Martin Tower — one year later

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It was just recently that a follower remarked to Gadfly that a year ago some of us were worried about pernicious fall-out from demolition silica.

And now . . . pandemic.

from Christina Tatu, “One year later: Martin Tower implosion drew cheers and tears as iconic skyscraper came crashing down.” May 19, 2020.

It was one year ago when thousands of spectators from around the Lehigh Valley gathered to watch the implosion of Martin Tower, Bethlehem Steel’s world headquarters, which for 47 years reigned as the Lehigh Valley’s tallest building. The 21-story, cruciform building came crashing down at 7:04 a.m. May 19, 2019.

“At the end of the day it was a successful demolition and was a symbol of Bethlehem’s past. We are certainly very appreciative of everything Bethlehem Steel has done for the city and now it’s time to move forward and develop that tract of land,” Mayor Robert Donchez said Monday. A year later, the site at 1170 Eighth Ave. continues to be cleared.

At 53 acres, it’s the largest developable tract of land in the city, Donchez said. It’s also in the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone, which allows developers to use certain state and local taxes to pay off construction loans.

The developer, HRP Management, received a waiver from the state to continue work at the site despite the statewide shutdown, Bethlehem Director of Community and Economic Development Alicia Miller Karner said.

City planners narrowly approved a master plan in April 2019 that calls for the 53-acre site to be developed into a trio of office buildings, a gas station and convenience store, a 132-room hotel, a restaurant, and up to two retail stores. There would be another 528 garden-style apartments rising three stories on the other end of the property.

It’s not clear when construction might start, though Donchez said city officials are in regular contact with the developer. The city has yet to receive any land development plans, Karner said. Phone calls to HRP Management were not returned.

So, yes, there will be another go-round about specific plans for the site.

Gird you loins, so to speak.

Fresh Voices from Touchstone in early June

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It would be a very dead place if the arts community wasn’t here.
Pamela Wallace of Crowded Kitchen Players

Followers know that Gadfly has been making a concerted effort to support the residential arts community — home-grown talent!

He’s hoping that local artists in various genres will see Gadfly as a place to publish their work and to discuss their work. Pass the word to others!

And he will call attention to local events and productions that showcase local artistic skills. Pass him the word!

Recently he called attention to Touchstone Theatre’s Young Playwrights’ Festival. 10 or so original works by our elementary school students. It was amazing — even more so because of the agility of the braintrust at Touchstone headquarters in moving this in-person experience online because of the coronavirus beast. It was — drum roll again — amazing. There were some 1200 online views of the Festival, and nearly $10,000 was raised. A special thanks to sponsor Peron Development too!

Mark your calendars for the first and second week of June for the next Touchstone presentations.

FRESH VOICES 2020

Always fresh, sometimes provocative, never ordinary – Touchstone’s apprentice showcase returns for 2020! In light of recent events concerning public health and safety, these performances have been developed to take place remotely, and will feature both downloadable and streaming content from Touchstone Theatre apprentices Sean Patrick Cassidy and Adam Ercolani.

June 5 @ 7pm, streaming on YouTube Live
POTHOLE
Let’s go for a drive. The best conversations happen in your car. The best concerts do, too. 

DR. SOGOL’S MAGNIFICENT, MALFUNCTIONING, INTERGALACTIC, COSMIC CAR WASH AND STAMPS
A Quality Wash. Everytime. A completely customized and curated, compacted dose of “live” theatre.

June 2, 5, 9, 12, released at www.isonationpresents.com
ISO/NATION PRESENTS
A modern radio play for deep listeners of the Lehigh Valley and Beyond.

Fresh Voices 2020
Viewing/listening is FREE, and donations are gratefully accepted at bit.ly/FreshVoices2020

touchstone 2
321 E. 4th St.

City announces summer recreation closings because of you-know-what

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Press Release: Tuesday May 19, 2020 – Bethlehem Pools Will Not Open in 2020

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez announced today that Bethlehem’s five pools will remain closed this summer. “The State provides significant funding to support our parks and pools programs. As frustrated and disappointed as we all are, we do need to follow Governor Wolf’s guidelines. Currently Lehigh County and Northampton County are still in the red phase. Even in the yellow phase, restrictions do not make it feasible to get the pools opened up. Due to the length of the stay at home policy, we have not been able to get many of our lifeguards certified.” Construction on Memorial Pool, which was shut down for 6 weeks, has restarted and will be completed this summer for opening in 2021.

In addition, Music in the Parks series and Movies in the Parks will be cancelled this summer and Sand Island courts will remain closed. The skateplaza, dog park, basketball courts, pavilion rentals, Charles Brown Ice House, and Illick’s Mill, will remain closed until further notice. Although the neighborhood parks are open, they will not be staffed this summer. The Mayor encourages residents not to use the playground equipment. Tennis courts and walking trails will remain open, as they do allow for proper social distancing and do not involve physical contact. Guidelines are posted at the tennis courts.

As always, 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

“The lid is about to blow off” as federal government plans to collect and publish coronavirus info from nursing homes

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Gadfly’s latest post obsessing about lack of oversight of nursing homes came May 15.

Steve Thode followed with a strongly worded comment May 16.

And then we have this welcome information from the WP on the 17th.

Gadfly doesn’t think this regulation will cover all the facilities we would like.

from Maria Sacchetti, “Federal government to begin gathering data on covid-19 deaths in nursing homes>” Washington Post, May 17, 2020.

Nursing homes have been directed to report the number of coronavirus infections and deaths to the federal government by midnight Sunday so that health officials can assess the damage the pandemic has inflicted on sick and elderly residents and their caregivers in more than 15,000 homes nationwide.

Federal officials said they will collect the data weekly and publish it online, along with the names of nursing homes, by the end of May. The data will offer a first look at the impact in such states as Texas and Virginia that have declined to identify nursing homes with covid-19 infections.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that regulates the homes, said in an alert Friday that the agency “will be taking swift action and publicly posting this information so all Americans have access to accurate and timely information on COVID-19 in nursing homes.” The Trump administration’s plan capped months of frustration over the lack of information in many states as the death toll in nursing homes soared.

“It’s going to be ugly,” said Brian Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care, a national watchdog group for nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. “The lid is about to blow off.”

Nursing homes already must report infectious disease outbreaks to state and local health officials, and federal and state inspectors visit the homes and routinely publish their findings online. But families and watchdog groups complained early into the pandemic that many homes were not complying with the requirements, and most states initially were not publicly disclosing the names of nursing homes with outbreaks.

Under the new rules, nursing homes must notify residents and their designated family members about infections, and report key indicators to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention every week. CMS will publish the data and identify the nursing homes, though the names of residents and staff members are confidential under law.

