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Pittsburgh And Pennsylvania Coronavirus Updates

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90.5 WESA is following the latest updates and COVID-19 case numbers in Allegheny County and across Pennsylvania. 

We'll be updating this post as we get information. Check back often for updates. 

LATEST UPDATES:

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February 5, 2021

4:29 p.m. - SNAP access expanded to college students

Pennsylvania is expanding access to food assistance, known as SNAP, to college students during the coronavirus pandemic. The change was made possible by a tweak in the normal rules in the most recent federal relief bill.

“We all need a little help sometimes,” said Tanya Garcia with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. “This temporary assistance can make a difference in the lives of the one-third of students who are low-income while going to college.”

To qualify, students would need to be receive no financial help from their parents, or be eligible for work-study.

Community college students in the commonwealth already qualify for food stamps in some circumstances.

3:12 p.m. - More than 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to people in Pennsylvania

The state Health Department, however, says it has no plans to move into 1B phase of the distribution process.

Amid frustration over a slow vaccine rollout in the Commonwealth, the Wolf Administration says it remains focused on fully vaccinating residents in long-term care facilities and healthcare workers.

They say 83% of allocated first doses have been administered.

Still, the state is ranked 39th in the country in percent of population to receive a first dose, according to analysis from the Associated Press.

Senior Health Advisor Lindsey Mauldin says since limited supply is the main road block in speeding up the process, the state is working with the federal government to get a clear picture of future inventory.

“It is continuously getting better with the federal government,” Mauldin said. “Again, they are our partner, so we work closely with them to ensure that we’re aware of what’s coming down the pike.”

Phase 1B will include other essential workers like teachers, clergy and public transit employees.

Some state lawmakers have proposed getting the Pennsylvania National Guard involved in distribution to help speed up the process.

1:49 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 334 new COVID cases

Those infected range in age from 8 months to 97 years old. The county also reported one death, a person in their 80s.

Statewide, the number of positive cases grew by 4,688. There are 3,138 people hospitalized and 653 of those are intensive care units. The number of deaths also increased by 138 across Pennsylvania, bringing the total to 22,239.

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February 4, 2021

6:04 p.m. - Pitt study finds many Black Americans live farther from vaccine sites than whites

New analysis from University of Pittsburgh researchers finds that in many parts of the country, Black people are less likely than white people to live near a facility that can administer the COVID-19 vaccine.

This is concerning as Black Americans are more likely than whites to contract the coronavirus, and they also face greater barriers to accessing medical care—including finding transportation to medical facilities, such as community health clinics, hospitals and pharmacies.

Read more here.

4:32 p.m. - Hours after new hotline, all vaccine appointments for seniors are full

An Allegheny County hotline helping seniors book COVID-19 vaccine appointments has stopped taking those requests hours after it launched. The County expanded its 2-1-1 line today to assist residents over the age of 65 in booking appointments at the county’s Monroeville clinic.

Callers reported multiple issues getting through to operators, some were reportedly intercepted by scammers. The County said that as of this afternoon there are no remaining appointments available at its clinic.

Read more here.

1:20 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 313 new COVID cases

Those infected range in age from 1 year to 96 years old. Eight positive tests are more than a week old. The Allegheny County Health Department also reported one new death, which was associated with a long-term care facility.

Statewide, the number of cases grew by 3,370. There are 3,224 patients hospitalized and 657 of those are in intensive care units. The state also reported 146 new deaths, bringing the total to 22,101.

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February 3, 2021

5:04 p.m. - County says it’s unable to set up new vaccination clinics due to unpredictable supply

The Allegheny County Health Department says it can’t set up additional COVID vaccination clinics until there’s more predictability on the amount of vaccine it receives, per week.  

“For instance, the health department currently has 14,000 vaccines allocated for appointments over the next two weeks. Our vaccine shipment from the state this week, however, was only 1,000 doses,” said department director Dr. Debra Bogen at a Wednesday news conference.  

Bogen said this latest shipment is enough for the county to provide the second vaccine shot to people who have already gotten the first through the county—but it is not enough to expand capacity.  

The Biden Administration says it working to give states more advance notice of expected vaccine shipments.  

4:34 p.m. - About 5% of Pennsylvania residents have received at least 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

Nearly 2% of Commonwealth residents have been fully vaccinated. The Department of Health again cited supply concerns at a press conference today when asked about the slow progress.

The Biden administration says it will begin sending additional vaccine shipments to pharmacies like Rite Aid and TopCo, a move Pennsylvania officials say could speed up Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination plan.

3:12 p.m. - Kane Community has vaccinated 92% of its residents

Allegheny County says 92% of residents and 64% of staff at its county-run nursing homes have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Some contractors who frequent the county’s Kane Community Living Centers were also offered vaccinations.

The shots were administered by CVS pharmacists through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership. Another clinic for those who have only received one shot is planned for later this month. 

12:35 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 33 new COVID deaths

Some of the deaths reported Wednesday date back as far as Dec. 19. Fourteen of those deaths were associated with long-term care facilities. The number of positive cases in Allegheny County grew by 328. Those infected range in age from 3 years to 96 years old.

Statewide, the number of cases grew by 3,128. There are 3,281 patients hospitalized and 669 of those in intensive care units. The number of deaths across Pennsylvania increased by 143, bringing the total to 21,955.

Through Feb. 2, more than 630,000 people in Pennsylvania have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while more than 215,000 have received both doses.

10:45 a.m. - COVID testing available 

Allegheny County is offering free COVID-19 tests from 9 a.m. until noon today at the Pittsburgh Project, and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Millvale Community Center and Primary Care Health Services Alma Illery in Homewood.  Appointments and insurance are not required.

And the VA Pittsburgh Health Care System will provide COVID-19 vaccines this Saturday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. at its facility in Oakland.  The VA will administer the first round of the Pfizer vaccine to veterans ages 65 and older.  Other eligibility requirements are available on the VA Pittsburgh's Facebook page.

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February 2, 2021

2:33 p.m. – Allegheny County reports 300 new COVID cases 

 

Those infected range in age from 3 years to 97 years old. The Allegheny County Health Department reports one of those positive tests was from December. The number of deaths in Allegheny County also increased by eight. Three of those deaths were associated with long-term care facilities; one of the deaths was a person in the 20s.  

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February 1, 2021

5:38 p.m. - Groundhog’s Day celebration goes virtual tomorrow

Punxsutawney Phil, the famous weather-predicting groundhog, will make his prognostication virtually this year. During the Groundhog’s Day ceremony, members of his so-called “Inner Circle” pull Phil from his enclosure, and according to tradition, if he sees his shadow we can expect more winter weather. If he doesn’t, spring will come early.

Inner Circle member and Phil’s handler A.J. Dereume said the ceremony will still take place at Gobbler’s Knob.

“The big difference is if you would turn around a look out to the crowd, you’re just going to see a big empty field because there’s no public attendance,” Dereume said.

Viewers can watch the ceremony live online tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. here.

5:28 p.m. - Allegheny County reports 402 new COVID-19 cases over 48 hours

The Allegheny County Health Department said there was one new death reported, of an individual over 100 years old. New cases range in age from two months to 99 years.

January 29, 2021

4:25 p.m. - Health officials say vaccine delay will continue

State health officials say they expect the gap between what COVID-19 vaccine suppliers are requesting and what the state can allocate to continue next week.

Health Department communications director April Hutcheson says pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens are vaccinating nursing home residents and employees, and could eventually help fill this gap.

“We can then begin to move those doses of vaccine into the 65 and older and those with co-morbidities,” Hutcheson said.

Vaccine providers have requested more than 700,000 doses of vaccine. But Pennsylvania only expects to receive 160,000 doses for first time shots next week. Just over 4% of Pennsylvanians have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

3:43 p.m. - Pittsburgh’s VA hospital is holding a walk-in COVID-19 vaccine clinic

The clinic for veterans who are 65 and older is being held at the hospital’s University Drive campus in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. To receive the vaccine, vets must be registered with the Veterans Health Administration, and receive their medical care through the VA Pittsburgh Health Care system. Veterans with last names beginning with an A through M are told to come in the morning. Names from the second half of the alphabet are told to come after noon.

3:14 p.m. – Allegheny County reports 364 new COVID-19 cases

The Allegheny County Health Department says there were 39 new deaths reported, which range from Jan. 2 – Jan. 26, 2021. Seventeen of the deaths were associated with long-term care facilities.

January 28, 2021

6:48 p.m. - Your vaccine questions answered

The first COVID-19 vaccinations began in Allegheny County on Monday, Dec. 14, when five UPMC employees received the first available Pfizer-BioNTech shots.

Since then, the rollout of vaccinations has been an evolving process, but here’s what we know.

WESA has compiled information on distribution, accessibility and eligibilty.

4:34 p.m. - Pittsburgh Marathon cancelled again

There will be no Pittsburgh Marathon for a second consecutive year. That’s according to a statement released by P3R, the organization behind the annual spring event. The group says city officials declined to issue a permit for the 2021 race due to an inability to safely host the event in light of the pandemic.

The race was also canceled last year due to coronavirus concerns.

P3R says all registered participants can still train and race virtually to earn a finisher medal OR choose to receive a refund of their registration fee.

12:29 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 135 new COVID deaths due to backlog

The county says the deaths reported Thursday “include information imported by the state from the Electronic Death Reporting System (EDRS). The reports from the state list COVID-19 as an underlying cause of or a significant condition contributing to the death. There was a backlog at the state that resulted in the large number of deaths reported in this Daily Update.” Since March, 1,412 Allegheny County residents have died from COVID-19.

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 358 new cases. Those infected range in age from 1 to 97 years old.

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 6,036. There are 3,768 patients hospitalized and 759 of those are in intensive care units. The number of deaths statewide increased by 198, bringing the total to 21,303.

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January 27, 2021

5:28 p.m. - Local rate of new COVID infections falls

The Allegheny County Health Department reports that the rate of new coronavirus infections has fallen over the past month. At a Wednesday press conference, department director Dr. Debra Bogen said the last time cases were so low was in early November. Bogen says while she’s encouraged by these numbers, she remains cautious.

“We’ve all heard the news about the new variants of the virus,” Bogen said. “And the health department is watching closely for signs that they could be present here in Allegheny County.”

Bogen says county residents must continue to observe COVID safety measures—like masking and physical distancing. 

1:17 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 376 new COVID cases

Those infected range in age from 2 months to 98 years old. Fourteen of the positive tests are more than a week old. The county health department also reported eight new deaths, one of which was from December. Five of the deaths were associated with long-term care facilities.

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 5,874. There are 3,790 patients hospitalized and 760 of those are in intensive care units. The state also reported 222 new deaths, bringing the total to 21,205.

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January 26, 2021

5:05 p.m. – Allegheny County Health Department opens COVID-19 vaccination appointments starting Feb. 9 for people 65+

People aged 65 years and older are eligible; the vaccines are free and will take place at the Monroeville DoubleTree.

Find more information at the county’s website. Last week, the county released some appointment times and they were filled in less than an hour.

4:45 p.m. - Most courts to remain virtual

Most courts in Allegheny County will continue to hold virtual hearings and postpone certain cases as COVID-19 cases remain high.

Cases involving incarcerated adults and juveniles and those that require testimony will not be postponed, but witnesses and attorneys are asked to appear virtually if possible.

Other cases like traffic proceedings and landlord-tenant disputes will be postponed until the end of February. The announcement by the court is an extension of a similar order signed in August of last year.

3:11 p.m. - Parents weigh in on PPS proposed in-person delay

Parents told the Pittsburgh Public Schools board Monday that their students need to return to in-person learning. The district that serves 22,000 students is the only in Allegheny County that has taught students fully remotely for nearly a year.

But most teachers who submitted testimony to the board urged the district to continue remote learning. Concord elementary teacher Cara Christian’s testimony was read virtually by Monica Lamar with PPS.

“Teachers have received zero training on the hybrid scenario,” Christian wrote. “The switch would lose valuable consistency and learning time as we would all have to learn how to teach safely in this environment.”

Christian said while remote learning is challenging, it’s the safest option.

Dilworth elementary parent Heather Morris’ testimony was read by Ted Dwyer with PPS. She asked for transparency.

“The PPS parameters for starting hybrid learning have been a moving target,” Morris’ wrote. “Some would say an enigma or a false promise so that parents do not leave the district. Waiting two more months to consider a return to learning for all students is not acceptable.”

The public hearing will continue tonight and can be streamed here.

2:11 p.m. - Allegheny County reports 282 new COVID-19 cases

The new cases range from 8 months to 95 years, with a median age of 41. There was one new death reported, which was associated with a long-term care facility. 

