Science, Health & Tech

We cover these essential linchpins of the Pittsburgh regional economy, and how they impact residents' personal health and employment. 

Pennsylvania Hospital Beds Filling Up Amid Virus Surge

55 minutes ago
Jeff Roberson / AP

Hospital beds are filling up and medical staffs are being stretched to the limit as Pennsylvania’s health care system copes with a growing number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients." class="wysiwyg-break drupal-content" src="/sites/all/modules/contrib/wysiwyg/plugins/break/images/spacer.gif" title="<--break-->">

John Minchillo / AP

Allegheny County passed a depressing milestone on Thursday, reporting more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

A month ago that number seemed distant. 

Matt Rourke / AP

On today's program: After hearing from one nurse executive, we turn to the state nurses association to find out how nurses are coping with burnout; and three years after a devastating spinal cord injury, former Steelers player Ryan Shazier launches a nonprofit to help those with similar injuries.


November was a very bad month for coronavirus infections in Allegheny County.


On today's program: Allegheny Health Network Chief Nurse Executive is urging the public to take responsibility in the pandemic; Lower Hill development won’t break ground until next year, but one developer says the process of getting community buy-in is working; and despite rising COVID-19 cases, a school district outside Philadelphia is reopening.

PA Expands Virus App To School-Age Phone Users

Nov 30, 2020
Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania’s two-month-old coronavirus exposure notification app can now be used by mobile phone users as young as 13 as health officials work to stop the virus' spread in schools around the state, officials said Monday.

Matt Rourke / AP

Contact tracing apps have been lauded as one tool to help contain the spread of COVID-19, but they all require a majority of people to download and use them. As more apps come online, the potential user pool for any one app shrinks. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Long before the coronavirus jumped from an animal to a human to start the global pandemic, western Pennsylvania was already grappling with another health crisis — the drug epidemic.


Case investigators in Allegheny County are keeping up with new coronavirus cases at a higher rate than in other parts of Pennsylvania, but not everyone who tests positive will be contacted by a public health worker.


The Pennsylvania Department of Health is further rationing which coronavirus cases will receive calls from case investigators and contact tracers. 

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Last call for Pennsylvania bars will be at 5 p.m. on Wednesday to cut COVID-19 transmission during what is normally a night of heavy public drinking, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Citing the rapidly climbing number of coronavirus cases, the Allegheny County Health Department issued a stay-at-home advisory on Wednesday afternoon. 

As cases of COVID-19 continue to skyrocket in Pennsylvania, health officials are stressing the importance of testing and contact tracing. Michael Huff, the state’s director of testing and contact tracing, urged Pennsylvanians to respond to contact tracers investigating a case.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

One of the biggest challenges for contact tracing apps aimed at fighting COVID-19 is a lack of participation – and distrust in Western Pennsylvania appears to run particularly high, thanks in no small part to partisan feelings. But a team at Carnegie Mellon University thinks it can inspire greater buy-in with a new approach that helps users to prevent infection in the first place.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania is strengthening its mask mandate and will require out-of-state travelers to test negative for the coronavirus before arrival, health officials announced Tuesday, taking additional steps to address a sharp increase in infections and hospitalizations.

Courtesy: Charissa Sedor, Buhl Planetarium

The Carnegie Science Center’s Buhl Planetarium is promising visitors an enhanced experience of what it’s like to travel into the far reaches of the galaxy thanks to the completion of phase one of a multi-million dollar renovation project.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The coronavirus pandemic didn’t create the digital divide, but it did shine a spotlight on it. With so many students attending class online, one local collaboration is aiming to provide free, high-speed internet access in the Coraopolis, Homewood and New Kensington areas. The signal will beam from atop the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland. 

Kathy Young / AP

Over the weekend, Pennsylvania reported 10,000 new cases of the coronavirus, continuing a surge of infections that shows no sign of slowing down.

Keith Srakocic / AP


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.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA News

As COVID-19 cases spike across Pennsylvania, the state Department of Health says members of the public are increasingly reluctant to cooperate with contact tracers – and local public health workers say they are also encountering greater push back.

Serious COVID-19 Outbreak Threatens Hundreds At PA Prison For Medically Vulnerable

Nov 11, 2020
Joshua Vaughn / The Appeal

A serious coronavirus outbreak is unfolding inside the Pennsylvania prison facility for medically vulnerable inmates diagnosed with cancer or other health problems, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are urgently pushing for a release plan.

John Dillard / UPMC

Hospitals around the county are getting slammed with surges of COVID-19 patients.

The situation is not as dire in Pennsylvania, but as the state continues to see record-breaking coronavirus case numbers on a near daily basis, that could change.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Nights are getting longer, temperatures colder, and the spread of the coronavirus is accelerating across Pennsylvania.

90.5 WESA is following the latest updates and COVID-19 case numbers in Allegheny County and across Pennsylvania. 

We'll be updating this post as we get information. Check back often for updates. 

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania


On today's program: The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported another record high number of COVID-19 cases this past weekend; and Democrats won the presidency, but didn’t fare as well on down ballot races.


Open enrollment is now underway for Pennsylvanians looking to purchase health insurance coverage for 2021. But instead of the federal marketplace people will be shopping on Pennie, the new state-run exchange.

Gov. Tom Wolf Flickr

As new coronavirus cases explode, Pennsylvania’s top health official on Monday warned the state is at a “critical point” in the pandemic and begged recalcitrant residents to wear masks, avoid congregating and take other simple preventative measures to slow the spread.

Here's Who In PA Will Get A Coronavirus Vaccine First When One Is Approved

Nov 5, 2020
Jose F. Moreno / Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania health officials still cannot say when a coronavirus vaccine will be available, but plans for how one will be distributed and who will get it first are coming into focus.


As the weather gets colder and coronavirus cases continue to climb, Allegheny County’s top public health official says people must change their behavior.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA News

Poll worker Paul Dascani will be spending Election Day at St. Rosalia’s, a nearly 100-year-old Catholic church in Pittsburgh’s Greenfield neighborhood. He decided to volunteer this year because of COVID-19.