Redfield acknowledged that the virus’s impact on nursing homes is “one of the great tragedies that we’ve all experienced together” and said the agency was taking steps to quickly gather the information. “This is critical we get in front of this and do comprehensive surveillance of everybody in these nursing homes,” Redfield said.

Public Comment Instructions for City Council’s Virtual Meeting 5/19/20

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PUBLIC COMMENT INSTRUCTIONS –
MAY 19, 2020 BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING

PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS

DUE TO THE COVID-19 EMERGENCY, TOWN HALL ACCESS IS CURRENTLY RESTRICTED. IF YOU WANT TO MAKE PUBLIC COMMENT, PLEASE FOLLOW THE PHONE COMMENT INSTRUCTIONS BELOW.

EMAIL SIGNUP TO MAKE PUBLIC COMMENTS

  • If you want to make public comments at the May 19, 2020 Council meeting, please email cityclerk@bethlehem-pa.gov the following information no later than Tuesday, May 19, 2020, by 2:00 PM: (a) full name; (b) street address; (c) phone number; and (d) topic.
  • Close to the beginning of the meeting, the City Council President will announce that the public comment periods will begin. At the start of the applicable comment period, the Council President will read the names of those signed up to speak during the applicable comment period.
  • If you signed up to speak, the Council president will call you from (610) 997-7963 (“comment line”).
  • The first public comment period is reserved for subjects not being voted on at this Council meeting. The second public comment period is reserved for subjects being voted on at this Council meeting.
  • When you are up to speak, the City Council President will call you from the comment line number.
  • As soon as you receive the call from the Council president, please turn off all speakers, televisions, or radios. At the start of your call, please state your name and address.
  • When you are speaking, your name will appear in the YouTube chat bar to the right of your computer or device screen (if chat is enabled on your device).

AFTER CALLING ALL THE SPEAKERS THAT SIGNED UP TO TALK, THE COUNCIL PRESIDENT WILL TAKE CALLS FROM ANYONE ELSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK. CALL (610) 997-7963 TO SPEAK

NOTES. Before you call the comment line, please turn off all speakers, computer speakers, televisions, or radios. At the start of your call, please state your name and address. If you call and the line is busy, please call back when the current speaker is finished. Calls to the comment line will only be accepted during the two public comment periods. A five (5) minute time limit applies to all public comments.

Bethlehem City Council meeting tomorrow night Tuesday, May 19

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See next post for public comment instructions!

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, May 19 at 7PM.

The meeting is closed to the public, of course, because of the coronavirus.

The meeting can be viewed LIVE or later at your convenience on the City’s website after the meeting at https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar.

The YouTube channel for live or archive viewing is “City of Bethlehem Council.”

Note well: we still enjoy public comment. See instructions in the next post. Let’s take advantage of the opportunity offered.

Find the Council agenda and supporting documents here.

Gadfly assumes we’ll have another update on the coronavirus situation.

Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith will be presenting a resolution in support of Pennsylvania General Assembly House Bill 432, amending the Worker’s Compensation Act by providing for compensation for post-traumatic stress injury (P1ST) for first responders.

Currently, employees of the City of Bethlehem are covered under the Pennsylvania Workman’s Compensation Act for PTSI with the exception of firefighters, police, and EMS workers. However, these critical City employees are frequently subjected to traumatic and stressful situations and are at high risk of suffering from PTSI, especially in the context of the COVID- 19 emergency. First responders suffering from PTSI often go unreported and untreated potentially leading to long term and permanent disability or in extreme cases, suicide.

First responders witness people and their families as they experience the worst moments of their lives and this can trigger mental health problems. Other times, work-related psychological conditions result from cumulative exposure to trauma. Post-traumatic injuries cause real harm that we need to recognize and we need to use the workers’ compensation system to assist our first responders in addressing that trauma.

And there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges “attending” City Council.

Participate. Be informed.

What would it take for you to trust a loved one to a long-term care facility these days?

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Gadfly has been obsessing about conditions in nursing homes, as you are well aware.

So, this is good news:

Rebecca Moss, “In major reversal, Wolf administration says Pa. will begin widespread testing of nursing home residents, employees.” Spotlight, May 12, 2020.

But maybe you’ve seen this enterprising full-page ad prominently displayed lately.

What would it take for you to trust a loved one to a long-term care facility these days?

A discount?

Morning Call 1

Wow, this is ballsy, isn’t it?

In the City report Friday, May 8, we learned that 7 long-term care facilities in Bethlehem have “outbreaks” of the coronavirus but which 7 we don’t know.

We learned that we know for sure that only 1 of however many long-term care facilities there are in Bethlehem is testing for the virus, and even then there was no detail about the nature and duration of the testing.

Almost no specific information about conditions in individual long-term care facilities has been made public.

As far as Gadfly knows that except for information on Gracedale and Cedarbrook, we are completely in the dark about conditions in individual long-term care facilities.

For the other facilities there are no public reports about where the number of cases are going up, where down, where the outbreak is under control, where not.

It seems almost certain that only a small number of Bethlehem facilities (if any) are significantly interacting with the state consultant over infection-control.

There seems to be no transparency.

How is the public to know where it is safe (or least unsafe) to entrust a loved one?

Gadfly realizes that there may be dire circumstances that dictate finding a facility for a loved one at this damnable moment in time.

But — is he the only one? — Gadfly finds it macabre for a facility to be offering discounts to promote admissions to sites that have in general been referred to as death traps.

Wouldn’t you make the pitch for admissions on your safety policies and record?

Gadfly in the news, not reporting it

Julia F. Swan, “‘Bethlehem Gadfly’ discusses his role.” Bethlehem Press, May 11, 2020.

Tip o’ the hat to Julia Swan for the nice article on Gadfly’s talk at the Lower Saucon Township Historical Society March 2.

Tip o’ the hat also to Karen Samuels and Ilhan Citak for inviting me.

And doffing that hat as well to followers Barbara Diamond, Steve Diamond, and Bill Scheirer for attending.

Gadfly planned to record this talk about the nature of gadflying and use it for recruiting purposes. Bethlehem has gadflies extraordinaire in the likes of Antalics and Scheirer. And this gadfly’s contract is up after the 2021 primary election a year from now, when, in effect, we choose the next mayor.

So we need to plan gadfly succession.

A sure sign of that is that this aging gadfly forgot to turn on his recorder at the meeting. Therefore no recruiting tool. Damnation. Sigh.

Back to the drawing board.

For every community needs gadflies.

The “photo” always raises questions. That’s Gadfly’s avatar “Edward Scholarhands” from his days exploring the pedagogical possibilities of virtual reality.

