PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There is real concern about a potential spike of COVID-19 in the coming weeks due to two things — the Labor Day Weekend gatherings, and so many children returning to school classrooms.

While nothing can be done about the Labor Day celebrations, if there was damage it has been done….but the school year is a different story.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald concedes he’s concerned.

“Anytime we have more potential for spread, and that obviously includes kids going back to school, we’ve seen the college kids have been coming back now for the last couple of weeks, whether it’s into the dormitories, or off campus, and now you’ve got the K-12 kids coming back, youth sports, youth activities, etc.”

“All of these things are potential for the spread of the virus, which may be low level risk for kids, but changes when they come in contact with their parents, their grandparents, or aunts and uncles, people in the family, or neighbors, or whoever they’re in contact with that might have immune issues, and other and other ailments. So, yes, it is a concern.”

But Fitzgerald quickly adds he thinks the schools are up to the challenge.

“I think the school districts and our universities have put very solid plans in place. Now it’s up to us, it’s up to the kids, it’s up to the teachers, it’s up to the parents, it’s up to the community to follow those recommendations, wearing your mask, staying socially distant, all these things that we’ve been learning over these last six months.”

“We’ve seen retail operations come back successfully, we’ve seen office operations, construction, manufacturing, things can be done and be done successfully if people will follow the medical advice of our professionals.”

A lot of the success in averting a spike will fall on the shoulders of parents, students, schools, and the Allegheny County Health Department to monitor and react if a case of COVID-19 occurs.

Watch as KDKA’s John Shumway speaks with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald:


Fitzgerald says Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen and her staff are ready to react quickly.

“They will be watching very closely, and I think you know that, again, it’s already occurred with some of our universities that the contact tracers and case investigators will be very vigilant about, if there is an outbreak in a certain community to strategically go in and deal with that.”

“We don’t want to shut down every school again we don’t want to shut down our economy and all these operations.”

What Dr. Bogen and her team were able to do in late June and early July, like dealing with the restaurant and bar situation was just strategically.  And so, if there’s an outbreak in a school in the eastern part of the county, hopefully it doesn’t spread into the west or the north or the south. So, if it can be isolated, then that’s I think strategically what the health professionals will want to do.”

The county executive who wakes up every morning looking at the latest COVID-19 numbers emphatically emphasizes keeping a lid on COVID-19 is up to everyone.

“Everybody at this point, knows what we need to do about wearing the mask, keeping distance, and being safe.”

Only time, and the virus, will dictate how the school year plays out.