TIMELINE: Pennsylvania coronavirus updates March 26

560 more coronavirus cases confirmed in Pa., bringing total to 1,687

PITTSBURGH — Cases of the novel coronavirus in Pennsylvania have grown to more than 1,600. 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 8:55 p.m.: Port Authority confirmed one of its employees has tested positive for coronavirus.

Officials said that employee, a bus operator, is under medical supervision at a local hospital. Based on current information, the employee was exposed outside of work.

Below is part of the statement issued by Port Authority:

“Upon learning of the employee’s diagnosis, Port Authority followed all of the protocols recommended and advised by the Centers for Disease Control and the Allegheny County Health Department, including holding the employee out of work when they first reported they were self-quarantining due to potential exposure, disinfecting areas where they may have been, and closely monitoring their coworkers."

“First and foremost, we want to wish our employee a speedy recovery,” said Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman. “The health and safety of our employees is our top priority now more than ever, and while this case hits close to home, it will not deter us from continuing to provide bus, rail and ACCESS service during this difficult time. We’re in this together and we will get through it together.”

UPDATE 7:47 p.m.: The Diocese of Pittsburgh has launched an online collection to help local parishes get through the coronavirus stay-at-home order.

According to a release, the diocese is working with local parishes to set up individual donations sections on their own websites.

To learn more, visit www.diopitt.org/help

UPDATE 5:45 p.m.: REAL ID has been extended for a year, and will not be required for travel until October of 2021.

The federal, state and local response to the spread of the coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline," acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Thursday in a statement.

“States across the country are temporarily closing or restricting access to DMVs. This action will preclude millions of people from applying for and receiving their REAL ID. Extending the deadline will also allow the Department to work with Congress to implement needed changes to expedite the issuance of REAL IDs once the current health crisis concludes.”

UPDATE 5:00 p.m.: Fifteen public safety employees in Pittsburgh have are in self-isolation over concerns about coronavirus.

Channel 11 has learned that three EMS workers were possible exposed while on the job.

Twelve firefighters are also self quarantining. Eight were told to stay home as a precaution after getting sick. Three had recently traveled overseas and one firefighter may have been exposed outside of work. That last firefighter is awaiting test results.

“His was off duty exposure, but there was a day he was at work, so there’s anxiety there,” Pittsburgh Firefighters Union representative Ralph Sicuro said.

Separately, two Pittsburgh police firefighters were tested after possible exposure, but their results were negative. No other officers are self-isolating.

City first responders and now getting health checks twice a day.

“It’s temperature, its questions. If anyone of them gets flagged there are follow up questions,” Sicuro said.

15 Pittsburgh Public Safety employees in self-isolation over coronavirus concerns

UPDATE 4:51 p.m. - Gov. Tom Wolf announced the creation of a new web portal that will expedite the procurement of critical medical supplies for Pennsylvania’s health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UPDATE 3:07 p.m.: Attorney visits at the Allegheny County Jail have been temporarily suspended.

Attorneys may meet or talk with their clients by telephone.

The Jail has created a “Legal Privacy Request Form" that attorney’s can obtain by sending an email to PrivacyRequest@alleghenycourts.us along with a copy of their attorney license.

UPDATE 12:05 p.m.: There are 560 additional positive cases of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania, bringing the total to 1,687, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

In addition to the new cases, five more deaths have been reported. The statewide death total is now at 16.

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Here is a breakdown of cases in western Pennsylvania counties:

  • Allegheny County: 133
  • Fayette County: 8
  • Washington County: 12
  • Beaver County: 13
  • Butler County: 19
  • Lawrence County: 1
  • Westmoreland County: 24
  • Mercer County: 3
  • Greene County: 3
  • Armstrong County: 1
  • Indiana County: 1

There are 16,441 patients who have tested negative, the Department of Health said.

UPDATE 2:24 p.m.: Volunteers in Cranberry Township are helping provide people in need with essential basic human needs like food, water or toiletries.

Volunteers who want to help, as well as residents in need of assistance, can go to cranberrytownship.org/CRT or call customer service at 724-776-4806.

Monetary donations will be used to purchase re-loadable gift cards to be used by volunteers to buy essential goods for those in need.

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Residents, businesses and other organizations can donate by sending a check made out to “CTCC” and “CRT Relief Fund” in the memo line to:

Cranberry Township Community Chest

Attn: Community Response Team Relief Fund

2525 Rochester Road, Suite 450

Cranberry Township, PA 16066

If you have a question about donating, you can contact Harmony Hodges at 724-776-4806.

UPDATE 1:34 p.m.: Gov. Wolf announced he will spend up to $50 million in transferred state funding to purchase medical equipment and supplies for hospitals, nursing homes, and emergency workers to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania.

