Pittsburgh And Pennsylvania Coronavirus Updates

Nov 10, 2020

90.5 WESA is following the latest updates and COVID-19 case numbers in Allegheny County and across Pennsylvania. 

We'll be updating this post as we get information. Check back often for updates. 

LATEST UPDATES:

December 3, 2020

4:10 p.m. - Hospitals in some regions are dealing with full beds and exhausted doctors and nurses

Geisinger Chief Medical Officer Doctor Jerry Maloney says intensive care and medical-surgical beds in some facilities have all been in use every day for the past week.


But, health care workers are adapting -- keeping some patients in emergency departments or recovery rooms, where critical care nurses are there to help.


He says some are filling in for colleagues who are quarantined at home.


“And each staff member goes home exhausted knowing that they’re going to come in tomorrow to what may be a worse situation than what they left today,” Maloney said.


The state Department of Health is monitoring staffing shortages.


State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says there’s a plan to reduce elective procedures if staff are needed in intensive care units and emergency rooms.


Levine is urging Pennsylvanians to follow preventative measures to slow the spike in cases.

3:26 p.m. - Capitol complex to close due to COVID-19

Pennsylvania has closed its state capitol complex to the public next week, over concerns about rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in that state.

The complex hosted a number of indoor events during the legislature's fall session.

But not everyone, including lawmakers themselves, abided by mask-wearing and social distancing rules.

Troy Thompson of Pennsylvania's Department of General Services, which oversees the complex, says coronavirus cases are rising too quickly to allow indoor rallies, tours, and other public gatherings to happen.

"When certain issues arise that the public is passionate about, they tend to organize, and we just want to make sure that they are safe," Thompson said.

State capitol employees and those with ID badges will still be allowed in.

Thompson says until positivity rates and other metrics improve, any public gatherings will have to take place outside.

Pennsylvania hospitals are currently treating more than 5,000 people for COVID-19. The state reported a record 11,000 new cases in the past day alone.

2:50 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases

The 1,028 COVID-19 cases reported Thursday mark a new single-day record for the county. Those infected range in age from 1 month to 98 years old. The Allegheny County Health Department also reported 20 new deaths, eight of which were associated with long-term care facilities. 

“It pains me to report these numbers. I had hoped we’d never see this level of community spread. This heartbreaking milestone must move our community into action. I implore to you cancel parties, weddings, gatherings, events and stay home whenever possible,” said Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen in a press release. “My heart goes out to all the families who have lost loved ones throughout this pandemic. We can, and we must do better.”

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 11,406, which is also the highest daily total reported by the state so far. The state reports 4,982 people are hospitalized and 1,048 of those are in intensive care units. An additional 187 deaths statewide were reported Thursday.

December 2, 2020

5:30 p.m. - Allegheny County COVID-19 hospitalizations double in two weeks

State data show the number of people in Allegheny County hospitalized with COVID-19 has more than doubled in the past two weeks to more than 640 patients. This number is expected to grow. Dr. Debra Bogen, head of the county health department, says while health systems have extensive plans to expand bed space, she says some hospitals’ staffs are already stretched thin.


“Compounding the challenge is wide community spread of the virus,” Bogen said. “Health care staff are increasingly getting sick themselves. And many others are home caring for their loved one who are either sick or in quarantine.”


Bogen and other public health officials warn hospitals could become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients in a matter of weeks.

5:07 p.m. - Pittsburgh City Council preliminarily approves a COVID1- sick leave bill

The bill, approved Wednesday, would require some employers to provide paid sick leave for workers sidelined by the coronavirus.


A federal law requires businesses to provide time off due to COVID-19, but it is set to expire at the end of the year. Pittsburgh's bill would continue the requirement for businesses with 50 or more employees, until the city lifts its own declaration of emergency. Dan Gilman, the mayor’s chief of staff, says the bill is an essential health measure.


“If somebody has to use all of their time in January because of COVID, they don’t have any sick leave days left for the entire year,” Gilman said. “So we really see a need to have a separate emergency COVID sick leave.”


But the state Restaurant and Lodging Association says the federal rule reimbursed businesses for the cost of paid time off. The city's bill does not -- and the industry says forcing employers to pay the costs on their own could bankrupt businesses that are already struggling. Council will discuss the bill further next week.

3:21 p.m. - Steelers add center Maurkice Pouncey to COVID-19 list against Ravens

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are scheduled to play on Wednesday afternoon even as COVID-19 continues to infect players up and down their respective rosters. The Steelers will be without perennial Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on just hours before kickoff. Pouncey is the fourth Pittsburgh player to join the list in the past week. The Ravens will be without more than a dozen players, including quarterback Lamar Jackson and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram. The game has been delayed three times because of a COVID-19 outbreak in Baltimore.

