The Lead

In response to lawmakers’ request, Wolf admin says it’ll release more detailed pandemic data by legislative district

By: - September 10, 2021 4:45 pm

A day after Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly asked for it, the state will begin releasing more detailed information about the state of the pandemic in Pennsylvania, including vaccine records by legislative district, Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said Friday.

“My administration is committed to transparency and we have released a historic amount of public data throughout this pandemic,” Wolf said in a statement. “I appreciate the leaders’ concerns and we will provide the General Assembly with additional data, including data by legislative district.”

On Thursday, the top GOP leaders in the state House and Senate called on Wolf and acting state Health Secretary Alison Beam to make public “not only new COVID-19 case numbers, number of patients hospitalized and percentage recovered as specified on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard; but specific data that includes breakout information for cases regarding individuals age 18 and under. It is also important that we are able to review metrics that include case counts for individuals who are unvaccinated as well as vaccinated or partially vaccinated.”

The administration already releases new COVID infections, as well as hospitalization and fatalities data each day.

The House leaders who signed the letter were House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, and House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, and House Health Committee Chairperson Kathy Rapp, R-Warren. On the other side of the Capitol, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, and Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairperson Michele Brooks, R-Crawford, joined the letter.

Since Aug. 31, when the Wolf administration announced a statewide mask mandate for K-12 students and children in child care centers, the lawmakers said they’d heard from “thousands of constituents, parents, and families who not only have concerns with the mask mandate in schools, early learning and child care settings, but have questions regarding the indefinite timeframe of the mandate in relation to the current 2021-2022 school year.

“It remains important for all of us to be fully aware of the current situation and future outlook; and all Pennsylvanians, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, deserve to know how their respective group is performing,” they concluded.

Last week, Corman joined with a group of parents, and a GOP state lawmaker from central Pennsylvania, in a lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court seeking to overturn the administration’s mask order, which took effect Tuesday as students returned to class from the Labor Day weekend. The House is slated to return to session next week, cutting short its summer holiday, to try to undo the order.

The House has scheduled a non-voting day for next Wednesday, Sept. 15, and then a full slate of voting days starting Monday, Sept. 20, and running until Wednesday, Sept. 22, according to a statement released by Benninghoff’s office.

Referring to this May’s approval of a pair of constitutional amendments constraining his emergency powers, Wolf urged lawmakers in his statement “to create a frequently updated dashboard to track efforts by legislative district to help encourage vaccinations.

“We must work together to stop the spread of this terrible virus; therefore, in return, I am asking the General Assembly to share this forthcoming data with their constituents, so Pennsylvanians have another resource on the impact of COVID-19 in their communities,” Wolf continued. “I once again encourage all legislators to join me in urging all eligible Pennsylvanians to get vaccinated.”

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.