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Tips for weathering a second pandemic winter

Plus, GOP-led election probe eyes Dominion-made voting machines.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
December 20, 2021
Pandemic briefing, political machinery, 'philosophical differences,' redistricting ruckus, the unsettling, student debt, and a beer war is brewing. It's Monday.
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"[Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin] was right to call out these dangers. He did a huge service to the nation by just saying no." 

—U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) on Manchin's pivotal Build Back Better Act opposition. Toomey is one of 50 GOP senators also opposed.
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» RURAL RISE: Rural McKean County is at higher risk of sickness and death from COVID-19 than its urban counterparts. The Post-Gazette reports an older population and shrinking medical resources are partly to blame.

» VAX RULING: President Joe Biden's vaccine or testing mandate for U.S. businesses with more than 100 employees has been reinstated, but a U.S. Supreme Court challenge looms, per Reuters. 

» MOVING TARGET: The deadline for workers to get fully vaccinated under Biden's reinstated mandate has been delayed from Jan. 4 to Feb. 9 to "account for any uncertainty" caused by legal challenges, USA Today reports. 

» SUPPLY CHAIN: A Biden administration plan to have private insurers reimburse Americans for at-home COVID-19 tests won't take effect before holiday gatherings and probably won't be retroactive, CNBC reports.

» TEST SOURCE: Some localities are offering free tests but only while supplies last. This includes Philadelphia, where rapid tests will be distributed at pop-up events this week. Billy Penn has the schedule.

To find a COVID-19 vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).
Harrisburg for the holidays. Thanks for sharing, @yatskoSend us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
FRESH FRONT: A lawyer for deep-red Fulton County indicates Pennsylvania Senate Republicans are expanding their contested 2020 election probe to also focus on voting machines. The lawyer, Tom King, told the AP that the Iowa-based firm conducting the probe wants access to Fulton County's Dominion-made equipment, a focus of fervid 2020 conspiracy theories. The state's election chief is suing to stop them.

'SEPARATE WAYS': Two years after being appointed by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Brandon Flood is stepping down as secretary of Pennsylvania's board of pardons, citing "philosophical differences" with Fetterman and Flood's own plan to run for LG as a newly minted Republican, PennLive reports. Flood, who was himself pardoned in 2019, says he and Fetterman "agreed to go our separate ways."   

MAD MAPS: Republicans are not happy about proposed changes in Pennsylvania's redrawn state House map, which was released last week, prompting blame against Democrats and the independent chair of the state's redistricting commission. And with a new U.S. congressional map also in the works, Republicans are mad that Gov. Tom Wolf told ABC27 it's not his job to "negotiate" with them but rather to have the final say.

DRUG MONEY: A $4 billion bankruptcy settlement between the maker of Oxycontin and states like Pennsylvania has been nixed by a federal judge who ruled the clean legal slate and broad protections it afforded the company's owners were improperly approved, Reuters reports. Pennsylvania was set to receive $225 million over nine years under the deal. Such payments are now on hold. Appeals are pending. 

LOAN BREAKS: Pennsylvania will no longer tax student loan relief for public sector workers and nurses from two key debt forgiveness programs, the AP reports. In separate-but-related news, Biden still plans to lift a pandemic-era freeze on student loan payments and hasn't delivered on his promise to cancel $10,000 of student debt per person. This is what he has done, via NPR.
MOVEABLE FORCE: UPMC is offering higher pay to nurses who join its new traveling nursing corps, which entails six-week deployments to short-staffed health-care centers across the 40-hospital system, WESA reports. UPMC officials say the health giant has been losing staff to similar programs.

URGENT MOVE: The LGBT Center of Central PA says its abrupt departure from its longtime Harrisburg headquarters was the result of mold and asbestos issues that went unaddressed by the landlord: outgoing city Mayor Eric Papenfuse. TheBurg reports Papenfuse denies the claim.

HISTORY HEIST: Six Pennsylvania museums have been reunited with firearms stolen by one man almost 50 years ago in "heists that sometimes went unnoticed for years," The Inquirer reports. Museum leaders say they're better prepared to prevent similar acts of theft in the future.

BEER WAR: Pottsville-based Yuengling is calling out Bud Light for a slogan with striking similarities to one of its own. Yuengling is aligned with Molson Coors, an industry rival to Bud Light's brewers at Anheuser-Busch. Yuengling is also an Anheuser-Busch adversary in its own right

GIFT IDEA: Gift shoppers take note: The New York Times has named the Westmoreland Museum of American Art's Doris Lee retrospective "One of the Best Art Books of 2021," per Pittsburgh City Paper.
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