MASK MANDATE THROWN OUT BY STATE SUPREME COURT
A statewide mask mandate for Pennsylvania schoolchildren was thrown out by the state Supreme Court on Friday, raising the prospect that at least some students in the state may soon be allowed to attend classes without a face covering. The practical impact of the decision will depend on what the justices say in the written opinion or opinions they will issue in the case and which schools and school districts impose their own masking requirements. The attorney general’s office, representing Beam, told the court earlier this week there does not appear to be anything to prevent schools and school districts from issuing their own masking orders. The mask mandate took effect in early September. Wolf announced in November he intends to return authority over masking decisions to local school districts in January, but will continue to require masks in child care centers and early learning programs.
NURSING HOME STAFFING SHORTAGES AFFECTING ALL LEVELS OF CARE
Pennsylvania nursing homes say they are coping with dire staffing shortages that have forced many of them to stop accepting new residents, which in turn is preventing hospitals jammed with COVID-19 patients from discharging those who require lower levels of care. Industry officials met with Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration this week to ask for help, and to press their case for a $200 million infusion from the state’s share of the federal coronavirus relief package signed by President Joe Biden in March. Long-term care facilities say the money would be spent on retention bonuses for current workers. The workforce crunch at skilled nursing homes and personal care facilities is having a spillover effect on hospitals, which are under strain from a 55% increase in COVID-19 patients since mid-November. Hospitals are treating more than 4,500 patients infected with the coronavirus, according to the state Department of Health, and are desperate to free up bed space and ease lengthy wait times in emergency rooms.
GRIDLOCKS IN HEALTHCARE SYSTEMS
Geisinger, a large health system in central and northeastern Pennsylvania that is also short on beds because of the COVID-19 surge, said gridlock at nursing homes, rehab centers and psychiatric facilities is contributing to its capacity woes. The average length of stay at Geisinger hospitals has nearly doubled to eight days, according to Dr. Jaewon Ryu, president and chief executive officer. The worker shortage at nursing homes predated the pandemic, but has worsened over the past two years in a state with one of the nation’s highest proportions of older people.
USE OF FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE LAW ENFORCEMENT CITIZEN ADVISORY COMMISSION
The Pennsylvania State Law Enforcement Citizen Advisory Commission (Commission) today approved recommendations related to police-involved shootings, other uses of force and bias-based policing. Governor Wolf established the first-of-its-kind Commission last year to review and improve policies within commonwealth law enforcement agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction including, but not limited to, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), the Department of General Services Capitol Police, and the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) Park Rangers. The Commission announced in May the formation of three committees to review completed internal investigative findings to determine if they were prompt, fair, impartial, complete and performed in a manner consistent with applicable policies.
- The Critical Incident Review Committee reviews investigations of police-involved shootings resulting in injury or death of civilians conducted by covered agencies;
- The Use of Force Review Committee reviews a random sampling of other uses of force involving injury or death of civilians; and
- The Bias-Based Policing Review Committee reviews all investigations of racial or ethnic discrimination and other bias-based policing and/or external complaints of bias or discrimination during interactions with covered agencies.
IT’S ON US PA GRANT TO LOCAL CAMPUS
Building on his commitment to campus safety, Governor Tom Wolf today announced 34 institutions of higher education will receive up to $30,000 in It’s On Us PA grants. Launched by Governor Wolf in 2016, IT’S ON US PA is a statewide campaign that invites education leaders and all Pennsylvanians to be part of the solution to protect students from sexual violence. The list of awardees include Bucknell University in Lewisburg was awarded $30,000. Since 2016, the Wolf Administration has awarded 184 IT’S ON US PA grants totaling nearly $6 million to post-secondary institutions, including public and private two-year and four-year colleges and universities.
AIRPORT IMPROVEMENTS, RENOVATIONS AND UPGRADES AT LATEST AUTHORITY BOARD MEETING
Airport infrastructure improvements topped the list of thing to do at the last Williamsport Municipal Airport Authority Board meeting. Things are happening at the airport, including Lycoming County Water and Sewer taking over the sewer system and installing updated sewer pumps in Summer of 2022. Several state-funded projects include, but are not limited to, runway rehabilitation, paving and a T-hangar door repairs. The board agreed to continue holding its meetings the second Thursday of each month at 5:30 p.m. during 2022. Meetings will be held at the airport.
SWIPING YOUR PACKAGES WILL BECOME MORE COSTLY TO THE PIRATES
Porch pirates who swipe your deliveries may soon be facing increased penalties if it’s up to Pennsylvania lawmaker. Rep. Wendi Thomas, partnered with Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub to create a bill that would stiffen penalties for theft of mail involving a package, bag or letter that would result in a summary charge for a first offense involving merchandise valued at less than $150. According to therecordonline.com, when the value of the item taken is more than $150, or a second offense, the penalty moves to a second-degree misdemeanor. A third offense would get you a third-degree felony, no matter the package value.
UPDATED COVID-19 CASES LOCALLY
The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Friday reported new COVID-19 cases. Clinton County reported 38 new cases. In Centre County 68. Lycoming County added 91. There were 106 new cases in Northumberland County, 44 in both Union and Snyder counties and 15 in Montour. Northumberland County has had at least 100 cases five times in December.
