Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

Feature-length audio news reports from St. Louis Public Radio reporters.

Illustration of two people inside apartments. One is watching an Easter service on TV. The other is sitting at a computer participating in a Seder.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The spring season is a festive one in Judaism and Christianity. Both Easter and Passover celebrate rebirth and renewal, often with large gatherings.

Passover, which begins at sundown Wednesday, is marked by the Seder. People gather with friends and family in their homes or head to the synagogue for the ritual re-telling of the exodus from Egypt. For Christians, seven days of church services, known as Holy Week, culminate in Easter Sunday, which often includes a family dinner.

April 6, 2020 - The state of Missouri says more than 100,000 initial claims for unemployment came in during the last full week of March. The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations' Division of Employment Security says 89,000 were COVID-19 related.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

The coronavirus outbreak continues to hammer the economy. Many businesses are shut down because of social distancing efforts to help stop the spread of the virus. That’s leading to several questions about the country's economic future.

The federal government says roughly 10 million people have filed for unemployment claims in the past couple of weeks. The full impact has yet to be felt in the national unemployment rate, which jumped last month from 3.5% to 4.4%.

Missouri's 2020 campaign is effectively on hold. And candidates that continuing on are using technology to reach people.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

State Sen. Andrew Koenig and state Rep. Deb Lavender are both accustomed to meeting lots and lots of voters during election time.

The two lawmakers are running against each other in the 15th Senate District race, and one of the reasons the contest is compelling is because of both candidates’ ability to campaign door to door.

But everything’s changed with COVID-19. Koenig said he’s put his campaign on hold and is focused on using his office to get the word out about the governmental response to the virus. 

Medical workers collect a sample from a patient at Mercy Health's drive-through novel coronavirus test collection site in Chesterfield on Monday afternoon, March 16, 2020.
File photo |Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, Missouri lawmakers say they are planning to return to Jefferson City next week to pass a supplemental budget that includes millions of state and federal dollars to help deal with the outbreak. 

The Rev. Deon Johnson will be the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. Johnson is also the first openly gay Bishop to the lead the diocese.
The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri

The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri will soon have a new bishop. The Rev. Deon Johnson officially will become the 11th bishop of the diocese when he is consecrated on June 13. Johnson’s transition into the role is historic: He’s the first openly gay bishop to lead the Diocese of Missouri. 

He and his husband and their two kids moved to St. Louis in February with hopes of getting adjusted to the region. That was put on hold as the coronavirus pandemic grew. St. Louis Public Radio’s Marissanne Lewis-Thompson spoke with Johnson about his new role and how he’s approaching the position in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Brian Reed, an administrator with Rockwood School District, hands out laptops to students March 22, 2020, in preparation of remote learning.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Like parents around the country, Michelle Haffer never imagined having to become her child’s full-time teacher. But Haffer’s daughter is out of school and mostly stuck in the house.

And her daughter, Maddy, isn’t loving it.

“Well, she’s been struggling. It’s mostly the social distancing, in that nothing is open,” Haffer said.

Frontier Health and Rehabilitation, a nursing home in St. Charles on March 27, 2020.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5 p.m., March 31 with latest number of cases at Frontier Health and Rehabilitation

When dozens of nursing home residents in a Seattle suburb tested positive for COVID-19, people in St. Louis grew worried about their loved ones. 

Michael Allen immediately thought of his aunt, who has schizophrenia and a heart condition, and lives at Frontier Health and Rehabilitation in St. Charles. Allen grew more worried when her nursing home reported that residents there had tested positive.

Nursing homes across the country blocked access to visitors, began screening staff and residents multiple times a day, and are trying to follow guidelines from federal and local authorities.

Pete DaPrato and his granddaughter Kate Hamel.  [3/30/20]
DaPrato Family

Hours after Pete DaPrato died from COVID-19, members of his family gathered at his home in O’Fallon, Missouri.

But they didn’t go inside.

Pete’s widow, Jackie, was in quarantine. And the other mourners wanted to follow health guidelines and maintain a healthy distance.

So they pulled up chairs in the driveway, spaced six to 10 feet apart from each other.

Pete’s daughter produced a couple of cans of Bud Light. His twin brother and son each took one, and cleaned it off with a disinfectant wipe. 

Like other families, the DePratos are grappling with the reality of death and mourning in the time of coronavirus. 

