Save the reopening date | Five for the Weekend

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Happy Weekend, all.

We’ve made it to yet another Friday.

This week and last week the Capital-Star team has reported the reopening and gradual lifting of COVID-19 measures on the commonwealth’s event venues, eateries, shops and more to begin in April.

In case you missed it, here’s a few stories on what’s reopening and what restrictions remain (hint: you still need that mask!)

Restaurants, gyms can go to 75 percent capacity starting April 4, Wolf says
Historic sites, museums around the state set reopening date
State parks to host volunteers, in-person programs beginning in April

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

Cheers to a leisurely weekend,

Cassie Miller, Associate Editor

1.  Allegheny Co. expands COVID vaccine eligibility to residents 50-64 with underlying health conditions

Last week, the Allegheny County Health Department announced changes to its vaccination site priorities that would expand eligibility to more residents.

Effective March 19, individuals 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions will qualify to receive the vaccine at certain points of dispensing, county Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen said during a briefing.

Qualifying conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, Down syndrome, heart conditions (not high blood pressure), sickle cell disease, being immunocompromised, and type 2 diabetes. It also extends to those who are smoking, pregnant, or qualify as obese according to the body mass index.

The expansion is in addition to the 65 and older individuals who have been eligible for the vaccine under Pennsylvania’s Phase 1A of the rollout.

2. Saylor to schools: Offer in-person classes or forfeit state funding

The Pennsylvania House’s top budget-writing official announced Wednesday that the commonwealth’s schools must offer in-person education to receive state funding starting in July.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Stan Saylor, R-York, said he expected the in-person learning requirement would apply to school districts, technical schools, community colleges and public universities.

If those schools do “not open their doors to full-time, in-person instruction,” Saylor said he would push for a budget rider to ensure that schools that do not reopen will not receive state funding.

3. In the Pa. Senate, an object lesson in how not to respond to a national tragedy | Thursday Morning Coffee

There were any number of ways that state Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, could have responded to a murderous rampage in Georgia on Tuesday night that left eight people dead, six of them Asian-American women.

But a digressive lecture accusing the chamber’s only Asian-American member of engaging in politically divisive behavior, highlighted by a defense of the former president, that failed to make note of the dead, was not one of them.

But that’s the hand that Dush, a conservative freshly elected to the seat formerly held by ex-Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, decided to play, turning what could have been a teachable moment about the changing face of an increasingly diverse commonwealth into just another lame, partisan sparring match.

4. Pa. Sen. Mike Regan hospitalized after motorcycle accident

A state senator was admitted to the hospital on Sunday after sustaining serious injuries to his legs in a motorcycle accident, PennLive reported Monday.

State Sen. Mike Regan, R-York, was recovering at Milton S. Hershey Hospital as of Monday morning, his chief of staff, Bruce McLanahan, told PennLive.

McLanahan could not be immediately reached for comment Monday morning.

But he told PennLive that Regan, an experienced motorcycle rider, was wearing a helmet during his Sunday morning crash, and that more details would be made public when Regan’s condition changed.

5. Garrity backs Torsella to boost oversight on teachers’ pension fund amid internal investigation 

Pennsylvania’s newly elected Republican treasurer is advocating for the state Senate to confirm her Democratic predecessor to join her on the state teachers’ pension board.

Stacy Garrity, who beat former treasurer Joe Torsella last year, told the Republican-controlled upper chamber in a letter that she backed Torsella’s nomination by Gov. Tom Wolf to the Public School Employees Retirement System board.

The 15-member board manages the $64 billion system that collects retirement contributions from, and pays out benefits to, 600,000 current and former school employees.

And that’s the week. Enjoy the weekend and we’ll see you back here next week. 

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.