“The forest fire is surrounding us”

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See “Thode with some Covid-19 facts” in this morning’s Lehigh Valley Ramblings

So we’re going to try it. Send the kids back to school, that is. Albeit hybridly.

All the news Gadfly listens to links the success of such an endeavor to containing the spread of the virus in our local community.

Which makes Councilwoman Van Wirt’s plea for a commitment to sensibility, a commitment to safety during last week’s City Council meeting even more urgent.

Councilwoman Van Wirt is, we know, Doctor Van Wirt, whose care is specifically devoted to senior care facilities.

She needs to be listened to.

  • We are like firefighters standing in a field, and the forest fire is surrounding us.
  • Please don’t take this for granted.
  • It is not time to sit down and pull out our desk chairs.
  • It is time to start digging the fire ditches deeper. Van Wirt 1
  • We have a chance of keeping this out of our community by practicing all the guidelines as stringently and as frequently as we can.
  • I am so deeply concerned if we don’t do these things right now, things are going to get worse.
  • So while I fully understand the pain this has caused our local businesses, if we don’t get it right, right now, it’s going to be worse in the future.
  • I still have grave and deep concerns.
  • This virus has decimated my personal community where I practice.
  • The death rate in nursing homes is at least 25%.
  • . . . not relaxing our guard.

Let’s not screw this up. The Gadfly’s life you save may be your own.

Bethlehem schools hybrid, Allentown virtual

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 “Lehigh Valley has highest number of new cases”
Morning Call, July 26

Find full Bethlehem reopening info and a good video by Dr. Roy here

from Jacqueline Palochko, “Bethlehem schools looking to reopen with both in-person and online classes.” Morning Call, July 24, 2020.

Bethlehem’s full “Back to School Plan and Summary” can be
found in this article.

Bethlehem Area schools will likely reopen next month using a hybrid approach that allows for both in-person instruction and online learning.

The plan, which was announced Friday afternoon and will be voted on by the school board on Aug. 10, calls for students with last names beginning with A-L to attend school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while others learn online. Those with M-Z last names will go on Wednesdays and Fridays as the others do virtual classes. All students will learn online on Mondays.

Elementary class sizes will average 10 students per day. Middle and high school classes sizes will have about 15 students per day.

Parents who prefer to have their children do virtual classes full time can enroll them in either the BASD Cyber Academy for the entire first marking period or the BASD e-classroom, which is a new program and allows students to transfer to physical classrooms by October. The e-classroom program will be taught by district teachers, some of whom cannot return to the classroom because of conditions that put them at higher risk of serious complications from the coronavirus. Registration for both ends Aug. 5.

If an individual tests positive for the coronavirus, families and students will be notified, but the district does not intend to shut down any schools or classrooms.

All students and teachers will wear masks in Bethlehem schools, following the state’s requirement. Parents are expected to provide face coverings, hand sanitizer and disposable cleaning wipes for their children. Tape on floor and signs in English and Spanish will remind students and staff to stay 6 feet apart.

Desks must be 6 feet from each other, when possible, and all facing the same direction.

Children who have different last names but live in the same household can attend school on the same day using the last name of the oldest child. Buses and bathrooms will be cleaned twice a day. At lunchtime, students will be seated in staggered arrangements to avoid sitting close to each other.

from Jacqueline Palochko, “Allentown School District to reopen schools virtually with hope of in-person classes later in fall.” Morning Call, July 24, 2020.

“The reality behind COVID is that it is taking lives,” [Superintendent Parker] said, during a virtual meeting that drew a large audience.

The board unanimously approved the plan for virtual learning, making Allentown the first Lehigh Valley district to keep school online when it resumes on Sept. 8. It’s a move that comforts parents worried about the virus but concerns those with children who need extra academic help.

Classes will start on schedule, Sept. 8, and the district hopes it can have in-person classes by November. Parker said it wasn’t an easy decision to recommend virtual learning for the area’s biggest school district, but he felt there were too many unknowns to allow the district’s 17,000 students, as well as staff, back in classrooms.

When the Allentown district surveyed parents this month, 60% said they were not comfortable sending their children back to school. Before the board voted Thursday, a number of parents spoke about the plan during two hours of public comment.

