By Chris Quinn 168th District
As residents struggle to come to terms with the outbreak of COVID-19 and steps being taken to mitigate the spread of the virus, I and other elected officials have heard from many individuals who are seeking guidance and solutions. First and foremost, I encourage everyone to take steps to maintain the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones.
Social distancing continues to best our method practice to combat the spread of this disease. In fact, reports indicate that 80% of individuals who have contracted the virus did so from someone who was not exhibiting any symptoms. This is why self-quarantine is so important for individuals who are at higher risk, including seniors and individuals with underlying health concerns, such as diabetes, respiratory illnesses, and heart issues.
While seniors are at higher risk of dying from the virus, it poses serious health consequences for people of any age. New data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 40% of COVID-19-related hospitalizations have been for individuals between the ages of 20 and 55. The bottom line: If an individual – regardless of age -- thinks they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, they should call their health care provider.
Many constituents have asked how my family is handling the outbreak. My family and I have been on self-quarantine for more than a week now. We took this step after a member of my staff had a possible secondary exposure to the virus. This prompted the physical closing of my district office, which was the first legislative office to close in Pennsylvania. While my staff member ultimately tested negative for the virus, my family is maintaining our self-quarantine for the time being.
Most people are struggling to adapt to the “new normal.” My wife and I are no different. We have three daughters, two in high school and one in junior high, so the closure of businesses and social distancing restrictions have proven to be both hectic and stressful. Fortunately, my youngest daughter has been able to spend time with a friend because her parents have the same quarantine philosophy as me and my wife. We have not, however, permitted our eldest daughter to see her boyfriend, a fact that we are reminded of frequently. But my family understands that we, both as individuals and as a larger community, will be safer as a result of these temporary inconveniences.
I did, however, make an exception to our self-quarantine. On Monday, March 16, members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives were called to Harrisburg to vote on changes to our legislative rules and operating procedures. One change temporarily removes the requirement that legislators vote in person in the Capitol. This change allows me and other members of the Legislature to maintain social distancing by permitting legislators to vote remotely on critical legislation related to the outbreak.
The challenges are numerous. Business owners have been forced to shut down operations, leaving many businesses without revenues and many individuals out of work. Children have been limited in their abilities to continue their education. Seniors have become more isolated, raising concerns about their physical and emotional wellness. These are just some of the issues that I and my colleagues in the Legislature will work to address.
I have already thrown my support behind several proposals. To address some of the economic concerns, I have co-sponsored a bill to suspend the collection of sales and personal income taxes during the disaster declaration to provide some relief for small businesses and individuals. I have also backed legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Killion to provide interest-free loans to small businesses affected by the shutdown. These loans could be used to pay employees while revenues have been stunted.
I have also sponsored a comprehensive education bill that would lift the requirement that schools provide a minimum 180 days of instruction. The bill also allows the secretary of Education to increase the number of flexible instruction days so school districts could provide education to children while at home and lift other educational requirements that it deems necessary. As a parent, this package is very important to me and we will be working hard to get it on the governor’s desk as soon as possible.
While my district office remains closed and state employees are restricted from in-person meetings, my staff and I are still actively working and assisting people from home. Individuals can continue to call my office and send emails to me and my staff with questions and concerns.
I would also encourage local residents to visit a coronavirus information portal -- http://www.repchrisquinn.com/coronavirus -- that I have established on my website. I am updating the page on a daily basis with the latest information and resources.
We remain here and available to help and answer questions. Please know that you are not alone and, most importantly, remain diligent and healthy.
Representative Chris Quinn
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Rene Morrow
www.RepChrisQuinn.com / www.Facebook.com/RepChrisQuinn