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COVID-19 testing collection starts at AHN Bethel Park site

Allegheny Health Network’s COVID-19 testing collection site went into operation Friday at the AHN Bethel Park Health + Wellness Pavilion.

The site, at 1010 Higbee Drive, was one of four announced Wednesday by AHN for collection.

Harry Funk / Harry Funk/Observer-Reporter 

Harry Funk/Observer-Reporter

Krystal Rogers checks records in preparation for the collection.

Only patients who previously have been evaluated by an AHN-affiliated health care provider for COVID-19 symptoms and who have a valid prescription order from their clinicians may be tested at the drive-up collection sites at this time, according to the network.

On-demand or walk-up testing is not available.

To obtain a test order, the network encourages patients – especially those with COVID-19 or flulike symptoms, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath – to use AHN’s various online or phone hotline options, in order to minimize exposure to others.

According to AHN, those who have been directed to the drive-through locations should be aware of the following:

Harry Funk / Harry Funk/Observer-Reporter 

Harry Funk/Observer-Reporter

A sign points the way to the area set up for test collection at the AHN Bethel Park Health + Wellness Pavilion.

  • Visitors will be given a specific appointment window, in order to minimize wait times.
  • Visitors will drive through a secured, marked area and will remain in their vehicles throughout the entire collection process.
  • No outdoor restrooms will available at the collection locations.
  • The sample is collected via a nasal swab. The process typically takes less than 30 seconds.
  • The sample will be tested for influenza as well as the novel coronavirus.

Individuals will be contacted directly with their flu results within 24 hours. If the sample tests negative for influenza, the sample will also be tested for the coronavirus, a process that typically takes two to three days, depending on regional test volume. As volumes increase, wait times for results may be longer.

  • While waiting for their test results, individuals should stay at home. Those who receive positive COVID-19 test results may be issued additional care orders or self-isolation orders.

Other AHN collection sites are in Pine Township, Monroeville and Erie.

On Thursday, the network suspended all patient visitation at its affiliated hospitals, outpatient clinics and ambulatory surgery centers until further notice, with the exception of labor and delivery, neonatal intensive care units, pediatrics and end-of-life Care

For more information, visit www.ahn.org.

Innovating: 'Free roll of toilet paper with every pizza' and pop-ups

When toilet paper is such a hot commodity in a pandemic, giving away a free roll with purchase may be a stroke of marketing genius.

And some area businesses are doing anything they can to capture what has become a captive audience.

Carmen Pirain, owner of Cucina Bella, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., Bridgeville, off Lesnett Road, said, “I can’t quite wrap my head around” the toilet paper frenzy, but when a wholesaler offered to donate a couple of cases to the restaurant, he was flush with an idea that soon swirled on social media.

“It’s not the Charmin four-ply stuff, but restaurant grade,” Pirain said. “It’s goin’ well. Everyone’s joking about it.”

And although there’s a certain ring to “free TP with every pizza,” the offer applies to any purchase on the Cucina Bella menu, Pirain said.

One customer left with her edibles and paper roll, then came back a moment later and offered to buy a beverage and separate item so she could get a couple more rolls.

And she didn’t mean the pepperoni variety.

“I know it’s serious, but, man, it’s crazy,” said Pirain, who opened his eatery nine years ago.

Asked how long the promo might last, Pirain replied, “As long as I can get my hands on it. I have 600 rolls.

“You’ve got to play along with this. What have we got to lose?”

Wine to go

No, the “D” in J&D Winery’s name doesn’t stand for delivery, but delivery is now an option, said Holly McIntosh, from “The Street” store, which customers are no longer permitted to enter.

As novel coronravirus cases began cropping up in eastern Pennsylvania, McIntosh could see the handwriting on the wall, and J&D mobilized.

“Let’s just do deliveries,” J&D decided on Sunday, which was followed Tuesday by curbside pickup.

“As soon as I made that post, it’s been slammed,” McIntosh said. “It’s kind of like all a blur.”

Curbside pickups are arranged by phone a day in advance, payment is by debit or credit card, and the recipient must show identification that proves he or she is 21 years old or older.

Before a home delivery is completed, the person at the door must present proof of the same age requirement. J&D will deliver within a 15-mile radius next day with a three-bottle minimum.

Outside the radius?

“We’ll work with you,” McIntosh said.

“With delivery you do get a free gift, like a corkscrew or topper,” she said, because why buy a wine bottle if you can’t open it?

