LIVE BLOG: Coronavirus In Pittsburgh, March 9-15
EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog post covers the events of March 9-13. For the latest on what's happening the week of March 16-20, follow here.
News on the coronavirus pandemic, including the responses of local governments, health departments, hospital systems, schools and other institutions.
Editor's note: This post will be frequently updated with the latest news.
Sunday, March 15, 2020
10:52 p.m. — Gov. Wolf orders all Allegheny County dine-in restaurants and bars to close
All bars and restaurants in Allegheny County have been ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf to close dine-in facilities for at least two weeks starting Monday morning, to encourage social distancing, which slows the spread of coronavirus.
Restaurants are encouraged to stay open to provide food delivery and pick-up, but customers are not allowed to dine inside the facilities.
The governor's order comes after officials announced the county’s first cases of COVID-19 over the weekend. Wolf's order also applies to bars and restaurants in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.
9:52 p.m. — Pittsburgh Public Schools Announces Emergency Plan, Meal Pick-Ups
All 54 Pittsburgh Public Schools will close for 10 days starting Monday. The schools will, though, be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the first week to allow students to pick up grab-and-go meals. Families are asked to go to the school closest to their home to pick up food.
In a press release Sunday the district said it would evaluate student participation in the meal distribution to determine where regional sites will be located for the second week of closure. Nurses will also be in schools Monday and Tuesday if parents need to pick up their child’s medication. All district-related athletics and events have been canceled during the closure.
The district announced its two-week closure shortly after Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday instructed all Pennsylvania schools to close for at least 10 days. Schools will not be asked to make-up the days. PPS is sending home optional grade-level work packets for students that will not count toward student grades. The packets will be made available online through the district’s “CLEVER” portal at www.pghschools.org/studentresources.
9:12 p.m. — Pittsburgh limits all gatherings of 50 or more
The City of Pittsburgh is prohibiting the gathering of 50 or more people following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In an emergency declaration on Friday Mayor Bill Peduto limited gatherings to 250 people beginning March 16, that number has now been reduced to slow the spread of COVID-19.
8:48 p.m - Diocese cancels all Masses
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has also cancelled all Masses until further notice. Officials said they are working to offer a live stream of services. Bishop David Zubik is also calling for a day of prayer on March 25.
8:36 p.m. - County calls for businesses to close voluntarily
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen called for all "non-essential" businesses to close or "implement alternative work strategies" for the next 14 days to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Non-essential businesses include: child care centers, senior centers, gyms, salons, bars, casinos, theaters, and social clubs, among others. In neighboring Ohio, all bars and restaurants have been ordered to close. And the CDC has recommended that all gatherings of 50 people or more be cancelled for the next eight weeks.
1:40 p.m. - Fourth Allegheny County resident positive for COVID-19
Allegheny County said that not one, but two more residents have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number to four. The state reported a little after noon on Sunday that just three people in Allegheny County, so far, are positive for the disease caused by coronavirus. Of these most recent cases, the county said both individuals are in their 60s. One is hospitalized, the other is at home in isolation. The county said the health department is investigating how the two people became infected. Officials will reach out to those who had close contact with the infected individuals, and “enforce appropriate quarantine measures.”
12:40 p.m. — Third Allegheny County resident tests positive for COVID-19
The Pennsylvania Department of Health said a third person in Allegheny County has tested positive for COVID-19. This is one of 16 new cases announced by the department on Sunday, bringing the total number of Pennsylvanians who have tested positive to 63. The department said that to date, 446 patients have been tested or are in the process of being tested. The samples of 205 people have tested negative, and results of another 183 samples are pending.
9:45 a.m. — State Department of Aging recommends ways to get food to seniors
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging on Sunday recommended that Area Agencies on Aging that plan to temporarily close senior centers have contingency plans to deliver nutrition services. This might include preparing meals that can be picked up, delivering food to participants’ homes, offering shelf-stable or frozen meals, and enrolling people in an in-home meal service program.
The department also directed closed senior centers to continue make referrals for community resources, preform outreach to isolate participants, and communicate with seniors about service options.
The department directed its guidance at Area Agencies on Aging regarding the operations of over 500 affiliated senior community centers statewide.
6:30 a.m. — How to request a mail-in ballot for the PA primary election
The Pennsylvania primary on April 28 will be the state's first election with widely available mail-in voting. Check-out frequently asked questions via this WESA explainer and then go to the Pennsylvania Department of State to request a mail-in ballot. Your county must receive your application for the mail-in ballot by April 21 at 5 p.m. The deadline to get your vote in is April 28 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 14, 2020
5:50 p.m. — PA Liquor Control Board shutting down liquor stores in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties on Tuesday
All Fine Wine & Good Spirits locations in those four counties will be open regular hours on Sunday, but only select stores will be open Monday. If you live in eastern Pennsylvania, check the hours of your neighborhood store. For now, the e-commerce store will remain open, and you can have purchases shipped to your home. Fine Wine & Good Spirits suspended product tastings earlier this week.
