Side Effects Public Media

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.  

Ali Schroer was just out of college when she started her first teaching job, but her new insurance plan didn’t cover her allergy medication. 

"So this new allergist that I was seeing in Colorado had said, after several go arounds of me asking to take this medication, said, ‘Oh, well actually know that you can just get it online.”'

Seth Thompson learned about COVID-19 early.  He’s an engineer in Carthage, Missouri, a town of just under 15,000 that sits along historic Route 66 in the southwest corner of the state. The virus first came to Thompson’s attention in February, when the global firm he works for shut down its offices in China. Back then, the danger seemed remote.

Maricel Mendoza is familiar with the work migrant and seasonal farmworkers do. Growing up, her family traveled from Texas to central Illinois every year for her parents’ jobs as contractors with a large seed company. 

“All of my parents’ siblings were migrants, my grandparents were migrants,” Mendoza says. “So it’s just something that was the norm for me.” 

When physician Erik Martin left his home in southwest Missouri to help with New York’s COVID-19 outbreak in April, his county had fewer than 10 confirmed cases of the virus. Now he’s back — and watching those numbers skyrocket. More than 400 Jasper County residents have tested positive, and more than 800 are in quarantine.

“I never expected that within such a short period of time, my home town would become a COVID hotspot, as it has now," Martin says. He was alarmed when he learned a patient who tested positive worked at the Butterball poultry processing plant in nearby Carthage. After seeing a second Butterball worker, Martin alerted the county health department to the potential outbreak.

How Redlining, Racism Harm Black Americans' Health

Jun 26, 2020

Systemic racism has a huge impact on the health of Black Americans, and not just in the doctor’s office. In a Facebook Live event, Side Effects Public Media reporter Darian Benson spoke with three experts on topics ranging from generational mistrust to the impact of COVID-19. 

Demonstrations are flaring up across the country to protest the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police. They’re also calling attention to broader inequalities. One of those areas—health disparities—kills Black Americans in massive numbers.

Studies have found the rates of mental illness and suicide are higher for farmers. They work long hours, have limited social contact and are at the mercy of factors such as weather. Now the COVID-19 pandemic is creating even greater challenges to their livelihood—and mental health. 

Here’s something that might surprise you: A new national survey shows that regardless of political affiliation, Americans mostly agree on how to reopen the economy during the coronavirus pandemic—slowly—and with protective measures like face masks.

Outbreaks at meat processing facilities have sickened workers and stalled production throughout the Midwest. Side Effects reporters Natalie Krebs (Iowa Public Radio) and Sebastián Martínez Valdivia (KBIA, Missouri), and Ohio Valley ReSource reporter Liam Niemeyer (WKMS, Kentucky) joined engagement specialist Brittani Howell on Facebook Live to talk about how the story has unfolded in their states. 

We’re continuing to answer questions about the coronavirus and COVID-19, and lately there have been a lot about states reopening. As that happens, how can you stay safe? And do the rules about masks, hand-washing and social distancing still apply?

About 20 or so women were gathered for a late afternoon video conference. Some had glasses of wine, or cups of coffee. You could see pets in a few frames. It was March 26, when COVID-19 cases were beginning to ramp up in Indiana.

One of the women, Dr. Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, posed a question: Was anyone else feeling guilty? 

We're continuing to answer questions about the coronavirus and COVID-19, and the latest batch showed that there's still a lot of confusion about testing. Who needs it, how is it done, where is it done—and more. 

Some fear the stress of social isolation, historic unemployment and health fears during the pandemic threatens our mental health. Dozens of national organizations raised concerns to Congress that the U.S. is unprepared to handle what may be a mental health crisis.

In partnership with the Center for Public Integrity, Columbia Journalism Investigations and Side Effects Public Media.

Every year, weather-related disasters ravage communities across the United States: floods in the Farm Belt, fires in the West and hurricanes along the South and East coasts.

Scientists say these disasters also lead to skyrocketing rates of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. One survey of Hurricane Katrina survivors found that a third had mood disorders, and suicidal thoughts more than doubled. Many studies suggest similar outcomes after wildfires and floods.

