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Pennsylvania State Police, LCB: Licensed liquor establishments must require masks

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE) and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) called on licensed liquor establishments and their patrons to abide by social distancing and masking requirements to help slow the spread of COVID-19 through a press release issued Monday.

On June 17, the Wolf administration issued updated guidance for businesses in the restaurant and retail food service industry as part of the commonwealth’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Among other requirements, all businesses and employees in the restaurant and retail food service industry authorized to conduct in-person activities are mandated to:

  • Require all customers to wear masks while entering, exiting or otherwise traveling throughout the restaurant or retail food service business (face masks may be removed while seated). Further, employees are required to wear masks at all times.
  • Provide at least six feet between parties at tables or physical barriers between customers where booths are arranged back to back.
  • Ensure maximum occupancy limits for indoor and outdoor areas are posted and enforced.

On June 18, the PLCB issued guidance to licensed liquor establishments choosing to resume on-premises service of alcohol in counties in the yellow and green phases of reopening. The guidance incorporated and reinforced the governor’s mandates, including those noted above.

“Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts have been among the most successful in the country in slowing the spread of this dangerous virus and allowing for the cautious reopening of restaurants and other licensed liquor establishments,” said PLCB Executive Director Charlie Mooney. “Just as the PLCB requires masks for employees and customers at our Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores, licensees must remain vigilant in order to stay on the path to recovery and keep our businesses operating.”

An establishment that fails to comply with requirements mandating the wearing of masks, providing at least six feet between parties at tables, and ensuring that maximum occupancy limits are observed risks citation by the BLCE.

“Penalties may be assessed for each violation and include a fine of up to $1,000 and possible suspension and/or revocation of the liquor license. Continued operation in violation of the guidance after a warning or citation risks further enforcement action by BLCE and ultimately puts the liquor license at risk, both through the citation process and upon application for renewal to the PLCB. Licensees are reminded that any person who violates the Liquor Code may be charged criminally with a misdemeanor,” the press release said.

“Our enforcement officers have found that the vast majority of licensed liquor establishments statewide are voluntarily complying with mitigation requirements, and we remain focused on education and working with licensees during this challenging time,” said Major Jeffrey Fisher, director of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement. “However, the commonwealth remains in the midst of a public health emergency, and serious consequences are possible for businesses that fail to take the necessary steps to keep their employees and customers safe.”

Since mid-March, BLCE officers have conducted compliance checks at over 15,100 licensed liquor establishments. Officers conduct an average of 1,500 compliance checks each day and have issued 162 warnings and 103 notices of violations to date. Complaints regarding licensees not complying with COVID-19 mitigation mandates may be directed to the BLCE at 1-800-932-0602 or reported through the BLCE’s online complaint form.

The Waverly Summer Concert Series kicked with a off with a performance by Winfall on Monday night. The series of concerts will run on Monday nights throughout the summer.

United Way holds Day of Caring event at Animal Care Sanctuary

SMITHFIELD TOWNSHIP — The United Way of Bradford County held its first Day of Caring project over the weekend as volunteers helped out at the Animal Care Sanctuary.

The United Way of Bradford County’s Day of Caring program matches volunteers from businesses that donate to help fund local non-profit organizations with a chosen non-profit beneficiary, and the company volunteers “put their hands where their money is” and help with practical projects.

Hannah Jackson, Leslie Fassett, along with Leslie’s son Jayden, represented Monroeton’s C&N Bank and helped wash windows and laundry, clean cat carriers and socialize cats and dogs at the sanctuary Saturday as the Day of Caring program kicked off its 2020 season.

“It’s great because as far as the day-to-day stuff (it) gets done with the regular staff and the regular volunteers, but when groups come in it really helps us get these bigger things that we don’t really always have time to get finished done. It’s nice, it’s like a luxury when groups come in,” stated Animal Care Sanctuary Volunteer Coordinator Emily Skjold. “It’s nice to see people be more aware of us definitely.”

According to Skjold, all three Day of Caring volunteers shared that they plan to become regular volunteers at the organization.

“It’s good to boost numbers and morale,” she said.

Animal Care Sanctuary Board President Ellen Feldman said the organization usually adopts out over 1,000 animals from across the country every year, but has found over 650 pets new homes so far this year. According to Feldman, the sanctuary has seen 75% more pet adoptions than last year and attributed the increase to the organization’s decision to stay open safely, without volunteers, through COVID-19 lockdowns.

Feldman said that as the sanctuary continues to operate it is seeking more volunteers and any individuals willing to participate are encouraged to contact Skjold at 570-596-2200 extension 102 or by email at eskjold@animalcaresantuary.org.

Tioga County reports two new COVID cases

The number of COVID-19 cases in Tioga County increased to 154 on Monday, according to a press release.

Nine of those cases are currently active.

The death toll related to the coronavirus in Tioga County is 24, with 22 of the deaths having ties to Elderwood skilled nursing facility in Waverly.

The number of recoveries in the county is 121, with 45 coming from Elderwood.

In Chemung County, there is currently one active case of coronavirus.

Of the 113 total cases, 109 people have recovered and three have died.

Over 417,000 people in New York have tested positive for COVID-19, and over 31,000 have died.

In Pennsylvania, the number of COVID-19 cases in Bradford County is now 56, according to the State Department of Health

Six of the cases are probable and 50 are confirmed positive.

