Side Effects Public Media

As healthcare workers in the U.S. received COVID-19 vaccines, many were relieved and hopeful. But doctors who are foreign-born also describe a bittersweet feeling.

COVID Forces Artist With Disability To Pause Teaching

Feb 16, 2021

Johnson Simon, a painter and professor who has cerebral palsy, had his career plan interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. He spoke to Seth Johnson about his passion for teaching in an audio diary project for our Move to Include series.

As a person who likes to stay busy, Chelsea Davis had a hard time adjusting when COVID shut down her places of employment and volunteering. Seth Johnson interviewed her for Side Effects Public Media as part of an audio diary project for our Move to Include series.

Andrew Peterson isn’t one to stay still, but he’s had to get creative since COVID cancelled the marathons and competitions he’d normally be running in. Seth Johnson interviewed him and his father for Side Effects Public Media as part of an audio diary project for our Move to Include series.

What does an entertainment journalist do when he can’t cover events? Seth Johnson talks about his experience learning new skills — including creating radio diaries for Side Effects — during the pandemic. Part 1 of our Move to Include series on how people with disabilities are coping during this nationwide public health crisis. 

Rural Areas Face Challenges In COVID Vaccine Rollout

Feb 12, 2021

Across the Midwest, the rollout of COVID vaccines has been spotty. Lots of people are having a trouble with online signups. And vaccine demand far exceeds supply. That’s made the process challenging, especially in rural areas. 

As soon as COVID-19 hit, there was a massive jump in telemedicine visits. A Centers for Disease Control study found that in March 2020 there was a 154% increase compared to the previous year.

Now it’s clear the coronavirus has dramatically changed the way Americans get medical care. But some of these virtual options remain out of reach for the most vulnerable populations, like seniors.

On Chicago’s Southwest side, a colorful mural pays tribute to America’s essential workers. It features three of the community’s very own: Rosalinda, a retail clerk; Javier, a postal carrier and Juan, a butcher shop worker. Underneath their portraits are the words El Corazon de Chicago: The heart of Chicago.

Standing in her kitchen, Therese Richardson is making her favorite recipe. “The honey dijon roasted pork tenderloin. I like that one,” the 50-year-old Indianapolis woman says.

Richardson has Type 2 diabetes, meaning that cells in her body are resistant to insulin, causing her blood sugar levels to rise. Eating vegetables and other healthy food helps her avoid serious complications — and lowers blood sugar levels.

Megan Miedema is a mother of two in Chicago. In October, she started to feel back pain but was hesitant to go to the doctor. She worried about getting COVID-19 and bringing it back home. 

William Rentel, a nurse practitioner in Ohio, has Type 1 diabetes but has been able to keep his blood sugar well-managed.

That changed when he and his wife contracted COVID-19 this spring.

“I found myself needing to use double the amount of insulin I would normally use to get my blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible,” recalls Rentel, who works at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “That’s when I knew something was very wrong.”

COVID-19 And Diabetes Can Be A Dangerous Mix

Dec 23, 2020

Agatha Walston leads a busy life.

Even As COVID-19 Surges, Misinformation Persists

Dec 17, 2020

COVID-19 vaccines could one day end the pandemic. But at the moment, cases — and deaths — continue to rise. So does misinformation about the disease.

One comment often seen on social media is that deaths are being attributed to COVID even when the patient died of something else. Dr. Sonal Shah, a hospitalist at Southern Illinois Healthcare, says some of that confusion may come from death certificates having two fields. 

Drug manufacturers have released promising early results for their COVID-19 vaccines, but skepticism among Americans remains high -- especially for African Americans, who the virus has hit harder than other groups.

The continued stress from COVID-19 has heightened mental health problems nationwide. And some experts say that has led to an increase in drug overdoses.

COVID-19 Surge Strains Midwest Hospitals

Nov 14, 2020

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news collaborative covering public health.

The recent COVID surge was enough to push BJC Healthcare to start deferring some scheduled procedures at hospitals in the St. Louis area. In Columbia, where the University of Missouri is located, hospitals aren’t there yet.

