“I am no one of importance”

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Gadfly has described himself as Maddow’d in respect to coronavirus in nursing homes and other senior-care facilities.

Rachel Maddow was like an early warning sensor beeping the need to more carefully scrutinize conditions in such places accounting for almost 50% of deaths by virus.

Maddow has transitioned a bit as more attention has been focused on these senior sites where “death is waiting to happen.”

See, for instance, this article in today’s Morning Call: Peter Hall, “Auditor general calls for greater transparency, more testing for nursing home coronavirus cases.”

She’s transitioned to focus on jails and food-processing plants.

Death is also waiting to happen in food-processing plants.

See this brutal article in the Wednesday Philadelphia Inquirer provided to Gadfly by Councilwoman Olga Negron: DEADLY RIDE: Pa. poultry workers traveling to their plant in a crowded van were stricken by the virus.

Eight people crammed in a van riding 30 miles to and from work in a plant where people work close together — one passenger dead, the rest sick, all fearful of losing their jobs.


“I am no one of importance,” one says, in regard to what is being done for worker safety.


Councilwoman Negron is involved through her “day job” because these workers are Latino.

In fact, 35% of the workers in the food-processing industry nation-wide are Latino.

Essential workers.

Councilwoman Negron through her “day job” is in direct contact with the family that lost their dad (Arismendi Bera), and every day she fields phone calls from two or three Latino workers from that plant. Even though the plant is not in Bethlehem, COVID-19 positive workers are sharing her firm’s number, seeking a place to vent their fears to someone in their own language. They need someone to talk to.

It’s easy to say that except for the soul-wearying work performed by day-jobber Negron that this is not a story about Bethlehem.

But we know from her April 8 post that she has been busy fielding calls from local Hispanic/Latinos as well.

Bethlehem is 30% Hispanic/Latino, yet this community accounts for 44% of the cases tested positive for the virus.

Which leads Gadfly — who, of course, knows nothing of such Urban Administration matters — to wonder whether a city with such a substantial block should not have some formal liaison within city government.

The Mayor does have a Latino Advisory Committee.

Why is such liaison left to the Negrons and the non-profits like the Hispanic Center?

But maybe it is best so.

Gadfly just wonders.

“I am no one of importance,” haunts him.

Giving thanks #2

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Friedman 1


My sister Nancy Perusso, her husband Mike and daughter Emily dress up a mannequin that belonged to my mother for many years. Mom bought it from Orrs when it went out of business. “Sophia,” as she is named, gets dressed up for many special occasions and for the past 3 weeks, she’s been donning nurse gear to support our front-line crew.

Jim Friedman

A plug for the Bethlehem Press, a plug for a press in Bethlehem

We need a local newspaper.

I was just very impressed by the amount of data about local events affected by the virus in yesterday’s BP issue.

I have remarked appreciatively in these pages several times about the community feel in the BP.

Gadfly loves community.

Sure, the paper doesn’t have some of the things we might want.

Like how about a weekly analysis of a city-related issue by a serious columnist who takes the city as his/her beat.

But the paper probably doesn’t have the resources for that.

Yet it might have if more people subscribed, he says perhaps naively.

Gadfly thinks everybody should subscribe to the BP.

Frankly, there’s usually very little in the Morning Call that I don’t already know when I take it to the bathroom with me in the morning.

Though I have found it good lately for local virus info.

Frankly again, people compliment the Gadfly for providing a bit more depth or breadth about city activities.

So I think there’s an appetite for more.

I’m old-fashioned, I know, I know.

Facebook and Twitter just don’t do it for me in terms of what I want/need to know about local affairs.

Give me a good local newspaper.

Buck the trail of newspaper death rattles.

Subscribe to the BP and make your wishes known.

City (not City Council) meetings continue closed through May 15, but golf course is opening!

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Released April 29, 2020:

All Public Meetings Cancelled through May 15, 2020

Mayor Bob Donchez announced today that the order cancelling all public meeting through Thursday, April 30, 2020 is being extended through Friday May 15, 2020 at which time the situation will be reevaluated. This includes the cancellation of the Mayor’s monthly “Open Door” on May 11, 2020. Such reevaluation may require additional cancellations. Notice will be provided once a determination is made.

Note, this does not apply to City Council meetings. City Council will determine whether or not to hold or cancel Council meetings.

Reminder that City Hall remains closed to the public until further notice. City Hall will remain operational but closed to the public. City employees will be available to assist residents via phone and email.

Please monitor the City’s website at http://www.bethlehem-pa.gov and social media for additional information on City facilities, public meetings and updates on COVID-19.

Thank you for your patience and cooperation.

Giving thanks

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Gadfly is under house arrest. He has not been out since Jimmy Carter was president. Or so it seems.

But he had an hour of emergency work release this morning.

