NEPA mayors discuss COVID-19 concerns and strategies

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The mayors of five communities in northeastern Pennsylvania met Thursday, virtually, to talk about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on their communities.

These mayors represent about 300,000 people in total. The goal is simple: work together for the benefit and safety of all of those people.

It was hosted by Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti. She was joined by Hazleton Mayor Jeff Cusat, Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown, Nanticoke Mayor Kevin Coughlin and Pittston Mayor Mike Lombardo.

COVID-19 safety measures were the number one topic.

“We’re really in a period where we got to buckle down. We got to make some sacrifices through the next few weeks and the next several months. Hospitalizations are rising along with cases. We want to make sure we keep our hospitals in northeastern Pennsylvania under capacity,” said Cognetti.

And the mayors urged their residents to follow CDC COVID guidelines.

“It’s really simple. We can’t enforce enough that masks work and that masks protect others and also protect you,” said Cognetti.

“The important thing is people in the past eight to nine months have learned safety precautions and that they need to keep practicing,” said Cusat.

Mayor Lombardo says he’s optimistic that people will continue to practice those safety measures.

“The hardest part of the race sometimes is the end. But I think the end is in sight. I think we’ve made a lot of strides,” said Lombardo.

There was also talk about the economic impact the pandemic is having on lost revenues — funds in the form of lost payroll taxes, since many people are out of work, as well as fees from things like construction projects, many of which have been placed on hold.

“We have to try to stress the fact that, with new leadership in Washington, that we need some type of financial assistance to make up for the revenues lost,” said Brown.

“Us as a group, direct funding should come directly to the cities. We know what we need to do with the money,” said Coughlin.

All five mayors thanked their residents for their patience and understanding regarding COVID safety restrictions placed at city buildings like City Hall in Wilkes-Barre. 

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