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Elderwood dealing with 'recurrence of COVID-19'

WAVERLY — During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elderwood at Waverly was hit hard by the virus with more than 70 confirmed cases and 22 deaths by mid-July 2020.

The skilled nursing facility was able to announce it was COVID free as of July 26, 2020 and celebrated the recovery of 49 individuals.

Unfortunately, in recent weeks “Elderwood at Waverly has experienced a recurrence of COVID-19,” according to Chuck Hayes, who is the vice president of marketing and communications for Elderwood.

According to a press release from Hayes, a total of 16 residents and nine staff have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since November 12.

“Most cases are mild, and many are asymptomatic. Staff who have tested positive have quarantined at home. Three residents are currently hospitalized,” Hayes said in the statement. “All families of residents have been made aware of the confirmed cases as they were discovered, and those families with a loved one who has a positive diagnosis have been given details of their loved ones’ condition.”

Hayes pointed out in the press release that both Tioga and Bradford Counties are currently experiencing high levels of COVID-19 transmission and vaccination rates in the community are lagging at just 64% and 46%, respectively. However, the vaccination rate among Elderwood’s staff is 100% and 92% of residents at the facility are fully vaccinated.

“Breakthrough cases of COVID-19 are more common among those who are at high risk, including the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. Vaccinated individuals are significantly less likely to experience serious complications from a COVID-19 infection,” Hayes noted.

First Citizens Community Bank representatives Cathy Pientka and David Dekay present a $2,000 check to Sayre Borough Manager Dave Jarrett for the Sayre Christmas Parade. The parade is set for Friday at 6:30 p.m.

SWVFD preparing for food and toy drive, Christmas walk

SOUTH WAVERLY — The South Waverly Volunteer Fire Department is gearing up for the 6th Annual Joe Willer Memorial Food and Toy Drive for Kids, with collection taking place Saturday, Nov. 27 from 1 p.m. until done under the borough pavilion.

“I’ll probably be here until 9 or 10 o’clock,” said Second Assistant Fire Chief Rich McConnell, indicating that people will be able to stop by with donations any time that afternoon and evening.

Anyone unable to make it to the collection event on Saturday can call the station to set up a time to drop items off during the week.

All donated items stay local to the Valley, with food items being given to the Valley Food Pantry and toys being given to the Salvation Army.

“We keep it local,” said McConnell. “I know Toys for Tots are the big thing, but I’d rather stay local with it.”

According to McConnell the drive brought in a record number of food and toy items last year, despite taking place in the middle of the pandemic.

“The toys I know we had well over 150 or so,” said McConnell, “and the food, probably 100 or so.”

McConnell said he’s hopeful for an even greater turnout and number of donations this year.

The fire department is also getting things in order for their third annual Christmas walk, which McConnell noted as the reason he will be under the pavilion so late on Saturday.

The walk will once again be set up around the Richard L. Bentley Community Park next to the borough hall, and as always will be free to the public. McConnell noted that it is still uncertain whether or not they will be able to supply coffee and hot chocolate to walkers this year.

“Our Christmas Walk lights will come on Friday night (Nov. 26) and go Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until New Year’s Eve,” said McConnell. “There will be lights, and blow-ups, and different things so they can walk around at night.”

Van Etten holds public meeting on cannabis law

VAN ETTEN — A public hearing regarding the New York State Cannabis Law began October’s Van Etten Town Board meeting. Public turnout for the hearing and board meeting filled the town hall past capacity.

Several town residents voiced their stances on the New York Cannabis Law. Many residents advised the board to be cautious about accepting the law. One resident encouraged the board to have proponents of the cannabis law make a case for why it should be accepted before the town considers permitting the sale and on-site consumption of cannabis.

Encouraging the board to make an informed decision, the resident also wanted to know the health effects of cannabis on different age groups. Another resident recommended opting out of the law first and seeing how other municipalities handle the change.

One supporter of allowing cannabis dispensaries encouraged the board to opt in so that cannabis could be obtained legally instead of through drug deals which have troubled the town. This resident compared cannabis to alcohol and expressed the desire to see cannabis use regulated similarly to alcohol use.

After the close of the public hearing, the board decided to postpone the public comment portion of the board meeting since not all attendees to the meeting could fit in the building’s limited capacity.

Later in the month, a Community Watch Public Comment Night was held in order to hear from all residents wishing to make comments. Over 15 attendees came to comment on the community watch program.

