Current Event May 13, 2021
Dr. Rachel Levine has become the first openly transgender U.S. federal official. She was confirmed as assistant secretary of health around the same time that many states were passing restrictive laws targeting transgender youth. She hopes her position will help educate Americans, and dispel any fears they may have, about LGBTQ people. Listen to an interview with Dr. Levine to learn about the challenges trans people face and how her appointment could help change attitudes.
Current Event May 10, 2021
New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says Americans can safely remove their masks when outdoors alone or with household members, but not in crowds. Research has shown that the risk of virus spread is very low during individual or small group activities outside where distance can be safely maintained. The agency recommends that in indoor and tightly packed outdoor settings, however, masks should still be worn to prevent virus spread. Listen to hear the reasons behind the CDC’s updated guidelines, and learn what experts believe is the key to putting the pandemic behind us.
Current Event May 3, 2021
The term “herd immunity” means that an entire population is protected against a disease. Herd immunity is achieved when most people in a group are immune to an illness, limiting the ability of germs to spread. The U.S. is vaccinating people against COVID-19 as quickly as possible in an effort to reach 85% of the population, the number medical experts say is needed for herd immunity. Many people are reluctant to get vaccinated, however, raising concerns among public health officials about the country’s ability to achieve its goal and beat the virus. Listen to learn about the push to achieve herd immunity and how public health officials are addressing vaccine hesitancy.
Update: Since this story aired, everyone in the U.S. aged 16 and over has become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Current Event April 30, 2021
The debate over returning to in-person learning is complicated. Some argue that returning safely to in-person schooling should be among our nation’s top priorities. Remote and hybrid learning, they say, have not adequately served the needs of students. They want teachers to be considered essential workers, like health care and grocery workers, and protected from the pandemic accordingly. Others say that opening stores and restaurants, which will help preserve jobs and repair the economy, should come first. They argue that schools should be made as safe as possible but some degree of risk will likely always exist. Listen to learn more about the controversy over returning to school and then debate: Is in-person schooling essential?
Current Event April 23, 2021
A vaccine passport certifies that a person is fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus and therefore unlikely to have the infection or transmit it to others. Many businesses like the idea of requiring guests to prove their vaccination status. They say that ensuring a safe environment in stores, theaters, and other places would encourage people to enter, and many consumers agree. Others argue that giving privileges to the vaccinated would unfairly divide Americans, and that making people reveal their health status raises privacy concerns. Listen to learn more about the controversy over vaccine certification and then debate: Are vaccine passports a good idea?
Current Event April 12, 2021
A new study has found that a COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children as young as 12. The vaccine is currently approved for people aged 16 and older, but the drug company Pfizer has successfully tested its product on thousands of young people and will continue its research until a vaccine can be approved for all ages. The news is especially welcome because, like adults, children can become infected with COVID-19 and spread it to others. Listen to learn more about the study and what next steps are needed before the process of vaccinating kids can begin.
Current Event March 29, 2021
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced new guidance recommending that students should stay three feet away from others, rather than six feet, which was the previous recommendation, provided they are following other safety guidelines like wearing masks. The updated guidance is based on new research showing that COVID-19 transmission rates did not differ among schools maintaining three feet of distance in classrooms versus six feet. Many school leaders welcome the change, as it will help more schools return to full-time, in-person learning. Listen to learn more about the CDC’s new guidelines, the research behind them, and how they could affect school schedules.
Current Event March 26, 2021
Mandatory mask requirements have been lifted in Texas, giving restaurants and other businesses the freedom to set their own pandemic safety rules. Those in favor of the move say people, not the government, should take responsibility for the health and safety of their businesses. They note that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing, and lifting restrictions can help businesses recover. Opponents fear that it’s too early to roll back safety rules. They argue that it’s the government’s job to safeguard public health, and that masks should not yet be optional. Listen to Texas restaurant owners react to the change and then debate: Should business owners be allowed to decide their mask policies?
Current Event March 22, 2021
In an address to the nation, President Joe Biden set an aggressive timeline for getting Americans vaccinated and back to normal life. He said he expected the pace of vaccinations will be fast enough to allow friends and family to celebrate the 4th of July holiday together safely. Biden also expressed excitement over his recently passed $1.9 trillion package designed to bring economic relief to Americans. Listen to hear more about Biden’s optimistic remarks and plans for moving the country forward after a very difficult year.
