The coronavirus on Smart Talk Tuesday: Small business lifeline, banks inundated with loan applications and a push to restart construction projects

The coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating impact on small businesses throughout Pennsylvania and the country.

When the federal government approved the first stimulus plan it included a safety net for small businesses in the form of Paycheck Protection Program loans.

The plan is for businesses to apply for the loans through participating lenders, who have subsequently been inundated with calls for loan applications. The “system” is overwhelmed leaving small businesses looking for help.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the situation is the National Federation of Independent Businesses State Director Gordon Denlinger.

Also joining Smart Talk to discuss how lending institutions will manage the program and meet the needs of the small business community are Duncan Campbell, president and CEO of the PA Bankers Association, along with Centric Bank President and CEO Patti Husic.

When Governor Wolf ordered all nonessential businesses to close in mid-March, construction and road work stopped as they were deemed nonessential.

State legislators are now pushing for exemptions to reopen construction projects, as Pennsylvania is the only state to shut down all active public and private construction sites.

Joining Smart Talk to talk about proposed bills being introduced is PA Post reporter Ed Mahon.


The coronavirus on Smart Talk Monday: End of life decisions and survey finds Americans on ‘common ground’

At a time when thousands of Americans are sick and dying from the COVID-19 virus, many are contemplating their mortality. As a result more people are making end-of-life plans and drawing up wills if they didn’t have one before.

Discussing end of life decisions is never an easy topic to bring up, but during the community health crisis the issue has taken on a new urgency.

More than 500 Pennsylvanians have died of complications related to COVID-19.

Healthcare organizations, particularly those whose focus is on end of life care, are encouraging these conversations take place before a family is in crisis.

Joining us on Smart Talk Monday to discuss advance directives and wills are Dr. Maria Olender, DO, Associate Medical Director Hospice of Central Pennsylvania and Attorney Andrew Rusniak, Esq., from the law firm of McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC, Estate Planning practice group.

Also, a recent survey found that while Americans have divergent opinions about the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, there is strong evidence they stand on common ground about many issues, too.

Appearing on Smart Talk to analyze this survey by America Amplified is David Schleifer, Vice President, Director of Research with Public Agenda, a research and public engagement organization.




The coronavirus on Smart Talk Friday: DCNR defines policy, Lancaster Cares fund, athletes pay it forward and communities taking action

Spring is in the air in Central Pennsylvania and parks and trails are a welcome respite for families feeling cooped up in their homes.

And if people didn’t need another temptation to leave the house, Trout season opened a week early to the surprise and delight of area anglers.

With Governor Wolf’s stay-at-home order, are Pennsylvanians even allowed to get out of the house for outdoor recreation?

Appearing on Smart Talk to offer clarity to the guidance is John Norbeck, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forestry.

Jobless claims in the Keystone State set records last week with nearly 6% of the labor force filing for unemployment benefits. With so many out of work, or furloughed, the Lancaster County Community Foundation and United Way of Lancaster County established a fund to provide support for families.

Sam Bressi, President and CEO of the Lancaster County community Foundation, will join Smart Talk on Friday to detail how the Lancaster Cares Fund can help.

With collegiate and professional sports on hold, some athletes are finding ways to contribute to people in need.

Scott Shirley is the co-founder and CEO of Athletes Relief , a fundraising initiative featuring donated sports memorabilia. He’ll appear on Smart Talk to talk about the plan and who it will support.

Finally, communities are finding ways to collaborate while apart during the coronavirus crisis. Members of one central Pennsylvania town, who formed a Community Action Network before the crisis, are using their network to form a community response to the pandemic.

Appearing on Smart Talk to share the group’s model are Dickinson College President Margee Ensign, Ph.D., and Michelle Crowley, president of the Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce.


The coronavirus on Smart Talk Thursday: COVID-19 questions answered

Almost 17,000 Pennsylvanians have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 300 people have died from the illness it causes, COVID-19. All of the positive cases and deaths have occurred since the first week in March – a little over a month.

The spread of the virus and fallout from it have resulted in social distancing, stay-at-home orders, loss of jobs, business closures and an economic free fall.

Even though the pandemic has dominated the news for more than a month, many people still have questions about the virus and COVID-19 illness.

Smart Talk has devoted at least one program each week during the current coronavirus emergency to answering medical and health-related questions.

Appearing on Thursday’s Smart Talk is Dr. David Gasperack, DO, vice president and regional medical director, WellSpan Medical Group.

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Coronavirus on Smart Talk Wednesday: Pitt develops potential vaccine and ventilators in Pa.

During the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, we have heard often from researchers and medical professionals that a vaccine to prevent the potentially deadly illness is 12 to 18 months away from being available to the public.

That timetable may or may not be an accurate estimate, but scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have developed a potential vaccine that has shown promise in laboratory mice.

The announcement last week from UPMC has been one of the few bright spots in corona-related news over the past month.

The so-called PittCoVacc — short for Pittsburgh Coronavirus Vaccine — is designed to deliver antibodies to the body to neutralize the virus.

The study’s co-senior author, Louis D. Falo, Jr, MD, PhD, is chairman of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine appears on Wednesday’s Smart Talk to discuss this potentially revolutionary vaccine.

Also, WITF’s Transforming Health reporter Brett Sholtis is on Smart Talk to provide information on Pennsylvania’s growing need for ventilators to treat the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients. Like other states, Pennsylvania is wrestling with how to obtain the ventilators it could need.

Sholtis also is reporting on the plans that health systems across the state have submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.



