close to help slow the progression of COVID-19.
Bars and restaurants would be limited to take out and delivery.
Businesses considered to be essential to the public, including grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies will be allowed to remain open.
The governor previously limited the declaration to five, highly affected counties: Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware and Allegheny.
“This isn’t a decision I’m making lightly at all,” he said during a virtual press conference. “This is a decision I’m making because health experts believe this is the only way to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed by patients.”
The closures would be effective as of midnight tonight.
The closure would be for two-weeks for businesses considered non-essential, including non-grocery stores, shopping malls, restaurants, bars, gyms, sports venues, hair salons, theaters and similar venues.
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce has a webinar scheduled for business leaders on March 19, which will detail some of the state’s efforts to combat the coronavirus and issues related to the impact on non-essential businesses within the state, including assistance that will be available to them..
“We are committed to keeping all Pennsylvanians safe and healthy, and we are taking every measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said DCED Secretary Dennis Davin. “We continue to report new cases of coronavirus every day, and additional steps must be taken to stop the spread. Therefore, we strongly urge non-essential businesses across Pennsylvania to do their part by temporarily closing to help mitigate the spread of this contagious virus.”
The state Turnpike Commission also made an emergency order that it will not accept cash at any of its toll booths beginning at 8 p.m Monday night.
Meanwhile, both Lehigh and Northampton Counties today declared a State of Emergency. The declaration will help the governing bodies better respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
All schools in the state are also closed for two weeks.
Neighboring New York and New Jersey have made similar declarations.
As we all hunker down in our homes amidst the growing threat of the coronavirus, local small business owners are feeling the effects. Now, with the governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey ordering all non-essential businesses to close, even more adjustments must be made.
Kosta Karaminas, owner of Angelo’s Restaurant in Easton, says that he noticed less customer traffic in the restaurant starting on March 12. The first Northampton County coronavirus case was announced on that date.
“Up until then it was relatively normal,” he said. “Of course, I’m worried about a temporary closing because the restaurant is my family’s bread and butter. We can weather a closing if we need to, but for no more than three weeks tops.”
To keep customers and staff safe during the public health crisis, Karaminas said that he was doing his part by keeping in contact with the city of Easton’s health department and following their directions. Waitresses and staff were being extra vigilant with hand washing and sanitizing.
Chatter among his regular customers was all about the coronavirus, Karaminas said.
“People are concerned and rightfully so,” he said, “but perhaps we can look at this forced slow down in a positive light, kind of like a reset for society.”
Jessica Dellmyer-Yusko, owner of Baransu Yoga in Bethlehem Township, is looking at alternative ways to bring income in. She’s thinking about live-streaming classes.
“I’m trying to think about the overall community,” she said. “It is important for people to be mindful. Everyone is in a state of panic. We must move through with grace, clarity and calmness.”
Irma Ilao, a personal trainer in Milford, New Jersey, is also worried about the effect of the coronavirus on her business, but had not seen any slow down as of March 15.
Her clients were coming in, she said.
However, Ilao closed her business until further notice on March 16, due to the New Jersey state ruling.
“This is where I am grateful that I launched my online fitness group last year,” she said. “Though it is still new it may be my saving grace. Mostly, I’m thinking of everyone’s safety right now.”
Ilao will offer virtual one on one training for those who want to continue personal training.
Even in the midst of this public health crisis, there are businesses that must remain open.
Katina Bozikas, who, with her husband Dimitri, owns the Daisy Hill Kitchen and Grill, a gas station and grab and go deli/eatery, says that a gas station is a necessity during a public health emergency.
“We will stay open unless the state mandates that we close,” she said. “ We have never closed, not even in snowstorms. We service emergency personnel, EMS, police, etc.”
Bozikas also says that she has not noticed any slow down in traffic so far. “It’s been business as usual,” she said.
Safety is the number one concern, said Bozikas, for both her customers and staff.
“We have sanitizer at every register,” she said, “and strict hand washing standards were already in place. “
“We are remaining calm,” she added. “We are open for our customers who need us.”
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