Baxter Parklet.

Pittsburgh’s parks tax that prioritized equity likely won’t be collected this year, despite equity protests and a rise in park use

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.

(Illustration by ah_designs/iStockphoto.com)

Allegheny County hoped the tide had turned on the opioid epidemic. Early data suggests it may be surging again

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.

‘Time for playing it safe is over’: City report calls for swift action on inequities between Black and white Pittsburgh

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.

What fallout might PA nursing homes face for becoming a ‘ground zero’ in the COVID-19 pandemic?

According to industry experts, disease forecasters, lawyers, lawmakers and advocates, the fallout from the unfolding failures at nursing homes will likely come on many fronts: civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions that could hobble the ability to provide quality care; budget cuts that threaten funding; and a possible contraction in facility ownership. 

Fact-check: Has PA seen 7,000 deaths beyond the state’s norm during the pandemic?

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.

"In Pennsylvania and the United States at large, we need scalable contact tracing and testing to most appropriately place people in quarantine," writes retired physician Barbara W. Brandom. "If it’s not done, COVID-19 will spread here as social distancing guidelines are relaxed." (Courtesy photo)

As a career healthcare professional, I believe PA should follow the Hong Kong model of testing and contact tracing.

Now is the time that reliable and expansive public health efforts, which have shut down this pandemic in other parts of the world, must be implemented in the United States. We need easily accessible, widespread testing for SARS-CoV-2, so that people with positive test results and minimal or no symptoms go into quarantine and do not infect other people unknowingly.

Some University of Pittsburgh's students, faculty and alumni are upset that it accepted $4.2 million in funding from the Charles Koch Foundation for a new center to study politics, markets and technology.

Pennsylvania’s leading COVID-19 modeler explains how life might start returning back to normal and what might not

The FRED model uses information about where and how residents interact at school, work and in their neighborhoods, to predict the spread of diseases like influenza, H1N1 and dengue. Applied to COVID-19, the model predicts that, with statewide social distancing, the state can limit the number of total hospitalizations to 100,000 and that the peak number of hospitalizations can be delayed for hundreds of days, enough time to potentially make additional healthcare resources available.