Emily Woodbury | KBIA

Emily Woodbury

Emily Woodbury joined the St. Louis on the Air team in July 2019. Prior to that, she worked at Iowa Public Radio as a producer for two daily, statewide talk programs. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa with a degree in journalism and a minor in political science. She got her start in news radio by working at her college radio station as a news director. Emily enjoys playing roller derby, working with dogs, and playing games – both video and tabletop.

Defunding police departments is a major goal for many Black Lives Matter protesters, but for some people, it’s a scary idea — and that’s true for many St. Louis residents.

For criminologist Richard Rosenfeld, who has studied local policing for years, the proposal isn’t alarming. He defines “defund the police” as the outsourcing of certain tasks currently handled by officers to other agencies, like having firefighters conduct routine traffic control or using social workers to respond to calls involving homeless people.

Many sanctioned fireworks shows are canceled this summer due to the pandemic, but people continue to set off everything from firecrackers to Roman candles in backyards and streets throughout the region.

And compared to 2019, fireworks use in St. Louis is up this year. 

“[It] started much earlier in my neighborhood and in the neighborhoods I work in,” said St. Louis Fire Department Chief Dennis Jenkerson. “We have 30 different firehouses around the city. They’re all seeing an earlier start and an increased amount of shooting going on early in the evening. The size and the sound of these fireworks going off has increased.”

Last year from May 1 to June 24, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department received 196 calls about illegal fireworks use. During the same period this year, the city received 879 calls. 

The pandemic has led to an increased demand for food delivery services, like DoorDash and Postmates. In March, Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it would expand its delivery services by partnering with Uber Eats. But for local eateries, the price of working with a third-party delivery service can be steep.

Wednesday on St. Louis on the Air, local restaurateurs Melanie Meyer, of Party Bear Pizza and Tiny Chef, and Kurt Bellon, of Chao Baan, shared their experience working with third-party delivery services. They also talked about how they are approaching the reopening of their facilities.

In March, when the pandemic shut down businesses across St. Louis, the city announced a moratorium on evictions. Officials didn’t want to see people displaced at a time when sheltering was required.

That moratorium has ended, but since the courts are still shut down, no eviction proceedings are taking place. (They were set to open June 22; however, that same day, they were forced to close again due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19.)

A St. Louis nonprofit organization that assists victims of domestic violence says it has seen a big increase in reports in recent months. Executive Director Marti Kelly said she believes the increase is related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kelly runs the Crime Victim Center. Nearly 90% of the organization’s caseload has to do with domestic violence. 

“We get copies of the police reports, and we can tell you that in April there was a 225% increase in the county and a 25% increase in the city,” said Kelly on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “The police officers that we spoke to ... believe it’s because people in the county aren’t essential workers as often. They’re staying home, and working with their spouse in a home, instead of going out and leaving every day for work.”

The spinal cord injury Larry Cherry suffered in high school began impacting his life in a major way in his mid-50s. He started having trouble with balance, a loss of motion in his legs, and neuropathy. 

“Over the years, the tumors inside my spinal cord grew and finally made me not be able to walk,” he said.

Suddenly, the simplest tasks became insurmountable — until he met Carrie.

“She loves to play ball, she loves people, she loves kids especially,” he said. “She’s my friend. She goes where I go.”

Named after the country singer Carrie Underwood, Carrie is a service dog who was matched with Cherry by the St. Louis-based nonprofit Duo Dogs. 

Most people have become uncomfortable navigating public life in the months since the new coronavirus hit, but things are even more difficult for those who experience the world differently than the majority, such as blind people or those who are deaf.

Nick Silver is the owner of the Human Repair Shop, and he is almost completely blind. He started losing his eyesight at age four. 

Three St. Louis siblings recently had their adoption finalized, even in the midst of a pandemic. The children, ages 7, 6 and 5, were adopted by an Oregon family, with the final hearing taking place by phone due to COVID-19 restrictions on in-person court hearings. 

St. Louis-based foster care recruiter Edna Green, who works for the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition in Brentwood and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, played matchmaker for the Oregon family and the three youngsters. She described the process on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air

Their siblings’ newly adoptive mother, Celeste Scott, also joined the program from Oregon. 

Six summers ago, protests against police brutality and racism brought the eyes of the nation to Ferguson. Now the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has set off another round of protests around the world — including Ferguson and St. Louis.

“[There] is a lot of build up and frustration and anger” in the St. Louis region, state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, said. “Seeing these images again and then having to relive it. Seeing how this criminal justice system has constantly told black people that their lives don't matter.”

Aldridge was active in the 2014 protests that followed the death of Michael Brown. He has continued to lead protests in the years since, including the weeks of action that followed the “not guilty” verdict of a St. Louis police officer charged with murder in 2017, and now, in the wake of Floyd’s death, four consecutive nights of local protests.

