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Charleroi man dies after his vehicle hits house

CHARLEROI – A Charleroi man died Thursday night after his vehicle struck a house causing enough damage to require the partial demolition of the building.

Charles H. Matava, 69, died at 10:26 p.m. in Mon Valley Hospital after his sport-utility vehicle struck the house at Eighth Street and Lincoln Avenue, Washington County Coroner Tim Warco said.

The cause and manner of Matava’s death were pending an investigation, Warco said.

Matava needed to be extricated from the vehicle following the 9 p.m. crash, Charleroi Fire Department said.

The department said the borough’s public works crew was called to demolish the house because it sustained extensive structural damage.

“Twenty percent of the whole building had to be demolished for public safety,” Charleroi fire Chief Bob Whiten said.

He said a medical helicopter was summoned, but not used due to the extent of Matava’s injuries.

He said the cause of the accident on a steep street was unknown.

The victim’s son was in the vehicle at the time of the crash, and he suffered minor injuries, Whiten said.

Fair cancellation could be big loss to 4H, FFA students

This year would have been Nikki Coffield’s last year to show market hogs at the Washington County Fair.

The Hickory resident has been involved in Future Farmers of America for seven years, and showing at the fair for the past five.

“You don’t really think about the last time you’ll zip up your jacket or step in the show ring,” she said. “You have so much in mind for how you’re going to spend those last moments.”

If the fair is canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Coffield’s last time to show will have already come and gone.

“What if I’ll never get to do it again?” she said. “It’s really starting to sink in. Did I get everything that I wanted out of this experience? Did I do enough the year before to make it OK that I’m not getting that full closure this year that I was expecting?”

The Washington County Fair, scheduled for Aug. 15 to 22, hasn’t been canceled yet, but the board meets June 4 to discuss what options it has moving forward. Wayne Hunnell, a director and secretary of the Washington County Fair Board, said part of that discussion will include the possibility of “an abbreviated fair” to include the market livestock shows and sales.

“When you look at the data we spend with all the shows, it is a big piece of the fair – there’s no doubt,” Hunnell said.

He said the board will need to make a decision by mid-June, as it would need to allow children time to register animals and projects.

“We’re getting to the point of, if we are having a fair, there’s a number of things we need to get done,” he said.

Should it still happen, it will be the county’s 222 fair.

“Not only for myself but the entire board and residents of Washington County, if we’re not going to do a fair, it would be a difficult pill to swallow,” he said. “That’s why we’re looking at other alternatives.”

He said one issue is that 4-H and FFA groups are not allowed to meet or have virtual shows or sales. They may consider having the shows under a different name, like a junior livestock sale.

Lisa Bioni of Claysville is a 4-H and FFA leader, who said for her students, the fair is their vacation each year.

“They can’t leave for a week on vacation because their animals need taken care of day in and day out,” she said. “They’re actually missing out on their vacation.”

Bioni said the students invest time and money into their animals, with purchasing feed and trips to the vet.

“Hopefully they can sell their animals, even if it’s just by word of mouth,” she said.

The idea of not having a fair, especially such a longstanding tradition, is a strange feeling for Coffield.

“I grew up going to the fair every year and seeing all the animals,” she said. “I never expected for a pandemic to occur in my last year.”

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Some Pennsylvania counties will receive the COVID-19 green light next week

Gov. Tom Wolf will give the COVID-19 green light next week to 17 counties in mostly the northern portions of the state, allowing residents there to begin resuming more normal lives.

All of the remaining counties in the state that are in red zones, including Philadelphia and the hard-hit eastern regions, will move to the yellow caution phase by June 5 when Wolf’s stay-at-home order expires.

“My stay-at-home order did exactly what it was supposed to do. It saved lives,” Wolf said during a Friday afternoon online briefing.

Washington and Greene counties joined several others in Southwestern Pennsylvania in moving from red to yellow a week ago, allowing more nonessential businesses such as retail to reopen. Restaurants were still limited to selling take-out food, and barbershops, salons and massage businesses remained closed.