2:41 p.m. - As levels of COVID-19 surge, health care networks face a staffing crunch

Allegheny Health Network’s Chief Nurse Executive Claire Zangerle told WESA’s The Confluence that they’re dealing with multiple staffing problems, including a national nurse shortage.


“So you layer on the pandemic with people having to be off work because of exposure or positivity…and then you layer on the fact that more people are coming into the hospital for care and our beds are filling up,” Zangerle said. “That is a staffing crisis.“


Zangerle says AHN has brought in traveling nurses and nursing students to help deal with the shortage.

1:28 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 508 new COVID cases

The new cases are the result of 1,270 tests taken Nov. 14 – Dec. 1. Those infected range in age from 3 months to 100 years old. The Allegheny County Health Department also reported 10 new deaths, which occurred Nov. 18-30. Those who died included one person in their 60s, one in their 70s, five in their 80s, two in their 90s and one person over 100 years old. 

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 8,291, which is the second largest daily jump. The state reported that 4,744 patients are hospitalized and of those, 967 are in intensive care units. The number of deaths increased by 194.

12:01 p.m. - SCI Laurel Highlands home to COVID outbreak

More than half of the inmates at the State Correctional Institution Laurel Highlands tested positive for coronavirus in the last month.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports 444 prisoners tested positive at the facility, which houses “many of the oldest and sickest men in Pennsylvania’s prisons.”

Read more here.

December 1, 2020

4:04 p.m. - Testing sites added throughout Pennsylvania

Gov. Tom Wolf and state health officials say they’ll expand testing in 61 counties. According to a release, five “strike teams” will set up drive-thru and indoor walk-in testing sites in Butler, Bedford, Mifflin, Tioga and Northampton counties. The testing will take place beginning this week and, according to State Testing and Contact Tracing Director Michael Huff, residents do not need to show symptoms to get tested.


“These testing sites are open to anyone,” Huff said. “Anyone who feels they need a test.”


The other six counties in the state have regional health departments that will continue to provide testing and contact tracing services to residents.

3:19 p.m. - Rural hospitals are filling up across the state

Doctors at hospitals around Pennsylvania are urging people to follow public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Geisinger's chief medical officer, Dr. Jerry Maloney, says health care workers are physically exhausted and emotionally drained at rural hospitals in places like Lewistown.
Mifflin County has the third-highest rate of COVID-19 positive infections in the state.
Maloney says it's true most people who get the virus don't need to go to the hospital.
But, he notes that creates a false sense of security for people who don't see the grim reality of people dying in hospital beds.
"More people have died from this in the past eight months than have died in the past three wars that we fought combined,” Maloney said. “And yet, for whatever reason, we are able to say, I know someone who didn't get that sick, therefore, all those people who died didn't matter."
Geisinger is far from alone in this message - more than 400 doctors and health care workers in Pennsylvania signed a statement begging people to wear masks, follow safety measures and stay vigilant.

2:52 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 603 new COVID cases

The new cases are the result of 1,614 tests taken Nov. 15-30. Those infected range in age from 5 months to 97 years. The Allegheny County Health Department also reported five new deaths. Those who died include two people in their 60s, two in their 70s and one person in their 90s.

Statewide, the number of positive cases rose by 5,676. There are 4,631 patients currently hospitalized, and of those, 970 are in intensive care units. The state also reported 180 new deaths.

November 30, 2020

4:47 p.m. - Wolf vetoes GOP-backed bill on limiting COVID-19 liability

Pennsylvania’s governor is rejecting a bill that would have made it harder to sue schools, health care providers and other businesses for coronavirus-related claims. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed the measure Monday. Wolf argues its liability protections were so broad the legislation would have invited “the potential for carelessness and a disregard for public safety.” The bill passed both chambers with mostly Republican support and Democratic opposition. It would have applied to cases of exposure to the coronavirus during a governor-declared disaster emergency. Supporters argued the pandemic should not impose on businesses and others expensive or even ruinous litigation.


Read more here.

2:51 p.m. - Are there too many contact tracing apps?

Contact tracing apps have been praised as one tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But with multiple app options, they may not be as effective as human driven contact tracing.


In order for contact tracing apps to work effectively, people need to download them. And with more than one option to choose from, the potential user pool for any one app shrinks.


But that’s not the only issue, according to David Dausey, an epidemiologist and executive vice president and provost at Duquesne University. He says some contact tracing apps can’t capture the nuance of an exposure the way traditional tracing over the phone can.


“They don’t have people saying what that contact looked like and whether or not they were wearing masks and all of that,” Dausey said. “That’s beyond most of these apps.”


Government-supported apps like Pennsylvania’s COVID Alert PA are more likely to collect the data needed by state health officials, making them more useful for contact tracing according to Dausey. The state app also interfaces with apps from other states.