The coronavirus on Smart Talk Tuesday: State Police duties look different during pandemic and are Pennsylvanians responding to the Census?

Governor Wolf’s mandatory stayathome order went into effect on Wednesday for all 67 Pennsylvania counties.

The order states that individuals may leave their residence only to perform certain individual activities and essential travel. But many Pennsylvanians still have questions about certain details.

Is it allowable to take a drive just to get out of the house? What about going for a hike, particularly if it means you must drive to the trailhead or to a park?

No one enjoys being cooped up at home, so is there any flexibility in the stay-at-home order?

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania State police have “refined” response guidelines for calls such as identity theft, littering and lost and found items to limit in-person contact and maintain social distancing.

Appearing on Tuesday’s Smart Talk to offer expertise on these questions is Pennsylvania State Police Major Christopher Paris, acting Deputy Commissioner of Administration and Professional Responsibility.

Also, the build-up to the national Census has been underway for more than a year. Invitations to complete the Census were mailed to homes across the country in mid-March. National Census Day was April 1st; an important benchmark date in the national population count.

The date came and went in the shadow of the nation’s response to the global coronavirus pandemic. Was anyone paying attention?

Joining us on Tuesday’s Smart Talk to discuss the next step in the process is Norman Bristol Colon, executive director, Governor’s Census 2020 Complete Count Commission.

Coronavirus on Smart Talk Monday: Let’s hear your stories

For many of us, staying at home and not being able to visit with friends and family or go where we want during the coronavirus emergency is something new that we’re not used to. How many times in the last three weeks have you heard or read on social media someone expressing a desire to get back to their normal lives as soon as possible or at least wishing they could get out of the house?

However, most people are staying put to keep from contracting or spreading Covid-19. They want to be safe and not get sick.

Meanwhile, thousands of Pennsylvanians who have lost their jobs in the last three weeks are worried about their futures and the financial security of their families.

Staying engaged is one of the best ways to get through this time that is so difficult.

That may mean staying in touch with loved ones, friends or neighbors on the phone, video chat or social media. When was the last time you wrote a letter?

We’d like you to engage with Smart Talk Monday. We’re opening the phone lines to talk about anything on your mind that is corona-related. How are you passing the time? What do you miss? What will you do when the emergency is over? Will you do anything differently? What do you need if anything?

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The Coronavirus on Smart Talk Friday; Pa jobless numbers second highest in nation and the rise of telemedicine

In the last two weeks, 10 million jobs across the country have all but disappeared. And with most states ordering lock-downs and business closures through the end of April there is little expectation that the employment outlook will improve.

The Wolf administration ordered all non-essential businesses in Pennsylvania to close nearly three weeks ago. The impact to workers here was immediate. Pennsylvania’s unemployment applications are the second largest in the nation and are on track to pass a million new jobless claims this week.

Joining Smart Talk Friday to provide context to the situation are Gerard Oleksiak, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, along with unemployment compensation benefits Policy Director Susan Dickinson.

Also, the coronavirus pandemic has created a unique opportunity for telemedicine, which involves using electronic communications for clinical services. Telemedicine offers access and options for people without an in-person visit to a doctor’s office.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss how technology is changing the future of medicine are Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Professors Michael Seavers, Ph.D., program lead for Healthcare Informatics and Nancy Mimm, DNP, who leads the University’s Master of Nursing Programs.

The Coronavirus on Smart Talk Thursday; COVID-19 virus questions answered and the economic impact on college communities

It has been more than a month since the first COVID-19 related death in the U.S. Since that day at the end of February, nearly three thousand people have died and nearly six thousand Pennsylvanians are reportedly infected with the virus.

People still have many questions about the virus, how to avoid exposure and what to do if you experience symptoms.

Dr. Gerald Maloney, DO, is the Chief Medical Officer for Geisinger hospitals and he joins Thursday’s Smart Talk to answer questions about COVID-19 and stopping the spread.

While the economic effect of the COVID-19 global pandemic will be tallied over the coming months, the impact to local communities is immediate.

College towns took a double hit; businesses were closed indefinitely, and a sizable percentage of the population left town. Students are now finishing their coursework at home and online.

What are the unexpected consequences of their abrupt departure?

Appearing on Smart Talk Thursday to discuss the impact are Scott Brown, President of the Shippensburg Area Chamber of Commerce, home to Shippensburg University and Vern Squier, President and CEO of the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County, home to Penn State’s main campus.


The coronavirus on Smart Talk Wednesday; Stay-at-home order, license renewal extensions, drug and alcohol treatment during COVID-19 and the history of nicotine use

Almost half of the counties in Pennsylvania are now under stay-at-home orders as the state moves to respond to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. See stay-at-home guidance here.

Rachel McDevitt, WITF Host of Fresh Air and All Things Considered, will join Smart Talk to breakdown what that means for residents.

Also, in a major departure from business as usual, the Pennsylvania Department of State is giving health care providers and facilities a deadline extension for renewing their licenses.

The extension applies to other professions, too, like barbers and real estate professionals.

Appearing on Smart Talk Wednesday is Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar who will discuss easing licensing requirements and also the plan to move the Pennsylvania primary to June 2.

While all nonessential businesses, schools and organizations in the state have closed, drug and alcohol treatment programs are still open and available.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs Jennifer Smith appears on Smart Talk to highlight the need for treatment and vigilance to combat substance abuse. Find drug and alcohol treatment by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Finally, WITF and PA Post multimedia producer Keira McGuire will join Smart Talk to explore the history of nicotine use and a program titled Smoking to Vaping, which airs on WITF-TV on Thursday, April 2, at 8pm.