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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Mayor Donchez - Outrage? Yes. Violence? No.


Bethlehem Mayor Donchez has weighed in on the tragic slaying of George Floyd and its aftermath. It might be his most powerful statement in his two terms as Mayor.
 
Almost 250 years ago, Thomas Jefferson, declared, “That all men are created equal.” Our nation has had a long and difficult history dealing with those simple and profound words. Since 1776 it has taken numerous conflicts and much bloodshed for us to live up to those words. And yet, have we? Once again, we are grieving as a nation and standing together to condemn the shocking violence in Minneapolis and the innocent loss of life, and those simple words of Thomas Jefferson, somehow got lost in translation or understanding.

I grew up in South Bethlehem. The words “all men are created equal” were words to live by in my neighborhood and in my world. We were a melting pot, a cauldron of hope where there was no room for racism, bigotry, and intolerance. We had our differences – culturally, linguistically, racially and religiously, and yet we were a community. When we had to, we locked arms across the many lines and boundaries of our differences and dedicated ourselves to unity. Because of that, we were able to achieve some early measure of social and economic justice and equality for many in our community.

Those lessons of social and economic justice and equality traveled with me and were a daily part of my 35 years as a teacher at Allen High School in Allentown. I made sure my students were tolerant of all who attended Allen High School – Black and White, Latino and Asian, Gay and Straight, Male, Female and Transgender, Rich and Poor, and all who made up the city, the Lehigh Valley and the country.

As the son of a police officer and as a Mayor, watching the images from Minneapolis have been tough. I have great respect and admiration for our police officers, so it was very emotional watching that Minneapolis police officer suffocate handcuffed George Floyd with a knee to his neck. I know that almost all police officers adhere to the law and would never hurt someone like that, and yet this behavior continues and it hurts - it hurts the police and it hurts every one of us.

The kind of behavior we have seen in Minneapolis has no place in America or anywhere in the world. We in Bethlehem must condemn acts of violence and hatred, and are deeply saddened by the loss of life of a fellow human being. This is not just a race issue, this is a human issue, and we are all connected by our shared human experience.

Max Lucado wrote, “If Jesus could teach us only one thing, it would be that a person has value simply because they are a person.”

This is not the time to pretend that there’s not a problem in America.

This is not the time to turn our backs on racism.

This is not the time to accept innocent lives being taken from us.

This is not the time to think this doesn’t affect you.

This is not the time to sit back and say nothing.

This is not the time to think that you can’t be part of the solution and the change needed for this to stop.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

This is a time for outrage, but it is not a time for violence. The hatred that comes with racism, bigotry, and intolerance will not be condoned or supported here in Bethlehem or anywhere else for that matter. We are one. Our anger and abhorrence must be converted to something more positive – to hope, to faith and to love.

To quote Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Dems Outpace GOP in Mail-In Ballot Applications

According to the Pa. Department of State, Democrats have outpaced Republicans in seeking mail-in ballots for Tuesday's primary. Main-in ballots have been sought by 1,286,955 Democrats, while 528,624 Republicans have chosen to vote by mail.

In Northampton County, officials have received 44,008 applications for a mail-in ballot. In Lehigh County, there are 47,596 requests.

Voters have been strongly urged to vote by mail, but precints will be open as usual on Tuesday for registered voters who wish to exercise their rights in person.

Tuesday's election is a closed primary. Unaffiliated voters can still vote an ballot questions like a referendum in Upper Nazareth to fund the Nazareth Memorial Library.

Voters who have applied for a mail-in ballot are unable to vote on the machine at the precinct, but will be permitted to cast a provisional ballot if desired.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Updated: Gov. Tom Wolf: Proactive Testing to Begin at Pa.'s Nursing Homes

Lockdown-weary Pennsylvanians have been cheered by Governor Tom Wolf's recent decision to allow al fresco dining at area restaurants in yellow-phase counties. But I have even better news. In a telephone conversation with NorCo Executive Lamont McClure yesterday, Governor Wolf announced that the state Department of Health (DoH) plans to begin proactive and weekly testing of both residents and employees at the state's long-term care facilities (LTCFs). McClure asked that the DoH start at Gracedale as soon as possible.

Al Fresco Dining

This makes sense because the SARS-CoV-2 virus is far less contagious outdoors. As explained in a recent Vox video, the virus is destabilized outdoors. The airflow is much better. The corona, or crown, protecting the virus, is weakened by sunlight, wind, rain and humidity. But as the video also explains, it's still a good idea to maintain a 6' distance (the average droplets containing the virus travel) and limit duration of contact.

recent Chinese study (not peer reviewed) concludes transmission of Covid-19 is almost entirely an indoor phenomenon. This is corroborated by a Japanese study demonstrating that respiratory viruses like Covid-19 are less virulent in higher temperatures and humidity. Most recently, Homeland Security's Science and Technology Department has produced emerging research showing that sunlight, can seriously weaken Covid-19 in about two minutes. At lesser intensities, it takes a little longer. In addition to the ultra violet rays from sunlight, heat and humidity also play a role in weakening and killing Covid-19.

It is still possible to contract the virus outdoors, but less likely than indoors.

Proactive Testing at LTCFs

In Pennsylvania, about 2/3 of the Covid-19 deaths have been at LTCFs. Incredibly, the DoH nevertheless ordered nursing homes to accept stable Covid-19 patients once released from the hospital. Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary at DoH, noted in a news conference Wednesday that this is still the CDC guidance. She defended the practice because, at least initially, there was a concern that hospitals would be overwhelmed. "In retrospect, I don't think there was any other choice," she said.

The decision to begin proactive testing at LTCFs appears to be a recognition that DoH should be doing far more to protect the residents and staff.

At Gracedale, the Northampton County owned nursing home, 209 residents and 49 staffers have tested positive for Covid-19. As of yesterday, 93 residents are actively positive, with 5 residents hospitalized. Fifty-six residents have died. Of the 49 staffers who've been infected, 37 have completed isolation and are back at work.

When the pandemic first hit, the US was hobbled by an inability to test. Slowly but surely, the US has caught up to other countries, but as explained in yet another excellent Vox video, testing has been reactive. It has been limited to those who show symptoms.  This prevents you from determining where the virus actually is and how many people have it.

Proactive testing, on the other hand, will help catch people who are asymptomatic. They can be isolated and prevented from unwittingly spreading the disease to others. This also means that many of those tested will come back as negative. Once you reach the point that only 10% of the tests are positive, you can say the virus is contained.

If you just cast the net wide, you'd need to perform 10 million tests per day in the US. A more targeted approach is through contact tracing. You identify the direct and proximate contacts of a person who has tested positive, and then test the contacts. This enables you to catch people who are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic before they unknowingly spread the virus.

Dr. Levine indicated at her news conference on Wednesday that contacts have been very helpful.  "The vast majority of people understand the public health consequences and are very cooperative," she said.

Summer weather, combined with testing and tracing, should enable public health officials to get a jump on the virus before there';s a second wave. Testing and tracing will hopefully make a second lockdown unnecessary.

Updated 10:46 am to add information about Gracedale. Originally published at 12:00 am. 

Judge Morganelli - A Brutal Murder



This was taken from Judge John Morganelli’s Facebook page:

In one of his more well-known opinions , Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said that while he could not readily define the term “hard-core” pornography, “I know it when I see it.”

Well, as District Attorney for 28 years, I know MURDER when I see it. The difference between murder and manslaughter is the presence of “malice” . “Malice “ is ALWAYS present in murder but never in manslaughter . “ Malice “ means a hardness of heart or a reckless disregard for the value of human life. I believe that this tragic and chilling photo will go down in history as a defining photo along with photos like the young , naked Vietnamese girl running from napalm. Prayers for this man, his family and our nation are in order.

