Friday, June 26, 2020

More than 100,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19. If you are tempted to jump onto social media today to air your grievances about the outrage of the day, maybe take a step back and think about those 100,000 souls.

Speaking of social media, President Trump and Twitter are in the midst of a nasty spat after the latter slapped a fact-check on one of the former’s tweets about mail-in ballots. Seeing that he needed to nip this sort of behavior in the bud, Trump signed an executive order that threatens to clamp down on social media outlets, prompting Mark Zuckerberg to scream, “It wasn’t me! It was Jack!” 

As soon as Governor Wolf affixes his signature, Pennsylvania will be the proud, new owner of something called a “stopgap budget,” which is designed to get us through the choppiest of COVID-19 waters and into the fall, when we will do this dance all over again. The plan funds public schools for the full year at last year’s levels, bringing sighs of relief to otherwise jittery school administrators.  

The General Assembly also settled on a plan to begin driving out federal CARES Act money, of which Pennsylvania has received in the ballpark of four billion clams. Counties and long-term care facilities will get the lion’s share of funds, and more than $1 billion will be socked away until a later date.

As if the poor souls at the Department of Labor & Industry didn’t have enough on their collective plates, scammers have attacked the unemployment compensation system, resulting in more than 50,000 false claims being filed, including one for a central Pennsylvania lawmaker. Can we please give these people a break, folks?  

Business interruptions caused by the coronavirus are scaring the daylights out of insurance companies, we learned this week. According to the industry, if insurers had to pay all the anticipated COVID-9 workers compensation and business interruption claims, they would be no joke broke. Their solution? Your pockets.

The best news of the week is that the state is beginning to see a steady, if not large, decrease in coronavirus cases over a sustained period, with this week’s being the lowest since March. And as we all know, March was 17 years ago.

A western Pennsylvania lawmaker this week introduced a bill that would privatize the state’s liquor store system. This marks the 50,000th liquor privatization bill introduced in the General Assembly since Ben Franklin presided. 

A slight kerfuffle erupted in the General Assembly this week, as it was reported that a GOP member had tested positive for COVID-19 but did not inform his Democratic colleagues. You might have seen coverage of this saga on the national news because everything – and we mean everything – is a massive controversy today.

With state funds secure for next school year, districts are turning their attention to what the hell next year is actually gonna look like. Will kids go to school remotely? Will kids attend schools but wear masks? Do teachers really want to deal with an entire class full of mask-wearing, wisecracking kids? The questions are endless. 

Governor Wolf this week issued new guidance to professional sports teams in Pennsylvania, opening the door for practices and even some fan-free games and events in the upcoming yellow and green phases. Fan-free games are pretty much what the Pittsburgh Pirates were expecting this year anyway.  

The governor this week also issued guidance for the opening of public swimming pools, much to the joy of parents who have been trying to entertain their kids nonstop for three months straight.  

We pause this weekly screed to send heartfelt congratulations to our friend Suzanne Henning on her retirement from Columbia Gas!

We give a shout-out this week to our old friend Congressman Dwight Evans, who is using his slot on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee to shine the light on the disproportionate effect that COVID-19 is having on communities of color. 

And as May turns to June and you get to finally leave captivity, we suggest you hop in the car and drive up to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. It is not as large as that other hole in the ground out west, but after a mighty long winter, the beauty of this Pennsylvania gem might help you reset your perspective button.

Over on the Triad socials this week, check in with our Public Affairs Team as they share their views on successfully telling a story. Every picture tells one, we have been told. 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Brazil, where three young brothers intentionally let themselves be bitten by a black widow spider in the hopes that they would turn into Spiderman. Thankfully, the boys are OK, but the incident did remind us of the time we asked our doctor if he had any spare gamma rays. We were Hulk fans, obviously.  

That’s what passes for news around here as we put May in the rearview this weekend! From all your friends at Team Triad, have a great one!