The district promised that online learning in the fall would be more robust and comprehensive than it was in the spring. It will expand the use of technology, including creating a model that will allow every student to receive a device. It will also develop external partnerships to support digital access for all students.

Even though it seems as if the area is in a better situation with the virus than it was in the spring, Allentown is still not in a good place, Allentown Health Bureau Director Vicky Kistler said at the meeting. There have been cases after day cares and public places such as restaurants and bars reopened, she said. “We have not yet learned to live with this virus,” she said.

For districts like Allentown, which has a number of crowded, old buildings, those guidelines are hard to follow because of limited space.

Good conduct is good business

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Gadfly,

I see positives from this response [see “The Mob at Molly’s”] to what became an out of control situation.

First, Chaz Patrick took responsibility for what appears to be an unanticipated circumstance.

Second, he’s working on solutions.There’s a learning curve on all of this. Patrons need to act responsibly. If police were present, I think it would have been a good idea for them to step in and disperse this crowd, but I say that without having been present. It may have not gone well if they had.

I don’t know Chaz well, although I’ve eaten at his establishment. I just don’t “hang out” at bars/restaurants per se. My impression is that he’s a good business owner in Bethlehem who is very conscientious about contributing to the community, and we all have to trust that processes he puts into place will rectify this situation.

I will definitely make a point of stopping by Molly’s for lunch very soon!

Dana Grubb

The mob at Molly’s

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The Morning Call article in the last post mentions an incident (a Facebook commenter called it a “shit show”) at Molly’s last Friday. If anyone can direct Gadfly to the photo of the scene that “blew up on social media,” ‘twould be much appreciated. Here’s a response from the owner.

From Molly’s Sports Bar Facebook:

Hello. My name is Chaz Patrick and I am the owner of Molly’s Irish Grille and Sports Pub. I’m writing this post after long thought and time to settle. I want to start off first by say we apologize for the events on Friday night.

As a restaurant owner during these very very trying times this has tried on myself, my staff, my loyal customers and surrounding neighbors. With everyone going green on Friday and having had outside seating for the last few weeks it has been a positive sign after a terrible situation. Our focus on Friday was inside seating with proper distance and cleanliness standards, which we follow on a daily basis during the pandemic or not.

Yes, outside was very crowded. We have a small patio area which my landlord allowed us to use so that we could have income. We also have the part of New Street that was shut down for us and neighboring restaurants for people to hangout out in and socialize with friends and family. Friday was a beautiful night. People wanted to get out and see friends and have a drink.

I had my wonderful staff, bartenders, kitchen, servers and security at the ready. Our focus was inside which we executed with no problems. The outside was a different story. We asked people to wear masks and please do the best you can to distance. That clearly was not working and people continued to come to the corner.

The Bethlehem Police were on site all night.

We have been in constant contact with the Police and City officials about the outside and we have been addressing the situation on an ongoing basis. We are working on getting a parklet like others around the City but the city gave us New Street for our purposes.

I just on Thursday spoke with a City Councilman about the parklet asap due to the concerns for us with the immediate outside area of our business. Clearly a conversation that should have happened earlier but it did happen.

Our answer to Friday night and not let it happen again was our closing the business early last night so we did not have a repeat, which we know would have happened. We are going to continue to address this and fix it.

But so all of you know, we do everything in our power to keep my most awesome staff, great friendly and loyal customers and our surrounding neighbors safe during these times. We have hand washing stations outside. Hand sanitizer inside and out and all over. We have masks for free to distribute if you do not have one.

So in reply to all of the people out there saying we did not follow the rules, I will gracefully disagree with every single one of you. People are getting sick. People are dying. I personally have lost friends and customers thru this but life must go on. We are doing the best we can and will continue to do so. What happened Friday night we will do our best to not let it happen again and we are working on the fix now.

These are difficult and trying times for everyone. We ask for your forgiveness and understanding but people need to be responsible for their own actions also. If your out in a public setting do your best to distance and wear a mask. Molly’s has built a great following over the years because I care about my staff and take very good care of them.

I care about my very loyal customers and they know that and tell their friends about us and bring them in. We have built a great relationships with Lehigh University as well as DeSales and Moravian students. There are a lot of them in town and they wanted to come and hang out at Molly’s.

