June 29-July 3 Explained: A COVID-19 Surge, A Civil Rights Suit & A Message To Everyone

Jul 3, 2020


Allegheny County has reported record high numbers of new COVID-19 cases over the past week. On Thursday, the region broke 200 for the first time. The people infected are skewing younger and public health officials say many of them spent time in bars and restaurants or traveled out of state.

“Cases reported visiting over 40 different bars, restaurants and nightclubs. About 15 places were identified more than once by cases,” said Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen on Wednesday. “And many reported that neither patrons, nor employees wore masks or were practicing physical distancing.”

On Thursday, the county officials ordered all bars, restaurants and casinos to close for one week starting Friday at midnight. They also banned gatherings of more than 25 people, and are asking people to stay home as much as possible.

Meanwhile, protests against systemic racism continued in the Pittsburgh region this week. Large gatherings with a generic “Black lives matter” message are giving way to smaller, more focused demonstrations. For example, on Tuesday, a couple dozen people rallied to seek justice for Marcus White, Jr. a 15-month old toddler killed by gunfire at an East Hills cookout in 2013. 

 

 

 

White’s family said it’s unacceptable that it’s taken local officials 7 years to make an arrest, and they’ve filed a federal complaint asking that the case be turned over to state prosecutors.

The city of Pittsburgh as well as the mayor and public safety officials are being sued by a group of protestors who say their civil rights were violated after a June 1st demonstration in East Liberty. The complaint alleges that police “escalat[ed] a peaceful protest into a scene of pandemonium, panic, violence and bloodshed.”

“I do believe that integrity is one of the words on the side of the police car and their actions that day showed me a lot of them had none,” said plaintiff Nichole Rulli. “Their actions  after, denying what they did to us, showed me that there’s not a lot of honesty and integrity there either.”

The police response to the protest is currently being reviewed by the city’s office of municipal investigations as well as the Citizens Police Review Board.

 

Angelo LaFortune sits in a park near in his home in June 2020.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Also on today’s episode: a conversation with Angelo LaFortune, a recent graduate of Brashear High School. Host Liz Reid first met Angelo when he was an 8th grader at Pittsburgh Sunnyside PreK-8.

Angelo came to the United States from his native Haiti when he was six years old, to get treatment for a brain tumor at the Cleveland Clinic. After he was discharged, he and his mom traveled from Haiti every six months for checkups, and stayed with his aunt who lived in Pittsburgh. In 2010, they moved here permanently, and in 2018, Angelo became a U.S. citizen.

"This is a message I'm sending to everybody: We need to respect each other, even though we're different colors," LaFortune said. "We're not going to gain anything from violence ... We need to talk more, rather than putting our hands on each other."

Pittsburgh Explainer is hosted by Liz Reid and produced by Katie Blackley. New episodes come out every Friday. Subscribe on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher and Spotify.