Health+Harvest

NPR Illinois Community Advisory Board identified the subject of food and health as important subjects for coverage in 2012. Health+Harvest provides for community engagement on health and food issues along with reporting on farm, field and fuel.  From seed to plate, from farmer's markets to GMOs, central Illinoisans need to know how to stay healthy and what they are eating.  In 2013, NPR Illinois joined a consortium of public media in the Harvest Public Media network.  The network provides broader coverage to Midwest food issues.

By examining these local, regional and national issues and their implications with in-depth and unbiased reporting, Health+Harvest fills a critical information void.

Support for Health+Harvest coverage comes from Central Illinois Farm Bureaus and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  If you'd like to support this initiative, please contact Nice Bogdanovich at 217-206-9847.

Early in the pandemic, people with COVID-19 began reporting an odd symptom: the loss of smell and taste.

The reason wasn't congestion. Somehow, the SARS-CoV-2 virus appeared to be affecting nerves that carry information from the nose to the brain.

That worried neurologists.

Here in the U.S., communities see a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. With the vaccinations now occurring across the country, health officials are optimistic that the outbreak could be under control by the end of this year.

But the pandemic won't be over. Across the globe, the virus will still be circulating widely, even surging, in many countries.

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Scientists are learning that COVID-19 can cause long-term damage to the brain. Problems with memory and thinking may linger for months after an infection. NPR's Jon Hamilton reports that COVID-19 may even increase the risk of Alzheimer's.

In Los Angeles, ambulances are waiting for hours — up to eight, in some cases — to admit new patients at overwhelmed hospitals. The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units has more than quadrupled since the beginning of November.

Privacy concerns have been raised after ministers in Singapore's government acknowledged that data collected by its widely used COVID-19 contact-tracing program may be turned over to police for criminal investigations.

Desmond Tan, minister of state for home affairs, told Parliament on Monday, "The Singapore Police Force is empowered ... to obtain any data, including TraceTogether data, for criminal investigations," Reuters reported.

That was in contrast with previous assurances by the government.

Even as the first doses of vaccine arrive in nursing homes and assisted living communities, the COVID-19 death toll among residents and staff of these facilities continues climbing to staggering heights, with the final month of 2020 proving to be the deadliest of the pandemic for long-term care.

There were more than 5,600 deaths linked to long-term care in the last week of December.

In early December, Christine Ghati Alfons taught a menstrual hygiene class to a group of girls, 10 to 15 years old, in the ethnic Kuria community in Migori County, an impoverished, rural area in southwest Kenya. Normally, she says, the class has 25 students. On this day, only 17 girls showed up.

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Millions of people have already voted in Georgia, and today is their final day.

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How many steps do you walk each day?

If you live in the U.S. and can claim more than 4,774 steps daily, you're exceeding the average American's total. Comparable figures from England and Japan are 5,444 and 6,010 daily steps, respectively — with this info derived from cellphone data.

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Hospitals are facing the new year with new requirements to post price information they have long sought to obscure: the actual prices they negotiate with insurers and the discounts they offer their cash-paying customers.

Paramedics in Southern California are being told to conserve oxygen and not to bring patients to the hospital who have little chance of survival as Los Angeles County grapples with a new wave of COVID-19 patients that is expected to get worse in the coming days.

The Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency issued a directive Monday that ambulance crews should administer supplemental oxygen only to patients whose oxygen saturation levels fall below 90%.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning health care workers that any changes to the authorized dosing schedules of COVID-19 vaccines currently being administered will significantly place public health at risk and undermine "the historic vaccination effort to protect the population" from the coronavirus pandemic.

England will go under a new strict national lockdown through mid-February in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a Monday address.

Memorial Health System

As distribution of the new COVID-19 vaccine continues, some Illinois leaders are turning their attention to encouraging vaccine use, particularly among communities of color.

Updated at 7:08 p.m. ET

The Wisconsin pharmacist accused of intentionally sabotaging more than 500 doses of the coronavirus vaccine at Christmastime told police he did it because he believed the drug is somehow hazardous.

"He'd formed this belief they were unsafe," Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said of Steven Brandenburg on Monday during a virtual hearing, The Associated Press reported.

A hospital worker donned an inflatable, air-powered costume to spread cheer in a California emergency department on Christmas Day.

But now, dozens of hospital staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus, and the hospital said the costume may be to blame.

Hospital officials said 44 staff members tested positive between Dec. 27 and Jan. 3 in the emergency department at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center. One emergency department worker who had a shift on Christmas died from COVID-19 complications.

The national campaign to vaccinate people against COVID-19 is off to a rocky start. Expectations just a month ago were for 20 million people to be vaccinated by the end of December. But as of Monday morning, just 4.5 million people have received their first dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Interested in learning a new skill in the new year? CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta says that will also improve your brain health.

"The act of experiencing something new — or even doing something that's typical for you, but in a different way — can all generate these new brain cells," says Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon and associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. "We want to constantly be using new paths and trails and roads within our brain."

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President Trump openly asked a Georgia official to help him steal that state's electoral votes.

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Just one week after Massachusetts closed schools and day cares in March, Boston Children's Hospital saw a drastic change in asthma-related visits to the emergency room: They were down 80% from the prior two months.

Beijing says it inoculated more than 73,000 people in the first two days after China's first domestic COVID-19 vaccine was approved for commercial use.

China's capital has set up 220 vaccination centers around the city to dole out the two-step vaccine. The elderly and front-line medical workers will receive the first doses.

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The grim milestones are piling up as the United States experiences another surge in coronavirus cases. Nearly 300,000 new cases were reported on Saturday. The cumulative death toll crossed more than 350,000 the same day, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard.

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