It tells you something when the state Health Secretary moves her mother out of a personal care home

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Followers know that Gadfly has been especially concerned about the conditions in our long-term care facilities.

This feels like a step in the right direction.

Finally.

from Ford Turner and Peter Hall, “New requirement for Pennsylvania nursing homes: weekly coronavirus tests for all residents and staff.” Morning Call, May 12, 2020.

Nursing homes and other group care facilities will be required to test all residents and staff for coronavirus once a week, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced Tuesday.

“This effort will give us a clearer picture of the extent of outbreaks in nursing homes and a head start at stopping them,” Levine said.

Coronavirus deaths at long-term-care facilities account for two-thirds of fatalities among Pennsylvania residents, and Levine said state and local agencies are working together to address the threat.

According to the Health Department, 2,611 of the 3,806 coronavirus deaths reported to date ― or nearly 69% ― have been among residents of nursing homes or personal care homes. In Lehigh County, 91 deaths in long-term care facilities accounted for nearly three-quarters of the county’s 123 overall coronavirus fatalities. Northampton County has 101 long-term care facility deaths, or about 63% of its 161 coronavirus deaths.

“By testing every resident and every staff member in every nursing home, we will be able to pinpoint exactly who has COIVD-19, who has been exposed but has no symptoms and [address] positive cases to prevent further spread,” Levine said.

Levine said that starting Sunday nursing homes will be required to report coronavirus infections, deaths and tests through the same system hospitals are using. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the requirement last week.

The Pennsylvania Health Department then will make information about coronavirus cases, deaths and testing for individual nursing homes available to the public in news conferences and on its website, Levine said.

Asked by a reporter if she had moved her mother out of a long-term care facility, Levine said she and her sister complied with their 95-year-old mother’s request to move from a personal care home to another location.

City Hall extends meeting cancellation period

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May 12, 2020: All Public Meetings Cancelled through June 4, 2020

Mayor Bob Donchez announced today that the order extending the public meeting cancellation order through Friday, May 15, 2020 is being extended again through Thursday June 4, 2020 at which time the situation will be reevaluated. 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.

“It occurs to me I am right on the line / between heaven and earth”

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“It occurs to me I am right on the line
between heaven and earth.”
               Cleveland Wall

With all of April’s usual National Poetry Month festivities cancelled, Cleveland decided to record a poem a day and post it to YouTube. The site of “Liminal I” is the “spirit field,” a grassy swath along Lehigh Street at the bottom of 7th Avenue.

Liminal I

My lad and I take a short walk
to the bottom of the lane behind our house.
But the end of the lane is not the end.
Beyond lies a road, a swath of green,
a wild slope, and the railroad tracks.
Beyond the tracks: canal, towpath,
river, mountain; and beyond the mountain
are shops and a cinema we know
because we have been there. Our minds can see
a thousand miles in every direction.
We can see around corners.

The green swath is mown we know not
by whom. The wind makes a blunted sound
against our hoods, the sky
more pearly than leaden.
A keening comes from the brush
as of a baby crying, but as we approach
it fades and resurfaces farther on,
more like a goat’s voice. It strings us
along to the end of the field
where, through a break in the bracken,
we see a truck beside the tracks below,
the complaint of its engine borne up
on gusts of wind which bend its shape.

The lad lies down on thick-thatched grass
and bids me do the same, which needs
a quelling of the grown-up injunction
to remain always upright in public.
When I lie down, it is quiet. The wind
rushes smooth, unimpeded over me.
The blank white sky develops
subtleties of grey, a visible depth.
Unseen geese honk; smaller birds fly over.
It occurs to me I am right on the line
between heaven and earth.

Then I see sparks flitting in the air,
bright on bright like angels escaped
from the head of a pin, and I wonder
if I could be seeing into another plane
in which these busy sparks are darting
all the while, unseen by mind or eye.
I tell myself it is my vision tripping
on a surfeit of light. But my son
sees the same sparks and has no doubt.

Cleveland Wall is a poet and teaching artist in Bethlehem. She performs with poetry guitar duo The Starry Eyes and co-hosts Tuesday Muse, a performance and open-mic series at The Ice House on 2nd Tuesdays, currently meeting via Zoom. Her book Let X = X was published by Aldrich Press, 2019.

“Good, big-hearted men” take care of children displaced by the Spanish Flu

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“Obey the laws, and wear the gauze;
Protect your jaws from septic paws.”
popular jingle, 1918

Gadfly’s used to washing his hands.

He’s spent a lot of time in research libraries digging through old dusty books and files.

So he’s enjoying his saunter through the 1918 Morning Call files on the Spanish Influenza pandemic.

He’s now read from mid-September when the Call announced that the Flu had “arrived” in America to the Armistice ending World War I, November 11.

It’s a shame Gadfly does not have access at this time to the Bethlehem papers. That might be of more interest to us. The Morning Call seemingly had “correspondents” many places — even such places now unfamiliar to him as Lynnville, Yoder’s, Zion Hill, Ashfield — but virtually no news from Bethlehem.

Gadfly’s been on the lookout for news that gives us some perspective on our current situation. In the last post, for instance, we see the restiveness and revolt against lock-downs that we are now experiencing. Late October crossing into November was a  weird time in the Flu history. The same day that Harrisburg was observing a day of prayer for the passing of the disease, the Palmerton headline was “Three daughters from the same family die.” Allentown, always straining under the quarantine, opened up November 1, literally two days after a report headlined “High Mortality Rate Due To Influenza: Epidemic Has Not Yet Run Its Course in This City” and just across the page from “Influenza Takes Toll Of Five at Hockendauqua.”

Who can make sense of all that?

As November 1918 turned, then, the number of new cases was dizzyingly up or down depending on where you were and when you checked.

Familiar territory. Welcome to the Monkey House. Welcome to May 12, 2020.

But something different caught Gadfly’s eye in that same November 1 paper announcing Allentown’s freedom from quarantine.

Something about children.

Something he hasn’t been thinking about now.

The Spanish Flu was a disease that devastatingly struck whole families, whole households, and all at once. There are many stories about husbands and wives sick together and even dying together. If the children were lucky enough to survive (there was no thought of child immunity then — stories of children one month old dying were common), what happened to them?  On November 2 Schuylkill county announced 3000 orphans, 500 of whom maintained at public expense.

Wow!

So this joyful article about care for children in Allentown permanently or temporarily orphaned by the Flu caught Gadfly’s attention.

Flu 99

“Good, big-hearted men” from the Kiwanis Club opened a temporary home for children stranded by the Flu in the Saeger Mansion, then at 4th and Walnut, across the street from Allen Park and Trout Hall in Allentown.

