Thursday, April 30, 2020

Protest Planned at Governor Wolf's Residence on Saturday

According to Harrisburg100, a peaceful protest will take place on Saturday at noon outside of Governor Tom Wolf's residence.  It's an understandable but possibly counterproductive reaction to his continued refusal to open the state for business. First, I have reservations about protests outside anyone's private residence, which smacks of intimidation. Second, this rally will result in unfavorable coverage demonizing those who attend as right-wing kooks. Third, a much more effective response is a federal lawsuit challenging  a months-long deprivation of property rights in violation of procedural due process clause of the US Constitution.  Wolf  arbitrarily shut down businesses with no notice or opportunity to be heard. He failed to discuss the matter with his own workforce development board, prompting one member to resign. Democrats on the Pa. Supreme Court ruled that Wolf's waiver process satisfied procedural due process, but that has been attacked as completely arbitrary. Wolf has thus far resisted efforts to obtain a list of the waivers granted and denied. 

Though I think protests outside someone's home are tacky, small business owners and the self-employed are growing increasingly upset by the lockdown. Governor Wolf has been feeding bullshit burgers to the public, claiming that the self-employed can now file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. What he fails to say is that those who have filled out an application are unable to file a claim, and are instead greeted by a message stating that we'll be notified "when the system is ready to accept claims in a few weeks."  

It's been a few weeks.

Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas and Utah have implemented the PUA program and started paying benefits. Governor Wolf thinks we in Pennsylvania can survive on bullshit burgers.

Instead of Covid-19, Are We All Getting Cabin Fever?

April 9 in Easton
Since the lockdown began, I've spent a lot of time outdoors to work on my fitness. I've shared monkey bars (from a social distance) at school playgrounds with cops who shame me with their ability to do pull-ups and chin-ups. I've visited the fitness trail at Louise Moore Park, which has some great exercise stations. I've promenaded the streets of Nazareth and run at the bike trail in Tatamy. I also had my bike tuned up and have been out and about, riding the streets and trails. Ironically, I think I am more fit now than I was when I could still use the gym. Plus, I just love being outside. Rain and wind are the enemies this time of year, especially on a bicycle. The cyclists's biggest enemy - the car - has been missing. But starting on Monday, my very unscientific observation is that traffic is beginning to pick up again. Despite the lockdown, people seem to be getting impatient about being cooped up in their houses. Instead of Covid-19, a lot of us are coming down with a serious cases of cabin fever. The best remedy for that is getting outside.

Yesterday was a rare day in which I both "ran" and cycled. I wanted a heavy cardio workout because heavy rain is forecast for the next few days. So I rode my bike to Tatamy, locked it up, went for a run and then continued riding along the trail and then climbed the hills back to home. I noticed a lot of heavy traffic, both from cars and trucks. In addition to the usual delivery trucks, there were heavy load tractor trailers carrying slabs of concrete and steel beams. There were also loads of the smaller trucks carrying gravel. Obviously, the construction industry is gearing up.

Grist Mill bridge
Along the Tatamy Trail, I saw the bridge construction at the Grist Mill, which looks like it is well underway. I failed to bring my phone, but a friend who happened to be there took and sent me the picture you see. Further down the Tatamy trail, I saw a home contractor doing a project at someone's property. His truck was parked in the yard. Yeah, he might be in violation of the lockdown, but I won't rat him out. He's trying to feed his family because the state has pretty much failed the self-employed and gig workers.

In addition to the increased traffic on the roads, the trails are usually packed. In the middle of the work week, there was no room top park at the terminus of the trail in Tatamy, unless you had a bike. The trail was packed with runners, walkers and cyclists of all ages and types. Some wore masks, while others did not. I see lots of lovebirds, both young and old, who are enjoying their time with each other. I see entire families along the trail, with kids on scooters while mom and dad try to keep up. But the happiest people have been man's best friend - the dog. They are going for lots of walks, which they tell me is their favorite past time. If they could vote, they'd demand that the lockdown continue forever.

I can walk and even run in very cold and wet weather. But I never ride in the rain, and yesterday was about as cold as I can tolerate. In the pic above, you see a yellow windbreaker. I didn't think I needed it yesterday. I was wrong.

This lockdown has been tough on our finances, and has exposed major weaknesses in the federal and state responses. The people I've seen outside, however, have always smiled and said Hi.

I only wish I got paid for goofing off.   

Bethlehem's Mixed Signals - It Continues to Cancel Meetings, But Will Start Ticketing Overtime Parkers Again

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez announced yesterday that he's cancelling all public meetings, except for City Council, through Friday May 15, 2020 . This includes his monthly “Open Door” on May 11, 2020. But at the same time, the Parking Authority intends to start enforcing meter and street sweeping again, starting on May 4. You'll also have to pay to use the City's garages.

According to the so-called parking experts, the reason for meters is to prevent people from lingering at a business. But since nearly all business is shut down, it's ridiculous to penalize residents for parking wherever they want, so long as it is no threat to public safety.

Parking enforcement should be delayed until Governor Tom Wolf allows businesses to function again.

Besides, unless you are a City worker, it's very unlikely that anyone on Bethlehem has any spare change. no one has any spare change

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Allentown Offering $5,000 Grants to Neighborhood Businesses

From Allentown: The city of Allentown Department of Community & Economic Development is offering a $500,000 Small Business Stabilization Program.

Through this program, grants of up to $5,000 will be offered to neighborhood businesses that are suffering financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The primary objective of the program is to help neighborhood businesses survive this health crisis and assist employers with emergency cash flow needs. 

The program intent is to help retain and continue to pay small neighborhood business employees where possible and to continue to provide goods and services to Allentown’s residents to the maximum possible extent.

Funding for this program has been made possible through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development – CARES Act. 

WHO IS ELIGIBLE:

This program is intended for City-licensed neighborhood businesses located in the City of Allentown, with strong preference for businesses owned and operated by city residents.   Eligible businesses should:
1) have under $1,000,000 in most recently reported annual gross revenue.  (Note:  No less than 50% of total grant funds awarded will be directed to businesses with annual gross revenue of $500,000 or less).
2) have a demonstrated or projected reduction in monthly revenue of more than 25% as a result of COVID-19.
3) can demonstrate that grant funds will be used in promoting the interests of this program and of their business.

(Note:  This program can be used in conjunction with an SBA loan or grant as long as it does not duplicate coverage of expenses.  Preference may be given, however, to small businesses for whom the SBA loan processes may not be practical.)

WHAT CAN GRANT FUNDS BE USED FOR:

Grant funds are intended to provide emergency operating funds for neighborhood businesses that are closed or have had their foot traffic significantly reduced.  Eligible activities include rental or mortgage payments, utilities, payroll, real estate taxes, and outstanding vendor invoices.

Applications will be available on the city website www.allentownpa.gov on Friday, May 1.

The city intends to direct the funds to the small businesses that likely were passed over by the larger SBA programs.  Applications will be reviewed, and funds awarded on a first come, first serve basis.

Big Brother Government: Have You Received Any Pandemic Relief?

According to news accounts, over 88 million people have received stimulus checks thus far. Have you received yours? So far, I've received nothing although I believe it will come soon. Although self-employed people like myself are finally able to apply for pandemic relief, the state system refuses to allow the filing of a weekly claim. Instead, for the past two weeks, this has been the response: "Continued Claims filing is not yet available, but we will notify all applicants when the system is ready to accept claims in a few weeks."

While Governor Tom Wolf refuses to allow self-employed people like myself to file claims, his Department of Health has set up an online complaint form so you can rat out the few businesses still permitted to operate.

