Wolf Admin. Provides COVID-19 Testing Update, Reinforces Need for Those with Positive Result to Participate in Contact Tracing

Harrisburg, PA — Michael Huff, Director of Testing and Contact Tracing for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, presented an update today on the commonwealth’s COVID-19 testing and contact tracing efforts, emphasizing the need to prioritize case investigations and for those who test positive to participate in contact tracing.

To date, the state has been conducting both PCR and antigen tests. In total, Pennsylvania has conducted 5,498,223 tests, which equates to nearly half the state’s population.

“The increase in testing demonstrates the increased need for case investigation and contact tracing – two key public health activities that occur when a case of COVID-19 is identified,” Huff said. “Given the continued increase in both the number of positive cases and the positivity percentage rate, which stood at 11 percent for the week of Nov. 13 – Nov. 19, the recommendations for prioritization of COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing have been enhanced.”

Huff outlined key case investigation prioritization recommendations from the CDC that were released yesterday and are meant to enhance efforts already initiated by the Department of Health. These include:

  • Prioritize case investigation interviews for people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 6 days (based on specimen collection date or symptom onset, if known);
  • Prioritize contact tracing efforts on household contacts exposed in past 6 days, and people living, working or visiting congregate living facilities, high density workplaces or other settings (or events) with potential extensive transmission;
  • As resources allow, expand case investigation and contact tracing to people outside the household who are at increased risk for serious illness, are part of a cluster, or were exposed within the past six days,
  • If more than 14 days have elapsed since the specimen was collected, case investigation should generally not be pursued.

Case investigation and contract tracing remain essential components of the COVID-19 response and are a key strategy to interrupt disease transmission and reduce spread of the virus in a community. With more than 34,000 positive cases reported in the past seven days, contact tracing has become even more critical to identifying those who may have been exposed to the virus by someone who has tested positive.

As cases of COVID-19 are at record levels, Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine yesterday announced new mitigations efforts to help stop the spread of COVIC-19 at this critical time.

Huff reiterated the importance of the mitigation efforts, “As Governor Wolf, Secretary Levine, I and others have said in the past, the COVID-19 situation is fluid, and guidance continues to change over time, even after plans are prepared and adopted. One thing has not changed – citizens of Pennsylvania have individual responsibility to contribute to proper behavior and to adhere to public health guidance to protect themselves and others as well as to help control the spread of COVID-19. Public health controls are only as effective as the willingness of individuals to carry them out.”

Huff also reminded Pennsylvanians to download the free COVID Alert PA app, which is an important tool to join the fight against COVID 19. To date there have been more than 560,000 downloads and more than 42,000 daily check-ins on average.

Pennsylvania is uniting against COVID. Here are the mitigation measures in place to keep people safe:

BUSINESS, WORK, SCHOOL, CHILD CARE, AND CONGREGATE SETTINGS
  • Child care may open, complying with guidance
  • Congregate care restrictions in place
  • Prison and hospital restrictions determined by individual facilities
  • Schools subject to CDC and commonwealth guidance
  • Telework must continue unless impossible
  • Businesses with in-person operations must follow updated business and building safety requirements
  • Masks are required in businesses
  • All in-person businesses may operate at 75% occupancy, except where noted
    • Self-certified restaurants may open at 50% capacity for indoor dining
    • On-premises alcohol consumption prohibited unless part of a meal; cocktails-to-go and carryout beverages are allowed
    • Serving alcohol for on-site consumption must end at 11 p.m, and all alcoholic beverages must be removed from patrons by midnight
    • Personal care services (including hair salons and barbershops) open at 50% occupancy and by appointment only
    • Indoor recreation and health and wellness facilities (such as gyms and spas) open at 50% occupancy with appointments strongly encouraged; fitness facilities are directed to prioritize outdoor fitness activities
    • All entertainment (such as casinos, theaters, and shopping malls) open at 50% occupancy
  • Construction activity may return to full capacity with continued implementation of protocol
SOCIAL RESTRICTIONS
  • Gathering limits determined using maximum occupancy calculator
  • Face coverings are required to be worn indoors and outdoors if you are away from your home
  • Unnecessary travel should be limited

Local Guidelines

The Wolf Administration supports local officials who choose to maintain additional restrictions. The following counties are under additional local guidelines:

Travel

There are travel requirements in place across Pennsylvania. Visit the Department of Health’s website for the latest travel guidelines.

