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.

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.

https://flickr.com/photos/theholygrail/16841691777/in/photolist-rEf5da-b2x7sv-rG7HGK-rYrChL-rFYGp9-8qbeLA-8q85Rn-6Lgasc-2go7fDx-a94pXh-7yG9aV-a94pW3-a91zX8-a91zLT-a91zQt-a94pU3-a94pRb-a94q4L-a94q2w-rYrE1L-7yG9xB-7yG9w6-7yKVYq-7yKVW9-7yKVKy-7yKVLU-7yG9cz-7
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.

MU Health Care's main campus, near Stadium Blvd. in downtown Columbia.
Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

A healthcare group that owns hospitals in Jefferson City and Mexico has announced it’s ending exclusive negotiations with MU Health Care over their acquisition.

St. Louis-based SSM Health and MU Health Care released statements Friday saying the decision was mutual and the two groups will continue talks even as SSM looks for other prospective buyers. They said they have agreed to let a Letter of Intent for the acquisition expire in January.

Regional stories from the KBIA Newsroom, including:

KBIA/file photo

The computer system the state implemented last year to handle Medicaid renewals is known as the Missouri Eligibility Determination and Enrollment System or MEDES. At multiple points in its workflow, it sends out forms asking for information like income, expenses and immigration status. 

The state sent out 13,710 of these forms due by September 30, but received just 7,965 responses by October 2 - less than 60 percent.  


File photo / KBIA

Missouri has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the country, and the number is growing, according to a new report.

The Georgetown University report found an estimated 83,000 children were uninsured in 2018: 21,000 more than in 2016.

The rate of uninsured children has increased nationally, but with 5.7 percent of Missouri children uninsured, the state is above the national average.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

On a sunny afternoon in Sedalia, Jennifer and Matt Boatright escorted some unusual visitors into a pasture on their farm. They opened the heavy gate and called their sheep over to meet a half-dozen medical and health professions students from the University of Missouri system. 

The farm tour was part of a week-long program designed to introduce future doctors, pharmacists and nurses to rural life.  The goal: Get the students interested in working in rural areas.

KBIA/file photo

Georgetown University professor Tricia Brooks focuses her research on access to health insurance for children in low-income families with a particular focus on Medicaid and the children’s health insurance program, or CHIP. In this week's episode of Health and Wealth, Brooks talks about how Missouri's Medicaid enrollment drop compares to the rest of the country, and some of the factors behind it.


Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

More than a dozen people testified at an unofficial hearing on decreasing Medicaid enrollment at the capitol Thursday, raising concerns, particularly about the rate of uninsured children in the state.

Legal advocates, activists and private citizens spoke on a range of issues, including the complexity of forms applicants for Medicaid have to fill out to re-enroll, and potential glitches in the renewal system.

It’s the middle of summer but Harrisburg Middle School is a hive of activity. Between summer school classes and renovations, it’s a little chaotic for counselor Brett Rawlings, who just wrapped up his first year at the school.

Harrisburg is a town of fewer than 300 people, midway between St. Louis and Kansas City. But the school also serves the surrounding area, which is primarily farmland. As the K-8 counselor, Rawlings is responsible for some 400 students, and he deals with a range of issues.

Pages