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York City Council approves extension of COVID-19 disaster declaration

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
York City Council members, from left, President Henry Nixon, Judy Ritter-Dixon and Edquina Washington participate in a York City Council town hall meeting at Logos Academy in York City, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

York City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to extend the city's COVID-19 disaster declaration as the pandemic shows no sign of easing up locally or statewide.

The declaration, which dates back to March, is now in effect until Aug. 31. Officials have said the mostly symbolic move puts the city in a better position to receive aid and helps the community better understand the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There are real key metrics that say not only has (COVID-19) not slowed down, but we may be facing significant problems come fall," said Philip Given, acting director of community and economic development.

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As of noon Wednesday, there were 2,067 COVID-19 cases and 76 deaths linked to the virus in York County. Both cases and deaths have increased steadily on a daily basis.

Statewide, the case total hit 103,396, an increase of 631 over the day prior. There were also 25 new deaths. The death toll now sits at 7,063. Officials noted increased infection rates among those between the ages of 19 and 49 — a pattern that initially led to a spike of cases in older patients earlier in the pandemic.

Earlier this month, in an effort to mitigate spread of the disease, Gov. Tom Wolf expanded his face-covering order to require Pennsylvanians to wear masks essentially any time they leave their homes.

Council President Henry Nixon could not be reached for comment after the meeting, where all agenda items were passed unanimously through a consent agenda that required no discussion.

Human relations commission: Also on Tuesday, the council unanimously approved a resolution supporting efforts to enter into talks with York County to create a countywide human relations commission.

The city already has such a commission, but the resolution's sponsor, council member Lou Rivera, said it is necessary to expand anti-discrimination efforts further.

"I think it's important that we as a county move forward in terms of diversity and inclusion that not only focuses on black and brown communities but the LGBTQ community, women and others who have been affected by a lack of diversity," Rivera said.

It is unclear what powers the commission would have. The resolution only gives a green light for discussions to begin.

Often times, human relations commissions have little power besides helping mediate instances of alleged discrimination and helping bolster race relations in communities.

Until the commission's powers, among other details, become evident, the county has been hesitant to take a stance, county spokesman Mark Walters said.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.