Protesters rally in Harrisburg to demand Wolf reopen economy – Wilkes Barre Times-Leader

April 19, 2020

WILKES-BARRE March 15 was a quiet Sunday afternoon.

I was home getting ready to drive up to Moosic, where I had plans to meet some longtime friends and their little girl for lunch.

Just as I was preparing to leave the house, news broke of Luzerne Countys first confirmed COVID-19 case.

County Manager C. David Pedri had called a press conference for mid-afternoon at the EMA Building.

Calls were made, plans set in motion, and a short time later found me and colleague Bill OBoyle at the press conference among the other media, exchanging nervous pleasantries with each other and community leaders gathered in the room.

Needless to say, I never made it to lunch in Moosic. (Well do it one of these days, Dana.)

We listened as Pedri calmly explained what we knew, what we didnt know, and what was expected to come next, including a state of emergency for the county.

He explained that future briefings would likely be conducted online, so as to protect the media and county staff from unnecessary interaction.

And he sought to reassure the community.

We are all in this together. Each of us together can truly make a difference in this crisis, Pedri said. We are asking you to stop unnecessary travel. To maintain good hygiene. To stay home if required.

I know some people are saying, this doesnt really affect me, Im not a person at risk. But we still dont know the full interaction of this virus yet, Pedri said.

I am the son of at-risk parents, and I am the father of young children, he added. We will do what we need to do to make sure Luzerne County is safe.

Was there a slight quiver in Pedris voice as he spoke those last words? I thought so. God knows I almost teared up when I heard them.

The panic that had mostly been the subject of headlines from other places had hit home, with the worst yet to come. It was real, and it was about to affect people we all know and love. We just didnt know how hard, but stories out of Italy, in particular, brought no solace.

On that sunny March Sunday there were 63 positive cases in Pennsylvania, including one in Luzerne County.

As of Sunday, April 19 just over a month later There were 1,741 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Luzerne County and 34 people have died. Statewide, there were 32,284 cases and 1,112 deaths.

As businesses shut down to comply with Gov. Tom Wolfs stay-at-home orders to slow the outbreaks spread, unemployment skyrocketed, with more than 1.3 million Pennsylvanians filing for unemployment in the month that ended last week, state statistics show.

Lives have been changed, upended, ended. And its not over.

My colleagues and I reached out to a number of people in the community to ask how their lives have changed in the past month.

Here are the stories we have collected. We thank everyone who took the time to participate.

* * *

Cathy Alaimo, of Dallas, who is retired from Circles on the Square in downtown Wilkes-Barre, said she has been cooking and baking more now that the coronavirus is keeping her at home.

I just made apple turnovers the other day, she said, adding that she also is enjoying having time to watch birds.

Theres a hawks nest near my house and I can watch them through the window, she said, adding she hung a suet treat outside a window to attract more feathered friends.

There would be yardwork to keep her busy, too, Alaimo admitted. But my new motto is, I can do that tomorrow.

Mary Therese Biebel

Lindsay Bezick, well known for her role with the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, has been reflecting on keeping connections strong and what comes next.

For each of us, the pandemic has changed the dynamic of our lives. Seeing each day how this had impacted our community and the world has all been extremely challenging, Bezick said. Those challenges have truly prompted me to be helpful in any way I can personally and also with my team at the Chamber, as we work each day to demonstrate the hope and strong sense of togetherness during this time.

I have also focused my energy on staying informed yet positive, connecting and re-connecting with family and friends virtually and taking the time to realize what is truly important in life, she said.

Now, more than ever, I have the utmost respect and am so grateful for those on the front lines and all they are doing, Bezick added.

I know from this many things have changed and will continue to change moving forward, and with those changes, there will also come a sense of appreciation for all we do have as we all continue to work together. I will be ready and grateful to be able to help in any way I can towards that future, she said.

Mike Murray

Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown spoke as a proud member of a team working daily to protect the residents, employees and visitors and during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has totally disrupted our city for both our residents way of life, and the livelihood of small businesses and restaurants throughout the city.

I am confident that we will succeed in addressing the Coronavirus, because of the remarkable teamwork displayed throughout this crisis.

There is a feeling of teamwork between our city and local hospitals. The Health Department is keeping our residents safe and informed. Wilkes-Barre Police, Fire/EMS, and DPW crews have worked beyond the call of duty. Staff at City Hall has worked together as a team, to continue to provide resident services, since the onslaught of the virus.

We will get though this. We will make sure that what weve learned will be beneficial in our response to future disruptions and disasters.

I again urge residents to follow social distancing, and all of the CDCs and Pennsylvania Health Departments recommendations. Please stay home, stay safe, and stay well.

Jerry Lynott

Barbara DiGiovanni of Jackson Township said since everything has slowed down there is more time to do the things she didnt have time to do before.

She said she has been cleaning her floors with her new steamer, cooking and delivering more meals and trying to enjoy her new freedom and view of a much more simple life often not appreciated.

I do miss going to church, going out to dinner, shopping and spending time with my friends and family, DiGiovanni said. The least obvious and most important is my inability to go anywhere without much thought behind it. Hopefully when this is over (it never will really be over) we will be living in a better world.

Bill OBoyle

Mimi McGowan of Hanover Township, laid it out clearly.

Hey, I dont like being home either, but I would not like to be around a bunch of people who have no regard/respect for this illness, she said.

It really wont be safe to be out in public for a while. China reopened and they have a surge, McGowan added.