They were outside because our inside was at the limit of 50%. If you could redo the night we would have shut it down sooner then we did and again we do apologize for that. I wish you all the best and here’s to ending this pandemic as soon as possible.

I hope everyone enjoys their Sunday. ✌️

Gadfly invites you to browse the 170 or some comments (as of this morning) on Chaz’s post.

Let’s be safe! Wear a mask — the Gadfly you save might be your own

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Ford Turner and Jon Harris, “New Pennsylvania mask order requires everyone to wear one whenever leaving home in certain circumstances.” Morning Call, July 1, 2020.

from Ford Turner. Daniel Patrick Sheehan and Kay;a Dwyer, “Green doesn’t always mean go: Some Lehigh Valley officials see coronavirus trouble brewing in crowded public spaces.” Morning Call, July1 , 2020.

Just a few months ago, a photo of a crowd milling outside Molly’s Irish Sports Bar and Grille would have been too mundane to attract comment.

But that was before the coronavirus. The photo of tightly packed, mostly unmasked customers outside the Bethlehem bar on Friday night set off alarms in a community warily coming back to life on the first day of the green phase of Gov. Wolf’s pandemic reopening plan. The photo blew up on social media and prompted an apology from the bar, which closed early on Saturday night to avoid a repeat.

What made the episode troubling was the fact that similar gatherings in Allegheny County are believed to have driven a spike in infection rates so significant that officials banned drinking in bars and restaurants.

To this point, no one is predicting the Lehigh Valley is in store for the same kind of spike, though a rise in Lehigh County’s case rate in June prompted the state Health Department to include the county in a “deep dive” into data from areas where spikes might be brewing. More recently, there has been a slight uptick in new, confirmed cases in Northampton County.

At Molly’s, owner Charles Patrick said things were under control Friday when he left around 10 p.m., with a manageable flow of masked customers coming in and out and indoor capacity limited to 50%.

Then, around midnight, local college students started coming out, Patrick said. “That’s when it got crazy,” he said, noting that many customers refused staff requests that they don masks.

“We’re going to do everything in our power to quell the onslaught,” said Patrick, who is making a number of changes to scheduling and seating to better manage crowds. “I’m only one establishment. These are the things we are doing to fix our problem.”

Some Northampton County numbers have been ticking up, the dashboard shows, with 90 cases in the most recent seven day period compared with 68 in the previous period. Cases per 100,000 residents rose from 22.3 to 29.5. Statewide, cases per 100,000 residents rose from 23.2 to 28.7 over the last seven days. Of those who have tested positive statewide to date, nearly 37 % are ages 25-49.

Wardle said the Northampton uptick was mostly due to new cases in long-term care facilities. A reason new-case numbers at those facilities are surging, Wardle said, is that Gov. Tom Wolf has required that all residents of all facilities be tested for the virus by July 24 under Wolf’s “universal” testing regimen. More testing, Wardle said, uncovers more cases.

Hence, he said, the concern over Northampton isn’t great, but the state will continue to assist its long-term care facilities — which have been epicenters of outbreaks nationally — and monitor the situation.

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure said he is fiercely proud of residents for obeying lockdown rules and driving down infection numbers, which could have been far higher given the county’s proximity to the hotspots of New York, New Jersey and the greater Philadelphia area.

He said he doesn’t want to see that success undone by growing laxity over the vital prevention protocols of hand washing, social distancing and mask-wearing.

“We have to balance the public health with avoiding another shutdown, because the economy can’t bear it,” he said. “Wear a mask. I don’t care where you are or what you’re doing. Wear a mask.”

You’ll find a statement by the Molly’s owner in our next post in this series.

An invitation to reflect on civic life and the pandemic

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Gadfly:

Southsider is excited to share this open call to incorporate more community voices into their “Reflections on Civic Life and the Pandemic” Series. There is a lot happening in the world right now, and all of it is shaped by the pandemic. How should we as a community make sense of it all?

See a model from the series here, “Robin Lee on the Impact of COVID-19 on South Bethlehem.

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The Southsider Editorial Team

Gadfly invites you to browse the fine Southsider site, especially see the Women of Bethlehem Steel series.

