The World and Everything in It — April 21, 2020

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

Social isolation helps to curb spread of disease, but for some people, it’s playing havoc with their mental health. We’ll talk about how churches are caring for them.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Also today artificial intelligence is helping public health officials track COVID-19. That’s a good thing, but what about the privacy concerns?

And school’s canceled, but not this school bus…

And a special Word Play with George Grant.

REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, April 21st. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!

REICHARD: Now the news. Here’s Kent Covington.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: White House says we’re winning the war against the coronavirus » Vice President Mike Pence told reporters at the White House Monday that we are winning the war against the coronavirus. 

PENCE: The truth is that as we stand here today, we are slowing the spread. As the president reflected, we continue to see steady progress in less cases, lower hospitalizations, even in hot spots around the country.

President Trump said there is enough coronavirus testing available for any state ready to move to Phase One of reopening its economy. Hours earlier, the vice president spoke with governors from all 50 states. 

TRUMP: Prior to the call, we provided each governor with the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the labs where they can find additional testing capacity within their states. Hundreds and hundreds of labs are ready, willing, and able. 

He said officials from his administration are working to better coordinate with states and help governors implement more testing capacity. 

Georgia governor announces aggressive plan to reopen » Meantime, Georgia’s Republican governor announced plans Monday to allow many businesses to reopen as early as Friday.

Georgia’s timetable is one of the most aggressive in the nation. It would allow gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys, and other businesses to reopen as long as owners follow strict social-distancing and hygiene requirements. By Monday, movie theaters may resume selling tickets, and restaurants could return to limited dine-in service.

KEMP: This measure allows them to undertake baseline operations that most other businesses in the state have maintained since I issued the shelter in place order.  

Bars, nightclubs, and live performance venues will remain closed.

Federal guidelines call for a steady two-week decline in new confirmed cases in a state before it begins reopening its economy. Georgia has not met that mark. But new cases are down sharply over the past few days. Georgia confirmed just 56 new cases on Sunday, the lowest total since widespread testing began. 

New data suggests asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus are widespread » A flood of new research suggests that far more people have had the coronavirus without any symptoms. 

In the last week, reports of silent infections have come from several states and European countries. The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one-quarter of infected people might not have symptoms. 

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told reporters…

BIRX: You will remember over the past three weeks, I’ve been talking about the level of asymptomatic spread and my concern about asymptomatic spread because with flu and other diseases, when people are sick, it’s easy to contract trace. 

But she said in this case, many are unknowingly spreading the virus. 

And a new study from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the University of Southern California has yielded startling results. Preliminary results show that roughly 4 percent of L.A. County’s adult population appear to have antibodies to the coronavirus. That suggests that between 220,000 and 440,000 people may have contracted the virus in that county alone, many of them without ever knowing it. That’s compared to only about 8,000 confirmed cases in the county. 

Some health officials say questions remain about the accuracy of antibody tests. But the results, if accurate, suggest the virus may be much more widespread, but also less lethal than previously thought. 

Oil futures plunged below zero for the first time » AUDIO: [CLOSING BELL]

Markets closed lower on Monday after oil futures plunged below zero for the first time. WORLD’s Anna Johansen reports. 

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER:  Benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery plummeted more than 300 percent to negative $36. That was the biggest one-day drop on record dating back to 1983. 

That comes as the United States and countries around the world are using far less oil amid the pandemic. 

Naeem Aslam of Avatrade said “The steep fall in the price is because of the lack of sufficient demand and lack of storage [space].” He also noted a “production cut has failed to address the supply glut.”

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen. 

Death toll rises from mass shooting in Canada » The death toll from a gunman’s rampage in Canada Sunday is up to 18, and it could climb further. 

Chris Leather is Chief Superintendent of the Nova Scotia Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He said the attacker apparently set numerous homes on fire, and officials fear they will find more victims in the charred remains of those houses. 

Police fatally shot the 51-year-old suspect but not before he opened fire at more than a dozen different crime scenes. 

LEATHER: His ability to move around the province undetected was surely greatly benefited by the fact that he had a police—or a vehicle that looked identical in every way to a marked police car. And beyond that, he was wearing a police uniform, which, as I say, was either a very good fabrication of or actually a police uniform. 

He said some of the victims knew Wortman and some didn’t. Police teams spread out Sunday and Monday at 16 crime scenes in central and northern Nova Scotia.

Police have not revealed a motive for the killings.

I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: three opinions from the Supreme Court.

