Virus situation calming down at Lehigh: “it seems like no one is (at Lehigh) anymore”

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“Cases have since dropped after an initial spike two weeks ago. According to Lehigh’s dashboard, active cases dropped from 82 to 36 in less than one week.”
Brown and White

Lehigh University COVID-19 Information Center

Lehigh University COVID-19 dashboard

After a significant spike, the virus situation is calming down at Lehigh. The Brown and White article below gives some student reaction to the quality of life on campus these days.

10/14/20

Selections from Aliza Lev, “239 on-campus students have vacated university housing as of Oct. 21.” Brown and White, October 21, 2020.”

Of the 1,223 students living on campus at the start of the semester, the majority — over 1,000 — are first-years students. That means about one-fifth of all first-year students living on campus have left housing either temporarily or permanently.

However, there are also 81 Gryphons [student Residence Hall advisors] currently living in university housing. Some of these Gryphons have left campus for the semester and gave up their positions or are considering doing so, according to a Gryphon who requested to remain anonymous in this article for fear of their job security.

The Gryphon said this has been a stressful semester for all Gryphons due to COVID-19 concerns and uncertainties. The anonymous Gryphon is considering not returning to campus next semester and resigning from her position.

“I’ve definitely been very stressed out and anxious over this,” the Gryphon said. “I’m thinking I should go home, but I’m nervous about getting sick and bringing (COVID-19) back to my high-risk parents. I’m torn between staying here or going home and leaving things uncertain about whether I’ll be able to be a Gryphon next semester.”

The Gryphon said other Gryphons have been concerned about the well-being of the first-years that live in their halls. The Gryphon said COVID-19 restrictions have made it difficult for first-year students to make friends, and many of them spend their time alone.

The Gryphon also said while some first-years prioritize their safety, others have not been adhering to COVID-19 guidelines for the sake of social interaction, which puts both themselves and their Gryphons at risk.

“It’s concerning seeing some kids who do care a lot wanting to stay on campus and stay safe, and other kids parading out of the building getting ready to go to parties,” the Gryphon said.

The Gryphon said there is frustration with the lack of communication between the Lehigh administration and the Residence Life staff because it has put Gryphons and other staff members at risk.

For example, the Gryphon said other Gryphons are only notified when someone on their own floor tests positive or residents need to quarantine. But when Gryphons are doing their typical “rounds” checking in on other floors in their residence hall, they could potentially be walking into a hall under quarantine and thus exposing themselves since they are not notified of positive students in halls other than their own.

Amy Zage, ‘24, and Paige Nemet, ‘24, were both exposed to COVID-19 on campus and were quarantined until they received their test results. After they each tested negative twice, Zage and Nemet went home.

Zage said she left campus because she felt scared and restricted living in her dorm.

Earlier this month, several students received letters of interim suspension after allegedly violating the university’s COVID-19 guidelines. Zage said she feared suspension and felt more comfortable temporarily living at home.

Nemet said she felt stressed before leaving campus because the university was not communicating about her situation. She said she called the Health Center multiple times with questions about her quarantine before getting in touch with someone.

“This was definitely stressful and difficult because I found out in only a day that I would have to quarantine for two weeks,” Nemet said. “Now everyone is either quarantined or at home, so it seems like no one is (at Lehigh) anymore.”

Zage also said the limited access to campus facilities, such as the libraries, significantly decreased her ability to interact with other students and maintain some form of social interaction.

Lehigh refines reporting of COVID cases, 63 active off-campus

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Lehigh University COVID-19 Information Center

Lehigh University COVID-19 dashboard

Lehigh Brown and White Oct. 14: Lehigh’s COVID-19 dashboard is now reporting active and cumulative cases. There is currently 26 active cases among students living on-campus and 63 active cases among students living off-campus, for a total of 89 active cases. There has been 60 cumulative positive cases among students living on-campus and 129 cumulative cases off-campus for a total of 189 cases since Aug. 7.

Hello! Calling the Health Director!

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Lehigh University COVID-19 Information Center

Lehigh University COVID-19 dashboard

“We were discussing this. My concerns revolved around the community surrounding Lehigh. Do many of the students frequent local businesses? The same businesses that many residents frequent? Are they places that older residents would frequent?”
Denise

Saturday 155 total confirmed coronavirus cases at Lehigh, 101 off-campus.

