“Lancaster General Hospital said Wednesday it is treating a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19 in what is the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Lancaster County,” LNP|LancasterOnline's Heather Stauffer reported. The hospital’s statement says it “is caring for this patient using all precautions recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” There are now 133 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Pennsylvania, the state Department of Health reported Wednesday afternoon; that number likely does not include Lancaster County’s case, which may have missed the cutoff time for the state’s daily reporting period. Pennsylvania also confirmed its first COVID-19 death Wednesday — an adult from Northampton County.
We fully expected this.
There should be zero surprise that there is now a COVID-19 case in Lancaster County.
And, most importantly, we should not take this development as a reason to do anything differently.
Our level of concern over the virus should be considerable — but it should also be the same today as it was before Wednesday’s news.
Don’t just take our word for it.
“Please continue to stay calm and continue to follow the CDC Prevention guidance and continue to increase your social distancing and to cancel non-essential activities,” Lancaster County Commissioner Craig Lehman tweeted Wednesday. “Please stay home whenever possible.”
Speaking to LNP | LancasterOnline, Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace had a similar message.
“What we need people to continue to do is what they have been doing, which is maintaining social distance,” Sorace said. “That social distance is more important than ever as we move through these next days, because this is all about minimizing impact of COVID on our health care facilities.”
And, while Sorace acknowledged that these are difficult and uncertain times, she reiterated that our new habits — washing our hands frequently and properly, avoiding group gatherings, etc. — are “super, super important.”
That’s the right view. It’s crucial that we continue to follow these health guidelines. It’s crucial that we stress their importance to family members and friends who might not be fully on board with this temporary new way of life.
And it’s just as crucial that we don’t let all of this overwhelm us, that we don’t give in to fear.
We should take comfort that Lancaster General Hospital was ready for the moment when its first COVID-19 case arrived.
It already was following federal guidance to cancel elective surgeries and it is extending those cancellations for two weeks, LNP | LancasterOnline’s Stauffer reported. The hospital is also tightening its visitation policies and screening patients and their companions when they enter the building.
“The safety and protection of all patients and staff remain our top priority,” Lancaster General indicated in a statement.
The leaders and staff there are doing their jobs. We can do ours, which can help us not to dwell on worry and/or potentially overreact.
Those of us who are able may wish to focus on helping others — in ways large and small — by offering to run essential errands, for instance, for older neighbors. These efforts to keep our social fabric intact will help us to come out the other side of this pandemic stronger than we were before.
We can take care of our children, answering their questions with honesty and tenderness. And we can keep them busy, safely.
LNP | LancasterOnline’s Jenelle Janci provided some ideas for parents and their kids (“Working from home today? Here are 3 upbeat indoor activities to keep your kids occupied”). Here’s one we especially like, which can be great for people of all ages: “Mental health experts say that making a list of things you’re grateful for can reduce anxiety and give us perspective when the world seems scary or out of our control. Keep your child positive by having them decorate a sheet of paper by writing things they are grateful for in different colors.”
It is not safe at this time for us to visit loved ones in nursing homes and senior centers, but we can still interact with them in numerous ways.
Charlotte Yeh, chief medical officer at AARP, stresses that maintaining some kind of social connection is vital for those in long-term facilities. So we can resort to “old-fashioned” methods, like telephone calls. Or perhaps video chats, if technology allows.
And then there’s one of the older forms of communication: “These days we forget that a handwritten card, a letter sent to your loved one, might give us a result. The nice part about it is that you can read it over and over again to remind yourself that people care about you," Yeh told the website STAT.
Handwritten letters, perhaps with contributions from a grandchild, certainly seem like something we can easily do for loved ones we cannot see in person at this time.
What other acts of kindness can we muster to help the light outshine the darkness? We know they’re happening every hour around our county. We love reading about them in LNP | LancasterOnline and we will continue to encourage you to share them with us in the coming days.
So this is where we stand.
We now have a COVID-19 patient in Lancaster County.
There will be a second, a third, and more, most likely.
The state Department of Health reminds us that — while it has not yet occurred — we can expect there to be sustained community spread in Pennsylvania at some point.
We shouldn’t be surprised.
We should be ready for the developments to come.
“The rules haven’t changed,” Lancaster City Council President Ismail Smith-Wade-El wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday. “This will hopefully make it real for many of us now, in such a way that we honor the guidance that has been given us about what to do in this situation. ...
“This is going to get worse before it gets better, but the Lancaster that I have known, and that I have seen over the past few weeks, is a model of solidarity. Please continue as such, and our community will survive this.”