Plus, a special pandemic edition of Word Play.

This is The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER: It’s Tuesday, the 21st of April, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. The U.S. Supreme Court handed down three opinions yesterday.

First, a landmark decision that a unanimous verdict is required to convict a defendant of a serious criminal offense. 

Only two states didn’t require that, Louisiana and Oregon. So when Louisiana’s Evangelisto Ramos received life in prison after only 10 out of 12 jurors convicted him, he challenged it. 

You can hear the eventual ruling in Justice Neil Gorsuch’s question from oral argument in October:

GORSUCH: Should we forever ensconce an incorrect view of the United States Constitution for perpetuity, for all states and all people, denying them a right that we believe was originally given to them…

The answer is no, and Ramos’ conviction is now reversed.

EICHER: A second ruling says the Patent Trial and Appeal Board will continue to decide disputes over how timely patent filings have to be. One side wanted the courts to review those matters, but a 7-2 vote declined to make any change. This is a technical issue and the case is remanded to lower court for further proceedings.

REICHARD: The third ruling is a blow to landowners who wanted to clean up their own backyards of toxic waste. 

A long-closed copper smelter site in Opportunity, Montana, left 300 square miles contaminated. The Environmental Protection Agency and the company owner have worked to decontaminate the area for decades, but landowners argue it’s not enough. They sued the smelter site owner for money to do more clean up. 

But it wasn’t to be. Chief Justice John Roberts during argument in December hinted at the ruling the court arrived at yesterday:

ROBERTS: I mean, yes, you want to just do things on your land, but you can’t overlook the fact that that is going to have harmful effects on everybody else around you.

A majority 7 justices say the landowners must work with EPA to pursue further claims. For now, the company is off the hook for additional cleanup. 

But other, similar cases are not foreclosed. The decision keeps alive potential lawsuits under state law in state courts as they relate to cleanup in the future. The case is remanded for further proceedings.

MARY REICHARD: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: the coronavirus and mental health.

NICK EICHER: Many of us could sum up the last five weeks in a single word: isolation. Although stay-at-home orders may be aggravating, for most of us they’re manageable. 

But for those who struggle with mental health, the isolation and uncertainty can be dangerous.

WORLD reporter Sarah Schweinsberg now on what Christian counselors and pastors are doing to help.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Lindsay Emery has struggled with anxiety and depression for much of her life. 

EMERY: A lot of the anxiety and depression was based in being alone. It was being the youngest of four girls who was the last one in the home and for my senior year my mom took a job outside of the home for the first time and so I spent a lot of time alone. 

And after Emery married, she suffered multiple miscarriages. 

EMERY: That just increased my depression and anxiety. 

After several years of therapy and medication, Emery’s mental health began to improve. Last year, she weaned herself off the medication. But then quarantine, stress, and change came. 

EMERY: Sorry I’m getting emotional about it, but it really has been a very difficult season this last month. 

Emery works as an orthopedic surgical technician. With elective surgeries on hold, her hours have been cut. That means spending almost all day, every day at home.

EMERY: Even though I’m technically not alone, my husband is around, missing the connection with multiple people is a huge lack.

Haesue Jo is a marriage and family therapist at BetterHelp, an online counseling platform. She says the coronavirus pandemic has triggered similar feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression in many people. 

JO: I do think that there’s a lot more people now that are just starting to feel the pangs of being isolated of not having people to talk to. And on top of the being isolated, being alone, I think there is just so much more worry about what the future holds.

In response, many counselors are migrating to online platforms like BetterHelp or switching to video conferencing with clients. 

JO: It’s just been a higher volume, I think of people searching for online options to find and get connected with a licensed professional…

While some people seek out professional help, many more will not. Those are the people pastors and ministry leaders are trying to reach.

JUDE: Well, I think we will just go ahead and start… Today, specifically addressing the issue of mental health and the Covid. 

On a recent afternoon, a group of Denver pastors and ministry leaders met on a Zoom call with Christian Thurstone, a psychiatrist at Denver Health. 

THURSTONE: We do a lot of things that dismiss anxiety. We will say you shouldn’t feel that way. Or don’t feel that way. And the subtle message under all of that is that it’s not OK to have anxiety, which we now know makes anxiety worse. So just basic reflective listening and being present is a huge acceptance intervention. 

Dr. Thurstone also told the pastors most of the time anxiety is connected to something people care about. Helping them identify that is also powerful.

