TIMELINE: Population density given as reason for keeping most of western Pa. in the ‘red’

24 Pa. counties move to yellow phase of reopening on May 8

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Gov. Wolf’s announcement leaves many businesses hopeful, others disappointed

UPDATE 11 p.m.: Some businesses in Lawrence County will be getting back to work in one week. Every single person Channel 11 talked to in Ellwood City said this is welcome news for their community.

It's also hope for families torn apart for months to find comfort in being together again.

Their northern neighbor, Mercer County, was also one of 24 counties in the state allowed to move forward with reopening May 8.

“I think it's very important we get the economy rolling again in our county, and we're looking forward to getting people back to work,” said Mercer County Commissioner Scott Boyd.

But the governor's news was a blow to some, including Butler County. They’re still waiting to hear when their new normal will begin.

Zelienople is only 10 miles from Ellwood City. Businesses are stuck in limbo, watching some neighbors get back to work.

“I feel like we’re being penalized,” said Butler County Commissioner Kevin Boozel. “We’ve already heard there are going to be businesses that won’t be reopening. This can’t make it better.”

Gov. Wolf's announcement leaves many businesses hopeful, others disappointed

Another Port Authority employee tests positive for COVID-19

UPDATE 9:30 p.m.: The 13th Port Authority employee has tested positive for coronavirus, officials announced Friday.

That employee last worked on April 26 at the West Mifflin garage, bringing that location’s total to 11 cases.

Below is the full release from Port Authority officials:

"Port Authority continues to take extra precautions and increased cleaning at its West Mifflin garage, where a thirteenth Port Authority employee has tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee last worked on Sunday, April 26, and has since been in self-quarantine. This is the eleventh case at the West Mifflin garage and the ninth involving a maintenance employee at this location.

Since this employee was in the facility since the last time the building was deep cleaned, the garage will again be deep cleaned by an outside company tomorrow, Saturday, May 2.

“Now, more than ever, people need access to reliable public transportation,” said Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman. “We will continue to provide reliable public transit to the thousands of people who rely on us as long as we can continue to do so safely.”

The West Mifflin garage provides service to nearly 15,000 riders a day to several communities in the southwestern part of Allegheny County. Riders in these neighborhoods are essential workers commuting to jobs in Squirrel Hill, Oakland and downtown Pittsburgh.

In addition to steps that Port Authority has been taken to minimize the spread of the virus, every bus leaving and returning to the West Mifflin garage will be sanitized before any other employee touches it.

Port Authority safety officials are also taking additional steps, such as contact tracing, to focus on the area primarily affected. Several other steps have been taken in recent weeks to curtail the spread at this location and protect employees, including:

  • The entire West Mifflin garage has been deep cleaned and sanitized twice in the last two weeks. It will again be deep cleaned on Saturday morning.
  • Employees’ temperatures have been taken as they arrive at the garage since last Sunday. Any employee with a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit would be sent home, with pay, until cleared to return to work by their medical provider.
  • All Port Authority vehicles, from all garages, have been disinfected daily for weeks to help minimize the spread of the virus.
  • All Port Authority facilities are cleaned and disinfected on all three shifts.
  • The Authority has encouraged those who don’t have to travel to stay home, and for those who must ride, to social distance, wear masks and board from the rear doors.

Port Authority also has sought to minimize the spread of the virus by disinfecting vehicles more frequently, promoting social distancing, having customers board from the back doors, limiting the number of passengers on vehicles, and asking riders to cover their faces when riding.”

Allegheny County Executive ‘not surprised’ by staying in red phase

UPDATE 6:30 p.m.: Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he stand’ behind decision to leave southwestern Pa. in the red phase.

“While we have done extremely well, we also recognize that the counties which will be moving to the yellow phase have better numbers. I’m also encouraged by the fact that the Governor said that southwest Pennsylvania is close and hopeful that we will move to yellow in the next announcement,” Fitzgerald said in an emailed release.

In his release, Fitzgerald said the decision did not surprise him, and that there’s more work to be done to increase testing and contact tracing.

“I know that residents and businesses would have liked to have seen us included in today’s announcement,” Fitzgerald said. I will continue to talk and work with the Governor and his administration and advocate for the opening of additional businesses that are following CDC guidance in their operations.”

