PITTSBURGH — Channel 11 News is committed to keeping you informed about the coronavirus, the impact on our community and your lives. Below you’ll find all of today’s updates, including the latest numbers and information from local and state officials.
We’re also covering positive stories in our communities. You can find the most recent ones HERE.
All southwest counties with the exception of Beaver will be moving into the yellow phase, according to Gov. Tom Wolf.
He announced that Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties will be in the second wave of reopening.
Beaver County is the only local county not part of this reopening phase. Beaver County is home to one of the worst nursing home COVID-19 outbreaks in the state.
When asked about why Beaver County was not included in the reopening, Wolf said if there are any coronavirus concerns then that area will not be included. He said Beaver County leaders are jeopardizing lives by allowing businesses to reopen. The District Attorney said Friday the office would not go after businesses that open their doors despite remaining in the ‘red’ phase.
“The reopening plan prioritizes the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians by using a combination of factors to gauge how much movement a location can tolerate before the 2019 novel coronavirus becomes a threat,” Gov. Wolf said. “I’d like to emphasize that this plan is not a one-way route. We are closely monitoring the 24 counties in the yellow phase and will re-impose restrictions if danger arises.
Wolf said as a former business owner, he understands the frustration with so many being closed. He said the anger needs to be directed at COVID-19, not the regulations put in place. He said the main enemy is the virus and he needs to keep people as safe as possible.
During the news conference Friday, Wolf also said elections are considered essential in Pennsylvania. He said there has been over a million applications for mail-in ballots already in the state ahead of the June primary. However, he said if people want to go to their local polling place on June 2, they will be allowed.
UPDATE 11 p.m.: Beaver County is the only one in southwestern Pa. not to be included in May 15’s move to the yellow phase, and people are not thrilled about the news.
“Everyone I've talked to says it’s time to reopen. It's time,” said resident Jocelyn Bowser. “I feel bad for the businesses because they need the businesses to stay open.”
Regardless of the Gov. Tom Wolf’s order and being across from the police department, some businesses told Channel 11 it's a risk worth taking – they're reopening.
And neighbors support that decision, some saying the 60 deaths and 300 positive cases at Brighton Rehab & Wellness Center – the most at any nursing home in the state – are skewing the statistics for the county and unfairly punishing businesses.
While nearby Butler County will be moving into the yellow phase next Friday, some businesses like hair salons won't be getting back to work.
Beaver and Butler counties joined a growing list of communities choosing not to prosecute business owners who choose to reopen.
Some told Channel 11 they're considering illegally flipping over their closed signs.
“I realized in the beginning it was to save lives, but we flattened the curve and we did our part. Now it's time for them to do their job and get the economy going again,” Nancy Gifford, owner of Double Image Salon, said.
Wolf said to Pennsylvanians who choose to defy his owner, they could risk putting other lives in danger.
UPDATE 4:55 p.m.: The Armstrong County District Attorney’s Office said it informed law enforcement to not enforce Gov. Wolf’s business shut down orders, even though the county is moving into the yellow phase.
“I do not believe we should be criminalizing the actions of an individual who is trying to make a living and provide for his or her family. I do not feel it is appropriate to pick and choose which business owners may be permitted to support themselves and their families and which cannot,” Attorney Katie Charlton said.
UPDATE 4:48 p.m.: Officials with the Diocese of Pittsburgh announced plans for the gradual reopening of churches.
Churches will be open for private prayer, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and small weddings and funerals.
The changes will take effect Friday, May 15th, when four more counties in the diocese - Allegheny, Butler, Greene, and Washington – will move to the state’s “yellow” level of reopening. Lawrence county moved to yellow today, May 8. Beaver county remains in “red” until further notice, with the strictest stay-at-home orders still in place.
The first phase, starting May 15, includes the following:
- All previous directives remain in effect
- Limited funeral masses and weddings continue with cleaning/sanitizing guidelines in place, expanding to groups of no more than 25 people
- Churches will be permitted to open for private prayer with safety guidelines in place including seating in designated areas only, the use of masks, hand sanitizers and social distancing
- Churches open for confessions at posted times and in a manner that preserves the sanctity of the sacrament
- Livestream masses and prayers will continue
UPDATE 4:20 p.m.: Elective and emergency dental procedures will be allowed to start again across the state, according to the Department of Health.
