News & Brews May 24, 2021

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Wolf admin drops lawsuits against restaurants that defied orders

On Friday, the Wolf administration dropped two lawsuits against 46 restaurants that had defied Gov. Wolf’s order and stayed open for indoor dining during Wolf’s three-week ban on indoor dining over the holidays. Along with declining COVID cases, increased vaccinations, and the upcoming end to most of Wolf’s orders, the petition to drop the suits says most of the restaurants have come into compliance with the Department of Health’s orders. My question: Did the restaurants actually change their behavior to comply, or did DOH just change its orders so many times that the orders now reflect what the restaurants were already doing. Anyone? (I have my guess…) 

PA ranks super high in effective COVID response…but

Here’s something I’m sure we’ll hear the Wolf administration tout. PennLive reports a new Sykes study ranks PA as the 5th most effective state in fighting COVID. I had my doubts so took a quick look at the study’s methodology (scroll to the bottom here for that). Things I don’t see listed: COVID death counts (particularly in nursing homes), jobs lost, businesses closed, and more. Also, the study seems to operate on the premise that stay-at-home orders were a good thing, rather than questioning that premise at all. So, you decide.

Missing nursing home data continues to raise questions

“Can you trust the numbers?” That’s the question WPXI investigates as it “discovered the state’s public data on nursing home cases and deaths is riddled with missing information.” Given persistent concerns over over the Wolf administration’s lack of transparency, the missing data has some demanding answers.

How will vote on amendments play into ’22 governor’s race? 

The Philadelphia Inquirer looks at how last week’s vote in favor of constitutional amendments to rein in a governor’s emergency powers—widely understood to be a repudiation of how Gov. Wolf has handled the pandemic and refused to work with the Legislature—might play into the 2022 gubernatorial race, even though Wolf himself won’t be on the ballot.

Republicans call for spending safeguards for federal COVID aid

City and State PA reports that “In one of his first major moves as the state’s top fiscal watchdog, Auditor General Timothy DeFoor is calling on state lawmakers to implement a series of safeguards to ensure that federal coronavirus aid coming to Pennsylvania is spent properly.” DeFoor was joined by state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill in calling on lawmakers to pass legislation to institute spending protections for the federal aid.

Education Q&A: What will PA schools look like in the fall?

PennLive sat down with acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega and a few other Dep’t of Education folks to ask what schools may look like this fall. They covered topics including vaccines, masks, learning loss, and more. Read the piece here.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Zappala dies

Stephen Zappala, Sr., who was elected to our state Supreme Court in 1981 and served until 2002, passed away on Friday at the age of 88. The Pittsburgh Tribune Review recounts, “While serving on the state’s highest court, [Zappala] initiated, developed, and fully integrated the largest court automation system of its type in the country. His efforts combined and automated systems of the three appellate courts in Pennsylvania making it much easier and efficient for litigants, counsel, and the courts to operate.” We extend our condolences to his family.

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