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2020 News

County Teams with Newtown Athletic Club to Create Backup Medical Site

April 8, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

Bucks County officials and Newtown Athletic Club owner Jim Worthington today announced the creation of an 80- to 100-bed medical care facility at the NAC as a backup to area hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county’s confirmed cases of coronavirus continued to climb, with reports of 116 more people testing positive for the virus. Hospitals here are not yet threatened with being overrun with COVID-19 patients, Emergency Services Director Scott T. Forster said, but the county is not willing to take any chances. IMG_3048

“We don’t know that we will need this facility,” Forster said. “But the time when we know that we need it is not the time to get ready for it. The time to get ready is now.”

Throughout the week, county and NAC workers have been moving green-mattressed beds and medical supplies into the sprawling sports training center, which Forster said would be divided into quadrants to treat COVID-19 patients as well as those not infected.

Patients at the site would not be the critically ill. Rather, they would typically be people in need of a few more days of hospitalization before being well enough to go home, or COVID-19 patients whose conditions are not serious enough to require a ventilator.

A combination of volunteer medical workers – both retired and active doctors and nurses – would be needed to help to staff the facility, Forster said, and its daily operations would be supervised by an experienced medical professional.IMG_4413

County Commissioners Diane Ellis-Marseglia and Bob Harvie praised Worthington for offering the use of his facility to serve county residents.

Worthington “has been such a good neighbor and friend to all of us,” Marseglia said. “He called me a month ago and offered the use of the building, and has waited patiently to decide if we needed it – and in fact we have reached the point where we believe we need it.

“So we are really grateful to Jim, and grateful to all of the people who are going to turn this into a convalescent place where people can get healthy again,” Marseglia said. IMG_4352

Harvie said Worthington’s gesture was in keeping with a national wave of volunteerism that is helping to meet some challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This will eventually be staffed by people … many of them retired nurses and doctors who have medical training,” Harvie said. “What Mr. Worthington is doing is obviously another level of volunteerism, and it is not the first time he has been this generous. But we certainly thank him for everything he has done.”

An emotional Worthington said donating the use of his facility was a thank-you to the community that has supported the NAC for more than 40 years.

“It’s the least we can do. The NAC has always been about helping the community and making a difference and making lives better,” he said. “I can’t think of a better way to chip in and help our community than to work with Diane Marseglia and her team here….We’re proud to step up, just like the community has stepped up for us over the last 42 years.” IMG_4382

County officials had identified two unused medical facilities in Lower and Upper Bucks as potential hospital overflow sites, both of which had been evaluated by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Lower Bucks site was ruled out, Forster said, while the Upper Bucks site remains on what he called a “short list” for possible approval.

“But the county commissioners and I believe that we should be proactive, and we should do what we think is needed for the residents and not wait for someone else to make decisions for us,” Forster said. If the Upper Bucks site is eventually approved, “the county will assist in getting that one ready, too, but at this point we think that we need to continue moving forward to ensure that we have the capability to take care of our residents.”

Forty-four county residents with COVID-19 are hospitalized, 14 of them in critical condition and on ventilators or other life-supporting equipment. One death was reported today – a 91-year-old woman – bringing to county’s death toll to 25. A total of 931 residents have tested positive for the virus, 134 of whom are confirmed to have recovered.

Pennsylvania health officials today reported 1,680 new cases, bringing the statewide total to 16,239. Seventy more people with COVID-19 died in Pennsylvania, pushing the statewide total to 310.

Of the 116 new Bucks County cases reported today, only four or five are attributed to community spread, said county Health Director Dr. David Damsker.

“The majority of our new cases are in healthcare workers,” Damsker said.

So far, Damsker said, COVID-19 cases have been confirmed at 18 different Bucks County congregate living facilities, which include but are not limited to nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Each facility has had at least one staff member or resident test positive, or both.

“We are working with these 18 facilities and are continuing to give guidance to make sure we can minimize the effects of this situation,” Damsker said.

In addition to healthcare workers, people who fill essential jobs that bring them into close contact with others are those who continue to get sick in significant numbers, Damsker said.

“Unless we stop these essential services, we are going to continue to have cases in the people who work these jobs,” he said.

Residents of 50 of Bucks County’s 54 municipalities have tested positive for the virus, with Hulmeville Borough added today. A map showing those municipalities and charts of other coronavirus-related information is on the county’s data portal: https://covid19-bucksgis.hub.arcgis.com/

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