Sayre has the most cases in the county, with 21.

Three people in Bradford County have died due to complications of COVID-19.

Statewide, Pennsylvania has seen nearly 86,000 cases of coronavirus and over 6,600 have died.

GOP lawmakers urge action after Russia-Afghanistan briefing

WASHINGTON (AP) — Eight Republican lawmakers attended a White House briefing Monday about explosive allegations that Russia secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan — intelligence the president himself was said to have not been fully read in on.

Members of Congress in both parties called for additional information and consequences for Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, even as White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted President Donald Trump had not been briefed on the findings because they hadn’t been verified. Eight Democrats were to be briefed Tuesday morning.

The White House seemed to be setting an unusually high bar for bringing the information to Trump, since it is rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of doubt before it is presented to senior government decision-makers. McEnany declined to say why a different standard of confidence in the intelligence applied to briefing lawmakers than bringing the information to the president.

Republicans who were in the briefing expressed alarm about Russia’s activities in Afghanistan.

Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger were in the briefing Monday led by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien. McCaul and Kinzinger said in a statement that lawmakers were told “there is an ongoing review to determine the accuracy of these reports.”

“If the intelligence review process verifies the reports, we strongly encourage the Administration to take swift and serious action to hold the Putin regime accountable,” they said.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said, “After today’s briefing with senior White House officials, we remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have targeted U.S. forces.”

Senators were reviewing classified documents related to the allegations Monday evening. The information they received was not previously known, according to one aide who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

On CNN, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed the timing of the Democratic briefing but said “it’s no substitute for what they owe the Congress of the United States.” She said “this is as serious as it gets.”

She speculated that Trump wasn’t briefed “because they know it makes him very unhappy, and all roads for him, as you know, lead to Putin. And would he tell Putin what they knew?”

McEnany, for her part, repeatedly stressed that the allegations had not been confirmed.

“There is no consensus within the intelligence community on these allegations and in effect there are dissenting opinions from some in the intelligence community with regards to the veracity of what’s being reported and the veracity of the underlying allegations continue to be evaluated,” she said.

The intelligence assessments came amid Trump’s push to withdraw the U.S. from Afghanistan. They suggested Russia was making overtures to militants as the U.S. and the Taliban held talks to end the long-running war. The assessment was first reported by The New York Times, then confirmed to The Associated Press by American intelligence officials and two others with knowledge of the matter.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn told reporters Monday, “I don’t think it’s should be a surprise to anybody that the Taliban’s been trying to kill Americans and that the Russians have been encouraging that, if not providing means to make that happen.”

He added, “Intelligence committees have been briefed on that for months. so has Nancy Pelosi, so has (Democratic Senate leader) Chuck Schumer. So, this is, this is a more leaks and partisanship.”

While Russian meddling in Afghanistan isn’t new, officials said Russian operatives became more aggressive in their desire to contract with the Taliban and members of the Haqqani Network, a militant group aligned with the Taliban in Afghanistan and designated a foreign terrorist organization in 2012.

The intelligence community has been investigating an April 2019 attack on an American convoy that killed three U.S. Marines after a car rigged with explosives detonated near their armored vehicles as they traveled back to Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military installation in Afghanistan, officials told the AP.

Three other U.S. service members were wounded in the attack, along with an Afghan contractor. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. The officials the AP spoke to also said they were looking closely at insider attacks — sometimes called “green-on-blue” incidents — from 2019 to determine if they are also linked to Russian bounties.

One official said the administration discussed several potential responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step.

The intelligence officials told the AP that Trump was briefed on the bounty matter earlier this year; Trump denied that, tweeting Sunday that neither he nor Vice President Mike Pence had been briefed. Trump tweeted Sunday night he was just told intelligence officials didn’t report the information to him because they didn’t find it credible.

The intelligence officials and others with knowledge of the matter insisted on anonymity to discuss the highly sensitive matter.

The White House National Security Council wouldn’t confirm the assessments but said the U.S. receives thousands of intelligence reports daily that are subject to strict scrutiny.

Trump’s Democratic general election rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, used an online fundraiser Monday to hammer the president for a “betrayal” of American troops in favor of “an embarrassing campaign of deferring and debasing himself before Putin.”

“I’m disgusted,” Biden told donors, as he recalled his late son Beau’s military service. Families of service members, Biden said, “should never, ever have to worry they’ll face a threat like this: the commander-in-chief turning a blind eye.”

Asked about the reports on the alleged bounties, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday, “These claims are lies.”

“If in the U.S. the special services are continuing to report to the president, I suggest that one be guided by the relevant statement of President Trump, who has already given his assessment of these publications,” he told reporters during a conference call.

John Bolton, an ex-national security adviser who was forced out by Trump last September and has written a tell-all book about his White House tenure, said Sunday it’s “pretty remarkable the president’s going out of his way to say he hasn’t heard anything about it. One asks, why would he do something like that?”

FILE - In a Monday, March 2, 2020 file photo, Washington Nationals pitcher Joe Ross throws during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Miami Marlins, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Longtime infielder Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross are opting out of playing the 2020 season as Major League Baseball tries to get back amid the COVID-19 pandemic. General manager Mike Rizzo says the team is 100% supportive of Zimmerman and Ross deciding not to play.(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)