Oliver has been recognized with local and national press awards for his coverage of environmental and health challenges in the Pittsburgh region and has co-published work with CityLab, Pittsburgh Magazine, Environmental Health News, The Allegheny Front and WESA. Before PublicSource, Oliver led The Wichita Eagle’s coverage of fracking-related earthquakes, immigration, race and criminal justice reform. One investigation led the state of Kansas to audit its wildfire fighting system. He has freelanced for publications such as The Atlantic, Education Week and City Limits. He is a graduate of Deep Springs College, the University of Oxford and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. He worked for seven years as an educator in the Arkansas Delta before embarking on his career in journalism.
Many researchers at the university have already been back to work for nearly two months. And seven of those researchers told PublicSource that the university could learn some lessons from the way it reopened its labs.
The political context of the parks tax has changed considerably since March. The original debate over the tax centered around what it meant to spend the money equitably. Since then, Black Lives Matter protests across Pittsburgh have put the issue of equity front-and-center, drawing attention — and often support — from council.
The number of Allegheny County residents dying of opioid overdoses is rising again, after a drop of 40% in 2018 had many health experts hoping the tide of the epidemic had turned. The most recent data shows that the county had a 15% increase in overdose deaths in 2019. The 564 overdose deaths in 2019 were the third highest yearly total, according to data from Overdose Free PA. In 2016 and 2017, there were 650 and 737 total overdose deaths respectively. And the epidemic may only be getting worse in 2020, according to overdose data provided by the city of Pittsburgh, the county health department and the nonprofit Prevention Point Pittsburgh.
During the first five months of 2020 Allegheny County recorded a 28% increase in the total number of times emergency responders administered naloxone for an overdose compared to the first five months of 2019.
Pittsburgh recorded a 50% increase in overdose calls during that same time period.
Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission last week presented to the City Council a report with 11 recommendations on how to eliminate some of the city’s long-standing inequities.
The new report’s first recommendation points to the need to stop police violence in the city. Other recommendations, such as increasing sick leave, are specific and build upon work the city has already done with its new sick leave policy that was enacted in March and requires up to 10 days of sick leave for medium and large companies and three days for smaller ones. Some recommendations, such as a push for a universal basic income trial program, are new and would likely take substantial resources, even as the city faces a budget shortfall greater than $120 million due to falling revenue during the COVID-19 shutdowns.
The petition makes 12 requests for change, including asking the district to review its entire curriculum to include more diversity, to hire a staff member to oversee the district’s “equity and inclusion” work and to require any security officers on district property to undergo bias training.
The state of COVID-19 vaccine research is currently in a Catch-22 dilemma, according to Dr. William Klimstra, an associate professor in the Immunology Department at the University of Pittsburgh, who is currently working on a potential vaccine. The dilemma is this: The reason the development of a vaccine takes so long is that scientists have to be careful the vaccine does no harm in animals first and then in humans, before it even begins to test whether it’s effective. But at the same time, many Americans are not convinced that a vaccine would be safe and have said they wouldn’t take it even if it was developed. “We’re in an environment right now where longstanding accepted truths are being challenged through social media,” Klimstra said. "It’s very difficult to fight that kind of stuff."
Allegheny County moved from phase red, which required everyone to adhere to a strict “stay at home” order, to phase yellow. Now some nonessential activities and businesses could open.
The number of coronavirus cases had fallen over time but there were still dozens of new cases each week. It was unclear how many people would risk venturing out into public and whether those that did would adhere to social distancing guidelines.
COVID-19 cost jobs, closed businesses and limited travel. But the economic ruin has also led to record low levels of pollution and huge reductions in climate change emissions globally.
Some of the changes, such as remote work, could have lasting benefits for the environment, even after the economy restarts. Other changes, such as a decrease in the use of mass transportation, could make environmental problems worse.
One model from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] estimates that, during the first five weeks of the pandemic, there were around 7,000 more deaths than would be expected over a similar time period in the past.
This count above the norm would be among the highest for any state in the country, but PublicSource reporting shows that number is still quite uncertain and could be higher or lower.
Some food pantries have reported serving three times as many people as before the crisis, but a few dozen pantries and soup kitchens had to close entirely out of safety concerns created by the pandemic. The largest distributor of food aid in the region, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, believes more people need food assistance than what’s been initially reported by its food network.