I want things to be normal. I cant wait to go back to my classes for the dog and the gym. I want to walk through the Christmas Tree Store and buy stuff. I want to go out for dinner. I want to not run through the grocery store like Im on a game show just grabbing things.

Im not sure how long it will be before I feel comfortable, she added. Heck, I want to see my son.

Bill OBoyle

Mike Harper, of Kingston, said the big issue for many is the uncertainty about what comes next.

Whats our lives going to be like in the future? How will I survive financially, physically, socially, spiritually, morally? Many things in our daily routines are out of our control. Is there light at the end of the tunnel, he said.

The politics of the situation increases the overall stress. I am a positive, glass half full type of person, Harper added.

The only remedy, in my opinion is to let common sense prevail, let this beast run its course and lets get back to a normal life, he said.

The word on the street is that there is not much common sense out there. I dont buy that, especially when its a matter of life and death.

Bill OBoyle

Linda Joseph, of Wilkes-Barre, reflected on contrasting aspects of living through the past month.

Since the coronavirus was diagnosed in our area, my life has changed in both disheartening ways but in positive ways as well, Joseph said.

I strongly miss my volunteer community involvement in so many different groups and organizations, especially interacting with others in residents associations, on many committees, in meetings and socializing. This became a large part of my life since retiring two years ago, she said.

I miss my family, my church and church family and spending time with friends, Joseph added.

But, I also have come to appreciate what we take for granted in our everyday lives. A hug, a smile. Lenten and Easter Seasons were especially uplifting, now having the time to truly experience this spiritual time without distractions.

Roger DuPuis

Deidre Miller Kaminski, of Edwardsville, offered these thoughts.

This has made me realize whats really most important in my life, she said.

I have started praying more. We should all be on our knees praying they find a vaccine sooner than later.

This has slowed me down from being an extrovert to an introvert. Im all about fellowship, gathering family and friends together, making memories, taking pictures. Im a hugger hugging everyone. My house was always open to everyone, whether it was meetings, or get-togethers, birthday parties, 4th of July celebrations.

Its really hard to adjust to this isolation. I havent even been out anywhere, not even to the store at all because my daughter was going to have a baby.

At times, this has been very difficult to deal with, extreme anxiety and fear about contracting the virus because I am prone to respiratory infections and bronchitis constant worrying about family and now my two-week-old granddaughter contracting it.

Im deeply saddened thinking of all that passed away with no family there to comfort them.

Im so used to doing community service projects with General Federation of Womens Clubs-West Side and now feeling helpless that I cant do anything.

It gives you a feeling of helplessness, that all I can do right now is just let everyone know Im thinking of them and praying we all stay safe.

I never thought I would be quarantined for my 70th birthday. I thought I would be dancing the night away with my family and friends.

Bill OBoyle

Michele Lane, of Kingston, is grateful to have paid time off, but that hasnt completely kept her calm.

Im afraid of the panic, but also I fear the government is under-reacting. Its hard to get the facts anymore, she said.

She is also worried about continuing her dance classes after the fog lifts.

Im also worried about local businesses, even my dance studio. How long can they go without daily sales?

Toni Pennello

Sophia Loeber, who recently moved to Kingston from Philadelphia, is unemployed due to the pandemic.

The panic has spread just as quickly as the virus, and its just as terrifying, she said, citing precautions in grocery stores meant to help patrons maintain social distancing.

Also, its so hard to motivate myself to do stuff because every day is kind of the same.

Toni Pennello

Susan Magnotta reflected on the abrupt change of pace.

When the noise and constant busyness of everyday life suddenly stopped I found myself with unstructured time on my hands, she said. It gave me the opportunity to consider if the areas where I had been directing my time and attention were aligned with the things I value most in life and make changes going forward.

So far, our family has merely been inconvenienced by the pandemic which is humbling because I know so many people are hurting, Magnotta added. It has given me great appreciation for those who cant stay home at this time and I hope to be in a position to give back to the community when all this is over.

Mike Murray

Shivaun ODonnell, of Wilkes-Barre, talked about changes of routine and what she would like to accomplish.

I am working from home a few days a week, doing diabetes education for individual Geisinger patients, and other groups over the phone and/or on video with much success.

For the last several years Ive been developing a list of things to do when I get time and my status of said things. Well, the stay-at-home order has given me the time, for sure. Heres my status report of my list of things to do:

1. Clean out back room of basement not done, not started.

2. Get family video call reunion DONE!!!! This is pretty remarkable because I have family all over the world, Japan, Ireland, Costa Rica, San Diego, New Hampshire, Vermont.

3. Re-hang curtains in bedroom Not done, not started.

4. Clean out email inbox Not done, 5,072 in gmail, 12,694 in AOL. I deleted about 200 the other day, and I think there are now even more.

5. Learn how to tap dance Started, tap shoes dusted off. Tap board located. Online resource located.

6. Exercise every day achieving about 67.6% success rate.

7. Read a new book Started Trinity by Leon Uris. My new goal on this one is to finish it by 12/21/2020.

8. Organize of my loose pictures. Not done, not started

9. Get my blog started again Not done, however I did happen to renew the domain name this year, visit

10. Cook new exciting recipes Not done. But, my cousin Nora started me on a recipe chain mail, so Im hoping to get a few new recipes to try out on the fam now, and on my friends later this year.

So my quarantine enlightenment is this most of to-dos are not ever going to get to-done no matter how much time I have.

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Protesters rally in Harrisburg to demand Wolf reopen economy - Wilkes Barre Times-Leader

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