TIMELINE: Pennsylvania coronavirus updates March 17

PITTSBURGH — All nonessential businesses in Pennsylvania have been ordered to close as part of a statewide shutdown ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Keep checking back for the latest COVID-19 updates throughout the day.

Have questions about the spread of the coronavirus? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak. CLICK HERE for more.

UPDATE 9:40 p.m.: Democratic party chairman Tom Perez is urging states that have not held primaries yet to vote by mail and expand early voting.

One of those states is Pennsylvania, whose primary is scheduled for April 28.

You have until April 21 to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot.

For more information on applying, click here.

UPDATE 8:20 p.m.: A basketball referee who worked the Northeast Conference championship game – which was held at the UPMC Events Center in Moon Township – has tested positive for coronavirus.

In a release Tuesday, Robert Morris University officials said the conference informed them about the positive case.

The game between the RMU men’s team and Saint Francis University was held March 10. The Colonials won the NEC championship but won’t get to play in the NCAA Tournament because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

According to the release, RMU is notifying those most likely to have been in close contact with the official. They said, however, that all are deemed to be at low risk for infection.

Robert Morris previously cancelled in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester due to the virus.

UPDATE 8 p.m.: The Diocese of Pittsburgh issued a clarification Tuesday night regarding the cancellation of parish activities.

Officials said all parish activities in the diocese, fish fries and the stations of the cross are cancelled effective immediately.

UPDATE 6:45 p.m.: In a townhall conference call with the media, Allegheny County health leaders said they expect 40 to 60% of the community to get the coronavirus over the next few months.

Dr. Debora Bogen, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, said in the townhall that most of those people will be fine, but the concern is for those who have compromised immune systems.

“Sample selection and testing availability is definitely going to increase over the next week or two,” she said. “I think ... probably between 40 and 60 percent of our community will acquire this virus over the next couple of months. And the point of what we’re doing is to decrease the rate which we spread that virus.”

Based on recent population estimates, that would mean officials expect between 489,000 and 734,000 people to get COVID-19 in Allegheny County alone.

Bogen also said that the county received 300 calls to the coronavirus hotline Monday and 150 calls as of 2 p.m. Tuesday. However, there have only been a small number of people tested so far.

Bogen said about 20 people have been sent to the state health department to be tested, and a “few hundred” in the county have been tested. But the amount of people tested is expected to increase severely.

UPDATE 6:15 p.m.: The Department of Human Services is closing all county assistance offices in Pennsylvania to the public in coordination with Gov. Tom Wolf’s guidance regarding the coronavirus outbreak.

Officials said in-person business will resume no sooner than April 1. Pa. residents are encouraged to use DHS’ online application in the interim.

UPDATE 5:30 p.m.: Rita’s Italian Ice is postponing its popular ‘First Day of Spring Free Ice Giveaway’ amid the coronavirus outbreak.

According to a release, Rita’s officials said its doors are still open. However, they are postponing the annual giveaway that normally takes place at the end of March.

It is unclear when the giveaway will be rescheduled.

UPDATE 5:25 p.m.: A grandchild of Dr. Cyril Wecht, a world-renowned pathologist, has tested presumptively positive for coronavirus.

Wecht’s son is Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice David Wecht, who announced the case Tuesday evening.

According to the release, one of Wecht’s children tested presumptively positive for COVID-19 upon returning from overseas studies. Officials did not say where the child was prior to returning.

Wecht and his family have self-quarantined following the positive result. It is unclear if this is a new positive case, relative to the state’s previously reported total of 96 confirmed cases.

UPDATE 5:10 p.m.: The Washington County Board of Commissioners signed a declaration of disaster emergency Tuesday amid the coronavirus outbreak.

That allows county officials to proactively coordinate the activities of an emergency response. Officials said the measure is preventative and permits the county to “suspend certain procedures and formalities for the purpose of expediency.”

St. Vincent College announced that it would continue online classes through the rest of the spring semester to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

UPDATE 4:45 p.m.: The University of Pittsburgh announced it is postponing the Spring 2020 commencement ceremony.

In a release, the university said it will continue to take measures to protect the health of its community and that an important means of doing it is to avoid large gatherings.

Below is the full statement from Pitt:

“As communities around the world respond to the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Pittsburgh continues to take measures to protect the health of the Pitt community and our neighbors. One of the most important means of doing this is to ensure that the community avoids large gatherings, which COVID-19 has made unsafe.

Unfortunately, as a result, we have decided to postpone all of this spring’s commencement ceremonies and activities. New dates for in-person ceremonies will be scheduled and announced once circumstances allow and with enough notice for graduates and their families to return to campus for the celebration.

