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WESA Daily Briefing: September 18, 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.



2:48 p.m. — PIAA wants Wolf to allow more fans at sporting events

High school football kicks off tonight in many communities.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association doesn’t plan on standing in the way if any school allows more than 250 spectators at sporting events, now that a federal judge has struck down Governor Tom Wolf’s pandemic restrictions.

Melissa Nash Mertz, PIAA’s associate executive director,  says spectators can still be safe and social distance beyond the state limits of 25 people at indoor events and 250 at outdoor gatherings.

She says having fans in attendance is integral to school athletics: “That’s what goes with the interscholastic experience. It’s not just playing, but it’s that atmosphere. You know, kids want to compete in front of fans. They want their parents to see them. And parents want to see them.”

The PIAA is recommending players bring their own water bottles, keep mouth guards in for the whole game and avoid shaking hands.

They’re asking the governor to allow spectators at sporting events up to 25 percent capacity.

11:14 a.m. - Allegheny County reports 68 new COVID-19 cases

Health officials say the new cases were out of 833 tests. The median age of new cases is 33 years old. There were four new deaths reported: one person in their 60s, one in their 70s and two in their 80s. Two deaths were associated with a long-term care facility. 

Statewide, health officials reported 760 new positive cases, bringing Pennsylvania's total to 148,683.

10:05 a.m. - Pa. sees big drop in jobless rate in August

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate took a steep drop in August, as the labor force shrank and payrolls shot up again in a continuing rebound from shutdowns and the worst economic effects of the pandemic, according to state figures released Friday.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 10.3% in August, down 2.2 percentage points from July's adjusted rate of 12.5%, the state Department of Labor and Industry said.

It had initially estimated July's rate at 13.7%, among the highest in the nation, but still below the state’s pandemic-driven unemployment high of 16.1% in April, the highest rate in more than four decades of record-keeping.

It still badly lags the national rate, which was 8.4% in August.

Payrolls had another big rebound in August, gaining back almost 60,000 of the more than 1.1 million jobs lost since mid-March, when the pandemic hit Pennsylvania. With payrolls at nearly 5.6 million, Pennsylvania has regained slightly more than half the jobs lost in the last six months, according to state figures.

In a survey of households, the labor force shrank by 59,000 in August, receding to 6.3 million, well below the record high in February at close to 6.6 million. Unemployment fell by 144,000 while employment grew by 86,000.

8:43 a.m. - More than 70 percent of Pennsylvanians support state's entry into Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

That's according to a new survey from Climate Nexus and Yale and George Mason universities.  RGGI is a cap-and-trade program that requires power plants in participating states to buy carbon credits at auction.  Earlier this week Pennsylvania officials approved a draft rule that moved the state one step closer to joining the Initiative. Opponents say RGGI would further weaken the state's coal industry.

6:49 a.m. - Three food distributions to take place this weekend

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is holding drive-up distributions from noon to 2PM today in Aliquippa, and from 10 a.m. until noon tomorrow in McKeesport.  And 412 Food Rescue and the Steelers are holding a distribution 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow on the North Side.

A limited number of first-come, first-serve food shares will be available.  More information is available here.

6:15 a.m. - Art Commission hears comments about Columbus statue

Pittsburgh’s Art Commission Thursday heard its final public comments on whether to remove the Christopher Columbus statue in Schenley Park.

Nearly 30 commenters spoke—that brings the total comments the city has received on the issue to more than 4,400. Nearly 70-percent favored removing or replacing the statue.

The art commission will vote on the statue’s fate during a meeting on Wednesday.

6:00 a.m. - Dramatic diorama raises ethical issues for Carnegie Museum of Natural History

A Pittsburgh museum is keeping a dramatic diorama that’s been on display for more than a century out of public view while it considers ethical issues about its accuracy and appropriateness. For now, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History has covered up the popular “Lion Attacking a Dromedary” diorama.

The Tribune Review reports the museum’s interim director says the scene has disturbed some because it depicts violence against a man described as an Arab courier. The subject’s costume has been determined to be “derived from” at least five separate North African cultures. Also, recent X-rays showed that the taxidermy was performed with real human bones, which also raises ethical issues.


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