See: Allentown home for children

A fairly recent Morning Call article says, “Fourth Street was once the grandest address in the Lehigh Valley — think of a millionaires’ row.”

And thus the “magnificent” Saeger Mansion, one of the “most commodious” homes in the City, with foyer window and skylight by Tiffany’s, but recently vacated at that time, was turned into a storybook setting for the care of children permanently or temporarily cast away by the Flu.

Quite a project, one Gadfly is not sure we see the need of today.

Who speaks for the seniors?

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“As of May 6, 2020, we’ve had 24 deaths here in the City of Bethlehem and 54% of these deaths are associated with long-term care facilities. . . . We are starting to see an increase in deaths from our long-term care facilities. . . . We do currently have outbreaks in seven long-term care facilities in Bethlehem. The Department of Health is looking at a pilot program to test everybody in nursing homes and long-term care facilities but details about that pilot haven’t been released to date. I am only aware of one nursing home in Bethlehem that is testing all the residents and staff. We are continuing to work with the Department of Health and long-term care facilities to insure that they have appropriate infection-control measures in place, appropriate staffing and PPE. As a local Public Health Department we do not license these facilities. The licensing is through the Pennsylvania Department of Health, so we really are serving more as providing guidance and serving as a liaison to make sure that these facilities have all the resources they need during this time. We have been working actively with the state and the consulting firm that they hired, ECRI, in connecting long-term care facilities to this resource and doing virtual visits and phone consultations on infection-control practices.”

Bethlehem Health Bureau Director, May 8, 2020

Gadfly is anxious.

He is 80 years old. Mrs. Gadfly has underlying physical conditions.

But Gadfly is not just anxious for himself and the Missus.

The care for nursing home/long-term care facilities during this pandemic seems to, frankly, stink.

And he’s wondering if more noise shouldn’t be made about it locally.

Gadfly — probably speaking for others — needs to be reassured.

Councilman Reynolds admirably spoke up for our local small business interests at last Council meeting.

Good.

But it may be time for someone(s) to speak up for senior care.

The Morning Call this morning: “Most of the patients hospitalized and most deaths in the state have been people 65 or older, and two-thirds of the deaths have been in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.”

Gadfly appreciates the info provided by the City at City Council and the “Ask the Mayors.” He has given them a tip o’ the hat.

They have sometimes been loosely called press conferences. They are far from that. No opportunity for follow up questions.

Gadfly still has questions.

“We do currently have outbreaks in seven long-term care facilities in Bethlehem.”

That’s a fact, but we need some perspective. What constitutes an “outbreak” — one case?, a dozen cases? And in those seven, what is the percentage of cases compared to the total capacity of the facility? And that’s seven facilities out of how many? What percentage of the total number of facilities is seven? How many facilities have had no outbreaks? Is there a list of all facilities in Bethlehem that you follow? Can you name names of the outbreak facilities? What has been the response in those facilities that have the outbreaks? Do we see any lessening, any containment? What is going on there?

“I am only aware of one nursing home in Bethlehem that is testing all the residents and staff.”

That’s a fact, but we need some help understanding the fact. How should we feel about this fact? How do you feel about it? Why aren’t more facilities doing testing? Why aren’t the other six with outbreaks doing testing? Should not Gadfly feel mightily distressed about the fact that only one facility (out of how many?) is testing? If you too are distressed, what are you doing about it?

“We have been working actively with the state and the consulting firm that they hired, ECRI, in connecting long-term care facilities to this resource and doing virtual visits and phone consultations on infection-control practices.”

That’s a fact, but we need some sense of results. How successful, how satisfactory has your liaison with ECRI been? Confer the commentary in the Spotlight article in Gadfly’s last post on this subject (and tip o’ the hat to Spotlight for doing a valuable job in this era of disappearing investigative journalism at the local level): “As of April 29, ECRI had consulted with 76 facilities, or about 15% of all long-term care facilities with cases reported to the state.” How confident can I be that Bethlehem facilities are part of those minimal 76-15% facilities with which ECRI has consulted? Forgive Gadfly, he is not all that confident. Bigger picture, how do you feel about this consultant as an effective response to this crisis in senior facilities? Are virtual visits and phone consultations “the answer”? If you feel that it is ineffective, are there actions you can take? For instance, could you just show up at a facility and ask — politely — to inspect? Would you be turned away?

Well, you get the idea. Gadfly still has questions. Gadfly being bitchily gadflying here, he knows. Earning his keep.

But I get it. It may not be the place of the Health Director to go too far or even at all into such territory as Gadfly wants to go.

Not her place. Above her pay grade.

Politics.

But questions still.

And I do feel that an elected official might go there. Like Councilman Reynolds did for the small business community.

I think if I were a Councilman, I would be outfront on this issue.

Our senior facilities may not be in big trouble — it’s hard to judge — but we are not out of this situation yet. Long time to go. And our voice of concern should be heard state-wide.

Cf. Aneri Pattani and Rebecca Moss, “Pa. had early plan to protect nursing homes from the coronavirus, but never fully implemented it.” Spotlight PA,

Remember the pandemic with a “porchtrait” in exchange for a small charitable donation

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Lauren Stoy is a local artist, maker, and business owner. She runs a small metalsmith and styling operation, and has newly set out to add the photography skill set to her services.

Gadfly:

We have all been experiencing so much hardship during this COVID-19 pandemic. From losing jobs to closing down businesses, the weight of this pandemic is lost on no one.

Rwanda has been especially affected. Just like us here in the US, businesses, schools, and churches have been closed: “This crisis is already impacting Rwandan families in difficult ways. Because many parents in Rwanda’s poorer communities receive their income through temporary labor, the economic slowdown resulting from this virus means many families will have limited or no income coming in. And with schools closed, families now have more mouths to feed during the day—and little to feed them. It is a dire situation for many.” (quote from Africa New Life’s Instagram)

As many of you know, I had the opportunity to travel to Rwanda last year, and I fell in love. This country has become dear to me. My 29th birthday is at the end of the month, and for my birthday I’m am asking you to partner with me to raise $1,500 by May 24. A donation of just $15 is enough to feed a family in one of the communities Africa New Life serves for two weeks. Every little bit helps.

LINK TO FUNDRAISER: https://www.facebook.com/donate/2609259215987653/

As an added incentive for anyone who lives in the Bethlehem area, for a minimum Lowcher 3donation of just $15, I will come take your “Porchtrait” (or deck, or front stoop, or just portrait from a safe, socially acceptable distance! There will be no contact, safety measures will be taken). Just $15 will feed a Rwandan family for two weeks AND get you up to five edited photographs.

Thank you for your support! Here’s information about Africa New Life.

