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This week on Discover Nature, take a moment to admire and appreciate Missouri’s many gifts from nature.

Picture the vast geography of our state, as avian migrations pass over our prairies and plains, Ozark forests, big river systems, and marshy lowlands; the karst sinkholes and cave systems that filter our water below our feet and harbor sightless, unseen lifeforms.

Each ecoregion supporting its own array of animal and plant species that have constituted our state’s natural heritage from long before settlers set foot on Missouri soil.

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

Local health agencies are seeing more delays when it comes to being notified of new cases in their jurisdictions. That delay is down to a change in how the state is handling the data, according to Scott Clardy, assistant director of the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services department.

While the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services had been directly alerting health departments of new cases via text and email, now public health officials have to check a database. Clardy says the change in approach came last week. 

Courtesy of CoxHealth

COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise in Missouri, and unlike other surges earlier in the summer, hospitals in most parts of the state are filling up. At Cox Health, a health system in Springfield that operates multiple hospitals, expanding capacity over the past nine months still hasn't been enough.

Cox has added more than 100 beds, but the system has still had to turn people away. CEO Steve Edwards told the Health and Wealth Desk how the system is surviving the surge.

The monetary goals have been set and the red kettles are out, now it's up to you to dig deep for The Salvation Army, both in Columbia and Jefferson City! "Christmas is our biggest fundraiser." Guest: MAJOR CURTISS HARTLEY | There's another non-profit in need of your support: Voluntary Action Center. Executive director NICK FOSTER tells us that there's still about a third of the total number of households who signed up for their holiday program without a sponsor. Signing up is just a mouse click away! (5:18) November 25, 2020

Regional headlines from the KBIA Newsroom, including:

CHILLICOTHE — North of town, near the planned site of a massive hog farming operation, yard signs reading “farms not factories” are staked all over, demonstrating a strong level of opposition to a project that is on track for state approval.

Missouri prisons have seen a surge of inmate deaths connected to the coronavirus this month, prompting civil rights leaders to urge additional steps to protect prisoners and staff.

Early in the pandemic, confirmed cases were common but mostly mild among Missouri prisoners. Through August, the state reported just one inmate death. But 26 additional inmates infected with COVID-19 have died since September, most of them this month. A state spokeswoman says it isn’t certain that COVID-19 was the primary cause of death in most cases.

Troublesome Movement and Advocates Host Thanksgiving Food Drive

Nov 24, 2020
Christopher Mitchell / KBIA

For MU Professor Stephen Graves and his local initiative, the Troublesome Movement, cold and rainy weather can’t keep a good cause down.

Graves and the Troublesome Movement, in conjunction with the WE Project and the University of Missouri’s Legion of Black Collegiates, hosted Thanksgiving food drives on Saturday, Nov. 21 at Speakers Circle on the MU campus and on Monday, Nov. 23 at Douglass Park.

Community members were asked to donate non-perishable foods ranging from instant mashed potatoes and canned green beans to cream of mushroom soup and yams. 

Here's a roundup of headlines from across the region this afternoon, including:

Maximize your 2020 investments with this up-to-date financial news courtesy of investment advisor ALEX LaBRUNERIE from LaBrunerie Financial! November 24, 2020

Boone County Commission Discusses Countywide Mask Mandate

Nov 24, 2020

County leaders discussed a countywide mask mandate Monday at the Boone County Commission’s meeting, after reports of hospitals straining under rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Boone County Commissioners will consider a short-term renewable mandate around Dec. 1.

"Despite my preference of local municipalities deciding for themselves I have changed my mind on a countywide mandate," said Commissioner Fred Perry. "... despite the county facing political consequences, it would be best for everyone."

Hospital beds across Missouri are nearly four-fifths full, and capacity is even more limited in intensive care units as the coronavirus pandemic continues its autumn surge.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on Monday cited 2,805 hospitalizations statewide -- double the number from a month ago.

The state’s COVID-19 dashboard notes that just 21 percent of capacity remains at hospitals, and ICU capacity is down to 17 percent.

Ashland Passes Mask Advisory as County Cases Rise

Nov 23, 2020

The Ashland Board of Aldermen passed a citywide mask advisory by a vote of 5 to 1 during a special meeting Saturday, as urged by Mayor Richard Sullivan.

Sullivan compared the mask advisory to a severe weather advisory, saying it is the city government's responsibility to let people know of the situation and advise them to stay safe. He said multiple serious situations have recently arisen concerning city staff and COVID-19 safety.

Mizzou Show Me Renewal

It’s the first time since the University of Missouri started reporting COVID-19 cases that the number of “TOTAL STUDENTS HOSPITALIZED SINCE AUG. 19, 2020” was not zero.

