Is progress lost in the fight against COVID-19?

The COVID-19 virus continues to make headlines and lead newscasts. The Delta variant of the virus is now predominant throughout the country, causing an increase in positive cases and hospitalizations among the unvaccinated.

One positive note is that vaccination numbers are starting to inch up, which may help in the long term. Full FDA approval of at least one of the vaccines is expected in September and health officials believe this will also increase vaccination rates.

Dr. Gerald Maloney, MD., is the Chief Medical Officer for Geisinger Hospitals and he appears on Smart Talk Thursday to discuss the current pandemic situation and answer questions about the virus.

For more on public health issues plus a deeper look at the changing tide of healthcare–check out WITF’s Transforming Health. Online at, a partnership of WITF, WellSpan Health and Capital Blue Cross.

Finding alternatives to the gas tax

The writing is on the wall, so to speak. The advent of electric cars signals the impending end of Pennsylvania’s lucrative gas tax, so coming up with alternatives is crucial to funding future transportation needs.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is tasked with developing options and recently submitted their recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly.

The Transportation Revenue Options Commission (TROC) is comprised of transportation, economic, and community stakeholders from the public and private sectors, including majority and minority leaders from the House and Senate Transportation and Appropriations committees.

PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian and Leeann Sherman, TROC member and Executive Director for the American Council of Engineering Companies of PA (ACEC/PA) appear on Smart Talk Wednesday to discuss the committee’s recommendations for potential revenue sources.

Philadelphia artist explores the intersection of art, science and technology

Airdate: Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Artist Rebecca Rutstein is well-known for her large scale public mural Convergence, prominently featured on the AT&T building along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.

For her most recent work, Rutstein is taking a “smaller” approach.

Her exhibition, titled Socius, at the Science Center presents the culmination of Rutstein’s three month BioArt Residency at the biotechnology company Integral Molecular in early 2021. The exhibit is open through September 23, 2021.

Artist Rebecca Rutstein joins Smart Talk Tuesday to discuss how her work intersects science and technology.


Area animal protection and adoption organizations facing a significant increase in animals

Last week, the York County SPCA announced its Animal Resource Center was holding more than 320 animals waiting to be adopted in a space designed for 240. Did people just stop adopting animals, especially when we heard that more people were adopting pets during the pandemic?

The cause of the overcrowding and slow adoption rates is not enough workers — not enough veterinary technicians or customer service representatives.

And according to the Association for Animal Welfare Advancement it’s national problem. In a recent blog post, the AAWA said, “There are presently about 7,000 openings for veterinarians across the country, with the number of openings for veterinary technicians even higher – and not enough veterinary professionals to fill these positions.

Tuesday’s Smart Talk addresses the labor issue and what it may mean for the animals.

Appearing on the program are Steven Martinez, Executive Director of the York County SPCA (Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals) and Karel Minor, CEO & President of Humane Pennsylvania.

Local Olympian returns home from Tokyo games

Conestoga Valley rising senior Casey Kaufhold returned from the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this week to a parade and hero’s welcome.

She may not have medaled in the games, but that doesn’t diminish the accomplishment of earning a berth at the highest level of competitive archery.

The women’s individual archery event was one of five archery events held at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. It was held at Yumenoshima Park featuring competitors from 40 nations, with each nation having up to three archers. Kaufhold ranked 17th out of 64 archers, with South Korea taking all three medals. The top US competitor came in fifth place. She also participated in the women’s team competition where the US ranked eighth.

Casey picked up her first bow at the age of two with her parents who own a Lancaster-based archery supply business. She began competing nationally at 11. Olympic archer Casey Kaufhold appears on Smart Talk Monday to share highlights of her Olympic experience.



Six state schools moving to integrate into two new universities

The plan to merge six of Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities was unanimously approved in July by the State System of Higher Education’s governing board.

Bloomsburg, Mansfield and Lock Haven universities in northern Pennsylvania will form one institution; California, Clarion and Edinboro universities in western Pennsylvania the other.

The change will be phased in, with the first students assessing into the new universities in August 2022.

The action is part of a multi-year system redesign effort to improve student success and institutional financial viability.

Dan Greenstein, D.Phil., Chancellor of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education, joins Smart Talk Monday to layout the plan’s details and challenges.

Kids need outdoor play and nature to develop a sense of wonder and learn

Some estimates say that kids today spend about half as much time outside as their parents did.

While some may dispute the number, most would agree that it is indeed less time. The reasons behind the change point to a modern lifestyle often focused on computers and indoor activities.

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is an author and professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University and she says that it is imperative for kids to have outdoor play in nature in order to develop a sense of wonder and learn. She also has suggestions on what to do once you’ve got them outside. Professor Grandin is also an active advocate for individuals living with Autism and her website can be found here.

Professor Grandin joins Smart Talk Thursday with ideas for hands-on projects for nature loving parents and their kids.

Tracking Pa. pandemic spending

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a lot money has come into, and passed out of, the Pennsylvania Treasury.

Some of that money was allocated by the state legislature and the Wolf administration and some funding came from the federal government as part of two pandemic relief actions.

Pandemic-related spending and requests for money have happened at a fast pace. Critics say that with an increase in spending and urgency that transparency and oversight of the process has suffered.

Jamie Martines is a Spotlight PA reporter who has tracked Pa.’s spending by the numbers and she joins Smart Talk Thursday to share her findings.

Districts and families consider mask mandates as school year plans take shape, while the American Academy of Pediatrics urge “back to class, wear a mask”

Listen to Smart Talk every weekday at 9am and 7pm on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. You can also stream WITF radio live on our website or ask your smart speaker to “Play WITF Radio.”

It has been a whirlwind month with pandemic news.

The Biden administration set July 4 as a target for 70 percent of Americans to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. They conceded in July that goal would not be met. At the time, though, the delta variant of the virus was not the dominant strain in the US. Now it is and infections are spreading rapidly, primarily among the unvaccinated.

The federal government set off a domino affect at the end of July when the CDC published new masking guidelines causing confusion, and in some cases anger, at the changing recommendations.

Now school districts around Pennsylvania are finalizing school health and safety plans, including whether children will be required to wear face masks.

Governor Tom Wolf elected not to impose another mask mandate, giving control of that decision to local districts. Many are deciding not to require masks, others have not made a final decision.

Appearing on Smart Talk Wednesday to discuss masking and keeping children safe from COVID is Dr. Swathi Gowtham, MD, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Director, Pediatric Infection Prevention, Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital and member of PA Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics. Also on the program to share how their school district is approaching to issue is David Christopher, Ph.D., Superintendent of Schools, Cumberland Valley School District and Dion E. Betts, Ed.D., Superintendent, Chambersburg Area School District. 

For more on health issues plus a deeper look at the changing tide of healthcare–check out WITF’s Transforming Health. Online at, a partnership of WITF, WellSpan Health and Capital Blue Cross.

Author explores the legend of two friends fighting on opposite sides of a conflict

In a war of brother versus brother, theirs has become the most famous broken friendship: Union general Winfield Scott Hancock and Confederate general Lewis Armistead.

Books like Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels (1974) and the movie Gettysburg (1993), which was based on the novel, presented a close friendship divided by war, but history reveals something different.

Were Generals Hancock and Armistead rightly cast as symbols of a nation torn apart, or merely acquaintances who’s lives intersected but were not connected?

Author Tom McMillan on his book Armistead and Hancock: Behind the Gettysburg Legend of Two Friends at the Turning Point of the Civil War, appears on Smart Talk Tuesday to set the record straight on the relationship between the two historic figures.