Your Update for 5-20-20
*This information is changing quickly, so be sure to check for any updated information.
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Update from the Department of Health:
Secretary Levine did not hold a press conference today (May 20, 2020), and the Department of Health did not release its daily update on COVID-19. The data was not published due to problems stemming from the state’s surveillance data system. If the issues are resolved, they will release the data today, otherwise it will be provided in the briefing tomorrow (May 21).
According to the Hospital Preparedness Dashboard, 45% of hospital beds, 38% of ICU beds, and ~76% of ventilators in Pennsylvania Hospitals are still available.
As the Department of Health continues to reconcile the death records across the commonwealth, they will begin to post additional demographic information here. County-specific information and a statewide maps are available here. You can view the data on infections by COVID-19 in Pennsylvania here.
You can watch the daily press conference here.
An Update from DC:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a 60-page document that provides detailed suggestions for different phases of reopening workplaces, schools, and restaurants. This is a follow-up to the one-page documents that CDC previously released.
An updated list of workers deemed critical to keep on the job was released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The guidance has been used by dozens of states to determine local business closures. The new updates include more details for health facilities, agriculture, and food industries, and more.
Changes to the PPP
Next week, the House will consider the Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act, introduced by Minnesota Democrat Dean Phillips and Texas Republican Chip Roy, which would allow businesses receiving forgivable loans to be able to use the funds on payrolls for more than the eight weeks under the original program and relax a requirement that 75% of the loans be used for payroll expenses. It would also give them more than two years to pay back the loans and allow businesses that receive PPP loans to receive a payroll tax deferment.
There is bipartisan support for such a provision in both the House and the Senate. Secretary Mnuchin also expressed support for needed PPP changes.
When the House returns to Washington to vote on the PPP changes and other measures, they will begin using emergency proxy voting procedures. The change is in effect for 45 days unless another emergency is declared. Lawmakers in attendance may cast votes for as many as 10 of their peers under their colleagues’ written instructions. The change was approved on a partisan vote in the Democratic-controlled chamber. Republicans have denounced the proxy voting plan, saying it consolidates power in the hands of leadership.
The Senate Intelligence Committee backed Rep. John Ratcliffe’s nomination to be Trump’s next director of national intelligence on a party-line 8-7 vote.
Separately, the full Senate chamber passed by unanimous consent a measure that could bar some Chinese companies from being listed on U.S. stock exchanges. The measure offered by Sens. John Kennedy and Chris Van Hollen seeks to require firms to certify their independence from a foreign government. If a company can’t show that it is not under such control or the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board isn’t able to audit the firm for three consecutive years to determine that it is not under the control of a foreign government, the company’s securities would be banned from the exchanges.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby meets with President Donald Trump today to talk about funding the government. Shelby will discuss what the committee plans to do to address the rising costs for veterans’ health care, which he said “is an emergency and a top priority.”
Governor Wolf’s Plan to Reopen Pennsylvania:
On April 22, Governor Wolf announced his plan to reopen Pennsylvania, focusing on a regional decision making approach. Along with the previous standards the Governor announced last week, he highlighted that the data-driven decision making process will be done in consultation with Carnegie Mellon University.
Their metrics will focus heavily on a regional approach that is built on a population based incidence rate of 50 new confirmed cases per 100,000 population reported to the department in the previous 14 days.
An example: An area with a population of 800,000 people would need to have fewer than 400 new confirmed cases reported in the past 14 days to meet the target.
The first regions that the administration will target are the north-central and the north-west regions of PA, with a goal of moving them from phase red to phase yellow on May 8.
The three color phases determine when regions are ready to begin easing restrictions on businesses, stay-at-home orders, large gatherings, child care and more. The three phases are red, yellow and green, with the entire state currently in the red phase. Movement between phases will be based on the population incidence rate above.
The red phase singularly purpose is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 through strict social distancing, non-life sustaining business and school closures. 30 counties are currently in Phase Red, however 12 additional counties will move to Phase Yellow on May 22.
- Life Sustaining Businesses Only
- Congregate Care and Prison Restrictions in Place
- Schools (for in-person instruction) and Most Child Care Facilities Closed
The stated purpose of the yellow phase is begin to power back up the economy, while maintaining social distancing while easing restrictions on certain businesses and travel. However, the Department of Health will maintain strict monitoring over public health data to contain COVID-19. Guidance for businesses in Counties in the Yellow Phase. There are currently 37 counties currently in Phase Yellow, however 12 additional counties will move to Phase Yellow on May 22.
