City Council pandemica

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City Council held a successful meeting last night under pandemic conditions.

President Waldron, Councilman Callahan, and Mayor Donchez were in Town Hall.

The other Councilpersons participated virtually.

There was only one public commenter by phone — Lynn Rothman calling from out of state, no less! — but I think we got a sense that the commenting process can work.

Regarding the coronavirus: the Mayor reported, as well as Kristen Wenrich and Bob Novatnack — which was good. Through their questions and comments, Council members were able to draw out additional information than that provided in the City press conferences.

The video is available here.

Give Gadfly a little time, and he will break out some parts of the meeting and provide audio as well as time marks on the video for easy reference.

Tip o’ the hat to the IT production staff at the city!

Women’s work in the other pandemic

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Gadfly loves what he finds sometimes in the fine print as he wanders through the Morning Call archives from 1918.

Like this on the next-to-last page of the October 26, 1918, issue. The back page was always devoted to the classified advertisements (something interesting there too: an ad for 14-year-old boys and girls to work in the Schneider Shoe Factory, 228 N. Jefferson). So this was the tail end of the issue.

An article on what work women were doing as a result of the pandemic.

Yes, volunteering for the Red Cross, making and delivering food.

Yes, making masks.

Yes, circulating petitions.

Traditional woman’s work. Remember 1918 was even before Women’s suffrage.

But at the end of the article —

Pearl Moore and Sylvia Porter “pursuing occupations usually given men . . . putting on overalls” and working for the railroad.

Edna Furnival appointed as draughtsman — draughtsman — to replace a man “gone into the army.”

But most of all this one.

Flu 93

Men were dying from the Flu. Probably more than women (think of the enormous number sick and dying in the Army camps) because of working outside the home.

More and more, women now had to take care of  “things.”

Gadfly found that little paragraph quite striking, quite revelatory — quite poignant.

This ‘n That

1) Coronavirus and the Hispanic Community:

Gadfly has pointed out the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on the Hispanic Community, 30% of our population but 45% of the cases tested positive.

Now is a good time to help by donating to the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley, 520 E. 4th St.

2) Fig:

Several followers lately have put Gadfly on to Fig Bethlehem. The latest issue just came out. Is Gadfly always the last to know?


3) National Poetry Month at BAPL:

Open to All Ages
During the month of April, we are inviting the community to submit a favorite poem to be shared online through BAPL. Poems can be submitted in Video, Audio, or Text form and entrees will be reviewed before being put online. Our goal is to give patrons the opportunity to share their favorite poems among the community during the month with feedback and engagement. This program is open to all ages! We look forward to hearing from you!
  • Patrons should submit their poems to Matt at
  • Poems should be written by somebody other than the submitter
  • Patrons should be aware that submitting a poem allows BAPL to use their video/audio/text on their online sites and social media.

4) Martin Tower:

A follower observed that about a year ago  we (well, some of us) were worried about the potential health hazard from the demolition of Martin Tower. And look at our worries now. MT is bush league in comparison.

But about the same time another follower passed on these links that made those MT worries come alive again:

Then, rumors of work activity now at the MT site have reached Gadfly. Has anyone noticed? If so, do you suppose they got an exemption from the shut-down order? But Gadfly doubts the rumors. After all, the Mayor mentioned MT as work delayed in the April 17 press conference. Still, pass on your observations.

5) 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

Bethlehem Moment: The Military Commission and Bethlehem Attorney Doster’s Defense of Lincoln Assassination Conspirators Atzerodt and Powell

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Alan would normally deliver this “Moment” in person at City Council tonight — no doubt in re-enactor garb — but we bow to the pandemic and publish it solely here. Enjoy!

Bethlehem Moment 21
City Council
April 21, 2020

Alan Y. Lowcher
438 High St.

Bethlehem Moment: Trying the Assassins of President Lincoln

“Sic Semper Tyrannis!” With those words and a woman’s scream from the Presidential Box, the audience at Ford’s Theater was plunged into chaos.  Several physicians examined the unconscious President and pronounced the wound mortal.  It would be unseemly for the President of the United States to die in a house of entertainment – on Good Friday, no less.  But the doctors agreed that Lincoln would never survive the carriage ride to the White House.  The President was carried out onto Tenth Street, Union officers scanning the scene for someplace – anyplace – to take the dying Chief Executive.  From across the street, a voice called out “Bring him in here,” and Lincoln was carried into a boarding house and laid in the bed of Louisa Peterson, who was away at the Bethlehem Female Seminary.  The President died in her bed at 7:22 AM on Easter Saturday, April 15, 1865.  Telegraphers flashed the news around the country. Wednesday, April 19th was designated as a national day of mourning.

Secretary of War Stanton directed the search for Lincoln’s assassin – and the perpetrators of the brutal assault on Secretary of State Seward – from the Peterson

Lowcher Lincoln
Alan and Patricia Lowcher at the 150th observation of Lincoln’s assassination

house.  With the full weight of the military and police brought to bear, it was only a matter of days until the Lincoln conspirators – John Wilkes Booth, David Herald, George Atzerodt, Lewis Powell (a/k/a Payne), Mary Surratt, Dr. Mudd, Edman Spangler, and two early signers on in the plot to kidnap Lincoln but who were not involved in the plans to assassinate Lincoln – Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlin – were identified, caught, and incarcerated, except for Booth who died of a gunshot at the Garrett farm in Virginia.  Another conspirator – John Surratt, Jr., Mary’s son — had fled to Canada.  He would elude capture for a year and was tried before a civilian court in 1867, the U.S. Supreme Court having held in Ex Parte Milligan that trying civilians in a military court was unconstitutional when the civilian courts were functioning.  The statute of limitations having run on the lesser charges, Surratt was released when the jury could not unanimously agree on the remaining murder charge.