The Flood-Tarsi Race Heats Up

Marcia Hahn, who has represented Pa.'s 138th Legislative District since 2010, is calling it quits at the end of her term this year.  Democrat Tara Zrinski hopes to succeed Hahn, but she is a far left candidate running in a very Republican District. It includes the townships of Bethlehem (conservative portion), Bushkill, East Allen, Hanover, Lower Nazareth, Moore (portion) and Plainfield as well as the Boroughs of Bath, Chapman, Pen Argyl and Wind Gap.  There's a Republican candidates Ann Flood and Tony Tarsi. It seems likely that one of these two will be the next State Rep. for the 138th. PBS39 has a general overview of the race, which will be decided next Tuesday. It's beginning to heat up.

Flood has been endorsed by incumbent Hahn and State Senator Mario Scavello, whose district included the 138th.  Nazareth Blue Eagle Wrestling has backed Tarsi on its website, creating the false impression that he has the support of the school district.

Both candidates are conservative, but Tarsi has attempted to depict himself as the true conservative.  Flood has countered with this "Facts Matter" mailer:


On his Facebook page, Tarsi prominently displays a picture of himself, shaking hands with Senator Mario Scavello, and adds: "I'd like to thank Senator Mario Scavello for his strong support and financial backing. Thank you Senator!" I'm sure Scavello would support any Republican running for office, but he has endorsed Flood.

While both Tarsi and Flood are conservatives, Tarsi seems to be a nationalist as well. Just a few days ago, he said this: "From the UN, to the IMF, to the IPCC, to the WHO; all these 'world' organizations rely heavily on United States financial backing but support a globalist worldview based on socialist/communist principles. Anyone that’s studied them closely can only come away with one conclusion, they are anti-American, and anti-Israeli. Their ultimate goal is to see the US economy collapse to quickly move to a global world economy where 'we the people' no longer are citizens of a sovereign nation."

Flood appear to be a little more concerned about what's going on within her own district. She's President of the Board at the Greater Bath Area Chamber of Commerce and is also on the Board of Governors for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. She's had a chance to speak top many small business owners, and made clear to me that "Pennsylvania should be opening as soon as possible, so long as the appropriate mitigation is in order." When that does happen, she told me several local restaurants will not be among them. They are victims of Governor Tom Wolf's shutdown order. "The economic impact is going to be felt years, if not a lifetime."

Flood is also the founder and CEO of the Lauren’s Hope Foundation, whose mission is to enhance the quality of life for brain injured children and their families. This foundation has helped children receive life-saving care at The Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Children’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. So she gets the notion of service.

Tarsi, on the other hand, seems a bit more opportunistic. He explains this himself in his "Why I am running video": "I'm going to be 60 this summer. I've long thought about running for state representative. Our incumbent is retiring, so I looked at where I was in my career. ... I felt like this was the right time. If things work out and we do well in the election, then I would retire as of next January. If things don't work out, I'll continue to work as a principal because I really enjoy what I do."

Voters should let Tarsi continue enjoying what he currently does.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

360,000 Self-Employed and Gig Workers Will Have to Wait For Paper Checks.

Over 360,000 self-employed and gig workers have registered for pandemic relief under the federal CARES Act. Unfortunately, this federal relief is being distributed by Pennsylvania's Department of Labor and Industry, the same outfit that has has botched unemployment claims by people who have been laid off. On Sunday, the self-employed filed their weekly claims as required. Most have established direct deposit or debit cards. On Tuesday, they received an unwelcome surprise. The state, worried about fraudulent claims from identity thieves, has decided against filling debit cards or making direct deposits. Instead, "PUA Claimants [the self-employed] will be receiving their PUA and FPUC benefit payments via paper checks for the foreseeable future as an added precaution." According to the Department of Labor, "This will result in about a four business day delay in receiving benefits."

Right.

More like three or four weeks, if past experience is any indication.

One of the three great lies - "It's in the mail."

Temporarily switching to paper checks will help prevent improper deposits into false accounts and give LandI [LaborandIndustry] time to verify accounts," reports Mount Pocono Boro. If you get a check, but have not filed for benefits, you are supposed to return it.

Here's how most of the self-employed have reacted on LandI's Facebook page:

Jennifer: "This is freakin ridiculous!!!!! We're waiting with baited breath for 2 months of back pay and now their gonna mail it out? Hmmm...let's see. Someone else's job security? Feds make more money, not us?"

Terrie: "Freaking awesome... Why the hell not screw us more?"

Mona: "Anybody know the number where someone would actually pick up the phone? I also did live chat today and it wait to wait for a while. I waited since 9:32am - 5pm no response."

Andrea: "I have been emailing since April and I haven’t gotten a response or resolution to my PUA!"

Katie: "I feel like everyone that is upset should be calling Wolf... he started it. Seriously we are the only stare not letting people get back to work. And when he put a stop to all this the systems were not ready to handle it."

Gregg: "Not sure if it’s a result of the fraud events, but it’s ironic that this change is happening just as the states unemployment funding was getting dangerously close to empty. On a side note, the lack of timely communication about any of this has been an unacceptable joke."

LandI plans to conduct a virtual Town Hall today at 1 pm. That shopuld be a hoot. 

Norco Will Distribute BBQ Meals Today at Blue Valley Farm Show Complex

Northampton County, Development (DCED), in collaboration with Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council, will distribute Operation BBQ relief meal boxes to residents of Northampton County today from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM at the Blue Valley Farm Show complex: 707 American Bangor Road, Bangor, PA 18013.

The meals boxes are first come, first served and will be distributed from a refrigerated truck until supplies run out. Each person will receive a pan of food, which will feed four people. There is no charge and no personal information is needed to participate.

Upcoming additional sites will be scheduled around the County in the next few weeks.

Pennsylvania has done a terrible job providing unemployment benefits to those who have lost jobs as a result of the shutdown. This is a welcome relief.

Nor-Bath Trail Getting a Makeover

On Monday, I told you about the Lehigh Valley's best kept secret, a 10-mile trail extending from Cementon to Slatington. Comments from readers tell me there's some great fishing spots along the way, and that you can continue from Slatington all the way up to the Black Diamond Trailhead. That's about 15 miles shy of Wilkes-Barre. Michael Drabenstott, who chairs the Delaware and Lehigh Trail Board, tells me his group is working hard to get there. He's also working at connecting Northampton to Allentown along both sides of the river.

"The entire trail is a hidden diamond that many are just discovering because of the coronavirus," says Pathfinder, an avid cyclist.

This story is about another trail, a 5.9-mile stretch extending from Bath (at Jacksonville Park) to Clear Springs Drive in Northampton. From there, you can dart through Northampton's streets and hook up to the D and L Trail. This connecting trail isp; called The NorBath Trail. It's named after the Northampton and Bath Railroad, which once operated there.

Northampton County purchased this trail from the railroad when it ceased operations. I've been on it many times, and used to do some of my long runs there when I trained for marathons. No river runs alongside this trail, but there are picturesque farmlands along both sides. As I ramble along, I can hear the cracks of bats and eventually see kids playing baseball and softball at Bicentennial Park. I often paused to watch for an inning. It seems there are tournaments every weekend. It's also a great spot for basketball, and is frequented by many high school and college athletes whom I regularly defeat. In my dreams.

There are also monthly orgies in one of the pavilions. OK, I'm dreaming again.

The Nor-Bath Trail is the only County-owned trail within the network of over 300-miles of land and water trails throughout Northampton County.

Starting today, the County plans to make some improvements on a 2.5 mile stretch between Weaversville and Jacksonville Roads. This includes trail resurfacing, safety improvements, landscaping and fencing. From time to time, it will be necessary to close portions. It will take three to four weeks to complete this work.

Northampton County provided $300,000 to match a 2018 grant from PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Community Conservation and Partnership Program.

“The Nor-Bath Trail is a valuable resource for Northampton County,” says Lamont McClure. “It’s important that we improve and preserve this trail for future generations.”

