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Your Voices: COVID-19 in Pennsylvania

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Last week, Keystone Edge asked Pennsylvanians to tell us about how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting them and their communities. We also asked to hear about any bright spots — people and organizations that are inspiring them. Here is a small sampling of the responses we received. 

We’d still love to hear from you! Click here to fill out the survey. 

One of the first people we heard from was Mayor Sal Panto of Easton, PA, in the Lehigh Valley.

“So far, we are for the most part a healthy community, but economically we have been devastated. With most of our budget based on the robust economy of our city, we stand to lose between 4 and 5 million dollars in revenue.”

But it’s not all bad news.

“Our restaurants have stepped up with food for the healthcare workers, as well as the firefighters and police. Several of our distilleries are now making hand sanitizer instead of alcohol. Several of our businesses and residents are making masks.”

I have a friend who has a long closed up textile business (she’s 85 years old) who has gathered some seamstresses and is making thousands of masks.Shauna Kring of Mohnton, PA

For some Pennsylvanians, their work life is busier than ever. That’s the case for Leza Raffel of the Communication Solutions Group, Inc. in Jenkintown, PA.

“We are a small suburban PR firm that specializes in crisis communications. As a result, we are absolutely swamped since our clients are school districts and municipalities. We are all working remotely and working hard all day, every day.  Sometimes I forget to eat lunch.”

“I am actually holding a Zoom webinar for the Chamber of Commerce today on how businesses can position themselves as media experts in the age of COVID-19. Think about it: An unemployed chef can be very helpful in teaching a family how to turn five cans in their pantry into a lovely meal. An education specialist can provide parents pointers on how to get their kids to actually focus on online classes. An artist can show people how to do projects at home. A hair stylist can provide tips on how to trim your own hair. The examples are unlimited.”

A covered bridge in Lancaster County

Like many of us, Shauna Kring of Mohnton, PA, is working from home.

“It’s fine, but it is taking a toll on new business production and employee morale. My husband’s cabinet shop business is grinding to a halt. Customers don’t want him to come to their house to install and now even suppliers are closing. We’re still buying from local small businesses and donating to relief organizations. I have a friend who has a long closed up textile business (she’s 85 years old) who has gathered some seamstresses and is making thousands of masks!”

Brad Gosser runs three companies in Greenville, PA: Greenville-Reynolds Development Corp., Reynolds Water Company and Reynolds Disposal Company.

“We are working to keep our manufacturers up to date and looking to assist them in getting financial assistance. As for the utility companies, we are ordered to continue full operation so we are doing the best we can to keep our employees healthy and praying that we stay healthy!

“[I admire] all the folks that put themselves at risk to continue to be productive, work and/or care for others. That includes the medical folks, especially my daughter who is a physician’s assistant traveling to virus treatment centers in addition to normal clinical duties. I’m thankful for the people that truly care about our businesses and are working long hours to help companies get assistance at this time.”

Kathleen Muller is a consultant and retired community recreation professional in Philadelphia. She is staying involved by taking webinars, making donations, patronizing local, independent restaurants, checking on neighbors, and mailing cards or articles of interest to special people. (“It’s silly, but everyone loves getting mail!”) Her mother is a resident at Holy Redeemer Lafayette, a senior independent, assisted and skilled nursing facility.

We have meetings with volunteers, some of whom are retired and face social isolation, to keep them in the loop and make sure they know they are an important part of our organization’s family.Rick Bryant, State College

“The recreational therapist Beth Porter has learned how to use the iPad and connects families with residents via FaceTime. My mom is amazed at the technology and how she can see her adult children. It means so much to all of us as we have not been able to see our mom for about three weeks. The small act of kindness means so very much.”

Keystone Edge contributing writer Wendy Duchene, of Confluence, PA, misses seeing her grandchildren every week. 

“My community is a small rural one so day to day life does not seem much different. Tourism businesses are hardest hit. I’ve been shopping for those whose immune systems are in any way compromised and there is a group of women in a craft group who are making facemasks.”

Ellen Albright of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance reached out to share how COVID-19 is impacting her. 

“The pandemic in Berks is directly affecting every individual in it’s own uniquely devastating way. Our small business owners are working hard to get creative in their offerings — i.e. delivery of goods, take-out services, and online classes — but there is irreparable damage to our business community. As a team-member for our chamber and economic development agency, I am seeing first-hand the intense pressure being placed on so many to ‘do the right thing’ while also trying to keep their doors open and their employees safe.”

To do her part, Albright has co-founded the Berks PPE Resource Network.

“This ad-hoc group of volunteers is inventorying the many individuals and organizations that are using 3D printing technology to create face shields and PPE equipment. We are working not only to inventory, but coordinate and create pick-up locations for many of our community’s heroes — first responders, private practice physicians, assisted living folks, our jail system, municipalities, and countless others. Masks are being given out for free, we are just asking for donations to keep the supplies coming!”

(Read more about the group’s efforts here.)

Rowhomes in Easton

Others are getting creative at home. Roger Latzgo of Germansville, PA, is a professional musician and composer.  

“While the pandemic halts conventional public performance, it does not stop the music. I continue to play at home for a few hours a day.  This includes working on new repertoire and composing works I’ve had in mind for some time. My daughter is 10 years old and home from school. We have a piano session each day for almost an hour. She is also playing cello and I help her there as well. The music is a wonderful balm in our home.” 

Latzgo is also coordinating with his daughter’s school.

“I will be collaborating with the strings teacher at my daughter’s school in a ‘virtual duet’ with myself on classical guitar and her on violin.  My daughter and I play duets at home and we have emailed some of these performances to friends and to her school. In her repertoire is a birthday song — special to her school — which is normally sung and played for birthdays of her classmates.  We have made a video of her playing the song and sent it to her teacher. Now they can ‘virtually’ celebrate birthdays!”

Rick Bryant produces the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, scheduled to take place in July in State College.

“We haven’t canceled it yet, but it’s starting to feel as if we’re going to have to do that. Our normal audience is about 125,000 over five days. Our event was founded in 1967 as an engine for economic stimulus and this would be the first time that it’s been canceled.

“Our organization is still paying staff and we are trying to promote artists and performers we work with on social media channels. We have meetings with volunteers, some of whom are retired and face social isolation, to keep them in the loop and make sure they know they are an important part of our organization’s family.”

He has been inspired by the efforts of others in his community.

The Makery, an artists’ studio/teaching space in downtown State College, started sewing masks. Big Spring Spirits in Bellefonte is distilling alcohol for hand sanitizer.”

We’d still love to hear from you! Click here to fill out the survey. 

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