What You Need to Know: The Pa. primary election, hopeful news on COVID-19 vaccines, and ‘The Future is Female’

Written by on March 12, 2021

What You Need to Know: The Pa. primary election, hopeful news on COVID-19 vaccines, and ‘The Future is Female’

By Brad Klein and Jen Rehill

March 12, 2021

Cassandra Thompson votes at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, in Cleveland. Early voting began Tuesday in Ohio’s March 6 presidential primary. Early in-person voting is set to continue until March 2, the Friday before the election. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

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. This week the focus is on who will be on the ballot for the May 18 primaries in the Lehigh Valley. There’s also some hopeful news on the COVID-19 vaccination front. And this week WLVR/PBS39 reporter Megan Frank revealed the first part of her documentary on women and the space program. It’s called “The Future is Female: Women Space and NASA,” and can be viewed on PBS39.org. 

Listen to the story.

Brad Klein

“Let’s spend a few minutes talking about local politics. Petitions have been submitted, and between now and the primary on May 18 we will be working to introduce our listeners to what they need to know going into the primaries.”

Jen Rehill

“It’s already shaping up to be a pretty interesting municipal primary season. If you can say that, maybe you need to be someone who really loves, loves, loves politics. But we do. So, there are some races that we’re watching that are really interesting. 

“In the Bethlehem City Council race, there are four open seats. Five folks have submitted petitions to get on the ballot for that and interestingly, four of them are women. All of them are Democrats. And unless a third-party candidate throws their hat in the ring later this summer to get on the November ballot, this race is going to be decided by Democrats on May 18. So, that’s one race that popped out at me that I thought was really interesting. 

“In Allentown, we’re seeing some really interesting trends on diversity and representation of the communities of Allentown. So the five challengers expected to face off against Mayor Ray O’Connell are all African American, Hispanic or of Latino heritage. So we could see a new mayor in Allentown that represents a city that is 70% represented by those populations.

“In the Allentown City Council race, about half of the candidates are African American or Latino, and there’s even one Syrian American immigrant on the ballot. All are Democrats.

“In the Allentown School Board race, all but one of the candidates are people of color, so we’re really seeing a sort of shift in the demographic trends for the election upcoming in Allentown.”

Klein

“So, when it comes to COVID-19 and vaccinations, the news was mostly good this week.”

Rehill

“I would even go so far as to say uplifting, Brad. It was an uplifting week in the year anniversary of the first cases and things beginning to shut down due to COVID-19.

“One thing was the new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control lightening up some restrictions, new guidelines for folks who have been vaccinated. And here in the Lehigh Valley, The Morning Call just reporting that Gracedale is going to be opening up, is planning to be opening up two visitors a little later in the spring. It’s been a year since they’ve been able to do that. Some local hospital networks are also beginning to allow visitors to come back onto the premises. So that’s really a change from where we have lived, in the reality that we have lived, in COVID-19 this whole past year.” 

Klein

“Being able to visit elderly relatives and patients in the hospital. These are huge steps forward.”

Rehill 

“And Lehigh Valley Health Network just this week had its largest vaccine clinic ever, inoculating thousands of people in a drive-thru clinic. Even teachers are now in line to get shots with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. And local schools are starting to talk about reopening or maybe bringing more children back more days a week.” 

Klein

“But having said all that, we’re still in category 1A in terms of who’s eligible for vaccination, and I still hear stories, at least anecdotally, of people trying to get vaccinations. It’s still a struggle to get the shot.” 

Rehill

“That’s definitely true. I think what we’re seeing is kind of glimmers of hope on the horizon. For right now, the vaccine rollout is still pretty clunky. It’s hard, especially if you are not particularly internet savvy, even if you’re in a group that qualifies for a vaccine right now to get one of those appointments.”

Klein

“Well, speaking of looking forward, I had a fascinating conversation on March 10 with Megan Frank, a reporter for PBS39 and WLVR, about her documentary project on Women and the space program that streamed on PBS39.org. And it’s still available to watch, right?”

Rehill

“That’s right, I watched that with my 12-year-old daughter and it was just crackerjack, really interesting ties between the space industry and the different industries here in the Lehigh Valley and lots of great interviews with female scientists. It’s all part of a larger documentary that Megan Frank is producing that’s going to come out later this spring. So maybe the whole theme of the week is uplifting. If you get what I mean, Brad.”

Klein

“I see what you’re doing there. Thanks for joining us, Jen. 

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