“The investment in our parks, trails and open spaces continue to add value to our County and region. We are grateful to have elected officials in place that see the importance of these investments,” said Bryan Cope, Superintendent of Parks and Recreation.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

An Ugly Man

Yes, he is vilified by the press. Without question, he is subject to partisan attacks. But Donald Trump is a disgrace, not just to his office, but humanity. In one of his latest tweetstorms, he insinuated that one of his media critics, Joe Scarborough, had a female staffer murdered twenty years ago. The real victim of this slur, the husband of this woman, said Trump had "taken something that does not belong to him - the memory of my dead wife - and perverted it ...." The widower's request to be left alone meant nothing to Trump, who doubled down.

Had I written something like that, I'd be rightly torn to shreds as a disreputable blogger. But this lunacy did not come from some nutty blogger, but the President of the United States.

"At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" Joseph Welch asked Senator Joe McCarthy, which ended that witch hunter's career. The same question has been asked of Trump several times.

Trmup has answered. He has no decency.

Should Gracedale RePurpose?

In various statements Executive Lamont McClure has made about Gracedale, he describes it as the largest nursing home in the state, with 600 residents and 700 staff. I always though he was speaking in general, not precise terms. The actual census is unknown because County Council has bizarrely suspended committee hearings. According to an anonymous comment received yesterday, census is currently below 540.  This is with new admissions.

This reader makes this suggestion: "[W]ith dwindling staff and open beds perhaps Northampton county could be proactive like Lehigh county was almost 20 years ago and close the old wings and repurpose. The tax dollars spent on payroll due to never enough staff for multiple years is irresponsible. The stress to the staff being mandated daily is also irresponsible. The residents deserve a better home environment that the old buildings can no longer provide. If we want to take proper care of those in need look to Lehigh counties model. Independent living. And now expansion with improved homelike goal. It's time. The census is low. Makes it easy and will ultimately make money."

This should be explored.

NorCo Register of Elections Wants YOUR Mail-in Ballot

Yesterday was the last day to request an absentee or mail-in ballot for Tuesday's primary. As of 4 pm, Voting Registar Amy Cozze had received and processed 41,000 requests for absentee ballots. That's a good thing. But she's still waiting for 19,000 ballots. That's a bad thing.

You can return your mail-in ballot at any time before 8 pm on election day. But just because you can does not mean you should. Getting your ballots in now will make it much easier to count them on election day.

The legislature did change the law to permit the counting to start on election day, but it's going to be tough for staff to juggle that with all the questions coming from the field

Let's say you've changed your mind and decided you'd rather vote at the polls. Too late. Although you will certainly be allowed to vote by provisional ballot, you will be denied an opportunity to vote on the machine. The reason for this denial is to prevent voter fraud.  If you were allowed to vote on the machine and then brought a mail-in ballot to Easton, you will have voted twice. To prevent that from happening, anyone who applied for an absentee ballot will be unable to vote at the polls.

In previous years, voters could come into the precinct and vote in person, even if they had previously filled out an absentee ballot. But under the old law, the absentee ballots were sent to each precinct, and the judge could simply void the absentee ballot. That is no longer possible.

Some of you might be undecided or, like me, lazy ass procrastinators. You might think you can just fill out your ballot on election day and drop it off at the polling place.

Wrong.

If you're a last-minute Charlie and you want your vote to count, you'll have to take it to the elections office in Easton by 8 pm on Election Day. .

No-excuse mail-in voting is a recent change made by Pennsylvania's Republican-majority General Assembly.  If you distrust this option, you can still vote at your polling place on the ExpressVote XL. If you distrust both voting by mail and the ExpressVote XL, you can vote provisionally and I am sure your vote will count.

If you distrust all three options, you must be Donald Trump.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

NorCo Distributes 8,960 Meals

On May 21-22, Northampton County distributed 8,960 individual meals to the residents of Northampton County at drive-thrus set up at the Government Center in Easton and the Boys & Girls Club in Bethlehem. Each box contained a breakfast meal for four people. Approximately 440 people attended each event.

“You can’t really understand the need that’s out there until you’re looking it in the eye,” says Lamont McClure. “I want to thank Mayor Sal Panto and Mayor Bob Donchez for their support and for personally helping with the distribution of these meals.”

Remaining boxes were delivered to the Boys & Girls Club of Bethlehem, New Bethany Ministries, Shiloh Manor, Third Street Alliance, the Hispanic Center of Bethlehem, Wilson Linx, the YMCAs of Bethlehem and Easton, Oliver Border House and Howard Jones Manor.

Employees from Northampton County EMS and the Sheriff’s Department provided assistance at each site.

The Lehigh Valley's Best Kept Secret

As bad as this pandemic has been, there are bright spots. I love to walk and cycle. I even love to "run," although I can only do that about once every four days. My walks are through Nazareth neighborhoods, where I am quite correctly viewed with suspicion. My bike rides have mostly been along local roads, where I have presented an inviting target to local motorists. But I've also been able to rediscover our local trails, which in my opinion sets the Lehigh Valley apart from most other communities. And now, I'm going to let you in on which trail is the best by far.

I've pretty much been on all of them. Canal Park to Sand Island, Nor-Bath trail, Tatamy, Sand Island to Easton, Palmer Bike Path, Trexler Park, the Delaware Canal from Easton To Riegelsville and a few others. They are all beautiful in their own way

I think you could spend a lifetime looking for the perfect trail and it would not be a wasted life. I've found my favorite. It's the D and L trail starting at Canal Street Park in Northampton. I've taken it to Slatington twice so far. It's wide, well-maintained, flat and just beautiful. After a few miles, I begin to see how pretty the Lehigh Valley still is. The ride to Slatington is ten miles, and at the trailhead, a food truck serves up delicious and healthy dishes like halupki soup, along with several other foods that look very appetizing.

I'm told this trail extends north all the way to White Haven, so this seems like the ultimate place for a long bike ride. Each mile is clearly marked, so you know exactly how far you've gone.

My goal this summer is to take it up north as far as I can go. 

NorCo Exec To Seek Mass Testing at Gracedale

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure intends to request the state Department Department of Health today to order mass testing for Covid-19 at Gracedale. Though he has pressed doctors to do this, they have thus far refused.

McClure currently is running a Covid-19 testing program with Easton Hospital for any county resident who exhibits a symptom. As of Friday, 888 tests have been conducted on Northampton County residents who claim to have one symptom of the virus.

But are the right people being tested?

Given that most of the cases and deaths have been at long-term care facilities, it would make sense to focus testing there. In fact, during a conference call the White House had with state governors on May 11, they were strongly urged to test everyone who works for or resides at a nursing home. "Start now," said VP Michael Pence.

But two weeks later, Pennsylvania still has failed to begin proactive testing at nursing homes, including Grtacedale. Providers, i.e. doctors prefer instead to abide by CDC guidelines that were more relevant when test kits were in short supply.

The result has been a sad rise in the death toll.

On Sunday's This Week, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx discussed the importance of proactive testing at nursing homes:
"We have been working with every county and state and local official, both through the CDC and through the governors, through the governors' calls, to really encourage proactive testing.

"So, some of this is increased testing in areas where we know are the highest risk, whether it's nursing homes, whether it's areas where people work and sleep and stay together or transport together, and really getting proactive testing out there to find cases before there's community spread."
At Thursday night's County Council meeting, McClure said testing was going to become more aggressive in the days ahead. Testing and tracing has been recognized as perhaps the most effective tool in combating Covid-19, but the Trump administration initially underplayed this pandemic and actually botched initial test kits. It was woefully slow in ramping up production. Finally, by mid-May, about three percent of the US population had been tested.

Testing, however, has been reactive and focused on the very sick. By more proactive testing, asymptomatic people can be identified before they unwittingly spread the virus to others. This ultimately leads to a decline in positive tests.

In the meantime, families unable to visit husbands, wives, fathers and mothers are becoming frustrated.

