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WESA Daily Briefing: August 12, 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.



5:37 p.m. - Penn State forces students to sign liability agreement for fall semester

Pennsylvania State University, the behemoth public research university with enrollment nearing 100,000, is forcing students to sign a liability agreement and assume all risk of COVID-19 prior to returning to campus for the fall semester.

“I assume any and all risk of exposure to COVID-19 that may result from attending Penn State, or participating in Penn State activities,” the compact says, “and I acknowledge that exposure or infection may result in personal injury, illness, permanent disability, or death.”

Some students and faculty have started speaking out against Penn State’s plans, saying the university’s decision to bring students back to campus — and hold half of all classes with at least some in-person instruction — both disregards the well-being of the Penn State community and threatens the sparse health-care resources available to local residents.

Read more here.

5:18 p.m. - Duquesne University holds press conference in response to Dannielle Brown's hunger strike

As Dannielle Brown entered day 40 of her hunger strike, attorneys for Duquesne said that they have been in cooperation with her investigation and they will turn over the files she has requested as soon as her attorney completes their part of the paperwork.

Brown has been on strike to get answers for what happened to her son, Marquis Jaylen Brown, who died when he was a student at Duquesne University after he fell out of his dorm window. During a press conference, Jason Hazelwood, who represents the school, said she is now demanding money.

“Ms. Brown has now communicated that she is making a substantial monetary demand of the university,” Hazelwood said. “No such payment is warranted.”

But Brown says that is not true.

“There has been no request for money, they've offered money, but the money was insulting. So I turned their money and offer down,” Brown said.

Brown says they offered what "a household would make in a year", and her "son's life is so much more valuable."

3:25 p.m. - City panel approves temporary storage for Columbus statue in Philly

A Philadelphia arts panel has cleared the way for the city to remove a 144-year-old statue of Christopher Columbus from a south Philadelphia park after the explorer became a focus of protesters amid nationwide demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota.

The Philadelphia Art Commission voted 8-0 Wednesday with one member abstaining to place the now-boarded-up statue at Marconi Plaza in temporary storage and requiring a report every six months on efforts to find it a permanent home. City crews earlier built a wooden box around the statue following clashes between protesters and residents.

2:49 p.m. – State health department: Beware of contact tracing scams

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is warning people to be wary of scammers posing as contact tracers. Contract tracers notify people that they have been exposed to the coronavirus.

A contact tracer will ask someone to verify their data of birth and address. But they will never ask for money, a social security number, security passwords, or banking information. The department also says that contact tracers will never share personal information with any law enforcement agency.

12:46 p.m. – Latest COVID numbers

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 70 new cases Wednesday, the result of 1,775 tests taken Aug. 3-11. Those infected range in age from 6 to 96 years old. The county also reported 13 new deaths, which occurred July 25 – Aug. 11. Of those who died, two were in their 60s, three in their 70s, six in their 80s and two in their 90s.

Statewide, the number of positive COVID-19 cases increased by 849, bringing the total to 121,130. The state Department of Health also reported 33 new deaths.  

9:33 a.m. - Port Authority employees will not face disciplinary hearings for 'Black Lives Matter' masks

Two Port Authority employees will not face disciplinary hearings for wearing face masks bearing the message "Black Lives Matter."  The Authority suspended the driver-training supervisors last week, citing dress code policy, but reversed its decision because the policy applied only to drivers, not union supervisors.  The Authority has updated its dress code to include supervisors. 

7:35 a.m. - PSO cancels rest of 2020 concerts*

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has canceled previously-announced concerts through the rest of 2020.  The PSO is planning to host a free 'digital series' of concerts and will honor current subscriptions during the 2021 season.  The orchestra says it hopes to resume performances for in-person audiences at Heinz Hall in January.

*A previous version of this entry stated that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra canceled the remainder of its 2020 season. However, the PSO has canceled its previously-announced concerts through 2020, but hopes to resume performances in person in 2021.