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Wellspan reports highlight behavioral determinants of poor health

Wellspan Health has released its 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment  and its 2023–2025 Community Health Improvement Plan. The reports detail health trends in South Central Pennsylvania including Adams County, and highlight the concerns of doctors, patients, and community members. The reports indicate that although individual health behaviors including tobacco and alcohol use, diet, exercise, and sexual activities contribute to about 1/3 of negative individual health outcomes, community factors including education, job status, family, social support, and community safety contribute an even greater percentage. The reports focus on the role that social, demographic, behavioral, and economic issues play in the overall health of people in the region and address the ways WellSpan hopes to foster community change in the next five years to improve community health. While treatment for health problems is a priority for WellSpan, these reports emphasize that there are influences and barriers that impact health and lessen the need for treatment. “Efforts to educate people on the importance of exercise will do little to change behaviors if people lack safe, affordable, and accessible places to exercise,” the report says. The reports focus on Adams, Franklin, Lebanon, York, and some parts of Lancaster Counties, and are based on data from Wellspan’s patient database, a WellSpan health provider survey, local, state, and national databases, a community survey, and a special populations data collection that targeted underrepresented and marginalized communities. According to the reports, Adams is the 11th healthiest county in Pennsylvania, but struggles when it comes to obesity, poor eating, exercise, and mental health. Its population of around 105,000 has a median household income of $68,411, and 8% of residents live in poverty, which is concentrated in Gettysburg Borough. Compared to Pennsylvania averages, South-Central Pennsylvania can improve health by reducing the rate of adult smokers, reducing adult obesity, increasing access to locations for physical activity, decreasing the ratio of population to healthcare providers, providing adults with more post-secondary education, and reducing air pollution. Communities have also faced rising mental health issues and unprecedented death due to the pandemic. The Health Needs Assessment Report said the leading individual behaviors that lead to death and disability are diet, smoking and alcohol use, and a high body mass index (obesity). These behaviors lead to cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and circulatory disorders, and respiratory diseases. Important community factors include poverty, lack of transportation, failing behind on a rent or mortgage, skipping or reducing meals, facing unfair treatment, stress about money, economic hardship due to the Coronavirus, not trusting Coronavirus vaccines, and eating fast food three or more times in a week. In terms of demographic variables, the report pointed out racial disparities in income and housing opportunities for Blacks and Latinos, and said a lack of health insurance was twice as high among African Americans and 3 to 4 times as high among Latinos, in comparison to Whites. The reports say many Adams county residents lack health literacy, which may be because Adams county has the lowest rate of internet access among the counties assessed – about 40%. Many Adams county residents are elderly, with a median age of 43.6, higher than that in the neighboring counties. The number of residents under 20 years of age is declining across all counties. The report found relationships between age and eating fast food three or more times in a week, having a high-deductible health plan, economic hardship, not receiving a yearly physical exam, not receiving the Coronavirus vaccine, poor mental health, and economic worries. Adams county also had a higher rate of obesity in children, and 3 out of 10 people ages 10-17 are overweight or obese. Overall, there has been little change in the county’s behavioral health since the last report was published 2017, but respondents reported being less physically active and more overweight this year. Compared to neighboring counties, more people in Adams have enrolled in a health insurance plan, but fewer residents had a physical exam or dentist appointment in the last year. Based on the report, Gettysburg Hospital’s 2023-2025 Community Health Improvement Plan will prioritize healthcare access, health equity, mental health, addiction, public health, children’s health, and community health variables. As a whole for 2023-2025, WellSpan wants to provide communities with preventative care and overall healthy behaviors. They also hope to create safety net programs for marginalized communities so that they receive equitable care. For mental health, WellSpan wants to build-up community resilience, decrease pandemic exacerbated mental health issues, and address drug use and vaping. They hope to bridge gaps between resources, providers, treatment and patients, address food insecurity as a health problem, and design approaches to prevent poor health in marginalized communities. Finally, WellSpan hopes to ensure that children are healthy and ready or school, and to engage with the community to help all residents. WellSpan said $556.5 million was invested in subsidizing healthcare costs over the past 5 years and a $131,000 grant was established for children’s health. Wellspan also opened the first Specialized Treatment and Recovery Team (START) Clinic for mental health and addiction in York. WellSpan emphasized that the health of our communities is a collaborative effort. Their aim is to solve societal problems that contribute to poor health. For instance, they point to how better hygiene and sanitation practices throughout history have eradicated many illnesses. These practices were aimed at protecting society as a whole, rather than treating individuals.

Healthy Adams County announces 4th Annual Ice Cream Walk

The Healthy Adams County Physical Fitness Task Force has announced its 4th Annual Ice Cream Walk Fundraiser, scheduled for Tuesday August 23. The event occurs during the open hours of each of 8 participating downtown Gettysburg ice cream stores.  Tickets are $10 and are valid for one small (1.5 ounce) ice cream cone from any 5 of the 8 shops.  The entire route is 2 miles long, but 5 stores can be visited within just one mile of walking.  Proceeds support the free walks, hikes and 5K events sponsored by the taks force. Tickets can be purchased at Mr. G’s Gift Shop after July 16until the day of the event, or until sold out.  The task force thanks the participating ice cream shops for their generosity.

Opportunity knocks and healthy smoothies appear in Gettysburg

Have you ever been in Chicago and tried to buy an authentic Philly cheese steak? Or walked around downtown Gettysburg wishing there was a place you could purchase, say, a pair of nice high heels?  You probably know the feeling — neither can be done. Well, that’s exactly the dilemma Phil Letendre, his team members, and their customers found themselves in, leading them to come up with a team-based solution. As the owner of Gettysburg Performance Gym, Letendre values the feedback of his customers.  So when the members of his circle began to cry out for more classes, more space, along with somewhere they could find post-workout drinks and healthy smoothies, he saw an opportunity. The Gettysburg Smoothie Company arrived at 48 York St., just off the square, over the Memorial Day weekend. What was once a former yoga studio is now a quiet reprieve away from the noisy hustle and bustle of town, a shelter out of the blazing heat and sun of the day, and a cozy nook where you can relax as you rehydrate or even make your own ice cream boat. No need to feel guilty in this smoothie company though. With drinks like “Stars and Stripes, Revive” and “Super G,” the offerings are geared towards those looking to be health conscious and wanting only the best ingredients to refuel and recharge their bodies.  If you’re thinking a “healthy smoothie” couldn’t possibly be good, you’d be wrong; they are even better than they sound. That’s in part because the recipes come from the feedback the shop gets from the suggestions their customers give them (and because they are really good at what they do).  I tried a Blueberry Lagoon and was pleasantly pleased with every aspect of my smoothie – from its creamy texture, fresh fruit bites, ever so slight but somehow “just right” sweetness, to the feeling of actually being re-hydrated and refreshed during the hot day.  I can promise I will definitely be going back. The Gettysburg Smoothie Company wants its customers to feel as good about themselves. You can not only feel good in the knowledge that you’re helping support local businesses within your community, but also find comfort in the certainty that you are making healthy choices for yourself.  No ice is ever used and everything is made from a fruit base that is frozen on site and based on the concepts of hydration, amino acids, and electrolytes. Letendre said he is planning to bring more of the classes that are offered at his gym to the new site, as well as future yoga classes, and said he had many other ideas for partnering with other local businesses to “bring more, much more; complete with all the treats and offerings,” to the community.  But he wasn’t willing to spoil the surprise.  As a physical trainer and business owner, Letendre knows the value of hard work, sees the significance of teamwork, and recognizes that it takes the dedication of everyone to be successful in achieving one’s dreams. “Without my team none of this would have been possible,” he said. “It’s all about them; they are the reasons Gettysburg Smoothie Company is what it is today.”

What the World Needs Now

mindfulness printed paper near window

Almost 60 years ago, Dionne Warwick sang a popular song that opened with: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love… it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” Perhaps we can agree that those words are achingly true of our own times. The concept of mindfulness has been put forth in recent years as a technique for allowing us to co-exist with all the difficulty in our lives and in the world—and there is a lot of evidence suggesting that it’s effective. But how does love enter into that? In the popular media, mindfulness is usually described as paying attention to what is occurring in the present moment. The ability to focus and pay attention is generally associated with the mind, but true mindfulness also touches on qualities that include the heart. As helpful as mindfulness has been in our modern times, it might be even more powerful if we reconsidered the way we commonly understand it. First, mindfulness is a holistic practice for the whole person. It encompasses all of us: body, mind, and spirit. It is certainly true to say that mindfulness invites us into the present moment (and offers some techniques for calming ourselves), but it also calls us into the present moment with a particular set of attitudes or qualities. Mindfulness asks for an attitude of openness to whatever is arising in our experience. This openness doesn’t necessarily mean we like what we are seeing or hearing, but we’re able to accept its presence without being immediately judgmental or personally reactive. Coming to each experience with a calm curiosity allows us to insert a pause between stimulus and response so that we can see more clearly the whole picture of what is happening. Removing the instant leap to judgment can change the dynamic of every interaction. So, being mindful is not just learning techniques of meditation. It is a way of being in the world. And it’s not a way of being that comes easily in contemporary life. It requires commitment and practice to phase oneself into a mindset that is the opposite of the media-driven, multi-tasking, judgmental activities our society demands from us. However, when we make that commitment and begin to mindfully reshape the way we experience our lives, we can discover, maybe for the first time, the compassion that comes with kindly awareness. This is compassion that we can extend both to ourselves and to others. There has been a great deal of research in the past few decades about the efficacy of mindfulness practices for addressing anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and myriad other maladies. More recently, western scholars have begun to look at the health benefits of practices that specifically target the development of compassion. Of course, that isn’t breaking news to the generations of meditators and clerics around the globe who have made compassion central to their worldview and practice. Most people are very self-critical. Even people who appear confident or even braggadocious are often driven by underlying feelings of self-doubt. If we’re able to perform a healthy critique of ourselves and resolve to improve, we can certainly grow from that. However, much of what we hear from our inner critics is not helpful but harmful. Self-compassion practices can train us to be more aware of the true nature of what we hear from our inner voice, and it can encourage us to practice kindness instead. The world is desperately in need of love and compassion now, and so are we all. If you would like to learn more about how to develop it yourself, you can explore the website of Drs. Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer (https://self-compassion.org) or look at positivepsychology.com/mindful-self-compassion. There is also a helpful Ted Talk on YouTube called “The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion. Locally, Healthy Adams County and the Gettysburg Hospital Foundation will continue mindfulness training in the fall. This year, the training will include more content about compassion practices, with the intention of cultivating more ease in our bodies, minds, and hearts.

Collaborating for Youth Virtual Town Meeting

Adams County’s Collaborating for Youth (CFY) will be hosting a FREE and virtual Town Hall Meeting on Monday, May 23 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.   The event will take place virtually on Zoom – please visit www.cfygettysburg.com for more information on how to access this event.  The Town Hall Meeting is entitled “Youth Voices – Emerging From Covid” and is the first of a three-part series. CFY will present the 2021 Pennsylvania Youth Survey data results and trends of Adams County youth.  This first event will feature drug & alcohol trends, the second event will be on youth mental health, held on June 27 and the third will be about risk & protective factors and youth attitudes held on July 25. All three events will be on zoom and will be at 6 p.m.  The three events are open to all Adams County residents interested in learning about this important information. According to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency website:  “Since 1989, the Commonwealth has conducted a survey of school students in the 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grades to learn about their behavior, attitudes and knowledge concerning alcohol, tobacco, other drugs and violence. The ‘Pennsylvania Youth Survey,’ or PAYS, is sponsored and conducted every two years by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.  The data gathered in PAYS serve two primary needs. First, the results provide school administrators, state agency directors, legislators and others with critical information concerning the changes in patterns of the use and abuse of these harmful substances and behaviors. Second, the survey assesses risk factors that are related to these behaviors and the protective factors that help guard against them. This information allows community leaders to direct prevention resources to areas where they are likely to have the greatest impact.”  Collaborating for Youth has worked with the school districts and community agencies in Adams County to analyze this data to understand the unique trends of Adams County Youth and to seek out needed services within the area. Collaborating For Youth is Adams County’s community-based, data-driven coalition that works to support positive youth development and substance-free, positive futures. For over 20 years CFY has continued to grow by supporting services and engaging new community groups to assure that their coalition is driven by the voices in the community they seek to serve.  CFY is located at the Center for Youth and Community Development on 233 West High Street in Gettysburg, PA. 

CFY sponsors “Prevention Happens Here” week

National Prevention Week (NPW) is an annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness and action around substance use prevention and the promotion of positive mental health. This year, this national initiative, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), will take place May 8-14.  Various events and promotions of Prevention Week are planned across the nation, guided in Pennsylvania by the Commonwealth Prevention Alliance and locally, through the Collaborating For Youth (CFY) coalition. The theme of the 2022 Prevention Week is “Prevention Happens Here.”  In Adams County, this could never be more true! Collaborating For Youth is Adams County’s community-based, data-driven coalition that works to support positive youth development and substance free, positive futures. If you’ve had youth in area schools over the past two decades, chances are a CFY program or project touched their lives.  CFY was born out of a desire on the part of community residents and leaders to make community-wide changes which would improve the lives and futures of youth in Adams County.  A coalition was formed which included 20-30 members including schools, churches, government, not for profits, health care, parents, and interested citizens. The group was interested in doing something big that would have an impact for years to come. That was over 20 years ago and CFY is growing, supporting more services than ever and engaging new community groups to assure that we are driven by the voices in our community we seek to serve. This week, in observance of prevention week Collaborating For Youth highlights local efforts to support substance free youth and support positive youth development. Our activities help communities across the county and are possible because we have wide-spread support in the Adams County community— one that truly cares about residents, especially youth.  We will be discussing concepts like youth leadership, equity, youth mental health and resilience, overdose prevention, and our vision for the next 20 years.  We look forward to furthering a positive dialogue around our region’s most valuable asset— our people.  We hope you will join us in celebrating prevention this week.  For more information visit www.cfygettysburg.com.

Department of Health Provides Monthly Update on COVID-19 Trends  

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has provided a summary of COVID-19 information for April 2022.  “While COVID-19 has not gone away, the department continues to encourage Pennsylvanians to use good public health practices in their daily lives. All of us are empowered to protect ourselves and our families by getting up to date with vaccines, getting tested, taking appropriate action if we test positive, and wearing masks as appropriate to protect those around us,” said Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Denise Johnson. “The department continues to be responsive to the virus by evaluating COVID-19 trends in our communities.”  Residents are encouraged to use the CDC’s community level tracker website to see the level of community transmission by county and find recommendations to prevent spreading the virus. April Update  The following summary is provided to reflect the trends between April 1 to 30, 2022: Following the CDC approval of second doses, there was a large increase in total vaccinations for April – more than doubling March’s total vaccinations. A total of 521,066 COVID-19 vaccines were administered averaging 17,369 doses per day including:  83,124 additional doses,  291,809 second additional doses, and  10,361 pediatric doses. A total of 39,981 new COVID-19 cases were reported averaging 1,333 per day in April.  The number of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 on May 1 totaled 651 patients, 193 patients higher than reported on April 1. There were 403 deaths attributed to COVID-19 identified in the Pennsylvania death registry averaging about 14 deaths per day in April. The Department of Health continues to provide extensive data on a weekly basis via the COVID-19 dashboard and the vaccine dashboard.

Hispanic community celebrates family health at inaugural “Celebrate Your Health” day

Hispanic Health Fair May 2022

Dozens of Hispanic families came to the Ballroom at Gettysburg College on Sunday for the first ever “Celebrate your Health Day.” The event, sponsored by Collaborating for Youth, Wellspan, Casa de Cultura, and Amerihealth Caritas, included an obstacle course, bouncy house, and games for children, as well as crafts, yoga, dance, fitness training. Also available were mammograms provided by Wellspan and pediatric COVID vaccinations, COVID booster shots, blood pressure monitoring, and blood sugar screenings provided by the PA Dept. of Health. The event was also filled with tables staffed by local organizations that provided information to help people improve their mental and physical health. “My goal was to reimagine an event that would take place every year prior to Covid” said Latino community outreach coordinator Grace Bushway from the college’s Center for Public Service. Bushway collaborated with Wellspan Health Educator Yeimi Gagliardi and others to create the event. Gagliardi said her mission is to make everyone aware of the resources they have access to and make sure they make their physical and mental health a priority. Gagliardi said immigrant communities are often unaware of the resources in their community and their rights regarding services, so they shy away from seeking help. Through events like these they can receive the information they need to receive needed medical attention. Gagliardi focuses on teaching individuals how to access services such as health care, translation services, and transportation services to fulfill their health care needs. “We are lucky to have two federally qualified health centers here in Adams County that provide services to anyone regardless of their ethnicity or legal status,” she said. “If anyone is looking for further information regarding health care, they can always reach out to me, and I can point them in the right direction. I am also a member of the Latina Services Tasks Force linked with Healthy Adams County and we hold a Thursday night Zoom meeting to spread new information. To join these zoom meetings all you have to do is email me and I will send over the link,” said Gagliardi. Gagliardi can be contacted at Ygagliardi@wellspan.org. A complete list of organizations that participated in the health day: Adams County Head Start, Central PA Food Bank, Childrens Health and Nutrition Tasks force, Collaborating for Youth, Dance Fitness, HACC, Central PA Community College, Health Adams County, Keystone Agriculture Worker Program, Luv Yourself Yoga, Migrant Education Program IU5, PA Department of Health, Pathstone, PA immigrant Resource Center, ProtectPA, The Gleaning Project, VIDA Charter School, YWCA Hanover Safe Home, and WellSpan Mobile Mammography.

La comunidad hispana celebra la salud familiar en el día inaugural “Celebra tu salud”

Hispanic Health Fair May 2022

Docenas de familias hispanas acudieron al salón de baile de Gettysburg College el domingo para el primer “Día de celebración de la salud”. El evento, patrocinado por Collaborating for Youth, Wellspan, Casa de Cultura y Amerihealth Caritas, incluyó una carrera de obstáculos, una casa hinchable y juegos para niños, así como manualidades, yoga, danza y entrenamiento físico. También estaban disponibles las mamografías proporcionadas por Wellspan y las vacunas pediátricas contra el COVID, las vacunas de refuerzo contra el COVID, el control de la presión arterial y los exámenes de azúcar en la sangre proporcionados por el Departamento de Salud de Pensilvania. El evento también se llenó de mesas atendidas por organizaciones locales que brindaron información para ayudar a las personas a mejorar su salud mental y física. “Mi objetivo era volver a imaginar un evento que se llevaría a cabo todos los años antes de Covid”, dijo la coordinadora de alcance comunitario latino Grace Bushway del Centro de Servicio Público de la universidad. Bushway colaboró ​​con el educador de salud de Wellspan Yeimi Gagliardi y otros para crear el evento. Gagliardi dijo que su misión es concienciar a todos sobre los recursos a los que tienen acceso y asegurarse de que su salud física y mental sea una prioridad. Gagliardi dijo que las comunidades de inmigrantes a menudo desconocen los recursos en su comunidad y sus derechos con respecto a los servicios, por lo que evitan buscar ayuda. A través de eventos como estos pueden recibir la información que necesitan para recibir la atención médica necesaria. Gagliardi se enfoca en enseñar a las personas cómo acceder a servicios como atención médica, servicios de traducción y servicios de transporte para satisfacer sus necesidades de atención médica. “Tenemos la suerte de tener dos centros de salud calificados por el gobierno federal aquí en el condado de Adams que brindan servicios a cualquier persona, independientemente de su origen étnico o estado legal”, dijo. “Si alguien está buscando más información sobre el cuidado de la salud, siempre puede comunicarse conmigo y puedo indicarle la dirección correcta. También soy miembro del Grupo de trabajo de servicios para latinas vinculado con el condado de Healthy Adams y realizamos una reunión de Zoom los jueves por la noche para difundir nueva información. Para unirse a estas reuniones de Zoom, todo lo que tiene que hacer es enviarme un correo electrónico y le enviaré el enlace”, dijo Gagliardi. Se puede contactar a Gagliardi en Ygagliardi@wellspan.org. Una lista completa de las organizaciones que participaron en el día de la salud: Head Start del condado de Adams, banco de alimentos de PA central, grupo de trabajo de salud y nutrición para niños, colaboración para la juventud, danza y acondicionamiento físico, HACC, universidad comunitaria de PA central, salud del condado de Adams, programa de trabajadores agrícolas de Keystone, Luv Yourself Yoga, programa de educación para inmigrantes IU5, PA Departamento de Salud, Pathstone, Centro de Recursos para inmigrantes de PA, ProtectPA, The Gleaning Project, VIDA Charter School, YWCA Hanover Safe Home y WellSpan Mobile Mammography.

Gettysburg For Gun Sense remembers those lost to handgun violence

Gettysburg for Gun Sense held a memorial walk on Saturday afternoon to commemorate those killed by guns and spread awareness of the national gun violence epidemic.  Since 2015, the local organization has studied the gun violence in the U.S. and advocated for public health solutions to the crisis. The organization distributes safe gun storage information and works for appropriate background checks. The group met at Christ Lutheran Church on Chambersburg St. and, after hearing talks on the role of guns in suicide and suicide prevention training, held a prayer vigil. The group then marched to Prince of Peace Episcopal Church on High St. In 2020 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S., according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control. That figure includes gun murders and gun suicides. About half of the deaths – 24,292 –  were suicides.

Megan Shreve wins national Excellence in Governance award

WellSpan Health has announced that Megan Shreve, Chair of WellSpan Health’s Board of Directors, has won the Excellence in Governance award presented by Modern Healthcare, a national industry leader in the healthcare news and information community. The award recognizes influential individuals who foster advancement in culture, mission and performance through their leadership on healthcare organization boards of directors. Shreve is one of only 14 individuals across the country to be named to the 2022 list. “Megan’s leadership consistently drives our organization forward to live our vision of being a trusted partner,” said Roxanna Gapstur Ph.D., R.N., President & CEO, WellSpan Health. “She has a deep sense of pride in WellSpan Health’s mission to provide exceptional care for all. Her support of a high-performing governance culture and future-focused strategic board leadership has guided WellSpan’s success in South Central Pennsylvania.” Shreve has been a part of WellSpan Health governance for more than a decade. She became board chair in 2021 and led the evolution of a best-practice governance structure. Since taking the role, she has been a strong advocate for increasing board diversity so that it more closely represents the communities WellSpan Health serves. Today, WellSpan Health’s Board of Directors comprises 17 members, selected through a competency-based assessment and commitment to the mission of the organization. “Our diverse and dynamic group of board members brings decades of experience across a variety of fields. They have positioned the health system to make our strategic goals a reality,” said Shreve. “Being well-connected across our communities has been a vital part of our plan. It ensures we are meeting the needs of individuals right where they are, with resources and programs that help each of us live our best lives.” Her strong leadership has guided WellSpan Health to reimagine healthcare in our region, supporting innovative ideas which position the health system as a leader, all while guiding it through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has on our communities. Shreve, who resides in Adams County, is also the chief executive officer of the South Central Community Action Programs (SCCAP), a non-profit organization that provides critical human services and community engagement work in the region. She has been actively involved with WellSpan Health since 2010, previously serving on several WellSpan boards, including the Gettysburg Hospital Board and the WellSpan Planning Committee. To learn more about WellSpan’s mission and vision, visit www.WellSpan.org/About.

Wellspan loosens visitation and mask restrictions

Effective Monday, April 4, due to the continuing decline of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across south central Pennsylvania, WellSpan care facilities are modifying many COVID-19 guidelines for patients and visitors. Patient Visitation WellSpan is allowing open visitation of patients, with the exception of patients who are COVID-19 positive or suspected of being positive pending test results.   COVID-19 positive or pending hospitalized patients may designate two support persons for visitation. Visitation by one designated support person at a time will be allowed. All approved visitors will be provided with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that will be worn during the duration of the patient visit. People who are sick or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not visit patients. Mask Wearing Following the direction of Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Pennsylvania Department of Health, WellSpan is modifying guidelines regarding mask wearing in healthcare facilities. With the exception of some locations, patients and visitors who are asymptomatic and up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations are not required to wear a mask when entering a care facility. Signs will be posted in those locations indicating masking is required for all patients and visitors. To be considered up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, a person needs to be vaccinated and boosted when eligible.  People seeking care at hospital emergency departments, urgent care sites, and care practices who are sick or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should wear a mask.   Visitors who are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations should wear a mask when entering a healthcare facility. Safety Remains WellSpan’s Top Priority WellSpan will continue to monitor the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the community and will adjust all policies as needed to continue to protect our patients and our teams. To protect yourself, your family, and our communities, remember the simple, effective steps to stay safe and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities:   Follow face masking and social distancing guidelines.  Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer.  Be up to date with the COVID-19 vaccine.  For more information about COVID-19 visit WellSpan.org/COVID19.

