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Vice President Mike Pence (left photo) attended a “Cops for Trump” rally Thursday afternoon in downtown Greensburg. More than 400 people turned out for the event which was held at Mid Town Plaza near city hall and police station. Pence spoke for about 30 minutes on the importance of police across the nation.


State
AP
'You won't be safe,' Pence warns in Pennsylvania campaign

Vowing to bring “peace and security to cities across America,” Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday carried the Trump campaign’s message of law and order to exurban Pennsylvania, a battleground state where Pence warned of a descent into chaos in big cities should presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden be elected.

At a “cops for Trump” rally outside in Greensburg, Pence warned of rising violence in cities, castigated Democrats’ calls to defund police and framed November’s election as being about safety and security. The theme is emerging as a key Trump campaign message that plays on the violence that has cropped up alongside demonstrations and unrest after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“When Democrats call for defunding police, remember what’s at stake: law and order, safety and the peace of mind that you and your family and your children have every right to enjoy as citizens of the greatest nation on Earth,” Pence told the crowd in southwestern Pennsylvania, about 24 miles (15 km) southeast of Pittsburgh.

Pence lauded President Donald Trump’s “leadership” in sending federal law enforcement officers to cities, repeatedly touted the Trump administration’s commitment to “back the blue” and ticked off figures of shootings and murders in cities from Philadelphia to Tulsa.

“Men and women of Pennsylvania, this has got to stop,” Pence said. “We must restore law and order to the streets of our communities for every American of every race and creed and color. But the truth is those heartwrenching numbers are just a preview of Joe Biden’s agenda. The truth is you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

Biden, he said, would “double down on the very policies that are leading to violence on the streets of America’s cities.” But sending federal officers to cities “is going to bring peace and security to cities across America,” Pence said.

Democrats responding to Pence’s visit to Pennsylvania — a premier battleground that Trump narrowly flipped after six straight Democratic victories there in presidential elections — focused on what they called the Trump administration’s botched coronavirus response and lack of leadership.

“Right now, as southwestern Pennsylvania struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic — and countless Pennsylvanian families and communities deal with grief and anxiety — the very last thing the hard-working men and women in the region need is another Mike Pence photo-op,” Biden’s campaign said in a statement.

Recent polls in Pennsylvania, like polls nationally, show Biden ahead of Trump. Still, most polls in the state in 2016 also showed Democrat Hillary Clinton with an advantage over Trump before his base came together in the final weeks of the campaign, cementing a win of 44,000 votes, or less than 1 percentage point.

Biden, in any case, has not joined the cal l of protesters who demanded “defund the police” after Floyd’s killing. Rather, he has proposed more money for police, conditioned to improvements in their practices.

Specifically, he is calling for a $300 million infusion into existing federal community policing grant programs, adding up to more money for police.

In addition, Pence’s claim of “years of plummeting crime rates under President Trump” also isn’t quite right. It is true that FBI statistics show the violent crime rate was slightly higher in 2015 than in 2018, the most recent year recorded. But it was also lower in 2014 than it was in 2018.

Police departments reported 368.9 violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2018, compared with 361.6 in 2014 and 373.7 in 2015.

The murder rate was 5 people per 100,000 in 2018. That rate was lower every year from 2010 to 2015, although higher in 2016 and 2017.


Covid19
AP
Record economic plunge, bleak jobs numbers reveal virus toll

WASHINGTON (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic sent the U.S. economy plunging by a record-shattering 32.9% annual rate last quarter and is still inflicting damage across the country, squeezing already struggling businesses and forcing a wave of layoffs that shows no sign of abating.

The economy’s collapse in the April-June quarter, stunning in its speed and depth, came as a resurgence of the viral outbreak has pushed businesses to close for a second time in many areas. The government’s estimate of the second-quarter fall in the gross domestic product has no comparison since records began in 1947. The previous worst quarterly contraction — at 10%, less than a third of what was reported Thursday — occurred in 1958 during the Eisenhower administration.

Soon after the government issued the bleak economic data, President Donald Trump diverted attention by suggesting a “delay” in the Nov. 3 presidential election, based on his unsubstantiated allegations that widespread mail-in voting will result in fraud. The dates of presidential elections are enshrined in federal law and would require an act of Congress to change.