Stanton favored convening a military commission to quickly try and execute the conspirators.  The commission met for the first time on May 8, 1865.  All of the defendants except Atzerodt and Powell were represented by attorneys.  Bethlehem native Brevet Brigadier General William E. Doster was hired by Atzerodt’s brother to defend George. The commission appointed Doster to represent Powell, who could not secure his own counsel.  Doster was a Yale graduate and obtained his law degree from Harvard.  He served with the 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry and rose quickly to the rank of Lt. Colonel.  His military career was cut short when he contracted malaria after the Gettysburg campaign.  In 1865 he was honored with the rank of Brevet Brigadier General “for gallant and meritorious service in the field.”  Although his illness kept him out of the saddle, Doester turned his combative skills to good use practicing law in Washington City in 1864.

Faced with an eye-witness identifying Powell as Seward’s attacker, and weapons, an escape map, and Booth’s bank book found in a trunk in Atzerodt’s hotel room – Atzerodt Lowcher Lincoln 2was assigned to assassinate Vice President Johnson — Doster surely realized that his clients would be convicted.  All he could do was try to persuade the commission to spare their lives.  In the case of Atzerodt, Doster argued that he was too much of a coward to be that heavily involved in the conspiracy. Atzerodt, after all, failed to carry out Booth’s instructions to kill the Vice President.  Instead, he downed several drinks at the Kirkland House bar, mere feet from Johnson’s room, and then made his way out of Washington City.  Doster might also have highlighted his client’s lack of intelligence: Atzerodt made a bee-line for a relative’s house in nearby Maryland.  His trail was not hard to follow.  Doster’s defense of Powell portrayed the former Confederate soldier as an abused, innocent farm boy turned murderer by the recently concluded cruel war.  Doster also argued that Powell suffered from a kind of insanity.  After all, Powell was heard to scream as he ran from Seward’s home, “I’m mad! I’m mad!”   In the end, Doster’s eloquent pleas on behalf of both clients came to naught.  Atzerodt and Powell were hanged together with David Herold and Mrs. Surratt.

However, that is not the end of the story.   In 1978, a historian examining Doster’s legal files came across a May 1, 1865, “confession” made by George Atzerodt to the Provost Marshal of Baltimore.  Atzerodt’s statements directly linked Mrs. Surratt and Dr. Mudd to Booth’s original plot to kidnap Lincoln and spirit him to Richmond.  More tellingly, Atzerodt confirmed Booth’s instructions to Mrs. Surratt – after Booth’s plans turned from kidnapping to assassination – to make ready the rifles that she had hidden in her Surrattsville tavern for Booth to pick up after assassinating Lincoln.  Inexplicably, the Provost Marshal turned over Atzerodt’s statement to Doster, not Secretary of War Stanton.  Doster suppressed Atzerodt’s statement and never spoke of it.  Had he revealed it, the evidence of Mrs. Surratt’s guilt would have been that much stronger, and Dr. Mudd – who escaped the death penalty by one vote – surely would have hanged alongside Mrs. Surratt and the others.  An unanswerable question remains:  Had General Doster chosen to reveal the “confession,” could he have made a plea deal with the military commission to spare Atzerodt the death penalty in exchange for Mudd’s life?

Doster returned to Bethlehem after the war to practice law.  He represented many local companies, including Bethlehem Iron Company and the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, and Bethlehem’s prominent citizens and their families.  He married Evelyn Augusta Depew in 1867.  They had two sons and a daughter.  The marriage was “dissolved,” and in 1888, 51-year-old Doster married 19-year-old Ruth Porter, a great beauty, and heiress to two prominent East Coast families. The musically gifted Ruth was a founder of the Bach Choir.  Scandal befell the family when Ruth divorced General Doster and married her stepson, Edward Depew Doster, who was just a year older than she.

And what of Louisa Peterson’s bed?  Peterson’s father sold the house for $4,500 to a speculator who hoped that the government would buy it for a museum.  The bed upon which President Lincoln died was sold for $80.  According to Louisa’s brother Fred, who gave an interview to the Chicago Historical Society in 1926, the family could have sold the bed many times over.  The story of Miss Peterson, her bed, and its connection to Bethlehem would never have been known except for a letter that Louisa wrote in 1864 asking about her trunk that had not arrived home yet from school.  The letter, found in the Moravian Archives, included details about Peterson’s family that led to the “Bethlehem” connection to the household where Lincoln died.

“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”


The Morning Call, November 24, 2017, In Bethlehem’s Moravian history, archivists find connections to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, by Nicole Radzievich.

Chicago Historical Bulletin, February 1926, containing an interview of Fred Peterson that first appeared in the New York Times, February 9, 1913.

National Park Service, Ford’s Theater, Washington, D.C.

The Morning Call, January 6, 2002, Bethlehem native played a role in aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, by Edward Steers, Jr.

