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Department of Agriculture Reassures Pennsylvanians: COVID-19 Not Transmissible through Food, Supply Chain is Secure

April 2, 2020

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Department of Agriculture Reassures Pennsylvanians: COVID-19 Not Transmissible through Food, Supply Chain is Secure

Harrisburg, PA – Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Department of Agriculture Food Safety Director Jeff Warner today assured Pennsylvanians that there is no evidence that human or animal food or food packaging is associated with transmission of COVID-19. Redding also reviewed the department’s recommendations to retail food and agriculture operations for continuity of business, inhibiting transmission, and maintaining a healthy workforce to ensure continuous access to food during COVID-19.

“I want to assure Pennsylvanians and ease their fear: food is safe,” said Warner. “There is no evidence of COVID-19 being transmissible through food or food packaging.”

Grocery stores, food manufacturers, and distributors have been provided guidance to protect their workforce and consumers from COVID-19. This includes the following CDC and FDA recommendations:

  • Enforce social distancing in lines, separate customers and employees by six feet whenever possible.
  • Implement visual cues, such as tape on the floor every six feet, to help customers keep a six-foot distance from others whenever possible.
  • Install floor markings to require customers to stand behind, until it’s time to complete the transaction.
  • Consider limiting the number of people in the store at one time. Implementing a maximum capacity and assigning staff to manage the number of people entering.
  • Consider setting special hours for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or immuno-compromised. Recommend allowing these populations to enter the store earliest in the day to reduce chances of exposure and ensure access to inventory.

Guidance was also provided for sanitization and employee protection, to further inhibit transmission in manufacturing environments and grocery stores. Some recommendations include:

  • Do not allow symptomatic (fever of 100.4° F or greater, signs of a fever, or other symptoms) or ill employees to report for duty.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces to limit employee contact and increase frequency of cleaning and sanitizing of common touch points (door handles, touch-screens, keypads).
  • Consider altering store hours to allow for increased cleaning and re-stocking without customers present.
  • Cross-train employees and rotate staff between cashier, stocking, and other duties, to limit mental fatigue in adhering to social distancing measures.
  • Consider installing sneeze-guards at cashier stations.
  • Schedule handwashing breaks every 30-60 minutes. Employees should wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%-95% alcohol may be used. However, if hands are visibly dirty, always wash hands with soap and water.
  • Assign a relief person to step in for cashiers so they can wash their hands with soap for a full 20 seconds. Provide hand lotion so workers’ hands don’t crack.
  • Consider providing hand sanitizer at cash registers for staff and customer use in between transactions.
  • Consider only operating every other register or check-out lane to create more social distance.

“Pennsylvania’s grocery stores, food banks and pantries, food manufacturing and agriculture industry have a heavy responsibility right now: to provide continuous access to food, safely, during the most challenging crisis most have ever experienced,” said Secretary Redding. “We’ve worked hard to impress upon these truly life-sustaining businesses that just because they are essential, this is not business as usual. The guidance we’ve provided is what they must implement to protect their workforce; it’s what they must implement to save Pennsylvanians and provide for them at the same time.”

Following a brief pause in support of the national, “15 Days to Slow the Spread” initiative, effective April 1, 2020, the Department of Agriculture re-deployed the state’s food safety inspectors to ensure continued protection of Pennsylvanians and prevent foodborne illness.

“It’s time to put our boots back to the ground and resume food safety inspections and offering in-person guidance to these essential businesses,” added Warner. “We’re going to do our best to help Pennsylvania businesses provide the safest food possible to consumers. Pennsylvanians need to know their food is safe, something we can only ensure through proactive inspections.”

