What's believed to have been explosions caused by fireworks has left one person dead in Lower Milford Township. This man lives near the scene and describes what he heard. "An enormous explosion shook the house and it went on for a while. It was a continuous rumble," he said. State police responded shortly after 3 o'clock Tuesday afternoon to the 8400 block of Orchard Road. Fireworks were apparently nearby, although it is not known whether they caused the explosion or the fire. The coroner's office has not yet identified the person killed. At least one other person was injured.
An Allentown school has been badly damaged in an overnight fire. Firefighters were called to the Sacred Heart School on North Fourth Street around 2 o'clock this morning. The fire appears to have started on the third floor and spread to the roof. No serious injuries were reported in the fire, which appears to have been contained to the third floor and roof. There's no word yet on what caused the fire.
Pennsylvania health officials are confirming more cases of coronavirus in the state. Tuesday saw an increase of 493 new cases of the virus, pushing the overall total to 76,436. 61 new coronavirus-related deaths were also reported Tuesday. That leaves the death toll at 6014.
The Palmer Park Mall is reopening Friday. Kind of. While the mall will reopen, Northampton County remains under the yellow phase of Gov. Tom Wolf's reopening plan. That means only mall tenants with an exterior entrance can be open. Interior tenants can only offer curbside pickup of merchandise while under the yellow designation. In a Facebook post, the mall asks its shoppers to wear masks, practice social distancing and follow federal health guidelines while inside the mall.
Hospitals are being required by the state health department to replace soiled or damaged respirators, require universal masking and more to protect health care workers from COVID-19. Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says she's pledging to deliver a safer environment for health care workers after unionized nurses were raising concerns about the hazardous working conditions. Health care workers emphasized that their hospitals have failed to properly protect them amid the pandemic as almost 6000 of them contracted coronavirus since March. Levine's order now pushes hospitals to provide respirators or replace them on request of the staff, notify staff members if they have been in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19 and offer them testing for the virus.
A resolution to end Gov. Tom Wolf's coronavirus-related state shutdown has passed both the state House and Senate. What happens next, however, remains to be seen. Democrats say the governor won't approve the resolution while Republicans claim the law doesn't require his approval to be enacted. A spokesperson for Wolf says only the governor can terminate the disaster emergency.
New Jersey's Gov. Phil Murphy has lifted the state's stay-at-home order as the state's COVID-19 outbreak continues to slow down. Murphy imposed the order in March. Today, the state has more than 164,700 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and mor ethan 12,300 deaths. Murphy also raised the limit on the number of people allowed at indoor and outdoor gatherings, including 500 people at graduations. Indoor dining is not yet allowed. But the governor says if there is a spike in the number of cases, he'll resume restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus.
Nail salons and barbershops in New Jersey will be allowed to reopen June 22nd under the state's multiphase reopening plan. It's not yet known when tattoo parlors will be allowed to reopen yet. The second stage of the reopening plan begins June 15th. Gov. Phil Murphy says the state has increased testing and is expanding contact tracers to better track any coronavirus recurrences.
Members of the Hanover Township, Northampton County Board of Supervisors are requesting an opportunity to review Colonial Regional Police Department procedures. Supervisor Susan Lawless says the wants to see the policy of the use of neck and choke holds to ensure it's up with the time, but Board Chairman John Diacogiannis says they already banned those types of holds. Nonetheless, the police department's policy book will be available to the entire board and Lawless noted to the rest of the board that they should be invited early in the hiring process to strive for diversity. Lawless added that such diversity will enhance the quality of an already fine police department.
Pennsylvania's auditor general has issued 18 recommendations for criminal justice reform in the commonwealth. Eugene DePasquale says those reforms would also help Pennsylvania's bottom line. "Enacting criminal justice reform can produce big taxpayer savings for Pennsylvania taxpayers while creating a more equitable approach to enforcing our laws," DePasquale. He says in fiscal year 2018-2019 the state spent about $101 million to incarcerate people who have committed no new crimes, but rather have violated their probation or parole by something as trivial as missing curfew.
Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai's agreed to hold a special session to look at police reform bills. Democratic State Rep. Chris Rabb says that's a good start but there are measures lawmakers could deal with right away. "It's bigger than that. We also want him to run bills this week, at least one of 19 that have been languishing in the judiciary committee for years," Rabb says. He says he's pushing a measure that would set up a database of cops who have lots of complaints against them to make it harder for the officer to changing jobs.
Republican leaders in New Jersey called Gov. Phil Murphy a hypocrite for attending protests this past weekend despite his own stay-at-home order. Tuesday, as he announced he would be lifting his stay-at-home order, Murphy said political gatherings would be exempt from his order because they're protected under freedom of speech. The governor says Republican criticism of his attendance at weekend protests had nothing to do with his decision.
Mike Turzai will reportedly step down as Pennsylvania's Speaker of the House. Sources say that could happen as soon as today. In January, the Pittsburgh-area Republican said he would be retiring at the end of his term. Turzai has been Speaker of the House since 2015.
The coronavirus pandemic is being blamed for a delay in deploying some PA National Guard soldiers to the Middle East. The 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade had its pre-deployment training rescheduled due to the spread of COVID-19 and now will be relieving the team already in place later than expected. Once deployed, the task force will be in place for around nine months.
New Jersey's Board of Education has adopted new standards for teaching sex education. The new guidelines expand what students learn about relationship, pregnancy and consent. They will also include updates on such topics as gender identity and abortion. Supporters say the new guidelines will promote student health and inclusiveness. Critics say the standards violate parents' rights to teach their children about sensitive subjects.
A local college is cancelling its entire 2020-2021 sports schedule. L-Tri-C has issued a statement that reads, "The decision to suspend athletics was made to protect the health and welfare of our student athletes, staff and campus community." That decision affects men's and women's basketball, men's and women's soccer, baseball, softball, golf and women's volleyball.