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It’s Friday, January 21. Are we finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel of January? Downtown West Chester is hoping you’ll be ready to celebrate next month at brand new West Chester Restaurant Week. Chester County Health Department gives up on COVID contact tracing, and is West Chester’s emergency care system in crisis mode? Plus, two popular West Chester restaurants receive good news while two others are forced to close (for now.) It’s always interesting. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
A Crisis of Care
Last week Chester County EMS Council released a white paper on the current emergency response situation in Chester County – and it’s not good.
Is this about those hospital closures? Yes. And COVID – both of which are taking a toll on emergency responders and look to strain the county’s remaining hospitals for the foreseeable future.
Sorry, the holidays. Can you get me up to speed? Sure, here’s a little background. On December 31, Tower Health closed Jennersville Hospital in southern Chester County. A week from Monday, they will close Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville. The announcement the hospitals were to be closed, not sold as originally planned, came just weeks before the closures went into effect. Leaving not only hospital staffs but emergency services scrambling.
The emergency picture in West Chester.
The majority of West Chester’s emergency services are provided by Good Fellowship Ambulance, a nonprofit emergency medical services provider located on Montgomery Avenue. In 2021, their personnel responded to 6,624 emergencies.
They do this work with a combination of paid professionals and volunteer support – both of which they could use more of. Good Fellowship currently has three open full and part-time paramedics and EMT positions listed. They also rely a lot on the help of volunteers. Last year volunteers completed 17,400 hour of work on a slew of jobs from EMS responder to office work.
How that picture could change in 2022
As part of that white paper, Chester County Department of Emergency Services analyzed five years of data and found:
- An average of 5,747 patients were transported annually to Brandywine Hospital by ambulance.
- An average of 2,669 patients were transported annually to Jennersville Hospital by ambulance.
- It is predicted 77% of this ambulance patient volume will be transported to remaining in-county hospitals with Chester County Hospital and Paoli Hospital estimated to receive a combined 6,500 additional ambulance patients a year.
Note: Ambulance arrivals account for about 25% of ER patient volume. The other 75% arrive by other means.
Which brings us to, areas of concern:
- Staffing shortages. Staffing shortages already exist among EMS workers in the county (see open jobs above). Increased turnover times (the time it takes to get from one patient to the next) will only exacerbate this problem. At the same time many employed EMS workers are suffering from burnout caused by an out-of-whack work life balance and continually stressful work conditions.
- Increased costs. With increased transport times and call volumes comes increases in everything from gas and vehicle maintenance to employee overtime and recruitment packages.
- More ambulance rides. Residents near to a closed hospital who previously felt comfortable driving themselves to the ER may now find themselves in need of an ambulance ride.
- No local behavioral health destination. When Brandywine Hospital closes at the end of the month the county will no longer have an inpatient behavioral health option. The remaining hospitals, again primarily Chester County and Paoli, will have to assist these patients. Not only do behavioral health patients often have complex needs, those at risk of self-harm require additional supervision. ERs must assign a staff member to remain with a patient that poses a threat to themselves at all times thus further straining an already tight staffing situation.
- COVID exposure. Add the exploding Omicron variant and exposed or positive staff and start back over at the beginning of the list.
This sadly is just the start. Volunteers are currently relied on to provide support while EMS resources arrive – which now can take longer. Delays caused by flooding and other weather events, especially along Montgomery Avenue, will only become more critical as patient volumes and wait times increase. Chester County Hospital recently recorded its highest two weeks of COVID cases since the start of the pandemic. While Omicron is definitely part of that, it’s hard to see how the closure of Jennersville did not have an affect.
What can we do about this? It was recently announced that Chester County Hospital would receive $2.1 million in additional state funding to expand inpatient and emergency department capacity. Funds will also be used to construct a special behavioral health treatment area in the emergency department. Which is a start. As far as emergency response solutions, at the moment there seem to be no easy answers. Suggestions run the gambit from reopening the two closed hospitals to updating regulations to allow ambulances to take non-critical patients to alternate locations like a primary care physician or an urgent care center.
One thing you can do, if you have the interest and the time, is volunteer. According to the website, Good Fellowship is always looking for new volunteers. Now, more than ever.
Read the full white paper here.
West Chester Restaurant Week
So far January has been a sludge-fest of half-baked winter storms and rampant COVID disruptions. That said, it’s almost over – so, who’s ready to celebrate? West Chester Business District is hoping you are. Last week they announced the re-introduction of the West Chester Restaurant Week, February 27 through March 6.
Restaurant week has, according to John O’Brien, Executive Director of the West Chester’s Business Improvement District, been tried once or twice in the past but this event will be more of a production. “This time we are making a more concentrated and centralized effort to promote it and to get restaurants involved,” he said
The format of the event will follow that of, say, Philadelphia Restaurant Week with participating restaurants preparing a special multi-course, prix fixe menu for the event. What is offered, when it’s available (lunch or dinner) and how much they charge ($30, $40 or $50) is up to the restaurants.