Each dental provider should apply their clinical judgment along with their knowledge of the incidences of COVID-19 cases in their area, the needs of their patients and staff, and the availability of necessary supplies to assess whether to re-engage in the provision of non-urgent and nonemergent dental care. For example, if a clinician determines that lack of treatment will result in irreversible damage to a patient, the clinician should pursue treatment with the appropriate level of PPE per Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and CDC Interim Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for Dental Settings During the COVID-19 Response guidance relative to PPE. Providers should routinely consult the CDC guidance when providing care, noting that recommendations and guidance could change frequently.
Providers may perform non-aerosolizing, non-urgent and non-emergent care only if proper PPE, per OSHA guidance, is available for all dental care practitioners, including dental hygienists. Procedures that create a visible spray that contain large particle droplets of water should not be performed because they are considered aerosol generating; however, as a last resort when clinically necessary, aerosol generating procedures are allowed, only if proper PPE, per OSHA guidance, is available for all dental care practitioners including dental hygienists, since not all patients who have COVID-19 are symptomatic, i.e., they could be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. The Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency are not currently prioritizing dental practices for PPE distribution, so proper PPE must be secured by the practice.
UPDATE 4:14 p.m.: Officials with the Diocese of Greensburg said church in Westmoreland, Armstrong, Indiana and Fayette counties will be reopened for people who wish to pray. Many parishes will be offering outdoor confessions while adhering to social distance guidelines.
The reopening will be done in waves and with continuous consultation from state and regional health care leaders, according to Bishop Edward Malesic.
The changes begin May 15, when all four counties in the diocese move to the state’s yellow phase.
In the first wave, parishes will be permitted to re-open for private prayer. Parishes that re-open must meet cleaning and sanitization guidelines, signs will be posted in every parish reminding visitors that they must wear masks to protect others who are inside, and all people inside of the churches must adhere to social distancing requirements, sitting 6 feet away from others, unless they are members of the same household.
Mask and social distancing mandates must also be followed during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. During the stay-at-home order, priests heard confessions by appointment only. In wave one, they will find alternate locations including social halls, other parts of the church or even hold them outdoors because confessionals do not meet safety requirements. They will then be permitted to hear confessions at posted times in these safe spaces.
Wave two will be the return to the public celebration of the Holy Mass, Bishop Malesic said.
“However, returning to Mass and other liturgies during this second wave will include notable differences from your past experiences,” he said.
People will be seated at least in every other pew and using social distancing guidelines; all communicants will be encouraged to receive the Sacred Host in the hand rather than on the tongue; the cup of the Precious Blood will not be offered to the congregation; the Sign of Peace will no longer include a handshake, instead we will turn to the person next to us and offer a reverential bow; holy water and baptismal fonts will be drained.
UPDATE 3:03 p.m: As the southwest part of the state enters the yellow phase of reopening, many buildings that haven’t been used need to prepare their water systems, according to state officials.
“As buildings have been shut down or used less frequently as a result of COVID-19 mitigation efforts, building water quality degradation becomes a silent but serious issue,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Legionella, pathogens, lead, and disinfection byproducts can result when water sits for an extended period of time, which may lead to health issues.”
In the days leading up to reopening, the following recommendations and considerations should be made, and a team of facilities staff or a water management consultant will be needed to prepare the water system.
Buildings that have been closed or used less frequently should consider the following measures:
- Develop a flushing plan
- Identify where the water enters the building, all taps (faucets, shower heads, water fountains), and water-using devices (dishwashers, ice machines)
- Remove any potential cross connections, such as hoses connected to spigots, to prevent backflow into plumbing systems
- Remove aerators when possible
- Flush the entire building
- Flush cold water lines before hot water lines
- Flush the building zone by zone, beginning where the water enters the building and moving outward towards the distal ends
- Flushing time will vary based on building size; a temperature change or chlorine smell may be used as indicators that fresh water has reached all fixtures within the building
- Clean faucets, shower heads, and other fixtures
- Inspect and conduct necessary maintenance on mechanical equipment such as water heaters, boilers, storage tanks, backflow prevention devices, etc. using manufacturer’s instructions
- Consider developing an ongoing water management plan to maintain high quality water at all times
For more information on building water systems and flushing, please visit the CDC website.