Toward the beginning of October, the town dedicated the chemical cart with a small parade ending just outside the town hall in a small building where the chemical cart is now displayed. The building is outfitted with a display widow and even lights for night-time display.

A comment about the poor condition of the post office parking lot brought up an explanation about the situation of the post office. The post office property is owned by Bruce Tubbs while the postal service leases the facilities, and the post office is the one responsible for the condition of the parking lot. The post office building with the lease with the postal service is currently for sale for $429,000.

Town Justice Heather Gable resigned in September, leaving her position open. Supervisor George Keturi reached out to Honorable Leon E. Tuttle to fill the position until a new judge can fill the position. Tuttle agreed to serve as town justice for as long as the town needs him. Elections for the position will take place next November. Training sessions for town justice certification take place in December and April.

Commonwealth Court hears arguments in commissioner’s ’no excuse’ mail-in lawsuit

HARRISBURG — The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania heard arguments from both parties in a Bradford County commissioner’s lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of “no excuse” mail-in voting last Wednesday.

Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko filed a lawsuit alleging that the 2019 “no excuse” mail-in voting is unconstitutional and he requests “a declaratory judgment as to the constitutionality of Act 77” for future elections.

As a member of the Bradford County Board of Elections, McLinko “believes that administering ballots pursuant to P.L. 552, No. 77 (Act 77) is unconstitutional and places him into an untenable position of acting unlawfully at the risk of disenfranchisement of voters,” according to court documents for “Doug McLinko vs. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of State and Veronica Degraffenreid.”

Walter S. Zimolong represented McLinko in court and stated that his client’s role as a Board of Elections member includes canvasing, computing and certifying election results and that Act 77 violates Article 7 Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Section 14 of the Constitution and binding and definitive Supreme Court precedent.

“No excuse mailed voting in Pennsylvania pursuant to and created by Act 77 has placed McLinko into an absolute quagmire because the law that was brought forth through Act 77 conflicts with the Pennsylvania Constitution.”

He stated that Article 7 Section 1 sets qualifications to vote and what people can do once qualified.

“In the Lancaster City case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court confirmed that the term offer to vote meant that a person was qualified to vote in an election district where the elector resided,” he said.

Zimolong replied to the respondent’s argument that the term offer to vote doesn’t mean how someone votes, but instead means someone resides in the district where they plan to vote by saying that the Lancaster City case examined the term as it appeared in the 1874 Constitution.

“They said that under the Supreme Court’s previous precedent in Chase v. Miller that it meant to vote in-person to present oneself at the polling place and offer to vote,” he said.

He stated that in the Lancaster City case, “the legislature by statute sought to expand the means of voting besides the previous means that was available which was in-person casting it at your proper polling place.”

“Article 7 section 14 authorizes absentee voting and it exists because the General Assembly contrary to the respondents’ arguments does not have the power to expand the means of voting to include something other than voting in person,” he said.

Zimolong insisted that offer to vote means in-person only and that absentee voting or expansion of voting has always been done with a constitutional amendment and that Act 77 was the first time it was expanded without one.

Robert Wiygul represented the Pennsylvania Department of State and Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth and responded to McLinko’s lawsuit in court.

“Petitioners ask this court to exercise the awesome power to strike down a law enacted by the people’s representatives and to do so not to protect individual rights, but to take them away,” said Wiygul.

He stated that proof of mail-in voting being unconstitutional must be done “beyond a reasonable doubt” and that the text of the constitution “simply does not contain any such prohibition.”

Wiygul argued that Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution gives categories of people the constitutional right to vote absentee by mail or other methods and that right cannot be taken away and that Act 77 was created for all of the people that were not addressed, which includes anyone on vacation and any spouses of the military.

“How do you explain the 1985 amendment to Section 14, which was required in order to add the categories beyond disability, those who cannot be at the polling place because of a religious holiday or election day duties,” he asked. “What those amendments do is expand the categories of persons who have a constitutional right to vote absentee,” he said.

Wiygul stated that the authority to have no excuse mail-in voting comes from Section 4, which gives authority to permit any method as may be prescribed by law, which Act 77 does.

He also stated that the right to have no excuse mail-in voting comes from the inherent lawmaking authority of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

“It derives from the sovereignty of the people which is vested in the legislative branch,” he said. “Section 4 makes it unmistakably clear that it does.”