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Pa. GOP to take ballot fight to U.S. Supreme Court


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Jordan Wolman
September 23, 2020
A new COVID-19 tracing app, a brewing election court fight, no raises for lawmakers, and a stunning view of the Milky Way. Welcome to Wednesday. 
Yes, there's now an app for that.

The state has official launched COVID Alert PA, which will tell people who download it if they've been in close contact with another app user who has tested positive. Once an individual gets the notification, they will also receive information from the Department of Health about quarantining, testing, and how to seek medical help.

During a news conference in Philadelphia, Gov. Tom Wolf and other officials urged residents to download the app and stressed that it keeps users anonymous. "This technology supports our traditional contact tracing efforts by notifying more people at a faster rate," Wolf said.

CONTEXT: The app is the product of a $1.9 million contract between Pennsylvania and the Ireland-based software developer NearForm Ltd. Ireland launched its contact-tracing app on July 7, and within a week it had 1.3 million downloads — roughly 37% of the country's adult population, according to Business Insider. 

Until now, Pennsylvania has relied on traditional contact tracing — nurses or others who call people who have tested positive and ask them about their recent contacts, so they can then call those people and alert them. 

As Spotlight PA previously reported, "this kind of technology relies on a large number of people downloading an app and consistently carrying their smartphones." Translation: to be effective, lots of people need to use it. 

“Now that we need help from the United States, Puerto Ricans are dirty and poor."

–– Ramón Diaz, one of thousands who moved from Puerto Rico to Lancaster after Hurricane Maria in 2017, and who are now eager to vote in a critical swing state after feeling let down by President Donald Trump
POST IT: It's officially fall! Thank you @visualsofcaitlyn for this stunning photo of Bethlehem. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
CH-CH-CHANGES? When lawmakers draw Pennsylvania's new congressional and legislative maps in 2021, they may face new restrictions. Spotlight PA reports a bill to restrict gerrymandering and increase transparency is making its way through the state Senate. An effort to eliminate lawmakers from the process altogether ran out of time.

STICKMAN, ROUND 2: The federal judge who found some of Gov. Tom Wolf's coronavirus mitigation mandates unconstitutional has denied the governor's request to stay the decision pending appeal, The Morning Call reports. For now, the state cannot enforce limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings, but many think Wolf will ultimately prevail.

MORE COURT FIGHTS: State Republican leaders intend to appeal a state Supreme Court decision that extended Pennsylvania's deadline to receive mail-in ballots to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Penn Capital-Star. It's another sign that it's unlikely Wolf and the legislature will agree on any further election reforms.

TOWN, GOWN & COVID-19: About 1,000 Kutztown University students have left campus after a an outbreak, according to the Reading Eagle. WHYY reports that the cases have strained the relationship between the college and the town around it.

NOT THIS YEAR, FOLKS: The legislature gave final passage to a bill that would freeze lawmaker salaries through 2021, and Wolf is expected to sign it. The measure would also put a hold on raises for judges and some top executive branch officials as well. 
IT'S HERE: It's officially fall. We've been hyping it up for some time, and the weather has spoken for itself, but now the calendar backs us up. With darker days ahead, here's a guide for how to handle the changing seasons. While we're at it, here's another recommendation of where to leaf peep.

DON'T SWEAT IT: It's been a relief for many not to have to dress up for the office every day. But when we must, a Pitt grad is on a quest to make the world's most comfortable dress shirt. And he's trying to do it in an eco-friendly way, too. 

LAB BREWS: What better way to engage college students in a remote microbiology class than to meet them halfway — and brew some beer. Unfortunately, early reviews are that it doesn't taste very good at all, so here's a list of the state's microbreweries to find something a bit more satisfying.

LOOKING UP: On these cooler nights, I can't help but look up and enjoy the night sky. Check out this amazing photo of the Milky Way taken in the Pennsylvania Wilds. If you've never tried them, there are a number of night sky apps that show you in real-time what you're seeing

WHAT TO READ IF ... You want to pitch in:
While Pennsylvania has made progress, some counties are still looking for poll workers. If you're searching for a way to channel your Election Day energy in a positive direction, here's how to sign up in Pennsylvania and the rest of the state
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out the winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.
T U X E S I Q E I 

Yesterday's answer: Ambiguity

Congrats to our daily winners: 
George D., Chris W., Brandie K., Art W., Chip K., John C., Steve D., Michael S., Joan S., Lynne E., Jill A.S., Thomas B., Kaye L., Heidi G., Dom A., Elijah R., Tracey C., Gail H., Kim C., Patricia R., Alex L., Joel S., Daniel G., Jackie G., Dianne K., Chris M., Jeffery S., Irene R., Jeff F., Tish M., Carol D., Jay M., Kathleen M., Theodore W., Evelyn S., David W., and Karen W.
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