Current Event March 18, 2021
After being canceled during the pandemic, many high school sports are starting up again. This audio story focuses on a high school girls’ tennis team in California where athletes are both nervous and excited to resume play. Listen to learn how one school community is handling the reopening of school sports, and hear high school athletes describe what this moment means to them.
Current Event March 11, 2021
For people with physical disabilities, sometimes simple but important daily tasks are impossibile. That was true for Matthew Walzer, who was born with cerebral palsy (CP), a condition that affects muscle tone and movement. CP left Walzer unable to tie his shoes, which he worried might interfere with his ability to attend college independently. At age 16, he wrote a letter to Nike asking for a hands-free sneaker, and the company responded. Listen to Walzer describe some of the challenges people with disabilities face each day and how he inspired Nike to design a cool new sneaker that anyone can wear.
Current Event March 8, 2021
The city of Washington, D.C., hosted a mass COVID-19 vaccination event for its public school employees. It was a huge operation requiring hundreds of volunteers and provided vaccinations to thousands of workers in one day. For this audio story, a reporter visited the event and asked attendees to share their thoughts on getting vaccinated. Listen to hear from a school custodian, a teacher, and a principal who received their shots, and hear a doctor explain how he addresses peoples’ fears about the vaccine.
Current Event February 26, 2021
The Tokyo Summer Olympics were originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, but the pandemic forced a year-long delay. Now, as the new date approaches, controversy is raging over whether to postpone this one too. Organizers insist they can manage the risks of COVID-19 outbreaks with a set of rules, outlined in a handbook, designed to keep athletes safe. The Japanese people overwhelmingly favor cancelling the event, though, saying the rules are inadequate and leave too many questions unanswered. Listen to hear more about the controversy over the upcoming Olympic Games and then debate: Should the Tokyo Summer Olympics be held in 2021?
Update: Since this story aired, Yoshiro Mori, the head of the Tokyo Games organizing committee, has resigned.
Is scientific discovery always a force for good? Marie Curie’s quest to introduce radioactivity to the world, for which she won two Nobel Prizes, sparked that question. Curie's discoveries of radium and polonium led to therapeutic and diagnostic breakthroughs, but they were also weaponized – into horrific bombs and lethal poison. Listen to the actress who played Curie in the 2020 movie “Radioactive,” released during the COVID-19 pandemic, discuss what she learned about the pioneering scientist’s unusual life and complicated legacy.
Current Event February 23, 2021
Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation has prioritized those who speak the Cherokee language to receive the coronavirus vaccine. The language declined hundreds of years ago, when native populations were forced off their land, and today there are very few Cherokee speakers left. Mastery of the language is highly valued because it preserves native culture, and those who speak it can pass their knowledge to the next generation. Listen to hear a Cherokee sing a hymn in her native tongue, and learn why she changed her mind about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Is it possible to find “genuine pockets of goodness” on social media these days? Artist Johnny Sun and famed Hamilton playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda think so. They were strangers to each other until they met in the comments section of Twitter and went on to publish Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks for Me & You, a book which coupled Miranda’s beloved daily Twitter affirmations with Sun’s quirky, expressive illustrations. Listen to Sun tell the story of how his search for positivity in the social media community brought him into Miranda’s orbit and transformed both his career and mental health.
Current Event February 2, 2021
President Joe Biden has issued a detailed national plan for fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The 200-page document outlines the federal government’s strategy for testing and vaccinating Americans, restoring U.S. leadership in the world, and more. This audio story features an infectious disease doctor discussing Biden’s plan, including his views on both its merits and its shortcomings. Listen to a medical expert explain how well the plan meets the challenges he has seen as a doctor, and why he calls the plan “very U.S.-centric.”
Current Event January 26, 2021
A new strain of coronavirus is spreading in the U.S. New versions of the virus are constantly developing from mutations, or slight genetic changes that occur as the original virus copies itself inside the human body. The new variant, which originated in the U.K., is more contagious than the original, raising concerns that infections could increase quickly in the U.S. and other countries as well. Listen to learn how the new strain may be causing infections to spread more easily and what scientists say is the best way to stay safe.