- Telework Must Continue Where Feasible
- Businesses with In-Person Operations Must Follow Business and Building Safety Orders
- Child Care Open with Worker and Building Safety Orders
- Stay-at-Home Restrictions Lifted in Favor of Aggressive Mitigation
- Large Gatherings Prohibited
- In-Person Retail Allowable, Curbside and Delivery Preferable
- Indoor Recreation, Health and Wellness Facilities (such as gyms, spas), and all Entertainment (such as casinos, theaters) Remain Closed
- Restaurants and Bars Limited to Carry-Out and Delivery Only
The green phase should facilitate a return to a “new normal”, by easing most restrictions on stay-at-home orders and business closures. Strict adherence to CDC and Health department guidelines are required, and similar to the yellow phase, monitoring of public health data will continue. There are currently 0 counties in Phase Green.
- All Businesses Must Follow CDC and PA Department of Health Guidelines
- Aggressive Mitigation Orders Lifted
- All Individuals Must Follow CDC and PA Department of Health Guidelines
The standards previously highlighted by Governor Wolf:
- Our approach will be data driven and reliant upon quantifiable criteria to drive a targeted, evidence-based, regional approach to reopenings in Pennsylvania.
- We will put forth guidance and recommendations for employers, individuals, and health care facilities for assured accountability as we reopen.
- Reopening necessitates that adequate personal protective equipment and diagnostic testing are available.
- Reopening requires a monitoring and surveillance program that allows the commonwealth to be deploy swift actions for containment or mitigation.
- Protections for vulnerable populations must remain steadfast throughout the reopening process, such as limitations on visitors to congregate care facilities and prisons.
- Limitations on large gatherings unrelated to occupations should remain in place for the duration of the reopening process.
- Real Estate Industry Guidance
- Construction Industry Guidance
- CDC Guidance for child care centers
- Life Sustaining Business FAQs
- Dental Health Care Personnel Guidance
Critical Needs Portals:
- Business-2-Business (B2B) Interchange Directory
- Pennsylvania Critical Medical Supplies Procurement Portal.
- Manufacturing Call to Action Portal
- COVID-19 Job Portal
- Critical Medical Supplies Donations Portal
The application for the COVID-19 Working Capital Access program is closed. The program reportedly received roughly 900 applications requesting roughly $75 million. The program’s original appropriation was $60 million. A link to the DCED page can be found here. The first round of funding was announced on April 20, you can find information on the funded projects here.
With the application closed for the CWCA, please look into the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program or the Paycheck Projection Program.
You can find the application for the Paycheck Protection Program here.
You can find the application for the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan, here.
Gov. Wolf: State to distribute $51 million in CARES Funding to Support Child Care Providers
May 20, 2020
Governor Tom Wolf today announced an initial distribution of $51 million of funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to support child care providers around Pennsylvania. Distributed in partnership with the General Assembly, this initial funding will reach nearly 7,000 child care centers.
Pennsylvania received $106 million in funding to support child care providers through the CARES Act that will be distributed to providers in two waves. The first wave of $51 million will be distributed to all eligible, licensed child care providers and is designed to help providers preparing to reopen as counties move to the yellow phase. The remaining funding will be allocated following the completion of a study by the Department of Human Resources (DHS) Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) and Penn State Harrisburg’s Institute of State and Regional Affairs assessing the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Pennsylvania’s child care providers.
You can review the first round of funding, and the full press release here.
Wolf Administration Receives Approval to Launch Online Grocery Purchasing for SNAP Recipients during COVID-19 Crisis
May 20, 2020
Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration received approval from the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow Pennsylvania to join the pilot program that lets recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, purchase groceries online through participating retailers.
Now that approval has been received, DHS is working with its EBT vendor and approved retailers to implement system changes necessary to implement online payment for PA’s SNAP recipients. These system changes have an approximately two-week testing and validation implementation timeline that could not begin without FNS’ approval, so DHS expects to have online grocery purchasing activated for SNAP recipients by the beginning of June.
Retailers that do not wish to join the pilot program can still offer delivery or pick-up flexibility options for SNAP recipients by using mobile EBT processing equipment that would allow customers to pay with SNAP when groceries are delivered or picked up. Farmers markets may be able to receive this processing equipment at no cost through a grant opportunity provided by DHS.
You can read the full press release here.
Caves in Forbes State Forest Remaining Closed Due to COVID-19
May 20, 2020
Harrisburg, PA — The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources today announced three caves within Forbes State Forest will remain closed until further notice due COVID-19-related concerns. Closed are Barton Cave, Fayette County, and Lemon Hole and Coon caves in Westmoreland County.
In the summer of 2006, these caves were gated to help protect hibernating bats and are typically closed from the beginning of October until the end of May. Each year, the Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy has been assisting DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry in opening and closing the caves.
The caves were temporarily closed in the past as the spread of White-Nosed Syndrome decimated North American bat populations. Caves re-opened after a decontamination protocol for caving gear was adopted.
In April 2020, the Wildlife Health Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended temporarily suspending activities requiring direct contact with bats.
Read the full press release here.