Tuesday 177 total confirmed cases, 119 off-campus.

According to the B&W Weekly, October 12, “Lehigh has expanded its surveillance testing to include both on and off-campus students. However, students who are not selected for testing have found difficulty receiving help from the Health Center. Students who have been in contact with a positive case have been denied testing.

WTF?

See also:
Students encounter challenges while in isolation and quarantine on-campus, B & W, October 7.

Hello! Calling the Health Director!

“Cut the secrecy,” says Lehigh editorial, criticizing handling of virus precaution

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How does a school expect its students to act responsibly, honestly and openly if
they do not model that same behavior themselves?

Lehigh University Brown and White, October 7

Gadfly reported a few posts back that at City Council a week ago the Mayor reported on what sounded like a high number of confirmed virus cases at Lehigh, doing so without context.

He said that the Health Bureau director would forward more information to Council the next day.

Here is that email to City Council.

There were 96 positive cases counted at Lehigh as of the writing of the above memo, 155 counted by last Friday, two days later.

(Note that Moravian is “clean.”)

The Bethlehem Health Director provides pertinent factual information to City Council, but Gadfly was also interested in commentary on what the impact of this outbreak (the dashboard seems not to have been updated on Monday) on Southside residents and businesses. It looks like Lehigh is a “hot spot” — should there not be some publication of that fact? But there was no comment on that.

Should the Health Department be more than a passive reporter in a situation like this?

Gadfly might expect — because of the outbreak — some commentary on the quality of Lehigh’s policies and procedures. Have they been operating properly during this pandemic? Are proper safety precautions being taken? Are there recommendations for changes in their practices? The Health Director is silent on that too.

Which is interesting because of this October 7 critical editorial in the student newspaper. The B and W points to serious deficiency in Lehigh practice and attitude.

Shouldn’t the Health Director be on this ?

Selections from “Editorial: Cut the secrecy.” Brown and White, October 7, 2020.

When it comes to testing, Lehigh’s administration has been taking a page out of the playbook of the White House.

During the first two weeks of the fall semester, Lehigh University administered thousands of COVID-19 tests to gauge the health of the campus community. Within those first two weeks, there were fewer than 15 positive cases, as indicated by the Lehigh COVID-19 dashboard.

After the first two weeks of surveillance testing, no more tests were administered on a routine basis. Students who felt sick were administered a test from the Health and Wellness Center, and were sent on their way.

Six weeks later, throughout the last week of September and first of October, case numbers rose exponentially to 100, as of Oct. 7. The number of students in quarantine between on and off-campus is at 269.

During the week of the initial spike in cases, more students learned of possible exposure to positive cases and attempted to receive testing from the Health and Wellness Center, further spotlighting the struggle for students to gain access to a test. This forced students to find off-campus facilities to administer tests, some of which have turnaround times as long as seven days.

Indeed, the numbers don’t lie: 40 of the 100 positive cases were reported to the university after having been identified through tests administered by locations unaffiliated with Lehigh.

While it is on both the student’s and the administration’s hands to emphasize the importance and practice of COVID-19 safe behaviors, it is a team effort that stems from the top. When the school no longer preaches the importance of testing and staying on case numbers, the apathetic mentality trickles down throughout the student body.

It feels as though after having relatively low numbers during the initial testing phase, Lehigh administrators wiped their hands, said “that’s good enough,” and left the student body to handle the risks of the pandemic on their own.

But that isn’t what played out throughout September.

First of all, any plan to include further surveillance testing after the first two weeks of the semester was never communicated to students. So the argument of “we were always going to do more” is made in bad faith.

This increasing spike could’ve been mitigated by transparent and consistent communication. We have said this time and time again when it came to discussing reopening plans, which while frustrating, did not cause any imminent threat.

But this time, it does.

How does a school expect its students to act responsibly, honestly and openly if they do not model that same behavior themselves?

While we are frustrated with how the administration has handled the pandemic since our return to campus — and before — we understand that the responsibility also lies on us. There is a social contract that all students returning to Bethlehem signed, agreeing to take part in socially responsible behaviors amidst a very difficult time.

But at the end of the day, it shouldn’t be the university’s newspaper to serve as the only bridge between the administration and the student body.

The inability for the administration to hold themselves accountable during a time when its community is the most reliant on them it has ever been is disheartening to say the least.