The Trial of the Lincoln Conspirators, by Doug Linder (2009)

City Council meeting tonight, pandemic style

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Yes, indeedy, City Council meeting tonight, 7PM, on the usual bat-channel.

See yesterday’s post here for all the technical details for this pandemic-era gathering.

Public comment feels like it could be an awkward scramble. Looks like calls aren’t put in a queue. Looks like you have to keep dialing in till you get an opening. Once again, Gadfly suggests that people who have urgent matters to communicate play it safe and send an email to Council members via the city clerk for distribution well before the meeting: Also, you can find the links to individual Council emails here:

Therefore, this is probably not a time for comments that can be put off. Let’s give the system a chance to work out any bugs.

Gadfly probably will forego his yakety-yak and simply take time here to say, “Fight the good fight, my extended family” to any Council members and City Administrators who may be listening.

But Gadfly strongly suggests that we all at least watch the proceedings.

Gadfly is fond of saying that these meetings are the public face of our city government.

This is a time of emergency, of crisis.

It’s easy to govern when times are good. Now is the time when we see the mettle of those we elected and those they appointed.

We hope the Mayor’s report will be a bit elongated tonight, even though there was the press conference on Friday.

We need Council members to be asking the right questions on our behalf.

Eventually some budget decisions will have to be made — maybe tough choices.

So now is the time for wise elected officials, now the time for good communication, now the time for them to know that we are watching, are concerned, and are contributing our ideas.

Remember that a main goal of the Gadfly project is for you to know your elected officials so that you vote in the most informed way possible.

Some members of Council may be running for higher office soon. We need to be watching.

A boozy tale

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Associated Press, “Pennsylvania liquor stores to reopen today at these locations for curbside pickup.” Morning Call, April 20, 2020.

In Bethlehem, 30 E. 4th St.:  610-861-2109

The noon WFMZ telecast led with the news. Booze now available. Huzza!

You’ve seen the letters to the editor: “Keeping these vitally essential stores open could’ve helped ease a lot of tension,” and “We as Americans have a right to pick and choose what we want,”

Makes you think, doesn’t it? What’s essential and what isn’t?

To many, liquor is essential.

Morning Call articles in the month of October 1918 tell a funny story of how our ancestors handled liquor deprivation during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

The state health department turned down a petition for an exemption of the ban from the Wholesale Malt and Liquor Dealers Protective Association. An association protecting the right to imbibe?

A brewing company presented a conundrum to the Allentown Health Board when it “requested the privilege” of selling a beverage one half of one percent alcohol. The Health Board debated whether such minuscule content constituted an alcoholic drink — a debate reminiscent, no doubt, of such questions as “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” presented to St. Thomas Aquinas. Nice try by the brewers. No resolution is reported.

The local Health Board was no place for dummies. A special meeting was required because physicians were issuing prescriptions to liquor dealers for liquor. Health Department headquarters in Harrisburg was called in on this one. The hope was that they would restrict such permissible requests to a quart or less. Can you see the label? Take two shots and call me in the morning.

Farmers found cider so in demand to quench thirsts that they could get “the fancy price of 35 cents a gallon.” A jug by any other name . . .

Black market booze went for $3 a quart. You can hear the babies around town crying for lack of milk.

Saloon owners did lose licenses for illegal sales as they succumbed to the siren call of illegal demand. Why don’t we use the term “saloon” much any more? It has such a delightfully wicked aura.

Wouldn’t you have loved to know serial slurpers “Brindamour” and “Brick ” O’Donnell, surely among the most colorful anti-heroes of the local pandemic? Good boys, I imagine them, whose mother the widow Mary Kate Brogan O’Donnell, sat nightly by the fire chewing the hem of her apron in terror at the roar of gunfire rattling her humble crockery, but who, “driven to desperation by the quarantine of saloons,” crossed over into denizens of rat holes and railroad yards as a result of their addiction to the demon drink.

Flu 91Brick was captured in a “state of stupefaction,” but Brindamour, showing moves that earned him that football scholarship to Notre Dame and maternal dreams of a fulfilling career, danced around the flying bullets of that committed North-Ireland foe of fun Patrolman Harsch (“Harsh”!) to live and slurp again as he matured into a life of lovable criminality. There’s a Cagney movie based on him.

But seriously.

Flu 85

Open bars cause an emigration like the Muslims fleeing the Middle East.

If you had a boat capable of crossing the Delaware in October 1918, you could make some money. Like selling parking spaces in front of your house during Musik-Fest.

A Special Earth Day Event at Lehigh U

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A Special Earth Day Event:

Please join us for Lehigh University’s Virtual Earth Day celebration. The keynote speaker for a special webinar will be Joseph Robertson, Global Strategy Director for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. He will discuss “Integrative Geopolitics: Climate Resilience in a Post-COVID World.”

The webinar will be on Wednesday, April 22 at 4:30pm.

The year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and people across the globe will be celebrating the day through the international theme of climate action. If you have any questions, please contact

Join the virtual webinar here:

Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act resolution up for vote tomorrow

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Of interest at Tuesday’s Council meeting: resolution to be voted on.

Support Resolution –Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019
Councilman Reynolds


RESOLVED, that the City of Bethlehem, PA urges the United States Congress to enact without delay the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019, FER, 763; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Bethlehem City Council expresses gratitude to our
Congressional Representative Susan Wild for having become a co-sponsor of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019, HR763; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Bethlehem City Council urges other Pennsylvania
municipalities to similarly call on their federal Representatives to co-sponsor the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019, HR 763, (other than those in Congressional Districts PAO3, PAO4, and PAO8 who are already co-sponsors) and encourage its passage by the US Congress.

