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MCA schools closed after second person tests positive for COVID-19

MOUNT CARMEL — Mount Carmel Area schools are closed due to a second person affiliated with the district, who is believed to be a student, testing positive for COVID-19.

Mount Carmel Area Superintendent Pete Cheddar, who did not say if the person who tested positive was a student, teacher, administrator or staff member in accordance with COVID-19 regulations, announced Sunday afternoon that the district will be closed and no extracurricular activities will be held today to allow for additional deep cleaning of the facilities.

Starting Tuesday and Wednesday, Cheddar said virtual instruction in the junior-senior high school will be conducted, with the hope of returning to full in-person instruction in the junior-senior high school on Thursday.

The elementary school will remain open to all students who chose in-person instruction starting Tuesday.

Cheddar said students attending Northumberland County Career and Technology Center will have class as originally scheduled today.

“We apologize for the lateness of this message, but this decision was made after hours of communication with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, local emergency management officials and our school board and administration,” Cheddar said. “All of those mentioned are aware of our second confirmed case. The Pennsylvania Department of Health will be working closely with our school district to determine if any student or staff member would need to possibly quarantine as a result of this second case.”

The superintendent said the decision to close school Monday was made in accordance with the current Pennsylvania Department of Health and Pennsylvania Department of Education recommendations for Pre-K to grade 12 schools following identification of COVID cases.

He added, “The health and safety of our students and staff are of the highest priority to our district. We will continue to follow our health and safety plan related to any COVID issues. We ask families and our students to continue to keep their children home from school if they are experiencing any symptoms. We ask that everyone continue to wear masks and take social distancing seriously so we can reduce the spread.”

Cheddar warned parents and students that guidance could change at a moment’s notice and families are asked to prepare for any possible child care-related issues moving forward.

On Friday, Cheddar reported one district student tested positive for coronavirus. Cheddar said the student had not attended any classes at the school, but had participated in an after-school activity last week. He said students who were in contact with the student who tested positive for the virus will be quarantined for 14 days from the last close contact with the student, as per Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines.

Prior to receiving notification of a second person in the school district testing positive for COVID-19, Cheddar said he expected classes to resume today.

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Bill would allow DCNR to charge for parking, admission at state parks

HARRISBURG — Legislation that would provide the Department of Conservation and Natural Rescuers (DCNR) the option of charging for parking and admission has been referred to the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee.

Rep. Doyle Heffley, who represents Carbon County, recently introduced House Bill 2806, which would amend the Conservation and Natural Resources Act addressing fees and charges.

DCNR, which oversees 121 state parks, cannot adopt or impose any charges or fees for parking or general admission to state parks unless the charges were imposed prior to Jan. 1, 1995. State parks are allowed to charge admission for the use of specific services and facilities, such as camping and boating.

Heffley’s bill would amend the act to permit DCNR to impose parking and general admission fees for a state park “as necessary” to provide for the maintenance, operation or administration of that facility.

As it stands, the bill does not specify whether anglers and those with camping reservations would be exempt from paying parking and admission fees.

Co-sponsors are Reps. R. Lee James, R.-Butler; Ed Neilson, D-Philadelphia; Dan Moul, R-Adams; Jack Rader, R-Monroe; and Stan Saylor, R-York.

Citing COVID-19 concerns, Heffley in July requested DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn to impose restrictions on non-Pennsylvania residents using Beltzville State Park in Carbon County.

DCNR responded by enacting a number of operational changes to address overcrowding that it said occurred on weekends and when the weather was favorable.

The state agency noted that the land and lake at Beltzville State Park are owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and managed for recreation by DCNR and the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and that the lease with the corps, as well as the source of federal funds used to obtain the lands at Beltzville, require that no person be excluded from public use of the premises.

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West Cameron Township woman critical following Saturday crash

WEST CAMERON TOWNSHIP — A West Cameron Township woman remained in critical condition Sunday night at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville after her vehicle crashed into the woods off Lower Road on Saturday, but wasn’t discovered until hours later by her husband.

State police at Stonington reported Eleanor Chappell, who is believed to be in early 70s, of 3977 Lower Road, lost control of her car on Lower Road. The auto exited the road and descended an embankment before traveling into a wooded area, where it came to a stop with Chappell trapped inside.

When Chappell failed to return home around 4 p.m. after reportedly being in Ashland at 10 a.m., police said her husband Clayton Chappell went looking for her and discovered a couple of tree branches broken alongside Lower Road, a short distance away from the couple’s home.

Upon stopping and further investigating, Clayton Chappell found his wife trapped in the car and called 9-1-1 for assistance.

Firefighters and emergency personnel from East Cameron Township, Trevorton and Shamokin responded to the scene and used a ladder to descend the embankment before freeing the victim from the wreckage with the Jaws of Life.

Chappell was removed from the car and placed on a gurney, which was pulled up the embankment with ropes. The victim was then transported by ambulance to the former West Cameron Township Elementary School, where she was flown by Life Flight helicopter to Geisinger.

Chappell’s car was towed from the scene.

Trooper Jordan Judson, of state police at Stonington, is continuing his investigation of the crash. He was assisted at the scene by Zerbe Township police.

The scene was cleared shortly before 8 p.m.

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10 inmates at NCJ test positive for COVID-19

COAL TOWNSHIP — Ten inmates and two correctional officers at Northumberland County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19.

Northumberland County Court Administrator Kevin O’Hearn said six inmates initially tested positive for the virus, but that number increased to 10 as of Sunday afternoon. He confirmed two staff members also tested positive and have been quarantined. He said the two correctional officers were around inmates.

“We have protocols in place and we’re waiting to see what develops with the virus,” he said. O’Hearn said the state Department of Health has been notified of the positive tests.

He added, “We are monitoring the situation and the affected inmates have been isolated from the rest of the jail population.”

The court administrator said the county is working with its medical provider PrimeCare Medical to prevent the spread of the virus. He said inmates aren’t on lockdown, but remain in small groups.

“Inmates will still be allowed to make calls, but we will just change the way this is done and make sure everyone is safe,” he said.

O’Hearn said the jail gets sanitized daily.

Northumberland County Commissioner Chairman Sam Schiccatano said the county is monitoring the situation at the jail every day and will continue to provide updates about the virus to the public as they become available.

“We are looking at reducing the population, which was at 220 as of Saturday,” Schiccatano said. “We are checking who can be released and we are prepared to handle the situation if the virus spreads to other inmates and guards.”

The jail in Coal Township can hold a maximum of 284 inmates.

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