A message from PA Senator Doug Mastriano...
We remain in a dynamic and changing environment and I hope to bring some clarity to the situation in this daily email. Please be patient and continue to work together as we navigate these unfamiliar waters. Sticking together is the best way ahead.
According to the PA Department of Health, there are now 96 cases in Pennsylvania. This is much lower than reality and I expect the numbers to surge significantly over the next two weeks. Please use extra diligence over the upcoming days to reduce your likelihood of being exposed to COVID-19. I especially beseech the elderly and anyone with either a weak immune system, or respiratory medical concerns, to limit your contact with the public.
Much of the day has been spent trying to understand the intent of Governor Wolf's press conference yesterday and the subsequent memo's from his staff, which are not in synchronization and at times contradict each other.
Federal Taxes - late payment OK'd.
The Trump Administration took swift action by ordering the IRS & Treasury to allow taxpayers to delay paying their income taxes up to 90 days! This only applies to your federal taxes…
Ordinarily, individual income taxpayers must submit their tax returns and pay amounts owed by April 15th.
Legislation requesting the Federal Government Suspension of HIPAA during COVID-19.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed in 1996 by Congress.
Under routine circumstances, HIPAA is vital and necessary to protect privacy.
A request to the federal government to suspend HIPAA for COVID-19 details began last week, when a PA Senate staffer tested positive for the Coronavirus.
I immediately asked for details from Senate Leadership as I needed to know if that person interacted, attended meetings, ate lunch, etc. with my staff so that I could determine if they were exposed and needed testing or self-quarantine.
I was told that due to HIPAA regulations, no information could be shared and therefore, scores of people who may have been exposed to the contagious individual have no idea of the risk to their lives, the risk to their families and worse yet, they are potentially unknowingly spreading the virus.
We are told that this is a national crisis, with Governor Wolf ordering the closures of businesses and the ruination of lives and businesses. We are told that this pandemic could result in thousands of deaths and that it is highly contagious. If we are to take this pandemic seriously, then we need to do all we can to protect our people from being exposed and this necessitates temporarily suspending HIPAA to release only CONVID-19 related info to protect the lives of our elderly, children and families.
I’m writing the President tonight, as well as our congressional delegation to request that the federal government roll back COVID-19 related HIPPA information. Failure to do so threatens the lives of citizens. There are numerous circumstances in the state and nation where those exposed to a COVID-19 patient cannot be told of this health risk due to HIPAA.
This emergency measure to suspend HIPAA is necessary to provide life-saving medical information to those who may have been exposed to this dangerous virus. It is also necessary to help us combat the spread of the Coronavirus and provide the information to those who may have been exposed to self-quarantine, get tested and thereby play a direct role in containing the spread of the virus.
Failure to suspend HIPAA ensures that this virus will spread further and threatens the lives of our citizens by depriving them of knowing if – and when – they were exposed to a contagious person. It is the right thing to do and if we are taking this virus seriously, then we need to implement this suspension immediately.
Closures of Businesses.
Governor Wolf announced yesterday that mitigation efforts have been extended statewide. He asked that all bars and restaurants close their dine-in facilities but those retailers can still do take out service/delivery. Many questions have come to me since, so I will provide the details of the forced and voluntary closures below.
The Governor strongly urged non-essential business to close. This is NOT a mandatory closure.
It is important to clarify that the Governor’s proclamation on businesses he deems non-essential is discretionary and it is up to the individual retailer/owner to decide if and when you will close. It is, using his wording, a "suggestion" and "strongly urged."
Non-Essential Businesses (according to the Governor).
The Governor declared the following as non-essential. Note that closure is strongly recommended and urged and not mandated at this point.
