Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 2577 new positive cases of coronavirus as well as 69 new deaths attributed to the virus. To date, Pennsylvania has seen 938,411 cases of the virus and 24,169 deaths blamed on it.
Everybody who works in Pennsylvania's public and private schools are eligible to receive the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, with the first shots perhaps happening as soon as March 10th. Gov. Tom Wolf says placing exclusively teachers and other school employees on the eligibility list sends a message. "We want you to get back to teaching and if we're making this available and we offer it to you, you oughta be willing to get back to school," Wolf says. School staff involved with pre-K and elementary education, special education and English as a second language learners will be put at the front of the line becuase, Wolf says, those students are more vulnerable to learning loss. Each of the state's 28 Intermediate Units will establish at least one vaccination location. Pennsylvania is scheduled to get more than 94,000 doses of the new vaccine this week.
The Pennsylvania National Guard is going to assist the state in its COVID-19 vaccine rollout after Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill Wednesday. The governor says the bill will support the National Guard and other state agencies in the planning process for community vaccination clinics once the supply of vaccines increases. The National Guard will be working with the state Department of Health in operating vaccination sites and administering doses. They'll also help with the state's new plan to vaccinate teachers and all school staff, which is expected to begin next week.
The leader of the Allentown Diocese urges Catholics not to get Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine because, he says, it's morally compromised. Bishop Alfred Schlert says the vaccine shouldn't be accepted by Catholics if other choices are available because it's produced with abortion-derived cell lines. Those who helped develop the vaccine say they use lab-grown cells descended from an aborted fetus decades ago and there is no fetal tissue in the vaccine. Immunization officials say this is the same process used to create vaccines for chicken pox, rubella, hepatitis and rabies.
The Pennsylvania State Police Association's president is urging Gov. Tom Wolf to vaccinate all state troopers. Sgt. David Kennedy says more than 700 of their members have been infected with COVID-19 directly and brought it home to their families. He adds another 200 of their civilian employees were also infected. The governor's spokesperson says the state is eager to start vaccinating trooper as soon as more doses are available. Kennedy hopes that comes soon because he says an outbreak could cripple their department.
Students at Kutztown University will be able to attend their graduation ceremony in-person this year. The university says this spring's commencement ceremony will be held in-person on the weekend of May 7th through the 9th. The ceremony will have required COVID-19 safety guidelines in place including mask-wearing and social-distancing.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 reported in New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy says the 365 days since have taken a heavy toll. "We have now lost a total of 23,449 people," Murphy says. New Jersey has seen nearly 800,000 coronavirus cases in the past year.
Wedding receptions in New Jersey are allowed to get a little bit bigger. Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Wednesday, allowing indoor weddings to hold 35-percent of the room's capacity or up to 150 people. Outdoor weddings can also have up to 150 people. Murphy says people still need to wear masks if they're not sitting at a table.
When Allentown's Lights in the Parkway opens up its 25th season this year it will have some new displays. Allentown City Council voted 6-1 in favor of spending $100,000 to replace rusting, falling apart displays. While approving the money for displays, council tabled a measure requesting $50,000 to pay part-time workers to man the Christmas tradition. Organizers say it's getting tougher every year to find volunteers to work at Lights in the Parkway, however council decided to wait and see if paid employees will be needed to staff the display this year before setting aside the money.
Two people are dead after a crash in Longswamp Township around 10:30 Tuesday night. Two cars crashed head-on on State Street after one of the cars hit a patch of ice, sending it into the oncoming lane. The drivers of both vehicles died at the scene. They're identified as 22-year-old Makenzie Ward and 24-year-old McKaide Fenstermacher, both of Barto.
LANTA has put its last fully diesel buses out to pasture. The buses that were retired Wednesday are being replaced by compressed natural gas vehicles. LANTA now has 57 compressed natural gas buses and 27 diesel hybrids. LANTA's director of maintenance says the new buses are quieter and more cost effective.
Potholes may be getting bad arouind New Jersey and the Department of Transportation knows it. The DOT's annual statewide pothole repair campaign kicked off Wednesday. This year's winter weather has been especially rough on roadways, creating potholes that are dangerous for drivers. Crews will try to avoid travel lanes but several lanes may have to close during the daytime hours so aggressive repairs can be made.
One New Jersey Congressman says National Guard members were sickened by tainted food during their time in Washington DC. Rep. Chris Smith is asking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to look into the issue. It apparently happened while New Jersey National Guard members were sent to the Capitol following the January 6th riot. Smith says at least 30 members have gotten sick over the past month, some as recently as this week.
New Jersey's long term care facilities can no longer turn away prospective residents based on their sexual orientation. Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation Wednesday, protecting elderly members of the LGBTQI+ community along with those who are HIV-positive. The LGBTQI+ Senior Bill of Rights prohibits long-term care facilities from dictating which restrooms residents can use, repeatedly failing to use the resident's preferred name or pronouns and providing unequal medical care because of their orientation. Murphy says no one should ever feel ashamed for who they are and everyone should be able to live with the dignity and equality that they deserve.