On today's program: Mayor Bill Peduto talks about the pandemic’s effects on Pittsburgh; an update on the latest U.S. Supreme Court decisions; and a historical look at Pittsburgh’s connection to healthcare.
Peduto worries what if first wave of pandemic hasn't faded before a second hits in the fall
(00:00 — 8:21)
Over the last three-and-a-half months, Pittsburgh has experienced a pandemic, a shutdown of most businesses, a gradual reopening, and now a new spike in COVID-19 cases. Allegheny County continues to experience record-setting daily numbers, with 233 new cases reported on Thursday alone.
On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf expanded the mask order; now anyone leaving home must wear a mask. Mayor Bill Peduto says that it was a necessary step to try and limit the number of cases in Pittsburgh. Thus far, the governor has not made a request for municipal law enforcement of the order, but Peduto says that if Wolf asks for enforcement, he will do so.
Peduto remains concerned about the rising number of cases.
“We will have to see numbers that are continually going down for at least two weeks before we can even think about having restaurants and bars reopened in the way that they were before,” he says, referring to the Allegheny County Health Department order prohibiting the drinking of alcohol on site at bars and restaurants. “And if the numbers continue to increase over the next two weeks, then it will mean closing of more where we’ll be back to a phase of yellow or red.”
According to Peduto, small businesses that are struggling during the pandemic can apply for a COVID-19 Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance grant. Pittsburgh will also be one of a dozen cities to take part in a pilot program for guaranteed income.
“We believe that direct investment into the people, in communities is going to prove to be the most beneficial way to lift people,” he tells The Confluence.
The best way to limit cases in the future is to take precautions now, Peduto says.
“My big worry is when we get to the point of the fall, if we have not closed out this first cycle, we’ll be looking back at this point as the easier times. If that were to happen, I worry about the number of hospital beds, I worry about the amount of equipment, I worry about the availability of healthcare professionals and first line responders. If we were to get to that situation it would only be because we failed during these next critical months.”
SCOTUS decisions pending on two PA cases involving contraception insurance
(8:25 — 14:08)
Normally by early July, the U.S. Supreme Court has handed down all of its decisions for cases in that session. Due to the pandemic, some cases are still pending. But the High Court has issued some huge decisions, including rulings on a Louisiana abortion law and federal civil rights for LGBTQ workers, among others.
Although the justices struck down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics by requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals as a violation of Roe v. Wade, University of Pittsburgh law professor and WESA’s legal analyst David Harris says that litigation over abortion rights will go on.
“Since the early '90s in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the U.S. Supreme Court said ‘states can regulate abortion, but they cannot place an undue burden on it,’” he says. “So state after state after state passes laws chipping away at the abortion right to see just how far they can go and it’s not over yet.”
The Court also released a landmark ruling extending federal civil rights protections to gay, lesbian and transgender workers. However, the decision does not apply to state laws, which can be more restrictive than federal laws, says Harris.
“It doesn’t change state law which is often—for instance, in Pennsylvania—much more restrictive. The state law in Pennsylvania does not protect people against this kind of discrimination. And it doesn’t change other areas in which people can still be discriminated against, such as housing or the provision of services.”
Decisions remain to be handed down on some key cases, two of which originated in Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court will hear Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania and Trump v. Pennsylvania later this month.
Pittsburgh’s hospital history goes way back
(14:13 — 18:03)
Pittsburgh is home to dozens of hospitals and medical facilities, from level one trauma centers to neighborhood health clinics. Nearly one out of every five workers in the city is employed in health care.
The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.