But it’s not out of the question.


Now that summer is over and temperatures are dipping across the Midwest, people are headed indoors, some experts fear the already striking rise in cases is the beginning of another wave of COVID-19.

“I think that as fall moves forward ... what we're seeing right now is kind of a preview of what we can expect, as we even see colder temperatures come,” says Brian Dixon, director of public health informatics at the Indianapolis-based Regenstrief Institute. 

There is just one hospital in western Indiana’s Vermillion County. The slender, 37-mile long county is dotted with corn and soybean fields, and driving from one end to the other would take nearly an hour. 

Union Hospital Clinton is small, only 25 beds, but it also serves parts of two neighboring counties. The area suffers from some of Indiana’s highest rates of heart attack and stroke. 

When the COVID shutdown hit, lots of people lost jobs and couldn’t pay their rent. States and cities responded by putting a moratorium on evictions, but those are ending. Housing advocates are now bracing for a flood of evictions — and a public health problem.

Teaching is already challenging enough without a pandemic shaking up how the classroom operates. As schools reopen, many districts are focused on keeping their staff and students safe from COVID-19. But the pandemic is also taking a toll on teachers’ mental health. 

Sierra is in a bind. She and her husband have two children — ages three and nine years old — and they live in Urbana, a college town in east-central Illinois. 

On a Friday evening in late June, Liliana Quintero received a call from one of the Spanish interpreters working at a COVID-19 testing site in Goshen, Indiana. The area has one of Indiana’s higher Latinx populations and higher rates of COVID-19 cases, according to state data.

“[He was] saying, ‘Liliana I need to inform you that the nurse who is in charge of this site just told me that each time that she sees Hispanics coming to this site, she's going to call the police,’” recalls Quintero, director of the Northern Indiana Hispanic Health Coalition, an Elkhart-based health education and advocacy nonprofit.

On Aug. 3, Zach Matheny’s blood thinning medication was filled at his pharmacy, and sent out for delivery via the U.S. Postal Service. It never arrived at his home in Columbus, Ohio.

As colleges across the country welcome students back to campus, incoming freshmen are starting college in the middle of a pandemic. And, many are struggling with a tough decision to start or defer college this fall.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 28-year-old Mayra Ramirez was working as a paralegal for an immigration law firm in Chicago. She enjoyed walking her dogs and running 5K races. 

Ramirez has a condition requiring medication that could’ve suppressed her immune system but was otherwise healthy. When the Illinois governor issued a shelter-in-place order in March, she began working from home, hardly leaving the house. So she has no idea how she contracted COVID-19.

The nation’s automakers are scrambling to keep assembly lines staffed during the COVID crisis. At a Honda plant in Marysville, Ohio, that means calling on office workers to move to the line. And that has triggered anxiety among some workers.

More than 1,200 people in Missouri have died from COVID-19. As the toll rises each day, the human aspect can get obscured. Angela Kender is looking to change that.

After losing her mother to COVID-19 in June, Kender started a project to commemorate other victims. She’s collecting their photographs at missouricovidmemorial@gmail.com. She has already has dozens of photos, and plans to show them to lawmakers at the Missouri state capitol.

Kristina Ortiz and Tim Himes aren’t brother and sister by blood, but they might as well be. They’ve never known life apart. Ortiz was six months old when her foster mother brought Himes home from the hospital.  

“I’m always there for you,” Himes said on a video call with Ortiz. 

As universities prepare to welcome students back to campus for the fall semester, some are counting on widespread COVID-19 testing to help clamp down on potential outbreaks. 

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, large white tents, with signs reading “Walk-Up COVID-19 Testing,” have been popping up across campus.

This story was updated on July 24, 2020 to include additional information on deaths in group homes.

One of the ways Mikaela Coppedge has coped during the COVID-19 pandemic has been through writing poetry. Her poem “The Fear That Is COVID-19," starts: 

“Since the coronavirus outbreak and then the quarantine beginning, life as we know has all somewhat gone to hell.” 

Coppedge has a rare brain disease called Rasmussen’s encephalitis. As a treatment, half her brain was removed when she was three years old.  

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