“We want to encourage our chefs to have a lot of control and to be as creative as possible with their offerings,” John said.
Currently there are 21 restaurants signed up to participate – a good turn out but there are a few notable omissions. Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of Philly selection Andiario is not participating neither is newcomer Greystone, sister location Mercato or trendy Bar Avalon. I did see, however, fan favorite Spence Café has been added. So that’s a win.
Don’t punish the punisher. West Chester police are seeking assistance in locating a vehicle that was stolen from the 200 block of Chestnut Street early Tuesday morning. The vehicle you are looking for is a 2019 Jeep Wrangler with a “Punisher” cover over the rear mounted wheel. If you have seen this Jeep, give the police a shout at 610-696-2700.
Take a second look. The West Chester Police Department is asking residents to take another look at an assault incident involving seven individuals (my count) outside of Pietro’s Prime early New Year’s day. The police now have footage from a second camera they hope will make it easier to identify the individuals. This new video shows a group of individuals walking up Market Street. It is unclear if some or all of these individuals were involved in the street fight, but any information you have would be greatly appreciated. Contact the West Chester Borough Police Department at 610-696-2700.
Beware of loud noises and excessive social posts. Just going to put this out there to alleviate any lingering fears. Every time President Biden travels to Delaware (or anywhere else in the area) the Federal Aviation Administration puts out a temporary flight restriction (TFR) to keep the space free of other aircraft then fighter jets fly through the area to make sure the space is clear. Last week a helicopter crossed into the restricted area, causing even more flyovers than are typical.
“The helicopter went through the no fly zone so they escorted it to the airport on Boot Road – the reason for the F18 flying in the area,” Maria Doe shared on Nextdoor. So there you go. The noise was an abundance of caution, not the end of the world.
Last but not least. West Chester police are looking for the final suspect wanted in robbery that occurred on 100 Dean Street in October. During the incident five individuals forced their way into the residence, assaulted the occupants and made off with a number of items including a car. So far the police have been able to take four of the assailants into custody and are now seeking community assistance with locating the last, a Mr. Jycir Carrington of Coatesville. If you’ve seen Mr. Carrington around lately, please contact WCPD at 610-696-2700.
Congratulations to Spence Café which was named to OpenTable’s list of “100 Best Restaurants in the US.” The list, which also includes Manhattan’s Majorelle, Nashville’s 360 Bistro, and Philadelphia’s Parc, was created by the online reservation site after analyzing more than 10.5 million reviews. Although, perhaps it is not all good news.
“I’m torn,” West Chester resident Jim Salvas wrote on Facebook. “I love seeing our favorite WC restaurant getting recognition. I hate that reservations will now be harder to get.”
While we’re celebrating, a round of applause to Andiario which was once again among a handful of suburban selections to make the cut for the highly selective Philadelphia Magazine’s list of 50 best restaurants. Mr. Andiario was singled out for his ability to make something as simple as “dinner” extraordinary.
Want to know what makes him tick? This is a very good profile on the chef.
Also, planning to say “I do” in the new year? Well first, congratulations! And second, you won’t need to go far to find the best. John Serock Catering of West Chester was recently named one of the region’s best wedding caterers by Philadelphia Magazine.
Finally, shout out to Rustin’s Dayshawn Jacobs who announced last week he will continue his football and academic career next year at Millersville. Much deserved after an amazing season. Revisit last week’s update for the full list of the senior athletes taking it to the next level. It’s quite impressive.
I have to say, we have the best office spaces. And now there is another option. The old Wiley Garage building is now the new Church Street Market House. Completely renovated and looking gorgeous they are now taking appointments at 120 N. Church Street. Like most of West Chester it blends historic charm with modern amenities. There’s also a gorgeous atrium that serves as a common area and parking. Plus. Plus.
Students say hello to more ½ days off in the 2022-2023. During a meeting of the Education Committee on Monday, the West Chester Area School Board approved a preliminary draft of next year’s school calendar. As it stands today, the new school year will include five half days up from the three scheduled this year. These days, which are often split with a teacher in-service day, do not impact the total school day count so the district can add them without having to lengthen the school year. However, this also means a full day less of instruction at a time when many students need all the instruction time they can get. Public feedback is currently being accepted on the calendar.
Say hi, once again, to Champions Barbers on Church Street. There, then gone. It is now back again right next to Champions Premiere Dog Parlor. “We would like to thank West Chester and the surrounding areas for the support, especially during these times,” owner Miguel Nieves shared via Instagram. “It’s always exciting to share our next venture with you all.”