Be open with us. Keep us informed. Let us know where the administration’s head is at. It can only go to assist student and staff decision-making to make our campus healthier as a whole.

Upward numbers continue at Lehigh; Moravian stats

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Lehigh University COVID-19 Information Center

Lehigh University COVID-19 dashboard

YESTERDAY

TODAY

Now 101 off-campus students with confirmed cases.

Lehigh’s October 9 update indicates starting the spring semester later and canceling spring break.

Gadfly still looks for a public statement from the Bethlehem Health Bureau Director.

———-

Moravian stats:

These figures are cumulative. Moravian shows no active cases on campus, 3 non-residential cases.

The Lehigh spike spikes

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YESTERDAY

TODAY

That’s a 50% rise in confirmed cases in one day.

147 confirmed cases is 10% of the 1,500 students tested.

There are 94 confirmed cases in students living off-campus. Gadfly is not sure if the Southside Commons at Brodhead and Packer is considered off-campus, so he is not sure how many of the 94 are living “in” the Southside community.

But Gadfly is concerned about the impact on the Southside community and wonders what has been done to inform that community of the spiking spikes. He is not aware of newspaper coverage, for instance.

The Lehigh October 8 update says this to off-campus students: “For all off-campus students, we urge you to exercise great care in visiting essential establishments in the greater Bethlehem community, such as the grocery store or pharmacy and implore you to wear a face-covering both en route to, and when visiting, another location other than your residence and to practice social distancing. This guidance is important for your safety and for the safety of others in the South Bethlehem community.”

Again, Gadfly wishes good luck with that “urging” and “imploring.”

Again, Gadfly looks for a public statement from the Bethlehem Health Bureau Director.

Lehigh University COVID-19 spike: a City concern?

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Lehigh University COVID-19 Information Center

Lehigh University COVID-19 dashboard

The main item in the Mayor’s report at City Council Tuesday night was, of course, the approval of Michelle Kott as the new Chief of Police.

After the applause on that important action died down, the Mayor went on to the routine business — an announcement about the budget, report on the opening of a playground, news about a voting box in City Hall.

Ending matter-of-factly with “Lehigh University began an active testing of their student body today . . . and as of this afternoon [Tuesday, October 6] we have 75 positive, and once we get the full scale of what the tests show, I’ll have Ms. Wenrich send out a memo to City Council” (video min. 30:32).

Why would there not be mention of an announcement to the public?

No context was put around this comment by the Mayor, President Waldron asked for more complete data, and later in the meeting Councilwoman Crampsie Smith passed on concerns from residents around Moravian College about the coronavirus status there.

Gadfly wonders if there isn’t cause for concern.

The above graph shows a spike in the last week.

100 confirmed cases, 66 off-campus, almost all living, one would suspect, in the adjacent Southside area.

On October 2 the University sent out a letter to the campus community indicating a “concerning increase” in cases and “scaling back” measures being taken. Athletics were suspended a few days before. The spike may have started with athletes.

Was the public not alerted too?

An update October 5 doesn’t indicate concern.

According to University regulations, “Students living off campus are required to self-isolate in their off-campus residence.”

Gadfly wishes good luck with that.

As of yesterday, there were 63 in isolation off-campus, 155 in quarantine off-campus.

We know how fast the virus spreads.

This is concerning.

We hope Lehigh University has been adhering to best practices and will continue to do so.

We’d like to hear more.

Gadfly looks for a public statement from the Bethlehem Health Bureau Director.

———–

“All Lehigh sports ‘shut down’ for undefined period of time, first on-campus cases reported.” Brown And White, September 29.

“Lehigh University temporarily suspends sports programs due to coronavirus,” Morning Call, September 29.

“22 new cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours causes Lehigh University to take almost all classes online,” Lehighvalleylive.com, October 2.

What if your house was ground zero for the virus?

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Gadfly’s barber resists wearing a mask. Sees no risk around here. This might be an interesting way to dramatize the spread.

from the Washington Post:

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States, and if you’re like us [Washington Post], you probably have trouble visualizing that catastrophe. Our graphics team has published a new interactive to help you do soIt maps every U.S. death as if they had all been your neighbors. You can simply type in your address, then watch covid-19 proliferate across your community and likely wipe it off the map.

“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.

Southsider 1

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.