By way of technology, Mt. Lebanon commissioners hosted a series of officials from the federal to local level during a regularly scheduled discussion session conducted Tuesday on a virtual basis.
Each of the officials talked about the handling of the COVID-19 crisis from his or her perspective, detailing efforts that are being taken and what possibly to expect.
“I wish I had good news for you. I don’t,” U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Mt. Lebanon, reported. “I think that our healthcare workforce is going to be stretched thin and left unprotected in a lot of places.”
“You see the situation developing where New York is short in what they need, and I think, based on the way this thing has developed, it’s not like New York is going to be the last part of our country to deal with this problem,” he continued. “And so you worry that so many of the supplies end up being rushed there that places like Western Pennsylvania are left out.”
As such, he is focusing in part on the local gathering of personal protective equipment, which so far has included a donation of supplies from Mt. Lebanon School District. Lamb encouraged others to do what they can in that manner, especially with regard to a shortage of N95 respirator masks:
“If you have connections in the construction trade, in particular, sometimes they have these masks and they were not previously allowed for medical use. But now they’re going to be.”
On the state level, Rep. Dan Miller, D- Mt. Lebanon, who lives in Mt. Lebanon, said tat his office continues to work with municipalities and organizations to find ways to meet residents’ needs.
“We continue to get people looking to volunteer to help, and we continue to talk to people who tell us about the limits that many nonprofits are already feeling,” he said. “We are concerned for seniors in relation to the necessities, food and prescriptions in particular. And we’re concerned, as well, about childcare. On those two fronts, we continue to look to put together an operation that can be successful.”
Allegheny County Council member Tom Duerr, a Bethel Park Democrat whose district includes Mt. Lebanon, provided assurances key officials have been working on safety measures since before the county’s first confirmed COVID-19 cases.
“Our job at county council is really going to be to support our health department here as much as we can over the next couple of weeks, months, with all the resources that they need,” he said.
Municipal manager Keith McGill presented a lengthy list of services affected by the current situation, with consistently updated details available at www.mtlebanon.org/3460/Coronavirus-COVID-19.
Among items of particular interest to residents is Waste Management’s decision to suspend nonessential services.
“They’re still picking up recycling and trash, but they are not picking up bulk collection, which means furniture, carpet, mattresses, appliances, et cetera.” McGill said. “They’re also not picking up yard waste. They are not picking up loose items that are left outside of a recycling bin.”
Mt. Lebanon Fire Department Chief Nick Sohyda reported the municipality formed a communitywide COVID-19 task force March 5, as the first coronavirus cases were being reported in the United States.
“Last night, we were able to mobilize five police officers and five firefighters within 35 minutes of a notification for assistance from the school district,” he said Tuesday. “We assisted them in distributing computers to families at 10 separate locations.”
Chris Buttlar, fire department deputy chief for operations and emergency management, provide information about preparedness.
“Our emergency operation center is currently at Level 2, which is partial activation. There is somebody here most hours of the day, and it can be expanded at a moment’s notice,” he said. “There are some down times, maybe in the middle of the night. But pretty much for the last two weeks, we’ve had continual staffing in the EOC.”
He complimented the municipal public information office and information technology department for providing pertinent details to residents.
“I think our website is really expansive, up-to-date, timely and full of great information for our community, and I think it’s a really good example,” Buttlar said.
Chief Aaron Lauth of Mt. Lebanon Police Department discussed procedures that have been adjusted because of the crisis.
“Our police officers are doing their best to minimize contact with the public while still maintaining the highest levels of safety and service that our community expects,” he said. “Procedures for the use of personal protective equipment have been established and exposure guidelines were refined to help ensure that we maintain adequate staffing levels. Contingency plans have been developed in the event that varying levels of loss of personnel due to illness do occur.”
His department is taking measures in connection with stay-at-home and social-distancing directives, especially with regard to gathering places such as athletic fields, sport courts and playgrounds.
“Our officers have been out sort of proactively patrolling some of those areas, to educate the community about the governor’s order, in case they’re not aware or in case they are just ignoring the order,” Lauth said.
Municipal public information officer Laura Lilley encouraged residents to continue to support local businesses. Information on those in operation is available at mtlebopartnership.org/openlebo/, and many offer opportunities to buy gift cards and make purchases online.
“If it’s a hair salon that they normally visit or some type of personal service, the best thing that they can do is purchase a gift card and stock up on those,” Lilley said. “And when life returns to normal, they’ll have a backlog to use.”