From Stephanie L. Vettenburg-Shaffer:

The McKean County community has come together in a tremendous way to help each other during this time. Facebook pages have been created to advertise county resources; people have stood outside of stores handing out food; groups of citizens have joined together to help their neighbors run errands, such as grocery shopping; and there have been campaigns to encourage people to order gift certificates from local restaurants. Other businesses and individuals have started making hand sanitizer and face masks.

Since the Governor’s Order has come out, businesses have temporarily closed and people have tried to stay home except as necessary. Many people in our community are forced to make a great sacrifice for all of us – some who are temporarily out of work and others who are forced to work despite the risk. We owe all of them immeasurable gratitude.

Of course, the Governor’s Order required certain businesses to temporarily close their physical operations and the list has been modified over the last few days. Law enforcement has been tasked with enforcement. The District Attorney’s Office, local police chiefs, and state police are in frequent contact and we have a protocol for responding to any concerns. Of course, we are also in frequent contact with county and state officials.

Our 911 Center has received calls from people about area businesses. Any such calls should be directed to the police department in the jurisdiction of that business’s location rather than 911 so the lines are free to receive emergency calls.

When the officers receive a complaint about a business (and there have only been a few), they review the list of “life-sustaining businesses” and consider the type of business that is the subject of the complaint. The list of the type of businesses that are permitted to continue physical operations under the Governor’s Order is available to anyone. It can be found at https://dced.pa.gov/; click on “life-sustaining business list.” Of course, everything is fluid and this is an unprecedented circumstance.

Every member of society is anxious. From our end, we believe a calm and rational approach to enforcement is best and that is how the officers are reviewing each complaint. If it is unclear, there are additional discussions with the business owner and with the District Attorney’s Office and, if need be, state officials.

Ultimately this is a health emergency. It will be the medical professionals and cooperation of each member of society who gets us through this. Our hope is that, by urging compliance, law enforcement’s role will be minimal and they may not need to be involved at all.

We are all members of this community as are the people operating local businesses. From their end, business owners should post a copy of their waiver, if they receive one.

Another area of concern during this tense time is the possibility of our citizens becoming the victim of a coronavirus-related scam. The US Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General have formed a task force to take complaints regarding coronavirus-related fraud as well as price-gauging.

They report scams that offer fake vaccines, medication or surgical masks or others who pretend to be a doctor or charity asking for money. We are encouraged to confirm identity of any charity seeking donations; verify any website is the official website rather than one with a similar name that can steal our information; and avoid giving any personal information over the phone such as social security number or bank account.

To report Fraud, Call: 1-888-219-9372 or email usapaw.covid19@usdoj.gov

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