TIMELINE: Pennsylvania coronavirus updates March 15

Gov. Tom Wolf orders bars, restaurants to close in several counties across Pennsylvania for 2 weeks

PITTSBURGH — The novel coronavirus has reached western Pennsylvania, with a presumptive case of COVID-19 announced Friday in Washington County and several cases confirmed in Allegheny County Sunday.

State and local leaders are urging people to take extra precautions and has led to the cancellation of events and Gov. Tom Wolf announcing the closure of Pennsylvania’s public schools for 10 days. Keep checking back for the latest COVID-19 updates throughout the day.

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UPDATE 10:20 p.m.: UPMC issued a statement following the announcement from Allegheny County officials that southwestern Pa. hospitals will be “overwhelmed” in 2-3 weeks if the coronavirus continues to spread.

“The communities we serve can be reassured that UPMC facilities are safe and staff are well-equipped and trained to properly care for any patient with COVID-19. Ebola, H1N1, SARS – these are infectious diseases that UPMC has prepared for in recent years. We continually screen for emerging infections, and have for decades.”

UPDATE 9:45 p.m.: Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered all restaurants and bars to close their dine-in facilities starting Monday in several counties across Pennsylvania for 14 days.

This is in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus in the state.

According to a release, under the guidance of the Pa. Department of Health, Wolf used his authority under the state’s COVID-19 disaster declaration order to do this.

Below are the counties affected:

  • Allegheny
  • Bucks
  • Chester
  • Delaware
  • Montgomery

According to a release, the administration will reevaluate the situation at the end of two weeks and decide whether continued mitigation is needed.

Officials said businesses that do not adhere to this order could face enforcement actions.

“Ensuring the health and safety of Pennsylvanians is the highest priority as the state grapples with a growing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, and as the virus continues to spread, it is in the best interest of the public to encourage social distancing by closing restaurants and bars temporarily,” Gov. Wolf said in the release. “I understand that this is disruptive to businesses as well as patrons who just want to enjoy themselves, but in the best interest of individuals and families in the mitigation counties, we must take this step.”

UPDATE 9 p.m.: The City of Pittsburgh, in accordance with new guidelines from the CDC, is now banning all public gatherings of 50 or more people to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

That is just two days after the city announced all events of 250 or more people would be prohibited. The new ban starts Monday at 9 a.m.

UPDATE 8:20 p.m.: Allegheny County officials are now calling for “non-essential” businesses to close voluntarily starting Monday for at least two weeks to limit the spread of coronavirus through personal contact and surfaces.

According to the release, “the goal with this recommendation is to further emphasize social distancing. Of particular concern are those areas where people congregate together.”

Officials listed the following types of businesses that would fall under this recommendation:

  • child care centers
  • senior centers
  • community and recreation centers
  • gyms – including yoga, spin, barre and other similar facilities
  • hair salons, nail salons and spas
  • casinos
  • bars
  • concert venues
  • theaters
  • sporting event facilities
  • golf clubs
  • social clubs
  • non-essential retail facilities including shopping malls (except for pharmacy or other health care facilities located therein)

Officials said this recommendation does not impact supermarkets, pharmacies, and gas stations. They also clarified that restaurants are included in this recommendation but should stay open for carry-out and delivery.

Also, these are just recommendations and not orders from local officials. The announcement was made on video Sunday as well.

UPDATE 8:05 p.m.: The CDC announced new guidelines regarding preventing the spread of coronavirus.

The biggest change: CDC officials said people should avoid gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.

"Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals.

Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.

Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.

This recommendation does not apply to the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businessesThis recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus. This recommendation is not intended to supersede the advice of local public health officials."

UPDATE 7:45 p.m.: Pittsburgh Public Schools announced it has activated its “Emergency Response Plan” following Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to close all Pennsylvania public schools for 10 days.

