WILLIAMSPORT – Lycoming County officials said all county offices would stay open, but urged the public to remain calm and “watch out for your neighbor,” during a press conference Wednesday morning.
“We recognize the seriousness of this public health crisis,” said Commissioner Scott Metzger. “These are uncharted waters for all of us … it is important that we remain calm.”
Department heads from throughout the county detailed extra efforts to reduce contact between members of the public and county staff, calling for all non-essential business to be postponed or handled online or over the phone.
But the commissioners also cautioned that the situation is very fluid and may change at any time.
“What we are telling you currently, could change by noon,” Commissioner Tony Mussare said.
“You may be healthy, but someone you come in contact with is at risk,” Commissioner Rick Mirabito added. “The unselfish act, at this point is to put aside, for the next 16 days, our individual needs.”
Always call ahead, officials urged.
Below are specific changes for county departments:
Lycoming County Government
All county buildings will remain open. The commissioners signed a disaster declaration on March 16 and are asking the public to limit traveling into county buildings. Items like marriage licenses and dog licenses are not considered emergencies.
All official county travel has been cancelled.
Employees are designated as essential, but those who are sick or who have been exposed to COVID-19 should stay home. Efforts are also being made to expand employees ability to work from home.
Effective immediately, county recycling drop-off centers are closed until April 1. The bins will be collected by county staff on Thursday and anyone who continues to drop off recycling will be considered trespassing, said Chief Clerk Matthew McDermott.
Metzger added that no county-owned utilities will be turned off.
Department of Public Safety
Currently, the closest COVID-19 cases to Lycoming County are in Luzerne county, according to Director of Public Safety Jeffrey Hutchins. There are three presumptive cases at Geisinger, which have not yet been confirmed. Hutchins added that the location of the Geisinger patients has not been released yet, so it is unclear if any are at the Jersey Shore hospital.
Hutchins also addressed concern that COVID-19 could be carried through the U.S. mail.
“There is no evidence that COVID-19 is being spread through the mail.” he said.
Lycoming County Courts
The Lycoming County Court justices declared a judicial emergency on March 16, along with the State Supreme Court, until April 14.
While the courthouse will remain open, the judges are working to postpone all hearings until after April 14. Jury selection for March 30 to April 3 has been cancelled.
President Judge Nancy Butts requested that anyone unable to postpone their hearing bring as few people with them as possible.
In addition, inmate will not be transported from the prison or pre-release to the courthouse.
Butts encouraged anyone who needs the services of the courthouse to either postpone their visit or find information online or by calling in.
“The idea is to reduce or eliminate the need for people to come into the courthouse,” Butts said.
Lycoming County District Attorney
Regardless of reduced personnel, District Attorney Ryan Gardner said his office will continue to provide a “strong presence, as it always has. No one will be getting a free pass.”
Lycoming County Prison
The prison is closed to visitors and volunteers, according to Warden Brad Shoemaker.
Shoemaker said he is working to educate inmates and staff about the seriousness of the issue.
Inmates can still contact their family members virtually or by phone.
Butts also added that each inmate will be assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine if they are eligible for release, or to be processed and sent to state prison, in an effort to reduce the population in the prison.
Lycoming County Sheriff
Sheriff Mark Lusk said his office will continue to provide a strong law enforcement presence. However, his office will no longer process licenses to carry. However, he added that during this time licenses will not expire.
Deputies often transport inmates across the state and those movements will be greatly reduced.
“We don’t know what they might be bringing with them,” Lusk said.