WNBA Minnesota Lynx player Maya Moore announced in January 2020 that she was taking another season off to work on freeing St. Louis native Jonathan Irons, a man whom she believes was wrongfully convicted of a crime.
NBAE | Getty Images

Updated March 27 with Missouri attorney general’s decision about the Jonathan Irons case

Less than one month after a Cole County judge overturned Jonathan Irons’ conviction, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt this week appealed the decision.

Schmitt filed a writ of certiorari in the case. Court documents say Cole County Judge Daniel Green “exceeded” his authority and “abused” his discretion in the ruling that overruled Irons' conviction.

Original story from March 16:

Since the spring of 2019, WNBA All-Star Maya Moore has not missed a single one of Missouri state inmate Jonathan Irons’ court hearings. 

Missouri Governor Mike Parson (left) and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker have taken different steps to prepare for the coronoavirus in their states.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio and Brian Mackey | NPR Illinois

As the federal government leads the national response to the coronavirus, Illinois and Missouri are examples of how states are crafting their own plans, and how they differ, during the health crisis. 

Of the many differences between Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his Missouri counterpart, Mike Parson, response to COVID-19 is at the top of the list. While Parson is quick to remind residents that the pandemic is not a doomsday scenario, Pritzker relays possible worst-case situations at his daily press briefings. 

Hospice patient Dorothy Matejka enjoys a music therapy session with her daughter Nancy Daake and music therapists Alison Cole and Kathryn Coccia, seen here with her guitar.
Nancy Fowler | For St. Louis Public Radio

Some of Dorothy Matejka’s favorite days are when she gets to enjoy music therapy in her south St. Louis apartment. She never tires of songs like “On the Good Ship Lollipop” and “Goodnight, Irene” that recall special moments of her 93 years.

“I’ve had a very good life and a lot of laughs, a lot of good times and a lot of memories,” Matejka said.

Matejka wistfully anticipates leaving a special memory for her family after her death: a song that includes her own heartbeat and lyrics drawn from family stories. The song is part of the Heartbeat Project, which music therapist Alison Cole started three years ago with hospice patients after hearing about it in other cities.

Eric Schneider sits at a computer wearing a mask prototype and working on revisions for the next version. March 23, 2020. JA 3-23-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 8:10 p.m. March 25 with production continuing

Production of protective face masks at Missouri University of Science & Technology, which had been paused pending FDA approval, has resumed. They won’t be delivered to Phelps Health Medical Center until the FDA approves them. Missouri S&T and the hospital are pleased with the final design and are optimistic it will be approved.

The students, who are continuing to work around the clock, are also producing face shields, which do not require FDA approval.

2-ounce hand sanitizer bottles made by Switchgrass Spirits, a distillery in Wellson, Missouri
Switchgrass Spirits

Barbara Chappuis, the owner of Clarksville beauty shop Bee Naturals, found it impossible earlier this month to purchase the alcohol her company needs to make hand sanitizer. 

Global supplies of high-proof alcohol have become scarce due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease spread by the new coronavirus. But in Chappuis’ desperate search to acquire alcohol, she found an unlikely business partner: Switchgrass Spirits, a one-year-old distillery near north St. Louis.

Allie Magee, marketing and communications manager for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, records an episode of "Shakespeare In The Sheets" with actors Mary Heyl and Hannah Geisz. Since this gathering at The Cheshire last week, festival artists are only contr
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

After local officials banned gatherings of more than 10 people last week, arts organizations scrambled to find ways to keep performing without an audience. 

Now the rules are even stricter. The stay-at-home orders that went into effect Monday in St. Louis and St. Louis County have arts groups reconfiguring those contingency plans on the fly.

Nearly 90% of cases the Crime Victim Center assists with deal with domestic violence.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

WAYNESVILLE — Using online services to help rural people in need isn’t new, but a domestic violence shelter has learned it takes more than that when internet access in safe spaces isn’t available.

That’s why Genesis, a domestic and sexual violence victim advocacy agency, is combining its online offerings with a roving staff member who travels to women in need.

“If they can just get to me at the disclosed location, I can set them up with therapy services through our therapists over the internet,” said Wendy Miller, the rural victim advocate for Genesis.

Taken on the day before stl regional officials called for restaurants and bars to stop dine-in service (03-16-20)
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Less than two weeks after St. Louis County health officials announced the first local case of coronavirus, the restaurant and bar industry completely changed. 

