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2020 News

Commissioners to Public: Second Wave of COVID Requires Masking Up

November 10, 2020

Contact: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

As the region faces a second wave of COVID-19 and record numbers of new infections, the Bucks County Commissioners are challenging residents to ramp up mask-wearing and social distancing as the best means of blunting the increased numbers.

“Here we go again, but maybe it’s a little tougher this time,” said Commissioners’ Chair Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia at a Tuesday morning news conference. Unlike last spring, when COVID cut a deadly swath through long-term care facilities, “it’s the general public that’s been having trouble” with new infections in recent weeks, she said.

The commissioners spoke to reporters in the wake of an unprecedented spike that saw new COVID infections increase by 79 percent last week over the previous week, to a record average of 118 cases per week. That trajectory has continued this week, with 530 new cases reported over the past three days, a daily average of 177. ppe 11.10.2020

Marseglia and fellow commissioners Bob Harvie and Gene DiGirolamo laid the blame not on schools, businesses or restaurants, where spread is not occurring, but rather on lax personal behavior as residents grow weary of mask-wearing and restrictions on social events and gatherings.

Harvie cited examples such as a Halloween party attended by high school students that led to a recent outbreak. Other county residents have been infected due to such things as weddings, lunch gatherings with co-workers and a high school team that threw a party to celebrate a big win, causing another outbreak, he said.

“All of us are tired of wearing masks,” Harvie said. “We’re tired of the interruptions to everything we had planned. We’re tired of postponing graduation parties and weddings and other events.”

As a result, he said, “we’re definitely seeing this COVID fatigue and the impact it’s having on our numbers.” He challenged the public to “keep wearing the mask, keep following social distancing, keep up the discipline that … helped get the numbers down, because they’re going up again.”ppe 11.10.2020-2

DiGirolamo noted that hospitalizations and deaths from COVID remain at low levels compared to the increases in new cases, indicating that widespread infections have not yet beset nursing homes, but are prevalent instead among younger people. “We still have to be careful. We still have to use common sense; the virus is still out there,” he said.

None of the commissioners called for increased restrictions on restaurants or other businesses, saying that business owners and schools are doing an excellent job of enforcing masking and distancing, and are not responsible for the increases.

The spikes are not unique to Bucks County. The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Tuesday reported a record of 4,361 new cases and 62 deaths, the most in one day since June 5. Nationally, COVID hospitalizations hit an all-time high Tuesday, with almost 62,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals across the United States.

Five deaths have been reported in Bucks County since Oct. 30, and jammed hospitals have not afflicted the area this fall. Bucks County Health Department Director Dr. David Damsker attributed the lower death rate to earlier intervention with more effective treatments as physicians become more familiar with COVID-19.

Damsker said his contact tracers, faced with unprecedented numbers of new cases, have had to prioritize their efforts, focusing first on protecting vulnerable elderly residents and preventing spread in schools. “In the end, I think it’s going to come down to the public and education and people following the rules about masking and not having public gatherings,” he said. scott 11.10.2020

The news conference was held outside the Bucks County Emergency Services warehouse in Doylestown Township, where the county is in the midst of a three-day distribution of hundreds of thousands of personal protective equipment items to townships.

Emergency Services Director Scott T. Forster said the county has prepared for the COVID resurgence by acquiring about 200,000 N95 masks, 300,000 surgical masks, 50,000 disposable hospital gowns and 3.5 million disposable gloves. Municipal vehicles rumbled through the warehouse, loaded with PPE for distribution to first responders, long-term care facilities, medical facilities and other recipients.

“Our planning efforts are starting to rise as our cases start to rise,” Forster said, adding that the county has provided training and guidance to nursing homes and personal care homes in addition to PPE shipments. “We’re doing all of this planning so that if we see additional hospitalizations or we see additional spread in our custodial care facilities, we’re prepared.”