Year in Review: January

Timely training at Evangelical Hospital

LEWISBURG — Experts in preparedness worked to be even more prepared in mid-January.

Evangelical Community Hospital and the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania hosted a training session so that providers know what to do in case of an outbreak of a highly infectious disease. Ebola and measles were mentioned as diseases to be ready for.

Matt Exley, EMT, emergency preparedness coordinator for the hospital, said the program would prep providers for all diseases not seen on a regular basis.

“From Ebola to MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome),” he said. “Thankfully, we don’t see those too often but we want to prepared in case we do.”

The class was unique, Exley said, in that the students stayed in personal protective equipment for the rest of the day and practiced procedures.

“It’s one thing to draw blood. It is another thing to draw blood with a full chemical suit on with respirator and gloves,” Exley said. “It helps them become more proficient in doing the things we don’t do too often.”

Practice areas were set up in the Evangelical basement with stations where “blood” was drawn from life-like arms. Participants also trained with an isolation pod, a container which allows patients to be transported out of the facility without exposing people to pathogens.

Exley said environmental services personnel are usually in charge of cleaning rooms where there have been spills. But in cases of highly infectious disease, providers in special gear were training in cleanup to limit the number of people exposed.

Participants also included emergency managers, Department of Justice employees and others who just wanted to get more information.

Evangelical Community Hospital staff and administrators later noted the timeliness of the training, but stressed the then-emerging novel coronavirus was not the sole motivation for it.

Travel agent wary of virus outbreak

LEWISBURG — Novel coronavirus, a serious virus which as been linked to pneumonia and some deaths, has become a concern to the travel industry.

Sara Newbury, Travel Leaders travel advisor and office manager, said specific cruise lines and airlines have issued advisories. The industry overall is being advised to make clients aware of quarantined areas.

“Hong Kong borders are closed, Wuhan borders are closed,” Newbury said from the Lewisburg office. “If anybody was planning on visiting Shanghai or Hong Kong Disney, those are all closed.”

Over 5,000 cases of the illness have been reported in China with 132 deaths at last count. There have been five reported cases in the United States, four in western states and one in Illinois to date, with no reported deaths.

Newbury recommended travel insurance for unknown situations.

“It is always helpful,” she said. “Travel insurance not only covers you if you get hurt at your destination it also covers you for pre-travel plans.”

Newbury said if a destination has an outbreak of a virus, for example, there are provisions of travel insurance which allow for cancelations and rescheduling if an air or cruise line hasn’t done anything in advance.

Newbury estimated that a $1,700 trip taken by someone over the age of 50 would cost about $150 to cover the cost of the investment. The cost of travel insurance depends on the cost of the trip and a person’s age.

Newbury and a colleague, Eustacia Muir, travel advisor and nurse practitioner, also offered some common sense advice for travelers.

“Wash your hands and don’t touch you face,” they said. “Soap and hot water. If your are not feeling well, stay home.”

Muir observed that Coronavirus has been spreading quickly. Wearing a surgical mask whether a person feels ill or not was recommended.

“It is a virus,” she said. “It is in that ‘cold’ category, but it just happens to lead to worse things than the common cold. It can lead to pneumonia.”

Newbury observed that health officials in China have been trying to contain the virus. When airline, cruise line and theme park operators close their gates it is serious.

She speculated that Coronavirus was not contained soon enough nor were people with it identified in a timely manner. Cases could soon start to pop up everywhere.

Reporter’s note: Story was written within a day of evacuation of United States embassy personnel and citizens from China. Landing was diverted to an Air Force Reserve base for screening.

Year in Review: FebruarySecond Amendment

Ordinance supporters visit


Moms Demand Action als

speaks out

EAST BUFFALO TOWNSHIP — Both sides of a what became a widespread local debate had their say early in the year.

East Buffalo Township (EBT) supervisors heard from from a group promoting a Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinance (SASO). The group brought a sample of an SASO, prepared by the Gun Owners of America (GOA), which if adopted would exempt the township from spending on gun regulations its backers deem unconstitutional.

Shawn Waltman, sanctuary ordinance coordinator, told a crowd of over 100 people gathered at the EBT building that lawmakers at the state level were trying to strip away gun rights via red flag laws, magazine laws and other restrictions.

“That is what we are trying to stop,” he said. “The Second Amendment is very clear. Citizens have the right to bear arms. The Pennsylvania Constitution says those rights shall not be questioned.”

Buffalo Township adopted a revised SASO after being introduced to the idea by Waltman and others in January. Waltman made the distinction at EBT between an enforceable ordinance and resolution, a statement of support without penalties.

