What You Need to Know: A tale of two economies, nursing homes ease restrictions, vaccine equity, and Lehigh’s women’s basketball team

Written by on March 19, 2021

What You Need to Know: A tale of two economies, nursing homes ease restrictions, vaccine equity, and Lehigh’s women’s basketball team

By Brad Klein and Jen Rehill

March 19, 2021

Photo| Genesis Ortega / WLVR

In our regular Friday feature, “What You Need to Know,” WLVR’s Brad Klein speaks with News Director Jen Rehill about the week’s top local news.

Mixed news about the Valley’s pandemic economy from LVEDC. Mixed news about the state of Covid-19 vaccination. And ‘fingers crossed’ as Lehigh University’s women’s basketball team the Mountain Hawks faces off against #4 West Virginia Mountaineers, Sunday night in the NCAA tournament. (ESPN-U)

Listen to the story.

Brad

“One interesting story this week was the report by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. looking at the pandemic, I thought originally that would just be a tally of all the damage caused by the pandemic, but the result was more complicated than that, right?” 

Rehill

“It was a ‘tale of two economies.’ At least that’s how LVEDC President and Chief Executive Officer Don Cunningham described it. On the one hand, the pandemic dealt a huge blow, as we know, to the hospitality and entertainment industries. It’s been devastating. But the Lehigh Valley saw growth in other industries like healthcare, internet commerce and manufacturing. Cunningham credits this to the region’s economic diversity. He says that’s been a real plus in helping the Lehigh Valley kind of weather the financial crisis the pandemic has caused. And, he says that folks are expecting as things reopen and restrictions are eased that they’re hoping the hospitality and entertainment sectors will bounce back by the end of the year.” 

Klein

“Those who have survived this tough time because even if the overall economy has done reasonably well through this, it still doesn’t change the fact that dozens, maybe hundreds of small businesses have suffered terribly.” 

Rehill

“Absolutely, Brad.” 

Klein

“There’s been some good news on the vaccination front, I would say, this week.” 

Rehill

“Yes, there has. In fact, as we talked about last week, Lehigh Valley Health Network has announced plans to open up its facilities to some visitors. And just yesterday, St. Luke’s University Health Network began allowing visitors at skilled nursing facilities in health care. Reporter Britney Sweeney covered a news conference where the first visitors to St. Luke’s Miners Campus in Coledale talked about the experience of seeing their loved ones and actually being able to give them hugs. 

“I have to say it was really heartwarming, Brad.” 

Klein

“Yeah, that’s something we can all relate to. It’s been such a hardship not being able to visit people you want to. There are challenges, though, as well.” 

Rehill

The state’s touting that it’s put more than 3.9 million vaccines into arms to date, but some folks in the one a group, that first group that’s qualified to get the shots, are still having a tough time finding appointments. Particularly seniors, people who don’t have Internet access or that digital savvy, as Megan Frank reported on this week

“And we also know that national statistics show that vaccination rates for people of color are really lagging behind those for white people. Pennsylvania is seeing those trends as well, and it’s not clear right now what’s really driving that. Whether that is economic issues, whether that is concern about the safety of vaccines. The experts are really trying to tease that out. But one issue we have here in Pennsylvania is the state is not keeping great track of that. The data on that is really spotty and that has raised some concerns for some experts.” 

Klein

“We don’t cover a lot of sports at WLVR, but we had a fun story about Lehigh University’s women’s basketball team, which I now know are the Mountain Hawks.” 

Rehill

“They have joined the Big Dance this year. It’s their first trip to March Madness since 2010 and we had reported this week as part of a special project that we do with Lehigh University every semester. We have a journalism student, Kenneth Mazzaro. He covers sports for the Brown and White, and he shared with us some back history, some back story there about how the Mountain Hawks beat the first- and second-ranked teams to clinch the Patriot League title. Apparently, this was a big upset.” 

Klein

“They’re still a bit of an underdog, right, in the series? I mean, they were not expected to do this well, and the first team that they’re facing off with is West Virginia, which is the fourth seed in the conference. Lehigh is the 13th seed, but Mazzaro says in a year like this, anything can happen. So they’re hoping for a win.” 

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