Public Affairs

From China to the US: Tracking 14 days in exile

By Henry Ren
Medill Reports

Two days after Xu Wu retrieved his passport in Shanghai, the Silicon Valley software engineer boarded a plane to Cancún after a 21-hour overnight layover at Frankfurt Airport. It was Feb. 18, just over two weeks after the Trump administration barred the entry of foreign citizens who had visited mainland China in the 14 days prior to the travel ban.

On the same day, Mrs. Li, who asked we identify her by the last name only,  went to the U.S. Embassy in Barbados to renew her visa. The 30-year-old Chinese woman works in Miami. Yida Yao, a research assistant at the University of California, Berkeley, was anxiously waiting for his Thai visa to be issued. Steven Li, a visiting undergraduate student who now studies in Boston, asked multiple airline companies whether he could travel with a passport issued in Hubei, the center of the coronavirus outbreak.

Thousands of Chinese nationals who planned to travel to the U.S. for work or school were stuck in China due to the travel restriction and these four were among them. To circumvent the restriction, they would have to travel and stay in a third country for 14 days to qualify for entering the U.S

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Tokyo can still reap benefits of hosting Olympics by modeling successes of London Games

By Sally Ehrmann
Medill Reports

With COVID-19 continuing to spread across the world, the legacy of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics could be the first canceled games due to a pandemic rather than war. If that happens, many wonder whether the estimated $29 billion price tag will have been worth it.

But looking at past successful games shows that economics may not be the only way to measure the success of hosting the Olympics. Eight years after London’s 2012 Summer Olympic Games, for example, the city still reaps benefits from a complete transformation of a formerly blighted neighborhood.

“You can look to a qualitative or quantitative legacy. Quantitative, you can capture all that. Job creation, money generated,” said Charles Runcie, a former sports journalist with the BBC. “Then, you must count the qualitative stuff, the feel-good factor. Are more events coming here? Has the city benefited overall?”

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Private sector hops on COVID-19 testing as the nation lags behind

By Yun Hao
Medill Reports

After President Trump declared a national emergency Friday due to the COVID-19 pandemic, representatives of Roche Diagnostics, Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, and some other private sector companies stood together behind the president, and each addressed their decisions of confronting the coronavirus collaboratively.

Normally you view us as competitors, but today we’re focused on a common competitor, and that’s defeating the spread of coronavirus,” said Brian Cornell, CEO of Target Corp., during the press conference held by the President. “We look forward to work with the administration to do our fair share to alleviate this growing threat.”

FDA also sped up its approval process for tests developed by commercial labs. Roche Diagnostics, a Swiss-based multinational healthcare company, was the first beneficiary, as the test method they developed was approved within only “a few hours” after they submitted their application. Dr. Deborah L. Birx, U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, said that this expedited process sets a “record time.” Continue reading Private sector hops on COVID-19 testing as the nation lags behind

Illinois models boys’ and men’s volleyball growth at all levels

By Leah Vann
Medill Reports

Christine Giunta’s deep, sharp voice swells in the Glenbard West High School gym, permeating the air with commands to the boys’ volleyball players who dwarf her in height.

Giunta is not only the head coach, but also the founder of the boys’ volleyball program at Glenbard West. She developed it from scratch, and grew it to become one of the state’s most perennial programs.

The team started in 2002, but wasn’t recognized as a varsity sport until 2006. Since the 2014-15 season, the Glenbard West Hilltoppers have only missed the state championship once, and they’ve won it three times.

“I was the coach who started with nothing,” Giunta said. “We were practicing outside in grass, we were in backyards, local public churches, anywhere we could find a gym and open  doors to us. I’ve seen everything,”

On May 22, Giunta’s program will host the Volley Lights King of the Hill Stadium Classic, the first-ever high school boys’ volleyball outdoor showcase, where Glenbard West will host Naperville North and Marist High schools on its own Memorial Field. She hopes it draws more attention to the sport, which is steadily growing across the country at both the high school and collegiate levels.

“I promote boys’ volleyball,” Giunta said. “Any boy that really likes the sport and has struggled in other sports, if they take it seriously and want to be a student, they can play. If there is a volleyball opportunity and there is an opportunity to do something extraordinary, I will do something to help them.”

In the 2018-19 season, boys’ high school volleyball participation reached an all-time high with 2,692 schools in 25 states across the U.S. offering programs, according to the National Federation for State High School Associations (NFHS). The number of boys playing in these programs totals 65,563, a 16% increase since the 2014-15 season.

Illinois has 7,341 boys high school volleyball players, second-most to California’s 22,224 players.