Health officials in Pennsylvania say an average of 43,000 people are logging their symptoms through the app daily.

12:55 p.m.- Allegheny Co. reports 920 cases for past 48 hours

The new cases are the result of 3,339 tests taken between Nov. 6 and 29. Those infected range in age from 3 weeks to 98 years old. The county health department also reported four new deaths. Three of the people were in their 70s, the fourth was in their 80s.

Statewide, the number of cases rose by 9,797 for the same two-day period. The state says 4,405 people are hospitalized, with 918 of those in intensive care units. Most of those patients hospitalized are over 65 years old. In the past two days, 107 new deaths were also reported.  

November 25, 2020

5:14 p.m. - So far this month, 64 Allegheny County residents have died from COVID-19


The county health department says a young child is among these fatalities. Though November is not over, the number of COVID-19 deaths has exceeded what was seen in October and September—both months saw about 50 deaths. Statewide and nationally COVID-19 fatalities are also increasing—and are predicted to continue to increase as the spread of coronavirus shows no sign of slowing.

4:08 p.m. - State to send COVID-19 updates through Emergency Alert System

The Wolf Administration said in a statement that it would begin sending text messages to Pennsylvanian’s cell phones to alert them to “imminent threats to safety in their area” related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Residents can expect the first message to be sent today. The communications could include, for example, information about stay-at-home orders or how to get tested for COVID-19.

3:19 p.m. - Pittsburgh International Airport prepares for holiday travel

New state health orders require those traveling from out of state to have a negative COVID-19 test result 72 hours prior to arriving, or quarantine for 14 days.


But Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis says there isn’t much Pittsburgh International can do to enforce that among passengers.


“We're doing our best with these orders that tend to come with very little notice,” Cassotis said, “We're catching up like everybody else.”


The airport has a list of safety precautions in place, like required face coverings, UV robots to clean floors, and reconfigured seating.


Cassotis says about 5,000 daily passengers are coming through Pittsburgh International, and travel is down 66 percent.


Read more from The Confluence.

12:52 p.m. – Allegheny County reports 555 new virus cases

Those cases were the result of 2,420 tests taken Nov. 4-24. The Allegheny County Health Department says those infected range in age from 10 months to 98 years. The county also reported 12 new deaths, which occurred Nov. 6-22. Eight of those deaths were associated with long-term care facilities.

Statewide, the number of cases rose by 6,759. The state department of health reports 3,897 patients have been hospitalized, 826 of those are in intensive care units. The positivity rate statewide is just over 11 percent.

November 24, 2020

4:12 p.m. - Contact tracing continues, but some have trouble reaching those impacted

Contact tracers successfully reached less than one quarter of Pennsylvanians who tested positive for the coronavirus over the past week.

That’s according to Michael Huff, who directs the state’s testing and contact tracing program. At a Tuesday news conference, Huff said this low number is due in part to the large volume of cases. But he also says many people don’t pick up when contact tracers call.


“Clearly public trust is part of it,” Huff said. “The fear of providing information to someone you really don’t know.”


Huff says contact tracers are prioritizing populations that are high-risk, and people who have been exposed to the virus within the past six days.

3:22 p.m. - First child in Allegheny County dies from COVID-19

The Allegheny County Health Department did not disclose the patient’s age, but said they were a young child who had underlying health conditions. Pennsylvania’s Department of Health hasn't released the number of pediatric COVID-19 deaths, though it confirms the child in Allegheny County is not the first. Statewide, more than 8,800 children have contracted the coronavirus. More than 650 of these kids reside in Allegheny County.

2:34 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 541 new virus cases

The new cases are the result of 2,757 tests taken Oct. 18 – Nov. 23. Those infected range in age from 6 months to 97 years old. Four new deaths were reported, including a child with underlying health conditions. The other deaths occurred in people in their 60s, 80s and 90s.

Statewide, the number of COVID-19 cases increased by 6,669. The state department of health reported that 3,459 patients have been hospitalized. Of those people, 767 patients are in intensive care units. The state also reported 81 new deaths.

November 23, 2020

5:40 p.m. - Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announces new COVID-19 mitigation measures

Cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks and the state’s hospitals are treating more coronavirus patients than they were during the spring surge.


To try to keep healthcare providers from being overwhelmed, Wolf says the state will start requiring businesses to enforce mask-wearing among their customers.


“If they come inside, they need to follow the procedures,” Wolf said. “We have those signs that say no shoes, no shirt, no service. Well, no mask, no service.”


If they don't, businesses could face fines or be forced to close temporarily as punishment.
On the other hand, the Pennsylvania governor said the state would shield businesses from liability if they are sued for enforcing these rules.


Pennsylvania will also suspend alcohol sales after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, historically the biggest drinking night of the year, among other new measures.


The state is on track to fill all of its intensive care beds due to COVID-19 by the end of the month.

