On today's program: A hospital administrator explains the difficulties of acquiring and administering the COVID-19 vaccine; A local hotel has been accused of misusing federal money; and a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event should be visible in the Pittsburgh night sky.
Tens of thousands of COVID-19 doses are on the way to UPMC
(0:00 - 7:47)
Hospitals began distributing COVID-19 vaccines to healthcare workers last week, a sign the tide might be turning on the pandemic. Now health care systems have to make sure it’s administered safely and logically.
Dr. Graham Snyder, medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at UPMC and head of its COVID-19 task force, says the hospital system is expecting tens of thousands of doses.
“We’re very excited that we’ll be able to get pretty far into vaccinating the healthcare workforce within the next few weeks to a couple months,” says Snyder.
Snyder said UPMC practiced administering vaccinations in November with Operation One Shot, a plan for distributing the influenza vaccinations to healthcare workers. It is different, he says, because the COVID-19 vaccine is a much more limited resource.
“It’s a miracle of science that we have a vaccine within a year, but everybody is working hard to get it into people’s shoulders so that they can be immune.”
The first phase of people being vaccinated includes healthcare workers and residents of skilled-nursing facilities. Right now, UPMC has more employees than vaccine doses and built a “prioritization scheme” to decide which healthcare workers will be vaccinated first. This plan, Snyder says, attempts to vaccinate employees in a way that is fair, equitable, and effective.
Despite these efforts, UPMC is not requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We don’t yet have data on the impact of making it mandatory, or we don’t have data to know what the acceptance rate is,” says Snyder. Unlike the flu vaccine, there are not decades of research to show the effect of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.
How a Pittsburgh hotel used its Paycheck Protection Program loan
( 8:01 - 12:33)
A local union has accused a landmark Pittsburgh hotel of misusing federal funds meant to keep workers on the payroll during the pandemic, 90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll reports.
Double planet visible tonight
(12:35 - 17:55)
Just after sunset tonight, look up in the evening sky to see a once in a lifetime astronomical event: The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. In other words, it’s a double planet.
Mike Hennessy, Buhl Planetarium manager at the Carnegie Science Center, says the next time such an event will be visible from Earth is 2080.
“We get a great conjunction about once every 20 years, but this is the closest they’ve appeared since the time of Galileo, in 1623,” says Hennessy.
Hennessy says the two planets will appear a fifth of a degree apart, but “in reality they’ll still be over 400 million miles apart from each other.”
“I like to think of them as two runners on a track,” says Hennessy. If the sun is in the center, and Earth, Jupiter and Saturn are all on the track, Jupiter and Saturn appear to be close together every 20 years based on how long it takes them to travel around the track.
Seeing Jupiter and Saturn takes no special equipment: just look at the southwestern sky around 7 p.m. to see the bright double planet.
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.