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Man dies weeks after being shot by police

A Bedford man shot by state troopers in April after allegedly threatening to kill them while brandishing a 12-inch knife died Wednesday.

James R. Best, 45, died at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, about three weeks after he was shot inside an East Pitt Street apartment building on April 27, according to state police. An autopsy was scheduled for Thursday.

Best had been facing attempted homicide charges, as well as attempted murder of a law enforcement officer and six counts of aggravated assault.

Cpl. Ryan French of the state police wrote in the criminal complaint filed against Best that troopers received a report of domestic disturbance about 4:40 p.m. April 27 at 507 East Pitt St.

A woman involved in the altercation told police that Best allegedly threatened to burn down her house as well as kill any police officers who responded to his apartment, according to court documents.

Troopers responded to the apartment building, which includes three units, and observed Best brandishing a knife with an about 12-inch blade through a rear apartment window, according to court documents.

French wrote in the affidavit that Best refused to follow police orders to exit the apartment and to allow troopers to enter. Best allegedly told troopers he would kill them if they entered, according to court documents.

Troopers used force to enter the apartment through a rear window in order to arrest Best “pursuant to statutory guidelines regarding domestic violence incidents” and to ensure the protection of other tenants in the apartment building, French said.

Best was not immediately located when police entered the apartment. Troopers continued the search to the common areas of the building. On the second floor landing of the building, Best appeared from hiding and approached troopers while brandishing the knife, documents said.

Verbal commands were issued to Best to drop the knife, but Best allegedly ignored the commands and continued toward the troopers.

Two troopers fired their pistols, striking Best, according to state police. Troopers then rendered aid to Best until EMS crews arrived on scene.

Best was flown by medical helicopter to a hospital with gunshot wounds to the chest, according to 911 dispatch transmissions.

The troopers who fired their weapons were not identified in the criminal complaint or in a news release. Both of the involved troopers were placed on administrative duties, as per department protocol.

The investigation is being conducted by the Pennsylvania State Police Troop G Major Case Team in conjunction with the Bedford County District Attorney’s Office.


Local
featured
Burketts open new day care in Bedford

A new child care center has opened in the Bedford United Methodist Church.

Aaron and Marci Burkett, owners of Burkett’s Watch Me Grow in New Paris, on Monday opened a second location in the Bedford church. The new day care center and preschool will fill the space previously occupied by the church’s day care, which closed earlier this spring.

“We’ve been looking in the Bedford area for a while when this opportunity came up,” Aaron Burkett said. “It seemed like everything just fell together.”

The church operated its day care for decades before deciding to close due to “years of significant financial losses,” officials said in March.

Burkett said leaders at the church have been great to work with in bringing a new child care center to the borough.

“The church understood there was still a need,” he said. “They were disappointed they had to shut their doors. It just seems like God was in it to bring it back together.”

The center is for infants through school-aged children and offers both before and after school programing, including various activities for youngsters.

“We try to offer activities that will keep the kids interested,” Burkett said.

Staff is also available to tutor students and assist with homework.

Burkett said he is aiming for an enrollment up to about 50 children. Enrollment is open. For information, call 285-2975.

He said the center is also still looking to hire additional child care workers and preschool teachers.

“Once we’re fully operational, I think we’ll have a staff of 10 to 15 people,” he said.

The Burketts have two decades of experience in child care in New Paris.

Burkett said he and his wife are familiar with the Bedford community through different involvements, including their work organizing Heather’s Cup, an annual youth football tournament that raises thousands of dollars for local children battling illnesses.

The tournament is named for Heather Miller, daughter of Don “Meach” and Wendy Miller, a Chestnut Ridge student and football fan, who died in January 2010 at the age of 11 after a 16-month battle with a rare childhood cancer.

“We’re excited to work with the community in a new way,” Burkett said.

The child care center has a Facebook page titled “Burkett’s Watch Me Grow Day Care and Preschool Bedford Location.”


State
AP featured
Nursing home testing a massive challenge for Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania would have to boost its testing numbers several times over to meet Gov. Tom Wolf’s goal of administering a weekly coronavirus test to well over 100,000 people in long-term care facilities across the state, a gigantic undertaking that health officials are scrambling to make a reality in less than two weeks.

It’s unclear who would administer the tests, who would supply them — and, despite Wolf’s assurances that taxpayers will foot the bill — who would pay.

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have struggled for months to contain the virus, with many lacking the trained staff, testing supplies and personal protective equipment in the early going that could have helped them slow the spread, according to public health experts. Residents of long-term care homes account for roughly two-thirds of the statewide death toll of more than 4,800, a higher proportion that in most other states.

