Covid-19 March 24

DOYLESTOWN >> Bucks County added more than 20 new COVID-19 cases to its rolls for the second straight day, but few of those cases have resulted so far in serious symptoms, officials reported.

Of the county’s 85 positive cases, only three patients have been hospitalized for any sustained length of time, said Dr. David Damsker, director of the Bucks County Health Department. Two are in critical condition at area hospitals, he said, while the third is stable. 

At the same time, the county’s earliest COVID-19 patients are starting to fully recover, Damsker said, with at least six now released from isolation and dozens more approaching that status.

“The good news is that most of our patients are doing very well, and are eligible to be off isolation in the next few days,” Damsker said at a news briefing on March 24 at the county’s Emergency Operations Center.

Damsker acknowledged that new positive test results are now “rolling in on a regular basis” and will likely continue at the present pace for a while. He reiterated that the vast majority of those who have the virus will have mild symptoms and should not go to hospitals or seek immediate testing, but stay home and isolate themselves.

Those with more severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should seek testing and medical attention, he said.

“We’re asking people not to overrun emergency rooms just to get a test,” Damsker said. “The hospitals are certainly going to need the resources to take care of our sickest patients.”

Private testing is becoming more available, but testing supplies remain limited, he said. “If you feel like you need to get a test, call your doctor, get permission, get a prescription, because almost all testing sites require that at this point,” he said.

Damsker praised county health department workers and volunteers who have been working long hours to answer thousands of phone calls, perform contact tracing, run test specimens to labs and perform other duties.

“It’s a seven-day-a-week operation,” he said. “We’re working hard and protecting Bucks County as best we can.”

Emergency Services Director Scott T. Forster said his staff continues to work on emergency plans for food distribution and surges in demand for medical services, along with handling more than 400 requests for personal protective gear from hospitals, public safety workers, longterm care facilities and others. 

Forster said the county has, for example, delivered about 7,000 N95 protective masks so far, and is expecting roughly 30,000 more to be delivered soon. On any given day, he said, between one dozen and two dozen workers are staffing the county Emergency Operations Center in Ivyland to take calls and perform this work.

“Together, with a whole community approach, we will be strong and we will be successful in taking care of our residents,” Forster said, “as well as providing whatever kind of care and resources that we need here in Bucks County.”

County Commissioner Bob Harvie said Damsker, Forster and many other county employees “have been working incredibly hard [and] putting in unbelievable hours” to prepare the county for whatever hardships COVID-19 imposes. 

He said the county has been waiting for more information about the federal government’s economic recovery package to help local businesses. The county has worked with the Redevelopment Authority to provide some businesses with no-interest loans during the shutdown, and has encouraged its consumer protection department to investigate claims of price-gouging and businesses that may be violating Wolf’s restrictions.

Commissioners’ Chair Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia urged people who have substance abuse or mental health issues during the coronavirus crisis to call the county’s new Behavioral Health Helpline (215-399-5681) for support and the health department (215-345-3318) with other COVID-19 questions or concerns. The Consumer Protection Hotline can be reached at 1-800-942-2669 for consumer- or business-related questions.

Today was the first day of Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order imposed on residents of Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties, where about 75 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases have been reported. Eight people have died of the virus across Pennsylvania.

Twenty-three Bucks County municipalities have had at least one resident counted among the 85 coronavirus cases. A map showing those municipalities on the county’s data portal https://covid19-bucksgis.hub.arcgis.com/ will continue to be updated as new cases arise.

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