PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Governor Wolf’s decision to delay the lifting of restrictions in our region comes as a disappointment small business owners who say they’re just barely hanging on.

Many have questions about why the southwestern region remains in the red phase when our new case numbers remain low and we’ve met the other criteria set out the state.

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Businesses in Pittsburgh and throughout the region say we’ve met every measure and done everything the governor asked. But now they say he’s moved the goalposts.

“Every hour it goes on longer is another nail in the coffin of retail,” said Shadyside Chamber of Commerce President Richard Rattner.

On Walnut Street in Shadyside and in business districts throughout the region, retailers say their shops are dying on the vine and the governor moved the goalposts in postponing their reopening.

“I think they’re just confused, once we meet a criteria, it seems the bar is raised,” said Rattner. “And to keep raising the bar — Allegheny County right now is one of the safest metropolitan areas in all of America.”

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Allegheny and the rest of the region easily met the governor’s criteria of new cases, staying under 50 per 100,000 over 14 days. Allegheny has had less than 30, and the region has had about 33. Our hospitals have never been stressed, and the county says its testing and tracing of those who have come in contact with infected people has allowed it to isolate and contain spikes.

But in keeping us in the so-called red phase, the state is now citing the density of our population.

KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “Density. Where did density come from?”
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald: “That was new, but that was part of the CMU algorithm that they’re doing.”

Neither Carnegie Mellon nor the Health Department will reveal what exactly this tool now measures, but Secretary Of Health Dr. Rachel Levine says it’s being used to determine when Southwestern Pa. will begin reopening.

In addition to density, she is looking for more testing in our area.

“We’ll be discussing the contact tracing and the laboratory testing in those areas. We will be putting that all together, we’ll be discussing that with the governor starting today and ongoing, and then the governor will make his decision,” said Levine.

Fitzgerald is looking for better news come Friday.

“My anticipation is when they do the announcement this week, I would hope and am optimistic that if we continue to keep our numbers low, that we would go from red to yellow,” he said.

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As for shutdown business districts, this can’t come a moment too soon. Allegheny County Health Department Director Debra Bogen says this week the county will ramp up to 2,000 tests a day, so at this point, it’s unclear what the county has to do to move from red to yellow.