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WESA Daily Briefing: July 16, 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.


5:01 p.m. — GOP's Sean Parnell outraises Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb in second quarter

New campaign finance reports show that between April 1 and June 30, Parnell raised just over $700,000, compared to Lamb's $440,000. But Lamb had a big head start, and his bank account still has nearly half a million dollars more than Parnell's.

Parnell campaign manager Andrew Brey says the campaign's success can be credited to Parnell's strength as a leader: "People are craving leadership right now and are sick of politicians politicizing the crisis."
Parnell is a mortgage company consultant, Fox News contributor, author and Army veteran. He entered the race last fall and President Donald Trump has repeatedly boosted his campaign. Elsewhere in western Pennsylvania, incumbents Mike Kelly and Guy Reschenthaler maintained wide fundraising leads over their Democratic challengers.  

4:31 p.m. — Pennsylvania recommends hybrid model for K-12 schools this fall  

Pennsylvania’s health and education secretaries released new guidance today, recommending a hybrid model with both in-person and online learning as the safest approach for reopening K-12 schools in the fall. 

Both secretaries say they want students to learn in-person for a variety of reasons. It’s more effective, it’s better for mental health and for students with disabilities.

Education Secretary Pedro Rivera says a hybrid model is safer than going back in-person full-time, but ultimately decisions will be made locally: “Every community is different. I mean when you look at rural more remote communities, urban communities, at the end of the day what school leaders have to do is take all of the data, the research and the facts that we’ve made available to them and then make the decisions that best represent [their needs].”

Masks must be worn at all times in buildings. Schools are strongly encouraged to follow social distancing with 6 feet of separation at all times. Districts, charters and private schools are required to create health and safety plans and post them online.

4:05 p.m. — Allegheny County juggling restaurant rules with those from the state

Like the rest of Pennsylvania, people in Allegheny County must now order food when consuming alcohol at a bar or restaurant. This is the biggest change created by new rules announced by Governor Tom Wolf on Wednesday. 

Wolf set forth a number of regulations, but many of the county's mandates are already more restrictive and therefore supersede the state's directives. 

The county said it may announce new rules on Friday, but in the meantime the following regulations for bars and restaurants are still in effect:

  • People are allowed to order alcoholic beverages to-go.
  • Only outdoor dining is permitted. 
  • Customers are limited to a maximum of three drinks, while partaking in outdoor dine-in service.
  • Dine-in service must stop at 11:00 PM.
  • The use of tobacco products at outdoor dining facilities and indoors at casinos is prohibited. This include e-cigarettes.
  • Outdoor event and gatherings of more than 50 persons are prohibited.

4:00 p.m. — Pittsburgh Public Theater going virtual-only this fall

Pittsburgh Public Theater is the city's first major performing-arts group to completely replace its coming fall season with virtual programming. Starting in September, the troupe's season will consist solely of monthly online readings, mostly new adaptations of classics by Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, and more. Distancing requirements due to the coronavirus make in-person performances infeasible, the troupe says. The Public’s previously planned season will now be staged next fall.  

2:18 p.m. - PA reports 781 new COVID cases

Pennsylvania is reporting 781 new coronavirus cases as new, statewide pandemic restrictions take effect. The state Department of Health said Thursday there were 16 additional deaths for a new statewide toll of 6,973. Gov. Tom Wolf reimposed restrictions Thursday on bars, restaurants, and larger indoor gatherings. Those gatherings are now now limited to 25 people, down from 250. Wolf says the restrictions are needed because of what he called an “unsettling climb” in infections. Critics question the need for statewide restrictions when only a few areas of the state have been seeing rising case numbers.   

12:33 p.m. - PWSA settles with PA Attorney General over criminal charges

The settlement resolves criminal charges from February 2019, when Attorney General Josh Shapiro charged PWSA with more than 150 criminal counts for failing to provide customers with enough notice about lead line replacements and not providing post-construction test kits to all customers. As part of the settlement, PWSA has agreed to a two-year probationary period and an independent monitor. The water authority will also provide $500,000 to local lead-reduction programs, split between nonprofit Women for a Healthy Environment and Allegheny County’s Safe and Healthy Homes program.


PWSA executive director Will Pickering told WESA, “We recognize the missteps of the past and we are happy to close this chapter in our history. My priority at PWSA is to focus on public health and the well-being of our customers.”

11:37 a.m. – Allegheny County reports 140 new COVID cases

The new number of cases is the result of 2,817 tests spanning June 30 through July 14. The Allegheny County Health Department says the cases are in people ranging in age from 2 to 94 years old. The total number of COVID-19 cases is now at 5,750.

The county also reported 12 new hospitalizations and one death, bringing the total number of deaths to 205.  

9:42 a.m. - PIAA high school sports to continue as planned

Pennsylvania high school football and other fall sports will start as scheduled. That's according to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association. The PIAA said Wednesday that football practice will start Aug. 10, and the other fall sports will start Aug. 17. The Association said it intends to offer winter and spring sports, as well, but will be flexible depending on pandemic conditions. 

 7:34 a.m. - Market Square farmers' market opens today 

The farmers' market at Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh is open for business at 10 a.m. today. Jeremy Waldrup with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership says all customers must wear masks and are not permitted to handle the produce.

"The farmers will be collecting those items and giving them directly to you,” Waldrup said. “And we're also offering folks the ability to shop online and pick up orders at the market."

Waldrup says Allegheny County officials have visited the farmers' market in the Strip District to monitor compliance with COVID-19 precautions.  You can hear the full interview this morning at 9 a.m. on The Confluence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.