On Feb. 14, the Pepperdine vs. USC volleyball match featured six players from Illinois. Two of No. 3 Pepperdine’s players, JT Ardell and Zac Norvid, came from Giunta’s program at Glenbard West.

“With the culture of where I’m from, it’s always been something that surrounded me,” Norvid said after the game. “California is known for the talent in men’s volleyball, so not too much is different. If anything, we play on the beach a little more here.”

But part of Giunta’s success in growing the program at Glenbard West results from her persistence in scouting, especially when there are so many sports options for boys. She claims it’s all about the type of sport you can study and how you study, just as you would for any subject in school. That’s how she, a former collegiate softball player, learned how to coach it.

“If you can study that and understand the game, you can take huge advantage of it,” Giunta said. “You have to play on the whim, there’s nothing planned when something goes wrong.”

While her program is competitive, she doesn’t let anyone slip through the cracks. More than 50 boys try out for the high school program each year, and she won’t cut any of the freshmen.

“JT [Ardell] got cut from his junior high team,” Giunta said. “And I went and said, ‘Buddy it’s not over, you will have a chance. Try some summer training. Someone is not going to let you go. Someone is going to trust that you need to prove people wrong.’”

Ardell, a 6-foot-9 middle blocker at Pepperdine, originally played football, but went on to letter three seasons on Glenbard West’s volleyball team and was named to Volleyball Magazine’s Fab 50 list. He tallied a season-high of nine total blocks against the USC Trojans on Feb. 14.

“It’s taken a lot more seriously than high school volleyball is in other programs,” Ardell said following the game at Pepperdine.

Glenbard West seniors Ben Harrington and Noah Cavalcante said Giunta helps them recognize that they can play for schools that might be out of their reach based on academics alone. Harrington will play for Princeton next year.

“When we were kids, Paul Bischoff [former player] went to Stanford so she says, ‘If you’ll come play, you’ll be able to go to Stanford or Pepperdine,” Harrington said.

Success at the Olympic level also fuels Illinois’ growth in the sport. Warrenville South High School in Wheaton has won seven state championships. Its alumni include USA National team members like Sean Rooney, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist, and Thomas Jaeschke and Jeff Jendryk, who currently reside on this year’s roster.

“When you can bring back Olympians to talk to the school, the local media starts talking about them,” Warrenville South head coach Bill Schreier said. “Those are always positive things that advance the cause. Now, for those tall kids, there’s a massive explosion on the DIII level, now there’s more spots for these kids to play at the collegiate level.”

Illinois is home to 22 collegiate programs, including two Division I and two Division II schools, which play for the national collegiate championship. Both Illinois College and Illinois Wesleyan will also add to the tally with new programs expected to debut in 2020-21.

But players don’t have to travel far from home to play at the most elite level. Loyola University Chicago is ranked No. 9 in the latest national collegiate RPI standings, while Lewis University in Romeoville is ranked No. 5.

“It’s kind of like a chicken and the egg situation,” said Loyola University head men’s volleyball coach Mark Hulse. “Boys’ volleyball is growing, college programs are growing in conjunction. Illinois has had boys’ volleyball for a long time, longer than we’ve had strong collegiate volleyball. I think it makes them realize you don’t have to go 2,000 miles away from home to win a national championship.”

Illinois isn’t the only state adding collegiate programs. The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association announced in September 2019 that it will add six men’s collegiate volleyball programs to the mix in 2020-21.

At the high school level, Colorado will become the 26th state to sanction boys’ volleyball as an official high school sport in 2020-21. According to Bethany Brookens of the Colorado High School Athletics Association, the state has already established approximately 55 high school programs through its two pilot seasons.

Giunta sees a bright future for boys’ and men’s volleyball with Colorado’s addition to the mix. She hopes more boys can find opportunities through the sport she’s grown to love for its fast-paced play and strategic nature.

“Any boy that really likes the sport that has struggled in other sports, if they take it seriously and want to be a student, they can play,” Giunta said.

Glenbard West High School head coach Christine Giunta talks to her players during a drill at the opening day of tryouts on Monday, March 9 at Glenbard West Field House. Giunta started the boys’ volleyball program in 2002 and has led it to three state titles in the past five years. (Leah Vann/MEDILL)

Smack Dab Chicago works to keep serving community and staff amid COVID-19

By Anika Exum
Medill Reports

Smack Dab Chicago, a restaurant nestled “smack dab” in Rogers Park, offers a menu full of delectable items and lots of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. This and the addition of its warm space and staff draw every type of foodie, especially at their monthly free community dinners.

However, with the recent spread of COVID-19, Smack Dab founders and staff are tasked with pivoting in order to still be as accessible and present for staff and community members as were their services before the outbreak.