DOH Announces Week-Seven Rapid Antigen Test Card Distributions Across the Commonwealth 

Harrisburg, PA  The Wolf Administration today began distribution of the seventh allotment of COVID-19 antigen test kits provided by the federal government to Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-certified institutions in Bucks, Juniata, Mercer and Somerset counties.

“Antigen test cards are a timely, quick and easy-to-use tool for communities to receive rapid COVID-19 testing,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “These test kits, provided by the federal government and being distributed to areas in need by the Wolf Administration, will further help communities struggling with the spread of COVID-19. Antigen tests look for pieces of proteins that make up the SARS-CoV-2 virus and are less sensitive than PCR tests for detecting COVID-19 infections.”

Last week, 202,000 tests were distributed to 112 facilities in Bedford, Cambria, Franklin, Lancaster and Lehigh counties. Additional tests will be provided to health care providers in those counties in the coming weeks.

In weeks one through five, 804,520 antigen test cards were distributed to CLIA-certified sites in the following counties:  Armstrong, Bedford, Berks, Blair, Bradford, Cambria, Centre, Dauphin, Delaware, Elk, Franklin, Huntingdon, Indiana, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, Snyder, Tioga, Union, Venango, Westmoreland and Wyoming. Archived lists of distributions since week one can be found on the Department of Health’s Coronavirus Symptoms & Testing webpage under the Antigen Tests subhead.

The antigen test detects an antigen on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus while the Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test detects viral RNA. Both PCR and antigen tests can detect active infection and are considered diagnostic tests. Antigen tests can be considered for symptomatic individuals (within the first five to seven days of symptom onset) and in asymptomatic individuals in settings where there is a high probability that the individual to be tested is positive, such as when they are a close contact of a case.

On October 15, the Secretary of Health issued an Order to health care providers and facilities reinforcing that all antigen test results, both positive and negative, are required to be reported to the Department of Health. A patient with a positive antigen test result is considered a case and receives a complete case investigation and contact tracing. All entities conducting testing to identify SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are required by law to report positive, inconclusive/indeterminate, and negative results to the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (PA-NEDSS) within 24 hours. All laboratory reporters must request a PA-NEDSS account if they do not already have one.

The department anticipates receiving hundreds of thousands of tests over a number of weeks from the federal government. The department will continue to provide kits to counties in need.

CLIA-certified sites include:

  • All long-term care facilities;
  • Higher-education institutions;
  • Drug and alcohol and behavioral health treatment centers;
  • State and county correctional facilities;
  • Healthcare providers:
    • Federally Qualified Health Centers;
    • Urgent Care Centers;
    • Pharmacies; and
    • Primary Care doctors.

The targeted populations will be tested at CLIA-certified sites that directly receive these test kits and can provide timely test results and health care advice during their visit.

Targeted populations include:

  • Individuals in congregate care settings;
  • Day care workers or clients;
  • K-12 students and adults who work in K-12 settings;
  • College and university students;
  • Individuals without permanent housing;
  • Food distribution facility employees;
  • Food workers, and
  • First responders.

For more information about the CLIA certificate and antigen test card reporting, reference the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA) Health Advisory Network (HAN) Advisory:  Guidance on Reporting Point of Care SARS-CoV-2 Test Results.

For more information about the antigen tests, reference the PA HAN Advisory:  Point of Care Antigen Test Use and Interpretation.

For the latest information for individuals, families, businesses and schools, visit “Responding to COVID-19” on pa.gov.

