Midday | WYPR


Cara Ober

And now, a first-person account from a woman who was diagnosed with COVID-19 last month after experiencing symptoms in the middle of March. 

Cara Ober is the founder and publisher of Bmore Art, an online and print magazine that covers art and culture in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.  The magazine has published two extended essays Ms. Ober wrote, over the course of a month, describing her harrowing experience with the disease. You can read them here, and here.

Cara Ober is now recovering from her illness, and she joins us via Skype Phone from her home in Baltimore.

On today’s Midday Healthwatch with Dr. Leana Wen:  When can the state and the country reopen safely?   What have we learned about the virus so far, and are researchers getting closer to a treatment?   

Dr. Leana Wen is a visiting professor of health policy and management at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, and a distinguished fellow at the Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity.

Heard on today’s show: The primary next month will be conducted largely by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic. All mail in ballots must be postmarked on or before June 2nd. 

For those who aren’t able to vote by mail, there will be a few in-person voting centers. When you get your ballot, ignore the fact that it says April 28th. The date of the primary has been moved to June 2. 

You can find more information on the Maryland Board Of Elections website. 

Sheppard Pratt Health System

Now, a conversation about how the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening not only our physical and financial well-being, but also our mental health. 

Across the nation, tens of millions of people in all walks of life -  from front-line hospital staff and shuttered small business owners to unemployed restaurant workers and parents staying home with their kids — are reporting increased levels of psychological stress about the COVID-19 illness and the threat it poses to them, their loved ones, and their livelihoods.

The impact of this heightened stress is indisputable.  What kinds of services are available during the pandemic to help people cope with psychological trauma? 

Tom's guest is Dr. Harsh Trivedi.  He’s is the President and CEO of the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore, one of the nation’s largest private, non-profit providers of mental health, substance use and other special-needs services.  He is also a professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The Pulitzer Committee, Columbia University

The Pulitzer Prize is journalism’s most prestigious award.  Yesterday, the Pulitzer committee announced that our local paper, the Baltimore Sun, won the 2020 Pulitzer for Local Reporting.   Its series of reports on the Healthy Holly scandal, which began in March of 2019, were described by the Pulitzer judges as “illuminating and insightful.”  The Sun’s reporting led to the conviction and upcoming imprisonment of former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, and to some significant anti-corruption legislative reforms.

John Hoey

Today on our program:  the role of non-profits and philanthropies in confronting the community challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as seen through the experience of two local leaders. 

With the profound social and economic disruptions caused by the coronovirus, the need for food, child care, and medical services has never been greater. 

How are charities and grant makers responding? And how are non-profits themselves staying afloat to continue their important work in their communities, at a time when the challenges of providing assistance to those in need are stretching resources thin?

In the first half of the program, Tom talks with John Hoey, the President and CEO of The Y In Central Maryland.  Among its expanded array of community-support activities during the pandemic, the Y is now providing day care at more than a dozen emergency child care sites.     

In the second half of the show,  Tom is joined by Shanaysha Sauls. She is the President and CEO of the Baltimore Community Foundation, a 45 year-old coalition of more than 800 charitable organizations that collectively support food assistance and other services for residents in all corners of Baltimore City. 

In mid-March, the foundation made emergency grants to nearly 20 front-line non-profits that were distributing essential supplies like diapers, formula, food and hygiene products to area residents.  The COVID-19 Response Funding collaborative has brought together several area foundations to assess needs and make grants.


For more information on what these groups are doing, and how you can help, click on their links above.  And remember: tomorrow is Giving TuesdayNow!  See what you can do to help the people and organizations in your local community cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.  

If you'd like to support WYPR's public radio programming and community engagement activities, click here

Photo Courtesy/ Baltimore Body Shop

Sen. Chris Van Hollen joins Tom with an update from Washington DC.

Small business owners Tim Hicks and Mariah Acap, who operate the Baltimore Body Shop, share their experience applying for, and getting a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Plus, Mary Ann Scully, president of Howard Bank discusses how small business are working to meet the high demand for PPP loans.  

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

With more than 60,000 deaths nationwide from Coronavirus, more than 1,000 here in MD, the racial disparities in those who are infected, and those who die from COVID 19 continue to be staggering, and heartbreaking.  Nationally, African Americans are dying at twice the rate of whites and Asians. 

