Coronavirus: What You Need To Know


A paramedic wearing a mask gets out of a tent set up by the Italian Civil Protection outside the emergency ward of the Piacenza hospital, northern Italy, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020.
Credit Claudio Furlan / Lapresse via AP

This page will be frequently updated with the latest facts and news about the coronavirus, from both our community and around the world.

Coronavirus is a novel virus first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease in humans; the disease has spread to the U.S. and other countries around the world.  


The disease causes respiratory illness and is spread through the air by coughs and sneezes, and by personal contact. Its symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. There is no approved vaccine for this virus.


To prevent contraction of coronavirus, officials recommend people frequently wash their hands.


For the latest coverage of the Pittsburgh area's preparation for coronavirus, please follow WESA's live blog.


Here’s what we know:

90.5 WESA

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied a request to order the wholesale release of prisoners held by jails in Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. But in a partial win for prison-reform advocates, the Court ordered county judges and officials to do what they could to minimize the threat of the coronavirus behind bars.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Pittsburgh's officials warned on Friday that too many residents violated "social distancing" rules meant to limit the spread of the coronavirus last weekend, there was less social distancing last weekend, as milder weather brought more people out to public parks. 

Pennsylvania Residents Told To Wear Masks In Public

Apr 3, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania residents should wear a cloth mask in public to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, the governor said Friday, as the state recorded another single-day high in new cases and passed 100 deaths.

Pennsylvania Halting Pay For 9,000 State Workers

Apr 3, 2020
Kevin McCorry / WHYY

Pennsylvania will stop paying about 9,000 state workers whose offices have been closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Friday.

Marc Levy / AP

Pennsylvania corrections secretary John Wetzel said earlier this week that his department is taking steps to reduce the state’s incarcerated population, in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus behind bars. But prison-reform advocates argue that more dramatic action is needed to remedy conditions that they say amount to cruel and unusual punishment.


Jessica Griffin / Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania has received a fraction of the equipment it has requested from a federal stockpile to help battle the coronavirus, new data shows, as state officials look to other sources to purchase more supplies, including life-saving ventilators.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

It will be at least another month before life can be expected to go back to normal due to restrictions related to the novel coronavirus. Gov. Tom Wolf has extended his stay-at-home order and expanded it to include the entire state of Pennsylvania. 


New documents released Thursday show the Federal Emergency Management Agency only fulfilled only a fraction of requests for equipment to fight the coronavirus, leaving states like Pennsylvania short hundreds of thousands of items needed to protect healthcare providers and others.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

With reports of bigotry against people of Asian descent on the rise, Democratic state lawmakers including state Senators Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills) and Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) are calling to address hate crimes in Pennsylvania.

Deadline Looms For Pennsylvania Virus-Shutdown Waivers

Apr 2, 2020
Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania businesses are running out of time if they want an exemption from Gov. Tom Wolf’s shutdown order as state health officials on Thursday reported more than 1,200 new cases of COVID-19.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny Health Network began assembling COVID-19 test kits in its downtown Highmark Health Penn Avenue Place building this week. Dozens of tables with medical staffers lined the auditorium of the building filled with sterile media tubes, swabs, instructions, and biohazard bags.

Matt Rourke / AP

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House Coronavirus Task Force are both reviewing official guidance that people who are healthy don’t need to wear face masks during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

If the federal government changes its stance, that would be a big deal: Just more than a month ago, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams urged the public, in no uncertain terms, to stop buying face masks.


The University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine says it has developed a promising potential vaccine against the virus driving the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Wolf has issued stay-at-home orders across Pennsylvania as the coronavirus spreads. The directives are meant to save lives, but for victims of domestic violence, being stuck at home with their abusers can be extremely dangerous.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Independent bookstores have been an unexpected comeback story of the past decade. Since the 2008 recession, their numbers have grown nationally by about 50 percent, according to industry statistics – something most observers wouldn’t have predicted in the age of Amazon. Pittsburgh alone now has a dozen or more such bookshops.

Ed Mahon / PA Post

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration says the state Department of Community and Economic Development will not respond to open records requests for the foreseeable future, including ones related to the administration’s decision to grant waivers to thousands of businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak.


After a surge of coronavirus cases in the Poconos that some attributed to out-of-state travelers, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration says it is moving to remove short-term rentals such as Airbnb from the state’s list of “life-sustaining” businesses during the shutdown. 

Fears, Infection Thin Staff At Beaver Nursing Home With 2 Deaths

Apr 1, 2020
Google Maps

A Pennsylvania nursing home where two dementia patients died over the weekend after contracting COVID-19 has struggled to contain the spread, with staff thinned by suspected infection and fears for their own safety.

All Of Pennsylvania Now Under Orders To Stay Home

Apr 1, 2020
Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

All Pennsylvania residents must stay home as much as possible for the coming month to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday as he expanded the footprint of the quarantine to include the entire state.


The adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is certainly true for COVID-19. The disease has no cure, and right now, the only way to avoid completely overwhelming our medical system is to prevent the virus’s spread by isolating ourselves from each other.

Why Is Pennsylvania Leading The Nation In Unemployment Claims?

Apr 1, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

Unemployment claims have reached historic levels nationwide as coronavirus mitigation efforts effectively shutter the national economy, and it’s Pennsylvania that is outpacing the nation in the number of claims filed.


If a surge of COVID-19 patients overwhelms local health systems, Allegheny County plans to use the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh to accommodate patients.