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Wolf loosens restaurant restrictions, draws fire


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Joseph Darius Jaafari
September 9, 2020
Restaurants get a reprieve, local GOP chair denies racism exists, and the live stream you need right now. Deep breath. It's Wednesday. 
In just two weeks, restaurants in Pennsylvania will be able to increase indoor capacity to 50%, the Wolf administration announced Tuesday. Restaurant owners will have to agree to certain requirements, like mandating masks, sending the state details on maximum occupancy, and "self-certifying" the information is true — or face the consequences. Restaurants that complete the process will be added to an online database for the public to review. 

THE CONTEXT: For restaurant owners, the governor's order is a welcome respite from months of dwindling food sales due to limited seating. The administration decreased maximum capacity to 25% in July at the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, putting it at odds with the restaurant industry. Observers believe 50% is the minimum capacity needed to be viable, according the The Inquirer.

Republicans who control the legislature immediately seized on the timing of the announcement, which came shortly before a Senate committee hearing on a bill with the same aim. The administration also did not explain why it chose 50%, as opposed to another percentage, though a spokesperson told Spotlight PA the decision was based "on science and facts."

At a press conference, Wolf defended the decision to lower restaurant capacity to 25%. "I chose not to ignore reality in terms of recognizing that bars and restaurants are places where that virus can ultimately do some bad things,” he said. “But I also recognize that we also have a financial obligation to that industry.”

"Everyone thinks that Pennsylvania is a pretty progressive state, [but] it really is a racist state." —Donna Fann-Boyle, a parent of Cherokee descent who is fighting to make the Neshaminy School District drop its racist nickname. A Pennsylvania Youth Congress report found that more than 55,000 Pa. students go to schools with Native American mascots
POST IT: Thanks to Laurie Powell, who sent us this relaxing shot of Shawnee Lake in Napier Township. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
CAPITOL QUARANTINE: After an employee at the Capitol tested positive for the coronavirus, staffers in charge of record-keeping for the Senate were told to quarantine, the Capital-Star reports. Despite the positive test, senators are scheduled to continue meeting this week.

RACE AND POLITICS: The chair of York County's Republican committee said last week that anyone who believes in systemic racism is anti-American, according to the York Dispatch. The statement came after U.S. Rep. Scott Perry said "systemic racism isn't real, George Floyd's death was more than what it seemed, and the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police are sensationalized."

DATA PRIVACY: A state senator wants to make sure that people who sign up to use Pennsylvania's contact tracing app "know exactly what they are consenting to," ABC 27 reports. As Spotlight PA previously reported, the state is working with an Irish company with a solid track record

TRUMP'S EDGE: Former Vice President Joe Biden may have a slight advantage over President Donald Trump in national polls, but Pennsylvania leans slightly more toward Trump than the country overall. It's toss-up status means Pennsylvania could be the deciding state in the coming election, The Inquirer reports. 

PROTESTS IN PGH: In Pittsburgh, a few protesters responded in violence after someone with a bike rode through a crowd screaming racist rhetoric. TribLIVE reports the resulting attack got the attention of Trump, who didn't denounce the racist calls but instead attacked the protesters "anarchists."

'LGBTQ PEOPLE ARE HERE': The "Today" show profiled Health Secretary Rachel Levine, one of the few openly transgender public officials in the U.S. Levine has been the subject of numerous transphobic attacks, though she told the TV news outlet she's gotten "wonderful ... positive responses" from the LGBTQ community. 

A WEDNESDAY LONG READ: If you've heard anything about the Spanish island of Ibiza, you likely know it by its music, fashion, drug, or food scene. But have you heard about the snake scene? In the early 2000s, snakes appeared for the first time out of nowhere (read: humans brought them). Now, for better or worse, they're a local pastime.

PEAK PEEPING: It's that time of year (almost) when the leaves start to change color, and it's looking like a solid season is ahead of us. If you're searching for a local destination, USA Today recommends the Laurel Highlands in the west and the Poconos in Northeast Pennsylvania. 

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: "For the love of God, stop burning things down to tell everyone about your kid’s penis. No one cares but you.” So says the woman who created gender reveal parties, two of which have caused massive fires and millions of dollars in damage.

WHAT TO WATCH IF ... You need to unwind: Great news for people who are stuck at home in a city and desperately need to de-stress: The Pennsylvania Game Commission's elk cam is live once again. Pro tip from PennLive — the best time to watch is the late afternoon.
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