A woman named Diana spoke at Thursday night's Northampton County Council meeting. Her husband is a resident there, and unfortunately, is a victim of Alzheimer's disease. She, along with the families of Gracedale's other 600 residents, has been unable to connect with her spouse since March 12, when Executive Lamont McClure placed barred all outside visits, even volunteers. This decision was motivated by a desire to protect at-risk residents from silent spreaders, which ironically could be the persons who love them most.

"I understand there's a pandemic, but dementia people do not," she said. "We should have been allowed to explain to our loved one why they won't see us for awhile." She fed her husband lunch and dinner every day, and he has lost 45 pounds since family visits were stopped. When she asked if she'd be notified if her husband starts showing symptoms, she states a male nurse "sarcastically" replied that would be "up to the doctor to do or we would be on the phone all damn day." She purchased a tablet herself, yet it took three weeks for it to make its way to her husband's area, Tower Three. She wants to see her husband, and suggested that now that the weather is getting warmer, she should be allowed to visit with him outside. She had kind words for most of the staff, but not the administration and "higher ups."

Jackie spoke of her 85 year-old mother, who graduated third in her class at Easton High School and was the church organist at St. Anthony's for 40 years. Now suffering from dementia, she plays at Gracedale. "She is my hero," said Jackie, acknowledging the decision to place her in Gracedale's dementia unit was "heart wrenching," but that it quickly became a new family. She ticked off the names of staff members - Ange, Doug, John, Pirate Ryan, Dago, Jim, Serena - who have been "phenomenal with her mom."  But a "weeping staff member" informed Jackie as her mother was wheeled to a different floor. "She was packed up like a box," complained Jackie, who said that family visitors could have helped at least prepare her mother for the move.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Thode: Lazarus Rises Again!

Steve Thode's latest:

Yesterday, DoH reported 5,124 total deaths statewide from COVID-19. Of those 5,124, DoH reported that 3,357 were in nursing homes.

Today, DoH reported 5,139 total deaths statewide from COVID-19. Of those 5,139, DoH reported that 3,379 were in nursing homes.

Wrap your brain around that: 15 new deaths today of which 22 were in nursing homes! That means Lazarus rose from the dead 7 times between yesterday's report and today's report. Another miracle wrought seven times!

Meanwhile, it would appear just about every case and death reporting entity took yesterday off. Only 473 new cases reported statewide; 16 in Lehigh; 9 in NorCo.

Lisa Scheller Snags Trump Endorsement in Pa-7 Primary


Lisa Scheller is seeking the Republican nomination in the race for the Pa.-7th Congressional District. Her opponent, Dean Browning, has gone negative against her, a bad habit he has picked up in previous unsuccessful races for numerous offices. He has portrayed himself as "100% pro-Trump" and Scheller as "Liberal, Lying Lisa." Well, if he is "100% pro-Trump," as he claims, he needs to withdraw from the race because Trump has endorsed Scheller.

This endorsement will certainly hurt Scheller in the general election against Susan Wild, but it's going to help Lisa garner the GOP nod.

Game over.

Update at 7:45: Blogger Michael Molovinsky notes: "Imagine getting paid back for years of loyalty like Browning just did."

Thode: Gov. Wolf Faces Political Reality, Abandons "Data Driven" Approach to Re-Open

It appears that Governor Tom Wolf has abandoned his "data driven" approach to re-opening our state after his dirigisme has resulted in an unqualified failure, with two million Pennsylvanians out of work and an unemployment system unable to handle the load.

Steve Thode, a retired Lehigh University professor, has performed a valuable public service by crunching the numbers for us. He himself has recently observed how flawed the state system has been. By his calculations, we should be closed until July 11. But then a miracle happened.

Here's a chart on COVID-19 test results for Lehigh/NorCo over the past 4 weeks:


Testing has ramped up considerably over the past four weeks. However, the percentage of tests reported as "positive" has shrunk from 28.5% three weeks ago to only 8.6% this past week.

Now, my fearless forecasts for Lehigh/NorCo:


Note, as an extra special new forecast, I have added Governor Wolf's "data-driven" forecast which is called "Then A Miracle Happened." That forecast predicts, with utter certainty, that the 14-day average of new cases for Lehigh/NorCo will miraculously drop on June 5 - allowing Lehigh/NorCo to go to "Yellow" on the exact date the governor has decreed.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, my two forecasts have converged. My "Weighted" forecast and my "Unweighted" forecast both predict July 11 as the date the 14-day average of new cases will put Lehigh/NorCo in "Yellow."

Memorial Day: Remember the Young Dead Soldiers

We're a strange bunch. We look forward to Memorial Day as an extra day off from work, a time for picnics and the start of summer. We say "Happy Memorial Day" to each other from the Jersey shore Few of us take the time to think of, to say nothing of honoring, those who have offered their lives for a freedom we take for granted.

It's always been that way. Even during the Revolutionary War, which started with the Boston Massacre, there was little public regard for those who put themselves in harm's way and lost their lives.

“Good God, are the Americans all asleep and tamely giving up their Liberties?” asked Benedict Arnold, who ultimately sold out in bitterness as much as greed.

The very first American to give his life in the cause of liberty was Crispus Attucks. His father was an African-American slave. His mother was a Natick, who were called the "Praying Indians." Little is known about Crispus. But his and the lives of so many who made the ultimate sacrifice are summed up in the immortal words of Archibald MacLeish.

The young dead soldiers do not speak.

Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses:
who has not heard them?

They have a silence that speaks for them at night
and when the clock counts.

They say: We were young. We have died.
Remember us.

They say: We have done what we could
but until it is finished it is not done.

They say: We have given our lives but until it is finished
no one can know what our lives gave.

They say: Our deaths are not ours: they are yours,
they will mean what you make them.

They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for
peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say,
it is you who must say this.

We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died; remember us.

First published Memorial Day, 2016

Hyman Gets Apology For Attempted Smear From Allentown City Council

Allentown's Nat Hyman has been pretty much a success at everything he's tried. Following his graduation from prestigious Georgetown University as well as grad school, he started a costume jewelry chain with stores all over the country. He also began a real estate company that converts vacant old factories into apartments. He provides affordable housing in a city where it's desperately needed, and without indulging in the alphabet soup of tax breaks that local officials hand out like candy. Most important of all, he married his high school sweetheart and raised two beautiful daughters. Yet he's despised by local officials who can barely conceal their disdain, from State Senator Pat Browne to State Rep. Michael "Darth Voter" Schlossberg to Allentown City Council members like Daryl Hendricks and Candida Affa. They fear his competence far more than any virus, though there's no evidence that this is contagious in the Queen City.

This dread of Nat Hyman was on full display at a recent Allentown City Council meeting. Council President Daryl Hendricks read into the record an email from a former Hyman employee painting him as a monster. After doing so, Hendricks gave these allegations instant credibility by stating that he was referring the matter over to the state Attorney General. Never mind that the accusations were baseless. He made no effort to contact Hyman before reading that email into the record. In fact, Morning Call reporter Andrew Wagaman, who was covering the meeting, tweeted, "Hendricks does go out of his way to read this one, from a former Hyman Properties employee ... ."

This is classic "knife in the back" Hendricks. I saw him do it to Hyman before, when he once suggested that Hyman "put on his big boy pants," but waited until Hyman left the meeting before castigating him. In fact, I confronted Henricks over this and asked him at the time whether he has something against Hyman because he is Jewish, something I have heard. Hendricks denied this but was unable to explain why he waited for Hyman to leave a meeting before attacking him.

