Trans-Bridge temporarily suspends bus service because of COVID-19


After passenger traffic dropped by 88% due to the coronavirus pandemic, Trans-Bridge Lines of Bethlehem said is temporarily suspending all operations.

The bus company had been shifting services over the last four weeks in response to the virus, with the intent of trying to get essential workers, such as doctors, nurses and first responders to work. However, the increased spread of the virus was becoming too much of a threat to remaining drivers and passengers, and with the decreased use, the bus company was operating at a loss.

“Our desire to provide transportation for workers has now come into direct conflict with our social responsibility to do the right thing for our community,” said Tom JeBran, president, “The directives from Governor Wolf, New York and New Jersey state officials, media reports, webinars and conference calls with safety and industry organizations, have all led to the hard decision to shut down until such time we can return to normal operations. We will re-evaluate our options in two weeks.”

JeBran noted that a large part of the company’s business is trips to NYC, which has been hard hit by the virus and has closed most tourist venues. With most tourism venues closed, charter bus services, another large portion of the company’s business, has also taken a substantial hit.

LANTA bus driver tests positive for COVID-19

The City of Bethlehem is reporting that a bus driver for LANTA is among the six individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the city.

The bus driver worked on March 20 and drove several trips between Easton and Bethlehem during the shift.

The identity of the driver is not being released.

The Bethlehem Health Department is working with LANTA to notify employees who may have had close contact with this individual.

All those with close contact will be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days.

People who feel they may have had close contact with this individual on the bus route should self-monitor for symptoms.

Anyone who begins to exhibit symptoms should contact their health care provider to determine if they should be tested.

Since the start of this outbreak, LANTA said it has enhanced cleaning procedures to disinfect commonly touches surfaces on their buses and vans, such as seat handles and hand rails.


With COVID-19 keeping people home, gas prices at record low levels

There may not be many places you could go right now, but if you could it would be a lot cheaper to get there.

As most people in Pennsylvania shelter in place, not going out to restaurants or stores and commuting only to the most essential jobs, gas prices are hitting record lows.

Some states have seen drops as high as 40 cents per gallon over this time last month.

“We’ve seen a drop in demand. We don’t have as many people driving as we normally do,” said Thresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs for AAA East Central in Allentown.

She said while the original gas price drops, which began in February, were largely due to crude price wars between Saudia Arabia and Russia, the latest declines could be attributed to the lower demand caused by people staying at home.

  • In Pennsylvania the average price for a gallon of gas as of March 24 was $2.33, down from $2.45 on March 17 and significantly lower that the price on March 24 of last year, when it was at $2.79.
  • In the Lehigh Valley the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $2.28, down from $2.42 on March 17 and $2.78 cents on March 24 of last year.
  • The average price for a gallon of gasoline in the Harrisburg area was $2.32, down from $2.38 cents one week ago and $2.64 this time last year.
  • In Berks County the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $2.41 down from $2.67 cents one week ago and $2.77 this time last year.

Because of the low demand from people not driving, Podguski said that gasoline stocks have declined to stock levels of 62 million barrels in the Mid-Atlantic region as regional refinery use is down to its lowest point since 2012.

That has kept prices in the region slightly higher than those in other parts of the country, even though they are dropping to extremely low levels.

To put the prices in perspective, she said spring is traditionally the time when people get out and drive more.

“Historically, the beginning of spring has gas prices starting to show an increase because of the demand,” she said.

With that not being the case this year, Podguski said lower usage will push pump prices to less expensive levels for the foreseeable future.

LVHN CEO warns “We are two weeks behind Manhattan.”

“Nothing is off the table.”-LVHN President and CEO Brian Nester – PHOTO/FILE PHOTO

The Lehigh Valley is looking to our health care organizations to provide leadership and answers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Brian Nester, president and CEO of Lehigh Valley Health Network, is tasked with making decisions that will best protect the health of patients, staff and community, during what may be the worst public health crisis the United States has seen in a century.

Lehigh Valley Business reached out to Nester to talk with him about the heavy weight of that responsibility.

He opened up about a possible timeline for the peak of the virus, why testing times need to be improved, and why more aggressive measures are needed to stop the spread.

LVB:  Are you feeling the weight of the concerns of the entire Lehigh Valley right now? What is it like to be responsible for the health of so many during a public health crisis like this?