So steep was the economic fall last quarter that most analysts expect a sharp rebound for the current July-September period. But with coronavirus cases rising in the majority of states and the Republican Senate proposing to scale back aid to the unemployed, the pain is likely to continue and potentially worsen in the months ahead.

The plunge in GDP “underscores the unprecedented hit to the economy from the pandemic,” said Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. “We expect it will take years for that damage to be fully recovered.”

That’s because the virus has taken square aim at the engine of the American economy — consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of activity. That spending collapsed at a 34.6% annual rate last quarter as people holed up in their homes, travel all but froze, and shutdown orders forced many restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and other retail establishments to close.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed more than 200 points down — though earlier it had seemed set for a much bigger fall.

Tentative hopes for a swift recovery have been diminished by a resurgence of viral cases in the South and the West that has forced many businesses to close again or reduce occupancy. Between June 21 and July 19, for example, the proportion of Texas bars that were closed shot from 25% to 73%. Likewise, 75% of California beauty shops were shuttered July 19, up from 40% just a week earlier, according to the data firm Womply.

The second surge does appear to be leveling off, but cases are still rising in close to 30 states.

Many states have imposed restrictions on visitors from the states that have reported high levels of cases, hurting hotels, airlines and other industries that depend on travel.

That has led to mammoth job losses. In a sign of how weakened the job market remains, more than 1.4 million laid-off Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week. It was the 19th straight week that more than 1 million people have applied for jobless aid. Before the coronavirus erupted in March in the U.S., the number of Americans seeking unemployment checks had never exceeded 700,000 in any one week, even during the Great Recession.

An additional 830,000 people applied for unemployment benefits under a new program that extends eligibility for the first time to self-employed and gig workers. All told, the government says roughly 30 million people are receiving some form of jobless aid, though that figure might be inflated by double-counting by some states.

The pain could soon intensify further: A supplemental $600 in weekly federal unemployment benefits is expiring, and Congress is squabbling about extending the aid, which will probably be done at some reduced level of payment.

“The risk of temporary job losses becoming permanent is high from repeated closures of businesses,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “That could result in an even slower pace of recovery.”

Last quarter’s economic drop followed a 5% fall in the January-March quarter, during which the economy officially entered a recession, ending an 11-year economic expansion, the longest on record in the United States.

The Trump campaign said in a statement that the GDP report reflected a period “when much of the economy was essentially closed down to save millions of American lives.”

The economic harm from the virus is extending well beyond the United States. On Thursday, Germany reported that its GDP tumbled 10.1% last quarter. It was the biggest such drop since records began in 1970. And Mexico’s GDP sank 17.3% last quarter, also a record. Unlike the U.S. figures, those numbers are not annualized rates.

With little hope of a swift recovery in the U.S., the picture looks dim for many of the jobless. Since she was laid off by a tech industry nonprofit in mid-May, Miranda Meyerson has been trying to find another job and to sign up for unemployment benefits.

“It’s just incredibly frustrating and demoralizing,’’ she said. Potential employers seem to be delaying hiring decisions.

“Nobody gets back to you,’’ said Meyerson, 38. “You feel like there’s only so long you can submit (applications) into a void.’’

Meyerson and her partner had moved from New York to Oakland, California, in March. The move complicated her efforts, so far futile, to collect benefits from a swamped California unemployment benefits system.

Many economists note that the economy can’t fully recover until the pandemic is defeated — a point stressed Wednesday at a news conference by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. He warned that the viral epidemic has been endangering a modest economic recovery and that, as a result, the Fed plans to keep interest rates pinned near zero well into the future.

“A poorly managed health situation and depressed incomes means the economy risks a double-dip recession without urgent fiscal aid,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.

Daco said the expiration of the $600 in federal unemployment aid means that many households could suffer a loss of income in the range of 50% to 75%. That could further weaken spending, thereby fueling a downward economic spiral.

“The economy,” Daco said, “is going to be running on very little fuel at a point when the recovery has really stalled.”


Covid19
AP
Trump offers, Democrats reject fix for $600 jobless benefit

WASHINGTON (AP) — With aid expiring, the White House offered a short-term extension Thursday of a $600 weekly unemployment benefit that has helped keep families and the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Democrats rejected it, saying President Donald Trump’s team failed to grasp the severity of the crisis.