NorCo Has Received 25,000 Mail-in Ballot Applications

On Monday, I told you that you can still register to vote, if you do so by May 18. I also told you that you have until May 26 to apply for a mail-in ballot. You then have until Election Day (June 2) to make sure it is in the hands of elections officials. I also urged you to vote by mail. I could scare you and say it's because of Covid-19, but the real reason is that I'm a very lazy election judge. It's going to be a long day, and I want to be able to take several naps.

I'm lazy, but the elections office has been overwhelmed. Registrar Amy Cozze reports that her office has been hit with 25,000 applications for mail-in ballots thus far. That's quite a jump from March 19, when she had 5,700 applications. That was already a record. Her office is keeping up. She's mailed out 20,000 ballots. That includes a ballot sent to me. I've voted.

Starting May 11, the courthouse will be open to the public in case you need to return your ballot and don't mind having a mask and allowing someone to check your temperature on the way in. Hopefully, the courthouse will be open to the public for all purposes starting that day.

Allentown Signs on to Ring Bells Across Pa.

Yesterday, I told you Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez has issued a proclamation to urge all churches to sound their bells on Sunday at 7 pm. Allentown Mayor Ray O’Connell is urging houses of worship in the city to take part in the Bells Across Pennsylvania Day initiative as well.

The idea for this comes from the Pennsylvania State Mayor’s Association, which is encouraging the ringing of bells for three minutes. It's being done primarily to honor first responders, grocers and health care workers who have continued to serve their community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

No word on whether the bells must wear masks.

“I have often said in the last seven weeks that we are all in this together,” said O’Connell. “It will be nice to show so many of those folks who have shouldered a great burden how much we appreciate the effort.”

Pennsylvania State Mayors' Association President Jim Norwalk says the first minute will recognize and honor first responders, healthcare workers, and employees of grocery stores, pharmacies and other life-sustaining businesses who have maintained essential services to the general public while at risk of infection from COVID-19, and deserve to be celebrated as "hometown heroes."

The second minute is intended to show solidarity with elected officials and residents of municipalities across the Commonwealth, all of whom are fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines together in their communities.

The third minute is to demonstrate a collective resolve that Pennsylvanians will prevail over COVID-19 and work tirelessly to ensure that their businesses and civic life will thrive once again.

O’Connell said, “We are all learning that we have a great part to play in the success of our city. When we social distance, we are doing our part to stop the spread of the disease. We are no doubt finding new appreciation for our first responders and the doctors and nurses who are staring the crisis in the face when they answer every call or greet every patient. I ask our houses of worship to be heard on Sunday at 7:00 p.m.”

O’Connell will be issuing a proclamation designating Sunday, May 3 as “Bells Across Pennsylvania Day” in Allentown.

NorCo's Parks Will Re-Open May 1

At the last Northampton County Council meeting, Executive Lamont McClare said the most pushback he's received during the Covid-19 crisis was regarding his decision to close the county's parks. He shut them down April 7. He's decided that, effective May 1, he will re-open them.

In a statement announcing this decision, McClure said he "felt it was necessary to protect public health as cases in our area were expected to peak between April 9th and 15th.” Well, that peak never materialized. I've also heard that McClure felt he had no choice because people in the parks were refusing to follow social distancing guidelines.

There have been several studies demonstrating that you're much more likely to be infected by the Covid-19 virus indoors than outdoors. A recent Chinese study (not peer reviewed) concludes transmission of Covid-19 is almost entirely an indoor phenomenon. This is corroborated by a Japanese study demonstrating that respiratory viruses like Covid-19 are less virulent in higher temperatures and humidity. Most recently, Homeland Security's Science and Technology Department has produced emerging research showing that sunlight, can seriously weaken Covid-19 in about two minutes. At lesser intensities, it takes a little longer. In addition to the ultra violet rays from sunlight, heat and humidity also play a role in weakening and killing Covid-19.

A scientific basis to justify park closures is basically nonexistent.

Though the parks will be open, facilities like pavilions, playgrounds and restrooms will remain closed until further notice.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

NorCo Sets Record of 136 New Covid-19 Cases


According to Northampton County's Covid-19 dashboard, we've set a record of 136 new Covid-19 cases. The previous record was 122 new Covid-19 cases on April 4. This is about 1/8 of the total new cases reported statewide, and is completely at odds with results over the past several weeks and what is happening elsewhere.

I suppose this could be explained as the result of tests administered over the weekend. It could be a keystroke error. This anomaly is cause for concern. It this becomes a trend, we will remain in the red zone for a very long time.

Pa. Supreme Court Directs Local Courts to Restore Some Operations

From Administrative Office of Pa. Courts: In an Order issued today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court directed county courts to restore a wider range of operations, while giving priority to critical matters and remaining focused on protecting the health and safety of court users, personnel and the public.

“Courts play a central role in our constitutional democracy, and it’s important to ensure that they are available to those seeking vindication of their rights or resolution of disputes,” said Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Saylor. “The COVID-19 health emergency has forced everyone to adapt, and courts have quickly adjusted to handle a wide range of matters remotely.”

“While the Court has extended the judicial emergency through June 1, 2020, in order to provide President Judges with authority to address varying local conditions, we recognize the need to move beyond emergency matters to a much broader range of court functions. We do so, however, giving priority to our most critical functions and in a manner consistent with public health and safety.”

With the exception of speedy trial calculations under Rule of Criminal Procedure 600, the statewide suspension of time calculations and deadlines provided for in the courts previous orders will end effective May 11, 2020. President Judges are given substantial discretion in the enforcement of deadlines, with due regard for public safety.

The Court’s previous orders regarding dispossession of property are extended until May 11, at which point they will end. As today’s order notes, however, there may be restraints on some actions related to dispossession of property imposed by other sources, including the federal CARES Act.

Jury trials (both criminal and civil) remain suspended and will be scheduled for a date in the future.

In an effort to ensure access to open courts in light of remote proceedings, the Supreme Court continues to encourage the use of advanced communication technology that permits access for the public and press.

In addition to identifying the same critical functions outlined in previous orders, the Court’s Order provides the following guidance:

Safety of Judges, Court Staff and Users

Court leaders must implement and maintain procedures that limit potential COVID-19 exposure, including restricting in-person access to court facilities;
Subject to constitutional limitations, any state or local rule that impedes a judge’s ability to utilize available technologies to limit in-person contact is suspended through June 1, 2020; and
For proceedings that must be held in person, appropriate safety measures, consistent with federal and state executive guidance, should be employed. All courts are encouraged to consider deciding matters on the papers and/or to conduct proceeding through the use of advanced communication technologies, to the extent constitutional requirements can be satisfied.

Court Filings and Time Limitations and Deadlines

Suspension of time calculations and deadlines outlined in the Court’s previous Orders will end May 11, 2020;
Prior orders related to payments to Magisterial District Courts are extended until May 11, 2020.
Court filings should be by means other than in-person delivery whenever possible;
Self-represented litigants or attorneys who believe the enforcement of time deadlines pose a danger to health and safety may file a certification with the court for consideration;
Attorneys are encouraged to conduct depositions remotely; and
Deposition of and required appearances for doctors, nurses, or other healthcare professionals substantially involved in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic are suspended through June 1.

Additional information about the impact of COVID-19 on court operations is available online, at @pennsylvaniacourts and @PACourts.

Bells Across Pa on May 3



As Poe would tell us, the tintinabulation of clanging bells has different meanings at different times, from a "world of merriment" to "world of solemn thought." Perhaps all these emotions are appropriate when the iron tongues of church bells toll on May 3 at 7 pm. We certainly should be grateful to those who have continued feeding us as well as those who've kept us out of harm's way. Yet at the same time, the sobbing of the bells can express how many of us feel about both lives and liberties lost.

