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WESA Daily Briefing: June 9, 2020

Erin Keane Scott
90.5 WESA

News on the coronavirus pandemic, protests, 2020 election and more from around Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and southwestern Pennsylvania. 

Find all of the WESA Daily Briefing posts here

Editor's note: This post will be frequently updated with the latest news.


6:16 p.m. - Allegheny County Conference on Community Development pulls ad from PG

The decision follows the paper's mistreatment of two black journalists. Management at the newspaper pulled Alexis Johnson off of police brutality protest coverage, saying one of her tweets related to the issue were biased. 

The Allegheny Conference said on Tuesday it will no longer buy ads with the PG as long as the paper fails to demonstrate a "clear commitment to combatting racism."
5:45 p.m. - Newsrooms must do more for black journalists, says PG's Alexis Johnson

Newsrooms are not doing enough to support and amplify the voices of black journalists. That was the message from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Alexis Johnson during a Tuesday virtual panel hosted by 1Hood Media, called “What Black Pittsburgh Needs to Know About Media.”

Johnson, who is black, spoke about her recent experience being pulled from protest coverage by the newspaper’s management. She said she was told that a tweet she sent about trash after a Kenny Chesney concert showed bias about the demonstrations. 

Credit Screenshot
A virtual panel on media and race included Jasiri X, CEO of 1Hood Media (top left); Dr. Cheryl Hall-Russell, BW3 president (top right); Post Gazette journalist Alexis Johnson (bottom right); and Dr. Jamil Bey, CEO of UrbanKind (bottom left).

During the conversation with management, Johnson says she responded that a reporter pointing out white supremacy after the Tree of Life shooting in 2018 wouldn’t have been punished.

“I said to them specifically, I said, ‘because I’m a black woman and I’m speaking on a black issue, all the sudden makes me bias?’” Johnson said. “It was really disheartening, and I think the double standard was pretty clear.”

Read more from Johnson and the Tuesday panel.

4:50 p.m. - National Aviary to reopen in July 

After a three-month closure, the National Aviary on Pittsburgh's North Side said it will reopen under "best practices and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" and other state and local experts. 

The facility will offer an online timed ticketed system for visitors to see the bird zoo. Masks will also be required when visiting during extended 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. time slots. 

Workers were still able to take care of the birds throughout the shutdown, a release from the Aviary said, through an Emergency Relief Efforts campaign. 

Members of the Aviary will be able to visit beginning June 28 and the general public can attend on July 1.

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Condors hang out at the National Aviary on Pittsburgh's North Side shortly after they were ordered to close due to the coronavirus pandemic.

4:48 p.m. - Ballots are still being counted in some Pennsylvania counties

The counting from Pennsylvania’s first foray into mass voting by mail was wrapping up on Tuesday, a week after the primary, with the results of some of races still up in the air.

Elections officials in seven counties, which includes Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, were granted extra time to receive and tally the vote because of practical challenges posed by mass protests over police brutality.

The state says turnout was roughly 2.8 million voters, or 35%, with slightly more than half of all votes coming by mail under a new state law that permits mail-in ballots, no matter the reason. The primary was postponed from April 28 to June 2 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more about the process.

4:19 p.m. - PEMA to Pennsylvanians: Factor in COVID-19 to emergency preparedness plans

Warm weather often brings severe weather, and state officials are advising Pennsylvanians to factor the presence of COVID-19 into their emergency preparedness plans. 

In the event of a severe weather emergency, such as flooding or strong storms, Department of Health’s Ray Barishansky advises shelter operators and relief organizations to follow existing COVID mitigation guidelines.
"We would ask those to make sure that people are masked before they came in. We would probably be looking at temperature scans, as well," Barishansky said. "Try to get people to social distance as much as humanly possible."
Officials say residents should update emergency kits to include items like cloth masks, hand sanitizer and medications. 
3:44 p.m. - VIDEO: Pittsburghers demonstrate against police brutality

3:06 p.m. - Local health systems relax visitation policies

Allegheny Health Network and UPMC are adjusting their inpatient visitation policies. Both medical systems heavily limited visitation due to the pandemic. Now, they are both allowing one healthy support person to be on site during visitation hours. This must be the same person for the duration of a patient’s stay. The designated support person must be over the age of 18, wear a mask, and show no signs of COVID-19. AHN said COVID-19 patients who are not at end of life will not be permitted a support person.

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA

1:37 p.m. - Allegheny Co. Council to consider banning rubber bullets, tear gas, more

Allegheny County Council will take up a bill that would ban the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, and other,  “less lethal weapons.” Democrats Liv Bennett and Bethany Hallam will introduce the legislation today. The use of crowd-control tools has sparked controversy amid recent protests over police brutality. The county council bill says the weapons could cause serious injury or even death, especially among those with pre-existing conditions. The bill also says the weapons can be misused by police. Read more here

12:49 p.m. – Latest COVID numbers

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 19 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the total to 2,027. The number of deaths increased by one to 169.

Across Pennsylvania, the number of positive cases increased by 493 to 76,436. The total number of cases includes approximately 5,796 cases among health care workers, as well as 19,071 cases among personal and nursing home staff and residents. The number of deaths statewide increased by 61 to 6,014.

9:27 a.m. - COVID-19 infections and deaths higher among those with intellectual disabilities

People with intellectual disabilities and autism who contract COVID-19 then die at higher rates than the rest of the population, according to an analysis by NPR of numbers obtained from two states that collect data. They also contract the virus at a higher rate, according to research looking in group homes across the country.

In Pennsylvania, numbers obtained by NPR show people with intellectual disabilities and autism who test positive for COVID-19 die at a rate about twice as high as other Pennsylvania residents who contract the illness. Read more from NPR here.

7:55 a.m. - Pittsburgh's first 90 degree day of the season

The National Weather service says today will mark the region's first 90-degree day of the season, with Pittsburgh's high expected to reach 93.

7:27 a.m. - Lawmakers to meet and discuss police reforms

Republican and Democratic lawmakers will meet today to discuss more than a dozen bills aimed at reducing police brutality. One proposal would give police departments access to civil complaints about officers before hiring them. Another would change the rules for the use of deadly force across the state. This conversation follows a demonstration by black Democrats that blocked regular House business. They say more acts of civil disobedience could follow if Republicans who control the chamber don't agree to take action.