Pennsylvania State Police Liquor Control Enforcement Officers visited 589 businesses with liquor licenses last weekend and issued 11 notices of violation and 27 warnings for failing to follow COVID-19 requirements.
The State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement announced its most recent compliance checks on Tuesday from Friday, Feb. 12 through Sunday, Feb. 14.
During the weekend, one business in Harrisburg received a warning for failing to comply with COVID-19 mitigation efforts and two received notices of violation related to mitigation efforts.
In Allentown, two restaurant received warnings and two received notices of violation.
Businesses can receive either a warning or a notice of violation if they fail to require customers and employees to wear masks within the facility, provide six feet of space between parties or physical barriers and adhere to their maximum occupancy limits.
In total, the officers issued 27 warnings and 11 notices in Philadelphia, Wilkes-Barre, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Altoona, Williamsport, Punxsutawney, Erie and Allentown.
The compliance checks are unannounced and can happen anywhere in the state, the bureau wrote in a press release on Tuesday.
Two months into the year, Lancaster County-based Spooky Nook Sports was well ahead of budget to have its best year. It was booked with tournaments and corporate events for the entire year.
The Harrisburg Senators, the AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals, was set to have a 2020 season celebrating the Nationals’ 2019 World Series win.
And in Lebanon, Blue Cardinal Photography had grown the number of young athletes it photographed in 2019 and was ramping up its marketing initiatives to branch into online sales and marketing.
For many midstate businesses in the sports industry, 2019 was a standout year and leaders were looking to capitalize on that success as they prepared for the 2020 season. Those hopes, of course, were dashed by the pandemic, that forced teams to cancel their spring seasons. Sports such as basketball and football were able to resume play, but they did so with greatly lessened attendance.
As with most companies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senators, Spooky Nook Sports and Blue Cardinal Photography were shut down for months as they tried to navigate changing regulations, retaining staff and shifting schedules.
Spooky Nook is the largest indoor sports complex in the country. The company offers space for tournaments and corporate events at its 700,000-square-foot facility in East Hempfield Township, which also includes a hotel and restaurant.
Jim Launer, president of Spooky Nook Sports, said that the company has seen sports tournaments return in 2020, but lost out entirely on corporate events.
“Back to those days of March, we had a very large event schedule and all of a sudden we had people calling in and saying that they heard our event was canceled,” he said. “That event canceled, and then two hours later, the next event canceled and then all of our corporate events canceled and we are just sitting there in a state of disbelief.”
The loss of corporate events alone is expected to have cost the complex 36% to 40% of the year’s expected revenue out of a total expected loss of 55%, Launer said. In March, Spooky Nook was forced to lay off or furlough a majority of its 135 full-time employees and has since gotten back to around 80.
The Harrisburg Senators also downsized, going from a staff of 23, to 10.
Every April, the Nationals send players to the Senators for the AA baseball season. At first the minor league team’s season was delayed, only to be cancelled in June.
“We shut down the office from March until the middle of June and right when we got back they made the announcement that the season was canceled,” said Kevin Kulp, president of the Harrisburg Senators. “When it was clear the season would be canceled, I had to make decisions to trim our staff so we could get over this hump. Even if we were going to have a season by some miracle we had to trim the staff to get through it.”
Kulp and his team looked for ways to stay relevant in the community, hosting around 35 to 40 events such as movie days and local traveling baseball tournaments. During this time, the most important thing he and his team had to do was maintain relationships with the Senators’ business partners.
The team already collected sponsorship money for the 2020 season and, where possible, it rolled the money into next season. The rest was refunded to the sponsors, he said.
“We leaned on those relationships to make sure we were communicating and being honest with what was happening,” he said. “That was how we got through 2020.”
Blue Cardinal Photography, a studio with in-house and freelance photographers, makes a majority of its money through school sports photography. The company took an early hit from the pandemic when spring sports was cancelled for the schools it worked with. To make up for the loss, the company increased its in-studio photography with businesses related to the medical field.