MAN FOUND DEAD IN HOSPITAL BATHROOM BELIEVED TO BE VICTIM OF OVERCROWDING
A man was found dead in a hospital bathroom is believed to have died as a result of overcrowding in the emergency room, according to Montour County Coroner Scott Lynn. The 70-year-old Mount Carmel man was discovered on Nov. 23 inside a Geisinger Medical Center bathroom. According to the Daily Item, the man arrived at the emergency room a while earlier, complaining of weakness and not feeling well. The man was provided care, which included oxygen in the waiting room before he was found dead 12-hours and 15 minutes later in a single stall bathroom. An investigation into Rowland’s death is ongoing and Lynn said an autopsy was performed on Nov. 25 and the results are pending.
POLICE LOOKING FOR COMMUNITY HELP
A “violent sexual assault” was reported on E. Market Street and Mill Street in Danville on Monday night. Danville Police Chief Jonathan Swank reported they are looking for a white male, medium build and approximately 6 feet tall. He goes on to advise residents to keep walkways and entry ways well lit and be aware of your surroundings. According to the Daily Item, there was no futher information provided on the assault or victim. Anyone with any information is asked to call the Danville Police.
SENDING SEXUALLY EXPLICIT IMAGES TO MINORS WITH OTHER MINORS IN THE ROOM
A Northumberland County man allegedly sent sexually explicit images to a minor with other minors in his room. Timothy Eugen Cawley, ,Turbotville, was charged with multiple felonies: including, A count of child pornography. The charges were filed in the Milton office of District Judge Michael Diehl. The state police North East Computer Crimes Unit received a referral via the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program on Nov. 26 for events that occurred on Nov. 21. According to the Daily Item, Cawley was committed to Northumberland County Jail in lieu of $250,000 cash bail with a preliminary hearing at Dec. 15 with Judge Diehl.
A FULL HOSPITAL CONTINUES TO TREAT PATIENTS
A local hospital is operating well above 100 percent capacity. UPMC Williamsport officials say the surge in COVID-19 patients has taxed their resources and their staff. According to reports from WNEP TV, there are upwards of 78 people currently hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 infections throughout UPMC hospitals in the north-central region. The end results are longer wait times in the emergency department, even though hospital staff have even opted to practice waiting room medicine to help those they can, quicker. And surgical postponements are at nearly 60 for those non-emergent elective surgeries.
ANOTHER HAT IN THE GOVERNOR RING
A Republican state senator from southcentral Pennsylvania said Saturday that he will run for governor, adding to the GOP’s double-digits-deep primary field aiming to take on the presumed Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, in next year’s election. Sen. Scott Martin, of Lancaster County, announced it in a video on his campaign website and Facebook page. He becomes the second Republican state senator in a field that is roughly a dozen deep and likely to grow.
LOCAL COVID-19 CASES UPDATE
The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Saturday reported new COVID-19 cases. Clinton County reported 22 new cases. In Centre County 77 and Lycoming County added 89 new cases. 69 new cases in Northumberland County, 31 in Union County, 28 in Union and 12 in Montour County.
MASKING REMAINS IN LEWISBURG
Some masking will still be required Monday in the Lewisburg Area School District, according to Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Baugh. Students 11-years-old and younger and unvaccinated students, staff and visitors are required to wear a mask while indoors, according to an online media outlet. The federal mandate still requires masks to be worn while on the school buses. An emergency meeting of the school board, to discuss this issue, will be held Thursday.
BUDGET DAY CLOSE AT HAND
Thursday night is said to be the night when the Williamsport City Council will approve the 2022 buget and set the city tax rate. The council worked tirelessly for hours on Thursday attempting to amend the previous budget proposal from Mayor Derek Slaughter. The long session began as the council took $51,349 from their legislative contingency and moving it toward increasing salaries in departments of public safety, public works, codes and the treasurer. The proposal on the table to hire a new police officer was delayed for the next meeting. According to SUN Gazette, the next meeting is a special meeting starting at 7 p.m. Thursday and held remotely via YouTube. The site is accessible on the city website.
ATV REGIONAL TRAIL CONNECTOR PILOT
Sen. Gene Yaw said he’s encouraged after convening the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on Wednesday to field testimony for a proposed ATV connector trail in Tiadaghton State Forest. Legislators authorized the first ATV Regional Trail Connector Pilot in 2020 in response to the growing popularity of the vehicles for outdoor recreation in the region, ending a 17-year moratorium on new trails. The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) said the pilot’s first riding season, which lasted from July 16 until Sept. 26 and spanned trails in parts of Tioga and Potter counties, resulted in no “serious” accidents and caused no adverse impacts on nearby streams and forestland. Still, state officials said more studies must be conducted to understand the impacts of ATVs operating alongside vehicles on public roads. With the second riding season scheduled to open on Memorial Day, DCNR hopes to expand the pilot to include the Haneyville ATV trail and tie it into Tiadaghton State Forest, which covers more than 146,000 acres in Lycoming, Tioga, Potter, Clinton and Union counties.
KELLER-BRAUN EFFORT CLEARS CRUCIAL HURDLE IN EFFORT TO NULLIFY BIDEN’S UNCONSTITUTIONAL ORDER
Today, Congressman Fred Keller (PA-12) made a statement after Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) secured bipartisan passage of the Senate Congressional Review Act (CRA) to eliminate President Biden’s vaccine mandate on private-sector job creators with more than 100 employees and all 50 Republican Senators in supporting the CRA, setting the stage for the U.S. House to consider Congressman Keller’s companion bill. On Tuesday, Congressman Keller announced his legislation had garnered the support of all 213 House Republicans. Congressman Keller’s CRA resolution now only needs five Democrat cosponsors to reach the 218 member threshold required for a discharge petition to force a vote on the House Floor.