West Chester Weekly News Roundup

With so much going on around town, catch up on what you may have missed.

New Year’s Day 2021, Gay Street, West Chester

It’s Friday, January 8. Well, 2021 is finally here and so far I have to say it is not living up to the hype. In West Chester things have started with a bang – literally, as a shooting is reported at the Hookah Lounge. On the brightside, Chester County’s COVID-19 vaccination plan is well underway, restaurants are open again and Side Bar has a series on new winter cocktails to smooth the transition. Who’s ready for 2021? Let’s get started.

The light at the end of the tunnel.

“I can not stress enough the importance of reducing your exposure by avoiding group activities, remaining home when you are not feeling well for any reason and wearing a mask at all time when not at home.”

Jeanne Casner, Chester County Health Director
ICU beds remain occupied at Chester County Hospital even as staff vaccinations are well underway.

COVID-19 vaccinations have begun in Chester County (woohoo). Vaccines were received on December 17 at area hospitals and December 23 at the Chester County Health Department. Phase 1A of the vaccination plan which includes all healthcare personnel and long term healthcare residents is currently underway and officials are now preparing for Phase 1B which will make vaccines available to essential workers (as defined below). 

While vaccination is underway there are no details being made public regarding where we are in the process and how long it will take to get all residents vaccinated. Chester County Health Director Jeanne Casner said in a call on Tuesday it all depends on when they get the vaccines in. 

In the meantime, she is stressing everyone continues to follow COVID-19 best practices – social distancing, handwashing and masks – as they prepare for another surge following end of year holidays and travel. Despite a slight dip in cases over the last week the Chester County health system continues to be placed under pressure by the virus. The latest figures in the New York Times database of ICU capacity shows Chester County Hospital has 38 COVID patients and 6 available ICU beds. That means at this time 80% of ICU beds are full.

Got it, keep up the good fight. Now, tell me more about this vaccination plan.   

Who’s being vaccinated now? Right now they are vaccinated group 1A. This includes your healthcare personnel, EMS providers, long term healthcare residents and staff, the coroner, medical examiner and funeral staff.

Next in line: People over 75 and your essential workers including: childcare staff, corrections staff, county and municipal administration staff, educators/education staff, firefighters, food and agriculture staff, grocery store staff, law enforcement, manufacturing staff, transit staff (including school bus drivers), and U.S. Postal Service staff.

After 1A and 1B there is a 1C which includes all individuals age 65 to 74, those with conditions that put them at high-risk from the virus, and occupations that are not easily performed at home and not covered in 1B like construction staff, legal staff, food service and media, among others. Then after that, comes phase 2 which is everyone 16 and older. 

That’s me, I’m next in line. How can I get my vaccine? If you meet fall into either 1A or 1B of these categories and have not yet received your first dose, the Chester County Health Department is asking you to reach out and complete their vaccine interest survey. Just note that completing the survey does not mean you will automatically get an appointment time to get a vaccine. It does mean you will be entered into the health department database and they will contact you when appointments become available – although not before. If you are a healthcare worker that has not been vaccinated yet, you need to complete this survey, an essential worker or over 75, this one

Where can I get my vaccine? The vaccine is currently being administered at the county hospitals, including Chester County Hospital, the Health Department building at 601 Westtown Road as well as a few health centers in the county. However there are plans to open up more vaccination sites including potentially at schools, churches and pharmacies.  

What are my vaccine options? Chester County currently has supplies of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, but I don’t think they are taking requests.

Once I get my vaccine I can trash the mask, right? Sorry, that’s a hard no. According to the health director, After you receive your vaccine you must still wear your mask and do all the other actions we’ve been asking.” 

How can I help move this along? If you are a medically or non-medically trained professionals looking to support public health operations, Chester County is recruiting members for its Medical Reserve Corps. You can learn more here

Open for business.

Penn’s Table was one of at least three West Chester restaurants that remained open during the state mandated holiday closure.

Many West Chester restaurants are once again welcoming patrons after being forced to close their indoor dining operations over the last several weeks of December. Under the latest guidance from the state, any restaurant certifying it is following COVID-19 mitigation guidance may open at 50 percent capacity. All alcohol sales must end by 11 p.m. and be removed from patrons by 12 a.m. and as before, alcohol is only allowed with a meal or as a carry out option. Currently West Chester has 53 restaurants certified as COVID compliant.

During the three week closure period, the state of Pennsylvania has shut down 109 restaurants for violations, none of which were in Chester County. This is fortunate for a couple local establishments. Both Penn’s Table and Market Street Grill continued welcoming customers throughout December, even sharing their decision with the Daily Local. “We are trying to save the business,” Darla Riccetti, part owner of Market Street Grill, told the paper. “We don’t want to get anybody sick. We are taking precautions as much as we can without shutting down.”

Also, remaining open, Hookah Matata, where West Chester Police just confirmed a shooting occurred very early on the morning of January 2. Two males were shot in a 3 a.m. attack, one suffering a wound to the chest, both still recovering from their injuries. The suspect, described as a black male, is thought to have fled the scene in a Chevy Equinox. The smoking lounge remained open throughout the mandated closure, actively promoting late night parties right up to New Year’s Eve.

This incident is currently under investigation by the West Chester police. If you have any information about the shooting, give the police a call at 610-696-2700.

The warnings.

Lock your doors, everyone knows Santa comes down the chimney. Two video consoles were reportedly stolen from a S. Walnut Street apartment sometime between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The West Chester Police are investigating, but I think we can all agree the Grinch is behind this one.

