TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR AUGUST 6TH, 2021

A man who was a youth pastor at a Mercer County church is facing child sex charges involving several young victims. WKBN-TV reports 29-year-old Mark Heotzler is accused of sexually abusing at least 11 victims under 18 from 2015 through 2021, at various locations in Jefferson Township. Heotzler served as a youth pastor at Grace Chapel Community Church in Hermitage for five years, from 2014 to 2019. He is currently jailed in Franklin County Pennsylvania,  where he faces additional charges.

COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise throughout the state. Yesterday, the state added more than 17-hundred new cases to the state total, pushing it over one-million-232-thousand. Seven new deaths related to the virus were added to the death toll, which is at 27-thousand-890.

Governor Tom Wolf is not looking to add extra COVID restrictions amid a nationwide surge of cases fueled by the delta variant. Wolf says he’s doing everything he can to ensure the state doesn’t go back. He added that if people want to make sure we stay back to normal and keep moving forward, then get the vaccine. This comes as New York City issued a mandate that requires people to show proof of a COVID vaccination before entering an establishment. The governor says he won’t do anything like that, and people can make their own choices whether to get vaccinated or not.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is changing its visitation policy once again due to the new surge of COVID-19. Officials say starting next Monday, in-person visitation is suspended for the unvaccinated inmate population until further notice. No-cost video visits will still be available. DOC officials say as we learn more about the highly contagious nature of the virus and variants, it is critically important for them to take proactive measures to keep their population safe. The department will also be assigning incarcerated individuals to housing units based on their vaccination status.

Women in Pennsylvania who qualify for Medicaid because they’re pregnant will have coverage for a longer period of time after giving birth, under a new plan announced by the Wolf Administration. Acting Department of Human Services Secretary Meg Snead says the state will implement an option under American Rescue Plan Act which will expand the Medicaid coverage period from 60 days one year following the birth of a baby. A report released last year by the state Department of Health found that nearly 60 percent of pregnancy-related deaths following the birth of a baby occurred outside of the current 60 day coverage window.

The University of Pittsburgh is updating its COVID protocols and rules regarding mask usage ahead of the coming fall semester.  In a statement released yesterday, university leaders said that masks will be required in all indoor areas regardless of the individual’s vaccination status.  Private officers and residences are exempt.  Those who are not fully vaccinated are asked to wear a mask outdoors if they cannot maintain adequate social distancing.  The policies go into effect next week.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Court President Kim Berkeley Clark has petitioned the state Supreme Court for a delay in evictions.  This week, the CDC ordered a delay in evictions for counties that have high or substantial levels of COVID-19 transmission.  In Pennsylvania, 29 of the state’s 67 counties — including Allegheny — meet that threshold.  Judge Clark filed the request for a delay in evictions because the order from the CDC does not give tenants and landlords enough time to obtain available federal rental assistance funds.

Butler County Community College has won approval by the state to launch its practical nursing program.  The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing has given its approval for the college to create a nursing program on its main campus.  Last year, the college announced plans to establish a nursing program through its partnership with Concordia Lutheran Ministries.  The program is designed to address the nationwide nursing shortage.

A Westmoreland County substance abuse counselor is behind bars today, accused of stealing a patient’s identity.  State police say that 34-year-old Nina Barkley used a patient’s personal information to open a number of credit accounts and rack up tens of thousands of dollars in debt.  Troopers say that when they went to Barkley’s home to confront her with the allegations, she identified herself by the victim’s name.