4:39 p.m. - Mayor Bill Peduto introduces legislation that requires some city employers to give paid sick leave to workers affected by COVID-19

If a business in the city of Pittsburgh has 50 or more employees, Peduto's bill would require it to give workers up to 112 hours of paid sick leave. Currently, a federal law requires paid sick leave due to the pandemic, but that is set to expire on December 31. In a statement, Peduto said “due to failed federal action, workers should not have to choose between their family’s health during a worldwide pandemic and their ability to pay their bills.”


If it passes, Pittsburgh's rule would be in place until the city lifts its declaration of emergency, which has been in effect since March.

3:45 p.m. - Port Authority modifies routes

The Port Authority is rolling out modified schedules for 65 bus routes and three light-rail lines this week.  The changes include the permanent addition of weekend service on bus routes to Kennedy, Robinson, Banksville, and Lawrenceville - Hazelwood.  The Authority is also extending service to Forbes Hospital in Monroeville.  A complete list is available here.

2:10 p.m. – Allegheny County reports nearly 1K new virus cases over past two days

The 962 reported cases are from Sunday and Monday. The health department reports they were the result of 4,146 tests. Those infected range in age from 1 month to 100 years. No new deaths were reported. 

Statewide, the number of cases increased by nearly 12,000 for the same 48-hour timeframe. More 7,000 of those cases were from Sunday, 4,762 were from Monday. The state says 3,379 patients are currently hospitalized and 775 of those are intensive care units. State officials say the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by more than 2,000 since the end of September. Over the weekend, 69 new deaths were also reported statewide.

November 20, 2020

3:14 p.m. - Nurses ask for increased mitigation efforts in the region

A group of top nurses has released an open letter imploring southwest Pennsylvanians to “double down” on coronavirus mitigation efforts.


“COVID-19 is in our communities, touching us all in one way or another, no matter where we live or who we are. And as we move into the winter months, we are very concerned about the accelerated spread of infectious disease, be it the coronavirus or the flu,” write the chief nursing officers of Allegheny Health System, Butler Health System, Excela Health System, Heritage Valley Health System, St. Clair Hospital, UPMC, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare and Washington Health System.


This message comes the week before Thanksgiving as cases are surging statewide. While the letter doesn’t tell people to stay home for Thanksgiving, it does say that people should avoid social gatherings that include people outside their immediate households. It also urges people to wear masks, keep physically distant, and to stay home when ill.


“We must take the necessary steps and make these sacrifices today, in hopes of a better tomorrow,” write the nurses.


Since the beginning of September, the number of cases in Pennsylvania has more than doubled. Hospitalizations continue to climb, having already surpassed the spring’s high-water mark of 3,000 patients. There is concern that the on-going surge of cases will eventually overwhelm the medical system.

11:34 a.m. – Allegheny County reports 484 new COVID cases

The county health department says the new cases were found in people ranging in age from 1 to 102 years old. The tests were taken between Nov. 3 and Nov. 19.

County officials also reported three new deaths. The deaths included one person in their 80s and two in their 90s. The deaths occurred Nov. 13 through Nov. 19.

November 19, 2020

4:50 p.m. - Carnegie Library system suspends in-person service

All of the system's locations will stop allowing patrons inside in accordance with the Allegheny County Health Department's stay-at-home order, a release said. Virtual and curbside service is still available. People can also use the locations' printers and outdoor WiFi. 

3:15 p.m. - Analysis finds Pa. faces several billion dollar budget shortfall

Just a few weeks before a new state budget must be approved, an independent analysis says the commonwealth may not have all the money it needs.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, state lawmakers passed a stop-gap budget in June to set government funding for schools, agencies and services through November.

The next spending plan will go through June. But according to an early analysis by the independent Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, the commonwealth will be more than $3 billion short, thanks in large part to lower economic activity because of the pandemic.

Read more from WITF's Sam Dunklau. 

3:01 p.m. - State Department of Health encourages safety during Thanksgiving holiday

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine is asking Pennsylvanians to "rethink what" Thanksgiving looks like this year. In a statement, Levine encouraged people to celebrate the holiday with people living in the same household and continue to wear masks in public and socially distance.

The statement also asked Pennsylvanians to download the free mobile app COVID Alert PA, which is "designed to help reduce the spread of COVID-19." There have been 288,978 positive cases in the state.

1:00 p.m. – PA sees highest daily case increase

Manager Yllka Murati waits for a delivery driver to pick up takeout orders at the Penrose Diner, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, in south Philadelphia.
Credit Matt Slocum / AP

  

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 609 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, the result of 2,672 tests. Those tests were taken Oct. 20-Nov. 19. Those who are infected range in age from 1 week to 98 years. One death was also reported, a person in their 70s who died Nov. 14. 