3:55 p.m. — Governor Wolf puts Bucks and Chester counties under coronavirus restrictions
Governor Tom Wolf is ordering enhanced restrictions for two more counties in response to the coronavirus, the PA Post reports. On Saturday, Wolf added Bucks and Chester counties to the list of counties where he is ordering and recommending the closure of more community centers. Montgomery County, which leads the state for coronavirus cases, was the first county to be put on under enhanced restrictions. Wolf added Delaware County on Friday. The mitigation efforts for Bucks and Chester counties begin Sunday.
3:46 p.m. — Port Authority will disinfect vehicles every 24 hours
Port Authority of Allegheny County upped its cleaning schedule on Saturday afternoon, following the announcement of two positive cases of COVID-19 in Pittsburgh. In a release, the authority noted that there are no operational changes planned right now, but if workers become unavavilable, they might need to reduce their service.
3:32 p.m. — Fallingwater closing on Sunday
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is shutting down the Frank Lloyd Wright building for two weeks.
2:40 p.m. — Allegheny County releases more details on first two COVID-19 cases
Allegheny County announced its first two cases of COVID-19 on Saturday afternoon. The two are adults in their 60s and 70s who live in the same household. They are believed to have contracted the virus while traveling out of state.
Both individuals were evaluated at the emergency department of Allegheny Health Network's West Penn Hospital and were discharged home for quarantine. They are continuing to be monitored.
As of Saturday at 2 p.m., the Pennsylvania Department of Health has now counted 47 positive cases across the state. Western Pennsylvania has a total of three positive cases—in addition to the two in Allegheny County, there is one in Washington.
1:18 p.m. — Giant Eagle temporarily restricts operating hours
The grocery store company is compressing its operating hours at all Giant Eagle and Market District supermarkets to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The change is being made to allow employees time to clean stores and restock shelves overnight. The new hours start tomorrow, Sunday March 15. Curbside pickup will be available from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Standalone GetGo locations will continue to operate with their regular hours.
12:10 p.m. — Allegheny County announces first cases of COVID-19
At 2 p.m., Allegheny County leaders including County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Health Department Director Debra Bogen will be sharing information on the county's first positive cases of COVID-19. You can stream the press conference on the county's Facebook page.
10:53 a.m. — Unconfirmed still, but UPMC believes they have a potential positive COVID-19 case in Allegheny County
At a media briefing on Saturday morning, Dr. Donald Yealy, UPMC’s chair of emergency medicine, said the system was treating a positive COVID-19 patient at a facility in central Pennsylvania. He went on to say: “We have other potential cases, including in Allegheny County, that we believe are positive or may be positive, and they’re all travel-related so far. And we’re awaiting further information from local and state public health officials. We’ve been planning and preparing for this situation for months. It is not a surprise that someone will eventually be a positive in Pittsburgh or Allegheny County. As of today, there is not a confirmed positive case in Pittsburgh or Allegheny County. That could change at any moment."
10:06 a.m. — UPMC developed their own test for COVID-19
UPMC doctors and scientists created their own test for COVID-19. According to Dr. Alan Wells, the medical director of UPMC Clinical Laboratories, they will initially be able to test 20 patients a day, but expect to increase that to 100 a day by the end of next week. Beginning on Tuesday, UPMC will start directing patients with physician referrals to UPMC facilities on the South Side to receive the test. Appointments will be required.
9:15 a.m. — Carnegie Museums are closed, too
Like many other local institutions, they will be closed for two weeks.
8:46 a.m. — Heinz History Center and Fort Pitt Museum closed starting today
Both museums will be closed until March 29, the organization announced this morning.
7:14 a.m. — Remainder of Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show canceled
This was supposed to be the final weekend of the popular event, which takes place annually at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Organizers said it was canceled based on new guidelines from the Allegheny County Health Department.
7:07 a.m. — Jurors summoned for service to Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas next week not requird to report
No new juries will be picked the week of March 16, according to a statement from President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark. However, if you were already selected for a specific trial taking place next week, you should still plan to report.
6:55 a.m. — Rivers Casino shutting down Sunday at midnight
The North Side casino announced it would be closing for two weeks, starting Sunday at midnight, and that they would continue to pay employees during the closure.
6:30 a.m. — Parents across Pa. scramble due to coronavirus school closures
Governor Tom Wolf closed all K-12 schools on Friday, out of concern for the spread of the coronavirus. That action follows Wolf's shut-down of schools in Montgomery County on Thursday, which left many parents trying to pull together last-minute child care.
Friday, March 13, 2020
7:41 p.m. - ACHD updates guidance on social distancing
The Allegheny County Health Department has updated its guidance on social distancing, bringing it in line with state recommendations. The department now wants residents to avoid gyms, movie theaters and shopping malls. And it encourages the suspension of gatherings, events and conferences of 250 people or more.
