The winter stormed caused a number of traffic accidents yesterday afternoon in Mercer County. According to the Sharon Herald the number of accidents on interstate 80 began early in the afternoon and continued throughout the day, as slick snow created hazardous conditions. At one point in the early evening, an 11-mile section of both the eastbound and westbound lanes of the heavily traveled highway were closed in Mercer County. Several injuries were reported.

The state Department of Health is adding ten-thousand-49 new COVID-19 cases to the Commonwealth’s total.  That brings P-A to 519-thousand-369 confirmed or probable cases since the start of the pandemic.  Health department officials added 278 deaths related to COVID-19 complications Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 13-thousand-168. Lawrence County has 3,387 cases and 95 deaths. In Mercer County, there are 4,751 cases and 86 deaths.

Beaver County’s COVID-19 positivity percent rate is increasing.  The county announced yesterday its positivity rate is now at 14-percent, nine-percent higher than the recommended rate made by the World Health Organization.  There are over 55-hundred confirmed cases in the county and more than 60 people are hospitalized due to the coronavirus.

There are just shy of 63-hundred people hospitalized with COVID-19 in P-A.  That’s the latest total from the state Department of Health, which adds that 12-hundred-64 of those patients are in the I-C-U.  Hospitalizations are up by about 51-hundred since late September.

The New Castle Area School District has set January 11th as a target date to begin in-classroom instruction. District Superintendant Debbie DeBlasio said the district will evaluate on Jan. 4th whether they will return to school on Jan. 11th. According to the New Castle News, New Castle students have been learning from home since March 15 during last school year, and since the beginning of this school year.

State health and education officials are asking colleges and universities to delay the return of students to campuses in January due to the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak. Officials say we’re seeing an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and these trends are expected to worsen in January at the time when students normally return to campus. They added that colleges and universities play a critical role in mitigating the spread of the virus and delaying the return to campus can help slow the spread, help keep businesses open and protect healthcare systems.

The Butler Area School Board this week is challenging the authority of Governor Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine.  The board says that both officials have gone beyond the powers of their offices in banning extracurricular activities.  They are asking Commonwealth Court to overturn that ban and to prevent officials from forcing school districts to go to remote learning.  State leaders say that such moves as the temporary ban are key to slowing the spread of COVID.

Duquesne University is beginning to cut some of its staff members.  The university started letting a few of its non-tenured instructors that they would not be coming back yesterday.  It announced it would be moving forward with staff reductions earlier this month because finances had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The undergraduate enrollment for this fall semester dropped by almost four-and-a-half-percent.

When the new legislation session gets underway next year. one bill which may be re-introduced deals with rules governing adoption in Pennsylvania. The bill requires courts to set a hearing date no more than 30 days after birth parents file with the courts to relinquish their parental rights. Current law gives a minimum of ten days to set this process into motion, but does not include a maximum time period. The bill’s sponsor, state Senator John DiSanto says the measure passed the Senate unanimously in the previous session but was not taken up in the House.

New information out this week from the American Community Survey shows that while population across the commonwealth and across the county continues to grow, it’s declining in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.  From 2010 to 2019, the population in Allegheny County reportedly dropped by close to 75-hundred people.  In Westmoreland County, the population dropped by more than 16-thousand.  Comparatively speaking, in the same ten-year window, the population across Pennsylvania increased by about 92-thousand people.