“We need more beds, more ventilators, more personal protective equipment, and so much more and we need it as soon as possible because the virus is here,” Gov. Wolf said. “I am working to get this funding moving as quickly as I can. We need to do everything we can to support our front-line medical workers to protect them and ensure they have the equipment to care for patients. This funding is a step in the right direction.”

The governor is expected to sign the bill tomorrow.

UPDATE 11:40 a.m.: Washington Health System announced staffing changes as all elective surgical cases and elective diagnostic procedures are postponed and many outpatient services are closed until at least April 11.

Voluntary and mandatory layoffs for staff in departments closed until April 11 are among the changes that started Wednesday. They will continue to be covered by all WHS provided benefits they currently have, the health system said.

Another change is that direct care providers and support staff in departments seeing a decline in patients are being asked to cross-train to other units according to skill set and licensure.

“Due to these service changes and the stay at home order in place throughout our service area, Washington Health System has seen a drastic decrease in in-patient, emergency department and outpatient service utilization at all of our hospitals and physician offices. During this time, we have been methodically preparing our patient care services and direct ancillary departments for what may be a rapidly increasing number of patients afflicted with the COVID-19 Virus,” a news release said.

WHS said it intends to return to normal as soon as it is given approval by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.

“In the meantime, we cannot continue to serve a small fraction of our normal patients with all of the staff and associated expenses that we normally have day to day. As volume has quickly declined so too has our revenue. We must conserve where we can now so that it is there in the weeks to come allowing WHS the ability to be here for our patients and communities in the future,” the news release said.

UPDATE 11:15 a.m.: Thirteen more businesses were given warnings Wednesday by Pennsylvania State Police for failing to comply with Gov. Tom Wolf’s order for non-life-sustaining businesses to close.

Since Monday, a total of 57 businesses have been given warnings.

UPDATE 11:05 a.m.: There are 45 new positive cases of the coronavirus in Allegheny County, bringing the total to 133, the Allegheny County Health Department announced. Twenty people are hospitalized and the number of deaths has remained at two.

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Here is a breakdown of cases by age group:

  • 0-4 years: 1
  • 5-12 years: 1
  • 13-18 years: 3
  • 19-24 years: 21
  • 25-49 years: 52
  • 50-64 years: 37
  • 65+ years: 18

Seventy of the cases are females and 63 are males.

UPDATE 10:40 a.m.: South Fayette Township has launched a webpage dedicated to the coronavirus to help keep citizens informed and find assistance. CLICK HERE.

UPDATE 9:55 a.m.: The city of Pittsburgh is extending its personal income tax deadline until July 15, in line with similar 90-day extensions announced by the Internal Revenue Service and the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

UPDATE 9:35 a.m.: In Pennsylvania, 649,967 unemployment applications were filed as of Wednesday. Across the country, 3.3 million people applied for unemployment benefits -- more than quadruple the previous record set in 1982.

For more information on applying for unemployment in Pennsylvania, CLICK HERE.

UPDATE 7 a.m.: A crackdown on price gouging is taking place in Pennsylvania and across the United States.

Thirty-two states and their attorney generals have sent a letter to major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and eBay asking them to do something about price gouging.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said there’s no reason for it, especially in a time of tragedy.

The letters outlined specific steps that should be taken to end price gouging, including having companies use their data and analytics tools to prevent it.

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Companies have fired back.

According to eBay, it is blocking or removing bogus items and ensuring policies are followed.

Walmart said it has started a price freeze on critical items, and the prices can’t be changed.

Amazon reported that it has removed almost 4,000 sellers accounts.

Shapiro said his office has issued 90 cease and desist orders to sellers. If they don’t listen, they can be fined $10,000 per violation.

Shapiro’s office has received about 2,900 tips in recent days.

Attorney generals in 32 states, including Pa., cracking down on price gouging

UPDATE 4:30 a.m.: At an unsettling time for parents, students and teachers, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a bill that gives several options to the state’s secretary of education.

Senate Bill 751 includes allowing for the state’s 180-day requirement for schools to be waived, as well as the option for the secretary to close all schools until the threat the coronavirus pandemic has ended.

Waiving the 180-day requirement is critical because officials said the school year must end June 30, when schools fiscally close.

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Officials said ensuring seniors can graduate is a top priority.

“We’re gonna do whatever we need to do to make sure those students are given the resources and the access they need to graduate, but to graduate prepared as well. So, they’re at the top of our agenda,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera said.

Among other things, the bill also ensures any school employee working as of March 13 will continue to be paid and that schools continue to receive state funding

The bill goes to Gov. Tom Wolf next.

Pa. lawmakers pass bill that would waive 180-day requirement for schools
Third person in our area dies from coronavirus; statewide cases surge past 1,100