BUCKS COUNTY, PA — The key to avoiding a debilitating second wave of the coronavirus is going to be the behavior of everyday citizens, Bucks County health officials said Thursday.
The guidance came as county officials discussed the possibility of reopening soon — something political leaders in Doylestown have been pushing for with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration.
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Dr. David Damsker, director of the Bucks County Department of Health, said the public will need to keep wearing masks, practicing physical social distancing, washing hands and the like when Bucks moves from red to yellow under Wolf’s color-coded reopening plan.
“We have been dealing with this for a couple of months now,” Damsker said during an online news conference Thursday. “We understand what it takes.”
He said continuing to be careful after the county goes yellow will be “important to blunt the second wave.”
“It can be very manageable, but we need everyone’s cooperation to do that,” Damsker said.
To prepare to fight a second wave of the virus, the county needs personal protection equipment for its workers, said Scott Forster, Bucks County’s emergency management director. He said the county is working on a stockpile, having ordered 100,000 N-95 masks, 100,000 surgical masks and 100,000 surgical gowns for healthcare and emergency response workers.
“Some of that stuff is still a little difficult to get,” Forster said. “(But) before that resurgence, we should be able to get enough PPE that we could have a stockpile, that we could insure the healthcare workers and the emergency services workers are prepared next time to go ahead and take care of our patients and citizens,” he said.
The discussion came a day after Bucks County Commissioners spoke with the governor’s office and said they were assured Bucks is “rapidly moving toward yellow,” which would allow some businesses and other public places to reopen with anti-COVID measures in place.
Commissioners released that information in a statement at the end of the business day Wednesday — the time frame officials had requested the governor’s office respond following a weekend meeting.
Southeastern Pennsylvania is generally thought to be the last area that will reopen under Wolf’s plan, with outbreaks in Philadelphia and other spots making target numbers of coronavirus cases difficult to reach quickly. But Bucks officials have argued that work being done on contact tracing in the county — as well as an overall drop in case numbers and the fact many are confined to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities — should help Bucks move ahead of its neighbors.
“We’re all doing what our job is,” said commission Chairwoman Diane Ellis-Marseglia. “His job is to take care of the bigger state. For most of this, that’s how he had to look at it. Now, I think it’s time we can start looking at it county by county.”
Wolf, on a conference call with reporters Thursday, was asked specifically about Bucks County. He said he was “baffled” by discussions of metrics changing and said there are no plans to “move the goalposts” for any county.
Also during Thursday’s news conference, officials said 85 Bucks County employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreak began. None have died and all but a handful worked at either the county-run Neshaminy Manor nursing home or the county jail, Damsker said.
Commissioner Bob Harvie also expressed some frustration at bad information being spread online about the virus.
“One of the biggest losses, the biggest casualty we’ve faced, is one we’ve been losing every month, every day, every year … which is truth,” said Harvie, who spent 20 years as a history and social studies teacher. “There is such a thing as truth in the world. Unfortunately, I think if everyone got off of social media a couple of weeks, I think there might be a little bit of rebirth of truth.
“There is such a thing as facts. What we’ve seen is, unfortunately, distortion of what fact is … because they want it to be true. I saw a meme about it, so it must be true. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not fact.”
On Wednesday, Bucks County reported 63 new cases of the coronavirus and seven new deaths among people who had tested positive for it. Of those new cases, 35 were in long-term care facilities and three were staff members.
Just three of those new infections were the result of community spread, which means the infected person had no idea where, or from whom, he or she got the virus.
A total of 180 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in Bucks County on Wednesday, including 24 in critical condition and on ventilators.
Statistics, charts and other coronavirus-related information for Bucks County can be found on the county’s coronavirus data portal.
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