Will Stone

Will Stone is a KUNR alumnus, having served as a passionate, talented reporter for KUNR for nearly two years before moving in early 2015 to the major Phoenix market at public radio station KJZZ.

An East Coast transplant, he's worked at NPR stations in Philadelphia, New York and Connecticut. He's also interned at the NPR West Headquarters in Los Angeles where he learned from some of the network's best correspondents. Before joining the public radio airwaves, he studied English at a small liberal arts college and covered arts and culture for an alternative newsweekly in Philadelphia.

He's particularly drawn to education, government and environmental reporting, as listeners became aware, he jumped on any story that got him out into the field with a mic in hand.

He enjoyed the Reno outdoors, food and cultural scene, given his liking for  hiking, fish tacos and great American poetry. While KUNR listeners miss his reporting, we're always glad to help prepare, encourage and support successful public radio professionals wherever they go.

See what Will is up to at KJZZ.

The omicron-driven surge has sent COVID-19 hospitalizations skyrocketing across the U.S., reaching a new pandemic high this week with 145,982 patients hospitalized.

This exceeds the previous high recorded in January last year, according to data tracked by the Department of Health and Human Services, from more than 5,400 hospitals in the country.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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When it was discovered, omicron alarmed scientists.

The variant looked wildly different from earlier versions of the coronavirus — and it quickly became clear that these mutations gave omicron an uncanny ability to sidestep our vaccines and spread very rapidly.

But it has taken longer to untangle what, if anything, sets an omicron illness apart from that of its predecessors. And most of all, does this variant cause less severe disease than the variants that have come before it?

In late November, more than 110 people gathered at a crowded Christmas party at a restaurant in Oslo, Norway. Most of the guests were fully vaccinated. One had returned from South Africa just a few days earlier and was unknowingly carrying the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.

Ultimately, about 70% of the partygoers were infected.

Scientists who traced this superspreader event concluded it was evidence that omicron was "highly transmissible" among fully vaccinated adults.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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America's hospitals are in bad shape right now — overwhelmed and understaffed — just as the omicron variant of the coronavirus takes hold across the country and Americans begin traveling and socializing for the holidays.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new figures late Monday showing that the omicron variant now accounts for 73.2% of new coronavirus cases in the U.S.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Almost two years into the pandemic and we have yet another sign of its mark on the country. The U.S. has reached 800,000 deaths from COVID-19.

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The first country to really get hit by omicron is South Africa.

Before the new variant took off last month, coronavirus cases there were low – only several hundred per day in mid November.

But by early December, the tally of daily infections had shot up to more than 4,500 — and genomic sequencing shows that omicron is to blame.

Federal health officials are urging Americans to shore up their immunity ahead of the winter holidays by getting a COVID-19 booster shot. But not everyone is working with the same defenses when it comes to keeping the virus at bay.

More than 47 million people in the U.S have already caught the coronavirus, at least according to officially recorded numbers. In reality, it's probably many millions more.

It's a worrying sign for the U.S. ahead of the holiday travel season: coronavirus infections are rising in more than half of all states. Experts warn this could be the start of an extended winter surge.

The rise is a turnaround after cases had steadily declined from mid September to late October. The country is now averaging more than 83,000 cases a day — about a 14% increase compared to a week ago, and 12% more than two weeks ago.

The U.S. has settled into an uneasy, drawn-out exit from the delta surge that took hold over the summer.

For many weeks, declining cases and hospitalizations have offered hope ahead of the holiday season, when Americans travel and spend more time indoors, but progress has stalled recently, with cases rising or plateauing in more than 20 states.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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The number of Americans hospitalized for COVID is now less than half of what it was in early September. That is good news, but it masks some trouble spots, especially in the northern half of the country. NPR's Will Stone reports.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Updated November 2, 2021 at 7:34 AM ET

Millions of Americans can now opt for an extra shot of protection against COVID-19, regardless of which vaccine they initially received.

The criteria for a booster shot can include your age, job, where you live and your underlying health. In most cases, you have to wait until six months after your first two shots. What's more, a booster shot doesn't have to match the first vaccine you had.

When Colin Powell died this week from complications related to COVID-19, it was a shock to many Americans.

