TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR FEBRUARY 1ST, 2021

The Lawrence County Courthouse will remain generally closed to the public for another month due to still-high COVID-19 infection rates in the region.  County commissioners announced last week that all county offices including the courthouse will stay closed to the public until at least March 1. The Ellwood City Ledger reports Some offices will allow visitors by appointments and court proceedings are continuing to be held.

COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise throughout Pennsylvania. Health officials say over the weekend, the state total saw an increase of more than 18-thousand new cases, pushing it over 843-thousand. About 358 new deaths related to the virus were added to the death toll, which is at 21-thousand-661. Lawrence County has 5,477 cases and 167 deaths. Mercer County has 7,498 and 223 fatalities.

Lawrence County remains under a Winter Weather Advisory.  Scattered snow showers are expected. Forecasters are calling for an additional one-to-three inches of snowfall in the area through tomorrow morning.  The advisory is in effect until 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Three people are dead after a house fire in northwestern Pennsylvania.  It happened in Oil City early Saturday morning.  Crews responded to a structure fire and made “numerous attempts” to rescue the people inside.  However, they say the deteriorating conditions brought their efforts to a halt.  Neither the cause nor the victims’ identities have been released.

The world will be watching tomorrow when a Pennsylvania groundhog makes his annual weather prediction.  The forecast offered by Punxsutawney Phil comes this Tuesday at 7:25-a.m.  According to folklore, if Phil sees his shadow after emerging from his burrow, it means six more weeks of winter.  If Phil he doesn’t, there’ll be an early spring.

The state Department of Human Services has redesigned employment and training programs forpeople who receive benefits through the program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The redesign comes after 50 percent of people who left TANF for employment returned within a year.DHS Secretary Teresa Miller says the department found its approach to getting people into low-wage jobs without a career pathway failed to help families escape poverty. Now Miller says each person in these programs will work with a case worker or coach to develop an individualized employment plan.

The Better Business Bureau is warning people not to share COVID-19 vaccine cards online.  Officials say vaccination cards have personal information on them like your full name, your birthday, and where you got your vaccine which scammers use to steal identities.  BBB says people could use your real card to make a phony one. The bureau says if you want to share the special moment online, to take a photo of your vaccine sticker.  The warning comes after scammers have been caught selling fake vaccination cards online in England.

Interstate 80 in Mercer County was closed in both directions Sunday due to a crash involving a tractor trailer. The tractor trailer was hauling cars traveling west and ended up in the eastbound lanes. The truck collided with a car parked on the side of the road and came over the median into the eastbound lanes near mile marker 12.  According to officials, there were only minor injuries. East and westbound lanes were closed from exit four in Hermitage to exit 15 in Mercer.

Angela Reese, widow of the recently passed state Representative Mike Reese, has announced plans to run for her husband’s vacant seat.  Revealing her plans this past weekend, Mrs. Reese says that she wants to continue her husband’s legacy of fighting for families and seniors.  She is the third candidate to announce for the race to represent the people of Pennsylvania’s 59th district.  That area includes Westmoreland County and part of Somerset.  The special election to fill the seat will be held May 18th.