6:23 p.m. - Libraries to close in Pittsburgh
The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh system announced it would close its 19 locations at the end of the day Saturday, March 14. In a release, library officials emphasized there have been no reports of staff or patrons exposed to coronavirus.
“We understand the impact this decision has on our community. In the interest of our public’s health we cannot in good faith maintain the cleaning routine and enforce the social distancing necessary to combat the spread of this virus," said Mary Frances Cooper, president and director of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
All late fees will be suspended and due dates extended during the closures.
5:38 p.m. - One positive COVID case in Washington County, 41 statewide
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is reporting that someone in Washington County has for tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
It’s the first reported case of the illness in western Pennsylvania. Until now, all Pennsylvanians who have tested positive live in the eastern part of the state.
State health officials report 41 people have tested positive statewide. Of the 315 people tested so far, about 130 are still pending and 145 tested negative.
5:26 p.m. - Mayor Bill Peduto declares state of emergency in the City of Pittsburgh
Peduto has issued an executive order that will prohibit all public gatherings of more than 250 people effective 9 a.m. on Monday, March 16.
"Taking bold action early can ... save a number of lives," Peduto said.
He said he will work with nonprofits to provide food options for children while schools are closed. Free health care will be provided at some city facilities.
The announcement comes as Pittsburgh Public Schools – and all K-12 schools statewide – have been ordered closed by Governor Wolf beginning Monday, March 16.
The City is working with nonprofit partners and the Pittsburgh Public Schools to provide food options for city schoolchildren while the schools are closed.
5:23 p.m. - Case reported in Washington County
All public programs, events and trainings in state parks and forests are canceled through April. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources says that applies to all educational programs, races and festivals.
The parks themselves remain open, and individuals and small groups can still fish or camp overnight everywhere but in Montgomery County, which has been hardest hit by COVID-19 so far. State health officials attribute 18 of the state's 41 positive cases to Montgomery County alone.
Pennsylvania also announcing that confirmed cases of COVID-19 have grown to 41 from 22, including the first cases on the western side of the Susquehanna River, in Cumberland and Washington counties.— Marc Levy (@timelywriter) March 13, 2020
At least one positive case has been attributed to western Pennsylvania: The state Department of Health reported a case in Washington County late Friday.
5:04 p.m. - Pennsylvania Senators weigh in on emergency declaration
Coronavirus is on the minds of legislators in Washington DC. Staff for Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey have begun working remotely.
Casey said senators may begin working from home too, aside from coming in to vote. But when it comes to legislation, Casey is unsure Congress will be able to agree on a plan to provide funding for paid sick leave and food assistance programs for people impacted by the virus. He said he supports a proposal that Congressional Democrats negotiated with the White House to provide more federal funding for paid leave and food assistance programs for people impacted by the virus. But in announcing the emergency declaration Friday, Trump said he opposed that proposal.
Casey is happy Trump declared a national emergency, but he said Trump damaged his credibility by providing inaccurate information about the virus in the past.
“I’ll give him a tiny, tiny bit of credit for starting to make statements that are more accurate and more consistent with protecting public health as opposed to protecting his political standing,” Casey said.
Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey’s office did not comment on the legislation Friday. But aides said the Republican has coordinated with the National Institute of Health and state labs to speed up testing.
The Senate is slated to come back to Washington D.C. next week to work on coronavirus legislation, instead of taking a weeklong recess.
4:49 p.m. - Wolf announces closure of schools in Pennsylvania
Gov. Tom Wolf has announced the mandatory closure of all public and private schools in Pennsylvania. The move follows piecemeal announcements from individual districts all this past week as officials struggled to keep up with coronavirus concerns.
Pam Harbin, a board member serving Pittsburgh Public Schools, said Friday morning she'd welcome the news, adding that it's been tough to make smart choices while waiting for the state to weigh in.
"The more that you have to spend your time trying to figure out what we do school-by-school, we're taking away time to figure out what to do district-wide," she said. "It's just too much."
Closures will last 10 school days and could be extended. Wolf says the state's 1.7 million school children won't be penalized if they aren't able to meet the required 180 days of instruction.
In the same statement, Wolf also discouraged large gatherings of people statewide and canceled prison visits. He’s expected to speak again at 5 p.m.
4:22 p.m. - Children's Museum closes temporarily
Starting at 5 p.m., the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and its MuseumLab will close indefinitely as a precaution against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
*Due to the high number of closures at local arts and cultural institutions, WESA advises people to call organizations before an expected event.
While the museum emphasizes that there are "no documented cases of any visitors or staff who have been exposed to COVID-19," the museum says it will evaluate its decision on a day-to-day basis.
In the interim, the North Side museum plans to increase its online resources for children and the community, including releasing episodes of its MakeShop Show and other content.