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 7,126, which is the highest daily increase of cases. Officials say 2,904 patients have been hospitalized and 628 of those patients are in intensive care units.

November 18, 2020

3:50 p.m. - PPS audit finds lack of technology for students

Nearly 6,000 Pittsburgh Public Schools students have not received a district-issued computer and more than 900 students haven’t logged into the district’s learning platform. That’s according to a new report from City Controller Michael Lamb who has auditing authority over the district. The district is not tracking the number of students using personal devices for remote learning. It has spent nearly $10.8 million dollars on new devices and Internet hotspots.

3:05 p.m. - Nearly 4 million antigen tests will come to Pennsylvania

State officials will distribute nearly 4 million rapid antigen tests to shore up COVID-19 testing efforts across the commonwealth. Antigen tests are less sensitive than molecular tests but have a faster turnaround time. They’re currently being used to test vulnerable populations with ongoing outbreaks or those at risk for an outbreak.


Since October, the tests have been arriving in weekly allotments, which will continue through December. Officials will prioritize distribution to counties with current outbreaks.

12:45 p.m. - People distrust contact-tracing apps: can a new approach help?

A survey by WESA and Campos found that four in ten southwestern Pennsylvanians say they’re likely to download a contact tracing app. The apps tell users whether they’ve come into contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19. But a 40-percent participation rate would be lower than health experts hope for. Research suggests the apps work best when at least 60 percent of people participate. National surveys show about half of people are open to using the apps despite privacy concerns.


Read more here.

11:49 a.m. - Allegheny County reports 620 new COVID-19 cases, a new record

The Allegheny County Health Department says the median age of new cases is 40. Thirty-seven of the new positive cases are from a local university, according to a release. A person in their 80s and one in their 90s recently died due to complications with the coronavirus.

Statewide, health officials reported the highest daily increase in cases at 6,339. Pennsylvania's total is now 281,852. There were 110 new deaths reported for a total of 9,465 in the commonwealth. 

November 17, 2020

5:08 p.m. - Health officials say Pennsylvania could run out of ICU beds soon

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said at a Tuesday news conference that the state could run out of intensive care beds in the coming weeks. State data show that there are less than 60 intensive care beds available throughout all of Allegheny County’s hospitals. Hospitalizations within the county have surpassed what was seen during the summer surge of infections. Of the 318 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county, more than a third are in intensive care.

4:07 p.m. - Port Authority adjusts service as COVID-19 cases rise 

Beginning Sunday, Port Authority will reduce service on routes that experience lower ridership and increase service to routes with higher ridership levels. The agency said the changes were made to “avoid missed trips during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”  Sixty-five of the schedule changes impact bus routes, three changes will affect light rail “T” lines.  

 

3:39 p.m. - One hundred members of Pittsburgh police force are in quarantine

The rising rate of COVID-19 infections in the Pittsburgh region is having an impact on local first responders. Twenty-one Pittsburgh Public Safety employees are currently positive for the virus with several others in quarantine.

Those positive cases include nine Pittsburgh police officers and nine firefighters. Public Safety says multiple others have been placed in quarantine out of an “abundance” of caution, including 100 members of the Pittsburgh police force.

According to Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich, one of the public safety employees has required hospitalization since testing positive, while all others are recuperating at home.

In a press release, Public Safety says the department continues to take preventative measures for its workforce, including mandatory masking, social distancing and screenings upon entry to public safety facilities.

3:23 p.m. - Health officials say safety precautions are better at long-term care facilities

While Pennsylvania continues to experience a rise in daily coronavirus cases, state health officials say they are handling outbreaks in long-term care facilities better than in the spring.

Roughly 27,000 Pennsylvanians live in long-term care facilities like nursing homes. They were hit hard in the spring, forcing lockdowns amid outbreaks and high death rates.

Following criticism of how the state handled elderly care earlier in the year, Teresa Miller with the Department of Human Services says they now deploy “Rapid Response Teams” to facilities to mitigate outbreaks

Through cohorting, mitigation, infection control practices and transferring patient depending on their COVID status for safe care

While COVID-19 cases are rising again in long term care homes, the department’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Kelly says that doesn’t mean the program’s not working.

“That’s not the measurement of failure, the measure we are really concerned with is the prevention of mortality,” Kelly said.

Mortality rates are currently much lower than in the spring, but they've recently ticked up.

The state’s health department says outbreaks in long-term care facilities *will continue if outside communities don't adhere to mask wearing and social distancing rules. 