According to a release from district officials, the following protocols are now in place:

Student Meals

  • Grab and Go meals will be available at all 54 school locations, as well as the District’s two alternative schools (Clayton Academy and Student Achievement Center) and stand-alone Early Childhood Education Centers (Chartiers, Crescent and Spring Garden). Meals will be distributed between 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Monday through Friday until March 20. Students do not have to go to their current school and can grab a meal at the school located closest to their home. Deliveries of food to the East Hills Community Center, Northview Heights Recreation Center and Housing Authority location in Glen Hazel will also take place. The District will evaluate student participation in meal distribution to determine regional sites for the second week of closure.

Supplemental Student Activities

  • As an institution for learning, we know there is concern about the loss of student learning during this closure. On Wednesday, March 18, optional grade-level activity packets will be available on Schoology, which is accessible through the District’s CLEVER portal located at www.pghschools.org/studentresources. A helpful video on how to use and login to CLEVER can be found on the District’s VIMEO page at https://vimeo.com/354396666. Printed packets will be available for students next week. Completion of grade-level activity packets is optional and will not count towards student grades.

Student Medication

  • Parents may pick up their child’s medication from the school nurse on Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17. School Nurses will be on-site to distribute student medications to parents between 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. Parents or a guardian over the age of 18 is required to sign for their child’s medicine. After Tuesday, prescription pick up will not be available until schools reopen.

Staff Access to Closed Facilities

  • While schools and facilities are closed, there remains a need to prepare school buildings for reopening, continue communications, order supplies and food, maintain financial operations, pay employees, make and distribute student meals and provide a level of security. Essential Central Office personnel have been identified and will report to work on Monday.
  • On Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17, all buildings will have custodial coverage from 7:00 AM-3:30 PM. School leaders will report to buildings to support students who show up to school between 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. Teachers may voluntarily report to their buildings to pick up materials, animals and plants from their classrooms from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. Curriculum and Instructional staff will report to Greenway to finalize grade-level activity packets for students. Foodservice managers and site-based foodservice workers will also be on sites from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. Monday – Friday.

UPDATE 7:15 p.m.: All masses in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh are cancelled until further notice, according to a release from Bishop David Zubik.

Zubik said all weekday and Sunday masses will be cancelled started Monday. However, arrangements are being made to livestream more masses in the days ahead.

“Although in many ways it saddens me to make this decision, given the best advice from health experts on federal, state, and local levels, I feel it is a necessary one at this time. I’m counting on the understanding and cooperation of all in the Diocese of Pittsburgh as we pray for each other. At this difficult time, we especially are relying on the intercession of Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church, and Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus and Patron of the Universal Church,” Bishop Zubik said.

Zubik is calling for a “special day of prayer” in Pittsburgh on March 25 – which is the Feast of the Annunciation in Catholic calendars.

UPDATE 6:05 p.m.: The University of Pittsburgh provided updated guidance on general public access to specific facilities on its campuses Saturday. The campus will remain open to students, faculty and staff but closed to others.

Pitt officials said the policy is designed to mitigate transmission of the coronavirus while still providing access needed for online education, research and services.

UPDATE 4:55 p.m.: The Central Outreach Wellness Center will begin offering drive-by testing for coronavirus starting Monday.

According to a release, the organization, through a partnership with Quest Diagnostics, will offer the drive-by tests to people based on screening questions because test kits are limited to 100 at this time.

Anyone looking to get tested should have photo ID and a copy of their insurance card, but officials said they will not turn away anyone for inability to pay.

Testing begins March 16 at 11 a.m. at all COWC locations on the North Shore, Aliquippa and Washington. The addresses for those locations are below:

  • 127 Anderson Street, Suite 101, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15212 -- (412) 515-0000
  • 95 Leonard Avenue, Suite 203, Washington, Pa., 15301 -- (724) 249-2517
  • 2360 Hospital Drive, Upper Suite 1, Aliquippa, Pa., 15001 -- (724) 707-1155

UPDATE 4:30 p.m.: Freedom Transit in Washington County announced it will be reducing shared-ride service to only “essential and critical services” for at least the next two weeks.

