Christine Herman

Reporter, Illinois Newsroom

Christine Herman is a Ph.D. chemist turned audio journalist who covers health for the Illinois Newsroom and Side Effects Public Media. Her work has aired on national broadcasts including Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Here & Now and has received awards from the Public Media Journalists Association, the Illinois Associated Press Broadcasters Association and the Radio Television Digital News Association.Christine is part of a national reporting partnership with NPR and Kaiser Health News and was a 2018-19 Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism fellow. She started at WILL in 2015. Prior to her reporting role, she was a founding producer of WILL’s statewide talk show, The 21st.

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When University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign officials decided to reopen in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, they launched an ambitious plan to keep the virus at bay. The approach included mandatory twice-a-week testing, using a saliva-based test developed by its own researchers.

Connie Kuntz/WNIJ

Sandra Martell is in a tough spot. As public health administrator in northern Illinois’ Winnebago County, Martell was threatened with lawsuits from several area bar owners after she included them on a list of businesses allegedly defying the governor’s orders to halt indoor dining. 

Courtesy of Barbara Allen

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Barbara Allen’s life became more complicated overnight.

Allen, 39, lives in Springfield, Illinois, where she cares for people who have disabilities and live in group homes. As an essential worker, she never stopped working full-time. Then schools closed and she was forced to navigate virtual learning with seven children at home. (She’s raising her three sons plus her sister’s children — ranging from kindergarten through high school).

Over the past decade, more than 100 hospitals in rural parts of America — including at least 20 in the Midwest — have closed.

In some cases, the shuttered hospital had been the only one in town, and the ripple effects are enormous, affecting not just access to health care, but also the town’s economy and even identity.

Yousuf El-Jayyousi, a junior engineering student at the University of Missouri, wanted guidance and reassurance it would be safe to go back to school for the fall semester. He tuned into a pair of online town halls organized by the university hoping to find that.

He did not.

Courtesy of Northwestern Medicine

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 28-year-old Mayra Ramirez was working as a paralegal for an immigration law firm in Chicago. She enjoyed walking her dogs and running 5K races. 

Ramirez has a condition requiring medication that could’ve suppressed her immune system but was otherwise healthy. When the Illinois governor issued a shelter-in-place order in March, she began working from home, hardly leaving the house. So she has no idea how she contracted COVID-19.

Christine Herman/Illinois Public Media

As universities prepare to welcome students back to campus for the fall semester, some are counting on widespread COVID-19 testing to help clamp down on potential outbreaks. 

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, large white tents, with signs reading “Walk-Up COVID-19 Testing,” have been popping up across campus.

Courtesy of James Unzicker, CHP of IL

Maricel Mendoza is familiar with the work migrant and seasonal farmworkers do. Growing up, her family traveled from Texas to central Illinois every year for her parents’ jobs as contractors with a large seed company. 

“All of my parents’ siblings were migrants, my grandparents were migrants,” Mendoza says. “So it’s just something that was the norm for me.” 

Courtesy of Northwestern Medicine

Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago announced Thursday they’ve performed the first successful double lung transplant on a COVID-19 patient in the U.S. 

The Hispanic woman in her twenties was otherwise healthy, but developed a severe case of COVID-19 that resulted in hospitalization, says Dr. Ankit Bharat, Northwestern’s chief of thoracic surgery.

Courtesy of Jeanne Bosecker

Even without a global pandemic, dentistry is inherently riskier than many other medical professions.

That’s because dentists and hygienists spend a lot of time inches away from wide-open mouths, conducting procedures known to generate aerosols — tiny droplets that can linger in the air and carry viruses. 

So when dental hygienist Jeanne Bosecker started back at work in mid-May, she says it felt a little soon to be reopening for routine dental care.

Courtesy of Ann Hyoung Sook/University of Illinois

As states move toward reopening their economies, officials are emphasizing the need to expand their capacity to test for COVID-19.

