Here's what's trending for March 5.


An Allentown police officer faces charges for allegedly pulling out a gun during a Berks County incident while he was off-duty. Police say on February 4th, officer Jordan Smith was waiting to pick up his kids after school from their mother's house in Maidencreek Township. A man who lives in that house reportedly saw Smith throwing snowballs and their vehicles and told him he wasn't welcome before grabbing a metal boom stand after smith ran inside the couple's home. After a struggle, Smith allegedly pulled out his work-issued handgun and threatened to shoot the man. Smith is currently suspended and faces several charges.

The owner of the Whitehall Mall is reportedly getting ready to file for bankruptcy. Washington Prime Group has owned the Whitehall Mall since 2014 but today's Morning Call reports it is in a 30-day grace period to negotiate with its lenders after declining to make a $23 million interest payment on its debt in February. Whitehall Mall's current tenants include Kohl's, Raymour & Flanigan and Bed Bath & Beyond.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health Thursday added 3028 new cases of coronavirus to the state's overall total, which is now at 941,439 since the pandemic began. 50 new coronavirus-related deaths were also reported Thursday leaving the state total at 24,219. There are currently 1648 people hospitalized with COVID-19. 357 of them are in the intensive care unit.

Wegmans is opening up appointments for the COVID vaccine at all of its nine stores in New Jersey. The company did not say which vaccine it will be offering or when the first appointments will start. By midday Thursday, all appointments were already booked.

New Jersey is reporting its first cases of the Brazilian coronavirus variant. It's the sixth state in the nation to report such a strand, which is just as much of scientific concern as the U.K. and South African variants. The case was reported Thursday, exactly one year since New Jersey reported its first case of COVID-19.

LANTA is offering older Lehigh Valley residents free rides to COVID-19 vaccination sites. Anybody 65 and older qualify for the service. Those not registered with LANTA's Shared Ride program and qualify for the free trips are encouraged to call 888-253-8333 to apply.

The general manager of the PPL Center hopes Wednesday night's game against Hershey will be the last one ever where only 500 people are allowed in the building. "We all want more fans in the PPL Center. We want more fans in stadiums. We want more entertainment going on and I think everyone can help by following the guidelines that we have in place because that's the only way we're going to be allowed to do this," says Gunnar Fox. He says he is seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with Gov. Tom Wolf's decision to allow 15-percent capacity at indoor venues, meaning the next time the Phantoms skate at home up to 1500 people will be allowed in, including players, employees and of course fans.

It’s been one year since the coronavirus came to Pennsylvania and mental health doctors say they're very concerned about how we're all doing. Dr. Thea Gallagher at the University of Pennsylvania says having a daily routine is very important to promoting balanced mental health. "Give yourself credit for all the things you are doing. Take your vacation time even if you can't go anywhere glamorous. Reach out to the support people in your life. Reach out to a therapist if you need help," Gallagher says. Depression and anxiety reports have spiked in the year we've dealt with the pandemic.

While coronavirus cases here are approaching one million over the past 12 months, flu cases in Pennsylvania are at extremely low numbers. The state Department of Health says there have been fewer than 3000 cases reported this season. It's believed those numbers are so low for two reasons: COVID-19 mitigation efforts that also prevent the spread of the flu and a record number of flu vaccines administered this season.

The Ritz Barbecue at the Allentown Fairgrounds closed last June. Thursday morning it reopened under the ownership of Laurie and Dan Wuchter, who already owned the neighboring Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market. Dan Wuchter says it took longer than expected to reopen the iconic Allentown location. "I thought it would be a month. I long it was ready to go. I had no idea what we were getting in for," Wuchter jokes. While the traditional food favorites remains, the Ritz has new kitchens and the bathrooms are totally renovated.

The Wolf administration is putting aside $500,000 for its Farm-to-School program. State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding says it will improve access to nutritious, local foods for children. Any school district is eligible to apply for a grant of up to $15,000 for the program, regardless of size or instruction model.

Philadelphia and three of its suburbs are suing the state over what they say was an abuse of legislative power by blocking local bans or taxes on plastic bags that retailers give out to customers and, the municipalities say, end up as pollution and litter. The lawsuit asks the Commonwealth Court to declare the state's ban unconstitutional. The other plaintiffs are West Chester, Narberth and Lower Merion Township.

New Jersey is planning to burn at least 30,000 acres of mostly state-owned land. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection says these "prescribed burns" are important as the state's climate changes, which could lead to an increased risk of forest fires. The Forest Fire Service has been lighting these small blazes throughout the winter to reduce undergrowth as well as forest debris that have potential to start fires in warmer weather.

New Jersey is joining onto a lawsuit against an allegedly fraudulent charitable organization that used robocalls. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says more than 35 states are part of the lawsuit, permanently shutting down the operation known as Associated Community Services. The Michigan-based company allegedly collected more than $100 million from trusting donors. Their operation is accused of making 1.3-billion deceptive calls, often using illegal robocall technology.

The Philadelphia Eagles are looking for a new punter. The franchise will reportedly not extend an offer to punter Cameron Johnston. The move is being made because of salary cap issues. Johnston had been with the Eagles since 2017.


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