Reduce stress through free online mindfulness programs

Sometimes life seems like a series of stressful events strung together over time. Many of us have felt that way, especially over the last few years of struggling with the demands of the pandemic and the changes it brought. Still, even without these new stressors, a normal life would include a great many challenges faced over time. We all must deal with accidents and incidents, strains and gains, or wins and losses. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, the brunt of stress is experienced in our bodies. We might be aware of headaches, backaches, or digestive ills. Or perhaps we are more aware of mental strains like nervousness, depression, or irritability. Many people try to manage their stress by seeking ways to take a break from it—and this is certainly helpful in the short term. However, some of the hardest things people deal with are not short-term problems. The toughest stressors are the ones that are long-lasting: health problems, family or relationship problems, and grief or trauma. To learn how to co-exist more peacefully with these enduring stresses, we have to develop a different way of receiving them. One very helpful skill to cultivate along these lines is the quality of mindfulness. You have probably heard that mindfulness is living in the present moment. That’s generally true but, more specifically, mindfulness is being aware of what is contained in our present moment without being overly reactive to it. Developing that mindset is a learnable skill. It involves training your attention, interrupting your typical stress responses with a pause, and evaluating how you will respond. Mindfulness teachers use a blend of meditative techniques, mindful movement, and practices in everyday living to encourage the growth of new connections in the nervous system and brain. This can totally change our capacity to be present with difficulty in our lives. The Gettysburg Hospital Foundation has been funding mindfulness training in our Adams County community for several years now. If you would like to engage in such training, at no cost, a series of mindfulness workshops is planned for the spring. The first is Mindfulness and Stress Reduction: The Foundations on March 13th.  This is followed by Building Skills on April 10th, and Life As Practice on May 15th.  All workshops are on Sunday afternoon from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., online using the Zoom platform. The workshops are designed to build on each other so there is value in taking all three. You can register easily by calling Healthy Adams County at (717) 337-4137, or email jgastley2@wellspan.org. Julie Falk PhD has been teaching mindfulness in Adams County for more than a decade. She teaches yoga and somatic movement at the YWCA and chairs the Healthy Adams County Behavioral Health Task Force.

Wolf Administration Continues COVID-19 Support for Healthcare Workers, Hospitals and Patients

Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter today said two additional state-directed healthcare strike teams and another long-term care regional support team are providing requested assistance for hospitals and skilled nursing facilities caring for patients with COVID-19. “The Wolf Administration continues to follow through on efforts initiated during the most recent surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations,” Klinepeter said. “While we are seeing cases and hospitalizations trending downward, we know that healthcare workers and hospitals are still caring for a high number of patients. We are providing assistance as it is requested, needed and available.”  This week, clinical staff from state-directed healthcare strike teams are supporting staff at Geisinger Wyoming Valley and Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest. The teams are on a two-week deployment and vary in size and scope based on the daily needs of the facilities. They include registered nurses and respiratory therapists provided through General Healthcare Resources (GHR) under a contract with the Department of Health.   “Over the past two years of the pandemic, our dedicated teams have worked tirelessly to provide the care our communities needed,” J. Edward Hartle, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Geisinger said. “As we continue to care for record numbers of patients in Luzerne County, we greatly appreciate the state’s staffing support for our teams at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.”  “We are thankful for this partnership with the state as we continue to care for COVID-19 and other patients and as hospitals and health networks across the country face staffing challenges,” said Luis Puentes President, LVH–Hecktown Oaks campus and Vice President, Operations and Public Safety at Lehigh Valley Health Network said. “We are also eternally grateful for the dedication and resilience of our staff throughout this pandemic.” Additionally, this week a fifth regional skilled nursing facility support site opened at the Pleasant Valley Manor nursing home in Monroe County.  The facility will receive clinical and non-clinical support staff to allow for more rapid discharge of patients from area hospitals, when clinically safe to do so, freeing additional acute care space to meet COVID demands. GHR will provide clinical staff, including RNs, LPNs and CNAs; Pennsylvania National Guard will provide non-clinical staffing to support the facility’s existing staff; and PEMA will assist in the coordination.  “The Department of Health is continually working with hospitals to evaluate the need and provide resources to help ensure hospitals and healthcare workers are not overwhelmed so that anyone in the community who needs care can get it,” Klinepeter said.  These efforts are part of the Wolf Administration’s multi-layered initiative to support Pennsylvania’s healthcare staffing shortage amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  State-directed staffing assistance is separate from the federal strike teams currently deployed to hospitals in Scranton and York. Both teams are slated to conclude their work in early March.   In addition, last month, Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation that appropriates $225 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to support the healthcare workforce in Pennsylvania. Additional COVID-19 response initiatives include:  Overseeing additional free COVID-19 testing sites currently operating in Berks, Blair, Centre, Clinton, McKean, Somerset, Susquehanna, Washington and York counties through a partnership between the department and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare (AMI).  Ensuring in-person learning continues by offering K-12 school districts free weekly COVID-19 services at no cost to participating schools through the departments of Health and Education, in partnership with Concentric by Gingko Bioworks.   Educating counties, municipalities, and health systems about the federal reimbursement available to them for eligible COVID-related expenses including activities such as setting up their own community-based testing sites.    Meeting with manufacturers to offer incentives to increase production of COVID-19 tests to meet the growing demand from the private sector to require the public to produce negative COVID-19 tests for travel, public events, dining, and more. 

Wellspan Health’s innovative nursing program steadies staffing challenges

WellSpan Health has announced the growth of its WellStaffed™ program of floating nurses across its regional health system to address urgent patient care needs at each hospital while also providing professional growth opportunities and expanded skill set for the participating nurses. The program, which operates across WellSpan hospitals, was born out of an approach utilized at WellSpan York Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Based on the success of that effort we have expanded the program to take a system-wide approach that includes nurses from all corners of the counties we serve,” said Bob Batory, senior vice president and chief human resources officer for WellSpan Health. “It’s about finding a better way to attract and retain the most talented nurses amidst a shortage that is impacting all health systems and the labor market in general.”   WellStaffed™ is a growing pool of 52 dedicated team members including registered nurses and certified nursing assistants. Most are internal hires, but 12 are new to the organization, inspired by the opportunity to support various specialties such as behavioral health and emergency medicine, expanding their nursing skill set.   “WellStaffed™ takes my previous experience of a float pool to a whole other level. I love this program because it allows you the opportunity to find out what your passion is,” explained Ruth Brainerd, a registered nurse on the team who also is a nurse instructor. “The flexibility in my schedule allows me to continue as a nurse instructor and also share more ideas from my experiences with my students.”   The program began in September of 2021 and supports hospitals across WellSpan’s South Central Pennsylvania footprint. These WellSpan employees receive full benefits, and the program helps retain the talented nurses within the organization as a growth opportunity.   “I love WellStaffed™ because it allows you to switch environments through different assignments you take on. Each entity brings a fresh start along with its own unique and different patient population,” said Rachel Mylin, a WellStaffed™ registered nurse.   The program does not replace current hospital float pools, which are intended to cover daily staffing needs as the WellStaffed™ team can cover multiweek assignments as part of their duties.   Nurses interested in exploring career opportunities at WellSpan Health can visit www.JoinWellSpan.org.         WellSpan Health is an integrated health system that serves the communities of central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland. The organization includes a clinically integrated network of approximately 2,600 physicians and advanced practice providers (APPs), including more than 1,600 employed physicians and APPs; a regional behavioral health organization; a home care organization; eight respected hospitals; approximately 20,000 employees; and more than 200 patient care locations. WellSpan is a charitable, mission-driven organization, committed to exceptional care for all, lifelong wellness and healthy communities. Visit WellSpan.org.

PA reports on state Covid trends

PA Dept of Health Logo

The Pennsylvania Department of Health provided a weekly COVID-19 update as of Monday, Feb. 14.     “The latest post-vaccination, often called breakthrough, data continues to prove the science that getting up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations is effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death,” said Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter. In Pennsylvania, from January 2021 through Feb. 11, 2022:  71 percent of reported COVID-19 cases,   83 percent of reported COVID-19 hospitalizations, and   80 percent of reported COVID-19 deaths were in unvaccinated, or not fully vaccinated, individuals.   “The post-vaccination percentages we are seeing here are on par with those in other states,” she said, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that national COVID-19 hospitalization data for December show that unvaccinated adults ages 50-64 were 45-times more likely to be hospitalized; people 65 and over were 51-times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19.   “Pennsylvania and national data show that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective for preventing hospitalizations and deaths, even as more post-vaccination cases occur in the context of more transmissible variants and more residents getting vaccinated,” Klinepeter said. “I encourage everyone 12 and older to get a booster dose now.”  Vaccines are free and available across the state through vaccines.gov.  Weekly Update   Pennsylvania continues to make critical strides in getting eligible residents vaccinated by working closely with vaccine providers, grassroots organizations, and relevant stakeholders to ensure all Pennsylvanians have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the CDC, as of Monday, Feb. 14, 76.1% of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated. This percentage reflects all 67 counties in Pennsylvania.    If you or your loved ones are not yet vaccinated, now is the time to get fully vaccinated, get boosted and get children ages 5–18 vaccinated. Visit vaccines.gov to find a vaccine provider near you to schedule your vaccine appointment.   This week, the Department of Health analyzed the following vaccine data within its 66-county vaccine jurisdiction; Philadelphia is a separate vaccine jurisdiction:   109,327 vaccine doses were administered in the past week, including:    40,041 booster doses administered in the past week.   18,008 pediatric doses administered in the past week.   The total number of vaccines administered dropped by 10.9% compared to the previous week.   Here is a statewide summary of COVID-19 trends over the past 7 days Monday, Feb. 7 –Sunday, Feb. 13:   The daily average number of cases was 3,695.  The number of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday, Feb. 14 was 25.6 percent lower than on Feb. 7. The percent of available adult and pediatric ICU beds in the state rose to 21% and 19%, respectively. Approximately 12.7% of all staffed adult ICU beds are COVID-19 patients.    26.6% of all ventilators statewide are in use.  The Department of Health continues to provide the public with extensive and frequently updated data on both the COVID-19 dashboard and the vaccine dashboard. Both dashboards provide an interactive experience for the user to review statewide and local-level data updated daily.   The department also provides a dashboard showing COVID-19 data for skilled nursing homes including case counts, deaths and vaccination status for residents and staff.    For more information on the Department of Health’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit here.   To stay informed about the Wolf Administration’s vaccination efforts, the latest federal vaccine news, and answers to pressing vaccine questions, visit the Unite Against COVID Weekly Update.    

Gettysburg College will loosen mask requirements and stop testing students

Although 270 students have now tested positive for Covid since the start of the year, Gettysburg College will stop regular testing for students on Monday. Saying that “positivity rates are on a steady decline and that the students who have tested positive this semester were predominately asymptomatic,” Vice President for College Life and Dean of Students Anne Ehrlich said in a campus email on Thursday the college would no longer routinely test students. Since classes began in January, every student has been tested once per week. Image from campus Covid dashboard. Erhlich said tests will still be available for fully vaccinated students who want one and that students who have an approved exemption or are not fully vaccinated will still be required to test once a week.  The campus also loosened restrictions on masking.  “Effective immediately, masking is no longer required in residence halls. Masking is still required in all other indoor locations. We will continue to evaluate our masking policy in the coming weeks,” said Ehrlich. The notice also said that any student who tests positive through an at-home test, local urgent care, or the hospital is required to notify the College of their positive test. Notification of a positive test enables the College to provide resources to ensure the health and safety of students and the community at large.

Covid testing at EMS Center will end on Sunday

Adams County announced that this Sunday, Feb. 13, will be the last day for Covid testing at the Adams County Emergency Services Center site east of Gettysburg. Department of Emergency Services Director Warren Bladen said there was not enough demand to keep the site open but that the materials will be left in place and the site may be reactivated if necessary.   County Commissioner Randy Phiel thanked the county EMS staff for the work they did in providing “effective and convenient vaccination and testing sites. There were a lot of logistics in that. It was a big deal, especially in this climate,” he said. Noting the importance of having accurate records of court proceedings, the Adams County Commissioners have proclaimed Feb. 5-12 as Court Reporting and Captioning Week 2022. “These are extraordinary people doing extraordinary things under extreme pressure,” said President Judge Michael A. George. “Every single word matters when important decisions are being made in courtrooms.” During the discussion of Children and Youth Services policies (see below) Phiel talked about the importance of the county’s impact in facilitating adoption procedures. Phiel also thanked the Courthouse maintenance staff for doing the in-house work on repairing the ceiling in the historical courtroom. “It’s incumbent on us to preserve this beautiful building for future generations,” he said. Other decisions approved by the commissioners at their meeting this morning (taken from the meeting agenda), included the following: Domestic Relations: Recommendation from Kelly Carothers, Director and after review by Solicitor Molly Mudd, that the Board of Commissioners sign the Contract with Contact Wireless, a New Mexico Company, for text messaging services for Adams County Domestic Relations Child Support Services.  It is further recommended that the Commissioners sign the Addendum to the Terms and Conditions, which incorporates the County’s standard terms and conditions into the Agreement. The term of the Agreement is February 1, 2022 through January 31, 2026.  The County will pay a monthly fee of $118.91 over the (48) months of the contract. Controller: Recommendation from Controller John Phillips, and after review by Solicitor Molly R. Mudd, that the Board of Commissioners designate Chairman Randy L. Phiel to sign the Engagement Letter with Municipal Finance Partners, Inc. (“MFP”), a Pennsylvania company. MFP will assist the County in preparing an Other Post-Employment Benefits (“OPEB”) Plan by providing certain actuarial services pursuant to the Governmental Accounting Standards Board guidelines (Statement Nos. 25, 27 and 45). The total cost to the County for fiscal year 2021 valuations will be $5,000.00. Any additional services required will be billed at rates ranging from $100.00-$300.00/hour. This Agreement is effective February 9, 2022. Victim Witness: Recommendation from Cindy Keeney, Director, and after review by Solicitor Molly R. Mudd, that the Board of Commissioners approve and sign a Project Modification Request for PCCD Grant #2020-EA-04-32765 – Enhanced Services-Child Victims of Sexual Abuse to only extend the Project Period from June 30, 2022 to July 30, 2023. The Grant amount is $69,552.00. Children & Youth Services: Recommendation from Sarah Finkey, Administrator and after review by Solicitor Molly R. Mudd, that the Board of Commissioners approve the following: Adoption Assistance Agreements with the following: T. & L. B. on behalf of L.W. in the subsidy amount of $901.85/month T. & L. B. on behalf of K.W. in the subsidy amount of $780.19/month B.K. & T.T. on behalf of L.S. in the subsidy amount of $912.50/monthDrug and Alcohol Testing Agreement with Redwood Toxicology Laboratory, a California company.  The Agreement is made pursuant to COSTARS Contracts # 4400018475 and 4400018477 and provides various drug and alcohol testing services at rates ranging from $1 to $75 per sample, depending on the nature of the test.  The Agreement is effective January 1, 2022 and terminates December 31, 2022.   Letter Agreement between Children & Youth Services and York/Adams Early Intervention Services. This Agreement outlines the protocol for referrals and provision of services for children 6 years old and younger who have been the subject of a substantiated report of child abuse or neglect, accepted GPS assessment, and/or a plan of safe care. This Agreement is effective February 9, 2022 and expires June 30, 2023. Department of Emergency Services: Recommendation from Warren Bladen, Director and after review by Solicitor Molly R. Mudd, that the Board of Commissioners approve the following: First Amendment To Amended And Restated Support and Maintenance Agreement with Intellitech Corporation, an Ohio company.  This Amendment renews the Master Agreement dated January 6, 2021 and modifies the term to be coterminous with the payment period of November 1st through October 31st. The services provided by Intellitech under this agreement include emergency dispatch and mapping services with ongoing maintenance and support. The Amendment is effective November 1, 2021 through October 31, 2022. The total cost to the County is $73,429.97, which expense was fully budgeted and paid in FY 2021. Amendment to 9-1-1 Inter-County Call Handling Agreement with Franklin County, PA. This Agreement amends a prior Cost-Sharing Agreement executed on February 21, 2019, so as to permit the collection of payment by Adams County from Franklin County for 911-related services rendered prior to the date of the original Agreement. The Amendment is effective February 9, 2022. Designate Chairman Randy L. Phiel to sign the Quote from Candoris Technologies, LLC of Annville, for Cisco Catalyst 8200 Series Systems 1 and 2. These systems will be used for router upgrades for the Adams County Department of Emergency Services building.  This Quote is made pursuant to Costars Contract #003-299.  The Quote is effective February 9, 2022.  Total cost to the County is $11,036.63. US Department of Homeland Security Federal Fiscal Year 2021 Emergency Management Performance Grant Agreement C950003026 between the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and Adams County. This Agreement provides for a grant award of $85,163.00, to be used for personnel salary and benefits for an Emergency Management Coordinator and Administrative Assistant 1. The term of the Agreement is October 1, 2020 to December 29, 2023 and the period of performance is October 1, 2020 through March 30, 2022. The total project cost is $170,326.00, with the County contributing $85,163.00 as a non-Federal match. Adams County Emergency Operations Plan (December 2021), as mandated by Section 7503 of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Services Code. This Plan provides guidance for prompt and effective emergency response procedures to be followed in the event of a major emergency or disaster in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of County residents.  It is additionally recommended that the Board pass Resolution No. 1 of 2022, which formally adopts and promulgates the Emergency Operations Plan. Building and Maintenance: Recommendation from Larry Steinour, Director and after review by Solicitor Molly Mudd, that the Board of Commissioners designate Chairman Randy L. Phiel to sign on behalf of the Board the Quote from BrandSafway Services, a Georgia company, for scaffolding installation and deconstruction in the Adams County Historic Courtroom foyer. The scaffolding will be used by Building and Maintenance to repair the damaged ceiling in the foyer of the Historic Courtroom.   It is further recommended that the Commissioners sign the Addendum to the Terms and Conditions, which incorporates the County’s standard terms and conditions into the Agreement, and the Adams County Credit Application Agreement. The quote is effective February 9, 2022 and the term of the rental agreement is 28 days. Total cost to the County is $14,988.40. Adams County Adult Correctional Complex: Recommendation from Warden Katy Hileman, and after review by Solicitor Molly R. Mudd, that the Board of Commissioners approve the Memorandum Of Understanding (“MOU”) with the YWCA Hanover Safe Home (“Safe Home”), a Pennsylvania non-profit organization. This MOU provides services by Safe Home directed towards Adams County Adult Correctional Complex inmates who are identified as potential victims of domestic violence or human trafficking. Safe Home’s services are funded through federal grants, and at no additional cost to the County.  This MOU is effective September 22, 2021 and expires September 21, 2022. Commissioner’s Office: Recommendation by Solicitor Molly R. Mudd that the Board of Commissioners approve the following: Authorize the advertisement of Ordinance No. 1 of 2022 (amending prior Ordinance No. 2 of 2018) concerning the imposition of hotel room rental taxes in accordance with the updates to the Tax Reform Code of 1971 (P.L. 6, No. 2) as outlined in Act 109 of 2018 (P.L. 707, No. 109). This Ordinance will be adopted at the Adams County Commissioners’ public meeting to be held on Wednesday, February 23, 2022. Appoint Chairman Randy L. Phiel to execute on behalf of the Board of Commissioners Change Order #1 relative to the Human Services Re-Roofing Project for Contractor D.A. Nolt, Inc. extending the Contract Time for the work associated with reinforcing the existing roof framing 120 calendar days to June 3, 2022, four (4) months beyond the original substantial completion date. This Change Order acknowledges DA Nolt’s continued efforts to improve quality and production and to work beyond normal business hours so as not to impact the  facility’s operations with no change to the Contract Price. The County and D.A. Nolt agree to continue to work together through completion to achieve Substantial Competition on June 3, 2022 for the reinforcing work. Pandemic-related delays of roofing materials and completion of the re-roofing phase will be evaluated at a later date when material availability and pricing is confirmed. Recommendation from Robin Fitzpatrick, President, Adams Economic Alliance, to approve the appointment of the following:  Justin Hockley to the Adams County Industrial Development Authority Board for a five-year term effective through December 31, 2026 and the re-appointment of Dominic Picarelli to the Adams County General Authority Board for a five-year term effective through December 31, 2026. Personnel Report:              Court: Recommendation from Don Fennimore, Court Administrator to note the following separation of employment: Domestic Relations Section – Crystal Smith, Director, effective February 25, 2022 and Monica Forsyth, Case Management Officer, effective February 17, 2022 Children & Youth Services:           Recommendation from Sarah Finkey, Administrator, to approve employment of the following effective February 7, 2022:  Montana Sigel, Caseworker 1; Aparna Bhanu, Program Specialist 1-QA. Human Resources:           Recommendation from Michele Miller, HR Director, to approve the employment of Jannie Abando, HR Generalist/Payroll Assistant, effective February 22, 2022.              Building & Maintenance:           Recommendation from Larry Steinour, Director, to approve the employment of John Smith, Custodian, 2nd Shift for HSB, effective February 14, 2022.         Adams County Adult Correctional Complex: Recommendation from Warden Katy Hileman, pending successful completion of background screenings, the employment of the following Corrections Officers:  Austin Allen; Connor Wenger; Joel Masterstefone, effective January 31, 2022 Separation of Employment with permission to post: Sandra Pruchnik, Legal Assistant in the District Attorney’s Office, effective February 4, 2022 Rescind the separation of employment for Britney LeCrone, Legal Assistant in the District Attorney’s Office, effective January 14, 2022 Retirement of Jamie Phillips, Office Manager in the Cooperative Extension Office, effective February 4, 2022 Kaitilyn Phillips, Corrections Officer, effective January 30, 2022 Rescind the offer of employment to Austin Allen, Corrections Officer, effective January 31, 2022

February is American Heart Health Month – How to lower your blood pressure

The #1 cause of death in the U.S. is cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease, and heart attacks. The good news is that heart disease is preventable with medical interventions and behavioral changes. In this article I focus on ways to prevent high blood pressure (hypertension), one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. When it comes to blood pressure, the top number is your systolic blood pressure and tells us how forcefully blood is being pushed out of your heart. The bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure and measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart relaxes between beats. Recent studies show risk of death from heart disease and stroke doubles with every 20mm Hg systolic or 10mmHg diastolic increase among people from age 40-89. If you are at risk for developing hypertension or have been diagnosed with it, you may want to invest in a home blood pressure monitor. To find one that has been validated, please check at validatebp.org. Be sure to find a monitor with the right cuff size. Keep logs of your blood pressure readings and take them to your doctor’s appointment along with your monitor to see if you are getting the same results in the office as at home. Your doctor will determine if you have hypertension. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure It is said that “genes load the gun but environment pulls the trigger.” What this means is that even though you may be born with a genetic risk for developing heart disease, you can still change its expression by controlling your environment. Reducing salt intake to less than 2,300mg /day and ideally to 1500mg /day, even for children 4 years and older is recommended to prevent hypertension. Roughly, 1/4 teaspoon salt equals 575 mg of sodium and 1 teaspoon equals 2,300mg of sodium. It is better to avoid processed foods as sodium is used as preservative in most of them. When reading food labels, look for sodium-free products, as these usually contain less than 5mg of sodium per serving. Use salt in its most natural form or substitute with herbs and spices for flavor.  Potassium rich foods also help control blood pressure. Potassium plays a key role in nerve and muscle function. Bananas, beets, spinach, melons, avocados, poultry, and fish are some potassium-rich foods. Other minerals important for reducing blood pressure are magnesium and calcium. Eating too many carbohydrates and sugar can increase blood pressure. Elevated blood sugar may cause insulin resistance which can contribute to inflammation and hypertension. Exercise can reduce blood pressure. Aim for standing, rather than sitting, as much as you can during your day. Walking 10,000 steps a day is a good goal. Other endurance exercises like cycling and strength training may be beneficial.  Meditation and deep breathing are strategies that may be helpful in lowering blood pressure.  Poor quality sleep and short sleep duration increase the risk of high blood pressure, and we should all try to get at least 7 hours of high quality sleep. Some strategies for better sleep are to set a time for going to bed, dimming house lights in the evening, unplugging from electronics 30-60 minutes before bedtime, setting room temperature to around 68F, and blocking noise and lights in the bedroom. Heavy drinking may also cause hypertension. It is recommended that men limit themselves to 2 drinks per day and women to 1 drink per day. A drink is either a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or a 1.5 ounce shot of liquor. Avoiding alcohol completely maybe the best option if you have a diagnosis of hypertension or are at high risk for developing it.  Tobacco use increases risk of hypertension, so it is highly recommended to quit using it. While heart disease is still the No. 1 killer in the United States and around the world, death rates have decreased significantly. Earlier and better treatment of high blood pressure has played a key role in that decrease. Visit your family doctor on a regular basis and follow his or her recommendations. I hope the recommendations in this article have empowered you to take charge of your health and to implement them in your life so you may reduce your risk of developing hypertension and heart disease.  References- CDC.gov, AHA.org, ACC.org, Rakel’s Integrative Medicine

Wolf Administration Announces Long-Term Care Regional Support Sites to Help Relieve Strain on Healthcare Workers, Hospitals

