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TIMELINE: Pennsylvania coronavirus updates May 12

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.

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

Second, third waves of COVID-19 likely as flu season returns in fall, doctor says

UPDATE 11 p.m.: Seeing more COVID-19 cases as we relax social distancing is inevitable.

An infectious disease doctor told Channel 11 the way we proceed comes down to each individual – what risks they want to take or avoid and hospital capacity as cases increase.

“It doesn’t mean the virus threat has gone anywhere. It just means now our hospital capacity problem is not an issue, so we’re starting to peel back social distancing,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, a UPMC doctor and Johns Hopkins senior scholar, said.

What will the yellow phase look like when it comes to protecting your own health? Adalja said the answer won’t be the same for everyone.

The same goes for social gatherings of 25 people or less.

“If you’re somebody that has a lot of contact with those who are vulnerable, you have to really be mindful about your contacts and not be a bridge to those individuals who are at higher risk,” said Adalja.

So far, Adalja believes southwestern Pennsylvania is headed in the right direction.

Adalja told Channel 11 a second and even third wave of COVID-19 is highly likely as influenza and coronavirus compete for the same hospital beds, ventilators and PPE.

“Are we prepared to handle those cases in terms of hospital capacity, diagnostic testing, case contact investigation? If those are intact, if you move forward slowly always keeping an eye to those variables, you can do this in the safest way possible,” he said.

Local leaders urge caution, vigilance ahead of move to yellow phase

UPDATE 10:30 p.m.: Local leaders are urging vigilance with the coronavirus, cautioning communities not to undo all the work that has been accomplished these past two months.

Despite Allegheny County still being in the red zone, with stay home orders in place, Schenley Park was packed Tuesday.

But that doesn't necessarily mean the people Channel 11 talked to are willing to return to life as we knew it.

“I think we have to be really careful about it, and I know we want to get back to normal, but back to normal may have a big price,” said Susan Regan.

Some retail businesses in all local counties but Beaver will move from red to yellow on Friday, but families like the DiSilvios said they're not going to be rushing out the door.

“I just want to be cautious and make sure my family and elderly members of my family aren't hurt by this,” Julius DiSilvio said.

Public health leaders caution as we move to yellow, an increase in cases is inevitable. City and Allegheny County leaders are pleading with the public to wear a mask and stay away from crowded public places.

Businesses have been diligently planning to do their part to keep customers and their communities safe.

Department of Health distributes remdesivir to treat patients in the hospital with COVID-19

UPDATE 7:30 p.m.: The Pennsylvania Department of Health distributed the antiviral medication remdesivir to treat patients in the hospital with COVID-19.

According to a release, the federal government distributed the first shipment of 1,200 doses to the department today, and it has all been shipped out to Pennsylvania hospitals.

“The department is working to give our hospitals every opportunity to treat patients with COVID-19,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “It is important to note that there is limited information on the safety and effectiveness of using remdesivir to treat people in the hospital with COVID-19. However, it was shown in a clinical trial to shorten the recovery time in some people, which is why the Food and Drug Administration has approved it for use with COVID-19.

Fifty-one hospitals across the state, including UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh, will receive the first shipment over the next few days. Those hospitals were determined by the number of patients seen over a seven-day period and the severity of the patients’ illness.

Remdesivir is given to a patient through an IV once per day for up to 10 days, depending on how critically ill the patient is. According to the FDA, remdesivir may help decrease the amount of the coronavirus in a person’s body, which may help them get better faster.

Click here for a list of hospitals that the medication was delivered to.

PennDOT extends dates for registrations, inspections

UPDATE 5:19 p.m.: PennDOT officials announced expiration dates for vehicle registrations, safety inspections and emissions testing will be extended.

Deadlines on the following products will be extended effective May 12, 2020:

  • Vehicle registrations of all classes which includes, but not limited to, mass transit vehicle registrations, apportioned vehicle registrations, fleet vehicle registrations, dealer plate registrations, temporary registrations and biennial farm exemption certificates scheduled to expire from March 16 through May 31, 2020, the expiration date is now extended through June 30, 2020.
  • Safety inspections and emissions inspections scheduled to expire from March 16 through May 31, 2020, the expiration date is now extended through June 30, 2020.
  • Persons with Disabilities parking placards scheduled to expire from March 16 through May 31, 2020, the expiration date is now extended through June 30, 2020.