Rick Sullivan, president and owner of Colortech Inc. Creative Solutions, Blue Cardinal’s parent company, said when school sports did return, the company had to cut some games because of short staffing. Decreases in the number of spectators permitted at games also affected Blue Cardinal. Photographers are counted as part of the capacity, he said.
“Our service line is not at 100% and we do not see that happening before all of the guidelines prohibiting spectators are lifted,” he said.
There’s always next year
Next year is expected to be a better, but it depends on when spectators can return to events in full.
Early in the pandemic, Spooky Nook’s Launer and his team were forced to change plans by the hour to remain in business. Today, he said, they have learned that there is no point in making a change until they know what the next federal or state guidance will be.
Kulp agreed that predicting what 2021 will look like is a dicey game, but said the Senators are optimistic they will play baseball in 2021.
“When we open the doors to the public, it’ll be a really good 2021 season,” he said. “It will be impacted by capacity restrictions and the dollars we carried over from 2020 that we won’t get in 2021. We know that and we are planning for that.”
The rush for personal protective equipment, patients unable to seek help at hospitals and varying reports of the incoming wave of COVID-19 created a difficult environment to perform in last March, but Penn State Health predicts a different outcome for a potential second wave.
At the peak of the pandemic, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s operating rooms were working at 25% capacity. The Hershey-based health system suspended its non-emergent surgeries in mid-March, following guidance from both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the state Department of Health.
The initial drop in patient size was a shock, with the system losing millions of dollars in the past six months, according to Dr. Peter Dillon, Penn State Health’s chief clinical officer.
“We got hit hard. It was staggering,” he said. “We have a very good financial business team and we were fortunate that we didn’t have to lay anyone off or furlough anyone.”
The system began to reschedule its non-emergent surgeries in early May and was able to work a majority of operations back into Milton S. Hershey’s system by keeping operating rooms fully staffed longer into the day.
Prior to the pandemic, Milton S. Hershey had more than 100 operating room cases a day and its occupancy was regularly at 100%, a buffer that was quickly wiped out by the effects of the pandemic, Dillon said.
Pennsylvania hospitals were, for the most part, spared the hurricane of COVID-19 cases that crippled other hospitals in the country.
“We flattened the wave here but it sort of pushed it down and squished it out. It went longer but that was good because we weren’t overwhelmed,” said Dillon. “In the beginning we thought we would be crushed like New York was.”
If the virus flares up again, the concern will be that the wave of cases is so large that it fills ICUs and forces Milton S. Hershey to turn patients away Dillon said. “We are anticipating that and we have protocols in place. We are much smarter now about how to treat these patients.”
If a second wave emerges, Penn State Health will need to evaluate how it will handle certain surgeries and possibly continue some operations that it would have canceled earlier in the year, he said.
The system has made a particular effort to refer to the surgeries it suspended during the virus as non-emergent rather than elective.
An example of that would be orthopedic procedures like severe osteoarthritis of the knee, which, while considered elective, can create further problems if delayed too long.
The first wave of COVID-19 cases did quick work on Milton S. Hershey’s pandemic supply and Penn State Health has been on high alert ever since to ensure that it continues to have a robust supply of personal protective equipment.
Creating a stock of equipment is harder than ever now that so many industries are trying to build their own supply of masks, gloves and other equipment.
The system’s supply chain has become so unstable that in some cases, Penn State Health will only get 20% of whatever it ordered from a supplier.
“We’ve now got processes that go all the way back to raw good distributors,” he said, adding that the system recently purchased woven material for surgical gowns. “It’s fascinating how we’ve changed some of our procurement processes.”
Any potential spike in cases will cause the system to immediately reevaluate its supply chain, looking at the number of masks it has in its supply and what it is using on a day to day basis.
Dillon said something else the system learned in its first go with the virus was to listen to predictions from experts regarding the spread of the virus in the state, but understanding the ever-changing nature of projected models.
“I think what we’ve realized is the complexity of the decision and the factors that go into it but we are more attuned to how to assess those factors to manage the operating room caseload and hospital admissions,” he said.
