AP PA Headlines 5/28/20
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Professional sports can resume in Pennsylvania where the governor’s stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the coronavirus is no longer in force, but without spectators, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said Wednesday. Those teams and competitors will be allowed to practice or play in counties where Wolf’s “yellow” or “green” designation applies in his stoplight-colored three-phase reopening plan.
To resume, a team or a league must develop a coronavirus safety plan that has been approved by Wolf’s state Department of Health and it must include testing or screening and monitoring of all “on-venue” players and personnel, the administration said. Fans or spectators cannot be permitted inside or outside the sporting venue property, the administration said.
Meanwhile, Wolf lifted some dine-in prohibitions for restaurants and bars in counties in the yellow phase, allowing them to serve people seated in outdoor areas. His administration also said that, under green-phase guidelines that first take effect Friday in 18 counties, gatherings of more than 250 people are prohibited, including concerts, festivals, conferences, sporting events, movies or performances. Most businesses serving the public in a building or defined area can only operate at up to 50% or 75% maximum capacity, depending on the type of business, while also enforcing social distancing requirements.
Pennsylvania follows New Jersey and New York in allowing pro sports to resume practice and play. Youth sports are allowed to resume in areas in the green phase. Major League Baseball, the NHL and the NBA have all been on hiatus since mid-March and the NFL has been holding its organized team activities “virtually,” though the reopening means players could potentially participate in person when mandatory mini-camps are held next month.
The NHL announced that it hopes to return at some point this summer with an expanded 24-team playoff format in two host cities. Pittsburgh is among the finalists to serve as an NHL “hub” and Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday that players will be allowed to work out independently in small groups at the team’s practice facility in Cranberry starting as early as next week. Any official NHL-sanctioned “training camp” would not start before July 1.
Rutherford said the team will be meticulous in following health guidelines whenever players return. “We are very sensitive to what’s going on and we will be very careful with it,” Rutherford said. Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Diontae Johnson said Wednesday he doesn’t anticipate playing in front of fans anytime soon. “It’ll be different,” Johnson said. “The game just wouldn’t feel right. It’s just like another practice.”
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration announced a new leader Wednesday at the Southeastern Veterans’ Center, where about three dozen residents have died from the coronavirus and a state senator urged the replacement of its leadership. The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has named an acting commandant at the center, the agency said in a statement. It did not name the person; explain the circumstances that led to the appointment or what happened to the prior commandant.
Asked about the reasons for the move, Wolf, in a video news conference, only said he was responding to the “general concern” that had been expressed about the situation at the center. He did not elaborate. The Southeastern Veterans’ Center had been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, with at least 35 residents dying from the virus, according to state data provided last week. The five other state-run veteran’s homes appear to have been far more successful in keeping the virus out.
However, the scope of the outbreak inside the 238-bed veteran’s center in Chester County had long been unclear, since Wolf’s administration didn’t report on cases and deaths there until recent days. A state lawmaker, Sen. Katie Muth, whose district includes the home, had urged state officials to remove its commandant and its nursing director. Staff there has told her of repeated violations of protocol to keep infected patients isolated, which Muth said she blames on mismanagement.
Muth also said staff told her that residents were being given hydroxychloroquine — the anti-malarial drug that President Donald Trump says he is taking to prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus — up until April 22, without consent from a relative. She has passed on information to the state attorney general’s office, Muth said. Maj. Gen. Tony Carelli, the state veterans affairs secretary, told lawmakers May 6 that he had sought inspections of the Southeastern Veterans’ Center as the death toll rose. Federal, state and county inspections came back clean and showed the center had sound protocols in responding to the spread of the virus, Carelli told them.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania state lawmaker said Wednesday he tested positive for COVID-19 and spent the past two weeks in isolation. Rep. Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin, said in a statement that other members and staff he was in contact with also self-isolated. Lewis said he kept his positive test a secret out of consideration for his family and others who may have been exposed. He had a fever for a day and a brief cough, but has fully recovered and completed a quarantine period, he said.
Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, who sits in front of Lewis in the House chamber, said he was notified of the potential exposure by the human resources department on May 21, shortly after testifying at a legislative committee meeting. Diamond said he also isolated himself for two weeks from the date of his exposure to Lewis, on May 14. Diamond said two others with seats near Lewis’ also were notified. Diamond said he has not experienced any symptoms. House Democrats reacted to the news with outrage, saying Republicans had hid Lewis’ diagnosis from them.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — There were 113 additional deaths linked to the coronavirus in Pennsylvania, raising the statewide total to 5,265, the state reported Wednesday. Officials also reported that 780 more people have tested positive for the virus. Since early March, infections have been confirmed in more than 69,417 people in Pennsylvania. Health officials reported that 62% of the people who have tested positive are fully recovered, meaning it’s been more than 30 days since the date of their positive test or onset of symptoms. The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the confirmed count because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut State Police say a college student wanted for two slayings in Connecticut has been captured in Maryland. Peter Manfredonia had been the subject of a six-day search involving several police agencies and the FBI. Connecticut State Police say the University of Connecticut senior killed a 62-year-old man and wounded another in northeastern Connecticut on Friday and killed a high school classmate in Derby on Sunday before abducting the man’s girlfriend and driving to New Jersey. Police say Manfredonia was found in the area of a truck stop in Hagerstown, Maryland. A lawyer for the suspect’s family, Michael Dolan, said they were relieved the search had ended peacefully.