On Monday, Aldridge helped to lead a protest that drew hundreds to the Arch grounds and the streets of downtown St. Louis. 

A masked violinist has been making music while strolling the streets of Alton. Local rumor has it that she last played during the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic and that she lives on an island in the Mississippi River.

She calls herself the Fiddle Assassin and claims her only enemy is the coronavirus.

“[I’m] trying to assassinate these bad vibes,” she said Tuesday on St. Louis on the Air.

The Fiddle Assassin has been playing an electric violin for several weeks, walking through downtown Alton and playing on street corners with a tiny, battery-powered amplifier attached to her hip.

Cindy Lefton has worked as a registered nurse for 37 years. For her, the job requires attention to not only patients’ physical needs, but to their loved ones, helping them know they're in good hands.

Lefton did just that for Dana Nichols Scott when Scott’s younger brother was in the emergency room in 2001. Scott said that even though she knew her brother wouldn’t make it, Lefton helped her family feel at peace.

“Cindy was so awesome. She was caring and made me and my family feel so good at the time,” Scott said. “Even when I think of that time now, during troubled times, I feel at peace because there are people like Cindy around to help people.”

The documentary “Day One” follows a group of teenage refugees enrolled at a unique public school in St. Louis: the Nahed Chapman New American Academy. The school only enrolls refugees and immigrants, some of whom come from war-torn countries.

“With a lot of refugees, they’re really just surviving — in the beginning especially — on a day-to-day basis,” said the documentary’s producer and director, Lori Miller, on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “They’re learning a new language; they’re trying to survive economically.”

“I think this ‘soft place to land’ does make a difference for the kids,” she said.

St. Louis will begin easing some of the restrictions city officials put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus, but it will also implement new ones, Mayor Lyda Krewson said Friday.

Starting May 18, restaurants in the city can open, but tables must be six feet apart. Retail shops also can open. But employees must wear face masks and customers should also, Krewson said on St. Louis on the Air.

“We’re going to crack the door open,” Krewson said. “We are going to open it a little ways. 25, 30 percent of the way open, so that we can ease into this.”

What started as a dare from his wife has blossomed into an 11-part book series for attorney Michael Kahn. Kahn works as senior counsel at Capes Sokol law firm in Clayton by day, and by night, he writes mystery novels. 

The first Rachel Gold mystery novel was published in 1988. The protagonist, Gold, grew up in University City, and references to the city of St. Louis are sprinkled throughout the series. 

“After that first novel, [Gold] moved back to St. Louis where she’s from,” Kahn said. “After her father passed away, she wanted to be closer to her mom, and that’s where she’s been for the last 10 novels.”

The latest in his Rachel Gold series is called “Bad Trust.” In it, Gold gets involved in two lawsuits that spiral out of control, “one ending in murder, the other in courtroom humiliation.”

In mid-April, the incident commander of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, Dr. Alex Garza, predicted that hospitalizations of COVID-19 cases in the region would peak around April 25. It’s impossible to say whether the city has hit the peak until time has passed and the overall trend becomes clear, but it could be the case that recent days have been as bad for local hospitals as it will get.

According to Dr. Kristen Mueller, an emergency medicine physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, the overall volume of patients coming to the emergency room is actually down.

In early March, Mark Glenshaw joined host Sarah Fenske on St. Louis on the Air to discuss his obsession with owls. On Monday’s show, Glenshaw returned to give an update on his favorite great horned owl, Charles. 

During the conversation, he detailed Charles’ relationship with another owl, Danielle. 

Embracing the new virtual landscape many performance artists find themselves in during the age of social distancing, St. Louis musician John Henry is using a Kickstarter campaign for pre-orders of his new album, “Out At Sea.”

If the fundraiser is successful, donors will not only receive a record and a screen print from local shop Sleepy Kitty, they will also be supporting a cause close to Henry’s heart: mental health advocacy. 

“A few years ago we lost a band member to suicide, so mental health was a major issue that we dealt with. It was a huge loss, and it was a very confusing time,” Henry said Friday on St. Louis on the Air. “I think a lot of men, in a certain respect, are taught to bury this so you don’t see it, and that’s when it becomes very dangerous, I feel like.”

On April 22, 1943, Dr. Raul Artal-Mittelmark was born in a Nazi concentration camp in Transnistria, a region in Eastern Europe. 

“It was a very difficult breech delivery; I came into the world with my feet first,” Artal-Mittelmark said Wednesday on St. Louis on the Air. “Luckily, there was a physician in the camp … who knew what to do. He saved my mother’s and my life.”

Amy Taylor bought her home in University City with the hope of sharing it with strangers.