Leaders of the Pennsylvania departments of Health and Military and Veterans Affairs along with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency today announced four long-term care regional support sites to relieve pressure on hospitals and skilled nursing facilities due to a high number of patients with COVID-19. “Establishing these long-term care support sites will benefit hospitals and nursing homes caring for high numbers of patients with COVID-19,” Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter said. “This collaborative effort between state agencies and the healthcare community is the next step in the Wolf Administration’s multi-layered approach to relieve the strain on healthcare workers and facilities. “COVID-19 hospitalizations remain at historically high levels and healthcare workers need some support to get through this current surge,” Klinepeter said. Within the next seven to 10 days, regional support sites will open at the following skilled nursing facilities (SNF):    Vincentian Home in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Lutheran Home in Hollidaysburg, Blair County, Springs at the Watermark in Philadelphia, and Clarview Nursing Home and Rehabilitation in Sligo, Clarion County. DOH is continually working with hospitals to evaluate the need and stand up resources to meet the need for regional support. Staffing resources are anticipated to be deployed for approximately 90 days based on demand. Each facility will receive clinical and non-clinical support staff to open up to 30 beds to allow for more rapid discharge of patients from hospitals, when clinically safe to do so, freeing additional acute care space to meet COVID demands. General Healthcare Resources (GHR) will provide clinical staff, including RNs, LPNs and CNAs; Pennsylvania National Guard will provide non-clinical staffing to support the facility’s existing staff; and PEMA will assist in the coordination. “I am truly grateful for the continued service and sacrifice of all our soldiers and airmen,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general and head of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “I am equally thankful to their families and employers who support them when they are called to serve. These missions are successful because of our partnership with the Department of Health and PEMA and our collaborative efforts demonstrate how government works together, in serving and supporting our communities, especially residents and the staff in long-term care facilities.” “Our agency regularly works across all levels of government, and the public and private sector to lead collaborative planning efforts to respond to complex situations that present unique challenges such as the ongoing pandemic,” said PEMA Director Randy Padfield. “We’re pleased to continue to be involved in the planning and execution of this new initiative.” DOH is contracting for clinical staff through GHR, which is focusing its staff engagement and recruitment on healthcare professionals from outside of Pennsylvania to avoid heightening current staffing limitations within the state. This staffing assistance is separate from the state-directed strike teams currently deployed at Grand View Health in Bucks County and Crozer Health in the southeast, as well as federal strike teams deployed to hospitals in Scranton and York and extended into March. Last week, Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation that appropriates $225 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to support the healthcare workforce in Pennsylvania. The bill and state-directed strike teams for hospitals are part of the multi-layered approach the Wolf Administration is taking to address and mitigate the current crisis in Pennsylvania. Additional initiatives include: Overseeing additional free COVID-19 testing sites currently operating in Berks, Blair, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Fayette, Monroe, Somerset and Venango counties through a partnership between the department and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare (AMI). Ensuring in-person learning continues by offering K-12 school districts free weekly COVID-19 services at no cost to participating schools through the departments of Health and Education, in partnership with Concentric by Gingko Bioworks. Educating counties, municipalities, and health systems about the federal reimbursement available to them for eligible COVID-related expenses including activities such as setting up their own community-based testing sites.  Meeting with manufacturers to offer incentives to increase production of COVID-19 tests to meet the growing demand from the private sector to require the public to produce negative COVID-19 tests for travel, public events, dining, and more

Rec park improvements continue

A new year brings new goals and Gettysburg Area Recreation Authority has several plans this year to improve and update several areas around the rec park. One of these goals has already been completed this year thanks to Cumberland Township. There were multiple trees around the dog park and path surrounding the dog park that had died over the past years. As 2021 brought several severe storms, there were concerns that some of those dead trees would fall into the dog park. Cumberland Township staff came out in early January and removed w14 dead trees. Gettysburg Rec Park has lost many trees over the years to disease and age. Gettysburg Green Gathering has been planting donated trees in the park the past several years. They will again be planting trees this year so that for every tree lost, they will be replaced. The rec park will also be giving facelifts to several buildings in the park. The rec park has two sets of restrooms in the park. The south end restrooms, located near the dog park, have been open for roughly 40 years. The restrooms located outside the Sterner Building have been in the park for 20 years. This year, the park plans to update the restrooms with a fresh coat of paint and eventually updated fixtures. The south end restrooms will open for the year towards the end of March and the Sterner Building outside restrooms are open all year round. The rec park continues to paint the baseball field dugouts. Over the past two years, the dugouts at Coldsmith White and Thompson Field have been painted. This year, the staff will be painting Weikert Field dugouts and press box. The staff are currently painting the updated backstop to be replaced in the next few weeks. Gettysburg Area Recreation Authority wants to thank everyone who continues to support and donate to the park. Thank you to Len Dick Signs for the new welcome sign [pictured above] at the Long Lane and Breckinridge Street entrance of the park and thank you to everyone who donated during the 2021 Giving Spree. The support and donations continue to help us to complete our improvement projects and keep the park beautiful for the community.

Dementia information sessions to be offered in the spring at ACOFA

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million people are living with Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia. What should an individual and their caregiver expect after receiving the diagnosis and as the disease progresses? How can one be prepared? The Adams County Office for Aging, Inc. (ACOFA) is offering a cost-free 4-week program for the individual living with the disease and their care partner. The information sessions are designed to aid families for the road ahead, to learn about different supports in the community, and to help the individual and their family understand that they can have Dementia and still have a good quality of life. The program will take place on Thursday evenings from 6:00-7:30 p.m. It is scheduled to start on Thursday, April 21, 2022 at the Adams County Office for Aging, Inc., located at 318 W Middle Street in Gettysburg. Participants are asked to commit to attending all four weeks of the program. Registration is required. There will be limited seating and this cost-free program is expected to “sell out.” At the time of registration, there will be a pre-screening process for those living with the disease to determine if the program would be beneficial for them. Caregivers are also welcome to attend alone if they feel the program would not be suitable for their loved one. To register or for more information, please contact Lynn Deardorff at 717-334-9296 or you may email her at ldeardof@acofa.org. Lynn is a Certified Dementia Practitioner, Dementia Friends Champion, & caregiver support group facilitator. She brings to the table years of experience of working with families whose lives have been touched by Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Sunday showtimes will be vaccine-only at Gettysburg Majestic Theatre

Gettysburg College’s Majestic Theater will offer vaccination-required movie showings every Sunday beginning February 6. All movie showings every Sunday will require full COVID-19 vaccination to attend. Vaccination will not be required to attend movies on Mondays through Saturdays. “Many of our most faithful movie goers are over the age of 60, and have told me they would feel safer if everyone in the audience was fully vaccinated as well as masked,” explained Majestic Theater Founding Executive Director Jeffrey Gabel. “We decided to test the market with Sunday movie matinees, which are particularly popular with this audience.” Patrons attending movie showings on Sundays will be required to present a COVID-19 vaccination card or photo of the card, as well as a photo ID. Patrons must be fully vaccinated, including booster doses if eligible. Patrons will also be required to wear a mask at all times unless eating or drinking. A negative COVID-19 test will not be accepted in absence of a vaccination card. This policy applies to all patrons, including children; children ages 4 and under will not be admitted. The Majestic Theater at the Jennifer and David LeVan Performing Arts Center is owned and operated by Gettysburg College as a gathering place for its campus and community to celebrate the arts together.

Covid cases and hospitalizations moderate in Adams

It’s been said that “if you’ve seen one pandemic you’ve seen… one pandemic” and this one continues to fit that pattern.  Virologists and epidemiologists are doing their best to make predictions, while doctors, nurses, and politicians are doing their best to keep people safe, but it’s pretty hard, especially when their advice is frequently ignored. It’s been a long road – almost two years and counting – and there is absolutely no way to know what’s coming. There will be new variants (I read about one just today) and we don’t know what they are going to bring. For the moment, the news is at least momentarily better — the Omicron variant, which created a lot of cases, fast, since Thanksgiving, seems to be waning. Cases are down from their peaks a couple of weeks ago. Source: https://data.pa.gov/Covid-19/COVID-19-Aggregate-Cases-Current-Daily-County-Heal/j72v-r42c/data Wellspan Gettysburg Hospital which peaked on Jan. 16 with 56 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the highest of the pandemic by far (last year’s winter surge had as many as 42 patients), is now down to only 28.  That’s still a lot, and the hospital is still full, but it is better. Source: https://data.pa.gov/Covid-19/COVID-19-Aggregate-Hospitalizations-Current-Daily-/kayn-sjhx/data Hospital administrators say they are hopeful these trends will continue to reduce stresses on the healthcare system and allow the hospitals to reschedule deferred surgeries and procedures for patients seeking care unrelated to COVID-19. This dip, which was predicted by scientists, is probably in part because the virus has already infected so many people and also because people are being more careful. I noticed the employees at Kennies Market in Gettysburg, after taking off their masks for a while, have them on again. The cost to the county is impossible to measure, but it’s substantial. In addition to the hospitalizations and the 314 deaths, about 1 out of every 5 people (over 22,000 total) has tested positive for Covid since the pandemic began, and that has caused major disruptions, not only to medical care, but also to businesses and schools.

County expects to receive $3 million from state opioid settlement

Adams County expects to receive about $3 million in settlement money from claims against manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids as the result of a statewide settlement. The money includes about $695,000 the county will receive for dropping its claim and joining the consolidated state suit. County Solicitor Molly Mudd said the funds were expected as soon as August and would be used for a variety of projects to help people with opioid addiction.  “The board is considering a wide range of options. We’re exploring useful, supportive services for families and individuals in need that we can deliver quickly,” said County Commissioner Marty Qually. “Families with addicts need all kinds of support, and particularly single parents. The Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is spearheading the settlement with 3 major distributors and one manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson Janssen. The expected settlement is based on the expectation that each county with an existing suit will also join in the consolidated suit. Mudd said the class action suit was similar to one brought by states against tobacco companies in the 1970s, but that the funds were guaranteed to be used for remediation. “The states realized there were issues, said Qually. “It’s not just the companies manufacturing but also distributors. The impact was felt in the counties; their police departments and EMS systems. We can deal with real expenses and use the money to strengthen programs.” The amount received is based on an accounting from the county on four factors: Overdose deaths in 2015-2019 Hospitalizations related to opioid overdoses EMS Naproxone administrations. Adjusted total morphine milligram equivalent (MMEs) dispensed by physicians in the county. 

WellSpan offers beginning yoga sessions during American Heart Month

These virtual sessions are designed for those who have never tried yoga before and are looking to explore new ways to increase physical activity and reduce stress for a healthier heart.  Register in the links below: Feb 17th at noon: https://www.wellspan.org/events/details/Yoga-for-a-Healthy-Heart—VIRTUAL/3808 Feb. 22nd at 6pm: https://www.wellspan.org/events/details/Yoga-for-a-Healthy-Heart—VIRTUAL/3809

Gagliardi to present in Kiwanis speaker series

The Gettysburg Adams Kiwanis Club has announced a new monthly speakers series beginning on Monday, January 24 at its 7:00 p.m. meeting. The first speaker in the series will be Yeimi {Jaime) K. Gagliardi, a Latino health educator in Adams County for WellSpan Health and chairperson for the Latino Services Task Force and the Tobacco Prevention Task Force of Healthy Adams County where she leads and collaborates, with other community-based organizations, in the development, implementation and evaluation of initiatives to reach underserved communities in Adams County. In Adams County, she has overseen several initiatives including early childhood education, health literacy, family planning and reproductive health, addiction and recovery and access to healthcare. Gagliardi will be speaking about Manos Unidas and its contributions to Adams County. Immigrants have been part of Adams County for generations and have contributed to the community’s social and economic fabric and prosperity. Currently, close to 6% of the population in Adams County is of Hispanic descent. The majority work in our agricultural, food processing, and tourism industry. In 2007, group leaders from WellSpan Health, Healthy Adams County, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, and others collaborated in founding Manos Unidas, the Hispanic American Center to provide a more inclusive and welcoming community for immigrant families. Since then, Manos Unidas has provided programs including educational sessions about how to become U.S. Citizens, after-school programs for children K-12, youth empowering programs, English as a Second Language Classes, GED preparation classes, Tax Preparation Services, Immigration navigation services, and social service programs including a local food pantry to serve Spanish speaking families. Manos Unidas partners with many community-based organizations, including SCCAP, Gettysburg College Center for Public Services, Family First Health, Head Start, Migrant Education, Vida Charter School, to make sure families in Adams County are safe and thriving. Their goal is to join diverse cultures and open our doors to all regardless of where they come from.  Gagliardi graduated from Universidad Sergio Arboleda in Bogotá, Colombia with a Bachelor of Sciences Degree in Finance and Foreign Trade and holds a master’s degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies from American University in Washington D.C. She is a certified English to Spanish translator, certified personal trainer from the American College of Sports Medicine and Car Safety Technician from Safe Kids Worldwide and has 20 years of experience working with Latino communities in the United States. Gagliardi is currently a board member at the Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania, the YWCA of Adams County, Hispanic American Center-Manos Unidas and the bilingual Vida Charter School in Adams County. She collaborates with Penn State Extension as a member of the Adams County Council. The meeting will take place at Destination Gettysburg (1560 Fairfield Road) at 7 p.m. on Monday, January 24 and is open to members of the public interested in finding out more about Kiwanis and service to our community. Kiwanis requests that all unvaccinated attendees wear a mask. For further information, contact Myra Reichart at mrreuichart@comcast.met or 717-398-2684.

Covid cases rise at FASD, creating serious illnesses and hindering class coverage and health screenings

During its meeting Monday evening, the Fairfield Area school board discussed revisiting its health and safety plan as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise in Adams County. No changes to the plan were made during the meeting. Kristi Ebaugh, the district school nurse, said cases have risen in the district. Since November, three students have suffered serious effects, including one with Covid-induced epilepsy and seizures, one with an enlarged heart, and one requiring oxygen for a week after being released from the hospital, according to Ebaugh. “It’s not that our students aren’t getting sick, because they are,” Ebaugh said. “And this is what we have now.” Board Vice President Jack Liller expressed alarm. “We’re all just acting like it’s sniffles and they’re right back to school,” Liller said. “It’s not that. While three is a small percentage, one is too many.” Ebaugh passed out copies of three emails she’d received from concerned parents or guardians, honoring their wishes to remain anonymous. She said she receives multiple emails each week from parents uncomfortable with the situation. “We are not socially distancing,” Ebaugh said. “We’re now allowing people to be without masks. And we have a lot of people uncomfortable and afraid to speak up, and I think that’s a really sad position that we put our community in, that we have some people who are very loud about how they feel but they are making people who are uncomfortable in this situation feel like they can’t speak.” On Monday, 85 students and staff members at the elementary school were absent, above the five-day average of 65 absences per day. Of the 85, 35 had tested positive or had been exposed to Covid outside of school. In one class, 17 students had to quarantine after several students in the class became ill, and six had tested positive or were experiencing symptoms as of Monday. The last nine students had opted to stay home following an exposure to someone with Covid, according to Ebaugh. At the middle school, 27 students and staff members were out on Monday, with 25 either due to positive tests or exposure to someone with Covid and the other two because of experiencing symptoms after being around someone with Covid at school. The high school had 29 students out, with 21 confirmed ill or around someone with Covid outside of school and the other eight showing symptoms after being exposed at school. Illnesses aren’t just affecting the children. Covid has caused staffing challenges as well. Principals reported that covering classes has become more difficult. Justin Hoffacker, principal of Fairfield Area Middle School, said four – or 20% – of his teachers were out on Monday. The board initially reviewed its health and safety plan to discuss whether to shorten its isolation and quarantine period requirements in light of the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Ebaugh said that when a child is exposed to Covid at home, she sends an email to parents with the Pennsylvania Department of Health blind-copied on the same email. The parent’s options are included but Fairfield’s options are different than what the Department of Health requires. “The Department of Health at any time could see these two attachments and reprimand us for our decisions,” Ebaugh said. The emails alone consume much of her time, she said. Liller said he’d heard other districts’ nurses were not performing contact tracing. Ebaugh said it was a rumor, adding that she had heard the same thing and contacted other districts and confirmed they were doing it. Liller addressed Ebaugh and the principals. “What is your thoughts– all of you– how close are we to this thing falling apart with teachers, kids per classroom?” Liller asked. “Honest opinions on what is going on.” Ebaugh told him “it’s already falling apart,” especially as the district only has two nurses. “By this point in the school year, I usually have screenings in the elementary K-4 completed,” she said. “I’ve not even started planning those. That’s required by the state and we don’t have any Covid exceptions for that this year. So we will lose funding for not completing screenings if it doesn’t get done.” At the high school, most screenings have not begun, she said. “We’re averaging anywhere between 25-65 health room visits, then 22 medication passes, on top of Covid calls,” Ebaugh said. “And today, I just looked back and had almost 250 emails today related to Covid.” There was some debate about whether masks make a significant difference in whether people are infected. Ebaugh said 11 students out of 93 unmasked children tested positive for Covid while only seven students out of 1,000 masked children tested positive, making a “big difference.” Some board members asked what else the district could do to help. The board directed the administration to remind parents not to send their child to school if anyone in the household tests positive for Covid or if the child exhibits even minor symptoms. Parents will also receive a reminder about how to check their children for symptoms. In the previous week, there had been multiple cases of students attending school even though they had family members sick with Covid, and only two of those children were wearing masks when they went to school, Ebaugh said. Ebaugh also requested the board provide more information about mask requirements to parents. Those who choose not to mask their children should communicate the exception in the case of exposure, Ebaugh said, adding that it is “confusing” for children who go from wearing no mask to suddenly needing to mask following an exposure. Young children may not understand what an exposure is and some cry when told they have to wear a mask, Ebaugh said. Board President Jennifer Holz encouraged the board to discuss the health and safety plan. “We can agree to not make any changes to our plan, but the truth of the matter is that, in our attempt to come to a compromise with members of the community and their feelings about the health and safety plan and masking, and also respect the feelings of those who wish to keep children as safe as possible under any circumstances, whether it’s masking (or) distancing, we have created this plan that now has us in crisis mode,” Holz said. “So let’s keep that in mind. This isn’t good enough right now. The entire community, including our school district, is in really bad shape, guys.” The board decided to wait until it received more information about Covid in the area and physicians’ recommendations before potentially taking action. The board could call an emergency meeting before its next regularly scheduled meeting. One individual spoke during the time for public comment to state he was against a mask mandate. The board was apprised of a $1,000 donation received from AmVets Post 72 for use by the Fairfield Chamber Choir.

What’s the difference between sugar, other natural sweeteners and artificial sweeteners? A food chemist explains sweet science

Kristine Nolin, University of Richmond A quick walk down the drink aisle of any corner store reveals the incredible ingenuity of food scientists in search of sweet flavors. In some drinks you’ll find sugar. A diet soda might have an artificial or natural low-calorie sweetener. And found in nearly everything else is high fructose corn syrup, the king of U.S. sweetness. I am a chemist who studies compounds found in nature, and I am also a lover of food. With confusing food labels claiming foods and beverages to be diet, zero-sugar or with “no artificial sweeteners,” it can be confusing to know exactly what you are consuming. So what are these sweet molecules? How can cane sugar and artificial sweeteners produce such similar flavors? First, it is helpful to understand how taste buds work. Taste buds and chemistry The “taste map” – the idea that you taste different flavors on different parts of your tongue – is far from the truth. People are able to taste all flavors anywhere there are taste buds. So what’s a taste bud? Taste buds are areas on your tongue that contain dozens of taste receptor cells. These cells can detect the five flavors – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. When you eat, food molecules are dissolved in saliva and then washed across the taste buds, where they bind to the different taste receptor cells. Only molecules with certain shapes can bind to certain receptors, and this produces the perception of different flavors. Molecules that taste sweet bind to specific proteins on the taste receptor cells called G-proteins. When a molecule binds these G-proteins, it triggers a series of signals that are sent to the brain where it is interpreted as sweet. Natural sugars Natural sugars are types of carbohydrates known as saccharides that are made of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. You can imagine sugars as rings of carbon atoms with pairs of oxygen and hydrogen attached to the outside of the rings. The oxygen and hydrogen groups are what make sugar sticky to the touch. They behave like Velcro, sticking to the oxygen and hydrogen pairs on other sugar molecules. The simplest sugars are single-molecule sugars called monosaccharides. You’ve probably heard of some of these. Glucose is the most basic sugar and is mostly made by plants. Fructose is a sugar from fruit. Galactose is a sugar in milk. Table sugar – or sucrose, which comes from sugar cane – is an example of a dissacharide, a compound made of two monosaccharides. Sucrose is formed when a glucose molecule and a fructose molecule join together. Other common dissacharides are lactose from milk and maltose, which comes grains. When these sugars are eaten, the body processes each of them slightly differently. But eventually they are broken down into molecules that your body converts into energy. The amount of energy from sugar – and all food – is measured in calories. High fructose corn syrup High fructose corn syrup is a staple of U.S. foods, and this hybrid sugar sweetener needs a category all on its own. High fructose corn syrup is made from corn starch – the main carbohydrate found in corn. Corn starch is made of thousands of glucose molecules bonded together. At an industrial scale, the starch is broken into individual glucose molecules using enzymes. This glucose is then treated with a second enzyme to convert some of it into fructose. Generally, high fructose corn syrup is roughly 42%-55% fructose. This blend is sweet and cheap to produce but has a high calorie content. As with other natural sugars, too much high fructose corn syrup is bad for your health. And since most processed foods and drinks are packed full of the stuff, it is easy to consume too much. Natural nonsugar sweeteners The second category of sweeteners could be defined as natural nonsugar sweeteners. These are food additives such as stevia and monk fruit, as well as natural sugar alcohols. These molecules aren’t sugars, but they can still bind to the sweet receptors and therefore taste sweet. Stevia is a molecule that comes from the leaves of the Stevia redaudiana plant. It contains “sweet” molecules that are much larger than most sugars and have three glucose molecules attached to them. These molecules are 30 to 150 times sweeter than glucose itself. The sweet molecules from monk fruit are similar to stevia and 250 times sweeter than glucose. The human body has a really hard time breaking down both stevia and monk fruit. So even though they’re both really sweet, you don’t get any calories from eating them. Sugar alcohols, like sorbital, for example, are not as sweet as sucrose. They can be found in a variety of foods, including pineapples, mushrooms, carrots and seaweed, and are often added to diet drinks, sugar-free chewing gum and many other foods and drinks. Sugar alcohols are made of chains of carbon atoms instead of circles like normal sugars. While they are composed of the same atoms as the sugars, sugar alcohols are not absorbed well by the body so they are considered low-calorie sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners The third way to make something sweet is to add artificial sweeteners. These chemicals are produced in labs and factories and are not found in nature. Like all things that taste sweet, they do so because they can bind to certain receptors in taste buds. [Over 140,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletters to understand the world. Sign up today.] So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved six artificial sweeteners. The most well known are probably saccharin, aspartame and sucralose – better known as Splenda. Artificial sweeteners all have different chemical formulas. Some resemble natural sugars while others are radically different. They are usually many times sweeter than sugar – saccharin is an incredible 200 to 700 times sweeter than table sugar – and some of them are hard for the body to break down. While a sweet dessert may be a simple pleasure for many, the chemistry of how your taste buds perceive sweetness is not so simple. Only molecules with the perfect combination of atoms taste sweet, but bodies deal with each of these molecules differently when it comes to calories. Kristine Nolin, Associate Professor of Chemistry, University of Richmond This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Gettysburg Hospital, often operating on “Divert Status,” sends patients to neighboring hospitals

With the Gettysburg Hospital remaining at over 100 percent capacity due to an influx of primarily unvaccinated COVID patients, many emergency room patients are being diverted to other regional hospitals. “It is likely patients transported via EMS are redirected to other facilities that may have some capacity,” said Wellspan spokesperson Ryan Coyle. “We ask our communities to remain vigilant in safety measures related to the pandemic. Most of all, we ask those eligible in our communities to get vaccinated. It is the most effective way to reduce hospitalizations resulting from COVID-19,” said Wellspan. Coyle said patients might be sent to Wellspan York Hospital where a 23-person Department of Defense emergency team consisting of Air Force physicians, nurses, respiratory technicians, and team leaders are working alongside the regular hospital staff. Coyle said staff from general physician offices have also been called up to take additional shifts in hospitals to increase staffing needs for the surge of COVID-19 patients. Coyle said the divert status meant it was recommended that EMS transport take patients to a different hospital, but that walk-ins to the emergency room would always be treated. Patients have the right to override a proposed diversion and ask to be taken to the hospital of their choice. Featured image shows a U.S. Air Force medical response team attending training on how to check a patient’s blood sugar at Wellspan Education Center in York, Pennsylvania, Jan. 1, 2022. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing flexible Department of Defense support to the whole-of-government COVID response. [U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ashleigh Maxwell]

Federal medical personnel headed to York, Scranton to fight COVID-19

By Victor Skinner (The Center Square) The Federal Emergency Management Agency is deploying dozens of military medical personnel to two Pennsylvania hospitals next week after a request for help to fight the current COVID-19 surge. Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration requested assistance from FEMA on Dec. 15 to support hospital staff and alleviate pressure from a surge in COVID-19 cases over the past month. U.S. Army North announced Thursday it will send two teams to Pennsylvania: a 20-person team from the U.S. Air Force to support WellSpan Surgery & Rehabilitation Hospital in York and a 15-person team from the U.S. Air Force to support the Regional Hospital of Scranton. “As U.S. Northern Command’s joint force land component command, our assigned joint forces – from the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force – are prepared and focused on this mission to know what it takes to save lives, alleviate suffering, and defeat this pandemic alongside our federal and community partners,” Lt. Gen. John Evans, U.S. Army North commander, said in a prepared statement. U.S. Army North also will send troops to Arizona and Michigan and already has teams in Michigan, Colorado, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico and Wisconsin. The military medical personnel dispatched include nurses, respiratory therapists, and medical doctors. Pennsylvania Department of Health acting Secretary Keara Klinepeter said the focus in Scranton and York will be to increase acute care capacity by opening about 30 additional acute care beds between the two hospitals. The military “Strike Teams” are expected to arrive “on or around January 3” and stay for 30 days, Klinepeter said. “We commend the Biden Administration for taking our requests for support seriously and acting quickly to address health system capacity in Pennsylvania,” Klinepeter said. “The Wolf Administration has worked closely with the federal government and health systems to provide necessary information for the feds to make their determination of how to best support the commonwealth. However, we know there is still work to be done to support this industry and we will continue to address the needs of hospitals and health care systems to provide the best care to our fellow Pennsylvanians.” The help comes amid capacity concerns from hospitals and nursing homes across the state that are struggling with a surge of COVID-19 patients. The situation is resulting in long emergency room waits at some hospitals and staffing shortages at nursing homes, according to The Associated Press. Pennsylvania’s nearly 9,000 new confirmed infections per day on average over the past two weeks is double the rate from late November, while the number of patients requiring hospital care – about 4,500 a day – is up 80% since last month, the news wire reported. “This federal support will help alleviate pressure felt throughout the health system so there is more capacity to treat people who need hospital care,” said Randy Padfield, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. “We will continue to work with our county emergency managers to ensure needed resources are met on a local level throughout the commonwealth.” Klinepeter said the targeted federal help is in addition to broader measures the health department is focused on to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the flood of folks coming in to the state’s hospitals. “We continue to work closely across Pennsylvania’s health care community to ensure these federal resources are felt not only in the communities receiving the deployment, but commonwealth-wide,” she said. “We must continue to support the health care community holistically, which means decreasing the number of people presenting at their local emergency departments while providing capacity to increase the number of patients discharged to other facilities when clinically appropriate. The federal support announced today is aligned with these goals, however, we know that this alone will not solve our capacity issues. “The data is clear, by getting vaccinated against COVID-19, individuals are far less likely to be hospitalized after testing positive. We need all Pennsylvanians to do their part to support their local hospital and get through these winter months. This includes getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, testing when necessary, and staying home if you’re sick.”

