WESA Daily Briefing: August 6, 2020

Aug 6, 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.

 

 

7:44 p.m. - Wolf Administration Recommends Postponing High School Sports Through The Fall

The future of youth sports is in question for the fall after Gov. Tom Wolf recommended all Pre-K through 12 sports be postponed until January 2021. The administration said the risk of spreading COVID-19 due to large gatherings has been consistently advised against.
 
Gov. Wolf first announced the guidance in a response to a question at a press conference Thursday. The administration later clarified their position in a press release. While the recommendation is not a mandate, it’s not clear if the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association will go against it. The final decision may be left to individual districts.

“As with deciding whether students should return to in-person classes, remote learning or a blend of the two this fall, school administrators and locally elected school boards should make decisions on sports,” The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Department of Education said in a joint statement.

The PIAA announced last week that fall sports would go on with a number of COVID-19 safety protocols. The association said in a statement Thursday that its Board of Directors would meet Friday to review the new guidance.

 

2:54 p.m. - Douglas Anderson named to head city Finance Department

 

Mayor Bill Peduto has appointed Douglas Anderson as Director of the Department of Finance and City Treasurer. Anderson previously worked as Deputy Controller for the city and auditor for the Pennsylvania Auditor General. In his new position he'll be charged with the collection, deposit and investment of all funds received by the city, according to a press release.

Credit City of Pittsburgh

 

His appointment will now go to council for approval. 

2:34 p.m. - Students of color say Pa.'s state universities don't address campus racism

Ada Bailor’s time at Indiana University of Pennsylvania has been marked by a steady drumbeat of racism.

Her first month on campus, in 2017, an image of a fellow student’s Snapchat emerged, showing a burnt sandwich with the caption, “How do you like your grilled cheese? The same as my slaves.” This past September, a video shared dozens of times on social media captured a student using racial slurs and threatening violence against students of color.

Then there was more subtle racism, Bailor said, such as professors discouraging her from taking the same number of science and math classes as others because they didn’t think she would succeed. When she raised concerns about discrimination, an advisor lectured her on learning to work in a professional environment, even though she’s been a registered nurse aide since age 17.

Racism on the Western Pennsylvania campus is always met with the same formulaic response by the university, Bailor said. First, they send out a statement condemning the action. Second, they hold town halls to talk about it. And third, they move on without making meaningful changes.

Read more here.

2:07 p.m. - Father of officer's killer convicted of witness intimidation

The father of a man convicted in the fatal shooting of a western Pennsylvania police officer has been found guilty of intimidating a potential witness in his son's trial.

A Westmore­land County jury convicted Gregory Baucum, 49, on two misdemeanor counts Wednesday but acquitted him on a felony charge. The former Arnold resident faces up to four years in state prison when he's sentenced later this year.

Authorities have said Baucum threatened the witness on social media, labeled her a snitch and published details online of her cooperation with law enforcement. The woman testified that Baucum sent her messages in which he called her a “cheese-eating rat snitch” and sent emojis of a block of cheese and a casket, which made her fear for her safety.

Baucum admitted sending the messages but testified that he did so as free speech and to alert other community members about her police cooperation.

The woman did not testify at the trial of Baucum's son, Rahmael Sal Holt. He was sentenced to death after being convicted last year of first-degree murder in the November 2017 shooting death of New Kensington Police Officer Brian Shaw.

12:05 p.m. - House GOP wants to revisit guidelines for fall sports

High school sports across the commonwealth are expected to start soon. But, so far parents and other spectators will not be allowed in the stands.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration gave guidance late last month that puts a capacity limit on school sporting events: 250 people max at an outdoor game, 25 at anything indoors.

Whether spectators will be allowed to be among them will be "contingent upon future health conditions."

State House GOP spokesman Jason Gottesman says that "doesn't make any sense." He says the caucus is demanding parents, at minimum, be allowed to watch.

"This is a practical ask. There's practical reasons to have parents on site,” Gottesman said. “For instance, one of the many reasons is if there's an injury, and some sort of consent for treatment is needed to be given, then parents are on site."

The PIIA meanwhile, says it wants to see spectators at fall sports, and has scheduled talks with the governor's office to see what can be done.

A spokeswoman for Wolf says large gatherings still pose a big risk.

11:33 a.m. - Allegheny County reports 100 new COVID-19 cases

The Allegheny County Health Department said 12 additional people were hospitalized and three have died from the virus. Statewide, cases increased by 807 for a total of 116,521. Allegheny County had the largest increase, followed by Philadelphia with 112.

9:52 a.m. – Biden spends millions in ads, many targeting Pennsylvania voters

Joe Biden’s Democratic presidential campaign is reserving $280 million in digital and television ads through the fall, nearly twice the amount President Donald Trump’s team has reserved.

The Biden campaign announced in a Wednesday memo it’s reserving $220 million in television airtime and $60 million in digital ads, in contrast to the $147 million the Trump campaign has reserved, according to a review of Kantar/CMAG data by The Associated Press. Both campaigns can add to or subtract from their reservations at any time.

The buy reflects the Biden campaign's improved fundraising machine. Along with the Democratic National Committee and joint fundraising committees, it raised a combined $140 million in July. The committees have a total $294 million cash on hand. Biden struggled to raise funds during the primary but has been ramping up his efforts since becoming the presumptive nominee and has worked to close the fundraising gap with the Trump campaign.

Biden is reserving airtime in 15 states, which includes a number of traditional swing states — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida — as well as a number of historically Republican states, including Arizona, Georgia and Texas, and a few traditional swing states that seemed to be moving away from Democrats in recent years, such as Ohio and Iowa. His campaign says a “significant portion” of the reservation will be minute-long ads.

7:58 a.m. - Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement is running out of money

The agency is asking lawmakers to support a bill that would raise the state's annual dog license fee to $10.  The bureau inspects dog kennels, helps reunite lost dogs with their owners, and reimburses animal shelters for boarding lost dogs.

7:50 a.m. - Five more Port Authority employees test positive for COVID-19

Three of the five infected employees are assigned to the garage in Ross.  Another works at the West Mifflin Garage.  A Port Authority police officer has also tested positive.

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

7:42 a.m. - Health Department responds to Lamb's investigation

Officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Health say they've followed federal and state regulations in their oversight of the COVID-19 outbreak at the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County. 

Earlier this week, Democratic Congressman Conor Lamb requested a federal investigation of the state's effort to hold the facility accountable.  More than 330 residents have been infected and at least 73 have died.  The state has conducted 8 inspections at Brighton since April. 

Department of Health spokesman Nate Wardle says "plans of correction were submitted by the operators and accepted by the department," according to the Beaver County Times.

7:00 a.m. - Group of Black women say PPS Superintendent should leave

The group Black Women For A Better Education demand transformational change.

When Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet was hired in 2016 he called himself “a true transformational leader, not by words, but by actions and performance”. The women in the group say they haven’t seen that. In June, 55 women signed a letter asking the board to not renew Hamlet’s contract at the end of the school year. Now, they say they plan to run a slate of school board candidates in the 2021 election.

Read more here.