By Charlie Deitch
PITTSBURGH — As of Wednesday, the number of confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Allegheny County has reached 11 as testing continues and state, county and local governments take greater steps to stem the spread of the virus.
That makes 16 cases in Western Pa. and, according to our news partners at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, there were 37 new cases today in the state bringing that total to 133.
Pittsburgh CurrentVisuals Editor Jake Mysliwczyk was at drive-up testing sites on the North Shore this morning where dozens of cars were wrapped around the block.
Video from the Central Outreach Wellness Center’s COVID-19 drive through testing on Pittsburgh’s North Shore from earlier this morning. Cars lined up around the block an hour before opening. pic.twitter.com/UiUI31LNYQ
— Pittsburgh Current (@PghCurrent) March 18, 2020
Mayor Bill Peduto announced Wednesday afternoon that the city is working to “further restrict face-to-face interactions between City personnel and residents.”
Public works crews and employees in the city’s licensing and permit office will be reduced to skeleton crews and be on call for emergencies. Parking enforcement is also being suspended. Other city departments will respond only in the case of an emergency.
“The City of Pittsburgh is committed to fully serving its residents throughout this outbreak, and is continuing to do so, while limiting close interactions to protect as many of our employees as possible,” Mayor William Peduto said.
Wednesday’s announcements expand the city’s first set of COVID-19 emergency orders that were released Monday.
In a statement, the LGBTQ advocacy group SisTers Pittsburgh said it had started a COVID-19 relief fund for LGBTQ community members affected by the outbreak.
“We are prioritizing displaced LGBTQIA+ people because we have historically and currently faced increased barriers – including fewer ties to familial support networks, being simultaneously underserved and over-surveilled by welfare state systems, our needs have been surplus to mainstream political formations, and we tend to work in the gig economy (making us eligible to even receive unemployment.),” the group said in its statement.
It added: “We talked with other mutual aid funds about how they decided to distribute the money they raised and decided that we wanted to absolutely avoid parsing through people’s narratives and deciding whose needs were more important than others. We agree with Adrienne Maree Brown who quotes Lao Tzu (author of Tao Te Ching) in Emergent Strategy: “If you do not trust the people, they will become untrustworthy.”
“We are choosing to trust the people. We are not social workers and we refuse to replicate that position and dynamic. Most of the pool of people who have requested funds thus far are not employed full time, have a chronic illness or disability, and were already struggling prior to COVID-19 closures. Now our community is facing an even more urgent need, and we ask our community to respond,” the statement reads
Applications for aid will go live on March 20, and will stay open “for as long as we are able to distribute funds to our communities, meaning, we will need as much support as possible to continue supporting our LGBTQIA communities of Allegheny County.”
Charlie Deitch is the editor of the Pittsburgh Current, a publishing partner of the Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.