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Braddock Mayor Says Access And Hesitancy Are To Blame For Low COVID Vaccination Rates

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Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Braddock Borough is in a zip code with the lowest vaccination rate in Allegheny County, according to the Health Department.

On today’s program: Braddock Mayor Chardaé Jones says it might take forums and regular clinics to vaccinate more residents in her borough; with Pittsburgh Public School students returning to classrooms tomorrow, we ask why alternative modes of transportation, like walking and biking, aren’t being used by more students; and a conversation with a therapist about how the pandemic has increasingly impacted people’s anxieties.

Braddock has the lowest vaccination rate in the county
(0:00 - 8:50)

The Allegheny County Health Department says about 65% of adults have been vaccinated. The department has released vaccination rates by zip code. Health director Dr. Deborah Bogan said the goal is to better reach underserved areas and eliminate disparities in vaccinations.

In the zip code encompassing Braddock, only 42% of people are at least partially vaccinated, giving it the lowest vaccination rate in the county.

Braddock Mayor Chardaé Jones says vaccine hesitancy is one reason residents aren’t inoculated, but access also remains a problem.

“We don’t have a local pharmacy, we don’t even have a grocery store,” says Jones. “You have to get on a bus or make an appointment somewhere.”

Jones says the borough has seen one vaccine clinic a month, on average, but she is planning to develop forums and other clinics to bring more information and access to residents.

“We just can’t give up on people, especially since there’s a health disparity that already existed before COVID, and it was in the predominantly Black and poor communities,” says Jones. “We don't want to widen that gap, we just have to continue to reach out.”

Student transportation is lacking, which is why one organization says the focus should be to improving pedestrian and cycling infrastructure
(8:53 - 17:25) 

Pittsburgh Public School students return to the classroom tomorrow, after a delay due to a bus driver shortage.

According to city school district officials, 370 students do not have access to school bus transportation for the start of the year.

The district is distributing passes for public transit to students, and even asking parents to drive their kids to school, if possible.

“With the school bus driver shortage, which I believe we’ve known about for quite some time, as well as the crossing guard shortage, which was written about in late 2019, … this isn’t a surprise, that there are going to be issues getting kids to school,” says BikePGH executive director Scott Bricker. “There really needs to be a robust partnership with parents, and the school district, and Department of Mobility and Infrastructure in the mayor’s office to put this front of mind.”

Bricker says not many students walk or bike to school at the moment.

“That’s for a reason. It’s because we’ve done nothing but design our streets for cars for decades and we’re just starting to invest in making our streets safer for biking,” says Bricker. He says there are some tools for safe streets like speed humps to slow traffic, and dedicated bike lanes, but this kind of infrastructure is piecemeal throughout the city.

“We know that there’s broken sidewalk connections, we know that there’s unsafe intersections, we still need to put in 80 to 100 more miles of bike lanes in the city, according to the Bike+ Plan that the city of Pittsburgh published last June.”

Bricker says in addition to building partnerships, schools and districts should be auditing nearby streets to see if they are safe for walking and biking to school.

Therapists are seeing a rise in anxiety disorder among patients
(17:32 - 22:30)

Mental health professionals have reported surging demand from people seeking therapy since the start of the pandemic.

To learn more about how things have changed, 90.5 WESA’s health and science reporter Sarah Boden is speaking with psychiatrists, therapists and social workers about what they’re observing in their own practices including Kristen Walker of the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh. Walker is a cognitive behavioral therapist who focuses on treating anxiety disorders, which can cause people to fixate on worst case scenarios. In some ways, Covid-19 and other recent events have confirmed these fears.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.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.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
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