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M AI NLI NE newspapers

Vol. 116 No. 12

USPS 439-000

Portage, Pa.

Senior centers open for pickup meals only

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Since 1904

Newsstand Price 75¢

(814) 472-4110

24 Pages

By Ron Portash

of Mainline Newspapers

The Cambria County senior centers will only be open for meal pickup between the hours of 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. effective Wednesday, March 18. Seniors are asked to call their local center the day before and order the meal, and instructions about having someone meet you at the door will be given. All other senior center activities are canceled until further notice. According to M. Veil Griffith, executive director of Cambria County Area Agency on Aging (AAA), this includes scheduled trips and activities and the tax preparation sessions. Home delivered meals will be delivered as usual. Senior citizens are the most susceptible population to a life-threatening infection from COVID-19. Seniors are also in the most need of services such as the senior meal offered at the nine senior activity centers around the county. On Sunday, March 15, Robert Torres, Secretary of the Department of Aging, let the decision to close to each county due to the rising spread of the COVID-19 virus, unless directed by the governor’s office. “We have been in regular communications with the Area Agencies on Aging relating to the operation of their affiliated senior community centers, and we will continue to engage with them to meet their informational needs, receive input and offer guidance,” stated Torres. By Monday afternoon, Gov. Tom Wolf requested all non-essential businesses close and restaurants limit services to take-out and delivery. Torres is encouraging the county’s AAA to recommend participants to enroll in the OPTIONS Program, formerly known as the PA Older American Act services. In some areas of the state, there are waiting SEE CENTERS, PAGE 3A

Future engineers

Maddy Hudak and Keira Sossong discuss careers with a representative of H.F. Lenz, a Johnstown based multi-disciplined engineering firm, at the Career Day held March 11 at Portage Area High School. Photo by Ron Portash.

Career day

Portage Area’s Vo-Tech electrical program students Austin Gentile (left), Ethan Onder and Jonathan Maul provide hands-on information to other Portage Area students on the advantage of training for a career at Admiral Peary Vo-Tech. Portage Area High School held its annual career day March 11. Photo by Ron Portash.

School districts unsure of future after mandated closures

By Allie Byers

of Mainline Newspapers

Last Friday, Gov. Tom Wolf mandated that all K-12 Pennsylvania schools will close for 10 business days, beginning March 16, due to COVID-19 also known as the coronavirus. According to a March 13 press release, Wolf’s top priority as governor is to ensure the health and safety of the students and school communities. The press release stated that “no school district will be penalized if it fails to meet the 180 day or school hours requirements.” Penn Cambria superintendent Bill Marshall stated that there is a misinterpretation of Wolf’s press release in regard to the 180-day requirement. He explained that schools will be required to make up the days up to the June 30 deadline. If a school district does not meet the days and hours requirements after June 30, there will be no penalty. Blacklick Valley School District in Nanty Glo is facing the same conundrum. “This is unprecedented,” said Blacklick Valley superintendent

Bill Kanich. The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has released information to guide districts through this trying time. According to their March 14 press release, the districts will be responsible for deciding which staff members are necessary. The PDE stated that examples of necessary staff are school administration, food preparation and distribution, information technology and those who have to continue daily school operations. Marshall explained that the beginning of this week, three days were dedicated to the janitorial staff who “sanitized everything.” Kanich also stated that both school buildings are being santized and will be ready when the students return. “At this time, we will follow our standard snow day procedures on these days and all offices will remain open,” said Marshall in a press release March 13. “We currently expect to make these days up through additions to our school calendar pending other guidance from the state.” One major concern that school districts have is students’ access

to the meals that the schools normally provide to them. According to PDE, the commonwealth has sought and received approval from the Federal government to allow schools the option to distribute meals at no cost while schools are closed. Each individual school district that wants to take part in the meal distribution must apply to PDE; they have expedited these approvals. According to Marshall, the district did apply for the meals for their students and he hopes to have something in place by the end of the week. On March 18, Blacklick Valley will run a breakfast and lunch program from 11 a.m to 1 p.m., which will run until March 20. Then, the meals will pick back up again on Monday, March 23 and run through Friday. The pick-up locations for meals will be in front of the high school and elementary school. “This will be run like a drivethrough, in that bagged lunches and breakfasts will be brought out to the cars as they come,” Kanich explained.

COVID-19 Virus slows down more than just people

By Ron Portash

of Mainline Newspapers

As the global economy turns, so do your local store shelves. In the interconnected world that exists today, the COVID-19 virus outbreak began in China in Dec. 2019 is now impacting

Panic buying causes shortages nationwide

the United States economy. A check of local stores on Friday, March 13, showed that food and personal items — other than the panic buying of toilet paper and hand sanitizer — were well stocked. By Monday, March 16, local stores were limiting hours and quantities in an attempt to allow customers better access to supplies and to prohibit panic buying and the stockpiling of foods and paper products. Grocery

stores were out of stock for many items as a result of panic buying. Toilet paper and bread were disappearing off shelves faster than they could be delivered. Wal-Mart stores, which are typically open 24 hours a day, are now limiting hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. to allow employees to sanitize the store daily and restock shelves. On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recommended

the closure of non-essential businesses and limited restaurants to take-out and delivery service only. The first to feel the effect of the industry shutdown in China is the pharmaceutical industry. In a statement issued Feb. 27, Stephen M. Hahn M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs — Food and Drug Administration said: “As I have previously communicated, the FDA has been closely monitor-

SEE SCHOOLS, PAGE 4A

ing the supply chain with the expectation that the COVID-19 outbreak would likely impact the medical product supply chain, including potential disruptions to supply or shortages of critical medical products in the U.S.” The majority of today’s active ingredients in pharmaceuticals are manufactured in China. Additionally, nearly all overthe-counter medications and a large percentage of medical devices come from Chinese

SEE PEOPLE, PAGE 7A

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