Wolf Admin: CARES Act-Funded Dairy Program Provides $7.6 Million in Direct Relief to 1,550 Pennsylvania Dairy Farmers

Harrisburg, PA – Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding today announced that the CARES Act-funded Dairy Indemnity Program has distributed $7.6 million in direct relief payments to 1,550 dairy farmers in the commonwealth. Any dairy farmer who experienced losses due to discarded or displaced milk during the COVID-19 pandemic was eligible to apply.

“Early in the pandemic in Pennsylvania, many of our dairy farmers were forced to dump milk and faced extreme uncertainty due to rapidly changing markets,” said Redding. “In this season of thanks, we are grateful that the legislature saw and met the needs of Pennsylvania’s dairy farmers with this program. These dollars don’t stop at the farm gate. They come back in your communities through grocery stores, schools, food banks, and more.”

Senators Judy Schwank and Elder Vogel, chairs of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, championed this CARES-Act funding for Pennsylvania’s dairy farmers and joined today’s announcement.

“The dairy indemnity program, funded by the CARES Act, was a great program to help 1,550 of our farmers weather COVID-19,” Schwank said. “But there are nearly 7,000 dairy farms in the Commonwealth. We have to recommit ourselves to doing everything we can to strengthen the industry.”

“During this difficult time, there was an even greater appreciation for the role dairy farmers plays in our economy and to the families of Pennsylvania,” said Vogel. “It is the Commonwealth’s most essential industry and providing the necessary state funding at this time is more critical than ever.”

To qualify for direct relief payments, farmer’s losses must have occurred between March 6, 2020 and September 30, 2020. Farmers were eligible for an immediate $1,500 in direct relief upon applying, followed by additional relief dollars with the remaining funds in the program.

Pennsylvania is home to nearly 7,000 dairy farms with an economic impact of $12 billion and more than 52,000 jobs. The commonwealth’s more than 500,000 cows produce more than 10.2 billion pounds of milk annually, ranking Pennsylvania seventh in the nation for total milk production.

For information as it relates to agriculture during COVID-19 mitigation in Pennsylvania visit agriculture.pa.gov/COVID. For the most accurate, timely information related to Health in Pennsylvania, visit on.pa.gov/coronavirus.

November 24, 2020 – Department of Health Report

Thirty eight (38) new cases added Tuesday in Lycoming County now at 1,793 cases, no new deaths, 35 total deaths, with 18,522 negatives according to DOH report.

Department of Health Provides Update on COVID-19:

3,459 Patients Hospitalized and 767 Patients in the Intensive Care Unit

6,669 Additional Positive Cases of COVID-19

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed as of 12:00 a.m., November 24, that there were 6,669 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 321,070.

There are 3,459 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. Of that number, 767 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. Most of the patients hospitalized are ages 65 or older, and most of the deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of number of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 2,200 since the end of September.

Statewide percent positivity for the week of November 13 – November 19 stood at 11.1%.

The most accurate daily data is available on the website, with archived data also available.

The number of tests administered within the last 7 days between November 17 and November 23 is 405,883 with 49,539 positive cases. There were 38,668 test results reported to the department through 10 p.m., November 23.

As of 11:59 p.m., Monday, November 23, there were 81 new deaths reported for a total of 9,951 deaths attributed to COVID-19. County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

Mask-wearing is required in all businesses and whenever leaving home. Consistent mask-wearing is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

There are 13,617 individuals who have a positive viral antigen test and are considered probable cases and 643 individuals who have a positive serology test and either COVID-19 symptoms or a high-risk exposure.

There are 2,723,368 individuals who have tested negative to date. Of those who have tested positive to date the age breakdown is as follows:

  • Approximately 1% are ages 0-4;
  • Nearly 3% are ages 5-12;
  • Nearly 6% are ages 13-18;
  • Nearly 13% are ages 19-24;
  • Nearly 37% are ages 25-49;
  • Approximately 21% are ages 50-64; and
  • Nearly 20% are ages 65 or older.

