The Pennsylvania Department of Health added 2594 new cases of coronavirus Wednesday, pushing the state's overall total to 955,730. 43 new coronavirus-related deaths were also reported Wednesday, leaving the state with 24,439 since the pandemic began.
While Pennsylvania has now administered 3.1-million coronavirus vaccinations, Gov. Tom Wolf says there are still plenty of issues to iron out. "One of the challenges, because the demand is higher than the supply, is the issue of making sure we're doing this fairly," Wolf says. Officials say vaccination providers are asking for 420,000 doses, but the commonwealth only has about 254,000 to go around.
Event planning, catering and lodging groups are calling on Gov. Tom Wolf to increase capacity for private events and weddings to 50-percent. The Private Event Professionals of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association and the local chapter of the National Association for Catering and Events all joined together for this call. The group says it's a failure of leadership to not be planning and communicating now for the eventual rollback of the mitigation orders. Wolf did raise capacity to 15-percent for indoor events and 20-percent for outdoor, but the group says that's not enough.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Tom Wolf says he isn't considering any more COVID-19 restrictions leading up to St. Patrick's Day. Last year, the governor issued a shutdown for non-essential businesses due to the pandemic, causing almost every St. Patrick's Day celebration to be canceled. Restaurants and bars may be able to hold scaled down celebrations for the holiday as establishments that self-certify can operate at 50-percent capacity and alcohol sales must end by 11pm. However, meals are still required to be served with alcohol purchases and bar seating is still banned.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says help is on the way. He took to Twitter Wednesday, calling it a "great day for New Jersey and our nation" as the American Rescue Plan passed the House of Representatives. New Jersey is set to receive more than $10 billion in federal aid, which will trickle down to local municipalities. The plan includes vaccination resources and direct stimulus checks, with the governor saying it will deliver "real" and "bold" relief to New Jerseyans.
New Jersey is gearing up to roll back more coronavirus restrictions. Starting March 19th, restaurants can increase indoor dining to 50-percent, up from 35-percent. Gyms and salons will also be able to welcome customers at 50-percent capacity beginning on that same day.
New Jersey has administered more than $2.6 million coronavirus vaccinations. That includes nearly 900,000 people who have received their second shot. Meantime, the state reported 3047 additional cases Wednesday and its first case of the South African variant, which was found in Hudson County.
Ahart's Market has been part of Bethlehem's South Side landscape for 20 years, but it will be closing on the last day of April because of declining business. Store manager Luis Morales tells the Morning Call the store has been hurt by fewer students shopping there since Lehigh University switched to remote learning in the pandemic. Ahart's stores in Bath, Allentown and Blakeslee will remain open.
Police are investigating a Wednesday evening shooting in Allentown. A man was shot in the 100 block of Sycamore Street and taken to an area hospital. There's no word on the man's condition or if any arrests have been made.
More than two-thirds of those at the Lehigh County Republican Committee meeting Tuesday voted to censure Sen. Pat Toomey for his vote to convict ex-President Trump at his second impeachment trial last month. Toomey was one of seven Republican senators to vote to convict the former president for his actions leading up to the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry is looking to hire 500 customer service members soon. Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier says the department is going to be hiring at least 500 new customer service representatives for its unemployment compensation call center. The department wants to hire and train the new employees by the start of June. The department is in need of new workers to handle the increasing number of unemployment calls the department is receiving recently.
Pennsylvanians are now able to apply for food stamps from their phones. The Department of Human Services says this new service is designed to provide all applicants, but especially those without access to a computer or internet service, with a quick way to submit applications. Those wanting to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can do so by calling 1-866-550-4355. Callers will need to provide the same information they would for an online application.
Several counties in the Poconos are being added this year to the state's spotted lanternfly quarantine zone. Officials say eight new counties in the state have been added to the invasive pest's quarantine zone for 2021. Lackawanna, Pike and Wayne counties were three of the eight additions to the zone, joining Monroe, Luzerne and Carbon counties which were already included.
There are videos going viral in Hershey of a coyote roaming the area during the daytime. One of the videos captured the animal crossing Hersheypark Drive near Hersheypark Stadium earlier this week. The animals are typically active at night.
The New Jersey Department of Educaton says it's successfully bridged the digital divide. That means all public students have the technology needed to attend their online classes. Officials say more than 230,000 students didn't have access to devices, Wi-Fi, or both when the coronavirus pandemic forced learning to take place virtually.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority is creating a Micro Lender Support Grant Program. The $2 million plan will grant up to $200,000 to organizations that lend to the state's small and micro businesses. NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan says small businesses are the bedrock of communities, adding this pilot program will allow lenders to continue helping businesses while increasing their capacity to serve even more. The NJEDA plans on launching applications for this program by the middle of April.