Covid tears through Adams as hospital remains taxed

Statistics from the PA Department of Health show dramatic increases in the prevalence of COVID-19 across the state. The number of reported cases was higher on Wednesday than it has been on any day since the start of the pandemic. Data from Adams County show a similar progression, but with an even steeper increase. According to the Center for Disease Control, Adams showed the greatest weekly increase in cases across all counties over the past week, with over 1,400 more positive COVID tests reported in the last 7 days than in the 7 days prior. Although Adams has less than one percent of the population of Pennsylvania, it accounted for almost 5 percent of the increase in the state cases over the past week. The Gettysburg Hospital remains at over 100 percent capacity, although the number of patients has decreased somewhat from its high of 58 two weeks ago to 45 on Wednesday. 120 people have died of COVID in the hospital since the pandemic began. Officials continue to say that face masks, social distancing, and vaccinations remain the best defenses against catching Covid. 

County residents can now text to 911 when necessary

County Commissioner Randy Phiel announced on Friday that citizens in Adams County can now send a text message to the phone number 911 for emergency help when making a 911 voice call is not possible or does not seem appropriate.  According to Adams County Department of Emergency Services Director Warren Bladen, the “Text-to-911” service was not developed as a replacement to a voice call to 911 in an emergency situation, but rather as an enhancement to reach 911 services in three specific situations: The caller is hearing/voice impaired a medical emergency renders the person incapable of speech when speaking out loud would put the caller in danger, such as a home invasion, a domestic violence incident, or an active shooter scenario. Bladen said when in an emergency, all wireless callers should remember to “call if you can; text if you can’t”. Using a phone to call 911 is still the most efficient way to reach emergency help. Texting is not always instantaneous, which is critical during a life-threatening emergency. It may take slightly longer to dispatch emergency services in a text-to-911 situation because of the time involved:  Someone must enter the text, the message must go over the network, and the 911 telecommunicator must read the text and then text back. Many carriers have a limit on the number of characters that can be texted so give the most important information first. Providing location information and nature of the emergency in the first text message is imperative, since the 911 center will initially only receive a coarse location. Text abbreviations, emoticons or slang should never be used so that the intent of the dialogue can be as clear as possible. As with any 911 call, the texting function should only be used for emergency situations that require an immediate response from police, fire, or emergency medical services. For non-emergency situations, customers should contact their local public safety agency via the non-emergency number: 717-334-8101.

Family First Health offers health discussion

Family First Health will host its final Let’s Talk Health forum of 2021 on this coming Monday, December 20 at 6:30 p.m. With recent developments related to COVID-19, there is much to discuss – from boosters to pediatric vaccination to variants. Join us as we learn from Dr. Hetal Patel, a Family Practice Physician at Family First Health. After a brief presentation, Dr. Patel will spend the majority of the session answering questions from the community, in real-time – LIVE on Facebook and YouTube. Here is a link to join the session: https://fb.me/e/15Tb4sMvg (or you can join via YouTube). Family First encourages active participation from the community. The session will be in English; however, after the conclusion of the session, it can be viewed on YouTube and subtitles can be added in multiple languages.

Gettysburg Hospital starts triage as it is crushed by unvaccinated Covid patients

The WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital is currently caring for 52 Covid patients, which is the highest number since the start of the pandemic. The hospital is already at over 100 percent capacity and the situation is likely to get worse over the next weeks.  Across the Wellspan system over 90 percent of these hospitalized Covid patients are unvaccinated, meaning about 47 of the 52 patients in Gettysburg do not have vaccines. “Due to overcrowding, some patients are being triaged in waiting areas as they await hospital beds. We are greatly concerned with the influx of more patients in the coming days and weeks,” said Wellspan Media Relations Manager Ryan Coyle. “These capacity constraints don’t just impact COVID-19 patients, but also anyone else seeking care for urgent issues such as heart attacks or strokes.” “Patients are being treated in non-traditional areas of the hospital such as pre-operative or post-operative bays, emergency room bays, etc.”, he said. “We have implemented several protocols to manage the volume and severity of this situation and are currently redeploying resources and delaying non-emergent care across our system of 200+ care locations. We are also postponing certain procedures at many of our facilities to ensure enough space for those seeking emergency care,” said Coyle. “Our care teams are tired. They are doing all that they can, but they need everyone to take this seriously so that our hospitals are not overwhelmed more than they already are,” said Coyle. “What is most concerning is that this extreme surge in hospitalizations is preventable if individuals were to get vaccinated, which greatly reduces severe illness that could require hospitalization,” said Coyle. We urge community members to stay vigilant with safety measures like hand washing, masking and social distancing and to get the COVID-19 vaccine so WellSpan and other healthcare systems can continue to provide care for all patients who need support at this time. WellSpan Health strongly encourages that everyone who is eligible get vaccinated with one of the three currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines. WellSpan is administering all three vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

Lack of telehealth law in Pennsylvania a major headache for patients who need it most

Danielle Ohl of Spotlight PA Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media. Sign up for our free newsletters. HARRISBURG — Cheryl Gibson was in pain as she drove. Eight months earlier, Gibson had begun an at-home breathing treatment for her emphysema when the mild headache she’d felt at the base of her skull exploded into debilitating pain. Her arm went numb, causing her to drop the nebulizer tube she’d been holding. Gibson was sure she had suffered a stroke, but months of subsequent tests and scans have failed to identify the cause of the unpredictable pain she now experiences multiple times a week. Without a way to know when an attack is coming, and with preexisting conditions that limit her mobility and increase her risk of getting seriously sick from COVID-19, Gibson relies on telehealth appointments to see her neurologist and other doctors. But when she was referred to a pain management specialist, the office told her she’d have to come in person. Gibson drove 45 minutes one way from her home in Schuylkill Haven to the office in Tamaqua while monitoring a dull headache she hoped wouldn’t grow worse. Her appointment that day lasted five minutes and did not include a physical evaluation. “I’m not a big baby about stuff,” Gibson said. “But this is debilitating. I can’t function, I can’t do anything, and I can’t get behind the wheel of a car and drive because I don’t feel safe.” The number of Pennsylvanians who have come to rely on phone and video appointments surged after the pandemic made in-person visits potentially dangerous. And many health-care providers and insurance companies quickly embraced telehealth as a necessary way of getting patients needed care. But the state is one of only seven that does not have any law requiring private insurers to reimburse for telehealth, resulting in a patchwork system of care. Access to telehealth depends on someone’s insurance company or their specific insurance plan. Even if a patient has coverage, in some cases medical providers don’t provide telehealth because they have to determine eligibility for each of their patients, an onerous process resulting in uneven care. All of that leaves Pennsylvania patients — especially those who need remote care the most, such as people in rural areas — confused, frustrated, and, at times, without services they need. “Pennsylvania is definitely a little bit of an anomaly in that,” said Kathy Hsu Wibberly, director of the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center. “And strangely enough, there are so many states that have moved to creating laws and Pennsylvania has struggled.” For the last five years, Sen. Elder Vogel (R., Beaver) has been trying to pass legislation that would allow the state to oversee health providers practicing remote medicine and explicitly require insurers to reimburse for it. But each year, the measure has failed. In 2016, it never came out of committee. In 2018, it passed the Senate but died in the House. Last year, the bill passed both chambers, but Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed it after Rep. Kathy Rapp (R., Warren), who chairs the House Health Committee, amended it to prohibit providers from prescribing abortion-inducing medicine via telehealth. Because there is no law mandating telemedicine in Pennsylvania, there’s nothing barring providers from practicing it, but insurers are not required to cover it. In other states, laws provide parity between in-person and remote health-care services. Instead, insurance companies decide what kinds of telehealth appointments are covered based on their own policies and the agreements they may work out with health-care networks or individual doctors. The process can be onerous for health-care providers that aren’t part of a broader network, Wibberly said, because each patient’s coverage may be different. “What happens now in Pennsylvania is a patient will call the office and ask if they can have a telehealth visit and a provider will say no because they don’t want to have to go through all the checks on this particular insurer, and sometimes it’s not even the insurer, it’s plan by plan.” This can result in providers declining telehealth services even when a patient’s insurance covers them. Gibson, who receives coverage through a private insurer under the Medicare program, recently called the company to set up a telehealth appointment after she felt a cold coming on. “Being that I have the beginning of COPD, I need to nip that as soon as it happens,” she said. The first doctor she connected with over the phone refused to treat her. “They told me they can’t talk to me about anything like that, that’s not what telehealth is for,” she said. A second doctor wouldn’t prescribe her medicine over the phone. The next day, a call with a third doctor finally resulted in a prescription. No guarantees While a vital tool, telehealth has its limitations, according to patient advocates, especially for people with disabilities or those who lack access to technology. “Telehealth in many ways has been helpful in getting additional attention on medical needs, but it’s not a catchall, it’s not a panacea,” said Patrick Keenan, the director of consumer protections and policy for the Pennsylvania Health Access Network. Still, patients and providers across Pennsylvania have come to rely on telehealth to access care they otherwise wouldn’t be able to — despite the lack of clear regulation. Maria and Peter Welsh, a couple from Allentown, tried driving their son Robert two hours to his specialist appointments after he suffered a traumatic brain injury while driving home for Thanksgiving last year. But Robert’s injury made the changing light and the movement of the car intolerable, and the pandemic made leaving the house risky for Peter and Maria, who are in their 80s. Robert now sees his doctor every few weeks via video call. “It’s a big thing for people in our situation,” Peter Welsh said. Jerry Webb, a Williamsport resident, said his son, nephew, and brother all relied on telehealth during the pandemic, when offices were closed and they couldn’t get care for their intellectual disabilities. Even as offices have reopened, Webb helps his family members call their doctors to do wellness checks. And in Warfordsburg, Caitlyn Morrell sets up video visits with her patients, who have few options for health care in rural Fulton County. Morrell, a traveling nurse-practitioner, uses the initial calls to triage her patients’ needs, she said. “Then I can decide what supplies I need to bring, what swabs I need to have,” she said. “It just kind of gives me an idea or ballpark so I’m not bringing the whole office to them.” Right now, most insurers are paying for telehealth, said Sam Marshall, president of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, a lobby for the industry. Insurers have worked with hospitals and health networks to develop their own standards on how to provide telehealth to patients, and Vogel’s legislation would codify those standards, Marshall said. “I can say that as a general rule of thumb, telemedicine isn’t going away,” he said. “We have not been brought kicking and screaming to the world of telemedicine. It’s something we as insurers have been promoting ourselves.” But without regulations, there’s no guarantee to care, experts said. “The challenge with it is the payment for the services,” said Lisa Davis, director for the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health at Pennsylvania State University. “There has been a tug between the providers — the hospitals and the clinics and the payers — in terms of what is considered to be telehealth and how it will be paid.” The Pennsylvania Department of State implemented a temporary policy at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that explicitly allows licensed health-care providers to practice telemedicine, but that waiver expires in March. Vogel’s bill passed the Senate in October. Legislators referred it to the House Insurance Committee rather than the Health Committee, which Rapp chairs, “a good sign,” Vogel said. There is talk in the Senate about drafting a separate piece of legislation to address the abortion issues that tanked his bill last year, he said. Rep. Tina Pickett (R., Bradford), who chairs the House Insurance Committee, said legislators are still consulting with stakeholders regarding the legislation and a committee vote hasn’t been scheduled. Rapp, who amended the bill last year to prohibit abortion care, didn’t respond to a question asking whether she plans to pursue the same amendment this session. “These drugs have no place in my legislation,” Vogel said. “My bill is setting up guidelines, what providers provide, and what insurance companies pay for. I think that’s what’s going to finally happen.” WHILE YOU’RE HERE … If you learned something from this story, pay it forward and become a member of Spotlight PA so someone else can in the future at spotlightpa.org/donate. Spotlight PA is funded by foundationsand readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results.

Bermudian Springs approves mask exemptions

One day before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the statewide mask mandate imposed by Pennsylvania’s acting health secretary, the Bermudian Springs School Board approved a mask exemption form. According to Superintendent Shane Hotchkiss, the form will remain on file for students even with the current mandate no longer in effect. The board approved the form with an 8-1 vote during a building and grounds meeting on Thursday evening. Board Vice President Matthew Nelson had the sole opposing vote due to concerns about liability. “A lot of other school districts clearly have gone down this path, and I have no idea what’s going to happen with them,” Nelson said. “Maybe nothing will happen with them, but that’s a gamble with public money. It’s not our money. So they’re going to take a chance that could jeopardize everything we do at Bermudian by taking that chance. So it seems to me that instead of marginalizing all of the hard work that everybody at our district has put in, we’re close to the end.” Board member Jennifer Goldhahn said she was concerned parents could file a class action lawsuit against the district or that parents would pull students from the district. Board member Travis Mathna agreed that parents might sue, adding that he was a parent who had withdrawn his student due to the mask mandate. Superintendent Shane Hotchkiss stressed that the form was for an “exception,” not an “exemption.” The form asked parents to agree to several statements: I confirm that wearing a face covering would either cause a medical condition or exacerbate an existing one, including respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition, or disability. I confirm that my child has exhausted all other alternatives to a face covering, including the use of a face shield. I confirm that my child and I understand there may be an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. I understand that the district may ask for additional documentation to confirm my child’s exemption. I understand this request may trigger a child-find obligation and would require the district to complete a team evaluation under Section 504. If this is determined, I will be provided with information about the process and a copy of my parental rights. If my child has an IEP or 504 plan, this request may require the IEP team or Section 504 team to reconvene to make appropriate revisions. Hotchkiss said gaining access to an exemption would be simple. “Here’s what I want everybody to walk away with an understanding: you have to check the boxes that you confirm that you’ve read (and) that you agree with the statements,” Hotchkiss said. “That’s it: name, check, sign, date, and turn into your child’s office.” Hotchkiss said he modified it based on what other nearby districts used and also ran the form by the district solicitor before presenting it to the board. Some other districts make parents or guardians agree that their child will quarantine if they were exposed to someone with COVID-19 while not wearing a mask. Hotchkiss said the form the board approved means that Bermudian Springs will not. “Here you have a choice to quarantine, and these places that have that exception, that’s not a choice,” Hotchkiss said. “That’s part of what their agreement is.” Hotchkiss said parents or guardians could print and return the form to the office immediately. The form only covers children, not adults, according to Hotchkiss. He said nearby districts also only have forms designed for students. With the statewide mask mandate being thrown out, the district reverted to its health and safety plan, which has a mask-optional policy. The students’ forms could potentially be applied in the future. “But (the exemption forms will) still be on file, similar to the 504s,” Hotchkiss said. The board went into an executive session before adjourning.

Free vaccine clinic brings out a crowd at the annual Winter Fiesta

The Pennsylvania Department of Health sponsored a free vaccine clinic on Friday evening and, according to an organizer, 77 doses of Covid and flu vaccines were administered, including 28 given to pediatric patients. Parents and children came to the clinic as part of the annual Winter Fiesta held on the Gettysburg College campus. Speaking at an event earlier in the day to promote the clinic, PA Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said the Covid vaccine “protects against disease and hospitalization.” Johnson said progress was being made on combatting Covid.  “We’re in a different place that we were last year.  We’ve come a long way but we still have a long way to go. The acute phase of the pandemic is far from over,” she said. Speaking about pediatric vaccines, Johnson said inoculating children 5 years of age and over “helps the community, helps the parents, and helps the kids.” Johnson said the Covid vaccine was free and effective and “keeps kids safe and allows them to participate in activities.” Johnson said the state was working to make vaccines as accessible as possible. “Your best protection for yourself and your community is to get those vaccines,” she said. Johnson also expressed concern about flu, saying there were currently more cases this year than there were during the same period in 2019. Johnson recommended getting a flu vaccination.

FASD struggles on masks as Covid data and parents wishes point in opposite directions.

The Fairfield Area School Board voted on Monday evening to make masks mandatory during times of ‘high’ or ‘very high’ COVID-19 transmission, even after the state mandate is discontinued. The board also welcomed its new members and held its annual reorganization meeting. Jack Liller, Kelly Christiano, Matthew DeGennaro, Candace Ferguson-Miller, Richard Phillip and Theodore Sayres Jr. were sworn in. Members Jennifer Holz, Lashay Kalathas and Lauren Clark have terms that do not expire until 2023. Holz was made president following a 7-2 vote and Liller secured the vice president’s seat with a vote of 6-3. Both Holz and Liller will hold one-year terms. Phillip was appointed as the Pennsylvania School Boards Association legislative chairperson. The board voted to change its health and safety plan following recommendations by administrators in order to help reduce the number of ill and quarantined children missing school in Fairfield following exposures. District Nurse Kristi Ebaugh said Fairfield currently does not follow CDC recommendations regarding quarantining. It also does not follow guidance about social distancing due to a lack of space. Ebaugh said making masks mandatory during times of higher rates of transmission would help keep children in the classroom. “In last two weeks alone, we had to quarantine 37 students,” Ebaugh said. “It’s been because of one of the students not wearing a mask or time at lunch or sports. If there were no masks at all, we would have had to quarantine 206 students. That’s 206 students K-12 who would not be in school.” Prior to the mask mandate, a higher percentage of Fairfield children tested positive for COVID-19 than they do now during the mandate, according to Ebaugh. She said that in her children’s classrooms, only about three children continued to wear a mask when they were optional. “That, to me, speaks about what the parents want,” Ferguson-Miller said. The new plan keeps masks required but provides more flexibility on quarantining procedures. Mask exemptions will still be allowed if the parent, school nurse and school administrator sign the paper for it. Interim Superintendent Larry Redding said a conversation informing parents about the risks will happen before anything was signed. “Our intent is encouraging the continued use of masks because it has this documentation in Fairfield that says the cases of infection are lower when more students are wearing masks,” Redding said. “So having the conversation, ‘Is this what you want for your child, to be exposed to a higher level of infection, and do you recognize the risks by signing that you are taking on that additional parental responsibility?’ And if you say, ‘Yes, I recognize that,’ there’s no objection from the administrator. But it’s not just ‘mail us in a for.’ You need to recognize your son is at a higher risk if he doesn’t wear a mask.” Phillip said exposure can happen outside school. Ebaugh pointed out that there are no other environments were large groups of children are kept in close contact for several hours a day, increasing their risk of infection. “That’s why these recommendations are here,” Redding said. “We know we are putting kids at risk by being close, by being there for 90 minutes or seven and a half hours or whatever, and we have an obligation to do what we can to provide the best, safest environment that’s going to translate back to kids staying in the classroom. That’s really the context that we need to look at this. We can’t spread them out.” Some board members wanted to make masks optional regardless of the transmission level. Ebaugh said that based on data from the last time masks were optional, the number of quarantined students would spike. Along with keeping children out of school, it would mean far more work for staff, she said. Because of masks, she only had to quarantine 37 students instead of 206 in the past two weeks. “As it stands with the 15 positives that we had on Friday and Saturday, I worked for about 13 hours over the weekend,” Ebaugh said. “I worked until 10 on Friday night, 6 p.m. on Thursday night. There’s no way I could call 206 students.” Some board members questioned why the mandate should continue on a local basis rather than allowing parents the option to decide if their child should wear a mask. “We had none of those numbers and we sent kids to school without masks or with the option, and now we know what that does,” Holz said. “Something about this has to change based on those numbers.” Liller said when the optional masking policy was approved before the mandate was in effect, the number of cases were trending downward in the summer. The rate of spread is now higher. Ebaugh asked the board to use the district’s data when making its decision. “I think the state allowed boards to make the decision and we saw how that went in September and they did the mask mandate,” Ebaugh said. “Now they’re trying to give it back to us. We have all this data. I think we should make an educational decision based on all of the data that we have, which has definitely changed since the beginning of August.” The new quarantine policy is significantly relaxed from CDC guidelines. Parents informed of their child’s exposure to someone in school with COVID-19 will have the choice to quarantine if their child does not exhibit symptoms. Anyone who is exposed and returns to school within 14 days of the exposure will have to wear a mask, regardless of mask exemptions. The plan does contain a caveat: “FASD will return to quarantine requirements if more than one positive case is noted in the same classroom within 14 days or if there is an increased trend in positive cases at school.” The choice to quarantine only applies to exposure that occurs in school. Students exposed elsewhere will have to follow CDC quarantine guidelines. Two proposed amendments to the plan failed. The first would have removed requirements for audience members and spectators in indoor venues filled to 75% or higher capacity to wear a mask. It failed 5-4. The second would have made masks fully optional and failed 6-3. The plans without any amendments passed 6-3. Other business The board approved the hire of a temporary elementary interventionist for the 2021-22 school year. Administrators told the board that the pandemic has resulted in a significantly higher need for intervention specialists. Even with this position added, many students will still not receive intervention. The board discussed the possibility of adding another position for reading and math intervention. Fourth-grade teacher Sarah Baugh and her students provided a presentation about their recent embryology project. The students broke into small groups to show their posters to board members. They then went to a separate room to make the same presentation to their parents or guardians. There was no public comment. The board’s next regular meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 10 in the district board room. Meetings are also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.

PA Department of Health Urges Residents to Get Flu Vaccine as the Season Intensifies

PA Dept of Health Logo

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Department of Health officials today announced that as of Dec. 7, there have been 5,036 laboratory-confirmed flu cases and two flu-associated deaths statewide. As flu season intensifies, the department urges Pennsylvanians to get their flu vaccine today if they have not already done so. “Flu cases are increasing significantly as we had an over 2,000 case increase in just one week,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said. “We are concerned with the growing number of cases and want to remind Pennsylvanians to take preventative measures, including getting a flu vaccine to protect themselves, their family, and communities from the flu this season.” Flu activity is high across the commonwealth. There are flu cases in 65 of the 67 counties. Influenza A and B have been identified by laboratory testing. Influenza-Like Illness (ILI), experiencing symptoms of fever and cough or sore throat, has increased slightly since last week. While flu seasons vary and more people are getting tested more frequently as COVID-19 symptoms can be like flu symptoms, this week’s report is higher than this same week last year and even higher when compared to this same week in 2019. At this time, it is still below the state epidemic threshold. There have been two deaths, both in the 65+ age group, reported in Pennsylvania during the current flu season thus far. This week marks National Influenza Vaccination Week, a reminder of the importance of flu vaccination in prevention of flu complications and deaths. “If you have not already gotten your flu vaccine this season, please do so right away,” Deputy Secretary of Health Preparedness and Community Protection Ray Barishansky said. “We know that people who get the flu after being vaccinated have less severe symptoms and are not sick for as long as those who do not get vaccinated. We also know that the COVID-19 vaccines do not protect you from getting the flu. So, while we have been encouraging everyone to get COVID-19 vaccines, you still also need to get your flu vaccine.” The vaccines are available as a flu shot for anyone six months or older and as a flu shot or nasal spray for anyone two or older. Flu vaccines are available at your doctor’s office, pharmacy, local walk-in clinic or grocery store. COVID-19 and flu vaccines can be received at the same time. For a list of flu vaccination clinics in Pennsylvania, click here. Flu is a contagious disease caused by the influenza virus. It attacks the nose, throat and lungs and may include the following symptoms: Fever; Headache; Tiredness; Dry cough; Sore throat; Nasal congestion; and Body aches. “Keeping Pennsylvanians safe and healthy remains our number one concern,” said Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson. “It is extremely important that in addition to getting vaccinated, Pennsylvanians practice healthy habits such as covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, frequently washing your hands, and remembering to disinfect commonly touched objects, including door knobs, light switches, countertops, cell phones and computers. You can also take advantage of the COVID Alert PA app to monitor your flu and COVID-19 symptoms since they are similar. “If you do become sick with the flu, it is imperative that you stay home. If you are at risk for developing serious complications from the flu, or feel extremely ill, you should see a medical professional immediately to determine your need for testing or isolation.” For more information on the 2021-2022 flu season, click here. Additional information on how to stay healthy and prevent the spread of flu and COVID-19 can be found on the Department of Health’s website, Facebook, and Twitter.

