TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR FEBRUARY 26TH, 2021

A bill is being proposed to the Pennsylvania House to allow for employees to refuse getting a COVID-19 vaccination.  The House Labor and Industry Committee had a public hearing about House Bill 262 yesterday.  If passed, the new legislation would make it illegal for employers to fire, threaten or discriminate against employees who refuse to get the vaccine or an invasive medical test.  The chair of the committee says there will be more discussions moving forward about the proposal’s final form.

Republican lawmakers on Thursday used a hearing to ask Gov. Tom Wolf’s top health official whether it was a mistake to order COVID-19 patients to be readmitted to nursing homes, although it is far from clear that the policy led to an outbreak or death. Despite a high number of nursing home deaths in Pennsylvania, no investigation has thus far pointed to the policy as a cause of death or outbreak. acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said the state wanted to ensure that hospitals weren’t overrun and, “to the extent that it could be done safely,” allow nursing home residents to recover in their homes.

Members-only warehouse retailer Costco announced on Thursday that it is increasing pay for their lowest-paid workers from 15-dollars per hour to 16-dollars per hour.  The company, which has locations in Butler and Allegheny counties, says that in addition to their hourly rate, workers also receive bonuses twice yearly.  They say that, considering those bonuses, the lowest-paid staffers actually earn an average of about 24-dollars per hour.  Costco says the new pay rates will go into effect next week.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and U-P-M-C are teaming up to develop a new COVID-19 test.  The new test will be done by a small chip that can detect COVID-19 in just five minutes.  Pitt University’s Dr. Alexander Star says the chip was made using fibers that have coronavirus antibodies stitched onto them. If the antibodies come into contact with traces of the virus, the electrical current of the device will change.  Dr. Star created the new test with similar technology he used for a marijuana breathalyser he developed a few years ago.

Pennsylvania is seeing new positive COVID-19 cases this week.  The state’s Department of Health reported about 23-hundred new positive cases yesterday.  There have been almost 923-thousand confirmed positive cases in the state since the beginning of the pandemic.  Health officials are reminding the public that consistent mask-wearing is crucial in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Lawrence County is reporting 8 additional covid cases, with a total 5,969 cases and 181 deaths. Mercer County is reporting 2 additional cases of covid, with 7,995 total cases and 238 fatalities.

TSA agents at Pittsburgh International on Thursday stopped a Texas woman who was attempting to get through security with a loaded weapon in her carry-on bag.  Allegheny County police were called to the scene.  Officers questioned the woman, confiscated her 22-caliber handgun and allowed her to continue on her way.  Officials say that 21 guns were detected at the airport’s checkpoints in all of last year.  This was the fifth gun caught at the airport this month.

A former University of Pittsburgh football player is pulling out of a lawsuit filed against the school and the N-C-A-A.  Craig Bokor withdrew his class-action lawsuit yesterday, along with another suit filed by former Pitt wide receiver Joseph DelSardo.  Bokor claimed he was unaware of the lawsuit that was filed by a firm in New York.  He says that allegations about him suffering from migraines, anxiety and memory loss caused by his time playing football is false.

Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs is weighing in on Governor Tom Wolf’s pusto legalize adult recreational marijuana. DDAP Secretary Jennifer Smith says if the state legalizes recreational marijuana for adults she would request that prevention measures be included in the legislation. (CUT 2) Smith says she cannot say for sure if marijuana is a gateway drug. However, Smith says many people who come into the state’s drug treatment system as  adults report having used marijuana at some point in their lives.