WESA Daily Briefing: June 30, 2020

Jun 30, 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.

 

6:08 p.m. - Wolf expected to sign bills that address police brutality

Gov. Tom Wolf will sign the first bills passed by Pennsylvania’s Legislature in response to widespread protests over police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. Wolf's office said Tuesday that he'll sign two bills that passed the Senate unanimously.

One of the bills is designed to prevent bad officers from continuing to find employment in police departments. Under the bill, a department must check a job applicant’s history of disciplinary actions, complaints and reasons for separation. The other bill requires officers to receive cultural sensitivity training, instruction on de-escalation and harm-reduction techniques and a mental health evaluation after an incident in which the officer used lethal force.

5:40 p.m. - Council rejects police board request to hire consultant

Pittsburgh City Council has rejected a Citizens Police Review Board request to hire a consultant that would help review recent police actions.

The review board wanted $25,000 to pay the Densus Group to review how police handled protests in late May and early June. Two protests ended with police deploying chemical spray and firing bean bag rounds at protesters, and Mayor Bill Peduto called for a review.

Some critics of Densus say it is too police friendly. But review board executive director Beth Pittinger says they are objective and worked with the board in the past.

“Council has determined that it will substitute its judgement for the independent judgement of the police review board,” Pittinger said. “I think it’s worthy of some philosophical thought about the role of the independent police review board and its interaction and its ability to exercise its discretion to conduct the work that is mandated by the charter.

After council rejected the request Tuesday morning, Pittinger said the board will revaluate its options..

4:50 p.m. - Demonstrators demand justice for toddler killed in East Hills

Protesters are gathered outside the City-County building in downtown Pittsburgh, calling for justice for Marcus White, a toddler who was killed by gunfire at an East Hills cookout in 2013. A suspect was taken into custody on Saturday, but the family of the child says it is unacceptable that it took seven years to make an arrest. The family has filed a complaint against Allegheny County in federal court, asking that the case be turned over to either state or federal prosecutors.

  

3:34 p.m. — Pitt releases guidelines for fall semester

The University of Pittsburgh has released new guidelines for operating during the pandemic this fall. The university’s three “risk postures” are similar to Pennsylvania’s green, yellow, and red phases, and outline instruction ranging from mostly in-person to nearly all virtual. Campus activities will have size caps or even be banned, depending on the risk level. Faculty and staff will be encouraged to work from home when possible, and face masks will be required on campus.

2:30 p.m. — Jill Biden launching Pennsylvania Women for Biden

Credit Matt Rourke / AP

Jill Biden says female voters can help her husband Joe win Pennsylvania and beat President Trump. She's launching Pennsylvania Women for Biden in an effort to drive voter turnout in November.

Biden says the American dream means nothing if it's not for all Americans.

“Joe believes that,” she said. “He has the steady leadership to get us through this chaos.”

The Pennsylvania native says past elections show when women show up the polls - the democratic candidate usually wins. She also reminded voters of the important role Pennsylvania is expected to play this election. Trump narrowly won the state in 2016.

12:41 p.m. – Statewide COVID cases increase by 618

The number of COVID-19 cases across Pennsylvania continued to climb Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 86,606.

State health officials also reported 35 new deaths, bringing the statewide total to 6,649.  

11:34 a.m. - Allegheny Co. exceeds 100 daily COVID cases for first time

Allegheny County is reporting 106 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, marking the first time the county’s daily count has exceeded 100 cases.

The county reports the new cases represent people ranging in age from 10 to 86 years old; the median age is 26. This continues the trend of new infections being in younger people.

There were seven new hospitalizations and no new deaths. As was seen earlier in the pandemic, fatalities tend to lag behind new cases.

11:01 a.m. - How much testing does our state need to subdue the virus?  

The coronavirus keeps spreading around the United States. New hot spots are emerging and heating up by the day. The death toll keeps mounting. So how can the U.S. beat back the relentless onslaught of this deadly virus?

Public health experts agree one powerful weapon is something that's gotten a lot of attention, but apparently still needs a lot more: Testing.

A new analysis that researchers at Harvard conducted for NPR finds that more states have begun to do enough testing to keep their outbreaks from getting worse, but most are still falling short.

Find more here

9:29 a.m. – Last call at Allegheny County bars is tonight

In response to a rise in coronavirus cases, Allegheny County has placed new restrictions on bars. 

Beginning 5 p.m. today, customers will not be allowed to drink alcohol inside bars and restaurants.

Gov. Tom Wolf says he supports the new restriction, imposed by county leaders.

But the Democratic governor says he is not considering expanding that restriction statewide.

He says the state is in a better position to respond now.

"And so we don't need to do the broad, draconian things we did three months ago,” he said. “And some of these more targeted, more surgical solutions seem to be much more appropriate. What works in Allegheny County is not necessarily going to work in Tioga County."

Wolf has eased restrictions in 66 out of 67 counties.

The last county, Lebanon, is scheduled to move to the least restrictive green phase on Friday, meaning bars and restaurants can open at 50 percent of their capacity.

While Wolf moved Philadelphia to the green phase, city leaders chose to keep some restrictions in place, including a ban on indoor seating for bars and restaurants.  

7:31 a.m. - Councilman to introduce chokehold legislation

Pittsburgh City Councilman Daniel Lavelle plans to introduce a bill today that bans police from using chokeholds, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports. Pittsburgh police are currently prohibited from using neck restraints unless they are in a deadly force encounter, according to the Bureau of Police use-of-force policy. That's when an officer believes their life is under threat and they are unable to use a firearm. Lavelle said that the police manual has the potential to be changed, whereas writing the policy into city code makes more official.