No personal visitors, hardly any time for inmates outside of their cells and chronic vacancies in mental health and health staff raise concerns that the mental health of Allegheny County Jail [ACJ] inmates is deteriorating, according to inmates recently incarcerated there, family members of current inmates, advocates and current and former ACJ staff.
For almost two years, the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have been working together to intensively prepare for the 2020 census. The hardest-to-count populations were identified for targeted outreach; community leaders were pulled in to champion the cause; “census hubs,” where residents could go to have their questions answered, were planned throughout the county.
Perhaps the one thing they didn’t plan for was a pandemic. “We had 150 designated locations throughout the county ready to go, and then the pandemic hit,” said Jessica Mooney, the county’s manager of special projects. Now, getting a complete count is not only harder — it’s also more vital. Census data dictates federal funding levels to local and state governments for food access programs, affordable housing, health systems and more.
While both high-income and low-income people are moving around far less than usual, cellphone tracking data from the marketing intelligence company Cuebiq shows that during the pandemic, people in the lowest-income areas are traveling about seven times more than people in the highest-income areas in the Pittsburgh region.
People with means have largely begun working and learning virtually. Many have also switched to doing everyday tasks online, like grocery shopping, banking and seeing the doctor. But those without internet access, a computer or digital literacy skills aren’t able to shift important tasks online.
Reports from other American cities, counties and states show that Black people are disproportionately contracting and dying from COVID-19. Yet a lack of local data makes it impossible to see how the virus is impacting Black residents in Allegheny County and across Pennsylvania.
Editor's note: On April 3, Gov. Tom Wolf asked that all Pennsylvanians wear face masks when leaving home. Later on Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump shared new CDC guidance recommending cloth masks in public for everyone. The state and CDC says surgical masks and N95 respirator masks should still be reserved for healthcare workers or patients in healthcare settings. Homemade masks, paper masks or even bandanas and scarves can be used by the general public in addition to social distancing. Cloth masks should be washed after each use.