A bill that would use $500 million in federal COVID-19 relief to help nursing homes, assisted living communities and personal care homes combat the spread of the virus is on Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk awaiting his signature.
House Bill 2510 was approved by both the House and Senate Thursday after being introduced on May 6 by Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny.
If signed into law by Wolf, the bill would designate at least one health system in six regions to receive the funds to administer or manage personnel, protocols, testing and expenditures to ensure the elder-care facilities can protect their residents.
The funding is planned to be lifted from Pennsylvania’s $3.9 billion in COVID-19 funding from the federal government.
Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine reported on Thursday that there were 17,721 cases of COVID-19 in nursing and personal care homes across the state. The number includes residents and staff. Of the state’s 5,373 COVID-related deaths, 3,501 occurred among residents of nursing or personal care facilities.
Nearly $300 million will go directly to support long-term care providers.
“Long-term care has become the epicenter of this epidemic in Pennsylvania, and facilities across the state have fought to obtain testing, personal protective equipment and staffing resources, often without the means to cover rising costs and expenses,” said Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Health Care Association.
Shamberg applauded the Pennsylvania General Assembly for approving the bill, noting that the bill was a “clear message of support to those on the front lines.”
Tom Baldrige, president and CEO of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry, spoke to Lancaster’s business community about best practices moving forward and the importance of self care during these difficult times:
That’s my primary message as we enter Week Three of the challenges brought on by the coronavirus.
The first reason for encouraging “Exhale” is for your own personal health. Try to relax; try to get some exercise; try to make sure you are making time for things you enjoy; and try to get sufficient sleep. Your personal mental and physical health is STEP ONE in dealing with this crisis. Consider it the real-time equivalent of putting your own air mask on first when the airplane’s cabin gets depressurized. Take care of yourself, so you can take care of others.
The second reason for encouraging “Exhale” is for your business’ plan forward. The pressures on employers –large and small—are overwhelming right now. Some of you are in crisis mode; some of you are fast-tracking opportunities; and all of you are likely feeling bombarded and confused by the full and growing menu of new programs and government help.
Over the past few weeks the Chamber and our partners at the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County have been hearing from many of you. It’s been our pleasure to assist.
And, as an additional way to assist, we’re offering best practices for a FINANCIAL PATH FORWARD, based on all the inquiries we’ve received and the experiences we’ve witnessed. So, before you panic, before you feel overwhelmed trying to sort out all the programs, or, worse, before you throw in the towel, here’s a practical check-list designed to guide the way:
Self-Assess. Commit to putting your current financial situation to paper. Gather all the documents that you think would be necessary for any further discussions. And determine your priorities based on your unique situation. To the degree possible, I would also encourage you to engage your accountant’s and/or attorney’s help with this process, as well. The Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs),SCORE and ASSETS are also equipped to provide assistance.
Contact your bank/lender. Review your situation with your banker, with all necessary documents-in-hand. Many banks are already offering payment deferrals and other assistance programs for their customers. Additionally, banks are well-connected and well-informed on many of the state and federal programs that have emerged over the past weeks and, at a minimum, can point you in the right direction.
Contact your landlord, utility companies, IT/telecom provider, internet service, credit card provider – Don’t automatically assume you have bills due in the coming days. We’ve heard many stories of companies working with tenants and businesses to help you handle the crisis. It helps to ask questions and find out your options.
Prioritize Loan/Grant Programs, as feasible, and Apply. Using all the information gathered above, evaluate the emerging and evolving relief program/programs that may work best for you and, if you believe you meet the eligibility, prepare an application. It’s important to note that banks/lending institutions will be playing a key role in helping to administer some of the federal relief. It is increasingly important to note that most federal and state loan applications require time, energy and focused effort to complete, and importantly complete accurately and fully. The volume for programs open today and those anticipated to open in the near future (such as the federal stimulus aid known as the CARES Act) will be very high. Incomplete applications will only delay your process and possibly lead to your denial. Take advantage of the resources available to assist you with your loan applications, such as the Small Business Administration offers daily webinars from 12 noon – 1:30 and subscribe to their email updates via www.SBA.gov/Updates.