Susan Wild, Now Is Not The Time To Ask For Money

Lisa Scheller
Three candidates are running for Congress in Pa.'s 7th District - Republicans Dean Browning, Lisa Scheller and Democrat Susan Wild.  Let me tell you what they're doing.

Dean Browning is holed up in his underground lair somewhere with Dr. Evil, complaining about his "captivity" and praising Donald Trump. If you have trouble sleeping, tune into his weekly Facebook presentations. It's ten times better than Ambien.

What about Wild? believe it or not, this supposed Democrat and champion of the underclass is dunning people for money. Her campaign is running ads on Facebook claiming she needs money because it's the end of the month. Yeah, Susan, that's when most people have to pay something called rent. Perhaps you've heard of it. She is insulting 1.65 million Pennsylvanians  who are seeking unemployment benefits. Many are being ignored and are having trouble putting food on the table. 

The third hopeful is Lisa Scheller. She and her friends are busy collecting and donating food for people in need, like the over 1 million people screwed over by Governor Tom Wolf. "We need to come together as a community, be united, be optimistic, and united, we will defeat Covid-19."

Which of these three sounds like she belongs in Congress?

Eight Oaks Deserves Your Patronage

Regular readers of this blog know that I only rarely recommend a business. Especially one that sells booze. But I'm about to make an exception for Eight Oaks Farm Distillery, located in New Tripoli. Since the Covid-19 crisis began, this purveyor of fine spirits has donated the equivalent of over 60,000 plus 8 oz bottles of sanitizer to hundreds of mission-critical organizations.It is producing over 4,000 gallons of hand sanitizer a day, and it's going to Emergency Management Directors, nonprofits, and essential businesses. If you fall in any of these categories, Eight Oaks will help you. Just email them at sanitizer@eightoaksdistillery.com. They 0will take your order, and coordinate pick up for you at their distillery.

Starting Wednesday, individuals and families can order 64 oz bottles of hand sanitizer online website and pick up curbside at the distillery. Limited amounts will also be available at their Easton Public Market and Harrisburg Broad Street Market locations, starting Thursday, April 30, 2020.

But it just begins with hand sanitizer. Starting Wednesday, you'll be able to order the hard stuff for pickup at the distillery. And on Thursday, you'll be able to e to purchase spirits at the Easton Public Market and Broad Street Market locations. I'm talking bourbon, rye, rum, gin, vodka and even applejack.

But no Everclear.

The Big Northeast Might Be Sidelined by Governor Tom Wolf For Some Time

The Lehigh Valley is part of the Big Ten. I wish this were a sports league because we'd crush everyone, but this is actually a conference in the Pa Pandemic League. We are one of ten counties that make up what Governor Tom Wolf calls the "Northeast." The ten participating counties are Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Monroe, Luzerne, Lackawanna, Pike, Wayne, Susquehanna and Wyoming. Total population is estimated at 1,611,500.

In the Big Ten, there's a Big Two, and that's Lehigh and Northampton County. Together, we are 42% of the population of the Big Ten.

Right now, we've been red-shirted. Before we can get in the game of actually working again, we need to drop to a new -case rate of 806 for 14 consecutive days.

Dr. Steve Thode, the retired Director of Real Estate Studies at Lehigh University, has kindly prepared a colorized chart showing the daily new Covid-19 cases over the past two weeks. As you can see, the virus has been strongest in the Lehigh Valley.


In a second chart, Dr. Thode shows the 14-day new case rate for the 10-county region. The peak occurred on April 15 - the first half of April was fugly. As the number of new cases continues to drop (hopefully), so, too, will the 14-day rate. Still, a long way to go to get to 806.


I sure would hate to be Wayne or Susquehanna County.

They are totally screwed.

Upper Mount Bethel Livestreams on Facebook

Upper Mount Bethel Township's Supervisors met remotely last night at a meeting that was livestreamed on Facebook. Notice of this meeting was posted on the Township's website on April 24. Recent changes in state law relax public notice requirements during the Covid-19 emergency. Advance notice must be posted on the township's web page or advertised in the local newspaper. If a plan is up for approval, there should be five days advance notice.

Last night's meeting did include a small subdivision approval, so five days advance notice was required. Only three days advance notice of this meeting format was given. I was unable to find an advertisement of a remote meeting anywhere. I nevertheless think the meeting complied with the new law. Township staff was at the municipal building for the meeting. Any member of the public who appeared for the regularly scheduled meeting would still be able to participate.

At this meeting, insurance agent Randy Crane was appointed to a vacancy on the Planning Commission.

Supervisors also voted to join local officials across the river in expressing reservations about a controversial $50 million rockfall fence that New Jersey's Department of Transportation is planning along Route 80.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Pa. National Guard At Gracedale (Updated)

On Friday, I told you that 62 of 596 Gracedale residents have tested positive for Covid-19. Sadly, eight have died. In addition, 26 staff members have been infected, although seven have finished their quarantine periods and are now back at work. What's really bad is that between April 1 and April 23, there were 562 call-offs. As understandable as this might be, it threatens the county's ability to serve those who are in its care.

So today, the Pennsylvania National Guard will be assisting at the county nursing home. A contingent of one RN, 50 medics and five generalists will be on-hand to assist with meals and bathing. The RN will dispense medication. They will work on the non Covid-19 floors.

From the County (10 AM) - The National Guard will primarily assist with non-Covid-19 residents, allowing Gracedale employees to focus on residents who are positive for Covid-19 or have pending test results. Their mission is intended to last for no longer than seventy-two hours. When the Guard arrives they will spend their first day getting acclimated to the facility and receiving instruction on the proper way of performing tasks in a nursing home.

Guard assistance will include twenty medics to work as CNAs from 7 AM to 7 PM, eight licensed nurses to work the 3 PM to 11 PM shift and assist with distributing meds, and additional staff to help with delivering food carts, making beds, etc. Guard staff will be focused on the tower building which has the greatest need for help.

When Will Wolf Allow the LV To Go Back To Work?


When will Governor Tom Wolf allow the Lehigh Valley to go back to work? That's hard to say. He has placed the Lehigh Valley in the northeast section of the state, consisting of 10 counties. Going to "Yellow" will be based on the 14-Day New Case Rate for these 10 counties combined. The 10 counties are: Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Monroe, Luzerne, Lackawanna, Pike, Wayne, Susquehanna and Wyoming.

These 10 counties have an estimated total population of 1,611,500.

The "Big 5" are Lehigh, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe and Northampton with a total of about 1,371,600.

Lehigh and NorCo combined are a little less than 42% of the total population of the 10 counties.

Given the total population of the 10 counties is 1,611,500, the "magic number" is 806 new cases over a 14-day period. As of today, the 10 counties have had 3,175 new cases the past 14 days. So, currently, we're at about 4 times the level to get to "Yellow."

Alrighty then.

The Coronavirus Stakes

You Have Until May 26 To Apply For A Mail-in Ballot

Governor Tom Wolf has crippled Pa.'s economy with his lockdown, something he did and without even bothering to discuss it with business leaders. He wants everyone to shelter-in-place, but has thus far refused to use his emergency powers to make the June 2 primary a mail-in event only. You can never tell with this guy, but it's probably too late to do anything now. So if you are one of the hopefully few hardy souls who insist on voting in person in the June 2 Presidential Primary, let me give you the following advice:

First, you now have until May 18 to register to vote or change your registration. You can do so online. To be eligible, you musty be a U.S.. citizen who has lived in the state at least 30 days before the election.