3:53 p.m — More arts group cancellations
More arts groups have postponed or canceled upcoming programming in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has postponed its March 20-29 program "Here + Now," including a premiere by locally based choreographer Staycee Pearl. The postponement is "until further notice."
Pittsburgh Opera has canceled its new production of "Carmen," set to open March 28, and all other public events through April 5.
City of Asylum has suspended all programming through March at its Alphabet City venue on the North Side. The group hosts literary and music events. The bookstore and restaurant that share the space will remain open, though, as the group notes, "with more space between tables."
3:07 p.m. — First pediatric patient tests positive in Pennsylvania
A Monroe County resident is Pennsylvania’s first pediatric patient to test positive for COVID-19. The Pennsylvania Department of Health would not reveal the age of the patient. The department said it would work with the school district where the child lives. Children rarely become ill after contracting coronavirus. When they do, the illness is almost always mild. In total, 33 Pennsylvanians have now tested positive for the virus.
3:05 p.m. — Cultural Trust cancels, postpones all events through April
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has cancelled or postponed all of its performances, exhibitions, film screenings and other events through April 6.
A partial list includes the touring Broadway show “The Band’s Visit,” March 13-15; the Queen of Cardistry, March 13-29; the Pittsburgh Humanities Festival, March 20-22 (including featured talks by Ira Glass and Blair Imani); and the Banff Mountain Film Festival, April 3-5; and One Night of Queen, April 6. For a complete list, see here.
2:05 p.m. — COVID-19 not stopping fish fry season
Despite precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Pennsylvania, fish fry season is still in full swing, with some modifications. The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh urged all parishes to go “take-out only,” and many secular fish frys are following suit. However, some still offer dine-in options. The Swissvale Volunteer Fire Department decreased seating, and created buffer zones to keep people roughly six feet apart. They say they will continue to monitor the situation, and shut down if they have to to protect public health.
1:06 p.m. — 33 positive cases in PA now
Pennsylvania health officials offered a press briefing on the state's coronavirus response Friday afternoon. State health secretary Rachel Levine said there are five new patients, including one pediatric patient in Monroe County.
There are still no positive cases of COVID-19 in Allegheny County. For now, all 33 cases are in the eastern side of the state.
Montgomery County has been the hardest hit with 17 cases so far. About 300 people have been tested for COVID-19 statewide.
12:34 p.m. — PSO and Pittsburgh Humanities Festival postpone events
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has postponed or canceled its events through the end of March, including the BNY Mellon Grand Classics concerts this weekend and March 27 and 29, and the PNC Pops “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony” shows March 20-22. A March 18 student concert and March 24 subscriber/new donor reception are canceled. The PSO will offer several options for ticketholders, including holding on to tickets for rescheduled events, exchanges for other upcoming shows, or donating it for a tax credit.
The Pittsburgh Humanities Festival has also been postponed. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust event was set to host more than dozen presenters at a variety of Downtown venues March 20-22, including “This American Life” host Ira Glass.
12:28 p.m. — PWSA won't shut off water
Handwashing is crucial to prevent the spread of coronavirus and Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority wants to make sure everyone has access to water. The agency announced today it will not shut off water to any customer. The moratorium will run through the end of May. PWSA wrote in a release that customers will continue to be billed, and nonpayment may result in a water shutoff after the moratorium is lifted.
12:16 p.m. — PA now has 28 positive cases
The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced Friday morning they have now recorded 28 positive cases of COVID-19, six of which have been confirmed by the CDC. All the cases are in eastern Pennsylvania. The count as of now: Montgomery (17), Delaware (3), Bucks (2), Monroe (2), Northampton (1), Philadelphia (1), Pike (1), and Wayne (1).
11:06 a.m. — Coronavirus concerns cause difficulty for food-insecure children
Students who receive free and reduced meals at school may lose them if districts close due to concern about the coronavirus. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank says one in five children is food-insecure.
"If schools aren’t there for the kids then that means potentially the school meals aren’t there either," said the Food Bank's Beth Burrell. "We’re taking that into consideration and making sure those kids have access to the food they need."
Burrell said cleaning efforts have been increased at food bank locations, and cash or online donations are preferred over products.
10:05 a.m. — Arts cancellations
More arts groups are canceling or postponing performances as a precaution to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Pittsburgh Public Theater has canceled its run of "American Son," which had been in previews and was set to open today, and City Theatre has halted performances of "Cry It Out." Point Park University has canceled its Pittsburgh Playhouse production of "Pippin," which was to have opened today. The Kelly-Strayhorn Theater has postponed all its events scheduled for the next two weeks, including this weekend's roster of events for the Sunstar Festival.
Public health officials recommend avoiding large gatherings to slow the spread of the virus. However, no cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Allegheny County, and many arts events are proceeding as scheduled, including all Pittsburgh Cultural Trust shows and performances at the New Hazlett Theater.
