What's new in the Upper Delaware region December 31 to January 6
ALBANY, NY — The Wadsworth Laboratory in New York’s capital has begun “aggressive research” into the new, highly contagious COVID-19 strain that has been discovered in the United Kingdom. Last week, Wadsworth had already looked at more than 3,700 virus sequences identified in New York, but had yet to find the U.K. variant present in any of the samples. Additionally, Wadsworth and the Department of Health have forged agreements with six hospitals from across the state to obtain additional samples and are continuing to make arrangements with other hospitals to do the same.
“The U.K. variant is a real issue—not only is it believed to be 70 percent more contagious than previous strains, but there is a very real chance it is already here. Upon learning of this new variant, we immediately worked with airlines to ensure that anyone getting on a plane from the U.K. bound for New York tests negative, but we need federal action and we need it now,” Cuomo said.
HARRISBURG, PA — Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced the initiation of transferring $145 million from the Workers’ Compensation Security Fund at the Pennsylvania Insurance Department to be appropriated by the state legislature into grants for businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The $145 million transfer requires legislative authorization to expend the money for the purpose of making grants to businesses. The legislature has the authority to establish grant agreements for purposes it deems appropriate, in this case, to support businesses adversely affected by the pandemic. Gov. Wolf urged the legislature to allocate this funding as quickly as possible to businesses affected by the pandemic, among them restaurants and bars, gyms and entertainment venues.
HONESDALE, PA — Honesdale Borough Council is seeking public comment on a proposed ordinance that was developed upon a request received from the Honesdale Fire Department. The proposed ordinance would require certain commercial and residential buildings to install Knox boxes, small, wall-mounted safes that hold building keys for fire departments and emergency services. The ordinance includes an exemption section.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, council meetings are being conducted virtually and the public can participate by dialing into the meeting or listening through a link on the borough’s website: www.honesdaleborough.com. Residents can also email, mail, or drop off their comments to the borough office. The borough email is firstname.lastname@example.org, phone number is 570/253-0731 and address is Borough Hall, 958 Main St., Honesdale, PA 18431. The borough office is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays excluding holidays. The proposed ordinance can be viewed from the borough’s website under the Public Announcements tab, in the borough office or at the Wayne County Law Library.
HARRISBURG, PA — In response to Gov. Tom Wolf publicly urging the General Assembly to pass legislation providing financial relief to small businesses, GOP House Leader Kerry Benninghoff made a statement criticizing the governor.
“There is only one reason why restaurants and small businesses are shut down, suffering and facing permanent closure, and that reason is the governor... House Republicans...stood up for small businesses and worked to undo the harm caused by Gov. Wolf’s economic shutdowns and restrictions,” he said. “We need to work together, and I encourage Gov. Wolf to work with us on relief plans and join us in focusing on long-term solutions that keep Pennsylvanians working and businesses and restaurants operating safely.”
ALBANY, NY — New York State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker recently released the following statement regarding potential fraud in Orange County:
“The State Department of Health (DOH) has been made aware of reports that Parcare Community Health Network, an Orange County provider, may have fraudulently obtained COVID-19 vaccine, transferred it to facilities in other parts of the state in violation of state guidelines and diverted it to members of the public—contrary to the state’s plan to administer it first to frontline health care workers, as well as nursing home residents and staffers. We take this very seriously and the DOH will be assisting state police in a criminal investigation into this matter. Anyone found to have knowingly participated in this scheme will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-08) recently announced that his Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act was enacted into law. The bill is aimed at helping schools cut costs and improve energy efficiency in their facilities.
“At a time when schools are using costly alternative education methods amid the pandemic, they need to put every dollar that they can toward teaching and instruction,” Cartwright said.
Cartwright referenced a 2018 Harvard Kennedy School study that found that differences in average temperatures and access to air conditioning at school could explain 13 percent of the PSAT achievement gaps between white students and their Black and Hispanic peers.
ALBANY, NY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed into law legislation sponsored by NYS Sen. Jen Metzger that allows Port Jervis and the Town of Wallkill to establish a room tax. The bill allows the two communities to increase revenue without raising taxes on locals.
Cuomo vetoed similar legislation last year, “but given the fiscal hardship facing communities as a result of the pandemic, there is renewed urgency to find additional sources of revenue.”
“This is about home rule, and letting local governments decide how best to meet the needs of their communities,” said Metzger. “At a time when local governments are struggling with significant revenue shortfalls as a result of the pandemic and its impact on the economy, they should have this tool in their toolbox if they want it, especially if it helps the local taxpayers.”