It is a responsibility that we take seriously. In many ways health systems are built to handle something like this. Behind the scenes we are always training for mass disasters. When a disaster does strike, we activate those resources. We have what is called an Emergency Operations Center. Two weeks ago, we activated the E.O.C. and 85 LVHN members mobilized across the network.

We call this a catastrophe of natural proportion. In a disaster like 9/11, we might mobilize part of our staff. All of our staff are mobilized right now.

LVB: In New York City, retired health care workers are being called upon to volunteer to help an overwhelmed health care system as the number of coronavirus cases soars. Will that be something LVHN will consider if needed?

Nothing is off the table. We are in week three of this outbreak locally. Day 15. What will we need to do at day 115? It’s hard to say right now. It feels like we are two weeks behind Manhattan in terms of spread and seriousness.

Right now we are looking at a redeployment strategy. We’ve shut down physical therapy, which allows us to relocate our physical therapy staff to help with COVID-19. We will redeploy as much as possible, but expect that will also become depleted eventually.

LVB: Are there plans in place for emergency make -shift hospitals if there is a shortage of hospital beds?

We don’t see that as practical right now. We are looking at redistributing care and turning an LVHN hospital into a pure critical care facility.

That said, we have identified an inventory of warehouses where we could hold those with low level illness in what might be called a make-shift hospital.

LVB: What are the plans if there is a shortage of supplies, ventilators…etc?

 We have developed a specific plan. Right now, we know that we have 40 people on mechanical ventilation.  We can survive a two times increase in that right now, and we have already purchased and leased more that will be available to us in the near future.

LVB: What is your plan to treat non-COVID- 19 related emergencies during this crisis? Can patients still walk into an ER and expect to receive prompt care if their emergency is non-coronavirus related?

Absolutely. They should not delay treatment if they are dealing with a non-Covid-19 emergency. Our ER’s are open for business.

LVB: What measures are in place to protect the physical health of LVHN staff during this time?

Last week we moved to have all staff provided with and required to wear masks and eye protection. We are checking temperatures of all hospital employees as soon as they come in to work.

People in health care are inspiring in times like these. They rally and help each other.

LVB: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus will rise as testing increases. How long does it take to get test results back?

As of today LVHN has 61 total cases of COVID 19 diagnosed. Less than ten of those are in the hospital. 4,300 tests have been taken and 3,000 have not been yet returned with a diagnosis. Testing in the United States has been a disaster.

We are sending out 500 to 600 new tests each day and it is taking eight days to get results. A percentage of these tests will come back positive and we don’t have those numbers yet.

Tests that we do here at LVHN in the hospital, we can get those results back within 12 hours.

LVB: Is there a message that you want to get out right now to the public?

The governor did the right thing to enforce social distancing. He made the right decision at the right time. The time will come soon to make even more aggressive decisions.

Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey are in the top 10 densely populated regions in the United States. We all know that New York is in the midst of a catastrophe with the coronavirus right now.

I think, and this is just my personal opinion, that it would be prudent to stop interstate travel, to stop the busses travelling from Pennsylvania into New York every day.

This is a time to practice extreme social isolation. As of week two, we were double where we were in week one.  I would like to say that we will see a plateau in mid to late April, but I cannot say for sure. At a minimum though, we are looking at four to five months of this.

By and large the community is listening to direction. People are staying home. The community is taking it seriously. In tough times, we stand together.

We will overcome.  We will get there. The question is how well will we do it?

COVID-19 won’t stop the PEEPS – Just Born to continue manufacturing

Just Born in Bethlehem will continue manufacturing. PHOTO/FILE –

Just Born, which manufactures PEEPS and Mike & Ikes in Bethlehem said it will continue operations, while adjusting to extra precautions because of the coronavirus.

While Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered all non-essential manufacturing to stop operations, since Just Born’s candies are considered food, they fall under the category of “life sustaining businesses.”

“Therefore, we will continue manufacturing our iconic brands, which in times like these, bring emotional joy and sweetness to people’s lives,” the company said in a release.

The manufacturer said it has set up an internal task force to regularly monitor the domestic and worldwide impact of the virus and are following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local and state health and government authorities and the World Health Organization.

Just Born employs approximately 600 people.

Phone, broadband providers pledge to keep customers connected

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.

COVID-19 related death reported at Northampton County hospital

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.

