What You Need to Know: Delta variant, proposed election audit and kids get a do-over year

Written by on July 9, 2021

What You Need to Know: Delta variant, proposed election audit and kids get a do-over year

By Brad Klein and Jen Rehill

July 9, 2021

In our regular Friday feature, “What You Need to Know,” WLVR’s Brad Klein speaks with News Director Jen Rehill about the week’s top local news. This week: the Delta variant of COVID-19, and its danger to Pennsylvania’s unvaccinated, PA GOP efforts to start an Arizona-style audit of the past two elections, and school kids have the option this year for an academic do-over. 

Listen to the story.

Brad Klein

“Hi Jen.”

Jen Rehill

“Hey Brad, it’s great to be back.”

Klein

“It’s been a little while. We haven’t done this news roundup since May, but now that we’re back, one of the stories that is topmost in our coverage has to do with, of course, the ongoing pandemic. Although the mask mandate has been dropped for the state, health care providers will still be wearing masks by and large.” 

Rehill

“That’s right, St. Lukes and LVHN are still requiring masks in their medical facilities, and that is because, in part, of the danger posed by the new Delta variant of Covid-19. Here’s the Infection Control Chief at LVHN, Dr. Alex Benjamin on that decision from them:”

Dr. Alex Benjamin

“It would not be unheard of for something to think about stepping down from asking and then all of a sudden in two weeks, three weeks, cases go up and we have to turn right back around and put masks back on.”

Rehill

“Now, we don’t have great numbers on the Delta variant yet in Pennsylvania. That’s because the state only tests a small sample of its positive test results right now. It’s at about 1% of those. But experts are watching to see if that number goes up and they’re expecting it will. And that’s because this variant is 50% more contagious and especially dangerous and spreading like wildfire among people who haven’t been vaccinated.” 

Klein

“And one of the striking things this week, is hearing from everyone from the president on down that the vast majority of deaths and serious hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are among the unvaccinated and there are plenty of those still in Pennsylvania.” 

Rehill

“About 60% of Pennsylvanians over 18 are fully vaccinated. That means 40% are not. And overall that number is just people who are over 18 who qualify and can get a vaccination. It’s only about 43% of the total population. That leaves a significant portion of the population at risk.” 

Klein

“And in politics we have state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Cumberland/Franklin/York) this week who has been trying to launch, or get some enthusiasm for launching, an Arizona-style audit of the 2020 and 2021 elections in Pennsylvania.” 

Rehill

“He’s calling it a forensic investigation and he sent out letters to three counties in Pennsylvania trying to launch that. Now, I have to tell you, there is not a lot of appetite for this in Harrisburg. Democrats are staunchly opposed. Gov. Tom Wolf fired back at that on Twitter on July 7 describing the effort as a ‘Disgrace to democracy and a sham.’ And it’s also probably a no-go under Senate rules and really doesn’t appear there’s much appetite in Harrisburg among Republican leaders either, including the president of the Senate, to entertain any kind of election audits. So we’ll see where it goes.” 

Klein

“There’s a lot of well organized opposition but we should also note that Mastriano is one of several dozen lawmakers in Pennsylvania who signed a letter asking members of Congress to delay certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election, despite no evidence of fraud.” 

Rehill

“I think that’s really important context in this story, Brad.” 

Klein

“State lawmakers have also passed a measure that allows students to take over the last academic year. That’s whether or not they passed or failed.” 

Rehill

“That’s right. And this is coming on the heels of parents really looking for an opportunity for kids to make up for COVID-19 learning losses. We’re hearing numbers anywhere up to 25% or more students may not pass the year anyway. And some parents are saying they just want to do-over a year. So there’s a new state law that allows that to happen.

“But if families want the option, they need to act right away. The deadline is next Thursday, July 15. They would have to go to the state website, fill out a form and then call their local school district or school and figure out where to send it. So it’s not an easy process to do but if folks are looking for a do over year for their kids, there is a narrow window to make that happen now.” 

Klein

“And it’s a real sign of just how much strain school kids were under during this pandemic year.” 

Rehill

“It was an incredible and unprecedentedly difficult year for students and teachers and everyone in the education system. And I think we’re going to be following this story and what happens in the new school year. We’re definitely going to be following that as we head into August and September.” 

Klein

“Well, thanks for joining us. It’s good to be back.” 

Rehill

“It’s good to talk with you as ever, Brad.” 

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