These extensions are in addition to those announced on May 1 related to driver’s licenses, photo ID cards, and learner’s permits scheduled to expire from March 16, 2020 through May 31, 2020 – these products are also extended through June 30, 2020. A camera card is considered a driver’s license, so it is covered by the same terms and conditions extending other driver’s license products.

Greene County officials respond to Gov. Wolf’s comments

UPDATE 4:30 p.m.: Officials in Greene County sent Channel 11 the following response to Gov. Wolf’s comments Monday about counties and businesses that would face consequences if they opened in defiance of the state.

Here is the statement:

“We’re in this together,” a sentiment that has been expressed by preachers, governors, President Trump and leaders worldwide. Together, we have sacrificed. We have sacrificed by staying home for months and by social distancing. We have all sacrificed for the greater good of our states, and for each other. But, with this sacrifice has come suffering. We have suffered employment loss, and our small businesses have been shut down. Pennsylvania currently has more unemployment claims than any other state in the nation because of our sacrifice. But, it is now time to move forward. It is now time to reopen our communities, counties, and the state of Pennsylvania, and again, we are in this together as we move to reopen. District Attorneys, Commissioners, Sheriffs, Senators, and State Representatives across the Commonwealth have been working diligently to stand up for the citizens of Pennsylvania to reopen our State quickly and safely. Governor Wolf called us cowards. It is not cowardice to stand up for the rights of the people.

Below is the timeline of Counties taking the position to not prosecute businesses who open against Governor Wolf’s Order:

5/7 Thursday 4:30pm District Attorney Dave Russo announces in a press release that he will not be prosecuting Greene County businesses for reopening starting Monday, May 11th.

5/7 Thursday 9:00pm Senator Camera Bartolotta announced on her Facebook page that Washington and Greene Counties would be moving to the yellow phase as of May 15th.

5/8 Friday 1:53pm Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said they would not be forcing businesses to close or acting on any “order that violates our constitutional rights” in reference to Pennsylvania's COVID-19 restrictions.

5/8 Friday 2:00pm Governor Wolf announced that Greene County would move in to the yellow phase May 15th.

5/8 Friday 4:34pm Dauphin County Chairman of Dauphin County Commissioners tells Governor Wolf to stop running 'dictatorship,' open state.

5/8 Friday 5:18pm Armstrong County announces that no citations will be issued to open businesses that Governor Tom Wolf has ordered to stay closed in The ‘yellow’ phase.

5/8 Friday 9:06pm After being told by Governor Wolf at 2:00pm that they were the only county in Western Pennsylvania not moving to the yellow phase Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier announced that he will not prosecute businesses for reopening starting May 15th.

5/8 Friday President Trump “What the Democrats are doing in Pennsylvania is a disgrace.”

5/9 Saturday 11:42am Bucks County Sheriff’s Department “will NOT enforce any order that violates Constitutional Rights!”

5/9 Saturday Big Swath of Pennsylvania Now in Open Rebellion Against Democratic Governor.

5/9 Saturday 5:03pm Lebanon County officials released a statement that they would move their county into the yellow phase starting May 15th.

5/9 Saturday time unknown Schylkill County leaders tell Governor Wolf that they're moving to yellow status on Friday, May 15th.

5/9 Saturday 7:06pm Dauphin and York District Attorneys, HARRISBURG AREA, say they won’t take immediate action against businesses that reopen in defiance of state order.

5/10 Sunday 12:48pm Lancaster County joins growing list of counties that plan to reopen ahead of Governor Wolf’s timetable.

5/11 Monday 2:15pm Governor Wolf: “All prosecutors have prosecutorial discretion.”

Total counties going against the Governor’s Order and not prosecuting and/or enforcing the shutdown as of the date of this release are Armstrong, Beaver, Franklin, Somerset, Lebanon, Cumberland, Berks, Greene, Dauphin, and York Counties.

PA Attorney General investigating nursing homes for criminal neglect

UPDATE 2:37 p.m.: Attorney General Shapiro announced that over the past several weeks his office opened criminal investigations into several Pennsylvania nursing homes. While it is not clear which specific facilities are under investigation, Shapiro said his office will look into reports of criminal neglect of patients and residents.

Under Pennsylvania law, Neglect of a Care-Dependent Person occurs when the caretaker of a person fails to properly provide for their health, safety, and welfare.

Secretary of Health: new plan to mass test all nursing homes

UPDATE 2:08 p.m.: There are 837 new cases of coronavirus in the state today. The state total includes 3,923 positive cases in health care and 12,130 positive cases among residents of 540 long term care living facilities.