Second, you now have until May 26 to apply for a mail-in ballot. This is something you can do online as well. Once you receive a mail-in ballot, you have until 8 pm on Election Day (June 2) to return it. It must be in the elections office by that date and time or your vote will not count. If you take it to your polling precinct on Election Day, that is not good enough. It must be in the elections office itself. Mailing it on June 2 is not good enough either. It must be received by the elections office by June 2 at the latest.

Third, the mail-in ballot ballot has no postage affixed. If the county really wants you to vote, it should at least put a stamp on the damn envelope, but is too cheap. Never fear. According to postal service officials, they'll deliver mail-in ballots regardless whether postage is affixed, and then bill the county. Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor lack of a stamp, stays these couriers from the swift delivery of mail-in ballots.

Fourth, Governor Tom Wolf is supposedly giving counties 6,000 free "infection protection" kits. I'll believe that when I see it. These kits will supposedly include antibacterial wipes, gloves, surgical masks, hand sanitizers, headset covers, scalpels, ventilators, hydroxychloroquine, toilet paper, bleach with paper cups, and a few cans of disinfectant with syringes.

Do yourself a favor. Vote by mail. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

NorCo Reports Covid-19 Death Toll is 57, Including 8 at Gracedale

From NorCo Exec Lamont McClure: “We are providing the following information to give our residents the maximum amount of information permitted by law and in keeping with sound epidemiological standards,” says Lamont McClure. “It is a sad and grim duty to report this data, but we continue to do so, so that our fellow residents have the information they need to make sound decisions. What the new sad total of fifty-seven tells us is that we are not yet done experiencing the devastation of Covid-19 in Northampton County.”

“As with many other nursing homes around the country, the administration at Gracedale is working hard to limit exposure to residents and staff. At this time, sixty-two of the 596 residents have tested positive for Covid-19. Tragically, eight have passed. Six patients are in recovery and will return to their units when they are no longer infectious. Twenty-six staff members have tested positive; seven have finished their quarantine periods and are now back at work. Forty staff called out of work on April 23rd.”

"This data comes from the Northampton County Coroner’s office and only reflects the number of people who have died of COVID-19 within the county’s borders as of April 23rd. It does not reflect those Northampton County residents who died of the virus in another county. Six of the fifty-seven deaths recorded were residents of other counties or states.

Municipalities in which the 57 decedents lived:
Forks Twp. (1)
Lower Nazareth Twp. (2)
Bangor Boro (1)
Palmer Twp. (13)
Upper Nazareth Twp. (10)
Williams Twp. (2)
Nazareth Boro (1)
Bethlehem Twp (11)
City of Bethlehem (3)
Washington Twp (1)
City of Easton (3)
Plainfield Twp (1)
Wilson Boro (1)
Lehigh (1)

Phillipsburg, NJ (1)
Bronx, NY (1)
Millersburg, PA (1)
Lopatcong Twp, NJ (1)
Astoria, NY (1)
Monroe County (1)

"Average age of the Deceased: 79.3 years.

"Gender of the Deceased: 49% Female, 51% Male

"Race of the Deceased: 77% White, 11% African American, 5% Hispanic,
7% Asian/Pacific Islander

"The GIS department has put together a dashboard to track Covid-19 infections and related deaths in Northampton County. It can be accessed at:
https://northampton.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/a90733c6c4e1469289ec826f3f59dc23

"Please note—the 57 unfortunate victims of Covid-19 do not provide enough data points for a statistically significant sample. Younger people remain at significant and serious risk, and should stay-at-home. All Northampton County residents should continue to practice social distancing.

"This information is being provided as they are the facts as they exist on the ground as of today. These profound losses to our community do not provide us with enough scientific evidence to draw any conclusions."

Sunlight, Heat & Humidity May Kill Covid-19



There was some very reassuring news at yesterday's daily White House press conference concerning Covid-19. Bill Bryan, the science and technology advisor for Homeland Security, reported on studies being conducted by the Science and Technology Department showing that sunlight, can seriously weaken Covid-19 in about two minutes. At lesser intensities, it takes a little longer. In addition to the ultra violet rays from sunlight, heat and humidity also play a role in weakening and killing Covid-19. "The virus dies the quickest in direct sunlight," said Bryan.

Bryan did caution that these are "emerging" results, but they certainly are encouraging.

Indoors, Bryan reports the virus is destabilized by increasing the temperature and humidity. Because sunlight impedes virus transmission, he recommends outdoor activities. But he cautions, ""It would be irresponsible for us to say that we feel the summer is just going to totally kill the virus … that is not the case."

He added that isopropyl alcohol kills the virus in 30 seconds.

These findings are corroborated by a Japanese study showing that respiratory viruses diminish with increased heat and humidity. Of course, the virus could return when temperatures and humidity drop and sunlight fades. That study was conducted before the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid-19 is a respiratory virus.

Given this data, local municipal officials should consider re-opening parks.

Listen to the science.

Allentown To Extend Tax Deadline a Second Time

Allentown Mayor Ray O’Connell has already extended the city's tax deadlines once. Now, thanks to a new state law, he'll be asking City Council to extend them again.

Previously, he real estate tax discount period from April 5 to May 5 and extended the filing due date for 2019 Business Privilege Tax until July 15, 2020. O'Connell plans to enlarge the tax discount period until August 31. Also, the payment can be made at any time until the end of the years without incurring any late fees.

“All of government is trying to do what it thinks is best during these most unusual times,” said O’Connell. “The stay-at-home order has severely impacted the ability to pay for many of our residents. We hope this extension will allow more time to get everybody back on their feet."

City Council has scheduled a special meeting for Monday, April 27 at 6:00 p.m. to vote to ratify the new real estate tax deadline and discount period extensions as well as the BPT filing extension.

Literacy Center To Offer Free "Work From Home" Certification

The Literacy Center (TLC), based in Allentown, is launching a new online and free certification program focused on working from home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Work From Home (WFH) Certification” was developed to assist people working from home for the first time. The 20-hour training program will feature technology tools and software, communication, workflow, productivity and time management, working in virtual teams, compliance and security, critical thinking, and guest speakers with professional WFH experience. Graduates of the program will earn the TLC Work From Home (WFH) Certification.

Morning and evening classes will be offered with the first cohort starting May 4th. Attendance at one of the following online information sessions is required for participation in the program:

Tuesday, April 28th, 9:30am

Thursday, April 30th, 5:30pm

To register for an information session or learn more about the program, contact Erin Anderson at 610.435.0680 or eanderson@theliteracycenter-lv.org.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

HAP: Gracedale Staff Doing "GREAT" Job in Fighting Covid-19 Pandemic

HAP is the Hospital and Healthcare Association of Pennsylvania. It recently visited Gracedale to offer the nursing home suggestions on the nursing home's response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Here's what Gracedale was told:

Thank you for allowing myself and LT Peacock PANG visit your facility today.

As a trained emergency nurse, with a specialty in disaster preparedness and response, I would like to share the following observations.

In my opinion, Gracedale Nursing Home has demonstrated several best practices during the COVID19 Pandemic. You are the largest LTC under a single roof in the Commonwealth but your number of COVID19 patients are well below the average of most LTC in the State. I attribute this accomplishment to many factors, especially the dedication of your entire staff and strict adherence to current CDC guidelines. All staff must follow these protocols or the disease rate increases significantly. Our support staff are essential to the health of the facility. If not for the strong work of the EVS, facilities, food services, security staff, the system does fail. Your ability to develop negative pressure areas is considered a best practice and it appears that your PPE allocation and conservation practices are second to none. As much as we wish there was more to offer the staff and patients of Gracedale, we know that we cannot offer all the needed support. We will do the best that we can!. In the interim, please pass onto the staff that they are doing a GREAT JOB at keeping the infection rate low and in doing so they ALL are saving lives.

