With the effective reopening of Peters Township has come an increase in cases of COVID-19.
During Monday’s meeting of township council, fire Chief Michael McLaughlin reported the number of new cases since June 22 within the two main local ZIP codes: 88 in 15317, Canonsburg/McMurray, and 16 in 15367, Venetia.
The majority, he said, are among residents ages 21 to 49.
“We’re seeing a high success rate in recovery and a quick recovery in that age group,” he said.
Township manager Paul Lauer told council cases have emerged among municipal employees and their family members, along with some participants in a township recreation program. He also announced at the start of the meeting Councilman Jim Berquist was not present because of his illness.
“This is no longer something that we’re talking about in the abstract,” Lauer said. “It’s something that’s affecting people here.”
He mentioned some areas of concern with regard to safety measures, in particular citing gymnasium use at the community recreation center.
“All we are asking people who come through the door is to wear a mask while they’re in the common space, the space that’s occupied by our employees as well as the areas before you get into the gyms,” Lauer said.
“Unlike the situation at the library, where there’s almost complete compliance with that request, that is not the case at the rec center,” he continued. “You have teenagers coming through the door wanting to do pickup basketball and things like that, and as we can probably all appreciate, they perceive themselves as being pretty invincible.”
Lauer also discussed concerns about township employees traveling for their summer vacations.
“Some of those vacations are scheduled in areas that have been designated by the Pennsylvania Department of Health as being ‘hot spots,’” he said, referring to the list of 15 states released July 2.
“While the department of health suggests that when you go to one of these places, it would be good to be separated for the next 14 days upon your return, that, as a practical matter, isn’t enforceable. And I don’t know of any municipality that’s doing that,” Lauer said. “What I want to do is provide employees guidance as to what they need to do to be safe, and also inform them as to which of these states have been determined to be areas of concern.”
Lauer said officials have looked at the safety of recreation programs as well.
“I don’t think that’s where we have a problem,” he said. “We have protocols, and people who sign up for those classes are willing to follow them.”
For now, the following of protocols for other activities will be monitored.
“If we can’t get it squared away, I don’t know that we should be opening up the gym for just drop-in play,” Lauer said. “We’re not asking people to do a whole lot. We’re asking them only to wear a mask between the time you come in the door and you get to the gym floor.”
Council member Frank Arcuri, citing the probability of increased attendance at the community recreation center during fall and winter, asked about the feasibility of installing additional equipment in the air-circulation systems of township buildings to help safeguard against germs.
Lauer said that staff members would look into it.
“That’s a newer building, and the amount of outside air that comes in, regardless of whether it’s the summer or the winter, is actually substantial,” he said.
He could not say the same about the municipal building.
On a financial note, McLaughlin, who also serves as the township’s emergency management coordinator, reported expenditures of $12,288.39 related to COVID-19 since mid-March. Lauer said additional expenses related to personnel add up to $7,400.
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provides for reimbursements to local governments navigating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. In Pennsylvania, the funding is administered through county governments, and according to Lauer, Washington County has not begun distribution.