Coronavirus: NPR’s 9 Best Podcast Resources

The global pandemic of coronavirus, or COVID-19, has spread far across the globe and affected many aspects of life. As the number at risk steadily increases, so does the mass of pressing questions. Who is most at risk? What measures can be taken to avoid infection? How will schools and workplaces be affected? Luckily, in the wake of these and many other questions, resources for answers are emerging. NPR has a wealth of podcasts providing vital insights on the epidemic. We have selected the nine best audio resources to keep abreast of coronavirus and how best to combat its spread.

Keep in mind that the coronavirus situation is ever-changing, that NPR and local sources are constantly releasing new, up-to-date information.

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1. All Things Considered – Former Coronavirus-Infected Patient

An excerpt from NPR’s All Things Considered podcast sees host Michel Martin interview Danni Aubain, who has experienced coronavirus first-hand. This candid, insightful and educational recount details the circumstances leading up to contracting coronavirus, and the subsequent testing, treatment and symptoms. Issues surrounding the testing system are highlighted, as well as the details of a challenging recovery period.

The Host: Michel Martin is a veteran of print, television, radio and online journalism, as well as the weekend host of NPR’s All Things Considered podcast. With extensive reporting and interviewing experience, Martin is adept at asking the questions which reach the heart of the matter, and letting answers unfold unfettered.

The Guest: Danni Aubain is ideally suited to provide knowledgeable and intimate information on the coronavirus. An immune system compromised by lymphoma treatment rendered Aubain particularly vulnerable to the disease. Additionally, as a former public health care nurse, she is able to provide a professional perspective on the pandemic.

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2. Short Wave – Coronavirus Latest: Testing Challenges And Protecting At-Risk Elderly

Lifted from the Short Wave podcast, this resource provides details of early testing efforts and advice as to protecting the vulnerable. Topics include Washington State’s attempts to get testing up-and-running, Seattle’s response immediately after the pandemic’s arrival, and crucially, discussion of those who are most at risk.

This podcast was recorded at the time of the travel ban instigation, meaning that discussion of present situation is potentially dated – but the advice provided in terms of protecting yourself and the elderly, immunocompromised and otherwise vulnerable remains vital. Similarly essential is the dissection of misleading comparisons to the flu and misgivings about the need for social distancing. Recordings of a drive-in testing pop-ups for healthcare workers add a fascinating slice of  reality to the resource.

The Host: Emily Kwong has led an award-winning career in reporting and hosting, and lends a sense of humour to the discussion of a heavy subject. Kwong promotes a friendly back-and-forth, crafting a resource which is entertaining as well as informative.

The Guests: NPR science correspondents Jon Hamilton and Nell Greenfieldboyce provide reliable and digestible information. Hamilton was in Seattle at the time that it experienced the first recorded case of COVID-19 in the US, and Greenfieldboyce is suffering symptoms not dissimilar to Coronavirus’ – between them they are exemplary candidates for self-quarantining, and lead by example.

3. Weekend Edition Sunday – Virtual Happy Hour Anyone? Working From Home But Keeping Connected

The most prominent consequence of coronavirus for many is change to working arrangements, many required to work remotely to minimize the spread of the virus. This excerpt from the Weekend Edition Sunday podcast provides indispensable information on creating an effective remote workplace, coming from an employer who had done so long before this pandemic.

CEO Kate Walton describes the importance of establishing an online community, connecting, collaborating, and tending to the emotional health of teams. Walton espouses the utility of using new technology and sites to shape discourse, creating a similar community to an office space, and practising and promoting creativity.

The Host: Lulu Garcia-Navarro hosts several NPR podcasts and is a long-time NPR correspondent, known for her on-site coverage of crucial, evolving stories. Garcia-Navarro frames her guest’s answers with clarity and guides a brisk and informative listening experience.

The Guest: Kate Walton is the CEO of Steyer Content,and has run a predominantly remote company for decades. Located at the epicenter of the US Coronavirus outbreak, and accustomed to managing a remote workforce, Walton provides a positive outlook on the situation and salient advice on how to best navigate it as a workforce.

4. Life Kit – Coronavirus And Parenting: What You Need To Know Now

While COVID-19 appears to be most dangerous towards the elderly and immunocompromised, parents will have many questions as to how best to care for their children in the wake of the pandemic. In this episode of the Life Kits podcast, hosts Anya Kamenetz and Cory Turner provide advice on how to care for their children and discuss the virus with them. The pair recommend being reassuring but not dishonest, giving facts and avoiding false promises. They note that while kids do not get significantly sick from coronavirus, they are potential sources of spreading the virus. As such, measures such as teaching children when and how to wash their hands most effectively is essential to protecting them and others.

Other issues discussed include handling school closures and screen-time strategies. Several recordings of the parent of an immunocompromised child lend a personal touch. An article attached to the podcast offers updates on evolving guidelines relating to this issue.

The Hosts: As parents themselves and education reporters, Anya Kamenetz and Cory Turner are ideally situated to advise on this topic. They share an easy rapport, and infuse the podcast with the personal – relating inventive strategies such as painting a child’s face to make them more aware of face-touching, and ways to achieve sociability and enrichment despite being shut in.

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5. Weekend Edition Saturday – What Happens To People’s Legal Cases As Coronavirus Shuts Down Courts?

An effect of COVID-19 which may go unconsidered for many is the disruption of court processes. In wake of the pandemic, many courts are shutting down, lawyers resorting to teleworking. The subsequent ramifications are discussed by host Renee Montagne and guest Premal Dharia in an except from Weekend Edition Saturday.