And found this at 807 N. Center.

House arrest does not shackle the mind. Especially the worrying part.

Gadfly son #4 works on an assembly line. Gadfly son #5 is a UPS driver. Gadfly son #6 works in a warehouse.

Anxiety is not known for downtime.

Is much of this kind of public thanks going on?

Please share with Gadfly any such public displays you come across.

Well done, 807!


The Gadfly

Add this to your coronavirus chart list

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Pennsylvania Plan for Phased Re-Opening
short version

Process to Reopen Pennsylvania
long version

County of Northampton COVID-19 Information Dashboard

Bethlehem Health Bureau Coronavirus Page
click especially “City of Bethlehem COVID-19 Data”

Covid-19 Dashboard for City of Bethlehem/Lehigh Valley 

Where coronavirus is in Pennsylvania
county and zip code


Important charts by Steve Thode in Bernie O’Hare’s Lehigh Valley Ramblings this morning:

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

Reopening? How do we get out of the red?

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Lots of national news on reopening on Friday and now over the weekend.

So using some of the resources in the last post, Gadfly is trying to get a grip on the Pennsylvania reopening plan and how it might affect us.

The following in brief. Consult the resources in the last post to fill in details.

The red-yellow-green plan:

The state will utilize a three-phase matrix to determine when counties and/or regions are ready to begin easing some restrictions on work, congregate settings, and social interactions.

(See Ford Turner, “Wolf says Pennsylvania will use a three-phase approach to emerge from shadow of coronavirus starting May 8.” Morning Call, April 22, 2020.)

The entire state is in the red phase now.

The red phase, which currently applies to the whole state, has the sole purpose of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 through strict social distancing, non-life sustaining business, school closures, and building safety protocols.

As regions or counties move into the yellow phase, some restrictions on work and social interaction will ease while others, such as closures of schools, gyms, and other indoor recreation centers, as well as limitations around large gatherings, remain in place. For example, retail locations will be able to open with forthcoming guidance in place that is substantially similar to the worker safety and building safety order. Otherwise retail will be able to allow for curbside pickup. The purpose of this phase is to begin to power back up the economy while keeping a close eye on the public health data to ensure the spread of disease remains contained to the greatest extent possible.

The green phase eases most restrictions by lifting the stay at home and business closure orders to allow the economy to strategically reopen while continuing to prioritize public health. While this phase will facilitate a return to a “new normal,” it will be equally important to continue to monitor public health indicators and adjust orders and restrictions as necessary to ensure the spread of disease remains at a minimum.

What’s the yellow phase look like?

We’re in the red phase now. Here’s the yellow phase:

Work & Congregate Setting Restrictions
  • Telework Must Continue Where Feasible
  • Businesses with In-Person Operations Must Follow Business and Building Safety Orders
  • Child Care Open with Worker and Building Safety Orders
  • Congregate Care and Prison Restrictions in Place
  • Schools Remain Closed for In-Person Instruction
Social Restrictions
  • Stay at Home Restrictions Lifted in Favor of Aggressive Mitigation
  • Large Gatherings of More than 25 Prohibited
  • In-Person Retail Allowable, Curbside and Delivery Preferable
  • Indoor Recreation, Health and Wellness Facilities (such as gyms, spas), and all Entertainment (such as casinos, theaters) Remain Closed
  • Restaurants and Bars Limited to Carry-Out and Delivery Only
  • All businesses must follow CDC and DOH guidance for social distancing and cleaning
  • Monitor public health indicators, adjust orders and restrictions as necessary

How do we get out of “the red”?

The state is broken into regions. A key metric, but not the only metric for getting out of the red is for a region to have a coronavirus case rate of 50 or fewer per 100,000 residents over stretch of 14 days.

On last Wednesday, Lehigh County’s rate was 643 per 100,000 per the Morning Call.

We are in the Northeast region with such hot spots as Hazelton and Allentown.


Our health director already warned us at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that our reopening fate will be tied to such currently much hotter areas. Note, for instance, this article in this morning’s newspaper:

Andrew Wagaman, “Coronavirus infection rate appears higher in Allentown than Philly and other cities. But why?.” Morning Call, April 24, 2020.

That saying that has “marathon” and “sprint” in it comes to mind.

Resources for local coronavirus information

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Pennsylvania Plan for Phased Re-Opening
short version

Process to Reopen Pennsylvania
long version

County of Northampton COVID-19 Information Dashboard

Bethlehem Health Bureau Coronavirus Page
click especially “City of Bethlehem COVID-19 Data”

Covid-19 Dashboard for City of Bethlehem/Lehigh Valley 

Where coronavirus is in Pennsylvania
county and zip code

Gadfly trying to get a grip on all we need to get a grip on.

Trying to get it all in one spot for easy reference.