As Matt Schumacher, East Buffalo Township supervisor chair, read names of attendees for public comment, it was evident that the gathering was split evenly between SASO supporters and red-shirted members of groups supporting “common sense gun laws.”

Lauren Peck, Moms Demand Action group leader, asked that the township not consider the proposal because it was brought by a person who was not a resident. Peck read a statement which questioned the authority of the township to criminalize the enforcement of state law.

“We look to you, our leaders, to fulfill your oath to uphold these laws,” Peck said to the supervisors.

Peck noted the US Supreme Court has upheld certain restrictions, as noted in the often-cited District of Columbia v. Heller decision. It conceded the right to bear firearms was not unlimited. Members of Students Demand Action also had their say. They included McKenna Mowry who said she didn’t feel safe in school and wondered daily if there would be an incident.

Stacey Kifolo, EBT township manager, told the gathering that the matter would not be subject to referendum. She also told the board to look carefully at its duties, responsibilities, obligations and abilities without regard to their personal opinion regarding such a matter.

Later in the month, EBT supervisors passed a resolution which included a “deep commitment” to the right to keep and bear arms.

Year in Review: AprilCOVID-19 ordeal described

by local man

LEWISBURG — “It was without a doubt the worst illness I’ve ever had,” said Chris Boyatzis. “At its worst it was wicked.”

Boyatzis, a Bucknell University professor of psychology, said he didn’t even think he had COVID-19 symptoms back on March 13. Neither a dry cough nor tightness in the chest, considered COVID-19 indicators at the time, were present. He said it just felt like a bad head cold or a sinus infection.

“Over the next week I got much sicker, really sick,” Boyatzis said. “I went to see my doctor on March 23. She told me I looked very sick and recommended I get tested for COVID-19.”

Boyatzis, 61, got tested at the Evangelical Community Hospital site behind the McCann School of Business and Technology. He said approaching the tent and mobile unit was surreal and reminded him of “The Andromeda Strain” or some other work of fiction.

“You get stopped by security to show your papers to show you actually have orders for the test,” he said. “Then you pull up and there is a person on each side of your car in a big hazmat suit.”

Boyatzis said the test was uncomfortable as a cotton swab on a long stick was forced deep into his head via both nostrils.

As the days went by, Boyatzis noticed that the illness was not like regular flu. It was also impossible to stop shaking as it progressed.

“I had many symptoms with this coronavirus, but I never had all of them together at any one time,” he said. “I just felt very, very sick. I just felt awful, like the worst kind of head cold. And just very, very tired for days. Then the fever came which lasted for days.”

His body temperature, actually fluctuated during those days.

“There were single days when I went from 96 degrees to a high of 102.6 degrees,” Boyatzis said. “My body temp was all over the place in a single day. After some of them I had very bad chills. They were aggressive chills.”

However, “mind terrors” or hallucinations were what Boyatzis called the worst single symptom.

“All of a sudden I would close my eyes,” he said. “I would just start with this bizarre almost psychedelic scary imagery going across my mind. I couldn’t control it at all. There were times where I was just begging for it to stop.”

The experience was comparable to what broadcast journalist Chris Cuomo has reported. Body aches, a frequent wet cough and fatigue were also part of it.

“Then I just felt like I’d been beaten up with a baseball bat,” Boyatzis said. “The whole time the only constant was just how tired I was.”

A COVID-19 diagnosis was confirmed March 29. When the call came, Boyatzis said it was frightening. One night he had a hard time breathing and was scared again.

“What filled my head were all of the images I’ve seen, the pictures I seen in the media, of these people who have respiratory distress go to the hospital and they die,” he said. “It was really those media images and those stories that kept me from going to the hospital.”

His wife was with him and kept asking if a trip to the emergency room was in order.

“If I go to the emergency room, I am going to end up alone with some breathing contraption on my face or intubated and I am going to die,” Boyatzis recalled. “That was a very powerful fear I had.”

Boyatzis said he took only Tylenol and Gatorade during the ordeal, rather than the anti-malarial drug which has reportedly had some success in treating symptoms. His appetite was gone as was his sense of taste and smell.

He declined to use a respirator, but only turned the corner toward recovery after being coached to breathe effectively on his side.

Local nurse takes job in New York COVID-19 unit

NEW COLUMBIA — Devin Beaver, LPN, departed in late April from her home in New Columbia for an assignment at a COVID-19 treatment unit in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Before departure, a parade of more than 30 vehicles safely filled with well-wishers, drove by in a show of solidarity. Some waved flags and some honked horns as Beaver and her family stood by in gracious admiration.

