With Rising COVID-19 Cases, Nurse Leader Says ‘The Public Has A Lot Of Responsibility’

Dec 2, 2020

On today's program: Allegheny Health Network Chief Nurse Executive is urging the public to take responsibility in the pandemic; Lower Hill development won’t break ground until next year, but one developer says the process of getting community buy-in is working; and despite rising COVID-19 cases, a school district outside Philadelphia is reopening.


Nurses press on, despite staffing shortages and an imminent COVID-19 case surge
(0:00 - 7:00)

The winter surge that public health experts warned of is here, and it’s spreading across the country, especially following the Thanksgiving holiday.

Claire Zangerle, chief nurse executive with the Allegheny Health Network, says she and her colleagues are worried. “Because of the way the virus works and the incubation period, we think we’re gonna see more coming into the hospital in the next week, in the week after that.”

State health officials announced new orders ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, insisting people stay home to reduce exposure. As to why some are reluctant to comply, Zangerle says, “I think people just don’t think it’s real because it hasn’t had an effect on them.”

She says, perhaps people don’t yet know someone who has contracted the virus, or believe the measures are an overreach. “I also think people believe we’re taking something away from them by asking them to do something they’re not used to doing,” like wearing a mask, explains Zangerle.

“I think the public has a lot of responsibility here, and I do think sometimes the public isn’t accepting of that responsibility and that’s part of, not the whole reason, we’re in this predicament,” says Zangerle. She says nurses are both the frontline and the last line of defense when it comes to the virus and other illnesses.

Some outlets have reported nationwide personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages for healthcare workers. Zangerle says AHN has enough PPE: what she needs is more staff.

“Our staff are human,” says Zangerle. “They too are catching the virus, and they can’t come to work if they are positive.” Zangerle says even before the pandemic the nation was facing a nursing shortage that the pandemic has since exacerbated.

Despite the stress, however, Zangerle says she’s finding ways to stay optimistic.

“The vaccine gives me hope because I do believe a vaccine will help mitigate this virus,” says Zangerle. “The other thing that gives me hope is we have people who come to work every single day when they could just give up.”

Lower Hill Development is making progress with community input
(7:01 - 13:20)

Delaware based Buccini/Pollin Group, the Pittsburgh Penguins development partner, is setting up shop in Pittsburgh and making several local hires as the first project nears on the former Civic Arena site.

Bomani Howze, a partner with Intergen Real Estate Group Partners, is one of them: he’s been named as Vice President for the Buccini/Pollin Group.

Howze says, the pressure to get this project right, especially considering the  long-term negative impact that the construction of the Civic Arena had on the Hill District, is intense.

“It’s appropriately intense,” says Howze. “But I love the process that we’ve been implementing over the last couple years to make sure that we invite community residents and business owners not only from the Hill but around the city to be a part of this process.”

Howze says, with the development of a 2014 Community Collaboration and Implementation Plan, the goals for the upcoming Lower Hill site have progressively changed. “There’s been stops and starts, ups and downs,” says Howze. “At this point, we’re turning the corner to some very progressive outcomes.”

The slow progress has been frustrating, even for him. Howze says the challenges of owning a business in the district pre-date the pandemic, which certainly hasn’t helped.

Shortly before the Urban Redevelopment Authority was to vote in the Spring on the plans for the first major project, URA board member Jodi Hirsh told The Confluence she was concerned that Hill District residents would be “left in the dust” by the Penguins.

“I hope there is a way to come out of this giving the public the benefit they deserve, but I’m not super hopeful,” Hirsh said in May.

Howze says, while some developments lack community process, this one is different.”You have this integration, a true integration, people in key positions,” says Howze, pointing to himself as an example, along with longtime developer Irvin Williams, and scholar and activist Kimberly Ellis.

Howze says the skepticism likely won’t just disappear, especially considering years of redlining and federal policies that made it more difficult for Black residents to achieve equity. 

He expects to break ground on the first project, a 26-story FNB Financial Center in the second quarter of 2021.

Quakertown Schools are opening, despite worsening pandemic
(13:22 - 18:00)

With the holiday season in full swing and COVID cases on the rise, many schools around Pennsylvania have been going entirely online again, but that’s not the case everywhere.

Keystone Crossroads reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent takes us to a district outside Philadelphia that’s moved the opposite direction: opening up as others shut down.

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.