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Pa. won't release data on COVID-19 in schools


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Sarah Anne Hughes
September 10, 2020
Pa. won't release COVID-19 data at the district level, ex-governor calls for election changes, and a confession from this writer. Hold on. It's Thursday. 
Between Aug. 28 and Sept. 3, 486 children between the ages of five and 18 tested positive for COVID-19, according to the state. But finding out if those cases are connected to a particular school isn't going to be easy. LNP reports that the state Department of Health does not plan on releasing to the public a breakdown of cases by school district. That instead leaves the job of informing parents and students to schools themselves. 

THE CONTEXT: As Spotlight PA previously reported, the health department was still deciding exactly how to handle this information in late August. Now the agency is citing the Disease Prevention and Control Law to justify its decision not to release the by-district data.

If that sounds familiar, you've been paying close attention. The state pointed to the same law to justify why it wasn't releasing the numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths inside individual nursing and personal care homes. The health department later reversed that decision and began releasing the information, though it's still incomplete

The state has repeatedly cited the decades-old law to block access to COVID-19 data and records. While the statute does include extensive confidentiality provisions, there are also exceptions that permit the administration to be more transparent — if it wants. What that means for school data? We'll have to wait and see. 

"I can’t give her what she wants and what she needs to be able to be successful.” —Tiffani Szabara, a single mom of four, on her first-grader's struggles with online learning. WHYY reports that parents are grappling with how to adapt to this new reality
POST IT: Thank you to Michelle Davis for submitting this stunning photo of Cowans Gap State Park in Fulton County. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
JUST DO IT: Former Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, is calling on the legislature to pass a bill that would let county officials begin processing mail-in ballots before Election Day. According to the York Daily Record, Ridge had a message for both Democrats and Republicans: "Inaction is not an option."

SWING AND A MISS: The state Senate gave final approval to a bill that would give local districts "exclusive authority" to decide whether to let students play sports this school year, PennLive reports. Gov. Tom Wolf plans to veto the measure.

DUBIOUS DONATION? Wolf and his wife, Frances, have contributed more than $11,000 to the congressional campaign of Auditor General Eugene DePasquale — who at the moment is investigating a controversial Wolf administration program. The Capital-Star asks: Is that a problem?

PACK YOUR BAGS: Washington & Jefferson College in Southwest Pennsylvania sent 26 students home for violating COVID-19 protocols, according to the Observer-Reporter. The move comes as colleges, including Penn State, report outbreaks. 

RING RING: Attorney General Josh Shapiro is investigating robocalls that intimidate voters by claiming mail-in ballot information will be shared with law enforcement and debt collectors, WGAL News 8 reports. Shapiro said the calls are a "desperate tactic to scare eligible Americans from participating in the election."

» Pennsylvania is a critical state in determining who wins the White House this year. The Philadelphia Inquirer just launched a weekly newsletter with exclusive reporting covering the entire state on issues that impact you, plus fact-checks, guides to voting, and more. Sign up to follow along at Inquirer.com/PA2020.

FLEXIBLE LEARNING: If you're at home with a little one, helping them learn digitally, my thoughts are with you. The Inquirer has put together a list of simple yoga moves to help your kids (and let's face it, you) insert some healthy movement into these screen-heavy days. 

CONFESSION TIME: A few years ago, my friends gifted me a Cameo video of Countess Luann from "The Real Housewives of New York" wishing me a happy birthday — and I loved it. If you're not familiar with the app, Wired UK has this smart piece on its origins and what it means to be a celebrity in 2020

DUTCH OVEN: While grounded inside my home, I've been flipping through my Lancaster County cookbook from 1971 that includes such recipes as "Shrimp Goop" and "Millionaire Salad." But the No. 1 recipe on my list to make is something called "Beer and Kraut Fudge Cake." Here's an online version of what I expect to be a weird delight.  

BRING IT ON: OK, I know it isn't even technically fall yet, but honestly I'm already thinking about winter. The cold! The snow! The sweaters! Happily for me, the 2021 Farmers’ Almanac is predicting a “seasonably cold, wet, and white” season in Pennsylvania.

WHAT TO LISTEN TO IF ... You need some bittersweet inspiration: I've been listening to a lot of Jim Croce, the Philadelphia-born singer-songwriter who died tragically 47 years ago this month. In particular, I've turned again and again to "I've Got a Name" to help get through these uncertain times. 
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.

Tuesday's answer: Emergency 

Congrats to our daily winners: Richard W., Susan D., Brandie K., Bruce B., Thomas B., Lynne E., Patricia R., Lynne M., Jill A.S., Chris W., Kenneth A., Danielle G., Claudia M., Debra Z., Stanley J., Karen W., Timothy P., Sherri A., Jay M., Jeffery S., John C., Ann and John., Dan M., Becca W., Joel S., Kelly K., Daniel G., and Randall T.
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