Blair County Forms COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force

 In News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

April 24, 2020 – Altoona, PA: Government, Health Care and Economic Development officials announced today the formation of a Blair County COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force. As signs point towards a flattening of the pandemic curve, it is becoming clear the economic recovery will not be experienced uniformly across all communities. Each County must be prepared to quickly address guidelines and share information in order to begin a phased, safe and scalable economic reopening. The newly formed Blair County Task Force has established a series of objectives to include:

  • Reviewing all guidelines, criteria and timelines (as they are developed and published) to reopen businesses in Blair County safely, quickly and effectively.
  • Researching/documenting diagnostic testing and patient capacity in the County.
  • Sharing information and drawing upon expert opinions related to evolving health safety, social distancing, testing protocols and implementation.
  • Informing and responding to all COVID-19 state/federal policy recommendations as they develop.

Task Force members currently include the Chair of the Blair County Board of Commissioners, officials from the Blair County Emergency Management, Altoona Blair County Development (ABCD) Corporation, Blair County Chamber of Commerce, UPMC, Tyrone Hospital, Conemaugh Nason Medical Center, Mayor of City of Altoona, Altoona City Emergency Management, State and Federal elected Officials. ABCD Corporation and the Blair County Chamber will help to administer the action items and communications for the Task Force.

On Wednesday Governor Wolf announced an updated plan for a phased reopening by region. Among the key thresholds established for Counties and/or Regions to open businesses at greater scale include the “availability of adequate diagnostic testing” and “a capacity to respond to new cases” as they develop.

While communities across the country are demonstrating varying degrees of resiliency and health impacts, Blair County’s health system providers have continued to demonstrate significant capacity to address patient care and have been rapidly expanding testing over the past several weeks. Health care providers in Blair are urging residents not to defer any needed treatment as conditions in the hospitals are safe and the capacity is there to address all levels of frontline patient care and procedures. The Task Force will advocate for Blair’s reopening based on County data, capacity to address all prescribed guidelines and approaches unique to our community.

For more information contact Stephen McKnight, President and CEO of the Altoona Blair County Development Corporation at stevem@abcdcorp.org or Joe Hurd, CEO of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce at jhurd@blairchamber.org.

 

Blair County COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force Objectives (full listing) and Membership:

  • Review all required guidelines, criteria and timelines (as they are developed and published) to reopen businesses in Blair County safely, quickly and effectively.
  • Research and document overall diagnostic testing capacity in the County.
  • Share knowledge and draw upon expert opinions on the effectiveness of anti-body and other diagnostic testing to inform and respond to state policy recommendations as they develop.
  • Collect information and clarify what is needed as it relates to approved anti-body testing and other diagnostic testing.
  • Identify and leverage all public and private sector funding sources for the purchase and implementation of antibody and other diagnostic testing.
  • Develop and/or track implementation strategies for such testing throughout the County.
  • Identify and map assets/resources where such diagnostic testing is taking place within the County.
  • Identify and close gaps in testing to ensure capacity to implement at the maximum scale possible.
  • Communicate and track the collection of information on testing approaches being undertaken either directly through the county or through private sector employers and hospitals.
  • Ensure that testing data is being collected and communicated to the appropriate state and federal agencies.
  • Advise on all other measures needed to address existing and emerging requirements both related and unrelated to diagnostic testing.

NOTE: CDC guidance is pointing towards the need for communities to implement and document large-scale “antibody testing” as one of the steps towards full scale reopening. While several antibody tests are currently available in limited quantities, the process of refining and increasing production to meet demand is underway. As these tests become more readily available and reliable, evaluation and implementation of those tests will be included as part of the Task Force’s review.

All Task Force members can be reached directly through their respective offices:

  • Hon. Bruce Erb, Blair County Commissioners
  • Mark Taylor, Blair County Emergency Management
  • Joe Hurd, Blair County Chamber of Commerce
  • Jan Fisher, UPMC Altoona
  • Anna Anna, Tyrone Hospital
  • Hon. Matt Pacifico, Mayor, City of Altoona
  • Tim Hileman, Altoona Emergency Management
  • Hon. Judy Ward, PA State Senate
  • Hon. James Gregory, PA House of Representatives
  • Dr. Lori Bechtel-Wherry, Penn State Altoona
  • Tim Harclerode, Conemaugh Nason Medical Center
  • Hon. John Joyce, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Stephen McKnight, Altoona Blair County Development Corporation
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