Science, Health & Tech

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

KATIE BLACKLEY / 90.5 WESA

If a surge of COVID-19 patients overwhelms local health systems, Allegheny County plans to use the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh to accommodate patients.

Courtesy of Coston Funeral Home

While the number of Pennsylvanians who have died from COVID-19 continues to climb, families who have lost loved ones to the pandemic -- and to other causes -- are trying to figure out what mourning rituals look like during a period of social distancing.

Wolf Closes Schools, Nonessential Businesses Indefinitely

Mar 30, 2020
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday that all schools and nonessential businesses will remain closed indefinitely as Pennsylvania reported nearly 700 new cases of the coronavirus.

MICHAEL BRYANT

With the rate of new coronavirus cases rapidly increasing in Pennsylvania and across the United States, some of the country’s top scientists are racing to understand how bad the outbreak is going to get and what measures can be taken to save as many lives as possible.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

News on the coronavirus pandemic, including the responses of local governments, health departments, hospital systems, schools and other institutions. For information from the previous week, click here

Helpful coronavirus links:

Seth Weing / AP

Medical marijuana dispensaries have implemented curbside pick-up, online ordering, and set designated shopping hours for the nearly 153,000 Pennsylvanians who receive cannabis through the state program. 

Gov. Tom Wolf

Four more Pennsylvanians have died from COVID-19 complications, including the first Bucks County resident and the second in Lancaster County, according to officials’ daily updates provided Sunday.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania increased by more than 640 over the past day and four more people died, the state Health Department announced Sunday.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

UPMC said Friday it’s ramping up telehealth efforts to meet the demands of patients seeking care amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, reporting that last week it provided more remote visits than it did during the entirety of 2019.

Google Maps

Two residents at an Allegheny County-run nursing home have tested positive for COVID-19.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Though Gov. Tom Wolf has mandated that all those in Allegheny County stay at home, grocery shopping is still considered an essential activity, and many stores across the region are still open for business. But when the most important thing we can do for public well-being is social distancing, how do we stay safe in grocery stores?

Matt Rourke / AP

A shuttered reform school for boys in suburban Philadelphia may be used as a medical overflow facility as coronavirus cases increase and hospitals are pressed for space.

The Glen Mills School has medical and dental facilities, an air field, a generator and a more than 85,000 square-foot athletic facility that could host patients from hospitals and other health care facilities.

Christopher Spriggs, the acting executive director of the institution, said he offered the space a few weeks ago.

NEPA Community Health Center

While U.S. cities may be seeing the initial wave of COVID-19 cases, the novel coronavirus is expected to spread to nearly every community in the nation.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The Pennsylvania Department of Health said hand sanitizer-related exposures are up more than 80 percent, compared to this time last year, at poison control centers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the state’s two largest cities.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh shows that over the past decade, brand-name drug prices rose three times faster than the rate of inflation, even after factoring in discounts.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

A number of COVID-19 testing sites have opened in and around Pittsburgh in the past week. Here’s a list of the sites, and what you need to know before you go.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The post was first published March 24, 2020. If you think something may be wrong, send us an email

LIVE BLOG: Coronavirus In Pittsburgh, March 23-29

Mar 23, 2020
Gene J. Puskar / AP

News on the coronavirus pandemic, including the responses of local governments, health departments, hospital systems, schools and other institutions. For information from the previous week, click here

For information the week of March 30 - April 3, click here.

Helpful coronavirus links:

Allegheny County

The Allegheny County Health Department said on Saturday that there is “community spread” of the coronavirus in the southwestern Pennsylvania region.

GENE J. PUSKAR / AP

Despite directives from state and county health officials, elective surgeries are still being performed at UPMC facilities. 

Medical professionals employed by UPMC, speaking to WESA on condition of anonymity, said this decision may have dire consequences in light of COVID-19’s exponential spread.

While less time sensitive, elective surgeries are often medically necessary; examples include kidney stone removal, hernia repair and shoulder arthroscopy.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

On Sunday, Pittsburgh officially began a paid sick leave policy that guarantees earned time off for any full or part time employees who are sick or caring for sick family members. The policy, which was passed in August 2015 but was delayed because of a lawsuit, is being implemented just as public health experts warn that roughly half of Allegheny County residents are expected to acquire coronavirus over the next couple of months.  

Pennsylvania Confirms First Coronavirus-Related Death

Mar 19, 2020
Gov. Tom Wolf

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration on Wednesday confirmed Pennsylvania’s first death linked to the coronavirus outbreak. The person was an adult from Northampton County and was being treated at a hospital.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Allegheny Health Network is offering drive-through testing for COVID-19 starting Wednesday in Wexford.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

On today's program: How the state accelerated Pittsburgh Public Schools’ plan to close; why some hospital workers worry they don’t have enough protective gear; what the U.S. Census is doing to mitigate exposure to COVID-19; and a peek into the decision-making process behind public restrictions in Allegheny County.

Tyger Williams / Philadelphia Inquirer

Hospitals across Pennsylvania are drastically limiting the use of key protective gear out of fears that a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases could diminish reserves and cause a dangerous shortage.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

On today's program: A look at the latest stories from the WESA newsroom about the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact locally; residential water wells in Pennsylvania are not monitored for potentially dangerous bacteria; a reporter lists the top power players in Harrisburg; and Pittsburgh’s paid sick-leave ordinance comes too late for people affected by the coronavirus.

Governor Orders COVID-19 Shutdown Across Pennsylvania

Mar 16, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

Gov. Tom Wolf extended a shutdown order Monday to the entire state of Pennsylvania in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus, although he also maintained that he will not send the National Guard or state police to force businesses to close or stop events.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

All bars and restaurants in Allegheny County have been ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf to close dine-in facilities for at least two weeks starting Monday morning, to encourage social distancing, which slows the spread of coronavirus. 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

University of Pittsburgh professor Juan Taboas grew up in Cuba, where he said fixing things is part of the culture. When he was a kid, his grandma had a transistor radio that seemed like it was always breaking.

“I remember being in the … kitchen with my dad and we'd open it up, and were trying to figure out how this circuit board is working and what went wrong,” he said. “That really got me into the whole idea that by fixing you learn.”

Ariel Worthy / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County announced its first two cases of COVID-19 on Saturday afternoon. The two are adults in their 60s and 70s who live in the same household. They are both city of Pittsburgh residents. They are believed to have contracted the virus while traveling out of state.

Ariel Worthy / 90.5 WESA

UPMC doctors and scientists developed a test for COVID-19 that will return results in 24 hours. The test, which is conducted using a nasal swab, was created by a UPMC virology team.  

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