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Pa. will soon ditch COVID-19 rules, keep masks


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
May 5, 2021
Reopening time, fraud vote, life without parole, massacre site, close calls, blue line, and basking in the neon glow. Welcome to Wednesday, PA Posters. 

Statewide restrictions on gatherings, restaurants, bars, and other businesses will be lifted on Memorial Day, Pennsylvania officials have announced.

As of 12:01 a.m. on May 31, the state's restaurants, stores, and others businesses can open at 100% capacity, Spotlight PA reports, and crowd-size limits will be lifted on indoor and outdoor gatherings. 

Mask wearing outside the home will still be required, with some exceptions for fully vaccinated people, and cities and towns can still enact their own COVID-19 rules. (Philadelphia is keeping its own restrictions for now.)

The Wolf administration says it plans to lift the statewide mask mandate when 70% of Pennsylvania adults are fully vaccinated. Around 42% have been so far.

"I encourage Pennsylvanians to take the critical steps needed to put this pandemic behind us by getting vaccinated," Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said. 

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania officials have expanded the number and variety of vaccine providers in the state's supply chain as they work to overcome vaccine hesitancy and increase access in harder-to-reach corners of the state. 

More than 13,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been wasted in Pennsylvania during the pandemic, state officials report. That number does not include doses sent directly to retail partners from the federal stockpile. An official breakdown of the who, where, when, and why of Pennsylvania's vaccine waste has been promised for next month, per KDKA-TV. 

The pledge comes on the heels of KHN reporting that two large pharmacy chains — CVS and Walgreens — wasted some 128,500 vaccine shots nationwide. It also comes more than a month after state officials denied a records request from Spotlight PA for details about vaccine waste here, citing a decades-old law the Wolf administration has frequently used to shield against scrutiny of its pandemic response.

"We have a list of 6,500 people who are waiting for shots and Beaver Health Mart Pharmacy has wasted zero," independent pharmacist Adrienne Cervone told KDKA-TV, echoing criticism of the state's focus on larger providers, a strategy it's now reconsidering.

THIS IS A GAMECHANGER: We’ve been challenged to raise $15,000 to prove how much Pennsylvanians want the hard-hitting, nonpartisan investigative journalism that Spotlight PA produces like no one else.

There is no better time to support Spotlight PA than now, because for a limited time, every contribution will be DOUBLED thanks to a generous matching gift from the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

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» THANK YOU to the 32 people who contributed to our spring membership drive yesterday.

"As of March 1, 2021, the cumulative cases among employees and inmates at FCI McKean have increased to more than 500 confirmed infections, with at least 5 recent active cases among FCI McKean's correctional workers."

—More than 200 federal McKean County corrections officers in a lawsuit demanding hazard pay for working in facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks

VACCINE UPDATE: The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds in the next week. If the CDC agrees, the age group would be the youngest approved for the vaccine thus far. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» BE PREPARED: Everyone — regardless of political affiliation — can vote May 18 on four ballot questions. Here's a breakdown of each one. Plus, WHYY has a great primer on the appellate court judge candidates. We'll have more resources in the days and weeks ahead.
Thanks, James B., for repping Spotlight PA and sharing a pic. James won the bumper sticker (and more) by playing The Scrambler below. Be sure to wave if you see him driving by. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
VOTER FRAUD: Bruce Bartman of Marple Township cast a vote for then-President Donald Trump in his deceased mother's name and tried doing the same for his deceased mother-in-law, telling a court he was misled by "propaganda and statements," per CNN. Bartman pleaded guilty to voter fraud and was sentenced to five years probation.

LOCKED UP: Pennsylvania went from having 541 "juvenile lifers" to six under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that raised the bar for sentencing children to life without parole. The high court has since reversed itself, but while The Marshall Project says most states will continue to restrict the option, racial and geographic disparities will widen.

TREE OF LIFE: A son of Holocaust survivors and designer of New York's World Trade Center memorial will lead the rebuilding of Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue, the site of a white supremacist's mass murder in 2018, TribLIVE reports. Antisemitic acts remained high across Pennsylvania again last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

SHORT SIGHTED: Oil and gas companies have drilled hundreds of wells less than 500 feet from houses and other sensitive locations after a 2012 Pennsylvania law passed requiring at least that much buffer space, Allegheny Front reports. It turns out Act 13 rules about drilling near schools, churches, water supplies, and homes have had little impact.

TROOPER LAWSUIT: A Black state trooper has filed a federal lawsuit alleging white colleagues harassed and retaliated against him during his time at the Greensburg barracks. Trooper Tavin Davis, now stationed in Dauphin County, says the colleagues used racial slurs and physically abused people of color who were suspects, per the Post-Gazette.
AFTER GLOW: Neon is a dying art form nearly everywhere but the Neon Museum of Philadelphia, which hosted a soft opening last month. "I hate the word nostalgia," the founder told WHYY. "To me it's culture." In semi-related news, The African American Museum reopens tomorrow.

'GNOME MAN': Kirkwood’s Richard Humphreys, aka "Gnome Man," is walking 380 miles across Pennsylvania to a Type 1 diabetes camp in Ohio. "Diabetes challenged me to do so many things that I otherwise wouldn’t have done," Humphreys told LancasterOnline. "Like this walk." 

LONG GOODBYE: The Lehigh Valley Zoo's 20-year-old Masai giraffe, Murphy, has died, Lehigh Valley Live reports. Murphy, a Kansas City transplant, had age-related ailments and leaves behind a mentee named Tatu.

HEAR YE: A Maryland state proclamation at once insults cicadas as "noisy and clumsy" and touts them as a cure for the modern condition. Pennsylvania proclamation writers, take note.

UPS AND DOWNS: Someone built a working model of Cedar Point's "Magnum XL" roller coaster in their backyard and suddenly I feel I've squandered not only my time but also my K'nex sets
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: Incentivize

Congrats to our daily winners: Mary Ellen T., Dixie S., Irene R., Al M., Christine M., Susan D., Becky C., Neal W., Yvette R., Vince C., Bruce T., Patricia M., David I., Kevin H., Carl K., Adrien M., Bill C., William M., Maureen G., Brian B., Joel S., Fred O., Virginia C., Jennifer C., Marsha B., Beth T., Paul H., Jill A., Karen W., Meg M., Elizabeth W., Nina L., Diane P., Mike B., Lex M., Chad S., Helen W., Tish M., Mary Kay M., George S., Edward C., Doris B., Tina P., James B., Carol D., Patricia R., Theodore W., Cynthia P., Elaine C., Dianne K., Lance L., Steve D., Bob R., Richard D., Luke E., Alice B., Jeff M., David S., Janet C., Mike B., Dennis M., David W., Laura B., Kim C., Johnny C., Bruce B., Bruce B., John H., Ann and John, and Betsy R.
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