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Doctors writing 'blanket' school mask exemptions

Plus, a people's map reimagining Pa.'s political districts.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
September 13, 2021
Off waivers, blanket exemptions, illegally jailed, missed checks, disaster area, and *real* Philadelphia cream cheese. It's Monday, welcome to the week.

Regulatory waivers put in place to help hospitals and health-care workers fight COVID-19 are set to expire this month and could exacerbate an ongoing staffing crisis amid a summer surge in cases, Spotlight PA reports.

Nearly 100 waivers approved by Gov. Tom Wolf in the early days of the pandemic, many easing rules to ensure as many health-care workers as possible could join the response here, will lapse Sept. 30.

And while GOP leadership in the House and Senate have said lawmakers will consider whether some of the waivers should be made permanent when they return from summer recess, some health-care professionals worry even a temporary gap could affect care for the most vulnerable.

THE CONTEXT: Among other things, the waivers allow out-of-state practitioners to treat patients in Pennsylvania, permit retired or lapsed professionals to return to medicine, and expand who can give a vaccine.

It's impossible to know how many people took advantage of the relaxed rules, as the Department of State — which oversees professional licensing in Pennsylvania — did not track that information.

But more than half a dozen health-care workers and industry advocates said some of the waivers helped ease staffing shortages and deliver care during the pandemic. Tighter rules, they fear, will have the opposite effect.

"Caring for people is really tough work physically and emotionally," said Georgia Goodman, director of government affairs for LeadingAge PA, a group that lobbies on behalf of nonprofit long-term care facilities. "A lot of staff we had left the field altogether, some had some early exits. It’s an awful storm."


"If you simply say, 'Oh, yeah, you guys can vote,' and there's nothing else, you're essentially telling them: 'Figure it out.'" 

—Khalif Ali, of Common Cause Pennsylvania, on the lack of consistent and cohesive rules around voting by people imprisoned in Pennsylvania
COVID-19 UPDATE: Pfizer's vaccine could be approved for children age 5-11 by October; the Wolf administration will begin releasing pandemic data by legislative district; and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) wants more transparency in nursing home vaccination reports. To find the vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
A moment of zen to start your week, courtesy of PA Poster and PA photog Don H. Thanks as always for sharing, Don! Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
DOCTOR'S NOTES: Physicians offering "blanket" school mask exemptions, regardless of medical need, "have been and will be referred to licensing boards for possible disciplinary action," Pennsylvania officials tell the AP. In Lebanon County, a doctor is accused of offering "free-to-download, signed, no-questions-asked" exemption forms.

TROUBLE TRAP: Lawyers say Delaware County has been illegally jailing people with mental illness for behaviors resulting from their disabilities and keeping them jailed for months or years because staff failed to arrange housing or treatment, The Inquirer reports.

CHECKPOINTS: Half of Pennsylvania's 687 state-licensed nursing homes went more than 16 months without full inspections as the state shifted to narrower infection-control checks during the pandemic, CNHI reports. Experts say that's created backlogs and blind spots.

AID APPROVED: A federal disaster declaration is in effect for parts of southeastern Pennsylvania after Hurricane Ida's remnants caused widespread damage there. Affected individuals and business owners are encouraged to visit this website or call 1-800-621-3362 for assistance.

POLITICAL PLEAS: The 20th anniversary of 9/11 on Saturday was the first ever without troops in Afghanistan and drew former President George W. Bush and President Joe Biden to Shanksville where both called for unity in a time of profound political division, per Politico.
'CITIZENS' MAP': Draw the Lines PA asked people to try their hand at redistricting and combined 1,500 responses into a first-of-its-kind "Citizens' Map" as lawmakers prepare to do the real thing. Find a closer look here.

MAC MEMORIAL: Mac Miller fans gathered in the musician's hometown of Pittsburgh last week to celebrate Miller three years after his death at the age of 26. Pittsburgh City Paper says hundreds were in attendance.

FALLING FAST: In almost autumn news, both of Pennsylvania's pro football teams are undefeated, one game into the season, and NJ.com says to expect "vibrant" fall colors across much of the state this year

BRIDGE CLUB: On King of Prussia Road in Radnor sits an "infamous low bridge" that Jalopnik says recently struck again, this time shearing two cars off a too-tall trailer shipment. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

REAL THING: Philadelphia-brand cream cheese has no connection to the city for which it is named. But Billy Penn says real Philadelphia cream cheese exists and is being crafted inside a Kensington shipping container, no less.
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: Ameliorate

Congrats to our weekly winner: Suzanne S.

Congrats to our daily winners: David I., Michelle T., Neal W., Doris T., Steve D., Mike B., Keith F., Al M., Jessica K., Don H., Marty M., Heidi B., Beth T., Craig E., Ann E., Erica S., Dennis M., George S., Susan D., John W., David W., Bill S., Beth L., John P., Tish M., Joel S., Judith D., Irene R., and Elizabeth W.
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