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Panel upholds Pa. school mask mandate

Plus, rural Pa. counties push back against census counts.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
October 22, 2021
Mandate upheld, rural shrink, public backlash, bad date, militia members, 'duty to assist,' and a look at luxury blight. It's Friday. Congratulations. 

An obscure state regulatory panel has upheld the Wolf administration's school mask rule, dealing a blow to Republican opponents of the measure who tasked the panel with weighing in, the Associated Press reports.

Members of the Joint Committee on Documents, some belonging to the Wolf administration, disagreed with Republicans who said the mask rule should have been enacted through the state's slower-moving regulatory process and not what critics call a fast-moving act of "executive overreach."

A spokesperson with Gov. Tom Wolf's office lauded the decision, while Republicans were said to be weighing their appeal options.

THE CONTEXT: The mask rule was issued by Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam in August as in-person classes resumed and COVID-19 cases climbed.

The Joint Committee on Documents' 7-4 decision in favor of the mandate means further challenges must be taken to court, Capital-Star reports. Some have already landed — including one backed by a conservative, nonprofit law firm with ties to former President Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, the Commonwealth Court heard arguments in two cases aimed at overturning the rule, per TribLIVE. A decision is pending.

A new federal lawsuit, filed that same day by a group of parents and guardians, alleges students are being illegally denied medical exemptions.


"If you didn't feel comfortable going to the bathroom, you would not make it through the day."

—English teacher June Freifelder on the difficulty trans students have accessing gender-neutral bathrooms in Philadelphia schools
» A COMPLETE GUIDE to the Nov. 2 election in Pennsylvania, including how to find your polling place, mail ballot details, who's on the ballot, and more.

» A SPECIAL GUIDE to who's running in the state Supreme Court election and other significant appellate court races.

» A BASIC GUIDE to vetting your local candidates in Pennsylvania's 2021 school board elections, which are receiving renewed attention this year.

If you value these voter resources, please make a tax-deductible contribution to Spotlight PA so we can keep them free and available to all every election season.
» SUPPLY SIDE: With half-doses, third doses, and child doses, Stat reports the vaccine supply chain is about to get a lot more complicated.

» NO REPORT: Only a tenth of Philadelphia police have reported their vaccine status as the city shuns a stricter mandate, WHYY reports.

» BAD INFO: An Allegheny County police union's vaccine mandate challenge contains "false and gross" misinterpretations of data, experts tell WESA. 

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).
A dirt road pic from Shamokin. Thanks, Nichloe T. Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
COUNTDOWN: Rural counties in Pennsylvania saw the steepest population losses in the 2020 census, so steep that some officials are questioning the accuracy of the count while fearing cuts to their federal funding, political clout, and more as a result, The Inquirer reports.

ON HOLD: After approving a contract extension with a private consultant accused of leading abuses inside the local prison, York County officials are backtracking, saying they want to make changes to the deal after an impassioned public response, York Dispatch reports.

LATE ENTRY: Letters will be sent out to 17,000 Berks County voters who received Spanish-language mail-in ballot materials with the wrong deadline, Morning Call reports. The forms said mail ballots must be received by Nov. 18. The correct deadline is 8 p.m. on Nov. 2.

OATH KEEPERS: ProPublica's deep dive into how the far-right Oath Keepers militia embedded itself in mainstream Republican politics includes mention of Andy Maul, a former GOP chairman of his Pittsburgh council district whose views alienated some in the local party.

AID RULE: A state lawmaker wants to require bystanders to help victims of accidents or crimes after a recent rape aboard a SEPTA train, USA Today's Capital Bureau reports. Police said riders recorded the assault instead of calling 911, but that story is shifting.

DESPERATE TIMES: Pennsylvania is short roughly 2,000 school bus drivers and sent a survey to hundreds of thousands of drivers with commercial licenses, or CDLs, to see if any would consider stepping up, WGAL reports.

RUN WILD: "Bensalem Ben," the wandering turkey with a Facebook following, is a beloved Bucks County public figure. But the Courier Times reports a rise in similar wild turkey sightings has experts concerned

FRY BABY: Comedian Steve Hofstetter moved from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh and says the biggest culture shock was being force-fed potatoes with every meal while surrounded by urban staircases and endless hills.

LUXURY BLIGHT: Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron has some thoughts on the soon-to-be-demolished Delaware waterfront townhouse project that failed in a sizzling market before being taken over by squatters.

SPIN ZONE: After collecting nearly 2,000 vintage rock and folk albums, 16-year-old Heather McNabb of Selinsgrove has opened her own record store and concluded "Supertramp is really good," The Daily Item reports.

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Yesterday's answer: Protuberance

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