UPDATE 2:31 p.m.: Butler County officials responded to Gov. Wolf moving the area into the next reopening phase.
“This is a great next step on the road to a full opening,” Butler County chief of economic development and planning Mark Gordon said.
County Commissioner Leslie Osche, board chairman, agreed the phase change would help local business.
“On behalf of our businesses, we’re happy many of them will be able to reopen and ask that they do so safely,” Osche said. “But there are still those who cannot open yet and we will continue to push forward until everybody is open and the economy is restored.”
County Commissioner Kim Geyer echoed Osche’s comments.
“We’re very pleased businesses have the ability to reopen,” Geyer said. “We’re still going to have to balance safety as well as find a path forward that enables us all to live on a daily basis.”
County Commissioner Kevin Boozel agreed the switch is beneficial.
“I’m extremely happy for our businesses that we’re moving to the Yellow Phase,” Boozel said.
UPDATE 2:06 p.m.: Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto sent Channel 11 a statement in response to Allegheny County moving into the yellow phase on May 15.
"I want to thank Governor Wolf for recognizing all that the greater Pittsburgh community has done to mitigate the spread of this pandemic, and allowing us to take initial steps toward reopening our city and our economy. But we are far from beating this — Pittsburgh residents, workers and visitors need to keep focusing on social distancing, not leaving home if they are sick, wearing masks, washing hands and generally just being smart about fighting this still-spreading disease.
We owe it to our city’s heroic medical personnel and first responders to keep being vigilant, and we must do much more to test the greater population and to contact trace anyone who has tested positive for the virus. I have offered the assistance of the City of Pittsburgh to help implement these needed testing and tracing measures.”
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald also sent Channel 11 a statement:
“We are delighted with the Governor’s announcement today that the Southwest region will move into the yellow phase beginning next Friday. This decision is a reflection of the great work that the residents of Allegheny County and our neighboring counties have done following the advice of our medical experts.
“This is also good news for so many in our community who have been impacted economically because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re thrilled for the businesses and residents who will return to work, but also recognize that there are many more that will still be without.
“This community has always worked together and risen to the challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. We recognize that it hasn’t been easy, and that we still have a long way to go. This won’t be a short process. As we begin to expand what businesses can operate in our region, we must stay vigilant and continue to follow the mitigation measures that are in place.”
UPDATE 1:28 p.m.: The Butler County District Attorney told Channel 11′s Amy Marcinkiewicz he will not prosecute any business that opens up to make a living, whether that’s today, tomorrow or next Friday.
DA Richard Goldinger wants people to use common sense and maintain social distancing, but said he believes the orders to keep businesses closed are violations of constitutional rights.
Hair salons and dog groomers are just two examples of businesses Channel 11 has profiled over the past month that are extremely worried about being unable to open until the state goes into the “green phase,” and could open without prosecution according to Goldinger.
However, these are businesses that require state licenses and we don’t yet know how that may play out in the future.
UPDATE 12:25 p.m.: At a news conference Friday, Beaver County commissioners and local politicians pleaded with Gov. Tom Wolf to move the area into the yellow phase.
“I won’t encourage or discourage a rebellion about this,” Commissioner Tony Amadio said.
Officials said they are concerned about the counties surrounding Beaver reopening in economic terms. With small businesses taking such a hit during the pandemic, leaders said they are worried about driving past stores and salons in their own community to pay for goods and services elsewhere.
The Beaver County District Attorney said the office would not prosecute businesses that reopen starting next Friday, May 15.
UPDATE 12:00 p.m.: Pennsylvania has more than 54,238 positive cases of coronavirus, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. There are 1,323 additional positive cases. 209,873 tests have come back negative.
There are 200 additional coronavirus deaths Friday, bringing the state total to 3,616. There have been 262 coronavirus-related deaths western Pennsylvania.
