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County Officials Urge Residents To Keep Up COVID-19 Precautions As Cases Plateau

Matt Rourke

COVID-19 case numbers are no longer declining in Allegheny County. The Health Department said Wednesday that the seven day average number of new cases was 170, up from 155 last week.

Health Department director Dr. Debra Bogen said the positivity rate increased slightly from 5.5% last week to 5.9% this week. And the results of recent case investigations have concerned the Health Department, according to Bogen.

“We have again started to hear that sports teams are having social gatherings, people are hosting parties and some reports indicate a lack of mask-wearing and lack of physical distancing,” Bogen said.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald noted each of the county’s surges in cases came after mitigation orders were relaxed or ended.

“We’ve been down this road before,” he said, referring to an explosion of new cases in the fall. “The numbers are starting to tick up just a bit,” so regulations like wearing masks in public and social distancing will continue to be in place.

Fitzgerald criticized actions by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this week lifting the state’s mask mandate. “We’re not there yet,” he said about relaxing precautions. “Hopefully in a couple of months when more people get vaccinated we will be there.”

Case levels, deaths and hospitalizations are down statewide and nationally. Earlier this week, Gov. Tom Wolf relaxed event size limitations for some gatherings, so long as physical distancing can be practiced.

As a result, major sports leagues have reopened arenas to fans. The Pittsburgh Penguins hosted fans for the first time to cheer on the team’s 5 to 2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday.

At a press conference Wednesday, Fitzgerald said he agreed with Wolf’s action this week to loosen regulations, but worried some fans wore their masks incorrectly or not at all inside PPG Paints Arena Tuesday.  

“We’ve got to make sure that these teams, both the Pirates and the Penguins, are vigilant,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s required to wear your masks. If you don’t want to wear your mask, you shouldn’t be going to the game. I think if people take off their mask or wear their mask improperly, the ushers are going to have to remove them.”

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.