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Parties, not voters, may pick next lieutenant governor


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
February 24, 2021
Vaccine progress, lieutenant governor, power dynamics, farming fight, censure choice, teacher shortage, and a very rare bird. It's Wednesday. 

Pennsylvania's shortage of second-round COVID-19 vaccines could be erased in three weeks' time, Gov. Tom Wolf announced yesterday. 

Wolf and Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said the state's federal vaccine allocation has increased slightly, meaning more doses would be available to ensure residents who got a first shot can get a second one within the recommended 42-day window. The shortage, attributed to providers mistakenly giving earmarked second doses out as first doses, threatened to delay as many as 100,000 shots in Pennsylvania. It's unclear how many might still be impacted.

Neither Wolf nor Beam could say when the state would next expand its pool of eligible recipients, but they touted progress in the push to get vaccines to elderly residents of the commonwealth's care homes. Specifically, Wolf pointed to more than 600 skilled nursing facilities that have received first- and second-round doses. He also said more than 315,000 shots have been administered in long-term care facilities through a partnership with CVS and Walgreens.

THE CONTEXT: Spotlight PA reported on the inherent tension in Pennsylvania's rush to offer vaccines to more of the population while ensuring doses for vulnerable senior-living facilities, all from a highly constrained and sought-after supply. 

Criticized for the breadth, pace, and clarity of its rollout plan, the Wolf administration frequently pointed to the whims of the federal supply chain. 

Now, days after the U.S. tallied its 500,000th coronavirus death, the Biden-Harris administration is upping vaccine shipments to states, many of which, like Pennsylvania, are looking to offset shortages and make up for lost time. 

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“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this conferee process became a race over who could be more Trump-like or be a bigger Trump supporter." 

—An unnamed source reacting to the Westmoreland County GOP's selection of "Trump House" creator Leslie Baum Rossi to run for a vacant House seat in the historically red 59th District
VACCINE UPDATE: The state Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee unanimously advanced a bill this week that would deploy Pennsylvania National Guard members to help administer vaccines in regions of the state lacking manpower and resources. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
POST IT: Thanks, @bigwillthang, for this sunset shot of the Delaware Water Gap. Send us your hidden gems (or snow pictures!), use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.

NO CHOICE: The Pennsylvania Senate is advancing a measure that would give the state’s political parties final say over candidates for lieutenant governor, taking power away from voters. It’s a necessary change to a process that has not always resulted in the best partnerships, Democratic and Republican lawmakers told Spotlight PA.

POWER SUPPLY: Looking for assurances that Pennsylvania's power grid can avoid the kind of devastating outages recently seen in Texas, state Rep. Stan Saylor (R., York) incorrectly blamed green energy for the Lone Star State's troubles, the Capital-Star reports. “Texas just went green and look what we’ve got,” Saylor told environmental regulators this week. PolitiFact vetted such claims and found they exaggerate reliance on renewable energy and its role in the failure of the grid there.

GROUND LEVEL: Climate change failed to earn a mention in Gov. Tom Wolf's latest budget address, but it's impacting Pennsylvania in the form of more extreme weather events, experts say. Some farmers in Pennsylvania, the fifth-largest carbon emitter in the country, are working to offset greenhouse emissions with techniques that draw the gases from the air and trap them safely underground. But, as StateImpact reports, not everyone is convinced the solution is big enough

CENSURE CALL: Pennsylvania Republican Party committee members expect they will decide today on a formal censuring of U.S. Sen Pat Toomey for his pro-impeachment vote, the Associated Press reports. It's a step some county-level GOP groups have already taken. And while the symbolic gesture is unlikely to have much of an impact on the outgoing Allentown-based senator, even if taken up by the state party, the debate alone confirms Trump's post-presidency pull over the party remains palpable

TEACHER SHORTAGE: Educators predicted that the pandemic would heighten the effects of an ongoing shortage of teachers and substitutes in Pennsylvania. Months later, they say they've largely been proven right, TribLIVE reports. While hybrid and remote learning models offered more flexibility, quarantines and extended absences have meant greater disruptions to faculty and students. All of this comes amid a 74% drop in the number of teaching certificates issued in Pennsylvania over the past eight years.

KEEP TALKING: Lingwei Cheng was fully awake when UPMC doctors performed surgery on her brain in November. The post-doctoral student at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University was asked questions in English and Chinese to make sure surgeons didn't impact her speech while removing a malformation from the part of the brain that controls it. “There’s no room for error,” Cheng's surgeons told the Post-Gazette. “Every millimeter counts.”

THE BIRDS: Pittsburgh's famed bald eagles are having a week. Days after a raccoon climbed 80 feet up to their nest full of eggs, one of the eagles was dive-bombed by an owl and knocked from a perch to the ground below, KDKA-TV reports. The eagle seemed fine after, and the whole ordeal was caught on camera, once again. 

'LIQUID TO LIPS': Billed as Pennsylvania's first and only fully Black-owned distillery, Allentown's Mishka Premium Vodka is growing quickly. But owner Russell Fletcher told The Morning Call that getting to this point meant overcoming doubts and skepticism about his product and abilities, often from within the industry itself. 

DANCE, DANCE: The Philadelphia Burlesque Academy has two classes left in its five-part, virtual series on the art form. The classes are happening tonight and Saturday and will be free for BIPOC individuals. “The academy is always trying to make sure that we’re passing the mic in terms of who has the opportunity to provide knowledge and wisdom," performer Sophie Sucre told the Philadelphia Tribune.

RARE FIND: The half-male, half-female cardinal photographed in Warren County on Saturday is as visually appealing as it is rare. Known as a bilateral gynandromorph, the bird is red like a male cardinal on one side and brownish white like a female on the other. Photographer Jamie Hill told the Erie Times-News finding it was the thrill of a lifetime. 
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: Endearment

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Theodore W., Neal W., Jessica K., Michael P., Susan D., Anna T., Kevin H., David I., Irene R., Dixie S., Bette G., Jill G., Dianne K., Beth T., Dennis M., Joel S., Bob R., Karen W., George S., Suzanne S., Christopher R., Bruce B., Ron P., Patricia R., Tom M., Lance L., Christine M., Paul H., Michele K., Donna W., Bill C., David W., and Nancy S.
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