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Huntingdon County records first COVID-19 death

A fifth county in the six-county region now has a coronavirus death, as reported by the state Department of Health on Wednesday.

It is Huntingdon County, so that now Clearfield County is the only local one without a COVID-19 fatality, according to the department, which bases its death reports on the deceased’s official county of residence.

The death is likely to be that of a 73-year-old inmate from the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon who died Sunday at UPMC Altoona, a death the Mirror reported Tuesday, based on information provided the day before by Blair County Coroner Patty Ross, said Huntingdon County Coroner Paul Sharum on Wednesday.

That inmate had been serving a life sentence, Ross said.

Another SCI-Huntingdon inmate died at UPMC Altoona on Monday, according to Sharum.

Both deaths are reflected on the Department of Corrections website, which has shown two SCI-Huntingdon fatalities since Monday.

There is a “lag” between when the COVID-19 fatality statistics appear on the DoC website and when they appear on the DoH website, Sharum said.

The second death is likely to appear on the DoH website today, Sharum agreed.

There was no further information available on either inmate.

Loophole closing

A bill authored by state Rep. Lou Schmitt, R-Altoona, that would make it a criminal offense to assault a police officer with bodily fluids like spit passed the House on Wednesday, according to a news release from Schmitt. The measure would provide a more serious penalty for perpetrators who have an infectious disease, according to the news release.

Schmitt introduced the bill after a police officer informed him that spitting on an officer isn’t a crime in the outside world, although it is one in prison, he wrote.

“This bill closes that loophole,” Schmitt wrote.

More opposition

A Philadelphia-area state representative and a state senator from the same region have introduced companion bills that would give counties discretion to reopen businesses after consulting with local health officials, according to a news release from the representative, Frank Farry, R- Langhorne, who called the state’s reopening plan “arbitrary and illogical.”

“We have been shut down for months, there is no end in sight,” Farry wrote Wednesday.

His initiative comes a day after Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed three other bills that would have sidelined the administration’s reopening plan — one from the Senate that would have given discretion to counties and two from the House that would have given discretion to businesses.

His plan is based on “the advice of expert epidemiologists” and are based, not just on COVID-19 case numbers, but on “other critical factors, such as how community members interact, the county’s number of potential transmission points, a county’s geographic location, the capacity to undertake contact tracing, and testing availability,” Wolf wrote in a news release Tuesday.

Nursing home move

Also on Wednesday, House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, introduced a bill calling for the Department of Human Services, assisted by the DoH, to seek bids from “health collaborative administrators (which must be academic health systems) to operate, manage and administer the program in each region to protect residents in these facilities from COVID-19,” in keeping with a plan drawn up by experts at UPMC, whose 30 nursing homes as of recently, have had no COVID-19 infections.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

By the numbers

New/total county cases: Blair 1/39 (1 death); Bedford 0/32 (2 deaths); Cambria 0/54 (2 deaths); Centre 1/133 (5 deaths); Clearfield 0/33; Huntingdon 1/215

New/total cases statewide: 746 (up 22 percent)/64,412

New/total deaths statewide: 143/4,767

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