Coronavirus | KBIA


A Missouri murder suspect has died after contracting COVID-19 in jail while awaiting trial. The Joplin Globe reports that 43-year-old Vernon Thomas died Dec. 6. Newton County Sheriff Chris Jennings said Tuesday that Thomas died at a Joplin hospital, two days after his symptoms first appeared.

Thomas was jailed on a charge of first-degree murder in the beating death of 37-year-old Wesley Porter, and had been jailed since his arrest in March. Thomas was among several inmates who tested positive after an inmate starting showing symptoms in late November.

Springfield Extends Mask Ordinance to April

Dec 15, 2020

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — The city of Springfield is extending its mask requirement until April 9, citing the fast-rising number of hospitalizations and deaths in Missouri’s third-largest city, and leaders are warning that violators will face punishment. Mayor Ken McClure said at a news conference Tuesday that the decision comes amid the “darkest days when it comes to virus exposure, positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths." The decision comes amid worries that that number of people requiring hospitalizations will only get worse as people gather for the holidays.

Afternoon Newscast for December 8, 2020

Dec 8, 2020

Regional headlines from the KBIA Newsroom, including:

Missouri Cites 161 Additional COVID-19 Deaths

Dec 8, 2020

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s death toll from the coronavirus are rising sharply. The state on Tuesday announced 161 new fatalities. One county alone reported 27 deaths over the past two days. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department cited 19 deaths Monday and eight more Tuesday. All but four of the victims were 70 or older, 17 lived in long-term care facilities and all had underlying health conditions. Greene County officials say 51 of the county’s 247 COVID-19 deaths have happened since Dec. 1.

Missouri lawmakers are back at work after several tested positive for the coronavirus, which delayed a special session.

Senators on Tuesday gave initial approval to a $1.2 billion coronavirus aid package. They also were scheduled to start debate on a new law that would prevent lawsuits against health care workers for disregarding the safety of others during the coronavirus emergency.

MEMPHIS, Mo. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic is devastating rural hospitals, including the tiny 25-bed facility in Memphis, Missouri. People come from six surrounding counties for basic care at Scotland County Hospital. No beds are available and nurses are often working 24 extra hours a week. Larger hospitals nearby are full, too, so it’s difficult to transfer patients needing more critical care. Doctors and nurses say the struggle is made worse when people in the community continue to downplay the virus, with some calling it a hoax.

Afternoon Newscast for November 20, 2020

Nov 21, 2020

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.

Boone County hospitals are reaching capacity for COVID-19 patients.

In a statement released Tuesday, MU Health Care, Boone Hospital Center, Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital and the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services said rising case rates are straining healthcare resources and staffing.

In response to the influx of new patients, the hospitals will begin to enact their individual surge plans. Boone Hospital Center increased its COVID-19 unit capacity from 20 to 32 beds on Monday after weeks of meeting that capacity.

Afternoon Newscast for November 10, 2020

Nov 10, 2020

Missouri Health Director Hopeful Vaccine Is Coming Soon

Nov 10, 2020

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — As Missouri reached another record for coronavirus hospitalizations, the state’s health director has told a legislative panel that he thinks that getting back to normal in Missouri will involve an effective vaccine, whose first doses might come soon. Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams told the House Special Committee on Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday that he expects Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine to be ready for limited distribution by mid-December.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

This story was updated on November 5, 2020 to include comment from Dr. Jonathan Heidt.

When MU Health Care closed one of its two drive-thru coronavirus testing sites in mid-September, it pointed to a drop in the number of people getting tested. At that point, drive thru testing appointments had fallen by more than 1,000 from the peak of nearly 3,200 at the end of August. Since then, appointments have fallen further, dropping to just 1,500 the week of October 19.

Dr. Jonathan Heidt is the vice chair of operations for emergency medicine at MU Health Care and oversees the system's coronavirus testing. He says demand has fluctuated, increasing in the summer, and spiked at the end of August, as university students returned for classes. Since then demand has tailed off, and Heidt says that's worrying, especially with the positivity rate increasing. "We really should be doing more testing to find those cases and intervene on them," Heidt said. 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s administration is sending 1.8 million rapid coronavirus tests to Missouri. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a Monday announcement said the tests can produce results in 15 minutes. About 60% of the tests are slated to be used for K-12 school testing. Another 30% will go to colleges and universities. The rapid tests come as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the state.

KC Sees Record Virus Deaths; St. Louis Hospitals Filling

Oct 27, 2020

ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis hospitals are filling up with coronavirus patients at an alarming rate, and experts say many of those patients are coming in from other areas of the state. Meanwhile, the Kansas City area over the past week recorded its highest number of deaths over a one-week period, with more than 80 people dying from COVID-19. Missouri is among several states across the U.S. seeing a spike in confirmed cases and hospitalizations related to the coronavirus. The state health department on Tuesday announced 1,695 additional confirmed cases and 28 more deaths.