Above are links to several web sites with important information as well as numbers, statistics, graphs.

These sites are regularly updated.

So we should refer regularly to such sites for current information.

Let Gadfly know about additions to this list.

Now Gadfly knows 9 uses of the comma but not much about numbers, statistics, and graphs.

What do you see? What should we be keying on? What should we be thinking about?

Local senior facility goes “all in” successfully

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Now for some good news about senior facilities!
Click link below the image for video.

Chandler 1

The Chandler Estate, 1569 Teels Rd, Pen Argyl, Northampton Co.

Joy Howe, “Pen Argyl personal care home has managed to stay entirely coronavirus free.” WFMZ, April 24, 2020.

PEN ARGYL, Pa. – About six weeks ago, The Chandler Estate in Pen Argyl first got wind that something bad might be coming.

“Immediately we put things into effect,” says Jamie Lemon, director of marketing and admissions, explaining that when the CDC first made recommendations, they went all in to fall in line.

The small personal care home and senior living community shut its doors to everyone, except for their staff of about 30.

Loved ones weren’t allowed to visit inside anymore, and if they dropped off packages, they were disinfected and then set aside for a couple of hours, just in case.

The employees set a benchmark for themselves.

Now 42 days later, not one case of the coronavirus here so far.

Followers know that Gadfly has been focusing on the coronavirus situation in nursing homes. Rachel Maddow last night suggested that local communities support their senior facilities by contacting them to see what help they might need — masks, for instance. A good idea.

Continuing to focus on long-term care facilities

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The article below indicates that there are 418 long-term care facilities in the state. Can the state consultant ECRI that we wrote about earlier have much impact on such a great number? The Northampton County long-term care facility infection rate is more than double Lehigh County’s. More than 30 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the Lehigh Valley have been affected by the coronavirus, but the state Health Department doesn’t list cases by facility. 37 people have died at long-term care facilities in Lehigh County; Northampton County would not release information about coronavirus deaths in its long-term care facilities.

Eugene Tauber, Peter Hall and Anthony Salamone, “New data: Nursing home residents are 7 to 15 times more likely to get coronavirus than others in the Lehigh Valley.”  Morning Call, April 24, 2020.

Nursing home and assisted living residents in the Lehigh Valley and other parts of Pennsylvania are many times more likely to be infected with coronavirus than the rest of the population, an analysis of state Health Department data shows.

In Lehigh County, residents of long-term care facilities were more than seven times as likely to be infected. In Northampton County, the infection rate was more than double Lehigh’s, at 14.5 times the infection rate in other residents.

David Grabowski, a Harvard Medical School expert on aging and long-term care issues, said it’s no surprise that coronavirus infection rates are higher among nursing home and assisted living residents, given the ease of transmission that close quarters with shared living spaces allows.

He cautioned that the higher rates could be a result of more testing among nursing home patients, but said there’s also anecdotal evidence of residents who have died of coronavirus-like symptoms who were never tested.

Nonetheless, Grabowski said the data supports the alarms raised by public health officials on the need for greater efforts to control infections in long-term care facilities.

More than 30 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the Lehigh Valley have been affected by the coronavirus. Although the state Health Department doesn’t list cases by facility, two operators have acknowledged large numbers of cases in their facilities.

The Lehigh County coroner’s office said that as of noon Friday, 37 people have died at long-term care facilities. Northampton County Coroner Zachary Lysek would not release information about coronavirus deaths in long-term care facilities.

HCR ManorCare Inc., which owns six skilled nursing facilities in the Lehigh Valley, said Friday it had 166 people infected in four of its facilities, up from 108 earlier this week. They included four at ManorCare in Salisbury Township, which the company had not previously reported.

In addition, cases have risen at ManorCare facilities in Palmer Township (89) and at 2021 Westgate Drive, Bethlehem (45). Some 28 people have been listed as positive at a ManorCare in Bethlehem Township. The company is not releasing the number of deaths caused by the virus, said spokeswoman Julie Beckert.

She said not all deaths at ManorCare can be directly linked to the virus, since residents typically have significant underlying health issues or may be in hospice.

With the state preparing to reopen regions with comparatively low infection rates, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., this week said reopening a county or region should not be delayed if most of the cases are contained at long-term care facilities, arguing that those outbreaks require extra care for residents but do not endanger the broader community.

But Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Friday that long-term care facilities will be included in the counts of new cases to determine when to relax mitigation measures. Gov. Tom Wolf and Levine announced this week that the state’s business and social restrictions will be eased only when there are fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in a region over a 14-day period. “Those long-term care living facilities do exist within a county, and the staff go back and forth,” Levine said.

Beckert, the ManorCare spokeswoman, said the company has been moving toward testing throughout a facility when possible and encouraged other facilities to do the same. The company has found residents who test positive without showing symptoms who are then kept in isolation, she said.

