‘What You Need to Know:’ Hurricane Ida, rising COVID-19 cases and masking in schools

Written by on September 3, 2021

‘What You Need to Know:’ Hurricane Ida, rising COVID-19 cases and masking in schools

By Brad Klein

September 3, 2021

Motorists drive through a flooded intersection during Tropical Storm Isaias, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Philadelphia. The storm spawned tornadoes and dumped rain during an inland march up the U.S. East Coast after making landfall as a hurricane along the North Carolina coast. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – 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 remnants of Hurricane Ida bring deadly flooding to Pennsylvania; COVID-19 cases continue to rise; and the question of masking in schools continues to evolve with a statewide mandate coming from the Department of Health.

Listen to the story.

Brad Klein

“I’m joined by WLVR News Director Jen Rehill.

“Hi, Jen.”

Jen Rehill

“Hey Brad, good morning.” 

Klein

“Well, we began the week watching for Hurricane Ida to make landfall in Louisiana but couldn’t foresee what an impact the remnants of the storm would have here in Pennsylvania. Wednesday saw up to 8 inches of rain in parts of the Lehigh Valley.”

Rehill

“And as we’ve been hearing all morning, you know, the impacts of this storm really weren’t what we were expecting and had some really catastrophic results here in this region. 

“There were at least three deaths in Montgomery County attributed to the storm and one in Bucks County. And emergency officials in those counties which were particularly hard hit and saw those really high levels of rain, in each county they received at least 500 calls on Wednesday night as that heavy rainfall caused widespread flash flooding in all the little creeks and waterways with roads closed across the region.” 

Klein

“And that death in Bucks County hit close to home for a Moravian University student here in Bethlehem.” 

Rehill

“Yeah, that’s right. The accident came after the first girls’ volleyball game of the year that was held at the DeSales University and it’s tragic. The parents of a sophomore player were driving to their home in Perkiomenville when they hit floodwaters in Milford Township. Apparently, the mother was able to escape the vehicle but the father Donald Allen Bauer was trapped and rescue workers who were called to the scene, tried to reach him but were unable to save him and he drowned in his vehicle.”

Klein

“Wow, just tragic. 

“We saw another spike in coronavirus cases this week. We should take a moment to look into that.”

Rehill

“Yesterday the number of new cases jumped again, Brad, and I feel like this is happening week over week as we’re having these conversations. Cases hit almost 5,000 overnight yesterday and that’s up from an average of about 3,000 new cases per day that we’ve seen over the last 1-2 weeks.”

Klein

 “I do worry that people are becoming numb to these statistics but these increases are really alarming and it means the pandemic is not at all over.”

Rehill

“And I heard another alarming statistic that I think will really speak to parents and that’s a 300% increase in cases among children just since July here in Pennsylvania.”

Klein

“That’s happening as many children across the Lehigh Valley went back to school this week. And after weeks of contentious debate about masking in the schools on Tuesday, an announcement from state officials changed the idea that those decisions will be made purely on the local level in the hundreds of school districts in the state. 

Rehill

“That had been the plan as we’ve discussed but the acting State Health Secretary came out, she had Gov. Wolf standing beside her, and she ordered all K-12 schools and childcare facilities to require masks for all students and staff. And that’s effective Sept. 7. The goal there, she said, is to keep schools open by preventing the spread of this highly contagious variant, the delta variant, especially among young children who can’t get vaccinated.” 

Klein

“We have just about a minute left, but the governor had asked the legislature to reconvene on the issue. They declined to do so. This was not an emergency declaration by the governor but rather by the Department of Health.” 

Rehill

“That’s right, and some legal scholars think they have standing under the health management that this is going to hold up. The Republican leaders in the legislature are staunchly opposed and wanted to have it stay a local decision.”

Klein

“We’re really seeing the battle of emergency powers between the legislative and executive branches play out in the issue of masking and indeed also in the expiration of the governor’s opioid emergency declaration that we reported on that had been renewed 15 times since early 2018. And now the governor no longer has that option. 

“Thanks for joining us, Jen.”

Rehill

“Thank you, Brad.” 

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