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Penn Highlands DuBois creates COVID-19 task force


Harrisburg, PA – Penn Highlands Healthcare is taking a proactive approach to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and has created a task force to handle the illness, including educating people about how it is spread and small steps you can take to lower your risk of infection.

Concerned or curious about how the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 is being handled in our area?

Experts from Penn Highlands Healthcare will be the guests on this week’s Contact Show with Joe Taylor, airing today (Thursday, March 12) starting at 8:35 a.m. on Connect FM 96.7 and 99.7 FM, 1420 AM, and the connectradio.fm live stream.

The show will feature Sue Stiner, PH’s Director of Infection Prevention and Control, and Dr. Deepak Garg, an Infectious Diseases Physician.

They’ll cover how our communities are preparing for coronavirus and planning to stop or slow its spread. They’ll also explain what exactly the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is in comparison to the common flu, how it is spread, and everyday tips that you can put to use.

Dr. Shaun Sheehan, leader of the Penn Highlands COVID-19 Task Force, talks about the misconceptions about the illness and small steps you can take to lower your risk of infection. He says it comes down to washing your hands more often, not touching your face, covering your coughs and sneezes, and staying home if you feel sick.


You shouldn’t panic, but you do want to take it seriously. A big question has been why this specific coronavirus has been gaining so much attention, in comparison to other illnesses that might have higher fatality rates.

The main concern for COVID-19 is not necessarily that people will contract it… the vast majority of people are predicted to only see minor symptoms, maybe a very similar feeling to having the flu. However, if everyone is infected at once, even if the percentage of people who need to be hospitalized is relatively low, hospitals will simply not have enough beds, staffing, or resources to handle it.

Instead, experts say that if we practice good hygiene and stay home if we’re feeling sick, it will slow down the spread of the virus so not everyone gets hit with the illness at one time.

The elderly and people with compromised immune systems are the most at risk, but it’s all of our responsibilities to make sure that, even if we would be able to fight off the illness ourselves, to not spread the virus to someone who would be at risk of death if they caught it.

Just like you should be doing any time, you should continue washing your hands thoroughly and not touching your face.


Harrisburg, PA (AP) — Cases of the new coronavirus crept into a new county in Pennsylvania as Penn State and at least a dozen other schools moved classes online while St. Patrick’s Day parades in Philadelphia, Scranton and Pittsburgh were canceled.

Bucks County confirmed its first two cases of COVID-19. That helped boost the statewide total to at least 16 confirmed cases. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is telling state workers to avoid out-of-state business travel and large gatherings.

Philadelphia officials are urging people not to attend events of more than 5,000 attendees, and Penn State encouraged its 76,000 students to stay home the next three weeks.


Harrisburg, PA – “While we anticipate that there will be more Pennsylvanians with COVID-19 in the coming days and weeks, it is important for residents to know the commonwealth is prepared and to be prepared themselves,” Dr. Levine said. “Right now, you have a higher chance of testing positive for COVID-19 if you have traveled to a country or state with known community outbreaks or have come in contact with someone who has the virus. We are working with the health care community across Pennsylvania to keep them informed, consult on patient testing and ensuring they have the resources they need to care for patients.”


The Wolf Administration Preparedness Actions

The World Health Organization first announced the coronavirus outbreak in late January and the Pennsylvania Department of Health has had its Emergency Operations Center set up since February 1. The center allows for a collaborative, concentrated state response, including:

• Activated the Department of Health’s Emergency Operations Center to allow for enhanced response coordination;

• Begun testing for COVID-19 at the state laboratory;

• Maintained communication and outreach with federal, state and local partners;

• Provided symptom monitoring for residents returning from areas impacted by coronavirus;

• Provided health care providers, businesses and education providers with information;

• Reviewed and adapted current pandemic flu plans to prepare for spread of COVID-19;

• Increased testing capacity;

• Partially activated the Commonwealth Response Coordination Center at PEMA.

• Governor Tom Wolf signed an emergency disaster declaration March 6 to ensure state agencies involved in the response have the expedited resources they need to continue to focus on the virus and its possible spread.

• The Department of Health is providing a daily update via statewide press release.

• On March 9, Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine began to provide daily press briefings. Today’s press briefing will be at noon at PEMA.


About COVID-19

Symptoms of the COVID-19 can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Individuals most at risk for severe symptoms include elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

Pennsylvanians are reminded to:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcoholbased hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

• Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.

• Clean surfaces frequently, such as countertops, light switches, cell phones and other frequently touched areas.

• Contain if you are sick, you should stay home until you are feeling better.


To date, there are nearly 116,000 cases worldwide, including more than 4,000 deaths. There are 755 cases and 26 deaths to date in the United States. The department expects cases to continue to be confirmed in the upcoming days and weeks but wants everyone to take action to help prevent the spread of the virus. The department also said due to the rapidly changing nature of the spread of COVID-19 around the world, it is important for families to be prepared.


Comments from State Health Secretary

“Further spread of this virus throughout the nation will likely occur. We encourage people to prepare for potential life disruptions. The same family emergency plans and kits that we use to prepare for flu or norovirus, and even snowstorms and floods, are important now.

“Since the start of flu season, we have encouraged Pennsylvanians to stop the spread of illnesses by washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning surfaces and staying home if you are sick. Those are the same healthy habits you should continue to practice to protect your family and yourself against the spread of this virus.

“Individuals who intend on traveling outside of the United States are urged to check the CDC’s and the federal Department of State’s travel guidance. Currently there are outbreaks of COVID19 occurring within numerous countries across the world. The number of countries seeing new cases has increased significantly over the last week.

“As this situation evolves, we will continually update Pennsylvanians through our website, health.pa.gov, our Facebook page and our Twitter account,” Dr. Levine said. “It’s important to remember that the most accurate and timely information regarding this outbreak is available through the Department of Health.”


Updated Coronavirus Links: Press Releases, State Lab Photos, Graphics

For all press releases regarding coronavirus, please visit here.

Find the latest information on the coronavirus here.

Photos of the state’s lab in Exton are available for download and use here.

Coronavirus and preparedness graphics are available here near the bottom of the page: On.pa.gov/coronavirus