THURSTONE: So anxiety during Covid could be health, safety, something about making money, job, providing for your family. Trying to get at the other side of that coin will help you move the conversation.

Kenneth Haugk is a pastor and psychologist. He heads Stephen Ministries, which trains pastors and lay people in mental health care. Haugk says over the past month he’s seen increased demand from churches as their congregations look to them for comfort. 

HAUGK: I think people wanna talk to people and I think they’re wanting to talk with their pastors. They’re wanting to talk with their deacons or elders. 

So many churches are trying to give people tangible reminders that they care with phone calls, Zoom meetings, and drive by prayer trains. Staff at Lindsay Emery’s church sent her a personalized box of snacks. 

EMERY: For them to put the effort into finding something that I could truly eat and enjoy was such a special thing for me. And that kind of pushed away that feeling of being forgotten that I struggle with. I still have the box on my counter so every time I pass it, I think OK they recognize me. 

Other Christians are reaching out to healthcare workers on the frontlines of caring for coronavirus patients. Gina Graves is the head of pastoral care at the Swedish Medical Center in Denver. She spends her days walking the halls of her hospital dressed in Personal Protective Equipment.

GRAVES: So that they can visibly see me and I have conversations with them about silly things, to earn the opportunity that when something significant happens in their life… that I’m the one that they’ll turn to and say, Can I talk to you about something? And that gives me the opportunity to speak into their life. 

Graves says it’s difficult to get medical workers to open up about their mental and emotional struggles. And it can happen at the most random times. So it takes just being present, day after day. 

GRAVES: Plant as many seeds as you can and God will take care of the rest.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

NICK EICHER: Next up, technology and disease control. 

The coronavirus pandemic is the first in which technology is playing a major part in trying to get the disease under control. 

Officials in Israel are using cell phone location data to track patients. 

The authoritarian regime in China is going much further: using drones to track down people who are not following safety rules.

MARY REICHARD: These programs are only the beginning of the surveillance measures we could see in the coming years.

Joining us to talk about what’s on the horizon is Jason Thacker. He’s an expert on artificial intelligence and an associate research fellow at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Good morning, Jason.

JASON THACKER, GUEST: Good morning. Thank you for having me, Mary.

REICHARD: I’d like to start by talking about some of the technologies already in use that can and are helping health officials track diseases like COVID-19.

THACKER: Yeah, so, I mean, things from location tracking, places like Google and Facebook, they’re also able to share some of this anonymized data to be able to use by health officials to be able to see where hotspots are. I mean, there’s a company called Kinsa that produces thermometers and they’re actually digitally connected to kind of everything smart these days. And this company is actually able to track temperatures various places around the nation. And they can warn public health officials that they might have an outbreak coming. And so there’s lots of ways we can use this data for a good reason. But there’s also a lot of concern over increased uses of data and kind of reliance on that and what that could look like for personal liberties and personal privacy.

REICHARD: Mm-hm. I know some of that information is readily available right now. What are some of the new things tech companies are talking about doing?

THACKER: Yeah, obviously as this pandemic continues to kind of sweep across our nation and across the world, there are legitimate concerns of wanting to slow the spread of this disease.  Just this last week, Apple and Google announced a partnership, kind of a historic partnership, between two tech rivals of wanting to come together to develop what’s called “contract tracing,” which is where they’re using the Bluetooth capabilities of phones where people opt into these programs and they’re able to, if you come in track and say that I was diagnosed with COVID, you tell that to the system and then the system warns those who have come in contact with you over the last week or two that they need to either be tested or quarantine themselves. And so while that sounds really great for public health reasons and why this can help slow the spread, there’s obviously a lot of concerns about what type of data is being tracked, how is it being stored, who has access to it, and what is the future kind of implications of this level of tracking? Is this going to be something that’s only for the short term, or is this something that’s going to be more of a long-term staying solution? 

REICHARD: I’m wondering how else artificial intelligence is being used in the fight against the virus?

THACKER: Yeah, I mean, people are using artificial intelligence where they’re able to run simulations through DNA processing and antibody research and even vaccine development where they’re able to test things in the digital space and use these AI systems to process massive amounts of data to really speed up our ability to create vaccines or to create different types of treatments for those who are suffering from the virus. And even things like an online testing tool where you type in your different types of symptoms and the system is able to tell you, yes, it would be a good idea for you to be checked out or, no, it doesn’t sound like you have this virus. So, it’s really exciting the way that it can be used, but then also as thinking Christians, we need to be aware that there are always potential downfalls, there are always unintended consequences. And specifically in this pandemic season is we need to be really thoughtful about the level of data tracking and availability that this turning over of our personal privacy to companies and governments and being really thoughtful about those different types of situations. 

