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Some parts of Amish life affected by virus

Bishops contacted to pass along information

LEWISTOWN — Governments often must overcome unique challenges regarding communicating vital information to the Amish, as many shun modern means of sending and receiving information. Making sure the Amish are aware of the risks and symptoms of COVID-19 is no different.

According to Phil Lucas, director of the Mifflin County Office of Public Safety, local Amish are aware of COVID-19 and the orders from Gov. Tom Wolf. Amish schools were contacted earlier this month and informed of the need to close and, in turn, Amish bishops were contacted as well to help spread the word.

Lucas said many Amish businesses fall under the “life-sustaining” businesses category, which means most are permitted to operate a physical location. If a business — Amish or otherwise — is seeking help in determining whether it qualifies as exempt from the governor’s order or needs help with the appeal process, Lucas said his office will do what it can to help or direct business owners to the right sources.

Spring is a time many Amish weddings take place, which can draw large crowds of family and friends, sometimes from as far away as other states. Lucas said he has heard from people expressing concerns about these gatherings continuing to take place in light of strong recommendations from experts that groups larger than 10 not gather for fear of risking transmitting the coronavirus.

Lucas said some of the most recent guidance the governor’s office has given is a press release in which religious activities, among other things, are specifically exempt.

However, Lucas reiterates the governor’s order that recommends large gatherings not be allowed, although there is no specific order prohibiting it. When it comes to specific churches or pastors, Lucas said it’s really up to them, Amish or not, to decide for community safety what specific measures they will take to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Mifflin County Office of Public Safety has put together an information packet and is working to deliver it to the offices of municipalities with significant Amish populations by the end of this week.

Anyone can help stop the spread of the virus by following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control:

¯ Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after having been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of hands and rub them together until dry.

¯ Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

¯ The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

¯ Avoid social gatherings and close contact especially with those who are sick. Those who are ill should remain home and try to avoid contact with as many people as possible.

For more information call the Mifflin County Office of Public Safety at (717) 248-9645. For the latest updates on how COVID-19 is affecting Pennsylvania, visit https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx.

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