Others in the long-term care industry said testing remains scarce. “We feel like we’ve been ignored,” Parkinson said. “Certainly now that the emphasis has gone away from hospitals to where the real battle is taking place in nursing homes, we should be at a priority level one.”

Greater transparency is necessary to understand the full scope of the coronavirus’ impact on nursing homes, he said, adding that many coronavirus cases that begin in nursing homes aren’t being correctly attributed.

The 37 deaths in Lehigh County does not include residents who died after being transferred to a hospital, Coroner Eric D. Minnich said.

And then there’s the question of waivers

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Ok, so we know Martin Tower has been a sore issue.

So Gadfly thought it was a great observation by a follower that the health hazard some of us were worrying about there last year at this time seems so insignificant now.

Great perspective.

But Martin Tower remains a sore issue.

Work continues at Martin Tower during this shut down.

Gadfly followers noticed, some out of detached wry cynicism about special privilege having its privilege, others miffed that their incomes were snuffed because their employers were shut down. How is Martin Tower construction going on when my construction job is shut down?

Gadfly inquired of the City. Director of Community Development Alicia Karner acted promptly, sending an inspector to the site. Karner said work at Martin Tower at the beginning of the shut down was associated with logging and landscaping, both activities deemed essential by the Commonwealth. So far so good. But this time the inspector noted additional activity, beyond logging and landscaping. Karner’s office asked for a copy of a waiver from the state by today or the work would be shut down. The waiver was produced. The work is permitted. There is no indication why the waiver was permitted by the state.

(A tip o’ the hat to Ms. Karner for prompt action!)

Now about rationales for waivers, this article in today’s Morning Call is instructive:

Cynthia Fernandez, “There’s no timeline to release list of Pa. businesses that received coveted coronavirus waivers, top official says..” Morning Call/Spotlight, April 23, 2020.

More than a month after the process was first announced, there is still no timeline for when Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration will release the list of Pennsylvania businesses that received coveted waivers and were allowed to reopen during the ongoing coronavirus shutdown.

During a hearing Thursday, members of the Republican-controlled state Senate lambasted the secretive nature of the waiver process, arguing that the state was deciding the fate of businesses without providing any transparency, leading to confusion and inconsistencies even among businesses in the same industry.

“With such an unprecedented situation comes unprecedented decisions, with no handbook or established guidelines,” Sen. Mike Regan (R., York) said. “Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle have expressed frustration that waivers were issued and denied with no basis, and especially with no transparency.”

In March, Wolf shuttered most of the state’s economy in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But in a nod to the complexity of the situation, the governor opened up a waiver process to allow businesses to make the case for why they should be allowed to reopen.

The stakes of the waiver process cannot be overstated, as the state’s decisions affect the livelihoods and potential safety of business owners, employees, and their families, and could mean the difference between solvency and bankruptcy.

Of the 42,000 applications submitted, 22,000 were granted a waiver or informed that they were already considered “life-sustaining,” state officials said. The secretary of the economic development agency, Dennis M. Davin, told lawmakers the process did not favor certain businesses and insisted the 45-person team made decisions in good faith.

Wonder what reason the owners of the Martin Tower site gave to secure their waiver. Though the waiver process doesn’t seem all that difficult if about 50% of the petitioners succeeded in getting a waiver.

Gadfly guesses there may be reason to hold on to some cynicism about the Tower saga.


Nursing homes: is a “consultant” enough?

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Nursing homes and etcetera still on Gadfly’s mind.

At the Friday April 17 video conference by City staff, we learned that the City was facilitating contact — acting as “liaison” — between our nursing homes and a consultant hired by the state.

That consultant was ECRI.

At the April 21 City Council meeting we learned that there were outbreaks at 3 sites but that one site had transferred the affected residents, so that two sites were the current focus. And we learned that one of those sites had a “virtual call” with ECRI on April 21 and that the City was working to connect the other site as well as the non-affected sites with ECRI.

Gadfly would have liked to have numbers so that he could gauge the severity of the outbreaks.

The Maddow’d Gadfly has said previously that the liaison/facilitator role seemed a bit too “hands-off” to him, as if, and he hopes he is mistaken here, the City was handing off responsibility to the individual nursing homes to contact the consultant. Call ’em if you need ’em.

The press release below doesn’t especially make him feel any better:

1) “ECRI’s experienced patient safety and infection control staff will be on-call twelve hours a day, weekdays”: ECRI is dealing with all the nursing homes in the state. Are they staffed for such a circumstance? They aren’t available on weekends? Will a “Jake from State Farm” always be available in a pinch?