Governor Tom Wolf orders all ‘non-essential’ businesses closed

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf orders all non-essential stores, bars and restaurants in the state to temporarily close to help slow the progression of COVID-19. PHOTO/SUBMITTED


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.

Area small businesses feeling the effects of coronavirus threat

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.”

“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.”-Kosta Karaminas, owner/chef, of Angelo’s Restaurant, in Easton. PHOTO/SUBMITTED

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.

Jessica Dellmyer-Yusko, owner of Baransu Yoga in Bethlehem Township, is looking at alternative ways to bring income in if she is forced to cancel classes. PHOTO/SUBMITTED

“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.

“This is where I am grateful that I launched my online fitness group last year. Though it is still new it may be my saving grace.” -Irma Ilao, personal trainer, Milford, New Jersey – PHOTO/SUBMITTED

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.”

Many Lehigh Valley businesses close, get creative as coronavirus spreads

Eight Oaks craft distillery will be switching from spirits to hand cleaner to meet the coronavirus demand. PHOTO/FILE –

Gov. Tom Wolf has not asked non-essential businesses in the Lehigh and Northampton counties to close to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 like in some other counties, however, many are taking it upon themselves to do so.

The Wind Creek Casino Resort and Event Center in Bethlehem is one of the larger venues to close its doors. It said it plans to stay closed through March 30.

The Allentown Market, the newly opened market featuring a number of food vendors in City Center Allentown, is among them. Businesses there will be closing through at least March 24.

Even some small markets, such as the Far East Oriental Market, an Asian grocery in Whitehall, have decided to close. It posted a sign outside its store to let its customers know it was closing as of Monday to deep, but would make arrangements with customers who wanted to place orders.

In Emmaus, Yergey Brewing, a local microbrewery and taproom decided to temporarily close. On its Facebook site it said it had considered continuing to offer takeout, but decided closing was its best course of action.

Smaller restaurants are trying to be creative. Union and Finch in Allentown, for example, is trying to help out its employees by creating an employee fund to help them through the crisis. The restaurant will be put $5 for every $25 gift card purchase and $15 for every $50 gift card purchased into the fund. Gift cards can be purchased over the phone.

Some other businesses are simply recreating their mission. Eight Oaks, a micro distillery in New Tripoli, is ceasing its spirits distilling and switching to a needed product, hand sanitizer.

“We’ve immediately shifted our crew and our resources to begin making hand sanitizer and cleaning products for the community and our customers. We are actively working to have it available within the next week or so,” the company said on its Facebook page. It will however, continue to sell the spirits it already has on hand.

LVHN establishes coronavirus testing centers


Lehigh Valley Health Network has established patient testing centers for coronavirus throughout the Lehigh Valley region. 

Brian Nester, president and CEO of LVHN, said that those with symptoms of coronavirus, or who think they may have been exposed to the virus, should first be screened by calling the nurse information line at 1-888-402-LVHN or download the myLVHN app for a video visit. Prescreening will ensure that patients can remain in their home as long as possible and only leave if testing is needed, he said.

If the patient is determined to have coronavirus symptoms, they will be directed to one of LVHN’s testing locations.

The test detects active disease and not if a patient has been exposed, according to LVHN. It is important that tests are reserved for only those who need them most.

The following testing locations are open now:

LVHN COVID-19 Assess and Test–MacArthur Road
2741 MacArthur Road, Whitehall, PA 18052

Daily: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

LVHN COVID-19 Assess and Test–Stroudsburg

1655 W. Main St., Stroudsburg, PA 18360 

Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.


LVHN COVID-19 Assess and Test–Palmerton
528 Delaware Ave., Palmerton, PA 18071

Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.


LVHN COVID-19 Assess and Test–Macungie
6451 Village Lane, Macungie, PA 18062

Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

LVHN COVID-19 Assess and Test–Richland Township
320 W. Pumping Station Road, Suite 3, Quakertown, PA 18951

Monday-Friday:  8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

LVHN COVID-19 Assess and Test–Hazleton

140 N Sherman Court, Hazleton, PA 18201

Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

LVHN COVID-19 Assess and Test–Cressona 

35 Sillyman Street, Cressona, PA 17929

Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The following center will be open Monday, May 16:

LVHN COVID-19 Assess and Test–Nazareth

863 Nazareth Pike
Nazareth, PA 18064

Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday-Sunday: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.