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Pa. Dept. of Health confirms one COVID-9 case in Clearfield County

DuBOIS — The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed Tuesday the first positive COVID-19 case in Clearfield County.

“We have been in contact with the Department of Health and can now verify the first COVID-19 positive individual in Clearfield County,” said Dr. Shaun Sheehan, medical director of Emergency Medicine for all of Penn Highlands Healthcare and leader of the PHH COVID-19 Task Force, during a telephone news conference.

“This patient was not and has not been in a Penn Highlands Healthcare facility, and due to HIPAA regulations and respect for privacy, I am unable to release any additional information about that individual at this time,” said Sheehan. “The test came through the health system and all of our providers in and out of our network are working closely together and following the Department of Health guidelines. The test did come through our laboratory. However, our testing procedure is not done within the confines of a building at this point.”

Sheehan said Penn Highlands is following the guidelines set forth by the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’re learning from experiences on the west coast of our country, New York City and certainly China,” said Sheehan. “We are following all guides and making decisions based on the clear guidance from these departments to keep our patients and our staff safe.”

On a daily basis, Sheehan said Penn Highlands is tracking how many tests are being administered, in addition to the results, both negative and positive.

“I only can confirm that through our laboratories,” said Sheehan. “There are other ways to perform tests certainly through the Department of Health and other laboratories that we are not contracted with. So I only can tell you, at this point, that we have slightly under 100 tests performed throughout the system. Most of those tests are still awaiting results. However, everyone that has come back except this one remains negative. I believe it’s around 20 negatives so far.”

“There is good news,” said Sheehan. “As laboratories across the country and our partners continue to increase their capacity for testing, we are improving our turnaround times for our tests. Up until recently it was taking up to seven to nine days to get a result and as a result of additional processing laboratories, we hope to get that down to 48 hours. Of course that’s subject to change as volumes change, but that’s our current experience.”

With regard to who is being tested for COVID-19, Sheehan said Penn Highlands is following DOH and CDC guidelines.

“There is a tiered guideline according to the availability of testing in your facility or region,” he said. “We are currently limited by the number of tests we can perform. So we are following the more limited tier guidelines from the Department of Health.”

The current recommendations for those who are being tested is “if you have symptoms, we need you to stay home, contact your primary care physician and follow their recommendations,” said Sheehan. “Not everyone needs to come to get a test. A lot of this, as you’re reading throughout the United States, is self-isolation. There is no current treatment or vaccine available. Only individuals that qualify under the current guidelines are receiving tests.”

Chief Operating Officer Mark Norman said Penn Highlands is prepared to care for COVID-19 patients and has taken many precautions to limit the exposure of COVID-19 to its patients, visitors and staff. To date, it has restricted visitors in its hospitals and nursing homes. Non-essential elective procedures have been canceled to reduce the number of people coming into the hospital.

“From a staff standpoint, obviously during these times where we have canceled some elective procedures, we do have some staff that is available that we can move to places that we need them,” said Norman. “If the need arises on more of an inpatient basis, we can move staff around. That’s a good thing from a health system is we are able as volumes fluctuate from outpatient to inpatient, we can move staff from one to the other. So we have that flexibility.”

From a supply standpoint, Norman said, “it is a challenge, but we are prepared. And the good thing about this is that we’re just now really seeing cases and we have been able to build up some inventory here in the last week or so. Obviously we need more, because we are always preparing for a worst case scenario where we need lots of personal protective equipment. So we’re trying to be very proactive in our preparations.”

Hospitals and other buildings have one public entrance open at each location, and all visitors who enter have their temperature checked and are verbally screened for symptoms of COVID-19.

Employees have been self-monitoring for COVID-19 and had opportunities for re-education about protective gear. PHH sends daily updates about COVID-19 from the PHH Task Force, the Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.

Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 — cough, fever, sore throat and shortness of breath — is encouraged to stay home. Those persons should call their primary care provider or if they do not have a PCP, they can call the PHH referral line at 814-375-6644 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. From that phone call, the process to determine if a test should be performed begins.

Brookville Glove and Guardian Healthcare combine efforts to meet needs

BROOKVILLE — Two local firms have come together to aid each other during the coronavirus pandemic.

Guardian Healthcare of Brockway reached out Brookville Glove following the mandatory shutdown order from Gov. Tom Wolf last week. Brookville Glove is considered an apparel manufacturer and was preparing to close down.

By Saturday they were operating again, and had workers making medical masks that are in short supply. Due to the national shortage of personal protective equipment, healthcare providers have turned to alternative methods to meet the demand. Guardian wanted to help keep local people employed while trying to meet some of their personal demand.