This decision was not made lightly. We know this news will be upsetting both to graduates, who have worked so hard to reach this milestone, and to their loved ones, who have supported them on their journeys. We recognize that this is not how any of you imagined this year ending—without the time to celebrate together and say farewell to the friends, mentors and the University that has fostered and witnessed your academic and personal success.

Please be assured that the University is committed to celebrating our graduating students’ impressive achievements when it is safe to do so.

This year’s graduates have done remarkable things, despite all the challenges faced along the way—and our graduates are primed to do even more. The University community looks forward to a safe and meaningful celebration of their bright futures.”

UPDATE 4:40 p.m.: Leaders in Lawrence County have declared a State of Emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic. In a letter issued by county commissioners, they cited the spread of the virus to neighboring Beaver County as a one reason the declaration was needed. This gives county leaders emergency powers to hold meetings and make decisions to mitigate harm to citizens.

UPDATE 4:33 p.m.: Aliquippa School District administrators said that the person who tested positive for coronavirus in Beaver County worked in the district. The person was in contact with other people in multiple school buildings up to Thursday, March 12. It’s not clear exactly which buildings a press release from the district refers to.

The state Department of Health was notified and officials are working to find people who have come in contact with the person.

UPDATE 4:22 p.m.: Officials with Pittsburgh Public Schools said that a relative of a student who attends Pittsburgh Brookline tested positive for coronavirus. The district alerted families of the case of potential exposure last week and the school underwent deep cleaning.

The district was notified Tuesday that a Pittsburgh Milliones student may have been indirectly exposed related to that case. All schools have been closed. Both Brookline and Milliones will receive deep cleaning and Grab and Go Lunches will no longer be available at those locations.

Parents of student at both schools have been notified as well.


UPDATE 3:56 p.m.: The Salvation Army said they are stepping up to help those in need during the pandemic:

School Closures: The Salvation Army is working with local officials to help meet the needs of the community by delivering lunches to children who can’t get to their school to pick up their lunches.

Local Salvation Army Worship & Service Centers will continue to serve the community and will operate during regular business hours but with limited services. All after-school programs will be suspended along with congregate meals and gathering programs. Food pantries and feeding programs will continue with sanitary restrictions, such as serving meals in to-go boxes and pre-packaging groceries. We are developing plans for remote emotional and spiritual care and worship utilizing live-stream tools where possible.

Residential Facilities: The Salvation Army has increased cleaning at its homeless and rehabilitation facilities, where close living conditions allow infectious disease to easily spread among residents. If a resident or staff member gets sick, private isolation/quarantine areas will be established. Group meals are being spread out throughout the day so no more than 10 people will be in the feeding area at once. For facilities taking new clients, pre-screening processes are in place to mitigate spreading the virus to current residents.

Event Cancellations: Multiple fundraising events across the division have been cancelled through April and will be rescheduled until further notice.

Dental Centers: The Johnstown and Oil City Dental Centers are closed, except for emergencies.

Family Stores: To comply with Governor Wolf’s Executive Order, all Salvation Army Family Stores (thrift stores) will close until further notice, including home pick-ups of donations. Our Adult Rehabilitation Centers are open and continue to operate as normal as usual.

Homeless Feeding: Thursday homeless feedings on the North Side of Pittsburgh are suspended until further notice.

UPDATE 3:19 p.m.: Most of the Outer Banks closed to visitors at 2 p.m. because of the outbreak.

A release from Dare County officials said ““While there are currently no individuals who have tested positive for covid-19 in Dare County, officials weighed the potential benefits for community health along with the tremendous impacts these restrictions have on our community.”

Checkpoints will be established at entry points to Dare County and no visitors will be allowed access.

Click here to read more about entry guidelines and changes.

UPDATE 2:13 p.m.: Dr. Debra Bogen, the director of the Allegheny Health Department and Dr. Rachel Levine, the Secretary of Health, plus other health officials, are are asking local health care providers to cancel elective surgeries in the coming days in all of their facilities, including hospitals and surgery centers.

They say this is necessary to ensure the health systems are prepared for increased medical needs because of the coronavirus.

UPDATE 2:07 p.m.: The Pittsburgh Marathon and all connected events have been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Organizers said in a video posted to social media Tuesday that this was the right decision in terms of the health of everyone who runs, watches and takes part in all of the events.

For everyone who is registered, people can run virtually or apply for a refund if you do not want to participate.

UPDATE 1:30 p.m.: The Rolling Stones concert in Pittsburgh on June 23 has been postponed, according to a tweet from Heinz Field.