Population density given as reason for not moving southwestern Pa. to yellow phase

UPDATE 3:25 p.m.: During today’s update, WPXI asked Dr. Levine why Allegheny County was not included in the first wave of reopening.

Her response was that, while Allegheny is meeting the 50 cases per 100,000 people threshold, the population density is so high that there could easily be a spike in transmission.

We looked at the numbers and found that the total population of all 24 counties that are moving to the yellow phase is 1.5 million people. By comparison, the population of Allegheny County’s alone is 1.2 million people.

If you combine the populations of Allegheny and Westmoreland counties it is higher than the combined total of all 24 counties that are moving to the yellow phase.

Gov. Wolf announces re-opening plan

UPDATE 2 p.m.: “Working together, we Pennsylvanians have flattened the curve.” That’s how Governor Wolf opened his address on Friday, referencing the 24 counties that will have some restrictions lifted - moving from the “red” to “yellow” phase.

“We’ve selected these counties in part because they have low per-capita case counts,” Wolf said. “They must continue to abide by the underlying message of yellow: proceed with caution. The yellow phase recognizes that outbreaks of COVID-19 are still possible."

The state is asking everyone to still limit social gatherings and visits to nursing homes and prisons will still be prohibited. The governor encouraged everyone to continue to use social distancing and businesses to keep tele-working in place wherever possible. Government offices would re-open, but under the guidelines for the “yellow” phase.

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“Pennsylvanians living in a county that has been moved to a yellow category should still strongly consider their actions,” Wolf said. “We know how this virus is transmitted and we know that social distancing works. We’re already looking at other counties to move from red to yellow, like counties in the southwest and south central regions. We’re going to be opening these counties as quickly as we can."

The governor acknowledged that it’s been a tough time, but that we’re starting to approach getting back to normal.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is deploying “contact tracing” for counties that are considered to be in the yellow phase. A new health alert system will be used to help with daily check-ins with people who have tested positive and who they have come into contact with. The department will focus on under-served communities and special teams will be assigned to work with nursing homes and jails to prevent for outbreaks, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine said.

COVID-19 testing will be increased through pharmacies and health centers, according to the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health. State agencies are coordinating testing procedures, she said. The state is not planning to test asymptomatic people at this time, just those with symptoms.

“Our goal in this pandemic has been to save lives while ensuring that the public health system doesn’t become overwhelmed while dealing with COVID-19,” Dr. Levine said. “That way as we begin to safely resume our daily activities, we can do safely and without fear.”

“As the governor has emphasized, we’re taking a very careful, measured approach. The southwest region is not yet moving from red to yellow because particularly in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh because of population and density, because those are the main factors that can lead to a significant spread of COVID-19. We’ve seen that in larger cities in the country like New York City," Dr. Levine said.

The state is working with nursing homes and long-term care facilities to ensure that positive patients are kept separate from those that are negative.

As for the frequency of updates and how fast counties will open, Gov. Wolf said it hadn’t been discussed and they want to do everything as safely and as quickly as possible.

Five local counties, 24 total will be first to reopen in Pa.

UPDATE 1:10 p.m.: The list of counties that will be reopening first has been released.

Channel 11 News will carry Gov. Wolf’s 2 p.m. announcement live on television, wpxi.com, our WPXI Now streaming apps and our WPXI News app. You can learn more about our FREE apps and how to download them, HERE.

Here are the counties where restrictions will be eased starting May 8:

  • Clarion
  • Forest
  • Lawrence
  • Mercer
  • Venango

The Pittsburgh region is not part of this first wave of counties reopening.

The other counties on the list are in rural portions of the state: Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union and Warren counties.

According to Wolf’s office, the decision to reopen these specific counties was based on six standards:

  • Data driving a targeted approach to reopening
  • Clear guidance for employers, individuals, and health care facilities and providers
  • Adequate PPE and diagnostic
  • A monitoring program allowing swift actions to contain any clusters
  • Protections for vulnerable populations such as limitations on visitors to long term care facilities
  • Limitations on large gatherings

Also, CMU’s Risk-Based Decision Support Tool was also heavily used in making this decision. The tool looks at risk factors such as reported number of COVID cases per population of an area; ICU and medical/surgical bed capacity; population density; population over age 60; re-opening contact risk, such as the number of workers employed in a currently closed industry sector.