2) “As part of its mission to advance effective, evidence-based healthcare globally, ECRI developed a public-access COVID-19 Resource Center”: Their “selling point” is a resource center. This is a generalized resource and what Gadfly would call a “passive” resource. It’s there for you to use if you want it and if you know what you are looking for. It doesn’t feel an “active” enough resource to Gadfly. Shouldn’t somebody be visiting/inspecting these sites?

“Consultant” doesn’t seem what is needed. Gadfly realizes that most of these sites are private businesses, but in this pandemic it feels like someone with power should be actively investigating the conditions at these sites that are accounting for 50% of the deaths from the virus.


PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa.April 8, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that the Department of Health signed a contract this week with ECRI, an independent nonprofit organization improving the safety, quality, and cost-effectiveness of care across all healthcare settings worldwide, to provide COVID-19 response for long-term care facilities.

“It’s imperative that the state do all that we can to protect all Pennsylvanians, but especially those most vulnerable to COVID-19, and so the Department of Health made the right decision to enlist experts in the field of infection control to help protect those in the state’s long-term care facilities,” said Governor Wolf.

With decades of experience in assisting healthcare providers during outbreaks, ECRI will provide individualized infection control and prevention assistance to long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania as the pandemic continues. ECRI’s experienced patient safety and infection control staff will be on-call twelve hours a day, weekdays. They will coordinate with the Department Operations Center who is currently providing support to those working in coronavirus response.

ECRI will also help the department evaluate personal protective equipment (PPE) and research different ways to maximize available resources.

“ECRI is focused on keeping residents, patients, and healthcare workers safe as the coronavirus pandemic spreads.  Vulnerable populations, like long-term care residents, are increasingly in harm’s way,” says Marcus Schabacker, MD, PhD, president and CEO, ECRI.

For decades, ECRI has worked closely with aging care communities in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation on emergency preparedness, disaster planning, and resident safety.

As part of its mission to advance effective, evidence-based healthcare globally, ECRI developed a public-access COVID-19 Resource Center to help hospitals, ambulatory care, and aging care facilities protect healthcare workers, residents, and patients. The site includes infection control guidance, medical device guidance on PPE, ventilators, and infusion therapies, and clinical evidence assessments on coronavirus-related treatments, therapies, and interventions.

For more information about ECRI, or to request support, visit www.ecri.org, call (610) 825-6000, or e-mail clientservices@ecri.org.

Social Sharing

News: @PAHealthDept signs contract w/ @ECRI_Org to support #ltc facilities w/ #COVID-19 response

About ECRI
ECRI is an independent, nonprofit organization improving the safety, quality, and cost-effectiveness of care across all healthcare settings. With a focus on patient safety, evidence-based medicine, and health technology decision solutions, ECRI is respected and trusted by healthcare leaders and agencies worldwide. Over the past fifty years, ECRI has built its reputation on integrity and disciplined rigor, with an unwavering commitment to independence and strict conflict-of-interest rules.

ECRI is the only organization worldwide to conduct independent medical device evaluations, with labs located in North America and Asia Pacific. ECRI is designated an Evidence-based Practice Center by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and a federally certified Patient Safety Organization by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2020, The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) formally became an ECRI Affiliate.

Visit www.ecri.org and follow @ECRI_Org to learn more.

Funding to support small businesses hurt by the pandemic

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As you read this Friday morning, Georgia will have opened up some businesses, and the news channels from some other parts of the country indicate that some people want the shut-down over and some businesses are equally as anxious to get the economy rolling again. Gadfly hasn’t heard of such pressure locally to open up. True? What do you know? What are you hearing? Our small business districts are the heart of the City. If the Northside downtown business district gets shot to hell, for instance, we’re in big trouble. What are the business leaders saying?

The City will receive an $800,000 addition from HUD to the CBDG (block grant) grant to be used specifically and only for COVID-19 expenses.

Council discussed use of this money in a preliminary way at Tuesday’s meeting. Discussion focused on supporting small business.

Details of the support program — 150 one-time grant awards of $2,000 — and the application are now available on the City web site.


Bethlehem, Pa. – (April 16, 2020) – The City of Bethlehem is proposing a Small Business Emergency Relief Fund to assist city businesses impacted by COVID-19. $300,000 of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding has been identified to be utilized by the program that will provide one time grants of $2,000.  Awarded funds can be used for operational costs inclusive of rental assistance, payroll assistance, and utilities.

The Small Business Emergency Relief Fund is supported with Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money. CDBG is federal funding with specific eligibility criteria. To be eligible, businesses must be located in the City of Bethlehem, and comply with low to moderate income (LMI) funding requirements outlined in CDBG guidelines.  Additionally, prioritization 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, however, all businesses are encouraged to apply.

Mayor Bob Donchez says “These are unprecedented times, businesses are struggling and in need of support.  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 April 22, 2020 on the city’s website: www.bethlehem-pa.gov.  or   www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Community-Economic-Development/Small-Business-Emergency-Relief-Fund.