Dr. Levine said the federal government has allowed nursing homes to hire more staff through waiving specific certifications. More than 1,700 shipments of PPE have been sent to nursing homes to ensure people are being kept safe.

Levine said there is a new universal testing plan for all staff and residents of nursing homes across the state. An advisory was sent to facilities Tuesday outlining the new plan and how it will work. Testing swabs from the federal government will be used for facilities that do not have the necessary equipment. The Pennsylvania National Guard is mobilizing a testing facility to help as well. Nursing homes are ordered to report deaths, cases and tests performed much like hospitals and other health care facilities.

Guidance released today to hospitals and skilled nursing homes require a resident who is being discharged from a hospital to a nursing home, personal care home, or assisted living facility be tested for COVID-19, if they were not hospitalized due to the virus. This will provide valuable information to the long-term care facility on any needs to cohort the patient, monitor their condition and take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, if applicable.

>>>RELATED: Pennsylvania plans widespread virus tests in nursing homes

National Guard strike teams are being put together to help more nursing homes with patient care, education and resources as the coronavirus outbreak continues. The teams will also help with the new mass testing plans outlined by the state.

The state did not previously have enough resources to put this plan in place until now.

#InThisTogether: National Guard continues to fight COVID-19

Today, nearly 47,000 National Guard members in all 50 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia are combating COVID-19 in their communities. We’re in this together, and we’ll get through this together. A summary of everything the Pennsylvania National Guard has done in the fight against COVID-19 can be found here:

Posted by Pennsylvania National Guard on Tuesday, May 12, 2020

County, city leaders give update as area moves to yellow phase

UPDATE 12:20 p.m.: Continue remote working, tell sick employees to stay home and use common sense: those were all common themes as Pittsburgh and Allegheny County political and business leaders held a zoom news conference.

In the yellow phase, businesses that must conduct in-person operations and activities because their employees cannot telework must follow additional guidance from PA-DOH, including:

· Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas frequently and continuing to regularly clean all other areas of the building(s);

· Establishing and implementing a plan in case the business is exposed to a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19;

· Preventing large groups from entering or leaving the building by staggering work start and stop times;

· Limiting the number of people in employee common areas, like locker rooms or break rooms, and ensuring these areas are cleaned frequently;

· Conducting meetings and trainings virtually; if a meeting needs to be held in person, limiting the number of employees to 10 and maintaining a physical distance of six feet;

· Making sure employees have access to soap and water to wash their hands, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes;

· Providing non-medical masks for employees to wear at all times and make it mandatory to wear masks while on the work site while working in the same area (room) as others; employers may approve masks obtained or made by employees according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health policies;

· Making sure the facility has enough employees as applicable to follow these protocols and conduct business effectively and safely;

· Discouraging non-essential visitors from entering the business premises; and,

· Communicating these procedures to all employees to ensure that everyone knows how to be safe.

Dr. Debra Bogen, the director of the Allegheny County Health Department, said she expects to see an increase in cases as the county moves into the yellow phase. She said her agency will continue contact tracing and COVID-19 case investigation. Bogen said there is a plan for hiring more employees and volunteers and the agency can be flexible if the number of cases goes up or down drastically. She said the amount of testing is important for the county reopening so employers can send workers to get tested if coronavirus symptoms start showing up.

Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto said the pandemic has been a difficult time for everybody.

“Pittsburgh is home to two of the three largest job centers in the state. Based on the population density, particularly in downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland, it’s absolutely imperative that these measures are followed closely,” he said.

Peduto laid out four things for businesses in the city:

1. Just because people can come back to work doesn’t mean they should. If businesses have been successful telecommuting they should continue doing that. The city and surrounding areas need a transition time.

2. Employers should consider shift changes such as workers in the office MWF or different times of day like early morning, late in the afternoon.

3. Use common sense. If you see a crowd in the lobby, don’t give handshakes. If the elevator is full, wait for the next one.

4. People need to follow all CDC guidelines

He said the city will be presenting its plan for the Fourth of July events on Friday.

One of the questions asked pertained to how strict the guidelines for the yellow phase would be enforced. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he feels businesses opening on their own or people not following the rules would come down to public influence. He said law enforcement is not sent into every situation and he hopes that people will pay attention. Peduto said he supports Gov. Wolf warning businesses and leaders about defying his orders. He said law enforcement in the city has given warnings and utilized different methods to get people to comply. Peduto said businesses have been granted a license by the state to operate and opening on their own risks that license, insurance liability and legal issues.

