Allegheny County data shows coronavirus isn’t done with Pa.

Wear a mask!

  • Russ Walker/PA Post
Posting again for the new week: WITF is organizing a series of online forums on race and justice this summer, hosted by WURD Radio’s Charles Ellison. The next forum — on the topic of Black Trauma & Mental Health — is scheduled for this Thursday (July 2) at 7:00 p.m. Details on how you can sign up for the free event are online here. And here’s where you can watch a replay of the first event in the series. — Russ Walker, PA Post editor
People gather at tables outside Bar Louie on the Northside of Pittsburgh Sunday, June 28, 2020. In response to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County, health officials are ordering all bars and restaurants in the county to stop the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption beginning on June 30.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

People gather at tables outside Bar Louie on the Northside of Pittsburgh Sunday, June 28, 2020. In response to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County, health officials are ordering all bars and restaurants in the county to stop the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption beginning on June 30.

We’re sick of social distancing. We want to meet our friends at the local bar or take the kids to the water park. A summer without baseball is no summer at all for many Americans. And then there’s the unemployed. They want to get back to work. Businesses want to get back to serving customers.

Coronavirus has other plans. That’s the takeaway from the past week’s news of the virus’s continued spread, both here in Pennsylvania and across the country.

Allegheny County and much of western Pa. were not hit as hard by coronavirus as Philly and its collar counties. Pittsburgh was the first big city to make the transition to the yellow and green phases of Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus reopening plan. Over the weekend, though, the number of infections began to climb there, and Allegheny County is beginning to move in the wrong direction … and reimposing some restrictions, as PublicSource reports here.

One step: Banning the consumption of alcohol at restaurants and bars, effective tomorrow at 5 p.m. But as of Sunday evening, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, “there were no imminent plans to move the county back into the yellow phase — with more restrictive requirements for businesses — as the result of the sharp increase in the number of cases,” according to the county’s top health official. County officials also say people are bringing the virus home with them after taking vacations, so they’re urging people who leave the region to quarantine for 14 days when they return.

Bars are a focus, WESA reports, because health experts believe they “are key locations for transmission of the disease,” WESA reports. “Case numbers began rising two weeks after bars and restaurants were permitted to operate as the county entered the green phase of reopening from the pandemic shutdown.”

It’s interesting to note that far away in Texas, the governor says he now regrets that he allowed bars to reopen so soon.  “If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars, now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting,” said Gov. Greg Abbot (R) on Friday. Texas has reported 5,000 new infections per day for six days straight. The virus is spreading quickly in Florida, too. And like Texas, the governor there blames it on younger people going out and socializing.

The good news: There’s a simple step we can all take to slow the spread of coronavirus — wearing a face mask. As the Wall Street Journal notes: “There is widespread scientific and medical consensus that face masks are a key part of the public policy response for tackling the pandemic. While only medical-grade N95 masks can filter tiny viral particles and prevent catching the virus, medical experts say even handmade or cheap surgical masks can block the droplets emitted by speaking, coughing and sneezing, making it harder for an infected wearer to spread the virus.”

Vice President Mike Pence, on a trip to Texas this weekend, urged people to wear masks. “The governor and I talked [last] week. We talked about [the] importance of people — in this moment — of calling on people across Texas to wear a mask,” Pence said. “It’s an important message. We’re here to convey it.”

More coronavirus news:

A last word from the CDC: Wear a mask!

Best of the rest

Courtesy Gov. Tom Wolf's Flickr page

The Pennsylvania State Capitol building on Monday, June 22, 2020.

  • PA Post’s Ben Pontz takes a look at a bill moving through the legislature that could put two constitutional amendments on the ballot. What’s interesting is how different the two amendments are — one would limit the governor’s powers to declare emergencies without the legislature’s approval, and the other would bar discrimination based on race or ethnicity. Read Ben’s piece here.

  • At StateImpact Pennsylvania, Rachel McDevitt reports on how GOP lawmakers are responding to the grand jury report that linked natural gas fracking to human health problems. No surprise: Republicans in the legislature are mostly dismissive of the findings and defend drillers as a heavily regulated industry that’s important for the state economy.

  • LNP’s Sunday edition looked at the impact of Pennsylvania’s “Clean Slate Law” on court records in Lancaster County. The law is intended to provide relief for people who were convicted or charged with low-level crimes from having those records follow them for the rest of their lives. LNP: “Through June 1 of this year in Lancaster County, according to Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, 898,606 cases involving summary offense convictions older than 10 years and 5,467 cases involving eligible misdemeanor convictions for people who’ve been law-abiding for 10 years were sealed from public view. Also, 515,041 criminal cases that did not result in a conviction were sealed. Statewide, more than 34 million cases have been sealed.”

Other Pa. stories of note:

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