coronavirus

Courtesy of Chelsea Reed

On their last phone call, Chelsea Reed says her “proud” mother broke down, distraught about fears of dying alone in her long-term care facility, Rosewalk Village on Indianapolis’ east side.

“She had been calling me in tears, not wanting to die there,” Chelsea says about her 61-year-old mom, Vanessa.

Justin Hicks / IPBS

The Miami Correctional Facility is getting more dangerous.

Amid COVID Surge, Hospitals Scramble To Find Beds For Patients

Nov 19, 2020

As COVID-19 cases rise dramatically across the Midwest, hospitals in Colorado and Nebraska are calling Kansas in desperate search of beds for new patients. But Kansas hospitals are asking them for the same.

November has brought on the strongest surge yet of the coronavirus across the region — and that’s before Thanksgiving gathers families together.

“The entire Midwest is on fire,” says Steven Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The continued stress from COVID-19 has heightened mental health problems nationwide. And some experts say that has led to an increase in drug overdoses.

For Thanksgiving this year, Kurt Beard was planning to travel from Indianapolis to Ohio and meet family for an outdoor hike, but as he watched COVID-19 rates spike he decided even that was too risky. Instead, his family is ordering pizza, video chatting with relatives and playing games.

However, when weighing spending time with elderly family members versus the coronavirus threat, Beard is conflicted.

Some Indiana universities are turning to COVID-19 exit-testing ahead of students leaving campus before Thanksgiving. But while some campuses are offering testing as an option, others are requiring it. 

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. 

In some ways, this Halloween season is no different than in years past — despite COVID-19. Haunted houses still offer the creepy clowns and chainsaw chases that thrill-seekers have grown accustomed to. Young people making the transition from trick-or-treating are another annual staple.

Hilary Powell

At a time when they need her the most, Teshezia George says she’s forced to shutter her shelter doors. That leaves women who have fled domestic violence to sleep in unsafe spaces.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention // CCO

Pharmaceutical companies are scrambling to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine and receive FDA approval. In the meantime, states are finalizing plans to distribute the vaccine — and overcome potential challenges. 

Note: This piece contains descriptions of violence and self-harm that may be disturbing to some readers. 

In late June, Danielle was the only correctional officer working in the medical unit at the Miami Correctional Facility when she heard a noise coming from the bathroom. She knew an inmate had gone in, but Danielle needed someone with her to investigate — entering a men’s bathroom by herself was against policy, she said. She tracked down a nurse, then opened the door. 

Winter Creates New Challenges To Slow COVID-19

Oct 26, 2020
Natalie Krebs / Side Effects Public Media

Parts of the Midwest have already seen snow, and with this winter weather comes an added layer of challenges for battling COVID-19. 

Photo by SJ Obijo / CCO Unsplash / https://unsplash.com/photos/K2Eb0BV4Jgk

Now that summer is over and temperatures are dipping across the Midwest, people are headed indoors, some experts fear the already striking rise in cases is the beginning of another wave of COVID-19.

“I think that as fall moves forward ... what we're seeing right now is kind of a preview of what we can expect, as we even see colder temperatures come,” says Brian Dixon, director of public health informatics at the Indianapolis-based Regenstrief Institute. 

PHOTO BY ENGIN AKYURT ON UNSPLASH

Dani Hoover is a 26-year-old social worker in Indianapolis. She has battled depression and anxiety since high school, and the pandemic hasn’t made it any easier.

Indiana Region of the American Red Cross

For children at Kids’ Voice of Indiana, a face mask is a deciding factor between seeing an estranged parent in a safe space or enduring possible trauma.

“They are kids who are torn between two bad parents or bad guardianships,” said Chief Development Officer Eddie Rivers, Jr. “[We] provide a place where kids can go see their parents under a safe, watchful eye.”

After several weeks over the summer without a reported case, new coronavirus infections are turning up at the Indiana Women’s Prison, and some employees want more testing to protect those inside. 

For Migrant Workers, Need To Earn A Living Outweighs COVID-19 Concerns

Oct 12, 2020
Dana Cronin/Illinois Newsroom

On the outskirts of Rantoul, in east-central Illinois, about 100 migrant farmworkers are living at an old hotel in a sleepy part of town.

Every day at the crack of dawn, Samuel Gomez and the rest of the crew get their temperatures checked on the way out the door. Most workers, donning masks, load onto a big yellow school bus for a 30-minute drive to a large warehouse, where they will spend the day sorting corn on large conveyor belts.

The McFarquhar Family

Jacqueline McFarquhar’s mom, Beryline Hillaire, is 80 years old and has Alzheimer’s. For the last two years, Hillaire's been going to Active Day, an adult day care center near Cincinnati, Ohio.

"Six days a week, and that was her choice," McFarquhar said, laughing. "I think she felt like she became a little bit popular there, you know?" 

Jake Harper | Side Effects

The Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis is on lockdown after women incarcerated there tested positive for COVID-19, according to emails sent to prison staff. 

“FACILITY ON LOCKDOWN” read one email sent Tuesday afternoon; another said positive cases have been identified in three units of the facility.

Jake Harper | Side Effects

Update 10/02/2020: On Thursday, Indiana Department of Correction Commissioner Rob Carter announced a pay increase for agency staff. Correctional officers will receive $19 per hour, with an increase to $20 within a year. The previous starting pay rate was $16 per hour. 

The announcement said other agency staff would receive raises, as well. 

“I’m writing to thank all of you for your service during this unprecedented time,” said Carter in an email to staff. “I am proud of each and every one of you.” 

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Amanda Kohlhepp had plans for a career in corrections. She worked a few years as an officer at the men’s prison in Plainfield, Indiana, before she made sergeant in 2018, and hoped to keep moving up. She wanted to write policies — sensible ones that made life easier for staff and for people who are incarcerated. 

Evictions Damage Public Health. The CDC Aims To Curb Them ― For Now

Sep 29, 2020

In August, Robert Pettigrew was working a series of odd jobs. While washing the windows of a cellphone store he saw a sign, one that he believes the "good Lord" placed there for him.

"Facing eviction?" the sign read. "You could be eligible for up to $3,000 in rent assistance. Apply today."

Natalie Krebs / Side Effects Public Media

There’s a lot of COVID-19 data available through state and federal resources. But those numbers can be confusing or raise questions. That’s inspired some people to do their own data-tracking.

For COVID-19 Patients, Recovery Often Takes Months

Sep 17, 2020
A woman in a wheelchair with two younger women standing next to her.
Southern Illinois Healthcare

Across the Midwest, COVID-19 cases are rising. And some survivors are still recovering — months after coming down with the disease. Karen Campbell is one of them.

At a news conference on Aug. 26, Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said it’s crucial for Hoosiers to participate in contact tracing.  

“So If you get a text or a phone call from the state department of health about an important public health matter, please answer the text, answer the call,” she said.  

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