TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR MARCH 2ND, 2021

A New Castle man who was arrested with four people after authorities found five guns and drugs while serving a search warrant last year has been indicted by a federal grand jury. 21 year old Jgenus Steele, was charged with possession with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and heroin, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Steele was one of four people arrested in February of last year after New Castle Police and members of the Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office Special Investigations Unit served a search warrant at an apartment in the 1700 block of Highland Avenue in New Castle. Steele was convicted of aggravated assault back in March of 2018.

Governor Tom Wolf’s administration is going to reduce some of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.  The administration announced yesterday that maximum occupancy limits for indoor events will be now set at 15-percent as long as attendees and workers wear masks and keep social-distancing.  Outdoor events are going to be set at 20-percent maximum occupancy with the same guidelines in place.  Also, an order that required anyone over the age of eleven who travels out of state to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test or remain in a 14-day travel quarantine has been lifted.

A Beaver County man was arrested on Sunday in Westmoreland County and charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend.  Police responding to a call regarding a domestic disturbance say they found the apartment door had been forced open, and there was shattered glass on the ground.  The victim said that the suspect, Zachary Musto, had broken in and attacked her.  Musto disputes that description of events.  At last report, he was being held in the Westmoreland County Jail.

Pennsylvania State Police yesterday revealed results of COVID protocol checks on liquor-licensed establishments conducted this past weekend.  In Pittsburgh, 108 such businesses were spot checked with six being cited for violations while another five were given warnings.  Liquor control agents performing these checks are verifying compliance with orders involving things like mask usage, social distancing and capacity limits.

Penn State University is taking steps to get back to in-person learning this fall.  The university recently announced its phased approach to create an expanded on-campus learning experience for the fall 2021 semester.  The university president says a full range of web classes will still be offered.  However, with the COVID vaccine becoming more available, the expectation is that public health guidelines will reflect progress.  The university is optimistic they will begin to safely transition during the summer and move toward a full in-person college experience.

A new acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania is being welcomed to take the vacant position.  Stephen Kaufman was named the new acting attorney by officials yesterday.  He was the top assistant to former U.S. Attorney Scott Brady who announced his resignation last week.  Kaufman has been with the U.S. Attorney’s Office since 1988.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Saylor is going to retire at the end of this year after serving for 23 years.  Saylor announced his retirement plans yesterday, as all Justices are required to retire at the end of the year they turn 75-years old.  While Saylor will remain a Justice for the rest of this year, Democrat Justice Max Baer will take over the role as Chief beginning April First.

State Health officials say yesterday, the state total saw an increase of more than 16-hundred new Covid-19 cases, pushing it over 933-thousand. Five new deaths related to the virus were added to the death toll, which is at 24-thousand-26. In Lawrence County, there are 6,038 cases and 183 deaths. Mercer County, has 8,050 cases and 240 deaths.

According to this week’s Triple-A East Central Gas Price report the average price of gasoline across Western Pennsylvania is another two cents higher this week at $2.96 per gallon. In New Castle the average price is at 2.88 a gallon while in Sharon motorists are paying 2.97. Gas prices continue to increase, with the national average up nine cents on the week to $2.72. That is a 30 cent increase from the beginning of February, 28 cents more than a year ago and the most expensive daily national average since August 2019.