Pike County in good shape even as ‘alarming escalation’ leads to tightened restrictions in PA

Pennsylvania. Nightclubs and bars that do not serve food were ordered closed on July 16, under Gov. Wolf’s order. Restaurants are limited to 25% capacity.

22 Jul 2020 | 04:23

Pike County is now one of the safest places to be during the COVID-19 pandemic, says a local infectious disease specialist.

With only 12.6 cases per 1000,000 people over the previous 14 days, ”Pike is one of the best counties in the nation,” said Dr. Doug Manion of Milford during Monday’s Zoom update of the Milford Covid 19 Volunteer Task Force.

But in other parts of Pennsylvania, Manion said “the data is chilling, and there’s the need to increase restrictions” (see sidebar).

Manion credits Pike’s flattened curve to the “virtual alliance” forged by Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut at the start of the pandemic. The four states agreed to a shutdown of nonessential businesses and travel that lasted several months. The states also put into place social distancing and mask wearing requirements, and recently agreed on a travel advisory requiring visitors from the country’s many hotspots, like Alabama and Florida, to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in their states.

Pike is even doing well relative to other counties in the Poconos. Cases in Carbon and Monroe counties are “slowly creeping up,” he said. Carbon County has twice the rate of cases that Pike has, he said.

Schools and testing

The good news for Pike also comes with some bad news because tests are becoming more scarce, Manion said.

“Hotspots are sucking up the resources,” he said. The reagents needed for coronavirus testing are in short supply. And the lead time for results is long: currently, it takes from eight to 10 days to get test results back in Pike County, he said.

Manion said there will “almost certainly be no testing for schools, although that would be the way it would be done” to re-open them safely. Half of teachers have at least one of the underlying health conditions that make COVID-19 more deadly, he said.

He acknowledged that schools and families face a dilemma. “Totally shutting down schools is not good, for very young children, especially,” Manion said. “But re-opening safely is not good either.”

He said testing in Pike County is currently available at Dingmans Medical Care Center, 1592 Route 1592, in Dingmans Ferry (Tuesday through Thursday, 1-5 p.m., insurance billed, no referral needed); Wayne Memorial Hospital Testing Center at the Pike County Training Center in Lords Valley (Tuesday through Thursday, 8 am.-4 p.m., $126 with government plans, $128 with private insurance, needs a doctor’s referral); and the Walmart on Route 6 (Monday and Wednesday, 7-9 a.m., self-administered, no out-of-pocket expense).

Other points

He made some other points in response to questions and concerns:

How to complain: The state has an online form -- expressforms.pa.gov/apps/pa/doh/COVID-19-Complaint -- where people can report businesses that are not complying with Pennsylvania’s orders regarding masks and social distancing.

Masks outdoors? Unless people are totally alone, they should wear masks outside, including on trails, where hikers can pass within the six-foot distancing requirement. Manion said he wore his mask during a recent hike at Hacker’s Falls. If you go, he said, bring your mask and a garbage bag, referring to all the trash left there by other visitors.

Natural immunity: Having COVID-19 is no guarantee you won’t get it again. “Natural infection is not as good as a vaccine and will not get us to herd immunity,” Manion said.

New restrictions in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has imposed broad new statewide restrictions on bars and restaurants and larger indoor gatherings, Gov. Tom Wolf announced July 15, citing an “alarming escalation’’ in new coronavirus infections and heavily criticizing people who he said had disregarded public health orders.
Nightclubs are ordered shut down, and bars are also closed unless they also offer dine-in meals, under Wolf’s order, which took effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Bars and restaurants are limited to 25% capacity. The new restriction also requires companies statewide to have their employees telework to the extent possible.
The new restrictions, coming months after Pennsylvania began reopening its virus-battered economy, risked major backlash in large swaths of the state where the virus has largely been kept at bay.
But Wolf warned that a “new surge is in the offing” that could eclipse what happened in the spring, when the virus killed thousands and sickened tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians.
The Democratic governor said people who refused to wear a mask or abide by social distancing requirements while patronizing bars and restaurants are responsible in part for the virus’s resurgence.
“They are annoyingly spreading, or annoyingly picking up, the virus. This carelessness has resulted in pockets of super-spreading,’’ Wolf said.
He also cited out-of-state travel to virus hotspots, and blamed states in the South and West for “not committing to the things they should’ve done to keep this virus from spreading.’’
“We did everything we should’ve done, we were responsible, and yet we’re paying the price right now,’’ he said.
“We’re already at a tipping point where we really have to act. We don’t want to become Florida. We don’t want to become Texas. We don’t want to become Arizona. We have got to act now,’’ said Wolf, naming three states where the virus has been surging.
Under Wolf’s order, indoor events and gatherings of more than 25 people will be prohibited. And businesses will be required to have their employees work remotely to the extent possible.
Pennsylvania’s recently elevated statewide virus numbers have been driven in large part by increased spread in the Pittsburgh area, where officials attribute the spike to younger people and others congregating in bars and restaurants.
Allegheny County, which had already imposed temporary restrictions on restaurants and bars, reported 246 additional infections on Wednesday from tests performed between June 30 and July 14. Infections numbers have also been up in counties ringing Allegheny.The Philadelphia school district, meanwhile, announced Wednesday that it plans to resume limited in-person instruction in the fall, with most students in class just two days per week and learning remotely the other three.