3:05 p.m. - Lawmakers aim to fill virus-inflicted deficit

Pennsylvania’s state Legislature is working this week to assemble a spending plan to carry state government through the rest of the fiscal year and fill a multibillion-dollar deficit brought on by the impact of the coronavirus. House officials say closed-door talks may produce a draft of legislation Wednesday, with final votes possible Thursday.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has asked the Republican-controlled Legislature for another nearly $10 billion in spending to round out the fiscal year. That's after the Legislature approved a piecemeal, no-new-taxes $25.8 billion budget in May. Wolf’s administration says it's seeking federal budget aid, while state lawmakers say they're not considering any tax increases.

Read more here.

11:57 a.m. – Latest Allegheny Co. numbers

On Tuesday, the Allegheny County Health Department reported 288 new COVID-19 cases, nearly half of Monday’s 500 cases. Those infected range in age from 1 month to 100 years old. Most of the tests were taken in the last week, but two were from July and two were from the beginning of November.

The health department also reported three new deaths, including one person in their 70s, one in their 80s and one in their 90s.

November 16, 2020  

4:44 p.m. – State has no plans to return to a lockdown phase

Despite the rapid spread of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania, the state’s secretary of health continues to say there’s no plan to return to a yellow or red lockdown phase.

At a Monday news conference Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine told reporters her department is considering all options, but that the best way to control the coronavirus is for people to comply with public health guidance, such as social distancing and wearing masks. When asked about certain mitigation mandates that some counties have instated, Levine said local communities can make their own decisions.

“We're looking at things statewide in terms of containment, in terms of mitigation, and then, of course, the distribution of a vaccine,” Levine said. “Of course, it is useful if different counties communicate and collaborate in their in their areas. And so, some may do that. Some may not.”

Levine says her department is keeping close watch on the state’s hospital capacity. While Pennsylvania’s health care systems are able to care for those currently hospitalized with COVID-19 illness, in many states, facilities are overwhelmed with patients.

4:15 p.m. – Pa.’s average percent positivity for COVID-19 is at its highest yet

The state is seeing its highest uptick yet in the average percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus.  The number is a key indicator of how prevalent COVID-19 is in the commonwealth, according to state officials.

After a weekend where more than 10,000 Pennsylvanians tested positive for COVID-19, the state’s average number of positive tests spiked up to 9.6 percent.

The average is far higher in some counties. Mifflin, Armstrong and Franklin top the list -- all having more than 15 percent of tests come back positive.

Health Secretary Doctor Rachel Levine is urging people not to gather -- not even for the holidays.  

“Whenever you are interacting with people outside of your household, there is a risk that you are going to be able to spread COVID-19,” Levine said. “Many people are asymptomatic. They’re not doing it deliberately. They don’t have any symptoms and they don’t know they have COVID-19.”

Levine says she hopes Pennsylvanians move past the election year politics that had many people refusing to wear masks and follow common sense guidelines that are standard around the world.

Across the commonwealth, more than 2,400 people are hospitalized with COVID-19.

4 p.m. - Philadelphia again imposes restrictions due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases

City of Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley says with more than 2,500 cases over the weekend, the city is experiencing rapid growth that is getting out of hand.

"Increasing at about 4 percent per day which means the number of cases is doubling every 17 days,” Farley said. “Which means that we're on track to have a fourfold increase in the number of cases by the end of the year which means about three thousand cases per day in the city alone."

To prevent those numbers, indoor gatherings will be stopped beginning Friday, and even outdoor gatherings will be severely curtailed to family members only for the most part, says Farley.

“We'll also prohibit indoor dining in restaurants,” Farley said. “We know that many restaurants worked very hard to follow our precautions, but people dining indoors right now is just too risky."

Mayor Jim Kenney says the restrictions start Friday and will go until at least the beginning of the new year. It will also include limits on retail and an end to gyms, museums and libraries, and 5 percent capacity in houses of worship.  Full details are to be posted on the city's website.

3:50 p.m. - All students at Pittsburgh Public Schools will receive remote-only instruction starting today

Superintendent Anthony Hamlet made the decision late last week because of the skyrocketing number of new COVID-19 cases in the area.  Remote-only learning will continue through at least January 4th, according to an announcement from the district.

3:45 p.m. - Allegheny County reports 500 new COVID-19 cases

The new cases are primarily within the age range of 25-49. One new death was reported. Statewide, there were an additional 9,675 positive cases, bringing Pennsylvania's total to 269,613.

November 15, 2020  

Allegheny County reported a record-breaking 527 new coronavirus cases on Sunday. This is the third time since Wednesday that the county reported a new daily record.

“The continued increase in new COVID cases is beyond concerning...Despite our cautionary messages, the number of cases is continuing to increase rapidly,” Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the county health department, said in a press release.

Females comprise 55 percent of the new cases, which range in age from a three-month-old infant to someone who is 104 years old; the median age is 40.

The county reports that case investigators find that people are more likely to contract the disease while attending “unmonitored” private social gatherings.

