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Pa.'s ban on indoor dining ends Monday

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Joseph Darius Jaafari
December 31, 2020
Indoor dining returns, more school police, higher costs on toll roads, and what to do tonight for New Year's Eve. Peace out, 2020! We'll be back Monday.
WE'RE SO CLOSE: We need to raise just $2,117 by midnight to unlock a huge $10,000 matching grant for Spotlight PA's essential journalism. This is the final stretch. Become a member now and your gift of any amount will be DOUBLED.

As expected, Gov. Tom Wolf will lift temporary COVID-19 restrictions, including a ban on indoor dining and school sports, on Monday, Spotlight PA reports.

“This does not mean we are out of the woods, not by any means,” Wolf said Wednesday. The governor and Health Secretary Rachel Levine pressed the need for residents to continue avoiding unnecessary travel and social gatherings.

Pennsylvania is still seeing record-high coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across the state. And with an expected surge from the December holidays and New Year celebrations, health-care systems are increasingly worried about staffing shortages. 

THE CONTEXT: Wolf said he enacted the mitigation efforts in December to “keep our hospitals and health-care workers from becoming overwhelmed." Some are still facing that scenario.

State data show that as of Wednesday, nearly a third of hospitals in the southwest and southeast parts of the state are anticipating staffing shortages. In the south-central region, 36.4% of hospitals expect to reach a “crisis” level within the next week.

Wolf's announcement Wednesday was met by calls from the restaurant and bar industry for grants specifically for eateries and watering holes. The state has ordered dozens of these businesses to close for defying Wolf's order.


"This time my bail was set at $10,000, meaning I had to pay $1,000 for my freedom. It might as well have been $10 million."

— Dante Jones, of Philadelphia, on how homelessness colored his way of interacting with and trusting the police

POST IT: A flashback to summer at McConnells Mill State Park in Lawrence County. Thanks, @wvubush, for tagging us!  Send us your hidden gems use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
FACT CHECK: No, there were not more votes in Pennsylvania than voters, as state Rep. Frank Ryan claimed this week. The Associated Press fact-checked the claim and found the lawmaker relied on incomplete data to make the accusation.

OBJECTION: A U.S. senator from Missouri plans to object when Congress moves to certify the electoral college vote next week, NPR reports. "I cannot vote to certify ... without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws," Sen. Josh Hawley said in a statement. As Spotlight PA previously reported, some state Republican lawmakers including leadership in the House want Congress to reject the state's electors for Joe Biden.

'A CLEAR DISPARITY': Between 2015 to 2019, the total number of school police and resource officers in Allegheny County grew from 72 to 115, WESA reports. The police-to-student cost ratio was most notable in schools with more students of color.

THOSE LOST: LNP | Lancaster Online is memorializing the 700 people who have died of COVID-19 in Lancaster County since the start of the pandemic. They include a 47-year-old counselor, a 95-year-old WWII veteran, and a 58-year-old Matchbox car collector. Dozens of news outlets have attempted to capture the growing number of people lost to the virus, from the New York Times on its front page to The City's online tribute page

TOLL HIKE: Drivers who use the Pennsylvania Turnpike without an E-ZPass are looking at a 56% increase for the most common toll, The Morning Call reports. Cash carriers are typically charged slightly more for using the toll roads, but an increase this large is giving some drivers road rage. One man the paper spoke to called it "a shameless opportunistic money grab."
» ONLY 12 HOURS LEFT: We need to raise $2,117 in the next 12 hours to unlock a $10,000 matching gift from The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. From redistricting to the coronavirus, criminal justice to the legislature, there's a lot of ground for us to cover in 2021. Help keep Spotlight PA strong. 

Join now and contributions of any amount will be DOUBLED. Thank you to the 48 people who donated Wednesday. Let's keep up the momentum.

CANCEL CULTURE: New Year's Eve is canceled this year (for good reason). But if you're still looking for some (safe) fun, there will be fireworks celebrations in central Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh. For those of you in the Lehigh Valley, The Morning Call recommends watching the annual Peep drop virtually and making that 2021 resolution list from home. Top of my list? Fit back into my jeans. 

(NOT SO) FULL OF BOLOGNA: In a state that drops a lot of odd things on New Year's Eve, Lebanon County's annual bologna drop might be the weirdest. This, when I come from Arizona, where we used to dip a massive tortilla chip into a vat of communal salsa ... and then ate it. Those were dark, pre-COVID-19 times. 

CHEERS: Are you planning to sip something special to say "see ya" to 2020? Your drink of choice is likely champagne, per this very scientific survey, but it could also be Fireball whiskey, Tito's vodka, or cheap wine, per the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's sales records. No judgment here.

FINAL COUNTDOWN: Maybe your celebration also involves some TV? The extremely talented Billy Porter, a native of Pittsburgh, is co-hosting the very elegantly named “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.”

BUTTER UP: No, there won't be an official butter sculpture during next year's virtual Farm Show. Instead, the state is asking creative Pennsylvanians with five pounds of butter, some wire, and a dream to make their own creations. The winners will get grocery gift cards and also really weird bragging rights.

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: Petroleum

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., George S., David I., Jill G., Bette G., Irene R., Bob R., Susan D., Deb N., Dianne K., Kim C., Ron P., John C., Joel S., Carol D., Tracey C., Karen W., Heidi B., Jeffery S., Lance L., and Dennis and Rose E. 
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