LIVE BLOG: Coronavirus In Pittsburgh, March 16-22

Mar 16, 2020

News on the coronavirus pandemic, including the responses of local governments, health departments, hospital systems, schools and other institutions. For information from the previous week, click here

Editor's note: This post will be frequently updated with the latest news.

 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

6:14 p.m. - Allegheny County court operations have been scaled back further amid COVID-19.

 Most proceedings, including evictions and foreclosures, were put on hold last week, when county president judge Kim Clark declared a judicial emergency. But in an order Sunday, Clark put more restrictions on when emergency motions may be heard. There are also new limits on when judges may consider temporary protection from abuse petitions. Emergency protection from abuse petitions, however, will continue to be heard round the clock. All protection from abuse matters will be handled at the Pittsburgh Municipal Court Building downtown.

4:25 p.m. - Pitt confirms case of COIVD-19 on campus

The University of Pittsburgh said in a release Sunday that a case had been confirmed on campus. The school had previous switched to all online classes and said it is moving students who remain on campuses to places where they will have private rooms with individual bathrooms.

2:21 p.m. - Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says a shelter-in-place order is under consideration

Levine says there is “no new information to share at this time,” but said people would still be able to go to grocery stores and pharmacies. The secretary would not rule out the possibility that such an order could change which businesses are allowed to be open.

 

On Thursday, the Wolf administration ordered that all non-life-sustaining businesses be temporarily shut down. Enforcement of the order was delayed until Monday at 8 a.m. due to the number of waiver requests the state Department of Community and Economic Development received. Secretary Dennis Davin says the department had reviewed about half of the approximately 10,000 waiver requests and plans to begin sending out approvals today.

12:29 p.m. - Health systems announce partnership to make more protective masks

Allegheny Health Network and Highmark Health announced a partnership with the national company MSA Safety to donate 65,000 N95 protective masks for hospitals and health care facilities in the Pittsburgh area.

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

 

The masks are expected to be shared with facilities outside of AHN, according to a company spokesperson. He said distribution will be determined by a consortium of chief medical officers at various hospitals throughout the region.

 

“Everyone's mindful that there's a limited supply of [personal protective equipment] across the country,” said spokesman Dan Laurent. “We have the equipment we currently need but we anticipate that demand will increase in the days and weeks ahead.”

11:04 a.m. - Allegheny County confirms 40 cases

The Allegheny County Health Department says there are now 40 positive cases of COVID-19 in the county, with four people currently hospitalized.  The department says it is also aware of "a number of additional cases that have not yet been updated in the system." Officials expect the number of COVID-19 cases in the county to continue to grow. On Saturday, the first Allegheny County resident died of complications related to the infection.

9:47 a.m. - ICYMI: An eaglet has arrived at the Hays bald eagle nest

The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania put out some non-COVID-19-related news that an eaglet had hatched on Saturday morning at 7:40 a.m. 

The group will host a live chat this morning at 10 a.m. about the bald eagle family.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

8:08 p.m. St. Clair Hospital closes to visitors

St. Clair Hospital in Mt. Lebanon will be closed to visitors beginning Sunday, March 22, to protect the health of patients and staff. According to a press release, rare exceptions will be made if a patient’s medical team approves a visitation request. Visitors who are granted visitation will be screened for coronavirus symptoms, such as cough, fever or contact with someone who has COVID-19.

5:16 p.m. County officials warn of coronavirus 'community spread,' seek donations of medical equipment

Allegheny County officials confirmed the death of the county's first coronavirus victim at an afternoon press conference -- and worried that the county is seeing "community spread," in which the virus spreads easily within the region. Health Department Director Debra Bogen said the number of positive cases would continue to rise, but urged residents to continue "social distancing" measures whose benefits would become increasingly clear as time goes on. Asked whether officials would challenge UPMC's decision to continue performing elective medical procedures in the meantime, Bogen said, “We ask that UPMC – like all the other health care providers in our communities ... please wind down elective procedures as soon as possible.”

Allegheny County Rich Fitzgerald said that the county was ramping up efforts to collect donations of masks and other equipment to help fight the disease. He said that while the county was ready to accept delivery of the material just yet, those interested in donating should contact the county at covid19donations@alleghenycounty.us,

1:03 p.m. -- State reports another 103 cases of coronavirus, Health Secretary says "shelter in place" order under consideration

Pennsylvania Health Department Secretary Rachel Levine announced Saturday that there are 103 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 371 Pennsylvanians in 28 counties who have COVID-19. Levine said that the number of cases is increasing at an exponential rate.

“We are seeing a spike in cases because more people are infected,” Levine said. “We are doubling the number of cases every two or more days. [The increase in positive cases] is not because of increased testing,” but because the virus is spreading quickly.

Levine said that roughly 10 percent of COVID-19 cases have required hospitalization so far. Most of the cases in Pennsylvania are middle-aged adults, followed by elderly people and young adults.

This week, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all non-essential businesses to close in order to slow the spread of coronavirus. Asked whether state officials are considering a shelter in place order – which could require residents to remain at home and leave only for essential travel -- Levine said discussions are ongoing but “those decisions have not been made [as] of yet.”

Levine advised anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 -- which include cough and fever, and occasionally gastrointestinal problems -- to contact their doctor. She noted that for minor cases, guidance will be to stay home, to avoid spreading the highly contagious virus.

“Each day we tell you how important it is to stay calm, to stay home, and to stay safe,” Levine said. “This is more than just a catchy phrase, this virus is deadly. We need to practice social distancing to minimize its spread and its impact.”

Experts say the public will be able to see the effects of the social-distancing measures that have been put in place in several weeks.

12:01 p.m. -- ACLU urges state Health officials to provide guidance on prison policies

The ACLU of Pennsylvania asked the Department of Health to issue guidance for how jails and prisons should respond to the coronavirus pandemic on Friday.

The letter urged Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine to take immediate action, noting that public health experts have warned prisons and jails “pose a severe threat to public safety.”

“As individuals in jail have no ability to practice social distancing and limited ability to ensure proper hygiene, preventing infection spread once the virus is inside a correctional facility is virtually impossible,” the letter said.
 

Civil libertarians have been calling for stepped-up action, both on the state and the county level, on protecting those behind bars.

