News & Brews February 1, 2021

Wolf administration holding back some COVID data

Under intense pressure, last August the Wolf administration began releasing COVID data from contact tracing surrounding restaurants and businesses visited (data which failed to support Wolf’s shutdown orders). But as we learned from a Right to Know request we submitted (which the Department of Health denied but then the Office of Open Records granted our appeal challenging the denial), it turns out the state is collecting a trove of additional data surrounding schools, travel, health care settings, mass transit, and more, but not releasing it to the public. The Delaware Valley Journal covers the story.

Logistics problems continue to plague vaccine distribution

“Although the country has a supply problem, Pennsylvania has a logistics problem,” in regards to COVID vaccines says Bill Johnston-Walsh, the director of AARP Pennsylvania. PennLive examines the mounting frustration over COVID vaccine distribution in central Pennsylvania, where main health care providers aren’t accepting vaccination appointments. The Post-Gazette takes a statewide look at the logistics quagmire surrounding the Wolf administration’s rollout: “By Saturday, inoculation providers statewide had reported administering just more than 1 million doses of vaccines, or about 52% of the nearly 1.98 million doses known to be distributed to Pennsylvania … That trailed the national injection rate by about 7 percentage points.”

Another round of mail-in ballot confusion? Great.

Take a deep breath: “Pennsylvania elections officials have never done this before, and they’re bracing themselves for trouble,” says the Philadelphia Inquirer in a detailed explainer of the new “permanent list” mail-in voters may have opted into under the new election laws. “It’s a nightmare for us, logistically,” says one county official. Little standard guidance has come from the state, but what will likely cause the most problems for counties is the confusion this will cause voters. By choosing to be on the “permanent list,” a voter receives mail-in ballots for the elections that calendar year, and mail-in ballot applications the years after. So voters who received their ballots for last November’s election will now be receiving an application instead for the first time.

No matter what changes, Wolf’s budget priorities remain the same

Gov. Wolf will be delivering his annual budget address via video tomorrow and lawmakers and taxpayers can expect “several of his initiatives that have gained little to no traction with the GOP-controlled General Assembly in his first six years in office,” reports PennLive (paywall). Even more money for public schools, a tax on natural gas, legalized marijuana…different problems, the same solutions from Gov. Wolf. Here’s a report from the Commonwealth Foundation on ways to position Pennsylvania for a strong recovery without tax hikes.

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