The department has seen significant increases in the number of COVID-19 cases among younger age groups, particularly 19 to 24-year-olds. An alert was sent to healthcare providers about the changing COVID-19 case demographics. Increases among 19 to 24-year-olds from April to present in November are available below:

  • NC – Approximately 7 percent of cases in April to nearly 17 percent of cases so far in November;
  • NE – 6 percent of cases in April to approximately 13 percent of cases so far in November;
  • SE – Nearly 5 percent of cases in April to nearly 11 percent of cases so far in November;
  • SW – Approximately 5 percent of cases in April to nearly 11 percent of cases so far in November;
  • NW – Nearly 7 percent of cases in April to approximately 11 percent of cases so far in November; and
  • SC – Approximately 7 percent of cases in April to nearly 9 percent of cases so far in November.

In nursing and personal care homes, there are 32,536 resident cases of COVID-19, and 6,437 cases among employees, for a total of 38,973 at 1,228 distinct facilities in 64 counties. Out of our total deaths, 6,292 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities. A county breakdown can be found here.

Approximately 14,146 of our total cases are among health care workers.
 

Statewide – The Wolf Administration has since noon, Nov. 23:
 

 

The Wolf Administration stresses the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean surfaces frequently.
  • Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
  • If you must go out, you are required to wear a mask when in a business or where it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.
  • Download the COVID Alert PA app and make your phone part of the fight. The free app can be found in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store by searching for “covid alert pa”.

All Pennsylvania residents are encouraged to sign up for AlertPA, a text notification system for health, weather, and other important alerts like COVID-19 updates from commonwealth agencies. Residents can sign up online at www.ready.pa.gov/BeInformed/Signup-For-Alerts.

Department of State Certifies Presidential Election Results 

Harrisburg, PA – Following certifications of the presidential vote submitted by all 67 counties late Monday, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar today certified the results of the November 3 election in Pennsylvania for president and vice president of the United States.

Shortly thereafter, as required by federal law, Governor Tom Wolf signed the Certificate of Ascertainment for the slate of electors for Joseph R. Biden as president and Kamala D. Harris as vice president of the United States. The certificate was submitted to the Archivist of the United States.

The Certificate of Ascertainment included the following vote totals:

        Electors for Democratic Party candidates Joseph R. Biden and Kamala D. Harris – 3,458,229

        Electors for Republican Party candidates Donald J. Trump and Michael R. Pence – 3,377,674

        Electors for Libertarian Party candidates Jo Jorgensen and Jeremy Spike Cohen – 79,380

“Today’s certification is a testament to the incredible efforts of our local and state election officials, who worked tirelessly to ensure Pennsylvania had a free, fair and accurate process that reflects the will of the voters,” said Gov. Wolf.

“We are tremendously grateful to all 67 counties who have been working extremely long hours to ensure that every qualified voter’s vote is counted safely and securely.  The county election officials and the poll workers are the true heroes of our democracy, enabling us to vote in record numbers, amid challenging circumstances, so that every eligible voter’s voice could be heard,” Sec. Boockvar said.

Wolf Admin. Reminds Family Caregivers About Resources Available to Help Them During COVID-19 Pandemic

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Departments of Aging (PDA) and Human Services (DHS) today reminded Pennsylvanians who serve as caregivers for either a family member or a close friend that there are resources available to help them as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

“Family caregiving has many faces in Pennsylvania. They are adults taking care of aging parents or other relatives, grandparents raising grandchildren, or a non-relative caregiver, such as a close family friend, raising a child whose parents cannot care for them,” said Secretary of Aging Robert Torres. “No matter whom they are caring for, all caregivers may need some type of support, whether it’s emotional, financial or legal. With the COVID-19 emergency, the need for such assistance may even be greater.”

PDA offers resources for caregivers of adults and children. It oversees the Caregiver Support Program (CSP), which helps to ease the stresses of caregiving. All of these resources can be found here. Improving and increasing support for caregivers in Pennsylvania is one of PDA’s objectives in its State Plan on Aging, which went into effect on October 1.