11:13 a.m.-- Allegheny County reports 1st coronavirus-related death

Allegheny County is reporting its first confirmed death due to the coronavirus. In an 11 a.m. statement, the Health Department said the person who died was “an adult who had been hospitalized,” but did not provide other details to respect the family’s privacy. The Department said it would be holding a media briefing later in the day Saturday. The death appears to be the second coronavirus-related fatality in the state, after a death earlier this week in Northampton County. 

The Department also reported 31 positive test results for the virus, up from 28 the day before, but said additional results were likely to come in the rest of the day. Five of those who have tested positive are being hospitalized.

7:24 a.m. -- Covid-19 testing to begin Monday outside Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

The Central Outreach Wellness Center will begin drive-through testing for Covid-19 at the Pittsburgh zoo's main parking lot on Monday. The lot is located at 7370 Baker Street, Pittsburgh PA 15206: Testing will be available between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. While you do not need a referral to be tested, Central Wellness asks that you not come for testing unless you have symptoms of the virus -- dry cough, fever, shortness of breath -- so that you don't risk infection. The Center also asks that you bring a photo ID and insurance card, but says it will not turn people away for lack of insurance. 

For more information, call 412-515-0000.

 

Edit | Remove

 

Friday, March 20, 2020

10:12 p.m. -- Wolf delays enforcement of his order closing all "non-life-sustainng businesses" until after the weekend

Gov. Tom Wolf has delayed enforcement of his order requiring that the physical offices of any "non-life-sustaining" businesses be closed. The order, issued on Thursday, was an attempt to put teeth in Wolf's earlier request that such businesses be closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It threatened non-compliant businesses with fines and the loss of licenses and state aid. Enforcement was to begin Saturday, but in the face of objections from businesses and state Republicans, Wolf has now delayed enforcement until after the weekend. A Friday-evening advisory asserted that the order itself remained: "Only the enforcement timing will change and becone effective on Monday, March 23, at 8 a.m."

Officials cite a large number of waiver requests as a reason for the delay.  But the order had caught many by surprise, including businesses and public safety officials.

6:29 p.m. - Frontline health workers question UPMC’s decision to continue elective surgeries

Despite directives from state and county health officials, elective surgeries are still being performed at UPMC facilities. 

Medical professionals employed by UPMC, speaking to WESA on condition of anonymity, said this decision may have dire consequences in light of COVID-19’s exponential spread.

While less time sensitive, elective surgeries are often medically necessary; examples include kidney stone removal, hernia repair and shoulder arthroscopy.

Allegheny Health Network, the other major medical system in western Pennsylvania, said it’s working to eliminate procedures that are not “medically urgent.”

5:42 p.m. - U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb on makeshift hospitals, federal leadership

The Democrat said using the Defense Production Act could help increase the amount of medical materials available for emergency responders. Lamb there are already talks among Allegheny County officials about creating makeshift hospitals in the region.

“The need is absolutely here,” said Lamb. “I think when it comes to space, we've got a lot of good resources.”

4:53 p.m. - County councilors set to propose emergency jail-release ordinance

Two Democratic Allegheny County Councilors say they'll introduce emergency legislation next week to cut the number of inmates in the county jail

The Allegheny County Jail.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

“We think that it’s necessary to take action now, not to wait a moment longer, and to ensure that we prevent [crises] in our jails,” Councilor Bethany Hallam said on a call with reporters Friday. 

There were 2,238 people housed at the jail Friday, according to county data.

4:38 p.m. - CMU has first confirmed case of COVID-19

The university wrote to members of its Pittsburgh campus that a member of the academic community has tested positive for the coronavirus. The student is in self-isolation, the statement said, and officials are monitoring who the student interacted with when they returned to campus after spring break. 

"The case of coronavirus in our campus community is a sobering reality, and it is a reminder that every group is potentially vulnerable to the spread of the virus," the statement read. 

3:58 p.m.  Pittsburgh Public Safety officials are taking extra precautions

City police are only responding in-person to violent calls and injuries, while other crimes are handled by a telephone reporting unit. Ambulance ride-alongs for family members are restricted unless the patient is a minor, and animal control is not responding to nuisance calls. Officials say workers are equipped with extra hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes.

 

2:28 p.m. — PPS confirms Langley staff member tested positive for COVID-19

Pittsburgh Public Schools says a staff member of Pittsburgh Langley K-8 tested positive for COVID-19. The district halted Grab and Go meals at the school Wednesday upon learning that the staff member was exposed to a presumptive case. The district sent out a letter to district families and staff reading:

"Today, the District was notified that a Pittsburgh Langley staff member tested positive for COVID-19. While the staff member is assigned to Pittsburgh Langley, out of abundance of caution we are communicating this information to all District staff and families ... We know that many of you may have questions and want additional details. However, to protect the confidentiality of this individual, this is all of the information we have to share at this time."

2:00 p.m. — Animal shelters deal with COVID-19 restrictions

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture released protective guidelines for workers and volunteers at animal shelters, kennels, and rescues. Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding noted the need for animal facilities to remain open, especially to care for animals of health care workers and other essential employees. Though shelter and other animal care facilities are encouraged to remain open, they are not mandated to, and may make decisions according to their business needs. The guidance includes recommendations for employees, volunteers, facility management, and “how to intake animals being received from COVID-19-positive homes.” Additional guidelines were released for pet owners. According to the CDC, COVID-19 cannot be passed between dogs and cats to humans.

1:00 p.m. — Allegheny County updates count to 28 positive cases

The change brings the county's numbers in alignment with the state's.

12:01 p.m. — Pennsylvania has 268 positive cases of COVID-19

The new numbers released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health show an additional 83 positive cases since yesterday's announcement. According to the state, 2,574 patients have tested negative. The state says there are three positive cases in Beaver County, three in Washington County, and two in Westmoreland. According to the state, there are 28 positive cases in Allegheny County, which conflicts with the county's morning statement that there are 27 positive cases. 

11:15 a.m. — Allegheny County up to 27 positive cases of COVID-19

According to the Allegheny County Health Department, five of those individuals are hospitalized; the rest are self-isolating at home. The department is conducting contract-tracing on all those individuals. The county announced its first two positive cases this past Saturday, March 14.

