ChesCo planning antibody testing

During a live-streamed press conference, Chester County Commissioners' Chairwoman Moskowitz said the county would begin a blood testing procedure for medical personnel to determine if those people have antibodies to the Coronavirus COVID-19.

The test determines whether or not a person had the disease and has recovered by determining whether there are antibodies to COVID -19 in the person's blood. Moskowitz stressed the procedure does not determine whether a person currently has the virus.

They also recommend smiling, being positive and practicing meditation and yoga to help deal with the stress.

The press conference, which lasted about 31 minutes, included all three county commissioners, as well as Health Department Director Jeanne Casner. Using data gathered through Sunday, Casner said there are 237 positive cases, 2,238 people have tested negative, while three have died. She acknowledged later that the numbers could be higher because it takes time to go through the confirmation procedures.

Casner called the numbers reported every day a "snapshot and likely underrepresent what is actually going on."

She said the county is committed to investigating every case and providing guidance for quarantine and isolation.

After analyzing the data to date, Casner said the county is experiencing "community spread," meaning that people are coming down with COVID-19 without knowing how it happened and have had no contact with anyone who has tested positive.

"I know that none of you are surprised by this because we have heard it from many counties around us. Knowing we have community spread, however, really reinforces the need for all of us to continue our social distancing, which means physically distancing ourselves by staying home and only leaving home for essential needs," she said.

Casner also said people need to wear masks when they do leave home, but they shouldn't wear medical asks. Those are only for medical personnel and first responders, she said.

She also said that the distancing would likely continue for a while because the infections continue.

"Right now, the only cure we have control of in this virus is our physical distance and keeping our germs to ourselves," she said. "So, make a mask; wear a mask when you're outside of your home…Wearing a mask is not a replacement for staying at home or physically distancing from one another or washing our hands… And even though you're behind a mask, it's still important for yourself to smile."

Moskowitz said that the number of positive cases in the county is 304, with 21 hospitalizations, or about 7 percent of the positive cases.

"All hospitals in the county currently have the capacity to treat anyone experiencing symptoms…As long as we all try to slow the spread, those numbers are manageable," Moskowitz said. "The only way to keep it that way, to reduce the pressure that may be placed on our hospitals if numbers increase drastically, is to stay home, practice social distancing and heed all the recommendations to keep this virus at bay."

Moskowitz added that the hospitals have a sufficient number of test kits as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

Commissioner Josh Maxwell read through a list of agencies, foundations and businesses that are fundraising or making donations for those experiencing job loss or a housing problem because of the fallout from the virus.

Michelle Kichline, the third commissioner, focused on mental health and self-care.

"The instructions given to slow the spread, to mitigate this awful virus are extremely important to follow. It's also important to be aware of how this pandemic can affect us emotionally and mentally," she said.

Kichline acknowledged that social distancing could make people feel alone, especially for those who live alone and can't get to see other family members.

"Grandparents are missing their grandchildren and friends miss seeing each other…Visits to loved ones in long-term care facilities are now off-limits. It's normal to feel stressed, sad and anxious. And we have to remember that everyone processes the impacts of these types of events differently. As a community, we need to spread kindness and be patient with those who feel anxious…"

She went on to say there are people and services in the county that are ready to lend that emotional support to those people who are having difficulty with the stress and anxiety.

She said people could find many of those services on the county website. Scroll down the right-hand side of that page to the "Support Strategies & Resource" tab.

"It's really important to say yes to your self-care," Kichline said. "Keep in touch with your family and friends remotely. Listen to a podcast, read a book, take regular breaks when working from home or take a break from trying to help your children with math. Discover the value of meditation and yoga."

She recommended looking for those types of free resources online, either on YouTube or doing a web search for Chester County meditation.

"And it's OK — even recommended — to go outside, take fresh air and exercise. Just practice your social distancing," Kichline said.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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