The Lawrence County courthouse 

The coronavirus since March has crept into schools, the Lawrence County courthouse and many businesses and public places.

Last week, one case was confirmed in the county common pleas court offices and several who were exposed are off work until they have a negative test, President Judge Dominick Motto said Tuesday.

The Lawrence County commissioners are continuing to warn people to not let their guards down as the pandemic grows reaches new heights in the county.

New statewide regulations announced Tuesday by the Wolf Administration require masks to be warn all the time in the workplace, regardless of distancing.

Several cases of COVID-19 have been reported within the courthouse, to date, and some workers who were exposed to people with the virus have been quarantined in at least two departments.

"Last week, a spouse of a third-floor person tested positive, and that worker was sent home until he/she cleared the test," Motto said. "Then, one person in the same office tested positive."

As a result, everyone working on the third floor who had been in close contact with that person was sent home, he said. About half a dozen are staying home until they test negative. Since then, one has returned.

Motto said that there has been no disruption of the court schedules as a result. A professional company was called in and sanitized all of the offices where the person was thought to have been, he said.

Other statewide mitigation efforts explained Tuesday by Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine include an order requiring anyone who visits from any other state to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before entering the commonwealth. If someone cannot get a test or chooses not to, they must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Pennsylvania.

A Pennsylvanian visiting another state is required to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to their return to the commonwealth, or he or she must quarantine for 14 days upon returning to Pennsylvania.

The order takes effect Nov. 20 and does not apply to people who commute to and from another state for work or medical treatment.

Levine said the mask requirements is strengthened, and requires that masks be worn indoors and outdoors away from home. In the outdoors, a person must wear a mask if they are unable to stay at least six feet away from someone not in their household. Indoors, a person will need to wear a mask when around people other than members of the household.

The mask order applies to every indoor facility, including homes, retail establishments, gyms, doctors’ offices, public transportation and anywhere food is prepared, packaged or served.

"Let's do everything we can to help stop the spread, so we don't have to worry about whether we're going to have a shutdown or lower capacity for indoor dining," commissioner Loretta Spielvogel said during Tuesday's commissioners meeting. She urged people to wear masks, stay away from crowds and wash their hands. 

None of the commissioners wore masks at their public meeting, and they and the county administrator typically are seated within six feet of one another.

Commissioner chairman Morgan Boyd pointed out that Lawrence County does not have its own health department.  

"We're largely reliant on the state Department of Health to implement any restrictions," he said, and any shutdown orders would be entirely under the purview of the state government.

Commissioner Dan Vogler noted that most counties in Pennsylvania do not have health departments.

He pointed out that normally, the annual convention of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania would be convening next week in Dauphin County. Instead, the conference will be all virtual.

Vogler is a member of the City Rescue Mission's board of directors, and its meeting also will be virtual, he said.

"We're avoiding crowds as best we can," he said. "It is frustrating."

In other COVID-related matters, the commissioners approved a budget amendment, adding $428,856 from CARES Act funding to the general fund to be used for eligible salary payments for people who were off sick or quarantined because of the coronavirus. The payments will use various eligibility salary formulas under the act. 

Last week and Tuesday, the commissioners also approved giving funds to various business applicants for reimbursement for purchasing personal protective equipment, with funding from the CARES Act.

The disbursements are to: Friends Bar and Grill, $2,000; Ben Franklin's Taproom, $2,000; Tuscany Square (currently closed), $1,798.62; Micco Orthodontic, $1,648.98; Infinity Flow Studio, $27.75; Thomas Maciarello, CPA, $1,495.50; Studio 175, $2,000; Tic Toc Food Mart, $2,000; Center Stage, $2,000; Sky King Fireworks, $2,000; Tervo Masonry, $531.67; Magnifico Family Dentistry, $2,000; Rezk Medical Clinic, $2,000; Turf Bar, $1,241; Reed D. Hennon, $423.99; Shipping Depot Plus, $2,000; Hess Prints, $2,000; Diamond Dance, $313.86; Dr. Thomas J. Malvar, $1,364; and El Canelo V, $2,000.

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Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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