In pandemic, word definitions shift and new lexicon emerges

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 18, 2020 file photo, a sign reminding people about "social distancing" in the midst of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak stands next to a roadway in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Many see “social distancing” to be the greatest pandemic-era addition the vernacular yet — easily understood phrasing that’s helped communicate to millions that they need to keep a safe berth to avoid spreading the virus.

MODIFIED PARKING IN INDIANA

Indiana Borough is making temporary modifications to its parking policy. Borough Manager C. Michael Foote said Thursday that the borough Parking Department will give patrons of local businesses an opportunity to park for free for up to one hour, through April 15.

“The intention is to provide convenient, short-duration parking,” Foote said. “This enables shoppers and people doing other business in the borough ample time to pick up food … supplies or any other items that our businesses offer.”

Borough officials said the decision was made in consultation and collaboration with community partners Downtown Indiana Inc., Indiana County Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana County Tourist Bureau.

“This modification is not intended to offer free parking to those working downtown for eight hours,” the borough manager said. “It is also not intended to occupy parking spaces in front of businesses while you attend an event or meeting for longer than one hour. If you intend to be parked at a metered space for multiple hours, you must still pay for the meter.”

FRAUD TASK FORCE

Scott Brady, United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the formation of a joint federal and state Western Pennsylvania COVID-19 Fraud Task Force to investigate and prosecute coronavirus-related fraud.

The task force will be led by the U.S. Attorney’s COVID-19 Fraud Coordinator and a state Executive Deputy Attorney General, with representatives from those agencies as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Homeland Security Investigations, Social Security Administration — Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Education — Office of Inspector General and the Pennsylvania State Police.

“Our goal is simple,” Brady said. “We seek to ensure there is no gap between the shields of federal and state law enforcement in protecting the public from fraudsters — whether here in Pennsylvania or around the globe — who would exploit this crisis in order to harm the citizens of western Pennsylvania.”

Such exploitation could come in the form of treatment, supply, provider, charity, phishing, app, investment and/or price gouging scams. Problems could range from offers of fake cures and vaccines, to calls or emails pretending to be doctors and hospitals that have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19, and demand payment, to sales of goods, such as hand sanitizer, at significantly higher prices than in a non-emergency setting.

Those who suspect such frauds are asked to report them to the task force’s toll-free hotline, (888) 219-9372 (C19-WDPA), or email such suspicions to usapaw.covid19.

SBA DISASTER LOANS

Gov. Tom Wolf said low-interest loans are available for small businesses and eligible nonprofits in all 67 Pennsylvania counties through the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Wolf said his administration is “incredibly grateful that the SBA recognized the urgency of this situation and granted our request so quickly.” He also thanked members of the state’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, whose SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance at 3.75 percent interest for small businesses without credit available elsewhere, 2.75 percent for nonprofits.

Repayments can be spread out, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.

Businesses may obtain information and loan applications by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 — (800) 877-8339 for the hearing impaired — or by emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

The deadline to return economic injury disaster loan applications is Dec. 21.

CORPS OF ENGINEERS

In the interest of public safety and the well-being of its staff, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District closed select public facilities at all district-managed sites until further notice.

Locally, that includes facilities at Conemaugh River Lake and Loyalhanna Lake, both near Saltsburg; Crooked Creek Lake near Ford City; and Mahoning Creek Lake near New Bethlehem.

“We have been actively monitoring the effect of COVID-19 on services we provide and it has become apparent that it is in the best interest of the public and our staff to take these measures,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Klink, district commander.

SENIOR TAX ASSISTANCE

Free tax assistance for senior citizens has been put on hold pending the coronavirus outbreak.

The AARP Foundation on Monday suspended its Tax-Aide Program sites, including one at Aging Services Inc., until further notice. Program officials said the volunteer aides would contact clients with scheduled appointments to let them know of the cancellations so they could pursue other tax preparation methods.

“We will continue to assess whether we can open again in some or all sites for the remainder of the tax season,” AARP Foundation announced.

GROUNDBREAKING POSTPONED

Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Dr. Michael A. Driscoll announced Thursday that a groundbreaking ceremony has been postponed for IUP’s new John J. and Char Kopchick College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics building.

As announced in January, the groundbreaking had been scheduled for May 6, along North Walk on the edge of the Oak Grove. No new date has been announced.

Once work begins, the project is expected to cost $90 million, $23 million of which came from the Kopchicks, who made the largest single gift to IUP for this project. The 100,000-square-foot building will be located on Oakland Avenue and will feature a greenhouse, planetarium, outdoor garden and classrooms.

When the groundbreaking was announced, the university expected to open that building in the spring of 2022.

IUP STUDENT PREP 

In preparation for IUP’s move of all instruction to online modalities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, IUP’s IT Support Center has created a resource page for students to help them prepare before Monday to ensure a successful experience with remote learning. The resource link is available at https://www.iup.edu.

KCAC

The Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex has canceled or postponed a number of upcoming performances, but a couple shows scheduled for later in the year are still on.

Postponed:

• Indiana Armstrong Builders Home Show (March 20-22),  now May 29-31

• Monster X Tour (March 27-28), now May 15 and 16

• I Am King, The Michael Jackson Experience (March 29), now May 30

• Neil Berg’s 101 Years Of Broadway (April 15), no new date announced

• Chris Perondi’s Stunt Dog Experience (April 19), now Aug. 23

Canceled:

• Sesame Street Live — Let’s Party (was April 1)

• Celtic Woman Celebration 15th Anniversary Tour (was April 2)

Still on:

• Hotel California — A Salute to the Eagles, April 24

• Jim Gaffigan, The Pale Tourist World Tour, Aug. 22

CHURCHES

Indiana Alliance Church is pooling resources to help those in need. If you are in need of food, supplies, toiletries or the like please contact the Rev. Marv Nelson at pstrmarv@gmail.com or call (724) 463-0862.