10:45 a.m. — Wolf's business closure order draws questions, complaints

Credit Matt Rourke / AP

Business groups are greeting a broad shutdown order from Pennsylvania's governor with questions, objections and outrage. With enforcement expected to soon begin, business groups warned Friday that the directive had negative implications and asked for clarification about its details. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf directed all “non-life-sustaining” businesses to close their physical locations late Thursday. Pennsylvania has reported one death and more than 180 people sickened from the coronavirus so far. Schools are shut down through March, at least, statewide student assessment tests are canceled for the year and unemployment claims are skyrocketing.

10:34 a.m. — Federal government extends tax deadline

Some good news if you haven't yet filed your taxes. NPR reports the federal government is giving a three-month extention to file, penalty free. 

9:21 a.m. — Families at 4 PPS schools may have had indirect exposure to COVID-19

Pittsburgh Public Schools says families and staff at Brashear High School, Carrick High School, Pittsburgh Oliver Citywide Academy and Pittsburgh South Hills may have had indirect exposure to COVID-19 prior to the closure of schools.  The district added:

"The potential indirect exposure occurred while the students were completing their vocational education program off-site at a community organization. In addition, a staff member assigned to Pittsburgh Oliver Citywide Academy had contact with the students before the closure of schools. As a result, the Grab and Go site located at Pittsburgh Oliver Citywide Academy will discontinue. Today was the last day for the site. Pittsburgh Brashear and Pittsburgh South Hills are currently scheduled for deep cleaning. Pittsburgh Carrick has already been deep cleaned since the exposure."

8:04 a.m. — Feeling sick? Try the CDC's new coronavirus self-checker

The online questionnaire will take you through a handful of questions to determine if you need medical care or should start self-isolating. Click on the orange “Self-Checker” in the bottom right corner of the CDC’s website.

7:48 a.m.  PHOTOS: life and work amid the outbreak

Credit PARKER MILES BLOHM / KNKX PUBLIC RADIO

NPR has this compelling photo essay about how people in multiple cities are dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

7:12 a.m. — CMU closing libraries, moving research off-campus

Carnegie Mellon University is closing its libraries tonight at 6 p.m. and will begin moving all of its research to off-campus sites.  President Farnam Jahanian says the order applies to all CMU locations and that moving the research projects will begin no later than next Wednesday.  Specific projects that can't be relocated will be suspended and replaced with off-campus work, with exceptions for staff who oversee living organisms and perishable specimens, and maintain systems that allow remote operation.

7:00 a.m. — Allegheny County Jail starting to release some non-violent offenders

The Allegheny County Jail has begun releasing inmates in an effort to slow the outbreak of the coronavirus. 189 inmates have been identified for release so far, according to County officials, with priority given to non-violent offenders.  Staff from the district attorney's office, probation office, and public defenders are reviewing cases.

 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

9:42 p.m. - Pittsburgh Mayor quarantines

Mayor Bill Peduto says at least two people contracted COVID-19 at a conference he was at last week, so he's self-quarantining at home for 14 days.

8:27 p.m. - Stay entertained while social distancing

If you're self-isolating, there are many virtual offerings in the region to help you stay entertained. Pittsburgh parks remain open with plenty of trails to roam and many gyms are offering online workout classes; local yoga studios are offering virtual classes; museums and other institutions have virtual tours available; and area performers are live-streaming their shows online. 

Nonprofits have created funds for artists who have lost gigs due to the virus spread, which people can donate to online. 

5:17 p.m. - Non-life-sustaining businesses ordered to close

Gov. Tom Wolf ordered those businesses to close at 8 p.m. tonight or face penalties including fines, loss of business licenses and state financial aid. Enforcement will begin Saturday. Wolf had previously urged those businesses to close, but in a statement said, "we need to take more aggressive mitigation actions" to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

A closed store in Pittsburgh's Strip District.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

“I had hoped for voluntary compliance so our public safety officials could focus on assisting with the crisis," Wolf said in a video statement. "Unfortunately we have not seen full compliance. We have no time to lose.”

Under Wolf's order, more than 150 types of businesses have been told to close their physical locations.

Wolf said his order would be enforced by state troopers, local officials, the state Health and Agriculture departments and the Liquor Control Board.

5:08 p.m. - URA approves grant program

Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority has approved a new $300,000 grant program meant to help people who have lost work due to the coronavirus pandemic. The money comes from the Housing Opportunity Fund and can be used for utilities and rent. The program is expected to also expand to include homeowners’ mortgage payments. The grants are limited to $3,000 per household.

 

4:31 p.m. - AHN suspends visitation

Allegheny Health Network is stopping most patient visitors at hospitals and outpatient clinics starting at 7 pm this evening, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The only exceptions are for labor and delivery, neonatal ICUs, pediatrics, and end of life care. 

“We understand that visitation restrictions are difficult for both our patients and their loved ones, but we hope that everyone understands the gravity of the public health crisis that we are experiencing and that they appreciate that the steps we are taking are in the best interests of everyone at this time,” said Brian Parker, MD, AHN Chief Quality and Learning Officer.

4:18 p.m. - Standardized tests canceled

The Pennsylvania Department of Education announced today that it's canceling all PSSA testing and Keystone exams for the 2019-20 school year as a result of COVID-19. A release from the department also said the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment would be suspended. PSSA testing was scheduled to begin April 20. 

Keystone testing was scheduled for May. In a statement, state education secretary Pedro Rivera said that due to current circumstances, "Assessments should not be the focus of school leaders right now."

3:36 p.m. - Community spread is happening in Pennsylvania

State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said daily counts positive coronavirus tests are increasing quickly, especially in urban areas. Levin gave an update Thursday afternoon of the number of COVID-19 cases across the commonwealth: 52 new cases, with a statewide total of 185.

