Jake Harper

Reporter, WFYI

Jake Harper started his job at Side Effects shortly before the 2015 announcement of an HIV outbreak in southern Indiana, and since then has focused his reporting on addiction, Medicaid and access to health care. His investigations have covered medical industry influence in state and national government, a clinical trial that skirted federal regulations and various barriers to evidence-based addiction treatment. His stories have been broadcast at stations across the midwest and nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Latino USA and Here & Now.

Harper also co-hosts the podcast, Sick, with Lauren Bavis. Visit sickpodcast.org for more information. 

Ways to Connect

Early one April morning, inmates at Indiana’s Plainfield Correctional Facility found a fellow inmate unconscious in his bed. 

“He was barely breathing when we first tried to wake him up,” says one of the inmates, who asked to be identified by his middle name, Andrew, because he feared retaliation from prison staff. “For about 20, 25 minutes, the [correctional officers] were trying to wake him up, so finally, they called the medical emergency.” 

Sean Tackett/WFIU/WTIU

Sherrie Sanders says she last spoke with her husband, George, on April 12. It was Easter Sunday. 

“He told me he was very sick. He had a fever of 102,” she says. “He knew he had [COVID-19], but they weren’t checking him. That’s the last I heard from him.“

Justin Hicks, Indiana Public Broadcasting

This story was updated at 3:45 p.m. on April 30, 2020 to include new information on Edwards' release date.

On the day Scottie Edwards died, he nearly fell over on the way to the bathroom. A pair of fellow inmates at the Westville Correctional Facility propped him up and got him to sit down on a toilet. 

“He had been sick for about a week and a half,” says one inmate named Josh in a recorded call. He asked to be identified by his first name, because he fears retaliation from prison staff. 

Justin Hicks

During Monday’s coronavirus news conference, Gov. Eric Holcomb was optimistic about the situation statewide. He emphasized Indiana’s COVID-19 data. 

“I believe that Indiana is, quite frankly, faring better than some other locales around the world,” he said. “We’ll continue to be very transparent about those numbers.”

Courtesy of David Vega

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

David Vega is a fourth year-medical student at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Earlier this year, he was in Africa for one of his courses. He had heard about the coronavirus spreading in China, but didn’t think much of it.

He returned to the U.S. in early March, stopped in Florida to visit family and friends, and then came back to Indiana. He told Side Effects that his symptoms started a couple days later.

WFIU/WTIU

This post was updated at 1:05 pm on 4/13/20 to include new infections reported by the state. 

On Monday, April 6, an inmate at Indiana’s Plainfield Correctional Facility stayed up late. From his bunk, he composed two messages. In the first, he told his son that he loves him, that he’s proud of him. 

In the second message, he told his wife he was scared. “I can tell you right now, with nearly 100% certainty, that I am going to get this virus,” he wrote. The man’s wife says he suffers from lung disease, which could increase the chances of complications from COVID-19. 

WFIU/WTIU

Updated 04/08/2020 at 5:24 pm.

On Wednesday, Indiana's Joint Information Center confirmed to Side Effects that 10 prisoners in state Department of Correction facilities have now tested positive for COVID-19, along with 20 agency employees. 

Thousands of Americans have died from COVID-19, and many more still will. The elderly are especially vulnerable, as are people with underlying health conditions. So doctors and health experts are telling people to plan ahead and talk to their family about a difficult topic: how they want to die.

Lauren Chapman, IPB News

Last week, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and state Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box declined to provide numbers of ICU beds and ventilators to media outlets requesting them. On Monday, that abruptly changed.

Screenshot taken by Jake Harper / Side Effects Public Media

Millions of Americans are stuck in one place right now. Many states have issued stay at home orders, urging people to isolate to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Exercise studios have shut down for the time being, but people still need exercise, especially when anxiety is high. So studios are changing their business models and getting people to exercise over the internet. 

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