Beaver was heading to Interfaith Hospital on Atlantic Avenue between the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. She got the job through a Florida-based agency.

“I am going to be on a med-surg unit with patients that have tested positive for COVID,” Beaver said. “We’re wearing like...astronaut suits with N-95 masks with another mask on top of it then you have a head shield.”

She shared a hotel room near Newark Liberty International Airport with friends also working in New York. They’ll commute to the central part of Brooklyn from New Jersey.

“It will definitely be different for me,” Beaver said. “I was working at RiverWoods and I did leave that position to go.”

Parade participants included Tenneille Webb, who offered kudos to her colleague.

“I work in the hospital as well and I’ve seen her,” she said. “It’s amazing and really brave of her to take this opportunity.”

Sheri Webb, a medical management worker, has seen the impact of the COVID-19 crisis as new work has come her way.

“Devin is a very inspirational person,” Webb said. “No matter what she wants to do, she goes for it. She does it with her all, jumps in both feet 100%. She’s a very brave woman.”

Beaver’s decision to go hold off was subject of weeks of reflection and prayer.

Year in Review: July‘Ghost gun’ allegedly used in double homicide

MIDDLEBURG — A so-called “ghost gun” was allegedly used by the shooter in a double homicide reported on the evening of Friday, July 10 in Hummels Wharf.

Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch said Christopher T. Fernanders may have assembled the firearm himself. Papers filed with Snyder County Judge John H. Reed alleged that Fernanders used a Polymer80 brand 9mm handgun. Polymer80, according to its website, manufactures parts which can be finished into working firearms.

The filing alleged that Fernanders, 55, of Paxinos, shot and killed Heather S. Campbell, of Trevorton, and Matthew T. Bowersox, of Mifflinburg, in the parking lot of Buffalo Wild Wings.

Witnesses included a McClure man and his daughter who were exiting the restaurant and saw Campbell and Bowersox appear to embrace under an umbrella before being approached by Fernanders.

The initial filing indicated witnesses also saw Troy A. Sprenkle, 49, a restaurant patron, exit and fire three or four shots, injuring Fernanders. A witness concluded the situation was “neutralized” and began providing assistance to Campbell and Bowersox.

Fernanders, whose preliminary hearing was delayed due to his medical condition, will face two first degree murder counts as well as a single felony count of persons not to possess, use or manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms. Felony allegations of discharge of a firearm into an occupied structure and firearms not to be carried without a license as well as stalking, PFA contempt for violation of order and other misdemeanors were also held for Snyder County Court.

Year in Review: November

Parachute team highlights veterans observance

MIFFLINBURG — Pink smoke helped mark a landing area for members of a parachute team the morning of Saturday, Nov. 7 at Mifflinburg Community Park.

The All Veteran Group of Raeford, N.C., a demonstration team made up of military veterans, was an addition to Veterans Day observances at the Union County World War II Honor Roll. Their team of four landed to the delight of entire families, students and of course, military veterans gathered in the park.

Funds to help with lodging for the well-known demonstration team was collected in advance of their appearance in Union County.

Keynote Speaker Ben Leitzel, retired from an Air Force career, was introduced by Doug Walter, a fellow class member of the Mifflinburg Area High School Class of 1978.

Walter noted Leitzel’s service which included deployment to Aghanistan as part of American commitment to NATO. Leitzel is currently a senior military analyst at the Army War College in Carlisle.

Leitzel’s remarks noted the oath of military enlistment referred to the United States Constitution, which he observed lists “provide for the common defense” before “promote the general welfare” in its Preamble.

“(Defense) was that important to them,” Leitzel said of the nation’s founders. “They recognized we needed, and do need, a safe and secure nation before we can pursue the lofty goals of justice, tranquility, welfare and especially liberty.”

Veterans, he added, are in all walks of life and continue to serve in many community pursuits. He added that the best ways to honor a veteran included saying, “thank you,” and continuing to advance the goals listed in the Declaration of Independence.

Mike Elliott, one of the founders of the All Veteran Group, has noted that the group serves as a means by which veterans with skills not associated with the private sector may indeed give back.

The Rev. Richard DeVett offered remarks and prayer at the start and noted the relatively high rate of suicide among veterans.

Patricia Shively recited the poem, “I am a Veteran.” Paige Rhyne, Union County West End Fair Queen runner-up, read the names of the 50 World War II fatalities among county residents.

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