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Local Agencies, Groups Taking Virus Precautions

• Four local schools closed Friday
• PSGA students to work remotely next week

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
March 13, 2020
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Serra Catholic High School was closed Friday for sanitization, the Diocese of Pittsburgh announced, but students were working remotely. All Catholic schools in the diocese will be closed Monday as teachers prepare for an possible extended period of online instruction. (Photo courtesy Serra Catholic High School)

Although no confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Allegheny County on Friday morning, local schools and agencies said they are taking precautionary measures.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said that three local schools — Serra Catholic High School in the city and two elementary schools, St. Therese in Munhall and East Catholic in Forest Hills, were closed for cleaning.

A few students and adults from St. Therese, East Catholic and St. Bede elementary in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are being kept out of school for 14 days, the diocese said.

Students at Serra Catholic were receiving online instruction on Friday, the diocese said.

COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that causes fevers, coughing and difficulty breathing.

A high number of people are expected to contract the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and for some people — especially older adults or people with other underlying health conditions — the effects will be severe, experts predict.

All Catholic schools in the Diocese of Pittsburgh will be closed on Monday for teacher training, the diocese said. Teachers will be planing and preparing for the possibility of extended school closures due to the pandemic.

Swissvale school closed out of ‘overabundance of caution’

Nearby, Woodland Hills Intermediate School in Swissvale was closed Friday out of what district officials called “an overabundance of caution.” A spokesperson said one student may have interacted with someone from Pittsburgh’s Colfax School who was exposed to COVID-19.

There are no known positive cases in Woodland Hills, the district said, but the decision was made to disinfect the building. The school is expected to reopen Monday.

McKeesport campus to online instruction

Students at Penn State Greater Allegheny campus are currently on spring break but will not be returning to campus on Monday as planned.

Victoria Garwood, Greater Allegheny spokeswoman, said all in-person classes will be delivered electronically through April 3 “in the best interest of the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and our local community.”

“Penn State Greater Allegheny has a Digital Fluency Project which places an iPad in the hands of each faculty member, student and staff member,” Garwood said. “This will help to support a seamless transition to remote course delivery and it will help students connect to resources such as advising and tutoring from a distance.”

Staff are reporting to work at the McKeesport campus as usual, she said.

“If staff feel sick, they are expected to stay home,” Garwood said. “Their supervisors and our human resources colleagues will be a resource to them to address their individual questions related to absences.”

Penn State has set up a university-wide website with COVID-19 information at sites.psu.edu/virusinfo, she said.

McKeesport paramedics following CDC, ACHD guidelines

Paramedics and emergency medical technicians at McKeesport Ambulance Rescue Service are educating themselves and taking precautions, said Bill Miller, MARS chief and McKeesport emergency management coordinator.

“We will be following the recommendations of the CDC, Allegheny County Health Department, UPMC and (Allegheny Health Network) as we prepare to handle the possible treatment and or transport of any patients exhibiting signs and symptoms of the virus,” Miller said Thursday.

Mortality rates could be as high as 1 to 3 percent, he said, which is more than 10 times higher than the usual mortality rate for flu of about 0.1 percent.

”That being said, there have been over 20,000 flu-related deaths in the U.S. so far this influenza season,” Miller said.

Jason Togyer is editor of The Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at jtogyer@gmail.com.

Originally published March 13, 2020.

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