Based in Eighty Four, McIntosh said, “We started making our own wine about 15 years ago just for fun,” and J&D Winery reflects that spirit. Their green apple wine, a sweet white called Chloe’s Choice, for example, is named for their goat.

J&D updates its website wine list daily.

“I’ve been working on shipping for a year,” she said. “We’re planning to launch online shipping in the next two weeks.

“We’re in a couple of Giant Eagles, a couple of Shop ‘n Saves,” she added. “If we have to close, we’ll be prepared for online and get it shipped to them.”

Tracking what’s happening elsewhere is part of McIntosh’s savvy.

“We look at other states and see what’s happening.” she said. “We get ready for the trend.

“I think my background in community work and business definitely helped prepare me to understand the trajectory.

“I’m optimistic for everyone,” she concluded. “I’m an optimist.”

Marianna ‘meat-up’ in Washington

On Thursdays from May through October, Bob Von Scio of Heritage Craft Butchers heads toward South Main Street in Washington for the farmers market where he’s a vendor.

He was back again this week so customers could pick up orders of meats and chicken noodle soup.

“That’s my spot,” he said, pointing toward a white van parked near a florist’s shop at the beginning of a three-hour sojourn as winter was about to wane into spring.

What’s in these meat bags? An assortment of rib eye steaks, pork chops, ground beef, bacon and chicken breasts.

“We’ve been to the shop,” said Scott May as he transacted business. “This is closer than Marianna.”

“Everyone who’s coming, thank you for showing up,” Von Scio added.

It’s too early to tell what the coronavirus situation might be in a few months, but Von Scio said, “It will either be, ‘Hey, remember when we shut down the world for four weeks?’ or it will just be the new normal and everyone will do their shopping in parking lots.”

Eatery institutes deliveries

Deliveries that began Wednesday from Chicco Baccello were going so well owner Lisa Aprea is considering extending the service through the summer.

“It’s only been a couple days and people are going stir-crazy,” she said. “We are delivering when we have never delivered before, but only between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. within a five-mile radius of our shop.”

The shop is located at at 239 S. Main St. location.

“This is something that’s totally new for us,” Aprea said.

“People have to call in the order (from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. weekdays), and I have to take the payment over the phone.”

That way, there’s no exchanging “filthy lucre.” Delivery drivers will not carry cash.

An alternative to delivery is curbside pickup of a bag bearing the customer’s name.

“It’s a system that’s always worked here anyway. Some people aren’t comfortable coming in,” Aprea said.

Saturday mornings were a time when people would kick back and relax until restaurants and bars throughout the state were ordered to close their dine-in facilities to to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I don’t know if we’ll be open on Saturdays,” for pickups and deliveries,” Aprea said.

Businesses that offer carry-out, delivery and drive-through food and beverage service may continue to do so, but they are to maintain “social distancing” and be aware of the guidance from President Donald Trump’s administration to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.

Eating and drinking inside restaurants and bars is temporarily prohibited, and Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board announced steps to begin enforcing this order as of 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Pop-up pantry

Canonsburg Mayor David Rhome has enlisted the help of Canonsburg area churches and Washington City Mission to distribute emergency food to families in need in the Canon-McMillan School District during the coronavirus outbreak.

Two distribution times are planned for Monday at three locations.

The City Mission will have a pop-up pantry from 1 to 3 p.m. at Canonsburg United Presbyterian Church, 112 W. Pike St. Bags of food while supplies last.

There will also be other distributions from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Canonsburg United Presbyterian Church and Holy Rosary Church, 246 Muse-Bishop Road, Muse. At these locations, bags for with lunch items for children of disadvantaged families

No registration is required, and it is on a first come, first served basis. The distribution is sponsored by the Greater Canonsburg-Houston Ministerial Association.

For those who would like to donate toward continued efforts of food distribution may send a check payable to the Greater Canonsburg-Houston Ministerial Association, P.O. Box 206, Canonsburg, Pa. 15317 and designate the check for “food.”

Census timeline extended because of coronavirus

The federal agency overseeing the 2020 Census is pushing back deadlines for portions of its process that involve contact with the public because of the respiratory disease that’s prompted closures of schools and businesses throughout Pennsylvania and much of the country.

U.S. Census Bureau officials spoke with reporters on Friday, outlining changes to the previous timeline and other measures the agency was taking to help slow the transmission of COVID-19.

The bureau suspended field operations until April 1 to protect census workers and the public. The bureau said it was taking steps to protect workers at two of its major facilities, the National Processing Center and Paper Data Capture Center East, both in Jeffersonville, Ind. Those centers will transition to minimal on-site staffing.

