Data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health shows nearly 158,000 additional coronavirus cases have accumulated in the past seven days, including over 18,000 on Wednesday. Officials say although the daily and weekly additional case totals are well above the numbers seen last winter, they are beginning to wane. The Lehigh Valley has seen its seven-day average drop by 48-percent since Wednesday of last week.
Daily coronavirus cases in New Jersey are dropping at a considerable rate. The state reported more than 8400 additional cases on Wednesday.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is issuing an executive order, mandating vaccines for New Jersey's healthcare workers. "All workers in healthcare settings and high-risk congregate living facilities, including our correctional facilities should be up to date on their vaccinations. That means both primary doses and booster," the governor says. Unvaccinated healthcare workers have until January 27th to get their first dose and must complete the series by February 28th. For vaccinated workers, the same deadlines apply for booster shots.
All 50 Republican senators and two Democrats prevented the Senate's filibuster rules from being changed, which would have forced a vote on a voting rights bill pushed by the White House. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey says, "Chuck Schumer's brazen attempt to take over elections is rooted in fallacy and is merely a veiled cover to try to crush the voice of Senate minorities today and far into the future." Democrat Bob Casey says, “It’s disappointing to see my Republican colleagues continue to block legislation to protect the fundamental right to vote. The fight for our democracy is not a hypothetical one. Inaction is not an option.”
It arrived a bit later than expected, but it did snow in the Lehigh Valley. Accu-Weather's Joe Lundberg says the expected accumulation remains minimal. "There will be about a three-to-four hour period where it snows this morning and that's why we could end up with an inch or two at most," Lundberg says. He says the snow will mainly accumulate on non-paved surfaces.
State Representative Rosemary Brown, who has represented Monroe and Pike Counties since 2010, says 2022 will be her final year in the House. In a statement, the Republican says, "Twelve years seems like the right time for me to move on into another position, whether that be in government or the private sector.”
AAA East Central says the average price of gas essentially held steady for the period ending January 18th. Pennsylvania's average price was $3.51 a gallon, down less than a penny from the previous week and 83 cents per gallon more than last January 18th. Locally, the average price for a gallon of gas was $3.49, also down less than one cent from the previous week and 82 cents more than one year earlier.
Officials issued a boil water advisory for Slatington due to a water line break which has now been repaired. The advisory is in effect until further notice.
Residents in Jim Thorpe are trying to save a popular roller rink. The roller skating rink is located inside Jim Thorpe's Memorial Hall but it's been almost 15 years since it was open to the public. Over 800 people have signed an online petition to preserve the rink. The Memorial Hall is close to receiving about $1 million in federal money for renovations.
The state Senate has approved a bill that would exempt certain newer vehicles from having to undergo emissions testing. Currently, that's required as part of the vehicle emissions inspection and maintenance program and costs about $40 per car. The bill has been sent to the House Transportation Committee. To become law, it will need to pass the House and be signed by Gov. Wolf, who already has said he opposes it.
A state lawmaker would like to see special license plates sold at auction to make money for state coffers. Rep. John Lawrence's idea is that PennDOT would sell special blue plates to the highest bidder that have gold characters with desirable letters and combination numbers. He says the vanity special plates would be available on a voluntary basis, but adds that other states have raised millions of dollars from people who chose to buy one. Proceeds would go to the state's motor license fund.
State Treasurer Stacy Garrity says there's a lot of money in the unclaimed properties fund. She announced that $135 million came into the fund during this past year alone. Overall, the fund contains more than $4 billion. She encourages everyone to visit the state treasury website to see if they have any unclaimed property waiting to be returned. The treasury has a dedicated unclaimed property database to help reunite veterans and their families with military decorations and memorabilia. Military decorations and memorabilia are never auctioned and remain in the vault for safekeeping until a veteran or their family is found.
State lawmakers have put a bill in front of Gov. Tom Wolf that would impact the handling of missing persons cases in the commonwealth. If signed into law, state police would be required to enter dna profiles of all missing individuals into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons system. Profiles would also be entered when unidentified bodies are discovered. Ten states currently have similar laws on the books.
Four individuals have been added to a list of people banned from visiting all Pennsylvania casinos. All four individuals added to the ban list yesterday left young children inside their cars so they could go inside the casino to gamble. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board calls their behavior irresponsible and dangerous. Since 2011, 133 people have been banned from state casinos for similar actions.