1:38 p.m.  Pittsburgh to provide meals to seniors

Starting tomorrow, the city of Pittsburgh will provide alternative meals to seniors who are registered for normal congregate meal services. The meals will be pre-packaged, and will be available through current food distribution providers that are used through Allegheny County. Seniors who are registered for this program have previously identified as being in need and regularly receive these meals. The meals will only be available for take-out and served between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The centers serving are: 

  • Glen Hazel – 945 Rosselle Court, 15207 
  • Sheraden – 720 Sherwood Avenue, 15204 
  • South Side – 12th St & 1 Beford Square, 15203 
  • Lawrenceville – 4600 Butler Street, 15201 
  • Homewood – 7321 Frankstown Avenue, 15208 
  • Hazelwood – 5344 Second Avenue, 15207 

1:18 p.m.  State officials, activist butt heads over coronavirus concerns in prisons

Prison-reform advocates and the Pennsylvania corrections department are jousting over whether there’s been a case of COVID-19 at a state prison -- and what should be done to limit the spread of the disease behind bars. The department says there have been no positive cases. But an attorney from the Pennsylvania ACLU says she’s learned from corrections staff that there was a diagnosis in a southeastern Pennsylvania prison. Corrections secretary John Wetzel told WESA’s The Confluence one inmate has been tested and that results are expected tomorrow. In the meantime, the ACLU and other groups say the state should reduce the prison population as much as possible -- in part by offering more lenient policies on parole and probation

12:15 p.m. — PA corrections secretary discusses concerns of COVID-19 spread in prisons

The Wolf administration has urged the suspension of gatherings of more than 10 people to slow the transmission of the new coronavirus, but practicing social distancing isn’t so simple for the state's two dozen correctional facilities.

“I’m very concerned,” state corrections secretary John Wetzel told WESA's The Confluence. “We’re medically screening every person who comes into the facilities, and our posture has been getting that first case.”

Of Pennsylvania’s nearly 47,000 inmates, Wetzel says about 12,000 have underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus.

12:05 p.m. — Pennsylvania has 185 positive cases of COVID-19

New numbers from the Pennyslvania Department of Health show the statewide total has jumped to 185 positive cases. That's 52 more than the state recorded yesterday. A total of 1,608 people have tested negative, and one person has died. In a statement, state health secretary Dr. Rachel said, "Our notable increase in cases over the last few days and our first death in Pennsylvania indicate we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously."

11:24 a.m.  New cases of COVID-19 in Allegheny County

Officials released updated numbers Thursday, saying there are now 18 positive cases of COVID-19 in the county. Officials added they "expect that these numbers will continue to grow as more testing sites come online."

10:08 a.m. — Arts cancellations extend into late April

Some Pittsburgh-area arts groups are now cancelling events and exhibits into late April because of the coronavirus shutdown.

Pittsburgh Symphony has canceled all but one of its programs through April 30, and postponed that one, which is "Bugs Bunny at the Symphony," rescheduled for June 30-July 2.

Contemporary Craft has canceled the grand opening of its new home, in Lawrenceville, which was set for April 25, and also the inaugural exhibit featuring internationally known street artist Swoon. The April 18 Grand Opening Gala has also been cancelled, though the group is looking to reschedule the exhibition and both events.

Associated Artists of Pittsburgh has canceled the April 4 opening of its annual New Member Exhibition, a juried show at the South Side's Brew House featuring work by some two dozen artists.

Rowhouse Cinema has cancelled its Japanese Film Festival, originally set for March 30-April 2. The theater says the festival will return in 2021.

This is not a comprehensive list of cancellations; however, with government-mandated limits on the size of public gatherings, it's safe to assume that most arts events over the next couple weeks are canceled, and that others beyond that, though formally still scheduled, will be canceled or postponed.

Ticketholders for all events are advised to contact the group to explore refund possibilities.

Credit Carolyn Kaster / AP

8:41 a.m. — PA Supreme Court orders courts to shut down

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered all state courts to shut down by the close of business Thursday, with a few exceptions. Emergency bail hearings will continue, as well as protection-from-abuse hearings and emergency petitions in child custody cases. The court has suspended evictions and foreclosures. The ruling is in effect until at least April 3. 

8:36 a.m. — Meals for children available at four locations

Meals for schoolchildren in Pittsburgh are available at four new locations starting today. The Paulson and Warrington Recreation Centers, plus Salvation Army facilities in Homewood and the West End will serve hand-out meals from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. More information is available on the Pittsburgh Public Schools website.

7:54 a.m.  First person to die from coronavirus in PA was third in family to succumb to the virus

The Allentown Morning Call reports the first person to die a coronavirus-linked death in Pennsylvania was 55-year-old Carmine Fusco. His mother, Grace, and sister Rita Fusco-Jackson, who was in her 50s, had also died from the virus in New Jersey. The newspaper reports "four other family members are also ill, with several in critical condition."

7:01 a.m. — Pennsylvania's gun background system saw a 'surge in requests'

The Pennsylvania Instant Check System, which is used to determine if someone can legally acquire a license to carry a firearm or obtain a firearm for a seller, saw a “surge in requests” earlier this week, said Major Gary Dance, director of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Records and Identification.

The system completed 4,342 transactions on March 17, compared to 1,359 transactions on the corresponding Tuesday in March of last year.

 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

7:14 p.m. - Pennsylvania courts must close by the end of Thursday.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Western District said in a statement that courts are generally closed to the public through April 3. Courts are encouraged to use communication technology to conduct proceedings. Some exceptions are outlined here.

5:38 p.m. - Gov. Tom Wolf addresses the state after first COVID-19 death

Wolf began his statement by reiterating the signficance of the first death in Northampton County, saying there would inevitably be more.

"In under two weeks, more than 130 cases of COVID-19 have been identified within our borders and the spread is increasing at an exponential pace," Wolf said. "Every day that goes by that people continue to freely interaction is a day that the virus continues to unknowingly infect more and more people. Today's is just the first death of what will become many. And our only hope is to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed."

"I believe Pennsylvanians are a great people and that all of us will step up ... to get through this crisis," he said, ending the livestream from his home in York County.

4:27 p.m. - Pennsylvania has first death due to COVID-19

Statewide, there are 133 cases of COVID-19 reported from commercial, hospital and state labs. There are 1,187 patients who have tested negative.

Due to privacy rules, the health department did not release any other information.
4:12 p.m. - Shell suspends construction of Beaver County petrochemical plant

Shell said Wednesday it is suspending construction of its ethane cracker in Beaver County, where 8,000 people were working to build the massive petrochemical plant.

Shell said in a news release that the shutdown is to allow the company to “install additional mitigation measures” that align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to limit the spread of COVID-19.

3:57 p.m. - Port Authority implements social distancing policy on vehicles

The agency asks riders to keep six feet between one another and the operator. Seats at the front of the bus will be folded up, unless someone with a physical disability requires them. The agency asks that all riders continue to wash their hands, and change seats if someone nearby appears to be sick.