Economic security resolution up for vote tomorrow

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Of interest at Tuesday’s Council meeting: resolution to be voted on.

Resolution related to protecting economic security of residents and businesses during the COVID-19 public health emergency
Councilman Reynolds


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 f or 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.


From this resolution, it looks like the City is already moving to do that, allocating $300,000 to support at-risk businesses:

CDBG HOME COVID ActionPlanAmendmentResolution

Residential rental unit ordinance up for final vote tomorrow

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Of interest at Tuesday’s Council meeting:

Ordinances for Final Passage: Bill 06-2020 –Establishing Article 1738 –Residential Rental Units

Requiring licensing of rental units and inspection every three years.

Proposed residential rental ordinance

Residential Rental Unit –A dwelling unit as defined by the City of Bethlehem Zoning Ordinance, but which is subject to a rental agreement or arrangement between at least one occupant and the Owner. A residential rental unit can be a “single family detached dwelling”, a “single family attached dwelling”, a “single family semi-detached dwelling”, each unit of a “two family detached dwelling”, each unit of a “two family semi-detached dwelling”, or any individual dwelling unit found in a “multi-family dwelling”, as each of these termsis defined by the City of Bethlehem Zoning Ordinance. Residential Rental Units shall notinclude any property qualifying as any of the following

  • any dwelling unit in which the owner resides but allows one or more tenants to share the same dwelling unit occupied by the owner;
  • any rooming facility under Article 1735;
  • any regulated rental unit under Article 1739;
  • any short term lodging facility under Article 1741;
  • any hotel or motel, as defined by the City of Bethlehem Zoning Ordinance;
  • any hospital or nursing home, as defined by the City of Bethlehem Zoning Ordinance; and
  • any bed and breakfast home as defined by the City of Bethlehem Zoning Ordinance.


As a prerequisite to furnishing or allowing the occupancy of any RESIDENTIAL RENTAL UNIT, the OWNER of every such RESIDENTIAL RENTAL UNIT shall be required to apply for and obtain a License for each RESIDENTIAL RENTAL UNIT.


Every Residential Rental Unit shall be subject to inspection every three years by the CODE OFFICIAL.The inspection may, at the discretion of the City’s CODE OFFICIAL, also include the PREMISES generally.

Bethlehem City Council will host virtual meeting Tuesday, April 21st

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Welcome to the pandemic version of City Council meetings! The meeting is televised as usual, which means Council members will be socially distanced apart. When that Saturday morning meeting was held back at the beginning of the pandemic (seems like years ago now, doesn’t it?), some of the Council members were out of the camera-shot, as Gadfly remembers it. Without a list of signed-up speakers, public comment, frankly, looks like it could be bumpy. Some commenters might want to submit written statements to the city clerk ( for submission to Council beforehand. Gadfly appreciates the work put in to arranging this and hopes for smooth sailing.


TUESDAY, APRIL 21, 2020, at 7:00 PM.

Public Comment Phone Number: 610-997-7963

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, Bethlehem City Council will temporarily allow public comment by phone during Bethlehem City Council meetings. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, in lieu of attending in person, if you have public comments that you would like to share at a Bethlehem City Council meeting, it is recommended that you watch the YouTube live-stream of the meeting and use the following public comment call-in phone number during the public comment periods: 610-997-7963 (“Public Comment Phone Number”).

The April 21, 2020 Bethlehem City Council meeting, starting at 7:00 PM, will be live-streamed on YouTube at the “City of Bethlehem Council” YouTube channel at

All agenda items for the above-referenced Bethlehem City Council meeting are/will be available at the following website: (see link to agenda top right of page, links to documents are at bottom of the page).

The City Council President will announce public comment periods during the meeting which you can watch on YouTube on the “City of Bethlehem Council” YouTube channel.  If you call the Public Comment Phone Number (610-997-7963) and the line is busy, please call back when the current public speaker is finished.  Calls to the Public Comment Phone Number will only be accepted during the two designated public comment periods at the above-referenced City Council meeting.

The first public comment period is reserved for subjects not being voted on at this City Council meeting. The second public comment period is reserved for subjects being voted on at this City Council meeting. The normal five (5) minute time limits applicable to all public comments at Bethlehem City Council meetings will apply to any public comments provided by phone.

Before you call the Public Comment Phone Number (610-997-7963), please turn off all speakers, computer speakers, televisions, or radios. At the start of your call, please state your name and address.

Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, public access to Bethlehem City Hall is currently limited. If you have any questions about how to comment remotely in the above-referenced City Council meeting, please call the City Clerk’s office at (610) 865-7130 or email

Our Hispanic residents?

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Followers know that Councilwoman Olga Negron called attention to the tough situation  Hispanic residents face in a poignant post here several days ago.

This extensive Call article focuses on private-sector Negron and Allentown attorney David Vaida as points of contact for the Hispanic residents.

In Friday’s press conference video, the City did say they were providing education for specific populations. We don’t know exactly what that entails, but it seems related to health, and that education/advice/help might need to be much broader in terms of job rights, as this good article indicates.

The article concentrates on Walmart and Amazon.