Wishing you all the best in these trying times,

Michael Whalen, BSN, , NHDC-BC, CHEP
The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of PA

How President Morgan Freeman Would Handle Covid-19

Unemployed and Self-Employed Abandoned by Governor Tom Wolf

Philadelphia's Unemployment Project, a nonprofit for the unemployed, is asking Governor Tom Wolf to do something about the complete lack of communication between those who have been idled and state unemployment. I know people who lost their jobs and still have no unemployment. For gig workers and the self-employed, a state system rolled out on Saturday crashed repeatedly, and is still weeks away from being able to accept weekly claims. This is inexcusable.

Robert Lucas, a laid off supervisor at a linen company, said “I filed for unemployment on March 16. I haven't received anything at all from unemployment. My bills are overdue, my loans are overdue, I just need some type of help, please. You can’t get through online, or with phone calls. I called a hundred times yesterday and nothing. Please can you help me? Please my time is running out. I have no money at all please help me.”

“We need answers,” said Shannon Darcy, a laid off bartender. “It's unacceptable to have so many people in a state of limbo, and uncertainty during such an uncertain time. People need the phones to be answered. It's been over four weeks. People should have answers by now.”

“We know the state has been overwhelmed with new claims and new guidelines from the recent federal stimulus bill, but people need to know if they can expect help or not. Providing no information is creating great stress for laid off workers. They don’t know if they will get help or not and food and rent is becoming a crisis for many, said Ted Kelly, PUP organizer. “Adding phone lines and recalling laid off staff to answer their phones can let people know where they stand while the state tries to handle the crush.”

Regardless how you feel about the lockdown, Governor Wolf's response to the plight of those he has hurt is completely unacceptable.

If you wish, you can add your name to a letter demanding that he wake uo and start serving the people he represents.

DEP To Spray Against Black Flies Today

One of the few things we're still allowed to do is fish. I was looking forward to opening day until Governor Tom Wolf decided to open it early, with no advance notice except to a special few who are in the loop. Well, if you decided to fish today, better stay away from the Delaware. DEP's black helicopters will be crawling up and down the Delaware River, not to check creel limits, but to spray pesticides aimed at one of the most evil creatures known to mankind - the Simulium, aka black fly, aka biting gnat.

You can call me prejudiced all you want, but I hate black flies. The women in particular. They're the ones who bite. So far as I know, they don't kill you. They just make you wish you were dead. 

What the DEP will do is sparay a chemical called Vectobac 12AS. It looks like chocolate milk, but don't drink it. It smells like fish sauce and is loaded with bacteria that kills the gnat before it turns into a bad ass.

All very natural.

I do miss the summer days on the Jersey shore, when the mosquito trucks came out and sprayed white clouds of DEET. We used to run through them as our elders watched and laughed, knowing the government would never try to kill us.

At least not on purpose. 

Now you know what happened to me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Bethlehem To Provde Transitional Housing For Homeless

In my summary of last night's Bethlehem City Council meeting, I failed to outline what steps the City is taking to help the homeless. They are definitely at-risk during the Covid-19 pandemic. The City has just issued a news release to outline these measures,

From Bethlehem: Mayor Bob Donchez today announced that the City of Bethlehem has been actively working with community partners to ensure that the needs of vulnerable populations, such as the homeless, are addressed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The City recently received additional funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to support prevention, preparation and response activities related to COVID-19.

As part of the overall plan, the City’s collaboration with New Bethany Ministries and Comfort Suites Bethlehem will provide hotel rooms for Bethlehem homeless individuals and families in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19 in the community. During this time, New Bethany Ministries will operate an additional transitional housing program to ensure that these families and individuals have a space to socially distance and self-quarantine as well as have access to consistent showers, hand washing and bathroom facilities.

A key goal of this initiative is to not only provide immediate housing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Bethlehem, but provide a more stable housing solution for these families and individuals after the pandemic as well.

“It is during trying times like these that we will be judged by how we care for the most vulnerable among us,” said Mayor Donchez. “Helping individuals and families with transitional housing is a priority to ensuring this virus doesn’t spread throughout our most vulnerable populations.”

“The Comfort Suites Bethlehem has always been a strong supporter of the community and we are glad to be able to offer our assistance during this crisis,” stated Dave Urban, General Manager.

If you are a resident of Bethlehem and in need of this service, please contact New Bethany Ministries at (610) 691-5602 ext. 205 for evaluation and referral.

Bethlehem's Health Bureau on Covid-19

Last week, Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez' updated city residents on City operations in the wake of Covid-19. In addition to his own presentation, he had Department Heads Kristen Wenrich (Health) Bob Novatnack (Emergency Management) Alicia Karner (Community and Economic Development), Mike Alkhal ( of Public Works) and Eric Evans (Finance) on hand for their own presentations. Last night, Wenrich (Health) and Novatnack (Emergency Management) updated City Council as well. All were informative, but I was particularly impressed by Wenrich.

Wenrich reports that, as of Monday, Bethlehem has had 376 Covid-19 cases, 39 of which required hospitalization (about 20% of those infected). Three people have died. She indicated that if a person in a household tests positive, and another member of the family becomes symptomatic, it will be presumed that person has Covid-19 as well.

She indicated 45.7% of those infected are non-Hispanic, and the average age is 46.9 years. Although the numbers have declined, she warned that testing has gone down as well.

According to Weinrich, the Covid-19 numbers in Allentown "are going through the roof." In fact, she said Lehigh County currently has the highest incident rate in the state. She remarked this is bad news for the Lehigh Valley because both Lehigh and Northampton will be lumped together in deciding what areas should be re-opened. 

Willie Reynolds said the pandemic has made clear that many city residents live paycheck to paycheck, and credited Mayor Bob Donchez for some of the steps he's taken, like the delay in payment of taxes as well as the grant program for small businesses. He sponsored a resolution that would challenge the City with creative solutions to help everyone with items like universal broadband throughout the City. His resolution passed unanimously.

Gracedale Wants Its Workers Back

Gracedale is the largest nursing home, not just in the County, but the entire state. It has 600 residents who are cared for by 700 employees. But some of the people who work there are afraid because of Covid-19. On Thursday night, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure told County Council that there had been 400 call-offs in April. Actually, the number is higher. Between April 1 and April 21, the total call-offs are a staggering 580. That amounts to an average of over nine people missing from each shift. The result is mandated overtime, which puts a strain on the workers who are already there. Those who call off are using up sick days or family leave.

Jennifer Stewart-King, Gracedale's Administrator, has sent a memo to these workers, appealing to them to return to work.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of the heroes who have continued to come to work at Gracedale during this challenging time. You truly are heroes to our residents!

I am writing to all of you to implore everyone who has not been working to return to work. I know Covid-19 is scary to many of you, but it is important to remember that most people who test positive for this virus experience mild symptoms. Many of your coworkers have continued to not only come to work their normal shifts at Gracedale, but have also stepped up and taken on additional shifts to cover for all of the absences. Your coworkers who are coming to work understand it is our moral obligation to care for the residents at Gracedale, especially during this difficult time. We need you to put your residents first. Gracedale has ample personal protective equipment (PPE) for every staff member to keep you as safe as possible in a healthcare setting. For some staff who have been fearful to go to the units where there are residents with Covid, I have personally taken them to the units in PPE to alleviate their concerns. Dawn Tuersfeldman has done the same and we will both continue to do so whenever it will help someone be comfortable enough to return to work.

