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Area residents continue to figure out the 'new normal'; here's a list that helps you navigate

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Residents of southern Dauphin County continued to grapple this week with the “new normal” as restrictions on lives continue because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Signs dotted every business in downtown Middletown, most saying that they were closed to walk-in customers.

A man walked out of Tony's Beverage on Emaus Street on Monday. He sat his case of Corona beer on the curb while he unlocked his car. 

Some of the neon “open” signs that hung in the front window of businesses along South Union Street were dark, save Roberto’s and Tattered Flag. 

The parking lot of Middletown Area High School — usually filled with the cars of students and staff — was nearly empty. In front of the main entrance was a white tent where parents could drive up to pick up food for their their children, a service being provided by the school district while schools remain closed. 

The parking lot of Giant was filled with cars of shoppers hurrying through the rain Monday to make it inside. The full effect of the fallout from Gov. Tom Wolf’s order that all non-life-sustaining businesses close brick-and-mortar operations, which took effect Monday morning, had yet to be felt by midweek as businesses try to figure out how to proceed.

Residents are urged to “stay calm, stay home, stay safe,” repeatedly, in daily updates by Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine, as the number of statewide cases of the coronavirus — and deaths — mounted.

As of Tuesday morning, there were 851 confirmed cases in the state and seven deaths — numbers that are sure to rise. Dauphin County reported four cases.

Here is a rundown of a few  key issues that affect daily life.

Law enforcement, emergencies

In case of an emergency, call 911. For non-emergency calls requiring police: For Middletown, call 717-558-6900. In Londonderry Township, for State Police, call 717-671-7500. For Highspire police, call 717-939-9866. In Royalton, call 717-558-6800 or 717-558-6900. For Lower Swatara Township, call 717-558-6900 or go online to dauphin.crimewatchpa.com/lowerswatarapd/3729/report.

Transportation

• Gas stations remain open as life-sustaining businesses.

• The Pennsylvania Turnpike is not accepting cash or credit cards. If you don’t have an E-ZPass, continue to use lanes marked “Tickets” on entry and “Cash” on exit, but keep moving at the posted speed without stopping. Instead of paying tolls at the booths, you will receive a Pennsylvania Turnpike Toll By Plate invoice through the mail. High-speed cameras capture license-plate images as vehicles pass by. 

• All Amtrak train service out of Middletown is suspended.

• Capital Area Transit is not collecting fares on any fixed route service, but expects passengers to only ride for life-sustaining service (medically necessary, food access or employment). Because of no fare collection, CAT officials will begin rear boarding only, where possible. Any passenger using a mobility device or who needs assistance would still board the bus through the front door. These efforts are to further expand and protect the social distancing for the operator.

• At Harrisburg International Airport, passenger flight cancellations are increasing, but UPS and FedEx“are very busy right now” keeping up with online demand driven by the pandemic, spokesman Scott Miller said. HIA is open and airlines are still flying. They are just doing fewer flights.

Stores

• Grocery stores remain open, but Karns and Giant have limited their hours and added times for seniors. The shorter hours are to allow time to sanitize the stores and restock shelves. Karns, 101 S. Union St., is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with senior hours from 7 to 8 a.m. Giant, 450 E. Main St., is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., but the hours of 6 to 7 a.m. are for customers 60 and older. Sharp Shopper, 1577 W. Harrisburg Pike, is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with senior citizen shopping hours of 7 to 8 p.m. There might be limits on the number of some items that can be purchased at one time, or shortages of some products. For example, while there was plenty of bread at Karns on Tuesday morning, the toilet paper shelves sat empty.

• Pennsylvanians should feel confident in the food supply and shop for food at their normal rate, Gov. Tom Wolf said on his website Sunday. Wolf and first lady Frances Wolf reminded Pennsylvanians that grocery stores, food processors, and food banks remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic and the administration is working to expand resources for those who are food insecure.

• Any non-life-sustaining store or business is supposed to be closed under restrictions from Gov. Tom Wolf. Assume they are closed and call ahead if you have no choice but to venture out.

Utilities and trash

• In Middletown, trash and recycling collection by Penn Waste remains on schedule. Yard waste and bulk item collection is on temporary suspension until further notice.

• Suez is suspending all water shut-offs for Middletown and Lower Swatara Township customers during the pandemic.

• The borough of Middletown is suspending for 60 days all shut-offs of electrical service.

• Lower Swatara electricity provider PPL is not discontinuing service at this time for people who are delinquent.

• Londonderry Township Manager Steve Letavic said each township resident hires their own trash collector. The trash company that picks up his trash has been continuing to do so, he said.

• Met-Ed provides power to Londonderry Township residents. Met-Ed’s parent company, FirstEnergy, announced on March 13 that effective immediately, its 10 electric utilities would continue to provide service and discontinue power shut offs for people who are behind on their bills.

Schools

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday that the mandatory closure of schools across Pennsylvania has been extended for two additional weeks. The Pennsylvania Department of Education says the earliest staff will return is Tuesday, April 7, with students scheduled to return on Thursday, April 9, according to MASD Superintendent Lori Suski. “The district requests your patience as we work through this news and begin to roll out our plan for instruction next week and discuss the impact on the school calendar,” she said.

Tax deadline

• The deadline to file 2019 state personal income tax returns with the Department of Revenue has been extended by 90 days to July 15. The Internal Revenue Service also extended the federal filing deadline to the same date.

Banks

• Banks remain open, but services vary from company to company. Call ahead and check.

Restaurants

• Restaurants can remain open if they offer takeout service. Some restaurants, such as the Brownstone Cafe, closed their doors temporarily. Fast-food eateries are offering drive-through service only. It’s best to call ahead or check online.

Government meetings

• Municipalities and school boards continue to meet for the most part, although some are changing rules to allow members to take part and vote remotely, or for residents to take part remotely. Go to www.pressandjournal.com for updates.

Playgrounds

Middletown playgrounds are open, but the equipment is not. Orange netting covers the equipment to prevent anyone from using it.