COVID-19 coverage from GroundTruth & Report for America

Updated April 1, 2020

The World Health Organization’s official declaration that COVID-19 is a pandemic serves as a powerful reminder for us all of how connected we are as a planet. The measures adopted in Asia and Europe inform the local response to the virus, as America starts to see an increase of cases and implements plans to slow down the rate of infection.

Our global fellows and Report for America corps members have been reporting on the pandemic from multiple angles, helping their audiences understand the scope of the pandemic and its effect on their community and lives.

The combination of global and local perspectives provide a comprehensive look at this emergency that contributes the conversation around containment and effective responses to the spread of this threat. Here are some highlights from their coverage:

Wednesday, April 1, 2020:

  • For Puerto Rico’s Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Rafael René Díaz Torres shares the stories of people who say they’ve been denied COVID-19 testing, as well as information about the locations on the island where testing is available. Read more (in Spanish).
  • Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that “more than half” of juveniles detained by the city in the past two weeks had been released to prevent the spread of the virus. But, as Eileen Grench reports, those numbers only refer to juvenile delinquents; the general population has only fallen 20%. Read more.
  • In Utah for the Salt Lake Tribune, Becky Jacobs explores the local ties of the first U.S. service member to die of the virus. Read more.
  • Theodora Yu in Sacramento reports that California’s 2020 census data collection is on track despite challenges resulting from measures against the coronavirus spread. Read more.
  • Grocery stores in Wyoming have taken precautions to help protect the state’s vulnerable elderly community against contagion, reports Chris Aadland for the Casper Star-Tribune. Read more.
  • Meanwhile, on Cape Cod, Eve Zuckoff spoke with a local specialty grocery store doing the vital work of keeping community members fed, hiring reinforcements to respond to increased demand, doubling up orders and buying an extra phone to keep up with the amount of calls-in orders for pickup and delivery. Listen.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2020:

  • Before the outbreak of COVID-19, Woods Hole, a small town in Massachusetts, hosted more than 2,000 scientists, researchers and staff at six major research institutions. Now, only a few people remain to tend to the facilities. Eve Zuckoff reports for WCAI on years and decades of research studies that have been interrupted, their data lost. Perhaps forever. Listen
  • As the city of Dallas institutes new reporting requirements for hospitals, in order to get a handle on the city’s total number of ventilators and hospital beds, a convention center is being transformed this week into the site of the state’s first pop-up hospital amid the outbreak, reports Obed Manuel for the Dallas Morning News. Read more
  • At the Lexington Herald-Leader, Alex Acquisto shares the efforts of one outpatient clinic in Kentucky that is preparing for the state’s expected spike in cases. Read more
  • Illinois has reported the first death of an inmate from  COVID-19 at Stateville Correctional Center, during a two-week lockdown of the facility, reports Carlos Ballesteros for the Chicago Sun-Times. Read more
  • Care concerns are rising in Eastern Washington state’s Benton County, where the local health district lacks test kits for long-term care facilities, reports Arielle Dreher for the Spokesman-Review. Read more.
  • “My day consists of wondering whether or not there’s going to be an outbreak in the facility. I’m basically a nervous wreck,” one inmate told Connecticut Mirror reporter Kelan Lyons. While some prisoners are being released in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, others are being caught in the bureaucracy of the state’s prison system. Read more.

Monday, March 30, 2020:

  • The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes on Wind River Reservation have enacted “some of the strictest measures in Wyoming to slow the spread” of the virus, reports Savannah Maher for Wyoming Public Media. The trouble is, however, that housing needs on the reservation have made the tribes’ “stay at home” directives seemingly contradictory. Listen.
  • Replicating a testing strategy from South Korea, a Tennessee drug and alcohol clinic set up a drive-through station to test as many people as possible reports Wyatt Massey for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Read more
  • Food pantries in Idaho’s Magic Valley are struggling to meet the demands of locals in need, reports Megan Taros, partly a consequence of panic buying and  hoarding. Read more
  • In Mississippi, Michelle Liu reports that inmates working in the state’s restitution centers will be released early as part of the prison system’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. Working in collaboration with the Marshall Project, Liu recently reported on Mississippi’s restitution system, which orders prisoners to work to pay off debts and fines. Read more.
  • Social distancing measures in Illinois have disrupted the ability to spread awareness about the 2020 census locally, meaning government and community organizations have had to get creative, reports Eric Schmid for St. Louis Public Radio. Read more.
  • Registered voters in West Virginia can send absentee ballots in order to vote in the 2020 primary election, reports Emily Allen for West Virginia Public Radio. While the state will be mailing some 1.2 million ballots, there will still be the opportunity to vote in-person in late-April and May. Read more.

