TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR JANUARY 27TH, 2022

New Castle Mayor Chris Frye officially announced his candidacy for Lt. Governor in Pennsylvania. The New Castle News reports Frye made the announcement last night at the Confluence in downtown New Castle. Frye is joining an already crowded field of candidates including four others Republicans. He said he’s not willing to sit back and wait for things to change in Harrisburg and that’s why he’s choosing to run in the upcoming election.

Governor Tom Wolf has vetoed a congressional map sent to him by Republican lawmakers.  In his veto message, Governor Wolf said the map failed “the test of fundamental fairness.”   With the governor’s veto, the state judicial system is now likely to have the final say.  The Commonwealth Court will host hearings Thursday and Friday to consider alternative proposals.  It could issue a ruling as soon as January 30th – the original deadline it set for Wolf and the Legislature to come to an agreement – but redistricting observers expect the decision to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The man who was charged with instigating the shooting at Clearview Mall last week has been arrested again and returned to jail on additional charges.  The man — 19-year-old Damian Blystone from Butler — had been arrested in the January 18th shooting and charged with aiming a gun at the alleged shooter at the mall.  He was released Monday on bond.  Yesterday, Middlesex Township police stopped him and  found two stolen guns in his vehicle.  He has been returned to Butler County Prison and is being held without bond because the judge said he was a danger to society.

Pennsylvania’s state Senate has approved legislation to spend 225-million dollars to help struggling hospitals retain staff members.  The bill has backing from Governor Tom Wolf as well as  House leaders.  The money is intended for staff who are involved in direct patient care, environmental services or clinical care, and not for administrators.  The money will come from federal pandemic relief signed by President Joe Biden last March.

Governor Tom Wolf on Tuesday has pushed up the deadline for raising the minimum wage for state employees. Governor Wolf made an amendment to an executive order from five years ago  ordering that beginning on January 31, 2022, the minimum wage for employees of the Commonwealth will reach 15-dollars-per-hour.  The wage for state employees has been steadily increasing since the original executive order was signed in March 2016 — it  was to have reached 15-dollars per hour in 2024. Tuesday’s amendment sped up that increase.

Pennsylvania’s acting health secretary says it may be weeks before the latest COVID surge peaks in the state.  Keara Klinepeter says there’s about a two-week lag between cases and hospitalizations.  She says that’s why hospitalizations likely won’t top-out until mid-February.   Klinepeter says the state is working to organize regional hospitals that will specifically treat COVID patients.

State health officials in Pennsylvania say the number of reported COVID cases is continuing to rise by thousands per day.  As of Wednesday, there were just under 13-thousand new cases reported.  Also, 183 more people have died from the virus to contribute to nearly 40-thousand people who have died since the state of the pandemic in the state.  Just under 58-hundred people remain in the hospital with 909 in ICU as of Wednesday.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate dropped to five point four percent in December, according to new state data.  Department of Labor & Industry information confirmed that the commonwealth’s December 2021 unemployment rate is one point seven percentage points below its December 2020 level, and three-tenths of a percentage point below its November 2021 level.  Pennsylvania’s non-farm jobs were up over 14-thousand over the month, and the trade, transportation and utilities sector increased by 94-hundred jobs.

Investigators are searching for the cause of a Butler County fire that yesterday left part of a commercial building in ruins.  Multiple fire departments responded to a blaze just after 9 a.m. Wednesday at a business warehouse near Saxonburg Boulevard.  Crews were successfully able to battle the flames and the cold weather to put out the fire.  No injuries were reported.