But many say their efforts to ramp up testing are still being hampered by a shortage of supplies. To help fill the gaps, some state public health labs are looking to academic labs for help.

Jim Meadows/Illinois Newsroom

This is part of Essential Voices, a series of interviews with people confronting COVID-19.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, local public health agencies across the nation have been working to mitigate the spread of the disease -- and to overcome some big obstacles.

Courtesy of Brittanny Budimir

This is part of Essential Voices, a series of interviews with people confronting COVID-19.

Health care workers and first responders face serious risks dealing with people who have COVID-19. Bryce and Brittanny Budimir, a married couple in Kankakee, Illinois, both work on the front lines of the pandemic. 

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A majority of Americans believe that while their communities will suffer in the short term from the COVID-19 pandemic, they will eventually recover.

And nearly one in 5 people feels their communities will emerge stronger than ever.

That’s according to a new Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos Hidden Common Ground survey — conducted at the end of March and released on April 3.

leo2014/Pixabay (CC0)

UPDATE: As the case count continues to rise, information on this story is moving quickly and may be out-of-date. We recommend checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for ways to stay safe and this John Hopkins tool for the most recent data

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to tick up nationwide, local public health workers are faced with the challenging task of ensuring those at risk take proper precautions. 

Public Health Administrators Julie Pryde and Monica Hendrickson joined Illinois Public Media’s statewide talk show, “The 21st,” to discuss the impact on local public health departments -- and concerns about "inadequate" testing.


Provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ Alissa Eckert, MS

Coronavirus is spreading across the Midwest, and health officials are scrambling to stem the disease -- or prepare for a potential epidemic. Side Effects will keep you updated on this evolving story and share reports from partner stations across the Midwest -- including news of a school closing in Indiana and the first case in Missouri. 

Christine Herman/Illinois Public Media

After Rebecca and Bruce Austin gave birth to their daughter, they struggled to get pregnant again. So they signed up to become foster parents.

“I wouldn’t change it for anything,” says Rebecca, reflecting on the past nine years. 


Bigstock

Americans are divided on lots of issues. But a new national survey finds that people across the political spectrum agree on at least one thing: Our health care system needs fixing.

Courtesy of Dr. Marty Makary

The United States spends more than $3 trillion on health care every year. That comes out to about double the spending per person than other wealthy nations—yet with worse health outcomes in comparison.


Nothing Jenn and Jason learned in parenting class prepared them for the challenges they've faced raising a child prone to violent outbursts.

The couple are parents to two siblings whom they first fostered as toddlers and later adopted. (NPR has agreed not to use the children's names or the couple's last names because of the sensitive nature of the family's story.)

Illustration by Tamara Cubrilo

When José moved his family to the U.S. from Mexico nearly two decades ago, he had hopes of giving his children a better life.

But now he worries about the future of his 21-year-old-son, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder last year.


Christine Herman/Illinois Public Media

Losing a loved one to gun violence can cause anxiety, stress and other mental health symptoms. So can simply living in an environment where violence is common.

But experts say early intervention and support can help prevent some of those negative, long-term consequences.


Photo courtesy of Carrie Vickery.

A small but growing number of U.S. women are choosing to have their babies at home. In more than 30 states, including most of the Midwest, it’s legal for certified professional midwives – trained specifically in home birth – to assist them.

angel4leon/pixabay (CC0)

Across much of the Midwest, maternal and infant death rates are high—especially among African-Americans. So doctors, public health agencies and non-profit organizations are searching for solutions.

Among them is Sistering CU in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. It offers free home visits from trained volunteers to families with babies up to six months in age. It also recently launched a support group for new parents.


Anemone123/Pixabay

An Illinois Senate bill aims to help children who are at risk of entering state custody because of issues caused by untreated mental illness. The measure comes as states grapple with ways to help parents who face a heartbreaking choice: giving up custody to obtain expensive treatment for a child.


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