Additionally, in the yellow phase, malls as a whole will not be allowed to open. Anchor stores or those with outside entrances will be allowed to operate. Businesses inside the mall will have to find a different way to conduct business if they open.

Pennsylvania Health Department update for Tuesday

UPDATE 12:00 p.m.: Pennsylvania has more than 57,991 positive cases of coronavirus, according to the Department of Health.

There are 837 additional positive cases. There are 75 additional coronavirus deaths over the past few weeks, bringing the state total to 3,806. To date, 237,989 tests have come back negative.

Locally there are 3,190 cases in western Pennsylvania, and 272 deaths. Here is the break down by county:

  • Allegheny Co.: 1,526 cases, 127 deaths
  • Armstrong Co.: 55 cases, 5 deaths
  • Beaver Co.: 493 cases, 78 deaths
  • Butler Co.: 198 cases, 6 deaths
  • Clarion Co.: 23 cases, 1 death
  • Fayette Co.: 85 cases, 4 deaths
  • Forest Co.: 7 cases, 0 deaths
  • Greene Co.: 27 cases, 1 death
  • Indiana Co.: 76 cases, 5 deaths
  • Lawrence Co.: 71 cases, 7 deaths
  • Mercer Co.: 77 cases, 2 death
  • Venango Co.: 7 cases, 0 deaths
  • Washington Co.: 126 cases, 4 deaths
  • Westmoreland Co.: 419 cases, 32 deaths

COVID-19 update from the Allegheny County Health Department for Tuesday

UPDATE 11:00 a.m.: The Allegheny County Health Department reported since March 14, there are now 1,526 cases as of Tuesday. That’s an increase of 15 coronavirus cases over Monday. This breaks down to 1,451 positive confirmed cases and 75 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: 103 (7%)
  • 25-49 years: 515 (34%)
  • 50-64 years: 435 (29%)
  • 65+ years: 451 (30%)

There are 280 past or present hospitalizations related to COVID-19.

There have been four additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 127. Of the reported deaths, 117 are confirmed or had a positive test and 10 are probable.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, 350 residents and 103 staff members at 36 long-term care facilities in Allegheny County have tested positive for COVID-19. There have been 94 deaths at those facilities.

PennDOT to use existing photos for driver license and identification card renewals

UPDATE 10:15 a.m.: The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that PennDOT will use existing photos on file for customers who renew their driver’s license and identification card.

PennDOT says it will limit the number of people in the drivers license and photo centers which will help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

All customers who renew their driver’s license or photo ID card online or through the mail will receive a new product using the most recent photo of that individual that exists in PennDOT’s system.

No camera cards will be issued and they will receive their new product by mail within 15 days.

For more information, log on to their website.

AHN taking COVID-19 testing into under-served communities with mobile unit

UPDATE 8:30 a.m.: Allegheny Health Network is taking COVID-19 testing into under-served communities.

Its mobile unit will be outside the Alma Illery Medical Center on Hamilton Avenue in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. A doctor’s order is not required, but you do need an appointment.

In order to undergo COVID-19 testing at the mobile clinic, patients should be experiencing symptoms or believe they may have been in contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

AHN will move on to other communities before moving on to the Erie area.

A physician’s order IS NOT required for an appointment at AHN’s mobile clinic, but an appointment is necessary. Patients can make an appointment by calling AHN’s 24/7 Nurse On Call line (412-NURSE4U – or 412-687-7348).

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania: Tuesday morning

UPDATE 4:30 a.m.: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf threatened to pull funding, licenses and insurance from counties and businesses that fail to comply with his orders.

At a news conference Monday, Wolf said some counties and businesses “have decided to surrender to the virus," referencing leaders who have said they would not prosecute businesses in some local counties that choose to open on their own.

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Wolf’s statements came as southwestern Pennsylvania, with the exception of Beaver County, prepares to be in the next round of counties moving from the “red” phase to the “yellow” phase of the state’s reopening plan on Friday.

Meanwhile, Wolf’s education secretary told lawmakers on Monday that he expects students to go back to school in the fall.

>>FULL STORY: Students expected to return to school in fall, ed chief says

As of Monday, Pennsylvania had 57,154 cases of the coronavirus and 3,731 deaths statewide, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. There have been 231,704 people who tested negative for the virus.