Applications will be reviewed by a committee for eligibility and evaluated based on funding priorities.

The City helping the homeless

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PRESS RELEASE: City of Bethlehem Health Department April 22, 2020

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.

Who are our nursing homes?

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Tip o’ the hat to Bernie O’Hare for source information.











Did Gadfly miss anyone?

Know anything about what’s going on? Any news to share?

What do the nursing home numbers show?

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Tip o’ the hat to Bernie O’Hare for source information.

In asking if we should be looking more closely into conditions in nursing homes and senior care facilities, Gadfly does not mean to suspect wrongdoing.

Neither does Maddow.

Neither does Gov. Cuomo, whom I just heard speak on this issue at his daily press briefing.

There may be some problem sites, but the basic situation now is that all such facilities are not prepared for a pandemic.

And they need help.

There should be no “blame game” going on.

The reason for looking into conditions is to see what help they need.

For this is our most vulnerable population, and “deaths are waiting to happen.”

There may be no serious problems now, but it will pay to be prepared.

Northampton County is tracking COVID-19 at all county nursing homes here.

On the menu under the top graph, click on “Nursing Home Data”:

  • 295 cases among residents
  • 71 cases among employees
  • 23 deaths
  • 23 deaths is 8% of the resident cases
  • 23 deaths is 6% of total number of deaths in nursing homes

Look at the box for “COVID-19 related deaths” on the bottom right.

45 total deaths in Northampton County.

23 deaths in nursing homes = 50% of total number of deaths in Northampton County.

Just as Maddow said.

Which means aid to nursing homes should be an articulated high priority.

Is the City doing enough by what sounded like in the press conferences as simply acting as liaison and kind of handing off to a consulting firm provided by the state?

Should we be looking more closely into conditions in nursing homes and senior care facilities?

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Followers know that Gadfly has been “Maddow’d” on the subject of coronavirus and nursing homes (see coronavirus under Topics on the sidebar). Rachel Maddow has made the crucial situation at nursing homes — nearly 50% of all deaths are associated with nursing homes — a subject of consistent concern. Gadfly has provided links in past posts to several of her shows on the subject.

Maddow led with another powerful segment on this subject last night (first 20 minutes), in which she talked about “deaths waiting to happen.”

And then we have this story in the paper this morning.

There is no allegation of poor care, but one can sense “deaths waiting to happen.”

Gadfly, as followers may have sensed, has felt that the subject of nursing homes has been underplayed in City reporting, and wishes that Council members might use their positions to look more deeply into conditions at our potential “hot spots,” if only out of an abundance of caution.

Anthony Salamone and Peter Hall, “ManorCare discloses nearly 100 coronavirus cases, deaths at Lehigh Valley nursing homes.” Morning Call, April 23, 2020.

Amid federal pressure for more transparency about the growing crisis at nursing homes, ManorCare on Wednesday said it is grappling with nearly 100 coronavirus cases and an “unspecified” number of deaths at three facilities it operates in the Lehigh Valley.

Julie Beckert, a spokeswoman for owner HCR ManorCare Inc., said Wednesday that 21 residents have tested positive at ManorCare Health Services-Bethlehem, 2021 Westgate Drive, off Catasauqua Road; 57 at Palmer Township and 21 in Bethlehem Township.

The company owns three other facilities in the Lehigh Valley, two in the Allentown area and one at 2029 Westgate Drive, across from the 2021 Westgate site. Those facilities have had no positive cases, she said.

Beckert said ManorCare has had an unspecified number of patients die during the last six weeks, “but we cannot confirm that it was due to COVID.” She said many patients have significant underlying health issues or are in hospice. “So COVID could be related but not the cause,” she said.

Experts say nursing homes have been ground zero for the virus, and residents of long-term care facilities account for more than half of Pennsylvania’s deaths from the virus. Wednesday’s figures from the state Health Department showed the number of cases in nursing and personal care facilities continue to rise, though the Lehigh Valley’s totals appeared to have steadied.

The state reported among 30 facilities with cases in the Lehigh Valley, there have been 686 infections among residents and staff, with the majority of them residents.

At ManorCare, Beckert said, the company places its senior centers in one of three tiers to “most effectively” treat patients while keeping the environment as safe as possible, Beckert said.

Earlier this week, she said the 2021 Westgate Drive, Palmer and Bethlehem Township facilities are on a “Tier 3” level of care, meaning staff identified coronavirus cases and took steps to isolate the sick. Such measures include installing a dedicated airborne isolation unit. She said those patients are screened, with priority placement given for the highest risk residents.