All of these counties will move from “red” to “yellow” starting next Friday, May 8. The stay at home orders will be lifted and retail shops will be allowed to resume business.

Under the yellow designation, gatherings of up to 25 people will be allowed. Currently, the statewide red designation bans all gatherings or outside trips that are not related to health, safety or going to work at an essential job. Gyms, casinos, theaters and other indoor recreational, wellness and entertainment venues will stay closed. Restaurants and bars will still be limited to carry-out or delivery. Child care is open, although businesses must follow federal and state guidance for safety, social distancing and cleaning.

CLICK HERE for Gov. Wolf’s full reopening plan

Schools statewide remain closed for the rest of the academic year, and visitation restrictions on prisons and nursing homes remain in place. Wolf’s administration will continue to recommend that people wear masks in public, and require businesses and commercial buildings that serve the public deny entry to customers not wearing masks.

On Monday, May 4, Wolf’s office plans to release more information on the businesses in those counties that will be allowed to reopen.

City distributes over 5,000 meals to kids, seniors

UPDATE: The City of Pittsburgh Department of Parks and Recreation, City Council President Theresa Kail-Smith and the city's partners at the Salvation Army and Parkhurst Dining distributed 5,360 meals to children and seniors this week.

Emergency meals to seniors increased by 746 meals over last week. They included:

  • 540 Shelf Stable/Emergency Meals were made available via the Area Agency on Aging/Allegheny County — these meals can be distributed to any senior in need
  • Global Links provided 10 Boxes (over 1,600 items), which included 1,000 (washable) cloth face masks and other essentials
  • Coordinated by Council President Kail-Smith, six pallets of food and other items were donated this week including laundry detergent, baby food, canned milk, coffee/tea and other essentials, all soon to be distributed to families in District 2

Meals distributed to children totaled 2,692. an increase of 366 meals over the previous week. They included:

  • PPS Meals + Parkhurst Meals (Friday only) = 1,170
  • Salvation Army locations in Homewood and Westside = 1522

KOA Campgrounds reopened across the state

UPDATE 12:30 p.m.: Some Kampgrounds of America around the state are now open.

In our area:

  • Madison/Pitsburgh SE KOA Journey
  • Uniontown KOA Holiday
  • Washington/Pittsburgh SW KOA Journey

Those locations are now open to leisure RV travelers and campers.

46,971 positive COVID-19 cases in PA

UPDATE 12:00 p.m.: There are now 46,971 positive coronavirus cases in the state according to the Department of Health. Statewide, there have been 2,354 deaths and 180,477 people have tested negative so far since the outbreak began.

Here is a county breakdown:

  • Allegheny Co.: 1,319 positive cases, 99 deaths, 16,107 negative tests
  • Armstrong Co.: 52 positive cases, 2 deaths, 683 negative tests
  • Beaver Co.: 426 positive cases, 67 deaths, 2,085 negative tests
  • Butler Co.: 180 positive cases, 6 deaths, 2,208 negative tests
  • Clarion Co.: 23 positive cases, 1 death, 489 negative tests
  • Fayette Co.: 81 positive cases, 4 deaths, 1,794 negative tests
  • Forest Co.: 7 positive cases, 0 deaths, 30 negative tests
  • Greene Co.: 26 positive cases, 0 deaths, 421 negative tests
  • Indiana Co.: 63 positive cases, 4 deaths, 726 negative tests
  • Lawrence Co.: 65 positive cases, 6 deaths, 736 negative tests
  • Mercer Co.: 65 positive cases, 1 death, 744 negative tests
  • Venango Co.: 7 positive cases, 0 deaths, 251 negative tests
  • Washington Co.: 116 positive cases, 2 deaths, 2,103 negative tests
  • Westmoreland Co.: 393 positive cases, 30 deaths, 4,596 negative tests
Wear Cloth Mask Correctly

Wearing a cloth face mask CORRECTLY can help prevent spread of COVID-19 to others: ✔️ wash hands before putting on mask ✔️ fit mask snugly around mouth + nose ✔️ avoid touching mask while wearing ✔️ remove mask from behind ✔️ wash hands after removing mask ✔️ wash mask after use

Posted by Pennsylvania Department of Health on Friday, May 1, 2020

Friday’s update from Allegheny County Health Department

UPDATE 11:00 a.m.: The Allegheny County Health Department reported since March 14, there are now 1,319 cases as of Friday. That’s an increase of 30 positive coronavirus cases over Thursday. This breaks down to 1,272 positive confirmed cases and 47 probable cases.

