What Happens When Allegheny County Reopens?

May 5, 2020

 


On today's program: How state and local leaders decide when Pittsburgh will reopen; why PA’s overburdened unemployment system still hasn’t delivered to lots of would-be recipients; and how local manufacturers are pivoting as the shutdown continues.

Frustrations aside, Fitzgerald says Allegheny County needs more time
(00:00 — 08:57)

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says health systems should have enough tests and equipment—and local case numbers are well below the state’s required threshold—to begin safely reopening parts of southwestern Pennsylvania now, but it’ll be at least May 15 before that happens.

Fitzgerald says he shares locals’ frustration, but he counsels patience. If Pittsburgh reopens too quickly and the case numbers rise, privileges everyone just got back will be restricted again. Businesses that just reopened will again shut down.

“We don’t want to go there,” he tells The Confluence. “We don’t want to open things up, close them down. It’s very disruptive to try to operate that way. So it’s going to be incumbent upon all of us to continue to be responsible.”

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday that a 24-county swath of northern Pennsylvania, including Lawrence, Mercer, Venango and Clarion, will move from “red” to “yellow” this week as part of a three-phase reopening strategy. 

Under the yellow phase, stay-at-home orders lift, churches may hold services and some businesses may resume work, including day care centers and retail stores. Casinos, theaters, gyms, hair and nail salons, barber shops and massage therapy centers remain closed. Restaurants and bars will still be limited to carryout and delivery options only, and gatherings shouldn’t exceed 25 people.

Fitzgerald says county health and safety officials will do what they can to oversee these measures, but when Allegheny County does begin to reopen, it’ll largely fall on Pittsburghers to police themselves.

“A lot of this is going to be social interaction and social pressure,” he says. “We’ve outlawed smoking in certain places… I don’t know that anyone gets a ticket or thrown in jail for smoking a cigarette inside of an elevator, but you just don’t do it anymore because the social pressure of doing something like that would not be tolerated.”

Unemployed in a ‘black hole’
(08:59 — 13:35) 

In the past six weeks, more than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians have applied for unemployment compensation. About one-third aren’t receiving funds and are instead looking for answers.

Keystone Crossroads Laura Benshoff has more from the unemployment waiting line. 

How has the COVID-19 crisis impacted PA manufacturers?
(13:37 — 18:04) 

Data show most American manufacturers are considered essential, but many still opted to close during the coronavirus pandemic. 

90.5 WESA's An-Li Herring reports that in Pennsylvania, keeping the doors open is just one challenge. Company owners also have to worry about employee retention, and if business is good, surging demand.

90.5 WESA’s Julia Zenkevich contributed to this report. 

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.