COVID-19 | KBIA

COVID-19

This week on Views of the News, a look back – and a look ahead – from the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Also, a Voice of America reporter is reassigned after questioning Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Vogue editors defend their February cover, a portrait of Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris some say is too casual.

Jesse Hall on a cloudy day.
Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

The University of Missouri is requiring certain students to take a COVID-19 test ahead of the 2021 spring semester.

Testing will be mandatory for approximately 6,300 undergraduate students living in university sponsored or owned housing.

Spokesperson Christian Basi says the goal is to prevent the spread of the disease but also to glean information that could inform safety protocols.

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

MU Health Care has a tiered system for distributing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to its staff as soon as it gets its first shipment. The vaccine is still awaiting emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. 

Staff who work directly with COVID-19 patients and carrying out other high-risk procedures will be the highest priority for vaccination. After that high-priority group, support staff including custodians would be the next target for vaccination. 

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.


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.


Has Fox News been outfoxed by competition that's even more partisan? 

Wikimedia Commons

A month ago, there were fewer than 60 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Boone County. This week, there were more than 140. COVID-19 hospitalizations are up across the state, with more than 2,000 people admitted as of November 7, according to the Missouri Hospital Association.

The increase was enough to push BJC Healthcare to start deferring some scheduled procedures at hospitals in the St. Louis area. Columbia hospitals aren’t there yet, but it’s not out of the question.

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. 


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.

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

Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are on the rise in Missouri, especially in parts of the outstate with fewer hospital resources. Smaller rural hospitals are referring patients to larger more resourced hospitals in major outstate cities including Springfield and Columbia.

For Steve Edwards, the earliest warning signs started popping up in July. As the CEO of Cox Health in Springfield, Edwards has seen hospitalizations spike since the start of September. Nearly 70 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized at Cox as of Thursday and more than 90 people have died from the disease at Cox facilities.

The University of Missouri says it has disciplined an additional 20 current or former students with suspensions, probation and other sanctions for what it called “egregious violations” of policies meant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus. The university said in a news release Friday all of these violations were related to hosting gatherings of more than 20 people. The latest moves comes on top of actions taken earlier this month that expelled or suspended five students for violations of safety policies amid coronavirus pandemic.

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

Weeks after a major spike in COVID-19 cases in Boone County, hospitalizations are on the rise. The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services said the week of September 14 saw an all-time high of 61 total hospitalizations, with 11 patients on ventilators.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

In less than a month, more than 1,300 students at the university of Missouri have tested positive for the coronavirus. Case investigation and contact tracing are key components of controlling the outbreak, but students say the university is falling behind.


A return to pre-pandemic childcare subsidy reimbursements has some Missouri childcare providers feeling left in the lurch.


Hickman High School
Meiying Wu / KBIA

The Columba Public School Board voted 6 -1 Monday night to begin the school year entirely online – a change from the intended in-person/hybrid plan introduced just a few weeks ago.


Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

In a press briefing Friday morning, Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Director Stephanie Browning announced new orders for the county, in light of an unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases.

The restrictions apply largely to alcohol sales and restaurant and bar operations, as well as social gatherings. They come on the heels of two weeks of rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases in the county, which currently has a seven-day positivity rate of 44.6 percent, according to Browning.  The seven-day positivity rate is calculated by dividing the amount of positive tests by the number of overall positive tests during that time period.

Sara Shariari / KBIA

The University of Missouri will require students who test positive for the virus to report the results directly to the university within four hours of receiving them.

The requirement is part of a set of new policies MU issued on Monday, a week before classes are set to start on August 24. 

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Missouri has entered its sixth month of navigating the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and for dozens of health departments across the state, CARES Act funding has been slow to arrive.

That means crucial public-health positions like contact tracers and case investigators have been left unfilled. So, Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services has found one creative stop-gap – Masters in Public Health student volunteers.


Courtesy of Angela Kender

More than 1,200 Missourians have died from COVID-19 since the first confirmed case back in March. With new data and every day, the human aspect of that loss can get lost in the numbers. Angela Kender is looking to change that.

After losing her mother to COVID-19 in June, Kender has decided to organize a project to commemorate her, and everyone else who has lost loved ones to the disease. She’s collecting photographs of those lost at missouricovidmemorial@gmail.com. Kender plans to take the photographs to the Missouri state capitol during the current legislative special session.

