Pennsylvania's Department of Health added 560 new coronavirus cases to the statewide total, which is now at 1,207,495. 21 new coronavirus deaths were also reported Thursday. Pennsylvania's death toll is now 27,438. Currently, there are 650 people hospitalized with COVID-19. 156 of them are in the intensive care unit.
Thanks to a 121-81 House vote and a 30-20 Senate vote, Gov. Tom Wolf's disaster declaration will go by the boards as soon as last month's primary election results are certified, something expected to happy early next week. Nine Democrats, including Lehigh Valley Sen. Lisa Boscola, backed the Republican-led measure. In a separate move, lawmakers also voted to extend pandemic-related waivers allowing expanded telemedicine and retired medical professionals to help in the fight against the virus.
The Wolf administration is partnering with the United Way of Pennsylvania to battle vaccine hesitancy in the state. The two entities will be teaming up to provide $4 million in grants to local organizations to reduce hesitancy and ensure that the vaccine distribution plan is equitable. The grants from the Local Innovations in Vaccine Equity in Pennsylvania project will range from $200 to $20,000 per vaccination event.
Another retailer says it will close its doors on Thanksgiving for the second straight year. Boscov's says its 48 stores, including both in the Lehigh Valley, will remain closed this Thanksgiving. CEO Jim Boscov says, "I hope that closing on Thanksgiving Day once again becomes an industry tradition allowing our co-workers the ability to enjoy an uninterrupted Thanksgiving Day with their families." Other retailers like Walmart, Target and Best Buy have also announced plans to remain closed on the holiday.
A bill to ban abortions prompted by a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis is headed to the state Senate after being passed in the House. Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto that bill and any other pro-life bill if it makes it to his desk. "I've said it before and I'll say it again. Politics has no place in the doctor's office, especially when it comes to freedom of choice about reproductive health care," the governor says. Wolf says, "While politicians claim to be pro-life, they are actually anti-choice and anti-choice legislation doesn't help pregnant women or doctors."
State lawmakers are planning to introduce election reform legislation next week. The Voting Rights Protection Act would allow voters to vote in-person a week before the election, establish new drop boxes for mail-in ballots and allow for curbside voting to ensure access for voters with disabilities. It would also allow counties to begin preparing bailed ballot for counting five days before Election Day, require them to reach out to voters whose mail-in ballots have issues and allow them to fix it by 8pm on Election Day. However, the legislation would also expand voter identification requirements to anyone who votes in-person, instead of just first-time voters.
Pennsylvanians are getting another tool to make filing for unemployment easier. The state's Department of Labor & Industry has launched the Pennsylvania Teleclaims system, which will allow people to file for unemployment benefits by phone. It's part of L&I's new Unemployment Compensation system that launched Tuesday.
St. Rep. Tina Davis is proposing a bill that would limit solitary confinement in prisons to 15 days. Davis calls the practice unethical, inhumane and it could have lasting effects on inmates. Her bill would also ban the use of solitary confinement on LGBTQ individuals, pregnant women and inmates younger than 21 and older than 55. The bill is currently waiting for a vote in a House committee.
It was chaos in Montgomery County Thursday night after police in Eagleville responded after a code enforcement officer encountered a homeowner armed with a weapon. Lower Providence Township police Chief Michael Jackson explains what happened. "They engaged the male in front of the residence and he retreated back inside. A very short time later, there were multiple loud explosions and the residence caught on fire," Jackson says. Eventually, three homes caught on fire in the incident. It's unclear if the suspect is in custody.
Hunting licenses will go on sale in Pennsylvnaia Monday. The 2021-2022 hunting season officially starts on July 1st. You can buy your license online at www.pgc.pa.gov.
New Jersey's newest federal judge is the first Muslim to sit on a U.S. District Court bench in the nation's history. Zahid Quraishi was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 81-16. Quraishi served as a captin in the U.S. Army, an assistant U.S. Attorney and a federal magistrate judge.