Manuel Gamiz and Jon Harris, “Hispanic workers are keeping Lehigh Valley warehouses going during coronavirus crisis, at great risk to themselves.” Morning Call, April 19, 2020.

Why we need a reliable food-delivery system in our area

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When I saw all the photos of the bare grocery shelves, all I could think of was: our local farmers have food, and they are setting up safe systems for us to get it! So you can bypass that can of beets and get fresh ones; our local Buy Fresh Buy Local – Greater Lehigh Valley has a great list of local farms and producers at (check each one for protocols and hours).

And if I can put in a plug for the Bethlehem Food Co-Op — this situation has shown us clearly why we need a reliable food-delivery system in our area, that will make the path shorter and safer between farmer and consumer. That’s why so many of us are working to bring a community-owned, full-service grocery store to downtown Bethlehem, and we are making good progress to announcing our location and opening. If the time is right for you, we would love to have you join us:

Carol Burns

Thoughts of the end

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Gadfly is in charge of the family larder.

Taking a census the other day, his mind went to a doom’s-day scenario.

What if the food supply chain were cut off during this national emergency and you had to eat down what was in the family larder?

What would you put off eating to the bitter end?

What would you eat last, only as the meal of last resort?

There’s family lore that there’s a box of decades-long passed over pumpkin pie mix somewhere in the dark, cobwebbed posterior regions of our pantryspace.

I am pleased to say I found no such thing. Urban legend.

What I did find way back there where the sun don’t shine, where orphaned comestibles go to die, was a can of kidney beans, a can of tuna, and a can of beets.

A desperado’s delight.

“NorCo’s Nursing Homes Have Been Hit Hard”

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“Nursing homes are the single biggest fear in all of this.”
Governor Cuomo

Tip o’ the hat to Bernie O’Hare for the graph on nursing homes on today’s Lehigh Valley Ramblings blog.

“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.”

Our seniors? We need more information from the City

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“In the Lehigh Valley, there are 95 facilities — either nursing or personal care homes — according to Health Department spokesman Nate Wardle. Of those, 11 facilities in Lehigh and 10 in Northampton have thus far reported coronavirus cases or deaths, he said.”

“State data also shows the Lehigh Valley has reported 23 deaths at 21 facilities — about 40% of the two-county total of 56.”

Followers know that Gadfly has been concerned about the status of our nursing homes and senior-care facilities:

What coronavirus questions do you have?

Still have coronavirus questions and concerns?

Rachel Maddow had another segment last night.

Two very relevant stories in the Morning Call this morning indicate that we need much more information than the City provided in the press conference without follow-up questions yesterday. Gadfly reported that as of Thursday eight residents and eight staff members have been diagnosed with COVID-19 at Kirkland Village. That sounds to him like a lot. The City reported outbreaks in three long-term care facilities. Which three? What constitutes an “outbreak”? What monitoring and oversight is there? Who is the state “consultant,” and what exactly is its role? (There is no mention of a consultant in these stories.)


Anthony Salamone, “Deaths at nursing homes in Pennsylvania, Lehigh Valley continue to mount.” Morning Call, April 17, 2020.

More than half of Pennsylvania’s coronavirus deaths have occurred at nursing homes, as a top state official said Friday that those facilities continue to battle the pandemic.

State data also shows the Lehigh Valley has reported 23 deaths at 21 facilities — about 40% of the two-county total of 56. That’s an increase of four fatalities since the department began releasing nursing home data on Wednesday.

At Gracedale in Northampton County, two more residents died from COVID-19, the county reported Thursday night, — bringing the total to four. Some 26 residents have tested positive for the disease, while six have recovered. Among staff at the Upper Nazareth Township facility, 22 have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and two have recovered.

Meanwhile, Jason Cumello, administrator at Lehigh County’s two Cedarbrook nursing facilities, declined Friday to provide an update. As of earlier this week, 24 residents and staff members were infected but none have died, county officials had said.

In the Lehigh Valley, there are 95 facilities — either nursing or personal care homes — according to Health Department spokesman Nate Wardle. Of those, 11 facilities in Lehigh and 10 in Northampton have thus far reported coronavirus cases or deaths, he said.

Facilities are under no requirement from the state or the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to give public notification, Wardle said, “but we expect them to take steps to protect their residents, employees and to inform loved ones of residents.”

“Given the lack of testing and personal protective equipment in many facilities, we can see cases quickly spike in a nursing home even if the facility is practicing social distancing and disallowing visitors,” said David Grabowski, a Harvard Medical School expert on aging and long-term care issues.

“Thus, although Lehigh and Northampton may not be spiking, there is a need to remain vigilant in the coming days. Nursing home staff must continue to use best practices in terms of infection control and prevention.”

At Genesis Healthcare Lehigh Center, believed to be the facility with the most cases in the Valley, spokeswoman Lori Mayer said three more residents tested positive, bringing that total to 58. Twelve residents have died — the only known Lehigh County nursing home fatalities to date. She also said 12 employees out of 33 who were diagnosed with COVID-19 have returned to work; seven residents have also recovered.

Meanwhile, HCR ManorCare, with five Lehigh Valley facilities totaling nearly 1,000 nursing-home beds, has turned away repeated requests from The Morning Call to confirm unofficial reports of infections. “I will make sure the facilities are communicating with staff and families,” spokeswoman Julie Beckert said.

