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Systemic failure in Pa. leads to lack of virus data

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The Investigator

Your guide to the Capitol & stories holding the powerful to account

April 16, 2020 | spotlightpa.org

This week, I wrote a column about how in times of emergencies and extraordinary government power, we need more accountability and transparency, not less. And yet our reporting continues to identify ways Pennsylvania is falling short of providing a full picture of the pandemic.

Health systems, private labs and the state have failed to collect complete race, age, gender and location data for those who have been tested. And for those who have tested positive, there also is no reliable race data, despite indications the virus is disproportionately affecting black communities across the U.S.

Meanwhile, as health systems seek huge sums of taxpayer relief, the state is refusing to release hospitals' emergency plans for addressing a surge in demand. What's more, state officials are not ensuring health systems are following those plans, instead leaving oversight to their own lobbying group.

And then there's the continued issue of business waivers. We followed up on dozens of messages from across the state and found some employees at so-called "life-sustaining" businesses feared the work was not worth the risk, and in one case, a business shut down after we inquired about why it was still open.

Making matters worse, employees have few legal protections if they blow the whistle, and many said they are scared they will lose their job if they speak up.

No matter how long it takes, we will continue to demand more accountability and transparency. If you value this 100% essential effort, please consider making a donation now. We rely on your support to keep going.

If you have a story we should pursue, don't hesitate to reach out to us.

Christopher Baxter, Spotlight PA


“It’s like flying blind.”

— Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, on the state's lack of reliable demographic data for those who have been tested.
POSITIVE SIGNS: The chart below shows cases per day adjusted for the rate of growth, making it easier to see the current trend. As the curve flattens, it means the rate of cases is slowing, and Pa. is showing significant progress. Half of all deaths have occurred in nursing or personal care homes.


As of 12 p.m. April 16
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Send your answers to newsletters@spotlightpa.org.

Planting season (Case No. 34): A gardener digs five holes for four seeds. He puts the first seed in the second hole. Then he puts a seed in the hole immediately to the right of that one. Next, he puts a seed in the fifth hole, and then plants the final seed four holes to the left of that one. Which hole does not have a seed?
Stumped? Get a hint. Feeling smart? Challenge a friend.

Last week's answer: If brownie mix is on first base, pudding is on second and cookie dough is on third, who's at the plate? The hitter is "cake batter."

Congrats to Mark C., who will receive Spotlight PA swag (when we reopen our office!). Others who correctly answered: Don H., Jeff W., Jon N., Lou R., George S., Joseph S., Cornelius B., Jim S., and Mark V. 
» This week's Riddler hint: Draw it.
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