Friday, March 27, 2020:

  • Mallory Falk, reporting for KERA at the U.S.-Mexico border, spoke with medical experts who believe ICE detention centers in Texas are “tinderboxes” for the spread of COVID-19. Listen.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to derail continued efforts to rebuild Butte County, already devastated following California’s 2018 Camp Fire. Camille von Kaenel reports on residents in the area who are at the heart of the wildfires and feel it’s “double traumatizing.” Read more. 
  • For the Salt Lake Tribune, Zak Podmore writes that local health officials are calling for the Arches and Canyonlands national parks to close as undaunted tourists continue to visit despite outbreak concerns. Read more
  • Northern Kentucky congressman Thomas Massie has courted the ire of fellow Republicans, including President Donald Trump, for demanding in-person House vote on the emergency $2-trillion pandemic relief bill, reports Julia Fair for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Read more. Fair reported last week on Massie’s controversial comments on the virus. 
  • Maine has already used up its stockpile of medical equipment this week. For Pine Tree Watch, Samantha Hogan spoke with an expert who said he begged the state to invest in protective equipment and ventilators before the outbreak. Read more
  • “We are very ill-prepared for a biological event like this,” a local Mississippi official told Michelle Liu regarding readiness to combat the COVID-19 in county jails. The disparities between rural and urban jails is starke, she reports. Read more.

Thursday, March 26, 2020:

  • The coal industry asked for coronavirus relief funds in the form of tax cuts, as part of the Congress’ $2 trillion stimulus package. But as Will Wright reports from Kentucky, the tax cuts they propose help fund the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which offers benefits to miners stricken with the work-related disease. “They didn’t get it in this federal stimulus bill,” wrote Wright on Twitter, “but both sides say the fight is far from over.” Read more. 
  • Teenage inmates in New York City are suing for release from detention centers as concerns over the coronavirus’ impact on the correctional system mounts, reports Eileen Grench for The City. Read more
  • In the Mississippi Delta, local schools are trying to negotiate the challenge of offering online classes to kids in areas without any Internet. Alex Watts reports on this digital divide for Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Listen to her dispatch.
  • Prison reform groups are paying bonds to get detainees freed from Cook County Jail in Illinois after reports that 17 inmates and a corrections officer have contracted the virus, reports Pascal Sabino for Block Club Chicago. Read more
  • Meanwhile, in Michigan, Angie Jackson reports for the Detroit Free Press that 13 prisoners across six correctional facilities have contracted coronavirus. Read more.
  • On O’ahu, healthcare workers are already running low on protective gear, reports Eleni Gill for the Honolulu Civil Beat, and rural hospitals across the state are being rationed by suppliers. Read more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020:

  • Amid business closures across the state, New Mexico farmers are working to supply fresh produce to locals, reports Theresa Davis for the Albuquerque Journal. Read more.
  • Manny Ramos highlights an unintended consequence of the stay-at-home orders nationwide: a shortage of blood donations. “More than 6,000 American Red Cross blood drives have been canceled nationwide over the last three weeks, resulting in about 200,000 fewer blood donations.” Read more.
  • In California’s San Joaquin Valley, a local school district is providing grab-and-go meals at 23 locations, including bus stops, to help families in need feed their kids during school closures, reports Kaitlin Washburn, with The Sun-Gazette. Read more.
  • For the Malheur Enterprise, in Oregon, Yadira Lopez reports on long-term effects to the local economy due to the outbreak and closures in its wake. Read more
  • Despite calls from Connecticut advocacy groups to release some inmates early in order to  prevent them from being infected with COVID-19, Governor Ned Lamont said he’s not considering that measure. Lamont has yet to articulate preventative measures for correctional facilities, reports Kelan Lyons for the Connecticut Mirror.
  • Emily Woodruff, with the Advocate in New Orleans, worked with other reporters to speak to nine local healthcare workers on the front lines of efforts in the Pelican State to save patients’ lives and contain the virus. Read more.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020:

  • While meeting-based recovery groups like Alcoholics Anonymous move online amid the outbreak, the isolation of staying at home and stress caused by the news cycle pose threats to recovery from alcohol and drug use, reports corps member Adam Wagner from North Carolina. Read here.
  • Due to the crisis, an embattled Kentucky judge facing misconduct charges will maintain her position and salary until the hearings, set for next month, can be rescheduled. Julia Fair reports for the Cincinnati Enquirer on the Judicial Conduct Commission decision to suspend her hearings over concerns about spreading the virus. Read more
  • How can families and friends put loved ones to rest amid a pandemic? Utah funeral homes are helping locals find ways to grieve, reports Becky Jacobs for the Salt Lake Tribune. Read more. 
  • For Boise State Radio in Idaho, Rachel Cohen looks at how districts and residents are navigating “shelter in place” and “state of emergency” declarations – a challenge for counties like Blaine, where retail stores selling basic goods do not exist, requiring locals to drive south to Twin Falls for supplies. Listen.
  • In Mississippi, Michelle Liu has been looking at how the state’s prison system is preparing for the virus, including suspending approved leave and prisoner work crews. Read more
  • With WCAI on Cape Cod, Eve Zuckoff spoke with local businesses and employees ordered to close shop by state order. Read more.
  • In California, Risa Johnson writes about the ways parents and children are adjusting to remote learning, more time at home and less time with friends, highlighting the creative approaches parents have come up with to keep their children active and engaged. Read more.

Monday, March 23, 2020:

  • In Newark, New Jersey, the school system’s online format comes with an upgrade for some 7,000 students: a laptop and free internet. Devna Bose reports on how the community is trying to address disparities during the pandemic. Read more.
  • In Tennessee, Wyatt Massey reports on Chattanooga’s burdened system of shelters, which does not yet have the capacity to house everyone in need. The city is working with local nonprofits and community centers to find the means of protecting the area’s most vulnerable population. Read more
  • Similarly, Manuela Tobias, with the Fresno Bee in California’s Central Valley, reports on the local effort to shelter the homeless. Many of them  told Tobias, however, that they were concerned about the risk of being quarantined with strangers amid the pandemic, potentially raising the likelihood of infection. Read more.   
  • Before the crisis, West Virginia food pantries were already feeding some 100,000 people annually. But now,  job losses related to the pandemic are straining that system further, reports former corps member Caity Coyne. Complicating the problem, many of the food pantry volunteers are over 70, making them more at risk of death from COVID-19. Read more.
  • In North Carolina, food distributor Meals on Wheels is trying to address the issue of food delivery, and safety protocols for interactions with seniors, the most vulnerable to the virus. Read Adam Wagner’s reporting
  • Reporting for Utah’s Salt Lake Tribune, Becky Jacobs speaks with a couple trying to adapt their marriage plans to the new reality of social distancing. Read her reporting on love in the time of coronavirus.

Friday, March 20, 2020:

  • For Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, corps member Rachel Cohen reports on how local businesses are learning to adapt to new containment measures. Read more.
  • In Miami, Lautaro Grinspan reported for the Miami Herald on some “eyebrow-raising” scenes at one local nursing home, where the facility has had to make its own sanitizer, skirmishes over supplies were witnessed and school closings have forced desperate employees to bring kids to work despite a visitor ban. Read more
  • Reporting from Charlotte, North Carolina, Lauren Lindstrom is covering the outbreak in Mecklenburg County, where the reported cases more than doubled overnight. Read more.
  • Across California, job losses due to shutdowns are causing community members to go hungry and ask for assistance that is already under strain, reports corps member Jackie Botts for CalMatters. “A line of 500 to 600 people standing six feet apart snaked around a parking lot and multiple city blocks in downtown Los Angeles,” she writes.
  • In Mississippi, Eric J. Shelton, a photojournalist, has been covering the outbreak’s local effects for Mississippi Today. See his latest work in this story about the impact on local food supplies.
  • Camalot Todd, who covers mental health in Western New York state, reminded her Spectrum News’ Buffalo audience that it is normal to be anxious or stressed in times like these and shared behavioral and mental health resources for those who feel that might need support.. Read more.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

  • From domestic workers to stand-up comedians, members of Chicago’s gig economy are caught in a microcosm of the crisis amid the global pandemic. As gigs decrease and disappear altogether, locals are getting creative in paying their rent, corps member Carlos Ballesteros reports for the Chicago Sun-Times. Read more.
  • Corps member Obed Manuel covers Latino issues and the 2020 census for the Dallas Morning News, and reports that the U.S. Census Bureau has suspended local field operations due to the pandemic and will reopen in April. Read more.
  • In Buffalo, Wyoming, corps member Mara Abbott is covering the outbreak’s impact on the local oil industry. Accounting for 15% of her county’s property and production taxes, the global drop in gas prices, compounded by the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Russia, hits home, and hard. According to the Petroleum Association of Wyoming,” she writes, “each time a dollar is sliced off the price of oil, the state sustains a $12.5 million annual loss.” Read more.
  • For St. Louis Public Radio, Eric Schmid reports that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has announced statewide Medicaid expansion to cover COVID-19 infections. Read more.
  • As the outbreak spreads across the Bay Area and volunteers become scarce, the city of Sunnyvale is deploying its own staff members to help distribute food to those in need. Corpsmember Erica Hellerstein is on the ground with Mercury News. Read more.
  • Reporting for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky, corps member Alex Acquisto speaks with the local officials leading the effort to distribute the first major shipment of safety gear – surgical masks gloves and gowns – to the commonwealth’s hospitals. Read more.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