Here is a rundown from officials at other area facilities contacted Friday:

At Fellowship Community in Whitehall Township, spokeswoman Kelly Gould said a 90-year-old resident, who had been hospitalized with an underlying medical condition, has died from coronavirus. Gould said the facility, which has about 250 personal care and skilled-nursing residents, has seen 14 diagnosed cases.

Holy Family Manor in Bethlehem said two residents tested positive. A news release from the Allentown Diocese, which owns the west Bethlehem facility, said the residents were immediately placed in isolation.

Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, which owns Luther Crest in South Whitehall Township, has had one resident and two “partner-vendor” staffers test positive, spokesman Bill Swanger said. Twelve residents have also tested positive at Lutheran Home in Topton and Twining Village in Bucks County, as have an unspecified number of employees, he said.

Phoebe Ministries’ Allentown facility on Wednesday brought in two dozen skilled nursing residents with coronavirus from its home in Wyncote, Montgomery County, spokeswoman Emilie J. Bateman said. The facility has seen no new cases. Efforts to obtain comment from a representative with SEIU Healthcare PA, the union which represents nurses and other employees at Phoebe and additional homes in the Valley, were unsuccessful.

Rebecca Moss, “Pa. nursing homes left to largely police themselves as coronavirus deaths mount.” Spotlight Pa, April 17, 2020.

Since the coronavirus emerged as a global threat, older adults have proved to be most acutely affected and at risk of complications and death. This is particularly notable for Pennsylvania, which has one of the oldest populations in the United States and is home to about 126,000 people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Yet as the virus gained a foothold here and spread rapidly through these facilities — whose residents now account for half of deaths in the state — staff members, residents, their families, and the wider public still know very little about what’s going on inside, and whether the companies that run them have the tools or staffing needed to protect people and save lives.

State and federal officials have not released patient and death data for individual homes, making it nearly impossible to examine if facilities are properly responding to the crisis. State officials do not require nursing homes to disclose cases to residents, family members, or the public. At the same time, federal regulators have halted regular inspections, and the state has said it would only investigate complaints that indicate patients are in immediate jeopardy.

Taken together, they have left the companies that run these homes to largely police themselves.

The lack of disclosure “endangers not only the residents and the staff but the whole community,” said Charlene Harrington, a professor of sociology and nursing at the University of California, San Francisco. “The community should be outraged.”

Nate Wardle, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said a list of specific facilities cannot be released because the data are being collected through multiple sources. “Last thing we want to do is provide something and then have to correct it,” he said by email.

Only this week did the Department of Health begin posting online the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in long-term care facilities, broken down by county. As of Thursday, there were 3,290 cases in 306 of Pennsylvania’s roughly 1,900 facilities, according to the data.

The state also reported 365 deaths among nursing home residents. Through news reports and interviews with sources and providers, Spotlight PA was able to identify just under 50 facilities with reported cases. In the absence of a complete list, the news organization is asking for the public’s help in identifying affected facilities. If you have information about cases or deaths, submit it below or contact

Many facility administrators contacted by Spotlight PA did not return messages seeking comment. Some provided general statements about resident care, but did not confirm whether cases had been detected. Others simply said they had no comment. One nurse, when asked about her facility’s coronavirus mitigation plans, said, “We don’t have any.”

“They are holding this information with clenched fists,” said Brian Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care, a national long-term care watchdog group. “It is the worst-case scenario for residents in these facilities — this virus coupled with the poor [facility] track records.

May the American soldiers “croak of influenza”!

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Spanish Flu logo

For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

During the week of October 15, 1918, just after cases of the Spanish flu peaked in Bethlehem, readers of the Morning Call would learn that “the most rigid precautions” in our city (we saw earlier that the paper called them “draconian measures”) was the reason our city recorded such a low death rate.

The readers would learn that the Allentown streets needed to be flushed to combat the disease and that the Flu was demonstrating the need for a hospital, an issue much and long debated.

They would learn that they were lucky if they had the Consolidated Phone Co. rather than Bell, because Consolidated used an automated system that was not prone to the disruption caused by the flu-depleted corps of female operators at Bell.

They would learn of heroism and unselfish sacrifice, of the woman in Philadelphia who volunteered to take the place of the flu-downed ambulance driver at Women’s Mercy Hospital and worked “day and night” transporting the multitude of cases.

They would learn of bitter tragedy — the kind that makes you doubt the existence of a Divine Being — of good-hearted Miss Eva Gusset who “died from burns caused by her clothing catching fire from melting camphor gum and turpentine to ease members of her family who were afflicted with influenza.” (Gadfly shudders imagining the scene.)

But most bizarre of all, they would learn of a mini-war among the female workers of the Flu 74Bayuk Brothers Cigar Co., 610 N. Jordan, Allentown, a company in which “there are ten times as many aliens as American girls,” a company in which Austrian Annie Strokel said, “she would rather kiss a nigger than the American flag” and that “she hoped all the American soldiers would croak of influenza.” Moreover, a company in which the Austrian “girls” refused to buy the Liberty Bonds that financed the war, explaining “Shall we pay for bullets to shoot our brothers?”

Wow! Gulp!

We have to remember the situation. World War 1 was in its fourth long year. In fact, October 1918 was a period of last-ditch desperate fighting by the Germans. The Morning Call was full of such news. The war would end November 11 in abject surrender.

