Montgomery County, PA COVID-19 Press Conference – May 22, 2020

good afternoon everyone today is Friday May the 22nd and this is Dr. Val Arkoosh chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners and welcome to the end of week 11 of the covid19 pademic here in Montgomery County since our press briefing yesterday afternoon we have had 105 new cases of covid19 reported today in Montgomery County which brings us to a total of six thousand three hundred and twelve twenty three of which are from long term care facilities and eighty two of which are from the community these positive individuals are from 33 municipalities 61 of 62 Montgomery County municipalities are home to individuals with covid19 these individuals today range in age from 2 years old to 95 years old and as always you can check our municipal map at for updated geographic information today we have 47 females and 58 males 8 are known to be hospitalized a six are known to be at home in isolation and we do not have information on the remaining 91 now I do have an announcement about today’s data as I have reviewed before our intention has been to report positive cases only as a result of a positive test for the virus not from the antibody test the antibody test lets us know that someone had the virus but it does not tell us if they have the virus right now due to recent news reports of the co-mingling of virus tests and antibody tests in certain databases and from a question from a resident I have asked our team to review our entire list of over 6,300 positive cases as a result we have identified six individuals who have been reported to you as positive for virus when in fact they only had a positive antibody test these individuals have been removed from our total positive case count and our municipal maps and other demographic data will be updated this afternoon to reflect this to give you a sense on April the 28th there was an individual in Hatfield on May the ninth a second individual in Hatfield on May the 13th an individual from Red Hill on may the 14th an individual from Bryn Athyn May the 15th a second individual from Bryn Athyn and I made the 20th an individual from Whitpain so these six individuals will are in the process of being removed from the demographic data that you’ll see on our hub website training and process procedures have been put into place to ensure that all cases reported as positive are done so based on a positive virus test I’m also saddened to confirm today that eight more Montgomery County residents have lost their lives to covid19 which brings us to 566 deaths confirmed positive from covid19 five of these individuals passed away in a hospital and three in a long-term care facility they ranged in age from 66 years old to 95 years old overall we have lost 309

females and 257 males the self-reported breakdown that we have includes 13 Asian 3 asian indian -2 asian korean 59 african-american or black 167 white and 322 unknown in terms of probable deaths today and as a reminder these are defined as covid19 listed on the death certificate as a cause of death but not confirmed with a lab test we have 185 probable deaths so adding that to our 566 confirmed that gives us a total of 751 Montgomery County residents that potentially probably or definitely tak passed away from covid19 and as a reminder if we do get confirmatory late lab data on a probable death we do move them to the positive count our hospital bed situation continues to be relatively stable today we have approximately 255 covid19 patients that are in our Montgomery County hospitals with about 25% of them requiring ventilators at our long-term care facilities we continue to attract a number of positive cases among residents and staff in 94 facilities that have reported positive cases to us we now know that 497 of our 566 confirmed positive deaths of Montgomery County residents are individuals that lived at long-term care facilities they represent 88% of our total confirmed positive deaths we continue to do outreach to these facilities as we have described and it is our understanding that the CDC teams will be here hopefully next week to join with our fast teams to visit four facilities that have been elected by the Pennsylvania Department of Health at our Montgomery County Correctional Facility all inmates that have tested positive for covid19 are currently stable our Pottstown walk up community test site got up and running yesterday so we’re very very pleased about that this site is located at our office of Public Health Pottstown Health Center at three six four King Street in Pottstown borough testing will be available next week Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. by appointment only to register for an appointment call six ten nine seven zero two nine three seven starting at 8:30 a.m. the morning of the day that you would like to be tested the phone lines will remain open until 10 a.m. or until all time slots are taken whichever comes first there is a spanish-speaking operator or a language line translator available the Norristown walk-up community testing site did close today because of the weather but they will be open next Tuesday weather permitting and they are located at the Delaware Valley Community Health Center Norristown Borough and all established patients of Delaware Valley community health center regardless of the municipality in which they reside are welcome to be tested appointments for the Norristown site will open Tuesday morning at 8:30 by calling 610 five nine two zero six eight zero and finally our Montgomery County Community College drive-thru site is open and running smoothly for the dates of April 16th to May 19th we’ve now tested six thousand five hundred and thirty two individuals we have received on 6167 which represents 94 percent of the total 870 of these individuals have tested positive so for 28 days of testing we’re running an average of 14 percent positive just a reminder that this site will be open tomorrow Saturday