“When I was renovating a home in Connecticut, a good friend of mine — a retired psychiatrist — asked me if I wanted to stay at her home while my kitchen was being renovated, and I absolutely loved it. We had another roommate, Adam, and the three of us basically sort of formed a family unit,” Taylor said. “So when I moved to St. Louis, I specifically bought a home where I could see how I could have roommates.”

On April 8, St. Louis Health Director Dr. Fred Echols brought attention to the fact that, at that point, all 12 people who died of COVID-19 in St. Louis were African American. This echoed what other cities have experienced in treating COVID-19 patients: There are racial disparities in who is more at risk of a COVID-19 diagnosis due to long-standing socioeconomic factors that have disproportionately affected black Americans.

“The virus is showing us ourselves. It’s showing us the truth of the way in which people have to live in order to survive and do the best for them and their families,” said Washington University’s Dr. Laurie Punch, who is currently working in Christian Hospital Northeast’s ICU.

“And because we live in such a highly segregated city, which has scars in it carved by the knife that is structural racism,” Punch continued, “it’s not surprising that there is such a dramatic difference in the incidence of the disease and then the death by the disease when you look at north versus south St. Louis.”

It’s not news that parents are struggling with suddenly being cast into the role of virtual teacher. They didn’t sign up for two jobs, and most of them didn’t train to be educators. So how can parents do the best they can for their children, while staying sane, in the weeks ahead? 

“Structure up,” said Gina Jeffries, director of SIUE East St. Louis Charter High School. “Make sure that everybody knows what their role is. The roles have changed.”

The union that represents thousands of grocery and other retail workers in the St. Louis area is asking Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to mandate that customers cover their faces while shopping in retail facilities deemed essential businesses.

“Most of the retailers that I represent today, and a lot of the nonunion ones, are now providing some type of mask for their employees,” said David Cook, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655. “And that’s great — the mask protects the public from getting an infection from them — but nothing protects them from the public.”

Cook said that the CDC specifically mentions grocery stores in its latest recommendation that customers wear cloth facial coverings in public. The union sent its letter to the governor’s office today.

At the St. Louis hospital where Emma Crocker works as a registered nurse, only employees working in areas with confirmed COVID-19 patients, like the emergency room and the ICU, were given N95 masks from the hospital’s collection. 

“The CDC, when they first came out, recommended the use of N95 masks for every health care worker, but we know that there’s a shortage — there’s a limited supply, which is actually what’s hindering us the most right now,” said Crocker.

N95 masks are in short supply across the country, and the hospital said they were conserving their supply.

In determining the best guidelines for government action during the COVID-19 outbreak, city leaders and officials are looking at how different metros responded during the 1918 flu pandemic. The general consensus is that because St. Louis implemented more extensive quarantine measures, the area had a lower death rate than other cities — like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York City.

In his latest piece, Chris Naffziger, who writes about history and architecture for St. Louis Magazine, wrote that while city officials managed to prevent the deaths of thousands during the pandemic of 1918 through 1920, St. Louis’ response to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic wasn't quite what we've been told.

Medical ethicists are trained to confront ethical questions in medicine, and the novel coronavirus raises quite a few.

For instance, in China and Italy, there have been reports of hospitals being forced to ration care for COVID-19 patients. This form of rationing care and prioritizing treatment is determined by a hospital’s crisis standards of care guidelines.

Even before the outbreak of COVID-19 forced mass social distancing — keeping friends and family members apart for the sake of their health — many seniors felt isolated, particularly those living in nursing homes and assisted living communities.

For those who were already lonely or isolated, things are likely to get worse in the months ahead, as caregivers find themselves overwhelmed and strained and as social distancing recommendations remain in place. 

Documentarian Ken Burns’ latest work, “East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story,” explores the history of a former public housing community in Atlanta. It features the stories of residents and raises critical questions about race, poverty and public assistance.

The film premieres Tuesday, March 24, at 7 p.m. on PBS.

Public health considerations and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to be at the forefront of daily life. Among those effects, the last few weeks have been incredibly tough for journalists and nonprofits alike, St. Louis Public Radio included.

The station is dealing with the difficulties of being dependent on members, even as they face serious anxiety as well as real or potential losses in income. St. Louis Public Radio continues to cover the news while minimizing in-person contact. That is not easy.

The summer slide — the propensity for students to lose academic progress made during the school year — is something educators have expressed concern about for years. 

With the region’s schools being closed until at least early April due to the COVID-19 outbreak, teachers and administrators are working to make sure such a slide doesn’t happen this spring as well.

There is a lot of anxiety swirling right now over the new coronavirus. There’s also a lot of misinformation. 

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Dr. Alexis Elward joined host Sarah Fenske to help set the record straight and answer listener questions and concerns. Elward is an infectious disease physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Elward says that health care providers are still being careful about who they test for COVID-19, with tests mainly limited to people likely to have had contact with an infected person.

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