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Time running out on Pa. budget time bomb


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Jordan Wolman
November 6, 2020
A critical COVID-19 point, state budget part 2, long odds in court, how to get high in NJ, Friday the 13th, and a show in the night sky. Welcome to Tuesday.

As Pennsylvania continues to report thousands of new COVID-19 cases daily, the state's top health official is warning we're at a "critical point."

The percentage of tests administered coming back positive is currently 6.9% — public health experts say it should be 5% or lower — and nearly 40 counties are seeing a substantial level of community transmission, according to state health officials. (Our tracker shows a much higher positivity rate because of a difference in methodology, but the trend is the same.)

Health Secretary Rachel Levine on Monday pleaded with residents to wear masks and avoid group gatherings. “We all need to take steps to prevent the spread of this virus and if we don’t, we put ourselves, our families, and our communities and our health systems at risk," she said.

Levine also addressed a question many of you have been asking: If cases and hospitalizations are rising, why haven't the number of deaths followed? Is the virus somehow less deadly now? Levine said that's not the case.

It's still "very, very dangerous."

THE CONTEXT: After seeing a steady decline of cases throughout the summer, the state's COVID-19 cases began to rise quickly this fall, coinciding with the return of students to some college campuses.

There was some potentially hopeful news Monday: The pharmaceutical company Pfizer says early data on its COVID-19 vaccine shows it is 90% effective, though the claim has not been peer-reviewed. Once a vaccine is approved, Pennsylvania plans to prioritize health-care personnel, frontline and emergency workers, and those working with vulnerable populations.

While Levine and Gov. Tom Wolf temporarily shut down businesses and schools when daily cases were much lower this spring, Levine said closures are not in the plan — at the moment.

“We absolutely do not plan to have a general school closure as happened in spring, but we might continue to make adjustments to our recommendations to schools,” she said.


"What we heard from a lot of our constituents was that they do not like the Democratic message when it comes to police in Western Pennsylvania, and when it comes to jobs and energy. And that we need to do a lot of work to fix that.”

— U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, a Democrat from the Pittsburgh suburbs, on the challenges of managing a divided party

POST IT: Thank you, Charles B. (@sfcchb1946), for this shot of the sunrise in Cameron County. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
MORE LEGAL ACTION: The Trump campaign filed a new suit in federal court claiming — without evidence — Pennsylvania's top election official conspired against the president, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. These legal challenges, the Associated Press reports, face long odds. Meanwhile, election officials in Philadelphia say they have received death threats

COUNTDOWN: The clock is ticking on the partial state budget lawmakers passed in May in response to the pandemic. Much of the stop-gap budget expires at the end of November, meaning state lawmakers need to quickly finalize a spending and revenue plan for the last five months of the fiscal year, PennLive reports.

BUYING LIMITS: Remember the feeling of desperation that came with empty shelves at the grocery stores? Don't panic, but be aware: COVID-19 surges are forcing some stores to implement buying limits on certain products once again, The York Daily Record reports.

COVID AND COLLEGES: The University of Pittsburgh has issued a shelter-in-place order for students, TribLive reports, with a rise in cases linked to Halloween gatherings. Meanwhile, Mercyhurst University in Erie is going virtual after a surge in cases, according to Erie News Now.

NO TOKE OVER THE LINE: New Jersey voters may have voted to legalize recreational marijuana, but Pennsylvanians shouldn't light up in the Garden State just yet. The Morning Call reports the state's lawmakers still need to pass a number of regulatory laws after the new amendment takes effect Jan. 1, 2021. 
» THIS NEWS CAN'T WAIT: Support journalism that cuts through the nonsense. Join Spotlight PA today and your contribution will be TRIPLED.

Thank you to everyone who had their gifts TRIPLED yesterday: Mike B., Patricia W., Deborah L., Debra T., Ashleigh C., J. Breen, Mary Kay P., Stephen H., and Adam S.
A VERY SPECIAL HOLIDAY: Monday was National Scrapple Day, which any proud Pennsylvanian already knew. For those who need it, here's a quick refresher on this classic Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine.

LOOK TO THE SKY: Stargazers will have a field day this week. Be on the lookout for a supermoon and two meteor showers — including one expected to produce exceptionally bright "fireballs."

DANCE PARTY: Instead of the civil unrest some expected, Philadelphia hosted some major dance parties during election week. They may have seemed impromptu but really were the result of organizing and planning by Black-led organizations.

CARDIGAN DAY: This week is a Friday the 13th. But if you want to turn superstition on its head, this Friday is also World Kindness Day (we could ALL use more of that) and also King Friday the XIII's birthday. Yes, that's King Friday from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood." The day also happens to be the WQED's third annual Cardigan Day in honor of Rogers.

CHRISTMAS CREEP: It may only be Nov. 10 — weeks away from Thanksgiving! — but some ... Pennsylvania ... radio ...  stations are already playing Christmas music. As musical theater fans know, the only acceptable holiday song to play this early is Mame's "We Need a Little Christmas."
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. If you love the scrambler, make a donation and we'll TRIPLE it.

Yesterday's answer: Ingredients or tenderising

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Chip K., Susan D., Jeffery S., Dianne K., Joel S., George S., Ron P., Carol D., Lynne E., John C., and Heidi G.
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