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How Allegheny County Is Preparing For 'The Eventuality' Of COVID-19

John Minchillo

  On today's program: What we know right now about how Pittsburgh is preparing for COVID-19, and state health officials aren’t obligated to tell us much about who is infected; an author questions how long the American shale boom will last; BOOM Concepts urges young Pittsburghers to funnel their dreams into art; and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre marks a historic debut performance.

Schools, event venues and government buildings consider coronavirus 
(oo:oo — 11:43)

The stock market is down 20 percent from where it was less than a month ago. City leaders say they're no longer traveling and have canceled all events with more than 50 people. Schools and universities are re-evaluating their calendar years. And most of the nation’s major sports teams say they will no longer play in front of fans, if they play at all.

90.5 WESA’s Megan Harris talks to reporters Ariel Worthy, Bill O'Driscoll and Katie Blackley about how the spread of coronavirus is affecting Allegheny County.

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in southwestern Pennsylvania, but officials are planning for that eventuality.

State officials hesitating to release information about coronavirus cases
(11:55 — 16:21) 

The state Department of Health says 219 people in Pennsylvania have been tested for COVID-19. Of those, 116 tests have come back negative, 81 are pending and 20 are presumed positive. Only two have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

WESA knows those figures, in part, because of journalists like Cynthia Fernandez of Spotlight PA, a statewide newsroom reporting on Pennsylvania government.

On Wednesday, she reported that state health officials were drawing on a 1955 law written at the height of syphilis to direct its what and how much to tell the public. Officials released more information later that day.

Oil’s history and power in the U.S. 
(17:48 — 21:48) 

The Trump administration has faced criticism for its close ties with the oil and gas industry, but a close reading of American history shows — this relationship may not be so new. Oil, and access to it, has dramatically informed American foreign policy for more than a century. That’s the story covered in a new book by Matthieu Auzanneau called “Oil, Power and War: A Dark History.” 

The author spoke to The Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier about how oil has kept a grip on the levers of power at the highest levels of government.

BOOM Concepts wants kids to paint their futures
(22:50 — 34:01) 

Garfield-based BOOM Concepts is calling for two-dimensional art from the city’s pre-K through 12th graders. The nonprofit supports local artists often marginalized by the greater arts community, according to co-founder Thomas Agnew. They offer artists studio spaces across the city and specialized resources to help develop their work. 

The latest concept from the group calls for teens to submit their artwork as part of a larger show that showcases ideas about the future of Pittsburgh and its people. Rules around submission are pretty relaxed, according to Agnew, but they are requesting the art be two dimensional and no larger than 24-by-36 inches. 

BOOM Concepts ask that students and their parents to submit art —or the intention to submit— by Sunday. To submit, applicants should contact BOOM Concepts directly

Pittsburgh Ballet’s first premiere by a female African-American choreographer
(34:09 — 38:35) 

“SKIN + Saltwater” is Staycee Pearl’s contribution to the new show by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. It’s a world premiere for the veteran choreographer, and also another significant first: Pearl is the first African-American woman to create a dance for the 51-year-old troupe. 

90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll reports the 18-minute work is part of PBT’s “Here + Now” program, which opens March 20, at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center. 

90.5 WESA's Caroline Bourque contributed to this report.

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.

Kiley covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Megan Harris is a writer, editor, photographer and curator for Pittsburgh's NPR News station. She leads editorial coverage for The Confluence, 90.5 WESA's live, one-hour, daily morning news show.
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