The novel coronavirus has killed 4,984 residents of Pennsylvania since March 6, a number that increased by 115 new deaths Friday.

There were 866 new cases of the virus announced Friday. Of the 66,258 people who have tested positive for the disease, 57% of them have recovered, state Health Secretary Rachel Levine said.

Five deaths have been attributed to Washington County, where four new positive cases were recorded Friday, taking the total to 134. Greene County remained at 27 positive cases, and the virus has not caused any deaths there.

The 17 counties moving to green are Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren.

Residents in green zones will need to continue to take precautions, including reducing building capacity, encouraging teleworking, wearing masks in public, limiting visitation in certain high-risk environments and preventing large entertainment gatherings, Wolf said.

Wolf said the pandemic appeared in the state at a time when it was not known if there was a successful way to stop it from spreading.

“We know not only that we succeeded in slowing case growth, but that our actions, our collective decisions to stay at home and avoid social contact – we know that saved lives,” Wolf said.

The COVID-19 incidence rate in the state stands at 83.4 cases per 100,000 people. Two weeks ago, it was 113.6 per 100,000. Most other states are seeing their new case rate continue to increase or remain flat. Pennsylvania is one of just 19 states with new case-rate declines, Wolf stated in a news release.

The state will continue to “ramp up” its response team and testing, he said. The testing capabilities increased by 65% since May 8.

State Rep. Pam Snyder issued a news release after Wolf’s announcement in which she stated her extreme disappointment that Washington, Greene and Fayette counties were not included in his plan to move parts of the state to the green phase.

“Our communities have done their part and have helped flatten the curve and are practicing safe behaviors, and that includes my district offices,” said Snyder, a Democrat from Greene.

Sndyer said she will urge Wolf to reconsider his decision.

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State hits record high 15.1% unemployment in April

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate for April, not surprisingly, skyrocketed to a record 15.1%.

That broke the previous high watermark of 12.7%, established in January and February 1983.

The April figure is a 9.3% increase from the March rate of 5.8%, said Jerry Oleksiak, director of the state Department of Labor & Industry, during a video news conference Friday morning. The significant bump is more fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the globe.

More than 1 million non-farm jobs were lost in only a month – from 6,038,300 to 5,014,200 – according to L&I. That is a 16.9% plummet.

A mere 14 months ago – March 2019 – Pennsylvania hit a record low in joblessness, 3.9%. The Keystone State has been tracking monthly rates since 1976.

Last month’s rate, and increase from March, are similar to the national figures for April. The U.S. had 14.7% unemployment in April, a 10.3% jump, proof the coronavirus is an equal-opportunity economic destroyer.

April’s inflated U.S. and Pennsylvania rates also are comparable with those from the last significant economic downturn, the Great Recession, which ended in mid-2009. The Keystone State’s annual rate for 2009 was 8%, and 8.5% for 2010. Nationwide, 9.5% of the workforce was idle in June 2009, peaking four months later at 10%.

Friday’s event was short – 17 minutes – and decidedly unsweet. Oleksiak hosted the event with Scott Meckley, manager of the Center for Workforce Information and Analysis.

The secretary had difficulty answering several media inquiries, mainly because the unpredictability of the virus dissuades answers. Asked what can be done to lower jobless numbers, Oleksiak said: “I think the state has been doing something about that. Forty-nine (of 67) counties have moved from red (stay at home) to yellow (less restrictive). Construction began May 1 throughout the state.

“The first steps we needed to do were to make sure people were safe, then partially open the counties. We hope the numbers go down, but it’s hard to know what will happen.”

It’s also difficult to determine when the Pennsylvania economy and thousands of businesses are ready to enter a full-fledged rebounding mode. But Oleksiak said L&I is preparing for that time by working with agencies and other departments to provide guidance.

“We’re all looking at what we can do to help businesses and workers move forward. We’re very concerned about how this is affecting the economy now and long range. We’re looking at where the post-COVID-19 world can be.”

Statistics that L&I released Friday portray a morbid picture – for now. Those figures did not include county and regional rates across the state. Those, according to Meckley, will not be available until June 2.