Statewide, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 4,628 cases for a statewide total of 812,495. The agency also said it revised its COVID-19 vaccination plan that includes people who are 65 and older, and those 16-64 with certain medical conditions. The plan can be found here, and people can take a vaccine eligibility quiz here

As of Monday, there were 219 new deaths associated with the coronavirus for a total of 20,883 in Pennsylvania.

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January 25, 2021

5:49 p.m. — Local cases down, but substantial transmission remains

The seven day average of new COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County has dropped below 400 cases a day — a level not seen since before Thanksgiving. Despite the decline, Allegheny County still reported the highest number of new cases in the Commonwealth Monday. 

State data show that 330 COVID patients are currently hospitalized in the county. That includes 100 in intensive care units and 45 on ventilators. 

The seven day average number of new cases statewide have also declined to mid-November levels, although the department of health says all 67 counties still have “substantial” transmission rates.

 
3:32 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 620 new COVID cases over 2 days

The new cases were reported in the last 48 hours. Those infected range in age from 10 months to 97 years old. One of the positive cases was from a test taken in September. The county health department also reported six new deaths, including one person in their 50s, two in their 80s and three in their 90s.

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 7,910 over the same 48-hour period. There are 3,910 people hospitalized and 790 of those are in intensive care units. The number of deaths in Pennsylvania increased by 138, bringing the total to 20,664.

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January 22, 2021

1:59 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 343 new COVID cases

Those infected range in age from 5 months to 101 years. The county health department also reported 13 new deaths. Seven of those deaths occurred in December. Eight of the deaths were associated with long-term care facilities.

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 5,338. The state Department of Health reports there at 4,758 patients hospitalized and 851 of those are in intensive care units. The number of deaths across Pennsylvania increased by 193, bringing the total to 20,321.

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January 21, 2021

3:30 p.m. - Pittsburgh Public Schools students could go 13 months without in-person learning

The district's board president Wednesday proposed the district postpone students’ return to school buildings until April 6th, after spring break. The district has said it would begin to phase students back in this month.

The board will vote on the delay at its January 27th meeting.

1:56 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 425 new COVID cases

Those infected range in age from 6 months to 98 years old. The Allegheny County Health Department also reported four new deaths, including one person in their 70s and three people in their 80s.

Statewide, the number of COVID-19 cases increased by 5,664. There are 4,882 patients hospitalized and 889 of those are in intensive care units. The state also reported 260 new deaths, bringing to the total to 20,128.

12:15 p.m. - NPR reports Trump Administration had no plan to distribute vaccine

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January 20, 2021  

3:30 p.m. - Child care workers can get $600 one-time grant

Pennsylvania child care workers are now eligible for a one-time $600 grant from the state’s CARES Act funding. The awards are available to employees of licensed child care providers that are currently open and operating.

Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said in a statement that the funding was reallocated to support the child care workforce. Around $220 million in CARES funding was distributed to providers. Another $10 billion has been allocated by the federal government, though states have not received that money.

3:04 p.m. - Pitt to start distributing vaccines

The University of Pittsburgh expects to obtain COVID-19 vaccines soon and will provide them on its campuses. According to the university, the Allegheny County Health Department will administer vaccinations to students, faculty and staff in group 1A next Thursday and Friday at the Petersen Events Center.  The county will first vaccinate clinical students who are patient-facing health care workers.

1:34 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 20 new COVID deaths

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 20 new deaths Wednesday, including the death of one person who was younger than 10 years old. The county says the number of deaths includes information imported by the state Electronic Death Reporting System. One of the deaths was reported in August, nine in December and 10 in January. The county also reported 463 new positive cases. Those infected range in age from 1 month to 99 years old.

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 5,984. The state Department of Health reports there are 4,593 patients hospitalized and 918 of those are in intensive care units. The number of deaths across the state also increased by 401, bringing the total to 19,868.

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January 19, 2021

6:00 p.m. - Allegheny County officials say COVID-19 vaccine distributors should stick to the original criteria for Phase 1A

The state Health Department expanded that group today to include those 65 and older as well as younger people with high-risk health conditions.

Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen said hours later that due to an extremely limited supply of vaccine, Pittsburgh-area distributors would stick to vaccinating frontline health care workers and long-term care facility residents first.

5:27 p.m. - RiteAid pharmacists to start administering COVID vaccines at long-term care facilities next week

The central-Pennsylvania based pharmacy chain will service state-licensed facilities that are not participating in the federal vaccination program that has contracted with Walgreens and CVS pharmacies. The pace of the federal program has been criticized for being too slow--even as U.S. cases of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus continue to increase.

RiteAid pharmacists will administer the inoculation at vaccine clinics--vaccinations will not be given at RiteAid stores.

5:07 p.m. - AHN expands vaccine access for priority groups

Allegheny Health Network will expand COVID vaccine access to patients age 75 and older who have had cancer treatment in the past year. AHN's criteria for patient vaccinations is far narrower than what the state Department of Health laid out today.

The state says Pennsylvanians age 65 and older are vaccine eligible, along with individuals who have certain underlying health conditions including cancer. Because frontline health care workers and nursing homes in the state are still waiting for vaccine, it's not clear how quickly these new groups will receive their inoculations. AHN competitor UPMC has not started vaccinating patients.

3:54 p.m. - More than 1 out of every 1,000 Allegheny County residents has died from COVID-19

The U.S. passed the milestone last month. In total, the county reports there have been 1,225 COVID-19 fatalities. Nationally, the number of people who have died from COVID-19 has surpassed 400,000.

3:33 p.m. - Pennsylvania expands  eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to include people age 65 and over

The state Health Department says its updated coronavirus vaccine plan tracks recommendations from the federal government, but it's uncertain how the expanded rollout will work given the slow pace of vaccinations so far and limitations on supplies.

“We must have patience as the amount of vaccine available in Pennsylvania and the nation remains limited,” said Deputy Health Secretary Cindy Findley.

The updated guidelines also include younger people with serious health conditions that put them at higher risk.

Read more here.

2:36 p.m. - CMU pushes back in-person start date

Carnegie Mellon University’s 14,000 students will learn remotely for the first two weeks of class. The university announced Tuesday that it had delayed the return to in-person classes to February 15. Students returning from outside of southwestern Pennsylvania are required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. CMU is also testing asymptomatic students, faculty and staff who return to campus weekly through its new testing laboratory.

1:02 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 434 new COVID cases 

 

Those infected range in age from 1 to 99 years old. No new deaths were reported by the Allegheny County Health Department in the last 24 hours.  

 

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 5,341. There are 4,582 patients hospitalized and 950 of those are in intensive care units. The state department of health also reported 77 new deaths Tuesday.  

 

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January 18, 2021

2:02 p.m. - Allegheny County reports 796 new COVID-19 cases over the past two days

The Allegheny County Health Department said the cases range from four months to 98 years, with a median age of 41. Four new deaths were reported of people in their 70s, 80s and 90s. Three were related to long-term care facilities.

11:00 a.m. — Duquesne epidemiologist says vaccine distribution is like a 'train wreck in slow motion'

Less than 42% of the more than 1 million vaccine doses allocated to Pennsylvania have been distributed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The amount of vaccine distributed might be higher than that number—data reporting on vaccinations can lag. But it is clear that the speed of the COVID vaccine’s rollout has been a disappointment, on both the state and national level.

There is plenty of blame to go around, according to Duquesne University epidemiologist David Dausey, who contends a big problem with the rollout is that there was little to no attention paid to planning or funding vaccine distribution by the federal government. That’s even though it was widely anticipated that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines would receive emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration before the end of 2020.

“The leadup and development of vaccines, that was fantastic,” said Dausey, who specializes in the performance of public health systems. “But, you know, just to absolve yourself of responsibility after that—saying that it’s the state’s issue—that’s patently absurd.”

Read more.

January 15, 2021

1:43 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 420 new COVID cases 

Those infected range in age from 8 months to 101 years old. One positive is the result of a test taken in August and four in November. The county also reported two new deaths, including one person in their 70s and one in their 90s.  

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 6,047. There are 4,980 patients hospitalized and 1,013 of those are in intensive care units. The number of deaths across Pennsylvania increased by 215, bringing the total to 18,957.

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January 14, 2021

5:11 p.m. - The challenges of inoculating rural Pennsylvanians

Dr. George Garrow with Primary Health Network in Mercer County says trust in rural communities will be a critical component for the acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I’ve been meeting with farmers, faith leaders and all sorts of organizations and civic groups to try to convince them that the COVID vaccine is safe and effective,” Garrow said.

While the state does not know when Phase 2 of vaccinations will begin for the general public, Garrow  told the board of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania in Harrisburg this week that he needs more staff to administer vaccinations.

He says small clinics have had to close when staff were infected. The network also purchased a mobile unit to get access to communities without clinics.

Read more here.

3:11 p.m. - Allegheny County reports 499 new cases of coronavirus

The county health department said the new cases range in age from 11 months to 105 years old. There were three new deaths reported. 

Statewide, there were 7,175 new cases reported bringing Pennsylvania's total to 748,564.

January 13, 2021

5:15 p.m. - Allegheny County officials urge COVID-19 vaccine providers to inoculate frontline health care workers over those further down the prioritization list

Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen says the region has a large number of people who fall into the Phase 1-A category.

“So if you’re a provider, you have vaccine and you’ve been doing 1B instead of 1A, give a reach out to us and we will provide you a list of 1A people who are waiting for vaccine,” Bogen said.

Phase 1B is a broad category that includes early childhood education teachers, first responders, and people age 75 and older. Hours at a County-run clinic will be expanded in order to vaccinate more frontline health care workers.

3:23 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 74 new COVID deaths due to backlog 

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 74 COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, all but one of which occurred in December. The county also reported 670 new cases over the past 24 hours. Those infected range in age from 7 months to 95 years.  

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January 12, 2021

6:46 p.m. - UPMC officials say 2,000 unaffiliated health care workers have been vaccinated

The figure does not include workers who applied through a new portal on UPMC’s website. Last week, UPMC created a form for frontline health care workers like dentists and private care physicians to request a COVID-19 vaccine through the hospital system.

Chief Quality Officer Tami Minnier says UPMC hopes to begin vaccinating workers who have submitted forms some time this week.

“We’re prioritizing non-UPMC frontline health care workers who serve under resourced communities so this limited vaccine can make the biggest impact in those areas,” Minnier said.

UPMC has not clarified what criteria qualifies an area as under-resourced. It has also not said how people in specific occupations might be prioritized. The group includes a wide variety of workers who face a high risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19.

The system has said it will prioritize EMS workers, police officers and firefighters, and will publicize more details about how it will reach these workers later this week.

3:11 p.m. - Sources at UPMC say that staff in non-clinical roles have received COVID vaccines

This comes after the state directed hospitals to reserve 10% of inoculations for unaffiliated medical providers. From an infection control perspective, it makes sense to vaccinate every employee who works within a hospital--even those in roles like IT, fundraising, or communications.

The concern is that a number of UPMC employees who are far removed from the clinical setting--including those who work from home--have gotten vaccinations while many unaffiliated medical providers are still waiting. 

Lindsay Wiley is the director of the Health Law and Policy Program at American University in DC. She says UPMC is not the only medical system to make this decision.

“It’s not really in their financial interest to do the work of reaching the highest priority groups,” said Wiley. “And when that’s the case you’re often going to see entities do the easiest thing to get those doses out.”

UPMC says its actions meet the intent, and are in accordance with state and federal regulations.

3:06 p.m. – Allegheny County reports 694 new COVID-19 cases

The cases range age from three months to 99 years old, with a median age of 39, the county Health Department reports. There were 15 new deaths in the county.

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January 11, 2021

5:21 p.m. -  Who’s next for vaccinations?

Pennsylvania will soon begin vaccinating people 75 years and older, as well as “essential workers” like police officers, grocery store clerks and teachers.

State Health Secretary Rachel Levine says the state remains focused on giving the COVID-19 vaccine to health workers and residents of long-term care facilities. But she says the state is making plans to move to the next stage of its vaccination plan.

Levine says this group—which also includes clergy, postal employees and factory workers—will be eligible to receive the vaccine before everyone in the first group has been inoculated.

Read more here.

3:54 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 887 COVID cases over 48 hours

Those infected range in age from 2 months to 99 years. In the last 48 hours, the Allegheny County Department of Health also reported three new deaths, including one person in their 80s and two others in their 90s.