Feel free to reach out with questions at llowcher@gmail.com. Thank you!

Lauren

There are plenty of worthy causes to which to donate in our city, county, and country, but donating outside our boundaries recognizes our awareness of the global grip of the pandemic and needs of people with less capacity to cope than we have. And Gadfly is really intrigued by the offer of a “porchtrait.” What a great idea! This historic moment has to be documented in all our family archives. A this-is-what-we-looked-like-during-the-Great-Pandemic picture. Usually fairly neatly bearded Gadfly is unrecognizable.

“We do currently have outbreaks in seven long-term care facilities in Bethlehem. . . . I am only aware of one nursing home in Bethlehem that is testing all the residents and staff”

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“As of May 6, 2020, we’ve had 24 deaths here in the City of Bethlehem and 54% of these deaths are associated with long-term care facilities. . . . We are starting to see an increase in deaths from our long-term care facilities. . . . We do currently have outbreaks in seven long-term care facilities in Bethlehem. The Department of Health is looking at a pilot program to test everybody in nursing homes and long-term care facilities but details about that pilot haven’t been released to date. I am only aware of one nursing home in Bethlehem that is testing all the residents and staff. We are continuing to work with the Department of Health and long-term care facilities to insure that they have appropriate infection-control measures in place, appropriate staffing and PPE. As a local Public Health Department we do not license these facilities. The licensing is through the Pennsylvania Department of Health, so we really are serving more as providing guidance and serving as a liaison to make sure that these facilities have all the resources they need during this time. We have been working actively with the state and the consulting firm that they hired, ECRI, in connecting long-term care facilities to this resource and doing virtual visits and phone consultations on infection-control practices.”

Bethlehem Health Bureau Director, May 8, 2020

from Aneri Pattani of Spotlight PA and Rebecca Moss, “Pa. had early plan to protect nursing homes from the coronavirus, but never fully implemented it.” Spotlight PA,

The original plan

Pennsylvania’s plan to protect its nursing homes was robust and aggressive. In mid-March, before the coronavirus had widely taken hold across the state, emergency response officials drafted a three-page blueprint for quick strike teams of medical professionals that would respond to facilities as soon as a few positive cases were confirmed.

The teams — made of epidemiologists, nurses, emergency management personnel, and medical experts — would show up at a facility within six hours of a call for help, according to internal documents obtained by Spotlight PA. Within two hours, they would complete an assessment of the facility’s needs and create a plan to address them.

The teams would train nursing home staff on infection prevention protocols, provide personal protective equipment, help identify secluded quarantine areas, gather information for visitor and staff contact tracing, confirm a staffing plan, and more, according to the documents.

The quick response plan was circulated within the health department, with emails showing staff nurses and others were asked to volunteer. In the third week of March, it was shared with providers, said Zachary Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, which represents more than 400 long-term care facilities.

But the plan was never fully implemented, and a similar — though far more limited — effort wasn’t activated until mid-April, long after major outbreaks had already taken hold.

Death traps

The outbreak of COVID-19 was always feared to be particularly acute among older populations in Pennsylvania, which has one of the highest numbers of nursing homes in the U.S. But a growing chorus of providers, advocates, lawmakers, families, and residents now say that state officials were too slow to act and are still not doing enough to help.

In the meantime, some facilities have become death traps.

As of Friday, state officials reported infections at 522 facilities and 2,458 deaths, which is 68% of all COVID-19 fatalities statewide. Roughly 900 new deaths in these facilities have been reported in just the past week. Despite the alarming numbers, the administration has stuck by its modest goals for increased statewide testing and has not committed to wider testing at nursing homes.

The spin

State health officials said they began sending advisories about COVID-19 to nursing homes in January. Since then, Hutcheson said, the department has provided guidance on separating sick staff and residents from those who are healthy, offered consultations on infection control, and regularly sent facilities personal protective equipment — even as lawmakers, families, and facility staff said supplies remain scarce.

Although the department doesn’t have quick response teams by that name, Hutcheson said, “in effect, those things are happening.”

“Any provider who wants support and consultation is getting that support and consultation,” she said, adding that the National Guard has been used to assist on the ground.

In early April, the Pennsylvania National Guard sent medics and nurses to a few facilities where a significant number of staff were out sick, spokesperson Lt. Col. Keith Hickox said. As the requests for support increased, the guard on April 22 began dispatching a crew to distressed facilities to assess their needs — similar to the original strike team plans.

To date, the guard has visited just 11 facilities — 2% of those reporting cases — and along with supporting testing sites around the state, the guard’s medical assets are now near capacity, Hickox said.

On the ground

It’s hard to assess the effectiveness of the state’s response or which nursing homes are facing the biggest crises because the Wolf administration has refused to release a facility-by-facility list, even as neighboring states — including New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Ohio — have done so.

Federal regulators are taking steps to make facility data public, but it’s unclear when it will be available. Advocacy groups, including the AARP of Pennsylvania, have called on Wolf to reverse course, saying that information is critical to accountability.

Numerous families statewide told Spotlight PA they are only learning about cases from the news or after their mothers, fathers, or siblings have already tested positive for the virus or died from it. And there are also concerns about how well providers are protecting their residents and staff.

Federal regulators have halted regular inspections, and the state has said it would only investigate complaints that indicate patients are in immediate jeopardy. What’s more, state health officials are refusing to say if they have conducted inspections or issued violations at any particular facility in relation to COVID-19, saying the public must wait until they post information online.

The state consultant

Absent more of a presence on the ground, the state has relied on a nearly $1 million contract with ECRI, a patient safety and health-care research institute headquartered in Plymouth Meeting. The company was hired to consult with nursing homes on proper infection prevention methods, and as questions about the state’s response have increased, Levine, the health secretary, has repeatedly touted ECRI’s work, but provided few details.

“They can even do sort of a virtual walk around the facility to make sure that everything is being done to protect the staff as well as patients,” Levine said on April 6.

But in an interview with Spotlight PA, ECRI management said it was only conducting phone consultations, and that the company had offered to send iPhones to facilities to do video consultations, but was told the health department preferred phone calls.

ECRI has a team of six nurses trained in infection control who consult with any facilities referred to them by the health department. The nurses correct improper protocols that might spread the virus, and then follow up with the facility for several weeks to see if practices improve. They also help facilities request personal protective equipment from the health department.

“Some facilities are so overwhelmed that people don’t pick up the phone,” said Karen Schoelles, ECRI’s vice president of clinical excellence and safety, and head of the team working for the state. At others, staff answer the phone in tears, traumatized from seeing coworkers get sick and patients die daily.

