Coronavirus Case Investigations May Reveal Where Allegheny County Needs More Restrictions If Numbers Continue To Surge

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Three consecutive days of record new cases of COVID-19 in Allegheny County is not what County Executive Rich Fitzgerald wants to see: “It’s upsetting because we were doing so well for months.” And equally alarming: “Now we’re starting to see our hospitalizations start to climb.”

Fitzgerald worries it’s only a matter of time before this will lead to an increase in deaths.

“We’ve got to contain this, otherwise we’re going to put a lot of people’s lives at risk and our economy at risk,” he says.

All this comes as the ban on alcohol sales in bars and restaurants goes into effect.

That decision came from case investigations into those who have been diagnosed with coronavirus. Those investigations have revealed an issue with conduct at a growing number of bars.

“It’s the people standing there for hours shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow, no mask — really just irresponsible behavior that’s gone on,” he says. “Where there are outbreaks, you have to take action.”

“I understand that,” says Courtney Kochanski of Pleasant Hills, “but why can’t you come here after five o’clock and have a drink with a meal.”

Pat McDonnell owns Atria’s.

“We know there is a real issue out there so I believe there could be a compromise,” says McDonnell.

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Fitzgerald is willing to consider a compromise once the COVID case numbers respond to the alcohol restriction.

“If the numbers become better, there could be a way in which restaurants can loosen a little bit,” Fitzgerald says. “I’m not sure bars we’re ever going to see” until there’s a vaccine or a treatment.

“You could see restaurants serving alcohol at the table where people are sitting social distanced, people wearing their masks,” he says.

The Allegheny County Health Department and Fitzgerald are watching the case investigations very closely, looking for the slightest hint of a trend that would identify a problem area.

They already know a number of cases have results from people traveling back to Pittsburgh from hotspots around the country. The recommendation is to self-quarantine for ten days after returning.

“Number three right now might be youth sports,” says Fitzgerald, “Where we’re starting to see summer activities like football teams coming back, band camps coming back.”

He says it’s too early to say what restrictions might be necessary if that trend continues.

Whatever further restrictions are imposed, Fitzgerald says they need to be very focused only on a problem.

“Most of these business, the retail stores, coffee shops, hair salons, spas and gyms have really done a good job and we haven’t seen numbers show up in these areas,” he says.

While some places like Arizona are preventing movie theaters from opening – which most plan to do next month – locally the approach is responsive, not proactive.

If the theaters open and case investigations show them to be a problem, action will be considered. And that goes for any activity as Fitzgerald says, “the numbers will determine all those kinds of things.”

John Shumway

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