Petrie Dish | Texas Public Radio

Petrie Dish

A weekly explainer on the coronavirus and its ripple effects with science journalist Bonnie Petrie from Texas Public Radio.  Email us your questions about the virus or tell us how you're doing: Petriedish@tpr.org.

You can subscribe to new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Photo by Leticia Tapia

There's a lot of confusion and conflicting information about how COVID-19 affects kids and what that may mean for the safe reopening of schools. The lead researcher on a large study on how children experience COVID joined the show to sort out fact from fiction.

Dominic Anthony Walsh | TEXAS PUBLIC RADIO

Texas is in the midst of a COVID-19 surge, but one area is in crisis. Hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley are near or at capacity, and EMS crews are stretched thin.

Dr. Ivan Melendez takes us inside his office — an overwhelmed ICU in Hidalgo County, which has been designated as a “medically underserved area” by the Health Resources and Services Administration. This means it has too few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty, high elderly population — or all of the above.

This also means that during the pandemic, it lacks doctors, nurses and specialists. It doesn’t have enough oxygen to send patients home early to free up hospital beds. It doesn’t have enough hospital beds. And there are no hospitals in Hidalgo County or in neighboring Cameron County.

How did the Valley get here? What is behind this region’s COVID-19 Surge? This episode of Petrie Dish explores the mix of factors, from resources and politics to the census.


Niq Steele

COVID-19 has exposed all Americans to an increased risk, even while doing the most mundane things: shopping at the grocery store, going to work, and taking walks. But it’s also exposed how communities of color are largely defenseless in the fight against an enemy that does not discriminate, but rather reveals to us our own discrimination. 


Medical workers treat a COVID-19 patient at the United Memorial Medical Center's intensive care unit in Houston on June 29, 2020.
REUTERS | Callaghan O'Hare

In the last two weeks, some Texas counties implemented new face mask orders and Gov. Greg Abbott ordered all bars to shut down — before eventually issuing his own statewide mask order.

Those actions might have been too little, too late. They might not be enough to flatten the rapidly rising curve.  


Roberto Martinez

At first, COVID-19 appeared to be primarily a respiratory disease. But patients have reported a much wider range of symptoms than most viral diseases, leading some researchers to wonder if COVID-19 might, in some cases, also be a vascular disease. On this episode of Petrie Dish, TPR's podcast about the science of the pandemic, we explore the evidence for this and hear from coronavirus survivors experiencing the vascular side effects of the disease.  


As restaurants reopened and businesses relaxed mask-wearing rules, coronavirus hospitalizations have spiked in parts of the country that previously escaped the worst of the pandemic. This week on Petrie Dish, Texas Public Radio's podcast on the science of the pandemic, we take stock of one such state, Texas, and ask whether reopening the economy worked the way it was supposed to. 


Roberto Martinez

Covid-19 survivors must adjust to a wide array of lingering symptoms — could those side effects last a lifetime? This week on Petrie Dish, TPR's podcast about the science of the pandemic, two survivors tell their stories of halting recovery, and experts weigh in on what we know — and don't know — about the impact of the coronavirus on the body. 


Roberto Martinez

To rein in the invisible spread of the virus, a special branch of science has exploded: Contact tracing. It's the careful, sometimes intimate task of figuring out where the coronavirus might have spread in a community, and who is at risk. This week on Petrie Dish, TPR's podcast about the science of the pandemic, we hear from the disease detectives who are tracking down possible Covid-19 carriers before they even get sick. We also dig into state-by-state plans to ramp up contact tracing to safely restart the economy, and compare U.S. contact tracing efforts with those across the world.


Roberto Martinez

A huge swath of the American workforce is unable to work from home, and the repercussions of a crowded workplace, rather than one that is social-distanced, are gradually becoming clear. This week on Petrie Dish, Texas Public Radio's explainer podcast about the coronavirus, we hear from essential workers about their worries on the job and their struggle to stay safe.


Roberto Martinez

In past viral outbreaks, pregnant women have been at heightened risk of severe symptoms, sometimes leading to birth defects and complications during delivery. This week on Petrie Dish, TPR's weekly explainer on the coronavirus, we ask what COVID-19 means for pregnancy, and how women are adjusting to the new uncertainties this pandemic has created.


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