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Penn Highlands appreciates community support amidst coronavirus

DuBOIS — Penn Highlands Healthcare Chief Operating Officer Mark Norman expressed appreciation to all of the employees and physicians across the health system for their hard work and dedication during the unique and trying circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everyone has really come together to help manage this situation that we have today,” said Norman.

Norman also thanked the public for its support.

“It is really great to hear the community pride that we have throughout this area,” said Norman. “The communities of central Pennsylvania are very resilient. We’re a very resilient health system and together we will make it through this.”

Shifting to the topic of the PHH COVID-19 Task Force implemented three weeks ago, Norman said task force leader Dr. Shaun Sheehan, who is also the medical director of Emergency Medicine, “has done an excellent job of leading the various teams that are associated with this task force.”

“We actually have calls seven days a week and we are prepared for this situation,” said Norman. “Because the safety of our staff, our visitors and our community is our top priority, and there have been several things that Penn Highlands has done to keep our patients safe.”

Details on visitor restrictions are available on the PHH website, but Norman said there are a few exceptions for some visitors or companions to accompany patients.

“There are visitor verbal screenings and temperature checks that have been implemented,” he said. “To control access into our buildings, we have designated single point of entrance at our hospital and our buildings. And also non-essential buildings that are not crucial to providing care have been restricted as well. Because of the vulnerability of our residents, we have no visitation policy at our nursing homes. We are using FaceTime and other means of communicating for family members and friends to reach out to our residents. We are to provide education on personal protective equipment. This is something that we do on an annual basis but given the situation that we are today, we are reeducating our staff on how to properly use personal protective equipment.”

Self-monitoring for staff including temperature checks have also been implemented, he said.

“We have also canceled nonessential elective procedures. We are making it the discretion of surgeons and physicians because we know there are some procedures that cannot wait and so we are leaving that decision as the discretion of our providers,” said Norman. “We have canceled support groups and other public events to minimize crowds. We have also canceled less essential meetings and those meetings that are essential to our business, we are conducting via teleconference.”

The number one thing the community can do to offer support during this time is donating blood, he said.

“That is a shortage and a need right now and we would appreciate you giving to the Community Blood Bank, and encourage public and industries to donate personal protective supplies,” Norman said.

He also stressed the importance of social distancing and proper hand washing.

“I also think this is an important time for us to stay calm,” he said. “This is an unprecedented time that we are in. And also because there’s a lot of information out on social media that may not come from the best sources. I would encourage people to go to the Department of Health website and the Centers for Disease Control and the more official websites for accurate and up-to-date information.”

DASD provides 6,000-plus masks to Penn Highlands Healthcare


DuBOIS — Members of the DuBois Area School District donated more than 6,000 masks to Penn Highlands Healthcare to assist the hospital with patient care during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The DuBois Area School District donated 400 N95’s, 4,600 surgical masks, 250 procedure masks and 825 masks,” PHH Chief Operating Officer Mark Norman said during a telephone news conference this week. “We very much appreciate the generosity that the DuBois Area School District has demonstrated to us.”

When contacted by the Courier Express, Benton said when she learned that the hospital was anticipating a shortage of personal protective equipment, she contacted PHH President John Sutika and Cloyd Geedey, vice president of Supply Chain Management for PHH, to tell them the district had several thousand face masks in storage from the 2009-10 H1N1 outbreak.

Benton said Geedey told her that the need was “urgent” and they would take any and all personal protective equipment the district would be willing to provide.

“Although our schools are closed, I called upon our school nurses to help me to quickly locate the 6,000 masks throughout the district and our maintenance supervisor (Steve Dunlap) drove to every building to retrieve them,” said Benton. “Within hours, I had 6,000 masks in my office ready for pick up.”

While Benton’s focus is clearly on planning to provide continuity of education through an online learning platform for district students, she said she knew she could do more to support area healthcare workers.

Knowing that Jeff Tech vocational technical school in Reynoldsville has a health assistance program, Benton also contacted the school’s director, Barry Fillman.

“Dr. Fillman was most gracious with my request for support and made arrangements with Cloyd to obtain the inventory of personal protective equipment available at Jeff Tech,” said Benton. “By this point, I felt pretty good about the support we were able to provide within a day but it was evident to me that this anticipated shortage is not exclusive to Penn Highlands DuBois.”

Benton then contacted Mark DiRocco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Superintendent’s Association, Mark DiRocco, and asked that he request support for personal protective equipment from all superintendents in the state of Pennsylvania. DiRocco said he would be happy to do his part to support the area’s health care systems.

“Hopefully some other districts will have a supply of personal protective equipment that they can donate as well,” said Benton. “I greatly appreciate the service that those in the health care industry provide. Now more than ever, they are putting their lives on the line to save ours. I encourage everyone in our community to do everything they can to support them. On behalf of the DuBois Area School District, we thank you for your service.”

Area veterinarians stay open, implement curbside tactics for clients

Veterinarians in Clearfield, Jefferson and Elk counties are remaining open to serve clients, while implementing certain protocols to stay cautious.

Animal Hospital of DuBois on Shaffer Road is offering “curbside” services at this time, said Dr. Melissa Miller.