HABPI honors eastern Adams rail-to-trail organization

Healthy Adams Bicycle/Pedestrian, Inc. (HABPI) has named Healthy Eastern Adams Rails & Trails (HEART) its Trailblazer of the Year in recognition of the organization’s work to advance the development of the East Berlin Railroad Trail. The pedestrian and bicycle friendly trail is slated to run from the town of East Berlin to Berlin Junction, a stop on the historic Western Maryland Railroad located just southeast of New Oxford. Phase One of the trail will be integrated into the planned Kuhn’s Woods public park in East Berlin. A second phase is planned to continue south from East Berlin to Pine Run Road. This is the first such project in the eastern Adams region of the county. “We’re encouraged by the good work HEART is doing to build a rail trail out of East Berlin,” said HABPI president Eric Meyer. “By planning to work closely with the East Berlin Borough Council, East Berlin Parks and Recreation Commission, and Hamilton Township, they’re doing a great job moving the project toward fruition. An in-depth feasibility study was completed in 2015. We’re looking forward to seeing this trail take shape as an excellent resource for healthy outdoor recreation for the community. “The hard-working, all-volunteer HEART Board certainly deserves this recognition,” said Meyer. “They’re fostering long-term health, quality of life, and economic development for the community.” HABPI is dedicated to developing walking and bicycling trails in Adams County for recreation and transportation. It names a Trailblazer of the Year annually to recognize community members who have contributed significantly to the development of walking and bicycling trails in Adams County. For more information, visit HABPI.org.

COVID, particularly among the unvaccinated, spikes in Adams

red and black abstract art

Adams County is again experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, with the disease occurring primarily among the unvaccinated. There have been over 250 new COVID cases in Adams County over the past week, and Gettysburg Hospital is now caring for 23 patients with 4 of them on ventilators. As a comparison, the number of hospitalized patients over the summer months was generally less than five and at the height of the pandemic surge last fall the number of patients reached 40. Wellspan Health said that among the patients across all of their care centers: 88 percent are unvaccinated. 92 percent in intensive care units are unvaccinated. 93 percent requiring a ventilator to breathe are unvaccinated. The upsurge in cases has led Wellspan to again begin redeploying resources and delaying non-emergency care across its care locations. WellSpan said that this same time last year they saw the largest surge of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. This again appears to be a factor as people spend more time indoors and with those who may be unvaccinated. The rate of increase over the past month is as great as was last fall’s wave and shows no signs of peaking. Wellspan urged community members to stay vigilant with safety measures like hand washing, masking, and social distancing and to get the COVID-19 vaccine. WellSpan said it was also tracking the new and likely more contagious Omicron variant, saying the mutated virus is currently under study to assess transmissibility, severity of infection (including symptoms), evasion against vaccines and diagnostic tests, and effectiveness of treatments. For more information please see the Wellspan data dashboard.

Remembering

This Thanksgiving “vacation” has been both chaotic and wonderful. Some of our vaccinated family came to help care for and spend time with their father and grandfather. One evening, we dug out old photo albums, laughing and reminiscing. But, what are we to do with old albums that are too precious to throw away, yet are falling apart? Fortunately, our parents had taken time to identify many of the people in the pictures. Even so, there is so much history without sufficient written information. Slides and home movies were the big thing when I was growing up. We spent many an evening with extended family looking at slides and home movies. In fact, it was one of our favorite forms of entertainment. After all, we didn’t get our first television until I was in college. Unfortunately, most of that history has gone the way of all flesh, though some pictures were transferred to CD’s before we threw them out some 15 or 20 years ago. However, with the rapid turnover of technology, we no longer can read those CD’s on our laptops. Today we record our lives on cell phones and store them in the cloud, all of which are absolutely inaccessible without passwords and email addresses. What happens to our understanding of history when that information is gone? One of the greatest gifts my dad and husband’s mother gave us was writing names and brief descriptions on the backs of many of the faded pictures in our albums, helping us identify old faces, houses and log cabins that are part of our family history. How will future archivists research history and family trees? We Americans have such short memories. It’s one thing to value the moment and try to live one day at a time, but that philosophy does not mean blotting out the past and ignoring the very things that shape today. How can we know who are if we have no idea from whence we’ve come? The kind of revisionist history that seems so popular today may make us momentarily feel better, but it does little to help us understand the who, what, when, where, and why of the many challenges currently facing us. While it is uncomfortable to recognize that some of our ancestors kept slaves, favored eugenics, participated in lynchings, etc. no amount of pretense can make those facts go away. Gaining some understanding of where we come from can help us understand and unravel some of the challenges we currently face. Nothing happens in a vacuum. While I have never been a hoarder, I am still overwhelmed by all of the “junk”, papers, pictures, records, sermons, and writings we have hung on to over the years. Thank goodness we are going through those things while we can help our children do the sorting. Our girls have spent hours in their dad’s study sorting through boxes of records, with their dad enthroned in his wheelchair, fleece stole thrown over his shoulders like a royal stole. There is much to be said about living in the moment and taking one day at a time, which we are focusing on doing right now. We can’t undo the past nor can we predict the future. Yet, that does not mean we forget the past or discount our many life experiences. While we are constantly evolving, becoming, we are still the products of our past and the past of our forebearers. In one of the documents we found, my dad, the family genealogist, wrote in 1976 that he had traced our family tree back 8 generations. That means that within those 8 generations, we potentially had 256 great-great-great-great-great grandparents, each of whom continue to influence who we are today.

GARA reports a healthy year; moves forward on splash park

girl standing on pool

Gettysburg Area Recreational Authority (GARA) Executive Director Erin Peddigree reported to the borough council about the rec park on Monday evening, saying finances had been improving but that there were still challenges ahead. Peddigree reviewed the many events held at the park including the 4th of July fireworks and said that big projects over the past years had included playground renovations, updates to the Weikert baseball field, and installation of a very popular bicycle pump track. Peddigree said the park had 1 full-time position (the Executive Director) and 7 part-time positions and that most of GARA’s income comes from contributions from Gettysburg Borough and Cumberland Township. The rest comes from rentals and contributions. Peddigree said GARA had done well financially during the pandemic. “The rec park became a place for a lot of people to go to the past 2 years. If they want to have a birthday party or a celebration or just to get outside and walk.” Peddigree said the rec park has been in existence around since 1940 and had been built by the community. “This is a really big community park but some of the things are starting to fall apart,” she said. Peddigree said the rec park had three parking lots and at least 2 of them need to be repaved at a cost of about $80,000 to $100,000. She said the bathrooms in the park are all between 20 and 40 years old and that the maintenance equipment was aging. “Our two zero-turn mowers are about 16 years old which is a very long lifespan,” she said. Peddigree said she would also like to update the Youth Activities Building. “We’ve had some vandalism. To get some security cameras in the park would be good.” Peddigree thanked the staff and especially the three part-time maintenance workers. “How clean it is; how nice it is, is really thanks to those three guys,” she said Peddigree said she was hoping the park would receive a grant from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), perhaps in the $100,000 range, and that a community panel would be created to discuss the park’s needs during the application process. Peddigree said a new splash park was being considered as part of the DCNR grant and that the park needed to map out the location of underground utilities. “We have to go under and see where everything connects. It’s going to take a year or two.” Borough President Wesley Heyser said the money from the Borough and Cumberland Township was only designated as operational funds and that the borough had budgeted money in its capital projects funds to help the park with bathrooms and security cameras. Heyser said he did not think the rec park would likely be self-sustaining but that the situation was better than it had been. Heyser said looking back 20 years or so “the borough was spending a lot more than it is today. You folks at GARA are doing excellent work and you provide real value to the community.” “We’ll keep trying different fundraisers,” said Peddigree.

GARA Reports new income in 2021; Considers a long-range strategic plan

Gettysburg Area Recreational Authority (GARA) Executive Director Erin Peddigree said most of the official sports activities were closing down for the winter months but that there were still many people using the park. She said many new trees and a butterfly garden have been planted and thanked the Girl Scouts and the Green Gathering for their help. Peddigree said about 150 children showed up at the inaugural Trick or Treat Trail in October and that a holiday crafts show would be held during the Christmas Festival weekends. The board discussed the conditions of the maintenance equipment at the park. Board President Steve Neibler said he had received calls from the maintenance crew about broken equipment. The rec park particularly needs a new zero-turn mower and a utility vehicle. The board tentatively approved the 2022 budget of about $220,000. Peddigree said GARA had received $6,000 from the inaugural Fourth of July Fireworks event and that, due to an increase in the number of tour buses holding lunches in the park, rentals on the pavilions were up to about $14,000 this year from a normal $5,000-$6,000 level in past years.    Peddigree said she was hoping that both the Borough and Cumberland Township would be increasing their contributions to the park from $52,000 to $70,000 in 2022. The budget includes about $20,000 in building upgrades, $10,000 for equipment repair, and $4,000 for equipment purchases. Peddigree said a bus trip to New York City would hopefully be scheduled in 2022. Tom Demko, who joined the board in October, said he would be willing to play a leadership role on developing a new strategic plan for the rec park. Board members said there had been a general 10-year plan when the rec park had been founded and agreed a new strategic plan would be useful. Demko said the plan would provide opportunities to engage people in the community and develop partnerships and that the planning process could begin as early as 2022. “Maybe there are opportunities we’re not thinking of,” he said. The plan would assess the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for the rec park, perhaps conducting focus groups to learn public perceptions. “Planning projects can be very beneficial,” said Demko.

Gettysburg Hospital Foundation Grant Funding Makes Big Impact on Local Youth

The Gettysburg Hospital Foundation continues to respond to the need for important health initiatives in the community, as it will provide $203,261 in grant funding for the 2022 fiscal year to Healthy Adams County and services of WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital.  While the essential funding will support efforts including food insecurity, children’s health and education, mental health and mindfulness, and important innovations in nursing, it will also impact pediatric services throughout Adams County.  More than 90 pediatric patients across speech, physical and occupational therapies have already benefitted from special toys and equipment.  “When I come to therapy, I get to play with new toys that help me learn and grow.” Said Olive, a 3-year-old who has benefitted from occupational therapy supported through the Gettysburg Hospital Foundation.   The Gettysburg Hospital Foundation’s role is to inspire gifts and grants from individuals, foundations, businesses and other entities to support the health and well-being of people in Adams County and communities in nearby northern Maryland.  “The awards granted this year align with the foundation’s priorities of community benefit as well as education and innovation in health care. It’s heartwarming to see donor dollars put to use in ways that help children like Olive and families in Adams County and northern Maryland,” said Kristin Vought, development director, Gettysburg Hospital Foundation.   These grants extend WellSpan’s mission of providing care for all and support the ongoing work of partnering organizations like Healthy Adams County. Since 2013, the Gettysburg Hospital Foundation has awarded more than $693,000 in grants to support Healthy Adams County.  “The grants we receive from the Gettysburg Hospital Foundation bring much needed relief to the community by helping many to eat healthier, take part in wellness opportunities and address safety concerns,” said Kathy Gaskin, executive director, Healthy Adams County.  Grants allocated by Gettysburg Hospital Foundation will support the following programs and initiatives of Healthy Adams County:  Healthy Options, Food Access for Seniors and Fruit & Veggie Bucks programs to support healthy nutrition by providing reduced cost of fresh fruits and vegetables to more than 2,000 qualified individuals and families;  Distribution of child car seats for more than 100 qualified families;  Stress reduction and mindfulness courses for the community;  Walking and wellness programs for community residents;  Cribs for Kids equipment to support healthy newborn sleep practices for qualified families;  Suicide prevention campaign efforts across Adams County  Grants allocated by the foundation will also fund the following programs and services provided by WellSpan in Adams County:  Healthy Options, Food Access for Seniors and Fruit & Veggie Bucks programs to support healthy nutrition by providing reduced cost of fresh fruits and vegetables to more than 2,000 qualified individuals and families  Sleep sacks for newborns to help prevent SIDS and promote safe sleep habits Specialized pediatric therapy equipment for the WellSpan Rehabilitation-Herr’s Ridge location with additional funding support by Ability Prosthetics and Orthotics Maternity education equipment Gettysburg Hospital Foundation is a community-based, not-for-profit corporation. To become a donor or for more information, please contact the Gettysburg Hospital Foundation at (717) 337-4175. 

COVID cases decline in Adams but are still higher than other areas

Recent data show that Covid-19 cases in Adams County have fallen by 20 percent in the past two weeks, but that the number of cases per 100,000 remains higher than the U.S. average and many other local regions. The current positive test rate in Adams is 35 positive cases per 100,000 people tested suggesting widespread community transmission. There are currently 21 people hospitalized with Covid-19 in the county with 2 on ventilators. Because of high spread rate and the fact that only about 1/2 of the people in Adams County are vaccinated, people in Adams County are at an extremely high risk for Covid-19 infections. The C.D.C. recommends that even vaccinated people wear masks here. Since January of last year, at least 1 in 7 people who live in Adams County have been infected, and at least 1 in 438 people have died.

WellSpan Health and Johns Hopkins Medicine announce new oncology collaboration across South Central Pennsylvania

 WellSpan Health and Johns Hopkins Medicine today announced plans to fight cancer together in South Central Pennsylvania. The comprehensive collaboration will combine the expertise of WellSpan cancer physicians and programs with the innovative clinical, research and educational capabilities of Johns Hopkins Medicine.  WellSpan patients across South Central Pennsylvania who have cancer will benefit from a collaborative approach between the two organizations through shared treatment protocols, improved genomics capabilities, research projects and access to Johns Hopkins Medicine’s expanded network of subspecialty physicians. All of these services will broaden the options close to home for life-saving care of patients with complex cancers.   “Fighting cancer requires a trusted partner, and at WellSpan Health, we are expanding on our collaboration with Johns Hopkins Medicine to deliver the very best for our patients,” says Roxanna Gapstur, Ph.D., R.N., president & chief executive officer, WellSpan Health. “Our combined teams of physicians, faculty and research scientists will work closely with patients to offer the latest treatments and leading-edge therapeutic options within a state-of-the-art program for our friends and neighbors in South Central Pennsylvania.” WellSpan Health and the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have had a long-standing clinical and research collaboration since 2017, with a designated comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute.   “This relationship represents our shared approach to bringing the best care to patients in the South Central Pennsylvania region, and we are so proud to expand the collaboration to include clinical trials, peer-to-peer consultations and educational opportunities,” says Kevin W. Sowers, M.S.N., R.N., F.A.A.N., president of the Johns Hopkins Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine. WellSpan’s cancer experts see nearly 4,000 new patients annually across all their cancer centers, including the newly expanded WellSpan York Cancer Center, which opened this past summer. The collaboration agreement with Johns Hopkins Medicine will extend to and benefit all of WellSpan’s cancer centers, including the WellSpan Adams Cancer Center, the WellSpan Ephrata Cancer Center, the WellSpan Sechler Family Cancer Center and WellSpan cancer care locations in Franklin County. To learn more about the collaboration between WellSpan Health and Johns Hopkins Medicine, visit WellSpan.org/cancer. About WellSpan Health WellSpan Health is an integrated health system that serves the communities of central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland. The organization includes a clinically integrated network of approximately 2,600 physicians and advanced practice providers (APPs), including more than 1,600 employed physicians and APPs; a regional behavioral health organization; a home care organization; eight respected hospitals; approximately 20,000 employees; and more than 200 patient care locations. WellSpan is a charitable, mission-driven organization, committed to exceptional care for all, lifelong wellness and healthy communities. Visit WellSpan.org.

Children and COVID-19 vaccine FAQ

girl getting vaccine

How old must a child be to receive a COVID-19 vaccine? Anyone 5 years or older is eligible for vaccination under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines Teens 12 and older became eligible for vaccination in early summer. At the beginning of November, children ages 5-11 became eligible for the shot. The FDA determined that “based on the totality of scientific evidence available, the known and potential benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in individuals down to 5 years of age outweigh the known and potential risks.” Is the vaccine safe for children?  “The vaccine’s safety was studied in approximately 3,100 children ages 5 through11 who received the vaccine, and no serious side effects have been detected in the ongoing study,” according to the FDA.  How many shots do children get and what is the timing? Like adults and teens, children get two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, three weeks apart.  Why do children and teens need a vaccine? While most COVID-19 cases in children are mild, the delta variant created an increase in related hospitalizations of children, particularly in states with low adult vaccination rates. The vaccine is an effective measure against COVID-19 for children, according to the FDA. “Immune responses of children 5 through 11 years of age were comparable to those of individuals 16 through 25 years of age. In addition, the vaccine was found to be 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children 5 through 11,” according to an FDA report. How did approval happen? Under federal law, the FDA may allow medical products that are not yet approved to be used in emergencies where there are “no adequate, approved and available alternatives.” The FDA commissioners approved an emergency use authorization for Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11. The CDC then recommended vaccination for about 28 million children in that age category. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots are not yet approved for children.  When will children under 5 years old be eligible for vaccination? Clinical trials are underway for children under 5 years old. Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the FDA, told reporters that approval for younger children is still several months away. Younger children are affected the least in terms of severe disease, Marks said.  What are the possible side effects of the vaccine? Possible side effects,according to theCDC, include pain, redness, swelling, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever or nausea. “These side effects may affect your child’s ability to do daily activities, but (the effects) should go away in a few days.” The vaccine does not contain active virus, so there is no risk of anyone becoming infected with COVID-19 as a result of the vaccine. Where can kids and teens get their shots?  Shots are available at many pharmacies across the state. They are also available through individual health care providers and local health departments. See the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ website or call the NC COVID-19 vaccine hotline (888-675-4567) for appointment information.  Are there mass vaccination sites for children?  No. Unlike earlier rollouts, the vaccination process for children will not take place at mass vaccination sites. Instead, children may receive the shot through individual providers. How much does it cost? Does my child need insurance to get the vaccine?  The vaccine is free and available without regard to insurance status.  What is the dosage of the vaccine for children?  The vaccines approved for children 5-11 is 10 micrograms, or one-third of the adult dosage. The shots are packaged differently from adult doses to avoid inadvertent administration of an adult dose to a child.

COVID-19 vaccine rollout for children ages 5 to 11 comes with familiar obstacles

White House officials hope to assure hesitant parents and head off misinformation while making sure marginalized communities have access to doses early on. As the White House rolls out its COVID-19 vaccination program for children ages 5 to 11, concerns about vaccine hesitancy and equitable access are top of mind for Biden administration officials. Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the White House’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, told The 19th she hopes evidence and data can help alleviate parents’ concerns and push against misinformation surrounding the vaccine. She said she wants parents to understand the thorough research that went into conducting and assessing the clinical trials for younger school-age children. The scientists and researchers “have the right expertise and the right training and are really bringing in a lot of diverse perspectives here,” Nunez-Smith said, adding that the safety and efficacy data are strong. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory committee on Tuesday unanimously recommended that children 5 to 11 years old get vaccinated against the coronavirus, using a low-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that has been given emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. Based on the trial data, the Pfizer-BioNTech’s smaller vaccine dose for this age group is 90.7 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections. Misinformation circulating about the vaccine has been “one of the more surprising and disturbing and challenging parts of” vaccination efforts during the pandemic, Nunez-Smith said. As a result, the administration and public health experts have looked to trusted sources of information like pediatricians, making sure they have the facts to relay to families. Childhood vaccinations have driven down the number of deaths from infectious diseases overall. In light of that, the fact that an estimated 700 children have died from COVID-19 is a “staggeringly high number,” Nunez-Smith said. The Biden administration said the program for 5 to 11 year olds will be fully operational by November 8, with doses being provided by 20,000 locations around the country, including pediatric and family care practices, pharmacies, hospitals and school clinics. Nunez-Smith said the administration is coordinating with state and local officials to ensure equitable access to vaccine doses is baked into the program.  Low income, rural, Black, Indigenous and Latinx people have experienced more challenges with vaccine access during the pandemic. In addition to equitable distribution of the vaccine doses, factors like access to transportation or the ability to take time off to help get their child vaccinated are important factors. From April 1 through September 30 of this year, the Biden administration offered a tax credit for small and medium-sized employers to provide paid leave for workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine or recover from any after effects. But that benefit did not include parents taking time to get their children vaccinated. Nunez-Smith said the administration will continue to push for paid leave options and circulate other key information: that the vaccine is free to the public and does not require proof of insurance or citizenship documentation. “I think this is really, as the president said, just a really important turning moment for the health of our children, the wellness of our children, the educational attainment and achievement of our children,” Nunez-Smith said. “The vaccine is the most powerful tool in the toolbox.” This vaccine breakthrough will bring relief to many families, particularly those with immunocompromised children like Elena Hung’s. Hung’s 7-year-old daughter, Xiomara, has a number of medical needs and developmental disabilities that put her at higher risk. This means her family has lived in near total lockdown since March 2020: having groceries delivered, virtual schooling and chats with friends on Zoom.   “It has been absolutely devastating and filled with anxiety and fear. It’s no exaggeration for me to say that every single day of this pandemic has been a life and death matter,” said Hung, who is the co-founder and executive director of the children’s advocacy group Little Lobbyists,. Her two children have vaccination appointments for next week, and she feels like a weight has been lifted. After nearly 20 months of social distancing, Hung said she hasn’t thought much about what life will look like once her family is fully vaccinated. “In large part it will depend on how many children are going to get vaccinated,” Hung said. “It’s approved, it’s available, but will parents take their kids to get vaccinated?”

WellSpan Health recognized as one of ‘Most Wired’ Health Systems

WellSpan Health is pleased to announce that it has been named one of the nation’s “Digital Health Most Wired” health systems by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). WellSpan is honored with the Quality Award in two categories: domestic ambulatory and acute care settings. The Most Wired program conducts an annual survey to assess how effectively health care organizations use advanced technologies in their clinical and business programs to improve the health of their communities. More than 36,674 organizations completed the survey this year to assess the adoption, integration and impact of technologies in health care at all stages of development.  “WellSpan Health puts the power of data into the hands of its leaders and caregivers every day to ensure that our patients are receiving the best care possible,” said Dr. R. Hal Baker, WellSpan’s senior vice president and chief digital and information officer. “We are honored to receive this recognition for our dedicated IT team that continues to innovate our care delivery processes, which we know can make things easier for our patients while also increasing access to high-quality care in our communities.”  In 2020, WellSpan’s digital information teams played a key role in increasing access to telehealth from 155,000 to 325,000 patients when they needed it most during the pandemic. Digital advances also led to allowing our caregivers more access to data at the bedside to assist them in delivering exceptional patient care.    To achieve this recognition from CHIME, WellSpan and others in this group implemented advanced technologies, including telemedicine, access to data at the bedside and cost analysis tools, and leveraged them to improve care, patient experience and access to services, while reducing costs.  “Digital transformation in healthcare has accelerated to an unprecedented level since 2020, and the next few years will bring a wave of innovation that empowers healthcare consumers and will astound the industry,” said CHIME President and CEO Russell P. Branzell. “The Digital Health Most Wired program recognizes the outstanding digital leaders who have paved the way for this imminent revolution in healthcare. Their trailblazing commitment to rapid transformation has set an example for the entire industry in how to pursue a leadership vision with determination, brilliant planning and courage to overcome all challenges.”  This is the fourth year that CHIME has conducted the surveys and overseen the Most Wired program. Each participating organization received an overall score, as well as scores for individual levels in eight segments: infrastructure; security; business/disaster recovery; administrative/supply chain; analytics/data management; interoperability/population health; patient engagement; and clinical quality/safety. About WellSpan Health WellSpan Health is an integrated health system that serves the communities of central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland. The organization includes a clinically integrated network of approximately 2,600 physicians and advanced practice providers (APPs), including more than 1,600 employed physicians and APPs; a regional behavioral health organization; a home care organization; eight respected hospitals; approximately 20,000 employees; and more than 200 patient care locations. WellSpan is a charitable, mission-driven organization, committed to exceptional care for all, lifelong wellness and healthy communities. Visit WellSpan.org.

Gettysburg Hospital Pediatric Nurse Alison Arrowood wins Nightingale Award

Click here to see Arrowood’s introduction at the awards ceremony. Along with two other winners from across the state, Gettysburg resident Alison Arrowood, RN, Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse, EMT Paramedic, and Nursing Operations Director at WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital, was announced at a virtual gala on Oct. 22 as the Nightingale Award winner in the Nursing Administration – Executive category. Arrowood oversees the emergency department at the hospital. She was hailed as a “visionary leader with a persistent focus on the mission of excellence in patient and family care.” Arrowood led many important changes during the initial COVID crisis at the hospital. She is the mother of two children, a grandmother, and tends a small goat farm in her spare time. “These nurses have demonstrated a commitment to their patients and fellow staff,” said Kris O’Shea, senior vice president and chief nursing executive. “We are proud of all three of our nurses who were named finalists.” The Nightingale Awards of Pennsylvania is a statewide, philanthropic organization that aims to create, cultivate, and support environments where professional nursing achievements are valued. Nightingale’s volunteer board and committees utilize gifts, donations, and annual gala proceeds to recognize excellence in a wide variety of nursing career paths, and financially contributes to the continuing education of nurses throughout Pennsylvania.