3:44 p.m. - Health secretary says hospitals will likely see surge of patients

Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said at a press conference this afternoon that even with current efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus through social distancing, hospitals are likely to see a surge of patients in the coming weeks and months.

 

Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen said on Sunday that 40 to 60 percent of county residents are likely to become infected with coronavirus in the next couple of months. Most cases won’t be severe, but about one-fifth of those infected could require hospitalization. According to a new analysis from ProPublica, such a rate of infection would greatly exceed the number of available hospital beds in the region. Levine says there will likely be a need for non-traditional hospital space to house patients.

 

“I don’t have specifics at this time,” Levine said. “We are considering all alternatives and are working with the hospitals and health systems themselves about their ideas of what would be best to be able to decompress hospitals.”

 

Levine said the state is looking for ways to stock up on vital medical equipment such as ventilators and protective gear for health care workers such as gloves and masks.

2:37 p.m. - Penn State cancels all in-person classes for the rest of the semester

Penn State had previously decided to suspend in-person classes and move to remote learning for at least three weeks. Now, the university says, the move is “for all classes through at least the spring semester.” 

The decision means that spring commencement ceremonies are being postponed.

In its announcement today, Penn State says more information will be coming about on-campus jobs, internships and research projects. Students will take exams remotely too.

1:02 p.m. — City moves to Level 2 Emergency Operations

The city is further restricting face-to-face interactions between residents and workers, announcing that "crews from the departments of Public Works, Mobility and Infrastructure and Permits, Licenses and Inspections will move to skeleton staffing while still responding to emergency situations. Parking enforcement is being suspended, and other City departments will be responding only to emergency matters as well."

However, police, fire, EMS and animal control services will continue as normal.

12:15 p.m.  Statewide COVID-19 cases at 133

The Pennsylvania Department of Health released updated numbers Wednesday afternoon, putting the total count of statewide COVID-19 cases at 133. A full map of cases throughout the state is available here. (Note: state and county numbers vary slightly. Allegheny County is currently reporting 12 positive cases.)

11:22 a.m. — Allegheny County reporting 12 COVID-19 cases

As of Wednesday morning, there are 12 positive cases of COVID-19 in Allegheny County. Officials say "the contact tracing, including information gathering, is just underway on these cases. As a result, no further information is available at this time."

11:16 a.m.  — National Association of Manufacturers look for local companies with production capabilities

The Pittsburgh Business Times reports "The National Association of Manufacturers, on behalf of the federal government, asked the Allegheny Conference on Community Development to distribute an online survey to local manufacturers."

The survey is to be comleted by noon today. 

10:53 a.m.  AHN offering drive-up testing

Allgheny Health Network will provide drive-up COVID-19 collection sites in Wexford, Bethel Park, Monroeville and Erie. Collection sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, though walk-up testing will not be available, patients must have a prescription order. The Wexford site opens today and other sites will be up and running "within the week."

10:22 a.m. — Special elections run without problems

Social distancing directives and COVID-19 fears didn’t do much to deter voting in special statehouse elections Tuesday. Some poll workers in those districts declined to work on Tuesday, but voting wasn’t disrupted as enough workers reported for duty despite worries about potential health consequences.

9:27 a.m.  Dept. of Health working to open public testing sites

Pennsylvania's Department of Health is working to open public testing sites for the coronavirus, as more services shut down and the state sees a spike in people filing for unemployment compensation. The Department of Labor and Industry said unemployment compensation claims exceeded 50,000 on Monday, and Tuesday's filings were on course to exceed that number. In the entire first week of March, the state received barely 12,000 claims. Meanwhile, the state's health systems and hospitals are working to open sample-taking sites and set up testing laboratories. Amtrak is shutting down lines in Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike is ending dining service at its service plazas.

8:57 a.m.  A visualization of how hospital beds might fill in the Pittsburgh area

Credit Screengrab via ProPublica

ProPublica has a powerful visualization showing how various population infection levels impact the usage—or more concerningly, the over-usage—of the current number of hospital beds in the region. If only 20 percent of the Pittsburgh-area population is infected over 18 months, the current local hospital beds will suffice. A higher percentage of infections or a shorter time period, though, could cause hospitals to quickly become overwhelmed. Slowing the rate of infection or “flattening the curve” is why health officials have become so aggressive in closing institutions.

7:43 a.m. — PPS stops grab-and-go meals at Pittsburgh Grandview, too

PPS just added an eighth school that will stop grab-and-go meals in order to be deep-cleaned. The schools include Pittsburgh Arsenal K-5, Pittsburgh Arsenal 6-8, Pittsburgh Classical Academy, Pittsburgh Carmalt PreK-8, Pittsburgh Fulton, Pittsburgh Grandview, Pittsburgh Linden and Pittsburgh Schiller.

6:48 a.m. — PPS closing two administrative buildings, 7 schools stop grab-and-go meals

Pittsburgh Public Schools will close the Central Adminstration Building and Greenway Professional Devleopment Center for deep cleaning, after two district employees were exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 at a non-work event. PPS will also stop grab-and-go meals at Pittsburgh Arsenal K-5, Pittsburgh Arsenal 6-8, Pittsburgh Classical Academy, Pittsburgh Carmalt PreK-8, Pittsburgh Fulton, Pittsburgh Linden and Pittsburgh Schiller; all those schools need cleaning as well, since the employees traveled to those sites. The district is currently working to find alternative sites for meaal distribution.

6:30 a.m. — Shell keeps massive construction site open in Beaver Co.

Shell says construction will go ahead at its Beaver County petrochemical plant despite the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The company says it is following guidance of federal regulators and altering some aspects of its operations to promote social distancing at the site, where 6,000 people are working, even as some workers said they are worried about transmission of the virus there. 

Several workers, speaking on condition of anonymity because they believe speaking publicly could jeopardize their jobs, said they were concerned about the ease of transmission on a site with so many workers. They said social distancing is difficult on the shuttle buses workers must take into the site, and because large groups of workers attend meetings and meals together. 