“Just because you are gathering outdoors, or with people you know, doesn’t mean that you’re not at risk for COVID," Bogen said. "Even outdoors or with those you know, people need to remain six feet apart and should be masked. Whether in someone’s backyard, or at a public space, the guidelines remain the same. We’ve become complacent in recent months, and the number of cases clearly shows that. We are actively considering what options are available to the Health Department to limit this spread.”

Since November 1, 24 Allegheny County residents have died.

November 14, 2020

3:45 p.m. - Allegheny County reports 370 new COVID-19 cases

The Health Department said the new cases have a median age of 43 years. There were no new deaths in Allegheny County. Statewide, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 5,551 additional positive cases. There were 50 new deaths, for a total of 9,274 in Pennsylvania.

November 13, 2020

4:07 p.m. - PPS students, staff, go back to remote learning

Pittsburgh Public Schools students and staff that returned to buildings this week for the first time since March will return to learning and teaching from home again on Monday. The district notified teachers after school Friday and in a robocall to families that because of the high numbers of COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County, all students and teachers will work remotely until January.

About 800 of the district’s 23,000 students returned to classrooms this week. District administrators identified those students as unable to learn in a remote setting.

3:54 p.m. - Arsenal schools closed after some staffers get COVID-19

Another Pittsburgh Public School closed Friday after staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Pittsburgh Arsenal PreK-5 and 6- 8 schools in Lawrenceville both closed this week. On Monday all teachers and about 800 students returned to buildings district-wide for the first time since schools closed in March due to the pandemic. District buildings have remained partially open as meal distribution sites.

Arsenal families are now directed to pick up their Grab ‘n go meals at Pittsburgh Sunnyside in Morningside or Obama Academy in East Liberty.

3:30 p.m. - Steelers expect Roethlisberger to play against Bengals

The unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers expect to have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger available when they host the Cincinnati Bengals.

Roethlisberger is one of four Steelers who have spent the week in self-quarantine as part of the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols. Roethlisberger, linebacker Vince Williams, running back Jaylen Samuels and offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins all participated virtually this week due to contact tracing after tight end Vance McDonald tested positive for the coronavirus.

While McDonald is definitely out, Roethlisberger and the others practicing virtually will be OK to play provided they continue to test negative for COVID-19.

3:02 p.m. – Latest Allegheny County coronavirus numbers 

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 378 new COVID-19 cases Friday. The new cases are the result of 1,673 tests taken July 8 – Nov. 12. Two of the tests were taken July 8, ordered by the Florida Department of Health and shared with Allegheny County in the last 24 hours. 

Those infected range in age from 1 month to 101 years old.  

County officials also reported two new deaths, which occurred Nov. 6 and 9. One person was in their 80s, the other in their 90s.  

 

Thursday, November 12

5:43 p.m. - Hospitals see increases in COVID-19 cases

Medical officers at four Pittsburgh-area health care systems all say their facilities are seeing increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations. But Allegheny Health Network, Heritage Valley Health System, St. Clair Hospital and UPMC report that none of their facilities are overwhelmed by patient surges.

AHN’s Dr. Donald Whiting says he hopes people will refrain from social gatherings, especially over the holiday season.

“We need our people to be at work to take care of the people who develop COVID over this time,” Whiting said. “I think moving forward, our issue is going to be staffing and keeping people healthy.”

Allegheny County says that for every 100 cases reported to the health department, two of these will result in fatalities.

3:38 p.m. - Pa. officials say the state doesn’t plan to impose new restrictions yet

Despite rising case counts and hospitalizations, Pennsylvania health officials say residents shouldn't expect any new statewide COVID-19 restrictions just yet.

But Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says her office is closely monitoring the spread of the virus to see if new protocols are needed, including how many people are testing positive and being hospitalized for it.

"We do already have mitigation orders in place. We have a universal masking order in place,” Levine said. “We have decreased capacity at 50 percent for indoor dining at restaurants and we have limitations on large gatherings for indoor and outdoor."

The state's positivity rate now sits at nearly 7 percent.

It was roughly 6 percent just last week.

3:01 p.m. – Allegheny County breaks another single-day coronavirus record

In what’s just the latest in a string of record-breaking single-day case counts in Allegheny County, the county health department reported 412 new cases Thursday.  

Thursday’s count exceeds the previous day’s record-setting number of 366 cases. The new cases  are from positive tests ranging from Oct. 28-Nov. 11 and are the result of 1,725 total tests. Those infected range in age from 11 months to 98 years.  

Three new deaths were also reported. The people who died were in their 60s, 70s and 90s.

Wednesday, November 11

5:56 p.m. - Pitt tightens student restrictions this week ahead of its fall break

Around 40 new cases – many connected to Halloween parties – prompted the university to shelter students in place earlier than it had planned. Students are to only leave their homes for necessary trips including in-person classes and going to work. Students won’t return to campus after Thanksgiving. All classes then will be remote until the semester ends in late December.

