Scott Park in Easton hosted a prayer service Sunday. Leaders there say they felt a need to pray for peace and for the people of Ukraine. In Stroudsburg, hundreds gathered in front of the Monroe County Courthouse to protest Russia's invasion of Ukraine, including some who have family members still in Ukraine. "20 minutes ago they got notice they were go into the basement. I cannot reach them now to know what is going on," one man said. The rally reportedly drew people from as far away as New York City.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is removing all Russian-made products from all Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores across the state. The board announced the decision to remove the products to show support for the people of Ukraine. Russian-made special order products are no longer available as well. The move comes after a request by Gov. Tom Wolf earlier Sunday that the sales be halted.
Three state senators are soliciting co-sponsors for legislation to introduce a resolution urging President Joe Biden to reopen the Keystone XL Pipeline. Republican senators Wayne Langerholc of Johnstown; Joe Pittman of Indiana; and Gene Yaw of Williamsport have posted a co-sponsorship memorandum in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The memo says re-opening the Keystone XL Pipeline will start to ease the energy burden. The senators also say it will protect national energy security going forward. They say they'll introduce the resolution "in the near future." The pipeline officially was abandoned in June 2021 with about eight percent of construction completed.
Mask wearing policies continue to change in the Lehigh Valley. Wearing masks is now optional for City of Allentown employees and visitors entering city properties. Following guidance from the Allentown Health Bureau, city leaders say they made the change, which is is effective today. Likewise, while mask wearing will still be highly recommended, the mandatory mask mandate will be lifted at the Lehigh County Government Center starting today. This decision only applies to the Lehigh County Government Center. The county 911 Communications Center, Lehigh County Jail, Lehigh County Courthouse and Cedarbrook Nursing Home will continue to uphold all mask mandates until further notice.
Acting state Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter says COVID case counts are at their lowest since August. More than 1400 new COVID cases were reported over the weekend. Klinepeter also says they continue to fall as do COVID hospitalizations. While that may be true, 79 more COVID-related deaths were reported over the weekend.
New Jersey's daily coronavirus case count remains steady. It comes as several school districts prepare to lift mask mandates in exactly one week, which is when Gov. Phil Murphy said he will lift the universal requirement. The Garden State reported 1081 additional cases on Sunday and confirmed ten new deaths. A number of officials have called on Murphy to lift the schools mask mandate earlier, but he is sticking with his original deadline.
Today is new jersey's first major deadline for healthcare workers to receive their coronavirus booster shots. Hospitals and healthcare facilities have asked Gov. Phil Murphy to give an extension because of potential staffing issues, but the governor refused. Under the mandate, workers who have not received their boosters could face consequences by their employers. Staffers in congregate settings such as prisons and group homes have until March 30th to get a booster.
A former hotel manager in the Poconos is going to be spending a lot of time behind bars for his role in a sex-and-drug trafficking ring. Faizal Bhimani was sentenced to 15 years for making rooms available for traffickers and drug dealers at the Howard Johnson hotel in Bartonsville.
The state's Law and Justice Committee has a scheduled public hearing today to discuss, among other items, legalized recreational marijuana use in the state. Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf expressed his hope that the idea would come to pass before he leaves office next January. But political watchdogs say that's not likely to happen as the general assembly has competing bills to legalize marijuana, and in different ways. Marijuana legalization for recreational use been approved in 18 states and the District of Columbia.