News & Brews August 13, 2021

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Let the mapmaking commence!

At long last, yesterday the U.S. Census Bureau released the population data needed for redistricting. Among the notable news: Reading surpassed Erie as Pennsylvania’s 4th-largest city. Cumberland County had the largest growth by percentage, at 10%. And Harrisburg lost its spot as Dauphin County’s biggest municipality, a bragging right now held by Lower Paxton Township. Of course, there’s more. PennLive provides some “first-day takeaways from a weird U.S. Census.” And Spotlight PA ranks the counties that lost and gained the most population while also saying “now the hard work begins” as the process of redrawing congressional and legislative district maps officially gets underway.

Wolf admin threatens nursing homes on vaccine compliance

Capitolwire’s Chris Comisac writes (paywall) that instead of issuing blanket vaccine mandates statewide, the Wolf administration is “targeting certain populations over which they have more control.” Yesterday, the administration announced that nursing homes must vaccinate 80% of staff by October 1 or implement more frequent testing and face potential “regulatory action” if testing requirements aren’t met. In response, Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, noted, “Instead of proposing solutions to increase vaccine acceptance rates in long-term care, the Department of Health, today, threatened providers and issued a punitive mandate on nursing homes if 80% vaccination rates are not achieved….This is, once again, a decision that was made by the Department of Health without input from industry experts, frontline caregivers and providers from the Pennsylvania Health Care Association….”

Corrections union plans legal action against Wolf’s vaccine mandate

Speaking of vaccines, the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association, which represents about 10,000 state prison guards, plans to take legal action against Gov. Wolf’s recent mandate that certain state workers, including guards, receive COVID vaccines by Sept. 7 or face weekly testing. In a letter to Wolf, union president John Eckenrode wrote, “This is the latest episode of what has been a woefully inconsistent vaccination/testing/masking policy by this administration in our state prisons.”

Philly announces targeted vaccine-or-double-mask mandate

This morning, Philly announced that “[e]mployees of Philadelphia’s higher education and health care systems must be vaccinated by mid-October, or wear two masks while indoors, practice social distancing and get COVID tested once a week,” the Inquirer reports.

Can you get unemployment if you decline COVID vaccine?

Sorry about yet another vaccine story, but it’s in the news. Capitol reporter John Finnerty writes that the Department of Labor & Industry hasn’t ruled out allowing unemployment benefits for workers who lose their jobs for declining the COVID vaccine. Of course, the issue isn’t quite as cut and dry as it may sound. (And also, of course, just because L&I says you might get benefits, we’ve seen how well that’s worked out these past 17 months). Read more here.

PA’s newest political party

Founded in Colorado in 2017, the Serve America Movement Party (SAM) has reached Pennsylvania. City & State PA reports that the party “claims its focus is on putting good government over ideology.” Let’s just say that having been in and around politics for 20+ years, I’m skeptical of such declarations. I dunno…maybe you disagree….

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