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January 8, 2021

4:51 p.m. - Thousands will soon receive extra $300 per week

Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry said today thousands of people will soon begin receiving an extra $300 per week as part of the federal stimulus Congress passed last month.

However, the state is waiting on additional information from the federal government.

Only then can it pay people in the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance programs.

2:17 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 967 new COVID cases

Those infected range in age from 5 months to 101 years. The Allegheny County Health Department also reported 11 new deaths, one of which occurred in December. Two of those deaths were associated with long-term care facilities.

10:59 a.m. - First vaccinations complete at nursing homes

The first series of COVID vaccinations are complete for residents and staff of two Allegheny County-run nursing homes. 

The county reports that CVS pharmacists have administered the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine at Kane Community Living Centers’ Glen Hazel and Ross facilities-- 90 percent of residents, and 65 percent of staff were immunized.  

Vaccine clinics at the McKeesport and Scott facilities will be held this weekend. 

Staff who declined the vaccine will have another opportunity to get the shot in mid-February. 

Kane reports that a total of 48 residents have died from COVID-19.

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January 7, 2021

4:47 p.m. - Family and friends of Steelers only allowed at Browns game

At least the Cleveland Browns won’t have to play in front of a sea of Terrible Towels when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs on Sunday.

The Steelers had asked state officials to allow around 6,500 fans into Heinz Field, about 10% of capacity. The request was denied, meaning the cap will remain at 2,500, allowing only family and friends, a policy put in place following a surge in COVID-19 cases throughout Pennsylvania.

After beginning the season by playing two games inside an empty stadium, restrictions were eased in the fall for three contests. A crowd of 5,260 watched Pittsburgh drill the Browns 38-7 on Oct. 18. The more strident restrictions went into place in mid-November, and each of the Steelers’ final three games were played without fans.

Pittsburgh finished 7-1 at Heinz Field this season, a show of home-field dominance rare in 2020. Visiting teams posted a winning record (128-127-1) this season, the first time that’s happened since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

“Anyone who has been (to Heinz Field) knows how special it would be,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “I hate it for them. I hate it for the Steelers for the energy and excitement that it brings. But once again, that is what we are doing. That is what we are living in.”

4:31 p.m. - The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Pittsburgh area continues to fall

The seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations in Allegheny County is now in the low 700s. Two weeks ago, it was in the low 800s. The drop in severe illness follows measures put in place by the governor last month to curb the spread of the virus. Those measures expired on Monday.

12:43 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 664 new COVID cases

Those infected range in age from 4 months to 107 years old. The Allegheny County Health Department also reported 10 new deaths Thursday, five of which were related to long-term care facilities.

Statewide, the number of cases rose by 9,698. There are 5,613 patients hospitalized and 1,120 of those are in intensive care units. The state also reported 265 new deaths, bringing the total to 17,179.

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January 6, 2021

3:26 p.m. - Only 49 confirmed cases of influenza have been reported in Allegheny County so far this flu season

The Allegheny County Health Department reports that this time last year there were more than 4,000 cases. State and national data also show a remarkably mild flu reason. Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the health department, says this speaks to the effectiveness of face masks and physical distancing in preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Public health experts say the lack of international travel is another contributing factor. 

There were 881 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the county in the last 24 hours. Forty-six deaths were reported. Statewide, 9,474 new cases were confirmed, bringing Pennsylvania’s total to 683,389.

January 5, 2021

 
6:40 p.m. - Restaurants hope lifted restrictions help business

This week, some coronavirus-related business restrictions on restaurants, gyms and entertainment venus lifted in Pennsylvania.

But, as Keystone Crossroads Laura Benshoff reports, some business owners say shutdown order or not, they're struggling.

Read more here.

4:50 p.m. - Inside Allegheny County’s new vaccination site in Monroeville

 

The Allegheny County Health Department is opening a second vaccination site inside the DoubleTree by Hilton on Wednesday. Media was allowed in for a short tour on Tuesday.

 

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Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
A worker at 1 of 3 check-in stations near the entrance to the coronavirus vaccine site in Monroeville, Pa.

  

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Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
Inside the room, there are six stations where patients can receive the vaccine. Only eligible Phase 1A personnel can be inoculated at this time, with a reservation.

  

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Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
Medical items and sanitization are inside each of the six vaccination stations.

  

 

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Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
The lobby of The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Monroeville pointing to the vaccination room.

4:06 p.m. - Kane residents and staff receive vaccinations

Residents and staff at Allegheny County’s Kane Community Living Centers continued to receive vaccinations Tuesday. CVS Pharmacy teams were on site at the Glen Hazel facility administering the first shots of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, made available through a federal partnership. On Monday, 151 residents and staff at the Ross Center were vaccinated. Vaccination is expected to continue at Glen Hazel tomorrow, and at the McKeesport and Scott locations over the weekend.

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Credit Allegheny County

3:05 p.m. — State Rep. Summer Lee has COVID

Rep. Summer Lee missed her swearing-in ceremony at the capitol today because she has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in isolation. Lee made the announcement on social media, saying she had “done everything in my control to mitigate risks.” Lee was re-elected to her second term in the 34th state house district in November. Multiple state legislators have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

2:56 p.m. – Allegheny Co. passes 1,000 COVID deaths

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 29 new deaths Tuesday, pushing the total number of COVID-19-related deaths past 1,000.

"Passing 1,000 deaths is a grim milestone that I had hoped Allegheny County would be spared. Each of the 1,011 people that have died were loved members of our community. I extend my deepest sympathies to all who have lost loved ones to COVID-19," Director Dr. Debra Bogen said.

The county also reported 565 new positive cases.

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 8,818. The number of patients hospitalized is 5,630, and 1,183 of those are in intensive care units. The number of deaths across Pennsylvania increased by 185, bringing the total to 16,546.

1:50 p.m. - UPMC gives second round of vaccine to workers

UPMC has begun administering the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to its frontline workers. The system said the 10 staffers who received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 14 would complete their course Tuesday.

The group was among the first in Pennsylvania to get vaccinated with the first dose of the vaccine last month. It will take at least another week for people receiving the second injection to develop immunity to the coronavirus. Healthcare workers as well as those who work in long-term care facilities are first in line to access the COVID-19 vaccine as part of Pennsylvania’s distribution plan.

 

UPMC employs more than 90,000 workers.

 

Allegheny Health Network also began inoculating its staff members in December.

 

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January 4, 2021

2:11 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 852 cases for the last 48 hours

Those infected range in age from 7 months to 100 years. The Allegheny County Health Department says the relatively low number of new cases over two days is due to limited availability of testing last week. The county also reported five new deaths, all of which were related to long-term care facilities.

Statewide, the number of cases grew by 8,992 over the same 48-hour period. The number of hospitalizations is at 5,529, and 1,149 of those are in intensive care units. The number of deaths across the state increased by 122, bringing the total to 16,361.   

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December 31, 2020

1:30 p.m. – Allegheny County reports 811 new COVID cases

Those infected range in age from 3 months to 103 years old. The Allegheny County Health Department also reported 10 new deaths on Thursday. Four of those deaths were associated with long-term care facilities.

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 8,992. There are 5,962 people hospitalized and 1,178 of those are in intensive care units. The number of deaths across Pennsylvania increased by 302, bringing the total to 15,978.

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December 30, 2020

4:56 p.m. - COVID-19 infection rates appear to be declining in Allegheny County

That's part of a trend that began after Gov. Tom Wolf imposed additional mitigation measures, including a ban on indoor dining at bars and restaurants.

Wolf said today that his latest restrictions on gatherings will expire this coming Monday, as planned. But Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen later warned that it will be a few weeks before the numbers reflect any increase due to holiday celebrations.

1:32 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 525 new COVID cases

Those infected range in age from 3 to 99 years old. The Allegheny County Health Department also reported 47 deaths. Twenty-seven of the deaths were associated with long-term care facilities and one death reported Wednesday was from November.

Statewide, the number of cases rose by 8,984. There are 6,022 patients hospitalized and 1,174 of those are in intensive care units. The number of deaths increased by 319, bringing the total to 15,672.

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December 29, 2020

6:12 p.m. - County asks for organizations to apply for vaccine distribution help

The Allegheny County Health Department is looking to help local health care organizations access the coronavirus vaccine. Employers must have staff who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure of the virus.

This includes home health care agencies, mobile clinics, doctor’s offices, dialysis centers, and adult day facilities. Health care providers that can telework are not eligible. An organization or facility must be physically located within Allegheny County—though its employees do not need to be county residents.

3:03 p.m. - Coronavirus vaccine comes to the Kane Community Living Centers

As part of a federal program, CVS pharmacists will administer the Pfizer vaccine to residents and staff at the four county-owned nursing homes. Kane executive director Dennis Biondo says nearly 70% of Kane’s more than 900 employees have signed up for vaccinations, so far.

“The ones who may be hesitant or say ‘no,’ we will go back to them and try to provide whatever information they need to change that no into a yes,” Biondo said.

Kane staff are currently reaching out to the families of residents to figure out which individuals will be vaccinated.

1:25 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 1,020 new COVID cases

Those infected range in age from 2 months to 98 years. The Allegheny County Health Department also reported 41 new deaths over the past 24 hours. Twenty-one of those deaths were related to long-term care facilities.

Statewide, the number of positive COVID-19 cases rose by 8,545. There are 5,995 patients hospitalized, and 1,174 of those are in intensive care units. The state department of health also reported 267 new deaths, bringing the total to 15,353.

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December 28, 2020

3:25 p.m. - Officials debate over aid money

Pennsylvania officials say they welcome the passage of a national COVID relief bill, but there is already debate about whether more aid is needed.

President Trump signed the $900 billion dollar package Sunday after days of uncertainty. It includes $600 in aid for most Americans, and extends federal unemployment benefits. But Democrats like Gov. Tom Wolf say state and local governments need help as tax revenues drop. Republicans have opposed such aid.

1:27 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 594 new COVID cases for past 48 hours

Those infected range in age from 1 month to 98 years old. The Allegheny County Health Department is attributing “the relatively low number of new cases reported over the last 48 hours to the limited availability of testing last week. It likely does not reflect a decrease in the spread of the virus in the community.” Four new deaths were also reported, including three people in their 70s and one in their 90s.

State officials say case numbers across Pennsylvania remain at nearly double what they were in the spring, with 8,663 new cases reported over the last 48 hours. There are 5,905 people hospitalized and 1,145 of those are in intensive care units. The number of deaths across the state increased by 203, bringing the total to 15,086.

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December 23, 3030

5:10 p.m. - State College could create its own health department

Prompted by COVID-19, the borough of State College, in Centre County, is looking into creating a health department. The move would give the borough more control when responding to future public health issues.

State College saw most Penn State students leave in March then return in the fall.

Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said having a borough health department would let them be more agile when responding to situations like that.

“I think having the ability to manage some of the local issues more directly from a local health department we think creates some advantage for us locally as opposed to simply relying on the Pennsylvania Department of Health,” Fountaine said.

That would include contact tracing, case investigations and working with the university.

In Pennsylvania, a total of 10 counties and municipalities have their own health departments, under state Act 315.

The borough already has a smaller health office, which handles a limited number of duties, like restaurant inspections.

The borough plans to do a feasibility study that will be presented to council. They’re also talking with Centre County government and local municipalities about options for working together.

4:52 p.m. - Allegheny County Health Department says about 4,000 county residents have received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine

While most of the vaccine distribution is being done through area hospitals, the department says it received its first allotment this morning.

The department will distribute the vaccine to medical workers who work for the county. This includes staff at the county jail, and Safe Haven Hotel—a county run facility that provides emergency housing for those who have been exposed to the coronavirus, or ill with COVID-19.

3:21 p.m. - State clarifies vaccination process, but questions remain

Currently, health care workers and high-ranking government officials are the only groups getting the coronavirus vaccine. It’s still unclear how different groups of essential workers will be prioritized.

Once Pennsylvania medical workers and residents and employees of long-term care facilities get vaccinated—people who are 75 and older, and essential workers will be next.

The state Department of Health is basing this decision on federal recommendations which were released Monday afternoon. However, it is not clear which essential workers will get the vaccine first.

For example, will police officers get the vaccine before K-12 educators? What about postal employees, or those working in the transportation and food processing industries?

“We’ll work out the logistics of how we’re getting that mission done,” said Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine. “And we’ll will be working on how we’re going to accomplish that, and we’ll be working on it right away.”

There are some 900,000 health care workers in Pennsylvania who will be vaccinated before other essential workers. So far, the department says fewer than 5% of health care workers in the state have been vaccinated.

