Hundreds gathered without incident at both 12th and Hamilton streets in Allentown and in Payrow Plaza in Bethlehem. One protester said, "This shows that it's not just isn't a Minneapolis or big city issue and small cities like Bethlehem can come together and support the movement." An estimated 1000 people gathered in Bethlehem, while Allentown's gathering was much smaller. Several hundred also turned out for a protest in Pennsburg Thursday afternoon.
In the wake of the George Floyd death in Minneapolis, Gov. Tom Wolf is taking steps to address issues about law enforcement's relationship with the communities they serve. Among his recommendations are the creation of a Racial and Ethnic Disparities Subcommittee and enhancing mental health programs currently available to police. "We will also develop standardized testing and best practices for verbal deescalation techniques, trauma centered approaches, mental health, first aid and implicit bias training," the governor says. Wolf says, "As we go forward, we need to address the looming, systemic failings that have created this situation."
Governor Wolf joined a George Floyd protest march in Harrisburg Wednesday. There were large crowds on the streets and some county officials are wondering why the governor, who's preached about keeping proper social distancing in mind because of COVID-19 was taking part. "It just seems extremely hypocritical. If there's a group of small business people who want to go out and protest, will he go and protest with them too? Because he tells us he's concerned about the economy and everybody else," says. Dauphin County Commissioner Jeff Haste.
A York policeman is off of public duty after being accused of being involved in the reenactment of the George Floyd death. York's mayor says the officer is on desk duty while evidence of the reenactment is collected. So far, there's no evidence of the reenactment. If there were, Mayor Michael Helfrich is quoted as saying the officer would be gone already.
There are now more than half of Pennsylvania's counties in Gov. Tom Wolf's green reopening phase. Beginning today, 16 more counties enter that phase and the remaining ten red counties are moving into yellow, including Berks, Bucks, Lehigh and Northampton. Yellow phase rules include the banning of gatherings of more than 25 people; venues like gyms, spas, hair salons, casinos and theaters are to remain closed. Restaurants and bars may open outdoor dining with social distancing in place. In-person retail shopping is now allowed, however curbside and delivery remains preferred.
Pennsylvania health officials are reporting more cases of COVID-19. Another 537 new cases of the virus were reported Thursday, pushing the statewide total to just below the 74,000 mark. 75 additional deaths were reported Thursday, leaving the state coronavirus-related death toll at 5817.
Two teenagers say Whitehall Township police caused traumatic brain injuries and used excessive force during a disturbance in the high school gym in January. A lawsuit filed in federal court today alleges several white officers used "disproportionate and unreasonable" force on a group of black teenagers during a basketball game, all because of a 14-year-old's "bad attitude." The teens and their parents are suing Whitehall Township and several Whitehall police officers, including Chief Michael Marks.
A 71-year-old Catasauqua man involved in a crash in Whitehall Township has died. Jeffrey Fletcher was pronounced dead Thursday night at St. Luke's Hospital in Allentown after being rushed there after the vehicle he was driving crashed in a wooded area along Sumner Avenue around 10 o'clock last night.
Many New Jersey residents are joining the rallies and marches going on all over the U.S., with more than 100 of them taking place in the Garden State. Gov. Phil Murphy has advice for anyone involved who could not properly social distance. His message is to get a coronavirus test. That recommendation comes from infectious disease experts, who are concerned the rallies could be super-spreader events.
As New Jersey heads toward its June 15th Phase Two reopening, Gov. Phil Murphy is advising that all non-essential retailers can resume operations with several rules in place. Both customers and staff must wear face coverings and stores must operate at 50-percent capacity. He recommends all stores offer special hours for high-risk individuals and there should be barriers between cashiers and customers. The governor adds that no municipality or county may impose additional restrictions of their own on businesses, regardless of whether they are essential or non-essential.
New Jersey malls will not open on June 15th, but Gov. Phil Murphy says stores within the mall can reopen if they have an entrance outside the mall. The governor did not say when malls will be given the green light.
New Jersey's governor is addressing his state's dramatic unemployment figures amid the pandemic. While acknowledging the number is declining, Phil Murphy said last week New Jersey saw 27,752 people file new unemployment claims in the state. He called that number astronomical, adding that 1.2 million New Jersey residents had filed for unemployment since the pandemic started. He says New Jersey residents have been paid just over $5 billion so far.
Philadelphia's Italian Market will create a new mural to replace its current mural of Frank Rizzo. Rizzo was the former police commissioner and mayor in the city. A statue of him was removed by the city earlier this week.
Penn State's athletics program is planning to return through a phased reopening plan starting June 8th. University officials say the Penn State Athletics sports performance team developed guidelines and protocols for staff and student-athletes. The new measures include wearing masks, daily health screenings, small group activities, sanitation and guided access to buildings. When student-athletes return, they'll forego a mandatory quarantine before going back onto campus and those who are medically cleared can participate in on-campus workouts beginning June 15th. The plan will allow the university's 31 programs to gradually return and it starts with the football team next week.