9:39 a.m. — Pittsburgh's philanthropic community ready to help
Pittsburgh’s philanthropic community is preparing to respond to the effects of coronavirus on the region. The United Way sent a survey to more than 1,600 nonprofits to find out where they expect to see increased demand for services. Many providers operate with just a few months of reserve funds, and could struggle to meet residents’ needs. The group of foundations and nonprofits are working to create an emergency action fund to support affected organizations.
7:43 a.m. — Mayor Peduto, PPS school board member Pam Harbin say Pittsburgh schools should close
On Twitter, Pittsburgh School Board Director Pam Harbin called on Governor Tom Wolf to close all Pennsylvania schools, while Mayor Bill Peduto said he would close Pittsburgh schools if he had the authority to do so. (He doesn't.)
7:32 a.m. — Ohio has 5 positive cases; West Virginia still has 0
The Ohio Department of Health reports 5 positive cases of COVID-19; West Virginia's Department of Health & Human Resources says they have 0. The Pennsylvania Department of Health last updated their count on Thursday night at 8:30 p.m.; that number remains at 22 positive cases.
7:17 a.m. — Wilkinsburg and Fox Chapel school districts closed Friday
6:52 a.m. — Holy Cross Academy closed Friday, too
Holy Cross Academy will be closed today, in a precautionary measure after a student may have been exposed to COVID-19 via a relative outside of school, according to the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. The diocese had previously announced that Saint Bede elementary school, East Catholic, Saint Therese of Lisieux, and Serra Catholic High School would be closed Friday.
6:41 a.m. — Pittsburgh patients say care providers wanted to test for COVID-19, but had no way to do it
A shortage of COVID-19 tests, strict requirements on who can do the testing, and non-transparent guidelines on when doctors decide to test is causing concern among some Pittsburgh-area residents with flu-like symptoms. UPMC and Allegheny Health Network both declined to share their testing protocols. Allegheny County Health Department said they will increase testing capacity next week.
6:23 a.m. — Pennsylvania counties making contingency plans for primary voting
How will the spread of the coronavirus impact the April 28 primary election in Pennsylvania? PA Post's Emily Previti surveyed county election officials, and found that the officials are stocking up on cleaning supplies, figuring out how to accomodate the CDC recommendation of "social distancing" and find new locations if previous ones are too high-risk, like nursing homes. Allegheny County officials said they are already stocked up on supplies.
6:00 a.m. — Four area Catholic schools closed for sanitization, no diocese school on Monday
Saint Bede elementary school, East Catholic, and Saint Therese of Lisieux will be closed Friday, March 13th for cleaning, according to the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh; several members of the student body and staff are self-isolating for 14 days after possible COVID-19 exposure. Serra Catholic High School is also closed "in an effort to respond to questions and concerns," the diocese said." The diocese has also canceled all K-12 classes on Monday, March 16, for a teacher planning day in case schools are closed in the future.
Thursday, March 12, 2020
8:00 p.m. — Allegheny County executive signs declaration of emergency
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald signed a declaration of emergency today in order to respond to growing concerns around the coronavirus pandemic. The declaration allows the county to waive normal procedures around procurement of necessary products and services.
7:15 p.m. — Allegheny County hopes to increase COVID-19 testing capacity next week
Dr. Kristen Mertz, an epidemiologist at Allegheny County Health Department, says she wishes there was greater ability to collect specimens for COVID-19 testing. At a Thursday press conference, Mertz said that next week there should be more capacity. Right now, people can only be tested by the State Department of Health's lab if they have symptoms and some epidemiological risk.She says this will change if there is widespread transmission of COVID-19 in Allegheny County. The health department would not disclose how many Allegheny County residents have been tested.
6:26 p.m. — CCAC going online, too
For-credit classes at the Community College of Allegheny County have been suspended through next Tuesday. Starting Wednesday, classes will be taught online or through other means until mid-April. CCAC President Quintin Bullock said the “extraordinary measures” are prompted by concern over the COVID-19 virus. Not-for-credit classes are cancelled starting next week. Sporting and other college events will be canceled through mid-April, but libraries and other facilities remain open.
5:30 p.m. — Brookline K-8 closed tomorrow for cleaning
Pittsburgh Public Schools is closing Brookline K-8 on Friday due to fears that a relative of students there may have been exposed to coronavirus. In a late-day statement, school officials say they are deep-cleaning the school and expect it to re-open Monday. The district is also postponing indefinitely its All-City Arts activities and upcoming musicals, and limiting outside use of school facilities. So far, no one has tested positive for COVID-19 in the region.
4:29 p.m. — Bishop lifts 'obligation' to attend mass
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh released a statement from Bishop David Zubik Thursday afternoon saying, "I am dispensing the faithful ... from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass." However, all Masses will remain open for those who want to attend, the diocese said.