3:18 p.m. - State Department of Health hopes to use federal money toward more COVID-19 testing and contact tracing

The state doesn’t know how much of the $22 billion approved by congress will come to Pennsylvania. That federal money is slated for testing and tracing.

Michael Huff, director of testing and contact tracing, said he’d like money for more targeted screenings.

“With this potential new funding, Pennsylvania is exploring other opportunities to increase surveillance testing,” Huff said.

He said areas of interest include college campuses, rural areas and communities of color.

Health officials are also launching a new online contact tracing form. People who received positive COVID-19 tests can list people they have been in contact with.

Those listed on “Connect and Protect” form will be notified through the COVID Alert PA App.

The form is currently only in English. Non-English speakers will continue to help contact tracers over the phone.

3:05 p.m. - Wolf seeks $145M fund shift to help businesses with pandemic

 Pennsylvania's governor wants to use $145 million in a worker’s compensation fund to help businesses cope with the coronavirus pandemic. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's proposal would require a vote from the Republican-majority Legislature to appropriate the money, and there has been no deal struck to accomplish that.

Wolf is seeking to give the money in grants to businesses that have the greatest need for help. The money is a surplus in the Insurance Department’s Worker’s Compensation Security Fund.

Read more here

2:33 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 830 new COVID cases

Those infected range in age from 1 week to 104 years. The Allegheny County Health Department also reported four new deaths, including two people in their 80s and two in their 90s. Two of the deaths were associated with long-term care facilities.

Statewide, the number of cases rose by 9,605. There are 6,151 people hospitalized and 1,236 of those are in intensive care units. Officials say the number of deaths across the state increased by 230, bringing the total to 14,442.

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December 22, 2020

4:18 p.m. - Governor gives mixed review of COVID relief bill

Gov. Tom Wolf is giving a mixed review of Congress’ newly passed pandemic relief package, as Philadelphia extended its coronavirus restrictions affecting indoor dining, in-person instruction at colleges and other activities. Also Tuesday, the state Department of Health reported 231 new deaths caused by the coronavirus, as hospitalizations continue to rise.

Wolf says the $900 billion in federal aid will provide vital support for people, small businesses and efforts to combat the virus. But, he says it lacks direct aid to state and local governments trying to prop up crucial services, while more aid is needed for a hard-hit service industry and for individuals and families.

Read more here.

1:16 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 797 new COVID cases

Those infected range in age from 1 to 98 years old. The Allegheny County Department of Health on Tuesday also reported 10 new deaths, including three that were associated with long-term care facilities.

Statewide, the number of positive COVID-19 cases rose by 7,962. State officials say 6,090 patients are hospitalized, 1,217 of those are in intensive care units. The number of deaths across Pennsylvania increased by 231, bringing the total to 14,212.

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December 21, 2020  

5:47 p.m. - Vaccinations grow in Pa.; 2nd vaccine arriving soon

More than 17,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to health care workers at Pennsylvania hospitals, the state health secretary said Monday, as hospitals remain stressed by coronavirus patient loads and a second vaccine from Moderna is expected to arrive this week.

Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said 87 hospitals have thus far received doses of the first vaccine, from Pfizer, with another 30,000 doses due to arrive this week. In addition, hospitals in the state are slated to start receiving 198,000 doses of the newly approved Moderna vaccine this week, Levine said.

As part of a federal partnership, CVS and Walgreens next week will start on-site vaccination services for residents and staff of skilled nursing facilities across the state, Levine said. Those facilities will receive the Pfizer vaccine, she said.

In the meantime, Levine said even people who are receiving the vaccine should continue to observe efforts to stem the spread of the virus, including wearing a mask and adhering to social-distancing protocols.

Gov. Tom Wolf imposed a series of shutdowns through Jan. 4, including youth sports and other extracurricular activities, gyms, theaters and casinos, and indoor dining at restaurants amid rising infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths. The shutdown orders have drawn lawsuits, some local officials saying they won't enforce the orders, and a growing list of businesses vowing to defy the orders and stay open.

The daily load of positive cases has dropped since Wolf imposed the restrictions on Dec. 12, although hospitalizations have continued to rise.

5:16 p.m. - Health officials track state vaccine distribution

Health care workers in the state are receiving the first doses of the coronavirus, and Pennsylvania health officials are tracking the vaccine distribution effort. They also say the public should keep following guidelines to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

The state is receiving hundreds of thousands of vaccines this week to immunize healthcare workers against the coronavirus.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says people should not take news of vaccine distribution to mean they can stop mitigation efforts.

“Please remember as we start the vaccination process, it will still be some months before manufacturers produce enough vaccine to immunize the general public,” Levine said.

Levine urged even those who have received the vaccine to continue to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands. It takes several weeks to become immune and no vaccine is 100 percent effective.

The state expects to publish an online dashboard which tracks vaccinations by the end of the week or next week, according to Levine.

She also says conflicting numbers coming from the federal government aren’t hampering the state’s efforts at rolling out the vaccine.

4:16 p.m. - Monastery closes after nuns get COVID-19

A local monastery is closed after at least 24 of 33 nuns residing there have tested positive for the coronavirus—according to social media accounts run by the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh. A Facebook post said the monastic community was looking for a temporary nurse to help care for the sisters who had fallen ill.

Earlier this month, a coronavirus outbreak at a Milwaukee retirement home for Catholic sisters resulted in the deaths of eight nuns.

1:34 p.m. - Allegheny Co. reports 1,412 new cases for 2 days 

The cases reported Monday reflect the past 48 hours. Those infected range in age from 2 weeks to 102 years old. The county health department also reported three new deaths, including one person in their 60s, one in their 70s and another in their 80s. One of those deaths was associated with long-term care facilities.  

Statewide, the number of cases rose by 15,100 over the past two days. There are 6,074 patients currently hospitalized, 1,230 of who are in intensive care units. State health officials also reported 156 deaths.  

 

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December 18, 2020

4:57 p.m. - Pittsburgh-based wellness retailer GNC is now selling at-home coronavirus tests

The kits can be purchased online for $120. A customer deposits their saliva into a tube and then mails the sample to a lab.

GNC says people should have their results within four days. GNC’s is a PCR test, which is the most accurate type of coronavirus test—however this month the federal government recently approved a less expensive, and less accurate, rapid antigen test for at-home use. 

4:48 p.m. - What the vaccine means to health care workers

After a grueling nine months, staff at Allegheny Health Network have finally started to receive the coronavirus vaccine. UPMC began vaccinating staff earlier this week.

Health care workers caring for COVID-19 patients have borne a disproportionate hardship during the pandemic. Not only are they overworked, but this group has been traumatized by watching countless patients, who are afraid and in pain, die alone in hospital beds--and every time health care workers clock in, they put themselves at risk of contracting this deadly virus.

“And I can tell you, I was there yesterday to witness the arrival of the vaccine, and the first vaccinated caregiver, and it was just amazing,” said Claire Zangerle, AHN’s chief nurse executive.

AHN says it hopes that all staff who work directly with COVID-19 patients will be vaccinated by early January. It estimates that staff working directly with NON-COVID patients will be vaccinated by early February.

3:48 p.m. – Latest COVID numbers

Allegheny County reported 827 new COVID-19 cases Friday. Those infected range in age from 1 week to 98 years old. The county also reported 27 new deaths, 11 of which were related to long-term care facilities.

Statewide, the number of positive cases rose by 9,320. The state reported 6,209 patients are hospitalized, 1,246 of which are in intensive care units. The state also reported 216 new deaths.

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December 17, 2020  

5:38 p.m. - Port Authority isn’t facing major cuts like other transit agencies

Economic uncertainty created by the pandemic has the Port Authority of Allegheny County in a holding pattern: the agency isn’t making plans for any new service or projects.

Spokesperson Adam Brandolph says the agency is able to balance its budget thanks to the CARES Act and its own reserve funds.

“We’re not calling for any layoffs like some other systems are, we’re not calling for any massive cuts to service.”

Major cities such as New York and Boston say without help they’ll soon have to slash service. Port Authority ridership remains about 60%  below normal levels. Federal and state funding remains uncertain.

5:13 p.m. - Wolf says storm didn’t impact COVID-19 vaccine distribution

State highway workers and police responded to several accidents during yesterday's snow storm.

In one of those incidents, along Interstate 80 in Clinton County, 66 vehicles collided with one another.

Pennsylvania State Police confirm one person involved in that pile-up has died.

At this hour, several thousand people across the state are without power, according to multiple utility providers.

Gov. Tom Wolf says the state is continuing to clear roadways and respond to problems.

“Many areas are still not clear or completely safe for normal levels of traffic. There's still snow on the roads,” Wolf said. :So I encourage Pennsylvanians: please, avoid driving when you can. Let these road crews and others who have to be out on the roads, let them do their jobs.”

The Wolf administration says the storm did not disrupt COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

The state's Emergency Management Agency says vaccine doses that are scheduled to be delivered to hospitals and other facilities today will arrive on time.

4:38 p.m. - Emergency officials are concerned about the impact of the massive winter storm on the state’s health care infrastructure.

Hospitals across the state are already coping with a massive surge in COVID-19 patients in recent weeks -- straining staff and filling ICU beds.

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Randy Padfield says more patients could create a critical situation for health care systems.

He’s urging residents to stay off the roads to prevent car accidents. And be extra careful with clean-up to avoid trips to the ER.

“The day after a snowstorm is one of the busiest days, and the reason being is because people go out and they try to recover,” Padfield said. “And that’s when people have heart attacks, and they have strokes and they slip and fall, and those types of things. And that’s when the emergency departments get extremely busy.”

Padfield is encouraging residents to take their time digging out and work together with friends and neighbors to recover from the storm.

12:17 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 55 new deaths

The deaths reported Thursday include information from the state data system and range from Nov. 24 to Dec. 16. Thirty-eight of those deaths were associated with long-term care facilities. The number of positive COVID cases in Allegheny County rose by 850 Thursday, 10 of those are from tests taken more than a week ago. The county health department says those infected range in age from 11 months to 97 years.

December 16, 2020

6:35 p.m. - County receives 250 complaints against businesses violating new restrictions

Since the state of Pennsylvania implemented new COVID-19 restrictions last week, the Allegheny County Health Department says it has received about 250 complaints against businesses for alleged violations. Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the county health department, says enforcement can be challenging.

“Our inspectors do not have the ability to shut down a business and padlock its door immediately. Our inspectors can order a business to close and suspend its operating permit,” Bogen said. “But if a business refuses to comply with that order, the health department may work through the courts for further enforcement.”

Among the new mitigation orders include a ban on indoor dining, as well as size limits on gatherings. 

6:30 p.m. - UPMC Mercy receives first shipments of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine

The hospital is now the fourth in the metro area to receive the vaccines.

By next Dec. 21, the state Department of Health says that more than 90 hospitals throughout Pennsylvanian are expected to receive Pfizer shipments.

6:24 p.m. - COVID-19 cases among Pennsylvanians ages 5-18 are surging

The state Department of Health has confirmed reports more than 18,000 cases in that age group over the past four weeks  -- which amounts to almost half the total since the pandemic began.

Dr. Joan Harrold, director for medical policy at Capitol Blue Cross, calls the numbers distressing. She says the spread of the virus is happening in the community not in schools.

Harrold says that's why we are seeing the numbers spike now, rather than in the fall when schools first reopened.

"Going to school does not seem to be driving up the community numbers by a super spreader place, it seems to be the people coming into the schools may be affected by what's going on in the community around them."

The state Department of Health says this spike in cases led to some of their recent mitigation efforts such as canceling extracurricular activities for three weeks and requiring schools still using in person instruction to recommit to COVID-19 prevention efforts.

December 15, 2020

5:12 p.m. - Casey calls for COVID-19 aid for struggling Americans

There's no deal yet on a second COVID-19 relief package. But lawmakers in Washington are considering a compromise that would prioritize areas of agreement and leave more contentious issues for later.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled the new plan Monday. It has two parts: The first would focus on measures that have broad support – like additional funding for unemployment compensation, aid for small businesses, and money for education, vaccine distribution, and coronavirus testing.

Democratic Senator Bob Casey thinks Congress could approve those provisions this week.

“But this is very much an interim agreement. This should not be the last word on COVID-19,” Casey said.

The parties are still far apart on issues like funding for state and local governments and liability protections for businesses. The compromise proposed Monday would wait to address those topics in a separate bill.

Republican Pat Toomey said in a statement that such disagreements, “should not stop the Senate from passing a bill where Republicans and Democrats largely agree.”.

