In This Update:
What is a “Stay at Home Order?”
Individuals may leave their residence perform the following allowable individual activities and allowable essential travel:
Anything to maintain health/safety of themselves, family or household members (including pets), such as obtaining medicine or medical supplies, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies they need to work from home;
Getting services or supplies for themselves, for their family or household members, or as part of volunteer efforts, or to deliver those services or supplies to others to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences;
Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking or running;
Work and travel in support of essential services or at a life-sustaining business;
To care for a family member or pet in another household;
Any travel related to the provision of or access to the above-mentioned individual activities or life-sustaining business activities;
Travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities or other persons;
Travel to educational institutions to receive materials for distance learning, for receiving meals, and any other related services;
Travel required by law enforcement or court order;
Travel required for non-residents to return to their residence outside of PA; and
Anyone performing life-sustaining travel, does not need paperwork to justify travel.
The following operations are exempt:
Life-sustaining business activities;
Healthcare or medical service providers;
Access to life-sustaining services for low-income residents, including food banks;
Access to childcare services;
Law enforcement, emergency medical services personnel, firefighters;
The federal government; and
PennDOT Extends Deadlines for Driver Licenses, Registrations and More
Since all Driver License Centers and Photo License Centers remain closed due to COVID-19, PennDOT recently extended the expiration date for many driver licenses, vehicle registrations and other products that are typically renewed at these locations.
Any of the following that are set to expire from March 16 through April 30 will be extended to May 31:
Although all of PennDOT’s physical locations are closed, driver and vehicle services are still available online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at www.dmv.pa.gov.
More information about PennDOT’s response to the coronavirus, including a list of frequently asked questions and answers, is available here.
Efforts Underway to Bolster Healthcare System
Healthcare professionals are on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19, and the virus is already placing new demands on hospitals and workers. A number of steps have been taken over the past week to bolster our healthcare system and support the men and women who are working day and night to support patients in need.
I supported passage of a bill that was signed into law on Friday to provide an additional $50 million for medical supplies and equipment to protect healthcare professionals and aid in their life-saving efforts. More details about this bill and other COVID-19 mitigation measures I supported last week are available here.
The Department of State has also taken a number of steps to support the healthcare community, including:
Easing the process for recently retired healthcare providers to re-enter the field to assist in COVID-19 response.
Waiving certain requirements and extending deadlines for nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing school graduates.
Supporting the use of telemedicine to treat patients safely and remotely.
Ensuring out-of-state pharmacies can ship medicines and supplies to Pennsylvania.
A breakdown of Pennsylvania’s efforts to bolster our healthcare system is available here.
Senate Leaders Urge Governor to Classify Residential Construction As Essential
Governor Wolf’s order to close all non-essential businesses two weeks ago idled numerous construction projects throughout the state. Senate leaders wrote a letter to Governor Wolf this week encouraging him to reclassify residential construction activities as an essential business and allow these projects to resume – as long as social distancing protocols are followed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently classified residential construction as an essential business. Pennsylvania is the only state to shut down all active public and private construction sites as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. New Jersey, California, Illinois and New York have issued shelter-in-place orders, but provide an exemption for construction personnel and construction activities.
The letter from Senate leaders is available here. Several lawmakers have also announced plans to introduce a bill to allow construction activities to resume with the proper protections in place to protect workers. I am fully supportive of this measure. More information on that bill is available here.
Educational Resources Available for Students During Indefinite School Closures
Governor Wolf recently announced that all schools in Pennsylvania will remain closed indefinitely in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. A number of resources have been developed to provide a continuity of education for Pennsylvania students.
Schools that are interested in offering new courses or supplementing existing programs can subscribe to the online learning platforms Odysseyware and Edgenuity. These resources are available at no cost to school districts through their local intermediate unit.
The Department of Education also plans to provide grants for schools to purchase computer equipment to support online learning programs. Applications will be available through the department’s e-grants system by April 6 and must be submitted by April 10.
In addition, Pennsylvania’s seven Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) channels will also provide instructional programming for students. The Learning at Home resources are available to families and educators at https://learningathomepa.org/.
More information about continuity of education for Pennsylvania students during the COVID-19 shutdown is available here.
Major Disaster Declaration Issued in Pennsylvania
President Trump issued a major disaster declaration in Pennsylvania this week, freeing up federal money that can be used to help fight against COVID-19. The federal assistance will bring money to state and eligible local governments as well as certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance.
In addition to providing direct support, the declaration also ensures that eligible expenses related to the COVID-19 response – including materials and supplies to support state and local response efforts – will be partially reimbursed by the federal government.
The President’s statement on the disaster declaration is available here.
PA 2-1-1 Steps Up COVID-19 Information Efforts
The United Way of Pennsylvania and PA 2-1-1 are ramping up efforts to keep Pennsylvanians connected to verified sources of information on the coronavirus and resources to help households struggling with a loss of income.
PA 2‑1‑1 is part of the national 2‑1‑1 Call Centers initiative that provides an easy-to-remember telephone number and web resource for anyone seeking health and human services information – for everyday needs and during crisis situations.
Pennsylvanians can now text “PACOVID” to 898-211 to receive text messages with links to vetted sources of factual information. Pennsylvanians can also visit www.uwp.org/211gethelp for information on statewide, regional and local resources.
Text and website are the quickest ways to access help since PA 2-1-1 has seen more than double its normal contact volume over the past week. However, Pennsylvanians can also dial 2-1-1 on their land line or mobile phone to be connected to a resource navigator.
USDA Waiver Will Ensure All Children Qualify for Free Meals
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will allow all schools to provide free meals to children during statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Previously, only a limited number of schools were permitted to offer free meals community-wide.
Thanks to the USDA waiver, local education agencies (LEA) – including school districts, charter schools, intermediate units and career and technology centers – can operate their food distribution sites under the Seamless Summer Option or Summer Food Service Program. LEAs can begin applying for a waiver from the Pennsylvania Department of Education immediately. The department is prepared to expedite reviews and approvals.
USDA has also authorized the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to operate a Disaster Household Distribution program to provide critical food supplies to Pennsylvanians adversely affected by statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts. More details about that announcement are available here.
Utility Providers Offer Special Programs for Families Affected by COVID-19
Coronavirus mitigation measures have had an enormous impact on many household budgets, leaving many families struggling to pay all of their bills on time. Many utility providers throughout the state are working to help families during this difficult time by offering modified payment plans and other programs to support affected families.
I strongly encourage community residents to contact their utility providers as soon as possible to learn what programs and services may be available.
License to Carry Permits
I know many Pennsylvanians have reached out to their legislators to voice their concerns about issues trying to get their license to carry permits renewed as many Sheriff’s offices are closing due to COVID-19. I just wanted to advise you the Wolf Administration and Pennsylvania State Police have heard these concerns and will be granting extensions to license to carry permits. Permits that have expired on March 19, 2020 or later have been extended to May 30, 2020 and we will re-examine the possibility of an additional extension as that date gets closer.
Visit The State Museum of Pennsylvania Online
Coronavirus mitigation efforts mean we can’t visit museums, but we can access their entertaining and thought-provoking online exhibits. The State Museum of Pennsylvania has several virtual exhibits to explore.
Penn’s Treaty features the text, art, artifacts, and documents related to Commonwealth founder William Penn’s establishment of a “firm league of peace” with Native Americans.
Made in PA includes a sample of the many products for which the Commonwealth has been distinguished.
Steel: Made in Pennsylvania photos of abandoned and active Pennsylvania steel mills document a moment in the history of one of Pennsylvania’s most important historic and contemporary industries.
Check out the rest of the museum’s online exhibits.