Regional government officials last week called for restaurants and bars to halt dine-in service, a move aimed to force social distancing as the number of cases in Missouri climbed past 20.

Only those that offer delivery, takeout or curbside pickup can remain open.

Dr. Deanna Barch, shown here in her Washington University Office, has found the prevalence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in young people is higher than once believed.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

The suicide rate among children age 10-14 in the U.S. tripled between 2007 and 2017, but health experts know little about why young children think about suicide.

Dr. Deanna Barch, Washington University psychology and psychiatry professor, and her colleagues studied nearly 12,000 chidren age 9-10 and found that up to 6% had thoughts about, planned or attempted to die by suicide. Barch found a link between family conflict plays and suicide risk.

St. Louis County Health Department co-director Spring Schmidt (left) and county executive Sam Page address reporters on Sunday, March 8, 2020, regarding Missouri's presumed first case of the new coronavirus.
File Photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

As states confirm more cases of the new coronavirus disease, local health officials are recommending that people who have tested positive and those who’ve come in close contact with them isolate themselves at home for 14 days. 

Many states, including Missouri and Illinois, have laws that give health department directors the authority to enforce a quarantine on individuals who do not follow instructions to isolate themselves. 

The census will only ask if respondents are 'male' or 'female.' That leaves out a growing number of people who identify outside of that gender binary.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

Local organizations and governments have worked to avoid an undercount in their communities in the months leading up to the 2020 census. The U.S. Census Bureau started collecting responses to this year's headcount en masse, sending individual letters requesting a response to the headcount homes across on March 12. The survey, which happens once every decade in the U.S., collects the most comprehensive data about the demographic makeup of the country. 

One small but vulnerable population in the U.S. won’t be counted in the survey this time around, however. That’s because of how the question that asks about people’s sex appears on the form. The 2020 headcount only asks if people are “male” or “female.”

The census will only ask if respondents are 'male' or 'female.' That leaves out a growing number of people who identify outside of that gender binary.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

State and local organizations have been ramping up efforts for months to make sure all Missourians are aware of the census. 

From the fliers in mailboxes to the countless ads on social media, TV, radio and billboards, the state is working to explain what the census is and why it’s important. But on a recent day outside St. Louis City Hall, it’s clear the message hasn’t been heard by everyone.

"I kind of don't know what it is,” Rachel Baltazar said. “Like, I have an idea that it's something with knowing where everybody is or where they are. But I don't know the exact details."

Ericka Harris, one of the founders of The Collective STL, emphasizes breathing in her sessions, because when her students step outside the studio and into other situations she knows they will always have their breath.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For decades, white women have been the face of yoga across the nation. But inside a yoga studio in Old North St. Louis, the atmosphere is worlds apart.

At the Collective STL, yoga is taught by black instructors and the floor is filled with black educators and other professionals, community activists and students — many of whom are there to release the stress of trauma, family struggles and depression.

Since the studio opened in 2017, it has focused on improving the wellness of African Americans in St. Louis.

CareSTL Health's COVID-19 testing site in north St. Louis will reopen on April 27.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

Hospitals and doctors in the St. Louis area have been preparing for several weeks for a case of the new coronavirus disease to arrive in Missouri

That happened Saturday, when state and local officials announced that a St. Louis County woman is presumed to have COVID-19. She’s one of about 500 people known to have it in the U.S. The disease, which emerged in China late last year, has killed 3,800 people globally. 

Doctors say expanded nationwide testing for COVID-19 could reveal how widespread the disease is. Infectious disease specialist Hilary Babcock spoke with St. Louis Public Radio’s Eli Chen about the new coronavirus and what the first case means for Missouri. 

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announces the state's first case of COVID-19 in St. Louis County on March 8, 2020.
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 8 p.m. March 10 with confirmation from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Tuesday that a 20-year-old woman in St. Louis County has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease spread by the new coronavirus. 

Original story from March 8:

A 20-year-old St. Louis County woman who was studying in Italy is now presumed to be the state’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease spread by the new coronavirus.

Gov. Mike Parson and other officials announced late Saturday that the woman is in isolation at home with members of her family, who also have been in isolation.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page says the woman took care to keep others from contracting the virus once she started feeling sick. She called the county coronavirus hotline, and local health officials told her she met the criteria for testing.

