What You Need to Know: Delta variant, Musikfest and the IronPigs sign the nation’s first scholar-athlete

Written by on July 16, 2021

 What You Need to Know: Delta variant, Musikfest and the IronPigs sign the nation’s first scholar-athlete

By Brad Klein
July 16, 2021

Musikfest goers in Bethlehem. Photo | Staci Inez / WLVR

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – 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 state of the COVID-19 delta variant in the Lehigh Valley; looking forward to Musikfest, when hundreds of thousands are expected to visit Bethlehem and the surrounding area; and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs achieve a national first by signing an endorsement deal with Lehigh University softball shortstop, Carly Barjaktarovich.

Listen to the story.

Brad Klein

“I’m joined by WLVR News Director Jen Rehill. Hi Jen.”

Jen Rehill

“Hi, Brad.”

Klein

“Well, there’s a good news-bad news story related to the pandemic: Overall vaccination rates for those over 18 in Pennsylvania is just over 60% but the Pennsylvania Department of Health says that the rate of new vaccinations at this point is very low. And of course, our concerns are with this delta variant that has emerged in so many parts of the world as very infectious and very dangerous.”

Rehill

“So Brad, what we know right now about the delta variant in Pennsylvania is that it’s accounting for about a little over 3% of cases. But I have to say that’s up from last week where the estimate was about 1% of cases and we are beginning to see a rise in the weekly average of cases. That’s up 25%. 

“Now, as we’ve seen the delta variant cases surging in other parts of the country, that’s been associated with a spike in overall cases as well. So officials are watching this and they are concerned about vaccinations and how this is spreading among people who are unvaccinated. 

“As a matter of fact, yesterday, the Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joe Roy sent out a video to parents imploring folks to get vaccinated to ensure that kids can return to school in the fall. Let’s hear a sound bite from him:” 

Joseph Roy

“Forty-four percent of all cases are falling into one category: 25-49-year-olds. And let’s face it, Most of our parents are 25-49 years old. So that’s why I emphasize for you, please get yourselves vaccinated and protect your kids and protect our school year.” 

Rehill

“As you mentioned, the number of folks getting vaccinated has really slowed significantly. The Lehigh Valley has done a little bit better than that statewide average of about 61% of adults getting vaccinated, but it still leaves a lot of people unprotected or having only gotten one shot. 

“Brittany Sweeney spoke to a local health expert from LVHN this week and he says, even if you missed your window, go back and get the second shot. That’s the advice from health care professionals if you missed your second shot. Now, I do have one silver lining this week on Covid, and that is, right now, hospitalizations and deaths across the state are at the lowest levels since March 2020.” 

Klein

“We’re still in a pandemic and I can’t help but think that it’s worthwhile to look to the east, see how things are doing in New York City and that’s sort of a precursor to maybe the future, the possible future here in the Lehigh Valley.” 

Rehill 

“It has been a predictor in the past. And what we saw back in March 2020 was that what’s happening in New York City and New Jersey, where cases are rising, does tend to come to the Lehigh Valley next because of our close relationship.” 

Klein

“Well, Musikfest, the outdoor, mostly free festival based in Bethlehem starts in about three weeks after most of the live events last year, almost all of them, were canceled because of the pandemic. What’s the prospect for this year?” 

Rehill

“Tourism officials are expecting a return to basically pre-pandemic levels of attendance. 

“Now, we know in 2019 the festival saw its biggest attendance ever. There were an estimated 1.2 million people who came out to Bethlehem for the concerts and the food, and Reporter Hayden Mitman has been doing some reporting and he says hotels are expecting a return to about 80% occupancy which they also saw in 2019. That’s up from about 30% last year when the festival was virtual.”

Klein

“So, in some ways, this is going to be a test of both of our pandemic precautions that we have in place at this point and are familiar to everyone and a test of people’s willingness to get out into big social situations.”

Rehill

“If national trends are any indication, people are traveling in record numbers and the tourism sector here in Bethlehem may benefit from that as well.” 

Klein

“One interesting change here at WLVR News is that we’re covering sports, specifically minor league baseball, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. They’re not first in their division, but they are the first professional sports team to sign an endorsement deal with a college athlete, something now allowed under NCAA rules.”

Rehill 

“How about that for the Lehigh Valley making some national headlines. And that endorsement deal, it’s with Lehigh University softball shortstop Carley Barjaktarovich. The IronPigs are hosting a softball night next week on July 22 and Carley is expected to play a role in that.” 

Klein

“That name is a real mouthful. I’m looking forward to more news stories where I get to say Carley Barjaktarovich.”

Rehill

“Well, all good wishes to her on her endorsement deal.”

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