In September, the PDA and DHS jointly announced the launching of KinConnector.org, a resource designed to help kinship care families connect to services and supports that can help children and their caregivers. KinConnector also runs a helpline that can be reached by calling 1-866-KIN-2111 (1-866-546-2111) and supports callers needing assistance in English and Spanish.

“We know that this year has been a tough time for many, and it is okay to feel stressed or anxious. But whether you are a grandparent caring for your grandchildren, someone who lost their job due to the pandemic, or someone who just needs extra assistance to make ends meet, know that you do not have to go through this time alone,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “DHS offers many resources to help you through these hard times, and nobody should feel like they should have to go without food or health insurance because they are struggling. I encourage all Pennsylvanians who may need help to reach out – we are here for you.”

Earlier this year, DHS launched the statewide Support & Referral Helpline – a free resource staffed by skilled and compassionate caseworkers available to counsel Pennsylvanians struggling with anxiety and other challenging emotions. The helpline caseworkers can help counsel and refer you to community-based resources that can further help to meet individual needs. Pennsylvanians can contact the statewide Support and Referral Helpline at 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.

Pennsylvanians can also apply for programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and other public assistance programs online at www.compass.state.pa.us. Those who prefer to submit paper applications can print from the website or request an application by phone at 1-800-692-7462 and mail it to their local County Assistance Office (CAO) or place it in a CAO’s secure drop box, if available. Dropping applications off at a CAO using the drop box can help avoid an application delay due to postal service delays. While CAOs remain closed to the public, work processing applications, determining eligibility, and issuing benefits continues.

For more information on resources available for kinship families and grandparents raising grandchildren, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.

Learn more about other programs offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging here.

PA Unites Against COVID-19

With COVID cases on the rise across the state, we must continue to unite against the spread. Together, when we make good choices and follow health and safety measures, we see results.

Yesterday Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced new efforts in the fight against the virus. Help us slow the spread and keep our family, friends, neighbors, and businesses safe.

Keeping Businesses, Customers, & Employees Safe
Businesses play a critical role in protecting workers, customers, suppliers, and the general public. Yesterday the Wolf Administration issued the Mitigation, Enforcement, and Immunity Order that consolidates previous business orders and includes reiterating cleaning and social distancing requirements, mandatory telework requirements, unless impossible, and other safety measures.

To help with enforcement of existing masking orders in businesses, those businesses that maintain in-person operations and are open to the public will receive immunity from civil liability only as it relates to the Secretary’s masking order given that individuals and entities are engaged in essential emergency services activities and disaster services activities when enforcing the order.

Events & Gatherings
To help slow the spread of COVID, businesses must reduce their indoor and outdoor capacity for events or gatherings. Those venues must determine their occupancy limit as defined by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Life Safety Code and then apply the attendee calculator to determine how many attendees are permitted to attend the event or gathering. These new occupancy restrictions apply only to distinct events or gatherings, and not regular business operations such as restaurant service or retail shopping. An event or gathering is a temporary grouping of individuals for defined purposes, that takes place over a limited timeframe, such as hours or days.
Maximum Occupancy for indoor events:
Maximum Occupancy
Allowable Indoor Rate
0 – 2,000 people
10% of Maximum Occupancy
2,001 – 10,000 people
5% of Maximum Occupancy
Over 10,000 people
No events over 500 people
Maximum Occupancy for outdoor events:
Maximum Occupancy
Allowable Outdoor Rate
0 – 2,000 people
15% of Maximum Occupancy
2,001 – 10,000 people
10% of Maximum Occupancy
Over 10,000 people
5% of Maximum Capacity up to 2,500
With the upcoming holidays, gatherings are not advised to be held with guests that are not part of your immediate household. To learn more about holiday gathering safety tips, visit the pa.gov/COVID website.
 
Specifically, to address large holiday crowds, on Nov. 25, 2020 only, all sales or the dispensing of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption at businesses in the retail food services industry, including bars, restaurants, and private catered events must end at 5PM. Read more about the Retail Food Services Mitigation Order. 
 

