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Missing nursing home data follows Levine to Washington


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
February 26, 2021
Questioning Levine, empty equity, Capitol charges, hockey move, redistricting army, unhoused students, and a wild goose. TGIF.
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Dr. Rachel Levine's confirmation hearing before Capitol Hill lawmakers yesterday included a transphobic exchange with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and questions about nursing home data discrepancies Spotlight PA highlighted during Levine's time as Pennsylvania's health secretary.

Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) cited that reporting in pressing Levine on the accuracy of the state's nursing home coronavirus case and death counts

In response, Levine — now tapped as President Joe Biden's assistant health secretary — blamed lags in Pennsylvania's electronic death reporting system, or EDRS, and said slow uploads to that system explained why the data appeared incomplete. But that's not what Spotlight PA's reporting revealed.

THE CONTEXT: Facilities contacted by Spotlight PA in the fall said they were meeting reporting requirements but could not explain why their data was not included in the state’s weekly reports. Others were frustrated, saying they correctly reported data that was still showing up with errors in public-facing documents.

These problems do not appear to have been corrected. A Feb. 17 report lists 139 facilities that are reporting “no data,” and data is missing for 145 facilities on Feb. 23.


"I can talk about the outcome, and there was no outcome. We’re waiting to vote."

—Joe DiSarro, a Pennsylvania Republican Party Committee member, on a marathon meeting on the possible censure of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey
VACCINE UPDATE: Pfizer is studying what a third COVID-19 vaccine dose might do to further boost the body's immune response and better protect against variants. Meanwhile, state officials are defending a $11.5 million consulting contract. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
POST IT: A snowy throwback shot of the Historic Waynesborough museum. Thanks, @amc88.photos. Send us your hidden gems (or snow pictures!), use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.

MISSING DATA: Promising to correct the failures of the not-so-distant past, Pennsylvania's new $145 million round of COVID-19 relief grants for small hospitality businesses includes measures meant to ensure more low-income and minority owners get a share. But whether those measures work as intended will be difficult to prove. That's because the legislature failed to give the Wolf administration the authority to collect data on race or ethnicity from applicants, Spotlight PA reports, rendering the success of the equity push largely unknowable.

CAPITOL CHARGES: A Delco man who texted a former girlfriend from the U.S. Capitol siege has been arrested after she forwarded that evidence to law enforcement. Richard Michetti of Ridley Park was charged Tuesday and released on unsecured bail, the Delaware County Daily Times reports. Federal authorities also unsealed a complaint alleging a Bucks County woman breached the first barriers with a fellow local who assaulted an officer, per the Bucks County Courier Times. 

POWER PLAY: Generous financial incentives are now available for the Pittsburgh Penguins' controversial, $1 billion development project in the Lower Hill thanks to an adjusted census tract that moves the project into a federal tax-advantage zone. This is no coincidence. The Penguins were among organizations nationwide that lobbied the Trump administration to expand so-called Opportunity Zones to include their projects. Bloomberg News explains how a program meant to benefit poor communities actually wound up benefiting wealthy developers instead.

MAPMAKERS: Gerrymandering opponents are recruiting "an army" of volunteers as Pennsylvania gears up for another round of redistricting, The Morning Call reports. Nearly 700 people tuned in for a recent Zoom meeting where fair district advocates spelled out the stakes as Pennsylvania prepares to redraw its political maps with new census data. That data has been delayed this year, and, as Spotlight PA reported, that could affect transparency and next year's primary.

STRUGGLING STUDENTS: More than 31,000 K-12 students in Pennsylvania experienced homelessness in 2018-19, new research finds. A report by a nonprofit educational research organization shows that Pennsylvania schools under-identify the number of students facing homelessness. It also warns that the pandemic is likely to make matters worse, KDKA-TV reports.


WILD GOOSE CHASE: "Where are the snow geese at Middle Creek?" The question posed by that LancasterOnline headline piqued our curiosity. The article even more so. Turns out snow geese aren't good with snow ... leading to obvious questions about branding but also smaller-than-normal turnouts in south-central Pennsylvania this season.

GOOD BOOKS: Just across the river from Center City Philadelphia, Danielle Jackson is Camden, New Jersey's "Hoodbrarian,” bringing books, literacy, and resources to a community with an ever-shrinking supply of libraries. “I looked up one day and all of the libraries were closed. We went from having about 10 to having two,” she told WHYY.

BRAWLED EAGLES: Does an eagle fight make a sound if no one's around to hear it? We don't know, but a Pennsylvania Game Commission trail cam proves it makes an incredible photo

'THE SHOE GUY': Tony “The Shoe Guy” Bonczewski, a gregarious fixture in downtown Wilkes-Barre for nearly half a century, died this week, just days after retiring. “He did what he loved everyday," office worker Beth Distasio told The Citizens' Voice.

FRYDAY: In a matter of hours, forearm-length cuts of white fish will be dropped into deep fryers across this great state. PennLive has a definitive list of where they'll be served up in central Pa. For those of you farther west, this detailed and customizable map is all the help you'll need.

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: Microscope

Congrats to our daily winners: Mary Ellen T., Craig W., John H., Jessica K., Dixie S., Ron S., Susan D., David I., Bill C., Irene R., Bette G., Jill G., Kim C., Becky C., Christopher R., Keith F., George S., Anna T., Dennis M., William M., Mark O., Karen W., Tish M., Patricia R., David W., Suzanne S., Daniel M., Elvino M., Nancy S., Dianne K., Sharon L., Joel S., Beth T., Cindy, Craig E., Ron P., and Gloria G.
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