On today’s episode of The Confluence: Allegheny County Surpasses 3,000 COVID-19 Deaths, But Case Rates Drop; as the region approaches pre-pandemic employment levels, analysis from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development suggests that it may take some time for some sectors to fully recover; and we speak with the executive director of Industrial Arts Workshop of Hazelwood, which is giving new life to the removed locks of the Clemente Bridge.
Allegheny County reaches milestone in COVID-19 deaths
(0:00 – 5:24)
Last week, Allegheny County reached a grim milestone with more than 3,000 deaths from COVID-19. However, the number of cases is steadily declining overall.
“About a month ago, this time we were seeing 3,000 new cases a day. I checked this morning; it is up to less than 500 per day,” says Sarah Bodin, WESA Health and Science Reporter. “Additionally, the percentage of positive PCR tests has dropped by about 20 points over the past month, and we are also seeing a drop in hospitalizations.”
Boden says the drop in cases should be tempered by the realization that many people are still unvaccinated. The county health department reported January 2022 as the third deadliest month of the pandemic.
“Many more people have been infected this winter [with COVID-19]. There was a week last month, in fact, where almost 2% of Allegheny County’s population tested positive for COVID, and that excludes home testing,” Boden says. “However, last winter more people were dying, even though the total number of people infected with COVID was lower.”
Boden says the higher death rate for the winter of 2020 to 2021 can likely be attributed to a more deadly variant circulating at the time and under different circumstances. Vaccines are now available to reduce the risk of severe disease, and there are more accessible treatments for the disease.
Boden adds that those who cannot be vaccinated, such as children under five, are still at risk. The United States Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday that it was postponing a meeting on emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for children from six months to four years. During this time, many children children aged 5 to 11 are still not vaccinated.
The region’s economy is slowly recovering, but the leisure and hospitality industries are struggling to fill jobs
(5:38 – 13:51)
The unemployment rate for the Pittsburgh region, made up of seven counties, soared to 17.1% in April 2020 as the pandemic rocked the economy. The region’s latest unemployment rate is 5.3%, but progress has slowed a bit in recent months.
“We saw the region cut around 200,000 jobs in two months between February and April. And, you know, I think there was a lot of concern about how long it would take for this sudden shock and trauma to the area to wear off,” says Jim Futrellvice president of market research and analysis for the Allegheny Conference on Community Developmentwho published a new report on the economy of the region.
Since the start of the pandemic in the United States, employment has mostly rebounded, and Futrell says the slow growth could be attributed in part to the region’s weak population growth.
Futrell also says the region’s labor force has shrunk, with older workers deciding to retire, parents taking care of children and front-line workers quitting dangerous jobs.
Futrell says the declining workforce is the region’s biggest concern.
“Hopefully some of these people who aren’t currently in the workforce will decide, you know, as the weather gets warmer and the number of cases go down, to come back into the workforce,” Futrell says. “That is, I think, our best hope in the short term. I think there are other things we need to do, like trying to attract more people to the area, retaining more students.
Industries that are still struggling to fill jobs are leisure and hospitality. Futrell predicts that a rebound in business travel will boost these businesses the most.
‘Love padlocks’ removed from Clemente Bridge will be recycled into art
(1:56 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.)
Starting today, the Roberto Clemente Bridge (Sixth Street Bridge) will be closed to vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic until December of next year for a planned $34 million rehabilitation project. of dollars.
But when it reopens, it will be missing something: around 11,000 love padlocks attached by couples to the railings of the bridge. These locks are not thrown away, but rather given a second life to Industrial Arts Workshop of Hazelwood, a nonprofit arts literacy organization in Pittsburgh.
The workshop teaches welding and the art to local teenagers, and the locks will eventually be transformed, with the help of the workshop’s students, into a work of public art.
“Recycling materials can be a lot of fun because there’s a story and a back story, even before you start a new invention,” says Tim Kaulen, Executive Director of the Atelier. “I would love to hear from the people who put their locks there and what it meant to them.”
Kaulen says he appreciates that these locks already come from a public art form, having been placed on a bridge. However, bringing all the deleted locks together in a new form poses its own challenge.
“All of these locks are of many different compositions, qualities, shapes and sizes, … so it will take some ingenuity to find a way to create a medium and a method that can preserve and celebrate the original composition of the pieces.” , explains Kaulen.
He adds that recycling these locks into art could open the door to more conversations about how the city can reuse materials and tell new stories.
La Confluence, where news gathers, is the daily news program of 90.5 WESA. Tune in Monday through Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear reporters and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh area. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.