Indoor dining may continue, and takeout is strongly encouraged.

Enforcement

Together, we can and will defeat the virus. We are in the fall resurgence of COVID and as Pennsylvanians, we must do everything we can to stop the spread.
Orders already in place and those announced yesterday are enforceable. Law enforcement and state agencies will be ramping their efforts with the issuing of citations and fines. Individuals and businesses who fail to comply with an order may be fined $25 – $300 dollars.
The following orders must be followed:
  • Out of state travel
  • Mask-wearing
  • Business safety, including telework, occupancy, cleaning, social distancing
  • Restaurant mitigation, including occupancy, masking, social distancing,
    self-certification
  • Gathering limits
  • School attestation and mitigation
Individuals with concerns of possible COVID-19 health and safety violations in a workplace can submit a complaint to the PA Department of Health (DOH). Following a complaint, the DOH will send a warning letter to the business of potential consequences, including fines and closure if the business is not compliant with the current
mitigation orders.
Included in these efforts and the new enforcement order, local governments have now been granted the authority and guidance on enforcement of the various COVID-19 orders in place. Local leaders can implement their own orders, ordinances, or directives in order to protect health and safety as long as they are stricter than those mandated by the state.

Protect Your Community

COVID is tough, but together, Pennsylvanians are tougher. United, we can defeat the virus. You matter, and so do your actions.
Let’s work together to stop the spread. For more information about what you can do to protect yourself, your family, business, neighbors, and community from COVID, visit PA.GOV/COVID. Check out our Community Resources for downloadable posters, social media materials, and other free marketing materials. 

Questions?

For more details about what you can do to help achieve our common goal of defeating the virus, visit the PA Unites Against COVID website.

Tips to Avoid Holiday Financial Scams

Harrisburg, PA – As the holiday shopping season begins, the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities (DoBS) and Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) are sharing tips to help Pennsylvanians spot scams and protect their money and personal information.

“An increasing number of consumers are expected to shop online this holiday season because of the pandemic,” said Secretary of Banking and Securities Richard Vague. “Scam artists will look to take advantage of this fact and use every tactic available to try and obtain your sensitive financial information for nefarious purposes.”

The PSP works closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to investigate fraud and scams. Scam and fraud activity also tend to increase during times of tragedy or emergency, making it dually important for consumers to be vigilant this year.

“Scammers are especially active during the holidays, as spending, online shopping, and charitable giving increase,” said Colonel Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. “Their tactics evolve with technology, but several of the most prevalent scams have existed for decades. These sophisticated criminals can steal thousands of dollars from hundreds of miles away, so we urge everyone to remain vigilant and to know the warning signs.”

Three common scams to look out for this year include:

  • Phishing E-mail Scams. Phishing emails are a common tactic used by scammers to get sensitive information. Sophisticated techniques include replicating merchant email templates with harmful links designed to obtain usernames and passwords, and potentially sensitive financial information.
  • Skimming and E-skimming Device Scams. Skimming devices capture the information from the black magnetic strip on debit or credit cards at the point of sale device or ATM machine. Last year, criminals infected a merchant’s website with a digital version of the same technology.
  • Gift Card Fraud. Scammers use a computer program or “bot” to test millions of random combinations of numbers and pins at retailer websites. Once they find a combination that works, they use all the funds available to make purchases, or sell the information on the dark web. When the real owner of the card tries to use it to make the legitimate purchase, they find there are no funds available on the card.

