The coronavirus has claimed another victim, this time a venerable dining favorite. The owners of the Ritz Barbecue at the Allentown Fairgrounds say they're closing the restaurant, which has operated since 1927. Grace Stinner along with her husband Jeff have owned the Ritz since 1981 and she says it was a tough decision to make. "It's an emotional time for both of us. It's hard to say goodbye to something that's been a big part of your life for so long," Stinner says. The Stinners say it was tough enough competing with chain restaurants and then having to shutdown for three months due to the pandemic was the straw that broke their back. The Allentown Fairgrounds says it is looking for somebody to take over the building's lease.
The Lehigh County Coroner's Office is identifying the two bodies found inside a Bethlehem home last Friday. 64-year-old Michele Renee and her 29-year-old son, Aaron, were found dead and investigators say the two had been dead for an extended period of time. Bethlehem police say there's no threat to the community as the deaths don't appear to be suspicious. The investigation is still ongoing as autopsies performed Monday suggested further forensic testing is needed to determine the cause of their deaths.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says it's so far, so good since the commonwealth slowly began to emerge from the coronavirus-induced shutdown. "While other states and countries are seeing spikes in cases, that's just not happening here in Pennsylvania," Wolf says. The governor says that's because of his administration's methodical approach to reopening and citizens taking the issue seriously. State health officials Monday reported 323 new cases of COVID-19 and 28 additional deaths attributed to the virus.
Another local college has announced its plans for the upcoming school year. Lafayette College will begin its fall semester two weeks early, on August 17th. On-campus instruction for the semester will end at the Thanksgiving break, according to an email sent by Lafayette College President Alison Byerly. Like many other colleges, Lafayette students will then leave campus for Thanksgiving break and won't return until just before the spring semester begins. In the email, Byerly says all of Lafayette's decisions will continue to be guided by current and evolving public health guidance and information and that nothing is more important than the well being of our students, faculty, and staff, and that of Lafayette's neighbors in Easton.
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging, Area Agency on Aging and adult day center officials are releasing guidelines for nursing homes as they reopen. Secretary of Aging Robert Torees says their approach is not a one size fits all as the reopening process will be gradual, strategic and cautious while allowing flexibility. Centers will be required to conduct routine health screenings, modify meal services, do daily health checks for staff and construct separate areas to screen those with COVID-19 symptoms before they enter.
Many New Jersey restaurants enjoyed brisk business Monday on the first day of the second phase of reopning the state. Gov. Phil Murphy says if the rate of the spread of COVID-19 continues to slow, the third phase of reopening could be weeks away. The third phase would include indoor dining and reopened bars.
A coalition of schools serving about 3000 special education students will stay closed this summer. Coalition leaders say state guidance for reopening next month is not sufficient to teach students who have special needs. They say the announcement by the state that schools would reopen in July gave parents false hopes, adding that the guidance came too late and is too general. They say schools will continue offering remote instruction.
City council members in both Bethlehem and Allentown want their police departments to release their use of force policies to the public. Bethlehem City Councilman William Reynolds says he wants to push for transparency, so he and the public know what they have. Allentown City Councilman Joshua Riegel made a similar request and says he has six strategies he'd like to implement to change the system such as an interdepartmental data bank of ethics and disciplinary reviews. It also includes referring lethal force cases to the state attorney general's office.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are to take up two bills designed to reform police departments in the commonewealth. One of the measures would set up a database to prevent bad cops from switching departments. "These bills and others have been selected on a bipartisan basis because they benefit everyone. Well, except bad cops," says State Rep. Chris Rabb.
All police departments in New Jersey must begin naming officers who are charged with serious violations. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says the move is designed to promote transparency and accountability in law enforcement. The decision breaks with longstanding tradition not to disclose officers' names unless they're charged with criminal actions.
New Jersey lawmakers have advanced a bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill passed out of the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee Monday. Under the bill, the penalty for possession of fewer than five pounds of marijuana or one pound of hashish would be reduced. Currently, possession of one ounce to five pounds of marijuana can put someone in jail for 18 months.
The Philadelphia Eagles got bad news Monday after Brandon Brooks sustained a season-ending injury. Brooks tore his left Achilles tendon while he was working out at the NovaCare Complex Monday. The three-time Pro Bowl guard tore his other Achilles in 2018.
A big name in sports has joined the ownership group of the Philadelphia Union. Kevin Durant has a five-percent ownership stake of the soccer team and has the option of five-percent more in the future. Durant plays in the NBA for the Brooklyn Nets.