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Allegheny County Hits New Record For Daily COVID-19 Cases

Keith Srakocic
On Sunday, Allegheny County announced its highest daily total of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.


On today's program: COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County continue to rise; federal and state authorities are investigating the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center where 82 residents have died during the pandemic; and a preview of a new WESA podcast, Land and Power.

Coronavirus cases rise in Pennsylvania, Allegheny County
(00:00 — 5:20)

COVID-19 cases are surging in many states this week, including Pennsylvania. Allegheny County on Sunday announced its highest daily total since the pandemic began—527 confirmed and probable cases, which surpassed the record of 412 new cases set earlier last week.

Health officials are frustrated people aren’t taking proper precautions, says 90.5 WESA health and science reporterSarah Boden.

“They want people to adhere to mitigation practices; many people aren’t and that’s why we’re seeing big jumps in cases,” Boden says.

State Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levinetold The Confluence the state is not considering a second shutdown and is instead focusing on existing mitigation efforts. County officials have not signaled support for another shutdown, and instead are encouraging people to stay away from gatherings and parties.

Last week, Dr. Debra Bogen, director of Allegheny County’s health department, held a press conference with four heads of Pittsburgh-area health systems. They “assured the public that they have lots of PPE and lots of ventilators, lots of plans in place to meet the demands of a patient surge,” Boden says.

But, Boden says her concern is, “...cases keep rising, and there is a ceiling for everything. And so it doesn’t really matter if you have the most exquisite, precise plans and, you know, stockpiles of PPE. We only have so many doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists and other people who do important things in the hospital like keeping rooms clean and keeping people fed. There’s a ceiling, especially when it comes to staffing.”

Investigation into Brighton Rehab finds inadequate staffing, continuing probes from state AG, FBI
(5:24 — 13:11)

COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania are setting daily records during this fall resurgence, and there’s increased concerns for the nearly 700 long term care facilities that were among the hardest hit during the early months of the pandemic.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette conducted a five month investigation of one particular facility in the Pittsburgh region: the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County. The state Attorney General and the FBI are investigating the Center, where 82 residents died earlier in the pandemic. 

“What we heard from both staff and family members who were regularly visiting their loved ones in the facility was before the federally mandated lockdown on Brighton they didn’t notice any change,” says Post-Gazette reporterSean Hamill.

Management says they took precautions as early as January, according to Hamil.

A lack of adequate staffing could have contributed to the problems at Brighton Rehab. While temporary workers are used at many nursing homes, up to 20 percent of Brighton’s staff are part-time temporary workers—a “very, very high” number, according to data analysis from the Post-Gazette.

“The problem is you’ve got folks coming in who might be different week to week or month to month, and you have to retrain them all the time,” says Hamill.

He says Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center stopped responding to requests for comment, instead giving a “boilerplate response.”

“They continue to say in these statements that they release that they haven’t had any cases, but they’ve had two—which is a welcome reduction in the number,” says Hamill. “But still, unfortunately as multiple family members have told me at one point, when they release these statements saying ‘Well, you know, we haven’t had any cases,’ they say, cynically, ‘Well, that may be true, but that’s in part because nearly everybody in the building has either already tested positive or they died.’” 

Preview of Land and Power
(13:14 — 18:01)

90.5 WESA reporterMargaret J. Krauss and editorLiz Reid spent almost a year working on a five-episode podcast and radio series calledLand and Power

The series details the displacement of the residents of East Liberty’s Penn Plaza apartment complex in 2015, and how the story that unraveled there highlights the bigger issues of development.

“I think that the tough thing about how neighborhoods change and what that means for the people who live there is that in cities, in U.S. cities, and cities across the world, it can feel so inevitable, like ‘this is just going to happen, this is the way things are,’” says Krauss. “And I think what’s interesting about Pittsburgh is that people were like ‘Let’s do things differently, let’s not have this happen over and over again, let’s see how far we can get.’”

Listen to Land and Power on 90.5 WESA all this week following The Confluence, or listen to the entire series wherever you get your podcasts.

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.


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
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter 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 jzenkevich@wesa.fm.
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