The green comes back to Bethlehem

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Let’s be smart!

Kayla Dwyer and Jacqueline Palochko, “Green phase guide: What to expect at Lehigh Valley gyms, restaurants and salons as restrictions lift Friday.” Morning Call, June 25, 2020.

Steve Novak, “Pa. coronavirus reopening: As Lehigh Valley enters green phase, data shows extent of COVID-19′s economic impact | Unemployment, job openings, traffic, real estate.” lehighvalleylive.com, June 26, 2020.

Jennifer Sheehan, “As green phase approaches in Lehigh Valley, what should you do if you encounter someone without a mask in a business?” Morning Call, June 23, 2020.

Green

Wind Creek turns green next week

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Wind Creek is certainly one of the indices of our economic health.

from Jon Harris, “Wind Creek Bethlehem to reopen next Monday.” Morning Call, June 22, 2020.

A new age of casino gambling in the Lehigh Valley will get its start next Monday when Wind Creek Bethlehem reopens for the first time in more than three months.

Wind Creek, which closed to the public March 15 to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, made the announcement Monday. The news comes days after the Lehigh Valley learned it would enter the green phase of the state’s reopening plan Friday, a phase that permits casinos to open at 50% occupancy.

During the pandemic, Wind Creek Bethlehem was able to pay its roughly 2,400 employees through the end of May but furloughed 2,095 of them June 1, as the downturn entered its third month. Wind Creek Hospitality President and CEO Jay Dorris told The Morning Call this month that the casino hopes to bring all employees back as operations ramp back up.

With the potential shift in consumer preferences following this pandemic, however, Dorris said Wind Creek was tapping the brakes on a $250 million plan to transform the crumbling Bethlehem Steel No. 2 Machine Shop into an indoor water park and entertainment complex.

But Wind Creek still wants to break ground by late summer on its $100 million hotel expansion, a project that could take 14-16 months to complete.

While a reopening date did not become clear until Monday, Wind Creek had kept patrons informed of what to expect when the casino reopens. That included plans for small groups of invited guests to start, followed days later by a reopening to the public at a reduced capacity.

“Wind Creek Hospitality has crafted a reopening plan that includes utilizing a gaming reservation system,” said Kathy McCracken, executive vice president and general manager of Wind Creek Bethlehem. “This will help our team manage appropriate capacity in the building as well as providing a way to continuously clean the gaming floor throughout the day.”

Safety precautions include temperature checks for everyone entering the facility and masks or facial coverings for employees. Guests are asked to bring their own masks.

Players who do not have their own masks will be able to get them on site for small donations supporting Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley & Northeast PA. Smoking will be allowed only in an outdoor area in the north parking lot.

One of the Lehigh Valley’s largest employers, the casino had some employees test positive for COVID-19. That included Jonathan Shen, a 31-year-old table games supervisor who died April 22 following a four-week battle with COVID-19.

During an interview June 12, Dorris declined to disclose the number of employee cases but noted the casino had the situation arise and tried to be proactive in giving employees the necessary leave to get treated and recover. He said Wind Creek was following all guidance, including notifying those who were in close contact with someone who tested positive.

“We’ve had to deal with it, and we’re going to be dealing with that for some time now going forward,” he said.

Downtowns are poised to open up

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On Monday Gadfly briefed you on the City’s plan (see below) for outdoor dining in our downtowns.

And today you may see signs of opening up.

On Wednesday there was a discussion of this plan at City Council between Administrator Alicia Karner and Council folk Waldron and Callahan that you might find interesting.

Click to access Plan_for_Outdoor_Dining_and_Other_Business_Uses_3.pdf

The City plan was developed in collaboration with the business community. There was talk at Council about whether the allocated space would have to be expanded, whether there should be a “festival feel,” about the different needs of retailers and the restaurant owners, the different model of parklets that the City is using (the City is building planters as borders), liquor enforcement, the goal of enabling the restaurants to pull in some money in case of a second virus wave later in the year, the possibility of giving leeway with some regulations since the goal is to “save” restaurants from going under, about opening streets.

It sure is a weird time, isn’t it? The joy of opening up (for those of you not bunkered in as Gadfly is) clashing with the devastating downer of national events over the past ten days or so.

