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Penn Highlands talks social distancing, masks, update on ICU beds and ventilators


DuBois, PA – Penn Highlands Healthcare shared some insights into the importance of social distancing, the efficacy of cloth face masks, and an update about how many ICU beds and ventilators the hospital system currently has.

Penn Highlands hospitals, just like many hospitals that are in the pre-surge stage of COVID-19, have seen a decrease in patients. However, you shouldn’t put off any health concerns or emergency visits.

In non-emergency cases, you can use the MyHealthNow app to schedule a telemedicine appointment with a doctor, talking to them over the phone or internet instead of in person.

You can have a virtual visit with a doctor through MyDocNow on the MyHelpNow app for virtual doctor visits. The app is available for iPhone and Android users. The first step would be to call your doctor’s office for an appointment. Then, download the MyHealthNow app or go to MyHealthNow-PHHealthcare.org. Make an account, then choose the MyDocNow icon. Have your virtual visit with your doctor, then follow up with the appropriate treatment.

Healthcare facilities are still open for anyone who has other health concerns, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.


One of the most useful ways to help is to donate blood through the Community Blood Bank.

To make things easier and safer, you are asked to pre-register for any blood donation drive that you are attending.

Community Blood Bank drives: FourHearts.org

o PH Elk – Tuesday, April 14, 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM at PH Elk Education Center – after this one, they are May 5, June 2, July 7 and August 4 at the same time and location.

o PH DuBois – Friday, May 8, 10:00 AM to 3:30 PM at the Central Resource Center.

There is a desperate need for blood drives to continue. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, people will still need life-saving blood, platelets, and plasma… for things like surgeries, blood loss from accidents and other emergencies, or maintaining health during cancer treatments.

One of the most important things you can do to ensure we don’t have another health care crisis on top of coronavirus is to give now.

Giving blood is considered an essential community service. As part of our nation’s critical infrastructure, healthy individuals can still donate in areas that have issued shelter in place declarations.

Donating is a safe process and people should not hesitate to give or receive blood or platelets. Both the Red Cross and Community Blood Bank have implemented additional precautions to ensure safety of donors and staff.


Listen to the media question and answer session with Penn Highlands Healthcare with Mark Norman, the COO of Penn Highlands Healthcare, and Dr. Shaun Sheehan, the leader of the COVID-19 task force at Penn Highlands.


Harrisburg, PA – Recently, Governor Tom Wolf recommended that all Pennsylvanians wear a mask any time they leave their homes for life sustaining reasons. As COVID-19 cases steadily rise in the state, Gov. Wolf stressed the need to intensify all measures to help stop the spread of the virus.

Click Here to see step-by-step simple guides for creating your own homemade face mask, with a variety of materials and either with sewing or with no sewing.

“Two days ago, I amplified our social distancing efforts by instituting a statewide stay-at-home order, and today I am asking all Pennsylvanians to wear a mask any time they leave their houses,” Gov. Wolf said. “Masks help prevent people from sharing illnesses. But, they don’t do a great job at keeping people from getting sick; and, they’re not foolproof, so it is critical that our first act is to ask ourselves if we really need to leave our house. If we don’t really, truly need to leave, then we shouldn’t.”

Watch this video from US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams as he demonstrates how to create your own face mask.

“Staying home is the most effective way to protect yourself and others against COVID-19,” Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “But, if you must go out because you are out of food or medication, then wearing a mask, or even a bandana across your nose and mouth, could be an extra layer of protection.

“You don’t need a surgical mask – we need those for our health care workers and first responders. We have guidance on universal masking on our website, including instructions on how to make your own mask using materials you have at home.”

Gov. Wolf’s statewide stay-at-home order asks Pennsylvanians in all 67 counties to not leave their homes unless it’s for life-sustaining reasons. On Friday, he asked that wearing a mask during those life-sustaining trips becomes the norm.

“Wearing a mask will help us cut down the possibility that we might be infecting an innocent bystander, like the grocery store cashier, the pharmacist, or someone stocking shelves,” Gov. Wolf said. “These people are keeping us alive by getting us the supplies we need. We owe it to them to do everything we can to keep them safe. Right now, that means wearing a mask.”

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, Pennsylvanians should visit: https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/.


Members of the public are encouraged to wear homemade cloth or fabric masks. Save surgical masks and N95 respirators for our health care workers and first responders. Remember this saying: “My mask protects you, your mask protects me.”

Wear a mask when:

Shopping at essential businesses, like grocery stores or pharmacies
Visiting your health care provider
On public transportation
Interacting with customers/clients at essential businesses
Feeling sick, coughing or sneezing
How to make a homemade mask:
Materials needed:

Fabric (100% cotton is most effective)
Fabric Ties
Sewing machine or a needle and thread

Measure and cut two pieces of fabric in a rectangle pattern to fit snugly around the face (size
12 inches by 6 inches is standard for adults).
Tightly sew both layers together on all edges.
Cut fabric ties to fit around the ears.
Sew the ties to the insides of the mask on the smaller edge, repeat on both sides.
Resew the sides to ensure a tight seal between both pieces of fabric and the earpiece.
Help spread the message on social media by downloading and sharing these What Type of Mask do I Need? and How to Make a Homemade Mask graphics. Learn more about universal masking.

