Chester County News

February 18, 2019
mychesco.com
Department of Health Highlights 2018 Nursing Home Inspection and Sanction Information

HARRISBURG, PA — During 2018, Pennsylvania Department of Health surveyors conducted 4,716 surveys at Pennsylvania nursing homes, issuing 169 sanctions and finalizing civil penalties totaling more than $1.5 million, according to Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

“Every day, our staff of surveyors are visiting nursing homes to ensure owners and operators are providing proper patient care and building safety standards are being met,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. “We visit nursing homes for regular inspections and when we receive a complaint about a facility. This information is important to the families and loved ones of the residents receiving care at nursing homes, so each month we will highlight what we find and the actions we take.”

The inspections, called surveys, include information on nursing home patient-care and building inspections. If a facility is cited for not following regulations during the survey, it must submit a plan of correction that includes what will be done to fix the issue and a completion date. The department will conduct a surprise follow-up inspection to ensure the issue is resolved.

The department also may issue a sanction. Possible sanctions include a civil penalty, a ban on admissions, a license being revoked, or a facility being put on a provisional license, which requires, among other things, being inspected every six months. A provisional license can be renewed no more than three times. The department can return the facility to a regular license if it is satisfied that all deficiencies were corrected and it is warranted.

In the January 2019 report, nursing home surveyors conducted 504 inspections at 315 nursing homes, including 295 complaint investigations. In addition, 43 sanctions were issued against nursing care facilities with civil penalties totaling more than $706,000.

“If you see something at a nursing home that doesn’t seem right, we encourage you to speak up,” Dr. Levine said. “You can make a complaint anonymously by calling 1-800-254-5164, filling out the online complaint form, emailing c-ncomplai@pa.gov or sending the complaint in the mail to the department.”

The department maintains a searchable database, which allows the public to view patient care surveys, building safety surveys, size of the nursing home, type of ownership and additional information about each of the nursing homes in the state. The department oversees nearly 700 nursing homes and more than 88,000 beds within nursing homes in Pennsylvania, in addition to other facilities, including hospitals, ambulatory surgical facilities, home care agencies and others.

Surveys are posted to the website 41 days after the survey is completed.

Additional information on Pennsylvania’s nursing homes can be found on the Department of Health’s website at www.health.pa.gov.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health    Source

February 14, 2019
patch.com
‘Zombie Deer’ Disease Now In PA: Here’s Why You Should Care
What the heck is Zombie Deer disease and why should we care if it’s in Pennsylvania? Read on:

'Zombie Deer' Disease Now In PA: Here's Why You Should Care

“Zombie deer disease,” a deadly infection that causes deer to dramatically lose weight and coordination and turn aggressive, is spreading across North America, a government report warns.

The disease, officially known chronic wasting disease, affects deer, elk and moose. As of January 2019, it has been reported in Pennsylvania and 23 other U.S. states, as well as two provinces in Canada.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued the warning, said there’s no evidence people will be harmed if they eat meat from infected wildlife.

So why should we care?

Although the CDC has stopped short of warning people not eat venison from infected animals, there’s some evidence it might not be a good idea. A separate study from the agency found that laboratory mice with some human genes could become infected with chronic wasting disease.

For now, the CDC recommends that hunters in the areas where chronic wasting disease has been found have their game tested. The agency also advised hunters against shooting or handling meat from deer or elk that look or act strangely, but added that the animal’s behavior isn’t a fail-safe way of knowing if it is infected, because it can take years for the symptoms to appear.

In Pennsylvania, the disease has been reported in five counties: Blair; Bedford; Cambria; Clearfield; and Fulton.

The disease got its nickname — “zombie deer disease” — because of the horrifying effects on the animals that contract it. The sick animals sometimes take on the vacant stare associated with “zombies” and they become so gaunt their rib cages are visible.

Chronic wasting disease was first detected in captive deer and other members of the hoofed Cervidae family in the late 1960s in Colorado and wild deer in 1981, and gradually has spread to the Midwest, Southwest and, to a more limited degree, to the East Coast.

It’s possible, however, that chronic wasting disease may be in other states that don’t have strong animal surveillance systems, but haven’t been detected yet, the CDC said.

In another study, macaques, a type of monkey that is genetically closer to people than the other animals infected with the disease, became sick after eating meat from infected deer and elk. Of the five monkeys fed infected meat from white-tailed deer, three tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to The Tyee, a Canadian news outlet. The Associated Press said that was the first time the disease has been found to spread in primates through the consumption of infected meat.

Chronic wasting disease is steadily spreading. The CDC said that in several areas where the disease is established, infection rates may exceed 10 percent, but localized rates of infection may be as high as 25 percent.

Infection rates appear to be higher in captive deer. In one captive herd, the infection rate was nearly four in five, or 79 percent, according to the report.

Once the disease is established, it’s almost impossible to eradicate.