Also happening over the holiday, the West Chester Railroad reported a train car vandalized and bulgalized on New Year’s Eve morning. The perpetrator(s) forced entry into one of the cars damaging property and stealing some change and a fire extinguisher. 

Keep an eye on your Honda SUV. During the month of December West Chester reported four incidences of catalytic converters being stolen from parked Honda SUVs, specifically Elements and CRVs. Two of the thefts were reported on Price Street, two more from parking lots on Marshall Street. If you are a Honda owner, you can find out more about these bizarre thefts here.

If you have information on any of the above incidents, please contact the West Chester Police Department at 610-696-2700.

Accolades.

Congratulations to West Chester University who celebrates 150 years this year. If you’d like to play along , tag your photos with #WCU150.

Congratulations to Steve Pelna on being named fire chief of the West Chester Fire Department. Steve is a 25-year veteran firefighter, most recently serving as Assistant Fire Chief of the First West Chester Fire Company. In the new role he will lead all three West Chester Fire companies: First West Chester Fire Company, Fame Fire Company, and the Goodwill Fire Company. All hail the chief!

Also, a round of applause to the 31 West Chester Area School District students accepted into the District 12 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) ensembles. WCASD placed individuals 12 in band, 11 in choir and eight in orchestra. A complete list of all those that made the cut is on the WCASD website.  

Finally, cheers to Iron Hill which has now opened its first full-scale production brewery in Exton

Goodbye. 

To your Christmas tree. West Chester will be collecting trees during the first two weeks of January. Which means if you are just hearing this now, you have next week to get the tree out if you’d like it picked up. Just leave it where you would normally place yard waste for pickup. 

Also, say goodbye to West Chester’s Notify Me service. The Borough is consolidating its communication options and moving everything over to Chester County’s ReadyChesco notification service. According to the Borough website, they are making this move “to simplify the notification and outreach” to the community. If you are one of the 922 residents currently using Notify Me, you’ll want to take a minute to sign up with ReadyChesco, if you haven’t already. You can do that here. Notify Me will be discontinued on January 25. 

“We are adding just what we need. No bells and whistles, just the necessities for an efficiently run fire station well into the future.”

Fame Fire Company
A fancy new sign lights up the new, improved Fame Fire Company.

Hello.

To a new improved Fame Fire Company. The nearly 200 year old fire company located at 200 E. Rosedale Avenue is in the middle of an upgrade. The improvements include the addition of onsite firefighter housing for improved response times, two new rescue bays, new restrooms, a new boiler room, 60 lockers, a new dispatch room, a museum, a fitness room, lounge area, training classrooms and expanded administrative offices. 

While much of the renovation is complete, $1.1 million still needs to be raised to finish the project. If you’d like to visit that museum which includes helmets, a horse drawn fire wagon and other memorabilia or donate to their fundraising company you can arrange that at famefireco.org.

Finally kids this one’s for you. Say hello again to the classroom. After spending the week learning virtually, students in the district’s remote 2.0 learning scenario will be heading back to the classroom next week as hybrid instruction resumes. In class instruction was paused an additional week after the winter break ended to allow students and staff who may have traveled out of state a week to isolate.

New guidance from the state recommends returning elementary students to the classroom even when community spread of the virus is “substantial,” or areas that have an incidence rate of one case per 1,000 people or a 10 percent or higher test-positivity rate. Currently all PA counties are consider to have “substantial” spread. High School and secondary student should continue to learn remotely at this time, according to the state guidelines.

Teachers are included as part phase 1B of the Health Department’s vaccination rollout plan so, we’ll see if that plays any role in the District’s next steps.     

Pay it forward.

Sure you can always give canned goods or collect coats and gloves, but several members of the Westminster Presbyterian church, Sunshine Chapter of the Rotary Club of West Chester and the Housing Authority of Chester County along with West Chester Community Good Neighbor proved over the holiday you needn’t limit yourself to the usual suspects if you are hoping to make a difference in someone else’s day. The groups came together to deliver 61 residents in 56 apartments new porch furniture. The new furniture will give residents a safe and comfortable place to relax and catch up with neighbors, from a distance, of course.  

Not that there’s anything wrong with the classics: West Chester East student Aiden Nichols raised 1276 pounds of food for Chester County Food Cupboard.

Find your passion and just keep giving. Know stories of West Chester residents making a difference? Send them over.

Maybe a nice walk will help restore the calm of the last couple weeks?

The freakin’ weekend.

What are you up to this weekend? After several failed attempts over the holiday break, we are finally going to make our way to Longwood Gardens to check out this year’s light display. Also, Side Bar has announced a very tempting list of new winter cocktails including: Jack Frost Mule and Buffalo Blizzard and I may need some easing myself into the new year.

Mark your calendars:

If your New Year resolution was to get more involved here are some events for you:

Wednesday, January 13 the WCASB is hosting School Board 101 for those interested in learning more about running for the school board in May 2021. There will be four seats up for election including Region 1 which includes the Borough of West Chester. Click for more information and to sign-up.

On January 19 at 6:00 p.m. – the West Chester Area Clean Energy Team will be holding a virtual meeting. Those interested in attending this free presentation can register here

Also, if you need a reason to head downtown the weekend: The 5 Senses is offering 25 percent off everything, Wrong Crowd Brewing has a new Dark Chocolate Espresso Bean Stout (all my favorite things) and Gryphon Cafe is featuring a collection of Cassius King works.

And, don’t forget West Chester restaurants are open, cozy and looking for your support.

Plus, still saying goodbye to 2020? Don’t forget these 16 people, places and institutions West Chester lost last year.

Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week. 

New to the blog? Follow along for the latest from West Chester

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