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WESA Daily Briefing: September 8, 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.



5:45 p.m. - One hundred and twenty-eight students at the University of Pittsburgh test positive for COVID-19 since August 1

Seventy eight students are currently in isolation after testing positive. Eleven faculty and staff members have tested positive during the same period. Pitt’s fall classes started remotely in August, but some classes will move to in-person beginning on Monday.

4:52 p.m. - Wolf wants state lawmakers to protect people from evictions

Gov. Tom Wolf called on the state general assembly to pass legislation protecting people from eviction and foreclosure. He said it is important people keep their housing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am committed to working with the general assembly to ensure every Pennsylavanian has housing through the pandemic, however long it exists,” Wolf said during a press conference in Lancaster. “I think we all need to work together to make sure Pennsylvanians are not evicted from their homes.”

Wolf’s plea comes after Pennsylvania’s eviction moratorium put in place during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic expired last week. Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have imposed a nationwide eviction ban, Wolf said this plan does not protect all renters and implored state legislators to act now in order to keep people in their housing during the pandemic.

4:40 p.m. - Suit seeks to toss Green candidate from presidential ballot

A Pennsylvania judge will decide whether Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins can appear on the fall ballot or whether he is disqualified because of an election paperwork issue.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday that a decision could be made in the coming days, after Commonwealth Court Judge Drew Crompton conducted a three-hour hearing on Monday.

The Green Party put up Hawkins as presidential candidate and Angela Walker as running mate last month, a replacement ticket that was announced a week after they had put forward a different slate.

The legal challenge centers on whether the candidate affidavits for the previous slate were filed in time.

The Inquirer says the state Democratic Party didn't respond when asked what role it may be playing in the legal challenge. The lawyer for the two people who are seeking to have Hawkins removed from the Nov. 3 ballot tells the paper that the Democratic Party is “aware of it.”

12:57 p.m. – Restaurants can soon increase occupancy to 50%  

Starting Sept. 21, Pennsylvania restaurants can boost occupancy to 50 percent. Restaurants have only been able to offer 25 percent occupancy to dine-in customers. A statement from Gov. Tom Wolf’s office says that restaurants must “​commit to strictly complying to all public health safety guidelines and orders through a self-certification process.”

Wolf’s move to expand dine-in service comes as Republicans were gearing up to hold hearings on restaurant limitations.

Wolf’s office says self-certification will be used in addition to ongoing enforcement efforts. Self-certification documents will also be available online starting Sept. 21, including each business’ maximum indoor occupancy based on the fire code.

12:01 p.m. – Latest COVID numbers

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 37 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, the result of 480 tests taken Sept. 1-6. Those infected range in age from 17 to 95 years. No new deaths were reported in the county.

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 496, bringing the total to 140,359. The number of deaths increased by 11, bringing the total to 7,791.  

11:30 a.m. - Why school are struggling to feed students

Six months into schools' pandemic-driven experiment in distance learning, much has been said (and debated) about whether children are learning. But the more urgent question, for the more than 30 million kids who depend on U.S. schools for free or reduced-price meals, is this:

Are they eating?

The answer, based on recent data and interviews with school nutrition leaders and anti-hunger advocates across the country, is alarming.

Read more from NPR's Corey Turner

9:39 a.m. - Pence returning to PA tomorrow

Vice President Mike Pence is returning to western Pennsylvania this week. Pence is expected to highlight the Trump administration's support of fossil-fuel development during a campaign stop tomorrow at a natural-gas well in Beaver County.  Pence is also planning to attend a discussion in Murrsyville hosted by opponents of access to abortion.  The Wednesday event is sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony List and is part of the group's "Life Wins" tour.   

7:22 a.m. - Allegheny Co. will have enough poll workers for November election

Allegheny County will have enough poll workers for the general election this November. The County Elections division reported more than 6,500 people have committed to working the polls Nov. 3, and more volunteers are applying daily. Officials across the country have been worried about having enough people to staff the election during the pandemic. Poll workers have historically been older and are more vulnerable to the coronavirus.


The County also reported that nearly 25 percent of registered voters plan to vote by mail instead of in person. The Elections division reports that more than 200,000 people have already requested ballots, and thousands more applications are being processed. The county began sending out mail ballot applications to every registered voter in late August. 


The elections division can start mailing official ballots as early as mid-September. Officials recommend that voters fill out and return ballots as soon as they can. You can find more information about voting by mail and registering to vote at votespa.com.