TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR FEBRUARY 7TH, 2022

One-hundred-sixty new deaths have been reported as Pennsylvania health officials logged nearly 58-hundred new COVID-19 cases on Friday. Saturday’s fatalities boost the overall deaths in the state to over 41-thousand-500 since the pandemic began.  Authorities report that just under three-quarters of Pennsylvania residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Lawrence County has 18,429 cases and 381 deaths. Mercer County has recorded 22,802 cases and 474 fatalities.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has unveiled a plan to spend one-point-seven-billion-dollars in unused federal COVID-19 relief funds. He says the initiative would add 225-million-dollars into a fund to help small businesses recover and grow. It would also allocate 325-million dollars to boost health care jobs recruitment and retaining that workforce.  Priority would be given to women-owned, minority-owned businesses and rural businesses. The governor says any spending plan would have to pass the Republican-controlled General Assembly, but some of those lawmakers say they might be content to leave the money in the state’s rainy-day fund.

Crews are beginning to demolish the collapsed Fern Hollow Bridge.  Contractor Swank Construction began their work removing the bridge on Saturday.  PennDOT Executive Cheryl Moon-Sirianni says the company is first removing large pieces of debris to allow the National Transportation Safety Board to complete their investigation.  Design company HDR Incorporated is working on plans to replace the structure.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health says blood supplies across the state are critically low.  The department is calling on people who are able to donate blood as soon as possible after last week’s winter storm worsened blood supply shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  People sixteen or older and weighing at least one-hundred-20 pounds can qualify to donate.  Central Blood Bank and Vitalant operate blood donation centers in the area.

Pennsylvania’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission has approved the final legislative state House and Senate maps for voting and state representation.  The LRC voted 4-1 Friday to approve both the final House and Senate maps, with Senator Majority Leader Kim Ward voting in favor. The LRC consists of five members: Democratic and Republican leaders from both the House and Senate, as well as a non-partisan chair. There is now a 30-day objection period in effect where the maps can be challenged at the State Supreme Court. 

Mount Lebanon football coach Bob Palko is the 2021 NFL High School Coach of the Year.  The announcement came last night during the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas.  The coach appeared on ESPN to accept the award.  Palko led the Blue Devils through an undefeated season, securing the school’s first ever state championship.

 Pennsylvania’s Department of Education Secretary, wants to remind people headed to college about an upcoming deadline to apply for federal student aid. Dr. Noe Ortega says the Free Application for Federal Student Aid deadline is May 1st. Submitting the FAFSA [[ faff-suh ]] is the first step toward receiving both federal and state student aid – including the PA State Grant Program. Unlike student loans, PA State Grants do not need to be repaid.

A new, multi-million-dollar grant program has been designated to help support Pennsylvania’s clean-energy sector workers in at least 25 local or regional businesses. Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier announced the grants on Friday. Five Clean Energy Workforce Development Grants of up half a million dollars each are available. A 2021 Department of Environmental Protection report saw that Pennsylvania lost over 13-thousand clean-energy jobs due to economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.