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Editor's note: This story was reported and photographed from February 2019 to March 2020. The text has been updated to reflect the activities of the circus during the pandemic.

Phelelani Ndakrokra prefers not to talk about his past. But what the 23-year-old acrobat will say is that if he hadn't joined the circus ten years ago, he'd probably either be dead or in prison by now.

Each week, we answer "frequently asked questions" about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question you'd like us to consider, email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

There are two kinds of reactions to Beyoncé's new Black Is King video: lavish praise – and deep criticism. The praise comes from her many fans and from many reviewers. The criticism often comes from Africans.

We are both from Africa. Esther Ngumbi was born and grew up in Kenya. Ifeanyi Nsofor was born and grew up in Nigeria. We can understand the critiques – and have some of our own. But in the end, we think the positives outweigh the problems.

Amid deteriorating U.S.-China relations, further aggravated by a highly unusual trip to Taiwan this weekend by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Defense Secretary Mark Esper talked for 90 minutes on Thursday with his Chinese counterpart, Defense Minister Wei Fenghe.

During an interview that aired on Axios on HBO on Monday night, President Trump was interviewed by journalist Jonathan Swan. One of the topics: the number of deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19.

Swan noted that there are about 1,000 deaths a day in the United States.

It's been a rough two days for former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, one of the country's most influential politicians.

Uribe has gone from kingmaker to detainee after the country's Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered that he be placed under house arrest. Then, on Wednesday, Colombian media reported that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's a common warning about our planet's future: the risk of food shortages.

"We've got a growing world and a hungry world. We need to make sure we do our part in helping feed that hungry world," said Kip Tom, a farmer from Indiana who's currently the U.S. ambassador to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, as he closed a panel discussion in 2018.

Rezan al-Ibrahim understands separation. A Web developer who fled the war in Syria and now has asylum in the Netherlands, he's in a long-distance marriage with his wife, Aysha Shedbalkar, an Indian American math teacher, because of the Trump administration's ban on Syrians.

"She had taken this year off work to stay with me in Amsterdam," he says. "Then the pandemic hit."

Get set for 2020's mega-campaign against the flu amid the COVID-19 pandemic: immunization drives in the parking lots of churches and supermarkets, curbside inoculations outside doctors' offices, socially distanced vaccine appointments held indoors, with breaks in between for disinfecting.

These are just some of the ways heath providers say they will give tens of millions of flu shots this fall — arguably the most important U.S. effort to prevent influenza's spread among Americans in a century.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

When Marquita Burnett heard Philadelphia was moving to the "green" phase of reopening, she was confused. First of all, she was pretty sure the city had already earned the green label from Pennsylvania's governor (it had). The next thing she knew, the city was scaling back on plans it had made to allow some businesses to reopen (namely, indoor dining and gyms). But it was still calling that phase "restricted green."

Kathleen de Leon is frustrated with the U.S. handling of the coronavirus.

"Well just look at the news," she says. "It's a disaster."

De Leon is German, and she and her husband, an American, and have been living in the United States for more than a decade. She says their daughter Zoe is happy here, and the family wasn't planning a move to Germany. But now they're talking about it.

Despite progress made on a vaccine against COVID-19, "there's no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be," the World Health Organization's director-general warned on Monday.

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The video clip shows a beauty pageant of sorts — but no contestants are promising world peace.

Renee Bach, an American missionary who operated a charitable treatment center for severely malnourished children in Uganda despite having no medical training, has settled a lawsuit brought against her in Ugandan civil court by two women and a civil rights organization.

At least 105 children died in the charity's care. Bach was being sued by Gimbo Zubeda, whose son Twalali Kifabi was one of those children, as well as by Kakai Annet, whose son Elijah Kabagambe died at home soon after treatment by the charity.

The coronavirus is spreading through government-held areas of Syria at an alarming rate and the authoritarian regime uses a campaign of intimidation to suppress information about the outbreak, a medical worker inside the country says.

With hospitals overwhelmed, staff are treating patients in dirty rooms, without enough medication and with little equipment to protect themselves, one medical worker in the country told NPR.

But talking about it can be dangerous.

Each week, we answer "frequently asked questions" about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question you'd like us to consider for a future post, email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

Hong Kong is seeing its biggest surge in coronavirus cases since the outbreak began.

A federal judge in New York issued two strongly worded rulings on Wednesday that put a temporary freeze on restrictive Trump administration immigration policies.

The measures, which are now on hold, had broadened the grounds under which immigrants could be considered "public charges," a label that can harm the chances of obtaining either a green card or entry to the United States.

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage around the world, some of the largest outbreaks are in countries that fall into one particular economic category. They're not rich. They're not poor. They're middle income.

In fact, of the countries reporting the most cases globally, 6 of 7 are middle-income nations.

Every morning, Rosa Gallegos has to make a decision: stay at home with her family to be safe from the coronavirus or hit the streets of Mexico City to make money so they can eat.

The 61-year-old grandmother always comes to the same conclusion: "If coronavirus doesn't kill me, hunger will."

On a recent Thursday, she stands on a street corner near a public hospital complex, hawking little bags of nuts. "Nuts, 10 pesos. Get your nuts, 10 pesos," she said to passersby.

Economic output in Germany — the powerhouse of Europe — shrank during this year's second quarter by 10.1% compared with the same period last year. That double-digit downturn is the steepest since that country's Federal Statistical Office began tracking quarterly economic data a half-century ago.

At a traffic circle in Maryland, Mona Eldadah watched her father plodding in circles.

Hadi Rahnama, 77, was walking around a black cube, a replica of the Kaaba shrine in Mecca, to demonstrate the tawaf, or ritual prayer, that Muslims perform when they visit the shrine on the hajj.

Eldadah corrected her father.

"No, Daddy, the idea is that the car is actually going to do the tawaf," she said. "It's a drive-through."

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

On January 30, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus — then unnamed — to be a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern." The virus, first reported in China in late 2019, had started to spread beyond its borders, causing 98 cases in 18 countries in addition to some

The European Union successfully flattened the curve of COVID-19 cases in the spring – but a second wave could be building in parts of the EU, according to both British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the head of Germany's disease agency.

"I'm afraid you are starting to see, in some places, the signs of a second wave of the pandemic" in Europe, Johnson said Tuesday.

When the coronavirus pandemic began, public health experts had high hopes for the United States. After all, the U.S. literally invented the tactics that have been used for decades to quash outbreaks around the world: Quickly identify everyone who gets infected. Track down everyone exposed to the virus. Test everyone. Isolate the sick and quarantine the exposed to stop the virus from spreading.

In early May, about two months after schools across Malawi closed because of COVID-19, Eliza Chikoti received a phone call from a former student: a bright 15-year-old girl who always got good grades.

"She called me and she said, 'Madame, I'm thinking of getting married,' " says Chikoti.

Chikoti, 24, works for Camfed, an international organization that supports girls' education. Part of her work is mentoring girls in the town of Mwanza — offering them support and guidance in their studies.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A picky 25-year-old from Mumbai whose unwillingness to marry raises his mom's blood pressure. A headstrong 34-year-old lawyer from Houston who says she doesn't want to settle for just anybody. A cheerful 32-year-old Guyanese-American dancer with Indian roots who simply wants to find a good person to be her husband.

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