There is also some good news to report. So far, we have had 22 employees who tested positive for Covid-19, some of whom have already returned to work. We have 35 residents who tested positive for Covid, and 6 of them are recovering.

Again, it is your moral obligation to come to work to care for the residents at Gracedale who rely entirely on you being here to care for them. They too are scared and lonely, and need everyone to return to work to help them through all of this.
Sincerely,

Jennifer Stewart King

Check Cashig Fee for Stimulus Check Just 1.5%

Allentown City has released a statement to remind everyone that, if you receive a paper federal stimulus check, the law limits the maximum fee to cash that check to 1.5 percent.

“It is important consumers understand check cashing fees, so they keep as much of their money as possible,” said Pa.'s Acting Banking Secretary Richard Vague. “We will be ensuring that check casher licensees are complying with statutory provisions related to fees on government checks during ongoing examinations.”

Economic impact payments are specifically defined as a “Government Check” in the law that regulates check cashers in Pennsylvania. For any consumer that uses a licensed check casher or a registered retail check casher (e.g. grocery store) to cash this check, a maximum fee of 1.5 percent of the value of the check may be assessed. For example, on a $1,200 check, the maximum allowed fee is $18. A consumer would receive cash in the amount of $1,182.

To be sure that the establishment is properly licensed or registered consumers can call 1-800-PA-BANKS.

If an establishment cashes your Government Check and charges more than 1.5 percent, please contact Banking immediately by calling 1-800-PA-BANKS or visiting the website at dobs.pa.gov. It is important that you retain records of the transaction including a receipt.

“Consumers should remain vigilant about various coronavirus scams,” said Vague. “No government official will call you to confirm bank account information or your Social Security number. Never give out personal information if you did not initiate the phone call.”

For more detailed information related to financial scams and tips for protecting yourself, Banking has developed a financial scams guide.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Gadfly Has Excellent Series on 1918 Flu in the Lehigh Valley

Prior to this novel coronavirus, the most serious pandemic to sweep the globe occurred was the 1918 Spanish flu. Gadfly has been running an excellent series of stories about how it affected us locally, based on the dusty archives of The Morning Call. I recommend it highly for its historical perspective. The series, which  includes an excellent video presentation, from historian Jim Higgins, notes the many similarities in government reactions. There are also important differences.

South Bethlehem at that time was so crowded that boarding homes were running three shifts of sleepers on the same mattresses. The feds were basically hands off in those days. But local and state officials got involved. They banned large gatherings, closed schools and houses of worship and banned large gatherings. Saloons and "coffeehouses" were shuttered. There was some resistance by Allentown's Mayor, who insisted “that Bethlehem was filthy and dirty, and that a wagon load of refuse could be secured from three blocks of the highways and that the streets were covered with thick layers of dust, the worst breeder of disease.”

Bethlehem, thanks primarily to Mayor Archibald Johnston and Bethlehem Steel Health Director Loyal Shoudy, organized a response seen nowhere else. In those days, there were far fewer hospitals. They established one in South Bethlehem. Police were sent to visit homes, and the sick were taken there. This local consortium convinced the state to ban gatherings and close places where demon drink was dispensed.

Significantly, no businesses were closed. Bethlehem Steel remained very busy.

Gadfly's essay today recounts the tale of brothers Brindamour and Brick O'Donnell, who were caught inside Sam Roth's shuttered Allentown saloon. Poor Brick was found in a "state of stupefaction" behind a tapped barrel of whiskey, but Brindamour made his way out a window. An Allentown police officer emptied his revolver at Brindamour, who escaped unharmed. Police searched "every rat hole and railroad yard" in the first, sixth and fourteenth wards, but were unable to find that damned elusive Brindamour.

No word on whether he ever got the flu.

Why Not Order June 2 Primary Be Mail-in Only?

Every registered voter in Allegheny County will be receiving a mail-in ballot application for the June 2 primary, along with a postage-paid return envelope. In fact, Allegheny has joined Philadelphia, Montgomery and Chester County in urging Governor Tom Wolf to use his emergency powers to direct that election be conducted exclusively by mail. You'd think this would be a no-brainer for Wolf, who has shut down the entire state's economy to avoid the spread of Covid-19. But while he';s been quick to order you to shelter-in-place and don face masks when you sally forth for toilet paper, he's been strangely quiet about making the now noneventful primary a mail-in exercise only.

Wisconsin recently conducted its election, and 70% of the turnout was by absentee ballot. It's pretty clear voters have no desire to crowd into the polls.

Executive Lamont McClure told NorCo Council on April 16 that an all mail election would have to be decided that week in order to conduct it.  I frankly see no reason why it has suddenly become impossible to actually take a measure that might promote public health without throwing 1.3 million people out of work, but that's me.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Covid-19 Has Infected 73 at Gracedale


A news release from Northampton County indicates that 73 people have now been infected with Covid-19 at Gracedale, the county nursing home. This includes 50 residents and 23 employees.

Of the residents, six are recovering in an isolation ward. Unfortunately, four have succumbed.

Five of the 23 employees have recovered and are back to work.

Gracedale is the largest nursing home under one roof in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. There are more than 600 residents living at Gracedale with approximately 700 people tasked with caring for them. Executive Lamont McClure has commended the staff. “They’re working tirelessly to keep some of our most vulnerable residents safe during this outbreak,” he said.

Nursing homes have been hit particularly hard by Covid-19. The chart above, prepared by NorCo's GIS department, shows that 214 residents and 48 employees have been infected at the county's 12 nursing and personal care homes. Nineteen have died. 

Covid-19 Has Now Infected 11 at NorCo Jail

Northampton County reports that Covid-19 has now infected 11 people (six inmates and five staffers) at the jail. The afflicted inmates have been quarantined on the same tier and have been housed there since they first showed symptoms. One of the staffers is recovered and has returned to duty The county is following quidelines established by PrimeCare Medical, which has a contract with the county for medical services at the jail. This includes temperature monitoring.

Executive Lamont McClure has commended corrections officers and supervisors for "doing a terrific job during this outbreak. We appreciate their dedication to keeping the inmates, their fellow officers and the public safe.”

Volunteers, visitors and tours have been banned at the prison since March 10th. Inmates may still contact their loved ones via phone, tablets or mail.

The District Attorney’s office, the Courts and the Public Defender have been working on bail reductions and to furlough non-violent inmates from the prison. As of April 20th, at least forty-eight furloughs for non-violent inmates have been granted. There are currently 517 inmates in residence at NCP.

Today's Harrisburg Rally is About Jobs, Not Politics

At noon today, a grassroots group will converge on the state capital to demand that Governor Wolf re-open the state economy. Those protesting will certainly include Trump supporters, gun rights activists and fringe groups. They will get a lot of attention and no doubt will make bombastic statements. Wolf supporters will seize upon them to paint everyone there with a broad brush. In fact, before the rally has even started, the state Democratic Party has already claimed, on Facebook, that today's demonstration is "organized by far-right special interests putting politics and profits ahead of people." This is simply untrue. This rally will be attended by many small business owners, gig workers and independent contractors. They get the idea of social distancing. They have no desire to make anyone ill. They are concerned about their livelihoods, not profits. They have been ignored.  This is their story.

Though Governor Tom Wolf was among the first to close down businesses, he is behind 29 other states that are already giving the self-employed and laid off workers relief under the federal CARES Act.  It was only on Saturday that he finally set up a portal on the state unemployment website . When it was finally opened this weekend, it either failed completely or merely acted as a place holder. Many self-employed have yet to see a dime, whether it is the $1,200 stimulus check, pandemic unemployment, those mythical $600 checks that are supposed to be tacked onto everyone's benefits or no-interest loans. Small business owners, the very backbone of this country, are withering in the Spring. Let's start, ironically, with lawn and garden shops.

