BeaverCountian.com is telling our county’s stories of personal sacrifice and need as we combat the coronavirus pandemic together.
Today, stories from the Hopewell police; the county 911 center; a popular local orthodontist; an Independence Township farmer; and the Rochester organizer of Meals on Wheels.
By BeaverCountian.com contributing editor Lori Boone, and reporters Sandra Fischione Donovan and Larissa Theodore.
Two calls came into the Hopewell Township police station Tuesday from residents worried about two businesses they thought should be closed in light of the governor’s orders and were open.
Today, Police Chief Brian Uhrmacher said one business was actually closed and the other was allowed to be open. He was in the office trying to take some time to catch up because he’s had a busy few days.
On Sunday morning, a call about a body in the water at the Club at Shadow Lakes came in.
Officers called in the Beaver County Detectives, Beaver County Coroner’s Office, Beaver County Emergency Services, Hopewell, Aliquippa and Beaver Falls fire departments and Medic Rescue.
All those folks had to risk personal space contact to handle the situation.
The adult man’s body was sent to the county coroner for an autopsy and no foul play was found, Uhrmacher said. Out of respect for the family, no further information is being released. But, of course, someone had to talk with that family.
Then, at 12:20 p.m. on Monday, police responded to 1271 Meadow Drive for a report of an erratic man who had allegedly fired shots after a neighbor dispute. This time, the Beaver County Emergency Services Unit was requested and responded.
Negotiations with 47-year-old Philip D. Grabowski ended with him being safely taken into custody at about 2:40 p.m. District Magistrate Janet M. Swihart arraigned Grabowski on four counts of recklessly endangering another person and he was housed in the county jail on $10,000 bond.
“It’s been a challenging time,” Uhrmacher said. But police are in the “people business,” he said, “And police have to come into contact with people.
Calls to Beaver County’s 911 center in general are down 15 to 20 percent since the coronavirus changed our daily life, said center Director Eric Brewer.
“People are either taking heed, listening and staying home or staying off the roads,” but they’re definitely calling 911 less, Brewer said.
“They’re listening and staying put, let’s put it that way.”
On Monday, 911 dispatchers did get “20 or so” calls from area residents reporting businesses they thought were operating against the governor’s orders. On Tuesday, Brewer said those calls were cut in half. Today, he was out of the Ambridge office and didn’t have figures.
Dispatchers refer those callers to the proper local police department or the state police, Brewer said.
Otherwise, Brewer has been occupied with teleconferences every other day with state, county and local organizations – “logistical calls of if and when we’re getting any additional resources” and how they’ll be used.
CHIPPEWA TOWNSHIP / CENTER TOWNSHIP / AMBRIDGE
Dr. David Spokane was busy today fixing the trains that run around his orthodontic offices in Chippewa Township.
Since Wednesday, when he closed all of his offices including the others in Ambridge, Center Township, Ellwood City, New Castle and Seven Fields, he’s been trying to keep busy. So those trains he uses to entertain young visitors are getting a long-overdue fixing. Next, he was heading to New Castle to fix more.
Spokane said his remaining staff is busy making calls to the offices’ “thousands” of patients, trying to reschedule appointments after May 4. Those with pain or other problems will be given first consideration, as well as new patients who can help restore lost revenues, he said.
He’s also been texting and emailing patients as needed to instruct on elastic wear, hygiene and other things, he said.
Spokane, who is also the president of the local dentistry society, said patients with emergency needs will have to go to a hospital emergency room or to Ohio, where dental offices have not been closed.
He expressed frustration that Gov. Tom Wolf didn’t consult with dental organizations for making his order. “The last place I’d want a patient to go with an abscess is the hospital,” he said. “There’s a greater chance of them getting the coronavirus there than at a dentist.”
He said there is a current effort to get Wolf to allow doctors of oral health to see emergency patients.
Calvin McConnell took a pause from the orchards Tuesday to talk about how he, his father and uncle are still doing business as usual during the coronavirus on the family farm in Independence Township.
“Right now, there’s no difference,” he said. “We keep our distance because we live in three different houses. We’re working in the orchards, our trees (for future planting) are on order and we’re ordering seeds this week.
“A lot of people hate the isolation (of the coronavirus quarantine), but to me, there’s no difference.”
But the virus has had an effect on another of McConnell’s interests, the Beaver County Farmers Market, of which he is a board member. The board canceled its spring meeting and will have to make a decision in the coming weeks on whether to open county farmers’ markets as usual the first week in May.
“That decision will be based on guidance from public officials,” McConnell said.
As for the family’s McConnell’s Farm & Market, McConnell said there’s still plenty of time to make a decision on when and how to conduct business. The family market, noted for its peaches, doesn’t usually open until early July, he said.
This week, Mike Dengel adjusted operations with drastically reduced volunteers at the Lutheran Senior Life Meals on Wheels program he manages for all of Beaver County.
Volunteers have continued deliveries of 2,600 to 3,000 monthly meals to homebound seniors. But face-to-face contact with clients has stopped.
Because of the emergency crisis, volunteers are delivering an entire week’s worth of food on one day. It began Monday, when they delivered 247 meal trays.
“We’re staffed and ready to take on the needs of senior citizens in Beaver County to get everybody through that we can,” Dengel said.
Several years ago, Meals on Wheels stopped meal prepping altogether and contracted with a meal service company with a commercial kitchen. A professional chef whips up fresh meals, low in salt, with no sugar or preservatives, then seals and freezes the meals. Meals complete with nutritional information and heating directions are delivered frozen to clients who can warm them within 5-7 minutes in the microwave. Every meal has a protein, starch and vegetables.
“We are using that product now for this crisis, which works very well for us,” Dengel said. “There’s not a risk of it being contaminated before it gets to the client.”
Many clients couldn’t get out of the house prior to coronavirus for a variety of reasons, such as being unable to safely drive or to navigate steps. Volunteers usually spend a moment with clients doing wellness checks during deliveries. At times, they have found some in duress. They have emergency contacts to notify.
“There have been times we’ve had to call 911. We stay until help arrives,” Dengel said.
As of Monday, Dengel implemented a phone call system to touch base with clients via phone as a safety precaution. Wellness checks ensure that someone is reaching out daily.
The operational changes are new territory for Dengel, who started as a volunteer in 2008 and became an employee in 2016, assigned to manage Beaver County.
The Rochester-based Meals on Wheels usually has 73 volunteers and three employees coming through the kitchen at Grace Lutheran to make deliveries. Currently they are down to one delivery per week and reduced to 20 volunteers. Fifty volunteers are off the street.
“When the emergency is over, when it makes sense, we will go back to our usual deliveries.”
One day of meal packages, or two trays, costs $9. Clients pay for their own meals and there is no commitment if you sign up. No client is in danger of missing meals. In fact, Dengel said Meals on Wheels can double its efforts if the need arises. He and other workers have laptops to sign up new clients from home, which he said, “helps us stay safe also.”
“Speaking only for myself, I’m a senior citizen who is supposed to be sheltering in my home, you know? But we have commitments we want to keep. It’s the community coming together to help the community.”
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