Six strategies that can help Pennsylvanians protect themselves include:

  1. Monitor your accounts. Frequently check your financial accounts for any debits or withdrawals you do not recognize.
  2. Never follow links in unsolicited emails. Check that any emails you receive are from a correct email address.
  3. Type the website directly into your browser. Pay attention to your spelling and double check that it is a U.S. domain – like dot-com, rather than an international domain – before entering any sensitive information.
  4. Be wary of any transaction involving checks. Never send anything via Western Union or prepaid cards to someone previously unknown to you. When possible, use a credit card, single-use debit card, or prepaid reloadable card for online purchases.
  5. When in doubt, hang up. Never provide credit card info as part of an unsolicited phone call and think twice if you’re being pressured to donate “right now.”
  6. Be skeptical. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

Know the “red flags” of scams and fraud and who to contact if you believe you are a victim. Stop and ask yourself a few simple questions to help detect and prevent this from happening to you:

  • Has someone contacted you unexpectedly? If you weren’t expecting a phone call or didn’t initiate the contact, it should be a red flag.
  • Have they promised you something? If they’re offering you something that seems too good to be true, it’s a red flag.
  • Have they asked you to do something? Are they asking you for money or account information? If you didn’t initiate the conversation, do not provide it.

The PSP reminds Pennsylvanians who have fallen victim to a scam to contact their financial institution and local police department. Additionally, victims can make a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Department of Banking and Securities staff will be presenting “Black Friday Scams: What To Be Aware Of,” informing consumers about detecting and avoiding holiday scams, from 6:00 PM to 6:30 PM on Tuesday, November 24, and 10:00 AM to 10:30 AM on Wednesday November 25.

Anyone can contact the DoBS at 1-800-PA-BANKS or 1-800-722-2657 to ask questions or file complaints about financial transactions, companies, or products.

Check out the publication: “Scams: Protect Yourself. Protect Your Money”

Coppin State Women’s Basketball Cancels Saturday’s Home Opener Against La Salle 

BALTIMORE – Coppin State’s women’s basketball home opener scheduled for Saturday, November 28 against La Salle, has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

The Eagles, under first-year head coach Laura Harper, open the 2020-21 season on Wednesday, November 25 at Penn State.  Tipoff from Happy Valley is set for 6 pm and will be aired on B1G Network Plus.

Wolf Admin. Reminds Pennsylvanians Experiencing Anxiety, Loneliness, Stress Amidst Holiday Season That They Are Not Alone 

Harrisburg, PA – As the holidays are near, the Wolf Administration today shared resources for people struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, isolation, and other stressors. The holidays can be both a time of joy and a period of stress for people, depending on their circumstances. Mental well-being is an important part of everyone’s overall good health and remains a priority for the administration amid the ongoing pandemic.

Mental Health

People who experience feelings of anxiety or depression may experience more distress during the holiday season than during non-holiday times. Given the challenges we are all currently facing, all Pennsylvanians should take extra care to be mindful of their mental health and tend to their overall health and wellness during this time. Check in with yourself, be honest about how you are feeling to yourself and your support network, and if you need someone to talk to or a little extra support, help is available.

“This year has challenged all of us in ways that we could not have anticipated, and whether you normally deal with feelings of depression or anxiety or you are experiencing these for the first time, your feelings are valid,” said Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller. “The holiday season and our family traditions will look different this year because it’s what we must do to keep each other safe, but there can be a grief that comes from that. No matter what you are feeling this year, please know that you do not have to endure it alone. Talk to your loved ones, talk to your support network, and don’t be afraid to make a call to resources that exist to help.”

DHS’ mental health support & referral helpline, Persevere PA, is available 24/7 and is a free resource staffed by skilled and compassionate caseworkers available to counsel Pennsylvanians struggling with anxiety and other challenging emotions. The helpline caseworkers can refer callers to community-based resources that can further help to meet individual needs. Pennsylvanians can contact Persevere PA at 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.

If you or someone you love is in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available by calling 1-800-273-8255. The hotline is staffed 24/7 by trained counselors who can offer free, confidential support. Spanish speakers who need immediate assistance can call 1-888-628-9454. Help can also be accessed through the Crisis Text Line by texting “PA” to 741-741.

