State of emergency declared for county
Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong declared a state of emergency for Lehigh County effective March 16.
Armstrong made the official announcement 1 p.m. in front of the county government building accompanied by Edward Hozza Jr., director of administration; John Kalynych, director of Lehigh County’s emergency services department; and Richard Molchany, director of general services.
“We must take a proactive stance in combating the unknowns of this disease,” Armstrong said. “This declaration will be put in effect immediately to ensure the health and safety of Lehigh County and its people.
“As of last night, our building officially closed its doors to all walk-ins and visitors without a government center-issued identification badge. This decision is in line with a directive from Gov. (Tom) Wolf to minimize personnel contact and create social distancing.”
Stopping short of a ban, Armstrong said he strongly discourages people going to public areas such as shopping malls, movie theaters, conferences and other places that have large groups of people.
He urged sick people to stay at home and to frequently wash their hands while refraining from touching their faces.
“This is one of the methods known to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Armstrong said.
“Grocery stores and other essential shops will remain open during the state of emergency,” he continued. “Please be mindful of the quantities you buy and of those who cannot easily get basic necessities. Food and product distribution will still be maintained in Lehigh County.”
He urged people needing to do business with the county to delay it if possible. For those with urgent business, he said the county will post procedures soon.
If the state gives approval to the request, the county will distribute mail-in ballots in an effort to cope with the coronavirus.
“I hope every citizen can vote safely with these new mail-in ballots on Election Day,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said Lehigh Valley Health Network and St. Luke’s University Health Network are prescreening for patients who believe they have COVID-19 symptoms.
“As to not overrun health care facilities, patients are instructed to call the prescreening hotline number where a team of health partners can advise on the next steps in being tested. Above all, as we stress, if you are sick please stay home,” he urged.
“Together, we can overcome this challenge. I have complete faith in our hospitals, doctors, nurses, practitioners and all health care providers as they aid us in fighting this virus,” Armstrong said. “With their dedication and perseverance — and with the rest of us staying out of the way — our residents should be assured they are in the best possible care. It is my duty as county executive to help keep the people of Lehigh County safe and healthy.
“This declaration is the next step in that process,” Armstrong said.