3:20 p.m. — Positive case number 22 reported by state
The Pennsylvania Department of Health said 22 people have now tested positive for COVID-19. The latest case is in Pike County. There are still no COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County.
3:02 p.m. — The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh will limit large gatherings
The diocese has announced the cancellation of nonessential diocesan-sponsored events effective Monday, March 16 due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19. However, this does not include Masses, confessions, and religious education, according to a release. Regarding fish fries: “Parishes with fish fries are encouraged to become “take-out” only, and to consult local health departments for how to practice take-out hygiene during the pandemic.”
2:29 p.m. — Governor Tom Wolf announces statewide social distancing plan
Gov. Tom Wolf has announced that beginning Friday, the state will begin social distancing measures in response to the spread of the coronavirus. This plan is slated to last for 14 days, but will be continually evaluated.
“We’ve watched as other states, we’ve watched as other countries have struggled to control this coronavirus,” Gov. Wolf said, “and we’ve learned a lot from their efforts.”
The Wolf administration is encouraging the suspension of all large gatherings, events and conferences of 250 or more people. Officials are also discouraging all residents from participating in smaller-scale recreational activities, such as going to movie theaters and gyms, and encouraging religious leaders to exercise discretion to limit the spread.
2:22 p.m. — No more Pens season
The NHL announced Thursday afternoon that it was suspending the 2019-20 season.
1:05 p.m. — Labor Council urges employers to offer paid sick leave
Amid fears of the encroaching coronavirus, the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council is urging employers to provide guaranteed paid sick leave to workers.
"As our county prepares to deal with a global pandemic, we as a society need to stand together and protect each other," said a lunchtime statement by Darrin Kelly, who heads the council. "We are asking all employers — whether in the public or private sector, with union or non-union workers — to step up and guarantee paid leave to protect their employees and their families. That should be the universal standard in America at all times, but it is essential in the midst of this crisis."
The council is an umbrella organization for unions in western Pennsylvania. So far there have been no reported cases of coronavirus in the region, but health officials are preparing for its onset locally. And the statement comes out as Democrats in Congress are pressing for some form of paid sick leave as part of a bill to address the coronavirus threat. The fear is that ailling workers who should stay home can't afford to do so, and will expose others to the disease in the workplace. For workers who lack paid time-off benefits, Kelly said, staying home means "missed paychecks, unpaid bills, and impossible choices between medicine and groceries."
Research has suggested that paid sick-leave policies can reduce the spread of disease while imposing modest costs on employers.
"This is not a time to make excuses and put profits before people," Kelly added. "This is a time to remember who we are as Americans and do right by each other."
12:45 p.m. — Allentown schools close, Temple sends students home
Temple University is adding itself to the growing number of colleges and universities in Pennsylvania that are sending students home because of coronavirus. And Allentown, one of Pennsylvania's largest school districts, said an employee was tested for COVID-19, and has ordered a temporary closing.
10:00 a.m. — 21 people now positive for COVID-19 in Pennsylvania
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, 19 people have tested positive for COVID-19, all in the eastern part of the state. The counties include: Montgomery (13); Bucks (2); Monroe (2); Delaware (1); Northampton (1); Philadelphia (1); and Wayne (1).
8:33 a.m. — An update on testing in PA
So far, 175 people in Pennsylvania have been under investigation for coronavirus. However, 100 of those tests of come back negative. Here's a look at where the test results stand:
6:38 a.m. — How coronavirus is affecting pharmaceuticals
The coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, is causing businesses, health officials and patients to worry about potential shortages of prescription drugs. NPR talked to nine companies and has exclusive reporting on how disruptions in China are affecting some drugmakers' ability to make key ingredients.
5:53 a.m. — Pittsburgh Colfax closed today for cleaning
Pittsburgh Colfax K-8 will be closed Thursday for cleaning, the Pittsburgh Public Schools district announced, after a student at the school had possible exposure to the coronavirus from a relative outside of school. There are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Allegheny County.
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
8:54 p.m. — Chatham and Robert Morris universities going online, too
8:45 p.m. — PA Department of Health releases data on testing
Amid nationwide calls for more transparency around the coronavirus pandemic, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has for the first time released some data on testing for coronavirus. As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, the state has tested 175 people for the coronavirus in the week since it began testing at its facility in Exton. Of those people, 16 tested positive.
So far, two of those 16 have had their test results double-checked by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a standard practice, according to the Pennsylvania Health Department. Another 59 tests are in-process, with results expected within a day.
7:52 p.m. - PPS employee quarantined, no students exposed.
Pittsburgh Public Schools said an employee will be under self-quarantine for the next two weeks, though the district is not concerned the woman has exposed students or staff.
6:28 p.m. - Peduto briefs the city
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto assured residents that garbage collection won't be interrupted and that public safety measures align with county, state and federal health protocols.