Though scientists and federal health officials are adamant that the vaccines work well to protect against hospitalization and death, it's unnerving to hear of fully vaccinated people like Powell, or perhaps your own friends and neighbors, falling severely ill with COVID-19.

So how well do the vaccines work? How serious is the risk of a serious breakthrough infection, one that could land you in the hospital?

With a second pandemic winter approaching, there are promising signs that the worst of the delta surge has run its course, but in America's hospitals — already short-staffed and backlogged from the summer torrent of COVID-19 — the relief may be only short-lived.

Many are staring down a tough stretch of colder months with the threat of a potentially bad influenza season, an influx of patients trying to catch up on delayed care and a depleted workforce that has had little time — if any — to regroup from this latest wave of coronavirus infections.

The test results that hot day in early August shouldn't have surprised me — all the symptoms were there. A few days earlier, fatigue had enveloped me like a weighted blanket. I chalked it up to my weekend of travel. Next, a headache clamped down on the back of my skull. Then my eyeballs started to ache. And soon enough, everything tasted like nothing.

The U.S. health care system is again buckling under the weight of a COVID-19 surge that has filled more than 100,000 hospital beds nationwide and forced some states to consider enacting "crisis standards of care" — a last resort plan for rationing medical care during a catastrophic event.

Booster shots against the coronavirus have already started rolling out in the U.S. for some people and millions more could be due for them soon. But as breakthrough infections become more common, many people are wondering in the meantime: Does my immune system have enough firepower to protect me right now?

With the U.S. in the grips of a frightening surge of coronavirus cases, many parents are understandably eager to know when the COVID-19 vaccine will finally be available for children under 12.

This age group accounts for about 50 million Americans and currently none of them qualify for a shot. But scientists are racing to figure out how one of the COVID-19 vaccines currently available for adults could be given to this age group.

People with compromised immune systems who already got two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines can now get a third shot to boost their protection from COVID-19.

This week's decision by federal health agencies is welcome news to many patients and their doctors who have been calling for this for months.

The Food and Drug Administration is authorizing an additional dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for certain people with weakened immune systems caused either by disease, medical treatments or organ transplants.

The move comes after studies have shown these people may not have sufficient immunity to head off the more serious complications of COVID-19 after the standard vaccine regimen.

The vast majority of COVID-19 vaccines have gone straight from drug companies to affluent countries such as the United States. Worldwide only about 1% have made it to low-income countries.

And here's what's happening all across the United States: Millions of vaccine doses at risk of spoiling are sitting on freezer shelves, with no easy way to get them to countries desperately waiting for shots.

Updated August 3, 2021 at 5:00 PM ET

The U.S. has delivered 110 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 65 countries, from Afghanistan to Zambia, President Biden announced Tuesday at the White House.

In Peru, Dr. Ramiro Lazo Camposano, a pediatrician, was going door-to-door seeing his patients in the capital city of Lima at a time when most health care workers in the U.S. had already celebrated getting their second shots of the COVID vaccine. But he was not vaccinated. Doses were in short supply across Peru.

Eventually, Lazo Camposano, 74, caught the virus and passed it onto his son.

"Both went to the ICU unit, and they didn't make it," says his daughter Dr. Marcela Lazo Escalante, a physician and medical researcher in Lima. Father and son died in February.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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It's still a mystery. How did the pandemic begin?

There is the leading hypothesis among scientists: The virus hopped from an animal — possibly a bat — to a human, or to some other animal, which later spread the disease to humans.

And then there is the lab leak hypothesis: The virus somehow escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

President Biden is set to announce Thursday that the United States has bought 500 million doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to donate to COVAX, which is distributing vaccines to countries that cannot afford to buy enough shots, a source familiar with the deal confirmed to NPR.

The news comes after Biden's arrival Wednesday in England on the first foreign trip of his presidency. He has said he wants to use the eight-day European trip to marshal a plan with other G-7 nations to help end the pandemic around the world.

Vaccines are now on their way to parts of the world where vaccines are sorely lacking.

The Biden administration is exporting an initial batch of 25 million doses from a promised 80 million for countries in need, part of the president's pledge on June 3 to "lead the world in the fight to defeat COVID-19."

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