3:38 p.m. - Pennsylvania native leading vaccine distribution

Following the Food and Drug Administration advisory board’s approval of emergency use authorization of the Pfizer COVID 19 vaccine, the roll out in the commonwealth has already begun.

Army Lt. Col. Matthew Yiengst is the chief of plans for Operations Warp Speed - the federal government’s effort to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine.

The Adams County native is in charge of coordinating all the phases of the distribution plan -- so all the participants know their roles.

He says vaccine kits - including needles and gloves - are now being moved to their final destinations.
“Collectively it is not simple,” Yiengst said. “But what we try to do in the plans is make it individually understandable and executable as far as the plan.”

Yiengst says the team has been running exercises to try to predict and prepare for unforeseen obstacles.
He says the most significant challenge has been storage of the Pfizer vaccine -- which needs to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

Operation Wrap speed is working to vaccinate some 300 million Americans.

3:21 p.m. - UPMC Presbyterian receives first shipment of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine

Presby is now the second hospital in Allegheny County to begin inoculating staff. The first was UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. By Dec. 21, the state Department of Health says that more than 90 hospitals throughout Pennsylvanian are expected to receive Pfizer shipments.
In Allegheny County, that includes an additional five UPMC facilities, five Allegheny Health Network facilities, and one hospital with Heritage Valley Health System.

1:48 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 1,059 new virus cases

The county health department reports the new cases are the result of 2,395 tests taken Nov. 20-Dec. 14. Those infected range in age from 3 months to 100 years. The county also reported 10 new deaths, including that of a person in their 20s. No further information was shared about that person.

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 9,556. The state reported that 6,026 people are hospitalized, with 1,249 of those patients in intensive care units. The state also reported 270 new deaths.

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December 14, 2020

4:02 p.m. - COVID-19 vaccines arrive in Pittsburgh

Five UPMC employees were the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Pittsburgh Monday. UPMC received its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine at 9:15 a.m. at Children’s Hospital in Lawrenceville. The first shipment contained 975 doses; the state of Pennsylvania is slated to receive 100 shipments, equaling 97,500 doses total.

The five workers who got vaccinated in a live-streamed event represented different sectors of the health system’s workforce.

Read more here.

1:33 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 1,647 new virus cases for Sunday, Monday

The new cases reported in the last 48 hours are the result of 5,106 tests taken Oct. 20 through Dec. 13. More than two dozen positive tests are more than a week old. Those infected range in age from 2 weeks to 100 years. Allegheny County also reported five new deaths.

Statewide, the number of cases rose by 18,646 for the same two-day period. Officials say 5,970 of those people are hospitalized and 1,227 of those are in intensive care units. The number of deaths statewide rose by 201.

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December 11, 2020

1:19 p.m. – Two weeks after Thanksgiving, Allegheny Co. reports 1,322 new virus cases, marking new high

The new cases reported Friday surpass the previous single-day record of 1,197 nearly a week ago. Eleven of those cases are from tests more than a week old. Health Department officials say those infected range in age from 6 months to 95 years. The county also reported 33 new deaths, including one person in their 30s. 

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 12,745, which is the second highest daily total. Officials say 5,877 patients are hospitalized and 1,218 of those are in intensive care units. The number of deaths statewide increased by 225. A total of 12,235 Pennsylvanians have died from COVID-19.

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December 10, 2020

4:43 p.m. - Pennsylvania halts school sports, bans indoor dining

Pennsylvania is temporarily halting school sports and other extracurricular activities. It is ordering gyms, theaters and casinos to close and banning indoor dining at restaurants as state officials respond to the worsening pandemic with new restrictions. Gov. Tom Wolf announced the new restrictions Thursday after weeks of exploding case numbers and sharply rising hospitalizations and deaths. Wolf tested positive for the virus earlier this week but said he wasn’t experiencing symptoms.

Read more about the mitigation efforts. 

3:52 p.m. - Cultural Trust expects shows to resume next fall

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust announced today it will present live, touring Broadway shows again starting in September. Most in-person events in the region have been canceled or postponed since the coronavirus pandemic began, in March.

But the Trust cites positive news about the vaccine, and the fact that touring troupes plan to hit the road. The Trust is the area’s first major arts presenter to schedule a live, in-person fall season. The series begins with the Pittsburgh premiere of Broadway hit “Hadestown.”

12:20 p.m. -Allegheny Co. reports 1,166 new COVID cases

Thursday marks the second-highest number of single-day cases. The health department says the cases were the result of 3,302 new tests taken Nov. 23 – Dec. 9. Those infected range in age from 2 months to 101 years. The county also reported six new deaths. 

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 11,972. State officials say 5,852 people are hospitalized, and of those 1,191 are in intensive care units. The state department of health reported 248 new deaths. Co. 

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December 9, 2020

5:21 p.m. - County health officials address questions about mitigation efforts

At a news conference today, Allegheny County's Health Department director addressed questions about the lack of additional local restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus. Dr. Debra Bogen says the county acting alone wouldn't be very effective. Because surrounding areas also have surging rates of coronavirus cases, so Bogen says the entire region needs to join in those efforts.

“An Allegheny County only mitigation strategy won’t stop people cross county borders to work, to go to restaurants, attend weddings, funerals, visit friends, family or attend sporting events,” Bogen said. “The Wolf Administration is expected to announce additional mitigation efforts very soon.”

The Wolf Administration is expected to announce additional mitigation efforts very soon.

2:31 p.m. – Gov. Tom Wolf tests positive for COVID-19

Wolf’s administration said Wednesday that the governor is in isolation at home and does not have any symptoms.

“During a routine test yesterday, I tested positive for COVID-19. I have no symptoms and am feeling well,” Wolf said in a statement. “I am following CDC and Department of Health guidelines. Frances has been tested and, as we await the result, is quarantining at home with me.”

1:57 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 727 new COVID cases

The new cases are the result of 2,099 tests taken between Nov. 28 and Dec. 8. Two dozen of the tests are more than a week old. Those infected range in age from 4 months to 100 years old. The Allegheny County Health Department reported 34 new deaths, ranging from Nov. 20 to Dec. 8. Nineteen of the deaths were related to long-term care facilities.

Statewide, the number of positive cases rose by 8,703. State officials say 5,561 patients are hospitalized and 1,160 of those are in intensive care units. The state also reported 220 new deaths.

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December 8, 2020

4:33 p.m. - City Council passes sick leave bill

Many businesses in Pittsburgh will now be required to provide paid sick leave for employees who need time off due to COVID-19.

The new requirement applies to any business with 50 or more employees. It was approved unanimously by City Council Tuesday, although Councilor Anthony Coghill said he had concerns that it might give businesses second thoughts about opening in the city.

“It’s not a bill I’m typically inclined to vote for simply because I feel it sends a message to people wanting to do business in the City of Pittsburgh,” Coghill said. “However, these are not normal times; I will be supporting it. It’s not without hesitation though.”

Business groups who have spoken about the measure say they support the idea, but worry the city won't reimburse employers for the cost of providing the benefit. A federal law did offset the cost of paying for sick time, but it is set to expire at the end of this month, and it only applied to employers with between 50 to 500 workers.

Pittsburgh's requirement will end when the city lifts its coronavirus emergency declaration.

3:02 p.m. - Allegheny County reports 693 new COVID-19 cases

Health officials said the median age of new cases was 44 years.  Six new deaths were reported.

Statewide, cases increased by 10,170. The total number of positive cases in Pennsylvania is now 436,614. Currently 5,421 individuals were in the hospital due to the coronavirus. 

2:48 p.m. - UPMC officials say the system isn't overwhelmed yet

UPMC officials said Tuesday their health network is busy with the rise in COVID-19 cases, but not overwhelmed. In a press conference, executive vice president Leslie Davis said the network is redirecting staffing and equipment resources to hospitals like UPMC Altoona where nurses recently described strained conditions to The Trib.

Graham Snyder, UPMC’s medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology, said the system is optimistic it will have the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine distributed to all of its front-line workers by the end of January. The vaccine will be administered on a voluntary basis, he said.

The system said it expects to receive the Moderna COVID-19 shortly after it receives the Pfizer vaccine. The Moderna vaccine will be prioritized for front line workers and residents in long-term care facilities.

Snyder said vaccinations for the general public could still be months away.

7:50 a.m. - 25 new cases of COVID-19 among inmates at Allegheny County Jail 

County authorities reported 25 new cases among inmates and five new cases among staff at the Allegheny County Jail today. The jail had reported no new cases of the disease among inmates between August and mid-November, but now 27 people are incarcerated with the illness. Test results for three more prisoners are pending.

December 7, 2020

3:28 p.m. - State officials emphasize COVID-19 safety measures as cases continue to surge

Gov. Tom Wolf and joined state Health Department officials Monday to plead with Pennsylvanians to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Officials also asked people to wear masks when they go outside and avoid gathering with anyone outside their household.

The Wolf administration announced a stay-at-home advisory two weeks ago, making the same ask in addition to gathering restrictions. Wolf hinted repeatedly that additional measures could be forthcoming if cases continue to increase. Other states have implemented stricter restrictions as the so-called, “second wave,” sweeps the nation.

“It just keeps coming,” said Maureen Casey, a Hershey Medical Center nurse, of the onslaught of COVID-19 patients. She joined the press conference via Zoom. “As a nurse, we have just one simple ask – please wear a mask. It’s a simple thing, but it gets the job done,” she said.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine and Deputy Secretary of Health Preparedness and Community Protection Ray Barishanksy both noted that flu season is underway in Pennsylvania, and that additional strain on hospitals could prevent other sick Pennsylvanians from getting care.

Levine noted that while hospital staffs are feeling the strain of the increase rate of COVID-19 cases, personal protective equipment and ventilators remain in good supply.

3:15 p.m. - Childhood vaccinations have declined due to COVID-19

A Pennsylvania health care provider is warning of a shape decline in childhood vaccinations due to the coronavirus pandemic. Capital BlueCross reports a 19 percent drop in medical claims for childhood immunizations so far this year.

That adds up to around 17,000 missed doses of preventable diseases like measles, whooping cough and polio.  Dr. Jennifer Chambers, chief medical officer at Capital BlueCross, says it’s a startling trend that’s happening around the county.

“There’s going to be close to nine million missed doses for vaccines in the United States alone and that overwhelming to think about the impact that could have on our public health,” Chambers said.

A BlueCross BlueShield Association survey found 40 percent of parents attribute their child’s missed vaccinations to the pandemic shutdown. Chambers is advising parents to consult their pediatrician on the best way to get their child’s vaccinations up to date.

1:24 p.m.  2 Port Authority operators die from COVID-19

Two operators for Port Authority died from COVID-19, the agency reported on Monday. One man was 57 and the other was 34.

In a press release Port Authority officials said the names of the two men are being withheld out of respect for the families.

“Today our hearts are broken,” said Katharine Kelleman, Port Authority’s CEO. “Their commitment to serve customers was truly emblematic of all of our frontline employees.”

Read more here.

1:02 p.m. – Latest COVID numbers

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 1,470 new COVID-19 cases for the last 48 hours. Two dozen of those cases come from tests more than a week old, and one test was from May. Those infected range in age from 1 week to 102 years old. The county also reported four new deaths.

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December 5, 2020

4:04 p.m. - Allegheny County reports 1,197 new COVID-19 cases

Health officials say the median age of new cases was 42. There were five new deaths reported in Allegheny County. Statewide, the Department of Health says there were 12,884 additional positive cases. There were 149 new deaths associated with the virus. Pennsylvania has reported a total of 411,484 positive COVID-19 cases.

December 4, 2020

5:23 p.m. - Pennsylvania Department of Health shortens recommended quarantine period

Now, a person who has been exposed to the coronavirus only has to stay home for a week—provided they have a negative test result and no symptoms. Without a test they must quarantine for 10 days.
The incubation period for COVID-19 is 14 days, so these new guidelines allow people to leave home when they’re potentially still contagious. The federal government recently updated its quarantine guidelines to say the same, citing the economic burden of quarantine.

4:16 p.m. - States submit vaccine orders as coronavirus death toll grows

States are facing a deadline on Friday to place orders for the coronavirus vaccine as many reported record infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The number of Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 hit an all-time high in the U.S. on Thursday at 100,667, and hospitals were at the breaking point.

Arizona on Friday reported more than 5,000 new known COVID-19 cases for the second straight day as the number of available intensive care beds fell below 10%. Nevada reported 48 new deaths on Thursday, the deadliest day since the onset of the pandemic. Pennsylvania's top health official says intensive care beds could be full this month.

