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NJ Relaxes Rules, Prom and Graduation Allowed; Lower Merion School Outbreak; PA Loses US House Seat
 
  by: iradioal - Philadelphia, PA
started: 04/27/21 12:05 am | updated: 04/27/21 12:08 am
 
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced new guidelines for some indoor and outdoor events that will become effective on May 10. For indoor catered events like proms and weddings as well as funerals, memorial services, political events, performances, etc. the indoor capacity will increase to 50% or 250 maximum. Dance floors will be permitted at private catered events such as proms and weddings as long as masking and social distancing is followed. (I guess that mean no slow dancing). However, dance floors at bars and nightclubs must remain closed. The outdoor gathering limit will increase to 500. Outdoor capacity at large venues with 1000 or more fixed seats will increase to 50% with distancing between groups. Outdoor carnivals and fairs will also be able to operate at 50% capacity. "Because of everything you're doing, whether it is continuing to wear your masks and social distancing or getting vaccinated, you are helping us crush these curves yet again," Murphy said.

SEE GRADUATION GUIDANCE: New Jersey High School Graduation Update



Lower Merion School District officials are investigating after an outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19 affected a second grade class at Penn Valley Elementary School in Montgomery County. Eight second graders and two of their family members tested positive for COVID-19. The two family members had also been fully vaccinated. Officials at the school say that a faulty HVAC may have been a factor. They discovered that a manual damper in one of the vents was partially closed. "In that vent, there's a mechanism called a damper that basically flaps up and down and controls the amount of air that goes into the classroom. It was only allowing about 30% of the air that it should have been into the classroom," said school district spokesperson Amy Buckman. "The only way you would know that what was to literally crawl up into the vent and look at this damper," Buckman said. "The temperature in the classroom was fine. There was air coming out of that vent as it should have been, it just wasn't as much air." See the full statement from the school district below. The class has been in quarantine since last Friday.

The U.S. Census confirmed on Monday, 4/26, that Pennsylvania will lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. It will also lose an elector in the Electoral College. Pennsylvania's population growth over the past 10 years has been slower relative to other states. This could also mean a smaller share of federal programs. The House seats will shrink from 18 to 17 and the Electoral College votes will go from 20 to 19. Other states that are losing seats in Congress include New York, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Illinois, and California. States that are gaining seats include Oregon, Montana, Colorado, North Carolina, Florida, and Texas which is getting 2.

 
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(1) response

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 by: iradioal - Philadelphia, PA | responded: 04/27 12:08 am
 
Lower Merion School District statement:

As you may be aware, since last Thursday, we have been seeing a COVID-19 outbreak (now eight cases) in a second-grade class at Penn Valley Elementary School. The class has been quarantined since last Friday and we have not seen evidence of linked/in-school transmission at Penn Valley beyond that one class. LMSD Health Services continues to consult with the Montgomery County of Public Health (MCOPH) regarding this outbreak.

Because this was the first time we observed significant linked (in-school) transmission in our District, the LMSD Health Services team this week went beyond contact-tracing in an attempt to further investigate and understand conditions that could be factors in the outbreak. While the District does not have the ability to determine what strain of COVID is involved in these cases, it is able to look at other factors, such as those within the classroom.

To that end, LMSD's Operations Department completed a full assessment of the Heating, Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) system for the impacted room. The inspection revealed that a manual damper within the ductwork above the ceiling was too far closed, allowing only (approximately) 30% of the maximum amount of fresh air it should have into this specific room. The damper can only be seen by physically going into the duct. The automated system that controls the HVAC equipment did not trigger any alerts indicating repairs were needed. As you can imagine, the HVAC systems across our buildings have thousands of parts. Even with the best monitoring and maintenance, at times, parts do break.

LMSD cannot say definitively whether the diminished fresh airflow contributed to the outbreak; however, it could be a factor. MCOPH has also noted the possibility of a variant strain of COVID-19 being a factor, citing both the rapid spread within the class and the fact that two vaccinated family members of impacted students have also tested positive. Since the discovery of the malfunctioning manual damper, in addition to the deep-cleaning that has been performed in that classroom, Operations staff ran an HVAC system sensor check and will be conducting assurance tests of air quality at all buildings over the weekend and in coming weeks. Even before the pandemic, the ventilation systems throughout LMSD's buildings met or exceeded standards. Due to COVID-19, the District increased ventilation and filtration levels in the HVAC systems, installed MERV 13 filters throughout the schools and installed bipolar ionization in large group spaces, such as cafeterias.

LMSD continues to work with and update MCOPH regarding this outbreak and all reported cases of COVID-19 within the District. We urge you to continue to follow protocols such as masking, distancing and hand-washing, and to use the daily screening tool before deciding whether a child should come to school. Please report any cases of or exposure to COVID-19 to the LMSD COVID Healthline by calling 610-645-1973 or by emailing healthservices@lmsd.org.
 

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