 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

5:23 p.m. — Arts-advocacy group seeks donations to Emergency Fund for Artists

With most galleries, theaters and other venues closed, and most arts shows and performances canceled for at least the next two weeks, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) is taking applications from artists who are losing income because of the shutdown.  GPAC says it will give artists quick access to up to $500 to "recoup financial losses due to cancelled events, offset loss of expected income, and assist with rent, foods, and other needs."

The August Wilson Center on Liberty Avenue downtown.
Credit Jake Savitz / 90.5 WESA

Artists are unusually dependent on project work and other time-limited gigs. The Emergency Fund was originally intended to help with individualized crises, like fires or accidents, that prevented them from doing their work; its funds are limited. GPAC says any donations will go directly to artists.

 

4:58 p.m. Pitt postpones commencement

The University of Pittsburgh said it will schedule and announce new dates for in-person ceremonies "once circumstances allow" and will make sure students and families have plenty of notice. 

"This decision was not made lightly," wrote Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. "We know this news will be upsetting both to graduates, who have worked so hard to reach this milestone, and to their loved ones, who have supported them on their journeys."

3:30 p.m. - Pennsylvania has high risk for COVID-19 due to older population

new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that nearly 44 percent of Pennsylvania adults are at greater risk for developing severe cases of COVID-19, because they are either over 60 or have an underlying health condition such as cancer, diabetes or COPD. Kaiser said that in light of these findings, there is a need to make, “unprecedented efforts to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.” That directive applies even to people who are only mildly ill or aren’t exhibiting symptoms at all, because they could still be infected with the virus.

3:14 p.m. - Toomey weighs in on federal aid to workers

Many lawmakers in Washington are working to quickly provide federal aid to Americans who are losing work due to the coronavirus. But it’s unclear if Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey will support the proposal.

The House vote this weekend was overwhelmingly bipartisan, and included support from every Pennsylvania representative. The legislation provides federal funding for employees at small businesses who have been put out of work. But several Republican Senators have questions about it. On Tuesday, Toomey said he supports the idea of paid sick leave, but worries about the burden he believes it would place on small businesses. 

“The intent of the legislation is that the federal government would cover the costs,” said Toomey in a call with reporters. “But whether that works, how that works, that’s my biggest concern. We’re trying to work our way through that, I don’t know if we’ll be able to get some changes.”

Toomey said Congress could help displaced workers by providing additional funding for state unemployment benefits instead. President Trump has indicated he will support the House bill.

 

2:42 p.m. - Port Authority will reimburse unused passes

The agency said it will reimburse passengers who have purchased weekly or monthy time-based passes on a prorated schedule to their ConnectCard. In a statement, PAT encouraged riders to "consider purchasing passes of shorter duration or buying stored value" going forward.

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

People enrolled in the JobPerks program through their employer will not be reimbursed through the transit agency, and are asked to contact their workplace administrator. 

2:23 p.m.  - Health officials call for cancellation of elective surgeries

 Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen and state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine are asking health care providers to postpone elective surgeries to ensure medical facilities will have enough resources to prepare for increased needs due to COVID-19. Elective surgeries are non-urgent medical procedures, like tonsillectomies or hip replacements. 

1:53 p.m. - Pittsburgh Marathon canceled

P3R, the organization that puts together the marathon and other city races, said in a statement that in accordance with the ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, the May weekend of races would not take place. The race attracts nearly 40,000 runners each year. 

Registered participants will be able to race virtually at home to earn their medals, P3R said, or get a refund on their registration fee.

1:15 p.m. — Final day for PPS students and staff to get items from school buildings

 

Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Today is the final day for students and staff of Pittsburgh Public Schools to drop by school buildings to get items they may need in the coming weeks. That includes student medications, personal items, classroom pets, plants or study materials.

Gov. Tom Wolf closed all schools late Friday, leaving some little time to retrieve their belongings. Superintendent Anthony Hamlet says that after today, all 54 schools will be open to cafeteria workers and administrators only. And that’s just for working, he says. Children can pick up a grab-and-go lunch weekdays through the duration of the district closure.

1 p.m. — State Health Dept. announces 20 new cases of COVID-19

The current total is 96 positive cases in Pennsylvania. The department is now offering daily updates at noon, instead of each time a new case comes in. 

12:45 p.m. — Airlines scaling back Pittsburgh flights

The Pittsburgh Business Times reports United Airlines is reducing Pittsburgh flights by 13 percent and American Airlines is eliminating service to Phoenix, Ariz., in addition to cutting back on service to JFK, Chicago and Philadelphia. Pittsburgh Airport officials say more changes could be coming. 

12:30 p.m.  Health Department advises againt non-emergency dental services

Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen is strongly encouraging all non-emergency dental procedures be postponed, but dental providers should continue to offer essential services. 

11:31 a.m.  Activists call for release of people held at county jail

Local activists have called for the mass release of people held at the Allegheny County Jail amid the spread of coronavirus. In a statement, organizers and elected officials say close quarters and poor hygiene within the jail contribute to a, “perfect storm for a potential COVID-19 outbreak.”

Prosecutors and public defenders are reviewing individual high-risk cases for potential release, said Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Mike Manko. In an email, Manko said his office would “also welcome any discussions from private attorneys who represent inmates they believe to be high-risk" for the virus.

Activist Brett Grote said broader action was needed.

“They need to be really emptying the jail out, and determining who needs to be there … who do they have reason to believe, if released, would pose a threat to life and health,” Grote said. He noted that jail staff are also at risk of spreading the disease to the outside community. 

11:25 a.m. —  County reports one more confirmed/presumed positive cases of COVID-19

Allegheny County officials reported another confirmed case of COVID-19, bringing the total to seven so far. The county also reported three other presumed positive cases. 

10:59 a.m. - City of Pittsburgh limiting access to City-County Building

Beginning at noon the city of Pittsburgh will limit access to the City-County Building, and visitors will only be able to enter the building using the Ross Street entrance. The Grant Street entrance will be closed.

10:05 a.m. — Arts groups adapt with 'digital lectures'

Arts groups continue finding ways to adapt to the pandemic. While most organizations have temporarily suspended all public programming, Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures is responding to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's prohibition on gatherings of 50 or more people by holding its first "digital lecture."

The scheduled April 6 talk by novelist and "English Patient" author Michael Ondaatje will be recorded and available to ticketholders. The group will provide patrons who do not wish to "attend" the talk information on returning their tickets. More information is here.