When Hyman discovered what had happened, he confronted Hendricks


The exchanges continue as follows:

HENDRICKS:
Mr. Hyman, I am sorry that you feel that I went out of my way regarding an e-mail that was sent to Council.
As we were not able to allow the public to attend our meeting I was advised that I would have to read those e- emails that were sent to us. This directive was from our solicitor. He advised that for total transparency and to follow the rules regarding the open records law this was necessary. In regard to numerous other emails sent to us all addressed the same issue regarding the homeless and as such after my colleagues agreed, I was able to make a blanket statement on the subject without reading each one separately.
All emails received were posted on our website in their entirety, again at the advice of our solicitor.
I want you to know that I take no pleasure in having to read that letter and I hold no animosity toward you. I did not receive your text initially from you as it was forwarded to me by Mr. Wagaman. I did also call him and told him that he was out of order with his comment. I did also explain to him why the other emails were not read.
I want to assure you that I hold no grudge against you and I am offended by your accusations accusing me of being anti semitic and a racist. I would appreciate that in the future should you feel slighted or offended in my actions that you reach out to me. I would be open to explain my actions.
Thank you and stay safe.
HYMAN:
Daryl:

Notwithstanding your being offended, surely you must be aware that you have a well-known and long standing reputation for making racist comments.

As far as you’re being an anti-Semite, when I was running for mayor, two of your colleagues on City Council at the time told me directly that you referred to me as “a Jew boy“.

As far as you’re reading that email, clearly there are emails which are slanderous, inappropriate or untrue which should not be read in public. I suppose that if I sent in an email stating that Daryl Hendricks is a racist and an anti-Semite, you would have to read that too? Of course not. In addition, you’re reading that unfounded and factually inaccurate email from a disgruntled employee, doesn’t explain your adding “I will be referring this to the attorney general“ giving the email credibility.

Finally, you say that in the future I should reach out to you.....I texted you. I’m not sure how to reach out any more directly. I would turn that around and say to you that, in the future, if you have anything to say about me (ex: put on my big boy pants) you reach out to me directly and not feel a need to belittle me in public.

Daryl, as I recall, you and I met once at the senior citizen home. I thought we had a nice conversation and got along quite well. I liked you and have never had anything negative to say about you, except when you have attacked me. If, when this Covid thing is over, you ever want to have a cup of coffee or a drink with an eye toward putting our differences behind us, I am always willing. Please don’t hesitate to contact me now that you have my phone number.

Nat
HENDRICKS
Mr. Hyman, you claim that I have a reputation for making racist comments and two colleagues of mine said I did. I absolutely deny that and challenge you to present them in front of you and tell me to my face. I have never used the term you stated and "NO" I do not have a reputation for making racist comments.
I treat all people equally irrespective of race, creed, or color.
The reason I did not get your text directly is because you sent it to the incorrect phone #. It was forwarded to me by Mr. Wagaman.
I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you personally as soon as this horrible situation subsides.
I am hoping to be able to hold a public meeting on our next regularly scheduled date but if not I am going to see what I can do to avoid reading any such emails. As I told you I took no pleasure in reading it.
p.s. it would have to be a drink.....I don't drink coffee.
Thanks and stay safe.
HYMAN
Dear Councilman Hendricks:

As you know, at the last Council meeting you selectively read an email from a former employee of mine which was both defamatory and untrue. Accordingly, I think it only reasonable that you read the following publicly at the next Council meeting:

“ I would like to publicly apologize to Mr. Nat Hyman. At the last Council meeting I read an email from a former employee of his, which contained false statements. Mr. Hyman is a respected member of the Allentown business community and that email should not have been read without first verifying it’s validity.”

So that we can put this matter behind us amicably, I would ask that this statement be read exactly as written herein.

Thank you,

Nat L. Hyman
The apology was read by Mike Hanlon at the Council Meeting on Wednesday May 13th exactly as written.

It's no secret that both Hyman and Hendricks have been mentioned as possible Mayoral candidates should Ray O'Connell decide to step down.  Though Allentown has had several Jewish elected officials, it's also no secret that anti-Semitism is alive and well.  Hyman is also a landlord, who are despised almost as much as bloggers and lawyers. But as I said before, what scares Allentown pols most about Hyman is his ability to get things done, and without schmoozing with them.

Allentown City Council member Josh Siegel and Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley want to shackle Lehigh County residents with both a sales and earned income tax to keep Allentown afloat. It might be a better idea to invest in someone who actually knows what he's doing.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Pa. DOH Reporting Flawed Data

Atlantic reports that Pennsylvania's Department of Health, along with three other states and the CDC, are combining Covid-19 detection tests with antibody tests in their testing reports. The former will reveal that you currently are currently are infected. The latter reveals whether you were infected previously.

Ashish Jha, Harvard Global Health Institute's Director, explains the difference. "“The viral testing is to understand how many people are getting infected, while antibody testing is like looking in the rearview mirror. The two tests are totally different signals.”

In Pa., Governor Tom Wolf is relying on this flawed data to determine when counties go from red to yellow.

In addition to The Atlantic report, Spotlight Pa is reporting that the state DOH's data from long term care facilities is also flawed, a point previously made by this blog.

I Must Be Doing Something Right!

Billy "Billybytes" Givens and yours truly,
shortly before Billy's untimely passing
Last night, Northampton County Council conducted its meeting in Courtroom No. 1 so everyone could stay 40' from each other. Eight out of nine masked members were there, with Peg Ferraro being the sole absentee. She has quarantined herself in Florida. It was a meeting that should have lasted 30 minutes tops, but President Ron Heckman made sure it dragged on for 2 1/2 hours. It seems the less Council has to do, the longer their meetings last. I was watching from my estate atop the Army Navy store in Nazareth. I've only been at the courthouse once since March 19. Yet I was portrayed as an enemy of the people by an entitled Human Services caseworker outraged that she actually has to do her job. I was also slammed by Council President Ron Heckman, who stated he and his colleagues pretty much ignore me. When I have elitist caseworkers AND an elected official condemning me, I know one thing. I must be doing something right.

I've written a few stories about the sad plight of Human Services caseworkers who have been ordered to return to the centralized human services building instead of pretending to work from home. Human Services Director Sue Wandalowski devised a detailed plan to minimize their risk of infection. Her plan was so good that it was circulated statewide. But these supposed public servants hated the idea of returning. They emailed Council members, spoke at the last Council meeting and tried to get the press on their side. Steve Cantanese, President of the local SEIU, told The Morning Call that McClure's insistence that they return to the office is "one of the most blatant disregards for workers in public safety that we've seen."

Yeah, it's right up there with the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911.

While Human Services staffers were bitching, Northampton County's COs at the jail quietly rescued an inmate who had tried to end his life. They and Gracedale workers have been the real heroes during this pandemic. Unlike the social workers, they have experienced actual cases of Covid-19 within their ranks.

Last night, caseworkers were once again before Council, and threatened to return at every meeting until they get satisfaction.

Kazzy Johnson, their shop steward, said that it's too risky to work at the centralized human services building. She complained "this Council [and] the public was served with untruths by our administrators, some of the media and by a blogger whose only goal was to disparage us and to spread hate and lies about us to the community."

My goal then and now was to tell the truth, and that's what I did. If they were working from home, they'd still be there. If she wishes to be disparaged, I could oblige.

Now Council has no intention of doing a damn thing. This is a labor issue, and if they inject themselves, the County could end up on the wrong side of an unfair labor practice accusation. Kazzy's words were nevertheless music to the ears of Council members.

I've been even more critical of them than the caseworkers. And they deserve it. I've spared no one. They are, after all, elected officials who should expect a certain amount of scrutiny. But they hate it as much as Donald Trump dislikes being called out. So President Ron Heckman used Kazzy to take a shot at me.

"I know one thing I am allowed to say, and that is ... I wouldn't worry ... regarding any blogger because I doubt if anybody on Council takes a specific blogger that seriously. All you have to do is read what some bloggers write about us. We'll hear you, we'll hear the administration, management, but I wouldn't take - if you're gonna' talk about a blogger, you don't even have to bother. That's not an issue for us."