Bethlehem’s plan for outdoor dining

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City Of Bethlehem’s Outdoor Plan For The Business Community
Saturday, May 30, 2020

After the brutal events of this past weekend, if it weren’t for the masks on protestors, it would be easy to forget that there is a pandemic going on.

The most important communique out of City Hall this weekend was the Mayor’s powerful statement about community after the shocking image of George Floyd’s treatment and the consequent uproar in the streets of so many cities in America.

But back to the pandemic — we are opening up.

Many will be heartened by Bethlehem’s  “Plan for Outdoor Dining and Other Business Uses” for restaurants and retailers who wish to expand their operational footprint to help meet social distancing requirements and to provide additional accommodations to the business districts.

The plan proposes three models for consideration by the business community:

1) street closure: the City will allow closures of downtown sections of Walnut, Adams, New, and 1st street Thursday through Sunday, 4-7pm. Businesses not located in the downtowns can also make requests.

2) parklets: the City will install parklets on Main, Broad, 4th, Vine, and additional parklets can be requested by the Downtown Business Associations and by individual businesses.

3) the City will review requests for use of public spaces, on sidewalks, and on surface parking lots.

Application information and a list of regulations are part of the plan. Educational material on social distancing will be provided.

Howz your appetite?

November 15, 1918: “Ding, dong, the witch is dead.” Not

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The war is over. Like the dread influenza epidemic seemingly
it has run its course, and is no more.”
Morning Call, November 15, 1918

There is nothing like an Armistice after a four-year war to presage a return to normalcy.

To the way it was.

Time to open up again.

And after a two-month siege with the Flu as well.

Two great converging battles simultaneously won.

“Ding, dong, the witch is dead.”

For a short period of time after the Armistice — the period from November 11 to December 1, 1918 — the Morning Call records the signs of Allentown and surrounding areas opening up again: schools open, temporary satellite hospitals close, postponed meetings are rescheduled, medicines now tout their efficacy for the lingering post-Flu weakness rather than as preventatives or therapeutics.

One touching example. Local art, community creativity sprouts again: “Jay Wellington resumed practice on his local talent play ‘Three Cheers’ on Friday evening at the Y.M.C. A. after an interruption of about six weeks made necessary by the influenza epidemic.” When the thespians are out, we’ve turned a corner!

Allentown dusts off the “All Clear” siren.

Flu 102

But not so fast!

Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.

Macungie: “Notwithstanding the raising of the ban against opening public places throughout most of our state, there are still numerous cases of influenza in this community.

Northampton: “It is reported that influenza is again gaining a foothold in the borough. The epidemic was practically stamped out when the quarantine was lifted.”

East Texas: “Influenza is prevalent at East Texas. . . . There is scarcely a home that does not have members down with the disease.”

Emaus: “From all indications the influenza cases are again on the increase in this borough, as many as 200 children have been absent from school in one day.”

Hellertown: “It was hoped that the influenza would give our town the cold shoulder, but nothing so fortunate is happening. Since the reopening of the schools the disease has broken out with a vengeance among the school children.”

In the same boat, Allentown, always restless under restriction, quickly needed to go back to the drawing board.

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”

Tales of the pandemic (2)

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Every house needs one!

In Walden, Thoreau describes a ritual purification and renewal ceremony of the Mucclasse Indians called a “busk” in which annually “they collect all their worn out clothes and other despicable things,” burn them, and start fresh.

In other words, instead of cramming them in closets, jamming them in cellars, insulating attics with them, carving out special rooms for them, assigning them to ungrateful and unsuspecting relatives.

Thoreau wonders whether the “customs of some savage nations might, perchance, be profitably imitated by us.”

Gadfly thinks something like that may be happening in his neighborhood.

Huge dumpsters appearing to the east and the west of him. And he envious.

Look at the size of those things! You could put the car in the one on the right! Wouldn’t you like a peek into that house!

Ten weeks in to this damn stay-at-home shut-down merry-go-round, and our stuff is getting on our nerves.

(Do you know the classic George Carlin “stuff” routine?)

You don’t realize how much stuff you have till you have to sit and look at it all day.

If we don’t get out of this domestic virus yoke soon, Gadfly predicts a run on these dumpsters.