Most of the affected work hasn’t started yet. Most households nationwide received invitations and instructions to complete surveys online, by phone or through the mail this month.

“Remember, the majority of our field work will not have begun by April 1,” said Albert Fontenot Jr., associate director for decennial census programs. “We are encouraging everyone to respond online, by phone or through the mail as soon as you receive your census invitation.”

Fontenot said the agency is working with colleges and universities to make sure students who have been temporarily sent home or sent away from the normal campus living situation know how to be counted. Similarly, officials were speaking to nursing homes and similar facilities to make sure people living there are counted, as well as working with shelters, mobile food vans and other providers of services for people are homeless to count the population those entities serve.

Dates for much of the field work involved have been pushed back by two weeks, with officials saying they’re monitoring conditions in case they need to make further adjustments.

Timothy Olson, associate director for field operations, said operations to count those living in group housing and people who are homeless were supposed to begin in late March and early April. They’ve been postponed until mid- or late April at earliest.

The recruiting website will remain open despite the stoppage on field operations, but the agency did pause all hiring and on-boarding of new employees until the beginning of next month at earliest. He encouraged those interested in temporary positions to continue applying.

The deadline for households to complete self-response questionnaires was supposed to end on July 31, but will now remain open until Aug. 14.

Olson said a policy is in effect for people in regional offices and centers to work remotely.

The work of following up with non-responsive households was supposed to begin on May 13, but is now set to begin on May 28. Officials stressed that households can respond online, over the phone or by mail.

Fontenot said the coronavirus outbreak shows why the accuracy of census data – which affect the distribution of federal funding to state and local governments – is so important.

“Even though many things seem uncertain at the moment, one thing isn’t,” he said. “Census results are used to inform planning and funding for hospitals and clinics and emergency preparedness, even school lunch programs. In order to get those resources communities desperately need, when we plan a census, we plan all sorts of contingencies.”

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Coronavirus cases continue to climb in Pennsylvania

The number of coronavirus cases rose to 268 in Pennsylvania as more people were being tested for the illness, the state Health Department said Friday.

The number of positive cases stood at 185 Thursday, when health Secretary Rachel Levine warned community spread of the virus was occurring.

“Our notable increase in cases over the last few days indicates we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously,” Levine said Friday, while urging people to stay home to prevent the illness from spreading.

She also said her department is “seriously concerned” that people between the ages of 20 and 44 have not been heeding the message to stay home.

She said 40% of the people who have been hospitalized with the virus were between the ages of 20 and 54, citing new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Their denial of the seriousness of the virus could result in a significant impact to the state’s health care systems, she said.

Gov. Tom Wolf joined Levine in a 2 p.m. livestream Friday, one day after he ordered all businesses that are not essential to life to close a day earlier to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Wolf, later in the evening Friday, extended enforcement of his order for those businesses to close to 8 p.m. Monday because of a high volume of applications for waivers to the state office of Community and Economic Development. His closure order did not change Friday, the DCED said. However, Wolf did lift his order to close coal mines, state records showed.

Wolf said he could not allow the surging number of cases to continue without taking aggressive action.

“These are uncharted waters,” Wolf said.

Levine said the number of new cases of the virus statewide has doubled in the past two days and that Pennsylvania will continue to see a “surge before we see a decline.”

Washington County remained at three cases Friday, while Westmoreland County doubled to four positive results.

Allegheny County had five people hospitalized with coronavirus as the number of cases also continued to rise there Friday.

The county’s health department said it had 28 cases of the virus, up by 10 from Thursday.

“Similar to what has been seen in other states and other countries, the number of those testing positive will continue to rise as testing increases,” the department stated in a news release.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Human Services Friday urged Medicaid providers to make use of telemedicine technology to avoid face-to-face contact with patients to help slow the spread of the virus.

Telemedicine can be delivered through audio-video conferencing hosted by a secure mobile application.

During this state of emergency, telephone-only services may be utilized in situations where video technology is not available.

Allegheny was continuing to test specific high-risk individuals for the virus, including those with known contact, health care workers and first responders.

There were 2,574 patients who had tested negative statewide, and one death, Levine said.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath, were urged to stay at home and contact their primary care provider to determine if they needed to be tested for the virus, the department said.

Those in need of immediate medical care should call 911, or phone ahead before going to a doctor’s office or emergency department to allow the staff at those locations to prepare for the patient’s arrival.