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Roman Catholic diocese of Pittsburgh has announced plans to consolidate 61 parishes into 15 new parishes. The mergers, to be completed July 1, will reduce the number of parishes in the diocese of Pittsburgh from 152 to 106. Bishop David Zubik told parishioners in a letter that “This has not been a simple task” but spoke of the need for sacrifice and said “You are positioning your new parish for more effective ministry by addressing financial needs, sharing resources and allowing your clergy to focus on the spiritual work for which they were ordained.”
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NEW YORK (AP) — There’s a new blackface scandal to talk about — and it involves Jimmy Fallon. The host of NBC’s “Tonight Show” says he’s sorry for darkening his face to impersonate fellow comedian Chris Rock during a 2000 sketch on “Saturday Night Live.” The sketch got new life when it was posted online this week. Fallon says he’s “very sorry” for what he calls his “unquestionably offensive decision” to portray Rock in blackface, adding “there is no excuse” for it.
NEW YORK (AP) — Larry Kramer has died. The playwright whose angry voice raised theatergoers’ consciousness about AIDS in the early years of the epidemic died today from pneumonia. He was 84.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is threatening social media companies with new regulations or even closure after Twitter added fact checks to two of his tweets. Trump, a historically prolific White House tweeter, claimed that tech giants “silence conservative voices.” As he often does, he turned to his Twitter account to make his threats. The president can’t unilaterally regulate or close social media companies, as that would require action by Congress or the Federal Communications Commission. Trump and his campaign are lashing out after Twitter on Tuesday added a warning phrase to two Trump tweets that called mail-in ballots “fraudulent” and predicted that “mail boxes will be robbed.”
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The mayor of Minneapolis wants criminal charges to be filed against the white police officer seen on video kneeling against the neck of a handcuffed black man who complained he could not breathe and died in police custody. Based on the video, Mayor Jacob Frey said officer Derek Chauvin should be charged in the death of George Floyd. The footage recorded by a bystander shows Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd gasps for breath on the ground with his face against the pavement.
“I’ve wrestled with, more than anything else over the last 36 hours, one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?” said Frey. He later added: “I saw no threat. I saw nothing that would signal that this kind of force was necessary.” The day after Floyd died, Chauvin and three other officers were fired — an act that didn’t stem the flood of anger that followed the widely seen video shot on Memorial Day outside a convenience store.
WASHINGTON (AP) — It was a day for the history books on Capitol Hill: For the first time ever, House lawmakers voted by proxy — to avoid the risk of travel to Washington during the pandemic. To mark yesterday’s history-making moment, House Republicans sued to stop the majority party from going ahead with the new system.
The House, with 432 current members and three vacancies, is trying to strike a balance between working from home during the coronavirus outbreak and honoring the Constitution’s requirement to be “present” and voting. The House rules change is becoming a political test along party lines. Dozens of Democrats signed up to have colleagues cast their votes by proxy. Twenty Republicans joined in the lawsuit against that move, which House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California says is unconstitutional.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A protester who participated in hanging an effigy of Kentucky’s governor at an armed rally on the State Capitol grounds has been fired from his job at an auto dealer. Neil Huffman Auto Group said it terminated the employee after an internal review, saying it “does not condone threats of violence in any form.” Gov. Andy Beshear responded to a question yesterday about the firing saying, “different decisions have consequences and I would hope that we would all make better decisions.”
“But you don’t simply in the moment make a dummy with somebody’s face on it and hang it up,” the Democratic governor said. “I think what we saw was an act intended to create fear and terror.” The fired protester is identified by the Courier Journal as Terry Bush. His dismissal was confirmed by his wife, Patsy. The effigy was in a tree near the State Capitol during what was billed as a rally in defense of constitutional rights, including the right to bear arms. The rally turned into a protest of coronavirus restrictions and Beshear’s administration.
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Glazed or jelly? A black bear roaming around a Florida city proved to be no match for doughnuts that lured the animal into a humane trap. The Fort Myers News-Press reports that the juvenile, 250-pound bear spent a good chunk of Tuesday morning meandering around the Gulf coast city. Wildlife officials say bears tend to move around more in the spring in search of mates and, as always, food. Officials were reluctant to use tranquilizers in a congested area so they turned to Krispy Kreme doughnuts and blueberry-scented spray to trap the bear. It was relocated to a wildlife area.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — If Florida’s governor agrees, SeaWorld and Walt Disney World will reopen this summer. Under plans submitted to officials overseeing Orlando, Sea World will reopen June 11. Disney plans to open Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom July 11, followed by Epcot and Hollywood Studios on the 15th. Meanwhile, Universal Orlando opens June 5. The reopening would end a months-long shutdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
UNDATED (AP) — Can drones be enlisted in the fight against COVID-19? Some are trying to find out if they can be. In North Carolina, for example, officials are test-flying drones to try to fill gaps in medical supply chains broken by the coronavirus outbreak. Those who favor their use say drones reduce the need for delivery trucks and can help avoid human contact. The tests are being done in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration — which requires drones to be flown within sight of their operators. But for these test runs, the FAA rules have been eased..
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