  • For the Victoria Advocate in Texas, corps member Ciara McCarthy is covering the state’s investigation into Matagorda County’s first potential COVID-19 case. Read more.
  • In Kentucky, the wide swath of residents finding themselves without work following the governor’s order to close down all dining-in at restaurants and bars is overwhelming the commonwealth’s unemployment system with thousands more claims per week, reports corps member Will Wright. Read more
  • Despite the national and local states of emergency declarations, Moab, Utah expects as many as 6,000 tourists next weekend. But as corps member Kate Goetzinger reports for KUER, the local hospital has a message for potential visitors:  “stay at home.” Read more.
  • Organizers are scrambling to help get food and other essentials to older or vulnerable people who are staying at home to protect against the spread of the coronavirus,” reports corps member Camille von Kaenel for the Chico Enterprise-Record in California’s Butte County, where there has also been an outpouring of offers from healthy residents to help neighbors in need. Read more.
  • In Santa Fe, New Mexico, Katherine Lewin asked Dr. David Scrase, secretary of Human Services of the state, about what members of the population are most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 during a one-on-one interview this week. Read more.
  • In Wyoming, Chris Aadland reports that local Native American tribes at the Wind River Reservation are responding to the virus this week by calling a state of emergency and shutting down casinos until further notice. Read More.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020:

  • After hearing about the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, two residents decided to put their time and effort into helping those in need. Reporting for the Times Free Press, Wyatt Massey followed members of We Over Me Chattanooga as they distributed food to the elderly and families with children across the city. 
  • ChrisAnna Mink reports on the third confirmed case of COVID-19 in Stanislaus County, California and the activation of the emergency services response in the area for the Modesto Bee.
  • Is it safe to swim in the ocean? In a pool? How long does the virus stay on clothing? Eleni Gill answers these and other COVID-19 related questions for Honolulu Civil Beat readers. 
  • Homeless shelters are particularly vulnerable to the spread of the novel coronavirus, given the tight living spaces and the frailty of many of those who use these services. Kelan Lyons reports on the state of Connecticut’s shelters and the anxiety felt by those who live in them for the Connecticut Mirror.
  • Julia Fair reports on the backlash against Northern Kentucky congressman Thomas Massie after he took to social media to criticize the Coronavirus Relief Bill passed by Congress and the measures adopted by the government. 
  • Given their limited budget, supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries can’t afford to stock up on food and essential items. Pascal Sabino reports for Block Club Chicago on how the wave of panic buyers and hoarders have left these people scrambling to find food for a possible lockdown. Despite not reporting any cases of COVID-19 yet, life is already changing at Malheur County, Oregon. Yadira Lopez chronicles the big and small ways this community is adapting to the pandemic for the Malheur Enterprise.

Monday, March 16, 2020:

Friday, March 13, 2020:

  • Reporting from Seoul, GroundTruth alumna Kelly Kasulis compiled a timeline of how South Korea, which has the third-largest outbreak of COVID-19 in the world  moved fast to respond to the emergency, keeping its death rate at the lowest level possible and offering an interesting comparison to how the U.S. has responded.
  • In this week’s AAPI newsletter, Theodora Yu at The Sacramento Bee is closely following the impact of COVID-19 on the Asian American community in Sacramento, Calif. Read more.
  • Chris Ehrmann with the Associated Press was in New York’s ‘containment area’ in New Rochelle, interviewing weary and anxious residents and shop owners, in one of the nation’s biggest clusters of coronavirus cases. Read more.
  • In Hawaii, Eleni Gill with The Honolulu Civil Beat, has been fielding questions from the community. In her latest Q&A post, she tackles why the islands haven’t yet banned cruise ships. Read more.
  • As coronavirus cases in New Orleans rise, hospital officials are worried about staffing, supplies and more. Emily Woodruff at The New Orleans Advocate has the latest. Read more.
  • Another 100 cases were reported in Washington State on Thursday, increasing the number of confirmed cases to 457, but health officials think the number is much higher. Arielle Dreher, reporting for the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, WA, highlights how the efforts to stop the spread of the virus in the state are being hampered by the delays in testing. Read more.
  • Julia Fair examines the impact the closure of schools will have on 650,000 children and their families across Ohio in her latest story for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Read More.