Center for Health Journalism

Coronavirus Files: Immunity, conspiracy theories and the road ahead

The Center for Health Journalism has begun offering a special newsletter geared to journalists as they report on one of the biggest and most complex stories of our times. Each Monday, while the pandemic runs its course, The Coronavirus Files will provide tips and resources and highlight exemplary work to help you with your work. The Center for Health Journalism’s Coronavirus Files Monday newsletter is curated and reported by science writer Lindzi Wessel. Have a suggestion or a request? Write us at
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New docuseries tells stories of black births in America

“She had the baby, it’s a girl ... I don't know all the details, but it sounds like there were some complications.”. This was the text I received from my mother earlier this summer. My childhood best friend was pregnant with her first child, but the math simply wasn’t adding up. You see, I am a compulsive planner and had been brainstorming perfect gifts for the baby shower, scheduled for the Fourth of July weekend. The baby was due in August. So as I wiped my eyes and sat up in bed to read the text again, I knew that something had to be wrong. The baby was eight weeks early.
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The new faces of Type 1 diabetes

Kimberley Jarrett tucked her 15-month-old son into his car seat and jumped in beside him as her husband took off for the hospital, driving as fast as he dared. During the brief trip from their Mount Airy home, Kim dabbed coconut water onto Jace’s tongue. To her shock, it felt like sandpaper, scratchy and bone dry. Julian pulled up to Abington Hospital-Jefferson Health, and Kim rushed into the emergency department with her baby in her arms and her heart in her throat.

As people lose their jobs, reporters need to explain these key health coverage programs

If our current COVID-19 health crisis teaches us anything, it is how vulnerable we all are when it comes to our insurance arrangements and the ability to pay for medical treatment when things go so unexpectedly wrong. The rapid march of the coronavirus has laid bare the fragility of the American health insurance system — its weaknesses and inequities are more visible than ever. Nearly 17 million Americans have lost their jobs and with that has come the loss of health insurance that was part of their benefit package. In other countries with large outbreaks like France, Italy, England, Germany, South Korea and Australia, health insurance has not been a problem because their national systems cover everyone in good times and bad.

We dug into the COVID-19 data in Florida. Here’s how to see what’s happening in your state.

In late March, with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida climbing, my editor and I sat down with the data and tried to make sense of it. Our goal was to get a clear picture of the epidemic in Florida — and determine where it might be headed. It wasn’t obvious. We knew the overall number of confirmed cases in Florida lagged far behind states like New York and New Jersey. But we also knew it was growing at an alarmingly fast rate.

Why COVID-19 testing probably won’t improve your health

In the midst of this unprecedented public health crisis, many people may be wondering whether they should be tested for COVID-19. Hospitals and doctors’ offices around the nation — including ours — are already being inundated with calls from patients requesting tests. One of us has left his primary care practice to work full time evaluating high-risk patients for COVID-19. Some patients who want tests have typical cold or flu symptoms, others fear they were exposed to someone with the virus, while many don’t have any symptoms or exposure but are simply worried.

How reporters in the heartland are grappling with the coronavirus story

With all due respects to Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, and all their brethren in the land of political punditry, what the world needs now is some good old-fashioned consumer reporting. Yes, I mean the kind of journalism that has largely vanished over the years in favor of talking heads, quick takes, pontification by “experts” and endless summaries of reports and studies pushed to the media about every conceivable health care topic. It wasn’t until two days ago that I, as a New Yorker trapped in an apartment for the foreseeable future, got some real news I could use. In a televised press conference, New York City’s health commissioner clearly laid out the steps in one-two-three-four fashion that New Yorkers should follow if they get sick. Finally, some useful information without a political tinge!

USC Center for Health Journalism launches new 'Covering Coronavirus' webinar series

It’s already been called the story of our lifetime, and it’s moving with a speed and ferocity that makes it exceedingly hard for reporters to cover. Yet audiences everywhere are desperate for updates and accurate information amid a growing backdrop of fear and uncertainty. Journalists, meanwhile, have told us in conversations and surveys that they are seeking ways to get beyond breaking news to tell deeper stories on an unfamiliar topic.

Why we need a more targeted approach to stopping COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak is an extraordinarily serious situation. Based on some predictions, this virus could kill 2.2 million in the U.S. — one out of every 150 Americans. There is uncertainty in these estimates, and the experiences in South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and perhaps Japan — where viral spread has flattened — favor more optimistic models. Nevertheless, it is clear COVID-19 represents one of the biggest health threats our country has faced in recent years.

Casting a spotlight on the health impacts of homelessness in Santa Cruz County

Life on the streets of Santa Cruz County is never easy. But by one telling metric, 2019 was a tougher year for the homeless than the year before. Last year, Santa Cruz County’s homeless population had 58 reported deaths. That was an increase of three deaths over 2018. Homeless individuals die at a rate four times higher than the average county resident. The average age of a homeless individual who died last year was 53 years old — 22 years younger than the average resident who passed away.