The home also set up temporary walls with doors and an antechamber for employees to don and remove personal protective equipment, Beckert said. The isolation area allows ManorCare to put “consistent staff” on the unit to care for patients, she said.

Facilities at 2029 Westgate Drive and in Salisbury Township are not on Tier 3, though Beckert declined to say the tier ranking for those two.

Tiers 1 and 2 do not indicate any positive cases, but some Tier 2 centers have COVID-19 tests out and have added airborne isolation to their infection controls, Beckert said.

“We will start to move patients off of isolation since they are recovering and will no longer need to be on airborne isolation,” Beckert said. “The tiered process we have in place for airborne isolation is working at ManorCare.”

Beckert said the company has sufficient staff to care for residents. She said any employee who tests positive would be self-quarantined and able to return to work once cleared of COVID-19 by a health care professional.

“Our caregivers have truly banded together and are working hard to provide compassionate quality care to the patients they serve,” she said. “They are heroes and deserve to be treated as such.”

Beckert said ManorCare is working to make sure people are aware of cases in its facilities, and to prevent people from feeling cut off.

“Our priority is to review our numbers so we can report the most accurate to families,” she said. “We will then post these numbers once families are contacted. We also have systems in place to help families connect with their loved ones during this trying time. We continue to work with the state and the local health department and report daily with any updates in our center.”

New federal regulations could shed additional light on which Pennsylvania facilities have seen cases of COVID-19. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has announced new reporting requirements that direct nursing homes to inform residents, their families and the federal government about coronavirus infections at their facilities. A CMS spokeswoman said the agency plans to releases data weekly, including names of nursing homes that report information.

Critics have said the move is long overdue. They have called for more aggressive action to track infections in homes and contain outbreaks by helping home operators get greater access to testing and masks, particularly given the vulnerability of elderly patients.

“We don’t know where we should be checking out certain facilities, or the risk part of it is sending staff to a place not knowing if there is a lot of [COVID-19],” said J.R. Reed, executive director of the Lehigh County Office on Aging and Adult Services.

Reed said the state should list the data by facility; currently the Health Department provides a breakdown of the number of cases in each county, without listing specific facilities.

But Toby Edelman, a senior policy attorney with the Center for Medicare Advocacy in Willimantic, Connecticut, said CMS hasn’t issued final regulations yet and questions if those regulations will lead to more transparency in the reporting by care facilities.

“I just think it’s not clear, and they won’t tell you unless it’s in their interest,” Edelman said of nursing homes, whose reporting she characterized thus far as “very spotty.”

Reynolds: the City needs to be the center of creative solutions about the economic and social consequences of coronavirus on our businesses and residents

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In the previous post, Gadfly summarized the coronavirus reports from City Hall at the April 21 City Council meeting.

At this historic meeting, Council also passed the following corona-virus-related resolution by Councilman Reynolds (the entire resolution is here):

Resolution calling upon the City Administration to investigate initiatives to help protect the economic survival of our residents and local businesses in response to the COVID-19 health emergency.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, THAT THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM encourages the Mayor’s Administration to investigate any and all feasible options for helping to protect the survival of our residents and local businesses in response to the COVID-19 health emergency, including working closely with the federal and state government, financial institutions, educational institutions, and non-profits to identify and publicize economic assistance options for our local businesses, including without limitation, emergency loan programs and programs to help businesses modify their operations to comply with social distancing and other new public health practices.

Here’s Councilman Reynolds’ statement about the resolution and subsequent discussion (video min. 1:29:20):

Councilman Reynolds sees public health as the #1 priority, and he acknowledged the good work being done by the City in that respect. But this resolution is about priority #2, commingling the City to working on the economic and social consequences of  Reynolds 3coronavirus on our businesses and residents. This resolution is a statement that we need to be creative in coming up with city-wide initiatives regarding the short- and long-term consequences of the pandemic. People will look to us to do more that work on public health. The pandemic has revealed economic problems that can have far-reaching consequences. The City can’t do it all, can’t solve all problems, but it must play a leading role, an organizing role. One specific problem this crisis has revealed is the number of people who don’t have broadband access, without which it is hard to function, and which it is now clear that we must address. The City needs to be the center of creative solutions.

Levitator turns 77, powers undiminished

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Ron Yoshida


Sunday, 19 April, Historic District.  Friends and neighbors singing Happy Birthday to Norman Giradot on his 77th birthday while practicing social distance.  Even in these times, we can mindfully celebrate life in our community.


On April 28, 1992, just a week over 28 years ago, readers of the Lehigh University Brown and White were astonished by an announcement that Professor Norman Girardot was going to levitate the newly erected Rauch Business College.