Oh yes it is. When a Council member was poised to take a job as Finance Director, I was taken seriously when I pointed out his own checkered financial history. When a former County Administrator had a slew of tax liens, that became an issue. When I reported that a former Human Resources Director spent money on $700 popcorn machines and trips to Vegas, that became an issue. When a former Executive got caught by yours truly in lies about building a new jail on Gracedale's campus, that became an issue. When a current member of Council was sanctioned by a County judge for "perjury" in a custody dispute, that became an issue. When two union reps on the current Council tried to screw a group of county workers simply because they left a union, that became an issue. When GPA's former Solicitor tried to stick the County with hundreds of thousands of dollars in inflated legal fees, that became an issue. When I reported that some Gracedale nurses let a resident's pressure wound fester for over a month without changing the bandage, that became an issue.

I'll agree I'm unpopular with the Brahmins. My role, like the late and great blogging pioneer BillyBytes, is to expose those who "hold themselves up as models of probity but are venal, be they officials such as mayors and school board members, political parties, or the mainstream media."

As I said, I must be doing something right.

On Monday, I'll tell you about the rest of the meeting.

Blogger's Note: For the past few days, two trolls have attempted unsuccessfully to hijack this blog. I can delete them in seconds, but have to be online. It is unfair to you to subject you to spam comments, so I will be enabling comment moderation when I am not online.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Social Distance for a Bison is 25 Yards


A woman who violated the social distance guidelines for bison was knocked to the ground yesterday by a testy tatanka at Yellowstone National Park. Social distance for a bison is 25 yards. No word on whether it was wearing a mask.

Better Watch Out! I am a Certified Contact Tracer



I spent much of yesterday getting certified as a Covid-19 Contact Tracer. This online course is offered by Johns Hopkins University through Coursera. It's free, and I could add this certificate to my resume if I had one.

It's billed as a 5-6 hour course, but it took me a full day to get through it. I now know the difference between isolation (that's for a person with Covid-19) and quarantine (that's for a person who has had contact with someone who has Covid-19). I know that a person who is infected with the virus experiences an incubation period before symptoms are manifested. It can be as short as two days or as long as 14 days, with the average incubation period being 5 days. In some cases the person is asymptomatic.

The contact tracer gets in touch with a person who has been diagnosed with Covid-19 for three reasons. First, the person is asked to isolate himself for at least ten days. Second, he is asked to identify any close or proximate contacts he has had, starting with two days before he began to manifest symptoms. Third, you identify resources that could assist with things like food, childcare, rent and medications.

The contact tracer also gets in touch with all close or proximate contacts that the Covid-19 person has had, starting two days before he knew he was sick. A close contact would be a spouse or someone living with you. A proximate contact would be someone you spoke with for 15 minutes or more from a distance of less than six feet. It could also be people who are farther away if you share an office for extended periods. This unfortunate soul is asked to quarantine himself for 14 days from the date of contact.

During this online class, I also learned about technology to help people know if they've been exposed. The application Novid helps you anonymously to trace your exposure to Covid-19. You download this application to your smartphone, and it keeps track of contacts with others who also have downloaded the application. If you or one of them contracts Covid-19, you change your status to "I have tested positive for Covid-19," and Novid then notifies all contacts. Similarly, you are notified if a contact has tested positive. Neither your identity nor that of a contact is revealed. Then it's up to you to self-quarantine.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Gracedale Has 2d Highest Number of Covid-19 Deaths in Pa.

Gracedale is the largest nursing home in Pennsylvania. It also has the second highest number of Covid-19 fatalities. Yesterday, the state Department of Health finally released its COVID-19 Long-Term Care Facilities Data for 557 nursing and long term care homes.

The nursing home with the highest number of deaths statewide is Brighton Rehab and Wellness Center, which at one time was county-owned. As of yesterday, 358 residents and 25 employees had tested positive, with 76 deaths.

Gracedale is second, with 205 residents stricken, 44 of them fatally. In addition, 40 workers have contracted the virus.

Analysis:

1) The spreadsheet prepared by the state is undated.

2) The spreadsheet prepared by the state omits deaths at nursing homes if they are under 5. This leads the state to conclude there have been 2,852 deaths at LTCFs when the actual total is 3,145. Thus, the state is under-reporting nursing home deaths.

3) In Northampton County, the state failed to include The Gardens at Easton, Slate Belt Health and Rehab and Weston Rehab. Those facilities are listed as nursing homes by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. This failure leads to even more under-reporting of the severity of Covid-19 in nursing homes.

4) In Lehigh County, there appears to be more omissions, although perhaps the names of some facilities have changed.

Below is the state data for the Lehigh Valley's nursing homes, which appears to me to be flawed:

Lehigh County

CEDARBROOK SENIOR CARE and REHABILITATION
- 115 residents, 41 employees, 20 deaths

FELLOWSHIP MANOR
- 43 residents, under 5 employees, 8 deaths

GOOD SHEPHERD HOME RAKER CENTER
- 10 residents, 8 employees, under 5 deaths

HOLY FAMILY MANOR
- 20 residents, 8 employees, under 5 deaths

LEHIGH CENTER
- 84 residents, 16 employees, 17 deaths

LUTHER CREST NURSING FACILITY
- 10 residents, 0 employees, under 5 deaths

MANORCARE HEALTH SERVICES ALLENTOWN
- 47 residents, 8 employees, 6 deaths

MANORCARE HEALTH SERVICES BETHLEHEM 2021
- 125 residents, 14 employees, 19 deaths

MANORCARE HEALTH SERVICES BETHLEHEM 2029
- 30 residents, 5 employees, under 5 deaths

MOSSER NURSING HOME
- 18 residents, under 5 employees, 0 deaths

WESTMINSTER VILLAGE
- 48 residents, 17 employees, 10 deaths

ABOVE and BEYOND
- under 5 residents, 0 employees, 0 deaths

ABOVE and BEYOND MOUNTAIN VIEW
- 41 residents, 0 employees, 12 deaths

ARDEN COURTS OF ALLENTOWN
- 23 residents, under 5 employees, 9 deaths

AT HOME PALLIATIVE AND HOSPICE FOUNDATION BUILDING 1
- under 5 residents, 0 employees, 0 deaths

BETHLEHEM MANOR
- under 5 residents, under 5 employees, under 5 deaths

COUNTRY MEADOWS OF ALLENTOWN - 8 residents, under 5 employees, under 5 deaths

DEVONHOUSE OF ALLENTOWN - 9 residents, 0 employees, under 5 deaths

HEATHER GLEN SENIOR LIVING - 0 residents, under 5 employees, 0 deaths

LEGEND PERSONAL CARE AND MEMORY CARE OF ALLENTOWN - 5 residents, 0 employees, under 5 deaths

LEHIGH COMMONS - under 5 residents, under 5 employees, 0 deaths

MOUNT TREXLER MANOR - under 5 residents, 5 employees, 0 deaths

SALISBURY BEHAVIORAL HEALTH - under 5 residents, 0 employees, 0 deaths

SOUTH MOUNTAIN MEMORY CARE - under 5 residents, 0 employees, 0 deaths

WESTMINSTER VILLAGE - under 5 residents, 0 employees, 0 deaths

WHITEHALL MANOR - 15 residents, 6 employees, 5 deaths

Northampton County

COUNTRY MEADOWS NURSING CENTER BETHLEHEM - 22 residents, 5 employees, 7 deaths

KIRKLAND VILLAGE - 44 residents, 10 employees, 6 deaths

MANORCARE HEALTH SERVICES EASTON - 131 residents, 20 employees, 15 deaths

MORAVIAN HALL SQUARE HLTH AND WELLNESS CTR - under 5 residents, 5 employees, 0 deaths

MORAVIAN VILLAGE OF BETHLEHEM - under 5 residents, 0 employees, 0 deaths

NEW EASTWOOD HEALTHCARE AND REHAB CENTER - 30 residents, 6 employees, 6 deaths

NORTHAMPTON COUNTY HOME GRACEDALE - 205 residents, 40 employees, 44 deaths

OLD ORCHARD HEALTH CARE CENTER - 99 residents, 15 employees, 24 deaths

THE GARDENS FOR MEMORY CARE AT EASTON - 96 residents, 22 employees, 22 deaths

ALEXANDRIA MANOR OF ALLENTOWN BETHLEHEM CAMPUS - 13 residents, under 5 employees, under 5 deaths

LIZAS HOUSE - 0 residents, under 5 employees, 0 deaths

MEADOWS LIVING CENTER AT COUNTRY MEADOWS OF BETHLEHEM - 35 residents, 26 employees, 5 deaths

MORAVIAN KINGS DAUGHTERS AND SONS HOME - 0 residents, under 5 employees, 0 deaths

SAUCON VALLEY MANOR - 9 residents, under 5 employees, under 5 deaths

NorCo's Covid-19 Testing Site to Remain Open Until June 5

From Northampton County: The Northampton County sponsored Covid-19 drive-thru testing site at Easton Hospital will remain open until June 5th. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, from 10:00AM – 4:00PM. The site will be closed on Memorial Day, May 25th. The Coronavirus testing site is located in the main parking lot at Easton Hospital, 250 S 21st Street, Easton, PA 18042 and the tests are free. The risk of viral transmission at a drive-thru site is much lower than at a walk-in clinic.

