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Townships: How to Protect Your Community from COVID-19

Friday March 13th, 2020
Our members have been asking what they can do to address the coronavirus pandemic in their communities. PSATS offers the following information to help townships navigate this crisis while continuing to serve their residents.
 

Subject: What steps can our township take to protect our community from COVID-19? 

 
Township officials have a public safety responsibility to govern their communities and ensure that essential services, such as police, fire, and emergency medical services, remain open. The governor has directed government to remain open and critical services to continue to be provided to our residents and taxpayers. As local leaders, we need to portray a sense of calm for our communities.
 
PSATS will continue to be available as your member service organization in this challenging time. Supporting our member townships is our top priority. 
 
As townships work to continue to provide critical services to their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, PSATS is providing a one-page guidance on steps that your township could take to protect your township from COVID-19, as well as links to critical information resources. 
 
How can we protect our residents and employees?
 
• Practice social distancing, such as no longer shaking hands, limiting meetings, and staying six feet apart. Consider rescheduling non-essential community events. Limit visitors by providing services online and on the phone, allow bills to be paid at a drop box or behind a window, or provide other means to do business with the township. 
 
• Practice good hygiene by covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands thoroughly, and requiring employees to stay home if they are sick.
 
• Encourage residents to have basic supplies on hand in case they become sick or need to be quarantined, such as a two-week supply of food and medicines.
 
• Clean frequently touched surfaces daily, ensure that bathrooms have adequate soap and drying materials, and make hand sanitizer available throughout your facilities.
 
How can we provide social distancing at our meetings?
 
• Consider live-streaming meetings through Facebook live or other means.
 
• To encourage less in-person attendance, provide alternative means for public comment, such as submitting comments to an email address in advance or providing a call-in number.
 
• Widely promote these options and encourage anyone who is sick to stay home.
 
How can we protect our first responders?
 
• Be sure first responders have reviewed/received training on CDC guidance for what to do if they come in contact with a person who is exhibiting signs of the coronavirus. Make sure first responders have the necessary equipment. 
 
What should we do to plan for an outbreak in our community?
 
• Review your operations plans. Do you have the ability for non-essential employees to work from home? How will you continue to provide critical emergency services?
 
• Review your employee leave policies and contracts. Be sure all employee contact information is up to date.
 
Where do we find accurate and up-to-date information for our community?
 
• Be in contact with your county emergency coordinator and your regional health department for specific recommendations for your community.
 
• The Pennsylvania Department of Health is charged with the Commonwealth’s response and is updating the situation status daily: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx
 
• The Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html
 
• National Institutes of Health: https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus
 
Township officials should be aware that the Pennsylvania secretary of health and the governor continue to carefully monitor this situation and issue frequent updates as the situation develops. Different steps may be needed in communities based on the level of outbreak, and you should remain in contact with your local and county emergency management coordinators. 
 
The General Assembly will return to session next week but will do so while limiting physical access to elected officials, staff, and the media and continuing to livestream its sessions and meetings.
 
Here are a few links to additional resources for you:
 
Township-Specific Suggestions for Dealing with the Coronavirus from Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC
 
CDC Guidance for Police and Emergency Responders
 
Office of Open Records Guidance on Public Meetings
 
As always, PSATS will continue to provide uninterrupted services and offer alternatives to face-to-face services, such as webinars and virtual meetings. We look forward to continuing to work with you and be your source for reliable and accurate information.
 
Dave Sanko
Executive Director