1,136,057 positive cases in Pennsylvania was recorded by the Pennsylvania Health Department in comparison to its overall population of 12.3 million people. As of now, Pennsylvania has a total of 1.18 million COVID-19 cases, making it the 6th highest state with the most positive cases. Looking at the different counties in Pennsylvania, Clarion County was one that stood out. Representative Donna Oberlander (R), State Representative for the 63rd district, which includes all of Clarion County, part of Armstrong County and part of Forest County, helped to oversee that Clarion County was following state guidelines in order to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases.
This county was ranked number 55 in the amount of COVID-19 cases that were reported. Looking at the data, Clarion County’s average daily cases per 100,000 people was 21, while Philadelphia County’s average daily cases per 100,000 people was 34.
Just by looking at the 2019 census, Clarion County’s population was 38,715 while Philadelphia County’s population was 1.6 million. The demographics are noticeably different as Clarion County is rural and spaced out while Philadelphia County includes the largest city in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Philadelphia alone has a population of 1.579 million.
The procedures that were put into place by Governor Tom Wolf (D) impacted Clarion’s COVID-19 case numbers. The state guidelines remain the same for all of the counties, however, Allegheny County (which Pittsburgh resides in), Delaware County, and Philadelphia County all have a list of additional guidelines.
Rep. Oberlander believes that from what she has witnessed, most people in the community followed these regulations. The county has done some great work on its own by the help of the County commissioners. Rep. Oberlander pointed out that “our County commissioners were very forward thinking and worked directly with our hospital in their pandemic planning and getting the vaccine to Clarion County and then getting it rolled out as quickly as possible to the largest number of individuals.” It also helps that this county is rural, so people are not running into each other all of the time like in a big city.
When this all began, Rep. Oberlander was concerned with some of the policies that the governor was making. The mask mandate and the limitations of people gathering at events and businesses was very effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19, however, the biggest concern that she had was how the nursing homes were affected by the pandemic. “I do believe that we had a real struggle with our nursing homes and some of the governor’s policies to put COVID positive patients back into our nursing homes. It created a real issue with the number of deaths, especially in a population that was most at risk” stated Rep. Oberlander.
Clarion University’s community was also impacted by COVID-19 and various guidelines that were put into place. Kaitlyn Krupa is the student COVID-19 chair woman for Clarion University, the Clarion University Student Trustee and she also serves on the administrative COVID-19 task force. She is in charge of helping to solve all of the problems that are occurring within the COVID-19 guidelines that the university makes along with voicing the student’s concerns.
“We test 20% of the student population weekly with an extra 10% being athletes and nursing majors. This really helped us determine a section of students from all different areas of campus, who we could then test and ensure that if they were positive and didn’t know that we could, help ensure that they quarantine” Krupa explained. Since it is a state school, they are unable to enforce that all students get tested and are limited to how they can reprimand students for not following the actions put into place.
While being on campus, she has noticed that besides the university, the community has stepped up to take extra precautions to keep everyone safe. Businesses have really been adamant about the limitations of people coming in along with making sure that everyone wears their masks, which has really shown to keep the COVID-19 rates down.
Clarion’s community is also heavily built from small businesses. One of these small businesses is Michelle’s Cafe, a cute coffee shop that many students go to study. Kaity Nevel, owner of Michelle’s Cafe opened up about the hardships they’ve had to deal with. “We were definitely hit hard by the “no dine in” mandate. Like other restaurants we saw a loss in profits, but were thankfully able to receive grants to help pay our staff while closed, pay utilities, and able to purchase all of our staple menu items. However we understood why these guidelines were put in place, and we were (and continue to) be eager to follow them to ensure the health and safety of our staff and customers” said Nevel.
An extra step that Michelle’s Cafe took along with following the state guidelines was adding an ultra violet filtration system into their heating and cooling system. It was recommended by the CDC in the very early stages of opening back up and is used to help kill the virus as it travels through the air.
Even though they were also affected by all of the guidelines, their loyal customers kept them afloat. Nevel saw the contribution that their customers have made to keep them in business. “Clarion is such a lovely town and we saw so much support from the community. When we were only open for take out we had customers buying bulk items like bags of bagels and 5 lb bags of coffee. Our customers were also generous to our staff, in tipping extra or just sending us checks in the mail to try and help out our payroll. We truly wouldn’t have made it through without our community” said Nevel.
Going forward to tackle the amount COVID-19 positive cases, Rep. Oberlander thinks that one of the biggest successes will be the rollout of vaccinations. Information about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine was rolled out pretty quickly along with getting many doses to local pharmacies to begin distributing. She suggests that if you are capable of getting the vaccine to do so or at least consider it. Krupa explained, “there’s more vaccines available and I think a lot of people are taking advantage of it.”