Democratic leaders panned the idea in late-night talks at the Capitol, opting to keep the pressure on for a more sweeping bill that would deliver aid to state and local governments, help for the poor and funding for schools and colleges to address the pandemic. Without action, the benefit runs out Friday.

“They want to do one small thing that won’t solve the problem,” said top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer after meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

“We have to have a bill, but they just don’t realize how big it has to be,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Republicans have been fighting to trim back the $600 jobless benefit in the next coronavirus package, but their resolve weakened with the looming expiration of the popular benefit — and as Trump indicated that he supports keeping the full $600 benefit for now.

“We want a temporary extension of enhanced unemployment benefits,” Trump said at the White House. “This will provide a critical bridge for Americans who lost their jobs to the pandemic through no fault of their own.”

He added: “It has to be substantial.”

During the two-hour meeting at the Capitol, Trump’s team offered a weeklong extension. But Democrats have so far rejected a piecemeal approach, saying the next relief bill needs to move as a complete package. The sides agreed to talk again Friday and into the weekend.

Before Trump spoke, top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell adjourned the chamber for the weekend while taking a procedural step that could allow voting on a potential compromise next week. Negotiators for the first time this week reported at least some progress.

“On certain issues we made progress. On certain issues we’re still very far apart,” Mnuchin said after the two-hour meeting in Pelosi’s office. “The speaker and Sen. Schumer said — and we feel the same way — that it is our objective to try to reach an agreement that’s good for the American people.”

There continues to be agreement among Washington’s top power players that Congress must pass further relief in the coming days and weeks.

Trump is eager for another round of relief, and it’s also a priority for GOP allies like McConnell, as well as Pelosi and Schumer, D-N.Y. Democrats hold a strong negotiating hand — exploiting GOP divisions over whether more aid is even needed — and they are expected to deliver a necessary trove of votes.

Raising the stakes, a bleak government report released Thursday said the economy shrank at a 33% annualized rate in the second quarter of the year, a stark reminder of the economic damage afflicting the country as lawmakers debate the size and scope of new relief.

“This jarring news should compel Congress to move swiftly to provide targeted and temporary assistance to unemployed Americans, employers, and state and local governments, and liability protections for businesses who follow public health guidelines,” said Neal Bradley of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the powerful business group.

But bipartisan talks have yet to reach a serious, productive phase. Democrats are playing hardball, insisting on a package that’s far larger than the $1 trillion-plus measure unveiled by McConnell on Monday. Thursday brought more tit-for-tat.

“They won’t engage. Period,” McConnell said as he opened the Senate. “The Democrats are saying, my way or the highway.”

Pelosi and McConnell have an extensive history, however. They often find ways to reach deals, though the process involves intense maneuvering and plenty of cross words.

McConnell showed a willingness in recent days to consider some Democratic priorities, like additional food aid. He and Trump have made plain they are intent on getting a bill.

Schumer continued his daily fusillade against McConnell and Republicans controlling the Senate, noting that McConnell “refuses to go in the room” and join the talks in person, instead transferring ownership of the talks to Meadows, along with Mnuchin, who has been a key architect of previous accords.

In another signal that Republicans are willing to yield on the $600 jobless benefit, Arizona Republican Martha McSally, who is facing a tough reelection race this fall, offered a one-week extension of the benefit on the Senate floor. Schumer blocked the move.

Other stark differences remain between the $3 trillion proposal from Democrats and $1 trillion counter from Republicans. Money for states and cities is a crucial dividing line as local governments plead for help to shore up budgets and prevent deeper layoffs as they incur COVID-19 costs and lost tax revenue in shutdown economies.

It’s clear that Democrats are trying to push an advantage in the negotiations because Republicans are so split over the prospect of additional government spending and jobless benefits. Among the issues sure to gather momentum is a Democratic demand for a 15% increase in food stamp benefits.

Trump appears worried about the expiration of the $600 unemployment benefit boost as well as an expiring federal eviction moratorium on millions of rental units, potentially sending households into devastating turmoil.


More than 400 people turned out to see Vice President Mike Pence at a “Cops for Trump” rally Thursday afternoon in downtown Greensburg at Mid Town Plaza near city hall and police station. Pence spoke for about 30 minutes on the importance of police across the nation.


Vice President Mike Pence attended a “Cops for Trump” rally Thursday afternoon in downtown Greensburg. More than 400 people turned out for the event which was held at Mid Town Plaza near city hall and police station. Pence spoke for about 30 minutes on the importance of police across the nation.


