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Officials urge Pa. colleges to delay second semester

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Your Postmaster: Yaasmeen Piper
December 17, 2020
Postponing second semester, prison lockdowns, restaurants defying orders, virtual Nutcracker, and spiders in space. Throw some salt, it's Thursday.

While grade schools across the state toe the line between in-person and virtual classes, the state Health and Education departments are urging colleges to postpone the return of students in January, as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to climb, PennLive reports. 

The departments want them to utilize online-only instruction, but emphasized that these are recommendations, not mandates. Health officials cite models that project hospitalizations and deaths from coronavirus cases may not peak until January and February.

“Colleges and universities play a critical role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and creating safe learning environments for students,” Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega said. “By delaying students’ return to campus, our institutions of higher learning can help slow the spread of the virus, help businesses to remain open, and protect regional health care systems.”

THE CONTEXT: Coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths are at all-time highs in Pennsylvania as the pandemic rages with little sign of slowing down. State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine and other health care officials are concerned about hospital staffing and having enough bed space. 

As a result, Gov. Tom Wolf has imposed new COVID-19 restrictions and urged residents and universities to limit in-person interaction.

This isn't the first time state officials have called on colleges and universities to help slow the spread of the virus. Last month, Wolf urged students to get tested for COVID-19 before returning home for the holidays, and asked colleges and universities to finish their semester remotely.

Many institutions did follow suit, and had students complete finals virtually.   


“There’s a societal belief that poor people can’t spend money the right way, and I think it’s important to start questioning that assumption."

— Gregory Heller, an official with a Philadelphia nonprofit group, on why federal aid isn't given directly to tenants in need

POST IT: Thanks Liz D., for this snowy shot of Monroe County. Send us your hidden gems (or your snow photos!), use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
LOCKDOWN: The Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association are calling on Wolf to lock down the state’s prisons in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in facilities, the Pennsylvania Capital-Star reports. A union official said the system is on the verge of being overrun by the virus, and a lockdown is the best way to stop the spread. 

UNWELCOME GUESTS: The Department of Agriculture said it will drop in on restaurants refusing to comply with a ban on indoor dining, warning they will be shut down and face $300 fines for every day they are in violation, according the Philadelphia Inquirer. Judging by the growing list on Facebook, the department has its work cut out for it.

GETTING CREATIVE: An Erie hotel restaurant is getting creative after Gov. Tom Wolf's shutdown of indoor dining, foregoing its dining room but renting empty hotel rooms on a short-term basis and serving meals to people there, the Tribune News Service reports.

SPEED BUMPS TO NORMALCY: Pennsylvania teachers, students, and parents see promise with the COVID-19 vaccine en route, but there are still some unanswered questions, WESA reports. Keystone Crossroads spoke to experts on what to expect on what to expect with the vaccine and education.

AVENUES FOR TRUST: TribLIVE reports that the Trump administration is turning to historically Black colleges and churches to help ease fears among these communities about a COVID-19 vaccine. Will it work? Many Black Americans don't trust the healthcare system, not least because of the 40-year Tuskegee experiment.
» HELP SUSTAIN SPOTLIGHT PA IN 2021: Support essential local journalism by becoming a member now. Any amount makes a difference.

SNOW DAYS: One of my favorite things about having snow days as a kid was a day off from school, but PennLive reports that remote learning may have ended them for some school districts. But the sledding hill calls...

SNUGGLE UP: Hot chocolate, cookies, and binge watching. The Morning Call has some of the best movies and shows to watch this week on Netflix

TAKE A BOW: The Pennsylvania Ballet won’t be able to perform their rendition of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” in person, but the show lives on... line. You can stream the magical performance from now until Dec. 25.

SINGING IN THE SNOW: For many, December is one of the most beautiful months of the year, a phenomenon substantiated by many musicians. They'll tell you why in this list of the 80 best songs about December.

OUT THERE: Spiders can spin webs in space. No, I don’t know what to do with this information either. But as we continue to be perplexed by 2020, the achievements of spiders seem strangely notable.

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. Love the scrambler? Make a donation to help us end 2020 strong.


Yesterday's answer: Silhouette 

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Bob R., David I., Steven D., Edward M., Tracey C., Bill C., Gail H., John C., Lynne E., Carol D., Dianne K., Kathleen M., Susan D., Ray H., George S., Joan S., and Lynne P. 
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