Rebecca Hersher

Rebecca Hersher is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.

Hersher was part of the NPR team that won a Peabody award for coverage of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and produced a story from Liberia that won an Edward R. Murrow award for use of sound. She was a finalist for the 2017 Daniel Schorr prize; a 2017 Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting fellow, reporting on sanitation in Haiti; and a 2015 NPR Above the Fray fellow, investigating the causes of the suicide epidemic in Greenland.

Prior to working at NPR, Hersher reported on biomedical research and pharmaceutical news for Nature Medicine.

Local officials and public health experts warn that domestic violence is spiking in Australia as the country deals with the aftermath of catastrophic fires paired with the global pandemic.

The fires killed at least 35 people and destroyed nearly 2,000 houses in the southeastern part of the country in 2019 and early 2020, leaving thousands of Australians jobless and still in temporary housing as the coronavirus pandemic swept through with its widespread lockdowns, illness and economic pain.

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President Trump's nominee to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission is Nancy Beck, a toxicologist who currently leads chemical and pesticide regulation at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The CPSC is the top federal consumer watchdog in the country. Its five-member board, which Beck will lead for seven years if she is confirmed, is responsible for reviewing safety information and collecting injury reports for more than 15,000 types of products, from baby toys to sports equipment to home appliances.

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Multiple cities have started door-to-door coronavirus screenings and testing in an effort to identify those who are infected and help severely ill people get treated.

It's a small part of a larger effort to test more Americans for coronavirus in order to get a handle on how widely it has spread and prevent another wave of infections as some parts of the economy slowly reopen.

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The number of patients being treated at overflow hospitals in New York City has more than doubled in the last two days, the Department of Defense says.

On Thursday, military doctors and nurses were treating 189 patients at the overflow hospital at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, including 15 patients who are being treated in an intensive care unit inside the facility. The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort currently has 53 patients, including 10 who are critically ill with COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the two facilities had fewer than 100 patients combined.

"An ICU. What is it?" asks Dr. Robert Foronjy. It's late afternoon. He's in his office at University Hospital Brooklyn.

"It's people," he says. "You think of an ICU, maybe you think four walls, some beds. But really it's people."

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The USNS Comfort hospital ship and an emergency hospital at the Javits Center are meant to be relief valves for hospitals in New York City, where more than 14,000 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19. But the facilities have been largely empty, leading officials to try to streamline their operations.

Now, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is hoping the Comfort can join the Javits Center on the front line of the fight against the coronavirus.

Medical rationing is not something Americans are accustomed to, but COVID-19 may soon change that.

The specter of rationing is most imminent in New York City, where the virus is spreading rapidly and overwhelming hospitals with patients.

According to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state has 2,200 ventilators in its state stockpile. Current COVID-19 case projections suggest the state may not have enough of the machines, which help critically ill people breathe, as soon as next week.

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Some New York City hospitals are still unable to perform reliable on-site coronavirus testing for patients and staff who show symptoms of COVID-19 and must instead wait days for results from outside laboratories, even as the city's hospital beds fill up with seriously ill people.

New York City hospitals are struggling to make sure they have enough staff, beds and protective equipment to treat a relentless and growing stream of COVID-19 patients. Providing effective, efficient care to people who are seriously ill requires hospitals to rapidly test people who appear to have the viral disease.

But even with New York's statewide effort to procure and distribute coronavirus testing supplies to hospitals, some medical centers say they still don't have what they need to test patients on-site. That includes one major hospital in Brooklyn.

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Opening arguments ended Monday in Texas in the highest profile criminal case ever brought against a company and its employees for allegedly failing to adequately prepare for the effects of climate change.

The company, Arkema, owns a chemical plant outside Houston that flooded when Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 5 feet of rain on the area in 2017. The rising water knocked out power to the plant and caused volatile chemicals stored there to heat up and eventually catch fire. Burning containers and trailers sent up a column of black smoke above the facility for days.

Updated Feb. 21, 11:56 a.m. ET

Coming off a shift at Tuen Mun Hospital in Hong Kong on Wednesday night, cardiologist Alfred Wong was getting ready to go to dinner with his wife. The last time they ate together, she brought the meal to the courtyard below their apartment, placed it on a bench, then sat down at least 10 feet away.

From across the patio, they ate. On separate benches. Looking at each other.

Normal November weather in Mozambique's capital, Maputo, is pleasant and warm with a chance of epic thunderstorms. The sun will be shining in the morning, and then boom the sky opens up and a stiff wind begins to blow and it's probably best if you're inside.

Lead-based paint was extremely popular in the early and mid-20th century — used in an estimated 38 million homes across the U.S. before it was banned for residential use in 1978.

The firefighters came on Monday. They went up and down the halls, knocking on every apartment in the six-story Ansonborough House building in downtown Charleston, S.C., and leaving notices on the doors of those who didn't answer: This area is under mandatory evacuation.

The manager of the building heeded the warning and left a note on the window in the lobby explaining that the building would not be staffed all week.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, why is it that when a hurricane evacuation order goes out, some people remain behind, particularly elderly people? NPR's Rebecca Hersher has been asking in Charleston, S.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I CAN LOVE YOU BETTER")

Walmart announced Tuesday that it is ending sales of some kinds of ammunition at its stores. The move came in the wake of two deadly shootings at Walmart stores in recent months, including one in El Paso, Texas, that killed 22 people.

By Rebecca Hersher / NPR

Sea levels are rising, and that is sending more ocean water into streets, sewers and homes. For people who live and work in coastal communities, that means more otherwise-sunny days disrupted by flooding.

Scientists are ramping up research on the possible health effects of a large group of common but little-understood chemicals used in water-resistant clothing, stain-resistant furniture, nonstick cookware and many other consumer products.

Several members of a powerful science panel for the Environmental Protection Agency expressed doubt at a hearing Thursday about the long-established scientific consensus that air pollution can cause premature death.

The panel was meeting to consider recommendations that would fundamentally change how the agency analyzes the public health dangers posed by air pollution and could lead to weaker regulation of soot.

In October 2017, Drew Wynne collapsed inside a walk-in refrigerator at his coffee business in North Charleston, S.C. By the time his business partner found him crumpled on the floor, Wynne was dead. He had suffocated on a chemical called methylene chloride.

Carmen Lugo has lived in Puerto Rico her whole life, and her whole life she has feared the water that comes out of her tap.

"When I was a child, we used filters," she says, leaning on the doorjamb with her 11-year-old in front of her and two teenage sons sleepy-eyed behind her on a morning in July.

"The water here," she says, pausing as she purses her lips in a tight smile. She chooses her words carefully. "We want to be in good health," she finally says. "My husband, he buys water from the Supermax," referring to a local grocery store.

The Houston Ship Channel has the rhythm of an ant colony. Barges and oil tankers lumber through the silty water; tangles of exposed pipe rise hundreds of feet above a sea of white tanks. Residents of the coastal plain between Houston and Galveston will tell you the plain is flatter than a regulation pool table. But if you can get up high enough you'll see trains and ships and trucks moving ceaselessly from dock to dock, terminal to terminal.

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