As of April 29, ECRI had consulted with 76 facilities, or about 15% of all long-term care facilities with cases reported to the state. Providers criticized that number as too low when hundreds of facilities are vying for support.

“If ECRI is the be-all, end-all of the state’s response at this point, why have they not been to every facility?” Shamberg said.

to be continued .  .  .

Resident chatter around Gadfly’s water cooler about food delivery during the pandemic

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The food service delivery resolution
Councilman Reynolds’ resolution rationale
Do you use companies like GrubHub and UberEats?
Help our local small business food places

What followers are saying to Gadfly:

  • My question is, why are these businesses doing business with Grubhub and UberEats?
  • Just say no to using these services.
  • Sometimes people want it every which way they can get it, until all of a sudden it’s not working to their benefit.
  • Eliminate the middle-man, call the business directly, and pay less!
  • I’m scratching my head over the perceived need for city hall to even become involved in this.
  • I sympathize with their plight. I’m just not there with local government involvement. This is a state and possibly federal issue in my opinion.
  • The more appropriate response is market the hell out of pick-up or self delivery where available.
  • Why don’t restaurants simply deliver their own meals to break the stranglehold GrubHub etc has on them.
  • Another option is the DBA engages a local company to do that for all its restaurants.

As Gadfly understood it, Councilman Reynolds was asking city, state, and national government to investigate the situation; he was not necessarily endorsing involvement. His main purpose was educating us, who could take direct, immediate action.

A “wave of revolt”: one pandemic’s pretty much like another — except for one thing

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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).

October 31, 1918

Flu 97

May 10, 2020

Flu 96

Schuylkill County revolts and our governor does nothing.

Peter Hall, “Schuylkill County tells governor it’s going rogue, easing coronavirus restrictions without permission.” Morning Call, May 20, 2020.

Six Schuylkill County elected officials, including all three county commissioners, informed Gov. Tom Wolf that next Friday, the county will ease restrictions put into place to curb the spread of the coronavirus, in defiance of the governor’s order to remain closed. In doing so, Schuylkill joined Lebanon and Dauphin counties in declaring an end to the shutdown without waiting for permission. “We have heard the pleas of our residents who desire the ability to safely re-open their businesses and safely return to work,” the letter Saturday from the Schuylkill officials said.

“I trust and have faith in the great people and businesses of Pennsylvania to operate in a manner that protects those of our population in harm’s way and allows our residents to go back to work, enjoy their communities and have a quality of life. I, however, have no faith in Gov. Wolf and Secretary Levine’s ability to do the right thing,” Haste wrote, calling Wolf a dictator.

Wolf’s spokeswoman said Saturday night that the governor is aware of the statements and is hopeful that everyone will act in the best interest of public health.

The City of Lancaster revolts and they are given a time-out.

Flu 98

Now this is pretty interesting.

Let’s play Gadfly “Jeopardy.”

Question: He was the Pennsylvania governor during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918.

If you cock your ear, you can hear the Jeopardy theme playing.

You don’t know?

The correct answer is Who was Martin G. Brumbaugh.

Well, even Gadfly couldn’t answer that after reading 6-7 week’s worth of articles on the Flu; he had to look it up.

Brumbaugh is never mentioned. The governor is never mentioned.

The person in charge of Spanish Flu management in Pennsylvania is not the governor (the president is absent too, but he was bringing a world war to a close) but B. Franklin Royer, Acting State Health Commissioner.

The person in charge of Flu management is not a politician.

He’s an acting Health Commissioner.

And he takes no crapola.

Now that is very interesting.

Who leads your pandemic dream team?

What are you doing tonight? Touchstone’s Young Playwrights’ Festival begins in 1/2 hour — Support local talent!

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Proudly presenting
THE 15th ANNUAL YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS’ FESTIVAL
ONLINE!

WHEN: Saturday, May 9, 2020 @ 7pm – TONIGHT!
WHERE: Wherever you are!

We’re so excited to share this year’s festival with you!
You can watch the performance HERE
(PLEASE NOTE: If you click on the link before 7pm, it’ll take you to a placeholder page that you can leave open or bookmark for later. At 7pm and after, it’ll take you to our streaming festival on YouTube Live! You can also find it on YouTube by searching for “YPF Touchstone”)

———–

The Radioactive Octopus
by Jayden Velazquez, Donegan Elementary
Always Start from the Top
by Sean Haas, James Buchanan Elementary
The Dramatic Tale of the Singer That Can’t Sing
by Ana Stahley, Governor Wolf Elementary
Pizza Man
by Izzah Freer and Junior Collazzo, Sheridan Elementary
Where’s My Icing
by Skyler Snyder, Farmersville Elementary
Trapped in YouTube
by Emerson Espinal, Melissa Rojas, and Jael Garcia, Casa Guadalupe
The Adventures of Charlie and Nesty
by Gianna Vetter, Spring Garden Elementary
Jack, Jill, and the Unknowns
by Esdras Aquino-Gomez, Fountain Hill Elementary
The Marching Band Prince That Saved the Aliens
by Abrielle Brennan, Nitschmann Middle

Summary/outline of City response to “Ask the Mayor II”

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Mayor Donchez And Department Directors Answer Second Round
Of Resident’s Questions

Did you view the City’s second response to our questions yesterday? Or were you waiting for the Gadfly summary/outline?

Awww, Gadfly had a cluttered Friday afternoon. Here ’tis now.

Mayor Donchez:

  • wear masks, social distant, wash hands
  • City Hall continues closed but that’s reviewed weekly
  • Parking Authority is back enforcing but red-bagging areas for quick pick up, while furloughing 28 employees
  • Governor has jurisdiction over businesses open/closed, essential non-essential (waivers), not City
  • Awaiting policy from governor on large events: Musik-Fest, Blueberry, Celtic
  • Awaiting governor policy on pools, construction on Memorial has begun again but unlikely opening this year
  • Yard waste open, evaluating pick-up policy but closed for now
  • Recycling Center closed, evaluating there too
  • unlikely that overlay of Johnston Dr will take place this year ($650,000-700,000 in a year when the budget deficit may be $4m.)
  • thanks to Wind Creek for payment and food contribution
  • Fire Dept will not be doing birthday visits
  • proud of City work force doing volunteer work
  • Housing Authority and School District are separate entities
  • Awaiting directive from the governor on library opening
  • consult and sign on at City web site for updates
  • thanks to all for cooperation
  • revised yard waste pick-up schedule, consult City web site

Kristen Wenrich, Health Bureau Director (min. 9:44):

