TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR MAY 29TH, 2020

Pennsylvania health officials are confirming new cases of COVID-19 throughout the state. Officials say yesterday, the state saw an increase of 625 new cases with the total now surpassing 70-thousand. Around 108 new deaths related to the virus were also reported yesterday, with the death toll nearing 54-hundred.

Officials in western Pennsylvania counties hope Governor Tom Wolf will announce today that they are among counties that can transition to the green phase of reopening next week.  If allowed to transition to the green phase, hair and nail salons as well as gyms will be allowed to reopen.  Commissioners in Mercer, Washington and Westmoreland counties say businesses would reopen in a limited capacity to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Several Pennsylvania Democrats have called on House Speaker Mike Turzai to resign after they say they were kept in the dark about one lawmaker’s positive COVID-19 test.  Republican Representative Andrew Lewis received the diagnosis o n May 20th and immediately began self-isolation. He also informed Republican leadership, who then told several caucus members to isolate as well, but Democrats say no one in their party was informed.  Democratic Representative Brian Sims went as far as to demand a full investigation from the state Attorney General and the Secretary of Health.

The Sharon Herald is reporting 41 year old Brandon Vennall Gilchrist was sentenced to 18 to 80 years in prison in connection with a fatal fire back in March of 2017. Gilcrist pled guilty to arson, aggravated assault and murder in the third degree. 49-year-old Regina Norris of Farrell died in the fire. Another man, 66 year old Blaine Elliott Coleman pleaded guilty in February to arson causing serious bodily injury and negotiated a plea deal with a sentence of 9 to 18 years in prison.

Officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry say they are handling more than two-million unemployment claims.  Some are still waiting for their first check, however.  The department’s secretary says they were staffed for record low unemployment before the coronavirus pandemic hit and, while they’ve hired a significant number of new employees, they are struggling to meet demand.

A short term budget for Pennsylvania passed in the State Senate yesterday and is on it’s way to Governor Tom Wolf. The $25.8 billion dollar temporary 5-month budget does not increase taxes and funds education for 12 months.  Senate President Pro Temp Joe Scarnati says the budget provides stability at a challenging time. But Senator Andrew Dinniman opposed the budget, saying it does not adequately fund education which will lead to local property tax increases.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is planning to reopen state park beaches and pools. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf says the beaches will be open for swimming starting June 6th, and pools will be closed until June 12th. Capacity at the beaches and pools will be limited to 50-percent. State parks and facilities within red-phase counties will remain closed.

A former detective for the Butler County District Attorney’s office is entering into a plea deal with prosecutors connected to defrauding Butler Health System.  Scott Roskovski changed his plea to guilty Thursday morning, one day after his wife Stephanie, who reached a plea deal of her own connected to the embezzlement of more than one-point-three-million dollars.  She was the former C-O-O for the health system.  Scott Roskovski faces up to two-and-a-half years in prison while Stephanie could spend up to four years behind bars when they’re sentenced in October.

A California University of Pennsylvania student is suing the university over online instruction she and thousands of other students received this last semester.  Ashleigh Coffman from Greensburg says the university did not refund her pro-rated tuition for the last part of the semester after it was forced to close the campus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  She claims the online instruction was a breach of contract and was materially deficient to the classroom instruction she paid for.