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March 2-6 Explained: Coronavirus Preparations, New Health Dept. Director & Anti-Fracking Democrats

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
N95 masks are being sold throughout the country, and here they're pictured in a bin at a hardware store on Pittsburgh's South Side. Health officials are asking that people who are not sick do not hoard too many masks.

Pittsburgh area organizations have taken precautionary measures as the coronavirus spreads, and Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey says emergency funds need more support. The Allegheny County Health Department has a new director, Dr. Debra Bogen, a pediatrician from UPMC Children's hospital. And, how will voters respond to a future Democratic presidential candidate’s stance on fracking?

Helping explain the headlines this week from the WESA newsroom with fill-in host Chris Potter:

Though it's possible that coronavirus is circulating undetected in western Pennsylvania, the region’s largest health care system said on Tuesday that it hasn’t needed to test any patients at its facilities for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

“We remain vigilant,” said UPMC emergency medicine physician, Dr. Donald Yealy. “We are proactively trying to find cases. We’re not waiting for them to become one in front of us and become obvious.”

There have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania, though the state Department of Health warns it poses a “serious risk” to the public. Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey accused President Trump of not taking the outbreak seriously.

“[Elected officials] shouldn’t purposefully or intentionally give inaccurate information, and shouldn’t try to spin this so it helps someone politically,” Casey said. “The President has to do a much better job in giving accurate information all the time. I think it’d be better if he did very little talking and if he let the experts – the scientists and the professionals – do the talking with the American people.”

Credit Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front/StateImpact Pennsylvania
The Allegheny Front/StateImpact Pennsylvania
Brianna Mims, 21, of Montgomery County, Pa. Mims says she’d like to vote for an anti-fracking candidate in the November election.

Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders has said he wants to move away from fossil fuels, and supports a ban on fracking for natural gas or oil. Though natural gas is pushing dirtier coal off the electric grid, scientists warn we need to phase out all carbon emissions from fossil fuels in the next few decades.

Experts doubt a president could simply ban fracking without congressional approval. And, some political observers think an anti-fracking message could hurt a candidate in Pennsylvania, where 30,000 people work in oil and gas, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and thousands more work in related industries.

"In other news"

Pittsburgh Explainer is hosted by Liz Reid and produced by Katie Blackley. New episodes come out every Friday. Subscribe on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher and Spotify.

Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer and host of our Good Question! series and podcast. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community. kblackley@wesa.fm