“The risk can remain for a long time in the environment,” the CDC said. “The affected areas are likely to continue to expand.”  Source

**Chester County votes on paper ballots
February 14, 2019
mychesco.com
PENNSYLVANIA
Auditor General DePasquale Calls on Counties to be Transparent in Selection of New Voting Machines

HARRISBURG, PA — Auditor General Eugene DePasquale reported this week that nine counties missed his Feb. 8 deadline to provide information about how they are selecting new voting equipment for the 2020 election, including Chester County.

“I am continuing my work across Pennsylvania to make sure that our next election is secure, that every eligible voter has a chance to vote, and that all votes are counted properly,” DePasquale said.

In December, DePasquale announced that he would review purchasing of voting machines by counties after it was reported that Luzerne County’s elections director accepted trips from a vendor that was selected to provide voting equipment.

Last month DePasquale asked every county election office to answer six questions related to the selection of new voting equipment. The nine counties that failed to respond by the Feb. 8 deadline were Armstrong, Cameron, Chester, Forest, Greene, Huntingdon, Mercer, Philadelphia and Westmoreland.

“There is a lot of taxpayer money at stake and we need to make sure everything is done right,” Depasquale said. “I believe that the people of Pennsylvania have a right to know the answers to my six questions, especially as we prepare for the next election. My job is to do everything I can to make sure that the selection process is open and transparent as possible.”

In April 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of State told counties they have until the end of 2019 to select new voting systems that feature a paper record, which allows for more accurate post-election audits. The new systems are to be in use no later than the 2020 primary, and preferably by the November 2019 general election. Counties may choose from among any of the voting systems that are certified by both the federal and state governments.

DePasquale is also auditing the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors within the Department of State. He launched that review after the Department of Homeland Security said Pennsylvania was one of 21 states targeted for hacking by Russian government operatives ahead of the 2016 election.

To learn more about the Department of the Auditor General, please visit www.PaAuditor.gov. Source

February 11, 2019

January 24, 2019
PATCH
10 Ways The Shutdown Is Now Directly Impacting Pennsylvanians
“We don’t know what will happen” to SNAP and WIC programs if the shutdown continues, state officials warned Thursday.

HARRISBURG, PA —The federal shutdown, which has entered its second month, is now having direct impacts at the state level, authorities said Thursday in an outlined explanation.

The shutdown, which began Dec. 22, could soon impact Pennsylvanians who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said. It is also delaying some grant funding and small business loans, and is causing the state to spend non-reimbursable funds on public transit, according to information from the governor’s office.

“We are temporarily using state funds to fill the gaps where we can. We are working to assist affected workers however we can. I urge businesses and creditors to show compassion for federal employees that are not being paid,” Wolf said.

As lawmakers in Washington continue to be at an impasse over funding for a border wall, 1.8 million Pennsylvanians on SNAP benefits last week received their final benefits until the shutdown ends.

“These benefits must stretch through February, after which the fate of the program is unknown. The department notified SNAP recipients of the change,” Wolf said.

In addition to the impacts on the SNAP program, here are nine other ways the shutdown is impacting Pennsylvania, according to state authorities:

The Women, Infants and Children Program

The state’s WIC program, which provides food for more than 205,000 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children under five, has enough federal funding to continue through February. After that, the fate of the program is unknown.

“It is essential that our leaders in Washington work to resolve this impasse, as the impacts will be felt far and wide throughout this country the longer it continues,” Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. “WIC is funded through February, but we don’t know what will happen after that. We cannot let mothers, infants and children to go hungry while Washington sorts out their issues.”

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) payments will continue through at least mid-April by using prior-year federal funds. “The commonwealth has provided $4.2 million for the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) program that funds 100,500 child care slots for low-income families,” the governor’s office explained.

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency

Trainings and exercises for first responders and emergency management practitioners that involve federal agencies have been canceled.

Department of Environmental Protection

Final approvals on grant funding and permitting have begun to be affected by the shutdown, the state said. The state DEP is reviewing and processing what they can, “but final action is needed at the federal level,” the governor’s office said.

Drinking Water

A report on PFAS contamination in drinking water has been delayed by the shutdown. “DEP and the PFAS Action team continue to work to address this issue, calling on leadership at the federal level to take up this critical issue,” the governor’s office said.

Public Transit

The state has provided $7.1 million in unreimbursed federal expenses for operating and capital costs for rural and urban public transportation providers.

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Preparation for an elevation mapping project that includes federal funds is on hold. “The high-resolution, elevation data will be used for flood management, natural resource management and conservation, land use planning, geologic mapping and hazard reduction, and infrastructure development,” information from the governor’s office said.

Small Business Administration Loans

Small businesses waiting for approvals of federal Small Business Administration loans are currently being assisted by the Pennsylvania Business One-Stop Shop. “The department is also exploring options for other business owners,” the state said.

Payroll for Federally Funded Employees

The commonwealth continues to use state funds to cover payroll for federally funded employees at state agencies. The commonwealth expects to be reimbursed after the shutdown ends.