Fixed-route service will operate as normal for now, according to the Washington County Department of Public Safety.

Starting March 17, only medical, adult day care, work, and senior center “pick-up” meal trips will be provided.

The release said that Freedom Transit clients who “currently have trips booked in the next two weeks for the purpose of getting to and from school, social/recreational, shopping, or other needs will be contacted to postpone their trips.”

Below is the company’s full statement:

"As a precautionary measure, Freedom Transit will be reducing shared-ride service in Washington County for at least the next two weeks. The focus of the service will be on continuing to provide access to essential and critical services that our passengers need. For now, fixed-route service will operate as normal.

As of Tuesday, March 17, only medical, adult day care, work, and senior center “Pick-Up” meal trips will be provided. Freedom Transit clients that currently have trips booked in the next two weeks for the purpose of getting to and from school, social/recreational, shopping, or other needs will be contacted to postpone their trips.

Any senior citizen needing to access their local senior center to obtain a “pick-up” only meal, should call Freedom Transit at (724) 223-8747 to schedule a ride. Freedom Transit is committed to the safety and wellbeing of its riders and has been sanitizing buses on a daily basis to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Riders who have questions regarding the reduction in shared ride service should call the Freedom Transit office at (724) 223-8747, but keep in mind that due to high call volume there may be a longer than normal wait time."

UPDATE 4:25 p.m.: All Eat’n Park restaurants have discontinued their soup, salad and fruit bar service amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The company announced its decision “in the interest of our guests and team members.”

Below is the full statement regarding that decision:

“In the interest of our guests and team members, we have elected to temporarily discontinue our Soup, Salad & Fruit Bar service from all Eat’n Park restaurants. We hope to offer this guest favorite again soon. In the meantime, guests still can enjoy a variety of salad and soup options from our regular menu. We’ve also seen increased usage of online ordering and takeout through our pickup windows and pickup shelves.”

UPDATE 4 p.m.: According to our sister station WHIO, the governor of Ohio is ordering all bars and restaurants to close tonight at 9 p.m. However, carry-out and delivery is still acceptable.

Gov. Mike DeWine also said Sunday that it is possible that Ohio schools will close for the remainder of the year.

UPDATE 3:35 p.m.: Starting today, all employees in the city of Pittsburgh are guaranteed to have paid sick leave through their employers, according to a release from councilman Corey O’Connor. This is in accordance with the Paid Sick Days Act, which was introduced in 2015.

Below is the councilman’s full statement:

“Starting today, all workers in Pittsburgh are guaranteed to have paid sick days through their employer. When my council colleagues passed the legislation I proposed in 2015 (and later upheld by the PA’s Supreme Court), we never could have thought that we would be facing a pandemic in 2020. Yet, even then, we recognized the public health benefits of allowing workers to stay home if they were sick without the penalty of losing their wages. Paid sick leave helps to keep everyone safe. And it’s never been more important as we all face this crisis. I hope all of you and your families stay healthy.”

UPDATE 2:31 p.m.: Officials with Allegheny Health Network confirm a patient at Jefferson Hospital is currently undergoing treatment for a confirmed case of coronavirus.

A limited number of staff are caring for the adult patient and the hospital is currently limiting visitation with the person. All visitors are required to wear protective face masks and gowns, and are required to wash hands before and after visiting.

That patient is a resident of Clairton, according to city officials.

The Allegheny County Health Department is working to find out who the patient may have come into contact with.

UPDATE 1:08 p.m.: Officials with Allegheny County report a fourth case of coronavirus confirmed in the county. Officials said the new cases confirmed Sunday include a person who is hospitalized and another who is at home. Both people are in their 60s.

Department officials said the state department of health just may not have gotten this most recent case yet.

