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TIMELINE: Infectious disease expert urges caution as restrictions start to lift

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.

Infections disease expert talks about lifting restrictions

UPDATE 11:00 p.m.: In two weeks, we could see parts of Pennsylvania slowly begin the reopening process.

It’s something that’s going to take time.

While infections disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja believes there are parts of the state that are ready he also said he’s worried people will migrate toward the open areas.

“As soon as you start to relax social distancing you’re going to get more cases, the question will be will those cases be too much for the system to handle?” he said.

So, what should you do when life begins to feel a little normal again?

“It’s still important that we do social distancing and that we take smart measures to try and avoid ourselves from getting infected,” Adalja said.

10th Port Authority employee tests positive for COVID-19

UPDATE 7:05 p.m.: Another employee at Port Authority has tested positive for coronavirus, officials announced Friday.

It’s the seventh employee to test positive from the West Mifflin garage.

Below is the full release from PAT officials:

"A tenth Port Authority of Allegheny County employee has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee works in maintenance at the West Mifflin garage and last worked on Tuesday, April 21. The employee has been off since Tuesday in self-quarantine.

The entire West Mifflin garage was deep cleaned and sanitized by Service Master of Greater Pittsburgh today after consultation with union leadership as there has been a cluster of positive COVID-19 cases among maintenance personnel at this facility. This is the sixth case at that location.

Other steps being taken at this facility:

  • Starting at midnight today, the number of maintenance employees working during each shift was further reduced so there are no more than 10 maintenance employees working on any shift.
  • Starting at midnight on Sunday, all employees at this location will have their temperatures taken before starting their shift. Any employee with a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit will be sent home, with pay, until cleared by their medical provider to return to work.

The Authority is continuing to work with public health officials to implement any additional recommendations and will also reinforce with all employees recommended hygiene protocols and social distancing guidelines.

“We wish this employee a speedy recovery and our thoughts go out to all of our employees affected by the virus," said Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman. “Our team is focused on this cluster of cases at West Mifflin and we have been working with union leadership to address this. We are doing everything we can to balance the safety of our employees and maintaining critical transit services that operate out of this garage."

Port Authority has sought to minimize the spread of the virus by disinfecting vehicles more frequently, promoting social distancing, having customers board from the back doors, limiting the number of passengers on vehicles, and asking riders to cover their faces when riding.

The Authority has more than 2,600 employees, including 1,300 operators and 800 mechanics."

Beaver, Butler county officials concerned about opening at the same time

UPDATE 5:15 p.m.: For almost a month, Butler County has been in lockdown with people under a stay at home order, the streets empty and many stores closed.

“I think, more importantly, we figure out how to open by industry and by type of business, get people back to work as soon as possible as a region and responsibly look at the industries driving our economy and get everybody moving,” Leslie Osche, Butler County Commissioner said.

“I really think we should open up county by county. Beaver and Butler are in the southwest region. I’m a little concerned,” said State Rep. Jim Marshall (R) 14th District.

Watch more in the video below:

Guidance for Farmers Markets

UPDATE 2:45 p.m.: With the start of farmers’ markets rapidly approaching this spring, the Allegheny County Health Department has deemed them a life-sustaining business.

Shoppers must stay at least 6 feet away from other people and should not touch unpackaged food. Vendors must protect staff with cloth masks and when possible, plastic barriers between employees and customers. No sampling will be allowed. One employee must be designated to take orders while others bag or package foods.

CLICK HERE for more details from the health department

New information from Gov. Wolf, Pa. Secretary of Health

UPDATE 2:01 p.m.: 418 long term care facilities including nursing homes and personal care homes are dealing with coronavirus issues across the state.

662 people who are hospitalized are on a ventilator in the state and across the healthcare system, 40% of ICU beds and nearly 70% of ventilators are still available, according to Dr. Rachel Levine.

Gov. Wolf said as of Friday, it’s been 7 weeks since the first coronavirus cases were determined in Pennsylvania. He said many people are dealing with multiple types of stress related to quarantine orders, the economy, unemployment issues, financial problems and more. Hundreds of state employees have been brought in to help direct and answer calls for information.

RELATED: Here are links to resources you may need during the COVID-19 pandemic

Wolf continued to reiterate that May 8 will be the earliest date for some areas of the state’s economy to reopen. He said the main mission though is keeping people safe.

He said state officials are anticipating some issues should there be a resurgence of coronavirus in the fall and once flu season starts. Wolf also said people should anticipate having to wear masks even in green zones once orders are lifted.

MedExpress to start COVID-19 testing at limited locations

UPDATE 12:30 p.m.: MedExpress Urgent Care centers will now start coronavirus testing at only a few locations around the area for people meeting the CDC screening criteria.

The locations include:

  • Monroeville, Mosside Blvd. (drive up testing)
  • Mt. Lebanon (drive up testing)
  • Robinson Township, Steubenville Pike (drive up testing)
  • Uniontown
  • Washington
  • Wexford

CLICK HERE for more details

1,599 new positive cases across Pennsylvania, 38,652 total

UPDATE 12:00 p.m.: The Pennsylvania Department of Health released the latest information on coronavirus cases across the state. There have been 1,599 new positive cases across the state, bringing the total since the outbreak began to 38,652.

In our area, over 25,000 people have tested negative so far.

