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Teachers to get vaccine as Pa. eyes school reopenings


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
March 4, 2021
Teacher vaccines, siege suspects, leaked memo, eviction fears, trans deaths, bag bans, and rescuing a mothership in Germantown. It's Thursday. 

Pennsylvania's first shipment of Johnson & Johnson's new COVID-19 vaccine has officially been earmarked for school teachers and staff, Gov. Tom Wolf said yesterday, adding that if all goes to plan, the bulk of educators could be "back to work by the end of the month."

The state expects to receive 94,000 doses of the single-shot vaccine in the coming days, the Associated Press reports, with all of those doses being set aside for vaccinations of teachers and support staff. The shots could begin as soon as next week at more than two dozen sites statewide. The Pennsylvania National Guard is being called up to help.

Wolf is treating the effort as separate from the state's ongoing vaccination rollout and said it will not slow down the vaccination timetable for Pennsylvanians in the Phase 1A group.

THE CONTEXT: Yesterday's announcement comes amid mounting pressure to reopen schools for in-person classes and with unions urging vaccinations of teachers before that happens. 

It also follows Wolf's easing of gathering rules and lifting of travel restrictions on Monday, which the governor tied to Pennsylvania's growing vaccine supply and falling COVID-19 case numbers. 

Acting Pennsylvania Education Secretary Noe Ortega welcomed the vaccine allocation for educators, telling a Senate hearing yesterday, "This will help us accelerate learning and begin to recover what has been a loss in terms of learning."


"Multiple policy changes at the local, state, and federal level are needed to combat this problem."

—The authors of a Penn Environment study that found microplastics in 53 Pennsylvania waterways
VACCINE UPDATE: Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Wednesday allowing the Pennsylvania National Guard to operate regional COVID-19 vaccine sites across the state. “This service will help further expedite getting vaccine to Pennsylvanians across the state,” Wolf added. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
POST IT: What may seem like a frozen pig snout is actually deer tracks photographed in Red Lion. Thanks, Leslie M.! Send us your hidden gems (or snow pictures!), use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.

SIEGE SUSPECTS: The largest share of Pennsylvania's record-setting number of U.S. Capitol siege arrests belongs to bucolic Bucks County, Philly Mag reports. The county claims four of the state's 26 total insurrection defendants and is tied with Ohio’s Franklin County and Los Angeles County for the most arrests by county nationwide. Two hours west, Bellingcat reports on new video evidence linking a Harrisburg-area woman charged with stealing Nancy Pelosi's laptop to violent white supremacist ideology.

STOP-AND-FRISK: A leaked memo suggests Philadelphia police have been skirting stop-and-frisk scrutiny by conducting more car stops and issuing more code-violation notices, The Inquirer reports. The February memo, written by Third Police District Capt. Brian Hartzell, comes to light amid continued efforts to curb the controversial practice in Philadelphia and the city's attempts to reduce the same sort of traffic stops the memo encourages.

EVICTION FREEZE: Pittsburgh City Council has passed a citywide eviction moratorium that bans landlords from evicting tenants for unpaid rent due to pandemic-related income loss or increased medical expenses, the Post-Gazette reports. A statewide eviction moratorium expired last year and a federal moratorium due to expire on March 31 is being challenged in court as we speak

TRANS DEATHS: Three trans people of color were killed in western Pennsylvania in the span of one week last month, Pittsburgh City Paper reports. Violence against trans people in the U.S. was higher in 2020 than any year on record, and 2021 is already on pace to be worse. “This should make everyone outraged,” said executive director of Trans YOUniting Dena Stanely.

IN THE BAG: Philadelphia and three suburban municipalities filed suit against the state yesterday, claiming legislators abused their power when they blocked local bans or taxes on plastic shopping bags. The lawsuit filed by West Chester, Narberth, Lower Merion Township, and the city of Philadelphia asks Commonwealth Court to declare the state’s ban of their bans unconstitutional, per the Associated Press.

REBUILDING THE ARK: For the last 50 years, the legendary intergalactic jazz ensemble known as Sun Ra Arkestra has lived and rehearsed in a nondescript three-story mothership/rowhouse in Philadelphia's Germantown. But after the landmark building partially collapsed, WHYY reports a remarkable, long-distance philanthropic effort got underway to save it — with a 96-year-old saxophonist still living inside.

CRYPT POST: A Pittsburgh mortician is proving there's more to TikTok than sea shanties and few blind spots in the social media platform's powerful algorithm. City Paper explains how Heather Taylor amassed a huge following and how she's now helping those fans "get comfortable with the funeral industry."

BIG LEGACY: Photographer Charles "Teenie" Harris produced a definitive historical record of the Black experience in Pittsburgh during the Great Migration of the mid-20th century. Now, the Post-Gazette reports, his surviving family members are calling for historical recognition of the modest Homewood house where many of those indelible images were developed.  

PEEP THIS: Bethlehem-based candy maker Just Born paused PEEPS production last year during a pandemic-related hiatus, and that led to concerns about whether or not they'd be back in time for this Easter. With Easter now four weeks away, Thrillist is pleased to report that PEEPS are not only back, they're literally bigger than ever

NAME NAMES: There are thousands of townships, boroughs, and cities in Pennsylvania. What would it look like if you crammed all their names (or at least most of them) onto a single typographic map? One artist decided to find out and shared the result on Reddit.
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: Metamorphosis

Congrats to our daily winners: Susan D., Anna T., Dixie S., Mary Ellen T., David I., Neal W., Jessica K., Craig W., Karen W., Beth T., Carol D., Kim C., Heidi B., Dennis M., Joel S., Bill C., Jill G., Cynthia H., Ron P., Bette G., Dianne K., Jeffrey S., George S., Donna W., Rich F., Irene R., Suzanne S., Jill A., Paul H., Patricia R., and Anne R.
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