Tempers among Austrians working shoulder to shoulder with jubilant Americans must have been ragged.

Think of alienating conditions on the factory floor as the Austrian girls, predominant in number, spoke in their native language.

Look at the factory boss in financial quandary trying to “keep peace” — if the Austrians strike or quit, he will have to close. The almighty dollar is intertwined with patriotism and freedom of speech.

Surely one of the most striking stories of the war on the home-front. And we don’t even know how it turned out. There’s a movie in this.

Flu 71

Flu 72

Flu 73

Still have coronavirus questions and concerns?

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Have you digested the info coming out from the City this morning yet?

What do you feel you need more info on?

There are two rather major points Gadfly would like to see elaborated.

Nursing homes/senior facilities:

As you know, Gadfly’s been following Rachel Maddow’s hard-hitting emphasis on the need to focus on these institutions that are producing so many cases and present such a focused problem.

She had another powerful program on this subject last night (focus on mins. 3:30 – 22:00). I mean powerful.

Scroll down on this page and see that the state of Pennsylvania is now (see news story here) breaking out statistics for “Cases Associated with Nursing Homes and Personal Care Homes.”

Director Wenrich said we have outbreaks in 3 long-term care facilities. Gadfly wonders which ones and how bad. Director Wenrich said further: “The Department of Health has hired a consulting firm to assist long-term care facilities with infection control practices, so we are currently working with our long-term care facilities in Bethlehem to connect them with this very important resource so that they can decrease the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities.”

These facilities are bombs waiting to go off. Once started, the spread will occur like wildfire, as they say.

Frankly, this statement does not seem strong enough to Gadfly. It does not say that these connections have been established. And it feels like the City should be more actively monitoring the connection. The inference in the statement, as Gadfly reads it, which may be mistaken, is that the situation will be left to the relationship between the facility and the consulting firm. The statement, as stated, feels too hands-off to me. The consulting firm will provide no oversight. Somebody has to provide oversight. Gadfly has been Maddow’d on this subject. And the Gallagher family may be close to needing such a facility.

The ethnic situation:

Hispanics are 30% of the population yet have 45% of the cases. Director Wenrich has said that education is being provided to the Latino community. Gadfly would like to hear more about that. Gadfly would like more specifics. He was much moved by Councilwoman Negron’s post here recently and would like to be informed and assured about the way the City is responding to minority populations.

Gadfly very much appreciates this communication coming out of the City, but this format does not allow for follow-up, which, in all likelihood, could have answered Gadfly’s questions and concerns here.

What are you thinking?

Outline of the City’s response to our questions

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Bethlehem’s Mayor Donchez is joined by Department Heads
answer resident’s questions
30 mins.

Mayor Donchez:

  • City Hall open, other places closed
  • some extensions on taxes
  • parking fees waived
  • don’t flush wipes, etc.
  • water shut-offs suspended
  • collections suspended
  • unlikely the pool will open this year
  • Compost center re-opens next Wednesday for drop-off only,
  • Musik-Fest, no decision yet
  • street-cleaning continuing but moving cars is suspended
  • thanked Wind Creek for making payments and other contributions
  • thanked colleges, universities, hospitals

Kristen Wenrich, Bethlehem Health Bureau Director (min. 7:15)

  • investigate close contacts
  • 325 cases, 2 deaths
  • 11% hospitalized
  • 20.8% positivity
  • 40% non-white, 45% Hispanic, 14% unknown
  • 65% white,  13.5% African American, 2% Asian
  • providing education for specific populations
  • 25-49 age group is highest, over 65 low
  • 46 is average age of cases, 55 for hospitalization
  • outbreaks in 3 long-term care facilities
  • more household related cases
  • not recommending that mild cases get tested
  • contact health provider or hospital hot lines
  • hospital capacity, both have capacity and equipment
  • addressing homeless population
  • medical reserve corps activated
  • mass testing/contact tracing
  • shortage of testing kits

Bob Novatnack, Emergency Management Coordinator (min. 12:25)

  • no tested positives on staff
  • all shifts working
  • calls are down
  • counseling people on distancing
  • traffic is light
  • food chain strong
  • keep 6ft social distancing

Alicia Karner, Director Community and Economic Development (min. 14:30)

  • continue to issue permits for emergency work
  • procedures for certificate of occupancy for sales/rentals
  • STR for emergency medical staff: contact hospitals and hotels
  • development projects: Martin Tower, etc, halted if non-essential

Mike Alkhal, Director of Public Works (min. 18:05)

  • adjusted shifts
  • insured work places safe
  • continue all operations as long as can be done safely
  • street sweeping: doing it safely, but no ticketing
  • open for business, moving forward

Eric Evans, Business Administrator (min. 20:55)

  • all depts. fully operational
  • City Hall operational
  • Human Resources especially important
  • in contact with peer cities across state
  • number #1 priority for employees is safety
  • social distancing and split shifts
  • finances: unknown length, what see on other side
  • relatively strong position financially
  • will be drop in revenue
  • Wind Creek payment is good
  • need to drop expenses
  • part-time staff reduced
  • overtime reduced
  • hiring freeze
  • infrastructure projects extended
  • reviewing line items
  • reviewing programming, may be tough decisions
  • balance sheet is strong and making appropriate adjustments

Mayor Donchez (min. 27:20):

  • thanks to all

The City responds to our coronavirus questions

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As promised:

Bethlehem’s Mayor Donchez is joined by Department Heads to answer resident’s questions

City of Bethlehem’s Mayor Bob Donchez is joined by Department Heads: Kristen Wenrich Director of Health, Bob Novatnack Director of Emergency Management, Alicia Karner Director of Community and Economic Development, Mike Alkhal Director of Public Works and Eric Evans Business Administrator, to answer electronically-submitted COVID-19 related questions from Bethlehem residents.