and you can make appointments beginning at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning at by clicking on the green county testing information button or you can call 610 631 3000 and again that’s at 8 a.m. tomorrow Saturday now this site will be closed Sunday and Monday so tomorrow the only site open is the community college site nothing will be open Sunday or Monday and then all three sites will be back open Tuesday I want to give you an update on our contact tracing team efforts the county and our Office of Public Health contact tracing team is partnering with four trusted Montgomery County based nonprofit organizations who have a long history of working with county residents of all ages races and backgrounds ACLAMO, Family Services of Montgomery County, Montgomery County OIC, and Visiting Nurses Association Community Services will all employ highly trained and skilled contact tracers to help stop the spread of covid19 in our community long before covid19 these four organizations have been working with Montgomery residents on the ground level their staff are caring and compassionate professionals and they have extensive experience and working with County residents during difficult times through Covid 19 contact tracing they will not only help stop the spread of disease but will also ensure that those individuals and families who are impacted will get the support and the services they need to stay safe and healthy these organizations are fully equipped equipped to reach our many diverse communities throughout the county and they will play a vital role in our fight against covid 19 and we look forward to working with them now as summer approaches I just want to share a little piece of some guidance that the governor issued just a few minutes before this press briefing started on summer camps and other recreational activities as I have been mentioning summer camps will be open he also announced that an update on swimming pools so according to this guidance public bathing places and other outdoor community pools are permitted to operate in counties in the yellow and green phases of the governor’s phased-in reopening plan provided they follow CDC guidance for aquatic venues and the governor’s guidance for businesses permitted to operate during the covid 19 disaster emergency so that is certainly good news the other question that we’ve received many times is about organized team sports over the summer and here’s what the guidance said about that organized sports are only permitted in counties in the green phase of the governor’s faced reopening plan organized team sports and events are defined as physical activity directed by adult or youth leaders that involves rules and formal practice and competition this includes school and club sports as well as youth and adult formal activities physical activity conducted as part of as a part of summer programming is allowed activities and games with little or no physical contact are recommended and professional sports are not covered by this particular set of guidance so that gives you a little bit of update and you can certainly look for the governor’s full release it shouldn’t be difficult to find so we want to give you an update of our positivity graph as we call it this is the graph that shows each day that a montgomery county resident has tested positive for cocaine at any location and numbers of those positives are represented by those gray bars and then the 14 day and the 7 day running averages of those totals that are represented by the various lines the graph today is through May the 18th so to go through this the red line the red and pink line at the top those are our total positive cases the red line is our seven-day average and the pink is our 14 day average and you can see at the far

right side of that dark red line that it is ticking up a bit and I’ve been mentioning this for the last several days that we’ve been seeing the positivity rate start to increase a little bit at our testing site in our drive-thru testing site so I really want people to be aware of this you see that same uptick reflected in the blue lines which are just the cases from the community so they’re from our testing site and they’re from any of the drugstore testing sites that have opened up or any of our hospital testing sites anything that is not a long-term care facility so again while the 14-day average is pretty flat which is that lighter blue line the darker blue line is ticked up a bit so I really want people to understand I’m trying to show you in this way that there’s still a lot of virus in our midst and that it is very important when you are out in the community to maintain social distance to wear a mask to protect yourself and others and to keep those hands clean to cover those coughs you know all these basic very simple common-sense we’ve been talking about now for 11 weeks they all still matter and then the orange and yellow lines at the bottom are actually our long-term care facilities so the darker kind of orangey line is the 7-day average and the more yellow line is the 14-day average and you can see that that line has actually dropped below the governor’s metric of the 50 cases per 100,000 and I’m hopeful and optimistic that the work that our fast teams have been doing on the ground in these facilities has really made a very very important difference so that situation seems to be very much moving in the right direction but again just want everyone to be fully aware that the community case is just arresting a little bit of an uptick and particularly as we go into this holiday weekend just please please be careful and mindful of that and with that I will turn over to Commissioner Lawrence good I’m going to share today announcements about the round two of the montco strong small business grant program these awards again being administered by the Redevelopment Authority in Montgomery County in partnership with the Montgomery County Department of Commerce the five million dollar vote for the second