TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR APRIL 2ND, 2021

TSA agents at Pittsburgh International on Thursday stopped a traveler from going through security with a loaded gun in their backpack.  It marked the tenth time this year that a passenger was caught trying to get through security with a gun in their carry-on.  Like all the rest, the man stopped yesterday said that he had no idea the gun was in his bag.  Allegheny County police confiscated the 50-year-old traveler’s loaded 45-caliber handgun and allowed him to continue on his way.  The gentleman still faces the possibility of federal civil fines which could run into the thousands of dollars.

The Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office has charged two people with a reported case of identity theft. According to the New Castle News 31 year old Justin Gates formerly of Ellwood City, and 30 year old  Alyssa Marie Herman of New Castle are accused with the reported theft from a bank account in another man’s name. Gates is charged with forgery and conspiracy to commit identity theft, theft, access device fraud and receiving stolen property. Herman is charged with conspiracy to commit identity theft, theft, access device fraud and receiving stolen property.

As of yesterday, the state’s moratorium on utility shut-offs has expired.  Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission advises that nearly 900-thousand utility accounts are at risk of action.  Pittsburgh officials are advising residents who are behind on utility bills to keep in contact with those companies.  In many cases, payment plans can be worked out.  Also, many programs are available to offer assistance.  Folks are encouraged to seek out those programs and apply for aid.

The state is making progress in getting seniors vaccinated against COVID-19. Department of Aging Secretary Robert Torres says partnerships between vaccine providers and Area Agencies on Aging are helping seniors to get COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Torres says thenumber of seniors who’ve been fully vaccinated has increased by 17 percent in the last week while those receiving initial doses of vaccine increased 38 percent.

COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise throughout the state. Health officials say yesterday, the state total saw an increase of nearly 39-hundred new cases, pushing it close to one-million-30-thousand. About 27 new deaths related to the virus were added to the death toll, which is surpassing 26-thousand. Lawrence County has 6,633 cases and 194 fatalities. in Mercer County, there are 8,544 cases and deaths remain at 248.

Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 vaccine allotment is increasing as the state moves to expand eligibility to everyone. Officials say the state is getting its largest shipment of vaccines on April 5th with nearly 816-thousand doses from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson. This comes as the state is expected to open vaccine eligibility to the rest of the groups in Phase One-B on Monday, which includes postal workers, manufacturing, clergy and transit workers.

State health officials are afraid that the lack of people who want the COVID-19 vaccine could become the next “COVID crisis.” Officials say actually convincing folks to get vaccinated is the entire other challenge that we need to be focusing now. They added that the percentage of people who are vaccinated varies by region, and data shows that substantially fewer people in some rural areas are being vaccinated. Officials hope to combat this issue by educating these communities and providing access by pivoting their strategy away from large-scale vaccine clinics.

Smithfield Foods, based out of Westmoreland County, is coming through for those in need.  The company has pledged to donate seven-thousand pounds of sausage to food distribution organizations throughout the area.  On Thursday, the first 32-hundred pounds of that donation made its way to the Feeding the Flock Cupboard in Harmar.  A distribution event yesterday helped roughly 300 families.  The balance of Smithfield’s donation will go out to other organizations next week.