READING, Pa. - To put it simply, it's been a confusing time for a lot of us. There are many questions, and few answers, in this coronavirus pandemic. The Berks County Department of Emergency Services is taking a big step to help.

"What do I do about unemployment benefits? Where do I go and get tested?" Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach said, giving examples of questions people may have.

The department last week announced that help and resources are available on its website, but county officials said they wanted to dig deeper by launching a phone helpline, which will open Thursday morning.

"We felt there was a need to provide live responses," said Leinbach.

Starting Thursday, Berks County residents can connect with the help center in one of two ways, either by calling 610-320-6150 or by emailing

Staff will be on hand to answer phones and respond to emails seven days a week, from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Anyone experiencing a medical emergency should call 911; social service questions or needs should be addressed by calling 211.

"We're sending them to the correct website, giving them a phone number to the correct office, giving them an email to the correct office or people who can get them the answers they're looking for," said Leinbach.

Leinbach's announcement comes the day as Pennsylvania health officials reported the first positive case of coronavirus in Berks County. Leinbach said he can't share any more information about the case because of privacy issues.