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How election lies ‘hijacked’ a local Pa. gov’t

Plus, Pa. spends $87M on COVID-19 school testing.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 17, 2021
Testing regimen, 'hijacked' government, map shift, ICE exit, unvaxxed voices, perjury case, and when a lost dog is really a coyote. Hello again. It's Tuesday.
MORE THAN HALFWAY THERE: If we raise $5,000 in support of Spotlight PA's essential investigative journalism by tomorrow, a generous local couple will match every single contribution and we'll unlock another $5,000. Help put us over the top and your gift will be DOUBLED »
Voluntary COVID-19 testing will be made available on a weekly basis to every K-12 school in Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia this fall semester, health officials say.

According to the Associated Press, school districts will have to opt in and parents must give their consent.

A Boston-based firm — Concentric by Ginkgo Bioworks — was awarded an $87 million contract to lead the testing program here after running similar programs in other states, claiming its 82 network labs can handle 91 million tests weekly.

Pennsylvania's school testing will be conducted in classrooms. Nasal swabs will be pooled and run as a single test to identify the presence of COVID-19 in a school, allowing local officials to respond accordingly, the AP adds.

THE CONTEXT: The state unveiled the testing program amid concerns about returning students to in-person learning without a statewide mask mandate in place, and with large portions of the student body unvaccinated or still ineligible to be vaccinated.

Mask mandates are being left to local districts — some facing pushback from parents — and many districts are expected to forego them in favor of softer and, experts warn, less effective options

Pennsylvania's Department of Health said there will be no repercussions for students who refuse COVID-19 testing through the state's new program.

Vaccine providers have also been ordered to coordinate vaccine clinics at schools and universities that request them.
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"If these restrictions truly do not infringe upon Americans' right to vote, then surely these same restrictions will not infringe upon Americans' right to bear arms." 

—State Rep. Mary Isaacson (D., Philadelphia) proposing new rules for firearm purchases that mirror voting rule changes sought by GOP state lawmakers
VACCINE UPDATE: The CDC is again urging people who are pregnant to get the COVID-19 vaccine following new data underscoring its safety and effectiveness, and with doctors reporting an uptick in the number of unvaccinated pregnant people getting hospitalized with severe cases of COVID-19. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» CLIMBING COVID: Join us Wednesday, Aug. 25 at noon via Zoom for a free Q&A on what we know about rising COVID-19 cases and the state's vaccine distribution efforts. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
Views of wind turbines on Turkey Hill, Lancaster County from a kayak on the Susquehanna River. Thanks for another photo, Chris M.! Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
'HIJACKED': An illegal "election integrity law" with strict limits on mail ballots, photo ID, and drop boxes was adopted by Lehigh Township officials and later rescinded. But, The Inquirer reports, the episode "shows how Donald Trump's lies of a stolen election are sowing discord in everyday life and hijacking the machinery of municipal government."

DATA MAPPING: Pennsylvania Republican Glenn Thompson's U.S. congressional district ranks among the top 10 nationally in population shortfalls and is one of six in Pennsylvania that lost population in the 2020 census, the AP reports. It's a similar story in rural and Rust Belt regions nationwide.

'PARTIAL VICTORY': Advocates are calling the end of ICE detention at the York County Prison a "partial victory" since many detainees were transferred farther away from their families. WITF reports around 100 immigrants were released, while some were deported. Another 200 were transferred as far as away as Florida and Louisiana.

NO SHOT: Eighty-percent of Pennsylvanians 18 and older now have their first COVID-19 vaccine shot, new state data show. The other 20% includes people like Don Driscoll, a 36-year-old father from suburban Pittsburgh, who told The New York Times he leans Libertarian, doesn't buy the conspiracy theories, but isn't an "earlier adopter of anything."

PERJURY CASE: Three former Philadelphia detectives have been charged with lying to keep a man imprisoned for a rape and murder that DNA evidence proved he didn't commit. A grand jury recommended perjury charges against the ex-detectives, most stemming from a 2016 retrial that ultimately saw Anthony Wright freed from prison, per WHYY.
WILD CHILD: A sick puppy — pictured here — that was found in Centre County's Poe Paddy State Park is actually a coyote, DNA testing confirms. "Her coloring and her initial calm demeanor had us believing she was a shepherd mix puppy that was abandoned," a local rescuer told PennLive. 

OPERA FANS: A race to stabilize the crumbling, historic home of Pittsburgh's National Negro Opera Company is facing big costs and careful considerations, the Post-Gazette reports. Elsewhere, the opera company's founder, Mary Cardwell Dawson, is the subject of a new play.

BEER HERE: From startups to the oldest brewery in America, the commonwealth's beer scene got its due with 2018's "Poured in Pennsylvania" documentary. A spinoff series called "Poured in PA" is available now on YouTube. Watch the trailer here — and browse the episodes here.

DEEP DIVE: A petition to save Lehigh Valley's Dutch Springs scuba diving facility from becoming a warehouse had gathered more than 4,000 signatures as of Monday. Lehigh Valley Live reports the place has been a fixture for divers in the northeast for more than five decades.

ART WALK: A crypto art gallery in Philadelphia's Brewerytown neighborhood is relocating to Fishtown after less than two months. Billy Penn explains why Art From The Heart Gallery is moving so soon and what crypto art even is.
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.

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Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Mike B., Neal W., Suzanne S., Craig E., Susan D., Doris T., Judith D., Kim C., Susan F., James B., Kevin M., Elizabeth W., Dennis M., Susan N., Becky C., Beth T., Carol D., Don H., Myles M., Evelyn S., Karen W., and David W.


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