The White House has strongly urged testing of all residents and staff at the nation’s hard-hit nursing homes. On Wednesday, Wolf said his administration has a plan in place starting June 1 “that we will be testing every employee and every patient once a week.” He repeated the vow in a call with reporters Thursday.

But the Wolf administration has made no such plan public, and the numbers make clear that such widespread, weekly testing would present a daunting challenge.

“Without a plan, and without adequate supplies to do it, we’re concerned about how well it’s going to be implemented,” said Adam Marles, president and CEO of LeadingAge PA, which represents hundreds of nonprofit nursing homes statewide.

More than 120,000 people live in about 1,900 nursing homes, assisted living centers and personal care homes regulated by the state, according to information from state agencies. The facilities have tens of thousands of workers.

That means Pennsylvania would have to figure out how to administer close to 200,000 tests a week, or 800,000 a month, to monitor every long-term care resident and employee for the virus.

In the first three weeks of May, by contrast, Wolf’s Department of Health has reported the results of about 140,000 tests among all residents statewide.

“This is a massive lift and it’s great for a sound bite, but it’s not quite clear that it’s actually doable,” said Dr. David Nace, medical director of UPMC Senior Communities and the president of The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

Dr. Jennifer Stephens, who helped launch a network of community testing centers as chief medical officer of Lehigh Valley Health Network’s physician group, cited numerous logistical and operational hurdles standing in the way of such a massive testing regime.

Long-term care facilities will need to have a sufficient and steady supply of tests, enough trained staff to administer them on a weekly basis, and a plan to deal with increased numbers of workers and residents who are positive for the virus, Stephens said.

The biggest bottleneck of all, she said, could be at the laboratories that process the tests, especially if businesses and other organizations start their own virus testing initiatives as the state’s battered economy gradually reopens.

“I think the intent is really good and solid. I think the time frames are difficult,” Stephens said. “It’s not going to happen immediately. There’s no way for it to.”

The state health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, said Thursday that nursing homes struggling with high numbers of infections will be prioritized for weekly testing, “and then we’ll be looking to test all of the patients and all of the staff throughout the state.”

She offered few details about how that’ll be accomplished, other than to say that “our testing capacity has increased significantly,” doubling since early May.

But Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, a nursing home trade organization, questioned whether sufficient capacity exists in Pennsylvania to do the kind of testing that Wolf has promised.

UPMC’s Nace agreed. “First and foremost is there’s not enough tests to do it,” he said.

There’s also the question of funding. If nursing homes must pay for the testing, Shamberg said, the financial burden will fall on front-line providers that are already underfunded.

Wolf said the funding will come from Pennsylvania’s share of the massive federal coronavirus relief law signed by President Donald Trump in late March. Competing bills to appropriate the federal money are working their way through the state House and Senate, each steering about $500 million to nursing homes, long-term care facilities and programs for the elderly. It’s unclear when a bill might reach Wolf’s desk.

Wolf’s intention to pay for testing with federal relief money that nursing homes are planning to spend on other things could run into opposition from the industry. Marles, with the nursing home group, said the state should instead draw from another pot of federal money intended specifically to boost state testing efforts.


State
AP featured
Governor eyes lifting of many more pandemic restrictions

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Some counties in Pennsylvania could see practically all of the state’s pandemic restrictions on business activity and gatherings lifted in the coming days, other than social-distancing and health-monitoring guidelines that are in place to help stop the spread of the coronarivus.

Thursday’s announcement by Gov. Tom Wolf — that some counties could get to move to the least-restrictive “green” phase of his three-color traffic-signal reopening plan stages — could become official on Friday.

“So I’ll be announcing a whole range of counties tomorrow moving from red to yellow and the hope is that we’ll also be making some counties that might even be moving from yellow to green tomorrow,” Wolf told reporters on a conference call.

With the number of new infections slowing, Wolf has been easing social distancing restrictions and allowing many businesses to reopen in lightly impacted areas of the state.

It is not clear, exactly, what restrictions, if any, will remain in place in the green phase.

Wolf’s health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, said the Health Department will soon release criteria for moving a county into the green phase of Wolf’s reopening plan.

“As we release the metrics to go into the green zone, we’re also working on what life in the green zone would (look) like, especially for businesses, restaurants, etc.,” Levine said Thursday at a video news conference.

On Friday, 12 already-announced counties — Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Wayne and York — will move from red to yellow and join 37 other counties.