9:30 a.m.  Amazon hiring 10,000 employees

Amazon says it plans to hire 100,000 new workers for warehouses and delivery service in the U.S. as more people turn to online shopping for supplies as they're isolated at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

8:15 a.m. — PA Dept. of Health clarifies reporting on positive/confirmed cases

During the first weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, the Pennsylvania Department of Health was required to verify all “presumptive positive” cases in the state with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation. The department announced yesterday that the CDC confirmation is no longer necessary—state and local laboratories can now consider their own tests as “positive.”

8 a.m. — What happens if businesses don’t comply with Wolf’s shutdown orders?

Gov. Tom Wolf says he’s not going to send in the State Police or National Guard to enforce orders he has issued in an attempt to slow or halt the spread of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania.

But businesses considered non-essential that remain open on Tuesday could face consequences — although what those would be is unclear.

“The administration will work with local law enforcement, permitting entities, and local officials to enforce if needed,” spokesperson Sarah DeSantis said in an email. “The governor does not want to expend valuable resources from the State Police and National Guard because irresponsible people will not do the right thing.”

7:45 a.m.  Aldi limits hours & last day to stock up at state stores

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Aldi will limit its hours to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. And the 600 state-owned wine and liquor stores will close at 9 p.m. tonight. 

7:02 a.m. — PA House will let members vote from home

Members of the Pennsylvania House can now vote from home, instead of traveling to Harrisburg and risk spreading the coronavirus.  The rule change allows members to vote via phone.

 
6:45 a.m. — Beaver County reports first case of COVID-19

Beaver County is reporting its first case of COVID-19; the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency informed county officials last night.  The case is the 77th confirmed positive case in Pennsylvania.  Allegheny County is reporting six confirmed cases, and Washington County is reporting one.

Monday, March 16, 2020

7:42 p.m. — State Park lands will remain open, but facilities/buildings closed for two weeks

 

Trails, lakes, roads, and parking lots at state parks will remain open, but the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is shutting down visitor centers, restrooms, and campgrounds on Tuesday, March 17, for 14 days.

7:30 p.m. - HOV lanes close

PennDOT announced the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in Ross Township and the City of Pittsburgh would close Monday and remain shutdown indefinitely. 

5:43 p.m. - State-owned wine and liquor stores to close Tuesday night

Pennsylvania will shut down all of its roughly 600 state-owned wine and liquor stores as part of the state's expanding shutdown as Gov. Tom Wolf's administration tries to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

All wine and liquor stores and licensee service centers will close 9 p.m. Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said in a statement.

Online sales ended Monday.

A state-owned liquor store in downtown Pittsburgh.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Board Chairman Tim Holden said in a statement that he knew store closings will hurt consumers and licensees, but that fighting the public health crisis must take priority.

Wolf already ordered the stores to shut down after Monday in four southeastern Pennsylvania counties — Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery — where he had said there was “confirmed evidence of risk."

Stores in those four counties first drew large crowds over the weekend, and the liquor control board said processing and delivery of online orders would be delayed because of unusually high order volume.

The liquor control board, however, said it would adopt “lenient measures” to allow licencees to sell beer and wine to go, for off-premises consumption.

Retail licensees, including restaurants, bars, hotels, grocery stores and convenience stores, also may continue selling beer or wine to go, while breweries, wineries and distilleries can continue selling their own products for off-premises consumption, it said.

5:29 p.m. Public schools scramble to provide meals, lessons with academic year uncertain

Nearly 1.7 million kids in Pennsylvania are out of school for at least the next two weeks as a preventative measure to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Gov. Tom Wolf made that call Friday afternoon. He said schools that don’t meet the state’s 180 instructional day requirement won’t be penalized, but it’s unclear if days will have to be made up. The state did say schools are not mandated to instruct students during the closure.

Some districts like Pittsburgh Public have sent home optional work packets and are providing optional lessons online. That work won’t count for credit, according to the district, because not all homes have internet access.

A round up of different area school district’s schoolwork and meal protocols can be found here.

5:23 p.m. — Pittsburgh City Council moving meetings to phone

Pittsburgh City Council will hold its meetings by phone to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Only Council President Teresa Kail-Smith and the city clerk will be there, and other councilors will join by phone. The public can watch meetings online, but chambers will be closed and public comment must be submitted by email or mail. Council was originally set to discuss a property tax hike, but Smith says she took it off the agenda because it was "inappropriate" to discuss higher taxes during a pandemic.

4:56 p.m. — Pittsburgh-area foundations put $10 million toward Emergency Action Fund and related relief

 

A group of southwestern Pennsylvania's largest foundations is creating a new pool of money targeted to help the “most vulnerable” deal with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, including $4 million for an "Emergency Action Fund" and $6 million for related relief. The group is also speeding up the grant-making process to help provide funding for “essential human services, health care support and economic assistance.” The philanthropies include the Pittsburgh Foundation, United Way, Heinz Endowments, Richard King Mellon Foundation, and the Hillman Family Foundations.

 

4:20 p.m. - DOH addresses case status

The Pennsylvania Department of Health says it no longer calls COVID-19 cases "presumptive" or "confirmed" because it does not have to send samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for final confirmation. 

4:00 p.m. — President Trump issues new coronavirus guidelines for next 15 days

President Trump announced new coronavirus guidelines for Americans to follow over the next 15 days, recommending that all Americans avoid groups of more than 10 people; avoid discretionary travel, as well as eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts. He also said schools are recommended to close.

At a briefing at the White House Trump said with several weeks of action, "we can turn the corner," on the pandemic. Trump also said the government is "prepared to do whatever it takes; whatever it takes, we're doing."

Trump also cautioned it could be awhile before the disease abates. "It seems to me if we do a really good job ... it could be July, August" until the threat of the pandemic diminishes.

3:08 p.m. - Turnpike goes cashless

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission said cash and credit cards will not be accepted at interchanges throughout the state beginning this evening at 8 p.m. Instead, tolls will be electronic through the E-ZPass or Toll By Plate programs.