“Clients can pull into the parking lot, call us and we will get information over the phone about what the pet’s current problem is,” she said. “A staff member will go out to the car and bring the pet in. The doctor will communicate with the owner over the phone, and treat the pet accordingly.”

Animal Hospital of DuBois is also taking payments via phone, and will return the pet to the car in the parking lot following the appointment.

“Curbside service significantly cuts down on the face-to-face interactions that come with a typical trip to the vet,” Miller said.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, pets still get sick, injured and need medication refills, Miller adds, and they are part of the family.

“Also, asking owners to travel out of the area for veterinary care may put them in contact with more people, and increase their risk of contracting COVID-19.”

Some pets eat only prescription foods due to chronic health problems, and their owners depend on veterinarians to get those, Miller said, as well as long-term prescription medications.

Laura Hills, office manager of Jefferson Animal Clinic in Brookville, also said veterinary hospitals act as a pharmacy, laboratory and place that offers end-of-life services for pets who are suffering.

“We are here to offer sound and trusted advice to clients, which is needed more than ever during certain times,” she said.

Hills said there is a major crisis in animal shelters right now, since thousands of dogs and cats are being abandoned for fear they might transmit COVID-19 to their owners.

“We’ve been reaching out to the area using our social media and communicating to our clients to assure them that COVID-19 is not a zoonotic disease — meaning one that is passed from pet to owner,” she said.

JAC encourages pet owners to visit its Facebook page to view the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s “Private Pet Owners Guidance” article.

According to Elk County Veterinary Clinic’s post March 17, the clinic is open and operating under normal hours, but protocols have been placed to minimize risk and exposure, including that regular or surgical clients wait in their cars before they and their pet are brought directly into an exam room.

ECVC is also limiting cash and check transactions, and asking that clients call 814-834-0036 for all prescription, food, flea and tick and heart worm preventative refills. These can also be ordered through www.elkcountyvet.vetsfirstchoice.com.

Pennsylvania House votes to delay primary election

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously agreed Tuesday on a plan delaying the primary election until June 2 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Bill 422 was headed back to the upper chamber for a concurrence vote Wednesday. House lawmakers gutted the original proposal and replaced it with language rescheduling the April 28 election for June 2 on Tuesday afternoon.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they support the move as Gov. Tom Wolf tightens restrictions on public life across the state in response to growing numbers of residents infected with COVID-19. The Department of Health confirmed 851 cases in 40 counties Tuesday, with seven deaths reported so far.

Wolf extended his “stay at home” order to Erie County later the same day. He said the mitigation effort — already in effect in Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Monroe and Philadelphia counties — will help slow the virus’s spread. Nonessential businesses have been under a shutdown order since 8 a.m. Monday, as well.

Palumbo's Meat Market works to keep up with local demand

DuBOIS — Palumbo’s Meat Market in downtown DuBois has been a family-owned business serving the community for more than 90 years. Now, during a time when grocery stores throughout the country are struggling with shortages in meat and produce, Palumbo’s self-serve cases remain well stocked.

Owner Joe Palumbo said he is talking to around 15 suppliers just about every day, seeing what they have to offer. He also buys much of his own cattle at auctions, which helps him stay ahead of the game.

Around the holidays, Palumbo’s implemented new self-serve meat cases, he said.

“I could never keep up with the demand,” he said. “Self-serve cases allow for people to get special cuts, without having anyone wait on them.”

The installation of those cases has helped Palumbo’s increase its business, he said.

Employees are working 10-hour days, cutting all the meat on site, which requires more labor, Palumbo said.

“The community is good to me, and I try to be good back to the community,” he said. “That’s the main objective. You try to treat your customers right, and they treat you right, too.”

Sales for Palumbo’s ground beef has escalated, he said, and he has had trouble keeping it in stock. However, the demand for products is slowing now, compared to how amped up it was a week ago.

People also visit Palumbo’s for other items, like cartons of eggs. The store receives a new supply of those each week, he said, and only so many are put out per day.

As do other providers, the meat market does run out of some items, but Palumbo says he and his employees are working hard to keep up with demand.

“Nobody can keep up 100 percent, but we try our best,” Palumbo said. “As long as none of us get sick, we will be here to service the community.”

Clearfield County has second COVID-19 confirmation; statewide total at 1,127

HARRISBURG — Clearfield County now has two confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

As of 12 a.m. Wednesday, there were 276 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 1,127 in 44 counties. Clearfield County now has two of those cases.

The department also reported four new deaths, bringing the statewide death toll to 11. All confirmed cases are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital.

“Our notable increase in cases over the past few days indicate we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now: Stay calm, stay home and stay safe. We have seen case counts continue to increase and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home.”

Statewide, 1,127 cases of COVID-19 have been reported from commercial, hospital and state labs. There are 11,193 patients who have tested negative, and 11 total deaths. With commercial labs being the primary testing option for most Pennsylvanians, data is not available on the total number of tests pending.

All non-life-sustaining businesses are ordered to be closed and schools are closed statewide at least through April 6.

File photo by Chris Wechtenhiser 

The Lady Beaver senior is a two-sport athlete who plays volleyball and softball.

The Lady Beaver senior is a two-sport athlete who plays volleyball and softball.