Iowa

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.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

How Natural Disasters Are Driving A Mental Health Crisis

Aug 25, 2020
Illustration by Joanna Eberts.

Barbara Herndon lay in the center of her bed, muscles tensed, eyes on the television. She was waiting for the storm.

All morning on that day in late May, the news had covered the cold front slouching south from central Texas. By late afternoon, dense ropes of clouds darkened her Houston neighborhood. Rain whipped the windows. Cyclone-force gusts rent open her backyard breaker box. She cringed at the noises, chest tightening, mind on the havoc that might follow — but ultimately didn’t.

Photo contributed by Sharon Stewart.

Floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters can devastate a town in just a few hours. But the impact on residents can linger for years in the form of anxiety, depression or other mental health problems. 

Courtesy of Amanda Zimmerman

As some Midwest school districts open with in-person classes, school nurses face a big challenge. They play a crucial role in keeping kids safe from COVID-19. And they have to handle many other health issues. A middle school nurse in Fort Dodge, Iowa, explains how she’s preparing.

COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF IOWA HEALTH CARE MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS

Though many people who have been seriously ill from COVID-19 are older or have underlying health conditions, it’s still unclear what causes certain people to get really sick. Aquarius Bunch was a healthy 27-year-old working at an assisted living facility in the Midwest when she got COVID-19. And she was pregnant.

Ben Wicks / Unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on children’s mental health across the country. Advocates are trying to address the problem, but resources can be limited, and in Iowa, plans for a statewide mental health system for children have run into problems.

Spencer Pugh / Unsplash

Studies have found the rates of mental illness and suicide are higher for farmers. They work long hours, have limited social contact and are at the mercy of factors such as weather. Now the COVID-19 pandemic is creating even greater challenges to their livelihood—and mental health. 

Courtesy of Steven Abdo

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

Long term care facilities have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half of the coronavirus deaths in Iowa have been residents at these facilities. To try to keep residents safe, most have been closed to visitors since March. Steven Abdo, a nurse aide at Oaknoll Retirement Residence in Iowa City for four years, explains what it’s like to work with residents who don’t know when they can see their families again.

Grinnell Regional Medical Center

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

Hospitals across the Midwest have adjusted policies for the coronavirus crisis -- including limiting patient visitors. That can be especially hard when a patient is near death, and friends and relatives want to share a final goodbye. Dr. Lauren Graham speaks about those emotional moments at Grinnell Regional Medical Center in Iowa.

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