John Lee/WYPR

Tom's guest for the hour is Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr.

Baltimore County, which is home to dozens of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, has nearly 3,000 confirmed cases of COVID 19. More than 100 people in the County have died.  We’ll hear how the county is responding to the pandemic and what the shutdown might mean for the county’s proposed budget.    At a time when revenue to the county is expected to decline significantly, what will that mean for funding schools, police and other essential services?  Johnny Olszewski, Jr. joins us via Skype from his office in Towson. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As the number of new COVID-19 infections and the death toll from the pandemic continue to mount, universal testing for the coronavirus is still an aspiration for most Americans who might want to know if they've been exposed to the disease. In order to get a coronavirus test, in most cases, a patient must have an order from a doctor. 

Tom's guest today is a physician who has to decide who should be tested.  Dr. Rameen Molavi is a board-certified internist who’s been in private practice for more than 20 years.  He’s a partner at Park Medical Associates in Lutherville and he teaches part-time at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He joins us via Skype phone.

Photo by Hilary Abe

Tom's guest is the acclaimed writer Louise Erdrich.  From her debut novel, Love Medicine, published more than 35 years ago, through 16 subsequent novels, Erdrich has introduced readers to some of literature’s most fascinating and intriguing characters and dazzled her legions of fans with prose that is consistently distinctive and powerful.  

Her latest novel is called The Night WatchmanIt takes place in rural North Dakota in the 1950s.  It chronicles the efforts of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians to thwart the government’s attempt to terminate them, which is to say, end federal recognition of the tribe, and force them off their ancestral land.   It’s based on the story of Ms. Erdrich’s grandfather, Patrick Gourneau, who led the Turtle Mountain Band’s fight against what the government called “emancipation.”

Tom spoke with Louise Erdrich on March 11th, when public understanding of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic was in its nascent stage.  They talked about the pandemic before they began recording their conversation, but they didn’t discuss it in the interview.  On that day, Louise Erdrich was at the end of a 6-city book tour, still flying in full planes.  She was in Lawrence, Kansas.  They spoke in the afternoon, before her appearance that evening at Haskell Indian Nations University. 

Louise Erdrich lives in Minnesota with her daughters and is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis.

A reminder that because this conversation is pre-recorded, we can't take your calls and comments.

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

On this special edition of Midday, six reflections on the April 27, 2015 Uprising, and how the community at the epicenter of that unrest - Sandtown-Winchester - has fared since a 25-year old black man named Freddie Gray died from injuries he sustained while in police custody.  At the heart of the protests and the rioting that erupted after Gray's funeral: anger and frustration with a system steeped in racism, inequity and apathy; and a police force that operated with seeming impunity...

(Special Election Notice - 7th Congressional District - Click to Read)

Some call it “The Uprising.”  Some call it “the riots.”  Whatever your point of view, the paroxysm of destruction that followed the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, in late April, 2015, exposed old wounds, and created a host of new ones for our city.

Wes Moore and Erica L. Green are two thoughtful observers of Baltimore, then and now. They’ve collaborated on a book that will be released this summer called “Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City.”   

Wes Moore is the CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, one of the largest anti-poverty organizations in the country.  He’s also the New York Times-bestselling author of  “The Other Wes Moore” and the host of Future City here on WYPR.  

Erica Green is an award-winning reporter who covers education for The New York Times.  She is a former Baltimore Sun reporter who was part of a team that was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for its breaking news coverage of the death of Freddie Gray and the events that followed.

Cybercrime is on the rise as threat actors exploit our increased reliance on digital networks during to the coronavirus health crisis. 

Lots of people are keeping in touch these days using video conferencing platform, Zoom. The platform   conveniently links groups of all sizes for everything from check-ins with the grandparents to  business meetings that are helping lots of people navigate the vagaries of working at home.

Last month, more than 200 million people participated in Zoom meetings.  But, is Zoom safe, and are there things we can do to make it safer? 

Plus, nearly one year after Baltimore's ransomware attack, how has the City addressed vulnerabilities in its digital infrastructure? 

Tina Williams-Koroma is a cyber security expert and the President and CEO of TCecure.  Baltimore Councilman Isaac “Yitzy”Schleifer co-chairs the city’s Cyber Security Committee.

