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WESA Daily Briefing: July 22, 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.



5:28 p.m. - County to launch coronavirus response team to ensure compliance

Allegheny County will launch a COVID-19 Field Response Team Thursday to ensure restaurants follow regulations to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the team will start with restaurants that have been the subject of complaints.

"If a team member finds a bar or restaurant not following all the required COVID-19 safety measures, they will alert the health department's food safety program, and an inspector will be sent out to do an inspection, which could result in the facility being shut down,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said the county will also publish the names of establishments that do comply with the guidelines.

4:09 p.m. – Local activist surrenders to Pittsburgh police, some say he’s being targeted

A prominent local activist has surrendered to Pittsburgh police, who've charged him with over a dozen offenses stemming from recent protests.

Lorenzo Rulli has been a familiar presence at protests against police brutality. And he livestreams what's happening around him -- like his own efforts to prevent a demonstrator from vandalizing a police car. But police have charged Rulli, whose legal name is Shawn Green, with 14 offenses. They allege he encouraged an attack on one TV news cameraman and harassed another -- and that he joined others who jumped on a vehicle while protesting a Downtown bar.

Rulli turned himself in early Wednesday. Fellow activists say the charges are "absolutely unfounded" and "An attempt to target, intimidate, and isolate" him.

3:21 p.m. - State health officials rule out Blue Jays playing at PNC Park

 The state of Pennsylvania won’t allow the Toronto Blue Jays to play at PNC Park in Pittsburgh amid the coronavirus pandemic, health officials announced Wednesday.

“In recent weeks, we have seen a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in southwestern Pennsylvania,” Dr. Rachel Levine, the state's secretary of health, said in a statement. “To add travelers to this region for any reason, including for professional sports events, risks residents, visitors and members of both teams. We know that this virus does not discriminate, and can even make professional athletes very sick. We are committed to protecting the health and well-being of all Pennsylvanians.”

The Blue Jays and Pirates had been waiting to see if they got permission from the state to proceed with the plan to have PNC Park fill in for the Rogers Centre, according to two officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

3:12 p.m. - Former Steelers Pro Bowl lineman Carlton Haselrig dies at 54

Carlton Haselrig, a Pro Bowl right guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the early 1990s who is also the only wrestler in NCAA history to win six individual national championships, has died. He was 54.

Pat Pecora, who coached Haselrig to heavyweight division championships at both the NCAA Division II and Division I levels in the 1980s at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, said Haselrig had been in declining health in recent years. The school said in a statement that Haselrig’s death was due to natural causes. Haselrig started 47 games in the NFL before his career was cut short due to off-the-field issues.

2:52 p.m. - Pittsburgh’s Children’s Museum won’t reopen until January 2021

The museum has been closed since mid-March to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. It has also laid off staff that it had previously furloughed.

The museum known for its hands-on exhibits says it’s working on enhanced sanitizing procedures with a focus on high-touch areas for when it does reopen.

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Families gather outside the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh to watch a solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.

1:17 p.m. – Allegheny County reports 8 new COVID deaths

The number of new COVID-19 cases dropped significantly in Allegheny County Wednesday, with just 96 new cases confirmed. The new cases are the result of 1,617 tests spanning July 7-21. However, county health officials reported 16 new hospitalizations, one of the highest single-day increases since May, and eight new deaths. The deaths occurred between July 8-19 and in people aged 78 to 96 years old.

Statewide, the number of positive COVID-19 cases increased by 631, bringing the total to 103,396. The number of deaths statewide increased by 25.  

11:43 a.m. - Lebanon County sues Wolf over withheld virus funds

A Pennsylvania county filed suit Wednesday to compel Gov. Tom Wolf to release $12.8 million in federal coronavirus relief funding that he withheld after county leaders defied his shutdown orders.

Wolf withheld nearly $12.8 million in funding from Lebanon County, where local Republican leaders voted in mid-May to lift pandemic restrictions in defiance of the Democratic governor. Wolf’s decision left Lebanon as the only Pennsylvania county to have been cut off from a $625 million pot of federal coronavirus relief money distributed by the state.

Read more here.   

10:23 a.m. - Duquesne agrees to list of demands from mother of late student

Duquesne University has agreed to a list of demands made by a grieving mother on an 18-day hunger strike.

Dannielle Brown has been staging the strike at Freedom Corner in Pittsburgh's Hill District, demanding answers to the 2018 death of her son, Marquis Jaylen Brown. The school says he fell from the window of his dorm room, but Brown said the school's account leaves too many unanswered questions.

She's sought three things from Duquesne: cooperation with an independent investigation into the death, body cameras for on-campus police, and training for officers on how to deal with mental health crises.

In an open letter penned to Brown and released Tuesday, the school agreed to all three demands. Duquesne says it will work with Brown and her attorney to give her, "a sense of closure."  

9:11 a.m. – Toronto Blue Jays to play season at PNC Park

The Toronto Sun reports, “Late Tuesday, a source close to the negotiations said that the displaced Major League Baseball team would make Pittsburgh home for the majority of its 30-game home schedule in the abbreviated 2020 season.”

The team had been in talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates about sharing a major league ballpark this season after Canada’s government barred them from playing in their home stadium amid the coronavirus pandemic. Pirates President Travis Williams confirmed the talks earlier this week and sounded ready to welcome the Blue Jays. 

"This will be a monumental challenge for our staff, but leaning in to help others is what Pittsburghers do best,” Williams said Monday. “If we are able to safely accommodate, not only will it bring additional international attention to our city, it will also bring with it jobs and revenue for local hotels, restaurants and other businesses that will support the Blue Jays organization as well as additional visiting teams.”  

7:46 a.m. - Pitt prepares for student move-ins amid pandemic

The return to school will look a little different for students at the University of Pittsburgh, with new move-in policies implemented to reduce risk of COVID 19.

Students will begin returning to the University of Pittsburgh's campus on Aug. 11, but there won't be a sudden rush of people taking over Oakland. The university says about 15500 students will arrive in staggered windows, with the goal of having everyone arrive by the end of August.

And, to reduce the risk of COVID19 spread with people arriving from different locations, ALL students are required to shelter in place for two weeks. Those in university housing – including the 25 percent of first-year students who will reside in nearby hotels – will shelter in place at home for seven days, and then another seven days once they arrive on campus.

The university says that the plan is subject to change as new developments happen, and that more information about contact tracing, isolation, and travel guidelines will be shared in the coming weeks.