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Operations Manager Ann Weller talks to colleague Brett Fassnacht inside the Lancaster County-wide Communications building in Manheim on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. The county's 911 call center is having trouble hiring and retaining dispatchers because of low wages.

Lancaster County’s 911 center officials would like you to know that, no, you should not call them to report people outside closer than six feet apart.

Nor should you call to report hoarding. Nor any other non-emergency questions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Manheim-based center doesn't track how many non-emergency coronavirus calls it's gotten since the pandemic began. But it is getting such calls — enough so that it put out a news release on its Facebook page Tuesday, March 31, explaining what are appropriate and non-appropriate calls.

911 is for life-threatening emergencies, only, according to Ann Weller, the operations manager at Lancaster County-Wide Communications. The center dispatches to more than 400,000 incidents a year. 

"There’s always a harm when people call 911 when they shouldn’t because you're tying up our dispatcher, our call takers, unnecessarily. You're also tying up unnecessary resources if we have to send somebody out to investigate a report that did not have to call 911 for," Weller said. 

The call center asks people to check the state health department's website for coronavirus information. To report businesses that are not complying with Gov. Tom Wolf's shutdown order for non-life sustaining businesses, people should call their local police department's non-emergency number, or the Pennsylvania State Police at 717-299-7650.

Police adaptations

To limit in-person contact to reduce the likelihood of spreading the coronavirus, the state police are beginning to take information on some calls by phone rather than send a trooper. They include lost and found items, littering, identity theft and general requests to speak to a trooper. 

"This change affects only a limited number of call types, and the public can be confident that the PSP has the personnel, equipment, and plans in place to respond to emergencies and other critical incidents," Col. Robert Evancheck said Wednesday.

And Brett Hambright, spokesman for the Lancaster County District Attorney's office, said that CrimeWatch, the online site used by many county police departments to post arrest and other information, is making its online reporting system for non-emergency incidents available to all police departments.

The system was put in place to limit officer exposure in mid-March. Lancaster city police Lt. Bill Hickey said Wednesday afternoon that about a dozen reports have come in to the city's page, all of the type it was designed for.