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Vaccine doses could be delayed for 100K in Pa.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
February 18, 2021
Vaccine delays, swing votes, detention risks, Pittsburgh petitions, mystery illness, surprise taxes, and questionable candy. Welcome to Thursday.

Time-sensitive COVID-19 vaccines could be delayed for scores of Pennsylvania residents after some providers inadvertently gave dedicated second-round shots to first-timers.

Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam made the announcement yesterday and called it a “perfect storm of circumstances," per The Morning Call. 

Barry Ciccocioppo, the Department of Health’s COVID-19 press secretary, told The Philadelphia Inquirer state officials are still working to figure out how it happened and how many providers made the mistake. 

As many as 100,000 Pennsylvanians could have their first- and second-dose appointments delayed over the next three weeks as a result.

But Beam sought to assure people in the latter group that second-round doses would still be administered within 42 days of their first, as recommended by the CDC. A newly formed joint task force with the legislature has made that a focus, she added.

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania lags much of the nation on metrics like the number of vaccine doses administered per 100,000 people and the percentage of on-hand doses already put into arms. 

Officials say comparisons like these are inherently unfair, given the state's aging population, the rapid expansion of the eligible pool here, and the vagaries of the federal supply chain. 

But frustration has continued to mount both inside the Capitol and across the state, with critics warning that the current pace of vaccine distribution is nowhere near quick enough. Yesterday's revelation that thousands of doses had been misallocated, likely over a period of weeks, did nothing to allay those concerns.

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"People who really need marijuana to function because of their disabilities and health conditions are stuck in a difficult situation."

—Jamie Gullen, a supervising attorney with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia’s employment unit, on medical marijuana patients' employment rights in Pennsylvania 
VACCINE UPDATE: Johnson & Johnson's new single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is expected to get regulatory clearance later this month, but the amount that will be ready to ship and use when that happens is likely to fall well short of the levels needed to meet demand. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
POST IT: Thank you, @jennalyn_photography, for this glowing shot of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia. Send us your hidden gems (or snow pictures!) using the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
SWING VOTE: Fifteen-thousand Pennsylvania Republicans have left the state party in the weeks since the U.S. Capitol insurrection. Roughly 9,000 switched to a third party or became independents, and about 6,000 became Democrats, Department of State data show. But WITF reports on new research that finds the numbers are fairly typical and unlikely to sway upcoming elections.

AT RISK: Attorneys warn that 18 medically vulnerable immigrants in Pennsylvania are facing life-threatening COVID-19 risks if the Biden administration allows them to be taken back into custody, WHYY reports. Last year, a federal judge ordered the release of more than a dozen detainees with conditions like asthma and diabetes, allowing them to fight their immigration cases outside confinement. That could now change, and advocates want the Biden administration to intervene.

BALLOT QUESTIONS: Inspired by the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and jail issues closer to home, Allegheny County activists are pushing to get ballot questions about solitary confinement and no-knock search warrants in front of primary voters this May. Thousands of signatures have already been collected, WESA reports, and while Pittsburgh officials say they’ve informally abandoned no-knock warrants already, organizers behind the push say it's important that voters get a say.

MEDICAL MYSTERY: It took visits to three different Pennsylvania hospitals, a battery of cancer tests, and an emergency appendectomy before doctors realized what was wrong with 9-year-old Tyler Ruf. And it wasn't his appendix or his swollen lymph nodes, as initially believed: It was inflammation linked to COVID-19. PennLive reports on the disorder afflicting some children who exhibit no traditional coronavirus symptoms

PSA: Unemployment compensation is not tax-exempt. While Pennsylvania doesn't levy taxes on unemployment income, the federal government does. Amanda McCarty, of Bird-in-Hand, found this out the hard way, telling the Post-Gazette she owes the IRS $2,000 in federal taxes after collecting 11 months of unemployment checks. “I feel like this is another impending disaster,” she added.
ON A ROLL: Meet Cohen Thompson, a Philadelphia medical worker, former Canadian league basketball player, and founder of the roller skate-focused nonprofit Skate University. “Rollerskating has got me off of the streets and kept my mind on just being a kid,” Thompson told AL DÍA News. “I want to do the same for other kids.”

ROLL ME OVER: It's been a week of eating fasnachts and paczki and king cake, and now it's time for fried fish <hiccups>. The Lenten season equals fish fry season in Pennsylvania, but TribLIVE reports this year's will look very different, with pandemic-related adjustments being made to ensure a vital revenue stream for volunteer fire departments and other entities doesn't dry up completely.

PUT SOME ICE ON IT: The commonwealth is a frozen tundra these days, but Lititz is making the most of it with a pandemic-safe version of its annual ice sculpture festival. Fire & Ice is out this year, and it's been replaced by the socially distant and less pyrotechnic-heavy Lititz Ice Walk. LancasterOnline has video of the ice carvers warming up. The event runs through Saturday.

BE THE HELPERS: The combination pandemic-recession-nationwide reckoning with racism has touched off a surge of makeshift peer support organizations, aka "mutual aid" groups, in Philadelphia. "Literally anyone can go to the grocery store, buy food, put it on a table in front of their house and say, 'Here you go,'" Katie Briggs, cofounder of The West Philly Bunny Hop mutual aid project, told Billy Penn. “It doesn’t take more than that.”

LOW BAR: Hershey is launching lines of organic and sugar-free candy that are destined to be either the greatest thing since sliced bread or the last thing left in the bowl every Halloween. PennLive says the Pennsylvania-based chocolatier will be rolling out new offerings in the coming weeks and months.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Subdivision 

Congrats to our daily winners: Cathy S., John H., Craig E., Patricia R., David W., Christopher R., Carol D., Hugh B., Suzanne S., Anne R., Chris M., Dixie S., Donna W., George S., Dianne K., Joel S., Mary Ellen T., Bill C., Tish M., Ron P., Nichole H., Christine M., Karen W., Carolyn T., Kim C., Dan E., Jill G.., Irene R., Dennis M., John C., Neal W., Janet T., Gregory G., David I., Art W., Susan D., Jessica K., and Craig W.
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