round of the program includes funds from the Delaware Valley Regional Economic Development Fund and the federal Cares Act round two of the program received approximately 2,900 applications requesting 29.3 million in grant awards nearly doubled the amount of applications we received in round one once again we look to thank the Delaware Valley Regional Development Fund chaired by former county commissioner Tom Ellis for their support of our Montgomery County small businesses and we would also like to extend our thanks and appreciation to the redevelopment authority of Montgomery County for their continued partnership and collaboration on this program with our Department of Commerce so a couple of statistics about the round two awardees so far there are eighty-one grant awardees for a total of 893 thousand dollars and of these awardees seventy of the businesses identified as minority or women owned businesses 20 identified as a veteran owned business 40 municipalities have at least one grant awardee all the grant awardees have been contacted via email by the Redevelopment Authority of Montgomery County with grant contracting instructions and the RTA will continue reviewing award application through next week and hopefully we will have everything awarded at the end of next week but if you would like to see a list of the awardees it is posted on our website at and I also have an update this morning the county announced that we are installing fire secure ballot drop-off boxes throughout the county to help voters meet the deadline for the June 2nd primary election complete ln ballots and absentee ballots may be dropped off starting Saturday May 23rd and must be placed in the drop-off boxes by 8:00 p.m. on primary election day June 2nd confer the spread of covid19 have created a demand for mail and voting and mail delivery times have been slower than normal it’s the drop-off boxes is another step we’re taking to ensure it’s a return to our office by the Election Day deadline now let’s place in the secure ballot boxes will be delivered to voters sale services daily stand as received

drop-off locations will be at the following locations in Norristown One Montgomery Plaza 425 Swede street at the Green Lane Park by the main park office in Lansdale at the Montgomery County Community Connections office Montgomery County Community College at their Pottstown campus and in Willow Grove at the Eastern courthouse Axxnex you can find complete information about the locations at hours of operations and there is a drop out drive up or walk up site on the services website at a case your voted ballot inside the official return envelope securely seal the official return envelope and sign and date the back of the official return envelope headline apply it for mail-in ballot is May 26th but you’re urged voter that if you want to vote by mail to apply immediately to ensure adequate time for delivery mailing an absentee ballot must be received by the montgomery county office of voter services or in one of the drop-off boxes by june 2nd at 8 p.m. posts do not apply you can apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot at and for information of the June 2nd primary election including the ballot drop off box locations and the updated polling locations you can visit or call 610-278-3280 we have also had at least one media report and a few calls from voters who have received an incorrect ballot and if you received an incorrect ballot you should call voter services at six one zero two seven eight three two eight zero and they will immediately void that ballot and get you the correct one we are looking at how this happened and we are looking to make sure that it does not happen again and we apologize to any voters who have received an incorrect ballot and I’ll turn it over to Commission Gale good afternoon this is Commissioner Gale thank you for joining us today the state of Pennsylvania has granted an additional extension for license to carry firearms permits permits which expired on March 19th or later have now been extended to July 31st 2020 the previous the previous extension date was set to expire on May 30th again it is now extended to July 31st the extension of license to carry permit expiration dates is necessary due to the closure of some county courthouses and sheriff offices a license to carry firearm is required to carry a firearm concealed on one’s person or in a vehicle in Pennsylvania an individual 21 years old or older may apply for a license to carry firearms by submitting a completed application to the sheriff of the county in which they reside if you are in Montgomery County resident interest in applying for a gun permit please visit the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office website at again that website is be aware that there may be limited operations or special instructions due to the covid nineteen epidemic thank you again for listening today and I hope you all enjoy a nice Memorial Day weekend and with that I’ll turn it over to the press actually before we take questions today we are celebrating the end EMS Week and Dr. Al Wang is here to join us to talk about that Thank You commissioner so before we proceed with our EMS week announcement the Department of Public Safety would like to express our sincere condolences to the co-workers friends and family of firefighter and teacher Jeremy Emerich passed away yesterday after courageous battle against covid 19 Jeremy worked for numerous EMS agencies including Skippack EMS Lehigh Valley medevac and Valley EMS he was a member of the Fleetwood and Exeter fire companies in addition he was the united states army who served in combat overseas on behalf of the commissioners and entire Department of Public Safety we thank Jeremy for his dedication as a frontline hero and mourn the untimely loss of his life so today we’ll close our tomorrow close at EMS