4:44 p.m. — Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and Duquesne University cancel classes, move to online instruction
Both schools will begin remote instruction Wednesday, March 18. Classes are cancelled on Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17 to allow instructors to prepare. Residence halls and dining facilities remain open.
Duquesne’s administration says this suspension of in-person instruction will continue until March 31. Though if necessarily, the policy might be extended.
CMU said students, faculty and staff should plan, "for remote teaching and learning to continue through the end of the semester."
4:30 p.m. — Second presumed positive COVID-19 case in Monroe County
The Pennsylvania Department of Health said there is a second presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Monroe County. To date, there are 14 presumptive positive cases and 2 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, 16 cases total.
3:29 p.m. — University of Pittsburgh going to online-only classes starting March 23
The University of Pittsburgh is suspending in-person classes and going to online classes at all five Pitt campuses, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced Wednesday afternoon. The university also cancelled all study abroad programs, events with groups of more than 25 people, and all nonessential travel. The university said they would prefer students no return to university housing if possible. Pitt is currently on spring break and has pushed back the start of classes to March 23rd. Staff has been given the opportunity to be flexible in their work arrangements.
3:16 p.m. — Pittsburgh Public Schools releases coronavirus operations and communications plan.
PPS chief of school performance David May-Stein said the district is watching for spikes in absences and will tell the county health department when a student leaves school with a fever.
If a case is found in a school, that individual school will shut down for a few days.
"That would allow our custodial staff to go in and disinfect to be sure that it would be free from any contamination," May-Stein said.
Students are being told repeatedly to wash their hands and tell adults if they feel sick. May-Stein said teachers are prepared to give remote lessons.
"We're in the process of putting together student assignments, if needed, for up to two weeks," he said.
2:42 p.m. — Penn State moving to online-only classes starting Monday, March 16
Penn State University is suspending in-person classes and going to online-only classes starting Monday, March 16th and through Friday, April 3. The current plan is to resume in-person classes on Monday, April 6 at the earliest. In a statement, the university "strongly discouraged" students from returning to on-campus or off-campus dwellings, and said they should return home.
2:35 p.m. — County explores moving polling places away from vulnerable populations
At least 45 of the 1,323 polling places in Allegheny County are in nursing homes or senior care centers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say early evidence suggests older people or those with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable to the virus. A county spokesperson said the situation is "extremely fluid" but that they are "aware of the concerns and issues and exploring other options." The Pennsylvania primary is April 28th.
2:24 p.m. — County health department advises people to avoid large groups and mass gatherings
In light of the probability that Allegheny County may soon have COVID-19 cases, the county health department is updating its recommendations to minimize the potential spread. People are advised to avoid large groups and mass gatherings: to continue good personal hygiene, including handwashing. And to stay home if sick. These guidelines are especially important to vulnerable groups, including residents who are currently sick, elderly, or those with underlying health conditions. There are still no presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Allegheny County.
2:17 p.m. — St. Patrick's Day Parade and G7 summit cancelled
City officials announced they're cancelling the G7 Summit in addition to the St. Patrick's Day parade and urging people to stay home if sick, practice social distancing and good sneeze/cough etiquette. With crowds expected on the South Side for St. Patrick's Day celebrations, officials said there'll be stringent enforcing of bar occupancy rates.
Task force will be out on Saturday. If bars are one person over, they will be shut down for the evening.— Ariel Worthy (@airreeulll) March 11, 2020
Additionally, ambulances will be out this weekend, hand sanitizer will be more widely available on the South Side and officials are urging bar owners to clean their bathrooms every 30 minutes.
12:48 p.m. — The World Health Organization has officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Eight countries — including the U.S. — are now each reporting more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19, caused by the virus that has infected more than 120,000 people worldwide.
12:09 p.m. — The Pennsylvania Department of Health says there are now 15 COVID-19 cases in the state. The test results of two cases have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The other 13 are presumed positive results, based on analysis from the state health lab. Of the three most recent cases, two people reside in Bucks County and the third in Montgomery County.
11:11 a.m. — The city of Pittsburgh announced that it was cancelling the St. Patrick's Day Parade, which was scheduled for this Saturday, March 14. “The health of our residents and visitors to our city must be our main priority,” Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement. The city's release also noted, "It is our hope that this mitigation step will aid in containing and reducing the spread of the deadly virus."
10:30 a.m. — Allegheny Health Network instituted a new policy that will only allow one visitor at a time in patient hospital rooms, due to concerns over COVID-19. AHN also discouraged people from visiting in large groups and recommended that they connect with patients remotely via Facetime and Snapchat.
8:30 a.m. — The number of presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania now stands at 14 — the Pennsylvania Department of Health is reporting two new cases in Bucks County this morning.