Gov. Wolf: Pennsylvania is Ready for Federal Authorization of COVID-19 Vaccine for Children Ages 5-11

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today issued a statement on the Biden Administration’s preparations for the COVID-19 vaccine authorization for children ages 5-11. “In Pennsylvania, the vaccine is our strategy out of the pandemic, and Pennsylvanians are doing a tremendous job of protecting ourselves and our loved ones by getting the COVID-19 vaccine. We should all be proud of how far we have come since the beginning of the pandemic as another milestone is upon us – the vaccine authorization for children ages 5-11.  “Today, the Biden Administration released their plan to operationalize vaccination efforts for our children upon authorization. This plan furthers their support to states and confirms their commitment to ensuring this rollout is done properly. We are ready in Pennsylvania. Vaccine providers are prepared to safely vaccinate our children, and to protect them against this deadly virus.  “The light at the end of the tunnel is shining brightly and we are all ready to be on the other side.” As of October 20, 70.8% of Pennsylvanians 18 and older are now fully vaccinated, and vaccine providers have administered more than 13,400,000 total vaccine doses. Pennsylvania is ranked 6th for first doses administered nationwide. To find a local vaccine provider near you, visit vaccines.gov.

Finding Balance With Social Media

View the documentary anytime beginning Friday, October 29th at 8 p.m. until Saturday, November 6th at 12 a.m. October 13th, 2021 – LIKE achieves the impossible: actually getting kids and teens to put down their phones for a few minutes. From Friday October 29th to November 6th Healthy Adams County will hold a special virtual screening of the documentary.  Please click on the following link to register for the movie https://watch.eventive.org/indieflix/play/6153a5ed12cdfa003e63491c This take-action, inspiring film is the 2nd installment in the award-winning iNDIEFLIX Mental Health Trilogy, created to entertain, engage, and enlighten about issues surrounding mental health. Before Covid, 2 billion smartphone owners were checking their phones, on average, 150 times a day, and the enforced isolation and mandated screen time of the past year has only increased this figure. Research continues to confirm that having your head down, staring at the screen, chasing “likes” and seeking “followers” is the perfect recipe for low self-esteem, isolation and depression, as well as loss of focus and patience.  The filmmakers of LIKE inspire kids and teens to consider a life of JOMO (joy of missing out) as opposed to FOMO. They use their proven 4 E formula: entertainment, empathy, enlightenment and a heavy dose of empowerment, arming their audiences with easy-to-execute strategies to change their habits that very same day. Research and data is plentiful: happiness surges when we have digital balance, not overload; when we give ourselves time to look at actual trees, animals and all things nature, as well as interact – however we can – with other humans.  LIKE was ahead of the Social Dilemma curve in shocking its audience with its exclusive interviews from Silicon Valley insiders – including the co-creator of Facebook’s “Like” button – who break down the addiction-causing algorithms behind the apps. The medical and science experts explain the behavioral changes that come from chemical effects on the brain. But the 49-minute-long LIKE does not leave you with a sense of fear and foreboding. The core of the documentary is built around the kids and teens interviewed, and the empathy that they buildwith their audience as they look honestly at their usage and dependence on these tiny devices, consider the good that can come from and be transmitted via social media, and rethink the relationship to one where they are much more aware and in balance. Finally, a funny and engaging dancing panda meme at the end of the film perfectly illustrates the very sad rabbit holes our phones are sending us down, preventing us from looking up and seeing the world.  ‘‘For this particular film, the prestigious awards and reviews we’ve received are NOT the measure of success. It’s the direct feedback the kids & teens…. they are experimenting with our tricks on how to use their smartphones INSTEAD of their smartphones using them… and winning.’ said Scilla Andreen, CEO and Co-Founder of IndieFlix and Director/Executive Producer of LIKE. ‘Through shocking kids and adults alike with the behind-the-scenes look at their favorite apps and making them laugh, we’ve been able to engage them enough to consider taking the road back to ‘real’ instead of ‘virtual’ life, by working towards self-regulation and a healthy relationship with their phones.”  As with all iNDIEFLIX films, screenings take place in (now virtual) community settings, usually followed by community discussion and Q&A. This peer-group conversation is a critical element to getting young and old to reflect on what they’ve just learned, and the changes that they’ll make as a result.  LIKE, and its Mental Health Trilogy Companions Angst and The Upstanders are staples in social & emotional learning programs in schools all over the world. Knowing that successful change depends on continuing the conversation beyond the screening date, each film comes with discussion guides, tip sheets a catalogue of additional resources, with a dedicated 8-week curricula for each film launching in 2021.  iNDIEFLIX Group Inc is a global education and streaming service that promotes and supports social impact films that create positive change in the world. iNDIEFLIX Education books online and offline community screenings in schools and corporations around the world, while iNDIEFLIX Stream offers a monthly subscription-based service to access thousands of high-quality shorts, features, documentaries, and series from around the world. https://www.indieflix.com/

Adams Commissioners approve vaccine incentive and violence-awareness proclamations

On a split vote the Adams County Commissioners voted to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the county and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, District Council 89, (AFSMCE) regarding the County’s COVID-19 Vaccine Incentive. The incentive states in part that “in an effort to reduce the public health risk of disease while maintaining respect for individual choice [the county] will extend to all employees within the AFSCME bargaining unit who provide the county with proof of full COVID-19 vaccination status one (1) extra paid time-off day.” Commissioners Phiel and Qually voted to approve the MOU, but Commissioner Martin voted against it.  Qually passionately promoted the motion, saying “We have 200 people who have died. This is a voluntary incentive program. We all know someone that is high risk. My wife is high risk. I don’t know what I would do if I brought this home and killed my wife.” Phiel said “Our Paramount responsibility is to help the welfare and safety of our residents. I agree that this is showing leadership, this is not a mandate. This is a step to enhance public safety without mandating.” Martin said he thought the vaccine could cause adverse reactions in those that have natural immunity before voting against it. The commissioners also proclaimed October 17 to 23, 2021 as the “YWCA Gettysburg & Adams County Week without Violence”. This week is designed to bring awareness to physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse against women. According to the proclamation, one in four women experience domestic violence, more than three women are murdered each day by their current or former partner across the country, every 90 seconds another American is sexually assaulted, and immigrant women, women of Color, women with disabilities, and LGBTQ communities face heightened risk of violence and greater barriers to legal remedies. The YWCA has advocated for this week for over 20 years. The commissioners also joined with a long-standing national violence awareness movement by proclaiming August the “YWCA Hanover Safe Home – Adams County Domestic Violence Awareness Month.” The proclamation states in part that “We, the Commissioners of Adams County…are calling on our citizens, churches, human services organizations, schools, and businesses to educate themselves and others, and to become involved in efforts to prevent and respond to domestic violence in our community.”  Other Approved Recommendations: Court Administration-$15.00 per report for mandated credit checks for law enforcement officers to KlinkCheck Background Services. Children & Youth Services Purchase of Service Agreement with Pressley Ridge and Alternative Rehabilitation Communities.  Business Associate Agreement with Community Specialist Corporation and Summit School. Agricultural Land Preservation: $220,440.87 for 110.83 acres for county only conservation easement for Wayne Mummert, 693 Peepytown Road East Berlin PA. Tax Services: Six personal tax exemption requests approved Two Veterans Real Property Tax Exemptions approved. $1,059.00 with Print-O-Stat Inc. full service maintenance for one year Human Resources- $2,016.00 for 3 year term for online training courses on Bloodborne Pathogens, Hazardous Materials, Proper Lifting Techniques and Slips, Trips, and Falls. Adams County Adult Correctional Complex: decrease the calling rate charged to inmates from $0.24 cents a minute to $0.21 cents per minute. Commissioner’s Office: The Adams County Water Tower Repainting Contract is held with Corrosion Control Corporation as a result of being the lowest bidder.

Community Forum – dialogue with medical experts on COVID and Children and Adolescents

 A virtual community forum will be hosted by Family First Health on Tuesday, October 6th at 6:30pm. The Forum will focus on “A Provider Conversation and Community Q&A about COVID-19’s Impact on Children”. Family First Health invites anyone to participate via Facebook or Youtube to have a dialogue between medical experts about the impact of COVID-19 on children and adolescents. This session will feature Dr. Oluwatomi Uwazota, a Family Practice Physician at Family First Health, and Dr. Almira Contractor, a Pediatrician at WellSpan Community Health Center. After a brief presentation and provider conversation, the providers will spend the majority of the session answering live questions from the community, in real-time. Join on Facebook or Youtube: @FamilyFirstHealth | FamilyFirstHealthPA

Duo Healthcare: the innovation delivering affordable healthcare made easier

It takes two for a healthy lifestyle, and Duo Healthcare is WellSpan’s newest innovation for affordable healthcare made easier. Launched in 2019 as WellSpan Online Primary Care, the program was developed and tested with WellSpan team members. It delivered an innovative primary care alternative for digital-first consumers. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, WellSpan patients turned to technology for their care with more than 545,000 digital visits provided online last year. WellSpan team member satisfaction combined with increasing digital visits during the pandemic accelerated the next phase of affordable, convenient care. Duo Healthcare has evolved to more than just online primary care – it creates connections for members and their care teams by encouraging personal engagement with their health. A survey from the National Institutes of Health reported more than one-third of Americans self-diagnose on the internet when they encounter a health problem. Approximately one in four adults in the U.S. report they do not have a primary care professional who provides most of their care when they are sick or have a health concern, according to a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. With a goal of finding a better way, Duo was developed to meet changing needs and preferences while providing an affordable alternative to online care. Duo provides access to a primary care provider anytime; who is available wherever patients are, including work, the park or even vacation; who monitors members’ chronic conditions over time; and who tracks conditions through connected device monitoring, such as scales and blood pressure monitors, and intervene if something unusual is taking place. Duo offers an always-available option for people to engage in getting and staying healthy while being supported by a dedicated care team. For example, members share home blood pressure readings a few times per month with the Duo care team. Because the care team is reviewing more frequently, rising blood pressure or abnormalities can be quickly addressed. Often times, starting a new medication and normalizing blood pressure can occur over a span of just weeks rather than months, which is typical in traditional primary care. Other conditions, such as depression or anxiety, can be managed through the convenience of connection and frequent contact to provide more effective management in shorter time frames. Unlike other online healthcare options, Duo is powered by WellSpan physicians who can see patients and refer locally, when needed. Dr. Brian Pollak, medical director of WellSpan Innovations, internal medicine physician, and Dr. Quincy Harberger, family medicine physician, are excited about the care they can provide through Duo. “One founding principle is that your routine care is our responsibility,” Dr. Pollak said. “You do not need a visit to address health maintenance, routine labs or other testing. We review each patient’s chart every six months to see what testing is due. We review any recent specialist visits. Then, we send the patient a portal message with our assessment of their health and recommended next steps, like going to a WellSpan Pharmacy for an immunization.” Whether it’s through MyWellSpan secure messages, phone calls or video visits, patients receive care that is simple, effective and convenient. It’s part of WellSpan’s vision to reimagine healthcare and deliver exceptional outcomes and experiences at an affordable price. WellSpan president and CEO Roxanna Gapstur, Ph.D., R.N. is a Duo member and after a recent visit she said, “It’s so convenient and easy to use. I had an issue which just needed a quick look by my primary care physician. I scheduled a video visit and completed the entire process within 24 hours. The visit itself took less than five minutes and I never left the comfort of my own home.” Local relationships, expert and affordable care Duo is also available to employers looking for a more convenient and affordable healthcare option for employees. WellSpan recently partnered with Littlestown Area School District in Adams County to provide more than 300 teachers, administrators and support staff with the option to join Duo Healthcare and keep their care local. The program is designed so they may seek expert and affordable medical care without having their schedules interrupted. For example, Duo providers can do a video visit with a member over lunch or receive an e-visit after putting the kids to bed. “A year ago, we thought about how to put money where value is needed for our staff,” said Christopher Bigger, superintendent, Littlestown Area School District. “We wanted our staff to have a convenient way to access healthcare without the huge investment of an onsite visit. We are working hard to find ways to help our employees in any way we can. Through Duo, WellSpan is offering Littlestown Area School District an innovative solution to reducing costs associated with employee health while increasing productivity for workers by reducing the need to travel to the doctor’s office for routine visits. Sign up for Duo Healthcare While still in the test phase, individuals can sign up for more information about Duo and be alerted when the program is available community-wide next year. Local employers interested can inquire about participating in the test phase today for an affordable solution for workplace healthcare. Duo Healthcare is another example of how WellSpan is innovating and delivering affordable healthcare made easier for today’s busy lifestyle.

Eligible for a COVID-19 booster? Here’s how to get one in Pa.

Jamie Martines of Spotlight PA Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media. Sign up for our free newsletters. Anywhere from one to two million Pennsylvania adults are now eligible for a COVID-19 booster, and state officials say it should be easier to track down the third dose than it was to secure initial shots earlier this year. People 65 and older, those with certain medical conditions, and workers in high-risk jobs who received a second Pfizer dose more than six months ago are now eligible to receive a booster. (Get more eligibility details from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.) If you received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, you’ll have to wait for guidance. Vaccines are now widely available, and it’s not likely providers will experience the same backups and shortages seen across the state when eligibility first opened up to all adults in April, state officials have said. Many retail pharmacies, like Rite-Aid or CVS, along with grocery stores and independent pharmacies, now have same-day and walk-in appointments for first, second, and booster shots available. Health systems like UPMC, Allegheny Health Network, Penn State Health, and Geisinger are also administering boosters, along with other local health clinics and doctors’ offices. You do not have to return to the same location where you received your first or second booster shots for your third dose. Search for locations offering COVID-19 vaccines near you, or anywhere in the country, on the CDC’s website at vaccines.gov. Most nursing homes will handle boosters through existing relationships with local vaccine providers, a state health department spokesperson said. The health department will assist any nursing home that is not yet connected with a local vaccine provider or pharmacy secure booster shots. Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam ordered vaccine providers on Sept. 21 to not only provide online scheduling for booster appointments, but also to provide a telephone number that connects callers to a live agent to assist with scheduling. Vaccine providers were also ordered to offer walk-in appointments. Local Area Agencies on Aging, along with Medical Assistance Managed Care Organizations, were ordered to help schedule eligible adults and people who can’t leave their homes — a role those organizations took up earlier this year, as many older adults and others who had trouble navigating the competitive vaccine sign-up system struggled to find appointments. State officials recommend that anyone who has questions about whether they are eligible for a booster shot consult with their doctor before making an appointment. Anyone receiving a booster should bring their vaccine card to the booster appointment. The provider will check to make sure that it has been at least six months since you’ve received your second shot, and that you previously received the Pfizer vaccine. WHILE YOU’RE HERE… If you learned something from this story, pay it forward and become a member of Spotlight PA so someone else can in the future at spotlightpa.org/donate. Spotlight PA is funded by foundationsand readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results.

Expanding Gettysburg rec park pump track seeks builders and riders

It’s hard to believe our 100% volunteer built and maintained pump track has already been open for a year! During its past year, the track has been enjoyed by many people, both old and young, looking to get outside and unplug from electronics.  As GARA celebrates the one-year anniversary of the bicycle pump track, it is time to make some exciting announcements.  We are excited to announce that we will be adding a new technical dirt section, so advanced or more adventurous riders can “catch some air”.  We are planning on modifying and adjusting some sections of the current track layout as well. GARA will also be adding several mountain bike obstacles which will test and help improve rider’s balance and skills. The obstacles will consist of a slightly raised balance beam, jump(s) made out of logs for riders to balance and maneuver over, and other obstacles to test riders’ skills. GARA will also be accepting monetary donations from local businesses as well as individuals who would like to help out the track to purchase a cycle rescue station. The station is an all-weather, outdoor bike repair stand that contains phillips and standard screwdrivers, tire levers, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8 mm allen wrenches, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, and 32 mm box wrenches, and an air pump. The tools are attached securely by retractable braided stainless-steel cable. The rescue station will be mounted/concreted in the track area, so cyclists both enjoying the track and riding on the Biser Fitness trail can utilize it. The total cost of the station is $1,675. Donations can be dropped off at the Charlie Sterner Building during regular business hours. Our 2nd annual Track or Treat event will take place on October 16th from 3pm – 6pm. Riders are encouraged to dress up in costumes and ride the track and obstacles while Halloween music is playing. Goodie bags with candy will be given to all riders. Feel free to bring a chair or blanket if you’d like to relax. Along with Track or Treat, there will also be tables set up from local organizations handing out candy. If you would like to set up a table or donate candy, please contact the rec park. CDC guidelines will be followed at the event. Since the bicycle track is 100% volunteer,  build days play a huge role in the existence and continuation of the track. Upcoming volunteer track build days will be on Sunday October 3rd and Friday October 8th starting at 9 am. This is a great opportunity to help out the community and also provides students the chance to earn service hours. Any help is greatly appreciated. Please follow the GARA pump track via its Facebook page for track information and updates.

GASD explores mask mandate challenge during rowdy board meeting

The Gettysburg Area School District Board of Directors voted 7-2 last night to direct its solicitor, Robert McQuaide, to take action to potentially challenge the current mask mandate imposed by the PA Department of Health. The order, released last week by Acting Secretary of Health Alison V. Beam, requires all students to wear face coverings while they are in school, although some exceptions are allowed. The order came two weeks after all six Adams County school districts, including GASD, began their classes under a health and safety plan in which masks were optional.  The Vida Charter School has required masks for all students and staff since the beginning of the school year. Beam said the need for masks has become necessary as COVID-19 numbers in the state have risen dramatically. The vote came after the board had spent 45 minutes listening to residents voice their opinions about the mask mandates. The audience in the Junior High School auditorium clapped and cheered the entire evening after hearing speakers, including board members, express points they favored. The vote was confusing in part because the wording of the motion the board was asked to vote on was substantially different than the one that had been published in the agenda.   The motion printed in the agenda directed the solicitor to “advise on the appropriateness to challenge the Order of the Pennsylvania Department of Health regarding masks, and advise on the best way to proceed.” whereas the motion read at the meeting and which was passed directed the solicitor “to implore a potential lawsuit or whatever he deems appropriate including but not limited to joining an already existing class action lawsuit seeking an injunction on Department of Health and the Governor Wolf current mandate overriding the approval of the district health and safety plan.” McQuaide said he thought the two motions were similar and that the board was asking his opinion about the possibility of moving forward should the board choose to take action. Board member Sylvan Hershey said the students had been put into conditions that were “at risk” because appropriate social distancing was not available. I am concerned about the health and well-being of all our students,” he said.  “I think masks would certainly be the way to go.” Pratt said it was important to keep the children in school for their mental health and sometimes for “the very food they eat in a day.” “I’m uncomfortable bucking this mask mandate that truly has the rule of law behind it,” she said. Pratt also said she thought the motion involved a “non-recognition of authority” which she felt constituted anarchy. Hassinger said the board was put into an “unattainable position” and that parents had made decisions based on the existing health and safety plan. “The vast majority of the kids came in without a mask,” he said.  Hassinger said the existing plan allowed the district to take action if a “cluster” of COVID cases was observed.  “Democracy says we can challenge particular mandates that come down,” he said. “Let democracy work.” It seemed likely the board would act quickly as a hearing on the topic is scheduled at the state level for Sept. 16. In other business, the board disagreed on the need to review the minutes from prior meetings. Motions to review the minutes from the August 2 board meeting were requested by Pratt but voted down in a vote in which only Pratt and Soliday voted in favor. A third motion to correct minutes was passed, also on a split vote. The board also discussed and approved a contract to hire new health professionals with Soliday disapproving and approved a plan to upgrade the audio and video systems in the Administration Building Boardroom with Pratt and Soliday voting no.  Board members expressed the need for this update given the current system is over 20 years old. Hassinger said the changes were important to allow transparency. “It’s now time to do a one-time unified update by professionals to accomplish our mission,” said Hershey. Next regularly-scheduled board meeting is Sept. 20.

WellSpan: Vaccines are safe and effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalizations

If you have been in the “wait and see” category when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, wait no more. With the delta variant of COVID-19 rapidly spreading in our communities, we have the ability to protect our families, friends and neighbors from serious illness and hospitalization by getting vaccinated now. I have seen and heard the conflicting opinions in the community, in the news, and on social media. I implore you to look at the research and the local data. The numbers don’t lie. They provide clear evidence of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness here in our community. Our data show a striking difference between hospitalized patients who have been fully vaccinated and those who have not – with only a small number of vaccinated individuals requiring a hospital stay. In fact, in the month August, about 90 percent of WellSpan hospital admissions for COVID-19 were individuals who were not fully vaccinated.  Our numbers also paint a clear picture of how sick unvaccinated patients are, compared to those who have protection from the vaccine. Very few vaccinated individuals require a ventilator compared to those who are unvaccinated. The local statistics are clear: vaccination is effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization. With delta, the time is now Variants of COVID-19 have continued to evolve, with the current concern being the delta variant.  First detected in India, this variant is much more contagious and highly transmissible compared to previous strains.  With the first strain, an infected person could pass the virus onto two people on average.  With the delta variant, an infected person has the potential to spread it to as many as six or seven others, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Masking can help to prevent that transmission, but vaccinations still are the gold standard for those who are eligible to get the shot. Another difference we are seeing with delta is that patients seeking care are trending younger. The average age of those hospitalized for COVID-19 at WellSpan hospitals in December 2020, at the height of the winter surge, was almost 70 years old.  In August 2021, it was much closer to 60.  That is because a much higher percentage of our senior citizens have gotten vaccinated.  Again, the facts clearly show that the time to act is now, to protect our friends and neigh. Vaccine easily available For more than 20 months, our WellSpan care team members have shown up every hour of every day to help our friends and neighbors through this pandemic. You can help, too. Mask up and join the more than 168 million Americans who have gotten vaccinated. WellSpan’s goal is to make it exceptionally easy for everyone to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. We are providing vaccines at more than 30 locations across our region. Vaccinations can be scheduled through MyWellSpan or by calling the COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 1-855-851-3641. Patients younger than 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.   If you are hesitant or taking a “wait and see” approach, I encourage you to understand the science and get vaccinated. The data shows that the COVID-19 vaccination is safe and effective. It works against the new delta variant of the virus. It does not cause infertility as originally alleged by a German scientist; clinical trials have completely disproven that. And while the vaccine is new, the process to make the vaccine, using messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, has actually been used for more than a decade in a variety of ways. The evidence supporting this vaccine simply gets stronger every day. There is no need to wait and see. The time is now to act.

Senators introduce mask opt-out for Pennsylvania schoolchildren

(By Christen Smith – The Center Square) – Two Pennsylvania senators introduced a bill last week offering parents a chance to opt out of public school mask mandates. Senate Bill 846 came just days before the Department of Health ordered universal masking for staff and students in schools and child care centers amid what the administration calls an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases in children caused by the delta variant. The administration’s reversal on the issue – after months of deferring to local school boards on the policy – came under immediate scrutiny from Republican lawmakers, co-sponsors Sens. Judy Ward, R-Hollidaysburg, and Doug Mastriano, R-Gettysburg, among the loudest critics of them all. “[The] announcement is hardly surprising,” Mastriano said. “Once most school districts rejected mask mandates … Governor Wolf quickly changed his position when those officials made a decision that he didn’t like.” The administration said last week that fewer than 13% of the 474 submitted health plans required masks for unvaccinated students and staff. Immunization rates among kids between the ages of 12-14 and 15-19 are 18.2% and 38.3%, respectively, the department said. Ward said school boards “worked hard” to develop mitigation strategies that worked for their communities. Many parents in her district worry about the impact of wearing masks long-term on their children, she added. “Parents have the fundamental right to make health and educational decisions that are best suited for their children,” she said. “The circumstances and issues in each of those local communities should drive the decisions there, not a statewide mandate.” Mastriano also questioned the science behind masking and said federal studies show there’s no “statistically significant” difference in transmission whether students cover their faces all day or not. Wolf said “aggressive” anti-masking rhetoric nationwide and veiled legal threats explains why so many local school boards opted against the mandate, despite pleas from parents of younger children ineligible for the vaccine. “The reality we are living in now is much different than it was just a month ago,” acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said Tuesday. “With case counts increasing, the situation has reached the point that we need to take this action to protect our children, teachers and staff.” Beam said 92% of current COVID-19 cases are caused by the delta variant. Since the beginning of July, Pennsylvania’s caseload skyrocketed from 300 daily to more than 3,000, with cases among schoolchildren climbing by more than 11,000 during that same time. “That’s nearly a 300% jump [for school children] in about six weeks here in Pennsylvania, and remember that half of those kids are not yet old enough to get a vaccine,” Beam said. “The reason for this jump in cases is the delta variant.” Children younger than 12 remain ineligible for the vaccine, while 65.8% of adults are fully immunized, according to the department. Pennsylvania also ranks fifth in the nation for total doses administered. “The science is clear,” Beam said. “If we want to keep our schools open, maintain classroom learning and allow sports and other activities to continue, masking significantly increases our chances of doing so.” Ward said the reversal isn’t shocking given Wolf’s veto of her bill in July that would have prevented the Secretary of Health from issuing statewide mandates using her limited authority within the state’s Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955. The administration’s interpretation of the statute gives Beam limited authority to implement orders during a public health event. It’s why, even though voters agreed in May to limit the governor’s emergency powers that give him carte blanche to enact statewide pandemic restrictions, Beam can still do so. Ward said it’s now “obvious why” Wolf vetoed her bill. “We saw this mandate coming and began to draft legislation weeks ago,” Mastriano said. “Parents and guardians need to make the choice as they know better than bureaucrats or anyone else what is best for individual needs of their child. I want to leave it in the hands of the parents. This bill will empower them to do that.”

