Comprehensive PA COVID Coverage: AP PA Headlines, Features


AP PA Headlines 4/23/20

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Residents of northcentral and northwestern Pennsylvania are projected to be the first in the state to be released from Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order, and many retail stores in those areas should be able to reopen, under a statewide plan announced Wednesday night.  Wolf wants to begin easing some pandemic restrictions on May 8 in areas of Pennsylvania that have been lightly impacted by the new coronavirus.

His reopening plan said a region or county will need to average fewer than 50 new positive cases of the virus per 100,000 residents for 14 days in order to begin moving out from under his statewide lockdown. Many counties in rural Pennsylvania have reported fewer than 20 cases total.  “We’re trying to be prudent and careful and we want to keep people safe,” Wolf said at a video news conference Wednesday night.

The virus has infected more than 35,000 people in Pennsylvania and killed more than 1,600, but Wolf, a Democrat, says the state has made sufficient progress in its fight against COVID-19 to begin a gradual loosening of restrictions. Republican lawmakers are pressing for a more aggressive timetable.  As the virus begins to ebb, and each county or region meets the state’s case reporting threshold, residents will be permitted to leave their homes and in-person retail will be allowed to resume, according to Wolf’s plan.

The plan lays out a phased, color-coded reopening roadmap and, right now, all of Pennsylvania is at “red,” meaning that all 12.8 million residents are under orders to stay home and all “non-life-sustaining” businesses are closed. Regions and counties will move from red to yellow, and then, eventually, to green, meaning that all pandemic restrictions are lifted, aside from any federal or state health guidelines that remain in effect.

But even under yellow, a ban on gatherings of over 25 people will remain, and gyms, casinos, theaters and other indoor recreational, wellness and entertainment venues will stay closed. Restaurants and bars will still be limited to carry-out or delivery, and businesses must follow federal and state guidance for social distancing and cleaning.

Some details have not been worked out, Wolf said, such as whether hairdressers and barbers can resume under yellow. And a metric to move from yellow to green has not been worked out either, Wolf said.  Wolf also pushed up the date that limited building construction work may resume statewide, from May 8 to May 1. But he cautioned that if the virus flares up again in a certain county or region, residents would be ordered back home and businesses would have to shut down again.

Schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

+ The Wolf administration is encouraging voters to cast their primary election ballots by mail, saying it would help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, but faced legal action Wednesday by a liberal group demanding greater protections against disenfranchisement.  The Wolf administration has sent 4.2 million postcards to primary voters and is mounting a vote-by-mail awareness campaign on radio, television, social media, streaming services, mobile apps and email, officials said Wednesday.

The state’s efforts to get voters to apply for a mail-in ballot or absentee ballot have gained traction, with more than 462,000 voters applying for a mail-in ballot and more than 139,000 applying for an absentee ballot, according to Wolf administration figures.  Republican and Democratic party officials in Pennsylvania have encouraged people to vote by mail amid concerns the virus will make it difficult for county officials to find polling places and get poll workers to staff them. Election officials in various counties say they probably will be forced to operate far fewer polling places than normal.

In its lawsuit, the labor-backed Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans seeks to have the state provide prepaid postage for all mail ballots; count ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day if the delay was caused by a disruption in mail service; and allow third parties to assist voters in submitting their sealed ballots.  State officials have “failed to implement adequate safeguards to ensure a free and fair election” in the face of the pandemic, said the suit, filed in Commonwealth Court.

+ Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 death toll rose by 58 to 1,622, the state health department reported Wednesday, with more than 1,150 additional people testing positive for the virus that causes the disease.  Statewide, more than 35,600 people have tested positive, according to the latest health department data.

he number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.  For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Two police unions have sued the Erie County Department of Health to force it to disclose for emergency responders the names, and not just the addresses, of people with a COVID-19 diagnosis under isolation.  The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by unions representing 173 officers in Erie city and about 200 officers in other Erie County police departments, centers on how much information is provided by the health department to the county 911 center.

Dispatchers pass along the information to police and others, at their request, when they are summoned to respond.  The county’s solicitor, Richard Perhacs, said the current practice matches that of other counties in Pennsylvania. County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper told the Erie Times-News that it protects the public while respecting patients’ privacy rights.

Perhacs said about 25 people in Erie County are currently under isolation with a COVID-19 diagnosis.  The lawsuit claims current policy violates the county health agency’s requirement to prevent and control the spread of disease and puts officers at risk of infection.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved


WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans remain overwhelmingly in favor of stay-at-home orders and other efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, a new survey finds.  The survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also finds that a majority of Americans say it won’t be safe to lift social distancing guidelines anytime soon.  More than a month after schoolyards fell silent, restaurant tables and bar stools emptied, and waves from a safe distance replaced hugs and handshakes, the country largely believes restrictions on social interaction to curb the spread of the virus are appropriate.

Only 12% of Americans say the measures where they live go too far. About twice as many people, 26%, believe the limits don’t go far enough. The majority of Americans — 61% — feel the steps taken by government officials to prevent infections of COVID-19 in their area are about right.  About 8 in 10 Americans say they support measures that include requiring Americans to stay in their homes and limiting gatherings to 10 people or fewer — numbers that have largely held steady over the past few weeks.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he signed an executive order “temporarily suspending immigration into the United States,” but experts say it will merely delay the issuance of green cards for a minority of applicants. Trump said Wednesday that his move was necessary to help Americans get back to work in an economy ravaged by the coronavirus. But the order includes a long list of exemptions, including for those who are currently in the country, as well as the spouses and minor children of American citizens. It left partisans on both sides of the immigration battle suggesting the order was driven more by politics than policy during an election year.

ATLANTA (AP) — President Donald Trump says he told Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp that he “disagreed strongly” with Kemp’s decision to begin allowing some nonessential businesses to reopen this week. Speaking at a daily White House briefing Wednesday evening, Trump said he told Kemp he had misgivings over the governor’s plan, but would not stand in his way. Trump says the Republican governor is doing “what he thinks is right.” Kemp’s decision has been questioned because the state has yet to show continuing progress in those areas, and it could be difficult to catch up. Officials say there have been more than 21,000 infections in the state and at least 846 coronavirus-related deaths.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Harvard University announced Wednesday it will turn down $8.7 million in federal coronavirus relief, a day after President Donald Trump chastised the wealthy Ivy League school over taxpayer money it stood to receive. It followed similar actions at Stanford and Princeton universities, which said they too will reject millions of dollars in federal funding amid growing scrutiny on wealthy colleges. Officials at Harvard say the school still faces “significant financial challenges” due to the pandemic but will refuse the money over concerns that “intense focus by politicians” will undermine the relief program created by Congress.

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Something’s definitely brewing. In the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak, many Americans are engaging in an old-school craft to keep their spirits up: making their own beer. With many states implementing stay-at-home orders and many breweries shuttered, homebrewing has spiked. The head of a company that distributes beer and wine making supplies says the suds-making surge will continue as COVID-19 keeps battering the U.S. economy. David Stuart of LD Carlson says with fewer people working, home budgets tighter and folks having more time on their hands, he expects the brew-it-yourself industry will do well.

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — When you see a political message on Facebook, you need to know where the person is coming from, literally and figuratively. Now, Facebook wants you to know exactly where a post originates. The global social media giant says it will label posts from popular accounts with their country of origin. It’s a step toward curbing political misinformation by foreign pages that mimic legitimate groups and political parties. The new location policy applies to posts about elections, entertainment and other topics — and applies to Instagram.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved






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