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Your COVID-19 questions, answered by Pa. experts

Plus, Pa. high court asked to step in after U.S. eviction ban lifted.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 30, 2021
COVID Q&A, eviction ban, trace race, care gaps, misused money, injection site, and Pennsylvania's 'cheap old houses.' It's Monday, welcome to the week.
With a summer wave of new coronavirus cases steadily growing and few mitigation measures in place, Spotlight PA held a free panel with Pennsylvania health experts on what to know headed into the fall. 

For the vaccinated looking for an added layer of protection, the experts recommended masking and KN95s, in particular. For the unvaccinated, they urged getting the shots, which remain excellent at preventing the most severe forms of illness, especially as younger, unvaccinated people fall ill.

Vaccine approval for children under 12 is still likely months away, while U.S. officials want regulators to sign off on booster shots for Pfizer and Moderna recipients eight months after the second dose. (Johnson & Johnson's booster timeline is currently less clear.) 

Panelist Frederick Jackson, executive director of Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers, said the challenge at the moment is people anxious to get a booster who don't currently qualify. 

Find more information in a video and full briefing from the panel here.

THE CONTEXT: The Wolf administration has rejected new mitigation measures, like mask mandates, in favor of encouraging holdouts to get vaccinated.

But with that effort slow-going, there are concerns about possible outbreaks in schools and other settings where unvaccinated people gather closely. 

There are also concerns about the potential setbacks a booster rollout might encounter, given the problems seen in the first phase of the state's program.

Panelist and state Sen. Art Haywood (D., Montgomery) said Pennsylvania's Vaccine Task Force plans to meet to discuss booster shots and how they may be managed. No decisions have been made yet.

"It's time Pennsylvania billionaires and big corporations step up to the plate and pay their fair share." 

—Jeff Garis of the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center on 17 state billionaires more than doubling their wealth during the pandemic

COVID-19 UPDATE: University of Pennsylvania student Gianni Hill made a statewide map of mask rules by school district; WESA made a map of vaccination rates by ZIP code in Allegheny County; and Dr. Anthony Fauci has endorsed lab-grown antibodies as a COVID-19 treatment and prevention tool, as well as vaccine mandates for eligible U.S. students. To find the vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS: Join us Thursday, Sept. 9 at noon ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on addiction treatment oversight issues in Pennsylvania and how the state can keep people safe as they pursue recovery. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
A foggy valley evening at Raymond B. Winter State Park in Union County. Thanks for sharing, @johnmcculloughphotography! Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
EVICTION BAN: Democratic state lawmakers want the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to halt evictions statewide after the striking down of a targeted federal ban last week, the Capital-Star reports. The lawmakers want the court to block evictions until a deep backlog of rent relief applications is cleared by the state. Local eviction bans remain in place.

TRACE EVIDENCE: States that trimmed their contact tracing teams this spring and summer when virus numbers were dropping are now scrambling to train new investigators, the Associated Press reports. In Pennsylvania, state officials are hiring 100 contact tracers to replace 1,000, and experts say more are needed with cases remaining high.

LAX CARE: A state inspection found Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono failed to protect suicidal patients, leaving those at high risk alone or unattended for long periods of time. The Morning Call reports the state's probe uncovered violations of federal rules, state rules, and the hospital's own policies, risking the lives of multiple suicidal patients.

OPEN BOOK: An audit of a defunct fire company in North York shows a "high likelihood" of misappropriated funds months after the ex-chief was charged with embezzlement, York Dispatch reports. The borough refused to release the results but was made to in a court decision with statewide implications, per Pennsylvania's former open records chief.

SAFE SITE: The nonprofit behind a stalled plan for a supervised drug injection site in Philadelphia is taking its case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Safehouse attorneys want the high court to weigh in on whether a site designed to prevent overdose deaths by allowing people to take drugs under medical supervision runs afoul of federal law, per 6ABC.
SAFE HAVEN: Afghan refugees are arriving in Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh is one of 19 U.S. cities recommended for resettlement. An archived NBC News clip includes scenes from a resettlement effort that saw Vietnamese refugees brought to Pennsylvania after the fall of Saigon 46 years ago

SWIM COACH: Meet Thelma Nesbitt, the longest-tenured water safety instructor in Philadelphia or, as The Inquirer puts it, "The Hasselhoff of Philly pools." And it all started with a car crash in 1988 and a doctor's recommendation for swimming as part of Nesbitt's physical therapy.

SKY LIGHTS: Pittsburgh is looking at a new "Dark Sky" ordinance for city parks, facilities, and street lights that would minimize outdoor lighting to "only what is necessary for comfort and safety," TribLIVE reports. The anti-light pollution measure is reportedly the first of its kind in the nation.

ROAD TRIP REFLECTIONS: After a visit covering Pittsburgh, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, and Milton S. Hershey's close call with the RMS Titanic, a British YouTuber made his own video rundown of Pennsylvania's regional dialects and huge roadside convenience stores.

HOUSE HUNTER: If you need me, I'll be endlessly scrolling @cheapoldhouses on Instagram for some screaming deals, like these in ClearfieldSharon, Oil City, Towanda, Jackson, Pitcairn, and Johnstown
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.
Friday's answer: Imperceptible

Congrats to our weekly winner: Judith D.

Congrats to our daily winners: David I., Susan F., Mike B., Susan N., Michelle T., Don H., Jessica K., Neal W., Jeff M., Patricia M., Kim C., Susan D., Dennis M., Doris T., Suzanne S., Bill S., Carol D., Craig E., George S., Kimberly B., David W., David W., and Elizabeth W.
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