Gadfly will do an outline of the press conference later as he did previously.

Coronavirus at local nursing homes, senior facilities?

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One of the questions Gadfly sent in to the “ask the mayor” opportunity yesterday had to do with the status of coronavirus at local nursing homes — senior facilities.

No response yet. Not sure if the City is/was going to reply to each question individually or answer questions by category or topic.

Just received this from a social media site I’m on:

“Yesterday I received a voice mail alert from Kirkland Village with a COVID-19 report. There are eight residents and eight staff members who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.”

Anybody know anything about conditions at local places?

Promoting sustainability!

A note from Peter Crownfield quietly referenced the publication of “Sustainable Lehigh Valley” (an annual publication that seems to go back at least as far as 2004) by Alliance for Sustainable Communities Lehigh Valley.

First time Gadfly was aware of this publication. Looks full of valuable information. Gadfly looks forward to perusal and thinks followers might as well.


Download the 2020 “Sustainable Lehigh Valley” here.

October 15, 1918: A day in the life of the Spanish Flu

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Spanish Flu logo

For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Gadfly spends a lot of time watching the television news.

These shows sift, organize, and synthesize the news for us.

The situation was quite different for the readers of the Morning Call in 1918.

Spanish Influenza news was scattered throughout a typical 14-page issue.

Here are some of the pieces scattered throughout the October 15 issue with which Morning Call readers would put together their daily mosaic on the status of the dreaded disease.

Flu 61It’s interesting in the light of our current squabbles that  all defensive activity  was orchestrated at the local/state level; only now, at the apex of the disease in Allentown and Bethlehem, was there an attempt from a national level to fight the disease.

— Those who argue today that sparsely populated areas should be “open” because safe should take a lesson from Phifer’s Corner (somewhere near Lehighton), so small that it no longer shows on the map: “Phifer’s Corner has quite a large number of cases of influenza, many of whom are dangerously ill.” If it can strike Phifer’s Corner, it can strike anywhere.

— Marcus Young is in critical condition from the Flu, completely unaware that his wife died of the “same disease” last week.

— Both ambulance drivers who took Miss Katie Urffer to Allentown Hospital for the Flu were stricken immediately afterward, one “staggered into the office” and then “fell over.”

— Albert Dion, who drew the first number in the June draft, dies at Camp Lee.

Flu 62

— The Adelaide Mills were closed for cleaning.

— Nuns from a parochial school were sent to Philadelphia to tend the sick.

— Though “eager to go to France,” “no happier crusader in all America,” and in the “pink of health,” Sergeant Major Perry Tifft died in an Army hospital.

Flu 63

— The Kaler Hotel in Mahonoy City was turned into a hospital.

— Drown Hall at Lehigh University, home of Gadfly’s English Department, was turned into a hospital.

Flu 64(for funerals — so macabre!)

— Masks were supplied to ambulance staff.

— “Conditions at the State Hospital for the Insane are alarming.”

— Edward Koons, “a big, powerful, robust man . . . was unable to combat the ravages of the terrible scourge.”

Flu 65Percy and Ferdie

It was, uh, a busy day on the Flu beat.

Some good budget news: Wind Creek shortfall significantly less

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Sara K. Satullo, “Wind Creek Bethlehem goes all in and pays $2.5M host fee to city.”, April 15, 2020.

Christina Tatu, “Wind Creek Bethlehem says it will pay $10 million host fee to Allentown and Bethlehem.” Morning Call, April 15, 2020.

Wind Creek Bethlehem says it intends to pay the $10 million annual host fee that goes to Allentown and Bethlehem.

The fee is paid out each quarter, and the first $2.5 million installment was paid as scheduled on Wednesday, Wind Creek said. Of that money, $2 million will go to Bethlehem and $500,000 will go to Allentown, said Eric Evans, Bethlehem’s business administrator.

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue gave casinos the option of deferring the first payment, but Kathy McCracken, Wind Creek Bethlehem’s general manager, said the casino understands that “community need is as great as ever” and wanted to be sure the money was delivered as planned.

“When Wind Creek’s leadership team arrived last spring, they pledged a commitment to our community. This crisis has given them an early opportunity to fulfill that pledge, and for that, we are very thankful,” said Mayor Robert Donchez.

Earlier this month, Bethlehem officials anticipated a $5 million to $7 million deficit as it was unclear whether Wind Creek would pay all of the host fee, which is equal to about 10% of the city’s general fund budget.

The city still projects an overall shortfall for 2020, but it will be significantly less than the $5 million to $7 million initially projected.

In addition to the annual host fee, Bethlehem also receives about $1.8 million, or $150,000 per month, in money from gaming revenue. With the casino closed since March 15, that money is not coming in, Evans said.

Wind Creek has said the casino would be closed indefinitely after several employees tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then, the governor shut down all the state’s casinos. Wind Creek committed to paying employees through the end of May.