All posts by jenniferly2020

Pandemic brings attention to veteran isolation

By Jenny Ly
Medill Reports

Veterans groups across the country are facing a different Memorial Day weekend this year unlike any other in the past.

Traditional celebrations to commemorate our nation’s fallen heroes, such as parades, won’t be happening this year because of coronavirus. As the entire country nearly shut down due to executive stay-at-home orders, the enforced isolation brings attention to an ongoing battle well before the outbreak of COVID-19: veteran suicide.

The pandemic is making suicide prevention for veterans much more important, as isolation is already a driving factor for depression. An April 2018 research study funded by the Department of Veteran Affairs found that loneliness was tied to the highest levels of depression and suicide ideation, or thoughts of committing suicide.

“Humans are social beings, and connection to others is part of what buoys us in a stressful world,” said Sonmnath Saha, a staff physician at VA Portland and a co-author of the study, in the February 2018 VA Research Currents newsletter. “When people are cut off from others — whether they are truly socially isolated and are alone or just feel isolated and are lonely — they are navigating their lives without the stabilizing ballast of friends and loved ones. That can lead to major depression and its cardinal symptoms: feeling down, fatigued, overwhelmed, and unmotivated.”
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Amid skyrocketing unemployment, medical students report to frontline

By Jenny Ly
Medill Reports

More figures released from the Labor Department last Thursday shows the country still heading toward alarming economic conditions, as the new running total amounts to over 36.5 million Americans filing for unemployment claims.

While unemployment is soaring to historic records, it seems as though only one category has job security: essential workers.

Brittney Justice graduated on May 9, 2020, from Kansas City University and is starting her residency amid the height of the global COVID-19 pandemic. What would have been a normal, fourth and final year in medical school with clinical rotations and a chance to prepare for residency for medical students was stripped away, as medical schools across the country had to improvise due to COVID-19.

“It makes an interesting transition to residency,” Justice said. “Your clinical months got cut short which makes you nervous because you haven’t had much patient contact.”

Justice will begin her residency in the VA unit. She will then go over to the pulmonary ICU unit in August, where a lot of the COVID-19 patients will be admitted.

Photo at top: Brittney Justice, a recent medical school graduate, at the gold humanism award ceremony last year. (Courtesy of Brittney Justice)

High school seniors ‘devastated’ with graduation cancellation

By Jenny Ly
Medill Reports

For seniors Brina Taylor and Brejona Hutchinson, June 10, 2020 was marked in their calendars as one of the best days of their lives.

The two students at George Westinghouse College Prep, located in the East Garfield Park neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, were devastated to learn that their graduation was no longer happening as planned due to the global pandemic.

Instead, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced in a statement that there will be a virtual graduation for all graduating Chicago Public School seniors.

When the girls aren’t busy with cheerleading or working as a teacher assistant, they are actively involved with Breakthrough, a program in East Garfield park that partners with those affected by poverty. The program builds connections, develops skills and opens doors of opportunity.

While there is no set date for the virtual graduation, the mayor’s office has said it is for mid-June.

Photo at top: George Westinghouse College Prep Class of 2020 Seniors. (Courtesy of Brejona Hutchinson)

Coffee shop does the unthinkable during stay-at-home order

By Jenny Ly
Medill Reports

The COVID-19 era has called for a new shift in the way Americans conduct business and socialize. Executive orders sweeping the nation on both federal, state and local levels hindered local businesses, forcing limited services or closures of many businesses and thrusting the local economy in a deep downward direction. An additional 3.84 million Americans across the country filed for unemployment this week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, bringing the six-week running total to a startling 30.3 million unemployment claims.

Despite the bleak economic conditions, that didn’t stop one Colorado coffee shop from opening its doors during the pandemic. After being open for just under two weeks, Ziggi’s Coffee has seen record sales numbers and a growing customer base like it has never seen before. “You typically spend lots of money on grand opening day, like $10,000,” said Brandon Knudsen, owner of Ziggi’s Coffee. “It wasn’t necessary. We could take that money and put it in staff and employees and expedite the opening because you have a very captive audience these days and there isn’t that competition.”

The Colorado governor’s office continues to issue guidance phasing in the re-opening of the state’s economy. Castle Pines, the city located in Douglas County, local officials mandate that retail and personal services can reopen May 1 if implementing best practices.

Photo at top: A sign reads “now open” in front of Ziggi’s Coffee as the grand opening debuted on April 27, 2020 in Castle Pines, Colorado, during the pandemic dwindling the U.S. economy. (Courtesy of Ziggi’s Coffee)

You’ve Got Mail: How to Save a Kid’s Birthday During a Pandemic

By Jenny Ly
Medill Reports

The COVID-19 quarantine has forced many people to find new ways of doing old things. Working, shopping, going to school and celebrating milestones are all different now. Young children like 5-year-old Greta Schalk can’t fully grasp the dangers of the world outside. When the time came to celebrate her birthday, Greta’s parents decided to make the day memorable by using the mail.

Photo at top: 5-year-old Greta Schalk and her sister check the mailbox outside their house (Courtesy of Stephanie Schalk)

Teenage gymnast somersaults through global pandemic

By Jenny Ly
Medill Reports

Ponderosa High School freshman and competitive gymnast Elli Brownfield knows what it is like to be trained in discipline and work hard in athletics. On top of the years of dedication to gymnastics, she is quickly learning another skill: how to adapt to life in sports during a global pandemic.

Like all young teenagers around the country training or traveling for a competitive sport, 15-year-old Brownfield was wrapping up a season that was set to compete in nationals.

“It’s hard not seeing your teammates everyday and your school friends. You go on this routine going to school and the gym and both of them have just stopped,” Brownfield said.

Since the first case of coronavirus appeared in the U.S., executive orders started sweeping across the country, shutting down non-essential businesses and locations like Brownfield’s gymnasium for safety measures forcing Brownfield to end her everyday routine of going to the gym to train.
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China Embraces Face Masks Shortages

By Jenny Ly
Medill Reports

As the coronavirus continues to spread around China and other parts of Asia, Chinese cities are reportedly running out of face masks used as a preventative measure.

Even thousands of miles away in Chicago’s very own Chinatown, local pharmacies are experiencing the same problem.

“There are many customers coming here everyday, and the majority are buying face masks, much more than than normal just coming for medication,” said Glenn Balas, manager of Peace Pharmacy.

As of Jan. 29, there is only one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Illinois and 165 cases nationwide in the U.S. according to the Center for Disease Control.

Photo at top: A pharmacy technician holds a box of face masks at a pharmacy in Chinatown. (Jenny Ly/MEDILL)