PSATS Daily COVID-19 News

Most Recent Post | American Rescue Plan Federal Funding for Townships | COVID-19 Fact Sheets | COVID-19 Guidance for Townships

Most Recent Post

Johnson & Johnson Vaccinations Temporarily Stopped

The state Department of Health today notified all vaccine providers to temporarily stop administering doses of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine until at least April 20.   The stoppage is due to Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Food…

Vaccine Access Now Open to All Pennsylvanians

All Pennsylvania adults are now eligible to schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine. This is nearly a week earlier than the previously scheduled opening for April 19.   Increasing case counts and ongoing appointment availability in many parts of the…

Pfizer Requests Approval to Use COVID-19 Vaccine for Teens

Pfizer Inc. has requested that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration amend the emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to authorize its use in adolescents 12 to 15 years of age. Phase 3 trials demonstrated 100% efficacy and…

Pa. COVID-19 Case Growth Slows

While cases and hospitalizations continued to increase this week, it is at a slower rate than in recent weeks. The statewide COVID-19 total case count now stands at 1,068,974 with 30,225 new cases reported this week, a 4% increase over last…

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American Rescue Plan Federal Funding for Townships
 
On March 11, President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion federal coronavirus relief package, known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, into law. The package will provide $350 billion for state and local governments, with $13.722 billion coming to Pennsylvania. The commonwealth will receive $7.5 billion (including a $279 million set aside for capital projects), counties will receive $2.8 billion, and municipalities with populations of more than 50,000 will receive $2.3 billion. In addition, municipalities in Pennsylvania with a population of less than 50,000, which includes nearly all townships, boroughs, and small cities, will split $936 million based on population (while Philadelphia alone will receive more than $1.3 billion). This means that EVERY township will receive funding from this act.

Click here to see how much your township will receive.
 
PSATS is providing resources for townships interested in learning more about this funding and how it may be used.
Click here to access a recorded Town Hall Webinar held on March 22, 2021
Click here to access a recorded Town Hall Webinar held on March 23, 2021
Click here for the presentation for the Town Halls held on March 22 & 23 2021
New Click here for the compiled Q & As from the Town Halls held on March 22 & 23 2021
Click here for a fact sheet about the American Rescue Plan.

COVID-19 Fact Sheets


PSATS has updated fact sheets to help townships navigate the latest mitigation orders, including what to do if an employee becomes sick or is exposed to COVID-19 and how to evaluate options for safe public meetings. The fact sheets are a PSATS member service that also link townships directly to the supporting state and federal orders and guidance.

COVID-19 Guidance for Townships



PA Speed Up Vaccinations: First Responders, Township Officials Before Public
Pennsylvania is now fast-tracking vaccination Phases 1B to April 5 and 1C to April 12, which means that eligible individuals can begin scheduling appointments on those dates. All Pennsylvanians over 16 will now be eligible to set appointments beginning April 19.

Certain groups in 1B are eligible to begin setting vaccination appointments now including all law enforcement and volunteer and career firefighters, as well as grocery store and food and agriculture employees.  All other municipal employees and elected officials are part of 1C and are eligible to set appointments beginning April 12. Phase 1C also includes food service employees, transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, finance, energy, legal, public safety, and the news media. Click here for more.

Beam stated anyone in a prior phase that had not yet received a vaccine will still be able to do so. Vaccinations will be available through pharmacies and hospital provider networks.  Click here for the updated vaccine provider map or call 1-877-724-3258 if you do not have internet access and need to find a provider. Click here to view Pennsylvania’s updated vaccination plan.

Commonwealth Relaxes Mitigation Measures Effective April 4
Gov. Tom Wolf and Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam signed orders relaxing certain restriction on restaurants, gyms, salons, and entertainment venues effective April 4. The following changes are now in effect:

  • Restaurants may resume bar service, alcohol service is allowed without the purchase of food, and nightclubs may reopen at 50% capacity. However, customers must be seated to be served.
  • Indoor dining capacity is now 75% of capacity for restaurants that have self-certified. Restaurants that have not self-certified indoor dining capacity is 50%.
  • Capacity for personal service facilities (salons), gyms, and entertainment facilities (casinos, theatres, malls) is 75%.
  • Indoor gathering limits are 25% and outdoor gatherings limits are 50%. Both apply to all venue sizes.
  • Teleworking is no longer required but strongly encouraged.