Lawn and Garden Shops

Small lawn and garden shops like Gumpf Gardens in Beaver Falls have been closed for six weeks, while Home Depot and Lowe's are making a killing. Gumpf has operated for 60 years and 70% of its annual sales are at this time of year. It was denied a waiver without explanation.

Contractor

I started my contracting company in February of 2015, with a $2000 tax refund my wife and I got that year. I worked almost the whole first season alone, completing whole roofs and siding jobs by myself, because I couldn't afford to hire anyone. I toughed through 14 hour days, 7 days a week to make it work. In January of 2016, my wife and I adopted a new born, born to a drug addicted welfare recipient that has given birth to 7 children, but has given them all up. Within hours of being born Jacob was incubated and his organs were shutting down, with his liver staying shut down when the other organs began functioning. He spent almost 2 months in UPMC Children's Hospital(great place) before recovering and we thought many times he wouldn't recover. During that time, I would work all day and then drive 45 minutes to the hospital to relieve my wife because she was pretty much living at the hospital. After he was healthy, and came home, we bought a new house and finally seem to have the American dream. Then in June of 2016, I had a bad fall on a roof, dislocated my left shoulder and completely tore all 4 tendons in my rotator cuff. The helper I had quit showing up to work and then stole off of me. To keep the business going, I worked with one arm in a sling until a friend starting up his own company was able to help me keep my schedule moving. Since then I have dealt with the expected hurdles of owning a business but managed to make it to my 5 year mark, and now have an excellent crew doing $5000 up to $15000 projects. I have done all of this while coping with the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and have never once asked for anything from the government. Now in the month of April 2020, I find myself wondering if I will still have a business next month and when I do need help from the government that is trying to put me out of business, they aren't there. I am sharing this because I know every small business owner has a story of their trials a tribulations. I would like to see others share their stories to make this more of a reality to those that don't support us.

Trucker

Saved up enough money to buy my own 2013 9900I 550cc 18 speed manual transmission with 259,000 miles on it this year. Finally got it ready and the government went into closure. I do not have the funds as a single dad to keep going. I kept 50/50 custody of my kids since the divorce in 2011 and I kept the house paying her for her portion. I have no 401K I have no savings. I am paying insurance for a truck that has no plates. $735 per month or I lose my Motor Carrier #. The truck is earning me zero dollars. This could take everything I have saved over my life and leave me with nothing.

Printer

I own a sign and graphics shop, from what I’ve been told but can’t find anything on Wolfe guidelines that I’m aloud to be open. So I’ve been shut down just to be safe but I myself go in and print the very few jobs we have. Phones are dead I don’t have the big print jobs we should for this time of year cause well everyone else is closed also. Race series we do awards for are shut down little to hardly any bike kits being ordered. This is my wife’s and my only income and with buying new printers at 20 grand a pop the bills still come in and we have nothing to pay them with. Tried to file for unemployment but we all know that’s a joke applied for PPP to bring back my employee who hasn’t got her pin yet after 4 weeks now also. This entire thing is a damn joke the way Wolfe has handled all of this. Most of us could be open and following the guidelines and still be safe to do business. This all just makes my blood boil, we have worked so hard since 08 to watch it all go away over this.

Stone Mason

Own a small one man show masonry restoration business. Being that I am self employed and work alone. I filed for 3 waivers to work and was denied all three times. Yet I see crews of landscapers, painters, roofers and so on working through this in my neighborhood. Most have approval to work. How the hell does this make any sense at all?????? Someone please explain the reason my small (ONE man show) business can’t work and crews with many guys can???🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️🤷‍♂️ Most of the brick repairs I do are chimneys and on the exterior of the homes. When someone’s chimney is leaking into the home or falling over that is an emergency repair to me. I’ve explained all this when I filed for the waiver!!!! Bad chimneys can cause damages to a structure or home yet I was denied and told it’s not life sustaining. Ok then but painting inside someone’s house is??? Getting a new driveway installed is?? I see crews out working all day side by side yet I can’t work by myself???! Give me a break!!!! This whole thing is nothing but a f$&@,ing mess.... I am going to work soon with or without it. I have a family to support!!!!😡

On a side note: I stand by the recommendations of the hard working men and women on the front lines fighting this awful virus:) They are the true heroes in all of this and we owe them so much.❤️❤️ In no way am I belittling the severity of what’s going on here. I wish you all the best during these troubling times. Be safe everyone.

Auto Dealer

Even though we are not open I came into clean my office this weekend like I normally do. I'm looking around and remembering sanding drywall until I couldn't feel my hands, I remember every screw every nail and every brush stroke of paint I put into this place. I have worked 6 and 7 days a week longer then I can remember, I have put my family through so much trying to get this business to go , and they have sacrificed so much for me to chase after what is supposed to be a dream. I have sacrificed so much to chase this dream. I have never had any help from government they have always kicked me when they had a chance. Between fighting with local borough for zoning, building permits,occupancy permits and buisines licenses. I've had the attorney general send me a violation for wording in a vehicle advertisement ( advertised the car as being loaded) . Then your always on thin ice waiting on that next surprise inspection. After that you get to pay in a bunch of taxes . Then us small buisness owners do the right thing and close our business to protect our families, friends and neighbors. We VOLUNTARILY closed we were never sent a letter to close, not even an email. I have received zero dollars of unemployment, zero dollars government funding. But I have had to pay 100 percent of my companys overhead and my personal bills. Don't let them kill our dreams and take what we earned! look around the government didnt help you get where you are. Help Is NOT COMING! open signs need to be turned on. statistics say that 60 percent of small businesses will not make it 5 months in Pennsylvania. Not me I'm not going out without a fight! Im praying for all of you to get through this!

Get the picture? This is not about politics. It is about an overbearing state government denying people the right to earn a living and refusing to help them. It needs to start helping instead of suffocating the very people who make this country what it is.

Friday, April 17, 2020

NorCo Covid-19 Data as of April 17

(1) New Cases On a Downward Trend
PSU: Covid-19 in NorCo as of April 17

As you can see from the ordinal graph above (prepared by PSU), 43 new cases of Covid-19 were reported today. This is in line with a downward trend that first began on April 10, exactly one week ago. For the past seven days, with the exception of April 15, there have been under 50 new cases. On April 15, there were 75. The highest number of Covid-19 cases so far was on April 4, when 122 new cases were reported.

Whether this is an indication that we've peaked and are on our way down is unclear. The numbers are going down, but it appears that the statewide daily testing has also dropped. Whether testing has diminished in Northampton County is unknown.

(2) 34 People Have Died. 

Northampton County is reporting all people who are infected with Covid-19 and die within the county's borders, regardless where they actually live.  Thus far, 34 people have passed away. They lived in the following municipalities: Forks Twp. (1); Lower Nazareth Twp. (2): Bangor Boro (1); Palmer Twp. (9); Upper Nazareth Twp. (4); Williams Twp. (2); Nazareth Boro (1); Bethlehem Twp (7); City of Bethlehem (1); Washington Twp (1); Phillipsburg, NJ (1); Bronx, NY (1); and Millersburg, PA.

Average age of the Deceased: 79.6 years.

Gender of the Deceased: 56% Female/44% Male

Race of the Deceased: 74% White, 11% African American, 9% Hispanic, 6% Asian/Pacific Islander

(3) NorCo's Nursing Homes Have Been Hit Hard


Covid-19 has been devastating to the elderly who reside at nursing homes. It has infected 177 residents and 45 employees at the county's 10 nursing homes, resulting in 11 deaths.