Find out more about the difference between homemade masks and masks for health care professionals.

Wash Your Hands
Washing your hands is one of the most important steps you can take in staying healthy. When you wash, make sure you:

Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them. Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations.
If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.



Cover Your Mouth and Nose
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend the routine use of face masks and respirators in the community. Most often, the spread of germs from person-to-person happens among close contacts (within 6 feet).

Avoid Touching Your Face

Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

Clean Surfaces
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces — especially when someone is ill.

Practice Social Distancing
Stay home as much as you can
Avoid public spaces
Keep at least 6 feet between you and others if you must go out
Don’t attend or host large gatherings
Avoid using mass transit





The Department of Health has received inquiries requesting additional guidance and clarification regarding making and wearing masks in public spaces during the (COVID-19) outbreak. The Department is issuing the below guidance in response.

Use of Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a type of specialized clothing, barrier product, or breathing device used to protect workers from serious injuries or illnesses while doing their jobs. These include gloves (vinyl, latex or nitrile); gowns; shoe and head covers; mask or respirators (N95 respirator); and other face and eye protection (goggles or a face shield). Health care providers need to use PPE. Healthcare facilities and providers that need additional PPE should refer to this guide.

Use of Fabric or Cloth Masks

Homemade masks made out of fabric and cloth are not considered PPE. However, homemade masks can be an effective complement to handwashing, social-distancing and other mitigation measures. Homemade masks limit the spread of infectious droplets in the air by containing coughs and sneezes.

When a homemade mask can’t be acquired a scarf or bandana can be utilized. By implementing community use of these homemade fabric or cloth masks, everyone will have a higher degree of
protection from this virus.

My Mask Protects You, Your Mask Protects Me

Those who are staying home and have no close contacts who are infected with COIVID-19 don’t need a mask most of the time. However, wearing a nonmedical or homemade mask may be helpful in certain situations or for certain populations*.

• Shopping at essential businesses, like grocery stores or pharmacies;

• While visiting your health care provider;

• Traveling on public transportation;

• Interacting with customers/clients at essential businesses;

• When feeling sick, coughing, or sneezing;

Because homemade masks protect everyone else from the droplets created by the wearer, it is important that as many people as possible wear these masks when leaving their homes. This helps prevent those who may be infectious but are only mildly symptomatic or not symptomatic from spreading the virus to others in the community. Everyone should remember the phrase “my mask protects you, your mask protects me.” By increasing the overall number of people who are containing their coughs, sneezes, and other droplets, it will help us control the overall spread of the virus.

Help Support Health Care Workers

Do not purchase masks designed for health care professionals. N95 and surgical masks are designed to protect those who are working in high risk situations with a likelihood of exposure. Instead, make your own mask or purchase one from an online small business.

Businesses should consider purchasing homemade or cloth masks for their employees as part of their uniform or in recognition of good public health practices. Businesses should also consider nonpunitive policies that encourage employees to wear masks while at work.

Best Practices for Homemade Masks:

The best practices for making and wearing fabric or cloth masks include:

• Consider buying materials online to avoid exposure in public places;

• Purchase masks made by small businesses, saving medical masks for health care workers;

• Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;

• The mask should fit snugly around the mouth and nose;

• If the mask has a metal wire it should be fitted snuggly to the bridge of the nose.

• Avoid touching the mask while using it, if you do wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub;

• Made out of two layers of tightly woven 100% cotton fabric;

• Be discarded or washed after every use;

• Should not be worn damp or when wet from spit or mucus;

• To remove the mask: remove it from behind, do not touch the front of mask;

• The wearer should immediately wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after removing the mask.

How to Maximize Prevention Efforts:

Wearing a mask alone is not effective in reducing transmission of COVID-19. The below recommendations should be followed by everyone to help slow the spread of and minimize exposure to COVID-19.

• Practice social distancing, meaning staying at least 6 feet apart from others when in public or

• Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or using hand sanitizer when soap and water is not immediately available;

• Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow;

• Avoid touching your face;

• Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces;

• Stay home and limit public outings to only essential, life-sustaining activities.


Populations at Highest Risk:

Defined by CDC as:

• Persons 65 or older

• Persons living in a nursing home facility

• Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma

• Serious heart conditions

• Conditions that can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications.

• Severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)

• Diabetes

• Chronic kidney disease and who are undergoing dialysis

• Liver disease


How to Make a Homemade Mask out of Fabric or Cloth:

Below are instructions on how to make a mask at home.

Materials needed:

• Fabric (100% cotton is most effective)

• Fabric Ties

• Scissors

• Sewing machine or a needle and thread


• Measure and cut two pieces of fabric in a rectangle pattern to fit snugly around the face (size 12 inches by 6 inches is standard for adults)

• Tightly sew both layers together on all edges

• Cut fabric ties to fit around the ears

• Sew the ties to the insides of the mask on the smaller edge, repeat on both sides

• Resew the sides to ensure a tight seal between both pieces of fabric and the earpiece