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Allegheny Conference CEO ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ For Pittsburgh’s Pandemic Rebound

Jakob Lazzaro
90.5 WESA
Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Stefani Pashman says Pittsburgh has some "good advantages" that could help strengthen the regional economy during the pandemic.


On today's program: The Allegheny Conference on Community Development evaluates Pittsburgh’s next steps towards economic recovery; a new textile could help healthcare workers working with COVID-19 patients; and pediatricians weigh in on the safety of in-person playdates. 

Pittsburgh will have to find new ways to move forward after pandemic
(00:00 — 8:42)

Many businesses are just now starting the long process of getting back to normal as the pandemic shut down huge parts of the state’s and region’s economy, but Stefani Pashman, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, says she’s feeling “cautiously optimistic” about Pittsburgh’s chances of recovery.

“I think we have some really good advantages in Pittsburgh. We have a really strong health system with ample capacity to handle anything that may come and I think we see during the pandemic how manageable it was for us,” she says.

Unlike in past recessions, there is no economic playbook for cities to follow, according to Pashman. Because the downturn has had widespread effects across different economic sectors and regions, she says that businesses and governments will have to be creative and find new ways to move forward while dealing with unknowns brought on by the coronavirus. That could mean more municipal collaboration and shared services models.

“We likely are going to see reallocation of funds to different types of programming. For example, the public health infrastructure may have to be bolstered, and that will come at the expense of some other kind of service that we’re seeing. And we’re also going to have to rely on state reform and potentially federal reform to drive resources and drive ideas and allow for flexibility and creativity within structuring at the municipal level,” she says.

But still, the Allegheny Conference is currently predicting long-term economic recovery for Pittsburgh.

“We also have a shared commitment to stay open—not just get open. We have people actively committed to supporting our local, our small businesses, supporting our mainstream establishments and that is certainly going to help us,” Pashman says. “We’re a resilient community. We’ve done this before, and so I think we’re positioned to do it again”

New bacteria-repelling textile coating could make PPE last longer
(8:48 — 13:20)

The need for masks, gowns, and other personal protective equipment for health care workers and those on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak has soared over the last few months, leading to shortages across the country. When the masks and gowns are reused, the textiles used to make them can absorb and carry viruses and bacteria resulting in the spread of the very diseases the wearer was trying to contain.


Paul Leu, an associate professor in Industrial Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, andAnthony Galante, a 4th year Ph.D. student in the same department are working on atextile coating that could help solve some of these problems that have been magnified by the coronavirus pandemic. Leu says the coating repels liquids like blood and saliva, along with some viruses.

“Even though we haven’t tested it directly on SARS-CoV-2, we do think that it is likely to be able to repel this because SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted through respiratory droplets and the coating can repel droplets from saliva,” says Leu.  

Despite the technology’s potential promise, he says it’s difficult to predict when this technology might become available. “We need to be very careful about accelerating development of materials for actual application,” Leu tells The Confluence. “There’s an urgency to all of this right now, and that’s why we want to try to get this out quickly, but we also want to make sure, you know, that this is something that will really be useful.”

Pandemic playdates
(13:26 — 18:00)

Building friendships with other kids is an important part of childhood. But the pandemic has meant that many children haven’t seen other kids their own age in months. 

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidance for reopening daycare facilities, it’s been silent on playdates. 90.5 WESA’s Sarah Boden reports that there are no easy answers for whether it’s possible to safely allow kids to visit with friends.

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.

Doug Shugarts is a 23-year veteran of broadcast news. Doug began his career at WBUR in Boston, where he worked on the nationally-syndicated programs “The Connection” and “Here and Now.” He won awards for best use of sound, coverage of the 2003 war in Iraq, and helped launch the station’s local news program, “Radio Boston.” In 2014 Doug moved across town to GBH and helped reboot morning news programming and launch other broadcast and web projects. Doug studied Composition at Berklee College of Music and Computer Science and Mathematics at the University of California. A resident of Pittsburgh’s Southside, Doug enjoys feasting on arepas and yucca fries at Cilantro and Ajo and meeting his canine neighbors at Big Dog Coffee.
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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