The Show Me Renewal dashboard was updated on Monday to two students, marked with a double asterisk.

If your home needs a makeover but you aren't comfortable shopping in a store these days, SCOTT BRADLEY has just the solution: Carpet One Floor and Home's 'Sample Box Project'! Also, KATHRYN O'HAGAN introduces us to Columbia Foster and Adoption Project's programs, support, training and more! (4:52) November 23, 2020

Regional headlines from the KBIA Newsroom, including:

Another University of Missouri fraternity chapter has been closed indefinitely.

Delta Sigma Phi Foundation executive director Phillip Rodriguez said in an email that the decision stemmed from “a pattern of behavior that goes against the values of our fraternity.” The MU Student Conduct Committee found that the fraternity had violated campus policy. University spokeswoman Sara Diedrich said the committee recommended that the chapter lose recognition for a minimum of three years.

Missouri Lawmakers Propose Regulating Unlicensed Religious Schools

Nov 23, 2020

Members of the Missouri House are bringing new regulations to the legislative table to control religious boarding schools.

“We have a number of our members that are very interested in filing legislation, leadership in the House has been very supportive of us taking action, and I believe it might be one of the first bills passed next year,” Rep. Sheila Solon, R-St. Joseph, said.

Officials are discussing canceling all but the mot urgent medical procedures and building a field hospital as the coronavirus surges in Missouri.

Dr. Alex Garza, the chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said on Friday that projections show the region’s hospitals maxing out intensive care units in a matter of days, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Garza said the task force is working with the state to determine what assistance will be necessary. Springfield area hospitals also report being overwhelmed.

Afternoon Newscast for November 20, 2020

Nov 21, 2020

NEW MADRID, Mo. (AP) — Three former officials of a small southeast Missouri town are facing felony charges after a state audit found more than $115,000 in fraudulent purchases and payments. The investigation in Parma drew attention after records sought for the audit were destroyed in two suspicious fires. Former Parma Mayor Tyus Byrd, former city clerk Helen Jean Frye, and David Thatch, a former water supervisor, were charged this week.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A suburban and rural county near St. Louis is requiring face masks. Franklin County's mask order takes effect Friday and expires Dec. 20. The mandate is notable for what Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker described as “freedom-preserving” Franklin County. The area trends conservative. Local leaders had resisted requiring face masks for months. That changed after Republican Gov. Mike Parson's administration issued a public health warning in response to the recent exponential rise in Missouri coronavirus cases.

The City of Columbia Housing Programs Division is offering funds to nonprofits in order to help residents make housing and living payments during COVID-19. With nearly $740,000 awarded to Columbia through the CARES Act, the city went to residents in a survey to help determine the priorities for the Community Development Block Grant funding. Randy Cole, the manager of the Columbia Housing Programs Division, said the survey’s top three responses included rent payments, food security and homelessness.

The City of Columbia announced on November 20th that utility customers now have the option of paying their bills at Walmart.

According to a press release, the new option allows anyone to pay their bill at any participating Walmart in the country.

From Walmart, the bill will reach the city’s utility billing system in less than thirty minutes.

City of Columbia Treasurer Chelsea Miller said that this another step in providing more options for people to pay their utility bills.

Scores of red colored candles burning before kneeling people at an evening memorial service
Robert Ghement / European Pressphoto

Just before the COVID pandemic sent the world into lockdown last spring, visitors to Columbia's  True/False film festival got a sneak preview of a remarkable film about journalism.

We have some holidays to get through, and we are now a week out from Thanksgiving. Our holiday traditions are likely changing, and compounded with regular holiday stress, this could be a difficult time.

So, what is Thanksgiving going to look like for you? And what do any of us have to be thankful for?

That’s a tough one. So we're talking to a couple of experts to to get some advice on how to stay grateful in these times, and the role gratitude can play in our lives.

Our guests:
AJ Jacobs, author of "Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey"

Reverend Dr. Cassandra Gould, executive director of Missouri Faith Voices

AI enthusiast SCOTT CHRISTIANSON introduces us to another "internet of things" device, this one provides six-lead EKG information via a smartphone. You can now check your heart's BPM right at home! Watch his live demo. November 20, 2020

UM Curators Approve Women's And Children's Hospital Plan, Elect New Chair

Nov 20, 2020

The UM System Board of Curators unanimously approved a new $232 million hospital facility for Women’s and Children’s Hospital during its Thursday meeting.

The board also elected new leadership for the coming year and reviewed the system’s new governance structure.

The new facility is a key part of MU Health Care’s three-phase process to consolidate operations on the existing University Hospital campus, maximize efficiency and increase total capacity for the hospitals.