150 North Queen

The Lancaster County Government Center, 150 N. Queen St.

Lancaster County moved one step closer on Wednesday to implementing contact tracing and testing, as well as an economic recovery plan, in response to COVID-19.

The board of commissioners approved contracts with Lancaster General Health, as well as the Lancaster Chamber and Economic Development Company, to carry out those measures.

Under the first agreement, Lancaster General Hospital will provide contact tracing for up to 50 new COVID-19 cases a day.

Dr. Michael Ripchinski, Lancaster General Health's chief clinical officer, said the hospital will begin training contact tracers Thursday with the hopes of having the program operational by Friday.

The second part of the agreement — testing — provides that Lancaster General Health will set up and run “multiple” testing locations and administer up to 1,000 COVID-19 tests a day.

Commissioner Josh Parsons noted that as testing increases, positive case numbers are likely to rise as well, which he viewed as a positive step in identifying the prevalence of the disease in the county.

The total cost of the contract for both tracing and testing is estimated to be $24.7 million, to be paid with funds from the federal coronavirus relief act.

The commissioners also reached a formal agreement with the Lancaster Chamber and the Economic Development Company to implement an economic recovery plan at a cost of $33.4 million, also to be paid with funds from the federal coronavirus relief act.

The plan includes distribution of $6 million worth of personal protective equipment to small businesses as well as $25 million in grants to small businesses, defined as those with less than 100 employees.

Grants can be used to support business operations as well as for retrofitting physical spaces to promote safe operations.

Detailed guidance on how exactly businesses will apply for grants, and what the criteria for granting them will be, is still in development by the Lancaster Chamber and Economic Development Company.

Lisa Riggs, president of the Economic Development Company, said they hope to have guidance developed by next Wednesday with the tentative hope that businesses can apply for grants by mid-June.