Here is a county breakdown of cases:

  • Allegheny Co.: 1,177 positive cases, 71 deaths
  • Butler Co.: 168 positive cases, 6 deaths
  • Beaver Co.: 337 positive cases, 46 deaths
  • Washington Co.: 96 positive cases, 2 deaths
  • Greene Co.: 25 positive cases
  • Fayette Co.: 75 positive cases, 4 deaths
  • Westmoreland Co.: 317 positive cases, 27 deaths
  • Armstrong Co.: 43 positive cases, 2 deaths
  • Indiana Co.: 62 positive cases, 4 deaths
  • Clarion Co.: 22 positive cases, 1 death
  • Forest Co.: 7 positive cases
  • Venango Co.: 7 positive cases
  • Lawrence Co.: 61 positive cases, 5 deaths
  • Mercer Co.: 64 positive cases, 1 death

Here is a breakdown of nursing home data for our area:

  • Allegheny Co.: 32 facilities with cases, 246 cases among residents, 78 cases among employees, 50 deaths
  • Beaver Co.: 3 facilities with cases, 204 cases among residents, 78 cases among employees, 39 deaths
  • Butler Co.: 3 facilities with cases, 10 cases among residents, 9 cases among employees, 2 deaths
  • Clarion Co.: 1 facility with cases, 1 case among residents, 1 case among employees, 0 deaths
  • Fayette Co.: 1 facility with cases, 3 cases among residents, 0 cases among employees, 1 death
  • Indiana Co.: 3 facilities with cases, 12 cases among residents, 1 case among employees, 4 deaths
  • Lawrence Co.: 1 facility with cases, 0 cases among residents, 1 case among employees, 0 deaths
  • Mercer Co.: 1 facility with cases, 1 case among residents, 0 cases among employees, 0 deaths
  • Washington Co.: 3 facilities with cases, 6 cases among residents, 2 cases among employees, 1 death
  • Westmoreland Co.: 5 facilities with cases, 90 cases among residents, 26 cases among employees, 18 deaths

Friday’s update from Allegheny County Health Department

UPDATE 11:00 a.m.: The Allegheny County Health Department reported since March 14, there are now 1,177 positive cases as of Friday. That’s an increase of 28 positive coronavirus cases over Thursday. This breaks down to 1,146 confirmed positive cases and 31 probable cases.

A case is probable when the person displays symptoms of COVID-19 and has had close contact with a confirmed positive case but has not had a positive test themselves. County officials said they are now including probable cases to get a better idea of community spread.

The age group with the largest number of cases continues to be people aged 25-49.

Pa. Liquor Control Board expanding curbside pickup service

UPDATE 10:10 a.m.: The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is expanding its curbside pickup service to 389 more Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores.

The expansion will go into effect Monday, bringing the service to a total of 565 Fine Wine & Good Spirits locations.

Stores will accept a limited number of orders by phone on a first-call, first-served basis. Most stores will have curbside pickup available Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pickup appointments will be scheduled.

Orders are limited to up to six bottles and payments must be made over the phone with a credit card. Customers will be required to show identification when they go to pick up the order.

There will be a limit of one order per caller, per store, per day.

CLICK HERE for the latest list of stores offering curbside pickup.

Veterans encouraged to use Butler VA’s online resources

UPDATE 9:55 a.m.: The Butler VA is encouraging veterans to use its online resources for routine or non-urgent mental health care and questions during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Due to COVID-19 precautionary measures, and out of concern for our local Veterans, we are honoring current physical distancing guidelines,” Barbara Forsha, Butler VA interim director, said. “Through VA’s virtual care tools, we are able to leverage available technology to make sure that our patients and staff are as safe as possible during this time.”

At-home resources offered by the VA include:

  • Telephone or Video Appointments
  • Prescription Refills and Safety
  • Mental Health Information and Resources
  • Text Message Reminders

Veterans and their families can visit to learn more about mental health resources.

Reminder for WIC Program participants

UPDATE 9:30 a.m.: People who participate in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program in Allegheny County are being reminded that Health Department staff can conduct most appointments over the telephone and some appointments can be held through telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Your WIC office will call you to complete your appointment and instruct you on how to receive your WIC benefits. If you are instructed to come to a WIC office to pick up benefits, you must wear a mask. Please call 412-350-5801 if you have any questions,” Allegheny County said.

New WIC participants are still being accepted. Pre-applications can be completed HERE.

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania: Friday morning

UPDATE 4:30 a.m.: As Pennsylvania moves toward the early stages of reopening, leaders in Allegheny, Westmoreland and Washington counties are optimistic their counties could begin the process in early May.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he’s been in constant contact with Gov. Tom Wolf’s office.

“I think there could be certain things that (Allegheny County) could be ready for May 8, and I think you are going to see that. Certainly, you are going to see that in construction. You could see it in certain operations,” Fitzgerald said.

>>STORY: What to expect as Pa. starts to reopen from COVID-19 shutdown

According to Fitzgerald, Wolf is now evaluating a 12-county region in southwestern Pennsylvania that includes Allegheny County -- looking for an average of 50 new cases per 100,000 residents or lower during the two-week period in order to reopen.

Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli expressed optimism about a possible reopening.

“We have about 350,000 constituencies in Westmoreland County, and looking at the governor’s plan, that would allow us to have up to 175 new positive corona cases over the next two weeks,” Cerilli said.

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Washington County has just under 90 confirmed COVID-19 cases and two deaths with a population of about 200,000.

“We believe in Washington County we’ve been very responsible. Our numbers have been lower than most other counties, and we think that we’re ready to put a plan in place to responsibly and safely reopen our businesses,” Diana Irey Vaughan, chairman of the Washington County Board, said.

As of Thursday, Pennsylvania had 37,053 cases of the coronavirus statewide and 1,394 deaths. There have been 142,061 people who have tested negative for the virus.

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