On today's program: Initial reports suggest nine ballots from military personnel found discarded were a mistake, not voter fraud; air passenger traffic at Pittsburgh International Airport has plateaued after a slight bump; and the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people mourn.
DOJ continues investigation into discarded ballots in Luzerne County
(0:00 — 5:18)
The Department of Justice is moving forward with its investigation into nine ballots from military personnel found discarded at the Luzerne County elections office.
A temporary employee who hadn’t been working with the Luzerne County Board of Elections for very long discarded the ballots says WHYY reporter Katie Meyer, who has been covering the story. After the ballots were discovered in the trash by elections officials, the elections director called the authorities. The worker was let go, and the county is implementing more specific training on what to do with ballots.
“People did cast this as a political move—sort of a way of casting doubt about ballot fraud,” says Meyer. But, she continues, “based on all of the information we have—and we’ve spent several days gathering information, all the information we could on this—it appears to be a small, isolated incident.”
The incident is not indicative of voter fraud, Meyer says. “An isolated incident is very different from something that is pervasive and so we need to remember the difference here.”
Allegheny County Airport Authority projects $70 million in revenue losses while travel stalls during the pandemic
(5:33 — 13:30)
Passenger traffic at Pittsburgh International Airport dropped by 96 percent in April. It rebounded slightly, but after a few months of slow improvement, it plateaued and remains down by about 65 percent due to the pandemic.
“We did not expect during the pandemic, pre-vaccination for the virus, that we would see a steady climb back to what we had seen pre-COVID,” Cassotis says.
The Airport Authority expects to lose $70 million in revenue this year. Money from the CARES act will cover about half of those losses, but is contingent on the Airport Authority retaining 90 percent of their staff through the end of the year. They have avoided layoffs thus far by offering early retirements, voluntary furloughs, and cutting operating budgets, but Cassotis says the future is still unclear.
“The way that I describe looking out into the future is nobody’s got a forecast anymore,” she says. “The best they have is an educated guess.”
How do people mourn during a pandemic?
(13:42 — 17:47)
The coronavirus pandemic has made nearly every aspect of life more complicated, including how people process loss. Normal rituals are upset. Many have been spending large portions of time alone. 90.5 WESA’s Sarah Boden reports on mourning during the era of COVID-19.
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.