Local
top story
Derry Area approves school opening health, safety plan

Derry Area School District moved one step closer to in-person learning for the 2020-21 school year amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as the school board approved the district’s phased school opening health and safety plan during a special meeting Thursday.

Nearly 75 parents and community members were registered to attend Thursday’s meeting, which was held in the middle school auditorium. To be in compliance with the state’s current guidelines on social gatherings, some viewed the meeting from a classroom television while about 25 guests sat socially distanced in the auditorium.

The health and safety plan will be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education and will be available for viewing on the district website at www.dasd.us. The board expects to approve full instruction plans for the coming school year — including the district’s intentions to be open for in-person learning five days per week starting Aug. 31 — at next Thursday’s regular school board meeting.

Superintendent Eric Curry said the district’s 57-page health and safety plan is largely in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state guidelines. Derry Area, however, did form a 24-person pandemic team consisting of “district administrators, staff, parents, community members and medical professionals.” Some of those individuals played a role in drafting the health and safety parameters, others will handle response efforts in the event of a confirmed positive coronavirus case of exposure, and several involved are taking on both plan development and response roles.

“I’ve seen seen a lot of challenges and successes in my career and never have I experienced anything like what we as a community, as a state and as a school district are currently a part of,” Curry said. “There’s been extreme frustration and many of the same emotions our community members feel. Your school administrators and staff have the same types of frustrations.

“The reality is, as much as we’d like to have more defined guidance from our state leaders, that doesn’t exist.”

Derry Area’s plan to return to in-person learning — also known as brick and mortar — was spurred by putting health and safety guidelines in place and from the results of about 1,800 district families that responded to a survey regarding instruction preferences for the 2020-21 school year.

According to the survey results, Curry said currently 72.4% of families want their children back in school five days per week, with 19.7% of families wanting their children to take part in Derry Area’s iTrojan online program, a virtual option with district teachers following the same seamless curriculum as taught during in-person instruction.

Another option discussed at last month’s meeting, hybrid learning — in which students would have two days of in-school instruction, two days of remote learning with their assigned groups and remote learning on Wednesdays for all students — received interest from 69% of parents.

Curry noted that a local panel of physicians and pediatricians all recommended a full return to in-person learning. One physician assisting county school districts with their health and safety plans, Curry said, told districts school is able to return because the positivity rate of county coronavirus cases have dropped, even as case totals have increased.

According to the district’s health and safety plan, if the current state guidelines remain in place, students and staff are required to wear face coverings anytime the recommended guidelines for social distancing (6 feet) cannot be accommodated. This includes, but is not limited to, when on school buses, in large gatherings outside of the classroom, while transitioning between classrooms, and while entering and/or exiting the building.

Students and staff would not be required to wear face coverings while seated in the classroom where social distancing can be maintained with a minimum 6 feet, unless there is an order from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and/or Pennsylvania Department of Education stating otherwise.

Students and staff, per the plan, will be provided face covering breaks throughout the day and should maintain a distance of 6 feet during these face covering breaks. In addition, students and staff will be allowed to remove their face coverings when eating or drinking when spaced at least 6 feet apart, when seated at desks or assigned work spaces at least 6 feet apart, when engaged in any activity at least 6 feet apart or wearing a face covering creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task. Any student who cannot wear a mask or face shield because of a medical condition would not be required to wear face coverings.

“I want to emphasize in full transparency that we do not have enough open classrooms or teachers to fully return to brick and mortar if the guidelines stay the same, without being creative with our teaching staff and learning program offerings while requiring (children to wear) face masks,” Curry said.

Students and staff who have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher and/or symptoms of COVID-19 will immediately be isolated in the nurse’s office and dismissed for home. Symptoms include fever, coughing, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, new loss of taste/smell or muscle pain.

To prevent potential exposure and spread of infection, the district will be utilizing a “sick” nursing office and a “well” nursing office in each building, in conjunction with best practice nursing protocols. This protocol is to be followed by both staff and students. As part of the plan, parents parents/guardians will screen for symptoms at home each morning before school using an online PDE screening tool; no students with symptoms will be sent on a bus or brought to school. Temperature screenings, however, will not be required upon entrance to school for students or staff.

