TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR OCTOBER 22ND, 2021

Police in New Castle arrested an Ellwood City man following a high speed chase. The New Castle News is reporting 40 year old Michael Feruchie was arrested after he crashed his pickup into a tree in Shenango Township. Police tried to pull over Ferruchie on the city’s east side when the chased started. Ferruchie faces a number of charges including driving under the influence. He was arraigned and placed in the Lawrence County Jail on 10 thousand dollars bond.

A federal lawsuit filed this week alleges that staff at UPMC are illegally rejecting medical exemption requests from school mask mandates.  The action was filed Wednesday on behalf of ten Western Pennsylvania plaintiffs.  The acting secretaries of Pennsylvania’s health and education departments are also named in the suit.  UPMC officials have not publicly commented on the legal case.

The Animal Wellness Centre Clinic in New Brighton is preparing to shut down operations later next month.  The clinic announced in a letter to the community yesterday that it would close down for good at the end of November.  The clinic’s owner said the closure came after she could not find a buyer to take over the business.  Customers will be able to pick up prescriptions and medications for their pets until November 24th.

State Representative Joe Ciresi is proposing legislation to provide grants to schools across the state so they can purchase personal protective equipment. A similar initiative was enacted last year at the height of the pandemic, but it has since expired and Ciresi says Pennsylvanians have to stay vigilant and do what is needed to make sure schools are safe. He added that most if not all of the money given to schools last year is gone as a lot of improvements had to be made, so he wants to give them another opportunity to ensure that kids stay in school. If passed, the bill would provide grants to both public and private schools and the amount of money they receive will vary by district.

In an effort to help the state deal with its nursing shortage a student loan forgiveness program for Pennsylvania nurses is opening up in early 2022. About five-million-dollars from federal Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds will be used for this one-time program. Eligible nurses could get up to 25-hundred-dollars of loan forgiveness for each ensuing year of work starting from March of last year, for a maximum of three years.

COVID-19 cases are rising throughout the state. Yesterday, the state added nearly five-thousand new cases, pushing the total over one-million-525-thousand.  About 94 new deaths related to the virus were added to the death toll, which is at 30-thousand-815.

Staffers at the Allegheny County Elections Division are reporting an issue affecting the envelopes of some mail-in voters.  The division yesterday said that a vendor calibration issue has resulted in verification bar codes that should appear on declaration envelopes instead appearing on secrecy envelopes.  Officials advise the problem has only appeared on 30 of the estimated 36-thousand ballots returned so far but they want to make sure that all ballots are counted.

Governor Tom Wolf is introducing a plan to help businesses, workers and the economy. Yesterday, the governor signed executive orders to set OSHA standards and expand paid sick leave in some government offices. The governor also called on lawmakers to pass legislation to extend those requirements to all businesses, along with a pay raise. Wolf says there is nothing that’s good that’s free, if you want good workers, then treat them fairly.

The state is boosting it efforts to address the current bus driver shortage impacting Pennsylvania schools. More than two-thousand school bus drivers are needed statewide. Officials say our students need reliable transportation to be able to continue in-person instruction, our parents needs peace of mind and schools need assistance. To try and help, official sent out letters to over 300-thousand individuals across the state with Commercial Driver’s Licenses to see if they’re interested in driving for schools. The Department of Transportation has also temporarily opened CDL skills testing on Mondays for four weeks.

A bill which seeks to address pandemic-related learning loss has been passed
by the state Senate. The bill would expand the Open Campus Initiative to include charter, regional and cyber charter schools. The initiative, which was first adopted in 2012, allows school districts to enter into collaborative partnerships, enabling a student from one school district to attend a class in another district and receive credit for the course. Supporters of the bill say its not a mandate.