Eric Stroud of Clarksburg, W.Va., might not be alive today if heroic first responders had not pulled him from his vehicle after it flipped over on Interstate 79 in Greene County in August 2018. This week, those first responders were honored by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission for their valor. Carnegie Medals are going to medics Zachary A. McDowell, 22, of Prosperity, and Scott Ullom, 59, of Dallas, W.Va. McDowell, Ullom and all the other recipients of Carnegie Medals will also be receiving financial grants. Industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie launched the Carnegie Hero Fund more than 100 years ago to honor the “heroes of civilization.” In that regard, Ullom and McDowell most certainly qualify.
Concerns that reopened state economies and summertime restlessness could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases proved to be well-founded this week. Sun Belt states like Florida and Arizona are seeing frightening rates of infection, and it’s believed that vacationers in Myrtle Beach, S.C., brought the deadly pathogen back with them to West Virginia and Ohio. Numbers in Washington and Greene counties have been holding relatively steady, but more populous Allegheny County has seen increases. Officials in Allegheny say younger people are getting it now, particularly those who have been out to bars and restaurants or have been traveling. This should serve as a warning. The coronavirus pandemic is not over, probably won’t be for a while, and we have to remain vigilant. Wash your hands and, above all, wear a mask when you are out and about.
The need to reform how police departments operate has taken on greater urgency in the weeks since George Floyd was killed while in custody in Minneapolis and Black Lives Matter protests swept the nation. Lawmakers in Harrisburg responded this week. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved measures that would strengthen officer training on dealing with people of diverse racial, economic and ethnic backgrounds and provide improved access to mental health evaluations for officers. And the Senate unanimously approved measures that would ban the use of chokeholds, require every municipal police department to adopt a policy when it comes to using force, and record when force is used. State Rep. Jordan Harris of Philadelphia said of the reforms, “This is a small deposit in a bank account that has been empty for far too long for Black and brown people in our communities.”
Middletown is located in the Harrisburg area and is many thousands of miles from a literal desert, but it will soon become a desert of sorts – a news desert. The reason? The Press & Journal, Middletown’s weekly newspaper, announced this week that it is ceasing publication July 1 after a 166-year run. The family-owned newspaper was well-regarded – it was named the best weekly newspaper in the commonwealth last year by the Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association. The coronavirus delivered a fatal blow to the newspaper, despite pledges of support from the community. Without a newspaper, Middletown will carry on, but its civic life will be diminished.