State health officials, meanwhile, report only three cases of coronavirus infection in Allegheny County. Both agencies report their numbers are accurate.

There is still one case in Washington County. All of the people who tested positive are either in isolation at home or are being treated in a hospital.

The rest of the positive cases are in the eastern portions of the state, with the first cases confirmed in Lehigh and Luzerne counties.

State health officials said there have been 446 patients tested. 205 have tested negative, 63 cases are confirmed and 183 samples are either at the lab awaiting testing or are in transport to the lab.

UPDATE 11:21 a.m.: The Pittsburgh Marathon is still moving forward with organizers still hoping the event will happen.

UPDATE 11:13 a.m.: The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission announced all state-owned historic sites and museums will be closed Sunday through the end of March to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. In our region, this includes:

  • Drake Well Museum
  • Erie Maritime Museum/Flagship Niagara
  • Old Economy Village
  • Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
  • State Museum of Pennsylvania

UPDATE 11:08 a.m.: The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium will be closed to the public starting Monday until further notice. All scheduled evens, programs and classes are cancelled.

UPDATE 11:00 a.m.: Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office said it has received 537 consumer complaints regarding price gouging.

UPDATE 10:57 a.m.: If you think you may have the coronavirus and want to get tested, figuring out how and where to go might be a bit of a challenge. Here is some information from NBC News:

  • Call the state hotline at 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) if you think you may need to be tested. A public health professional will speak with you and determine if and where you should go for testing, such as the hospital or doctor’s office, and can then coordinate arrival at the healthcare facility to ensure you, the healthcare workers, and other visitors to the facility are all properly protected to prevent further exposures.
  • The state typically only tests people who are symptomatic. If you are not symptomatic, decisions are made on a case by case basis.
  • Pennsylvania has both public and private labs that can conduct tests. The state public lab requires approval by the health department for testing.
  • Results from the state lab can be available in less than a day -- testing takes on average four to six hours.
  • For more coronavirus information, call 1-877-724-3258 or visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website.

UPDATE 10:04 a.m.: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said this morning on CNN that he would not surprised “at all if schools did not open again this year.”

UPDATE 9:54 a.m.: The Craft-Vendor Show scheduled for St. Peter’s R.C. Church Hall in Butler has been cancelled, according to event organizers.

UPDATE 9:45 a.m.: The Bethel Park Community Center is closing down through at least March 29 due to the coronavirus. Borough leaders said they want to make sure people stay safe and help slow the spread of the virus.

The center is closed to all residents, guests, activities, programs, classes, meetings, events and private rentals.

UPDATE 9:38 a.m.: Pittsburgh Police said St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the South Side were smaller than usual, believing many people stayed away due to concerns about the coronavirus. One Public Works employee was hit by a car and six people were arrested on a variety of charges.

UPDATE 8:45 a.m.: The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is working to speed up different ways to distribute food. The agency said in light of the two coronavirus cases in Allegheny County, it is working to increase pre-packaged food boxes, drive-through distributions, home delivery and other ways that limit human contact.

Local food banks working on alternative ways to safely distribute items amid coronavirus

UPDATE 7:27 a.m.: The Bell Acres Police Department in Sewickley said the agency is changing how they will handle non-emergency calls due to the coronavirus.

Most non-emergency calls will now be handled over the phone to limit in-person contact.

Due to the recent COVID-19 situation, the Bell Acres Police Department will be handling most non-emergency calls via...

Posted by Bell Acres Police Department on Saturday, March 14, 2020

UPDATE 6:59 a.m.: Giant Eagle and Walmart announced that all of their stores across the region and country will have different hours to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Starting March 15, Walmart stores and neighborhood markets will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice.

The ECHL also announced that the rest of the 2019-20 season was cancelled due to the virus.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County also announced it will be disinfecting vehicles every 24 hours after two cases of coronavirus were announced in the county.

Allegheny County health officials announce first confirmed coronavirus cases