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Pa.'s serious coronavirus surge in 5 charts

The Investigator

November 19, 2020 | spotlightpa.org

The coronavirus surge in 5 charts, deadline day for the state budget, the child abuse registry, access denied, and deadly consequences at a nursing home.

THIS JUST IN: Facing an at least $1.8 billion state budget gap, Republican leaders in the House have put forth a plan to use all $1.3 billion in remaining coronavirus relief aid to pay for state government costs, Spotlight PA's Ed Mahon and Cynthia Fernandez report.

 nearly $35.5 billion spending plan also relies on pulling more than $500 million from special funds, including the state's rainy day fund.

Industries and service providers in all corners of Pennsylvania have been clamoring for a slice of the remaining aid money, but it looks like the government will be the big winner.

The plan allows lawmakers to avoid raising taxes or borrowing money. But they have to walk a fine line as they attempt to spend relief funding on state finances. Already, the feds have rejected a proposal to use up to $300 million of that money for school property tax relief. 

On the election front, we're continuing to work with Votebeat to dive deep into what went right — and wrong — this year, and explore how future elections could be improved. Marie Albiges found that Spanish speakers in some parts of the state faced confused poll workers and a lack of interpreters.

She also has a great explainer on how Pennsylvania's electors are picked, and what their role is moving forward. Tom Lisi, meanwhile, tried to get to the bottom of why there were so many provisional ballots cast this year, and how that could be rectified going forward.

Our Capitol reporter Cynthia Fernandez also continued to follow Republican efforts to investigate the presidential election, reporting on a newly proposed audit and review

Sarah Anne Hughes of Spotlight PA


"He is a bully. He is the worst of what we would never want to come to expect from state politics and government."

— Jennifer Storm, the state's victim advocate, on Sen. Joe Scarnati and the Senate's rejection of her nomination for another six years on the job. Scarnati called the comments "egregious" and unprofessional.

» COVID-19 UPDATE: Keep up with our coronavirus tracker, and sign up for alerts for your county.

» Pa. victim advocate claims Senate rejection was ‘vindictive'

» Two women just made history in the Pa. legislature

» Experts: Lockdowns aren’t the answer to Pa.'s COVID-19 surge

» Top Pa. senator’s campaign revives lawsuit against journalists

The coronavirus surge in 5 charts

Schools are shutting down. Philadelphia has closed indoor dining. And Allegheny County is telling people to stay home.

If you're wondering why officials in Pennsylvania are sounding the alarm about the coronavirus again, let's take a spin through our best indicators of spread and see what the charts tell us:

Confirmed cases are at all-time highs, with the state breaking its daily record on Thursday with 7,126 new infections reported. Here's a breakdown of the current trends and indicators in five charts:

Cases are rising, but is that because we are doing more testing? No, according to the data. The percent of tests coming back positive has risen sharply. While this can be an imperfect indicator on its own, it tells us we're not just seeing the result of more tests.

But maybe all of this doesn't matter because we're better prepared to deal with the virus and treat people who are sick. For that, we can first look to the number of hospitalizations, which is at an all-time high and showing exponential growth.

As hospitalizations rise and cases progress, are more people needing ventilators? This would be somewhat of a lagging indicator, but the answer is yes.

Finally, what are we seeing with the number of deaths? This is the worst and most tragic outcome, and we also know this indicator lags behind cases and hospitalizations. So are we starting to see a rise here as well? Yes.

So what's the takeaway? Every meaningful data indicator we have is telling us this is a serious surge, and so far there are no signs it will relent without people taking action. You can follow all of the data on our coronavirus tracker.

Christoper Baxter, Spotlight PA
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DEADLY CONSEQUENCES: At Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County, where 82 residents have died of COVID-19, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found that actions taken by the nursing home's owners and managers before the virus contributed to the outbreak. As the pandemic worsened, officials failed to respond quickly and properly train staff, contributing to one of the deadliest nursing home outbreaks in America.

NO PROOF: Thousands of Pennsylvanians are put on the child-abuse registry every year with officials only conducting a preliminary investigation, while some never get a day in court, The Philidelphia Inquirer reports. A new study raises constitutional concerns about the system and calls for legislative reform.

DENIED ACCESS: York County government officials are refusing to provide basic information about employees in a county office — including names, pay rates, job titles, and dates of hire —to The York Dispatch. Adams and Lancaster Counties provided similar records within days.

MORE FALLOUT: Many Lehigh Valley children aren’t getting vaccinated for highly contagious diseases like measles and polio due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Morning Call reports. "This is a troubling trend that could have devastating consequences," said Dr. Jennifer Chambers, Capital BlueCross' chief medical officer.

STEPPING DOWN: An Allegheny County judge resigned this week, just a day before his misconduct trial. According to TribLIVE, Mark V. Tranquilli was accused of six separate counts of misconduct from his actions in family and criminal court, including one instance where he allegedly referred to a Black female juror as “Aunt Jemima.” 

» AP: Hundreds of nurses strike at Philadelphia-area hospital

» BILLY PENN: The inside story of Philly's vote-counting process

» ERIE NEWS NOW: Minority Whip Jordan Harris positive for COVID-19

» LNP: Race for governor, U.S. Senate already starting in Pa.

» PENNLIVE: Nursing home with good track record hit hard by virus

Yaasmeen Piper of Spotlight PA

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