  • 591 cases
  • 25-49 age group == highest positivity, 43%
  • 16.6% are long-term care residents
  • 24 deaths, 54% associated with long-term care facilities
  • 1.5-4% daily increase in cases, monitoring trend
  • increase in deaths from people on ventilators at earlier counting and also increase in deaths in long-term care facilities
  • see dashboard — updated daily — on City web site COVID-19 page for numbers
  • need for more research on immunity of those who have developed antibodies
  • we are still in “red” phase, with stay-at-home restriction
  • outlined “yellow” phase and what will get us there
  • wearing mask outside recommended when social distancing not possible
  • outbreaks in 7 long-term care facilities
  • State Dept of Health is looking at a testing program, only aware of one local site testing everybody
  • we do not license local facilities, State does, so our role is guidance and liaison, working with state consultant ECRI on local infection-control practices
  • tracking situations in workplaces and providing guidance there
  • State Health Dept is working with food-production sites, Pa Dept of Agriculture and OSHA also involved in oversight of food-production facilities
  • Working with New Bethany Ministries on homeless, working on post-pandemic plans for homeless too
  • info on Hazard Control program, funding and scope

Bob Novatnack, Emergency Management Services Director (min. 18:29):

  • equipment supply good
  • Police, Fire, EMS strong: no positive cases
  • quick turn-around time
  • info on making non-emergency calls, best to call 911 as quickest way to get a response
  • open burning info
  • following CDC guidelines

Alicia Karner, Director, Community and Economic Development (min. 22:28):

  • continuing in operation, issuing permits, developing Small Business Relief Fund
  • info on building of home pools
  • info on landlord/tenant, evictions

Eric Evans, Business Administrator (min. 24:38):

  • cabinet is meeting twice a week
  • length and depth of financial impact uncertain
  • lots necessarily speculative
  • major income sources: property taxes, earned income tax, casino host fee
  • were ahead when slow down started, 2nd quarter will tell us more
  • shortfall of several million for sure
  • deferring capital projects (equipment, roads)
  • staffing: freeze, some furloughs
  • closures: recycling, etc.
  • decisions of summer programs week of May 18
  • saving $1/2m in personnel
  • fuel prices low
  • health charges down
  • can reduce $1 1/2m
  • good financial shape before: rainy day fund etc.
  • Golf course: opened last week, improvements, well received, new policies

Mayor Donchez (min. 35:24):

  • thanks to dept heads and public
  • be safe

tip o’ the hat!

Help our local small business food places, avoid the 3rd party delivery apps

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Resolution Urging The City of Bethlehem, the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and the United States Congress to Investigate and Address Business Practices of Online Food Service Delivery Applications that Threaten the Economic Health and Survival of Independently Owned Local Restaurants and the Livelihood of Their Workers During the COVID-19 Crisis.
Councilman Reynolds, May 5, 2020

Councilman Reynolds’ resolution rationale
video of Council discussion (begin min. 1:10:55)
audio of Council discussion:

———

Councilman Reynolds, hearing complaints from small business owners, researched the issue described in our previous post.

He found that cities were doing two things: Reynolds 3

  • short-term executive decisions to control fees charged by the 3rd party delivery companies
  • longer-term steps to license such operations

The short-term steps seem impractical because they end up in litigation. Legislation to license the process might take time.

The purpose of the resolution was to ask the City to investigate solutions, but, importantly, for now Councilman Reynolds saw the purpose in raising the issue as educating us, the users, the consumers about a problem endangering small businesses in the City.

And basically to suggest that to protect these small businesses that we immediately use their curbside services or their home-delivery services where available.

A tip o’ the hat to Councilman Reynolds.

President Waldron and Councilman Callahan added valuably to the conversation.

We should consider ourselves so advised and not wait for the machinations of city government to solve the problem for us.

Do you use companies like GrubHub and UberEats? If so, listen up!

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When a few firms, like UberEats and GrubHub, dominate the market and use
their position to set prices at such a high level, it becomes not only desirable
but necessary for public sector entities to intervene.
John Schall, El Jefe on the Southside

Councilman Reynolds’ Tuesday resolution to investigate food delivery app business practices in the City was an eye-opener.

Like many of you, Gadfly has found GrubHub and UberEats useful in this pandemic era.

The service and delivery charges seemed reasonable to him given the circumstances, and he felt he was helping some favorite eateries, as well as the delivery people who were hustling to make a buck, and whom he liberally tipped.

But the Reynolds’ resolution and the discussion thereon at Council last Tuesday was certainly eye-opening.

We’ll get to the Reynolds resolution next time but use these articles to bone up on some background.

Add oligopoly to your wordbank for Scrabble purposes.

God bless capitalism.

Christina Tatu,”Bethlehem officials urge customers to order directly from restaurants instead of using third-party delivery apps.” Morning Call, May 6, 2020.

Under Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order, delivery sales skyrocketed to 75% at El Jefe’s, a South Side Bethlehem Mexican restaurant. And owner John Schall is forking over a significant portion of those sales to third-party delivery services like DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats. Schall says the companies take a commission that can be up to 30% per order, which last month meant he lost money on delivery.

Schall paid $22,000 to third-party delivery companies for orders placed at the Bethlehem location last month. “We used to pay them 8% of our sales and now we are paying them 19% of all our sales,” he said, adding that before the pandemic, third-party deliveries accounted for about a quarter of the business.

Bethlehem City Councilman J. William Reynolds heard similar concerns from several restaurant owners, prompting him to introduce a resolution Tuesday encouraging city administrators to investigate capping the fees third-party delivery services charge, and to consider a licensing system to ensure they comply with local, state and federal laws that protect food service workers and customers.

The Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce will launch a campaign urging residents to do curbside pickup instead of using third-party apps to ensure restaurants receive the total cost of the order, said Angela DelGrosso, senior vice president of the Bethlehem Chamber at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. “Especially during this time, we need to do all we can to support these small businesses and having up to 30% of their profits taken away by the apps is detrimental to their service,” DelGrosso said.

Sara K. Satullo, “Trying to support local restaurants by ordering delivery? Curbside might be the better answer.” lehighvalleylive.com, May 5, 2020.

More and more customers are turning to third-party delivery apps to help support local businesses at a time when delivery and takeout are lifelines for restaurants forced to stop dine-in eating under Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order. The coronavirus shutdown comes at a real cost to the nation’s restaurants, which need delivery to survive in this new era, but are having a hard time justifying sending an increasing percentage of their potential profits to delivery companies.

When restaurants use delivery companies, they agree to give up a set percentage — sometimes as high as 30% — of every delivery order, a tension that’s plagued restaurants since the apps’ inceptions. Add in competing fees and the fact that some companies offer better service than others, and restaurateurs say they face an array of unattractive choices. The COVID-19 health crisis is elevating this tension as an industry that already operated on razor-thin profit margins struggles to stay afloat.

