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1Hood Asks 'What Black Pittsburgh Needs To Know About COVID-19'

1Hood Media
1Hood Media CEO Jasiri X is joined on a virtual town hall Tuesday, May 12, 2020, by guests Cheryl Hall-Russell, president of BW3; Jamil Bey, CEO of the UrbanKind Institute; and Jerry Dickenson, assistant law professor with the University of Pittsburgh.


On today's program: 1Hood Media is creating COVID-19 content by and for Pittsburgh’s black and brown communities; PennDOT offers guidelines for car inspections and registration renewals during the pandemic; and the economic shutdown is giving scientists a unique opportunity to study air quality. 

What does black Pittsburgh need to know about COVID-19?
(00:00 — 8:40)

When 1Hood Media and the UrbanKind Institute partnered for a one-off virtual town hall two months ago, organizers didn’t expect to make it a weekly event. But founder and CEO Jasiri X says interest in online learning, government response, mental health, race outcomes and more inspired he and others to branch out.

The ongoing series “What Does Black Pittsburgh Need to Know About Covid-19?” covers whatever the community demands, Jasiri says. “Not only people are listening,” he tells The Confluence, “people are engaged.” 

While national data on race and mortality remains unavailable, rates released piecemeal by individual cities show black and brown communities are broadly more likely to contract and fare worse with the disease than their white counterparts. 

In Allegheny County, the comparative data is less stark. So far, African Americans represent about 21 percent of all cases and 15 percent of patient deaths, while black people compose about 13.4 percent of the total county population. Statewide is trickier—black people represent 12 percent of the total state population, as well as 12 percent cases where a patient's ethnicity was recorded, but Pennsylvania collected ethnicity for only about 39 percent of all 63,056 total cases.

Jasiri X says they suspected disparities, but didn’t have these figures until he and others spoke up. Connecting with viewers led to open conversations with the county health department and public school systems, he says, which—like the town hall series itself—will hopefully continue long after the pandemic is over. 

“So now if there’s issues around housing, or if there’s issues around policing, or if there’s issues around the economy,” he says, “we have a platform now where we can speak directly to our community about whatever issue is paramount.”

1Hood is hosting live conversations all this week on Facebook. The next town hall Tuesday features a COVID-19 survivor today at 2 p.m.

Can you go to a DMV in person? PennDOT explains
(8:44 — 11:44) 

Auto service and repair is listed as an essential business, but PennDOT is giving Pennsylvania drivers extra time to take care of routine maintenance requirements like vehicle registrations and safety inspections. 

Kurt Myers, deputy secretary for driver and vehicle services at the state Department of Transportation, says the extensions are meant to help customers who might be able to afford the cost of the license or registration during the shutdown. Drivers who applied for a license renewal since May 10 will not receive a card to get a new picture taken at a license center. Instead, PennDOT will use the old photo on file.

“Early on when this occurred—COVID-19—we were looking for ways to reduce the number of people that would need to come to the driver licensing center for any service,” Myers says. “It already has reduced well over 10,000 customers who would have had to come to the driver licensing center to get their photo taken.”

For those who've already received a photo card, they must go to a license center where the department has installed plexiglass sneeze guards at the counters and is limiting the number of customers entering the location.

Is the pandemic affecting air quality?
(11:49 — 18:00) 

As more people spend time outside and incorporate walks into their COVID-19 shutdown routines, some have noticed that the sky seems bluer, the air seems fresher and things look a lot more clear. 

StateImpact PA reporter Susan Phillips takes a look at how the pandemic shutdown has given scientists who monitor air quality the gift of a natural experiment

 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.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
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