Here's what's trending for March 17.


The Pennsylvania Department of Health Tuesday confirmed 3119 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 970,717. There were 65 new deaths reported for a total of 24,652 deaths attributed to COVID-19. Currently, there are 1450 people hospitalized with COVID-19, with 286 of them in the intensive care unit.

State health officials are working to get members of underserved communities vaccinated against COVID-19. Officials say while they work to get everyone in Phase 1-A appointments by the end of this month, they are trying to dispel rumors and mistrust in underserved communities through targeted campaigns. Their efforts include working with faith-based leaders to address these issues.

The Kutztown Folk Festival is going to be held virtually again this year. Organizers say the 72nd annual festival will have to be held online from June 26th until July 4th because of concerns over the health and safety of people trying to attend an event in-person. The virtual festival will include social media updates from craftsmen and entertainers as well as an archive of videos.

The Parkland School Board has approved the plan to hold in-person classes four days per week for students in kindergarten through grade 5, starting April 12. District leaders say elementary teacher and staff vaccinations will be complete by Wednesday and immunity will take effect in two weeks. Students in grades six through 12 will remain in hybrid education.

East Stroudsburg University is preparing to fully reopen its campus for the 2021 fall semester. The plans include having most classes be in-person with social-distancing and mask-wearing guidelines still in place. Hybrid learning options will still be made available for students.

The Pennsylvania Capitol Building will reopen to the public with enhanced security protocols in place on Monday, March 22nd. The public will be able to enter the building at the Main Capitol, East Wing and North Office Building entrances and must pass through metal detectors at those entrances. Everyone in the Capitol must still maintain social distancing and continue wearing a mask. However, no events will be permitted inside the building until further notice. The state Capitol has been closed to the public since December 10th.

More than 1,000,000 New Jerseyans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. It comes as the state expanded eligibility this week and gears up to add more groups to the growing list on March 29th. The state is hoping to vaccinate 70-percent of its eligible adult population by the end of May.

President Biden visited a small Delaware County business Tuesday as part of his administration's tour to promote the recently-passed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. The President says the plan is helping get COVID-19 vaccines into people's arms. "We're working so hard to make sure we get the vaccine in places that are not ordinarily the focus. That's why we've put the vaccines in community health centers. That's why we have them in drug stores now. That's why we're in the mobile units," President Biden said. The President estimates that 400,000 small businesses have closed because of the pandemic and millions more are barely surviving and he says those businesses teetering on the edge will also be helped by the relief package.

We're learning more about a Monday morning killing in Northampton County. State Police spokesman Nathan Bronosky says a long-standing dispute between two neighbors over a water pipe is what prompted an unnamed 74-year-old man to shoot and kill 42-year-old Christopher Debellis on Moser Street in Moore Township. "There are disagreements between neighbors. We ask that you talk it out and talk it out like adults. The last thing we want to see is any kind of violence," says Bronosky. Bronosky says police have been called to the address several times for numerous incidents surrounding the water pipe. The man who killed Debellis then shot himself. He is currently hospitalized. His condition has not been released.

Back in January 27-year-old Stevie Jones announced he was running for Allentown mayor. Tuesday, he announced he was withdrawing his candidacy. Jones says he's leaving the race due to unexpected circumstances in his personal life. His departure leaves incumbent Mayor Ray O'Connell, Ce-Ce Gerlach, Julio Guridy and Matt Tuerk as Democrats in the race. Tim Ramos is the only Republican seeking the job.

A Republican Pennsylvania state representative from Western Pennsylvania is retiring immediately from the legislature. Jeff Pyle, who represented parts of Armstrong, Butler and Indiana counties for more than 16 years, is stepping away from the job to focus on his health. Pyle was previously diagnosed with kidney cancer and recently suffered a stroke.

The Little League International Pandemic Advisory Response Commission is debating on whether or not the Little League World Series or regional events will be held this year. Officials have met once this month already and plan on meeting twice in April, but have yet to give a time-frame or confirmation of a return. The president and CEO of Little League says a decision must be made by mid-May at the latest.

New Jersey is gearing up to launch the second phase of its COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Several lawmakers Tuesday, including Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, announced $353 million would help tenants across the state pay their rent. The program is geared toward households with low to moderate income and even the state's homeless population. Applications open Monday, March 22nd.

New Jersey is aiming to strengthen its relationship with Israel. NJIT has finalized a partnership agreement with Israel's Ben Gurion University. Gov. Phil Murphy says the two schools are signing a "memorandum of understanding" in order to share research, which can lead to more programs. Murphy specifically mentioned how things like vaccines and other breakthroughs often result from these types of partnerships.


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