Read more here.

5:31 p.m. - Steelers trying to get a grip on their "virtual" reality

The vibe is the same. The jokes. The freewheeling banter.

In that way, the daily meetings for the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line haven’t changed a bit even with the group being forced to get together over Zoom instead of in the same room, a move necessitated by the NFL's COVID-19 protocols.

Still, there is something offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett admits is lacking: the comfort in knowing he has each player's undivided attention as he tries to get a point across.

“When I am explaining something, I can’t look at the guy in the eyes,” Sarrett said Wednesday. “That’s the big thing. That’s just something we have to adapt to as coaches.”

In many ways, the NFL's first “virtual” offseason last spring prepared the Steelers for what amounts to a lockdown of sorts. Pittsburgh entered the league's “intensive” protocol last week when Baltimore defensive back Marlon Humphrey received a positive test result hours after the Steelers had edged the Ravens on Nov. 1.

They will remain in the protocol this week after tight end Vance McDonald tested positive following a victory over Dallas on Sunday that pushed Pittsburgh to 8-0.

- Will Graves | Associated Press

4:01 p.m. - UPMC says it’s ready for COVID-19 case increases

As Pennsylvania continues to see record-breaking coronavirus case totals on a near daily basis, the state’s largest medical system says it’s prepared to handle patient surges.

“We hope that this rise will plateau. But we are prepared that it won’t,” said Dr. Rachel Sackrowitz, who heads UPMC’s intensive care unit service center. “We have plans that can be implemented and modified as the situation changes.”

UPMC says its hospitals in and around both Altoona and western Maryland are seeing particularly high levels of COVID-19 illness. Sackrowitz says people have been transferred from hospitals that are contending with large patient volumes to other facilities. 

11:40 a.m. – Allegheny County hits another record

Allegheny County reported 366 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, marking a new record for cases reported in a single day. The total comprises positive tests ranging from Oct. 30 to Nov. 10. Those cases are the result of 1,711 tests.

The cases reported Wednesday were found in people ranging from 3 months to 96 years old.

Five new deaths were also reported. Those deaths occurred Oct. 20 through Nov. 5. One of the people who dies was in their 20s, two were in their 70s and two in their 90s.

Tuesday, November 10

4:30 p.m. - Steelers' Roethlisberger, 3 teammates go on COVID-19 list

The Pittsburgh Steelers have placed four more players on the COVID-19 list, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The move comes a day after tight end Vance McDonald went on the list after testing positive following a 24-19 win at Dallas that pushed the Steelers to 8-0. Running back Jaylen Samuels, offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins and linebacker Vince Williams joined Roethlisberger on the list Tuesday.

4 p.m. - State Health Department reports first flu-associated death

 

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said since Saturday, there have been 383 confirmed flu cases. One individual, who was between 50-64-years-old, did die from complications related to the flu. Levine said while flu activity is currently low across the commonwealth, residents should still get an influenza vaccine.

 

3:38 p.m. - Allegheny County has another day of high COVID-19 cases

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 317 new coronavirus cases. The only other time the county’s daily total surpassed 300 cases was this summer, when the county released a significant backlog of test results.

The department says that unless people start limiting parties and gatherings, cases will continue to rise and lead to an increase in hospitalizations and deaths.

The spread of the virus is also accelerating statewide. The Pennsylvania Department of Heath today reported a record-breaking daily case total for the fifth time this month. 

3:29 p.m. - Hydroxychloroquine does not help people recover from COVID-19

That’s according to a new study, which enrolled nearly 500 research volunteers from 34 different sites, including UPMC. Earlier this year President Trump had called the anti-malarial drug a “game-changer,” saying it could help people recover from the illness. But the study found that patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine were just as likely to die from COVID-19 as were those who were given the placebo.

2:40 p.m. - Health secretary says PA not considering a shutdown

The state is in the midst of a fall resurgence, says Dr. Rachel Levine, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, but is better prepared to deal with the novel coronavirus than it was in the spring.

She told WESA's The Confluence that Pennsylvania is “not considering a shutdown like the red, yellow, green protocols that we put in place in the spring,” and instead is focusing on containment and mitigation efforts already in place, such as the universal mask order, limits on indoor dining, and limits on public gatherings.

Listen to the interview here.

1:58 p.m. – Latest Allegheny County coronavirus numbers

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 378 new COVID-19 cases Friday. The new cases are the result of 1,673 tests taken July 8 – Nov. 12. Two of the tests were taken July 8, ordered by the Florida Department of Health and shared with Allegheny County in the last 24 hours.

Those infected range in age from 1 month to 101 years old. 

County officials also reported two new deaths, which occurred Nov. 6 and 9. One person was in their 80s, the other in their 90s.