By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
Update, 1:48 p.m.: Allegheny County officials have confirmed two more cases of covid-19 in the county
According to a press release, the two new patients are in their 60s. One is hospitalized and one is in home isolation. According to the release:
Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) announced today that two additional cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Allegheny County, bringing the number of confirmed cases to four. The individuals are adults, both in their 60s. One person is currently hospitalized, and the other is in isolation at home.
Like with the two previous cases, ACHD has begun a contact investigation. Officials have and will continue to follow up with all individuals identified as close contacts of the two known cases and will enforce appropriate quarantine measures. Additional information regarding these cases cannot be released in order to protect patient privacy and confidentiality.
The Health Department continues to field many questions regarding COVID-19 testing in Allegheny County. ACHD is not currently testing for the virus; however, the PA-DOH state laboratory and commercial laboratories are testing. Healthcare providers are reminded that they do not have to receive approval from public health agencies, including PA-DOH and ACHD, and can submit specimens for testing through commercial laboratories.
The Health Department anticipates additional local confirmed cases in the coming days. Residents and organizations throughout the county should follow proactive mitigation measures including social distancing, and avoidance of large gatherings and recreational activities like gyms, movie theaters.
ACHD continues to consult with government and non-government partners throughout the county and will modify these recommendations as appropriate to protect the health of the public.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath, please s
March 14 Update
Two City of Pittsburgh residents, one in their 60s and one in their 70s, have become the first two confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Allegheny County.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Allegheny County Health Department Director Debra Bogen made the announcement at a Saturday afternoon press conference. The two patients live in the same home and it is believed that they came in contact with the virus while traveling out of state.
“Yesterday, the county announced a number of additional steps that corresponded with revised guidance from the Health Department,” said Fitzgerald “Those steps were taken to mitigate any impact on our community should we have local COVID-19 cases. That day is today, but working together, we are prepared and ready to continue to serve the public and protect our community.”
Bogen said that the county is conducting a “contact investigation” to follow up with anyone who may have come in close contact with the patients.
“Knowing that many residents are likely to be concerned about potential exposure or interaction with the two cases, it’s important that we remind the community that COVID-19 can only be spread through close contact,” Bogen said.
And while Allegheny County officials have offered “guidance” on how residents should proceed through this crisis (which follows the state-issued guidance), Fitzgerald has still not yet declared a state of emergency in the county. The declaration has already been made at the federal, state and city level. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto declared a state of emergency yesterday, which allowed him to not just offer guidance for residents but issued an executive order of certain mandates.
While the county recommends avoiding large gatherings, gatherings of more than 250 people in the city of Pittsburgh are expressly prohibited.
Two Allegheny County Councilors, Liv Bennett and Bethany Hallam issued a statement March 12 taking the executive to task for his reluctance to do so.
“Our County’s Chief Executive, Rich Fitzgerald, unfortunately, has not yet declared a public emergency in Allegheny County,” the councilors wrote in a statement. “Declaring an emergency is the right thing to do and we urge his action and courage to take the necessary steps to protect our greater community.”
Port Authority to disinfect vehicles every 24 hours
In light of the first two cases of Covid-19 in Allegheny County, the Allegheny County Port Authority announced it will increase the frequency in which it disinfects its vehicles. The Authority also announced that while there are no plans for operational changes now, “Port Authority service is highly dependent upon its workforce. Should the Authority not have drivers available, it may be required to reduce service ad hoc or systemwide.”
According to an authority press release:
“We have known that it was simply a matter of when — not if — we would see our first cases,” Kelleman said. “Luckily, I have observed firsthand Port Authority’s ability to overcome adversity during challenging times, and I know we will do everything possible to continue to watch out for our riders and for each other.”
On Thursday, Port Authority announced it would begin cleaning “high touch” areas of vehicles every 72 hours. Following today’s announcement, those areas will be cleaned daily. Major stations will continue to be cleaned daily, as will vehicles operated by ACCESS, Port Authority’s paratransit system.
There are no plans for any operational changes at this time. However, Port Authority service is highly dependent upon its workforce. Should the Authority not have drivers available, it may be required to reduce service ad hoc or systemwide.
Health officials recommend individuals who experience potential symptoms avoid public areas, including riding transit. Symptoms include high fever, coughing and shortness of breath.
Riders are encouraged use common sense hygiene practices to limit the spread of germs and illness, like washing your hands or using hand sanitizer immediately after riding the bus or light rail vehicle; changing your seat if you notice someone near you who appears to be sick; sitting down if possible so you can avoid holding on to poles and straps; and staying home if you are sick.
“Even with increased cleaning, the inescapable reality is that the surfaces of a newly cleaned bus or rail car can no longer be assumed sanitary after passengers have climbed aboard,” Kelleman said. “But doing simple things like washing our hands and social distancing will have the greatest impact protecting ourselves, our families and our communities.”