"As a matter of public health, it is the PA Department of Health’s strong recommendation that businesses cease operations to mitigate the spread of this disease. In particular, the following types of businesses should temporarily cease regular operations:
• Community and recreation centers
• Gyms, including yoga/spin/spa facilities
• Hair salons, nail salons, and spas
• Casinos, concert venues, and theaters
• Sporting events facilities and golf courses
• Non-essential retail facilities, including shopping malls (except for pharmacy or other health care facilities located therein)
• NOTE: Liquor stores will begin an orderly closure. Individuals can still buy wine and beer at grocery stores with PLCB licenses
• NOTE: Restaurants should stay open for carry-out and delivery only."
Essential Businesses include: Essential services and sectors include but are not limited to:
- Food processing
- Industrial manufacturing
- Feed mills
- Trash collection
- Grocery and household goods (including convenience stores)
- Home repair/hardware
- Auto repair
- Pharmacy and other medical facilities, biomedical and healthcare
- Post offices
- Shipping outlets
- Gas stations
- Veterinary clinics and pet stores
- Warehousing, storage, and distribution
- Public transportation
- Hotel and commercial lodging
This situation is an economic hardship for our local businesses. I encourage area retailers to utilize the following links as a resource to ascertain the way ahead:
DCED will only offer low interest loans to at-risk businesses… the Gov's office will not provide any appreciable help to businesses due to this edict.
Bottom Line - use common sense. If you can afford to close your doors for the next two weeks, then it would be advisable to do so. If you are unable to afford to close your doors, then take that into consideration. The Governor is strongly urging closures, not mandating it.
Also, the Department of Labor & Industry say workers who are impacted by COVID-19 may be eligible for worker’s comp or unemployment benefits.
Unemployment compensation claims should be submitted online for faster processing by going to the Department of Unemployment Compensation.
Enforcement of Closures.
The Governor indicated that at this time he will NOT use the State Police or National Guard to enforce closures. However, I anticipate the bureaucratic arm of his administration (Department of Health, Agriculture and Liquor Control Board) to threaten fines, etc.
Should any of these visit your establishment, please do the following:
- Be polite and ask them to wait outside until you call an attorney;
- Call an attorney ASAP and don't answer questions until the attorney is present. Put the attorney on speaker phone;
- Record the entire event on phone - the bureaucrats will say that you can't film. This is not true. You have the right to record it;
- Call, email or message my senate office ASAP;
- Ask for specific legal documentation from the Governor's office ordering the closure.
Senate District 33 – No cases have been reported, however there now 10 in Cumberland County. As of now, we are unaware of any cases in the 33rd District part of Cumberland, which includes the Shippensburg-area.
According to the PA Department of Health, there are now 96 cases in Pennsylvania. There have been 879 negative cases confirmed.
The following counties impacted by the Coronavirus:
- Allegheny (7)
- Beaver (1)
- Bucks (8)
- Chester (4)
- Cumberland (10)
- Delaware (9)
- Lehigh (1)
- Luzerne (1)
- Monroe (8)
- Montgomery (32)
- Northampton (1)
- Philadelphia (10)
- Pike (1)
- Washington (2)
- Wayne (1)
All state casinos are now closed until further notice.
PA Wine & Spirit shops are closing tonight at 9:00 pm.
Anything that the Governor has executive jurisdiction over is closed. Even rest stops along 81!
Senate and Capitol.
Senate session is planned for Wednesday, March 18th. The Capitol remains closed to the public.
My district offices are open and we will respond to emails and phone messages during this outbreak. In-person meetings will not take place. Thank you for your understanding.
The elderly are most at-risk and should be extra careful.
The spread of the virus can be slowed by limiting large public gatherings and staying away from close contact in public spaces.
If you are concerned you may have COVID-19 or have come in contact with someone who does, please contact the PA Health Hotline at 1-877-724-3258.
If you would like to report any instances of price gouging, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and include the product name, price, and store location.
WellSpan Health recently announced that all out-of-pocket costs relating to COVID-19 testing and treatment will be waived during this time. The healthcare provider will also not be charging those without health insurance.
The Center for Disease Control recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers cancel or postpone events that consist of 50 or more people throughout the US: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.