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Taxpayers Contributed Millions For Ventilators. Why Hasn't This PA Company Delivered?

A screenshot obtained by ProPublica of a Trilogy Evo portable ventilator, sold by a medical supply company on Staten Island.


On today's program: A Murrysville company says it’s under “no moral obligation” to produce taxpayer-funded ventilators faster because of the pandemic; how domestic abuse shelters are adapting during the outbreak; and with their storefronts closed, local bookshop owners share fears and strategies for survival.

Philips Respironics to make ventilators, eventually
(00:00 — 08:50) 

President Donald Trump promised last week that the government would purchase thousands of ventilators to care for people critically ill with COVID-19, but new reporting from ProPublica shows the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was exploring a federal stockpile of those devices as far back as five years ago. 

Tim Golden, editor-at-large with ProPublica, was part of a three-person team that looked into Murrysville-based Philips Respironics. The company was awarded a $13.8 million contract to create and manufacture smaller, cheaper, more nimble versions of hospital models that could be delivered en masse in the event of a future pandemic. Phillips got FDA approval last year and began selling more expensive models commercially. 

They were scheduled to begin producing government versions this fall, Golden says, and—despite the onset of the exact event they were designed for—so far, officials have no plans to begin any sooner. 

Stay-at-home orders can be dangerous for abuse victims
(8:54 — 13:12)

Governor Tom Wolf’s shelter-in-place order is now statewide. The directives are meant to save lives, but for victims of domestic violence, staying at home can be extremely dangerous. 90.5 WESA’s Lucy Perkins reports on how local advocates are adapting.

Hear more from Nicole Molinaro, president and CEO of the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, on a recent episode of The Confluencehere

Pittsburgh's indie bookstores are struggling to stay afloat
(13:16 — 17:54)

During the coronavirus shutdown, people seem to be reading more, but how are actual bookstores doing in Pittsburgh

90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll checks in with Amazing Books & Records with locations downtown and in Squirrel Hill, White Whale Bookstore in Bloomfield, Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley, City Books and City of Asylum on the North Side, Classic Lines in Squirrel Hill and Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont. 

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 Koscinski 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.
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