Those charged but not yet convicted, or being held on probation or parole, are left stranded in jails – as such, they are highly vulnerable, these sites becoming potential breeding-grounds for the disease. Dhari describes historical attempts to address outbreaks, and recommends proactive releases to combat this potential issue.

The Host: Renee Montagne has extensive experience in American radio journalism and news hosting, providing precise questions and plenty of room for answers.

The Guest: Premal Dharia has practical legal experience as a former public defender and is now director of the Defender Impact Initiative. Dhaira delivers her insights to the jail system and the potential ramifications of an internal viral outbreak in a detailed and eminently listenable manner.

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6. Weekend Edition Saturday – Coronavirus Outbreak Means An Idle March For American Sports

Another short bite from the Weekend Edition Saturday, this resource provides an examination of a less pressing consequence of the virus, but one which will affect much of the public – disruption of sports. In what is arguably the biggest month of sports for the US, coronavirus has resulted in the cancellation of countless sports events.

Guest Tom Goldman discusses these, and asks what networks will broadcast, how the industry will be impacted financially, and what will become of the salaries for players and surrounding personnel. Closing positively, the efforts to raise money for those facing resultant financial difficulties are noted.

The Host: Renee Montagne again applies her extensive experience, providing precise questions and plenty of room for answers.

The Guests: Tom Goldman voices the concerns of sports fans around the world. His knowledge and passion for the sports scene is evident, rendering tangible the social impact of these cancellations.

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7. Code Switch – When Xenophobia Spreads Like A Virus

Another consequence of the pandemic which could be overlooked is the surge of xenophobic ideas, which impact many. Hosts Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Meraji talk with Professor Erika Lee in this excerpt from the Code Switch podcast. An outbreak such as this exposes and exacerbates underlying prejudices within the community, which are perceived to be ‘medicalised’ by the virus. Increased incidence of hostility and racial slurs can be observed in schools, shopping centres, and especially public transit.

Beyond person-to-person incidents, systemic issues like downturn in Chinese restaurants, almost deserted Chinatown districts, and petitions to track and isolate people of particular ethnicities, are also rife.

The first-hand accounts of xenophobia victims make for affecting listening, attaching people with names, faces and lives to an issue which could otherwise be disregarded. In light of the panic and fear surrounding COVID-19, this podcast serves as a salient reminder of essential standards of decency which can easily slip.

The Hosts: Between them, Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Meraji possess a wealth of experience in covering immediate and critical social issues. They vocalise the perspective of the public, bringing humour, curiosity and empathy to the discussion. 

The Guest: Professor Erika Lee provides dissection of the historical, political and social entrenchment of xenophobia in modern society. She relates this phenomenon to an entrenched pattern of prejudice towards the Chinese, making use of comprehensive historical knowledge and recounting her own grandparents’ invasive experiences with discrimination.

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8. The Indicator From Planet Money – Coronavirus: A View From Hong Kong

While many Western countries are facing outbreaks, quarantines and supply shortages,  locations more local to the virus’ origins have been in the grips of this pandemic for months. This excerpt from The Indicator From Planet Money podcast provides insight into the the situation in Hong Kong, as well as the economic ramifications of the virus.

Guest Tracy Alloway describes a chaotic city, with rife panic-buying still common and an underground chat-group which keeps track of restocking. Idiosyncratic social conventions and remarkable comradery coincide with rocking markets and the biggest stock drops since the Global Financial Crisis. The world’s second-largest economy has ground to an almost complete halt, and Alloway analyses the subsequent effects on the economic indicators of China.

The Host: Co-host of The Indicator From Planet Money, Stacey Vanek Smith is an experienced business and economic correspondent. She has travelled far and wide to uncover stories, and delves into her interviewee’s situation with curiosity and precision.

The Guest: Interviewee Tracy Alloway is the executive editor for Bloomberg Markets. Covering markets from Hong Kong, she relates first-hand anecdotes of the effects of the coronavirus and has an expert eye for the economic markers that have shifted in its wake.

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9. Weekend Edition Sunday – Postcard From Italy’s Coronavirus Lockdown: ‘Feels Like Another World’

Another snapshot of a country in the grips of pandemic, this excerpt from Weekend Edition Sunday centres on Italy. Italy has been one of the hardest-struck countries by coronavirus, and is now completely on lockdown. Host Sylvia Poggioli assesses the situation on the streets of Rome, noting a strong police presence, enforcing the lockdown, and the tolling of Church bells, one of the only ways to share spirituality in this time.

Poggioli refers to Italy’s history of plague, and invokes eerie echoes of history and sci-fi evocations. Recordings are included of the communal musical balcony experiences which have gone viral. First-hand accounts from Italian residents give a surreal snapshot into a city in lockdown, relating the sense of fear and the community rising to meet it. 

The Host: Sylvia Poggioli is NPR International Desk’s senior European correspondent on politics, economy and culture, covering momentous events in European history. With an eye for the personal and the historical, Poggioli relates the human element of Italy’s situation, while grounding it in the context of the past.

On a less serious note, we have also collected, the best 15 Podcasts to Help You Get Through a Coronavirus Quarantine.

About the author

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Sam loves to read, watch and listen to entertainment of all kinds, delve into related news and content, and share it.

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Sam has completed a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Creative Writing, at the University of Adelaide, and is in the final few years of a Bachelor of Laws.

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Sam has worked as a freelance writer for a range of websites, covering the real estate, video game, film and podcast industries.

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