From being a hero to being shunned: Stories from the front lines of Pittsburgh’s pandemic

With the first shipments of the vaccine arriving, the rising number of COVID-19 infections is still threatening to overwhelm workers at local ICUs and nursing homes. These three women have seen it all: from being called a hero to being shunned, and from working 16-hour shifts to quarantining at home with COVID. Despite hopeful news, they fear the worst is yet to come.

I’m tired of wasting energy on anti-maskers. I want to help people who need and want masks.

Compelling personal stories
told by the people living them. I'm no longer focusing my energies on trying to persuade people to wear face masks. I can't beat my head against a wall for another year. 

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died. Through tears, their loved ones plead with the rest of us to protect each other. They hope their loss(es) will not be in vain if they can prevent other deaths.

Where Pittsburgh’s PPP money went: Search our map and database

The federal Paycheck Protection Program* [PPP] awarded more than $1.5 billion to 10,675 small businesses and nonprofits with 500 employees or fewer with Pittsburgh mailing addresses. 

How much did your business receive? You can search and explore the database and map below. You can also search below for the top 10 recipients for PPP loans by several industries, including schools, restaurants, law offices, religious organizations, nonprofits, doctor’s offices and new car dealerships. Search the database

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Explore the map

This map was created using self-reported addresses provided by the Small Business Administration and then geolocated using DataWrapper. PublicSource verified a random sample of several dozen businesses to ensure they were in the right location but could not independently verify all 10,675.

Pandemic participation: Online government both enables and stifles access to public meetings in Allegheny County

When Allegheny County Council introduced legislation in June to ban police from using “less lethal” weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets, 288 community members submitted public comments. But by the intended day of the vote, the councilors had only received about 50. Pre-coronavirus, members of the public had three minutes each to share their thoughts in-person with the 15-member council at its meetings. Now, they must submit comments to councilors via an online form or email. That’s one of many ways that public processes across the Pittsburgh area have transitioned online during the pandemic, with in-person public comments becoming digital messages and legislative meetings becoming livestreams. Though virtual meetings have increased accessibility by eliminating the need for transportation and in-person attendance, many residents and elected officials say the coronavirus has posed new obstacles for public access and government participation. 

Comments submitted to county council are usually read aloud by staff during the meeting and forwarded to councilors in advance.

Arnie Newsome, 67, stands at his shoeshine station in the Grant Building. He is one of the few shoeshiners remaining Downtown. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

My neighbor’s sole business is ‘closed until further notice’

I remember the day in late May when my neighbor Arnie went Downtown for the first time since the pandemic hit the U.S. in March. “It’s a ghost town,” he said. For the past 27 years, Arnie has operated a shoeshine station in the Grant Building in Downtown Pittsburgh. “All of my customers are working from home. The shops where I get my supplies are closed,” he said. “ I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

pittsburgh skyline

This study hopes to follow Pittsburgh-area children for two decades. How has COVID-19 changed the plan?

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the United States in March, the widespread shutdowns that followed brought research on seemingly everything but a vaccine to a grinding halt. Limitations on in-person interactions meant that interventions, group meetings, and other basic methods for assessing psychological and behavioral research were no longer possible. So the Pittsburgh Study, which was set to officially launch in 2020, had to change plans. In this community-partnered intervention study, researchers plan to follow children in the region from birth to adulthood, putting a microscope on the relationships and resources that influence social outcomes. The study will involve over 20,000 children in a two-decade-long look at factors that contribute to childrens’ physical and mental health and educational outcomes. The several different initiatives will focus on infant mortality, childhood obesity, youth violence, and asthma prevalence, among others.