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Family seeks answers one year after police killing

Plus, Pa. sets a single-day COVID-19 record.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
December 30, 2021
One-year mark, disciplinary action, dangerous jails, home care, shutdown threat, open seat, and how to feed your Christmas tree to goats. It's Thursday.
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"It would stop when I'm governor of Pennsylvania because I also recognize the danger and the risks of putting people into our schools without having any idea what the background of that person is."

—Republican Lou Barletta vowing to take a hard line against the federal government's practice of bringing unaccompanied child migrants into states like Pennsylvania if he's elected to succeed Tom Wolf as governor in 2022
There are just 48 hours left to help us raise a massive $100,000 in support of Spotlight PA's vital journalism. That's enough money to pay for one reporting position for an entire year. Help us end the year strong by making a tax-deductible gift now. 
» CASE RISE: Pennsylvania reported 17,520 additional COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, a single-day record here, the Morning Call reports, and 304 deaths, the highest such statewide total since last winter.

» TIME OUT: The CDC's loosened quarantine guidelines for asymptomatic people who have contracted the coronavirus don't require they get tested before leaving isolation, and that's worrying some experts, AP reports.

» SCHOOL PLAN: Philadelphia still plans to reopen schools for in-person learning next week, even as the city averages more COVID-19 cases than at any other point during pandemic, The Inquirer reports.

» CAUSE OF DEATH: Lebanon County Commissioner William "Bill" Ames died Tuesday from complications of COVID-19, WFMZ reports. He was 81.

» COVID SIGNS: A sore throat, runny nose, and muscle aches are signs of the common cold, the flu, or COVID-19. CNN explains how to tell the difference.

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).
» MAPPING POWER: Join us Thursday, Jan. 6 at noon EST for a free panel on the proposed state House and Senate maps, how they could shift political power, and their potential impact on Pennsylvanians. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
The sun sets on Reading in a photo shared by @berksfoundationSend us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
POLICE REPORTS: Disciplinary reports have been filed against nine Pittsburgh police officers involved in the arrest of a homeless man named Jim Rogers who died after being repeatedly tased by officers investigating a possible bike theft, TribLIVE reports. The announcement follows a leak of internal police reporting on Rogers' death that noted "a series of compounding performance failures" by the officers and supervisors involved.

JAIL DEATHS: Eighteen people died in Philadelphia jails in 2021, four in the last two weeks alone, putting the city's jail mortality rate at more than twice the national average, The Inquirer reports. At least three of the deaths were homicides, two were suicides, and four were ruled accidents related to drug intoxication. All occurred in a year marked by assaults, riots, staff shortages, a federal lawsuit, and a grand jury investigation into the city's jails.

HOME REPAIR: Renovations are underway at troubled Pittsburgh-area housing complexes owned by one of the largest banks in the country. PublicSource and WESA first detailed dangerous conditions inside the PNC Bank-owned McKeesport properties and now report 2022 could see an amplification of remedial efforts and of local enforcement measures advocates say have failed to protect renters en masse.

'NOT MY BUDGET': A government shutdown looms in York, where all but emergency operations could cease due to an ongoing budget impasse between the city's mayor and council. Mayor Michael Helfrich vetoed council's 2022 spending plan over a dispute involving $6.4 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding. York Dispatch reports the council plans to hold a special session at 10 this morning to consider a veto override.

NO THANKS: Nicholas C. Douglas won a term as Allentown constable in November's election but says he won't be taking the job as a judge weighs whether Douglas' sprawling criminal record makes him unfit to serve. Douglas told the Morning Call he saw an opportunity to earn better wages and overcome past transgressions but doesn't want the gig anymore and has already left the state. The position could stay open for the next six years.
TAKE FIVE: NASA's James Webb Telescope is currently traveling one million miles into space on a journey meant to help us better understand how all of this <gestures broadly> started. Track it from the relative comfort of earth here.

BUDGET DEAL: If you want to experience the rush of crafting a mayoral budget proposal — minus any real fiduciary responsibility — Pittsburgh has an online tool to help. WESA's Chris Potter says the revenue constraints make it feel real.

TREE TOSS: If you're looking to free yourself of that suddenly burdensome Christmas tree, Allegheny County will turn it into mulch, Somerset County will throw it straight into a lake, and Philadelphia will feed it to goats.

NOT SLOTS: Gaming revenue is way up in Pennsylvania, reaching a record $432.5 million in November. But The Inquirer reports traditional casinos aren't driving the growth, new online and sports betting options are.

FINAL CUT: Schuylkill County barber Joe Bittle is hanging up his shears for good today and closing his landmark Cressona shop. Now 81, Bittle has been cutting hair since JFK was president, telling the Republican Herald, "I had a good run."
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: Befuddlement 

Congrats to our daily winners: Susan F., Wendy A., Susan N., Mike B., Craig E., Don H., Neal W., Elaine C., Kim C., Myles M., Susan D., Judith D., Kimberly S., David W., Craig W., Irene R., Alan V., Daniel S., Bill S., Joel S., Doris T., Paul N., Beth T., Elizabeth W., and George S.
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