“Since it opened on May 6th, 586 Northampton County residents have received a test for Covid-19,” says Executive Lamont McClure. “Determining how prevalent the virus is in our community is the key to reopening our economy.”

Only residents from Northampton County will be accepted for testing and they must show at least one of the following CDC recognized symptoms of Covid-19 to be eligible: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or loss of taste and/or smell. A prescription from a doctor is not required. Although insurance is not required to be tested participants should bring a photo ID and their insurance card, if they have one, with them.

WHERE: Easton Hospital Main Parking Lot 250 S 21st Street, Easton, PA 18042

WHEN: Open until June 5th; Monday – Friday, 10AM – 4PM

Two Inmates, No Staff, Have Covid-19 at NorCo Jail

As of yesterday, two inmates at Northampton County's jail are infected with Covid-19. Another six inmates who tested positive have recovered. Seven employees had tested positive, but all have recovered and back on the job.

All inmates and employees have their temperatures checked multiple times a day.

“The dedication and professionalism of Northampton County Corrections officers during the Covid-19 outbreak has been exemplary,” noted Executive Lamont McClure. “They are doing a great job protecting the residents, their fellow employees and the public.” In fact, on Saturday, they saved the life of an inmate who was attemtpting to hang himself.

Corrections officers have been at odds with McClure over their contract. But they have really gone above and beyond during this pandemic.

Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton Close Pools

LVCI sums it up best - "Summer is Cancelled." Swimming pools in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton are closed for the summer. So are most of this summer's activities, at least for now. I'm disappointed because I love watching high school hoops at Cedar Beach Park. But I really feel bad for the kids. Seniors have already been denied a prom and graduation, and because of the shutdown, it's hard for college students to find internships. This could spell trouble in our urban centers, where I can guarantee that kids will be mentored by troublemakers instead of responsible adults. All three mayors are themselves former teachers. They know this better than I.

Governor Tom Wolf has finally caved on real estate activities, including title insurance, but many small businesses are still shuttered. I like the way LVCI oputs it:

"Let the Coronavirus itself educate those foolish enough to disregard it's dangers. Government cannot change peoples' behaviors. Nor should government hamstring those of us who can act responsibly. Somehow government has taken it upon itself to try and save stupid people from themselves. I feel it has no such obligation. Let nature take it's course and allow the rest of us with common sense to get on with our lives in a prudent manner."

NorCo Secures $50k Box Truck Grant for Slate Belt Food Banks

Northampton County's Department of Community and Economic Development has received a $50,000 Monroe County gaming grant to purchase a box truck for the Mission of Love Food Bank in Bangor as well as the Portland/Upper Mount Bethel Food Pantry (PUMP) in Portland.

The truck is a 2019 Ford F-550 Box Truck with a lift gate.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Colonial Regional Police Seek Help in Identifying Assault Suspect

From Colonial Regional Police Department: At approximately 2:00 a.m. on May 14th, the Colonial Regional Police Department (CRPD) were called to a residence in the 1100 block of Stafore Drive for an assault which resulted in serious injury to a Township resident. The incident started outside the Township. The actor was brought to the victim’s house where an argument ensued.

The actor was unknown to the victim and fled the area. The assault is under investigation with the full resources of CRPD being deployed. The CRPD believes this is an isolated incident and has no reason to believe that there is any danger to the general public.

Information was developed and the police are seeking the public’s assistance. The actor is believed to have knocked on a door/residence in the apartments off Harriet Lane at approximately 5:00 a.m. and asked for directions. Video surveillance cameras indicated the actor then walked east towards Southland Drive, Weis and S.R. 0512.

We ask that individuals with any type of cameras or video surveillance review their devices between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. on May 14th in area of Stafore Drive, Gaspar Avenue, Birchwood Estates I & II, Claire Street, Greenfield Road, Greenleaf Street, Brentwood Avenue, Gloria Lane, Old Pointe North, Pointe North and east of Harriet Lane.

CRPD is requesting that anyone who might have witnessed anything suspicious, finds anything on their cameras or video surveillance, or might have any information relating to this assault, please contact Detective Sergeant Melinsky at 610-861-4820.

Callers can remain anonymous.

Thank you for your attention to this email.

County Judge Nixes Governor's Ban on Church Services in Oregon

A county judge in Oregon has struck down Governor Kate Brown's ban on religious gatherings. Judge Matt Shirtcliff, who incidentally was placed on the bench by Brown, ruled that a Governor's emergency powers only last for 28 days under state law. He also makes this point:
"The Governor has an enormous responsibility to protect the lives of the citizens of our state balanced against the citizens' constitutional rights to freedom of religion which includes how he or she chooses to worship. The Governor's orders are not required for public safety when Plaintiffs can continue to utilize social distancing and safety protocols at larger gatherings involving spiritual worship, just as grocery stores and businesses deemed essential by the Governor have been authorized to do. This court finds that based on these factors the balance of equities tips in favor of Plaintiffs."
In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf's emergency powers last for 90 days, after which he can extend them himself.  State Rep. Russ Diamond has introduced legislation that would limit these powers to 45 days, after which legislative approval would be needed.

Updated 9 am:  Oregon's Supreme Court has temporarily reinstated the ban, pending review by the full court.

Rachel Levine Raises the Dead!

It's a miracle! Steve Thode, our Covid-19 numbers cruncher, suspects Pennsylvania must have several Lazaruses. This is because, on Monday, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine is reporting negative death numbers.
Just a sampling of the brilliant death data by the DoH today:

Lackawanna: -24 new deaths (149 total deaths yesterday, 125 total deaths today):

Luzerne: -5 new deaths (127 total deaths yesterday, 122 total deaths today);

Northampton: -28 new deaths (199 total deaths yesterday, 171 total deaths today);

Pike: -7 new deaths (22 total deaths yesterday, 15 total deaths today).

If this keeps up, NorCo could be down to 0 total deaths by Memorial Day!

Does the Wolf "disadministration" employ anyone who took a math class after first grade?

Allentown Business Owner to Challenge Schlossberg

Allentown business owner Mike McCreary, a partner in Lehigh Valley Grand Prix, has announced he's running for State Representative in Pennsylvania's 132d legislative district. This district consists of Allentown's west end and a small portion of South Whitehall Tp. He's a Republican, and needs 300 write-ins to become the GOP nominee in a heavily Democratic district. That seat is currently held by Democrat Mike Schlossberg, who was first elected in 2013. Schlossberg is running unopposed on the Democratic side.

McCreary is a 2007 grad of Lehigh University (B.S. Business). Once he collected his degree, he almost immediately started his indoor go-kart business at a 48,000 sq ft facility.

