Sebastián Martinez Valdivia | KBIA

Sebastián Martinez Valdivia

Health Reporter

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia is a health reporter and documentary filmmaker who focuses on access to care in rural and immigrant communities. A native Spanish speaker and lifelong Missouri resident, Sebastián is interested in the often overlooked and under-covered world of immigrant life in the rural midwest. He has a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri and a master's degree in documentary journalism at the same institution. Aside from public health, his other interests include conservation, climate change and ecology.

Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

The University of Missouri System will be out $36.5 million for the rest of the current fiscal year as part of a series of spending cuts Governor Mike Parson announced Wednesday. In a statement, UM System President Mun Choi said, "we must all work together to get past this crisis."

Citizens Memorial Healthcare

As COVID-19 cases have increased exponentially in the U.S., CDC guidelines have led healthcare providers across the country to cancel outpatient procedures and elective surgeries. In rural areas, that's left already struggling clinics and hospitals without a vital source of income. Tim Wolters, director of reimbursement at Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar says his health system now has to balance preparing for COVID-19 cases and maintaining staff. 

Citizens Memorial Healthcare

As COVID-19 cases have increased exponentially in the U.S., CDC guidelines have led healthcare providers across the country to cancel outpatient procedures and elective surgeries. In rural areas, that's left already struggling clinics and hospitals without a vital source of income. Tim Wolters, director of reimbursement at Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar says his health system now has to balance preparing for COVID-19 cases and maintaining staff. 

Sebastian Martinez Valdivia / KBIA

As the number of COVID-19 cases in mid-Missouri is increasing, so too is the amount of community spread. As of Tuesday morning, locally contracted cases accounted for at least 33 of the 63 confirmed cases in Boone County.

The Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services department groups cases into four categories: travel-related, contact with a confirmed case, community transmission and unknown. Cases where the health department isn't able to verify exposure to a confirmed case, and the subject hasn't traveled are grouped under community transmission.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, the Broadway Diner was empty. The ‘50s-style greasy spoon has been a fixture of downtown Columbia for decades. But owner Dave Johnson said he’d never seen anything like this. “I was here when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, and I thought that was horrible, but it’s nothing like this,” Johnson said.

The diner closed its dine-in space three days ago, following an order from the city government. A few days earlier, Johnson announced the diner would feed any students and community members, after local colleges and the public school system closed.

Las autoridades de la ciudad de Columbia y del condado de Boone han emitido una nueva orden por la que se instruye a la población a permanecer en casa, así como se suspende a todos los establecimientos «no esenciales».  Brian Treece, alcalde de Columbia, dijo que la intención de la orden de Quedarse en casa es disminuir al máximo la cantidad de gente en lugares públicos, para así limitar la transmisión del virus COVID-19 o Coronavirus.

Leaders from the City of Columbia and Boone County announced a new order instructing people to stay at home, and suspending "non-essential" businesses. Columbia Mayor Brian Treece said the order is intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 by minimizing the amount of people in public spaces. 

Under the order, residents should only leave home for what city officials have designated as essential activities. Those activities include getting food, medical supplies, and taking care of family-members in other households. The order also designates essential businesses allowed to continue, which include health care facilities, grocery stores, pharmacies, construction companies, and a handful of others.

Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

MU Health Care says it has upped its response to the COVID-19 pandemic to its highest level. The health system says evidence that people have become infected here in mid-Missouri, rather than while traveling, triggered the move. So far the increased response level has meant screening employees for symptoms and banning most visitors to MU Health facilities.

A Boone County resident has become the first person confirmed to have died from COVID-19 in the Missouri. Columbia Mayor Brian Treece made the announcement alongside Governor Mike Parson at the Capitol this afternoon.

Treece said the patient’s family called emergency services early this morning, and emergency responders then transported the person to University Hospital, where the patient later died.

The six emergency responders who transported the patient were then isolated at the hospital for testing. Treece says they are currently being quarantined in Boone County.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

MU Health Care started drive-through testing for COVID-19 in the parking lot of the Mizzou softball stadium. The system announced the station will be open for testing from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, including on the weekend. 

Anyone wanting to get a test will first need an order from a healthcare provider. MU Health is offering free virtual screenings for people who think they may have the disease on its website

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

In a press conference Tuesday night announcing the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Boone County, Mayor Brian Treece also announced an emergency order to stem the spread of the disease. Following a resolution the city council adopted at the previous night's meeting, Public Health and Human Services Director Stephanie Browning issued the order, which restricts gatherings as well as restaurant and bar capacities.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

Columbia Mayor Brian Treece announced Monday afternoon he would be putting an emergency resolution before the city council in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The resolution would recommend prohibiting gatherings of 50 people or more, putting restrictions on gatherings of more than 25 people, and limiting restaurant and bar capacities in Columbia. 

The University of Missouri says it is now planning on holding all classes remotely through the end of the semester, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a statement Friday evening, university president Mun Choi writes all in-person classes at its campuses in Columbia, St. Louis, Rolla and Kansas City will be suspended. Plans for final exams and commencement are still pending. 

Dormitories and dining halls will remain open, as will the university’s libraries, but recreation centers on all four campuses will close.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

In many ways, Wednesday felt like spring break had already come to the University of Missouri in Columbia. Two days before the governor would issue a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, students were laying around on the quad, playing wiffle ball, taking dogs for walks; relaxing in the knowledge they wouldn’t have to worry about classes for the rest of the week.

That’s because the university canceled classes to give professors two days to prepare to move all their classes online, in the face of the growing coronavirus pandemic.