More students enrolled at the University of Missouri this fall than last year. The university announced recently that enrollment grew by more than 3 percent, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The numbers defy a national trend.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit businesses all over the country hard, and universities are no exception, with most seeing their enrollment numbers go down. According to the National Student Clearing House, a nonprofit that analyzes educational data, enrollment at universities across the country has fallen by 2.5 percent this fall.

For MU, that’s not the case. The university’s enrollment for the 2020 fall semester increased by 3.5 percent. That means more 1,000 new students.

Christian Basi, a spokesperson for the university, says the numbers feel like an endorsement to the university that students want to be there.

“We feel like we’ve proven ourselves in the community that we have been able to open and open safely and have in-person classes and a combination of those,” Basi said.

International student enrollment did suffer a decline this semester. MU had 1,634 international students enrolled during the 2019 fall semester. This semester, it only enrolled 1,319 internationals. Basi says the university believes international travel restrictions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic explain this decline.

The university also announced record highs for student graduation and retention rates. Almost 90 percent of freshmen returned for their sophomore year, and 73 percent of students graduated within six years.

“At the end of the day, we’re doing everything we can to give students the resources and the support they need to not just graduate, but to graduate with a meaningful education that has prepared them for success long after they have left MU,” said Jim Spain, MU’s vice provost for undergraduate studies.

The university has not yet announced its plans for the 2021 spring semester, but Basi says that that announcement will likely make come later this month.

It’s an October surprise! Views of the News is back on KBIA after a six-month hiatus. Join Missouri School of Journalism professors Amy Simons, Earnest Perry and Kathy Kiely for our weekly media roundtable. This week, they’ll discuss the coverage of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, from the overnight announcement via Twitter to his return to the White House and the challenge for journalists finding themselves exposed to the virus. Also, how COVID-19 is affecting how we entertain ourselves on the big screen and at home.

The mostly rural Bootheel region of Missouri is seeing high numbers of confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but unlike many other hard-hit areas, the surge isn’t tied to any particular place or demographic.

Information from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services shows that several southeast Missouri counties have some of the state’s worst rates of confirmed cases per capita.

MU Students Face Repercussions For COVID Violations

Sep 16, 2020

The University of Missouri has expelled two students and suspended three others for violating the university’s coronavirus safety policies. The university said these students were held accountable for “willful and knowing actions that threatened the safety of [the] campus and community” in a press release sent Tuesday. It also mentioned that 11 student organizations are currently under investigation for similar violations.

MU Instates New Mask Guidelines

Sep 8, 2020
Olivia Moses

MU is instituting new face covering guidelines today that will require students to wear masks at all times when on campus.

Before the change, students were only required to wear face coverings indoors. However, masks were not required for students if they were outdoors and remainied six feet apart from others.


Since we began the Check-In, we’ve gone from crisis to crisis - a global pandemic sparked off an economic crisis and merged into a movement calling for an end to police violence and for reconciliation and racial justice.


It’s been about 11 weeks since Boone County issued its initial stay at home orders and many businesses, schools, individuals and families went into isolation and lockdown mode.

Now, businesses are re-opening, clinics and hospitals are resuming routine health care, and in the midst of a social-justice movement and demonstrations, people are taking to the streets. 


If you know just a little bit about journalism, you’ve heard the word “objective” thrown around. 

Journalists should show up, witness, observe and then go back and report the truth. But while the facts are king in our world, the mandate for being fair and objective makes us very cautious. Do our goals of objectivity - a thing which might not even exist - prevent us from telling it like it is? 


As hundreds of citizens show up in town squares and streets to call for justice in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, many people are asking: How can this happen? How can police violence and the deaths of black citizens at the hands of police happen over and over again in our American democracy?

And before this, we were already in a pandemic that was disproportionately impacting black and Latinx communities, many of whom work as essential workers.

For answers, many are looking at how our systems work in the U.S. and calling for systemic change, from our policing and justice systems to health care and education.

If you’re looking at the news right now, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve maybe entered another dimension. Things can seem more than surreal. So much so that KBIA’s T’Keyah and Janet have been discussing apocalyptic storytelling. Especially the kind that brings attention to the experiences of the marginalized and helps us empathize and imagine - or even predict - a different future.

Octavia Butler does this. So does Margaret Atwood, among many others.


In this episode, we're checking in with people who have been and currently are on the frontlines of the civil rights movements of today and years ago.


We are in the midst of turbulent, and for many, dangerous times. And having the current crises played and re-played in the media and in real life for us day after day can take a toll -- especially for our black families and kids.

So how do we talk about the grief and loss that is part of life at center stage? What can we do for our kids who are feeling loss and even trauma from these events in their own lives as well as prominently in the media?

Reporter recording under a blanket
Courtesy Aqil Hamzah

Students in a Missouri School of Journalism multimedia class taught by Professors Kat Lucchesi and Major King started their spring semester thinking they were going to do a series of podcasts about a faraway pandemic.

Then it hit home, scattering the team across the country — and, in one case, beyond — and depriving them of access to the equipment they'd normally use to create their programs.

While interviewing professional journalists about how they keep their cool in the face of crisis, the reporters and producers of this story got a test of their own resilience.