"The Court is aware that the economic consequences of the covid-19 pandemic may cause individuals to suffer a loss of income, which in turn may delay rent payments, mortgage loan payments or the like," states the court order.
The order also stated that all courts are closed to the public and all jury trials are suspended.
On Tue., March 17, the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas declared a "judicial emergency," halting evictions and utility disputes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The motion also suspends magisterial district court events, with some exceptions for arraignments, warrants, and emergency protections from abuse.
The motion came after several city leaders, including Pittsburgh City Councilor Deb Gross (D-Highland Park) and state Rep. Sara Innamorato (D-Lawrenceville) called for a moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut-offs. Last week, Gross drafted a Will of Council calling for these motions, citing the "the serious need for equity in the city’s response to the national health crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak."
Several other cities, including Los Angeles, New York, and Detroit have halted evictions. In reaction to the Allegheny County halt, Innamorato tweeted, "Next step: let’s issue a statewide moratorium. Nobody should be fighting to keep their home in a public health crisis."
By this point, most people who are able should be self-quarantining or isolating in their homes, as recommended by health experts and government officials to avoid catching coronavirus or accidentally spreading it to others. Those who faced evictions would not be able to stay home, increasing the likelihood of the virus spreading.
🚨ALL RESIDENTIAL EVICTIONS HALTED IN ALLEGHENY COUNTY 🚨 Next step: let’s issue a statewide moratorium. Nobody should be fighting to keep their home in a public health crisis. https://t.co/DidWnwRn7B— Rep. Sara Innamorato (@RepInnamorato) March 17, 2020
Allegheny County Magisterial District Judge Mik Pappas (D-Highland Park) said on March 13 that there is a "good public health argument to not be displaced at this point in time." Today, officials announced that Allegheny County has at least 10 confirmed or presumptive positive cases of coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.
Last week, the Pittsburgh chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) drafted an open letter, co-signed by 47 groups, also calling for a moratorium on shut-offs and evictions, addressed to public officials including Mayor Bill Peduto and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
"Those who face homelessness or day-to-day housing insecurity are at a higher risk of being exposed to the virus, becoming ill, and suffering catastrophic health outcomes," read the DSA letter.
On March 13, Peduto declared a state of emergency for the city of Pittsburgh and part of that declaration halted evictions at Pittsburgh Housing Authority properties.