On today's program: A Pittsburgh bartender shares her experience working through the pandemic and two shutdowns; Major League Baseball is officially recognizing Negro League players—including from two Pittsburgh teams—as major leaguers; and a UPMC nurse says the surge in cases is overwhelming the nursing staff.
As restaurants and bars reopen, one Pittsburgh bartender says the industry is still struggling
( 0:00 - 6:03)
Gov. Tom Wolf’s latest round of coronavirus restrictions lifted Monday, Jan. 4 at 8 a.m. In a statement, he said the mitigation efforts did their job: Reducing a rise in coronavirus cases after the holidays.
Indoor dining is allowed to resume with limited capacity, along with a number of other activities. But some businesses aren’t bouncing back as the restrictions lift, like restaurants and bars.
“I am someone who likes to keep busy, so it’s been frustrating to have to sit still and just deal with being unemployed and look for a job,” says Amanda Schaffner, a bartender at DiAnoia’s Eatery. “On the other side of that, unemployment has certainly been a challenge.”
Schaffner says it took her nearly a month to obtain unemployment benefits after being furloughed on November 18. She worked at DiAnoia’s through the summer and says the restaurant benefitted from outdoor dining, but that’s not as feasible during the winter.
“I was fortunate enough that I have savings, but I know for many people in this industry that that might not always be the situation,” she says.
Schaffner is also the president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the U.S. Bartender’s Guild, and she says many members are experiencing similar struggles.
“I’ve definitely heard some people changing careers or even temporarily changing careers with the intention to hopefully return,” says Schaffner. “I’m hearing about frustrations with unemployment. I’m hearing about people that need help.”
Schaffner says some of her colleagues are discussing how this disruption in the restaurant world could be a catalyst for improved working conditions in the industry when it comes to pay, hours, and other benefits.
“I want, very badly, for things to return to a better version of what we considered normal.”
Major League Baseball recognizes Negro League players
(6:04 - 12:54)
More than 3,000 players from seven former Negro Leagues are now considered major leaguers.
Major League Baseball made the decision 73 years after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier. While many praise MLB for the decision, some say it is overdue.
“I have found that Major League Baseball responds when it’s embarrassed,” says Rob Ruck, a sports historian and professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “What really was the catalyst this time was the response from athletes across the country and from people in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.”
This response, Ruck explains, forced MLB to act.
Ruck says Pittsburgh is unique in that it was home to two Negro League teams: the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays. These teams were formed as recreation leagues and played at a high caliber.
“Those two teams had some of the best, most astute, and in some ways, best capitalized leadership, in Black baseball,” says Ruck.
Still in question is how the MLB will recognize the statistical records of these players, says Ruck.
“Certainly Gibson hit hundreds and hundreds of home runs all over the United States and the Caribbean,” says Ruck. “The question that the record keepers are going to have to determine is how many of those were hit in Negro League play versus against a semi-pro, barnstorming team, or even in Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.”
When the Negro Leagues collapsed in 1948, Ruck says it was due to a lack of support from the MLB. This latest announcement to recognize Negro League players as major leaguers is symbolic, however, Ruck would like to see the MLB invest further into underserved communities.
UPMC nurse says despite administrator’s assurances, staff are overwhelmed
(12:55 - 18:00)
State data show that COVID-19 hospitalizations in Pennsylvania have increased by more than 500% since the beginning of November. But administrators of the state’s largest hospital system continue to say that staff is capable of handling this significant influx of patients.
At a December 8 news conference, UPMC’s Senior Vice President Leslie Davis said despite this increase, there’s a “calm feeling” across the system.
“There is no need to feel nervous or anxious,” said Davis. “We are not overwhelmed with this virus.”
Jodi Faltin is a nurse who cares for COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit at UPMC Shadyside. She recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Tribune Review saying she disagrees with Davis’s characterization. Faltin talked with 90.5 WESA health and science reporter Sarah Boden about what it’s like to care for COVID patients during this ongoing surge.
In response to Faltin’s claims, a spokesperson for UPMC says the health system’s staffing levels are meeting the demands of the COVID surge, and that the medical system recognizes this is a “stressful and very challenging time for our dedicated caregivers.”
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.