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Meuser answers questions related to COVID-19

Pennsylvania residents asked questions Wednesday afternoon about hydroxychloroquine, exposure to COVID-19 at work, how to get your stimulus check if you’ve moved and more during a town hall meeting held by U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser.

Serving on the panel were Dr. Alison Brodginski, an infectious disease specialist at Geisinger Wilkes-Barre; and Ronald Beer, chief administrative officer for Geisinger Northeast Region at Geisinger Health System; in addition to Meuser.

One resident asked if Geisinger planned to give hydroxychloroquine to its patients.

Brodginski said that if a person is admitted to the hospital and confirmed to have COVID-19, then yes, hydroxychloroquine is an option they would discuss with the patient and his or her family.

“It is not a benign drug. You have to look at the risks and benefits,” she said.

Brodginski said the drug showed some benefits in data from China, but it can cause problems for people with heart arrhythmia. They have to be closely monitored while they are taking the medication.

“We don’t fully understand the benefits of the medication, so it is not being recommended for outpatient or prophylactic use,” she said.

Geisinger will not be giving it to people who have mild symptoms and can remain at home, and the public in general. She did recommend that if people want to do something to help themselves, then they should stay hydrated, get the proper amount of sleep, and take the daily recommended dose of vitamin C. According to the National Institutes of Health, that amount is 90 mg for adult men and 75 mg for adult women.


Q: Why do some tests for COVID-19 take 10 days?

A: Brodginski said that some retail labs are backlogged and it is taking three to 10 days to get results. Geisinger has its own in-lab support, so if a person is admitted, then they can run the test and have them back in 24 hours. She said that anyone who feels sick should stay home and self-isolate from other people in the home. She also recommended taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) for a fever, not ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil).

Q: If you’re in a high-risk health group and live with someone who has to go out every day for work, how do you protect yourself?

A: Brodginski recommended living in separate sections of the same house. The rule of thumb is to maintain a distance of more than 6 feet from other people and do not be near someone for more than 10 minutes. The length of time of exposure to the virus and distance to an infected person are key to elevating the risk of infection.

“We are getting more information every day about how this virus spreads,” she said. “Time period is very important. Repeated prolonged exposure is how you are put at risk for this illness.”

She also said the guidelines of washing hands, cleaning surfaces and not touching your face are extremely important. Wearing a mask at home is not required, but if it helps people keep their hands off their face, then do it.

Q: How do you avoid getting the virus at work?

A: Brodginski recommended that the person take a shower as soon as he or she comes home from work, and wash the clothes. Soap and water kill the virus, because it is an unstable structure.

She also recommends using hand sanitizer throughout the work day or wash hands frequently. Using gloves is an option, but change them regularly. The virus can adhere to the surface of the gloves, too.

Stimulus checks

Meuser tackled the questions concerning income, stimulus checks and small business loans.

Q: If you have moved since 2018, then what should you do to ensure the stimulus check finds you?

A: Meuser said the government is working on a web-based portal for people to access and provide their new address and banking information. The Internal Revenue Service wants to directly deposit the money into a person’s account instead of sending a check. The site isn’t ready yet, but will be within a few weeks.

Q: Do people receiving Social Security have to register with the IRS to receive the stimulus check?

A: People who are recipients of Social Security are already on a list to receive a check, he said. If they want to make sure the IRS has their information, then they can use the portal to provide it.

Q: Are nonprofit organizations eligible for the forgivable small-business loans available through the recent stimulus bill?

A: Yes. If a nonprofit is a 501(c)(3), then it is eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program that provides a forgivable loan in order to help employers keep employees. Churches can also apply for the program for their employees.

There are disaster assistance loans that are not forgivable, as well as collateral-based loans. The state is also creating loan programs. He recommended checking out the state Department of Community and Economic Development’s website at dced.pa.gov for loan programs.

Q: What is the government doing to prevent price gouging?

A: Meuser said the federal Department of Justice and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is keeping watch for price gouging and states have anti-price gouging laws.

“It is a crime. If you do see it, feel free to forward it to us,” he said.

Meuser said his staff is working full-time, mostly remotely, but is able to take calls from residents with questions. The phone number for his office in Pottsville is 570-871-6370.