Friday, June 4, 2021
We begin this week’s missive in our nation’s capital… Incentives to be vaccinated? Love or hate the idea (and it seems to be either extreme), President Biden rolled out some proverbial arm candy this week, offering free child care, free sports tickets and – the Happy Hour personal favorite – free beer, as Biden tries like heck to make his self-imposed July 4 deadline for hitting a national 70% vaccination rate. We foolishly thought “staying alive” was incentive enough, but we did not know procrastination would be rewarded so handsomely.
Meanwhile, at Mar-a-Lago… Like Facebook and Twitter, blogs fall into the social media category. Former President Trump found out the hard way that they are not equal in terms of the attention they can command. Trump’s eponymous blog, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” was euthanized this week, just 29 days after its unveiling. Seems that certain news organizations were mocking its tepid viewership, noting that pet-adoption service Petfinder and the recipe site Delish had more visitors. Damn Washington Post chalks up another buzz-kill.
Back here in the Keystone State, the biggest news of the week happened while many of us were asleep. At 12:01 a.m. Monday – Memorial Day – most COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. For the first time since March 2020, there are no limits on capacity or distancing in PA’s restaurants, businesses, bars, stores, salons, gyms or theaters. Vaccinated folks can ditch their masks in most cases, while the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated are advised to keep wearing masks until June 28 or the Commonwealth reaches the 70% vaccination rate, whichever occurs first.
Friday’s report on May job numbers was a mixed bag. The good news was that the U.S. labor market added 559,000 jobs, significantly better than the uber disappointing April numbers. The bad news is that economists had expected to add 650,000 in May.
Employment is ticking up at the Philly Shipyard, which has doubled its number of employees to 400 since January. The company says it aims to employ 1,400 next year to meet the demand for national security multi-mission vessels. The 400 include 12 apprentices, which last month became the first class since the last group completed the three-year program in 2018.
Despite being allowed to operate at full capacity doesn’t mean some restaurants will be able to, according to local restaurateurs. Food prices have increased as supplies have become tight, many food service workers have gone onto other things, and not all customers are rushing back to their favorite eateries quite yet. They say the road to normal will be long.
Sen. Wayne Langerholc apparently has been one busy dude since becoming Republican chair of the Senate Transportation Committee earlier this year. The Johnstown-area lawmaker held a news conference this week to unveil a wide-ranging, multimodal transportation funding plan, featuring mileage-based user fees for electric vehicles, increased fines for driving with expired registrations and other traffic violations, and using a portion of American Rescue Plan Act revenue for highways, bridges, passenger rail and the PA Turnpike.
Our friends at the PA Chamber of Business and Industry unveiled the next phase of their economic resurgence initiative. Chamber CEO Gene Barr reminds us that we still need to increase the vaccination rate. You can read all about it on the chamber’s website.
Following yet another ransomware attack – this one on one of the world’s largest producers of meat (our favorite protein delivery system) – the White House warned businesses of the need to shore up their IT defenses. A Biden administration spokesperson said companies should take a lesson from the defensive steps taken by federal agencies and those that do business with the federal government.
Facebook announced that it would no longer give politicians a pass on breaking the company’s hate-speech rules. The excuse that such hateful statements are “newsworthy” will no longer apply automatically, and when exceptions are made, they will be disclosed publicly.
County officials apparently are tired of waiting for election reforms and are asking legislators to expedite what they deem as the two most important steps for addressing voting headaches: giving counties more time to prepare mail-in ballots for counting and rolling back the deadline to apply for mail-in ballots to 15 days before the election instead of the current seven.
Nittany Nation got a heapin’ helpin’ of good news this week as the Penn State athletic department announced that Beaver Stadium and all other athletic venues had been cleared to return to full spectator capacity. White-outs are back!
Hospitals across the Commonwealth have taken it in the neck, financially speaking, during the pandemic, with 40% losing money and 18% with operating margins of 4% or less. While the coronavirus sent tens of thousands of people to hospitals, a state-imposed moratorium on elective surgeries put the hurt on bottom lines.
State Corrections Secretary John Wetzel indefinitely suspended the $5 medical co-pay requirement for inmates who wish to receive medical treatment. Earlier, he had temporarily suspended co-pays during the COVID-19 pandemic. The co-pay policy began in the 1990s to discourage frivolous medical complaints, but the practice seems to be collapsing under the weight of forcing inmates to choose between necessary medical treatment and other important needs, such as deodorant or toothpaste, or calling a lawyer or family member.
This week’s We Can’t Make This Up segment is one of the more bizarre episodes we’ve encountered, and it doesn’t even include Florida Man. Get a load of the Associated Press’ lead paragraph: A New Mexico sheriff who is running for mayor of Albuquerque was interrupted while on stage at a campaign event by a flying drone with a sex toy attached to it and a man who punched him. See? We told you. And there is nothing more we can say about this without getting into trouble.
And that’s what passes for news around here in this holiday-shortened work week! Happy weekend from your friends at Team Triad. We’ll be back for more next week, and we hope you will be too.