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
5:20 p.m. — The Special Olympics Pennsylvania announced it is suspending "all sport training and competition activities and other activations involving our athletes (such as Athlete Leadership University, dances, or end of season parties)" through March 31. However, the organization is still planning to proceed with scheduled training schools in non-affected areas, it said.
3:30 p.m. — With a new case in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirms there are now 12 presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, all in the eastern part of the state. Philly health officials are now recommending "that Philadelphians consider not attending public gatherings with more than 5,000 expected attendees. This recommendation is particularly important for people who have chronic health conditions or are elderly."
2:54 p.m. — At least nine Pennsylvania school districts have canceled classes in response to students' potential exposure to coronavirus, but the state says there's no reason to recommend widespread closures yet. Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says so far none of Pennsylvania's 11 cases happened through "community spread," a term for when an illness can't be traced back to one person. If that happens, the state may recommend closing schools and canceling other public gatherings.
The state's advice to stay calm comes amid a growing conversation over whether people should practice social distancing to try to prevent health care systems from getting overburdened. In Philadelphia, two major conventions expected to draw 21,000 people were canceled.
1:45 p.m. — The latest person to test positive had close contact to another person who tested positive earlier. Germantown Academy in suburban Philadelphia said Tuesday that a student has tested positive after a parent tested positive earlier this week, KYW-AM radio in Philadelphia and The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Eight people who tested positive are residents of Montgomery County, including one identified by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a cardiologist working at a King of Prussia facility.
Others testing positive are residents of Monroe, Delaware and Wayne counties. At least three were hospitalized Tuesday and the rest are at home in isolation, officials said.
NPR's Goats and Soda has a coronavirus guide for kids, with an explanatory comic.
11:04 a.m. - The county alert system confirmed there is an additional presumptive positive case in Montgomery County, bringing the total to 11 in Pennsylvania. In the United States, there are more than 750 cases and 26 deaths.
10:33 a.m. - The Allegheny County Health Department confirmed in a release Tuesday morning that there are still no presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in the county, but the department “expects that to change in the upcoming days and weeks.” The ACHD also noted they’ve been in daily communication with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to discuss a response to the spread of the coronavirus, and asked local businesses to encourage sick employees to stay home.
6:50 a.m. - When to cancel meetings — and classes — was one of the questions that brought at least 60 school district officials and others from Dauphin, York, Lebanon and Cumberland counties to Penn State Hershey’s conference center Monday morning.
6:30 a.m. - Gov. Tom Wolf's administration said Monday that all major health insurers providing comprehensive medical coverage in the state will cover medically appropriate COVID-19 testing and treatment, including waiving cost-sharing for testing. Those insurers are Highmark, UPMC Health Plan, Geisinger, Independence Blue Cross, Capital Blue Cross, Aetna, Cigna, United Healthcare, Pennsylvania Health & Wellness and Oscar, it said.
Monday March 9, 2020
8:54 p.m. — Carnegie Mellon University is suspending in-person classes and going to online-only classes at its Silicon Valley and Qatar campuses, due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus. Regular in-person classes will continue at the main campus in Pittsburgh. According to CMU, the Qatar campus change come after that country’s government suspended all in-person classes. The Silicon Valley campus shift comes after an employee at the NASA Ames Research Center — which is next to CMU’s Silicon Valley facility — reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pittsburgh.
4:38 p.m. — Ten Pennsylvanians have now tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Pennsylvania State Department of Heath. Three of these individuals are hospitalized. All the cases are in eastern Pennsylvania. At this time, the department is not recommending that social gatherings be canceled, but advised sick people to stay home.
3:49 p.m. — Pittsburgh's Department of Veterans Affairs has implemented new screening policies at their facilities to prevent COVID-19 infections from spreading within the VA. The two Pittsburgh campuses and five outpatient clinics are now conducting screenings onsite and via telehealth services to identify signs of respiratory illness. No veterans, employees, or visitors have been identified with COVID-19. Visitors to the Community Living Center at the Heinz campus in O'Hara Township will be limited to immediate family members and designated caregivers.
2:53 p.m. — A Montgomery County resident has been hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19, state officials said Monday. The person, who is in critical condition at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania is the seventh person in the state to test positive for the new coronavirus. The Department of Health hasn't released many details about the people who have tested positive, but said this latest person was exposed to it in another country.
11:07 a.m. — Due to shortages of test kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UPMC has started developing an in-house coronavirus test. Right now, samples of patients who might be infected are sent to the state health department’s lab.
UPMC is also asking people who are ill or with cold symptoms to avoid visiting the health network’s long-term care or skilled-nursing facilities. Dr. David Nace, chief medical officer for UPMC senior communities, said on Monday, “This will help avoid accidentally spreading, not only COVID-19, but many of the common respiratory viruses that are circulating in our communities, and to our vulnerable elderly population.” Elderly people and those with underlying health conditions are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.
WESA receives funding from UPMC.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.