Happy Weekend, All.
Hi folks. It’s Capital-Star Editor John L. Micek, once again sitting in for Cassie Miller, who’s still enjoying some well-earned time off.
Another Memorial Day Weekend is upon us. And with more and more Pennsylvanians getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19, it’s a safe bet that we’ll all be seeing a lot more of each other during this long holiday weekend.
And if you’re heading to one of Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests for a little outdoor R&R (they were a popular destination during the pandemic), then get ready for a crowd, officials at the state Department of Conservation & Natural Resources said this week.
Park and forest visitors still have to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention masking guidelines for outdoor activities. Which means that if you’re fully vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask outdoors or practice social distancing, the agency said in a statement. If you’re still unvaccinated, the mask stays on and you have to continue practicing social distancing. Those rules stay in place until June 28, or until 70 percent of adult Pennsylvanians are fully vaccinated — whichever comes first.
“Pennsylvania state parks and forests are a great way to enjoy nature and break up your normal routine with outdoor activities,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said in a statement. “We ask park visitors to be respectful of the guidelines as we approach Memorial Day weekend and throughout the summer months when we are expecting large numbers of visitors.”
In case you’re wondering, “overnight accommodations such as camping and cabins for the Memorial Day weekend are close to capacity. Reservations can be made 11 months in advance, and the state park reservation system will provide information about availability,” the agency said.
And through Monday, attendance for outdoor programming is capped at 40 people, including park staff. Beginning June 1, there will not be any attendance limits on outdoor programming. Indoor programming attendance limits will be capped at 50 percent, the agency said
As ever, your Top 5 Most-Read Stories of the week start below. Have a healthy and safe holiday weekend, and we’ll see you all back here next week.
Pennsylvanians may have voted to restrict Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency powers this week, but it will not impact the single most visible sign of the COVID-19 pandemic on citizens’ lives: masks.
Under current state health orders, unvaccinated individuals should wear masks when they’re indoors, and outdoors if they’re unable to maintain social distance.
Matching updated federal guidelines, the state recently lifted these rules for vaccinated individuals. Under the new orders, vaccinated individuals should only wear masks in some crowded settings.
While conservative anger fixated on the emergency declaration, the Department of Health still has the power to “carry out the appropriate control measures” of infectious diseases under the state’s 1955 Disease Control and Prevention Act.
2. Pa. House passes fetal remains bill with bipartisan backing (Editor’s Note: This story was first published in 2019, but bubbled up during debates over abortion rights in the Pa. House this week).
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has approved legislation requiring hospitals to either bury or cremate fetal remains after a miscarriage or death, unless the patient asks to handle their disposition on their own.
Every Republican backed the bill, along with a smattering of Democrats, which passed on a 123-76 vote.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Frank Ryan, R-Lebanon, whose wife suffered a miscarriage in the late 1970’s. Speaking on the House floor, Ryan said he never had a chance to ask for the remains before the hospital disposed of them, sparking the bill.
A memo for the bill also adds that the proposal is “substantially similar to Indiana legislation which was recently declared constitutional by the United State Supreme Court.”
The bill’s passage comes on the heels of a Senate committee advancing a ban on abortion in case of an in utero diagnosis of Down Syndrome earlier in the day on Monday.
A nonprofit organization run by former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell, who filed a series of lawsuits last year attempting to overturn presidential election results in Arizona and other states, contracted the company that’s now counting 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County to conduct an election audit in a rural Pennsylvania county, according to records obtained by the Arizona Mirror, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
Wake Technology Services, Inc., co-founder Gene Kern and Fulton County’s elections director, IT director and one member of the three-person election board signed a document on Dec. 31 stating that Kern was requesting to check the county’s voting machines and mail-in ballots from the general election.
At the bottom of the typed document are handwritten notes stating that Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano set up the audit and that Wake TSI is contracted with Defending the Republic, Powell’s 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization. County clerk Lisa Mellott-McConahy identified the handwriting as belonging to Kern.
Defending the Republic “was established to defend and protect the integrity of elections in the United States,” according to the group’s website. The group was involved in a series of lawsuits that Powell filed in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin seeking to reverse those states’ votes for Biden.
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, the central Pennsylvania Republican who objected to the results of the November 2020 election, and who remains a close ally of President Donald Trump, was the only member of the Keystone State’s GOP congressional delegation to vote against a bill addressing the explosion in hate crimes against Asian-Americans.
Perry, whose 10th Congressional District seat sprawls across the Harrisburg metropolitan area, was one of 62 Republicans to cast their ballots against the bill, according to CNN.
President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan measure into law on Thursday, saying that “all of this hate hides in plain sight. Too often it is met with silence — silence by the media, silence by our politics and silence by our history.”
During testimony before a U.S. House committee in March, experts testified that attacks against Asian-Americans have increased by nearly 150 percent over the last year, the New York Times reported. Many of the attacks have targeted women and older people, the newspaper reported.
The nationwide fight over the teaching of ‘critical race theory,’ has landed in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, throwing another log on a culture war fire that’s already seen the Republican-controlled chamber advance bills limiting abortion rights and expanding gun rights, even as some lawmakers seek to ban transgender youth athletes from participating in sports that correspond with their gender.
Reps. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, and Barbara Gleim, R-Cumberland (the prime sponsor of that transgender athlete bill), began seeking co-sponsors for their proposal to “[curtail] the divisive nature of concepts more commonly known as ‘critical race theory,’” on May 21, arguing that “teaching our children that they are inferior or inherently bad based on immutable characteristics such as race and sex can be extremely damaging to their emotional and mental well-being.”
Only a niche term a year ago, the fight over critical race theory, which scholars view as an overdue attempt to educate public school students on how racial disparities are embedded in U.S history and society, has become the latest bete noire of the right, with conservatives arguing that teachers are trying to inject race into what should be a colorblind system, the Washington Post reported on May 3.
Diamond’s and Gleim’s ‘Dear Colleague‘ memo echoes that contention, arguing that “our schools should be teaching that every individual is equal under the law and that no individual should ever be labeled superior or inferior simply due to their race or genetic makeup, nor be held responsible for actions taken by others with similar traits.”
And that’s the week. Enjoy the weekend. See you all back here next weekend.