More than 400 Pa. schools participating voluntary COVID-19 testing program | Five for the Weekend

The testing partnership between the department, Concentric and Ginkgo Bioworks has conducted more than 3,600 PCR and antigen tests

By: - November 13, 2021 6:30 am

(Photo via Flickr Commons)

Happy weekend, all.
Pennsylvanians can now see which schools across the commonwealth are participating in a free COVID-19 testing program created earlier this year by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

On Wednesday, the department also shared testing data – including the number of tests conducted and the number of positive cases found, on the state agency’s website for public view.

As of Friday, the testing partnership between the department, Concentric and Ginkgo Bioworks has conducted more than 3,600 PCR and antigen tests.

Currently, 424 schools are participating in the program, with 148 schools actively testing and 276 schools in the onboarding process, according to the department.

In August, the state Department of Health announced the partnership with the two testing companies to offer Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts the free and voluntary COVID-19 testing program.

The no-cost initiative has since been made available to schools statewide, except in Philadelphia, which receives its own allocations from the federal government and has its own health department.

“We are pleased that Pennsylvania schools are taking advantage of this free and voluntary service,” acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said in a statement earlier this week. “The testing program is designed to help mitigate the spread and possible outbreak of COVID-19 in schools and further our goal of maximizing in-person learning throughout the school year.”

Curious if your school district is participating in the testing program? The complete list of schools can be found here.  This list will be updated each Wednesday with the most current information, according to the Department of Health.

As always, the top 5 stories from this week are below. 

Masks and temperature checks will likely be the norm for many U.S. school-going kids until a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children under age 12 (NurPhoto/Getty Images).

1. Pa. court panel voids Wolf admin’s school mask order; Wolf admin appeals to state Supreme Court

A Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court panel has voided the Wolf administration’s mask order for K-12 public schools, ruling that acting state Health Secretary Alison Beam overstepped her authority by not going through the usual regulatory channels, and declared it “unenforceable.”

Writing for the court’s majority in a 31-page ruling, Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon said that if the order were allowed to remain in place, it would “be tantamount to giving [Beam] unbridled authority to issue orders with the effect of regulations,” in contravention of existing state law and the absence of a gubernatorial emergency declaration.

The appellate court heard oral arguments earlier this month in a pair of challenges to the order, which Beam said she was allowed to impose based on the 1929 law establishing the state Health Department, and a 1955 infectious disease law.

(Image via The Philadelphia Tribune)

2. Pa. Senate OKs firearm legislation preempting local gun ordinances, expanding concealed carry

Despite facing an inevitable gubernatorial veto, the Republican-controlled Senate pushed a pair of bills to expand concealed-carry rights and open the door for legal action against Pennsylvania municipalities that enact gun ordinances stricter than state law.

After three hours of debate on Tuesday, the upper chamber voted 29-21 to approve legislation introduced by Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, that allows for concealed carry without a permit, lowers the legal age from 21 to 18, and grants open carry in Philadelphia. Lawmakers also voted 31-19 in favor of a bill sponsored by Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Clearfield, that lets anyone sue a municipality for enacting firearm regulations more restrictive than existing state law.

Opponents, including Gov. Tom Wolf, legislative Democrats, a series of law enforcement associations, and gun safety advocates, say the “irresponsible” legislation creates risk for Pennsylvania amid increased gun violence. They also worry outside groups, such as the National Rifle Association, will sue municipalities and leave taxpayers to front the cost.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, and Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin (Capital-Star photo collage by Stephen Caruso)

3. As Pa. Senate leader Corman preps GOP governor run, rival Mastriano explores idea

The highest-ranking Senate Republican will be jumping into the already crowded field to become Pennsylvania’s next chief executive.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, is set to announce his entrance to the governor’s race at a private event next Thursday in his hometown of Bellefonte, Pa. Three sources with knowledge of the event confirmed it is for Corman’s campaign launch.

Corman did not immediately answer a call seeking comment.

But as rumors swirled, and a link to his kick-off event began circulating, this week, Corman’s newfound opponent within the caucus, controversial conservative Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, announced an exploratory committee for governor in an email on Friday morning.

(Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

4. Legislators at work? One in 5 laws enacted in Pa. this year renamed a bridge (or road)

Much like legislation naming post offices to members of Congress, bills to name bridges and roads are a staple of slow legislative days in Harrisburg.

The honorees range from military members and first responders who have died in the line of service to deceased lawmakers and local historical figures.

But such legislation has made up a growing share of Harrisburg’s legislative output in the past year.

A Capital-Star analysis has found that in 2021, renaming laws make up one in five of the 83 bills passed by both chambers of the Republican-controlled General Assembly that Gov. Tom Wolf has signed into law. That’s the highest percentage of naming legislation of any year in the past decade.

GOP Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, reacts to Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller).

5. Top Pa. Senate Republican leader Jake Corman tests positive for COVID-19

Pennsylvania’s top Senate Republican tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday morning — one day before making an anticipated gubernatorial campaign launch.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, is quarantining at his home in Bellefonte, Pa. Fully vaccinated for COVID-19, Corman is experiencing mild symptoms and out of an “overabundance of caution” has been routinely tested during the pandemic, his office said in a statement.

“Like many Americans, this morning Sen. Corman tested positive for COVID-19, despite being fully vaccinated,” his office said, adding that he “looks forward to a complete recovery.”

And that’s the week. See you back here next weekend.

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Cassie Miller
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. Follow her on Twitter: @Wordsby_CassieM.

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