For a complete list of guidance documents and information as it relates to agriculture during COVID-19 mitigation in Pennsylvania visit For the most accurate, timely information related to Health in Pennsylvania, visit

MEDIA CONTACT: Shannon Powers – 717.783.2628


State Police Reinforces Commitment to Prevent, Investigate Bias-Based Crimes


April 2, 2020


State Police Reinforces Commitment to Prevent, Investigate Bias-Based Crimes


Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) recently disseminated a letter to local, state, and federal stakeholders to affirm the Department’s continued support of the Asian American communities throughout the commonwealth. Across the country, law enforcement has seen an increasing number of incidents targeting members of this community due to misinformation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Asian American Community and other minority groups should know that the state police take every allegation of hate/bias crime seriously, and each complaint receives a full investigation,” said Colonel Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. “We will not tolerate hate or bias of any kind in Pennsylvania.”

The PSP Heritage Affairs Section is a unit dedicated to the prevention and investigation of hate/bias crimes and incidents. The unit works closely with community organizations, lawmakers, and municipal, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to mitigate issues between law enforcement and historically underserved communities.

Members of the Heritage Affairs Section routinely meet with stakeholders on a proactive basis to address their concerns and maintain open lines of communication between their communities and law enforcement.

To date, the PSP has not investigated any hate/bias crimes related to COVID-19 targeting Asian American communities in Pennsylvania. If you feel you, or someone you know is a victim of a hate/bias crime or incident, contact your local law enforcement agency.

“Victims may be reluctant to come forward for cultural reasons, or because they don’t feel the crime against them rises to the level of law enforcement involvement. We want the community to know that any crime motivated by hate or bias is unacceptable. The Heritage Affairs Section, and our department, supports affected communities during these unprecedented times,” said Colonel Evanchick.

You can find a list of state police stations here. For more information on hate crimes and the Heritage Affairs Section, visit

 MEDIA CONTACT: Trooper Brent Miller or Ryan Tarkowski, 717-783-5556

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State Police Refines Response Guidelines for Certain Non-Emergency Incidents

April 1, 2020

State Police Refines Response Guidelines for Certain Non-Emergency Incidents

Harrisburg, PA – Colonel Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, announced today a temporary change to the way troopers respond to select non-emergency incidents. With the goal of limiting in-person contact and mitigating the spread of COVID-19, the department has identified certain types of calls that may be resolved with limited or no on-scene response. The change went into effect April 1, 2020 and will remain until further notice.

“To enhance social distancing and keep our personnel and the public safe and healthy, we will begin collecting information via telephone for incidents that do not require an in-person response from a trooper,” said Colonel Evanchick. “This change affects only a limited number of call types, and the public can be confident that the PSP has the personnel, equipment, and plans in place to respond to emergencies and other critical incidents.”

Call types eligible for a modified response include lost and found items, littering, identity theft, and general requests to speak to a trooper. While limiting in-person contact and collecting as much information via telephone is the goal, the actual response will be based on the totality of the circumstances of each unique situation in consultation with a supervisor on duty. State police response protocol to emergencies and crimes in progress remains unchanged.

The department asks the public to be mindful of social distancing if they need to visit their local PSP station. Signs have been posted at each entrance instructing visitors not to enter the facility if they are experiencing symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Instead, they are instructed to contact the station by phone to speak to a trooper who may come outside to resolve the situation one-on-one if needed.

“Our facilities remain open as a public resource 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Colonel Evanchick. “Essential personnel remain ready to assist as needed during this unprecedented public health crisis, and we appreciate the public’s continued support.”

For a list of PSP stations, visit

MEDIA CONTACT: Trooper Brent Miller or Ryan Tarkowski, 717-783-5556

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Governor Wolf: Request for Major Disaster Declaration Approved

March 31, 2020
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Governor Wolf: Request for Major Disaster Declaration Approved

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today announced the approval of part of his request to the President for a major disaster declaration to support state, county and local response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Pennsylvania.

“We are grateful for federal funding that will support all levels of government as we work together to stop the spread, and support those who care for the ill,” said Governor Wolf. “But I remain unwavering in my call for the approval of the rest of my request, which will provide more direct support to our friends and neighbors who are facing financial difficulties that otherwise could be insurmountable.”