week 2020 the tradition of EMS week began in 1974 under President Gerald Ford in recognition of EMS practitioners throughout the nation as a critical work that they do in our communities the theme for EMS week this year was ready today preparing for tomorrow and this is particularly meaningful as we see our County’s EMS agencies rallying together to support the Covid 19 crisis while still responding to the everyday emergencies that happen in our community by the end of this week alone our Montgomery County EMS agencies will responded to nearly one thousand 911 calls for service Montgomery County is home to more than 35 EMS agencies including 9-1-1 public private and air medical services these agencies are staffed by over 1,600 EMS practitioners which call Montgomery County their home these dedicated and highly trained EMS workers have endured challenges far beyond what we would expect them to endure in the face of this pandemic they rose to accept this challenge by quickly adapting to changing clinical guidance as we learned more about this disease and endured the same hardships the rest of our community faced with the necessary closure of schools while they like other essential workers continue to find innovative ways to go back to work so they could continue their service to the public some of them became personally a little from the coronavirus some of them had a continuing working day night while mourning the loss of their co-workers such as EMT Jeremy Emerich and paramedic Kevin Bundy to the very disease that they were working so hard to mitigate so on behalf of our county’s leadership in the Department of Public Safety please allow me to express our sincerest gratitude to these EMS agencies and our dedicated EMS practitioners that are continued selflessness and professionalism to members of the public I urge you to support your local EMS agency these agencies depend on limited reimbursements offered by insurance companies to cover their operating expenses unfortunately these reimbursements often do close to the actual cost needed to maintain operational readiness 24/7 365 and as a result local municipalities often have to step in to subsidize their operations in addition there’s a shortage of EMTs and paramedics in our EMS workforce nationwide so if you’re considering in your career please know that our Montgomery County EMS Training Institute is open for enrollment you can become a certified EMT with just 170 hours of instruction delivered in a socially distant format if becoming an EMT or parmedica isn’t for you I still encourage you to learn to save a life by taking classes on CPR stop the bleed and naloxone administration and as I mentioned in my previous comments during stroke awareness month if you are having a serious medical emergency please don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 our 911 telecommunicators are trained to give you simple instructions over the phone about how to help our EMS agencies are well staffed and equipped with the latest technologies and treatments to bring many aspects of emergency department care right to your front door and they can continue those same treatments during transport to the emergency department you’re not imposing on us we’re here to help so if you’re having serious signs or symptoms such as chest pain short of breath or stroke like symptoms don’t wait at home to see if things get better call 9-1-1 right away so again as they close out EMSWeek 2020 please let me express our County’s sincere appreciation to our EMS agencies and dedicated EMS professionals for your continued service and calm professionalism in the face of uncertainty we and the members of the public owe you a debt of gratitude for the sacrifices you have all made to keep us safe thank you very much and best wishes for a happy Memorial Day weekend thank you Dr. Wang that was lovely really appreciate that and appreciate all the work that you do every day and leaving our Regional EMS efforts and the extraordinary amount of work that you have done in the last 11 weeks as we put together our response to this covid19 pandemic so thank you to you and all of your colleagues I also just want to wish everyone a wonderful and safe Memorial Day as we’ve announced before we will be lighting the courthouse red white and blue we will be placing 72 black masted flags on the green in front of the courthouse each flag representing 1,000 veterans that have been laid to rest here in Montgomery County and please check our social media sites over weekend there will be a virtual online tribute to many local Montgomery County veterans and then as we’ve also announced the flags that we wished we could have released for Monday Memorial Day we postpone that to the 4th of July holiday when it hopefully and it should be a much safer time to gather to distribute those flags and that those flags will be distributed in in June and with that I will turn over to the press for questions thanks commissioner this afternoon we’re joined by Carl Hessler from the Pottstown mercury and Deanna Durante from NBC 10 we will start our first round of questions with Carl Carl doctor Arkoosh county salary board on thursday accepted the resignation of Dr Brenda Weis the county administrator of

