Happy New Year!
Mayor Joe Schember shared his hopeful outlook for the new year, encouraging the community to stay positive and continue to persevere through future challenges. He acknowledged the struggles people and small businesses within the community have faced during the pandemic but remains optimistic about 2021 being a better year.
The mayor shares the CDC’s concerns that cases will rise in the next few months but is hopeful that wearing masks and proper social distancing will shorten this period. The mayor has no plans on reopening city buildings until COVID-19 cases have lowered, although he is hopeful to have at least one festival by the end of the summer as long as cases are low.
The Erie Bureau of Police has dealt with many challenges throughout 2020, specifically with the threat of COVID-19 and a spike in gun violence and riots within the community.
The onset of the pandemic in March resulted in many changes regarding officer’s interaction with the public. While officers have continued responding to calls, contact has been limited in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. The bureau has experienced a drop in overall calls this year at approximately 50,000, compared to the previous average of 60,000 calls per year for service. Police Chief Dan Spizarny attributes this in part to the closing or the restriction of hours of local taverns, along with more time residents have spent at home throughout the pandemic.
The bureau unfortunately saw a spike in gun violence in early summer. At least 19 people were wounded and two killed in shootings between May and September. Throughout the fall, at least 10 people have been wounded and three others have been killed as a result of gun violence. Despite this increase, the city is still on a several-year decline of gun violence since 2014, when 10 people were killed and 69 wounded throughout the year. The bureau has also recognized the increase of local gangs within the city and are taking steps to address this issue safely at an individual level to reduce the spread of the virus.
Erie police have also been dealing with the aftermath of rioting that took place downtown in late May in response to death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in custody of police in Minneapolis on May 25. The protest began peacefully but was followed by rioting, resulting in several downtown businesses being vandalized, attempts to burn three buildings, and fireworks, bricks, and other dangerous items being thrown at officers. 14 officers were injured during the riot, and citations or criminal charges were filed against 25 participants. In the aftermath of the riots, Mayor Joe Schember announced the suspension of an officer that knocked over a protester and in response to the incident, required all of the city’s officers to undergo sensitivity training. The training program is provided through Mercyhurst University and is still ongoing. Erie police began wearing body cameras in October to ensure clarification of incidents and plan to fully utilize this technology throughout 2021.
Erie police are reviewing surveillance video in an effort to identify a suspect in a Wednesday night shooting in the 3900 block of Nancy Avenue, between East 38th Street and Zimmerman Road. A bullet grazed the forehead of a 28-year-old man who was later taken to UPMC Hamot for treatment. The victim was outside of a residence smoking a cigarette when a relative inside the house heard the gunshot. The victim then entered the house, bleeding. No other injuries in the incident have been reported. Anyone with information regarding the incident is encouraged to call Erie police Detective Sgt. Sean Bogart at 870-1191.
The state has partnered with Walgreens and CVS in an effort to immunize staff and residents at 126 skilled nursing facilities across Pennsylvania. 11 facilities in Erie County are among those that have begun administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to staff and residents on Monday. Due to the high risk of exposure to the virus, first responders, health-care workers, and nursing home residents are among the first Americans to be vaccinated.
Restaurants can reopen for in-person dining beginning Monday, Jan. 4 at 8 a.m. All restaurants can open at 25 percent capacity or 50 percent if they have completed online certification. Alcohol cannot be served without a meal and all sales must stop at 11 p.m. Beginning next week, fitness facilities will begin lifting indoor, in-person restrictions. Presque Isle Downs & Casino will also reopen at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Social distancing and masks are still required at all establishments.
The Erie School District will receive $28 million in aid under the new $900 billion federal COVID-19 relief bill. This is four times the funding received from the first coronavirus relief bill in March, which totaled $6.7 million for the Erie School District. This funding can be used to improve buildings and educational programs during the pandemic.
A 50-year-old female pedestrian died after being struck by a car Saturday evening at West 26th and Cherry Street around 7 p.m. The victim was transported to a hospital and later died due to serious injuries. Erie police blocked off West 26th Street near the intersection of Cherry Street in result of the accident.
The City of Erie Streets Dept. and Fire Departments would like to continue to remind residents to obey the odd/even parking signs so they can ensure public safety and keep the roads cleared.
Weekly Wrap-Up written by Maija Carol
Paraphrased stories come from internal City of Erie Sources, Erie News Now, JET24 Action News, GoErie, KDKA, and NPR/WQLN.