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Q&A: Center on Halsted’s new security firm sits down with Medill Reports

By Adam Rhodes
Medill Reports

Center on Halsted, an LGBT community center in Boystown, chose a new security firm in late January in response to a months-long series of protests, letters and activism from the community about the previous security firm owner’s racist past.

Following a bidding processing that kicked off late last year, Quantum Security beat out 10 other firms to become Center on Halsted’s new security firm and is now tasked with maintaining peace at the largest LGBT community center in the Midwest.

Company owners Laquita Franklin and Phylon Moore, who founded the family-run firm in April 2018 and run the company out of the couple’s Woodlawn home, sat down with Medill Reports earlier this month to talk about how they plan to serve Center on Halsted patrons and the allegations of racism and profiling that plagued Walsh Security, the community center’s previous security provider.

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Amid COVID-19 pandemic, empty store shelves are showing people’s concerns

By Wanying Zhao
Medill Reports

Michelle Kwong stocked up more than usual during her regular grocery shopping trip for her family of four at the Freshmart in Chicago’s Chinatown.

She pushed two carts to the checkout counter — one full of snacks, vegetables, meat, and some frozen foods, and another one stuffed with three bags of rice and a case of Wang Lao Ji, a Chinese herbal tea drink.

“I’m not hoarding, but I did buy more than usual just because I’m afraid that they are going to run out if the virus comes down,” said Kwong in Mandarin.

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Black history trivia night celebrates Chicago HBCUs

By Roderick Diamond II
Medill Reports

Chicago’s black history boasts famous personalities such as the late comedian Dick Gregory, founder of the Chicago Defender Robert Abbott and Dr. Margaret Taylor-Burroughs, who launched the DuSable Museum of African American History. The list goes on, but the city also has deep roots with alumni communities of historically black colleges and universities.

Some are from Howard University in Washington D.C., Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, all in Atlanta, and Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida gathered at Bar 22, on South Michigan Avenue for their annual black history trivia night Thursday.

The players celebrated  with drinks, fellowship and a fun game of trivia for competing alumni teams. After several questions per round, team representatives lined up to give their answers to judges who tallied points. A funny disagreement broke out over the correct spelling of the holiday Juneteenth.

A man whispered, “That’s not how you spell Juneteenth,” looking at her version showing Junetenth.

The women responded with a laugh, “Yes it is, I thought you could say June 10th?”

Originally called Freedom Day, Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery when the news finally reached slaves in Texas in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. That was one of the questions asked by the judges on trivia night.

The questions challenged teams’ knowledge of well-known black history facts and in depth Chicago black history. Bragging rights and a monetary award was on the line with alums of all ages participating.

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Filipino census committee hosts event to ensure all community members are counted

By Whitney Tesi
Medill Reports

Last time the U.S. Census was conducted, the Filipino community in Chicago was undercounted by an estimated 50,000 people. Ahead of this year’s census, the advocacy group Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE) wants to do all it can to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Last Wednesday, the organization hosted a kick-off event at the HANA Center, a Korean American community center, to launch a new census committee that aims to make sure every Filipino family is counted this time. Staff from the U.S. Census Bureau’s regional office were also present to spread awareness and answer questions about the purpose of the census.

“We see this as an opportunity for different communities to get to know each other,” Ryan Viloria, the former executive director of AFIRE, said. “This is also an invitation for folks who feel that their community is under-served to promote the census.”

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Illinois braces for potential coronavirus outbreak

By Henry Ren
Medill Reports

Illinois is preparing for a potential coronavirus outbreak after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Tuesday that some spread of the virus in the U.S. is expected.

Coronavirus cases have been confirmed in 53 countries, infecting more than 6,000 people outside of China, according to the World Health Organization situation report on Saturday. In the U.S., the CDC confirmed the first COVID-19 death in the Seattle area, while California, Oregon and Washington State have identified four cases of unknown origin, indicating that the virus could be spreading within U.S. communities.

In reaction to CDC’s Tuesday announcement, the Illinois Department of Public Health released a statement this week stating that Illinois was taking “all preventative steps available” to limit the spread of coronavirus, though the current risk remained low.

“While COVID-19 is not spreading in communities in Illinois or the U.S., there is evidence of community spread in several countries around the world and IDPH is committed to working across local, state, and federal agencies to ensure Illinois is prepared,” the statement said.

As of Saturday night, Illinois has identified three coronavirus cases, two involving a couple where one spouse had been exposed abroad. They have recovered and are released from home isolation, while the third patient has been hospitalized in isolation, according to IDPH. The third case was considered “presumptive” as of Saturday and is awaiting CDC confirmation.

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