WESA Daily Briefing: August 10, 2020

Aug 10, 2020

News on the coronavirus pandemic, protests, 2020 election and more from around Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and southwestern Pennsylvania. 

Find all of the WESA Daily Briefing posts here

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

5:48 p.m. - Peduto addresses Census count, police policy changes during Facebook Live event

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto says he wants to see therapists and social workers respond to incidents involving mental health and homelessness, rather than police officers.

He made the comments during a Facebook Live Chat Monday, saying that the city's emergency response should be appropriate to the situation.

“Homelessness is not a part of the criminal code of Pennsylvania,” Peduto said. “So, why do we use a police officer, whose job it is to enforce criminal code, in order to be able to deal with the homelessness situation.”

The city announced plans in June to form an Office of Community Health and Safety that would redirect city resources to better meet community needs. The mayor’s office says it will work with City Council to fund the office in next year's budget.

Peduto also urged city residents to make sure they’re counted in the 2020 Census. He said federal funding distributed to low-income areas directly linked to the census population count.

“If we don't have everybody responding, we have less resources to address the issues in the areas that need the most help,” Peduto said.

The Census Bureau announced last month it would end counting a month early--September 30th, rather than October 31st. According to the bureau’s current estimate, only about 60 percent of Pittsburgh households have responded to the survey so far.

4:24 p.m. – Guidelines for school re-opening in Pa.

Pennsylvania officials have released recommendations on how schools should re-open during the coronavirus pandemic, based on local COVID-19 transmission data. The state is ranking counties into three categories – low, moderate or substantial risk – depending on the number of cases per 100,000 residents. Schools in “low risk” counties can reopen at least partially in person, while schools in “substantial risk” counties should reopen entirely online.

“Schools certainly have the potential to be superspreader events, and we have to take precautions in counties that have high rates of community transmission,” said state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine

She said that currently most counties, including Allegheny County, are considered “moderate risk.” In that case, the state recommends either fully online learning or a blended learning model. The recommendations are not binding; individuals school districts have the final say on how their schools reopen.

3:13 p.m. - Team at Lehigh University to examine how COVID-19 clings to surfaces

While the race for a COVID-19 vaccine is on, researchers in the Lehigh Valley are zeroing in on how to stop the virus from spreading.

With the help of a twenty-five thousand dollar grant, the scientists are developing a disinfectant that lasts longer and better prevents the spread of the virus.

Frank Zhang is an associate professor of bio-engineering at Lehigh working on the project.

“People have done a lot of research on how long viruses will stay on surfaces and the longest ones are like stainless steel or plastic,” Zhang said. “Based on those studies, coronavirus will stay for three days on those surfaces. So the idea is, can we come up with an approach that can destroy the virus but lasts much longer on the surfaces?”

Zhang says most disinfectants are alcohol based and because they evaporate quickly, are only effective for a short time. So they’re hoping their liquid polymer spray will have longer lasting results.

The team is partnering with chemicals company, Solvay USA and is planning to make their disinfectant spray available for purchase in the near future.

2:25 p.m. - Pride taking a "hiatus" this year

The Delta Foundation announced today that Pride will take a "hiatus" until 2021. he internal review they conducted after Gary Van Horn left is complete and headed to the Allegheny County District Attorney. And Marty Healey is the new President of the board.

12:37 p.m. – Latest COVID numbers

Allegheny County reported 75 new COVID-19 cases Monday, the result of 1,331 tests taken Aug. 3-9. The county also reported one new hospitalization and no new deaths.

Statewide, the number of COVID-19 cases increased by 601, bringing the total to 119,453. The state also reported three new deaths.  

9:52 a.m. - Biden leads Trump in PA polls

Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading President Trump by 6 points in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to a new survey of registered voters by CBS and "You Gov."  Pollsters say more sampled voters in both states think Biden would better manage the pandemic, but voters give the edge to Trump in handling the economy.  Overwhelming majorities in both states dislike how Trump "handles himself personally." 

7:40 a.m. - Allegheny County reported 148 new COVID cases over the weekend

The county Health Department reported 87 new cases Saturday and 61 new cases Sunday. Two new deaths were also reported over the weekend. Additionally, Allegheny County reported nine new hospitalizations Saturday and four Sunday.

6:39 a.m. - U.S. hits 5 million coronavirus cases

The U.S. has hit 5 million confirmed coronavirus cases — just 17 days after crossing the 4 million mark — as lawmakers and states continue to grapple with how to chart a path back to normal as the pandemic continues to rage on.

The grim milestone was reached on Sunday, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University. It came after President Trump announced Saturday that he would take executive action to extend coronavirus relief efforts that expired after negotiations with Congress stalled out.

The last time the country surpassed a million new cases, many states had been seeing record surges of new infections, including California, Florida and Texas. An NPR analysis shows that cases in at least 33 states were on the decline last week.

But those figures do not offer a full picture of the crisis.

Read more here