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KNKX Public Radio
Transmission is a podcast about life at the heart of an epidemic. As the nation copes with the unfolding Coronavirus pandemic, hear what it’s like in the Pacific Northwest, at the vanguard of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Sep 4, 2020
Episode 23: Back to School, Sort of...
In March of this year, as the novel coronavirus started to take hold of the region, students and teachers were notified that in person school was over and remote learning would get underway. At first, everyone thought the move to online learning would be temporary, but it wasn’t. “We got higher and higher numbers across the state, across the nation. And we continued to be questioning, well, how do we do this? And we didn't. In ten minutes we had to pack up our classrooms and get kids ready. We didn't have the time to prepare to provide students all of the pieces and resources that they needed to do this well at home,” said Shannon Ergun, the president of the Tacoma Education Association, the union that represents Tacoma’s public school teachers. While some students thrived learning online, many struggled with isolation and a lack of structure. Parents of children with special needs are perhaps having the greatest difficulty under this new normal. Daniela Hall is a teacher who lives in
Aug 13, 2020
Episode 22: The Race for a Vaccine
It’s been more than five months since the nation’s first novel coronavirus death happened, right here in the Seattle area. Now, more than 100 vaccine candidates are being developed, and dozens have entered the human-trial stage. But they’re likely still a long way off from mass production and distribution. In this episode of Transmission, host Gabriel Spitzer and producer Jennifer Wing discuss how the RNA vaccine works and why some elements of vaccine development are going so much more quickly than usual. And we meet Larry Corey, who is coordinating all the major vaccine trials nationwide. He explains how the effort works behind the scenes. “The press likes to call this a race,” Corey says. “If it is a race, it’s a race against time for us as a country.” But at the end of this race, he stresses, we’re all winners. “There’s no one vaccine that can be manufactured in a short period of time that would be given to everybody.” Please consider giving Transmission a rating and review on Apple
Jul 17, 2020
Episode 21: The Long Recovery
Tammy Edwards survived COVID-19. It was miserable, but she made it. She had hoped that once the virus ran its course, she could then get back to her life and her work as a nurse in Tacoma. Federal guidelines suggest a typical person sick with COVID should get better after a week or two . Tammy Edwards is three months past that point, and she is still recovering. “It’s not a two-week, blanket, flu like thing,” she says. “Every day you feel it. You feel the shortness of breath, you feel the headaches — I’ve had a headache for two days straight — I’ve had a rash, I have had ear ringing, I still can’t smell. COVID’s very sneaky.” As a region, and a country, we have been fixated on the first wave of infections and whether it has crested, and if a second wave is now gathering strength. But there could be another wave, off in the distance, of long-term health complications and disabilities that could be with us for a generation. On today’s episode, the long recovery: what we know and don’t
Jun 18, 2020
Episode 20: Lockup to Lockdown
Imagine getting out of prison after almost two decades, and being released into … this. That’s what was on Jennifer Tilford’s mind as she stood in the parking lot at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, waiting for the man she’s been married to for three years, but has never been alone with. Life for both of them is about to change radically. “There is no normal and there's not going to be the same normal ever again,” Jennifer said. “Not only because Jason's coming home, but because of the whole virus.”
Jun 12, 2020
Episode 19: The Unpaid
Since the COVID-19 pandemic landed in Washington, the economic fallout has driven more than a million people in the state to apply for unemployment insurance. Those payments have become the safety net for workers during the worst recession in many decades. The federal government beefed it up significantly in the CARES Act — a recognition of how urgent the situation is for tens of millions of Americans. But now, after weeks and, in some cases, months out of work, large numbers of unemployed Washingtonians still have not gotten paid. There’s plenty of responsibility to go around — unprecedented demand, fraud of a shocking magnitude, red tape — but the upshot is that people such as laid-off bartender Steve Weaver say they’re being pushed to the brink of financial ruin. “Uh, we need our money, we need it now. People need to live,” he says. Today’s episode: The Unpaid. KNKX’s Jennifer Wing invites us to walk in the shoes of Steve Weaver and others. Please consider giving Transmission a
Jun 10, 2020
Episode 18: How You Holding Up?
A lot of us this year have gotten used to relying on computer models for projections of how many new COVID-19 cases we can expect, or when the economy might start to rebound. But those models can’t tell us how we’re going to feel, or how lockdown and grief and social breakdown will change the way we see and experience the world. Well, turns out there’s a model for that, too.
