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COVID confinement, siege wins, and running tallies

Plus, GOP Senate race could be headed for a recount.

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A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
May 19, 2022
Long limits, recount rules, outstanding ballots, siege spots, anti-establishment, progressive push, titanic turtle, and 🌷 a Spring bonus. It's Thursday. 
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Some of the mitigation measures used to cut down on the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania prisons are still in effect with nearly 90% of imprisoned people vaccinated and far fewer cases in prisons than before.

That has incarcerated people and their advocates asking the state to reconsider rules that further isolate and feed financial hardship.

For example: Most prisons are still serving meals inside cells, meaning cold food and fewer opportunities for human interaction. A rule requiring visits to be scheduled at least three days in advance is also still in place. 

Additionally, a $5 copay charged for non-emergency medical requests — waived earlier in the pandemic — has returned, with some exceptions.

Here's Spotlight PA's look at the impacts of these policies.

THE CONTEXT: The coronavirus hit Pennsylvania state prisons in late March 2020, sending the system's 23 prisons into quarantine. Extreme restrictions on movement kept people in cells and largely uninfected through the spring. But more contagious variants ultimately broke through.

More than two years into the pandemic, 166 incarcerated people and 12 corrections staff have died from the virus, according to officials.

Since January, large waves of positive COVID-19 cases have largely subsided. And as of Tuesday, there are 55 positive cases among corrections staff and 37 positive cases among people in prison.

Asked about the mitigation measures still in place, Department of Corrections spokesperson Maria Bivens told Spotlight PA that meal delivery rules are continually reassessed, copays keep medical staff from being overwhelmed by demand, and that visitation limits promote social distancing.
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"My injuries and the city's liability far pass that archaic cap. I believe the cap didn't serve me any justice."

Anthony Blume on a state law that allows him to claim only $500,000 of the $2.7 million a jury awarded him for serious injuries he sustained when a Philadelphia police officer ran a red light and crashed into him in 2019
This male rose-breasted grosbeak is clearly onto us. Thanks for sharing, @johnmcculloughphotographySend us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
RECOUNT WATCH: The GOP U.S. Senate contest could be headed for a recount, with David McCormick and Mehmet Oz separated by the slimmest of margins. Recounts are automatically triggered in statewide races when two top candidates are separated by less than 0.5% of the overall vote. The Inquirer says such recounts have been triggered six times since 2004. Here's what to expect if it happens again.

BALLOT BLITZ: PennLive reports thousands of potentially decisive GOP primary votes had yet to be counted in the U.S. Senate race on Wednesday. In GOP-leaning Lancaster County, a coding error prevented nearly 20,000 mail ballots from being scanned, leaving workers to do it by hand. A final count might not be ready until Friday, LNP reports. In Allegheny County, final results could be delayed for even longer. McCormick and Oz are currently less than 2,000 votes apart.

SIEGE SPOTS: Dawn Bancroft stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and won the primary for a Republican committee spot in Doylestown on Tuesday, Patch reports. In Lancaster County, LNP says Scott Nagle, a local leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, won a spot on the county's Republican committee. There's no indication Nagle was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano was and "could turn election lies into action," per the AP.

PRIMARY FAILS: State Rep. Stan Saylor of York, an influential Republican incumbent, was bested by an anti-establishment primary challenge on Tuesday, and state Sen. Pat Browne (R., Lehigh) appears poised to follow suit. Both men were criticized for being Harrisburg insiders, with political longevity becoming a political liability. Some Democratic incumbents also fell to newcomers or to other Democratic incumbents in head-to-head matchups forced by redistricting.

OPEN REBUKE: The Democratic primary for U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle's open seat in Pittsburgh is neck and neck between state Rep. Summer Lee and attorney Steve Irwin — despite a pro-Israel super PAC spending millions to Irwin's benefit. Lee has declared victory but Irwin hasn't conceded. Still, The Intercept calls the dead heat — along with John Fetterman's 67-county win in Tuesday's U.S. Senate primary — a "stinging rebuke" of the Democratic Party's "Manchin-Sinema Wing."
STOP SIGN: PennDOT's contested plan to add tolling on nine Pennsylvania bridges to raise money for their upkeep is on hold after a judge issued an injunction in a lawsuit brought by opponents of the project, per WTAE.

EARLY EXIT: The "most hated man in America" is no longer a resident of Pennsylvania. "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli was released from federal prison in Allenwood early on Wednesday and into a New York halfway house.

MONEY FLUSH: Aqua Pennsylvania wastewater customers in Bucks County will pay 50% more per flush as early as today under new rates that are 30% lower than what Aqua Pennsylvania wanted to charge, via The Inquirer.

THE MIDS: After much debate, it turns out Pittsburgh is in fact located in the midwest — North Dakota, specifically, via @amyrsisk and @CPotterPgh.

TURTLE POWER: Here's an absolute unit of a turtle crossing the road in Luzerne County in full-on Gwar regalia, via Redditor u/Same-Ad-6017.
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.

This week's theme: Time
Yesterday's answer: Millisecond

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Elaine C., David S., Doris T., Susan N.-Z., Vicki U., Gail D., Mark O., Judith D., Kim C., Julia P., Don H., Bonnie R., Lil N., Susan D., William S., George S., Michelle T., Tish M., Kimberly S., Myles M., Dianne K., John P., James B., Bill S., Jill M., Kimberly D., Janet C., David W., Beth T., Daniel M., Elvino M., and Frederick H.
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