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WESA Daily Briefing: August 7, 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.



12:22 p.m. - Statewide, cases increase by 758

The Pennsylvania Department of Health said the total of cases in all 67 counties is now 117,279.

So far, there have been 7,297 total deaths related to the novel coronavirus. Philadelphia saw an increase of 111 cases.

11:35 a.m. - Workers with jobs worry about losing $600 in pandemic-related benefits

Unemployed Americans stopped getting $600 in weekly pandemic-related benefits last week and Congress is still negotiating a new aid package.

Bloomfield resident Abbey Rideout worked two jobs as a barista until she was laid off in March. Rideout says she and her partner, who’s also unemployed, won’t make it long without the extra federal money. She’s reluctant to find new work and risk contracting the coronavirus. She says she can’t afford health insurance.

“My big worry is that, if I do go back to work and I do happen to get sick - because any job that I would be a reasonable applicant for, I would be working with the public most likely - I would not only lose my job for getting sick and having to call out of a job I just started, but also my biggest fear is that that if I do get sick that it will bankrupt me,” Rideout said.

In Washington, Democrats want to extend the $600 payments through the end of the year. But Republicans say the money will discourage people from returning to work. Pennsylvania’s June unemployment rate was 13 percent.

Read more here.

11:05 a.m. - Allegheny County reports 97 new cases of COVID-19, six deaths

The new cases have a median age of 33 and came from 1,897 test results. The Allegheny County Health Department says eight additional people have been hospitalized. Of the six deaths, five were in their 80s and one was in their 90s. 

10:55 a.m. - Pitt students with athletic scholarships can keep them even if they don't play

The University of Pittsburgh will allow all student athletes to keep their scholarships if they choose not to play this Fall due to COVID-19 concerns.  The school made the announcement yesterday after the Atlantic Coast Conference released its revised football schedule for the 2020 season.  Pitt is currently scheduled to play its first game against Miami of Ohio on September 12th at Heinz Field.

7:59 a.m. - Drive-up food distribution tomorrow in Beaver Falls

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is holding a drive-up distribution tomorrow in Beaver Falls.  The event runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Brady's Run Park Recreation Facility.  Reservations are required.  Each vehicle will receive only one food share - about 50 pounds of pre-packaged food.  

7:30 a.m. - Wolf administration recommends halting high school sports through the fall

The future of youth sports is in question for the fall after Gov. Tom Wolf recommended all Pre-K through 12 sports be postponed until January 2021. The administration said the risk of spreading COVID-19 due to large gatherings has been consistently advised against.

Gov. Wolf first announced the guidance in a response to a question at a press conference Thursday. The administration later clarified their position in a press release. While the recommendation is not a mandate, it’s not clear if the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association will go against it. The final decision may be left to individual districts.

“As with deciding whether students should return to in-person classes, remote learning or a blend of the two this fall, school administrators and locally elected school boards should make decisions on sports,” The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Department of Education said in a joint statement.

The PIAA announced last week that fall sports would go on with a number of COVID-19 safety protocols. The association said in a statement Thursday that its Board of Directors would meet Friday to review the new guidance.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Public Schools will consider the postponement. In a written statement released last night, Superintendent Anthony Hamlin says the district is exploring the possibility of an alternative schedule "if and when students return for an in-school blended model" of instruction.  The postponement also applies to marching bands and band camps.  The board is expected to vote on the proposal at a meeting on August 26th.

5:22 a.m. - Penn State employees say the school isn't ready for a return to campus

A newly formed group called the Coalition for a Just University at Penn State hosted an online rally Wednesday, questioning the university’s plans for an in-person fall semester in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group wants the university to provide COVID-19 testing to all faculty, students and staff, publicly say staff can work remotely and give faculty control over whether they teach in-person. They're also calling for a guarantee that all full-time faculty and staff will keep their jobs and benefits in 2020-21.

Associate professor Sarah Townsend, who led the meeting, said she is concerned that if a student tests positive, in-person instructors and classmates will not be notified.

A university spokesman said when physical distancing is maintained, faculty and students are not considered close contacts. He said if a student gives permission to share that they have tested postive for COVID-19, the university will do that.

Read more from our partners, WPSU.

WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.