Stay Current. Continue to visit the Chamber’s website for the most current information. We are continually updating our site and dating our information as a means of helping you navigate the most recent developments. Additionally, please keep an eye out for future emails from the Chamber, as we will continue to bring this information to your attention.
Now, I fully realize that the above guidelines do not address all your concerns. Many of you are wrestling with lay-offs/furloughs, shut-down orders (and waiver applications), managing remote work efficiently and many other disruptions that are unique to the current time. Guidance for all of that exists on our website, as well, and we continue to offer webinars to help you navigate some of those challenges.
To that end, upcoming webinars include:
*Remote Work Webinar Series: Cybersecurity at Home
When: April 1 from 1:30-2:30pm
*Remote Work Webinar Series: How Do I Work From Home?
When: April 2 from 11am-Noon
*Ask The Accountant Webinar
When: April 2 from 3-4pm
*County Emergency Preparedness & Enforcement
When: April 3 from 1:30-2:30pm
*Value Add & Cost Savings Programs from the Lancaster Chamber Webinar
When: April 6 from 1:30-2:30pm
Finally, I want to reiterate a consistent plea I have made in past emails: THINK LOCAL! As you explore your options for business success, as you assess supply chains and disruption and even as your consider opportunities for your own personal expenditures, please make local products and services your priority!
And, remember, through it all take time to exhale. It’s what’s best for you, your business and our community.
Tom Baldrige, President & CEO of the Lancaster Chamber
UPMC began testing patients for COVID-19 this week at a private specimen collection site in Pittsburgh and plans to open a similar site in Harrisburg at a later date.
Early tests for coronavirus in Pennsylvania were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, before the state Department of Health began offering its own tests at its Exton laboratory.
Pennsylvania using commercial labs across the state as the primary testing option, with Pittsburgh-based UPMC among the first to develop their own.
The health care system recently announced that it finished developing its own test for coronavirus, or COVID-19, that UPMC said should allow it to test hundreds of patients per week in the near future.
“Developing this test for a never-before-seen virus in the midst of a pandemic was a tremendous challenge, even for our academic medical center with its long history of such developments,” said Dr. Alan Wells, medical director of the UPMC Clinical Laboratories and Thomas Gill III Professor of Pathology at the University of Pittsbugh School of Medicine.
UPMC began testing at its Pittsburgh site on Tuesday and said it will be looking at having additional specimen collection facilities in Harrisburg, Erie, Williamsport and Altoona.
At the sites, UPMC providers collect specimens while wearing personal protective equipment in special negative pressure rooms that keep air in a room until it flows through a high-efficiency particulate air filter to remove pathogens.
Tests for COVID-19 include the use of a swab that is inserted through a patient’s nose and into their nasal cavity. Tests are transported to its laboratories, where a result is returned within 24 hours.
Across the web, business associations and governmental organizations are offering vital information for employers as they keep employees and clients safe, manage remote working strategies and maintain their businesses during a nationwide closure.
Employers can use these resources to stay informed about the COVID-19 pandemic.
CDC Travel: Information on high-risk countries, tips on traveling in the U.S. and frequently asked questions for travelers.
The U.S. Small Business Administration: Coronavirus: Small Business Guidance and Loan Resources is the landing page for its Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. You’ll find guidance for small business owners regarding the issues they could come across at this time.
HR Compliance Bulletin: A release from Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Chamber Insurance that outlines possible compliance issues for employers.
The midstate has yet to see its first positive case of coronavirus but with the state’s total number of cases rising to 21 and over 1,200 cases of COVID-19 nationwide as of Thursday morning, area hospitals are looking at which of their employees can work remotely and how many employees their departments need to still operate.
In anticipation for the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its list of infection prevention and control recommendations.
The recommendations ask health care providers to minimize the chance of further exposure to the virus by limiting the points of entry to a facility, instruct patients to call ahead before arriving at a facility if they develop the symptoms of a respiratory infection, prioritize patients with respiratory symptoms and practice the use of hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, eye protection, gloves and gowns.
