By: KDKA-TV News Staff
BUTLER, Pa. (KDKA) - Butler County leaders are pleading with residents to help slow the spread of coronavirus as the county faces "rapidly increasing" COVID-19 hospitalizations and nursing home outbreaks.
Butler County's Department of Emergency Services says leaders from school districts, hospital officials and the commissioners agreed that an "urgent call to action" was needed, so they teamed up to push an advertising and messaging campaign pleading with residents to wear a mask and avoid large gatherings.
Their message, which is written in all upper case letters in a press release, is that now is not the time to let up on COVID-19 mitigation efforts. They're asking residents to wear masks, avoid large gatherings and practice personal hygiene like washing hands and cleaning surfaces.
It ends with saying, "ONLY YOU CAN KEEP BUTLER COUNTY OPEN NOW!"
Community transmission is the driving factor for changes in Butler County. As case numbers rise, more people are heading into quarantine and it's pushing Butler Area School District to make a change.
"Remote learning does not work for all students and it's a real challenge for parents, especially with little kids, so this is rather heartbreaking in a lot of ways," said White.
White said after nearly 11 weeks of in-person classes, the district will go full remote on Monday.
"The bulk of what we are seeing when we do our contact tracings are incidents at private parties and private gatherings. It's not a restaurant, it's not establishments, it's personal choices," White said.
White told KDKA those events are leading to more families being impacted, creating staffing issues. Those staffing problems are happening across the county.
"We've worked too hard to keep our county open and get our businesses open and operating - to see them have to close down not because of any government mandate but because they don't have actual staff to run the businesses," said County Commissioner Leslie Osche.
Osche said people are reaching a fatigue in following the rules and it's too soon to back off.
"We want to support the schools and I think our community does too. We want to support our hospital, our health system and also our nursing homes. We've seen a critical outbreak in our nursing homes right now. National Guard is in two of them that I am aware of, trying to help with staffing," Osche said.
Across the county, other school districts are looking to make similar moves as the commissions look to unite everyone with a common goal.
"This is hard stuff, hard stuff. It's the holidays and we want to be together, and we can do those things if we do them sensibly," Osche said.
As cases go up, as do the number of people being hospitalized. Right now, Butler Memorial Hospital has 25 COVID-19 patients and five are in the ICU. Commissioners said the staffing issues are creating challenges there as well.
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