John Schall, “Restaurant industry’s survival of coronavirus depends on regulating delivery app fees.” Boston Globe, April 28, 2020.

In the United States, four restaurant delivery companies — DoorDash, GrubHub, UberEats, and Postmates — control 99 percent of the restaurant delivery market, a classic oligopoly. They have become an oligopoly because the technology they use to manage their delivery operations is expensive and proprietary. Once that technology is created, it can be used anywhere, so there are large economies of scale that make bigger national restaurant delivery companies more efficient than smaller regional or local ones. As a result, they, like all unregulated oligopolies, can set prices at an unfairly high level. The restaurants that purchase their delivery services have no choice about the price they pay for that service because all delivery companies charge the same price. In this case, it is between 25 and 30 percent of the total price of the food being delivered to the end-user, the individual customers ordering from their homes.

When a few firms, like UberEats and GrubHub, dominate the market and use their position to set prices at such a high level, it becomes not only desirable but necessary for public sector entities to intervene. The only way to protect restaurants and consumers from this unfair price setting is to regulate the prices those delivery companies are allowed to charge. The free market doesn’t work in this instance, just like it doesn’t work with electric companies, and regulated prices are therefore necessary if independent restaurants are to survive and prosper.

The need to regulate delivery companies is urgent at any time, but in the current COVID-19 environment the restaurant consumer is doubly and triply damaged. When restaurants are not allowed to have dine-in customers and can provide food for their customers only via take-out and delivery, they can no longer compete with the delivery companies regarding where their customers can consume their food. By public decree, diners can’t consume it in the restaurants; they must retreat to their homes. Forced to rely solely on delivery for 70-80 percent of their sales, restaurants have experienced a meal revenue drop from 100 percent to 75 percent on those delivery sales.

As take-out dining increases, delivery companies amass even more power vis-a-vis their restaurant clients. Restaurants that weren’t doing delivery or had delivery as only 5 to 15 percent of their sales are now doing 70 to 80 percent of their sales through the delivery companies. Rather than paying delivery companies 2 to 3 percent of their total revenue, they are now paying 15 to 20 percent. For restaurants which, even in good times average only 10 percent profit, this is unsustainable. If delivery company fees are not regulated now, even the restaurants that have managed to survive the COVID-19 shutdown may not survive the delivery company dominance over local restaurants. That will be a loss to the millions who depend on the industry for a paycheck and the millions more eagerly awaiting the chance to return to the experience of dining in at their favorite neighborhood restaurant.

Discovering Bob Cohen the poet

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“If I should lose my language,
That would be the end of me.”
Bob Cohen

Bob Cohen, Home at My Typewriter: Selected Poems, Bethlehem:
BAPL Books, 2018.

So I attended Matt Wolf’s poetry reading the other week as part of the Bethlehem Area Public Library’s fine online series during this coronavirus era of our lives.

And then I went to buy a copy of Matt’s book as part of the BAPL Books series.

And found a book by Bob Cohen. (More on Matt later, I promise.)

I knew Bob Cohen.

Lots of us knew Bob Cohen (1938-2016): Peace Corps volunteer, a Dean at Lehigh, owner of a College Admissions small business, president of the Rotary Club, member of the Bethlehem Arts Council, BAPL board member, WDIY commentator and Board member, cabaret singer, actor.  Cohen 1

That was Bob Cohen.

But I didn’t know the multi-talented Bob (if you don’t believe me, look here and here and here) as a poet.

Neither, apparently, did his wife Amy Miller Cohen, who describes in an introduction to this book finding among a “gold mine of his papers . . . several hundred poems.”

Several hundred secret poems! (Echoes of Emily Dickinson!)

And in this locally produced book you’ll find about a hundred of them selected by BAPL director Josh Berk.

It was hard to pick one to share here on Gadfly in the previous post. I had a dozen top picks. But I eventually decided on “I Saw You Take the Cat’s Head.”

A poem shouldn’t need somebody else’s analysis. It should stand on its own. And I hope you enjoyed it.

But let me say that I enjoyed Bob watching Amy, appreciating her domestic artistry, recognizing his own incapacity, and thankful to be with her. And he has nailed that haughty exiting cat dead on.

You’ll find much, much more enjoyable in the book.

Library users will be familiar with plans for the “Bob Cohen Room,” with donations still appreciated for space renovation.

“I Saw You Take the Cat’s Head”

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I Saw You Take the Cat’s Head
Bob Cohen

I saw you take the cat’s head
With your hand, all fingers working
Down to the bone through fur;
Then two other fingers, thumb and forefinger
Lit on one ear, stopped a moment,
And proceeded to turn it inside out,
Exposing the labyrinthine gulleys full of silty brown.
The first touch with your probing Q-tip
And she started in your hand, but you held fast,
And gentle-talked her into submission.
You went in, and in again
Until the brown stuff hung upon the cotton.
“Look what we got, Munchkin! Now
Was that so bad?”

The cat, released, walks away
Ungrateful; I go back to my book,
Brimming with gratitude.

Home at My Typewriter: Selected Poems, Bethlehem: BAPL Books, 2018.

Support your local young playwrights!

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Gadfly supports home-grown talent!

Please donate: the local arts community needs a solid financial base to thrive

Touchstone Theatre
Theatre that transforms

Touchstone 3

Proudly presenting
THE 15th ANNUAL
YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS’ FESTIVAL
ONLINE!

WHEN: Saturday, May 9, 2020 @ 7pm
WHERE: Wherever you are!

Here’s how it works: We’ll be streaming concert readings of our festival finalists on YouTube live. You can tune in for the event, either dressed up in your festival best or in your pajamas.

Link to the livestream will be emailed out and posted on our website and social media by 12 noon on May 9th.

Make it dinner and a show: Since you’ll be watching the festival from home, why not order curbside pickup from your favorite local restaurant? Shop at local greats, like Jenny’s KualiMolinari’sMolly’s Irish PubThe MintBoleteAsiaSetta LunaThe BayouSouthside 313The Wooden Match, and more – they’ve been kind enough to donate to Touchstone and YPF over the years, and treating yourself to dinner is the most delicious way to support your local business community.

And speaking of support: On a normal year, the Festival performance is followed by our annual Gala, which raises money to support Touchstone’s award-winning arts in education programming. In lieu of the Gala, we’re simply accepting donations – we know that money is tight for many of you, and there are many worthy causes (especially now), but any support is greatly appreciated. You can donate directly here. Many thanks to those who have already donated – we’re blown away by your generosity!

Young Playwrights’ Festival is generously sponsored by our naming sponsor


YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS’ FESTIVAL ONLINE

May 9, 2020
Please donate!