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Local surge in infections ‘distressing’

LEWISTOWN — The recent surge in COVID-19 infections is “distressing,” county leaders expressed during Thursday’s Mifflin County Board of Commissioners meeting.

“I think it’s time for people to step up to the plate. If this were a game, I’d say we were losing,” Commissioner Kevin Kodish told the board, during a meeting which streamed its meeting via Zoom call.

“Our area has a proud history of helping those in need … and I think right now we’re facing a situation where we need to help one another and it’s something as simple as wearing a mask. I think that a lot of people are missing the boat here,” Kodish said. “They’re saying it’s my right, I don’t have to wear a mask, but I think that’s selfish. People say it’s just like a cold and I realize some people have no symptoms, some people have a cold, but some people die.”

Kodish described a correspondence he received from a local business owner, who had just lost a family member to COVID and is receiving “grief” from customers in regards to their business’ mask policy.

“I think that’s ridiculous. Everyone wants to say ‘Constitutional rights,’ but the Constitution begins with ‘we the people,’ not ‘I the person.’ I think it’s time we started thinking ‘we,’ not ‘I’ and pull together in a positive fashion for Mifflin County and do a small gesture by wearing a mask in public.

Phil Lucas, Mifflin County’s director for the Office of Public Safety, said the county has recorded 553 positive cases over the last week and that the number of positive cases has been doubling each week for the last several weeks.

As a result of the surge, Commissioners have worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the governor’s office to bring a public testing site to Mifflin County.

Lucas said site is expected to go live between Dec. 2 and 6.

Those getting tested will be asked for their insurance information, but will not be charged if they are uninsured.

Lucas said there has been a 10-fold increase in patients being admitted to the hospital.

“We were averaging between two and four patients (per day) over the past several months and in the last two weeks, we’ve seen that number increase to 35 and its more likely to be higher than that as of today,” Lucas said.

There are no patients currently on ventilators.

“The biggest problem with the healthcare system is having enough caregivers available to provide care for the residents or patients,” Lucas said. “That’s the biggest reason we’re having a large push for social distancing, mask use and decreasing activities that would cause interactions with people unless absolutely necessary.”

Lucas said it is important to get tested if you are feeling ill.

“If (someone is) ill, don’t wait for a test (result). They should quarantine, call their doctor and get tested. If symptoms aren’t major, wait it out 10 to 14 days in quarantine.”

Lucas said test results are expected to be returned with two days of being collected.

The board also took the following action:

– Approved exoneration requests for the 2020 county portion of per capita taxes for: Derry Township, 35 properties; Granville Township, 38 properties; Lewistown Borough, 77; Decatur Township, 7; Union Township, 7; Wayne Township, 8; Oliver Township, 2;

-Approved a request for refund of a portion of the 2020 county real estate taxes for a parcel in Derry Township in which the structure was removed in the amount of $71.48;

-Appointed the following to the Mifflin County Conservation District: Raymond Snyder, of Lewistown, a farm member for four years; Mark Sunderland, of Milroy, a commissioner member for a one-year term;

-Accepted the yearly certification report for the Human Services Development fund for the fiscal year 2019-20;

-Approved a purchase of service agreement for use if needed by Children and Youth Services of Mifflin County with Wendi Baker, of Lewistown, a Spanish language interpreter and Robert Covell esquire, of Huntingdon;

-Approved a grant agreement for the Victims of Crime Grant Program with James McClure for civil legal assistance to crime victims;

-Approved an application for county aid for 2020 liquid fuels allocation to Kistler Borough for $1,000;

-Approved an application for county aid for a $5 fee for local use allocation with Menno Township for $180,000;

-Approved an extension of contract with Zelenkofske Axelrod, Harrisburg, to perform an audit for the years ending Dec. 31, 2020, 2021 and 2022;

-Approved the 2021 holiday schedules for the Mifflin County Correctional Facility, courthouse and 911 employees;

-Approved a memorandum of understanding for the Development of the Countywide Action Plan for Dauphin County, Juniata and Mifflin counties;

-Approved a certification of local government for the Center for Community Action to apply for an Emergency Solutions Grant to receive emergency shelter funds;

-Approved the resignation of Bryanna Metz from a part-time correctional officer position, effective Nov. 29;

-Agreed to display the 2021 budget on Nov. 19 for final adoption on Dec. 17.

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