public health was Dr. Weis’s resignation sudden and what impact will it have on the operation of your public health strategies as you continue to address the pandemic moving forward and Dr. Weis’s resignation was not sudden she had shared with me on a couple of different occasions her desire to be closer to her daughter’s as she’s actually accepted a position in another state where two of her daughters reside so we absolutely wish her the best and hope that you know this is a great situation for she and her family and we are very pleased to announce that Janet Panning is taking over as the interim administrator for the office of public health and we were pleased that Secretary Levine let us know today that after our Board of Health approved this it goes straight to Pennsylvania Department of Health for their approval and Secretary Levine let us know today that that appointment was approved so it will be a very seamless transition Janet’s been involved in many of the activities just as we all have over the last 11 weeks in our counties response to covid19 and we don’t think that we’ll miss a beat Dr. Weis and we certainly wish her the best so doctor Panning is now the administrator or she the interim administrator interim administrator are you going to be advertising a vacancy in that office and or and have you done that already I don’t believe it’s been advertised yet but it is our intent to advertise a vacancy in that position on another subject the contact tracers do you know how many tracers will be employed by the agencies that you are going to be collaborating with yes each agency will have one supervisor and I believe it’s between five and ten contact tracers and then we will also have ten individuals that are current employees in the office of public health that are done I believe at this point with their training on the new system that the state has provided and will begin contact tracing next week okay thank you thanks Carl next we’ll hear from Deanna Durante from NBC 10 good morning everyone good afternoon I did that yesterday too um we know that the governor did release information on when counties go to yellow having to do with pools and childcare there was some confusion perhaps he talks about community pools he talks about parks that have to do with child care is this all pools everywhere that you know of you know Deanna honestly I glanced at the release about five minutes before this press briefing started and I just I literally pulled the language from the release into what I read to you so as of right this minute that’s all I have okay I just know that that’s a very big question I gave you what I have governor’s office but again they they’ve been very vague on it as you are where you addressed the antibody testing numbers and yesterday I had asked you about some nursing home numbers there’s been more reports out today that the Secretary of Health has acknowledged that there were some errors and with again the numbers being a very hot topics point of contention with people how do we know if our numbers here in Montgomery County are accurate for example there were there were deaths posted at one nursing home and then the state changed the data to remove those deaths so I just wanted to touch base and ask you about that to be clear I can’t speak to DOH’s process or and I did not see the Secretary’s press briefing today so I can I can’t speak to what she said today either but I can speak to what we’re doing and so we go through a very cumbersome and lengthy process every single day of reviewing in the PA NEDDS system which is the state database any individual that has got a Montgomery County address in that system or is attributed to a Montgomery County address and has a test for covid19 and I will clarify again we did have an error on six people but we have a process in place now to prevent that from happening so those cases get pulled down and then we go through a process of checking every address to make sure it is actually a Montgomery County address we with the long term care facilities in particular it can be quite confusing

because sometimes if that facilities is associated with a hospital sometimes they actually put in the hospital’s address rather than the facility’s address so it’s just a process but my staff does everything they can to make that data as accurate as as they can and so the numbers that we report to you which are the totals you know to be clear we have not by facility because the department of health’s is is the one that made that decision about those facilities whether or not to report by facility they are the licensing and regulatory authority for those facilities but we believe that the total numbers that we are sharing with you are as accurate as possible both on the positives and with the deaths are you able to comment if you’ve received word about our county status moving from red to yellow well what I can tell you is that I think that Montgomery County residents will find the governor’s four o’clock press briefing to be a great interest so I’m going to encourage you to watch it and secondly I will just reiterate that as I mentioned many times I have been in regular communication with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the governor’s office I have been sharing our data with them I have been suggesting ways of considering our data a particularly given that here in Montgomery County we have 70 licensed long-term care facilities I compare that to Philadelphia that I had that has I think 40 or 45 so we have a very high concentration of these facilities so we’ve been at regular and constant communication and I have shared with the governor’s office and Pennsylvania Department of Health that I believe that our data demonstrates that we would be ready as a county to go to yellow on June 5th when the governor’s current order expires and on the voting question you know again another big social media topic to make sure the ballots are correct if ballots are mailed to incorrect addresses or incorrect people and we’re the wrong ballot is sent to you commissioner Lawrence just said that you can call voter services but what if somebody chooses not to and use the ballot how how can you be sure that that erroneous ballot out there doesn’t get filed twice is there is there a process in place for that there’s definitely there’s definitely the markings on the ballot so someone could not vote twice and use an erroneous ballot twice that could not happen all right you very much thanks Deanna any further questions from either Carl or Deanna oh we’re good anything else time for the questions all right everyone we are going to issue a press release tomorrow and we will not then be back with you until Tuesday we are not going to issue a press release on Sunday or Monday so we will see you Tuesday at 3 o’clock and have a safe safe weekend thank you and happy Memorial Day