PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – To date, the coronavirus has not hit southwestern Pennsylvania as hard as other regions of the country.

This raises the question: should we be of the first wave in the state to begin reopening our economy?

KDKA investigator Andy Sheehan spoke with elected officials and health experts who say yes.

Thus far, our region has avoided the worst. UPMC Presbyterian and other area hospitals prepared for a surge in coronavirus cases that never came.

And that has some saying we should be on the first wave to open up.

To bring our shuttered business districts back to life, the governor has set bar that our region should easily clear.

We could move for our stay-at-home red phase into the restriction-lifting yellow phase if we have less than 50 new cases a day per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period.

Allegheny County, with 1.3 million people, has been averaging less than 25 new cases a day.

The governor’s plan aims to reopen the northwest and north-central regions on May 8.

“Over the last 14 days, we’ve been very, very good — maybe half that,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Hopefully when the open up date comes, we will fall into that category.”

One concern is whether we’ve done enough testing to ensure our numbers are correct. Thus far we’ve only test about one percent of our population, but Dr. Alan Wells of UPMC says we have sufficient capacity to safely lift restrictions.

“I would feel that we have the resources from the testing side to go hand-in-hand and achieve a reopening on a phased schedule,” said Wells.

Wells says the county has done a good job in contact tracing — identifying those who have come in contact with an infected person and has been able to isolate and contain outbreaks.

“The proof is in the fact that we’ve had quite a few clusters throughout both Allegheny County and the neighboring counties that we’ve been able keep from becoming wildfires that have engulfed other regions,” said Wells.

Further proof that we’ve avoided the worst is our low number of hospitalizations. Our hospitals are well under capacity for all diseases. So much so that Wells says UPMC is reengaging with patients to bring them in for the healthcare they need.

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