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WESA Daily Briefing: August 25, 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.



5:41 p.m. – Ballet announces changes to performance schedule

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre announced today it has canceled in-person performances -- including of "The Nutcracker" -- at the Benedum Center for 2020. The PBT said such shows were not possible during the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, PBT will host a series of outdoor shows on a mobile stage. Some shows will be accessible only to subscribers and other ticketholders. PBT said “The Nutcracker” will be reimagined as an at-home experience, with details to come.

5:11 p.m. – New building will serve Pittsburgh homeless population

Civic and community leaders Tuesday announced plans for a new downtown Pittsburgh building to serve the region’s homeless population.

The proposed 45,000 sq. ft. facility on First Avenue is the product of a public-private partnership and will serve as a low-barrier shelter and provider of comprehensive services, says Act ion Housing’s Linda Metropulous

"This response is designed to help those without a safe and stable home to find immediate care and build longer-term solutions for their lives, starting with housing and medical care."

The building will provide short-term and transitional housing, as well as medical and addiction treatment services, according to Highmark Health Executive Vice President Dan Onorato.

“Your health care should not depend on what your circumstances in life happens to be at a particular moment,” Onorato said.

The facility will be built on land donated by the City and the Urban Redevelopment Authority with financial support from PNC, Highmark and UPMC. The facility is slated to open in early 2022.

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
A person experiencing housing instability sleeps in a tent near the Allegheny River.

4:38 p.m. - Pittsburgh Police looking for information on shooting of infant

Officials are asking for anyone with information about a fatal shooting in Spring Hill Monday to contact Pittsburgh Police. Investigators say 1-year-old Zykier Young was hit by a stray bullet during a shootout. He later died at the hospital. Major Crimes Commander Victor Joseph says multiple 911 calls came in to report the shooting.

"There were numerous witnesses out there yesterday evening and we need their help."]

Authorities say there have been 10 shootings in Pittsburgh over the last seven days. Five were fatal. Anyone with information connected to those shootings are also asked to contact police.

4:30 p.m. - Energy Transfer sues DEP over Mariner East shutdown

The builder of a controversial natural gas liquids pipeline is suing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection after the regulator shut down construction at a troubled Chester County site.

Energy Transfer—parent company of Sunoco Logistics—says suspension of drilling for the Mariner East line will endanger the public and the environment.

The first attempt to drill at the Shoen Road site in West Whiteland Township, Chester County.. ruined well water for more than a dozen nearby--residents.

The second attempt led to further environmental damage in an area that requires drilling through porous limestone. Three years after the initial drilling began, the third attempt to finish the job this month released groundwater.

The DEP issued a violation and shut down the site again. But the company says leaving the job unfinished now will cause the borehole to collapse and create greater environmental harm and “substantial” economic loss.

Sunoco wants the court to overturn DEP’s decision and allow the company to continue drilling that section of the 350-mile long, cross-state pipeline. 

Credit Jon Hurdle / StateImpact Pennsylvania
StateImpact Pennsylvania

3:48 p.m. - 2 alligators stolen from enclosure at pet store, police say

State police are searching for a pair of alligators stolen earlier this month from a pet store in western Pennsylvania.

Police in Indiana County say the alligators — a 6-foot-long female and a 4-foot-long male — were taken from an outdoor enclosure at Pearce's Pet Place in White Township.

The owner reported that the theft occurred between 10 p.m. Aug. 8 and noon on Aug. 9.

Police say the animals weren't for sale, but the female alligator is valued at $1,500 while the male was valued at $500.

Pearce’s Pet Place is described as a family-owned business that sells reptiles, small mammals, birds, fish, insects and pet supplies.

Anyone with information is asked to call state police.

3:39 p.m. - Gov. Tom Wolf outlines how he’d like to spend more than $1 billion in leftover funding from the federal CARES Act

Pennsylvania has received approval to give its unemployed workers an extra $300 per week in benefits, following an executive order signed by President Trump.

Wolf's laundry list of priorities includes things like hazard pay for frontline workers, helping low-income families keep the lights on, and temporarily chucking the commonwealth's alcohol tax to help restaurants and bars buy booze at cost.

The governor says the ball is now in the legislature's court, which is slated to start its fall session next week.

"Repairing the damage of this pandemic is not going to be easy. The legislature can act right now to get us back on track as fast and as quickly as we possibly can,” Wolf said. “But we gotta do it now."

The focus appears to be determining how to spend what's left of the one-point-three billion dollars in federal CARES Act money.

But hoping to bolster that funding, the governor also wants the GOP-controlled legislature to approve recreational marijuana.

But, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff of Centre County calls Wolf's approach "disingenuous."

12:26 p.m. – PA reports 561 new COVID-19 cases

The new cases bring the statewide total to 130,035 cases. Over the last seven days, 157,763 tests have been administered across Pennsylvania.

The state Department of Health also reported 26 new deaths, bringing the total to 7,605.    

Allegheny County COVID numbers, which are typically reported around 11 a.m. each day, have been delayed due to "issues with the state's data sets," according to the county. 

9:34 a.m. - Protester shot in Bedford County

A man who was marching with a group of protesters from Milwaukee to Washington D.C. was shot in Schellsburg, Pa. last night, according to leaders of the protest.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that a resident of the borough in Bedford County opened fire on the group from his porch.  The wounded protester was taken to a hospital in Johnstown.  State police in Bedford have confirmed to WJAC in Johnstown that an argument between a group of people and a resident of Schellsburg ended in gunfire last night.   

7:29 a.m. - Less than 1 percent of Pitt students test positive for COVID  

Less than 1 percent of the University of Pittsburgh students who were randomly tested have tested positive for COVID-19.

Officials say students are following safety rules, though several fraternities and sororities and a few individuals have been disciplined for throwing large off-campus parties.

John Williams, the director of the university’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office, says they haven’t identified a pattern of where and when students have been infected.

“A small minority of students can really mess it up for everyone else,” he said. “And there’s a lag of one to two weeks between people becoming exposed and infected and then when you start seeing the illnesses appear.”

The university tested about 10 percent of on and off campus students. Classes will remain online until at least Sept. 14.