Green Leaf Dental Care

Many things have changed for dental practices since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic – starting with several months of closures dealing with only oral health emergencies. Now, dentists are having to figure out how to preserve PPE, or personal protective equipment, enforce social distancing and minimize the risk of disease spread as they reopen their practices.

And while these are serious challenges, some practitioners and oral health advocates are encouraged at a possible positive outcome of the ongoing pandemic – the increased interest in and implementation of teledentistry.


Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

Francisco Bonilla is a pastor who runs a low-power radio station out of his church, Casa de Sanidad in Carthage, Missouri. On a hot summer day, he’s showing me around the studio.

Bonilla mainly uses the station to broadcast sermons and religious music. These days, he’s also focused on COVID-19, which has hit a lot of Latinx workers at the Butterball poultry processing plant.


Courtesy of Seth Thompson

Seth Thompson learned about COVID-19 early.  He’s an engineer in Carthage, Missouri, a town of just under 15,000 that sits along historic route 66 in the southwest corner of the state. The virus first came to Thompson’s attention in February, when the global firm he works for shut down its offices in China. Back then, the danger seemed remote.

“We were seeing the news; it looked terrible, and it was but it just wasn’t here yet," Thompson said. 

Joplin hospital
zensmom1 / Flickr

Southwest Missouri has seen the biggest spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state in recent weeks, and as local leaders try to address the outbreak, one measure that they’ve discussed is requiring masks.

While an increasing amount of research supports the use of masks in public to reduce transmission of the virus, masks have become polarizing, as Joplin Mayor pro tem Keenan Cortez found out when his city raised the possibility of a mask ordinance.


Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

The Columbia city council passed an ordinance requiring people in the city to use masks. The ordinance passed six to one and takes effect this Friday at 5 p.m. It requires everyone age ten and up to use a face mask any time they might come into contact with someone they don’t live with, with a handful of exemptions.

People with medical conditions preventing the use of a mask aren’t required to wear one, and there are other exemptions for outdoor activities, among others.

How do you practice good social distance etiquette when so much of what you do involves touching? National Federation of the Blind of Missouri's GARY WUNDER answers that question and others as he describes life as a blind person during a pandemic. July 2, 2020

As COVID-19 Cases Increase, Health Officials Struggle To Access Federal Funds

Jun 30, 2020
Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

More than two months after the president approved a funding package to bolster local response to COVID-19 outbreaks, the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services department hasn’t received a penny. As confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to increase, according to health director Stephanie Browning the department has only been able to bring on two additional contact tracers - its retired former epidemiologist, and one of its former nurses: both on a part-time basis.

 

While the state health department has provided contact tracing support for some local health departments facing major outbreaks, Boone County health officials say they’ve been asking for help for months to no avail. Assistant Health Director Scott Clardy says it’s been a frustrating experience.

 

 

Courtesy of Erik Martin

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported the state's community testing would begin on June 29, rather than the correct date of June 26.

When physician Erik Martin left his home in Joplin to help with New York’s COVID-19 outbreak in April, his county had fewer than 10 confirmed cases of the virus. Since returning in May, those numbers have skyrocketed: nearly 300 Jasper County residents have tested positive, and more than 800 are in quarantine.

“I never expected that within such a short period of time, my home town would become a COVID hotspot, as it has now,” Martin said. He was alarmed when he first learned a patient who tested positive worked at the Butterball poultry processing plant in nearby Carthage. After seeing a second Butterball worker, he alerted the county health department to the potential outbreak.

KBIA

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.

Verna Laboy, left, stands next to Dee Campbell-Carter, right. They both smile broadly into the camera.
Provided by Dee Campbell-Carter

Verna Laboy is a health educator for Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services, and runs the Live Well by Faith program, a community-based health program that targets chronic health conditions through black churches. 

The program supports health ministries at 17 black churches in the area by providing health programming, training and resources for people in the congregation, and leaders within each church help run programming and do data collection.

She spoke with Dee Campbell-Carter, a lifestyle coach for the program, about just a few of the ways the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is impacting the black community here in Columbia – and how they’re supporting one another.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

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