Hi all — as you're probably aware, we are in the midst of a global pandemic. What that means for us at KBIA is all our time is taken up covering what that looks like on the ground here. In light of that, this week's episode is being postponed. We'll be back next week with filmmaker and journalist David France, director of "Welcome to Chechnya," and Maxim Lapunov, one of the subjects of that film. Thank you for your patience, and stay safe: wash your hands, self-isolate as much as possible, and we'll see you next week. 

The University of Missouri announced Wednesday, it will suspend all classes through March 15 as a precaution against coronavirus.

In the announcement, Chancellor Alexander Cartwright emphasized no student has tested positive for the virus and said the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution.” The university said classes will be held remotely next week, and the plan is to resume in-person classes on March 30, after Mizzou's spring break.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

At a press conference with Columbia Mayor Brian Treece Thursday, University of Missouri Chancellor Alexander Cartwright emphasized that no cases of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been confirmed in the state. 

He said the university is in communication with students who came back early from study abroad trips in Italy and South Korea, and the protocol for them is self-isolation. Cartwright also said the university is looking into teaching classes remotely in case an outbreak occurs.  

In this week’s episode, True/False Programmer Jeanelle Augustin talks with filmmaker Lance Oppenheim about his latest documentary, “Some Kind of Heaven." In the film, Oppenheim tells the story of residents at The Villages, in Florida - the country’s largest retirement community. The Villages — singular — is home to more than 100,000 retirees, and boasts 12 golf courses, three libraries, and no residents under 55.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

While there have yet to be any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Missouri, there have nonetheless been fears of what an outbreak would mean for the state. Lucio Bitoy, from Columbia and Boone County Public Health and Human Services says his department is on a weekly call with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and advises people take the usual pre-cautions that they would to avoid the flu. 

In an email, the department said it had learned from the H1N1 outbreak of 2009 that its partnerships with community health providers and non-profits are important in responding to outbreaks, and that plans need to be fluid and adaptable to succeed. 

Climate change is an issue so broad and pervasive it is easy to abstract. It looms large over so many aspects of life it can feel less like a subject to explore, and more like a mood or a feeling, a doom permeating aspects of every story told in the 20th century. But instead of approaching it from a distance, or preparing a sanitized lecture, in her newest film The Hottest August, filmmaker and True/False alum Brett Story looks for the climate crisis’s many intersections, with labor, with capitalism, and the human psyche.

A film can never exactly capture how we experience a moment, or time passing, but it can evoke those sensations through its structure or editing or cinematography. In this week’s episode, we talk with a filmmaker whose films reflect that conflict — True/False alum Sophy Romvari. She’s a Toronto-based filmmaker who has primarily worked in the world of non-fiction shorts, including “Pumpkin Movie,” which screened at True/False 2018.

The Javorac / Flickr

The opioid crisis has driven states to look for ways of providing alternative treatments for chronic pain, to reduce people’s exposure to the potentially addictive pain-killers. Here in Missouri, the state’s Medicaid programs offer a range of alternatives, but their reach seems limited so far. Kaiser Health News Midwest Correspondent Lauren Weber has been covering the story and she sat down to talk about some of the reasons the state's efforts haven't yielded significant results. 

On this week's episode, we're previewing some of the films coming to True/False this year, with festival programmers Jeanelle Augustin, Chris Boeckmann and Amir George. The line-up includes a whopping 38 feature films, 26 shorts and multiple repertory programs. Jeanelle, Chris and Amir talk us through some of this year's world premieres, potential crowd-pleasers and can't miss screenings. 

It's a cold and windy January morning in Boonville, Missouri, and Thomas Talent has driven close to an hour to Pinnacle Regional Hospital for an appointment. The only problem: the hospital closed suddenly the day before.

Having your work rejected is part and parcel of being a filmmaker, be it when submitting to festivals, applying for funding, trying to sell a film or get distribution. But it can be hard to separate self worth from work, or to reconcile the reality of the industry with personal beliefs and values.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

On a cold and windy January morning in Boonville, Thomas Talent had driven close to an hour to Pinnacle Regional Hospital for an appointment. The only problem – the hospital closed suddenly the day before.

Talent didn’t find out until he saw a sign on the door saying, “This hospital and all of its services, including the emergency room, will close on Wednesday, if you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.”

"It’s a long drive for us and nobody let us know anything," Talent said. "I got ‘em on the phone and they said that they’ve closed down, didn’t say why."

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

Missouri Legislators on Tuesday held one of the only official hearings on Medicaid enrollment since a major drop left more than 90,000 children without coverage. 

Initially, officials attributed the low numbers to a strong economy. Department of Social Services officials now argue the dip in Medicaid enrollment is largely due to improved eligibility verification.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

Patients and former employees alike showed up to the Pinnacle Regional Hospital in Boonville Thursday, a day after its abrupt closure.

Most doors to the hospital were locked, but the emergency room entrance was open for patients to collect medical records.

There were also representatives from Bothwell Regional Health Center in Sedalia, looking to recruit former Pinnacle employees. Lisa Irwin, director of human resources for Bothwell, said they had spoken with some 20 former employees, and had already hired one. 

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

On a chilly afternoon, Terry Cox had come to Mountain View, Missouri, to see a dentist and was waiting on a bench outside a converted rectory.

“Came to get a tooth check and see what they got to do to it," Cox said. "Maybe get ‘em all out."

The 56-year-old works in northern Arkansas, and drove an hour and a half to the Good Samaritan Care Clinic.
Bruce Baker / CC BY 2.0

The annual Roots N Blues festival in Columbia announced a couple major changes Friday, including that it’s dropping the “and BBQ” from its name.

The festival’s new owners, who took over six months ago, said the festival is making a push for greater inclusivity by focusing on female representation.

In a statement, the management team said the 2020 festival will have women performers in every act they book, and announced two Grammy-award-winning female headliners: R&B singer and activist Mavis Staples and singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile.