COVID-19 in Pa.: The kids are not alright. What’s next? | Tuesday Morning Coffee

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine talks to reporters during a news conference on 7/13/20 (Screen Capture)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

She’s taken her share of shots — some of them justified — but just like America’s family physician, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine has mostly been an oasis of reassuring calm during the four months the commonwealth has labored through the often dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There have been rare moments when Levine, who trained as a pediatrician, has let her calming bedside manner slip.

And on Monday, with the news that Pennsylvanians aged 19 to 49 now make up nearly half of the state’s COVID-19 cases, it was definitely one of those times. And the force of it was palpable.

“If you’re in a situation where you think you need a mask, then the answer is “Yes,” you need a mask,” Levine said during a news conference, notes of exasperation and irritation clearly creeping from the edges of her voice. “If you’re uncomfortable with how close people are, such as in a restaurant, make the choice to leave. If you’re in a store where people are failing to observe mask orders, then leave. As much as our effort [to contain the virus] are about laws and mandates and requirements, they’re mostly about your choices.”

It reminded us of when your family doctor asks you if you’ve been taking your medication as your blood pressure spikes, and you say no, you haven’t, and then your doctor looks at you with disappointment in her eyes, her expression screaming, “Well why do you think you feel awful?”

The risk for young people is, indeed, real. A University of California study published over the weekend found that 1 in 3 young adults are at severe risk of COVID-19, a risk that’s exacerbated if they’re smokers.

The study “looked at data drawn from a nationally representative sample of approximately 8,400 men and women ages 18 to 25 and concluded that overall ‘medical vulnerability’ was 33 percent for males and 30 percent for females.”

(Capital-Star file photo)

While cases are up statewide, the good news here (if you can even call it that) is that Pennsylvania isn’t anywhere near the crisis stages now being approached and exceeded in red states such as Texas and Florida, where governors ignored public health warnings and reopened early.

In the Lone Star State, officials are now weighing new lockdown measuresCBS News reported.

But partisan leanings have proven no predictor of good behavior. On Monday, deep blue California rolled back its reopening, shutting down indoor diningThe Guardian reported. Schools in Los Angeles and San Diego are opting for online-only instruction, according to CNN.

Which just reinforces the notion that, while some might want to wish it away, the coronavirus makes absolutely zero distinction when it comes to party affiliation, sickening and killing Democrats and Republicans with equal cruelty.

Sound public health strategies have been central to fighting the pandemic. But as Levine’s remarks made clear Monday, so much of whether we defeat this illness or not comes down to our individual choices, and the frank realization that those choices ripple across the community.

Don’t want to wear a mask? Fine. Get used to being turned away from certain businesses or denied access to a restaurant. There’s no Constitutional right to shop at Target, after all.

These choices impact everything — from whether our kids safely return to school in the fall to whether Pennsylvania returns to some form of phased lockdown.

On Monday, Levine made clear the latter option wasn’t in the cards — for now.

“Our actions will continue to impact whether we can stay at work,” Levine said. “Clearly, we are seeing cases across the U.S. skyrocket. Other states are seeing an even more dramatic surge that we were able to avoid.”

And as she said it, it seemed pretty clear that Levine wouldn’t have any problem with sending us to our collective rooms if the occasion demanded it.

We could be wrong, but the look in her eyes was a lot like your family doctor’s when you tell her you haven’t been taking your medication.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Elizabeth Hardison has what you need to know about a GOP-backed constitutional amendment now working its way through the state Senate that would see Pennsylvanians electing statewide appellate judges in districts — in much the same way we currently elect members of the General Assembly.

Here’s the full story on state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine’s news conference on Monday, penned by your humble newsletter author. Ditto for this story about Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro joining a multi-state lawsuit seeking to stop the Trump administration’s new visa rules for international students.

A new report has found a ‘troubling pattern of racial resentment’ brewing in the Philly courts, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, a Pennsylvania business leader makes a pro-business case for why the commonwealth needs to join a regional greenhouse gas compact. And Marc Stier, of the Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Centerargues against that judicial districting plan now before the state Senate, saying it would make an already bad electoral system even worse.

Elsewhere.
Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy
 will resign over his handling of anti-racism and police reform protests in the city, the Inquirer reports.
The Pens are back to practice. The Tribune-Review looks at the team’s new normal.
PennLive turns to experts for advice on how to deal with people who won’t to wear a mask.
Travelers entering Pennsylvania from Delaware, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma will be asked to voluntarily quarantine for 14 days, the York Daily Record reports.
Allentown police have released a nine-minute video of their interaction with a man whose neck ultimately ended up under an arresting officer’s knee. The Morning Call has the story.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

Officials in the Dallas school district in Luzerne County are reviewing their reopening plansThe Citizens-Voice has the details.
Graduate students at Penn State held a ‘die in’ to protest the resumption of in-person classesWPSU-FM reports.
Mercyhurst University 
has joined the opposition to the Trump administration’s visa policy, GoErie reports.
State lawmakers nationwide, some reacting to their own experience, are moving to crack down on racially motivated 911 calls — like the one used against the Central Park bird watcher — Stateline.org reports.
NYMag’s Intelligencer explains why this recession’s housing crisis is even worse than the Great Recession of 2008.

What Goes On.
The House comes in at 11 a.m. The Senate convenes at its usual 1 p.m.
Here’s a look at the day’s committee action — as ever, all sessions are live-streamed.

In the Senate:
11 a.m.: 
Local Government Committee

In the House:
9:30 a.m., G50 Irvis: 
Transportation Committee
Call of the Chair: Appropriations Committee

WolfWatch.
Gov, Tom Wolf
 holds a 9:30 a.m. newser at the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency on Front Street in Harrisburg, where he’s set to sign some police reform bills into law.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s an absolute classic from Gorillaz to put a spring in your step this Tuesday morning. It’s their debut single, ‘Clint Eastwood.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
The Hockey News
 profiles the Top 10 prospects who will be playing in the NHL’s Return to Play tournament.

And now you’re up to date.

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press