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FBI searches nursing homes hit hard by COVID-19


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Sarah Anne Hughes
September 4, 2020
Nursing home visits, another call for legal cannabis, and the perfect summer song. Have a great Labor Day! We'll see you again Tuesday. 
The FBI yesterday served search warrants as part of an investigation into two nursing homes in Western Pennsylvania, including Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, where at least 74 people have died. The move comes about a week after the U.S. Justice Department said it was mulling a civil rights investigation into how Pennsylvania handled COVID-19 in nursing homes.

For months, nursing and personal care homes have been locked down to prevent COVID-19 from ravaging these vulnerable facilities. But as advocates raise concerns about the harmful effect of prolonged loneliness and isolation on residents, state health officials are slowly loosening restrictions.

In June, the state set criteria for long-term care facilities to meet in order to allow limited visitation to resume. And on Thursday, the health department announced a new "compassionate care" policy that will let people spend time with loved ones whose health is declining even if the nursing home isn't open to other visitors. 

THE CONTEXT: Over the past six months, more than 5,200 residents of nursing and personal care homes have died of COVID-19, as the virus exploited long-standing issues and weaknesses. After waiting months, health officials have in recent weeks made progress instituting testing of staff and residents inside these facilities to catch asymptomatic infections. 

But problems, like missing public data on cases and deaths, remain.

"Chief DiLuzio has been justly criticized and embarrassed by this incident. He has promised that nothing similar will happen again." — Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez responds to a meme posted by the city's police chief that mocked Black athletes who protest police violence
POST IT: @justin_time_915 shares a beautiful photo of Dingmans Falls in Delaware Township. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
GETTING RESULTS: The inspector general will review whether Pennsylvania State Police troopers are following the law when initiating traffic stops and then searching vehicles. Gov. Tom Wolf made the request following an investigation by Spotlight PA and The Appeal.

ANOTHER CANNABIS CALL: Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman spent part of yesterday making yet another pitch to legalize recreational cannabis in Pennsylvania, KDKA reports, arguing that it would bring a needed financial boost while providing criminal justice reform. And once again Republicans who control the legislature said "nope." 

ELECTION CONCERNS: Politico has the scoop on a meeting between Wolf and Philadelphia Democrats, during which the governor told the city to get its election act together. When the polls closed in June, it took the city two weeks to count all of its votes — a problem Wolf said must be fixed.  

T-MINUS 59: As lawmakers in Harrisburg debate banning satellite drop boxes for voting, another Pennsylvania community is embracing them. The Times-Tribune reports that Lackawanna County's elections board approved using six this November. The area is a must-win part of the state for both Democrats and Republicans. 

LOCKED DOWN: All students at Gettysburg College were quarantined Wednesday after 24 additional students tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Gettysburg Times. They're not alone. Coronavirus outbreaks have been reported on several college campuses, including Temple Unversity, which has now canceled in-person fall classes. 

HIT THE ROAD: This Labor Day will likely be marked by a whole lot fewer parades, picnics, and concerts. Here's an alternative: a mini road trip to sites in Pennsylvania that are key to the state's labor history. 

TAKE 5: Novelist Jesmyn Ward's devastating essay for Vanity Fair on the death of her husband to a presumed case of COVID-19 is essential reading. Take some time this weekend to give it your attention.

BEES NEEDS: New research shows that bees are even more important to Pennsylvania crops than previously thought. It's a little late in the planting season, but Penn State Extension has a handy chart that shows which bees are active late into the fall and which types of plants they love. 

STEAL THIS IDEA: Do you ever get the feeling that you could just automate your answers to the one trillion Zoom meetings you attend every day? Well, this CNET reporter did just that and it went — pretty well!  

WHAT TO LISTEN TO IF ... You're mourning the end of summer: To me, no song captures the unique magic of the season as well as Samuel Barber's "Knoxville: Summer of 1915," adapted from the prologue to James Agee's "A Death in the Family" and performed here by the opera great Leontyne Price. Barber grew up in West Chester and attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. 
Unscramble and send your answer to newsletters@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out the winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Administrator 

Congrats to our daily winners: Patricia R., Lynne E., Brandie K., Karen W., Cory N., Doug R., and Scott Z.
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