A look at COVID in Pa.’s correctional facilities | Tuesday Morning Coffee

December 8, 2020 6:30 am

Good morning, fellow seekers.

Associate Editor Cassie Miller here, filling in for John this week, who is taking a much-deserved break.

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

On Saturday, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections reported that a 38-year-old inmate at SCI Pine Grove died from COVID-19.

The department confirmed that SCI Pine Grove has 10 more active inmates cases of COVID-19 and eight active cases among staff. 

Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said in a statement then that the state’s correctional facilities are not immune from the fall resurgence happening across the commonwealth. 

“We are experiencing the same thing that our counties are experiencing, and we are following very strict procedures to mitigate the virus’ impact on our state prisons,” Wetzel said. “I’ve directed our staff to act aggressively and quickly when inmates report influenza-like illnesses, and that includes isolating and quarantining inmates, locking down units or entire prisons as needed, conducting regular cleanings and even 72-hour deep cleanings in order to protect staff and inmates.”

On Monday, two more cases were confirmed. One at SCI Laurel Highlands, and the other at SCI Phoenix.

The COVID dashboard on the Department of Corrections’ website confirmed 1,989 active inmate cases across Pennsylvania and 935 active staff positives as of Monday evening. 

In mid-April Gov. Tom Wolf signed off on a temporary program to reprieve sentences of incarceration during the pandemic.

To date, 110 inmates have received reprieved sentences, bringing the state’s total inmate population from 39,214 to 39,104.

SCI Phoenix in Montgomery County, has reprieved eight of its 2,977 inmates since the pandemic began in March.

As of Monday evening, 40 incarcerated people have died of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, according to DOC data.

Our Stuff.

Gov. Tom Wolf asks Pennsylvanians to stay home following a post-Thanksgiving surge in cases, Stephen Caruso reports. 

Uniontown’s City Mission – Living Stones, a homeless shelter offering counseling services, has seen its fundraising efforts dwindle during the pandemic. In this morning’s installment of Helping the Helpers, our partners at the Uniontown Herald-Standard highlight those efforts — and explain what you can do to help

Our partners at Philadelphia Tribune report that legislation has been introduced in the Philadelphia City Council to make ever Friday “Shop Black Business Friday.”

On our Commentary Page this morning, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation encourages Pennsylvanians “to get real” when deciding on a Christmas tree this year and state Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, asks Congress to act on additional CARES Act funding.

The owner of an Allentown biofuel company was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay $10.2 million in restitution for fraudulently claiming green energy subsidies, The Morning Call reports. 
With timing running out before the Electoral College is set to cast their votes, Republican state reps. are filing a new challenge to the state’s election results, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. 
Harrisburg’s residents say the city’s new comprehensive plan is shot through with the same racial and economic inequalities that were a problem in the first place, PennLive reports.
Here’s your #DailyPhoto taken by yours truly
The state House has another confirmed COVID case. PoliticsPA reported late Monday that Rep. Mike Reese tested positive for COVID-19.
President-elect Joe Biden selects retired general Lloyd Austin as his choice for Secretary of Defenseaccording to POLITICO. 
Trump administration officials passed over an offer from Pfizer to sell more COVID-19 vaccines, the New York Times reports. What Goes On.
11:30 a.m.:
 State Health officials will hold a briefing on the latest on the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania, highlighting resources for those struggling with addiction.

The Los Angeles Times dropped a list of the 10 best TV shows of 2020. Spoiler alert: None of my favorites made the list.

Heavy Rotation.
Looking for a 2020-appropriate holiday tune? Check out “Lonely Christmas” by 15-year-old, Philadelphia-native, Wallis Schriver.

And now you’re up to date.

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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.