Say goodbye to formal contact tracing. This week the Chester County Health Department shared it was essentially throwing up its arms on trying to contact trace during the Omicron surge. It is instead turning that responsibility over to individual residents. “With the current level of community transmission, and following recent CDC updates to isolation and quarantine guidelines, contact tracing is increasingly less effective (and not practical) as a tool to disrupt spread of infection for our overall Chester County community,” they wrote on their website. They are not out of the game completely however, they will continue to trace in special case specifically, those involving childcare, healthcare or correctional facilities.
Following suit the school district also announced it was abandoning the practice of contact tracing for infected students. This means no more calls to come to the school, no more hallway meetings with the school nurse, no more notifications if someone in the school, class or the desk next to your child tests positive. Again the responsibility will revert to individual students and parents. “The CCHD strongly encourages individuals who test positive to independently notify their close contacts,” Superintendent Dr. Robert Sokolowski highlighted in an email. He then asked parents to continue to report positive cases to their school nurses. “Our commitment to in-person education and the health of all those in the WCASD will continue to form the foundation of our decisions,” he wrote.
Say goodbye to Mabel’s Barbecue – wait, don’t panic, it’s only temporary. They are working on a planned expansion. However, sadly yesterday was the last day to stock up on fall-off-the-bone BBQ for the foreseeable future.
Also, adios, for the time being, to Mas. The Market Street Mexicali cantina was forced to close its doors this week to complete some repairs. Management is hoping to be back up and running in a couple of days. Follow their social for updates.
Pay it forward.
I was worried about my favorite downtown consignment shop but it turns out, the West Chester’s Women’s Exchange had a good year, a really good year – nearly tripling what they took in 2020. A charitable organization, they sell items on behalf of consignors and then split the proceeds 60-40% (70-30% for items over $100) and donate their portion to local organizations. This year their cut added up to more than $35,000 – a record for the shop whose long history in the borough dates back to 1943 and a win for local organizations like the Friends Association, the Melton Center, Safe Harbor, the West Chester Food Cupboard, the public library, Good Fellowship Ambulance and all three fire companies.
If you would like to support the Exchange and bring a little originality home they are open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Consignors, shoppers and volunteers are all welcome.
Also, having a good year? Christmas lights.
Some of your other local business friends, on the other hand, are not having such a good year and now another wave of positives has patrons and employees laying low again.
“The weather turning colder and this new covid variant is killing us!!” Mae’s posted on Facebook last week. They mentioned cancelled catering events and reduced hours due to lack of staff. Yori’s, Kilwin’s and Two Birds Cafe were also forced to temporarily close or reduce hours due to personnel concerns. “We know we are not the only restaurant that is going through this. Please support as many as you can!” they wrote.
Many restaurants including Mae’s are once again offering eat in and take home options everything from premade meals, heat and eat and family-style, multi-course options. Give yourself a night off and show your faves some much needed love.
Also, we need your blood. It’s a donut and coffee to you if you give this month.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? Boys are participating in the pine wood derby this weekend. I grew up in a house full of girls so I didn’t know this actually existed outside of Dennis the Menace episodes (of course, I was confusing it with a soap box derby where the kids actually sit in the car not the case here, but still should be exciting, right?)
Speaking of flashes from the past. Did you know West Chester had a 19th Century style baseball league? Well, we do and the Brandywine Base Ball Club, or West Chester’s ode to 19th century baseball – think how it was played during the Civil War – is looking for players, spectators and organizers. Learn more at their winter meeting, January 29 at Levante.
Planning on hanging around this weekend? Several great options to catch some live music, new cupcake options at Dia Doce (lemon raspberry wedding cake, yum.) , bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers at Wrong Crowd, and Jackie O’ dresses at Ms. Malena. Pick your poison. They is something for everyone.
Mark your calendars:
- January 21:Beginnings: The music of Chicago, Uptown! Theater, 8 p.m. Tickets $40 + $3 service fee. (Limited tickets available)
- January 22 – The Bickel Brothers, Slow Hand, 9 p.m.
- January 22 – Shot of Southern, Timothy’s West Chester, 8 p.m.
- January 24 – First day back for WCU
- January 24 – Monday Movie: Ratatouille, Uptown! Theater, 7 p.m. Tickets $5 + free popcorn
- January 24 – Fun with STEAM – Zoom presentation by the West Chester Public Library, 5-6 p.m. Geared toward kids 5+ the event is free but registration is required.
- January 28 – Bad Hombres Return to Pietro’s, Pietro’s Prime, 8 p.m.
- February 4 – Hollywood Nights: the music of Bob Seger, Uptown! Theater, 8 p.m. Tickets $40 + $3 service fee.
- January 31 – WCU Faculty recital, Stephen Ng, Tenor, Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre, 8-9:30 p.m.
- February 4 – Countdown to Ecstasy: Music of Steely Dan, Uptown! Theater, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $30 + $3 service fee.
- February 7 – First day of in person classes for WCU
- February 7 – WCU Faculty recital, Kimberly Reighley, Flute, Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre, 8-9:00 p.m.
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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