Heard on today's show:  A word about some on-line concert options you might want to consider this weekend at An Die Musik, a music venue that for many years has presented top notch local and national talent. Tomorrow night,  Charmaine Nokuri and the Black Arts Society present a survey of Afro-centric music and poetry.  And on Sunday night, the great trumpeter Sean Jones teams-up with the vibes virtuoso Warren Wolf and bass player Jeff Reed for an evening of jazz.  

You can access the live stream here.  

Facebook.com/PG Co. Corrections Dept.

The COVID-19 pandemic poses a particular threat to people in prison -- both inmates and correctional officers.   The basic tenets of virus mitigation -- social distancing and frequent hand washing -- aren’t possible, and the number of older inmates is substantial.  Roughly 12 percent of the nation’s 2.3 million inmates are over the age of 55.

Last Sunday, Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order that will accelerate the release of inmates who meet certain criteria, such as those who are already scheduled to be released within the next four months.   It came after weeks of urgent appeals by health experts and human rights advocates.

Courtesy of Maryland Food Bank

Today, a discussion with the people working to put food on the tables of Maryland families who are experiencing food insecurity because of COVID-19. 

Tom’s first guest is Carmen Del Guerciothe president and CEO of the Maryland Food Bank, a non-profit organization that distributes food to pantries, soup kitchens and other organizations. Donations to the Food Bank are currently down 90%. To make a donation, click here. 

A little later in the program Tom is joined by Michael J. Wilson, the director of Maryland Hunger Solutions and an advocate for the expansion of nutrition and food assistance programs. Wilson sets the record straight on new guidelines for federal food assistance programs. 

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Today on Midday, updates on efforts to mitigate COVID-19, the outlook for testing, and redoubled efforts of outreach to the African American community here in Baltimore.  Later this hour, Tom is joined by Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, the Commissioner of the Baltimore City Health Department.  Their conversation is posted separately, here.

Tom's first guest is Dr. Lisa Maragakis, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist with Johns Hopkins Medicine, who serves on Governor Hogan’s Maryland Coronavirus Response Team.  She’s also the Executive Director of the Hopkins Biocontainment Unit and the Incidents Commander for COVID-19 response at John Hopkins.  

This morning, Maryland officials announced 854 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to at least 13,684 patients afflicted with COVID-19.  At least 582 Marylanders have perished so far in the pandemic. 

Baltimore City Health Department

Today on Midday, two leading public health experts provide updates on efforts to mitigate COVID-19, the outlook for testing, and redoubled efforts to reach out to the African American community here in Baltimore.

Earlier in today's program, Tom spoke with Dr. Lisa Maragakis, a senior specialist in epidemiology and infectious diseases with Johns Hopkins Medicine, and a member of the Governor's MD Coronavirus Response Team.  Their conversation is posted separately on this site.  Now, Tom talks with Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, the Commissioner of the Baltimore City Health Department, who joins us on the line to discuss the local dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

: Flickr

Over the past couple of weeks, City kids, like many of their counterparts across the state, have dipped their toes into the waters of remote learning.  We’ll see how it’s going so far, as the City and other jurisdictions brace for the possibility that distance learning may be the new normal for a long time.  

Baltimore City Public Schools CEO, Dr. Sonja Santelises joins Tom with an update on how teachers, students and parents are working through the challenges of distance learning. 

Baltimore Center Stage

Last month, after Governor Hogan issued a stay-at-home order for Marylanders, theater companies had to cancel the live performances that are at the heart of their artform. 

But many of the 40+ theater groups in our area are pivoting to digital technology to stream performances directly onto computers and tablets and TV screens, and they’re devising other imaginative ways to keep their audiences engaged. 

Joining Tom on the line today is the award-winning Brooklyn-based actor and playwright Donnetta Lavinia Grays. She stars in the one-person play she wrote and video-produced with Baltimore Center Stage, called Where We Stand.  The play is being streamed online to pay-what-you-can ticket buyers until April 26. Center Stage Artistic Director Stephanie Ybarra also joins Tom to discuss the theater company's innovative response to the pandemic shutdown, and its quick pivot to virtual audience engagements, including its multi-theater collaboration on Play At Home, in which playwrights (including Ms. Grays) were commissioned to write short, ten-minute plays that house-bound audiences can download, for free, to read or perform in their homes. 