Jun 2, 2020
Episode 17: Not My First Pandemic
We are a country wracked by illness, by economic crisis, and by tears in our social fabric that have existed all along, but are too gaping to ignore, once again. How do we think about these twin emergencies — the pandemic, and the spasm of grief and anger over racism and police violence? What lessons could history possibly teach us about such an unprecedented situation? In this episode we bring you a story about race during a pandemic — it was a hundred years ago, but sheds a lot of light on what it means to be in America right now. It comes to us from Mary Anne Moorman, a storyteller and longtime civil rights activist. It’s about her white grandmother, who died during the 1918 flu pandemic. She died in the arms of her best friend — the daughter of former slaves. We also meet a young woman named Aminata Kamara, a senior at Garfield High School in Seattle. She is originally from Sierra Leone, which struggled with a terrifying outbreak of Ebola for almost two years. So, unlike most of us
May 27, 2020
Episode 16: Family Planning
In many ways, “family planning” is a misnomer. The “planning” part only goes so far. Even with all the tools at your disposal, a lot of it is mostly out of your control and up to chance. A million little things have to go exactly right to bring life into the world. When you throw a global pandemic into the equation, the typical uncertainty that comes with starting a family is amplified to tremendous proportions. In this episode of Transmission, we explore how the response to COVID-19 has altered the lives of growing families.
May 21, 2020
Episode 15: The Hardest Hit
As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, some clear patterns have emerged. One is that people of color are being affected by this virus at higher rates than white people. In Washington state, the disparities are especially stark among the Latino population. More than a third of the state's COVID-19 cases have been Latino, which is way out of proportion to their 13 percent share of the general population.
May 14, 2020
Episode 14: Come To My Window
COVID-era isolation affects all of us. And for people with special needs, it brings all sorts of particular challenges, many that can’t be solved with a Zoom call. That’s why most days, you can find a bald, heavily tattooed guy, salt-and-pepper beard down to his sternum and wearing a bright blue face mask, driving around Western Washington to check in on his clients — all adults with developmental disabilities. “I call it my ‘Melissa outreach,’” says Gino Jevdjevich, a crisis counselor with the nonprofit Sound Health. “Melissa Ethridge, she has a song, ‘Come To My Window.’ I started joking about that song at the beginning, but now I call it my ‘Melissa outreach.’”
May 6, 2020
Episode 13: Finding Joy
There is a lot to worry about right now: our jobs and our health. How will we be able to make next month’s rent or mortgage payment? Then there is the bigger question — will life ever be the same again? But, even though we are living in unprecedented and scary times, there is still room for laughter. There is still a lot to smile about and be grateful for. What are your moments of joy? This is the question we are asking today on Transmission. From parents who are making the most of their time at home with young children, to a teenager who found joy by bashing in a piñata, we hear how people from across Western Washington are coping. Chris Ballew, the lead singer for The Presidents of the United States of America who is also known as Casper Babypants , is staying happy and sane by using his creativity every single day. “Some days I do a bunch of drawings, some days I play guitar, some days I make up really weird songs, some days I sit at the piano and play random notes. Some days…
May 1, 2020
Episode 12: Telling Stories
Telling stories live is both the oldest form of entertainment, probably, and a newish thriving art form. In the Pacific Northwest there are a whole range of storytelling series and events . These usually happen in a smallish venue, maybe a coffee shop. And needless to say, that’s been interrupted.
Apr 24, 2020
Episode 11: The Counterpunch
We explore the power of the antibody — a protein that our blood cells make when our body encounters a virus. Scientists have known for more than 100 years that if you take antibodies from someone who has recovered from a virus and transfer plasma, a blood byproduct, from that person to someone who is sick with that same virus, the patient will usually fare better than someone who doesn’t get this extra help. “Somebody else's army has come to help you fight the war,” said Dr. Terry Gernsheimer, professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology at the University of Washington and the medical director of transfusion at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Gernsheimer and her UW research partner, Dr. Anna Wald, will be studying the plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19. “And one of the things that we're looking for is, do you have this antibody? We want to know why did you recover? We're thrilled that you did, but why you? What was it about you that made you differen…
Apr 22, 2020
Episode 10: Learning As We Go
Today’s episode: Learning as we go. The thing that makes COVID-19 so tricky is its newness. It’s a disease that literally did not exist in humans until a few months ago. There was no handbook for treating it, no established way to screen for it and, as has become painfully clear, no detailed protocols for how doctors should handle the waves of sick patients. That has meant that health workers at virtually every point on the spectrum — from paramedics to primary-care doctors to ICU specialists — have had to learn on the fly. This all, of course, started in Western Washington, where the first confirmed U.S. case of COVID-19 was found. In this episode, KNKX’s Will James talks with medical providers who saw the alarming first signs of a problem, and doctors at the successive stages of care who had to muddle through life-or-death decisions with little information to go on. “Sometimes when you slow down, the reality of the situation gets you that this is the biggest public health…
Apr 16, 2020
Episode 9: Confronting Mortality
Today’s episode: Confronting Mortality. This is not something a lot of us are used to thinking much about. Dreading, sure. Avoiding, you bet. But thinking hard about it, and what it means during a time like this — not easy. In this episode, we connect with people who have gotten intimate with mortality. Robb Miller is the former executive director of End of Life Washington , and he’s also lived with HIV for more than two decades. He talks through what it means to have a good death, and how the pandemic does and does not compare with the AIDS pandemic. We meet a family reckoning with grief in the time of social distancing. A Seattle writer has spent years urging people to “get their (bleep) together” by preparing for unexpected tragedy. And we get a glimpse at how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting ancient Native American mourning traditions. Please consider giving Transmission a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. Listen on Apple , Spotify , Google , Stitcher and NPR One .
