Wolf extends Pa.’s opioid disaster declaration as COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket | Friday Morning Coffee

Photo via Flickr Commons

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Gov. Tom Wolf extended Pennsylvania’s opioid disaster declaration for the 12th time on Thursday. It’s another reminder that a serious public health problem continues unabated, even as the state threatens to be overwhelmed by a wave of COVID-19 infections.

Wolf signed the state’s 11th renewal in August. It’s been renewed every 90 days since January 2018. And it’s designed to give the state added flexibility to fight the epidemic, Wolf’s office said in a statement.

“We must continue to fight both the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid epidemic in our commonwealth, and I am grateful to the dedicated team of the Opioid Command Center for its commitment to fighting the opioid epidemic even among challenging circumstances,” Wolf said in a statement released by his office. “The work that is enabled by this declaration is vital to saving the lives of so many Pennsylvanians, providing education and treatment, and advancing initiatives across the state to continue to battle this epidemic. This work is no less important during COVID; we can and are fighting both the pandemic and the epidemic.”

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine briefs reporters on Monday, 10/26/20 (screen capture)

On Thursday, state health officials said 5,488 people had tested positive for COVID-19, as they confirmed 49 new fatalities, the Capital-Star’s Cassie Miller reported. That brought the statewide total to 248,856 cases and 9,194 deaths since the pandemic began in March.

Yet despite the rise in cases, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said there are currently no plans for another shutdown. She told reporters that another lockdown would have “social and economic consequences.”

“We are better prepared than we were in the spring,” Levine said, citing better medical care, therapeutic treatments and resources now available to health care facilities treating those with the virus. Monoclonal antibodies and Remdesivir are among the newer treatments, Levine said.

On Thursday’s Wolf office said the state is working to confront both health threats simultaneously. The news comes as flu season closes in as well. Public health officials have said that the pandemic poses particular problem with those struggling with substance abuse because of the isolation brought on by social distancing.

“As the commonwealth continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic during the winter months, continuing our fight against the opioid epidemic has never been more important,” Jennifer Smith, the secretary of the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, said in a statement. “While social distancing and mitigation efforts are critical to stop the spread of the deadly virus, for individuals with substance use disorder community support is a critical aspect of seeking treatment and ultimately sustaining recovery.”

The administration said its efforts to confront opioid abuse focuses on prevention, rescue and treatment. The administration said that efforts over the past several years, working with state, local, regional and federal officials, “have resulted in significant action to address the opioid crisis.” Those include increased access to naloxone, the anti-overdose drug, among other measures.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Two lawmakers from opposite sides of Pennsylvania made history Thursday as they became the first women elected to senior leadership posts in the state House and Senate in the 244-year history of the Legislature. Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, was tapped as Democratic floor leader, becoming the first Black lawmaker and first woman to hold that post. In the Senate, Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, became the chamber’s first woman floor leader. Stephen Caruso and Elizabeth Hardison have the details on this historic day.

From your humble newsletter author: A lawyer for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign told a Montgomery County Court judge that he had no evidence of election fraud. And a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge ruled that Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar exceeded her authority by extending a deadline for counties to verify signatures on mail-in ballots.

With COVID-19 case counts climbing, there are no plans for a new lockdownHealth Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Thursday, Cassie Miller reports.

President-elect Joe Biden and Attorney General Josh Shapiro surged in western Pennsylvania, even as Republicans made down-ballot gains, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, President-elect Joe Biden’s victory speech on Saturday night evoked Abraham Lincoln’s democratic charity, a Penn State scholar explains.

En la Estrella-Capital: Los casos de COVID se elevan a través de Pa., a medida que las vacunas potenciales demuestran ser prometedoras, por Cassie Miller. Y la campaña de Trump está demandando para bloquear la certificación de los resultados de las elecciones.

Love Park in Philadelphia (Photo via Flickr Commons)

Elsewhere.
Black voters in Philadelphia speak to the Inquirer about a historic week.
Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar has asked a federal judge to throw out a Trump campaign lawsuit, arguing that it’s based on ‘conjectural theories,’ the Post-Gazette reports.
PennLive talks to some Trump diehards in Dauphin County, who are waiting for litigation to play itself out.
Authorities in Berks County are investigating the death of a Kutztown University student, the Morning Call reports.
The Citizens-Voice looks at how area school districts are responding to spikes in COVID-19 caseloads.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

Officials in Delaware County are warning that the COVID-19 spike could overwhelm local hospitals, WHYY-FM reports.
Parishoners in Uniontown raised money and volunteered in a charity food drive, the Herald-Standard reports.
Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper is seeking a diversity and inclusion officer, GoErie reports.
The pendulum was swinging toward reopening schools — and now there’s the surge, Stateline.org reports.
Talking Points Memo explains why the latest surge is so bad — and why it’s going to get worse.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.

Best wishes go out this morning to state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, who celebrates today. And to longtime reader and supporter, Mark Bernstein, of Philadelphia, who completes another journey around the sun. Congrats and enjoy the day, friends.

Heavy Rotation.
We’ll go out this week with a roots reggae classic from John Holt that seems to fit this historic moment. Here’s ‘Jam in the Street.’

Friday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
Here’s a topic for debate among the superfans, FourFourTwo runs down the Top 100 players in the history of the Premier League.

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