(4) Area Hospitals Have Plenty of Rooms 


There appears to be no shortage of available rooms or ventilators.


Sources: PSUPa. Dep't HealthNorCo Charts

Shutdown Protests Scheduled on Monday in Harrisburg

A combination of several grassroots groups comprised of small business owners and unemployed Pennsylvanians will protest Governor Tom Wolf's business shutdown on Monday in both Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

At the state capital, a protest is planned to start at noon at the Capital Complex. Organizers have issued this statement:

“Government mandating sick people to stay home is called quarantine. However, the government mandating healthy citizens to stay home, forcing businesses and churches to close is called tyranny. Business owners are being forced to layoff employees while the unemployment system is failing those laid off as the economy free falls.

"This is a recipe for disaster with many in our society helpless. We cannot stand by and watch our neighbors suffer while the government considers prolonging these painful conditions. The economy should be reopened on May 1 for healthy citizens continuing enhanced sanitation habits to prevent any virus from spreading. Those with compromised immune systems should not have to re-enter the economy or workforce if they do not feel comfortable.”

"We will have endured nearly seven weeks of lockdown when May 1 arrives. It is not sustainable to continue this lockdown as the economic and societal consequences will be irreversible. Opioid deaths increase 3.6% for every 1% unemployment rises, as child abuse and domestic violence have spiked along with mental health ailments. It is time to roll back these restrictions on May 1.

"Protests are beginning to emerge across the country as concerned citizens strive to return the economy to normal. These protests have been peaceful as will this event. We invite the media to cover our protest at the State Capitol Building."

NorCo Ass'n of Twp Officials Offer College Scholarship

Northampton County's Association of Township Officials is offering a scholarship for graduating seniors. If you reside within a Northampton County township with a son or daughter graduating from high school this year, you can apply for a scholarship by emailing Hanover Township at hanover@hanovertwp-nc.org or call 610.866.1140 and leave a message. The Township will mail the application to you.

NorCo Exec Praises DOH For Help at Gracedale

I've been critical of Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Health, for her continued insistence on a shutdown of the state's economy. But in addition to Governor Tom Wolf, she does have one fan - NorCo Exec Lamont McClure. His reason has nothing to do with that the state shutdown, and everything to do with Dr. Levine's help at Gracedale. "I don't know where we would be today without the responsiveness of the Department of Health," he said. McClure said this while making a pitch for a 30-day extension of his emergency powers. Council would later honor McClure's request by an 8-1 vote , with Council member John Cusick being the sole dissenter.

The meeting was the first ever Skype meeting conducted by County Council. Council President Ron Heckman and VP Lori Vargo-Heffner were physically present, with the remaining seven Council members (John Cusick, Peg Ferraro, Bill McGee, Kevin Lott, Kerry Myers, Tom Giovanni and Tara Zrinski) participating by laptop. Although there was lots of noise in the background from time to time, the remote format seemed to be a success. There was no public participation.

When speaking of Gracedale, McClure told Council that 26 residents have tested positive for Covid-19, along with 22 staff members. Unfortunately, four of these residents are deceased, but two of the staffers have already returned to work. He added that the specter of a novel coronavirus resulted in 400 call-offs in April. "We understand that many of those who called off are scared," he observed."But those who show up are scared, too."

Covid-19 has hit the jail, too. McClure reported that five inmates and five staffers have been infected. The afflicted staffers include two medical personnel and three corrections officers. One of the corrections officers has returned to work. The jail's population has been reduced from a census of 661 on March 23 to 531 on April 15. McClure credited President Judge Michael J Koury, Jr, District Attorney Terry Houck and Chief Public Defender Nuria DiLuzio for their role in identifying nonviolent offenders who could be released.

McClure also praised Emergency Management for their role in securing personal protective equipment for distribution to first responders on March 23, March 24, March 31, April 6 and April 9. He also named and thanked several private individuals and businesses who donated masks and hand sanitizer (I will run a complete list of these generous people and businesses once I confirm).

Cusick, the only Council member to vote against the extension of McClure's emergency powers, did so because McClure recently decided to close all county parks. Though not discussed at the meeting, a recent Chinese study (still awaiting peer review) concludes Covid-19 is almost entirely an indoor phenomenon. On the other hand, Louise Moore Park is located very close to Palmer and Bethlehem Townships, the two hardest hit municipalities within Northampton County.

In addition to extending McClure's emergency powers for another 30 days, Council also adopted an "emergency" ordinance giving itself the option of just meeting once a month for the next three months. Council President Ron Heckman explained that it was still his intention to have Council meet twice every month, but the ordinance gives Council the option of reducing the number of meetings if necessary. Cusick was again the sole No vote. Having participated in multiple electronic meetings as a teacher, he said, "I see no reason for this ordinance."

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Bethlehem Establishes Small Business Emergency Relief Fund

Just before Governor Tom Wolf's decision to shut down Pennsylvania's economy, I visited The Old Library Bookshop in Bethlehem. I was looking for stories penned by Victor Hugo, whom I consider the greatest storyteller who ever lived. The two ladies who run that store hooked me up with a nice copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and at a price that even I could afford. As I reflect on it, that's really what I like most about The Christmas City. Some of you might like the casino or Musikfest, but what has always charmed me are the numerous small and locally owned businesses dotting the city's streets. It's sad to see them victimized by the Covid-19 crisis. Fortunately, Mayor Bob Donchez in Bethlehem has set up a "Small Business Emergency Relief Fund" to help them.

Seeded with $300,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, Bethlehem will provide one time grants of $2,000 for rental assistance, payroll and utilities. Obviously, businesses must be located in the City of Bethlehem, and comply with low to moderate income (LMI) funding requirements outlined in CDBG guidelines. Priorityon will be given to those businesses in the retail, food, and beverage, and personal service industries within the Central Business Districts and Limited Commercial zoning districts. All businesses, however, are encouraged to apply.

"These are unprecedented times, businesses are struggling and in need of support," said Mayor Dinchez. "We are fortunate to have funding available to be used toward this program and will continue to craft programs to provide support to our business community.”

Applications for the program will be available on the city’s website at www.bethlehem-pa.gov. on April 22. They will be reviewed by a committee for eligibility and evaluated based on funding priorities.

Pa. Legislature Can Terminate Wolf's Emergency Powers After He Vetoes Law to Re-Open Business

Yesterday, people from the land of midnight payraises voted to re-open Pa. businesses so long as they follow federal guidelines from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Those are less stringent than the ones currently in place. Unfortunately, the vote went largely along party lines. Governor Tom Wolf has vowed to veto the measure, and I doubt the legislature has the votes to override. So what can the legislature do? The answer is quite simple. End Wolf's emergency powers.

No less an authority than the Pa. Supreme Court noted this possibility when it rejected a challenge to Wolf's authority on Monday.
The Governor may, by proclamation or executive order, declare a state of disaster emergency, 35 Pa.C.S. § 3701(b), “upon finding that a disaster has occurred or that the occurrence or the threat of a disaster is imminent.” 35 Pa.C.S. § 7301(c). This state of disaster emergency shall continue until the Governor finds that the threat or danger has passed or that emergency conditions no longer exist, but may not continue for longer than ninety days unless renewed by the Governor. Id. As a counterbalance to the exercise of the broad powers granted to the Governor, the Emergency Code provides that the General Assembly by concurrent resolution may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time. Id.

The Court also notes that Pa. is one of only five states that allow a Governor to exercise emergency powers beyond 60 days.

The real answer is to end Wolf's authority, not pass a bill we all know will never survive a veto.