Under the major disaster declaration, state, county and municipal governments, as well as eligible private non-profits can receive reimbursement for up to 75 percent of eligible expenses related to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Eligible expenses can include but are not limited to costs associated with paying overtime, or materials and equipment purchases. The declaration also provides direct federal assistance, which provides federal materials and supplies to support state and local response efforts.

In the coming weeks, staff from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency will reach out to potential applicants to view the application process and necessary documentation. As the response period for the COVID-19 outbreak is continuing, the process will take weeks. All reimbursements are handled electronically.

Governor Wolf said his request for other federal aid remains under consideration. His letter to the President included the following Individual Assistance programs: Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Crisis Counseling, Community Disaster Loans and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Program; and Statewide Hazard Mitigation.

It is not known how soon a determination will be made about the rest of his request. Governor Wolf signed a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency for the COVID-19 outbreak, which is a required step to request a federal major disaster declaration, on March 6, 2020.

MEDIA CONTACT:    Lyndsay Kensinger, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Ruth Miller, PEMA: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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Insurance Department Warns Against In-Person Sales After Governor’s Order Closing All Non-Life Sustaining Businesses


March 30, 2020

Insurance Department Warns Against In-Person Sales After Governor’s Order Closing All Non-Life Sustaining Businesses


Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman today cautioned Pennsylvania’s insurance licensees that in-person sales and brokerage are prohibited by Governor Wolf’s order closing all non-life sustaining businesses in the Commonwealth to slow the spread COVID-19. The Department intends to pursue disciplinary action against any licensee that violates the order.

“Governor Wolf’s order closing all non-life sustaining businesses has been an important step in the mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Altman. “While insurance is considered a life-sustaining business, especially during the unprecedented health crisis that we’re experiencing today, in-person sales and brokerage are not designated as life-sustaining, and have a detrimental effect on the safety and well-being of all Pennsylvanians.”

Per Governor Wolf’s order, businesses that were non-life sustaining were ordered to close their physical locations on March 19, at 8:00 PM. Enforcement of this action became effective on Monday, March 23, at 8:00 AM.

Any insurance licensees found to be in violation of this order by offering in-person sales and brokerage will receive a letter of violation from the Pennsylvania Insurance Department (PID), and the violation will be forwarded to the Pennsylvania State Police for further prosecution.

Continued violation of the governor’s order through in-person sales and brokerage may be considered by the Department in evaluating a licensee’s worthiness to hold a license in the Commonwealth and will result in immediate administrative prosecution by PID. Penalties under such prosecution may include revoking insurance licenses, and civil monetary penalties.

“These actions are necessary to ensure the protection and safety of Commonwealth residents,” said Altman. “A quick and effective response will help to stop the spread of the illness in Pennsylvania, and everyone, including insurers and insurance agents, need to be a part of that response. Pennsylvanians are encouraged to immediately contact the department if they receive an unexpected in-person solicitation at their home or life-sustaining business.”

Pursuant to the Emergency Management Services Code, the governor is granted extraordinary powers upon his declaration of a disaster emergency, such as COVID-19. Among these powers, the governor may control the ingress and egress into the disaster area, the movement of persons, and the occupancy of premises within the disaster area, which has been established to be the entire commonwealth for the COVID-19 disaster emergency.

For up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, visit the PA Department of Health's dedicated Coronavirus webpage that is updated daily.

If a consumer receives an unexpected bill related to COVID-19 or other healthcare services, they are encouraged to contact the Insurance Department at 1-877-881-6388.

Updated Coronavirus Links: Press Releases, State Lab Photos, Graphics

For the daily COVID-19 Report, visit here.

For all press releases regarding coronavirus, please visit here.

Find the latest information on the coronavirus here.

Photos of the state's lab in Exton are available for download and use here.

Coronavirus and preparedness graphics are available here near the bottom of the page:

Media contact: Thaisa Jones, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 717-214-4781

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