2:47 p.m. — Out of work because of coronavirus? You may qualify for PA unemployment benefits

 

The head of Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry said people may be eligible for assistance if an employer cuts hours, shuts down or goes out of business, or if people have to isolate to prevent spread of the disease.  The news came a few hours before Governor Tom Wolf ordered all non-essential businesses to close

 

2:26 p.m.  Wolf extends shutdown to rest of state

Gov. Tom Wolf extended a shutdown order to the entire state of Pennsylvania in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus Monday. On Sunday, he called for the closure of all "non-essential" businesses in Allegheny and four heavily populated southeastern Pennsylvania counties.

2:10 p.m.  A map of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania

You can track the number of cases in Pennsylvania by county on this interactive map. However, Allegheny County officials said there was a delay in numbers from commercial labs, which could account for the discrepancy in reported cases. The state reports five confirmed cases in Allegheny County, while local officials report six. 

2:05 p.m.  White House to hold briefing

At 3:30 p.m., we'll be airing live coverage on 90.5 FM of the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. 

2 p.m.  Workers affected by coronavirus could be eligible for unemployment

Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry announced that workers affected by coronavirus may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Claims must still go through the state’s adjudication process. People may be eligible if their employer has closed or gone out of business because of the response to the virus, or if they’ve lost hours or been told to isolate due to possible exposure. If approved, a first benefit payment should arrive in four weeks. Applications can be filed online; more information is at the state’s Unemployment Compensation website.

1:19 p.m.  A delay between state and county numbers

The state is reporting 76 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with Montgomery County having the most cases by far. According to state numbers, Allegheny County is only confirmed to have five cases, though local officials reported six earlier today. Allegheny County spokesperson Amie Downs says that's because there is a discrepancy in information coming from commercial labs.

"Information from commercial labs must be uploaded into the state system, and were lagging behind," Downs said. "My understanding is that is being remedied now."

12:17 p.m. — City curtails certain operations

The city of Pittsburgh has closed senior centers, rec centers, and many departments at the City County Building. Essential tasks like garbage collection and emergency services will continue, according to a midday statement from the city. City employees will work remotely on permitting and other duties where possible. The parks themselves are open, but park shelters are closed and officials urge people not to use playgrounds. Workers will continue to be paid, and city council will meet by phone.

Still operational are the following services: 

  • All emergency services including Police, Fire, Emergency Medical Services and (for life safety matters only) Animal Care and Control. 
  • Inspections of buildings, roads, traffic lights and other infrastructure 
  • Response to weather events 
  • Refuse and recycling collection (see note below) 
  • City parks (though residents are urged to stay off playground equipment, as their cleanliness cannot be guaranteed) 
  • Pittsburgh City Council meetings (subject to health safety restrictions) 
  • City Planning, Permits, Licenses and Inspections, and the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure will continue to review plans, issue permits, and intake applications. PLI and City Planning permits are available online; the application can be found here or you can send the full application and payment via US mail. Licensing late fees will be forgiven. Utilities needing public right of way permits can continue to apply online utilizing the established Google form. All other permit requests should be submitted by email to DOMIpermits@pittsburghpa.gov and further instructions will be provided
  • 311: Operators will still be taking calls; however, some issues may not be addressed immediately as crews may be limited or helping to handle pandemic-related issues. 
  • Office of Municipal Investigations intake 
  • Commission on Human Relations complaint intake  
  • All Finance and Office of Management and Budget functions essential to continue core city operations and payroll. 
  • Questions about the City’s Paid Sick Leave law will still be collected and answered at the Sick Leave website

11:10 a.m. —  Allegheny County now has 6 positive cases

The Allegheny County Health Department reported two more cases of COVID-19, bringing the countywide total to six. The department says the two people are adults in their 50s and 60s and are isolated at home. 

10:45 a.m. — AHN screening visitors

Allegheny Health Network announced it would screen all visitors at hospital entrances "to assess their risk of having an infectious respiratory illness, including COVID-19." All visitors will be asked the following questions: 

  • Have they traveled domestically or internationally in the last 14 days?
  • Do they have a cough or fever?

Anyone who answers yes will not be permitted in the facility. 

 

10:15 a.m. Pittsburgh business owners mull closure

In Allegheny Commons Parks on Pittsburgh’s North Side, Sena Templeton and her husband Keith Stroup were walking their dogs, Daisy and Cooper. The two own Cooper's Cutz, a pet grooming business, in the Mexican War Streets and said they haven't made a decision about keeping their doors open.

Cooper's Cutz owners Sena Templeton and Keith Stroup walk in Allegheny Commons Park on Pittsburgh's North Side with their dogs Cooper (being held) and Daisy (standing) on Monday, March 16, 2020.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

"Technically we can maintain safe distances and stuff and we don’t have to really have to interact with individuals, but given the message last night about non-essential businesses, we really haven’t made a decision, but we will in the next couple hours and put it up on Facebook," Templeton said. 

The pair never expected to have to make such a decision, according to Stroup.

"No that wasn’t in the business plan. I just reviewed it this morning and pandemic wasn’t in the business plan," he said.

The business does grooming and has self-serve tubs, with limited face-to-face human interaction, however after the recent announcement regarding non-essential businesses, the two say they might have to close. 

"Obviously we want to stay in business and keep people employed, but we also don’t want to be a detriment to our community," Stroup said.

Living close to Allegheny Commons, the two take Daisy and Cooper on frequent walks, but say they noticed more people over the weekend, especially Sunday when the weather was nice. 

9:17 a.m. — U.S. travelers have a tough time getting home

NPR's Bobby Allyn reports airline passengers returning to the U.S. were confronted with snaking lines causing hours-long delays and confusion at airports around the country starting Saturday as a result of required medical screenings now in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus. However, the Tribune-Review reports it was smooth sailing at the Pittsburgh International Airport this weekend

8:28 a.m.  Latest statewide numbers

The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s count on COVID-19 cases remains at 63 positives across the state, the same as it was Sunday afternoon. The state has tested 446 people; 205 were negative and 183 tests are pending.

6 a.m.  Catching up from the weekend

In case you need to catch up, here's a look at local developments from over the weekend:

-There were four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Allegheny County.

-Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all bars and restaurants in Allegheny County to close, but encouraged them to continue to operate to provide delivery or take-out options.

-County officials requested that all "non-essential businesses" close voluntarily for the next two weeks.

-The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh cancelled all Masses.

-The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for a halt to all public gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.

-The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is closed until further notice.

WESA receives funding from UPMC.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.