2:40 p.m. – PA reaches new single-day virus case record

Statewide, the number of positive COVID-19 cases increased by 11,763, surpassing Thursday’s record-high number of cases reported in a single day. There are 5,071 people hospitalized, 1,065 of whom are in intensive care units. The state also reported 169 new deaths. 

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 911 new cases, the result of 2,794 tests taken Oct. 8 – Dec. 3. Those infected range in age from 1 month to 100 years old. The county also reported 26 new deaths.

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December 3, 2020

4:10 p.m. - Hospitals in some regions are dealing with full beds and exhausted doctors and nurses

Geisinger Chief Medical Officer Doctor Jerry Maloney says intensive care and medical-surgical beds in some facilities have all been in use every day for the past week.

But, health care workers are adapting -- keeping some patients in emergency departments or recovery rooms, where critical care nurses are there to help.

He says some are filling in for colleagues who are quarantined at home.

“And each staff member goes home exhausted knowing that they’re going to come in tomorrow to what may be a worse situation than what they left today,” Maloney said.

The state Department of Health is monitoring staffing shortages.

State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says there’s a plan to reduce elective procedures if staff are needed in intensive care units and emergency rooms.

Levine is urging Pennsylvanians to follow preventative measures to slow the spike in cases.

3:26 p.m. - Capitol complex to close due to COVID-19

Pennsylvania has closed its state capitol complex to the public next week, over concerns about rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in that state.

The complex hosted a number of indoor events during the legislature's fall session.

But not everyone, including lawmakers themselves, abided by mask-wearing and social distancing rules.

Troy Thompson of Pennsylvania's Department of General Services, which oversees the complex, says coronavirus cases are rising too quickly to allow indoor rallies, tours, and other public gatherings to happen.

"When certain issues arise that the public is passionate about, they tend to organize, and we just want to make sure that they are safe," Thompson said.

State capitol employees and those with ID badges will still be allowed in.

Thompson says until positivity rates and other metrics improve, any public gatherings will have to take place outside.

Pennsylvania hospitals are currently treating more than 5,000 people for COVID-19. The state reported a record 11,000 new cases in the past day alone.

2:50 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases

The 1,028 COVID-19 cases reported Thursday mark a new single-day record for the county. Those infected range in age from 1 month to 98 years old. The Allegheny County Health Department also reported 20 new deaths, eight of which were associated with long-term care facilities. 

“It pains me to report these numbers. I had hoped we’d never see this level of community spread. This heartbreaking milestone must move our community into action. I implore to you cancel parties, weddings, gatherings, events and stay home whenever possible,” said Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen in a press release. “My heart goes out to all the families who have lost loved ones throughout this pandemic. We can, and we must do better.”

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 11,406, which is also the highest daily total reported by the state so far. The state reports 4,982 people are hospitalized and 1,048 of those are in intensive care units. An additional 187 deaths statewide were reported Thursday.

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December 2, 2020

5:30 p.m. - Allegheny County COVID-19 hospitalizations double in two weeks

State data show the number of people in Allegheny County hospitalized with COVID-19 has more than doubled in the past two weeks to more than 640 patients. This number is expected to grow. Dr. Debra Bogen, head of the county health department, says while health systems have extensive plans to expand bed space, she says some hospitals’ staffs are already stretched thin.

“Compounding the challenge is wide community spread of the virus,” Bogen said. “Health care staff are increasingly getting sick themselves. And many others are home caring for their loved one who are either sick or in quarantine.”

Bogen and other public health officials warn hospitals could become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients in a matter of weeks.

5:07 p.m. - Pittsburgh City Council preliminarily approves a COVID1- sick leave bill

The bill, approved Wednesday, would require some employers to provide paid sick leave for workers sidelined by the coronavirus.

A federal law requires businesses to provide time off due to COVID-19, but it is set to expire at the end of the year. Pittsburgh's bill would continue the requirement for businesses with 50 or more employees, until the city lifts its own declaration of emergency. Dan Gilman, the mayor’s chief of staff, says the bill is an essential health measure.

“If somebody has to use all of their time in January because of COVID, they don’t have any sick leave days left for the entire year,” Gilman said. “So we really see a need to have a separate emergency COVID sick leave.”

But the state Restaurant and Lodging Association says the federal rule reimbursed businesses for the cost of paid time off. The city's bill does not -- and the industry says forcing employers to pay the costs on their own could bankrupt businesses that are already struggling. Council will discuss the bill further next week.

3:21 p.m. - Steelers add center Maurkice Pouncey to COVID-19 list against Ravens

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are scheduled to play on Wednesday afternoon even as COVID-19 continues to infect players up and down their respective rosters. The Steelers will be without perennial Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on just hours before kickoff. Pouncey is the fourth Pittsburgh player to join the list in the past week. The Ravens will be without more than a dozen players, including quarterback Lamar Jackson and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram. The game has been delayed three times because of a COVID-19 outbreak in Baltimore.

2:41 p.m. - As levels of COVID-19 surge, health care networks face a staffing crunch

Allegheny Health Network’s Chief Nurse Executive Claire Zangerle told WESA’s The Confluence that they’re dealing with multiple staffing problems, including a national nurse shortage.

“So you layer on the pandemic with people having to be off work because of exposure or positivity…and then you layer on the fact that more people are coming into the hospital for care and our beds are filling up,” Zangerle said. “That is a staffing crisis.“

Zangerle says AHN has brought in traveling nurses and nursing students to help deal with the shortage.

1:28 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 508 new COVID cases

The new cases are the result of 1,270 tests taken Nov. 14 – Dec. 1. Those infected range in age from 3 months to 100 years old. The Allegheny County Health Department also reported 10 new deaths, which occurred Nov. 18-30. Those who died included one person in their 60s, one in their 70s, five in their 80s, two in their 90s and one person over 100 years old. 

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 8,291, which is the second largest daily jump. The state reported that 4,744 patients are hospitalized and of those, 967 are in intensive care units. The number of deaths increased by 194.

12:01 p.m. - SCI Laurel Highlands home to COVID outbreak

More than half of the inmates at the State Correctional Institution Laurel Highlands tested positive for coronavirus in the last month.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports 444 prisoners tested positive at the facility, which houses “many of the oldest and sickest men in Pennsylvania’s prisons.”

Read more here.

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December 1, 2020

4:04 p.m. - Testing sites added throughout Pennsylvania

Gov. Tom Wolf and state health officials say they’ll expand testing in 61 counties. According to a release, five “strike teams” will set up drive-thru and indoor walk-in testing sites in Butler, Bedford, Mifflin, Tioga and Northampton counties. The testing will take place beginning this week and, according to State Testing and Contact Tracing Director Michael Huff, residents do not need to show symptoms to get tested.

“These testing sites are open to anyone,” Huff said. “Anyone who feels they need a test.”

The other six counties in the state have regional health departments that will continue to provide testing and contact tracing services to residents.

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3:19 p.m. - Rural hospitals are filling up across the state

Doctors at hospitals around Pennsylvania are urging people to follow public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Geisinger's chief medical officer, Dr. Jerry Maloney, says health care workers are physically exhausted and emotionally drained at rural hospitals in places like Lewistown.
Mifflin County has the third-highest rate of COVID-19 positive infections in the state.
Maloney says it's true most people who get the virus don't need to go to the hospital.
But, he notes that creates a false sense of security for people who don't see the grim reality of people dying in hospital beds.
"More people have died from this in the past eight months than have died in the past three wars that we fought combined,” Maloney said. “And yet, for whatever reason, we are able to say, I know someone who didn't get that sick, therefore, all those people who died didn't matter."
Geisinger is far from alone in this message - more than 400 doctors and health care workers in Pennsylvania signed a statement begging people to wear masks, follow safety measures and stay vigilant.

2:52 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 603 new COVID cases

The new cases are the result of 1,614 tests taken Nov. 15-30. Those infected range in age from 5 months to 97 years. The Allegheny County Health Department also reported five new deaths. Those who died include two people in their 60s, two in their 70s and one person in their 90s.

Statewide, the number of positive cases rose by 5,676. There are 4,631 patients currently hospitalized, and of those, 970 are in intensive care units. The state also reported 180 new deaths.

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November 30, 2020

4:47 p.m. - Wolf vetoes GOP-backed bill on limiting COVID-19 liability

Pennsylvania’s governor is rejecting a bill that would have made it harder to sue schools, health care providers and other businesses for coronavirus-related claims. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed the measure Monday. Wolf argues its liability protections were so broad the legislation would have invited “the potential for carelessness and a disregard for public safety.” The bill passed both chambers with mostly Republican support and Democratic opposition. It would have applied to cases of exposure to the coronavirus during a governor-declared disaster emergency. Supporters argued the pandemic should not impose on businesses and others expensive or even ruinous litigation.

Read more here.

2:51 p.m. - Are there too many contact tracing apps?

Contact tracing apps have been praised as one tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But with multiple app options, they may not be as effective as human driven contact tracing.

In order for contact tracing apps to work effectively, people need to download them. And with more than one option to choose from, the potential user pool for any one app shrinks.

But that’s not the only issue, according to David Dausey, an epidemiologist and executive vice president and provost at Duquesne University. He says some contact tracing apps can’t capture the nuance of an exposure the way traditional tracing over the phone can.

“They don’t have people saying what that contact looked like and whether or not they were wearing masks and all of that,” Dausey said. “That’s beyond most of these apps.”

Government-supported apps like Pennsylvania’s COVID Alert PA are more likely to collect the data needed by state health officials, making them more useful for contact tracing according to Dausey. The state app also interfaces with apps from other states.

Health officials in Pennsylvania say an average of 43,000 people are logging their symptoms through the app daily.

12:55 p.m.- Allegheny Co. reports 920 cases for past 48 hours

The new cases are the result of 3,339 tests taken between Nov. 6 and 29. Those infected range in age from 3 weeks to 98 years old. The county health department also reported four new deaths. Three of the people were in their 70s, the fourth was in their 80s.

Statewide, the number of cases rose by 9,797 for the same two-day period. The state says 4,405 people are hospitalized, with 918 of those in intensive care units. Most of those patients hospitalized are over 65 years old. In the past two days, 107 new deaths were also reported.  

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November 25, 2020

5:14 p.m. - So far this month, 64 Allegheny County residents have died from COVID-19

The county health department says a young child is among these fatalities. Though November is not over, the number of COVID-19 deaths has exceeded what was seen in October and September—both months saw about 50 deaths. Statewide and nationally COVID-19 fatalities are also increasing—and are predicted to continue to increase as the spread of coronavirus shows no sign of slowing.

4:08 p.m. - State to send COVID-19 updates through Emergency Alert System

The Wolf Administration said in a statement that it would begin sending text messages to Pennsylvanian’s cell phones to alert them to “imminent threats to safety in their area” related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Residents can expect the first message to be sent today. The communications could include, for example, information about stay-at-home orders or how to get tested for COVID-19.

3:19 p.m. - Pittsburgh International Airport prepares for holiday travel

New state health orders require those traveling from out of state to have a negative COVID-19 test result 72 hours prior to arriving, or quarantine for 14 days.

But Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis says there isn’t much Pittsburgh International can do to enforce that among passengers.

“We're doing our best with these orders that tend to come with very little notice,” Cassotis said, “We're catching up like everybody else.”

The airport has a list of safety precautions in place, like required face coverings, UV robots to clean floors, and reconfigured seating.

Cassotis says about 5,000 daily passengers are coming through Pittsburgh International, and travel is down 66 percent.

Read more from The Confluence.

12:52 p.m. – Allegheny County reports 555 new virus cases

Those cases were the result of 2,420 tests taken Nov. 4-24. The Allegheny County Health Department says those infected range in age from 10 months to 98 years. The county also reported 12 new deaths, which occurred Nov. 6-22. Eight of those deaths were associated with long-term care facilities.

Statewide, the number of cases rose by 6,759. The state department of health reports 3,897 patients have been hospitalized, 826 of those are in intensive care units. The positivity rate statewide is just over 11 percent.

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November 24, 2020

4:12 p.m. - Contact tracing continues, but some have trouble reaching those impacted

Contact tracers successfully reached less than one quarter of Pennsylvanians who tested positive for the coronavirus over the past week.

That’s according to Michael Huff, who directs the state’s testing and contact tracing program. At a Tuesday news conference, Huff said this low number is due in part to the large volume of cases. But he also says many people don’t pick up when contact tracers call.

“Clearly public trust is part of it,” Huff said. “The fear of providing information to someone you really don’t know.”

Huff says contact tracers are prioritizing populations that are high-risk, and people who have been exposed to the virus within the past six days.