Norman Girardot, professor of religion, is planning to levitate the Rauch Business Center on May 4 to celebrate spring and the end of classes. Girardot plans to harness the ancient power of bull roarers, wooden slates that are spun around the head, because Rauch is such a heavy building. Girardot plans to supplement the bull roarers’ power with an immuexia machine, which Girardot says will rend the fabric of the time-space continuum. Girardot received permission from the highest levels of the administration after he promised that the levitation will cause no structural damage to Rauch. He has enlisted the help of over 30 faculty members, who he says will set up a battery of equipment to scientifically prove that the building actually rose. Some residual energy could be left over from the levitation, Girardot warns. He says the energy will present no physical danger but could massage some minds. Will Rauch rise? News at eleven.

Gadfly was not amused. If any building was going to be levitated, it should be venerable Drown Hall, where he chaired the Department of English. English majors were in short-supply, and the department could use the help publicizing to students where it was located.

Besides, Gadfly was fairly certain South Mountain was geologically torpid and immune to such spellbinding, for Professors Frakes and Dowling had tried to levitate the significantly less poundage’d university flagpole in the ’60s with clarinet solos by jazz great Sidney Bechet — and the project was a resounding bust.

But Gadfly was there at Rauch May 4, 1992, and, b’damned, he swears the building moved.

They say it rose B and W May 5 1992

Gadfly has been a Girardot groupie ever since.

And it’s been reliably reported that The Levitator recently moved Bruce Haines’s political views one degree to the left.

(Council watchers know the regular sensible comments on tough issues by Al Wurth. See the report on environmental awareness from Al’s course on p. 8 of the Brown and White article.)

Support your local artists: Matt Wolf poetry reading online tonight

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Matt Wolf poetry reading via BAPL:

Wednesday April 22, local Lehigh Valley poet (and BAPL’s own) Matt Wolf will read from his BAPL Books collection, A JOURNEY–and more!–online, via Zoom and Facebook Live. Stream from anywhere. A Q&A will follow.
Poet Matt Wolf Reads LIVE
Weds April 22, 2020
7:30 pm EST

Coronavirus report at City Council

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Gadfly supposes the most important part of last night’s City Council meeting was the report on the coronavirus situation by the Mayor, Kristen Wenrich, and Bob Novatnack.

Gadfly followers know that the City has had two press conferences that have been covered here. Much of what was reported last night will be familiar to those who checked out our prior posts on those press conferences (see coronavirus on the sidebar).

The section that followers might find most interesting is the interchange between President Waldron and Kristen Wenrich following her presentation (video min. 40:30):

Now, here below are the full presentations by the main players in our coronavirus response.

Mayor Donchez (video min. 25:00):

Gave thanks to residents for making 1000 masks; thanks to city workers, the counties, the hospitals; good news on payments from Wind Creek; storm water work postponed to January; unlikely Memorial Pool will be opened but will open others; hiring freeze; Public Works and Water Department now working shifts; all city workers have masks; street cleaning continues, no tickets except violation of public safety; tax deadlines extended; compost center opening for drop-off only, need masks; putting off bond till next year, deferring capital spending; no decision yet on Musik-Fest; furloughs will be last resort; financial status is good.

Kristen Wenrich, Health Bureau Director (video min. 33:30):

Doing contract tracing; as of Monday 376 cases, 3 deaths; working on a map/data dashboard that will be updated daily; 39 hospitalized, 20% positivity rate; 45% white, 39% Hispanic; 66% white, 12.5% African American, 1.6% Asian; doing education outreach to Hispanics and African American communities; higher % in 25-49 age group; average age 46.9; rise in household infections; not recommending mild cases be tested; rates not increasing but testing has decreased; working with non-profits for care of elderly and homeless, 1 homeless in isolation; working with New Bethany and Comfort Suites for housing; outbreaks in 3 long-term care facilities, 1 transferred patients so actually working with 2; acting as liaison, putting these facilities in contact with state consultant on infection control — Acri? — and 1 has had a call from them; most frequent calls are about workplace concerns; concern about getting enough people tested; up and down numbers so hard to say if peak has been reached; testing site opening up at Mohegan Sun; LVHN having trouble getting tests; Allentown cases through the roof, with whom we will be lumped in a region by region re-opening; re-opening criteria = incidence rates and Lehigh County has highest in the state; Bethlehem is faring fairly well in context of state averages; working on a “heat map” but hasn’t seen any geographical trends in the city; ok now on staffing to do the contact tracing

Bob Novatnack, Emergency Management Director (video min. 51:20):

Supply chain for city employees is strong; only 1 city employee tested positive; police and fire calls down, different procedure in dealing with the public; everything fully staffed; good working relationship with the counties; getting complaints about businesses not following masking guidelines; government working smoothly; dealing with changes in guidelines on a daily basis; credit to cleaning crew in City Hall; big kudos to the Health Department, recognizes that there are now 4 components to public safety: police, fire, EMS, and Health Dept.