Then, Tom talks with Genevieve de Mahy, founder and Artistic Director of Single Carrot Theatre, a company that intentionally left its theater home last year to seek novel venues and to engage in more educational and community-centered theater. Ms. DeMahy talks about the next installment in Single Carrot’s popular Flipside Series (which include its Cabarets and Drunk Classics), one-night-only events that de Mahy says "are fun...and embrace the unexpected." Tonight's event, called "Pajama Party! A Virtual Variety Show," takes place via Zoom at 8pm.

For more info on the Single Carrot theater event, click here.

When we head to the mailbox to cast our votes in Maryland’s June 2 Primary Election, the winner of the Democratic Presidential Primary will be a foregone conclusion. Joe Biden is the last person standing among two dozen candidates. This week, Pres. Barack Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have all endorsed the former vice president. 

My guest today is Washington Post columnist and Brooking Institution senior fellow E.J. Dionne, who has written a timely book that makes the case for how Biden can bring the Progressive and Moderate wings of the party together. The book is called Code Red: How Progressives and Moderates Can Unite to Save Our Country.

Dionne calls for a Politics of Remedy and a Politics of Dignity, premised in a shared vision of citizenship. He advocates for what the scholar Robert Wright first called, “Progressive Realism,” which embraces democratic and social justice concerns, but also takes into account America’s role in a dangerous world, rife with threats from countries like Russia, China and a handful of regional autocracies.   

In this terrific book, Dionne takes an insightful look back at the ebb and flow of Conservative and Progressive ideologies, and he makes a cogent case for moving forward from the current administration, which six out of ten Americans have repudiated for the last four years.

: Flickr

As COVID 19 continues its stampede across the US and the world, there is a concurrent pandemic of misinformation being disseminated on websites that millions of people are visiting. Who can you trust?  How can you tell if a source is credible?  How do some conspiracy theories gain so much traction?

Today on Midday,  author and entrepreneur Steven Brill discusses his latest project, NewsGuard, a source that exposes sites that are deliberately  misleading people at a time when fear and anxiety are daily companions.


Photo by J.M. Giordano

Baltimore journalist Baynard Woods joins Tom now.

A month ago, on March 15th, Baynard suddenly developed a fever, and he was coughing. Over the next three weeks, on social media, he chronicled his experience as his illness got worse, and as it ebbed and flowed until he was finally without COVID- 19 symptoms. 

He wrote about what the experience taught him for The Washington Post.

Baynard is a writer whose book about the Baltimore Police Department’s notorious Gun Trace Task Force will be published in July.  It’s called  "I Got a Monster: The Rise and Fall of America's Most Corrupt Police Squad.” 

Alcantar214/Flickr Creative Commons

Here's an important update about the April 28 election to choose a successor to the late Rep. Elijah Cummings in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District:

The State Board of Elections has decided there will be three in-person polling centers for people who are not able to vote by mail. 

Amid the extraordinary levels of physical havoc that caused by Covid-19, there is likely an even greater level of psychological consequence for those among us fortunate enough to have been spared, so far, by the illness itself.  

Today, a look at Psychological First Aid in times of crisis. Dr. George Everly is Tom's guest. He’s a pioneer in the field, and the co-author of The Johns Hopkins Guide to Psychological First Aid. For more than three decades, he has helped survivors of catastrophe -- including war, natural disaster, terrorist attacks and now, a pandemic. 

Dr. Everly is a psychologist and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and an adjunct professor of international health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.  He writes a blog for Psychology Today called When Disaster Strikes: Inside Disaster Psychology.    

Also today, an update on the April 28th election to choose a successor to the late Rep. Elijah Cummings in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District: The State Board of Elections has now decided there will be three in-person polling centers -- one in Baltimore City, one in Baltimore Co. and one in Howard Co. -- for people who are not able to vote by mail. The Election Board will announce the locations of the polling centers no later than April 20th. Ballots were mailed to 7th District voters at the beginning of April. If you don’t receive a ballot in the next few days, contact the Board of Elections to be sure you receive one in time to vote. Check your voter registration status on the State Board of Elections website, or, if you do not have internet access, call 1-800-222-8683 and ask a State Board of Elections representative to check your registration.