Wolf administration requires masking in schools, learning, and child care settings beginning next week

With a focus on protecting students and keeping them in classrooms, Governor Tom Wolf joined the departments of Health, Human Services and Education today to discuss the current state of COVID-19 and a new Secretary of Health order requiring masks to be worn inside K-12 school buildings, early learning programs and child care providers. The order takes effect 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021.   “My office has received an outpouring of messages from parents asking the administration to protect all children by requiring masks in schools,” said Gov. Wolf. “The science is clear. The Delta variant is highly transmissible and dangerous to the unvaccinated, many of whom are children too young to receive the vaccine. Requiring masks in schools will keep our students safer and in the classroom, where we all want them to be.  “I preferred for local school boards to make this decision. Unfortunately, an aggressive nationwide campaign is spreading misinformation about mask-wearing and pressuring and intimidating school districts to reject mask policies that will keep kids safe and in school. As we see cases among children increase in Pennsylvania and throughout the country, this is especially dangerous and challenging as we seek to keep kids in school and maintain a safe and healthy learning environment.”  Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam was joined at a press conference today by Governor Tom Wolf, Education Secretary Noe Ortega, Human Services Acting Secretary Meg Snead and President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Dr. Trude Haecker.   “The reality we are living in now is much different than it was just a month ago,” said Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam. “With case counts increasing, the situation has reached the point that we need to take this action to protect our children, teachers and staff. The science is clear. If we want to keep our schools open, maintain classroom learning and allow sports and other activities to continue, masking significantly increases our chances of doing so.”  Universal masking in schools, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend, reduces the risk that entire classrooms will need to quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 case. This order ensures Pennsylvania’s children are participating in classroom learning without the constant disruptions. The Delta variant has been a driving force of the pandemic since the end of the previous school year. The variant is more contagious than the original strain of the virus, accounting for more than 92 percent of current COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania. Since July when schools first began discussing health and safety plans, Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 caseload has increased from less than 300 a day to more than 3,000 a day – with cases among school aged children increasing by more than 11,000 in the last month, and by more than 79,000 from January 2021 to August 2021.    Additionally, new cases of COVID-19 among children enrolled in licensed child care facilities have increased significantly in recent months, according to data reported to DHS by child care providers. For example, on June 4, child care providers reported eight cases of COVID-19 among children in the previous week. On August 27, the number of new COVID-19 cases among children in child care the previous week was 162.  The Wolf Administration continues to urge eligible Pennsylvanians to get vaccinated, as it is the best defense at stopping the spread of the virus. However, there is currently no vaccine approved for children under 12 years old. For eligible adolescents in Pennsylvania, 18.2 percent of children ages 12-14 are fully vaccinated and 38.3 percent of children ages 15-19 are fully vaccinated.  “After months apart, students and educators are eagerly returning to classrooms across Pennsylvania for the new school year,” said Secretary of Education Noe Ortega. “Unfortunately, we’ve already seen schools across the nation close because of COVID-19. Wearing masks is a proven strategy that will help Pennsylvania’s schools reduce the spread of COVID-19, protect their communities, and keep our students and educators where we know it’s vital for them to be – teaching, learning and growing together safely in their classrooms.”  “An early childhood education experience can shape a child’s educational, social and emotional development throughout their lives. Science has shown us that the first five years of life are critical to brain development, influencing the trajectory of an individual’s life for many years after,” DHS Acting Secretary Meg Snead said. “A thriving child care industry is also foundational to the rest of our economy, and this industry and the dedicated educators who show up every day to help our children grow will be essential for our recovery from this pandemic. Simply put, without access to safe child care and early learning programs, many parents cannot work.”  Acting Secretary Beam signed the order under her authority provided by the Disease Prevention and Control Law.  The Order applies to everyone indoors at K-12 public schools including brick and mortar and cyber charter schools, private and parochial schools, career and technical centers (CTCs), and intermediate units (IUs). The order also applies to early learning programs and child care providers for children ages 2 and older, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The order outlines the situations when a mask must be worn and includes limited exceptions to the face-covering requirement. The order does not apply to school sports or outdoor activities.  Failure to implement or follow the Order may subject a person to penalties under the Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955 and exposure to personal liability.   Last week, the governor sent a letter asking Republican legislative leaders to immediately collaborate with him to pass legislation requiring mask wearing in schools and at child care facilities. Because the Republican leaders declined to act, the acting secretary is taking action to help keep students in classrooms, which is the best place for them to learn.   The departments also provided an initial series of answers to frequently asked questions about the Secretary of Health’s masking order.  

GASD hears public comment; votes against reopening discussion on health and safety plan; considers pandemic funds use

After hearing comment from eight residents during its public comment session, the Gettysburg Area School Board held a short meeting on Monday evening. A recording of the meeting is available here. Board member Katherine Adams Pratt asked the board to reconsider its health and safety plan, which makes face masks optional, in light of recent COVID upticks in the county. The motion to reopen discussion was rejected with only Pratt, Sylvan Hershey, and Carrie Soliday voting in favor. Assistant Superintendent Christine Lay said the district was working with third-party providers and in-house teachers on its cyber offerings for the upcoming school year. Lay said the number of students signing up for the programs was going up every day. Superintendent Jason Perrin outlined how the district was planning to use the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER-II) COVID money. A total of $2,879,423 is available to the district.  Proposed uses included hiring a reading specialist, preparing for long-term school closures, improving mental-health services, summer learning and after school programming, addressing learning losses caused by the pandemic, increasing funds for live-streaming board meetings, improving WIFI access for families, community and parent engagement, and expanding access to school information. A complete list of the proposed uses of the funds is here. Perrin said the district had applied for a grant to provide WIFI access on the district’s school buses. The next regularly scheduled board meeting is Tuesday Sept. 7 at 7:00 p.m..

UASD approves masks as optional

Upper Adams School District (UASD) moves forward with masks as optional Tuesday. As UASD prepares to fully open for in-person learning, the board approved the health and safety plan instituting masks as “strongly recommended but not required,” in a 5-4- vote Tuesday. The approval to not implement a mask mandate came after much deliberation between the board as well as listening to parent and community concerns. Approving the plan and voting in favor of allowing parents to make their own decisions for their students were board members Susan Crouse, Bruce Hollabaugh, Cindy Janczyk, Jim Lady, and Ed Ponce.   Voting against the plan and in favor of mandatory masks in school district facilities were board members James Rutkowski, Christopher Lee, board vice president Ron Ebbert, and board president Tom Wilson. Several board members noted the difficult decision of the vote. With the rise in county cases and change in Delta variants, Rutkowski acknowledged his own “flip-flopping” back and forth on the issue, suggesting “When the county is a substantial transmission, we might want to consider requiring masks for the safety of our community and the safety of our students,” he said. Crouse was open to the idea of reviewing the health and safety plan as new information evolved throughout the school year. “We and the public need to recognize that we are trying every day and every week to do what’s right for our kids,” she said. Ebbert was highly in favor of mandating masks and credited masks along with social distancing and the school district’s recent air circulation construction project as making schools as safe as possible. “Our students were safer in school than they were in the general public,” he said. General correspondence received by the school board from members of the community have found that, “A majority of parents would like to make the choice themselves,” according to Janczyk. “There are parents that have spoken with the decision that they would like that right, and I think that’s worth serious consideration tonight,” she said. Hollabaugh said it is more important for teachers to focus on instruction than having to constantly remind students proper mask wearing procedures “It doesn’t seem very appropriate to expect our teachers or our administrators to not only educate our children but also to bear the responsibility of enforcing correct mask wearing,” he said. School district decisions should be consistent throughout the county, according to Lady. “It’s my understanding all other school districts in Adams County have established a similar plan,” he said, acknowledging UASD was only a part of the districts that make up the county. “This should be a group effort of Adams County,” Lady said. Lee respectfully disagreed with Lady, noting that while every parent has the responsibility to their own children, members of the school district had a responsibility for all students. “We don’t always do what the other districts do. I think we do what we do because it’s right, not because it’s what other people do,” he said. District superintendent Wesley Doll reminded parents the imperativeness of keeping students at home if they feel unwell, emphasizing it can be crucial in slowing the spread of illness. “We have found that has significantly helped us stay open,” he said. In other business it was noted, ·         Three councilors were approved to be brought on for additional student mental health services using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER) funding. ·         A grant was accepted from the Biglerville High School Class of 1952 for $225 in support of the Biglerville Elementary School Music Program. The first day of in-person school, kindergarten through 12th grade is Aug. 25. The next curriculum and extracurricular committee meeting will be held Sept. 7 and regular school board meeting Sept. 21.

Gettysburg College announces health protocols for fall semester

As students return to campus over the next few weeks, Gettysburg College has implemented strong anti-COVID policies designed to keep them safe. According to campus officials, the college will begin the semester with an outstanding vaccination rate, with the expectation that more than 93% of faculty, staff, and students will be fully vaccinated. The college says vaccination is the single most important measure in its ability to return to a normal academic and social environment. The college has been monitoring the trajectory of the delta variant, with a particular focus on its impact in Adams County. As has occurred elsewhere in the country, cases in Adams County have spiked, together with COVID-19 admissions to local hospitals. The county has moved into the CDC’s “high transmission” designation. Indoor Masking Effective Monday, August 23, all individuals at the college — regardless of their vaccination status — will be required to wear a mask while inside campus buildings, unless they are inside their assigned room or apartment, in their personal office or workspace, or when eating or drinking. No capacity limits have been imposed on outdoor gatherings, but the college urges students to wear a mask when in town. Testing Unvaccinated students and employees will be required to have a COVID-19 PCR test every week. Visitors Visitors and guests are not permitted in residence halls, with a one-time exception for families who are moving in students. The campus noted that these policies are consistent with those being rolled out at each of the other Centennial Conference schools, and that they will continue to monitor public health guidance and infection rates, and will adapt protocols as data warrants. Interested individuals can find campus announcements and alert levels at the college’s COVID-19 website. 

Adams County Adult Correctional Complex avoids COVID cases, moves forward with its mission

Despite being home to over 200 prisoners, the Adams County Adult Correctional Complex (ACACC) has not had a single case of transmitted COVID cases in the prison. That’s is a remarkable achievement, and a testament to the work of its staff, given many similar facilities have suffered major outbreaks requiring forced lockdowns. The facility, located at 45 Major Bell Lane in Gettysburg, is charged with protecting and serving the residents of Adams County by providing progressive, comprehensive correctional and rehabilitative services to the inmate population. Warden Katy Hileman said that although the prison population has grown steadily since it opened in 2003, there was a reduction in numbers last year due to policies designed to mitigate the negative effects of COVID by reducing the number of prisoners. Most of the released prisoners were assigned to electronic monitoring in their homes.  “It was a mitigation effort. To keep people safe, some non-violent offenders were released to house arrest.” she said. Hileman said those released during COVID were primarily elderly inmates who were more vulnerable and who require more treatment.  Hileman said the county and the prison board worked with her, the courts, the county commissioners, and law enforcement to develop the mitigation policies. “Without cooperation, we wouldn’t have been as successful. The prison board played a huge role in that,” said County Solicitor Molly Mudd. One important change over the past year was the cancellation of all work release programs. “Reentry was closed because it was the largest risk to the public,” said Mudd.  Mudd said that there was no transmission of COVID due to implementing “the highest level COVID protocols” and the work of the warden. “She’s held up as an example of how this was done.” The prison did have 5 prisoners who tested positive for COVID – but they were all transfers from other facilities and they did not spread the virus inside the prison.  “We focused on making the right decisions by taking advantage of protective measures to keep people safe,” said Hileman. Acknowledging the situation was still in flux, Hileman said “We’re not quite back to the normal that everybody would like to be.  It’s very dangerous.  All it takes is one case and it’s wildfire. We had started planning before things really started. We are research and data driven.  We were paying attention to what was working and wasn’t. I still feel lucky.  We really focused on making the best decisions we could.” “We never had a lockdown. We never had reduced congregation or time outside. We tried to balance mental health and well-being with protective measures. It all worked. The prisoners had a little bit of losses, but some facilities had 23 hour per day lockdowns.” About The Prison The facility is administered jointly by Hileman, two deputy wardens, two captains, as well as a director of business operations, a director of treatment services, and about 110 staff members.  A total of 137 positions have been approved for the prison. The facility is overseen by the 7-member prison board composed of the County Commissioners, the President Judge or designee, and the District Attorney, Sheriff, and Controller. Meetings of the prison board are held online monthly and are open to the public. Financially, the prison represents the largest slice of the county budget, coming in at about $14 million annually. “We’re trending a bit under this year, but historically costs have increased,” said County Manager Steve Nevada. Saying the ACACC has 449 beds and houses both male and female inmates, Hileman said “the mission of the prison is to protect and serve the community with well-managed and effective programming, security, and best practices. We all care about the facility and the county very much.” Hileman said the daily average number of prisoners is about 220, and the typical stay ranges from 38 to 65 days. Hileman said the prison holds a variety of people including those waiting for bail hearings, those who have been sentenced to 1 to 2 year terms, and about 35-40 prisoners who are being held for U.S. Marshalls. Typical charges include failure to pay fines or costs, contempt cases, as well as DUI and drug-related offenses. Hileman said prisoners are assigned to either minimum, medium, or maximum security procedures depending on their current and past charges, predicted propensity for violence, and where else they are wanted. Hileman said all prisoners have access to the same programs, including mental health care. Monitoring and Auditing The prison undergoes regular annual or bi-annual audits by the PA Department of Corrections, a Prison Rape Elimination Act audit every three years, a National Commission on Correctional Health Care medical review every three years, and a review by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care every three years. Because the facility has an agreement with the United States Department of Justice to house federal detainees in the custody of the US Marshall Service, an annual review is conducted by the US Department of Justice. The County Controller’s office also conducts an annual audit using an independently elected controller.  Hileman said the prison had passed each of these audits and reviews. Staffing The prison, like all state and county prisons, has difficulties recruiting and retaining staff. “Recruiting and retaining staff is difficult in any conditions. Rarely do people grow up and say they want to be in corrections. It often provides a place for people to get training while they are going to school,” said Hileman. “It’s not an easy career. It can be difficult for new employees to adjust,” she said. Like most other businesses, the prison is receiving fewer applicants and increases in the number of applicants who drop out during the pre-hire process. Nevada said that many people who apply and go through the onboarding do not pass the screening process to become official employees. “There is a nationwide shortage of correctional officers at the state and local level,” said Mudd. Hileman said that staffing remained stable during the height of the pandemic. “Once the world started to reopen, there were several staff who left their employment, for a variety of reasons, which has led to an increased use of overtime to cover vacancies,” she said. “We have enough staff now for the number of inmates we’re holding. We’re able to maintain and adequately handle our populations,” said Hileman, but added that the prison required both mandatory and voluntary overtime from its employees. “The prison board is working with the numbers. Our average daily hold is low. By Order of the Court, re-entry is closed, and some non-violent offenders have been released on house arrest.  With fewer inmates, the facility can be safely operated with a smaller contingent of staff.  But, the county is putting many resources into recruiting and hiring correctional officers at this time, and will continue to do so until the facility is fully staffed,” said Mudd. Hileman said the prison was working to increase its recruiting, including advertising using billboards around the area. “Corrections is a challenging profession. Parents of young children are not going to consider becoming a correctional officer at this time because of the potential risk of transmitting COVID to their young children. We’re in the same boat as almost every other county,” said Mudd.

LASD will purchase comprehensive mental health program

Director of Pupil Services Carolyn Fiascki presented the pilot program for a Comprehensive School Based Mental Health System to the LASD Board on Monday. The program, which will cost over $.5 million for the first year, will provide access to mental health services for students, staff, and parents within the district and be paid for by COVID funds. Fiascki was joined by Dr. Ray Christner from the program’s provider, Cognitive Health Solutions (CHS), who assisted in answering questions and giving explanations of the program. “The purpose of this is to pull together our educators and our staff to help to respond to the needs of our students with mental health issues, while fostering a good school climate that supports teaching and learning,” said Fiascki. Fiascki, who has been with LASD for 23 years, said the district has been doing the first three tiers of mental health services throughout her tenure and that currently every student and teacher gets assistance and support in the classroom. LASD is looking to go above and beyond the current support by providing clinical-type services in the schools. The district would continue collaboration with CHS and add a full time psychologist, a behavioral specialist, and a mental health worker, all contracted through CHS. The annual cost for the “all-in” plan would be $508,000. Concerns were raised over the involvement of parents in the process of assisting their children with mental health services. “You have to think about this educationally,” said Christner, “None of it would ever happen without parent consent. Parents should be involved all the way. We’re just trying to put something into place that gives access to the families.” Christner noted that most local mental health clinics are now scheduling well into December 2021 and beyond or have stopped accepting new patients because of extensive waiting lists. This in-house program gives parents and their students access to clinical assistance within the district. Other concerns were raised about the service’s price tag. “There is the possibility of other funding,” said Christner, “The budget may stay the same, but the budget for the district may not, so the goal is to find other funding sources, whether that be third party payers, whether it is grant money, or sheer decrease.” Christner noted that it takes at least 2 years to get the system established, and said CHS would be supplying quarterly data to the board for goal tracking which would help the board and administration determine the effectiveness of the program. “I envision that the budget should go down, not up.” said Christner. “Anytime you start a mental health program of this magnitude, the first year there is more need because there are more students that need the services. But the goal of starting this is to give kids the skills so that they don’t need it.” The program will help children develop stress and anger management skills, but would not delve into personal issues. The goal is to help the students succeed in school. “No other school in the area is doing this,” said Dr. Fiascki. “There is no set standard for this type of program. No one size fits all.” After discussions on the program, the recommendation to approve the concept for development of the program was amended to approve the Comprehensive Mental Health Plan Pilot, using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds for the all-In option for 1 year with a reevaluation at the end of the school year. The measure passed unanimously with 9 to 0 affirmative. The next Regular Meeting of the Littlestown School Board will be held on Monday, August 16, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. in the board room at Alloway Creek Elementary School. The public is invited to attend or may address questions to the board through the LASD website.

CVSD joins other districts with masks-optional policy for fall 2021

Conewago Valley School District will continue to perform contact tracing and run a COVID-19 data dashboard as it begins this school year, but masks and vaccines will be optional. The board heard from community members who spoke in person or submitted comments to be read during the meeting. Some commenters asked whether the district is considering a mask mandate as community transmission levels of the novel coronavirus have increased and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been updated. Others wanted assurance that a mask or vaccine mandate would not be in place. Superintendent Christopher Rudisill said vaccines will be left to “individual choice.” Rudisill said parents can stay up to date on cases in the district with the COVID-19 dashboard on the district’s website. The dashboard was also available last year. “It won’t be as detailed, but we’ll continue to do that because it’s important to the public to know where we are at all times,” Rudisill said. He stressed that parents should keep their children home if they show signs of illness. While he said the district believes in-person instruction is the best option for children, Rudisill said everyone will have to cooperate to help create a successful school year. “Just like last year, though, we’re going to have challenges and we need to be flexible and change at a moment’s notice if that happens,” Rudisill said. “Again, we’ll constantly evaluate the conditions and situations and make sure whatever we’re doing is in the best interests of our students. Obviously, when we look at what’s going to be successful this school year, it’s all of us working together.” When asked by one commenter what would happen if the state does implement a mandate, Rudisill said the school board would meet to discuss the matter if necessary. “We’d have to look at what are the repercussions if we don’t follow it, because right now with our health and safety plan, if you listened last week, there’s money tied to that plan from the federal government,” Rudisill said. School year preparation School leaders updated the board and said they feel prepared for the new school year. Christopher Bowman, principal of New Oxford High School, thanked staff who helped prepare for the school year. “Once again, they are second to none,” Bowman said. “We have quite an extensive campus, and I know they are on schedule to have our buildings ready, cleaned and ready to go for as much normalcy as we hope to return to this fall.” Autumn Zaminksi, the new principal of Conewago Township Elementary School, introduced herself at the meeting. “I can’t go through this night without thanking Dr. (Larry) Sanders and Mr. (Christopher) Cobb for assisting me as I transition to my new role at CTE, as well as the entire administration team,” Zaminksi said. “If you don’t know, I am the new principal at CTE following behind Dr. Sanders. So, I have big shoes to fill, and I appreciate all of the questions that they have fielded.” Zaminski was previously the assistant principal of Conewago Valley Intermediate School. Christopher Cobb, principal of New Oxford Elementary School, said staff are centralizing student supplies to improve their inventory and reduce costs. He also said plans to improve the playground at the school are being developed. Assistant Superintendent Sharon Perry also expressed optimism and gratitude. “I’d like to thank the administrators for all their hard work this summer for helping us prepare to open our schools for children, and I trust that it’s going to be a wonderful year,” Perry said. “I really look forward to it.” Rudisill agreed. “I’ll echo again to our administrators: I’m just proud to work with you, and the work you were able to do this summer to prepare for this coming school year is unbelievable and makes me proud,” he said. Recognition The board recognized New Oxford High School for being “… accepted as one of 50 Pennsylvania National Guard Associations Guard Friendly High Schools for the 2021-22 school year,” according to the agenda notes. Elizabeth Miller was also named for receiving an honorable mention in the Hershey History Writing Contest. The next regular board meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20.

LASD approves health and safety plan after careful consideration of data

The Littlestown Area School District (LASD) school board approved the district’s state-required Health and Safety Plan on an 8 to 1 vote on Monday evening. The plan makes face coverings optional. Board member Brian Lawyer voted against the plan, saying he didn’t approve of the mask policy. The vote came after district superintendent Chris Bigger made a detailed explanation of his reasoning about the policies. Bigger first reminded the board of the “common ground” the district followed in 2020-21, including keeping students in school with face-to-face instruction, protecting the most vulnerable populations, implementing reasonable safety measures based on local data, and being consistent. “We knew that if we were consistent throughout the year, in the long run that would really help us with families, students, and staff,” he said. Bigger said each of the district’s schools was closed only once last year. Bigger said he based his presentation on data, particularly those from the Pennsylvania COVID Dashboard, which he said provides a very sophisticated data tracker. “I love data,” he said. According to Bigger’s report: Fourteen percent of people in the LASD zip code have already had COVID and there have been about 100 cases in the district.  “The more cases we had in the area, the more impact there was on the school,” he said. Between 40 and 49 percent of eligible people had been vaccinated in the county but that this rate was substantially higher in those over 65 years of age and substantially lower in younger people. Adams County Coroner Pat Felix reported that almost all COVID-related deaths in the county were in older populations and that there had been few in the younger age ranges. The American Association of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control recommended face coverings and 3-foot distance spacing, but that they also noted the importance of in-person learning, regardless of whether all the prevention strategies could be implemented at the school. There was little evidence that children under 10 years transmitted COVID but that children over 10 were just as likely as people of other ages to transmit it. The district did experience COVID transmission among students last year, particularly on athletic teams. Bigger created an analysis matrix that brought a number of sources of information together that would help the district making decisions. Explaining the matrix, Bigger said he was concerned about the low vaccination rate in the county coupled with the substantial community spread of COVID, but that other aspects, such as the county’s low death rates and a low population density, worked in the district’s favor. Based on these data, Bigger proposed a health and safety plan stating that for all schools on day one of the first semester on August 19, 2021, there will be no physical distancing requirements and no face coverings required but that there could be an increase in mitigation measures as needed based on local data and conditions. The proposed policies include: A minimum of weekly fogging schedule and increased air circulation, a focus on hygiene practices in all schools, a persistent effort to keep children home when sick, and continued monitoring local data, particularly in December.  A no tolerance policy for bullying due to wearing face coverings. “For everyone’s mental well-being, we expect courteous understanding to students and families,” Bigger said. “We don’t want choice to turn into a problem.” Quarantines and contact tracing will continue in some manner, and limited use of live streaming classes for quarantine and prolonged health related absences will be available. If absences would increase to greater than 30%, the administration and school board would then consider increased mitigation strategies similar to those that were used in the 2020-21 school year. The superintendent will come to the board if and when changes need to be made.  The district would more aggressively suggest vaccination and potentially require face coverings if the number of absences and quarantines made in-person learning impossible. Bigger said vaccinations are encouraged:  “We would recommend eligible individuals get vaccinated.” Students must stay home when they are sick.  “Parents don’t like that, but they have to,” said Bigger.