No mixing, no sharing allowed. You must socially distance your stuff from your neighbor’s.

Better reserve early.

Spanish flu more deadly than World War I — much more

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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 has been reading through the Morning Call in the post Armistice period — November 11 – December 1, 1918 — looking for signs of a second wave like we are starting to talk seriously about now. Some interesting info on that will be coming soon.

But this article caught Gadfly’s attention.

Around 58,000 died in the interminable Vietnam War, and we are now approaching 100,000 deaths in the several months of the coronavirus war.

Same with the Spanish Flu. More people dying at home than in the war.

Our deaths at the present moment are larger than the total number of American casualties in World War I and 4 x greater than the number of deaths.

Something to think about.

Flu 100

Flu 101

Tales of the pandemic (1)

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Had to let a “stranger” in to Gadfly house today.

First time anybody from the outside has been inside in the 10 weeks or so of Pennsylvania’s shutdown.

Not kids, not grandkids, not even Ralph, the driver for the Wash Club.

Nobody.

Till today.

Steve from Acorn.

The stairlift died Friday. Happy Holiday weekend.

Emergency.

On Memorial Day Gadfly asked Kevin the Acorn dispatcher if he was working from home on the holiday. “No,” he said, “I’m in the office. Just thankful I have a job.”

Gadfly thankful too. Very thankful. Tip o’ the hat to the Acorn guys.

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Life during the pandemic.

Howz it going at your house?

Back to work at the Mill — is it safe?

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Been a rough six months for Gadfly son #4 — Mack Truck worker.

First there was the strike, to which Gadfly called your attention and which triggered an anecdote about Gadfly’s union roots (see “The Mack strike hits ‘home'”).

And then the damn virus, which thrives in congregated factory settings as we have seen in the meat-packing industries. Gallagher Morning Call

Well, Gadfly-clone (we were featured look-alikes in a Father’s Day Morning Call spread a few years ago) goes back to work today.

Will he be safe?

Frankly, one of Gadfly’s prominent memories of his work at Kaiser-Jeep in South Bend in the 60s is a lot of spitting.

He thinks the culture has progressed since then.

(Another prominent memory is a lot of laughter — He worked with a collection of the most naturally funny men ever! The humor that comes from factory work — nothing like it!)

But will he be safe?

One hopes so.

Gadfly thought you might want to look at Mack’s Message to Employees:Mack Message to Employees

and the Mack prescriptions for safety:

Mack 1

Please be safe #4!

Easton video promoting curbside food pickup

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Ref:
https://thebethlehemgadfly.com/2020/05/08/do-you-use-companies-like-grubhub-and-ubereats-if-so-listen-up
https://thebethlehemgadfly.com/2020/05/08/help-our-local-small-business-food-places-avoid-the-3rd-party-apps
https://thebethlehemgadfly.com/2020/05/11/resident-chatter-around-gadflys-water-cooler-about-food-delivery-during-the-pandemic

Tip o’ the hat to a follower for calling this article to Gadfly’s attention as an example of the way the problem pointed to in Councilman Reynolds’ recent resolution can be handled without City involvement.

curbside

from Connor Lagore, “Easton restaurants launch #CurbsideFirst to thwart delivery companies taking too much off top.” lehighvalleylive.com, May 16, 2020.

Easton restaurants have worked with the Greater Easton Development Partnership to put together a video calling for #CurbsideFirst, as many of these restaurants have fulfilled orders through third-party delivery apps like UberEats or GrubHub. These companies can take up to 30% of the total bill, forcing restaurants to operate on slimmer margins than the margins the coronavirus pandemic has already brought them.

see complete video

Of course, with the pandemic sweeping the country, food delivery has become much more popular, as local restaurants need support and it’s the easiest way of supporting them. But placing orders on a restaurant’s website or over the phone cuts out the middle man and allows for restaurants to take 100% of the check.

Some restaurants, like Centre Square neighbors Stoke Coal Fire Pizza & Bar and Pearly Baker’s Alehouse, have started doing their own deliveries to mitigate the need for a third-party service at all.

Plus, the GEDP is giving you an incentive. The organization is giving away a $50 Downtown Easton gift card every week until the end of June. To be eligible, pick up a meal from one of Easton’s restaurants, share it on Facebook with the hashtag #CurbsideFirst and tag the GEDP.

