Pennsylvania’s generous spirit earns applause

Patrick DeLany
York Dispatch

Thumbs up to Penn State University for naming the first woman and the first person of color to lead the institution in its 166-year history.

Neeli Bendapudi was selected by the university’s board of trustees this month to serve as Penn State’s 19th president. She’ll succeed current President Eric Barron when he steps down this spring, overseeing the university in State College, its satellite campuses and hospitals, and some 31,000 full-time employees.

Currently president of the University of Louisville in Kentucky, Bendapudi will bring more than 30 years of academic experience to Happy Valley. She’ll also bring some new perspectives and a higher degree of visibility to the opportunities available to students of all backgrounds.

“I do recognize the appointment’s symbolic value,” she said. “But to me, what I truly hope it does is that it inspires others to pursue the highest office in their chosen field no matter who they are.”

It’s a form of inspiration that has been long overdue in the Penn State president’s office.

Thumbs down to the state Supreme Court’s unfortunate decision to toss out a statewide mask mandate for school children.

The seven-member body this month uphold a lower-court ruling invalidating the mandate, which was issued by Gov. Tom Wolf. The ruling couldn’t have come at a worse time, with the new omicron variant of the coronavirus fueling massive spikes in the number of cases nationally, statewide and locally.

More:Pennsylvania high court throws out mask mandate for schools

First grade students at Dunmore Elementary Center in Dunmore, Pa., wear masks on their first day of classes on Aug. 27, 2020. The legality of an order by Pennsylvania’s acting state Health secretary requiring masks in K-12 schools and child care facilities is before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The two sides are set to argue their respective positions before the justices on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021 in Philadelphia. (Christopher Dolan/The Times-Tribune via AP)

The decision leaves policies regarding facemasks up to individual school districts. Unfortunately, too many of them — including 15 of 16 in York County — are leaving students to fend for themselves by making mask use optional. That’s a disappointing failure of leadership — one that can have severe consequences not only for local children but the family members they go home to each day.

More:Hits 'keep coming': Hospitals struggle as COVID beds fill

More:COVID surge: Six more deaths, nearly 400 new cases in York County

More:Hospitals grapple with limited capacity ahead of anticipated omicron surge

More:Gov. Tom Wolf calls on FEMA to help respond to COVID-19 surge

Masks are a proven effective way to minimize the threat of contracting the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 35,000 lives in Pennsylvania and sickened another 1.54 million. (More than 1,100 of those fatalities and 62,000 of those cases have occurred in York County.) The persistence of the virus in terms of aggressive new variants has been a frustrating aspect of the pandemic, but no more so than the resistance to simple health practices that would deter its spread.

Regardless of the laissez-faire attitude of state courts and school boards toward public health, families should take matters into their own hands by insisting kids mask up.

Thumbs up to Pennsylvanians’ generosity of spirit during the holiday season.

The website WalletHub assessed gifts to charity and volunteer participation and found that Pennsylvania was the sixth-most charitable state in the nation. Among the factors weighed were the number of people who make financial donations, food collection and distribution, volunteer rates and charities per capita.

That wasn’t the only favorable assessment of the state residents’ big-heartedness.

It’s not exactly a Gallup poll, but an analysis of Google data found that Pennsylvania ranked ninth nationally in its generosity as determined by gift- and holiday-related online activity.

Whether it’s sharing the spirit of the season with friends and family or remembering those in need at this time of year, seasonal good cheer abounds in Pennsylvania.

Volunteer Ali Collier of Codorus Township Carries a bag to a car at the Glen Rock Recreation Board's Holiday Helpings Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020. Fifty bags containing ingredients and recipes were available to the public at Glen Rock Community Park. Ingredient donations were made by the Glen Rock Mill Inn and Hillandale Farm. Unused food items were donated to the Hanover Share Table. Bill Kalina photo