3:22 p.m. - First child in Allegheny County dies from COVID-19

The Allegheny County Health Department did not disclose the patient’s age, but said they were a young child who had underlying health conditions. Pennsylvania’s Department of Health hasn't released the number of pediatric COVID-19 deaths, though it confirms the child in Allegheny County is not the first. Statewide, more than 8,800 children have contracted the coronavirus. More than 650 of these kids reside in Allegheny County.

2:34 p.m. – Allegheny Co. reports 541 new virus cases

The new cases are the result of 2,757 tests taken Oct. 18 – Nov. 23. Those infected range in age from 6 months to 97 years old. Four new deaths were reported, including a child with underlying health conditions. The other deaths occurred in people in their 60s, 80s and 90s.

Statewide, the number of COVID-19 cases increased by 6,669. The state department of health reported that 3,459 patients have been hospitalized. Of those people, 767 patients are in intensive care units. The state also reported 81 new deaths.

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November 23, 2020

5:40 p.m. - Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announces new COVID-19 mitigation measures

Cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks and the state’s hospitals are treating more coronavirus patients than they were during the spring surge.

To try to keep healthcare providers from being overwhelmed, Wolf says the state will start requiring businesses to enforce mask-wearing among their customers.

“If they come inside, they need to follow the procedures,” Wolf said. “We have those signs that say no shoes, no shirt, no service. Well, no mask, no service.”

If they don't, businesses could face fines or be forced to close temporarily as punishment.
On the other hand, the Pennsylvania governor said the state would shield businesses from liability if they are sued for enforcing these rules.

Pennsylvania will also suspend alcohol sales after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, historically the biggest drinking night of the year, among other new measures.

The state is on track to fill all of its intensive care beds due to COVID-19 by the end of the month.

4:39 p.m. - Mayor Bill Peduto introduces legislation that requires some city employers to give paid sick leave to workers affected by COVID-19

If a business in the city of Pittsburgh has 50 or more employees, Peduto's bill would require it to give workers up to 112 hours of paid sick leave. Currently, a federal law requires paid sick leave due to the pandemic, but that is set to expire on December 31. In a statement, Peduto said “due to failed federal action, workers should not have to choose between their family’s health during a worldwide pandemic and their ability to pay their bills.”

If it passes, Pittsburgh's rule would be in place until the city lifts its declaration of emergency, which has been in effect since March.

3:45 p.m. - Port Authority modifies routes

The Port Authority is rolling out modified schedules for 65 bus routes and three light-rail lines this week.  The changes include the permanent addition of weekend service on bus routes to Kennedy, Robinson, Banksville, and Lawrenceville - Hazelwood.  The Authority is also extending service to Forbes Hospital in Monroeville.  A complete list is available here.

2:10 p.m. – Allegheny County reports nearly 1K new virus cases over past two days

The 962 reported cases are from Sunday and Monday. The health department reports they were the result of 4,146 tests. Those infected range in age from 1 month to 100 years. No new deaths were reported. 

Statewide, the number of cases increased by nearly 12,000 for the same 48-hour timeframe. More 7,000 of those cases were from Sunday, 4,762 were from Monday. The state says 3,379 patients are currently hospitalized and 775 of those are intensive care units. State officials say the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by more than 2,000 since the end of September. Over the weekend, 69 new deaths were also reported statewide.

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November 20, 2020

3:14 p.m. - Nurses ask for increased mitigation efforts in the region

A group of top nurses has released an open letter imploring southwest Pennsylvanians to “double down” on coronavirus mitigation efforts.

“COVID-19 is in our communities, touching us all in one way or another, no matter where we live or who we are. And as we move into the winter months, we are very concerned about the accelerated spread of infectious disease, be it the coronavirus or the flu,” write the chief nursing officers of Allegheny Health System, Butler Health System, Excela Health System, Heritage Valley Health System, St. Clair Hospital, UPMC, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare and Washington Health System.

This message comes the week before Thanksgiving as cases are surging statewide. While the letter doesn’t tell people to stay home for Thanksgiving, it does say that people should avoid social gatherings that include people outside their immediate households. It also urges people to wear masks, keep physically distant, and to stay home when ill.

“We must take the necessary steps and make these sacrifices today, in hopes of a better tomorrow,” write the nurses.

Since the beginning of September, the number of cases in Pennsylvania has more than doubled. Hospitalizations continue to climb, having already surpassed the spring’s high-water mark of 3,000 patients. There is concern that the on-going surge of cases will eventually overwhelm the medical system.

11:34 a.m. – Allegheny County reports 484 new COVID cases

The county health department says the new cases were found in people ranging in age from 1 to 102 years old. The tests were taken between Nov. 3 and Nov. 19.

County officials also reported three new deaths. The deaths included one person in their 80s and two in their 90s. The deaths occurred Nov. 13 through Nov. 19.

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November 19, 2020

4:50 p.m. - Carnegie Library system suspends in-person service

All of the system's locations will stop allowing patrons inside in accordance with the Allegheny County Health Department's stay-at-home order, a release said. Virtual and curbside service is still available. People can also use the locations' printers and outdoor WiFi. 

3:15 p.m. - Analysis finds Pa. faces several billion dollar budget shortfall

Just a few weeks before a new state budget must be approved, an independent analysis says the commonwealth may not have all the money it needs.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, state lawmakers passed a stop-gap budget in June to set government funding for schools, agencies and services through November.

The next spending plan will go through June. But according to an early analysis by the independent Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, the commonwealth will be more than $3 billion short, thanks in large part to lower economic activity because of the pandemic.

Read more from WITF's Sam Dunklau. 

3:01 p.m. - State Department of Health encourages safety during Thanksgiving holiday

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine is asking Pennsylvanians to "rethink what" Thanksgiving looks like this year. In a statement, Levine encouraged people to celebrate the holiday with people living in the same household and continue to wear masks in public and socially distance.

The statement also asked Pennsylvanians to download the free mobile app COVID Alert PA, which is "designed to help reduce the spread of COVID-19." There have been 288,978 positive cases in the state.

1:00 p.m. – PA sees highest daily case increase

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Credit Matt Slocum / AP
Manager Yllka Murati waits for a delivery driver to pick up takeout orders at the Penrose Diner, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, in south Philadelphia.

  

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 609 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, the result of 2,672 tests. Those tests were taken Oct. 20-Nov. 19. Those who are infected range in age from 1 week to 98 years. One death was also reported, a person in their 70s who died Nov. 14. 

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 7,126, which is the highest daily increase of cases. Officials say 2,904 patients have been hospitalized and 628 of those patients are in intensive care units.

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November 18, 2020

3:50 p.m. - PPS audit finds lack of technology for students

Nearly 6,000 Pittsburgh Public Schools students have not received a district-issued computer and more than 900 students haven’t logged into the district’s learning platform. That’s according to a new report from City Controller Michael Lamb who has auditing authority over the district. The district is not tracking the number of students using personal devices for remote learning. It has spent nearly $10.8 million dollars on new devices and Internet hotspots.

3:05 p.m. - Nearly 4 million antigen tests will come to Pennsylvania

State officials will distribute nearly 4 million rapid antigen tests to shore up COVID-19 testing efforts across the commonwealth. Antigen tests are less sensitive than molecular tests but have a faster turnaround time. They’re currently being used to test vulnerable populations with ongoing outbreaks or those at risk for an outbreak.

Since October, the tests have been arriving in weekly allotments, which will continue through December. Officials will prioritize distribution to counties with current outbreaks.

12:45 p.m. - People distrust contact-tracing apps: can a new approach help?

A survey by WESA and Campos found that four in ten southwestern Pennsylvanians say they’re likely to download a contact tracing app. The apps tell users whether they’ve come into contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19. But a 40-percent participation rate would be lower than health experts hope for. Research suggests the apps work best when at least 60 percent of people participate. National surveys show about half of people are open to using the apps despite privacy concerns.

Read more here.

11:49 a.m. - Allegheny County reports 620 new COVID-19 cases, a new record

The Allegheny County Health Department says the median age of new cases is 40. Thirty-seven of the new positive cases are from a local university, according to a release. A person in their 80s and one in their 90s recently died due to complications with the coronavirus.

Statewide, health officials reported the highest daily increase in cases at 6,339. Pennsylvania's total is now 281,852. There were 110 new deaths reported for a total of 9,465 in the commonwealth. 

November 17, 2020

5:08 p.m. - Health officials say Pennsylvania could run out of ICU beds soon

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said at a Tuesday news conference that the state could run out of intensive care beds in the coming weeks. State data show that there are less than 60 intensive care beds available throughout all of Allegheny County’s hospitals. Hospitalizations within the county have surpassed what was seen during the summer surge of infections. Of the 318 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county, more than a third are in intensive care.

4:07 p.m. - Port Authority adjusts service as COVID-19 cases rise 

Beginning Sunday, Port Authority will reduce service on routes that experience lower ridership and increase service to routes with higher ridership levels. The agency said the changes were made to “avoid missed trips during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”  Sixty-five of the schedule changes impact bus routes, three changes will affect light rail “T” lines.  

 

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3:39 p.m. - One hundred members of Pittsburgh police force are in quarantine

The rising rate of COVID-19 infections in the Pittsburgh region is having an impact on local first responders. Twenty-one Pittsburgh Public Safety employees are currently positive for the virus with several others in quarantine.

Those positive cases include nine Pittsburgh police officers and nine firefighters. Public Safety says multiple others have been placed in quarantine out of an “abundance” of caution, including 100 members of the Pittsburgh police force.

According to Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich, one of the public safety employees has required hospitalization since testing positive, while all others are recuperating at home.

In a press release, Public Safety says the department continues to take preventative measures for its workforce, including mandatory masking, social distancing and screenings upon entry to public safety facilities.

3:23 p.m. - Health officials say safety precautions are better at long-term care facilities

While Pennsylvania continues to experience a rise in daily coronavirus cases, state health officials say they are handling outbreaks in long-term care facilities better than in the spring.

Roughly 27,000 Pennsylvanians live in long-term care facilities like nursing homes. They were hit hard in the spring, forcing lockdowns amid outbreaks and high death rates.

Following criticism of how the state handled elderly care earlier in the year, Teresa Miller with the Department of Human Services says they now deploy “Rapid Response Teams” to facilities to mitigate outbreaks

Through cohorting, mitigation, infection control practices and transferring patient depending on their COVID status for safe care

While COVID-19 cases are rising again in long term care homes, the department’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Kelly says that doesn’t mean the program’s not working.

“That’s not the measurement of failure, the measure we are really concerned with is the prevention of mortality,” Kelly said.

Mortality rates are currently much lower than in the spring, but they've recently ticked up.

The state’s health department says outbreaks in long-term care facilities *will continue if outside communities don't adhere to mask wearing and social distancing rules. 

3:05 p.m. - Lawmakers aim to fill virus-inflicted deficit

Pennsylvania’s state Legislature is working this week to assemble a spending plan to carry state government through the rest of the fiscal year and fill a multibillion-dollar deficit brought on by the impact of the coronavirus. House officials say closed-door talks may produce a draft of legislation Wednesday, with final votes possible Thursday.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has asked the Republican-controlled Legislature for another nearly $10 billion in spending to round out the fiscal year. That's after the Legislature approved a piecemeal, no-new-taxes $25.8 billion budget in May. Wolf’s administration says it's seeking federal budget aid, while state lawmakers say they're not considering any tax increases.

Read more here.

11:57 a.m. – Latest Allegheny Co. numbers

On Tuesday, the Allegheny County Health Department reported 288 new COVID-19 cases, nearly half of Monday’s 500 cases. Those infected range in age from 1 month to 100 years old. Most of the tests were taken in the last week, but two were from July and two were from the beginning of November.

The health department also reported three new deaths, including one person in their 70s, one in their 80s and one in their 90s.

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November 16, 2020  

4:44 p.m. – State has no plans to return to a lockdown phase

Despite the rapid spread of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania, the state’s secretary of health continues to say there’s no plan to return to a yellow or red lockdown phase.

At a Monday news conference Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine told reporters her department is considering all options, but that the best way to control the coronavirus is for people to comply with public health guidance, such as social distancing and wearing masks. When asked about certain mitigation mandates that some counties have instated, Levine said local communities can make their own decisions.

“We're looking at things statewide in terms of containment, in terms of mitigation, and then, of course, the distribution of a vaccine,” Levine said. “Of course, it is useful if different counties communicate and collaborate in their in their areas. And so, some may do that. Some may not.”

Levine says her department is keeping close watch on the state’s hospital capacity. While Pennsylvania’s health care systems are able to care for those currently hospitalized with COVID-19 illness, in many states, facilities are overwhelmed with patients.