Locally, there are 3,077 cases in western Pennsylvania Here is the break down by county:
- Allegheny Co.: 1,455 cases, 119 deaths
- Armstrong Co.: 55 cases, 3 deaths
- Beaver Co.: 479 cases, 78 deaths
- Butler Co.: 192 cases, 6 deaths
- Clarion Co.: 23 cases, 1 death
- Fayette Co.: 84 cases, 4 deaths
- Forest Co.: 7 cases, 0 deaths
- Greene Co.: 27 cases, 1 death
- Indiana Co.: 75 cases, 5 deaths
- Lawrence Co.: 69 cases, 7 deaths
- Mercer Co.: 70 cases, 2 death
- Venango Co.: 7 cases, 0 deaths
- Washington Co.: 121 cases, 4 deaths
- Westmoreland Co.: 413 cases, 32 deaths
UPDATE 11:00 a.m.: The Allegheny County Health Department reported since March 14, there are now 1,455 cases as of Friday. That’s an increase of 16 coronavirus cases over Thursday. This breaks down to 1,390 positive confirmed cases and 16 probable cases.
Here is a breakdown of cases by age group:
- 0-4 years: 4 (less than 1%)
- 5-12 years: 5 (less than 1%)
- 13-18 years: 13 (1%)
- 19-24 years: 102 (7%)
- 25-49 years: 492 (34%)
- 50-64 years: 409 (28%)
- 65+ years: 430 (30%)
There have been two additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 119. Of reported deaths, 109 are confirmed or had a positive test and 10 are probable.
There are 259 past or present hospitalizations related to COVID-19.
UPDATE: 10:45 a.m.: Sources tell Channel 11 Butler County will move to yellow next Friday, but Beaver County will remain in the red.
Commissioners in Beaver County are expected to hold a news conference at noon Friday to discuss plans for their county.
Gov. Tom Wolf held a news conference to discuss the next phase of reopening for the state.
UPDATE 10:30 a.m.: Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller announced Friday an Emergency Assistance Program to help low-income families in need because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Families who qualify will be eligible for a one-time payment to help them meet their basic needs.
The program will be open to families who meet certain family size and income requirements.
The emergency assistance application is available online at www.compass.state.pa.us.
UPDATE 10:00a.m.: Grove City Premium Outlets is reopening Friday. The center closed March 19 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Mercer County moved into the “yellow”phase of reopening on Friday, so they are now able to open.
Officials with the shopping outlet said the property recently published a comprehensive COVID-19 exposure control policy to set safety standards for shoppers, and alerted all shops about the new policy.
The policy includes sanitation of high-traffic areas, making masks and wipes available to shoppers, and providing hand sanitizing stations throughout stores.
The property also teamed up with local nonprofits to support initiatives to help those who are experiencing hardships as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
UPDATE 9:50 a.m.: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf will announce Friday at 2 p.m. which counties will be included in the next wave of partial reopening, moving from the “red” phase to the “yellow” phase.
At that time, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine will also give an update on the coronavirus in the state.
It is currently expected that Allegheny, Washington, Westmoreland and Greene counties will be included on the list to start reopening May 15.
UPDATE 9:05 a.m.: Westmoreland County is expected to start reopening May 15, sources told Channel 11 News.
It’s anticipated that Westmoreland County will be included in Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement Friday about the next group of counties moving into the “yellow” reopening phase.
It is believed Allegheny, Washington and Greene counties will also be included in that list.
UPDATE 4:30 a.m.: Allegheny, Washington and Greene counties are expected to start reopening on May 15, Channel 11 News has learned.
Pennsylvania Sen. Camera Bartolotta announced on her Facebook page Thursday night the news about Washington and Greene counties.
A source told Channel 11 News about Allegheny County.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday he will announce Friday which counties will be included in the next wave of partial reopening, moving from the “red” phase to the “yellow” phase of the state’s reopening plan. The announcement is expected about 2 p.m.
The first wave of partial reopening goes into effect Friday for 24 counties, including five in western Pennsylvania: Clarion, Forest, Lawrence, Mercer and Venango.
Wolf announced Thursday that the stay-at-home order for counties that remain in the “red” phase has been extended until June 4.
As of Thursday, Pennsylvania had 52,915 cases of the coronavirus and 3,416 deaths, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. There have been 209,873 people who tested negative for the virus.
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