KC Tomlinson

State Rep. KC Tomlinson

BENSALEM >> During a hearing of the House Majority Policy Committee hosted by Rep. K.C. Tomlinson (R-Bensalem), Dr. David Damsker, director for the Bucks County Health Department, announced that while the number of new COVID-19 infections have increased slightly increased, hospitalizations are down.

Tomlinson called for the hearing at Pen Ryn Estate in Bensalem to getting a clearer understanding of the economic and health care consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the government-imposed business shutdown and the continued limits on access to restaurants and other small businesses.

“We now know how to prevent spread,” Damsker said. “The society of today is different from the society of six months ago.”

The reason numbers are climbing, Damsker said, is college students unsafely mingling outside school.

“We are at a baseline,” Damsker said. “We need to view the virus as a chronic disease like the flu.” Wash your hands, wear masks and social distance, he suggested.

“There is proof we can reopen our businesses safely,” Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Richboro). “To do otherwise is to continue unnecessarily crippling our small businesses."

Rep. Craig Staats (R-Quakertown) said, “Based on what we learned today, our restaurants will continue to struggle to remain open even under the governor’s increase from 25 to 50 percent of indoor capacity.”

According to John Holub, executive director of the PA Retailers Association, other businesses are also suffering. Sporting goods sales are down 40 percent, electronics are down 60 percent, furniture is down 66% and clothing sales are down 89 percent compared to this time in 2019.

Event venues also continue to take a hit. The Pen Ryn Estate has postponed 180 weddings. “That has a trickle-down effect to other vendors,” said William Haas, president of Pen Ryn Estate.

The shutdown has also damaged health care facilities and emergency services.

“Reduced EMS transports, depressed revenues, higher costs of PPE and training, and covering staff who have become ill or exposed are taking a toll on our EMS agencies,” said Dr. Gerald C Wydro, chairman, Emergency Medicine at Jefferson Health – Northeast. “Most EMS services have seen expenses increase and revenue decrease over the past six months.

“This is why we must make the health and longevity of our EMS responders a priority,” said Rep. Frank Farry (R-Langhorne). “The safety of our communities is at stake.”

Wydro issued another warning: Health care tests and procedures have been delayed, which has damaged hospitals incomes. “We’re still seeing very sick patients, but we’re seeing fewer of them” as they delay treatment. “When patients finally do come in, they are sicker,” Wydro said. “Smaller hospitals and practices will close.”

“What is the impact is this having on depression, alcoholism, addiction relapses, domestic abuse and children’s social growth?” asked Rep. Todd Polinchock (R-Chalfont).

“And what about new moms during COVID-19 and resources for post-partum depression and anxiety?” asked Rep. Meghan Schroeder (R-Warminster). “The psychological damage is clear. This is why we as legislators must focus on improving access to mental health services and preventing suicides.”

The Sept. 9 hearing was one of two held this week by the House Majority Policy Committee on the many challenges facing the retail, health care and social services sectors during the pandemic.

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