Apr 10, 2020
Episode 8: The Virus-Eye View
Today's episode: The Virus-Eye View. We know, more or less, what the new coronavirus looks like … but what do we look like to it? In today’s episode, we imagine a little movie filmed from the point of view of the virus itself. We follow it as it enters the body, and get the blow-by-blow as it goes about its dastardly business of locking on to a cell, invading it, taking over its machinery and turning it into a virus factory. And we hear about an especially diabolical trick the virus pulls on its way out of a cell, which still gives me the creeps. Finally, we consider how insights into how this virus behaves on a molecular level could help us outsmart and, eventually, defeat it. We get help on this little microbiology journey from Harmit Malik and Jesse Bloom of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Basic Sciences Division; Lexi Walls , senior scientist in the David Veesler lab at the University of Washington; and Wes Van Voorhis , professor of medicine at UW. Please consider
Apr 8, 2020
Episode 7: Saying Goodbye
Today’s episode: Saying Goodbye. When a person infected with COVID-19 dies, those precious final moments aren’t spent with loved ones at their bedside. They’re spent surrounded by doctors and nurses, dressed head to toe in protective gear. One nurse at a hospital in Issaquah, east of Seattle, wanted to do what she could to connect a mother and daughter one last time. Using FaceTime, Tatyana Huber held her personal cellphone up to Carolann Gann’s face, so her daughter could share her final message of love and forgiveness. As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, and more and more people say goodbye to their loved ones this way, nurses are working to make sure that dying in isolation doesn’t mean dying alone. Transmission host Gabriel Spitzer talks with KNKX’s Kari Plog, who shares an emotional story of Michelle Bennett’s final moment with her mother , and the nurse who facilitated it . Michelle has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for nurses at King County hospit…
Apr 2, 2020
Episode 6: Getting Creative
Today’s episode: Getting Creative. There’s a bunch of psychological research out there that suggests constraints — having your choices limited — actually promotes creativity. And we’re all seeing now how being stuck at home, or losing your job, or having your kids out of school — it sucks, but it can also nudge us to find innovative solutions. Today we have a bunch of stories of how people are adapting to this less-than-ideal situation. We start with a group of 20-somethings with an invention , which they have quickly repurposed into a device to help people stop touching their face. We meet a latter-day town crier — an out-of-work chef who, for $1, will ride his bike to the Tacoma location of your choosing and shout your message to someone. We find out how local artists are keeping live music alive in the era of social distancing, and hear about the most awkward moment in every live-streamed concert. We’ll hear how a Puyallup-based nonprofit turned on a dime to become a…
Mar 27, 2020
Episode 5: Stretched
When the novel coronavirus made its way to the United States, it landed here, in the Pacific Northwest. Transmission is a podcast about life at the heart of an epidemic. Today's episode: Stretched … we consider what happens when our health care system is pushed to the limits. Hospitals and health workers have been bracing for a key moment in the pandemic, when the number of very sick patients outstrips our resources to treat them. We talk with Dr. Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle about new modeling that shows just how soon that moment could come. Then we get an update from local hospitals on how they’re bracing for the surge. We visit a repurposed mammogram van in Seattle administering coronavirus tests to vulnerable populations, and consider just how many infected people we might be missing. And we check in with a woman whose “elective procedure” was postponed in order to free up hospital resources in advance of the surge in COVI…
Mar 25, 2020
Episode 4: Lessons Learned
When the novel coronavirus made its way to the United States, it landed here, in the Pacific Northwest. Transmission is a podcast about life at the heart of an epidemic. Today's episode: Lessons Learned. We consider what the past has to teach us about our present moment, starting with a woman who has nearly a century of perspective. She also happens to be on the front lines right now. Then we hear what happened the last time a major pandemic shut down much of the world, including Seattle: Leonard Garfield of the Museum of History and Industry gives us a refresher on the 1918 flu outbreak. And finally, some lessons from recent history, via Dr. Sachita Shah. She's an emergency medicine physician at Harborview Medical Center, and has experience working in disaster zones like post-earthquake Haiti. She shares what those experiences have to say about the challenge of caring for large numbers of very sick people during the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to hear from you. How has the COVID-19