Justice Buress, 4, demonstrates how she hides under a table during a drill at Little Explorers Learning Center in St. Louis. Day care director Tess Trice carries out monthly drills to train the children to get on the f loor when they hear gunfire.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Champale Greene-Anderson keeps the volume up on her television whenever her 5-year-old granddaughter Amor Robinson comes over after school.

“So we won’t hear the gunshots,” Greene-Anderson said. “I have little bitty grandbabies, and I don’t want them to be afraid to be here.”

As a preschooler, Amor already knows and fears the sounds that occur with regularity in their neighborhood.

“I don’t like the pop, pop noises,” Amor explained, swinging the beads in her hair. “I can’t hear my tablet when I watch something.”

After the departure of four major contenders, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are the last major candidates left for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Illustration by David Kovaluk, Gage Skidmore and Lorie Shaull

Updated at 10:10 a.m., March 5, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren dropping out of the presidential race

Missouri Democrats will have 22 candidates to choose from when they head to the polls Tuesday for the presidential primary, but most are either dropouts or longshots. The two leading candidates are now former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

With other major candidates dropping out of the race, Biden is starting to consolidate institutional support from heavyweights in the Missouri Democratic Party — even though he hasn’t spent as much money as other contenders. Even with Biden gaining steam, Sanders possesses a strong base of support in all parts of the state. 

Walter Byrd checks on an overflowing sewer grate next to his home in Centreville. Like dozens of other residents, Byrd has raw sewage seeping through his yard. Jan. 27, 2020
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

CENTREVILLE — At least twice a day, Walter Byrd checks on the pumps on his yard. 

Like dozens of residents in the Metro East city of Centreville, Byrd has raw sewage seeping through his yard. A person can’t bear to stand in his yard during the summer because it smells like a “hog pen,” he said.

The city and its sewer utility, Commonfields of Cahokia, have neglected the sewer systems for decades. When there’s a heavy rain, the water often has nowhere to drain and floods parts of town.

Dawn Harper-Nelson stretches during a training session at Belleville West High School as her daughter, Harper, naps nearby. February 2020.
Dawn Harper-Nelson

In professional sports, female athletes continue to fight for equality. They are pushing for equal pay, combating sexism within their particular sport and demanding maternal protections from sponsors. 

Three U.S. Olympic track stars — including Allyson Felix, Kara Goucher and Alysia Montaño — voiced their opinions last year about sponsors who released them from their contracts because of their pregnancies. (After public outcry, Nike had a change of heart, announcing a new maternity policy that guarantees a sponsored athlete’s pay and bonuses for 18 months around pregnancy.) 

Keilee Fant is a plaintiff in two ArchCity Defenders lawsuits against Ferguson and Jennings for operating 'debtors prisons.'
Chuck Ramsey | ArchCity Defenders

Five years ago this month, the nonprofit legal advocacy group ArchCity Defenders and its allies opened a new line of attack on what they viewed as the injustice of the municipal court system in St. Louis County.

They filed the first of what would become seven federal lawsuits accusing St. Louis area municipalities of running modern-day debtors prisons. The lawsuits sought major changes to the way the cities used their municipal court systems and financial compensation for those harmed. 

One city — Jennings — decided to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. But it was the outlier.

John Wright holds two black business and travel guides. The 1934 issue of the 'St. Louis Negro Business and Trade Directory' featured all-black companies, while 'Your St. Louis and Mine' included white-owned businesses that welcomed black patrons.
Andrea Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio

Michael Burns remembers his parents using a booklet with a green cover to help direct their road trips from St. Louis to Chicago in the late 1950s and early '60s. 

At the time, he did not understand why they had to depart before dawn, but he did know the black-owned businesses listed in the booklet would keep African Americans free from harm while traveling. 

The booklet his family relied on was "The Negro Motorist Green Book" — more commonly known as the Green Book.

Brennan England is the owner of Missouri's first cannabis consumption lounge on Cherokee Street, a strip he says is at the center of a budding industry.
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Cherokee Street — known for its quirky, homegrown businesses — could soon be known as the “Green Light District.” At least that’s what Brennan England hopes. 

The longtime activist for marijuana legalization in Missouri coined the term to brand the south city street and the surrounding neighborhoods as St. Louis’ center for cannabis culture.