Saturday, May 30, 2020

Dept. Of Health Reports 73 Additional Deaths From COVID-19 In PA

On May 30, the Department of Health reported 73 more people have died in Pennsylvania from COVID-19 for a total of 5,537 confirmed deaths.
As of 12:00 a.m. May 30, there were 680 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 71,415 in all 67 counties.
There are 375,731 patients who have tested negative to date.  Approximately 5,280 of Pennsylvania’s total positive cases are in health care workers.
Of the patients who have tested positive to date the age breakdown is as follows:
-- Nearly 1 percent are aged 0-4;
-- Nearly 1 percent are aged 5-12;
-- Nearly 2 percent are aged 13-18;
-- 6 percent percent are aged 19-24;
-- Nearly 37 percent are aged 25-49;
-- 25 percent are aged 50-64; and
-- 28 percent are aged 65 or older.
Most of the patients hospitalized are aged 65 or older, and most of the deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older. There have been no pediatric deaths to date. More data is available here.
In nursing and personal care homes, there are 15,376 resident cases of COVID-19, and  2,650 cases among employees, for a total of 18,026 at 607 distinct facilities in 44 counties. Out of our total deaths, 3,535 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.  Click Here for a county breakdown.
For the latest information on the coronavirus and precautions to take in Pennsylvania, visit the Department of Health’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage, Follow them on Twitter, or Like them on Facebook.
Helpful Links:
Responding To COVID-19 In Pennsylvania - General Resource Page All Topics
Attorney General - Coronavirus Price Gouging Updates 
[Posted: May 30, 2020]

Tribune Review Editorial: The Virus Doesn't Recognize Political Parties

This editorial was first published in the Tribune Review May 29--

The most important thing people can have from their leaders in a time of crisis is the truth.
          They need to know that if they are told, “This building is on fire,” it is actually on fire. Conversely, they need to know that if they are told, “This water is safe,” that they are able to use the water.
          The Pennsylvania Legislature needs to borrow one of PennDOT’s big illuminated road signs with this simple idea and place it in the halls of the Capitol building as a reminder. Apparently it is the kind of thing that easily slips one’s mind.
          On Wednesday, House Democrats discovered that Rep. Andrew Lewis of Dauphin County was diagnosed with covid-19 seven days earlier.
          Lewis is a Republican. The House Republican caucus had been informed immediately, according to caucus spokesman Mike Straub.
          The Democrats were not.
          This is unconscionable.
          This is abhorrent not only because it weaponizes a virus that has paralyzed the state just as the state is emerging from its quarantine. It also sharpens the very edge of facts to make a cutting blade, with truth on one side and secrecy on the other.
           If we have reached a point in Harrisburg where it is not necessary to inform the opposition party that they may have been exposed to a potentially fatal disease, politics has turned down a blind alley from which there is no return.
          Because consider for a moment what this actually means. It means that the partisan nature of our state politics no longer allows for one side to see the other as the opposition. It demands that other side be the enemy.
          But keeping this information from the Democratic caucus did not just endanger the Democrats. It put at-risk people who came to their representatives in need.
          People who come to their representatives for help do so without thought of party. Republicans trying to get a loved one’s death certificate to file an insurance claim will need that help whether their official is GOP or not. Democrats trying to sort out an unclaimed property issue will not only ask for another Democrat’s assistance.
          And there is no excuse for the Republican caucus not realizing how this would be received. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was roundly chastised in March because he didn’t self-quarantine while awaiting coronavirus test results. He ended up testing positive, and possibly exposed other members of the Senate and staff in Washington as he maintained a normal schedule during the waiting period.
          While we cannot know exactly who may or may not have contracted covid-19 as a result of that exposure, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., announced Friday that he had tested positive for antibodies. Virginia’s Sen. Tim Kaine announced his positive antibody test on Thursday.
          This is not about party. This is about honesty and trust. We need more of both.

Saturday PA Capitol & Coronavirus NewsClips 5.30.20

CHANGE: Senate canceled voting session June 1, 2, 3; returns to voting session June 8, 9, 10 [Call Of President Pro Tempore]
House returns to voting session June 8, 9, 10 [Call Of House Speaker]

Gov. Wolf Signs Budget To Sustain Education, Support Communities Amid Pandemic; Vetoes Overtime Resolution, Republican COVID-19 Bill [PaCN]
Other States/National/International
Other States/National/International
Saturday PA Environment & Energy NewsClips 5.30.20 -- Click Here
Helpful Resources:
Click Here for latest PA Capitol NewsClips & News (Daily Subscriber Email 2:00)
Click Here for latest Environmental NewsClips & News (Daily Subscriber Email 2:00)
[Posted: May 30, 2020]

Friday, May 29, 2020

Gov. Wolf Signs Budget To Sustain Education, Support Communities Amid Pandemic; Vetoes Overtime Resolution, Republican COVID-19 Bill