The health and safety plan also noted that cafeteria spaces will be used and are large enough to maintain social distancing guidelines. Additional lunch periods and spaces may be added to facilitate social distancing as necessary. Parents/guardians will be encouraged to deposit funds using the online payment portal, avoiding the handling of cash and checks in the cafeterias. Meal condiments will be limited and provided to students on the serving trays. Learners will not be permitted to serve themselves for items such as fruit and/or vegetable selections.

Water fountains will be closed and students will be encouraged to bring their own water bottles to school. Bottled water supply will be afforded to the extent feasible. Drinking stations will also be provided.

Recess can occur while maintaining proper social distancing when possible, but it may appear different at individual buildings, depending on space and number of students. Physical education classes are encouraged to be outdoors when possible.

As part of the plan, the district noted that its buildings will be “thoroughly cleaned and additional cleaning will take place to be ready to safely welcome staff and students for the reopening of school. Periodic building walkthroughs will take place to monitor conditions. Disinfecting and sanitizing supplies that are approved by CDC guidelines and meet OSHA regulations have been ordered and other personal protective equipment will be available for use.

“During instructional times, communal areas will be cleaned on a regular basis with particular emphasis on high contact areas. Hand sanitizing dispensers are available in the classrooms and portable stations will be placed in common areas. Ventilation systems have been set to allow the maximum amount of fresh air flow as is appropriate for the weather conditions. While the sharing of instructional materials will be limited, disinfectant wipes will be provided in all areas to clean any items that may be shared (i.e. keyboards in computer labs).”

As part of the health and safety plan, hallways will be disinfected daily with a “deep cleaning” of the entire building daily if full in-person learning returns.

Additionally, bus drivers will be provided with disinfectant to clean common touch points as frequently as possible. The entire bus will be disinfected once daily between the morning and afternoon trips.

Curry said school hallways will have arrows to help students get to classes while promoting social distancing. The district will also be staggering bell times to reduce the amount of traffic flow throughout the building. The district will also implement outdoor instruction, as weather permits.

Under the current plan, no visitors will be allowed to enter the building for at least the first semester. This includes but is not limited to parents/guardians, volunteers, student teachers, outside agencies, and salespeople. Virtual activities will be scheduled throughout the school year as feasible. In the case of an emergency or when absolutely necessary, parent/guardian/emergency contacts will be permitted to enter the building.

A number of parents and some instructors posed questions to Curry during the public comment portion of the meeting, expressing concerns from matters such as online learning, mask wearing and more.

Curry noted that Chromebooks will be provided to all elementary students, as needed, adding that the district will look to provide a more rigorous virtual program via iTrojan compared to last spring after Gov. Tom Wolf announced the closure of Pennsylvania’s K-12 schools. According to district data, currently 92% of Derry Area families have internet capability from home; the district said it will work with individuals who don’t have online access.

In other business, the school board approved:

  • A salary adjustment to $80,000 for athletic and transportation director Brett Miller for additional duties, not limited to the district’s capital campaign, effective July 1;
  • Kala Haase as head cheerleading coach, Jason Brown as middle school head football coach, Elizabeth Brownlee as middle school head boys’ soccer coach and Tom Perry as varsity tennis coach;
  • Coaching staffs for the 2020-21 school year;
  • The installation of plexiglass utilizing CARES Act funding.

Local
top story
Ligonier Valley Library adds self-checkout station

Early into the pandemic, the Ligonier Valley Library, working with the Westmoreland Library Network, arranged for the purchase of a self-checkout station.

The concept is to create a clean and quick way for patrons to check out library materials.

“Understanding, by directives from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the PA Department of Health, that mitigating exposure between people is key to our health at this time, the introduction of the self-checkout station is well-timed,” according to David Brisendine, library director.

The addition of the self-checkout at the library was planned by former director Janet Hudson prior to her retirement with the assistance of Cherie Massimo, office manager.

“We were happy to take delivery of the system Thursday, July 23, and the system is up and running for patrons to use,” Brisendine said.

The technology for the self-checkout system has been around for years, but the necessity presented itself with the COVID-19 restrictions. The station will allow library patrons to check out library materials, view their patron record, and renew items.