Governor Wolf called on lawmakers to come to an agreement to end the shutdown “before the consequences are even more dire.”
Source

January 21, 2019
philly.com
Thousands of absentee ballots were rejected as record turnout encountered Pa.’s tight deadlines

Thousands of absentee ballots were rejected as record turnout encountered Pa.’s tight deadlines

Brianna Robbins had no idea she hadn’t voted.

As far as she was concerned, she had done her civic duty. She had requested an absentee ballot before the deadline, since she lives in Philadelphia but works in Delaware. She had considered the candidates, filled out the ballot, and dropped it in a mailbox outside a nearby school.

It was a week before Election Day. All done, she figured. She had voted, and with time to spare.

Or so she thought.

But as was the case with thousands of other would-be voters last election, Robbins’ ballot arrived too late. It showed up in City Hall that Saturday, three days before the election. She had just missed Pennsylvania’s deadline: Absentee ballots must be received by county election officials by 5 p.m. the Friday before the election.

“That really sucks,” she said. And while the election generally turned out the way Robbins, a Democrat, wanted, she said, “that’s still a really big shame that I tried — I followed the rules — and it still didn’t work.”

Robbins had followed the law — but by law her vote couldn’t be counted. And she had no idea.

Nor do thousands of other Pennsylvanians who attempted to vote by mail in November.

As turnout surged to record levels in the November 2018 election, data show, so too did the number of requests for absentee ballots. But with Pennsylvania’s tight deadlines, the number of rejected ballots also increased, far surpassing recent midterm elections.

Statewide, there were 2,162 rejected late ballots in 2010. There were 2,030 in 2014.

Last election?

More than 4,600 ballots were rejected because they came in late to Philadelphia and Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties. (Statewide figures aren’t yet available.)

“Isn’t that a shame?” said Susan Carty, president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “And that’s a weakness of that system, where ideally, the concept of absentee ballots should be to help support and encourage voters who are not able to be there on Election Day.”

Pennsylvania’s absentee ballot deadlines are set by the state Election Code: Ballots can be requested until the Tuesday before Election Day, and they must be in the hands of election officials by 5 p.m. that Friday.

“It’s a ridiculous deadline,” said Kevin A. Kelly, the acting supervisor of elections in Philadelphia who has overseen elections for a decade.

For voters who do not request ballots until the deadline, that leaves almost no room for delays. And the problem has only grown in recent years after changes to mail delivery times.

As a result, Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of voters missing the deadlines

In Bucks County, 777 domestic civilian absentee ballots arrived after the deadline and were not counted. There were 935 in Chester County; 636 in Delaware County’ 1,327 in Montgomery County; and more than 1,000 in the city, where officials stopped counting after a while.

It’s a problem that’s receiving increased attention.

After losing her bid for state Senate by 74 votes in November, State Rep. Tina Davis, a Democrat from Bucks County, sued to have counted at least 216 late absentee ballots that arrived between the deadline and Election Day. A judge dismissed the challenge without providing an explanation.

While Davis said she believed she had “a decent chance of winning” if those votes were counted, she doesn’t attribute her loss to the uncounted ballots. But the encounter with the deadlines was eye-opening, she said.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t realize,” she said. “I knew we were tough on these laws, I always knew that, but after doing homework I found out we were the strictest in the whole country.”

Davis is preparing legislation that would change the absentee-ballot deadlines to give voters more time to submit their ballots. She expects to introduce it in a few weeks, she said, and hopes it will find bipartisan support.

“Obviously, being in the minority, we don’t get as many bills through, so I have to look through my bills and decide what are the most important for this year and decide what to prioritize. And that’s one of them,” she said. “I feel like it’s an issue we can get through this year.”

Meanwhile, litigation is ongoing.

In November, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and nine voters, with lawyers from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, sued over the deadlines, saying they disenfranchise voters in violation of the state and federal constitutions. They request the court overturn the current deadlines and set new ones.

The defendants responded last week with their preliminary objections.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny), in separate filings, argued the court cannot impose new deadlines without violating separation of powers and legislating from the bench. They also seek to remove the ACLU as plaintiffs because the organization does not itself vote and cannot be disenfranchised.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, and other defendants from the executive branch raised multiple objections, including that the lawsuit fails to include county officials, who actually run elections, that overturning the deadlines would not fix the voters’ inability to cast ballots in November 2018, and that the voters can’t prove the deadlines will disenfranchise them in the future.

Wolf and the two other executive defendants, former acting Secretary of State Robert Torres and Elections Commissioner Jonathan Marks, seek to have the lawsuit dismissed.

“Here, there is no allegation that [the state] prevented or delayed Petitioners from applying for absentee ballots. Indeed, the Petition makes clear that there are many Pennsylvanians who vote by absentee ballot,” they wrote in their filing last week. “Put another way, it was Petitioners’ conduct — not seeking an absentee ballot until very late in the process — that contributed to their ‘disenfranchisement.’ ”

This original version of this article contained an incorrect reference to the law regarding the submission deadline. The deadline is stipulated in the Election Code.  Source

Sheriff Bunny Welsh with Trump at White House – January 11, 2019

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