4:15 p.m. – Pa.’s average percent positivity for COVID-19 is at its highest yet

The state is seeing its highest uptick yet in the average percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus.  The number is a key indicator of how prevalent COVID-19 is in the commonwealth, according to state officials.

After a weekend where more than 10,000 Pennsylvanians tested positive for COVID-19, the state’s average number of positive tests spiked up to 9.6 percent.

The average is far higher in some counties. Mifflin, Armstrong and Franklin top the list -- all having more than 15 percent of tests come back positive.

Health Secretary Doctor Rachel Levine is urging people not to gather -- not even for the holidays.  

“Whenever you are interacting with people outside of your household, there is a risk that you are going to be able to spread COVID-19,” Levine said. “Many people are asymptomatic. They’re not doing it deliberately. They don’t have any symptoms and they don’t know they have COVID-19.”

Levine says she hopes Pennsylvanians move past the election year politics that had many people refusing to wear masks and follow common sense guidelines that are standard around the world.

Across the commonwealth, more than 2,400 people are hospitalized with COVID-19.

4 p.m. - Philadelphia again imposes restrictions due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases

City of Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley says with more than 2,500 cases over the weekend, the city is experiencing rapid growth that is getting out of hand.

"Increasing at about 4 percent per day which means the number of cases is doubling every 17 days,” Farley said. “Which means that we're on track to have a fourfold increase in the number of cases by the end of the year which means about three thousand cases per day in the city alone."

To prevent those numbers, indoor gatherings will be stopped beginning Friday, and even outdoor gatherings will be severely curtailed to family members only for the most part, says Farley.

“We'll also prohibit indoor dining in restaurants,” Farley said. “We know that many restaurants worked very hard to follow our precautions, but people dining indoors right now is just too risky."

Mayor Jim Kenney says the restrictions start Friday and will go until at least the beginning of the new year. It will also include limits on retail and an end to gyms, museums and libraries, and 5 percent capacity in houses of worship.  Full details are to be posted on the city's website.

3:50 p.m. - All students at Pittsburgh Public Schools will receive remote-only instruction starting today

Superintendent Anthony Hamlet made the decision late last week because of the skyrocketing number of new COVID-19 cases in the area.  Remote-only learning will continue through at least January 4th, according to an announcement from the district.

3:45 p.m. - Allegheny County reports 500 new COVID-19 cases

The new cases are primarily within the age range of 25-49. One new death was reported. Statewide, there were an additional 9,675 positive cases, bringing Pennsylvania's total to 269,613.

November 15, 2020  

Allegheny County reported a record-breaking 527 new coronavirus cases on Sunday. This is the third time since Wednesday that the county reported a new daily record.

“The continued increase in new COVID cases is beyond concerning...Despite our cautionary messages, the number of cases is continuing to increase rapidly,” Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the county health department, said in a press release.

Females comprise 55 percent of the new cases, which range in age from a three-month-old infant to someone who is 104 years old; the median age is 40.

The county reports that case investigators find that people are more likely to contract the disease while attending “unmonitored” private social gatherings.

“Just because you are gathering outdoors, or with people you know, doesn’t mean that you’re not at risk for COVID," Bogen said. "Even outdoors or with those you know, people need to remain six feet apart and should be masked. Whether in someone’s backyard, or at a public space, the guidelines remain the same. We’ve become complacent in recent months, and the number of cases clearly shows that. We are actively considering what options are available to the Health Department to limit this spread.”

Since November 1, 24 Allegheny County residents have died.

November 14, 2020

3:45 p.m. - Allegheny County reports 370 new COVID-19 cases

The Health Department said the new cases have a median age of 43 years. There were no new deaths in Allegheny County. Statewide, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 5,551 additional positive cases. There were 50 new deaths, for a total of 9,274 in Pennsylvania.

November 13, 2020

4:07 p.m. - PPS students, staff, go back to remote learning

Pittsburgh Public Schools students and staff that returned to buildings this week for the first time since March will return to learning and teaching from home again on Monday. The district notified teachers after school Friday and in a robocall to families that because of the high numbers of COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County, all students and teachers will work remotely until January.

About 800 of the district’s 23,000 students returned to classrooms this week. District administrators identified those students as unable to learn in a remote setting.

3:54 p.m. - Arsenal schools closed after some staffers get COVID-19

Another Pittsburgh Public School closed Friday after staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Pittsburgh Arsenal PreK-5 and 6- 8 schools in Lawrenceville both closed this week. On Monday all teachers and about 800 students returned to buildings district-wide for the first time since schools closed in March due to the pandemic. District buildings have remained partially open as meal distribution sites.

Arsenal families are now directed to pick up their Grab ‘n go meals at Pittsburgh Sunnyside in Morningside or Obama Academy in East Liberty.

3:30 p.m. - Steelers expect Roethlisberger to play against Bengals

The unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers expect to have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger available when they host the Cincinnati Bengals.

Roethlisberger is one of four Steelers who have spent the week in self-quarantine as part of the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols. Roethlisberger, linebacker Vince Williams, running back Jaylen Samuels and offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins all participated virtually this week due to contact tracing after tight end Vance McDonald tested positive for the coronavirus.

While McDonald is definitely out, Roethlisberger and the others practicing virtually will be OK to play provided they continue to test negative for COVID-19.

3:02 p.m. – Latest Allegheny County coronavirus numbers 

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 378 new COVID-19 cases Friday. The new cases are the result of 1,673 tests taken July 8 – Nov. 12. Two of the tests were taken July 8, ordered by the Florida Department of Health and shared with Allegheny County in the last 24 hours. 

Those infected range in age from 1 month to 101 years old.  

County officials also reported two new deaths, which occurred Nov. 6 and 9. One person was in their 80s, the other in their 90s.  

 

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Thursday, November 12

5:43 p.m. - Hospitals see increases in COVID-19 cases

Medical officers at four Pittsburgh-area health care systems all say their facilities are seeing increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations. But Allegheny Health Network, Heritage Valley Health System, St. Clair Hospital and UPMC report that none of their facilities are overwhelmed by patient surges.

AHN’s Dr. Donald Whiting says he hopes people will refrain from social gatherings, especially over the holiday season.

“We need our people to be at work to take care of the people who develop COVID over this time,” Whiting said. “I think moving forward, our issue is going to be staffing and keeping people healthy.”

Allegheny County says that for every 100 cases reported to the health department, two of these will result in fatalities.

3:38 p.m. - Pa. officials say the state doesn’t plan to impose new restrictions yet

Despite rising case counts and hospitalizations, Pennsylvania health officials say residents shouldn't expect any new statewide COVID-19 restrictions just yet.

But Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says her office is closely monitoring the spread of the virus to see if new protocols are needed, including how many people are testing positive and being hospitalized for it.

"We do already have mitigation orders in place. We have a universal masking order in place,” Levine said. “We have decreased capacity at 50 percent for indoor dining at restaurants and we have limitations on large gatherings for indoor and outdoor."

The state's positivity rate now sits at nearly 7 percent.

It was roughly 6 percent just last week.

3:01 p.m. – Allegheny County breaks another single-day coronavirus record

In what’s just the latest in a string of record-breaking single-day case counts in Allegheny County, the county health department reported 412 new cases Thursday.  

Thursday’s count exceeds the previous day’s record-setting number of 366 cases. The new cases  are from positive tests ranging from Oct. 28-Nov. 11 and are the result of 1,725 total tests. Those infected range in age from 11 months to 98 years.  

Three new deaths were also reported. The people who died were in their 60s, 70s and 90s.

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Wednesday, November 11

5:56 p.m. - Pitt tightens student restrictions this week ahead of its fall break

Around 40 new cases – many connected to Halloween parties – prompted the university to shelter students in place earlier than it had planned. Students are to only leave their homes for necessary trips including in-person classes and going to work. Students won’t return to campus after Thanksgiving. All classes then will be remote until the semester ends in late December.

Read more here.

5:31 p.m. - Steelers trying to get a grip on their "virtual" reality

The vibe is the same. The jokes. The freewheeling banter.

In that way, the daily meetings for the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line haven’t changed a bit even with the group being forced to get together over Zoom instead of in the same room, a move necessitated by the NFL's COVID-19 protocols.

Still, there is something offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett admits is lacking: the comfort in knowing he has each player's undivided attention as he tries to get a point across.

“When I am explaining something, I can’t look at the guy in the eyes,” Sarrett said Wednesday. “That’s the big thing. That’s just something we have to adapt to as coaches.”

In many ways, the NFL's first “virtual” offseason last spring prepared the Steelers for what amounts to a lockdown of sorts. Pittsburgh entered the league's “intensive” protocol last week when Baltimore defensive back Marlon Humphrey received a positive test result hours after the Steelers had edged the Ravens on Nov. 1.

They will remain in the protocol this week after tight end Vance McDonald tested positive following a victory over Dallas on Sunday that pushed Pittsburgh to 8-0.

- Will Graves | Associated Press

4:01 p.m. - UPMC says it’s ready for COVID-19 case increases

As Pennsylvania continues to see record-breaking coronavirus case totals on a near daily basis, the state’s largest medical system says it’s prepared to handle patient surges.

“We hope that this rise will plateau. But we are prepared that it won’t,” said Dr. Rachel Sackrowitz, who heads UPMC’s intensive care unit service center. “We have plans that can be implemented and modified as the situation changes.”

UPMC says its hospitals in and around both Altoona and western Maryland are seeing particularly high levels of COVID-19 illness. Sackrowitz says people have been transferred from hospitals that are contending with large patient volumes to other facilities. 

11:40 a.m. – Allegheny County hits another record

Allegheny County reported 366 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, marking a new record for cases reported in a single day. The total comprises positive tests ranging from Oct. 30 to Nov. 10. Those cases are the result of 1,711 tests.

The cases reported Wednesday were found in people ranging from 3 months to 96 years old.

Five new deaths were also reported. Those deaths occurred Oct. 20 through Nov. 5. One of the people who dies was in their 20s, two were in their 70s and two in their 90s.

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Tuesday, November 10

4:30 p.m. - Steelers' Roethlisberger, 3 teammates go on COVID-19 list

The Pittsburgh Steelers have placed four more players on the COVID-19 list, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The move comes a day after tight end Vance McDonald went on the list after testing positive following a 24-19 win at Dallas that pushed the Steelers to 8-0. Running back Jaylen Samuels, offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins and linebacker Vince Williams joined Roethlisberger on the list Tuesday.

4 p.m. - State Health Department reports first flu-associated death

 

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said since Saturday, there have been 383 confirmed flu cases. One individual, who was between 50-64-years-old, did die from complications related to the flu. Levine said while flu activity is currently low across the commonwealth, residents should still get an influenza vaccine.

 

3:38 p.m. - Allegheny County has another day of high COVID-19 cases

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 317 new coronavirus cases. The only other time the county’s daily total surpassed 300 cases was this summer, when the county released a significant backlog of test results.

The department says that unless people start limiting parties and gatherings, cases will continue to rise and lead to an increase in hospitalizations and deaths.

The spread of the virus is also accelerating statewide. The Pennsylvania Department of Heath today reported a record-breaking daily case total for the fifth time this month. 

3:29 p.m. - Hydroxychloroquine does not help people recover from COVID-19

That’s according to a new study, which enrolled nearly 500 research volunteers from 34 different sites, including UPMC. Earlier this year President Trump had called the anti-malarial drug a “game-changer,” saying it could help people recover from the illness. But the study found that patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine were just as likely to die from COVID-19 as were those who were given the placebo.

2:40 p.m. - Health secretary says PA not considering a shutdown

The state is in the midst of a fall resurgence, says Dr. Rachel Levine, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, but is better prepared to deal with the novel coronavirus than it was in the spring.

She told WESA's The Confluence that Pennsylvania is “not considering a shutdown like the red, yellow, green protocols that we put in place in the spring,” and instead is focusing on containment and mitigation efforts already in place, such as the universal mask order, limits on indoor dining, and limits on public gatherings.

Listen to the interview here.

1:58 p.m. – Latest Allegheny County coronavirus numbers

The Allegheny County Health Department reported 378 new COVID-19 cases Friday. The new cases are the result of 1,673 tests taken July 8 – Nov. 12. Two of the tests were taken July 8, ordered by the Florida Department of Health and shared with Allegheny County in the last 24 hours.

Those infected range in age from 1 month to 101 years old. 

County officials also reported two new deaths, which occurred Nov. 6 and 9. One person was in their 80s, the other in their 90s.