Eighteen mostly eastern Pennsylvania counties that are home to 60% of Pennsylvania’s 12.8 million residents — including Philadelphia and its heavily populated suburbs — have yet to receive word as to when they will leave the red phase.

Wolf’s stay-at-home order still applies in the red phase, as do many restrictions on business activity that lift in the yellow phase.

In other coronavirus-related developments in Pennsylvania on Thursday:

DRINKS TO GO

Drinks to-go are now legal at Pennsylvania’s bars, restaurants, hotels and other liquor license holders.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Thursday that lawmakers passed overwhelmingly as a way to provide some outlet for bars and others to make money while they are shut down or limited during the state’s pandemic restrictions on in-house dining and drinking.

There are limits on the drinks.

The drinks must be sold as mixed drinks in quantities no larger than 64 ounces in a sealed container, and not after 11 p.m.

To sell the drinks, hotel and restaurant licensees that offer meals to-go must have lost at least 25% of their average monthly sales due to coronavirus restrictions.

Licencees can continue selling the drinks after the state’s disaster order if they are operating at less than 60% of their normal business.

Wolf said he didn’t necessarily think the legislation was a good idea, but noted its overwhelming support in the Legislature as a lifeline to bars and restaurants.

Meanwhile, bars and restaurants in counties that have been minimally impacted by the coronavirus are asking to be allowed to seat customers again, at least outside.

Those bars and restaurants should be able to open decks, patios and courtyards, at up to 50% of the outdoor maximum seating capacity and with tables at least 6 feet apart, the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association said.

Parking lots also could be used to offer limited seating, roped off with a single entry point, while the bars and restaurants could offer live entertainment, with restrictions on noise levels, the group said.

As the virus continues to ebb, the association said it wants establishments to be able to seat patrons inside, with the same social-distancing rules as outside.

POLLING PLACE

REDUCTIONS

Pennsylvania’s Department of State approved Philadelphia’s plan to consolidate some 850 polling places into 190 polling places for the June 2 primary election that will be conducted while the city is likely to still be under the governor’s coronavirus stay-at-home order.

Allegheny County, the state’s second-most populous county behind Philadelphia, received state approval to set up 211 polling places, down from about 830. Montgomery County, the third-most populous county, is planning to set up 140, down from 352.

The fear of infection has made it difficult to recruit polling workers, and state and federal health guidelines have made it difficult to find polling places that can accommodate the demands of social distancing, local election officials say.

CASES

The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Thursday reported 102 additional deaths linked to COVID-19, raising the statewide total to 4,869.

Two-thirds of the state’s deaths have been among residents of nursing homes and other facilities that care for older adults.

State health officials also reported that 980 more people have tested positive for the new coronavirus. The state has recorded fewer than 1,000 new cases for 11 consecutive days.

Since early March, infections have been confirmed in more than 65,000 people in Pennsylvania.

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. There is no data on how many people have fully recovered.

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.


Local
Top of the Morning

Road to be closed Tuesday.

Bedford Township officials announced they will close Sweet Root Road, about two miles south of Route 220 and the intersection with Sweet Root, from addresses 1321 to 1209, on Tuesday, May 26, for a tile replacement from 6 a.m. until the job is completed.

Everett Area Senior High School will hold graduation commencement this evening via virtual presentation.

To view the commencement, go to Everett School District’s website everettasd.orgor go to the following YouTube link https://youtu.be/BdedIZUwtfc The commencement will first air at 7 p.m. Friday on the Everett Area School District’s YouTube page.

Driver license and photo centers will be closed for the holiday weekend.

PennDOT reported that all reopened driver license and photo centers located in yellow phase counties will be closed Saturday Monday in observance of Memorial Day. All red phase county driver license and photo centers remain closed. Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services, including all forms, publications and driver training manuals, online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website, www.dmv.pa.gov.

Wall That Heals Bedford County will be open to public in July.

A three-fourth size replica version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., will be on site at the Bedford School District track facility from July 23-26. The exhibit will be open 24 hours a day, from July 23 through 2 p.m. July 26. Admission will be free of charge. On July 21, the names of service members from Bedford County and the surrounding counties who made the ultimate sacrifice will be escorted home. There will be a brief ceremony at 10 a.m. July 25 at event site. For more information and to volunteer, visit www.twthbedford2020.org.


News
Deaths

(Obituaries on Page A14

HESS, Charles A., 74, of St. Thomas.

HITE, Karen, 64, of Hyndman.

RHODES, Kenneth B., 74, of Greencastle.

WARD, Regina E., 81, of Clearville.