Boat Building 101

For yet another countervailing activity during Covid, I elected to build a wooden rowboat (remember that I like to build things!). So after a few months of shopping around, I finally decided on the “Chester Yawl” from Chesapeake Light Craft of Annapolis, Maryland. The simple beauty of this rowboat comes from how the hull’s smooth lines flow and converge in space. The Chester Yawl follows the classic Whitehall “pulling boat” used extensively in Boston and New York City harbors during the 19th century. History has it that Whitehalls were a commonly seen rowboat of the 19th century. However, the basic design is much older and of European ancestry. It strongly resembles a sailing ship’s gig or a Thames River Wherry used by watermen as a taxi service. They were first made in the U.S. at the foot of Whitehall Street in New York City to ferry goods, services, and sailors on and off the boats coming into New York Harbor. The Chester Yawl is the perfect example of when a whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. And believe me when I say that there was an astonishing number of parts! As the humbling complexity began to sink in, I realized that I needed to put my head down and just dig in. This, you might say, is where the hull hits the water! My original plan was to spend two weeks in Maine building the “Maine Idea” (the boat’s moniker). I would have the boat finished before my wife, Juli, arrived, and we would enjoy a week of rowing together. However, the daily push to complete the project in two weeks turned into a fast-forwarded movie screaming to the end! So I decided to rewind, reflect, and remind myself that isn’t this really more about the process, right? Well, the process gradually turned into excuses for friends and family members to stop by to chat and lend a hand. Over the two-plus weeks, my brother’s garage transformed itself into a neighborhood ‘popup’ workshop, and the early skeptical naysayers ultimately became my most ardent fans as they witnessed thin strakes of marine plywood get tortured into the elegant shell of a most “fair” boat. My friend Lisa asked me, “Why do you want to build a boat?” Well, to my mind, a rowboat is a beautiful and timeless form of transportation. And, if considered as an interactive sculpture, all you need to do is add water and some muscle. But, speaking of water, on a river, attention is drawn to the flow and pull beneath (time), and if taken on the open sea (space), many directions are now possible (even, under, heaven forbid!). So, perhaps metaphorically speaking, choosing to build a rowboat entails how one wishes to move through time and space. Of course, I could have decided on a motorboat, but that would’ve disrupted the tranquility of our Mirror Pond, or maybe a small sailboat, but then again, I wanted some way that I could work up a sweat! Maybe it’s because there aren’t any moving parts except for the oars and oarlocks determining the rower’s position; the rower provides the movement. The same characteristics are found in the wood-fired brick oven that bakes my bread every week. But, again, it’s the absence of moving parts. This is what I find most compelling. However, the materials also give structural order to the rowboat and bread oven. For example, during construction, the wooden planks of the hull are pulled together in perfect tension, providing its graceful profile. As for the brick oven, gravity and a thin layer of mortar enable the interior firebrick arch to attain tremendous strength and symmetry. The Maine Idea epitomizes ‘old school’ timeless design and construction methods, qualities that are rare these days. Step by step, piece by piece, the labor, attention to detail, and the many hands that contributed are embedded within every phase of its finished form from start to finish. I can say, without reservation, that the whole is (undeniably) greater than the sum of its parts. Finally, I leave you with a few words from Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia. It goes to the heart of my entire boat building adventure and underscores many of my sentiments about the weaknesses of our overdeveloped and overbuilt environment: “Technology is making gestures precise and brutal and with them men. It expels from movements all hesitation, deliberation, civility. [T]he ability is lost, for example, to close a door quietly and discreetly, yet firmly… The new human type cannot be [properly] understood without awareness of what he is continuously exposed to from the world of things . [W]ithering of experience is the fact that, under the law of pure functionality, things assume a form that limits contact with them to mere operation; tolerates no surplus, either in freedom of conduct or in the autonomy of things.”  –Theodor Adorno, 1944

Bermudian Approves Mask-optional reopening plan for fall 2021; Thanks Rich Sterner for his service

The Bermudian Springs School District accepted the resignation of a member and approved a mask-optional health and safety plan during its regular meeting on Tuesday evening. During the 11-minute meeting, school board President Michael Wool read a letter from Rich Sterner resigning from his position as vice president of the board. “I am now no longer a resident and taxpayer of the Bermudian Springs school district. It has been a dream for my wife Karen and I to live at the beach and finally our dream has come to a reality…,” the note said, adding that Sterner now lives in Delaware. “Even as a former administrator and teacher of Biglerville, serving here and sitting on this side of the table has been one of the most important things I’ve ever done,” Sterner’s letter continued. “It has certainly been an honor. I will wear my Eagle shirt with great pride. I have just a few parting words before I go if you’re willing to listen. Education is the key to the advancement of our society. Don’t ever forget that. If our worry is taxes or curriculum or how much milk prices are in the cafeteria, never forget that we are building a better America in our process. You must believe in this utterly. Only then can you make decisions in the best interests of our constituencies that you represent. Also, it’s okay to disagree and argue as ladies and gentlemen. Expect the best of intentions from one another and always shake hands and smile when the meeting is adjourned.” Wool thanked Sterner for his service to the district. The board approved the appointment of Dr. Shannon Myers as the district’s assistant superintendent. Myers will begin on Oct. 1. District solicitor Brooke Say offered a brief report: “This month, we provided various advice on personnel matters, and we also offered a series of administrator workshops, including a principals’ workshop and a course for new or rising principals, and we also had a business managers’ workshop,” she said. There were no scheduled speakers and no participants during the time for public comment. The board will hold a caucus meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 13 and a regular meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 14.

What renters in Pa. need to know about available relief, the new eviction ban

Charlotte Keith of Spotlight PA Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media. Sign up for our free newsletters. HARRISBURG — It’s been a nerve-racking few weeks for many Pennsylvania tenants, after the expiration of a federal freeze on evictions, a failed effort by House Democrats to extend it, and then — in a surprise reversal from the Biden administration — a new, targeted ban. The uncertainty is far from over, as a federal judge weighs whether to block the order. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania is racing to get more than $1 billion in rental relief out the door to people who have fallen behind because of the pandemic. “The average award in the state is about $6,000 per household,” Meg Snead, acting secretary of the Department of Human Services, said during a recent Spotlight PA live event. “So really significant financial assistance that can help people get back on their feet.” Here’s what Pennsylvania renters need to know. Who is covered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new eviction freeze? As of Tuesday, tenants in most of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties were safe from being evicted if they have fallen behind on rent because of the pandemic and tried to apply for government help. The current eviction ban only applies in counties where the spread of COVID-19 is “substantial” or “high.” If a county doesn’t have substantial or high transmission rates for 14 days in a row, the order no longer applies — unless transmission rates increase again and reach the CDC threshold. Michelle Dempsky, a staff attorney with Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania, told Spotlight PA it’s unclear how the CDC’s eviction ban will be treated by the municipal courts that handle evictions. She encouraged anyone who believes they may be eligible to fill out a CDC declaration form and give a copy to their landlord. The CDC recommends anyone who is unsure if they’re covered by the new order to contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by calling (800) 569-4287 or to contact a local housing counselor. How long will this eviction ban be in place? The renewed federal eviction ban is in effect until Oct. 3, but could be extended again “based on public health circumstances,” according to the CDC. It could also be cut short by legal challenges. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court voted narrowly to keep the prior eviction ban in place. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that he believed the CDC had exceeded its legal authority by issuing the eviction ban and that any extension would need to come from Congress. President Joe Biden acknowledged that the latest eviction ban is likely to face legal obstacles and might not “pass constitutional muster.” A case is currently pending in federal court. What if my county isn’t covered by the new eviction ban? Even if your county isn’t currently covered by the new federal eviction ban, you might be protected by a local court order. In Berks County, residents are covered by an order allowing judges to postpone eviction cases for up to 90 days if a tenant can show they have applied, or are about to apply, for help. The state Supreme Court recently green-lighted a request from Bucks County to issue a similar order, opening the door for other local courts to do the same thing. Even if your county doesn’t have its own order and isn’t covered by the federal one either, your eviction case could still be put on hold, since landlords have a financial incentive to be patient if you are waiting on rent relief. In many counties, landlords can only receive the assistance funds if a tenant is still currently living in the unit. What if I haven’t applied for rent relief yet? If you’re at risk of eviction, apply for rental assistance immediately. There’s an unprecedented amount of federal relief funding available — $1.5 billion in total — and the local governments and nonprofits administering the program are under pressure to get it out to landlords and tenants as quickly as possible. High demand has caused backlogs in some counties, resulting in longer wait times. Each county is running its own program and has slightly different rules. You can find a list of rental assistance programs in each county by visiting dhs.pa.gov/ERAP. What’s covered by rent relief? In general, the program is more flexible than last year’s and advocates and administrators agree that it’s working much more smoothly. This program is also more generous, covering past due and ongoing rental payments, utility bills, and, in some counties, late fees and court fees. There’s no hard-and-fast statewide limit on the amount of assistance people can receive. Find more details at dhs.pa.gov/ERAP. What else should I know? If you do end up in court, and you are not proficient in English, you have the right to request a translator to assist you. Dempsky also encouraged tenants to bear in mind that receiving an eviction notice is just the first step in a much longer process: It does not mean you have to leave right away. WHILE YOU’RE HERE… If you learned something from this story, pay it forward and become a member of Spotlight PA so someone else can in the future at spotlightpa.org/donate. Spotlight PA is funded by foundationsand readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results.

Pa. is trying county fairs, text messages, and door-knocking to raise the vaccination rate. Success is slow coming.

By Jamie Martines of Spotlight PA Nicole Diehl attended the Wayne County Fair in northeastern Pennsylvania last weekend, not for the livestock exhibitions, carnival games, demolition derbies, or tractor pulls. Instead, the registered nurse was on hand as part of an effort to make it as easy as possible to get vaccinated — a goal that’s become even more critical as new cases of COVID-19 creep up in Pennsylvania. “It’s right here, they know it’s free, let’s just do it and get it done with,” said Diehl, a 21-year veteran of the Wayne Memorial Health System, which is organizing the clinics. “I do believe convenience plays a big part in it.” In the first three days of the fair, 58 people agreed to be vaccinated. Several were preparing to travel or participate in gatherings like weddings, Diehl said, while many others were fair workers who will move on to jobs in other places. “Ten a day is more than nothing,” she said. “So if we can continue to get 10 a day, I’d be happy.” As of Aug. 9, nearly 64% of Pennsylvania adults were fully vaccinated. That’s a small increase compared with the previous month and a worrying plateau as the delta variant surges across the country. To motivate unvaccinated people to get a shot, state officials, health systems, and community groups are sending text messages, making house calls, and setting up clinics in convenient places, including several county fairs. The state Department of Health recently launched a text-message program to remind those who received their first dose between Dec. 14 and May 14, but who did not return for a second shot, to complete their vaccination. The first round of messages was sent to 254,850 people. Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to announce a new initiative to boost vaccinations Tuesday afternoon, but additional details were not available Monday evening. Nearly all of the state’s recent deaths and hospitalizations have been among people who are not vaccinated, acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said in late July. “If we can move the needle there, that, of course, tamps down case counts, hospitalizations, and prevents deaths,” Beam said. “At this stage, these deaths are preventable.” Experts told Spotlight PA it’s not surprising that vaccination rates have slowed over the summer. Those who were sure about their decision to get vaccinated eagerly lined up in the spring. Still, state and local officials are worried that stagnating rates could lead to another fall surge, especially among vulnerable populations like children under 12 who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated, people with underlying health conditions who can’t get a shot, and the elderly. In the winter, Pennsylvania faced a sluggish vaccine rollout. Supply was drastically outpaced by demand, and a decentralized, mostly internet-based web of appointment registration sites made competing for a slot stressful and complicated. Now, misinformation and distrust of government are making the task of persuading the unvaccinated to get a shot even harder. “I think the answer is public education,” said Paul Heimel, a commissioner in Potter County, where vaccination rates are among the lowest in the state. In Heimel’s north-central county, which has a population of 16,526, the share of vaccinated residents has hovered near or at 30% since late May. It’s one of about a dozen rural counties that has reported consistently stagnant vaccination rates since eligibility expanded in April. Transportation to vaccine sites was a problem in the rural county early on, Heimel said. Currently, vaccine hesitancy fueled by misinformation is the biggest issue keeping people from getting a shot. “We’re not going to stop,” Heimel said. “There’s science behind it, and it’s in the best public interest.” In recent months, the state Department of Health has worked with health systems and county officials to set up mass vaccination sites throughout the state, along with small, community-based clinics — with mixed success. The state targeted rural counties with little health-care infrastructure and many elderly residents with mass vaccination clinics that saw high turnout. All 500 appointments at a February clinic in Sullivan County were booked the week before an advertisement ran in the local paper, and all of them were filled the weekend of the clinic. Potter County officials partnered with the state Health Department to hold small vaccine clinics in remote parts of the county, but the turnout was “underwhelming, disappointing,” Heimel, the commissioner, said. The state awarded Latino Connection, a Harrisburg-based communications agency, a $1.8 million grant this spring to run daylong, mobile clinics across Pennsylvania in an effort to help close the stark racial disparity in vaccinations. About 71.3% of people statewide who have received at least one dose of a vaccine are white, while 5.1% are Black and 5% are Hispanic. In May, about 73% of people who met the same criteria were white, 4% were Black, and 4% were Hispanic. Race and ethnicity information for about 10% of vaccinated people in Pennsylvania is still unknown, state data show, and there are concerns the numbers may be inaccurate for Asian residents. With money awarded by the state, the United Way is currently managing $4 million in grants to support organizations doing vaccine education and outreach. So far, groups in Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh have received funding for vaccine education and events through the program. Applications are pending for groups in the majority-Hispanic city of Reading, as well as in rural Forest and Venango Counties, United Way of Pennsylvania president Kristen Rotz said. Many of the events are aimed at reaching children 12 and older, the youngest population eligible to receive the vaccine, and people in rural areas, Rotz said. Most events are small, with a goal of vaccinating 50 to 100 people, compared with the mass vaccination events that were more common in the spring. Our West Bayfront — a community organization in the city of Erie that provides housing resources, hosts community events, and supports local businesses — is among those receiving funding for education and small pop-up events in parks and residential areas. The group’s service area has one of the lowest shares of vaccinated residents in Erie County, at about 36%, local data show. The goal is to bring vaccines to those neighborhoods to make getting a shot easy and convenient for people living there, executive director Anna Frantz said. In addition to sharing informational fliers and launching paid social media advertisements, Frantz, two staff members, and a cohort of nearly a dozen volunteers knock on doors to personally talk to people about getting a vaccine. The group has seen some success. Previous clinics held in a local park and scheduled to coincide with a summer recreation series attracted younger adults and those motivated by the convenience of getting a vaccine in their neighborhood. But turnout is still low, even as the group tries to reach people personally or bring vaccines to their doorstep. Only four people received a vaccine during a recent National Night Out event, which was attended by about 1,000 people, Frantz said. “I was not expecting how difficult it would be given what a slog we’ve been through,” she said. Challenges in Pennsylvania mirror trends nationwide. “The issues left are vaccine hesitancy, or they don’t feel there’s a strong enough need to jump through the hoops they would need to to get the vaccine,” said Wendy King, an epidemiologist at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health who is studying vaccine hesitancy. Her research, which includes a nationwide survey of more than five million respondents, suggests that while vaccine hesitancy as a whole is decreasing, there’s still a consistent group of people who say they will “definitely not” get a vaccine, King said. Embed #4: Raw HTML Embed #4Many of those people said they didn’t trust the government or the vaccine, King said, making public health interventions or education efforts challenging. “It’s a little more difficult because it’s not exactly scientifically based,” she said. Local officials across Pennsylvania are seeing that type of distrust of government and public health sources, and much of it is driven by misinformation about vaccines, said Kevin Boozel, president of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and a commissioner in Butler County. Boozel said it’s going to take people who aren’t “politicized,” like teachers, coaches, or faith leaders, to convince people who have not yet been reached. “I think that there’s still a political stigma around vaccines,” he said. “The reality is, the messaging can’t come from political leadership.”

When ‘breast is best’ becomes too much: Many parents feel pressure and even shame when breastfeeding isn’t possible

Jennifer Gerson Jennifer Gerson Originally published by The 19th Throughout Gray Chapman’s pregnancy, visits to her midwife’s office always meant being asked if she planned to breastfeed. The question didn’t faze Chapman, who told The 19th that she would answer by saying, “Yeah, if it works great, but if not, there’s always formula!” At the time, she meant it, too.  But a difficult birth led to a five-day hospital stay, and Chapman — an Atlanta-based journalist — found her time in the hospital marked largely by a lactation consultant who just wouldn’t leave. Every day for four to five hours a day, the lactation consultant was in her hospital room, trying to help her understand why her newborn wouldn’t latch. With her baby rapidly losing weight and at one point going 26 hours without a wet diaper, at no point did anyone in the hospital so much as mention the word “formula” to Chapman.  Toward the end of Chapman’s post-birth hospital stay, with a baby still struggling to feed, the lactation consultant finally offered up a suggestion for an alternate plan: She told Chapman that in lieu of trying to breastfeed, she should try pumping and bottle feeding. “The troubling part,” Chapman said, “was that there were no professionals around me who were willing to step in and say, ‘This woman is recovering from a C-section and is unable to feed her hungry, six-pound baby — maybe we should bring in the Similac.’” Though Chapman said that she doesn’t believe anyone ever directly spoke the words “breast is best” directly to her, she nevertheless felt overt pressure to breastfeed her child at all costs. After all, she said, why else would the lactation consultant be spending so much time with her if this wasn’t “something I had to make work”? About a week later, National Breastfeeding Awareness Week began, and Chapman’s Instagram feed was suddenly flooded with “beautiful black-and-white shots of women breastfeeding their babies.” Looking over at her husband, then finally feeding their newborn son with a bottle and formula through a second lactation consultant’s advice, she broke down. “I just sobbed,” she said. “My husband has never seen me cry like that and we have been together a really long time. World Breastfeeding Week made me cry.” “I knew intellectually that breastfeeding just wasn’t worth it, that all things equal there wasn’t a huge difference nutritionally between breast milk and formula. But when [my son] came out, I lost all sense of perspective and felt that I had to make this work,” Chapman said. She’s not the only one who has felt this way. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of a child’s life — then followed by a combination of breastfeeding alongside the introduction of solid foods for another year — the reality remains that for many parents, breastfeeding is simply not feasible, either because a parent parent struggles to do so either as a result of mechanics or mental health challenges, or because breastfeeding simply isn’t an option based on their own medical history or family- building mechanisms. For these parents, being told “breast is best” implies that straight out of the gate, they have already failed their children by offering them something inherently not the best, says Laura Modi, the co-founder and CEO of Bobbie, an organic formula company. It’s also why Modi’s company is asking people to ask “How is feeding going?” instead of “How is breastfeeding going?” when talking to new parents, especially during National Breastfeeding Awareness Month in August — and beyond.  The issue is also personal for Modi, who herself always assumed she would breastfeed and says she went into her pregnancy “completely ill-prepared for what would happen if breastfeeding doesn’t work out.” What happened for her, she told The 19th, was being “hit with guilt, embarrassment, and shame when I realized I was unable to exclusively breastfeed my child.” But she also said that it taught her that she’s also part of a wider community of parents who for any reason are unable to breastfeed, be it those who have had double mastectomies, used gestational carriers, or grown their family through adoption. (Not to mention those, like Chapman, who simply struggled with the work of breastfeeding through no fault of their own.) She pointed out that more babies are being born via surrogacy today than ever before and close to 200,000 American children are being raised by same-sex parents. “Those folks need an alternative, but the message hasn’t caught up.” More from The 19th This nursing mom’s journey to figure out how much vaccinated breast milk is enough to shield her baby from COVID-19 Parent’s vaccine protects babies best against COVID-19, studies show Minnesota offers conditional release so that incarcerated mothers can be with their newborns “I always remind patients that just like there are many definitions of the titles ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ — and many descriptions of a childbirth — there are also many definitions on how to nurture a newborn; breastfeeding is just one of those terms,” Dr. Brian Levine, the founding partner and practice director of CCRM New York, a infertility and reproductive endocrinology practice, told The 19th. Levine sees many patients at his practice that are LGBTQ+, utilizing gestational carriers, and for any number of medical reasons may be unable to breastfeed.  Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi is a board certified emergency physician and investigator of, newborn brain injuries and breastfeeding complications, and is also the co-founder of the Fed is Best Foundation, which seeks to provide safe infant-feeding information to parents and healthcare providers, be it by breastfeeding, formula supplementation or otherwise. Del Castillo-Hegyi pointed out some widely acknowledged benefits of breastfeeding, such as its accessibility and the sharing of antibodies, but also said that parents who struggled with it should understand that “fed is best, no matter what. Any child who receives the full nutritional requirements without starvation or dehydration has the best outcomes.” But experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics caution to not discount the importance of breastfeeding and the immunological merits of breast milk too much. Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a professor of pediatrics at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University and the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding, told The 19th that while “breast is best” might be an overly simplistic slogan, “it is important to be aware of the science and the overwhelming evidence showing improved health outcomes related to breastfeeding, for mother, for baby, and for society” — but that it’s just as important “to understand why and how the decisions to breastfeed, or not, are made.”  Feldman-Winter says that there are documented benefits of even short-term breastfeeding, such as a recent study which indicated that breastfeeding decreased the chances of high blood pressure in children, providers should use the prenatal period to to have “open, honest and nonjudgmental” conversations with parents about infant feeding “and explaining what we know about the benefits of breastfeeding, as well as the risks of supplementing with infant formula.” That said, Feldman-Winter also added that “for those unable to breastfeed at all, we must reassure families that we have a suitable alternative in safely prepared commercial infant formula. We should applaud even the tiniest amount of mother’s milk that the baby was able to receive and her effort in trying.” Del Castillo-Hegyi said that while data indicates that breast milk is an excellent source of nutrition, has antibodies present in it that may provide extra immunity, and is generally sterile, it’s still not a perfect nutritional product because of its inherent vitamin deficiencies. Without nutritional supplementation or monitoring, exclusively breastfed infants can present with anemia as a result of iron deficiency around four months of age. Formula doesn’t have antibodies or any of the potential immunity-boosting factors of breast milk, but parents who cannot breastfeed have “a nutritionally complete form of milk and no baby will ever go hungry from eating it,” she said.  “If it is offered to a baby from the moment they are born to whenever they stop feeding in this way, there is zero risk of them developing malnutrition, hypoglycemia, or jaundice.”  Some of those problems can be addressed at a hospital, often so quickly that they’re not part of the broader conversation. Other times, parents don’t know to look out for them, and the consequences aren’t visible until later.  For instance, research has suggested that when a mother does not produce enough milk, a newborn who is exclusively breastfed is at increased risk for hypoglycemia. Some hypoglycemic babies develop levels severe enough to increase their risk for developmental delays and lowered academic performance. Researchers in Arkansas found that newborns who had moderate hypoglycemia early on often struggled years later with reading comprehension and literacy skills.   Levine said that the “number one shared emotion” he hears from his patients who for any number of reasons are unable to breastfeed is “frustration since so much of our language [around feeding] implies that breast is best. In reality, breast is available for many and used by some, but love and nurture are much more important than the mode of feeding.” He stressed that while breastfeeding is a “natural way to help support a newborn, it is not the only way.”  Del Castillo-Hegyi told The 19th that the current stigma surrounding those who do not, and cannot, breastfeed comes from developments in recent history. Breastfeeding has always been the primary source of infant feeding — even though from as early as the Iron Age, there is evidence of parents finding ways to provide supplemental nutrition because breast milk often does not meet all of an infant’s nutritional needs. The farming revolution made animal milk widely available, and researchers eventually found that adding several micronutrients to animal milk led to a form of nutrition that was readily available at any time — and that’s how formula was born.  Giving in to a kid who is hungry is the best thing you can do as a parent. Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, a co-founder of the Fed is Best Foundation Baby formula soon became a popular product, one that was marketable — perhaps too much so. Commercialized campaigns to bring it to more and more markets led to it being pushed on parents in developing countries who often could not afford it or did not have reliable access to clean drinking water. This ultimately led to many infants dying from starvation or malnutrition. In response to this tragedy in the 1990s, the World Health Organization launched its “Breast is Best” campaign, and soon after came the guidelines from various organizations recommending exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. It also led to a vilification of infant formula, and a not-so-subtle message that parents who formula feed “just don’t care enough about their infants and didn’t try enough or are not educated enough,” says del Castillo-Hegyi, even though a lack of robust data meant that it was never clear if a majority of parents could carry out the recommended breastfeeding guidelines.  Feldman-Winter still pointed out that there are some adoptive mothers who can lactate, and that chest feeding may also be possible in the trans population. “We need to be open to the options, explain the advantages of human milk over the unknowns of exposure to hormones in the case of gender-affirming hormones, and the desires of the partners/parents involved,” she said. “If breastfeeding-chestfeeding-human milk feeding are not options then we recommend commercially prepared infant formula, holding during feeding and responsive feeding to prevent overfeeding …. As pediatricians we need to be steadfast in our support of breastfeeding, but at the same time recognize that there are many factors involved in good parenting.” Lesley Anne Murphy, an Instagram influencer and former contestant on The Bachelor, had a preventive double mastectomy in 2017 after her mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer and Murphy herself had tested positive for having the BRCA gene. She knew that having her breasts removed would mean she wouldn’t ever be able to breastfeed, but told The 19th “in my eyes, it was more important to take care of my own health than to have the option of breastfeeding one day.” But after giving birth to her daughter last year and posting about formula feeding on Instagram, she was shocked by the kinds of comments popping up in her feed, with people attacking her choice to have had a double mastectomy without having had cancer. “You don’t forget those comments,” Murphy, a spokesperson for Bobbie’s “How is Feeding Going” campaign, said. (Bobbie has since started donating a can of formula to parents in need for each new trolling remark on Murphy’s social channels.)  If breastfeeding isn’t working, or if it isn’t an option, del Castillo-Hegyi said, then “giving in to a kid who is hungry is the best thing you can do as a parent. To be shamed by society because you gave your baby formula is severely harmful.” After five months of attempting to first breastfeed and then pump and supplement, Chapman realized that breastfeeding was something she was pursuing because it had become “a sunk cost thing. I felt like I had been miserable doing this for months already and I couldn’t give up now.” Finally after pumping a particularly bloody bottle of milk one day, Chapman decided it was time to call it quits. “And that was it. And it was fine. I didn’t have any emotional fall-out from switching exclusively to formula. It was a mental health game-changer for me. I am honestly just mad it didn’t happen sooner.” Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout.