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WESA Daily Briefing: July 24, 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.


6:00 p.m. - Pennsylvania sees another day of more than 1,000 infections

Pennsylvania produced another day of more than 1,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases Friday, fueled by positive tests in Philadelphia and the Pittsburgh area as the state fights to tamp down rising case counts.

The Department of Health reported more than 1,213 additional confirmed virus cases — the most in a single-day report since May — and 22 new deaths. The virus has infected more than 105,000 people in Pennsylvania since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 7,100 have died, most of them in nursing homes.

Of the new positive cases, more than one-third are from Philadelphia and Allegheny County, the department said.

In July, Pennsylvania’s 14-day rate of new cases per 100,000 residents has risen by more than 50%, from below 60 to above 90.

The seven-day positivity rate — based on the Health Department’s daily public disclosures of the number of people who are newly confirmed to be positive and the number of people who tested negative — has gradually increased in July, from about 4.5% to 5.8%.

Deaths have declined from June to July, although hospitalizations are on the rise in July, according to state data.

With Gov. Tom Wolf's administration warning about states that lack adequate precautions against the virus, Pennsylvania added Wyoming and Missouri to its list of now-20 states that it recommends travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days after returning.

5:23 p.m. - PennLive reporter quits over paper’s description of Neo-Nazi group

Jacob Klinger, a Pittsburgh-based Steelers reporter, quit his job at PennLive yesterday after the newspaper tweeted a story about a Neo-Nazi group's protest in Williamsport.

The Pittsburgh City Paper reports that the headline and tweet were widely criticized for saying the Nazis held a quote "peaceful rally."

The group, called the Nationalist Socialist Movement, has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and an extremist group by the Anti-Defamation League, but neither attribution was mentioned.

PennLive deleted the tweet and made changes to the story, but Klinger said it was not enough, and quit in the hopes that his resignation would motivate the newspaper to change how they cover hate groups and alt-right groups.

4:07 p.m. - Some courts closed today; expected to reopen Monday

The third and fifth floors of the Allegheny County Courthouse were closed today, along with the offices of a Magisterial District Judge in North Versailles. The moves were ordered late Thursday by the county's president judge, Kim Berkeley Clark. Clark's order did not spell out a reason for the closure, but there has been growing concern about the spread of the coronavirus among lawyers and staff in the criminal division. A handful of inmates at the county jail have also tested positive for the virus in the past two weeks.

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA

3:52 p.m. - Blue Jays will play in Buffalo's minor league park

The displaced Toronto Blue Jays will play in Buffalo, New York, this year amid the pandemic. The team had looked for a major league park after the Canadian government declined to allow it to play in Toronto but was unsuccessful in securing a site.

The Blue Jays say the greater part of their home schedule will be in Buffalo, home of the club’s Triple-A affiliate. The Blue Jays’ first game in Buffalo will be either on July 31 against the Phillies or on Aug. 11 against the Marlins.

3:15 p.m. – School nurses will have increased responsibilities if in-person classes resume

The prospect of schools reopening next month is raising a lot of questions.

One is how to properly screen students for possible COVID-19 symptoms when research shows children are often a-symptomatic. Much of that responsibility will likely fall on school nurses.

Children represent about 7 percent of coronavirus infections worldwide. But researchers think the number is low because many do not show symptoms if infected. Studies also suggest children may spread the disease less than an infected adult.

Lori Kelley is the president of the Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners. She says school nurses will have a lot on their plates if students return to school in the fall.

“On the forefront of our mind is the safety of the children, but also the staff and the teachers that we care for in our schools,” Kelley said. “We, as school nurses, don’t just care for the students, we care for the staff, as well.”

Keeley says nurses will also have to care for the social needs for students – if they’re feeling socially isolated or they lose a family member to the coronavirus.

She says district do not plan to conduct testing school grounds – so nurses will focus on isolating students who are suspected of contracting the virus.

2:16 p.m. – Latest COVID numbers

Allegheny County reported 198 new COVID-19 cases Friday. Those new cases are the result of 2,255 tests taken July 6-23. Health officials say those infected range in age from 2 months to 97 years old.

The county also reported 22 hospitalizations and two new deaths. The two people who died were 54 and 89 years old.

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 1,213, bringing the statewide total to 105,571. State health officials also reported 22 new deaths.  

10:59 a.m. - Meet the teens behind "Civil Saturdays"

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA

The "Black Lives Matter" protests that have shut down Pittsburgh city streets every week for the past two months are led by a new generation of activists. Two organizers of the "Civil Saturday" demonstrations, Nick Anglin and Treasure Palmer, say their path to protesting started with feeling alienated as young Black people in the Pittsburgh area.

Read more here

7:11 a.m. - PA Health Secretary says virus test backlog remains a problem

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine says the state is averaging more than 18,000 COVID-19 tests per day.

But a backlog in patients receiving results – which can take up to seven days – remains a problem.

Levine says the wait times are an issue all over the county.

“The lag time, when those tests are being done by national commercial laboratories, which is a national issue, which will have to be dealt with by the federal government,” she said.

The state run lab – which is producing faster results – is focusing on nursing homes. But Levine says the administration may redirect testing efforts to schools -- if necessary.

She says she’s hopeful the state will be able to offer expansive rapid testing by October.