Gov. Tom Wolf is brushing off questions about whether he'll issue more orders for shutdowns as cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 spread quickly and fill Pennsylvania's hospitals. Wolf said once again Tuesday that the vaccine is his administration's strategy for fighting COVID-19 and that people need to get vaccinated. Wolf's Department of Health said it expects new cases to peak in January, followed by a peak in hospitalizations in February and a peak in deaths in late February to early March.
Southern Lehigh students soon will have the option of wearing masks after the school board rejected a plan to keep a mandate at least partially in place. The measure will begin January 21st. A school board member says the additional time to start will allow students who don't want to be in a non-mask environment to start learning through an online program from the Spartan Academy. Southern Lehigh's mask option eliminates mask requirements for all after-school activities also for anyone who attends indoor events.
Pennsylvania's Department of Health is urging pregnant women to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Denise Johnson is the Pennsylvania Physician General. "I've been an OB/GYN physician for over 25 years and I know how important vaccinations are for the health of pregnant people and their developing babies," Johnson says. She says COVID-19 vaccinations are recommended for women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, breastfeeding or may become pregnant in the future.
It didn't take very long for ex-Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez to land a new job. He's been hired as Northampton County's new deputy director of human resources. County Executive Lamont McClure announced Donchez's hiring Tuesday. His first day on the job will be on Jan. 18. He'll be paid a salary of nearly $80,000 a year.
Graduating seniors at Easton High School can expect a new experience this spring. Graduation will take place outdoors at the renovated Cottingham Stadium. The previous two senior classes celebrated graduation with car parades thanks to the pandemic. Before that, Easton's graduation ceremonies had been held at Stabler Arena on the campus of Lehigh University.
Crews battled a fire at a Bethlehem rowhome Tuesday night. It started just before 7 p.m. in the 600 block of Shields Street. Officials say no one was in the house when they got there and there are no injuries were reported. The cause remains under investigation.
What had been suspected is now all but confirmed by Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel, who says a Christmas tree was the original source of last week's fire that killed a dozen people. "We believe with near certainty, based on the evidence, that the ignition source for that tree was a lighter that was located nearby," Thiel says. He says a five-year-old, who was the only survivor on that floor of the building, has told them they were playing with the lighter when the fire began.
An investigation is underway after a helicopter crashed in Delaware County. The chopper went down Tuesday afternoon and it ended-up in the front yard of a church. An infant and three-crew members suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the crash and are expected to fully recover. The chopper was headed to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia when it went down. The National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate. There were no damages to the church or any of the houses in the vicinity.
A program that promoters say will help more than two million Pennsylvanians get a retirement savings plan is being considered in the state house. The new piece of legislation called Keystone Saves would be a state-sponsored retirement plan. Employers would make a payroll deduction into the IRA and keep track of those participating. The Treasury and a third party would handle the rest. Businesses that already have retirement plans, those with fewer than five employees, and those open for fewer than 15 months would be exempt. It's believed it would take about four years to phase in if the idea gains approval in the legislature.
State farm leaders have gathered at the Pennsylvania Farm Show to discuss the well-being of those who chose agriculture to make their livelihood. Isolation, potential crop issues and fluctuation in market statuses are all issues that give farmers anxiety, according to state experts. Now, the state Department of Agriculture has been given a two-year, $500,000 federal grant to bolster mental health services for the farm community. Pennsylvania is also working with a national network called AgriSafe, which will soon offer a 24/7 mental health hotline for agricultural producers.
The former chief of the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department who responded to the Flight 93 crash needs a heart transplant. The family of Terry Shaffer says he has been in and out of the hospital with heart issues and was put on the transplant waiting list last November. Shaffer was one of the first to respond to the crash site on 9/11 and later advocated for creating the Flight 93 Memorial.