The tweet advised ticket holders hold onto their tickets and await further information.

UPDATE 1:04 p.m.: Allegheny County officials announced several operational changes to parks, the jail, elections and the law library.

You can click here to read a full list of impacted department and changes.

UPDATE 12:51 p.m.: The Pennsylvania Department of Health said as on 12 a.m. Tuesday, there are 20 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 96.

Here is a breakdown of the cases in our area:

Allegheny County - 7 confirmed, three presumptive (According to the Allegheny Health Department)

Beaver County - 1 confirmed

Washington County - 2 confirmed

The state health department also reported these additional cases in the eastern part of the state: three in Bucks County; two in Chester County; five in Cumberland County; two in Delaware County; two in Montgomery County; two in Philadelphia County.

UPDATE 12:21 p.m.: The Allegheny County Health Department is now recommending all non-essential dental procedures be cancelled until further notice due to the close proximity between dental workers and patients.

Dental providers should continue offering emergency services to patients, however, according to health officials.

UPDATE (11 a.m.): There is one more confirmed case of COVID-19 in Allegheny County, and reports of three other presumptive positive cases.

That brings the total number of confirmed cases in the county to seven, as well as three presumptive positive cases.

The Fox Chapel School District has alerted parents that two high school students have a brother who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

He is not a student and has not come to any district buildings. It’s unclear if he is the most recent confirmed case.

Monday afternoon, one of the students was at the high school to get some of their belongings, according to a release.

The district is notifying anyone who may have come into contact with them.

UPDATE (10:35 a.m.): A Pittsburgh City Council meeting is happening Tuesday behind closed doors. It is not open to the public because of coronavirus concerns.

UPDATE (10:28 a.m.): Pittsburgh-based American Eagle Outfitters has decided to temporarily close all retail store locations in the United States.

“Today, based on the most recent government recommendations, we have decided to close all of our retail store locations in the US temporarily. We hope to re-open our retail stores on March 27th, however we will continue to re-evaluate that decision on a daily basis. In the meantime, we welcome our customers to visit us on ae.com where they can shop our strong digital channel,” AE posted on its website.

UPDATE (10:15 a.m.): Penn State University said it plans to offer prorated housing and meal plan reimbursements.

“We are committed to working with our students and their families to help address the financial strain that this pandemic is creating, but we ask for patience as we are currently focusing our time on the challenges associated with bringing students home from study abroad programs, transitioning to remote learning, creating social distancing, and other mission critical and health-related operations challenges,” David Gray, senior vice president for Business and Finance, said.

UPDATE (9:48 a.m.): All of Pittsburgh Public Schools’ remaining Board Meetings for March have been canceled, including agenda review scheduled for March 18, a public hearing scheduled for March 23 and a legislative meeting scheduled for March 25.

UPDATE (9:40 a.m.): Access to the Pittsburgh City-County Building will be limited starting at noon Tuesday, the city announced.

The Grant Street entrance to the building will be closed. Only the Ross Street entrance will be available.

City departments within the building were closed Monday, and the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania issued an emergency order that closed down most court activity.

UPDATE (9:30 a.m.): Pennsylvania State Police said Tuesday there have been no significant changes, so far, to how they are operating during the coronavirus pandemic.

“During the current COVID-19 pandemic, our members will continue to be calm, steadfast, and committed to providing a professional level of police service to our communities and to our partners in law enforcement,” PSP said in a news release.

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While there have not yet been any significant changes, PSP said there are plans in place to shift resources as necessary as the situation evolves.

“This may involve shifting manpower from other stations and/or troops to support a station experiencing a staffing shortage due to illness, temporarily re-assigning members in specialty positions to meet staffing needs, and/or changing the way we respond to certain non-emergency calls. The public can be confident that the Pennsylvania State Police has the plans and resources in place to respond to emergencies and support our law enforcement partners,” the news release said.

PSP said the department is following guidelines from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asking its members and employees to follow the same best practices as the general public.

UPDATE (8:10 a.m.): Dollar General is dedicating the first shopping hour of the day to seniors. A line started before the doors opened.

RAW Video: Senior citizens shopping early at Dollar General

UPDATE (4:30 a.m.): Pennsylvania has 77 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including six in Allegheny County, one in Washington County and one in Beaver County.

As the numbers increase, Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered the closure of all nonessential businesses. Those closures started at midnight.

Wolf’s office defined nonessential businesses as public facing industries such as entertainment, hospitality and recreation. Restaurants can stay open, but only for take-out orders.

>>RELATED STORY: Coronavirus: What businesses are considered ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential?’

Starting at 9 p.m. Tuesday, all Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores will close their doors.

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