Governor Tom Wolf wants a law mandating masks in classrooms but the top Republican lawmakers rejected his call. The Governor wrote in a letter Wednesday that lawmakers should be called back to Harrisburg immediately to work on a bill to order schools and child care facilities to require masks in the classrooms. Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Centre) gave their written response yesterday stating the Legislature would not be returning to a session ahead of schedule as they see COVID mitigation decisions are best left to local experts. Their letter states in many of our communities, leaders have already made these important decisions and are prepared to adjust as challenges evolve. The Mifflin County School District Board of Directors made their decision last night during an emotionally-charged meeting filled with concerned parents, voting down the mask mandate.

An early-morning fire Thursday burned the Veterans of Foreign Wars building in Lewistown. The Lewistown Sentinel reports Lewistown Fire Department Chief Bob Barlett said the Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshall ruled the blaze began in the basement ceiling below the bar area and was electrical in nature. It was not determined how long the fire had been smoldering before crews arrived, but flames burned through four layers of flooring and into the bar, which caused significant damage. Barlett credits all the volunteers on the scene with solid teamwork, which allowed crews to save the building.

18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic and facing another surge in infections, hospitalizations and deaths, Geisinger is announcing all employees will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 15. Geisinger said the decision was made following months of careful study and discussion. In addition to current employers, the vaccine requirement includes all new employees, faculty, medical staff, residents, fellows, temporary workers, trainees, volunteers, students and temporary staff, regardless of employer. Currently, about 70% of Geisinger employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition to the vaccines, Geisinger continues to follow other safety measures to prevent the virus’ spread, including requiring masks in all buildings, limiting visitation, and reducing capacity in public spaces.

Nearly 750,000 residential accounts are facing utility shut-offs according to a Thursday report from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC). PUC says the number of at-risk residents has declined in recent months but the past-due balance remains around $664 million, compared to more than $865 million reported earlier this year. Of that population, nearly 68,000 small businesses across the state are at-risk of termination. The commission stressed options for funding, stating there are millions of dollars in financial assistance currently available from utilities and various supplemental programs. Consumers can contact Pennsylvania’s 211 system by dialing 211 or visiting for information and resources on utilities, housing, food, employment and more.