If someone gets sick in a seven county swath of the Ozarks of southeastern Missouri, the closest place they can go for care is a clinic run by Missouri Highlands Health Care. Highlands operates in some of the least populated and poorest counties in the state. Now, it’s cutting back.

Update: As the case count continues to rise, information on this story is moving quickly and may be out-of-date. We recommend checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for ways to stay safe and this John Hopkins tool for the most recent data

States are considering how, and when, to reopen their economies. But the process looks different across the country, and there's a considerable variety even in the Midwest. Side Effects Public Media’s Brittani Howell spoke with Indiana Public Broadcasting’s statehouse reporter Brandon Smith, KBIA health reporter Sebastián Martínez Valdivia and Iowa Public Radio health reporter Natalie Krebs about how their states have reacted so far, and what they might do going forward.

For fourth-year medical students, spring is normally the time for an important rite of passage. They finish  classes and find out where they’ll spend the next several years doing their residencies.

The coronavirus pandemic has turned all that upside down.

We're continuing to answer questions about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. If you have a question, email health@wfyi.org, text “health” to 73224 or leave a voicemail at 317-429-0080.

The elderly are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. The country’s first big outbreak was at a nursing home in Washington state, and more recently nursing homes and senior living facilities in places like Indiana, Illinois and Iowa have had experienced dozens of cases -- and deaths. Now, these places are facing a lot of pressure to keep residents safe -- and occupied. 

Update: As the case count continues to rise, information on this story is moving quickly and may be out-of-date. We recommend checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for ways to stay safe and this John Hopkins tool for the most recent data

Indiana Public Broadcasting’s digital producer Lauren Chapman and reporter Justin Hicks recently joined Side Effects Public Media’s Brittani Howell on Facebook Live to answer questions we’ve received about the new coronavirus and COVID-19.  

Update: As the case count continues to rise, information on this story is moving quickly and may be out-of-date. We recommend checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for ways to stay safe and this John Hopkins tool for the most recent data

In order to give your viewers a meaningful context in your reporting, please compare the current number of deaths from the COVID-19 virus with the average number of deaths due to the flu in the U.S. over the last decade.

The new coronavirus is still sweeping through the U.S., so it's difficult to draw comparisons to past flu seasons. Looking at the flu and coronavirus in other countries may be helpful. 

Updated 3/26/2020 5:09 pm

Ventilators are among the most important equipment hospitals need to treat a surge of COVID-19 patients. Companies such as General Motors are gearing up emergency production of the machines, which take over the labor of breathing for a patient with a serious case of the virus. 

The Broadway Diner is empty. The ‘50s style restaurant has been a fixture of downtown Columbia, for decades and gets a lot of customers from the University of Missouri. These days, the only sounds keeping owner Dave Johnson company are from the building’s noisy ventilation system. “I was here when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, and I thought that was horrible, but it’s nothing like this." 

We're continuing to answer questions about the coronavirus and COVID-19. Here are the latest; if you have more, here's how to send a question.

Do people who recover from coronavirus have any long-lasting symptoms or side effects?

It all depends on the severity of the case. Dr. Abhijit Duggal, a critical care specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, told USA Today that about 80% of COVID-19 patients recover with no complications. As for that remaining 20%, it may be too early to tell.

The coronavirus is wreaking havoc on nearly every aspect of life. And people who lack stable housing or food supplies are among the most vulnerable.

A number of Midwest states and cities have issued “stay-at-home” orders, in an attempt to curb the new coronavirus, which continues to rapidly spread.  The orders create restrictions on working, recreation and travel. Still, there are many things you can continue to do, and not all businesses have to close. 

Update: As the case count continues to rise, information on this story is moving quickly and may be out-of-date. We recommend checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for ways to stay safe and this John Hopkins tool for the most recent data

We continue to answer your questions about the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19 -- and there sure are plenty. That's to be expected as the nation convulses from unprecedented lockdowns, quarantines and other interruptions. Here are some questions we received via email, with responses from Side Effects community engagement specialist Brittani Howell:

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