Masking, social distancing, and adherence to business protocol requirements remain in effect. Click here for more. Click here for Wolf’s order.

Commonwealth Rescinds Travel Quarantine
The Wolf Administration altered the following mitigation restrictions effective March 1: 

Out-of-State Travel Quarantine Rescinded: This eliminates state quarantine and testing requirements for Pennsylvanians and out-of-state visitors, as well as previous state recommendations for quarantine on a state-by-state basis. Townships that have policies to require quarantines and testing for employees returning from out-of-state travel based on the now-rescinded order should repeal or revise these requirements.  

Employee Safety: The Mitigation, Enforcement, and Immunity Protection order is revised to allow fully vaccinated individuals, who are exposed to a person who is diagnosed with or tests positive for COVID-19, to avoid quarantine. 

To view the press release, click here. Direct links to the orders are found in the press release. Updated FAQs are available here.  

State Mask Order Applies to Townships 
Townships should be aware that Pennsylvania’s revised mask order applies to areas both inside and outside of local government facilities. The order is a requirement, not a recommendation, and is an enforceable disease control measure authorized by the Disease Prevention and Control Law.  

The mask order requires masks indoors or in enclosed spaces where other people who are not in the individual’s household are in the same space, irrespective of physical distance. In addition:  

  • Masks are required outdoors with non-household members if unable to maintain sustained physical distance of at least six feet;  
  • Masks are required to participate in an indoor/outdoor event, gathering or group setting if someone is present who is not a member of your household; and  
  • Businesses must require all to wear a mask or face shield and take reasonable steps to enforce these provisions.   
  • There is an exception for “working alone,” which includes someone inside an office or inside a cubicle “with walls high enough to block the breathing zone of all people walking by, and the worker’s activity will not require anyone to come inside of the worker’s workspace.”   

Keep in mind that there are exemptions, including, individuals with medical conditions, where wearing a mask would create an unsafe working condition, an individual working alone, individuals communicating with the hearing impaired or another disability, and children under two years. Face covering is broadly defined and includes any covering of the nose and mouth that is secured to the head with ties, straps or loops over the ears or wrapped around the lower face.  Face shields continue to be acceptable as an alternative to a face covering. Click here to read the mask order. To read the Department of Health’s Frequently Asked Questions on the order, click here

Can Advertised Virtual Meetings Still Violate the Sunshine Act?

The Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas recently issued a decision in McGrath v. Board of School Directors of City of Scranton, which involved a school board’s violation of the Sunshine Act and Act 15 of 2020.  
At the meeting in question, the school board furloughed 218 employees and terminated their health insurance coverage. The only public notice for the meeting stated that the meeting would be conducted virtually through Zoom and the public could view the meeting on the district’s YouTube channel. Prior to the start of the meeting, the district learned that the YouTube livestream was inoperable but proceeded with the meeting anyway. During the meeting, the district began to livestream the meeting on its Facebook page but did not communicate that to the public. It also posted copies of the meeting after the fact. 
 
The judge held that the furloughed employee satisfied her burden of proving that the school board and school district violated Sections 702, 704, and 710.1 of the Sunshine Act and Sections 5741(c) and (f) of Act 15 of 2020 and was entitled to an order temporarily enjoining the school board’s actions to furlough and terminate health insurance. The court held that the “public had a right to observe the Board’s virtual meeting on September 14, 2020, and to be furnished with advance public notice of the technology to be used to witness that meeting” and that “no member of the public was able to observe the meeting in real time by way of the technology identified for public viewing in the only public notice.” 
 
While the decision applies only to the parties involved, it serves as a reminder that township officials must allow the public to view or hear public meetings, including virtual meetings. While townships have the ability to conduct meetings virtually and limit the number of physical attendees at public meetings to comply with the commonwealth’s gathering limits, the public must be notified of how to access the meeting and be able to do so. 


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