Science, Health & Tech

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

Photo courtesy of Knotzland

Just weeks ago, experts were still debating whether masking in public truly helped slow the spread of the coronavirus. Then, on April 3, came the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that anyone leaving home wear a facemask. In Pennsylvania, the order came from Gov. Tom Wolf’s office the same day. Now masks are practically a mandatory accessory.

Allegheny County

In cities like Milwaukee, New Orleans and Boston, black residents have been dying from COVID-19 at higher rates than white residents. Local public health researchers and advocates worry the same might be happening in Allegheny County.

Marshall Ritzell / AP

Plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients may provide a desperately needed treatment for people currently fighting the disease.

Wolf Mandates Masks As GOP Seeks To Relax Business Shutdown

Apr 15, 2020
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Going to a Pennsylvania business that remains open during the pandemic? Be prepared to wear a mask. That goes for workers, too.

Gene J. Puskar / AP


On today's program: A market research firm polls locals about how they’re dealing during the pandemic; Pittsburgh’s foundation community pledges millions in relief aid; residential child care centers weigh the consequences of staying open; and why the state’s largest school districts are still struggling to start online learning.


While some cities and states are using police to enforce social distancing, a team of scientists and engineers at Canonsburg-based Ansys are hoping to encourage the public to follow safety measures by showing how they work. 


Partisan tensions are growing in Harrisburg over the appropriate way to respond to the coronavirus pandemic — with many Republicans hoping to scale back business closures and get the economy back up and running, and Democrats largely urging a more cautious approach.


The Department of Veterans Affairs is ramping up hiring for full and part-time positions throughout Pennsylvania to ensure hospitals are fully staffed in case there’s a surge of COVID-19 patients.

John Minchillo / AP


On today's program: Coroners say they can help officials get an accurate count of COVID-19 victims; how federal prisoners are faring since local courts expedited the release of some jail inmates; and Port Authority urges people to stay home despite the financial hit. 

Andrew Medichini / AP

The World Health Organization has declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, and also an “infodemic.” 

Gene J. Puskar / AP

The Allegheny County Health Department has begun breaking down COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations by race – something that activist have been demanding in recent days amid concerns about infection rates among African Americans nationwide.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvanians have been ordered to isolate at home, and some people are dealing with the stress and boredom with a stiff drink.

Craig Lassig / AP Images for College of American Pathologists

As the coronavirus continues to spread, there's growing concern that African Americans are being hit hardest. 

Public Health Dynamics Laboratory, University of Pittsburgh

Some medical experts and government officials say they are "cautiously optimistic" that recent data indicate that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing in Allegheny County and Pennsylvania.

There is no shortage of potential treatments for the coronavirus—the real shortage is the time to figure out which ones work best. But UPMC says it plans to use artificial intelligence to accelerate the timetable for winnowing out approaches that don’t work. And among the first drugs to be tested will be anti-malarial medication hydroxychloroquine, which President Donald Trump has touted in press conferences. 

Pennsylvania To Seize Medical Supplies For COVID-19 Fight

Apr 8, 2020
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania emergency management officials will be permitted to commandeer N95 face masks, ventilators and other crucial medical equipment for use in the fight against COVID-19 under an order signed Wednesday by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Google Maps

Nursing homes in the Pittsburgh region are quickly becoming hotspots for novel coronavirus outbreaks. Because of residents’ age, other underlying health conditions and close living quarters, residents at these facilities are particularly at risk of greater transmission and more severe effects of the virus.

John Minchillo / AP

Mayors around the country are calling on the federal government to change the way medical supplies are distributed. 

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA News

Doctors at local Federally Qualified Health Centers say their patients are at higher risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.


Robots have long been used to tackle dangerous and dirty jobs. But during a pandemic, even everyday tasks outside the home carry a risk, especially for the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions.

Pennsylvania Residents Told To Wear Masks In Public

Apr 3, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania residents should wear a cloth mask in public to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, the governor said Friday, as the state recorded another single-day high in new cases and passed 100 deaths.

Jessica Griffin / Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania has received a fraction of the equipment it has requested from a federal stockpile to help battle the coronavirus, new data shows, as state officials look to other sources to purchase more supplies, including life-saving ventilators.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny Health Network began assembling COVID-19 test kits in its downtown Highmark Health Penn Avenue Place building this week. Dozens of tables with medical staffers lined the auditorium of the building filled with sterile media tubes, swabs, instructions, and biohazard bags.

Matt Rourke / AP

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House Coronavirus Task Force are both reviewing official guidance that people who are healthy don’t need to wear face masks during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

If the federal government changes its stance, that would be a big deal: Just more than a month ago, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams urged the public, in no uncertain terms, to stop buying face masks.


The University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine says it has developed a promising potential vaccine against the virus driving the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Fears, Infection Thin Staff At Beaver Nursing Home With 2 Deaths

Apr 1, 2020
Google Maps

A Pennsylvania nursing home where two dementia patients died over the weekend after contracting COVID-19 has struggled to contain the spread, with staff thinned by suspected infection and fears for their own safety.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

The adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is certainly true for COVID-19. The disease has no cure, and right now, the only way to avoid completely overwhelming our medical system is to prevent the virus’s spread by isolating ourselves from each other.


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.