Chester County Authorized by State to Take Lead in Delaware County's Public Health Response to COVID-19

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Intergovernmental cooperation agreement moves responsibility from PA Department of State to Chester County for duration of the coronavirus pandemic

Noting the longstanding emergency response partnership between Delaware County and Chester County, Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz led a joint press conference on March 19, alongside Delaware County officials, to announce approval by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, for Chester County to take the lead on Delaware County’s COVID-19 public health response.

“Chester and Delaware Counties have a long history of working together and supporting each other in times of need, especially when it comes to public safety and public health,” said Commissioner Moskowitz. “Together, we have trained, planned and practiced for a situation such as this, so it made complete sense to start a conversation with our Delaware County colleagues to see how the Chester County Health Department could support our neighbors in Delaware County.”

Commissioner Moskowitz also noted that, “Health Department Director Jeanne Casner and her team analyzed all of our efforts, processes and resources to date, and determined that Chester County had sufficient excess capacity to handle Delaware County’s public health needs, as well as Chester County’s needs, during this outbreak.

“Taking on the additional responsibility will not, in any way, diminish the excellent services that our Health Department provides to us all,” added Moskowitz.

Discussions that began between the Chester County Commissioners and staff, and members of Delaware County Council and staff at the end of last week, resulted in a letter sent by Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz to Governor Wolf and PA Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine last Saturday. The letter requested that Chester County assume primary responsibility for the public health response to the coronavirus outbreak in Delaware County. An intergovernmental cooperation agreement between the two counties was also drafted for review by Delaware County Council and staff, and the Chester County Board of Commissioner, staff and Health Department officials.

Both Counties received notice from the State on Wednesday that approval was given by Governor Wolf to transfer the State Department of Health’s responsibility for Delaware County to Chester County.

Delaware County Council unanimously approved the intergovernmental cooperation agreement at its public meeting on March 18. The Chester County Commissioners will introduce and ratify the agreement at its next public meeting.

“You learn a lot about people when the chips are down,” said Delaware County Council Chairman Brian Zidek. “It’s one thing to answer the bell when it’s in your own backyard, but quite another when it’s a little more distant. I find it remarkable that Chester County was willing to step up and I offer a heartfelt Thank You.”

At the press conference, Chester County’s Health Department Director Jeanne Casner outlined plans for transfer of responsibility from the State for Delaware County’s COVID-19 public health response.

“Chester County is ready, willing, able, and actually quite honored to be able to provide a true public health response to COVID-19 for everyone in both Chester and Delaware Counties. We are leveraging the resources, the assets, the processes and the functions that we have established within our Health Operations Center and are now working with Delaware County to coordinate and implement many activities that relate to medical advice and medical needs, investigation and contact tracing of positive cases, communication to healthcare providers and first responders, and, most importantly communication to citizens in both counties.

Casner added, “We have asked the State Department of Health for access to all of Delaware County’s case-related data. We will analyze that data, identify the trends that will help determine our public health response, and share that with Delaware County Council to ensure they are all well informed.

“We anticipate that this Saturday morning communications will go out to residents and all relevant organizations throughout Delaware County, giving them access to valuable information, phone numbers and places to report their needs during the coronavirus outbreak.”

The intergovernmental cooperation agreement between Chester and Delaware Counties identifies the responsibilities of the Chester County Health Department during the COVID-19 outbreak, which will continue until federal and state partners determine there is no longer a pandemic outbreak. Those responsibilities include coordination of increased testing, case investigation and surveillance, quarantine designations and public health communication.

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Delaware County, presently consisting of over 184 square miles divided into forty-nine municipalities is the oldest settled section of Pennsylvania.

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