Officials in New Castle are continuing to search for the cause of a fatal house fire.  Three people died early Wednesday morning in a blaze on West Clayton Street.  Authorities say the victims are 41 year old Courtney Payne her 17-year-old daughter Terrianna Payne and a teenage friend, 18-year-old Xzavia Booker.  First responders believe the fire started in the home’s kitchen and say it does not look suspicious.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has reported more than 17-thousand 500 additional coronavirus cases Wednesday in what they say is a pandemic high for single-day case reports.  The seven-day moving average of newly reported cases was more than 42-percent from a week ago, and more than double the rate from 30 days ago. Lawrence County has 14,299 total cases and 333 deaths. Mercer County has recorded 17,508 cases and 425 fatalities since the start of the pandemic.

Authorities in South Huntingdon say a Beaver County man is accused of assaulting and duct-taping his ex-girlfriend.  The incident occurred Monday night during an argument that lasted several hours.  Court papers say the suspect — 29-year-old David Bosh of Aliquippa — is also accused of pushing the woman down a flight of stairs.  He’s also charged with child endangerment, assault and strangulation.  Bosh is being held in the county jail on 50-thousand dollars bond.   

A former Slippery Rock university president — Doctor G. Warren Smith — has passed away.  He was 80.  Dr. Smith came to the Butler community in 1997 when he was tapped to become the 14th president of the university.  He served until 2003.  Dr. Smith also played with the Butler County Symphony and the university’s orchestra.  A date for a memorial will be announced at a later date.

A clergywoman from Aliquippa — Tega Swann — has filed for the race for governor in the Democratic primary next May.  Swann is an immigrant American citizen from Nigeria.  She has worked with underprivileged citizens in Beaver County and is an advocate for economic, racial and gender equity.  She says she’s running for governor to help everyone in Pennsylvania become self-sustaining, self-reliant and to bring something to the market.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that 50 of Pennsylvania’s counties including Lawrence and Mercer counties have agreed to join the opioid settlement that would bring more than $1 billion to the Commonwealth. The opioid settlement funds will offer and expand life-saving treatment options while prioritizing the areas that have been most affected by the crisis. Shapiro said this settlement is going to provide resources to jumpstart programs that will change lives and impact families across our Commonwealth who are struggling to find treatment and help for those suffering with substance abuse.

Eight Pennsylvania electric utilities are increasing their energy prices reflecting, they say, the higher cost to produce electricity. Energy charges account for about half of a residential bill. Energy executives say their costs are increasing because fuel prices for power generators are going up and those are driven mostly by natural gas. The change is also pushing up electricity prices in wholesale power markets. 

The federal government is sending FEMA “strike teams” to Pennsylvania to help hospitals handle their latest COVID-19 surge.  Allegheny Health Network says the news is welcome as the health care system faces a major staffing shortage.  AHN officials say they have 11-hundred job openings for nurses across the state.