Surge in COVID-19 cases creates another roadblock for office workers | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By Mark Belko

It’s 15 minutes past noon on a sunny October weekday — typically a bustling time for the food court at Fifth Avenue Place, Downtown.

But with the pandemic still raging and much of the city’s office staff working from home, the lunch counters are dark — and it’s eerily quiet.

Instead of the chattering din of a crowd, the only sound that can be heard is the whirring of the escalators rotating in a ghostly, endless loop. A sign declaring “Line Starts Here” at the end of a retractable rope at the shuttered Rosso Pizzeria stands as a mocking reminder of normal times.

Just outside, despite the unusually warm weather, the sidewalks are sparsely peppered with pedestrians.

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Across the street, there are no lines at McDonald’s, while the swanky Eddie Merlot’s restaurant is closed except for takeout until dinnertime. Down the street at the Sly Fox Taphouse, just two outdoor tables are occupied. There are no customers inside.

During these unsettling times, parking garages sit nearly empty, and many restaurants and businesses that rely on the regular swarm of office workers into town have been forced to close, at least temporarily.

Amid a fall surge in COVID-19 cases and with the governor’s mandate to work remotely still in force, the scene is unlikely to change any time soon.

Image Description
“Closed until further notice” sign posted in a store window in the deserted Fifth Avenue Place on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Downtown.(Andrew Rush/Post-Gazette)

One of Pittsburgh’s signature skyscrapers, Fifth Avenue Place is the headquarters for health care giant Highmark Health, which occupies 26 floors in the now largely empty 31-story building.

“We continue to plan for a safe, phased and gradual return to work for our non-clinical employees after Jan. 1, subject to re-evaluation … as we draw closer to that date,” spokeswoman Janice Maszle said recently in an email. “The health and safety of our employees remain paramount.”

Source: Surge in COVID-19 cases creates another roadblock for office workers | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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