Mar. 20, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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Mehaffie Message
#Listrak\DateStampLong# The latest news from the State Capitol
COVID-19, commonly called coronavirus, is at the forefront of my mind, as I’m sure it is at the forefront of yours. Your best source of up-to-date information about coronavirus in Pennsylvania is the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website at

Please be aware that my district offices are closed to walk-in visitors. You can call 717-582-8119 (New Bloomfield) or 717-477-0905 (Shippensburg) for assistance.

Here is some additional information you may find helpful:

  •   The federal Small Business Administration is offering low-interest loans to businesses with economic injury from coronavirus. Information about those loans can be found here. The Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority also has loans.
  •   Amtrak has suspended passenger rail service in Pennsylvania.
  •   Workers whose livelihood has been affected by COVID-19 may be eligible for unemployment. Information can be found here.
  •   Families should visit the websites for their respective school districts to learn more about closures related to coronavirus. Many school districts are providing meals to students while schools are closed.
  •   Some scams have been reported related to at-home testing kits being promoted by door-to-door salespeople. There is currently no at-home test for coronavirus, although a company called Everlywell plans to release one soon. Please report these door-to-door scams to the attorney general's office at 800-441-2555 or online at
  •   Public facilities like visitors’ centers and restrooms have been closed at state parks, but the trails are still open. Enjoy the outdoors as an opportunity to get out of the house while remaining away from other people.
  •   All PennDOT driver’s license centers and photo license centers are closed.
  •   The Capitol Complex in Harrisburg is closed to the public.
  •   All rest areas and welcome centers operated by PennDOT were closed. However, PennDOT has identified 13 of its 30 rest areas most used by truckers that will be reopened to address safety concerns.

These are the locations:
I-81: Luzerne northbound/southbound, Cumberland northbound/southbound;?I-80, Venango eastbound/westbound, Centre eastbound/westbound, Montour eastbound/westbound.

I-79: Crawford northbound/southbound, Allegheny northbound only

Barricades will be removed on some facilities in critical locations and available for truck parking. Portable restroom facilities will be available at these locations; each location will have five portable toilets (one of which is ADA-accessible) that will be cleaned once a day.

Electronic message signs will be used near the applicable centers to notify drivers near the opened areas. In order to prevent further spread of COVID-19, PennDOT will NOT be opening any of the indoor facilities because there is no staff to keep them clean and properly sanitized. PennDOT will continue to evaluate and will determine whether additional rest areas can be reopened.

Also, the PA Turnpike is making the below changes to the turnpike travel plaza restrictions. These changes apply to all turnpike travel plazas and will be implemented by this coming Saturday at the latest:

  •   Indoor bathrooms will be open 24/7.
  •   One restaurant at each location will be open 7am to 6pm and will serve a limited take-out menu.
  •   All tables and chairs will be removed from the inside of the plaza.
  •   The convenience store will be open 24/7.

Additional links can be found here.

It is OK to ask for help. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, contact the crisis text line by texting PA to 741-741.

Why did the governor close our schools and businesses?
Information from the World Health Organization, the CDC, DOH and others, clearly show that Coronavirus has been taking a toll on countries around the globe and is now having wide impact across the United States. Cases have been reported throughout the state, and more than 8,000 people have died worldwide, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

The vast majority of people afflicted with COVID-19 recover; however, it is especially dangerous for senior citizens and others with compromised immune systems. The closures outlined by the governor are designed to help prevent the spread of the virus to protect those vulnerable populations using the concept of “social distancing” – simply keeping people apart so as not to pass the virus from one person to another. Since a person may be a carrier of the virus for as much as two weeks without displaying any symptoms, simply telling people to stay home if they are not feeling well is not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

With regard to businesses, the governor has urged nonessential businesses (which he defines as things like hair and nail salons, gyms, theaters and sports venues) to close to help create social distancing, but as yet has not issued an emergency order. He has ordered bars and restaurants to discontinue dine-in services, but they may offer pick-up, take-out or drive through service. Even before businesses were urged to close temporarily, many had seen a significant drop in traffic, affecting both their bottom line and in many cases, that of their employees. Consider whether you can support a restaurant or coffee shop by ordering take-out.

What’s Next?
As suggested by the CDC, it is important we all stay calm, limit unnecessary travel and interactions with others, wash our hands, pay attention to how we are feeling and be patient. The House was in session earlier this week to vote on a rules change that allows us to cast votes on legislation remotely if necessary. We will be looking at legislation to address unemployment needs, business assistance and more.
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250 W. Chocolate Avenue, Suite 2 | Hershey, PA 17033 | Phone: (717) 534-1323
159-B East Wing | PO Box 202106 | Harrisburg, PA 17120-2106 | Phone: (717) 787-2684
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