Local hospital systems have already relayed this information to their staff as early as January and have implemented their own contingency plans to keep employees from contracting coronavirus and spreading it further.
Below is a list of statements from area systems on how they will be handling the virus in relation to their employees:
Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health
Penn Medicine will be working with its management teams to determine which of its employees should be working remotely either on a full-time or limited basis, said John Lines, director of public relations and corporate communications for the Lancaster hospital.
“Teams are meeting daily throughout our health system to ensure staff at our physician offices, urgent care sites, emergency department and inpatient settings are prepared to care for coronavirus patients,” Lines said. “As demand for our services evolves, we will ensure the appropriate level of staffing, as well as adequate supplies of respiratory protection, gowns, gloves and other equipment to protect our clinical staff for patient care.”
Penn State Health
The Hershey-based system is utilizing a 14-day self-quarantine for any employees who have traveled to countries with active transmission of COVID-19. Penn State Health plans to continue its normal operation procedures for as long as possible, but has plans in place to manage patients with special illnesses.
Employees can utilize their disability and leave benefits if a sustained outbreak occurs, said Barbara Schindo, media relations specialist at Penn State Health.
“We are continuously reviewing our policies about pay practices and sick time as the situation evolves,” Schindo said. “Should any employees need to take leave because of suspected or confirmed COVID-19, our Employee Health Department will work with affected employees to ensure they return to work at a point when it’s safe for the employee, their colleagues and our patients.”
WellSpan is actively developing contingency plans for the York health system that include deciding what levels of staff are needed to support its care facilities and support departments.
The system is limiting group meetings, discontinuing business-related travel beyond its service area and will also be looking into which of its employees can work from home.
WellSpan is still assessing which of its employees would best serve the organization by working remotely and will be announcing further plans in the event that the virus begins to spread into the region, said William Lavery, a spokesperson at WellSpan.
WellSpan announced on Thursday that as part of its response to COVID-19, the system is developing a temporary outdoor patient screening and testing area.
“Doing screening and testing in an open-air setting limits the potential spread of the disease and will help us preserve our negative airflow rooms in our hospitals,” said Dr. R. Hal Baker, senior vice president of WellSpan Health.
UPMC Pinnacle’s parent organization, Pittsburgh-based UPMC, has suspended all business travel to China and Italy and is requiring all employees returning to the U.S. after traveling to areas with sustained transmission to be evaluated before returning to work.
A small number of UPMC Pinnacle’s staff has already been self-quarantining at home due to known exposure and compliance with guidance from public health authorities, said Kelly McCall, public relations director at UPMC Pinnacle.
Members of staff who are voluntarily self-quarantined can work from home if appropriate.
Geisinger Holy Spirit
Employees at Geisinger Holy Spirit are recommended to stay home if they are experiencing a fever, cough of shortness of breath. Geisinger teams have been formulating a contingency plan since January, which includes following CDC’s guidelines.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced two presumptive cases of coronavirus – one in Delaware County and the other in Wayne County. Tests are being sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a second opinion.
The individuals, both adults, are currently self-quarantined in their homes.
“We anticipated this very scenario and have been preparing for Pennsylvanians to become impacted by this virus,” Wolf said. “This is not the first rapidly-spreading virus we have faced in our commonwealth and it will not be the last. We are prepared to mitigate the spread of this virus.”
Pennsylvania began testing potential samples of coronavirus last week after the CDC shipped tests to the states. The state is referring to these first two cases as “presumptive” until it can get a second opinion from the CDC.
The state has yet to say how either individual contracted the virus, but noted that the adult in Delaware County recently traveled to an area of the country where the virus has been reported.
“Further spread of this virus throughout the nation will likely occur,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. “We encourage people to prepare for potential life disruptions. The same family emergency plans and kits that we use to prepare for flu or norovirus, and even snowstorms and floods, are important now. Pennsylvanians should continue to help stop the spread of viruses by washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning surfaces and staying home if you are sick.”
There are currently 100,000 cases of the virus worldwide, including more than 3,300 deaths. In the U.S., there have been 233 confirmed cases and 12 deaths.
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