Closing lane on Main St. a “fantastic idea”

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Breena Holland is an Associate Professor at Lehigh University in the Department of Political Science and the Environmental Initiative. She is a past director of Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative.

ref: https://thebethlehemgadfly.com/2020/05/20/councilman-callahan-fosters-ideas-for-opening-restaurants-for-outside-service

Gadfly,

What a fantastic idea to close off a lane on Main Street to make it possible for restaurants to use the street space to social distance. A cafe in Germany made customers wear caps with pool noodles to ensure social distancing.

noodles

I’m sure many people will want to stay home and stay safe, but this pandemic is going to last awhile, and I agree with those who think we have to start to find ways to safely keep our small businesses alive. In my opinion, we have to have a plan for testing and contact-tracing before most people will feel comfortable. Are people willing to provide data on their movements if they get sick, so that others can be warned? What kind of testing capacity do we have locally? I don’t know how we get very far without knowing the answers to these (and other) questions.

Best, Breena

Gadfly wonders if we couldn’t put our noodles together and come up with spacing apparel that relates uniquely to Bethlehem and our historic character (faux I-beams?), apparel that would not only be fun but so distinctive, so representative of our town that we would gain national attention. Gadfly’s mailbox is open for suggestions.

Councilman Callahan fosters ideas for opening restaurants for outside service

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Video: City Council meeting May 19
begin min. 54:05

If Gadfly understood Mr. Evans correctly, the City had ideas of closing streets and using parklets to improve outside accessibility to services by restaurants and other of our small businesses, but these plans have been put on hold for now by state directives.

Councilman Callahan strongly supported this idea, indicating that he had sent a letter to the governor (see below) as well as talking personally with the mayor.

  • Some of our most successful businesses on Main St. and Southside are really struggling.
  • Some might not make it.
  • The Home Depots, etc., are open, and we are allowing curbside for restaurants.BCallahan
  • How about closing the roads one-way — one-way traffic — giving more table space and socially distancing space?
  • Can possibly be done in a safe manner: paper goods, non-reusable utensils, etc.
  •  Only family members that live under the same roof at a table, for instance.
  • Others would have to be 6 feet away.
  • Owners realize the virus might come back in the fall.
  • Just trying to get their sales up a little bit to survive.
  • Encourages the City to talk with the business owners and come up with a plan for the right time.
  • Home Depots, etc., are handling the bathroom cleaning issue — could be done here in our downtowns as well.

 

Callahan 1

Callahan 2

Mayor’s report on COVID-19 matters at City Council last night

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Video: City Council meeting May 19
begin min. 39:30

Business Administrator Evans gave the Mayor’s report last night at the City Council meeting, providing information on these 10 items, all but one relating to the COVID-19 mess.

Gadfly will return soon with discussion generated by some of the items in the Mayor’s list.

1) Summer recreational programming: closing pools, parks programming closed, some sites closed till further notice after evaluation (skate park, dog park, basketball courts, pavilion rentals, Ice House, Illicks Mill), neighborhood parks themselves open with encouragement to stay off the playground equipment, tennis courts at Clearview, Monocacy, and West Side are open, and trails are open.

2) Developing business plan for northside and southside with outside dining, reaching out to small business merchants so to develop a plan to support them when the time is right, according to state outdoor eating areas and picnic areas are not allowed at this time.

3) Supporting Council and Bethlehem Chamber resolution not to use 3rd parties for pick-up service at restaurants.

4) Taking steps to safely re-open City Hall, new security system will be active

5) Public meetings to begin again virtually in June, special consideration for the needs of Zoning Board.

6) Yard Waste Center operating successfully, mulch coming, recycling center plans for opening still developing.

7) Golf course opened successfully, some changes noted, work done is beautiful.

8) Library is developing plans for providing approved services when the state gives go-ahead.

9) Bethlehem Parking Authority is suffering financially, and the company providing their app has suddenly ceased operation, positive plans already in motion for a new app.

10) Some complaints received on businesses open contrary to state regulations, some warnings issued, will follow directions from the district attorneys of both counties about how to proceed.

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.