WEATHER: Philadelphia: p.m. thunderstorms, high of 92; Harrisburg: thunderstorms, high of 91; Pittsburgh: scattered thunderstorms, high of 83.
NEW THIS MORNING:
* The percentage of Pennsylvanians being tested for COVID-19 is among the lowest rates in the country, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The Commonwealth came in 47th out of the nation’s 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico with 8,244 tests performed per 100,000 people, the university’s data show, the Tribune-Review reports.
* There are still some 90,000 workers in Pennsylvania who filed for benefits between March 15 and June 20 and still haven’t gotten paid – or even denied. Complaints about the stubborn backlog, which amounts to 8% percent of claims filed during that period, prompted a Philadelphia congressman to suggest this month that the state call in the National Guard to help process claims, the Inquirer reports.
* If the Philadelphia School District reopens classrooms to most children two days a week in September, it will do so over the objections of many of its principals, teachers, parents, and students. In no uncertain terms Thursday night, more than 100 members of the public largely blasted the plan developed by Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., saying it would neither keep children and staff safe nor offer a robust educational experience, the Inquirer reports.
* Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Thursday that data collected by state contract tracers, and guidance issued by the White House, influenced Gov. Tom Wolf’s recent decision to limit business at bars, restaurants and nightclubs as Pennsylvania tries to curb a spike in COVID-19 cases. But she has so far declined to make public the state data that guided the new mitigation effort, even though media outlets and restaurant industry leaders have asked to see it, the Capital-Star reports.
* The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 962 new coronavirus cases Thursday, raising the statewide number to 104,358. Across Pennsylvania, 7,079 deaths have been tied to COVID-19, including 16 newly reported fatalities Thursday, according to the health department, PennLive reports.
* Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday signed into law legislation that gives school districts the option to extend property tax filing deadlines in the coming school year, PennLive reports.
* A former justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has made public an affidavit contending that the court’s chief justice, Thomas G. Saylor, plotted against her in retaliation for what he called “her minority agenda,” the Inquirer reports.
* On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced that it will begin offering a third gender designation on all of its licenses and identification cards, becoming the 16th state to offer a non-binary option, the Capital-Star reports.
* Philadelphia Free Library President and Director Siobhan Reardon has resigned after 12 years of leading the city literary institution. Reardon submitted a letter of resignation to the chairs of the library’s board of trustees and board of directors on Thursday, Billy Penn reports.
* A former Pennsylvania congressman convicted in the 1970s Abscam investigation was charged Thursday as a result of new allegations that he bribed a poll worker to stuff ballot boxes in local elections. Federal prosecutors said former U.S. Rep. Michael “Ozzie” Myers, now working as a campaign consultant, paid a South Philadelphia judge of elections to fraudulently add votes for candidates who had hired him for their races from 2014 to 2016, the Inquirer reports.
* With the anticipation of heavy voter participation in the Nov. 3 presidential election, county and party officials are calling on state lawmakers to make some changes to election laws to address concerns that arose from June 2 primary, including the scarcity of poll workers, issues related to the popularity of the state’s new vote by mail option that overwhelmed election officials and led to delays in finding out election results, the use of drop boxes for mail-in ballots and more, PennLive reports.
* A pharmaceutical industry-backed dark money group has already spent more than $200,000 on TV ads supporting U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, who’s among the country’s most vulnerable congressional incumbents. The ads are part of a multimillion-dollar campaign by the conservative American Action Network to support members of Congress who voted against a Democratic bill tackling high drug prices, and backed a less strict Republican proposal, the Capital-Star reports.
* The Inquirer has a pro/con debate over the defining question of our time: Wawa or Sheetz?
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: … Belated birthday wishes to state Sen. Pam Iovino (7/23) … state Rep. Peter Schweyer (7/26) … Want to wish someone a happy birthday in our newsletter? Email us their name, job title and upcoming birthday to email@example.com
1:30 p.m. - Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine will visit Lancaster Health Center, a federally qualified health center that ensures everyone has access to the care they need to get and stay healthy, particularly the community’s most vulnerable and those who do not have health insurance or a primary care provider. They will be joined by administrators and clinical staff from Lancaster Health Center to discuss their role in caring for the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, including contact tracing and testing in the commonwealth and other critical primary care services. Lancaster Health Center, 304 N. Water Street, Lancaster.
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KICKER: “We should not have to teach students to death.” – Robin Cooper, president of the School District of Philadelphia’s principals union. From the Inquirer.