It’ll be a virtual Mother’s Day for most of Pa. this year | Five For Your Weekend

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Happy weekend, everyone!

Like everything else, Mother’s Day plans have been made more complicated by COVID-19. Here’s what state officials recommend for celebrating safely this weekend.

Twenty-four counties in northwestern and north-central Pennsylvania have started reopening, moving to the yellow phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s three-phase reopening plan.

In her daily briefing Thursday, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said residents in the 24 yellow counties could visit their loved ones for the Sunday holiday, but she encouraged the use of video chats and virtual methods to interact. And did we mention? Social distancing measures still apply.

For those who live in a county still in the red phase, stay-at-home orders are still in place, which means a virtual celebration will have to suffice for the time being.

For Pennsylvanians with a loved one in a personal care home or nursing home setting, you will not be permitted to visit them for the holiday. Nursing homes and personal care homes hold vulnerable populations and have seen a uptick in cases of COVID-19. Visitors are not currently permitted.

As we begin to reemerge, the Capital-Star will continue to work hard, bringing you the news you need about COVID-19 and the key issues that affect your lives. At a time of trial, the need for clear, concise reporting is more important than ever. And we’re going to deliver it to you. If you have questions or want to pass along story tips, email us at [email protected].

As for our usual disclaimer: Continue self-isolating, stay informed and follow the advice and precautions laid out by state health officials.

As always, the top five stories from this week’s news are below to help you stay current.

All the best,
Cassie Miller | Associate Editor

1. COVID-19 outbreak in Pa.: What’s open and what’s closedThis story will be updated with the latest COVID-related re-openings. Last update: Friday, May 8, 2020.

Updated: Twenty-four Pennsylvania counties emerge from lockdown on Friday morning, going from the “red zone,” to the “yellow zone,” in the Wolf administration’s color-coded reopening scheme. The move allows for the reopening of most businesses, with social distancing and other public health restrictions still in place. Meanwhile, the administration extended its stay at home order for the rest of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties until June 4.

Updated: On a call with journalists on Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf had this to say about the next steps in the state’s ongoing reopening effort: “I think the southwest is doing a phenomenal job. And again, we’ll be making another announcement soon. And the hope is that we can move quickly there, wherever else in Pennsylvania. We’re making good progress as we make good progress with this disease to open up and keep people safe.”

2. COVID-19 in Pennsylvania: Tracking the outbreak with maps and graphsThe staff at the Capital-Star is working round-the-clock to keep you updated on the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania. Our continually updated graphics use state Department of Health data to show you the latest in testing data, total case counts, and the geographic spread of the virus.

First, our county-level map shows how many cases have been confirmed in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. We’re currently updating this at least once a day with information from the Department of Health’s noon-time press releases.

This map only uses data from the state Department of Health, so it may not include new cases that you’ve seen reported in local media outlets. Local hospitals and health officials report their cases to the state, and we’re relying on state data to make sure we’re not over-counting patients.

3. The latest on COVID-19 in Pa.: 46,971 confirmed cases in 67 countiesWelcome to the Capital-Star’s COVID-19 dashboard, where we’re tracking new COVID-19 cases and testing data based on the latest information from state health officials.

Our interactive graphics are updated at roughly noon each day with the latest figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

These figures represent a running total of all the COVID-19 cases and tests that have been reported to the Department of Health since March 6, when state officials confirmed the first two cases of the disease in Pennsylvania.

4. Gov. Tom Wolf ran as a champion of government transparency. The COVID-19 pandemic is putting that to the test.With advocates and lawmakers lining up against him, Gov. Tom Wolf is facing a test of his commitment to transparency.

The Pennsylvania state House voted unanimously to rebuke a current Wolf administration policy on Tuesday, when it passed a bill requiring state agencies to respond to Right to Know requests during emergencies.

“Transparency should never be delayed, and it should be emphasized during times of emergency disaster,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, said on the House floor Tuesday.

Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law allows members of the public to request records from any government agency, from a school board to the Governor’s Office. Agencies usually have five days to respond to those requests.

But the Wolf administration has allowed executive branch agencies to seemingly indefinitely postpone processing the requests while state offices are closed for the pandemic.

5. This is my family’s COVID-19 story. May all their lives be a blessingIt was around 1 a.m. last Friday, and my wife, Marni, nudged me awake. Her shoulders shook in the darkness. The tears ran freely down her face.

“She’s gone,” she said softly, her voice filled with depthless pain and loss and disbelief.

It was the news that we prayed would not come. After three weeks of a brave fight that saw her pingpong from the brink of death to what we cautiously hoped was her recovery, my wife’s mother, Rona Gertz, 74, of Manalapan, N.J., died on April 24 of complications from COVID-19.

And in a split-second, Rona, a whole person, with a life fully lived, joined the sad cohort of the more than 61,000 Americans who have so far lost their lives in the pandemic. Taken on its own, the tally is so vast that it’s almost incomprehensible. It’s a faceless sea of data.

But in every death, in every empty place at the table, there is a story.

And that’s the week. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. We’ll see you all back here on Monday.

Cassie Miller
A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.