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Allegheny County reports rise in positive COVID cases in late December

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Katie Blackley
/
90.5 WESA

On today’s episode of The Confluence: WESA’s Sarah Boden discusses the rise in positive COVID-19 cases in the county and what this means for residents; a look back at the work of Pittsburgh preservationist John DeSantis, who died Saturday; and the impact of public artwork featured in the new Frankie Mae Pace Park.

County sees surge in COVID cases in the end of 2021
(0:00 -7:22)

The Allegheny County Health Department reports for the week of Dec. 26, there were 13,350 COVID-19 infections.

Sarah Boden covers health for WESA. She says several factors contribute to the higher number of cases in the region.

"The county health department says there has been a huge increase in testing, but also the percentage of positive tests is also on the rise,” Boden says. “So this increase is because the virus is circulating more widely in the community, meaning we all face a higher risk of getting COVID right now,"

Respiratory illnesses — such as the common cold, influenza, and COVID-19 — typically reach their peak during the colder, winter months. Boden notes that holiday gatherings could contribute to the growing number of cases.

"We know that breakthrough cases are more common with both the delta and, especially, the omicron variants," Boden says. "While you're less likely to become severely ill, if you're vaccinated or boosted, especially if you're boosted, breakthrough cases are more likely."

Boden says hospitalizations always lag behind an increase in COVID-19 cases, but it is difficult to say if this will hold true with the omicron variant. Boden points out that staffing issues at hospitals could present a problem for those seeking care.

“If you’ve been walking around without a mask, today is a really good day to reevaluate that choice, same with maybe going to bars or big parties,” she says.

‘One of those very early pioneers,’ remembering John DeSantis creator of Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show, preservationist
(7:22-17:15)

John DeSantis, a figure in Pittsburgh's historic preservation movement and Home & Garden Show executive director, died Saturday.

Mark Fatla, former head of the Northside Leadership Conference, knew and worked with DeSantis on preserving the city's neighborhoods. He says DeSantis' creativity made his work successful, especially with the Home & Garden show.

"He had ideas. [He] could map out how to take something that nobody really thought of before, and drive it into a success and bring other people along to be part of that," Fatla says.

While the Home & Garden may have made DeSantis a familiar figure in the region, Fatla says he was a huge force in the city's preservation movement. When the two met, DeSantis was already working to revitalize the Allegheny West neighborhood. Fatla says that DeSantis was one of the first people to see the area's potential.

"At that time, this was not a particularly desirable neighborhood," Fatla says. "But John was one of those very early pioneers who saw something in the architecture here and in the sense of a functioning neighborhood. "

In 1990, DeSantis was chosen to lead the city's Historic Review Commission by then-Mayor Sophie Masloff. It was a position he held for more than a decade.

"John transformed the Historic Review Commission from an ineffective appendage of city government into a professionalized, well respected and influential entity," Fatla says. "And that, in turn, gave preservationists throughout the city and even the region the idea that if they were well prepared, if they were organized, they had a place where they could be effective."

In the end, Fatla says DeSantis's work went beyond preserving buildings and developing neighborhoods. Instead, he says DeSantis saw what could happen with a shared sense of community.

"It wasn't just about the buildings and architecture for John. It was about that sense of interconnectedness."

The role of public artwork in Pittsburgh’s new park
(17:15-22:30)

The brand-new Frankie Mae Pace Park has a big job: To reunite the Hill District with Downtown Pittsburgh, a connection broken decades ago. That task is partly up to the extensive public artwork on the site.

90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll spoke with the artists who helped shape the city’s most prominent new park.

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. 

JC Larsen contributed to today’s Confluence episode 

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.
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