Masks

Billy Potts, of Lancaster city, wears a mask while riding along North Queen Street in Lancaster city Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020.

Lancaster County’s commissioners say they are not yet proposing a revised COVID-19 strategy to address the surge in new cases that began in October.

For now, Commissioner Ray D’Agostino said, the county’s plan is to follow Centers for Disease Control and state health department guidance, as well as to continue implementing the county’s COVID Relief Plan, developed in the spring, that focused on how to use federal CARES Act funds to fight the pandemic.

“Right now there is no change except to double our effort and go back to the basics,” he said. “If the hospitals have needs or suggestions, we will discuss that.”

Any change in how the county responds to the case surge could come on Wednesday, when the commissioners are expected to meet with health care and emergency services providers.

“When [information on changes] is available, we will put it out, as we always do,” he said during a call on Monday. “I suspect when we are done [after Wednesday’s meeting] that we will have something to put out.”

The rise in cases beginning last month has led to the more recent uptick in the use of scarce health system resources. Ventilator and hospital intensive care unit bed use – two measures the county has pointed to as better indicators for tracking the virus’ impact rather than infection numbers alone -- are at the highest levels since the pandemic began.

“We probably got into a situation as a community, not just here, but we probably got a little lax,” D’Agostino said Tuesday. “We got to get back to the basics here, because we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Commissioner Josh Parsons, noting that the county has been ready throughout the pandemic to adjust its plan and provide support to the hospitals when needed, said hospitals in the county have not requested additional assistance.

D’Agostino said the county continues to urge individuals and businesses to continue to follow CDC and state health department advice to slow the spread of the virus. That guidance includes wearing a mask outside of the home, washing hands frequently and maintaining social distancing.

But on mask wearing, D’Agostino and Parsons have sent mixed signals to the public. Both commissioners flouted the CDC’s mask guidance on multiple occasions in recent months, appearing without a facial covering at political rallies and even at coronavirus press conferences, though they defended themselves by noting those events were held outside.

Parsons, meanwhile, has specifically criticized the Department of Health’s guidance, including most recently when Secretary of Health Rachel Levine suggested holiday gatherings needed to be rethought.

Commissioner Craig Lehman said that the county should be speaking in unison on mask wearing, and that the failure to embrace this simple public health step keeps him up at night.