Pittsburgh’s mayoral candidates debate COVID and how the city should transition out of the pandemic

by Oliver Morrison

PublicSource asked several questions about how Pittsburgh should move forward from the COVID-19 pandemic in wide-ranging interviews between April 6-12 with the city’s four Democratic mayoral candidates. They each had a different take on when to get vaccinated, how to bring back the city’s workforce and whether to close streets to provide more outdoor seating. To listen to the full interviews, click here.

Q: Have you received your vaccine shot yet? 

Mike Thompson: I’m one of the few that wants to thank everyone in Pittsburgh for doing such a good job. You’re wondering why were you wearing a mask, why did we lock down? You were wearing a mask and you were locked down for me. I’m a “Make a Wish” kid with a brand new liver in 2018. A nice local woman I had never met gave me half her liver. And I wanted to honor her legacy by living. So I stayed home for a full year, and then I got vaccinated because I am a very high at-risk population. I’m on immunosuppressants to keep my new liver alive and so I am fully vaccinated. Every time I see someone in a mask, I think they were just looking out for me personally. That’s how it feels to me.

Mayor Bill Peduto: Generals eat last. So I’ll do it when it’s available to my employees. I’ll be real honest: I saw Sen. [Marco] Rubio get it at the head of the line and jump in front of seniors and everybody else and after listening in for a year saying it was a conspiracy or it was no different than the flu. I just said I’m not going to accept it if it was offered until it’s available to everyone else. So it’s available to me now, I’m 56, so I’ll get it soon, but I was not going to take somebody else’s place.

[On April 27, PublicSource sought an update from the mayor and received a text message response from Matt Harrison, his campaign communications director: “The Mayor received his first shot already, and hasn’t experienced any side effects. He didn’t want to cut in line, and waited to get it until everyone on his staff was eligible to get it.” The mayor was interviewed on April 6 and all adult Pennsylvanians became eligible for the vaccine on April 13.]

Tony Moreno: I was COVID-positive over the election cycle. I hit a lot of poll areas. And I mean, despite all the protections, I still got it. And I’m waiting to see what the numbers look like for people that have already received it. If we’re going to really need that vaccine, if it shows that, I will sign up and get it. If the people that are most needed are covered, then I’ll put myself in line with it. But I feel I have a greater protection than most.

One of my campaign volunteers did become very sick, and she was hospitalized. Now she falls into the category where she’s a little bit older and has some underlying medical conditions. And I was very worried about it. And that’s what led me to get tested because I was feeling under the weather, and it proved out to be that. So we quarantined and had our kids quarantined with us, and we ended up coming out just fine.

[PublicSource received a text message from Moreno on April 29 that added, because he and his wife recovered from COVID-19 in November, he believes they have immunity. “We are waiting for more data to come in before we waste a shot on ourselves. We would absolutely receive a vaccination if it is found to be necessary.”*]

*The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends that people who have been infected and recovered from COVID-19 should still get the vaccine.

State Rep. Ed Gainey: I got my first one. I get my next one Saturday [April 10]. I got the Moderna. My arm was sore for like 48 hours. It was. They said the first one is not one that we have to think about, it’s the second one. I’m drinking a lot of water. They said one of the things that you do before taking a second shot is you should have a lot of liquid in you, and I’m drinking water almost on the hour.

[PublicSource received an update by email on April 29 from a member of his campaign staff: “Rep. Gainey’s shot on the 10th went well. His arm was slightly sore.”]

(Photo illustration by Natasha Vicens/PublicSource)


Pittsburgh’s mayoral candidates debate COVID and how the city should transition out of the pandemic



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