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Centre County extends full remote work status

BELLEFONTE — For government employees in Centre County, the beat goes on.

With COVID-19 numbers still on the rise in Centre County, the commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to extend remote work another two weeks, through Friday, April 30. It will be reviewed at the commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday, April 27.

“Typically, when we make these recommendations, we look at different measures, including the number of positive cases in our area, the number of hospitalizations and, importantly, the impact on our own employee workforce,” said county administrator Margaret Gray. “Right now, in contrast to about two weeks ago, the number of situations, cases, quarantine cases within our own workforce has stabilized and decreased.”

But as, Gray pointed out, numbers in the county continue to tick upward.

“However, as recently as this morning we’re hearing from Mount Nittany that their hospitalizations are at a higher level than they’ve been in several months. They are even opening and standing up a second unit to deal with these hospitalizations. They are very concerned about what they’re seeing in the community in terms of continued spread,” she said.

As of Tuesday, there were 30 COVID positive inpatients at Mount Nittany Medical Center, ranging in age from 19 to 90. In March, there was a total of 124 COVID positive inpatients, with an average daily census of 18. So far this month, there have already been 62 COVID related admissions with an average daily census of 23.

“We continue to see our highest number of COVID related hospitalizations since before the pandemic, and are very concerned with this trend,” Mount Nittany Medical Center Chief Medical Officer, Upendra Thaker, MD, FIPP, said in a news release.

Taking all of that into consideration, Gray recommended extending full remote work status another two weeks.

“The recommendation … is to continue with our full remote work status for another two weeks. (That) takes us to April 30. We can re-evaluate and review on April 27. By that point in time, as vaccinations continue, as more people are vaccinated and so forth, I think we may even see our numbers declining further and could consider at the beginning of May going to a more robust rotational model than we currently are implementing,” Gray said.

The commissioners agreed that county employees should remain on full remote work status.

“I think I would concur. I think another two weeks would be wise at this time,” said chair Michael Pipe, “and then re-visit in two weeks from today.”

Commissioner Mark Higgins also agreed with the recommendation.

“I would agree with this staff recommendation. We’re getting close, you can kind of see the end of the tunnel. But until local diagnosing rates for COVID and capacity at the hospital starts to free up, I think we can take another two weeks to continue to be cautious,” Higgins said.

Dershem made it unanimous.

“I would agree. I think state-wide, we’re at about 22 percent vaccination rate. Over the next several weeks, we should see a dramatic increase in that. When we get to almost a significant number, like 40-50 percent, that’s going to signal that everyone who wants the vaccine will have it … I would recommend that we would be cautious and provide two more weeks of remote work,” Dershem said.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:

— Adopted Proclamations No. 7 and 8 of 2021. Proclamation No. 7 proclaimed the month of April, 2021 as National County Government and Centre County Employee Appreciation Month. Proclamation No. 8. proclaimed the week of April 19-23, 2021 as Justice Education Week in Centre County.

— Approved a subgrant award notification from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) for the Rights and Services Act (RASA) and Victims of Juvenile Offenders (VOJO) Grant. The project total is $311,090 for the period of Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2022.

— Announced that Centre County Government is offering surplus vehicles for sale to the general public. An online public auction is being conducted by GovPlanet at www.govplanet.com from Saturday, April 10, 2021 at 10 a.m. and will remain open through Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at 10 a.m.

The Centre County commissioners will meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 20. That meeting will be held via Zoom and televised live on C-NET.

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