On May 29, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a state budget that will provide 12 months of sustained public education funding at 2019-20 levels and makes important investments in communities and programs to help begin to restore the economy.
The $25.75 million General Fund budget signed by the Governor covers the first five months of FY 2020-21 and will require the General Assembly to finish work on the budget for the full year by the end of November.
The Governor announced he vetoed two measures--
-- House Concurrent Regulatory Review Resolution #1 that would have blocked implementation of new overtime regulations.  Veto message
-- Senate Bill 1027 (Gordner-R-Columbia) an Administrative Code bill which contains several Republican provisions related to COVID-19 the Governor said where in conflict with the Administration’s response.  Veto message.
“Education must remain a priority even during a pandemic and this budget provides schools with the stability to continue building on the progress we have made to prepare our children for a successful future,” said Gov. Wolf. "Reaching an early budget agreement under these challenging circumstances is encouraging as we continue to fight the spread of COVID-19.
“While this is an encouraging step in the right direction, more needs to be done to ensure Pennsylvania has the resources it needs to protect key programs and investments.”
The $25.75 billion General Fund budget in House Bill 2387 includes an additional $2.6 billion in federal funding provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act. 
The budget sustains funding at current year levels for Pre-K Counts and Head Start, basic and special education in K-12 schools, and higher education. 
The budget also provides $300 million from the CARES Act to make up for a decline in gaming revenue that annually supports school property tax relief for homeowners.
To help communities to recover, the budget provides $420 million to assist nursing homes with COVID-19-related costs, $50 million to help Pennsylvanians with food insecurity and $225 million for grants to small businesses through the Department of Community and Economic Development.
The budget also provides $625 million to counties through block grants to help address the disruption to their budgets from the pandemic. The funding will assist counties with the cost of purchasing personal protective equipment, help local governments, and provide grants to small businesses, among other options.
“As the state’s economy begins to reopen from the public health emergency, there are still unanswered questions about the state’s finances, but this agreement is an important step to stabilize our schools and put Pennsylvania on a path to recovery,” said Gov. Wolf.
The governor also signed HB 1083 [Fiscal Code], HB 2441, HB 2442, HB 2443, HB 2444, HB 2445, HB 2467, HB 2468, HB 2469, HB 2470, HB 2471, HB 2472, HB 2473, HB 2474, HB 2475, HB 2510, SB 166, SB 1108 and SB 1122.
[Posted: May 29, 2020]

Gov. Wolf: 16 More Counties To Move To Green Phase Of Reopening On June 5

On May 29, Gov. Tom Wolf announced 16 additional counties will take another step forward and move to Green Phase effective 12:01 a.m., June 5. Counties include Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Clinton, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Lycoming, Mercer, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland.
Gov. Wolf made two other points during his live press conference--
-- His Administration is doing everything it can to avoid shutting down businesses, if there is a second round of COVID-19 in the Fall; and
-- Guidelines on reopening schools in the fall should be out next week.  He said he is confident schools will reopen, but they may look different with fewer students in classrooms and more online learning.
On May 29, the first 18 counties moved to Green, including Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren.
Eight counties moved to Yellow May 29, including Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, and Schuylkill.
Counties that remain in Red and are expected to move to yellow by June 5 include Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Northampton, Montgomery, and Philadelphia.
With more than half the state poised to be in the Green phase on June 5, the governor last week provided an updated order for counties moving to green to give businesses and residents a clearer picture of what is permitted in that phase of reopening. 
The order includes these highlights:
-- Large gatherings of more than 250 prohibited.
-- Restaurants and bars open at 50 percent occupancy.
-- Personal care services (including hair salons and barbershops) open at 50 percent occupancy and by appointment only.
-- Indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities, and personal care services (such as gyms and spas) open at 50 percent occupancy with appointments strongly encouraged.
-- All entertainment (such as casinos, theaters, and shopping malls) open at 50 percent occupancy.
-- Construction activity may return to full capacity with continued implementation of protocols.
-- Visitation to prisons and hospitals may resume subject to the discretion of the facility. Visitors who interact with residents and patients must be diligent regarding hygiene. Given the critical importance of limiting COVID-19 exposure in nursing homes, personal care home and long-term care facilities, visitation restrictions will initially remain in place.
Business frequently asked questions were also updated and are available here.
Gov. Wolf also provided more options for counties in the Yellow phase by allowing outdoor dining beginning June 5 and providing Summer Camp Guidance for providers, parents and caregivers.
The Summer Camp Guidance includes information on what types of programs for children are permitted during the phased reopening, status of public playgrounds and the operation of community pools, and the status of organized team sports.
The state continues to use risk-based metrics from Carnegie Mellon University, combined with contact tracing and testing capability and a sustained reduction in COVID-19 hospitalizations, to make decisions on county moves. 
The 50 new cases per 100,000 population continues to be a consideration, but not a sole deciding factor.
To see up-to-date data on case counts and demographics, hospital preparedness and testing, view the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.
As more counties and residents enjoy loosened restrictions, the governor stressed the need to balance resuming activities with keeping case counts low and taking personal responsibility by wearing a mask or choosing to stay away from crowds to reduce the likelihood of coming into contact with someone carrying COVID-19.
“If we take the simple steps of wearing a mask, staying home when sick, and implementing social distancing tactics, we can help eliminate the spread of COVID-19 and make a huge contribution to getting our commonwealth back on track,” Gov. Wolf said. 
Visit the Commonwealth’s Responding to COVID-19 guide for the latest guidance and resources for Pennsylvanians or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19
Helpful Links:
Responding To COVID-19 In Pennsylvania - General Resource Page All Topics
Attorney General - Coronavirus Price Gouging Updates 
[Posted: May 29, 2020]