His ambiguous announcement, which sounds no different from something Schlossberg would say, is as follows:
The past few months have been one of the most terrifying times of our lives. Some of us have lost loved ones while others have lost employment, for some both [sic]. Business owners have faced realities that they may never reopen. Many are juggling home schooling their children while trying to work. Others are home schooling their children as they try to hold back the nerves of not knowing how they are going to put food on the table. The stimulus programs have been flawed. Our community has been at odds with one another. We need help!

While there has been great debate in how this country should reopen the one issue that has been lost is sensibility. Sensibility on what industries are essential, sensibility on when counties should go yellow, and sensibility on guidelines to reopen.

As Americans, if we do not agree on how our politicians are representing our interests we have the right and privilege to vote. My family and I have decided to take that right a step further.

THIS IS MY OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT that I will be running under the Republican Party for State Representative in the 132 District of Pennsylvania.

How you can help: In order to get on the ballet for the election I will need to secure 300 write in votes for the primary. If you are a registered Republican in the 132 our community needs your support!
I am by no means a Schlossberg fan. I am glad someone is taking him on. But McCreary has to do a lot better than making an announcement that basically says nothing.

NorCo's Covid-19 Testing Site Open Thru Friday

From NorCo: In its first eight days of operation, the drive-thru testing center at Easton Hospital tested 524 Northampton County residents for Covid-19, an average of 65.5 tests/day. This site is made possible by a partnership with Easton Hospital, and is being funded with $150,000 in CARES Act funding.

“Many of our residents are desperate to get this County open. I believe testing sites like this one will help us achieve that goal quicker,” says Lamont McClure. “The virus isn’t going anywhere and there are going to be peaks and troughs in the testing results. Folks should consult our Coronavirus dashboard to track our progress.”

The Northampton County sponsored Covid-19 drive-thru testing site at Easton Hospital will be open until May 22nd. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, from 10:00AM – 4:00PM in the main parking lot at Easton Hospital, 250 S 21st Street, Easton, PA 18042. The risk of viral transmission at a drive-thru site is much lower than at a walk-in clinic.

Only residents from Northampton County will be accepted for a test and, to be eligible, they must show at least one of the following CDC recognized symptoms of Covid-19: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or loss of taste and/or smell. A prescription from a doctor is not required. The tests are free, but participants should bring their insurance card, if they have one, and a photo ID.

All residents are encouraged to continue to practice social distancing, to wear masks and to wash their hands frequently to limit transmission of the virus.

The GIS department has put together a dashboard to track Covid-19 infections and related deaths in Northampton County. It can be accessed at:
https://northampton.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/a90733c6c4e1469289ec826f3f59dc23

95 Residents, 7 Staff Battle Covid-19 at Gracedale

Northampton County reported yesterday concerning Covid-19 infections at Gracedale. The county's nursing home, which includes 600 residents and 700 staff is the largest in the state.

As of yesterday, 95 residents and 7 staffers are infected with the virus. So far, 195 residents have tested positive, and 38 have recovered. Forty-six residents have passed away. 44 staffers have been infected thus far, but 37 have recovered and are back at work. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

GoFundMe Established For Military Vet Whose Wife Was Killed in Car Accident

Ryan Zavatter is an Air Force vet who conducts nightly meetings with vets suffering from PTSD, substance abuse and domestic issues. His wife Lauren was killed in early March in a car accident along MacArthur Road near its intersection with Mechanicsville Road. She and her husband liked to put their six-year old son to bed together, and when she did not come home, Ryan began calling without success. He was able to track her location and saw the accident scene.

If you can spare a few dollars to help him meet expenses, please visit this GoFundMe page.



Thode: LV Could Be Locked Down Until Mid-July


Steve Thode, the retired Director of Real Estate Studies at Lehigh University, has been crunching the daily numbers from the Covid-19 crisis. Based on his analysis, and assuming that Governor Tom Wolf insists on following his own formula, he has previously predicted we will be locked down until sometime in July. (July 5-17)

Based on case data as of May 17, Thode's "weighted" forecast predicts Lehigh/Northampton counties will go to "Yellow" on July 16; his "unweighted" forecast predicts July 21. Lehigh and Northampton counties' declines in daily new cases has been slower than the rest of The Northeast.

NorCo COs Save Inmate's Life While Human Services Workers Want to Stay Home

Northampton County's Human Services caseworkers will be back at the centralized human services building today. Although Executive Lamont McClure was allowing them to work from home, but changed his mind when presented with data on how little they had done. These people are supposed to keep vulnerable children, elderly and mentally ill from being neglected or abused. Unfortunately, some of these social workers were treating time away from the office as playtime.

When McClure directed these social workers return to the Human Services building, Human Services Director Sue Wandalowski devised a detailed plan (described here) that would minimize the risk. In fact, her plan has been circulated by the statewide association of Human Services workers. Nevertheless, many of the county's human services' staff continue to groan. They have emailed Council members, spoke out at the last Council meeting and have attempted to enlist the support of local news organizations. Steve Cantanese, the President oif the local SEIU, told The Morning Call that McClure's insistence that they return to the office is "one of the most blatant disregards for workers in public safety
that we've seen."

Really? Office work? Give me a break. Cantanese needs to get his head out of his ass. Several of my forebears died in mine collapses, where there really was a blatant disregard for worker safety. My grandfather was missing three fingers. He worked the mines as a boy, and his job was to pick up stray pieces of coal and thrown them into a passing coal car. Office work?

Cantanese's remark is a slap across their faces.

It is also a slur to two million Pennsylvanians (1.8 million employees and 200,000 self-employed) have no work at all. Governor Tom Wolf's shutdown has seen to that. Many of these people have yet to see a penny in unemployment benefits. Governor Tom Wolf has seen to that, too. These folks are begging to get back to work. Cantanese and his entitled social workers expect these Pennsylvanians to pay them to sit on their asses while pretending to be scared.

Public sector employees have a very bad reputation, and this is why.

Ironically, many employees at the courthouse have soldiered on, and with no complaints. The elections office is processing mail-in ballots, and I believe they are now over 34,000.

Gracedale's staff has had reasonable concerns because the nursing home was hit hard with Covid-19. Amazingly Health Secretary Rachel Levine ordered nursing homes to accept new residents even if they tested positive for Covid-19. Some staffers there were afraid and had every right to be afraid. But call-offs have diminished.

Finally, there's the jail. The virus has hit both inmates and corrections officers. But guess what? These corrections officer have really distinguished themselves. In fact, on Saturday morning, alert guards managed to rescue an inmate who was trying to hang himself.

Unfortunately, news organizations increasingly sell sensationalism, not facts. So the Chicken Littles in Human Services get the front page. Guards who save someone's life get nothing.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Wolf's Shutdown Will Make Pa and Lehigh Valley Unattractive Location

Lehigh Valley Economic Development CEO Don Cunningham was Bethlehem's Mayor when Bethlehem Steel went tets up. Cunningham's optimism helped steer the Christmas City during those dark times. He still is a "glass is half full" kind of guy. At a recent radio appearance on WLVR-FM, he presented the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity for economic development. He suggested businesses subjected to a shutdown in NYC and NJ will relocate here, where it is less dense. In other words, he thinks businesses will relocate from one high-tax shutdown state to another high-tax state shutdown state. I think that Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley are about to become a lot less dense. Not only are businesses going to leave, but they'll be taking the people who work for them with them.

The second Civil War has been fought, and, this time, the South has won! The utter ineptitude and tyrannical behavior of Northeast governors will have lasting impacts. Mass migration from NY, NJ, PA, CT and MA to states like South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and, especially, Texas, will occur over the next decade. NYC will have a permanent population loss among those who pay taxes. Florida could easily surpass NY as the third most populous state. And, businesses, unlike post-9/11 where the moves were temporary, will vacate NYC (and the metro area) permanently. When the finance sector starts talking about relocating, it will be an earthquake. Rocket scientists like Cuomo, DeBlasio and Wolf will dismiss such talk. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

This time, it won't be Southern Blacks moving to the North; it will be Northern Whites and Blacks moving to the South.