Five additional people have died for a total of 99 deaths. Of reported deaths, 89 are confirmed or had a positive test and 10 probable.

Here is a breakdown of cases by age group:

  • 0-4 years: 4 (less than 1%)
  • 5-12 years: 4 (less than 1%)
  • 13-18 years: 10 (1%)
  • 19-24 years: 92 (7%)
  • 25-49 years: 459 (35%)
  • 50-64 years: 370 (28%)
  • 65+ years: 380 (29%)

There are 235 past or present hospitalizations related to COVID-19.

Gov. Wolf to announce first group of counties to reopening at 2 p.m.

UPDATE 10 a.m.: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine will announce Friday the first group of counties that will be allowed to start reopening.

The announcement is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Channel 11 News will carry his announcement live on television, wpxi.com, our WPXI Now streaming apps and our WPXI News app. You can learn more about our FREE apps and how to download them, HERE.

City of Pittsburgh analyzing summertime activities

UPDATE 9:45 a.m.: Pittsburgh city leaders are continuing to for summer activities, under public safety guideline put in place by Gov. Tom Wolf to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

City leaders are reminding residents who are thinking about enjoying the warm weather this weekend, to practice social distancing and wear masks when in close proximity to others.

City personnel have begun maintenance and repairs to outdoor facilities. They are also working on streets and cleaning up debris.

PennDOT extends expiration dates on driver licenses, ID cards, and learner’s permits

UPDATE 9:00 a.m.: The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation extended Friday the expiration dates for driver licenses, identification cards, and learner’s permits for Pennsylvania residents in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Effective April 30, 2020, expiration dates for driver licenses, photo ID cards and learner’s permits scheduled to expire from March 16, 2020 through May 31, 2020, are now extended through June 30, 2020.

Customers can access multiple resources on the driver and vehicle services website, www.dmv.pa.gov.

Vincentian Home creates COVID-19 isolation unit

UPDATE 8:15 a.m.: The Vincentian Home, a retirement community in McCandless, has created an isolation unit that is ready to care for people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The unit is physically separated from the rest of the campus.

Negative pressure air machines filter the air inside the unit, so that air from the unit can’t get to other areas of the facility.

Staff members are also taking precautions. They are provided with clean scrubs from a sealed bag, and must wear Personal Protective Equipment during their shifts.

Gov. Wolf expected to announce reopening plan Friday

UPDATE 5 a.m.: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is expected to announce the state’s reopening plan on Friday.

Channel 11 News will carry his announcement live on television, wpxi.com, our WPXI Now streaming apps and our WPXI News app. You can learn more about our FREE apps and how to download them, HERE.

Currently, all 67 counties in the state are under a stay-at-home order until May 8. People have been asked to only leave home for essential trips like work, the grocery store or to check on family.

The governor had said that a county would be under consideration to reopen if they have fewer than 50 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks. 11 Investigates crunched the numbers and found that all counties in our area meet that criteria except for Beaver County.

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania: Friday morning

UPDATE 4:30 a.m.: Golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips and privately-owned campgrounds are allowed to reopen across Pennsylvania starting Friday.

Gov. Tom Wolf said the businesses will be required to follow updated life-sustaining business guidance and rules.

State park campgrounds will stay closed through May 14.

Friday is also the day Wolf is expected to announce the state’s reopening plan.

While it’s not yet clear whether any parts of southwestern Pennsylvania will be allowed to reopen on May 8, some city of Pittsburgh personnel will start working again Friday. Outdoor work will start gradually and safely, according to Mayor Bill Peduto.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced Thursday it will resume construction projects Friday, which is the first day of a phased-in reopening of public and private construction.

As of Thursday, Pennsylvania had 45,763 cases of the coronavirus and 2,292 deaths. There have been 175,602 people who tested negative for the virus.

You can customize your WPXI News App to receive alerts to breaking news. CLICK HERE to find out how.

Will Pittsburgh and Allegheny County operate on the same reopening timeline?