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WESA Daily Briefing: June 11, 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.


6:15 p.m. - Calls to state child abuse hotline dropped 50 percent following shutdown

Calls made to report suspected child abuse to Pennsylvania’s ChildLine continued to be significantly lower than usual in May.

Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said Thursday that ChildLine received more than 14,000 calls in May, which was 40 percent lower than last year. In April, the decline was 50 percent.

The drop began when Pennsylvania closed K-12 schools in response to the coronavirus. Miller says school employees usually play a big role in reporting abuse.

Jon Rubin, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Children, Youth, and Families, said it’s also been more difficult to investigate reports because of social distancing, but the department and its staff have been using alternatives like video calls.

“For the reports that were new, that we’re unable to assess without going to the home, or situations where we knew a family and felt like a home visit was appropriate, those efforts continued," Rubin said.

Rubin says it’s important to remember a lower number of calls doesn’t mean fewer instances of child abuse are happening.

5:58 p.m. - Beaver County to go green

Beaver County will enter the green phase of reopening Friday, joining the rest of southwestern Pennsylvania. The county’s move to the green phase was delayed due to high numbers of COVID-19 cases at a nursing home. Beaver’s restaurants, bars, gyms, and salons will now be able to open at 50 percent capacity. Gatherings of more than 250 people remain prohibited.

5:38 p.m. - Mobile COVID-19 testing to be in Duquesne Friday

Allegheny Health Network’s mobile COVID-19 testing unit is returning to the city of Duquesne Friday. AHN says it decides where to deploy the unit based on conversations with the county and representatives of the Pittsburgh Black Elected Officials Coalition. An appointment is required to get tested, but a physician’s order is not. The unit will be outside the elementary school on Kennedy Avenue from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

4:07 p.m. - State to distribute more than $600 to counties as part of CARES act

The money can be used for COVID-19 response and planning efforts, nonprofit assistance programs and deploying broadband to under-served areas. Grants will be available to 60 Pennsylvania counties, not including Allegheny County which already received direct assistancethrough the CARES act.

3:29 p.m. - Allderice students stage sit-in

Pittsburgh Allderdice High School's Black Student Union led a rally and sit-in this afternoon denouncing policy brutality and systemic racism. Students led calls for white accountability and described the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Antwon Rose Jr., George Floyd and others killed by police in America. A crowd filled the yard outside of the school and sat for a moment of silence. 

3:00 p.m. - Four YMCA branches to open Friday

The YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh said in a statement that its branches in Wexford, Plum, Bethel Park and the Hill District would be open from 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. Fridays, and 8 a.m. - 2 p.m. Satursdays. The facilities will be closed on Sundays. 

12:33 p.m. – Latest COVID numbers

The number of COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County increased by 21 to 2,055. That number includes 1,923 confirmed cases and 132 probable cases. The number of deaths increased by one to 173.

Statewide, the number of COVID-19 cases increased by 467 to 77,313. That number includes approximately 5,888 cases among health care workers and 19,228 cases among nursing and personal care home staff and residents. The number of deaths statewide increased by 51 to 6,113.  

10:33 a.m. - Five coronavirus treatments are in development

Right now, there is only one drug shown by rigorous scientific testing to be helpful for treating COVID-19. That drug is the antiviral medication called remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences. But remdesivir's proven benefits are modest: reducing hospital stays from 15 to 11 days.

So there's an urgent need for better therapies. The good news is that there are some on the horizon. Some are being tested now, some will be begin testing soon, and others are in the beginning of the pipeline. NPR's Joe Palca looks at the different treatment options here.

8:41 a.m. - Education board to vote on final approval for Erie community college

The Pennsylvania board of education plans to vote today on whether to approve a community college in Erie.

The last time the board approved one was in 1993 for Cambria County.

Erie's plan relies on a combination of money from the state, a community foundation, and gaming revenue. Supporters say they would not need to raise property taxes.

But an attorney representing Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati is urging board members to vote no. Adam Santucci says the county can't be sure the casino will always be there.

“If Erie County is not committed to investing taxpayer money directly, and gaming revenue cannot be guaranteed, what is the long-term viability of the community college.”

The chairperson for the state board of education says despite the plan to vote today, the board will need to approve a final order at a future meeting. The board's approval or rejection of the plan could be appealed to Commonwealth Court. 

7:11 a.m. - Giant Eagle to pull ads, stop selling Post-Gazette

Giant Eagle announced Wednesday night that the company is pulling advertising and stopping sales of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at area stores, due to "recent actions by management" at the newspaper. The Post-Gazette has been embroiled in controversy since pulling two black journalists off protest coverage due to alleged bias in their social media messages.
Giant Eagle is also closing stores for an hour on Saturday morning for a discussion about standing up to racism and social justice and donating $350,000 to social justice causes.