Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 4557 new cases of coronavirus in the commonwealth, pushing the statewide total to 1,024,857 since the pandemic began more than one year ago. There were 44 new coronavirus-related deaths reported Wednesday, leaving the state's count at 25,093. Currently, there are 1980 people hospitalized with COVID-19. 392 of them are in the intensive care unit.
Acting Pennsylvania Health Secretary Alison Beam says Pennsylvania is less than a week away from expanding the list of those eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19. "As of April 5th, we will be moving to Phase 1B here in Pennsylvania," Beam says. That group includes manufacturing workers, veterinarians, postal service workers, clergy and public transit workers. Beam says up to one-million more people fall into the Phase 1B category. A week after that, people in Phase 1C can get vaccinated. That group includes bank tellers, food service workers, government workers and construction workers. By April 19th, Beam says all residents will be eligible to schedule their vaccination.
The University of Pittsburgh is moving to an elevated risk protocol. University leaders say the move is in response to the recent increase in positive cases. With that protocol, a shelter-in-place order has been given, meaning students should only leave their rooms or apartments to attend classes, pick up food, exercise safely, work when necessary and to shop for essentials and medical needs.
New Jersey officials say coronavirus variants could cause another spike in case numbers. Gov. Phil Murphy says the pandemic isn't over, reporting almost 4600 new infections Wednesday. Officials think the Garden State has entered a third wave of the pandemic, with current models predicting a peak by the middle of May. To date, nearly 1.6-million New Jerseyans have been fully vaccinated.
New Jersey will soon be committing $25 million in grants for microbusinesses hit hard by the pandemic. Gov. Phil Murphy says he'll sign the bill into law today, as the measure looks to use CARES Act money, as well as funds from the latest stimulus. Officials within New Jersey's Economic Development Authority will determine the size of individual grants and then help distribute those funds. The bill defines microbusinesses as ones that employ ten-or-fewer fulltime employees.
Lawyers representing Christian Hall's family still plan to move forward with a civil lawsuit against the Pennsylvania state police troopers who were involved in the fatal shooting of the 19-year-old last December. Devon Jacob and Benjamin Crump are asking for more transparency from the Monroe County District Attorney's investigation after he ruled Tuesday the shooting was justified. Jacob says First Assistant DA Michael Mancuso was factually incorrect when he said that Hall's family refused to cooperate in the homicide investigation. They are seeking for an unbiased investigation conducted by Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
A New York man is now behind bars after investigators solved a 45-year-old cold case in Carbon County. Luis Sierra is now under arrest for allegedly murdering 15-year-old Evelyn Colon and her unborn child in East Side Borough in 1976. The victim's remains were first discovered on the bank of the Lehigh River and thanks to modern technology, investigators were able to identify the body this year. Sierra was 19 at the time of the murder.
After ten years with WFMZ, news anchor and reporter Will Lewis is leaving the station. His last day with WFMZ was Wednesday. Lewis is taking a new job in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Lawmakers are looking at legislation that would increase penalties on distracted drivers. Monroe County St. Rep. Rosemary Brown's bill would allow drivers to only use electronic devices if they are hands-free like bluetooth or with a docking station. Under the bill, those who fail to follow the law can face fines, citations or even jail time.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is poised to sign legislation bringing relief to small businesses. The governor has already signed the Economic Recovery Act earlier this year, providing financial support to small businesses while also investing in future economic interests.