Brookville Glove Plant Manager Emily Walker said she got the call at 10 a.m. about making a prototype. She and her team then worked for five hours with Guardian’s corporate team to create a mask that worked.

Once a design was confirmed, company president Brian Dougherty worked for hours to make changes to machines to make masks.

“It’s funny how things work out. We’re extremely grateful Guardian thought to reach out to us, and extremely grateful for the staff we have here to make it happen,” Walker said.

The plant is currently working hard to fulfill Guardian’s order of 20,000 masks, and have been receiving additional orders since making the announcement about the change.

Barmi Akbar, CEO of Guardian Healthcare, commended the team at Brookville Glove for working overtime to ensure the masks are delivered to the caregivers who need them.

“This partnership is a great example of neighbors caring for neighbors,” Akbar said.

Not only had Guardian helped to keep the local employees at work with their request, but they opened the door for more jobs and orders to be fulfilled as well.

Brookville Glove is now hiring for a second shift to help meet the demand for masks. They are making daily deliveries toward the 20,000 total for Guardian, and preparing to fulfill the additional orders coming in.

“The phones have been nonstop, and I mean that literally from the time we get here at 7 a.m. until we leave here at 4 p.m.” Walker said.

Trump suggests ending coronavirus restrictions by Easter

WASHINGTON (TNS) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he expected that within three weeks, by April 12, the federal government could lift restrictions, including school closures and requiring people to work from home, that were put in place to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

“I’d love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said during a virtual Fox News town hall, where he fielded questions from network hosts and viewers.

The country is halfway through a 15-day period, ending March 30, that Trump initially set for limitations to slow the spread of the coronavirus through social distancing, such as limiting any public gatherings to fewer than 10 people. He said the guidelines would remain in place “a little bit longer than that.”

Trump has been eager to find ways to boost the economy, which has stalled since the coronavirus began spreading across the country. Despite concerns from public health experts, the president has repeatedly downplayed the threat by comparing it to the seasonal flu, which routinely kills thousands every year. He did so again on the Fox broadcast.

“We’ve never closed down the country for the flu. So you say to yourself, what is this all about?” Trump said.

Public health experts have noted that the potential destruction from the coronavirus is much greater than the seasonal flu. It is considered more contagious than the flu, and the disease it can cause, COVID-19, is more fatal. Some researchers have said there could be more than 1 million deaths without strict limitations on daily life.

Schlimm spreads positivity through participatory art projects, social media

ST. MARYS — St. Marys man John Schlimm has created participatory art projects through social media to encourage acts of kindness and embracing a positive mindset during a difficult time.

Schlimm, who is a Harvard-trained educator, artist, author and advocate, started the “5 Day PEACE Challenge” and “SMILE & WAVE,” encouraging people to share photos taking part in positive initiatives.

Schlimm said he knew that as soon as the coronavirus pandemic began escalating, it would have a great mental health impact on the public. As people become more isolated at home, they may be looking for feel-good activities, he said.

“Tapping into the unlimited potential of art and words to positively impact the world, both here and at home and for a broader audience, has always been very important to me,” he said.

“God-willing, we will not all be physically impacted by coronavirus, but every one of us has certainly already been mentally impacted, in ways great and small.”

According to www.johnschlimm.com/2020/03/15/5-daypeace-challenge, people can print out the “PEACE” letters or create their own, finding a special place in their yard, town or wherever else to plant it and “watch peace grow.” Those who are unable to leave their homes can also plant the letters somewhere there, beneath a pillow, in a vase or houseplant, etc.

Schlimm, who has taken part in discussions with mental health experts across the country, said one common lesson is the importance of feel-good activities, especially during times of fear, anxiety, stress and other negative emotions.

“The symbolic gesture of spreading PEACE in this way penetrates our own minds, giving us a little more peace of mind, while also conveying that energy to others,” he said.

These projects can help people feel connected with others during a time of isolation, Schlimm says, and are a great activity for parents and children, teachers, librarians and organizations.

In addition, Schlimm has launched another project on social media, “SMILE & WAVE.”

“Even though we are all social distancing, either in isolation or staying six or more feet apart, we can still smile and wave to each other, sending out a much-needed jolt of love and caring to every person we see,” he said. “The response has been pure joy, and has already sent so many ripples of love and connection out into the world.”

Schlimm requests people share their photos of planting the letters, using the hashtag #5dayPEACEchallenge, or smiling and waving on social media, tagging @JohnSchlimm for both. Follow Schlimm on social media platforms or at www.johnschlimm.com.