“We’ve certainly seen the growth of self-service stations in the larger box stores and other commerce. While we’d much rather keep our library patron interactions more personal, we understand that at this time some may feel more comfortable utilizing the self-check system,” Brisendine said. “That said, we’ve nicknamed our new self-checkout station ‘MARY,’ in honor of our long-time circulation desk supervisor.”

Currently, the library is open for in-person service as follows: 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Curbside and lobby pickup are available from 10 a.m. until a half-hour before closing Monday through Saturday.

The Pennsylvania Room is by appointment only; call the library at 724-238-6451 or email lvlparoom@ligonierlibrary.org.

As per Gov. Tom Wolf and Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine’s order, patrons must wear a mask. If you need, one will be provided. Enter through the sliding-glass doors and leave through the door in the children’s department. Patrons are limited to 60 minutes.

Place returns in either the box drop located outside the main, sliding-glass door entrance or on a cart in the entryway.

If you have any questions or need assistance, call the library. Staff members are available from 9 a.m. until closing time Monday through Saturday.


Covid19
AP
Pennsylvania reports 860 new virus cases, 14 deaths

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania health officials on Thursday reported 860 additional cases of the coronavirus, and 14 new deaths.

Allegheny County reported an increase of 132 cases and Philadelphia reported 127 new cases.

More than 111,000 people in Pennsylvania have tested positive for the virus since the beginning of the pandemic, and 7,176 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, most of them in nursing homes.

Daily case counts have risen nearly 70% since the beginning of July, driven primarily by increased spread in counties in the southern half of the state. The percentage of virus tests coming back positive has risen from a low of 3.3% in mid-June to over 6% now, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The increasing infection rate prompted Gov. Tom Wolf to recently impose a new round of statewide pandemic restrictions on bars, restaurants and larger indoor gatherings.

Deaths have been trending downward.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the state’s confirmed case count because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

COLLEGES GOING REMOTE

Another Pennsylvania college has changed its mind about bringing students back to campus.

Muhlenberg College in Allentown had been planning a full return to campus for the fall semester, but said Thursday that “significant surges” of the virus nationwide and a rise in infection rates among college-age people forced a change in plans.

Now, only first-year students will be invited to live on campus, along with a limited number of upperclass students. All upperclass students — whether they’re living on or off campus — will take courses remotely, and only a limited amount of in-person instruction will be offered to first-year students.

“The surge in cases in certain regions of our country has had an impact on our ability to open safely with a full population of students,” President Kathleen Harring said in a message to the campus community.

Lafayette College, Dickinson College and several state-owned universities have also made the decision to go remote this fall.


Local
Latrobe man sentenced for 2017 knife attack

A Latrobe man was sentenced to serve up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to wounding his wife and stepdaughter during a knife attack nearly three years ago.

Scott A. Matuszky, 48, this week pleaded guilty to two counts each of aggravated assault and terroristic threats in connection with the Oct. 7, 2017 incident at his Latrobe home. As part of the plea deal, approved by Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Tim Krieger, three counts of attempted homicide and single counts of aggravated assault and terroristic threats were dropped.

Police said Matuszky originally intended to harm himself during the alcohol-fueled 2017 attack. According to police, Matuszky returned home from work around 7 a.m. the day of the incident and began drinking heavily before becoming unruly and threatening to kill himself.

His wife tried to calm him down before Matuszky attacked her with a Bowie knife, injuring her in the right arm, according to police.

His stepdaughter suffered two wounds to her upper thigh and a third to her lower abdomen during the attack as she attempted to protect her mother, police said.

The women said Matuszky threatened them during the incident, claiming “he was going to pull a ‘David Stahl.’” Police said the statement was a reference to the 2012 murder of Derry Area School District teacher Rebecca Anderson Stahl, 37.

Her husband, David Frank Stahl is serving a life sentence after being convicted of strangling her and dumping her body in a field in Unity Township.

Matuszky in July 2018 originally pleaded guilty to five counts in the case, including two counts of attempted homicide, but Krieger allowed him to withdraw the guilty plea a year later after Matuszky said he didn’t understand that the plea deal included the attempted homicide charges.

Krieger sentenced Matuszky to a five- to 10-year term in prison. Matuszky served in the U.S. military in Somalia and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to his lawyer.

As part of his sentence, according to court documents, Matuszky must have a drug and alcohol evaluation and a mental health evaluation, must follow any recommended mental health treatment and pay the costs, and must complete anger management training as well as not having any contact with the victims.