TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR MARCH 17TH, 2020

Pennsylvania is under a statewide shutdown of non-essential businesses to slow the spread of coronavirus.  Monday afternoon, Governor Tom Wolf ordered restaurants and bars to close, except for take-out and delivery service, for at least the next two weeks.  Wolf’s move mirrors similar actions taken in Ohio, New Jersey, and New York.

Beaver County reports its first Covid-19 case. Officials announced last night that a member of the Aliquippa School District community tested positive for COVID-19.  A state of emergency is now in effect for Beaver County, giving leaders more authority in slowing the outbreak.  Meantime, Westmoreland County officials are watching virus cases pile up on their doorstep.  The commissioners say they’re working on an operations plan and meeting with Excela Health officials on steps to contain the outbreak.

State Police in Lawrence County report an accident yesterday morning in Wilmington Township that involved an Amish Buggy. According to police the 16 year old female who was operated the buggy traveled into the path of a vehicle operated by 48 year old 48 year old Chad Roades of Grove City. The accident took place near the intersection of Route 158 and Phillips School Road. The 16 year old was taken to St.Elizabeth’s Hospital in Youngtown. Rhoades was not hurt.

PennDOT is closing all Driver License Centers and Photo License Centers statewide for the next two weeks.  They add that expiration dates for driver licenses, identification cards, vehicle registrations, and safety and emission inspections will be extended.  Also, all PennDOT District and County maintenance offices are closed and construction projects have been suspended in all counties until further notice.  PennDOT crews are available to perform critical functions and emergency maintenance as needed.

A special election is going on as planned in parts of Butler and Mercer County today to fill a vacated state house seat.  Voters will find the names of Republican Tim Bonner and Democrat Phil Heasley on the ballot today to replace Tedd Nesbit with P-A’s eighth congressional seat.  Election officials say there is one polling location change in today’s race:  voters who typically cast a ballot at Trinity Lutheran Church will not use Church of God Prophecy on Mercer Road.

Health officials say there are a total of six confirmed coronavirus cases in Allegheny County.  The new cases, announced yesterday, include a person in their 60s and another in their 50s.  Each are being isolated at their home.  The Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports there are many other test results pending.

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is providing some guidance on how special events in the church will be handled amid the coronavirus spread.  In a statement, Bishop David Zubik said baptisms will happen as small private family events to meet state and locally imposed crowd distance restrictions.  Confirmation events set for March have been postponed while those scheduled for after April 1st will be determined in the future.  Weddings and funerals will also occur, though those attending must number at or lower than the imposed crowd restrictions.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is making some changes to the 2020 trout season due to the coronavirus spread.  The season will be consolidated into a single, statewide schedule with trout stocking operations accelerated.  Under the revised plan, a single Mentored Youth Trout Day will occur on Saturday, April 11th, and a Statewide Opening Day of trout season will take place on Saturday, April 18th.

Colleges in western Pennsylvania are doing more to slow down the spread of COVID-19.  Slippery Rock University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania announced yesterday that they’re suspending in-person classes for the rest of the spring semester.  All classes will be held online when students return from extended spring breaks.  Students are being asked to check out of their dorms by the end of the week.

According to this week’s Triple-A East Central Gas Price Report the average price of gasoline in Western Pennsylvania is twelve cents cheaper this week at 2.48 a gallon. In New Castle the price has dropped to 2.21 a gallon while in Sharon motorists are paying 2.54. As crude oil prices trending slightly below $30/barrel today, Americans are seeing pump prices plummet across the country. On the week, gas price averages in 35 states decreased by double-digits, pushing the national average to $2.25, the cheapest price point of the year. The average price a year ago in Western PA was 2.79 a gallon.