Dr. Leana Wen

With coronavirus testing, hospitalization, mortality and recovery data now being released that includes breakdowns by zip code and race, we are getting a clearer picture of who is becoming ill, and where concentrations of infection and fatalities are located.  Northwest Baltimore has more cases than anywhere in MD.  Federal, state and local officials have all warned that Baltimore City is likely to soon be one of the next hot spots for the disease in the country.

Today, it’s the Midday Healthwatch with Dr. Leana Wen, the former Health Commissioner of Baltimore, and a leading expert on the pandemic.  She’s currently a visiting professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health.  Dr. Wen is a licensed emergency physician and the former president of Planned Parenthood.

Photo Courtesy / Archdiocese New Orleans

Longtime civil rights activist Ralph Moore is leading an effort to convince Pope Francis to canonize Mother Mary Lange, an African American nun who settled in Baltimore in 1813.  In the 1820s, she founded an order of religious women in the city called the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first permanent community of Black Catholic sisters in the United States.

Mother Lange and the sisters were renowned for educating black children in Baltimore, providing shelter to orphans and tending to the sick during the cholera epidemic of 1832. Already named a “servant of God” by the Vatican, Mother Lange is a candidate for sainthood. If canonized, she would be the first African American saint.  Ralph Moore joins Tom to discuss why that declaration is important.

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

We begin today with an update on the situation in New York City. The metropolis leads the nation in the number of COVID-19 cases and daily fatalities, even as the United States leads the world, by far, in COVID-19 cases, according to the World Health Organization.

Hospitals in New York City have had a bit of good news this week.  There is, as of today, no shortage of ventilators, for example, and there are signs that the number of deaths in the Big Apple is finally leveling off. 

Each day, legions of health workers have been providing COVID patients with life-saving care — under conditions more difficult than most of them could have imagined.  And there is a growing awareness that these critically important workers -- from physicians and nurses to technicians and operational staff – all face unique mental health stresses. 

AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

The preliminary data on the impact of the coronavirus on Black communities nationwide paints a grim picture.    African Americans are infected with and dying from COVID19 at much higher rates than whites. 

As Blacks bear the brunt of this pandemic, federal and state lawmakers have been criticized for the lack of access to racial data on virus cases and outcomes.  


Today on Midday, how America's enduring history of racial disparities in healthcare has compounded the COVID-19 crisis for African Americans.


Tom is joined by Dorian Spence of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; and Nikole Hannah Jones, creator of the 1619 Project at the New York Times.

Stephen Deininger/Pandemic Players

Last month, after Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a ban on all large public gatherings, the region’s theaters — like most of its businesses — were closed to the public.  But actors gotta act, and it wasn’t long before the theater community found new and creative ways to connect with their stay-at-home audiences.  We'll hear about some of them today.

Tom is joined first by our theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, who has been sampling some of what’s out there for home-bound theater lovers. 

Here are links to some of the virtual (online) thespian offerings that Judy recommends (including Pandemic Players, also linked below): 

Baltimore Center Stage, Where We Stand
Play at Home
Royal National Theatre
92nd Street Y,
 especially its Sondheim program
Theatre Project 

and Happenstance Theater, in particular.

By Zdenko Zivkovic/Creative Commons

For weeks now, we’ve heard about the importance of “flattening the curve” of Covid-19 to save lives, but also to ensure that medtical institutions do not become overwhelmed. So far, Maryland’s hospitals are not overwhelmed. There is no shortage of ICU beds or ventilators. But if that changes, hospitals may be faced with unthinkable decisions about rationing equipment and  life-saving treatments for patients in their care.

We talk about that today on this edition of Midday on EthicsDr. Jeffrey Kahn is the director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. He was part of a committee of ethicists, physicians and others who have submitted a plan to Gov. Larry Hogan about how to allocate scarce resources in a time of crisis. Gov. Hogan is expected to issue a directive based on the plan soon. 

Dr. Anita Tarzian is the program coordinator for the Maryland Healthcare Ethics Committee Network at the University of Maryland School of Law. She’s also a professor at the UM School of Nursing. 

In 2017, Dr. Tarzian was one of the experts who created a framework that served as the starting point for the plan that Gov. Hogan is now considering.