For Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, it is his first thought every morning.
“It’s such an important factor of how we can function as a community. So I know if those numbers continue to rise as they did in late June early July we have to shut things down. We have to impede people’s activities. . So the lower we keep those numbers like we got in May and June means we can open up more of our economy and kids can go about school activities that are coming up and sports. “
Each area school district is needing to make decisions on how to bring students back to education.
Fitzgerald is concerned bringing everyone back together could result in an increase of numbers but he adds, “If the kids and the teachers and staff are all wearing their masks and keeping physical distance , and follow the protocol that the district and buildings lay out for people I’m sure we can do this safely,” Fitzgerald said.
“I’m sure we’re going to see Dr. Bogen and her team monitoring this very closely, case investigations, contact tracing, and if there is an outbreak in a building or in a certain school district, I’m sure she’s going to want to go out and go in and take action with respect to that, rather than shut down the whole system is there is only a hot spot in one area.“
KDKA’s John Shumway reports:
Fitzgerald says the issue of people congregating has moved from the bars restaurants and social halls to people’s homes. “We had people having graduation parties or had a birthday or anniversary whatever now you’re going together with extended family and who knows where they’ve been.”
As for the cries from the restaurant industry, “We’ve got to do more take out and outdoor dining because the one activity that I know they would like to see is inherently risky.”
Asked if he could foresee restaurants being allowed to expand the number of people they seat the County Executive says this:
“It’s going to be challenging and the reason is it’s an activity that’s inherently risky and inherently potential for spread. Number one you are inside, number two you are close together, and number three not wearing a mask. While eating, you’re not wearing your mask. And you’re’ eating, your drinking, you’re talking, you’re spitting, it’s a tough environment.”
While the restaurant owners are going to Harrisburg to try and get the state to lift restrictions, Fitzgerald says he will follow the lead of Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen.
Dr. Bogen put in restrictions on the restaurants before the state and he says they’ll make a decision about whether to follow the state’s lead or remain more strict when the time comes.
The numbers of new cases have settled into a reporting pattern of being lower over the weekend and climbing in the early part of the week. Fitzgerald says, “We’d like to see the numbers continue to come down but what I think we’ve seen is a higher level of cooperation. I think people are taking it more seriously. Again the challenge is going to be when the schools open and all these kids come into to school the students staff cooperating to keep those numbers low. “
Fitzgerald worries about the mental health of the community, “Absolutely. Because this is something that has impacted not just every individual but every activity that we do, school, work going to church. Family reuniions weddings you could go on.”
And there is no end in sight, “until we have a vaccine we are going to continue to live with this uncertainty. “