The Office of Advocacy and Reform (OAR) was established as part of Governor Wolf’s Reach Out PA initiative in July 2019. To date, OAR has established a plan to build a trauma-informed Pennsylvania by gathering a team of cutting-edge thinkers and practitioners in the field of trauma and how the brain heals from its effects to form a think tank. This volunteer group focused exclusively on setting guidelines and benchmarks for trauma-informed care across the commonwealth. Trauma-informed care needs to be included in the narrative about comprehensive mental wellness services and supports. OAR also hired the state’s first Child Advocate whose role is to help protect the state’s most vulnerable – another goal of the Reach Out PA initiative.

Substance Use Disorder

The holidays may also be difficult for individuals with a substance use disorder or people in recovery, especially if they become stressed by changes to their schedule or daily routine, are not able to see their support network in-person, have strained or non-existent relationships with family members, or are faced with potential triggers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most dangerous time of the year for substance use and alcohol-related deaths are around the holiday months.

“We understand how difficult it is not being together with our loved ones during the holidays. However, it is essential that we stop all gatherings, even small gatherings, to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Ray Barishansky, deputy secretary for health preparedness and community protection at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. “We must not lose sight, however, of the opioid epidemic that still rages on in our communities. This is the time to enhance prevention and rescue strategies to be sure this trend does not continue. Together, we can all help each other.”

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs also maintains a toll-free helpline that connects callers looking for treatment options for themselves or a loved one to resources in their community. You can reach the Get Help Now helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). The helpline is available 24/7 – including on Thanksgiving Day. An anonymous chat service offering the same information to individuals who may not be comfortable speaking on the phone is also available at www.ddap.pa.gov.

Naloxone is still available to all Pennsylvanians through Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine’s standing order, and carrying this on-hand at all times can be a life-saving action. The Wolf Administration encourages all Pennsylvanians to take advantage of the standing order to obtain Naloxone over the holidays. Learn more about how to obtain naloxone at www.pa.gov/opioids.

Older Pennsylvanians

Because the risk of COVID-19 is more acute among older Pennsylvanians, we must be diligent about protecting our older loved ones from potential exposure to the virus. This distance undoubtedly creates difficulties, but regular communication can help families stay connected while they are not able to be together in person.

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s Council on Aging (PCoA) recently released an interactive guide with information and resources to help older adults cultivate a healthy mind, body and spirit amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The guide, titled “SOLO: Strengthening Older Lives Online,” was produced by PCoA’s Risk Reduction Committee, which is made up of older adults and was formed in response to the council’s State of Older Adults Report released in May 2020. The committee is an extension of the Social Isolation Task Force formed in 2019 to help mitigate social isolation among seniors.

“According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, from May to October of 2020, there was a 15 percent increase in the number of older adults who stated that their mental health has been negatively affected by COVID-19, with 25 percent of older adults stating that they feel anxiety or depression due to the pandemic,” said PCoA Executive Director Faith Haeussler. “The PCoA’s own survey of older adults during the pandemic told us they are looking for community connection and open to using more communication technology. SOLO was designed to empower older adults to address and manage the multiple stressors of COVID-19 affecting mental and physical well-being. The SOLO guide is a user-friendly self-empowering tool for older adults to access resources according to their own preferences and at their own pace.” 

The SOLO guide is designed to go beyond some of the physical safety reminders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using bold, color graphics, the guide incorporates ways for aging adults to combat some of the pervasive stressors exacerbated by the pandemic while helping them live their best lives.

Tools available in the guide include:

  • Activities and videos to help stay mentally, spiritually, and physically fit;
  • Resources available to assist with those three areas; and,
  • Short questionnaires to build active health plans.

The interactive health and wellness guide is available in English here and in Spanish here.

Kinship Families

The Wolf Administration also wants grandparents and aunts, uncles, and cousins who are finding themselves caring for children who lost parents or whose parents are not able to be their primary caregiver to know that help is available via the KinConnector helpline. The helpline is staffed by Kinship Navigators – compassionate, knowledgeable social service professionals prepared to help families locate, understand, and access resources that may be able to help them during the holiday season. It can be reached by calling 1-866-KIN-2111 (1-866-546-2111) or online at www.kinconnector.org.