WESA Daily Briefing: July 27, 2020
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.
6:26 p.m. - Unemployment benefit loss will have cost on state economy
Pennsylvanians who receive unemployment benefits will be short $600 dollars this week; the weekly $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation expired for Pennsylvanians on Saturday, and Congress has yet to decide to renew the additional payment.
Without it, Pittsburgh’s regional economy could lose some $300 million per month, said Chris Briem, a regional economist with the University Center for Social and Urban Research at the University of Pittsburgh.
That’s roughly 5 percent of the area’s monthly income, said Briem.
“[Five percent] might not sound like a lot,” he said. “But to abruptly go away is certainly a scale of loss that’s going to be felt across the economy.”
Roughly two-thirds of the area’s economic activity consists of providing goods and services to people, said Briem, so those already hard-hit businesses will absorb the shock first as people cut back dramatically on any discretionary spending. The repercussions for the region become worrisome when people are forced to cut back on non-discretionary expenses such as rent, said Briem.
“Housing loss will ensue.”
4:49 p.m. – Liquor control enforcement issues 18 warnings to food service industry
Pennsylvania liquor control enforcement officers issued 18 warnings to Pittsburgh area restaurants and bars over the weekend, for failing to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines. Warnings are given if employees aren’t wearing masks at all times, if tables are less than six feet apart or lack physical barriers, or if occupancy requirements aren’t being met.
The officers checked nearly 400 businesses in the region. Repeated violations of the guidelines could result in the loss of a liquor license. The state did not release the names of the businesses that received warnings.
3:33 p.m. - Restaurants have had trouble navigating the state’s pandemic shutdown
Changing restrictions on the food service industry during the coronavirus pandemic have led to confusion.
Tyrell Wright, a line cook at Simmie’s Restaurant in the East Hills, says things were already difficult.
“We close earlier. Our food prices went up,” Wright said.
When Pittsburgh entered the yellow phase in May, restaurants and bars could serve people outdoors. Under the green phase, they could bring customers inside with limited capacity. But those restrictions were again changed after contact tracing revealed such businesses had become hotspots for the virus’ spread.
Dominic Schepis, owner of Dari-Villa Restaurant in Bellevue says stricter capacity limits have made it hard to make enough money.
“I’m hoping it ends soon? 50 percent was okay, 25 percent it’s like eh!” Schepis said.
Owners and workers say it’s been difficult to keep up with changing guidelines and rules from the state and county governments. Some have decided to close their doors to dine-in customers altogether.
1:34 p.m. - State Health Department reports 839 new COVID cases
Pennsylvania reported more than 800 new confirmed coronavirus cases as fresh concerns about it spreading prompted the cancellation of Monday night’s Major League Baseball game in Philadelphia. The Department of Health on Monday also reported four new deaths. The virus has infected more than 108,000 people in Pennsylvania since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 7,100 have died, most of them in nursing homes. In July, Pennsylvania’s 14-day rate of new cases per 100,000 residents has risen by more than 70%, while the seven-day positivity rate has gradually increased. Deaths have declined from June to July, although hospitalizations are on the rise in July, according to state data.
11:58 a.m. – Allegheny County reports 180 new COVID cases
The new cases are the result of 1,929 tests taken between July 9-26. Those who are infected range in age from 2 to 101 years. The county also reported two new hospitalizations Monday.
Over the weekend, Allegheny County reported 146 new cases Saturday and 133 new cases Sunday. One death was also reported over the weekend, that of a 93-year-old. The person died July 17.
8:49 a.m. - July has been really hot
Daily high temperatures in the Pittsburgh region have not dipped below 80 degrees once this month. According to historical National Weather Service data, it’s the first July that’s happened since 1955.
But National Weather Service meteorologist Pat Herald says, while it’s been a hot summer, consistently high temperatures this month don’t necessarily mean local temperatures are up across the board.
“You know, for example, we had a cold spring here. Very cold April and May,” Herald said. “So, you know, these things, they are cyclical for the most part.”
Highs in western Pennsylvania are expected to be in the 90s Monday.
7:51 a.m. - Police reviewing footage after officer shoves protester
Video shows a Pittsburgh police officer shoving a protester with a baton during this weekend's "Civil Saturdays" peaceful protest, which took place on the South Side and Uptown. Pittsburgh Public Safety tweeted that "a small group [of protesters] is refusing to move and allow vehicles," off the Birmingham Bridge. WPXI reports Pittsburgh police issued this statment:
“Police are aware of the video and incident. As with all protests, City and Public Safety officials will review actions taken by officers, to include the review of footage from all body worn cameras, city cameras and other video. Pittsburgh Police have and will continue to respect protesters’ First Amendment rights. If any actions by any officers are determined to be inappropriate, the matter will immediately be turned over to the Office of Municipal Investigations for further review.”