REICHARD: Well, I’m already exhausted by all the ways that my privacy’s been compromised. I’m thinking of the Equifax debacle, and a lot of these genetic testing companies, things like that. The small print doesn’t protect my privacy. And so you’ve already touched several times on how Christians should be thinking about this. What frame of thought should Christians have as we go forward into this brave new world?

THACKER: Yeah, I think some of the biggest things is to be aware of what we’re doing. Often we do provide a lot of consent for tracking and different types of data storage when we sign up for these devices. A lot of times people, we click through the “I agree” statements as quickly as possible, but maybe it’s worth—especially in this digital age and the age of AI—to slow down and to actually read and think about what kind of consent we’re turning over. But then also pushing our legislators to be really thoughtful about how we’re producing and developing and what types of ethical guidelines we should be using in using these tools. And then, two, is to be really involved and pushing forth that ethic of human dignity for all people because we do as Christians that all people are created in God’s image.

REICHARD: Jason Thacker is with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He’s also recently released a book about artificial intelligence. It’s titled, The Age of AI. Thanks for joining us today, Jason!

THACKER: Thank you, Mary.

NICK EICHER: Raise your hand if you’ve had more online video conferences than normal!

If you work from home, you’re probably on one every day. And let’s face it. Boring!

But never underestimate the American entrepreneur. 

Peace N Peas Farm. That’s peace, like the absence of conflict. And peas—

REICHARD: Like little green legumes.

EICHER: Peace and Peas Farm just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, is offering to rent out its miniature donkey Mambo to crash your video conferences, just to liven things up.

You can choose other surprise guests: horses, chickens, ducks.

The owner of Peace and Peas says she’s also hearing from teachers requesting animals to spice up their virtual classrooms.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER: Today is Tuesday, April 21st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Schools are closed across the nation, but not necessarily school cafeterias. Meal programs that are funded by federal dollars require that students receive meals, even if the schools are shuttered.

EICHER: But if the students aren’t at school, how does that work?


One school district in Atlanta got creative. Here’s WORLD reporter Bonnie Pritchett with the story.

TOMMY BATES: Hello Andrew! How are you? 

BONNIE PRITCHETT, REPORTER: For the last six years, Tommy Bates has driven a school bus for Gwinnett County Public Schools, in northeastern Atlanta, Georgia. It’s a post-retirement career. Ten years of retired life left him stir-crazy. Not sure what he wanted to do, Bates found inspiration while driving home one day.

TOMMY BATES: And there was a big sign in front of the school that said ‘Bus managers needed.’ And I thought to myself, I don’t know what that means but I guarantee ya, I can manage a bus. So, I called the number. And you could almost hear the lady smiling through the phone. She said, ‘Mr. Bates, we really appreciate your call but the bus manager also drives the bus.’..


Undeterred, he passed the training course and became Mr. Tommy, school bus driver.

During a typical school year, his day begins at 4–dark–30…

BATES: That’s the hardest part of the job is getting out of that bed. And once I get out of bed and get some water on my face, I’m totally ok…

Bates drives his Mini-Cooper to the bus lot and locates his 72-passenger vehicle. Bus number 27-74. He performs the routine vehicle safety checks then pulls out into the still-dark morning to pick up his first riders.


But these days he’s not up before the sun. And the students he sees at each stop, never climb aboard his bus.

BATES: We are now at Norcross High School. And this is where we pick up the sandwiches.

Bates and his bus driving colleagues no longer pick up and deliver students to their schools. Instead, they pick up and deliver lunches to most of the district’s 181,000 students learning from home since March 16th. That’s when schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

BATES: Alright. We’ve got our sandwiches. We’ve got to get our milk though…OK. We’re getting ready to get to the bus now and getting ready to load up.

Bus drivers were paired up, given new routes and sent out to deliver meals. Students can also pick up lunches at designated schools. Since April 15th the district has distributed over 871,000 lunches.

BUS OCCUPANTS and KIDS: Sound of bus stopping and Good morning guys. Good morning. Thank you! You’re welcome sweetheart…

Bates said 90-percent of the kids express gratitude for the meal. On one April morning, a student sees chocolate milk among the day’s offerings.

PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ AND KIDS: Oh. Si! Si! Chocolate, yay! (Kid) Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate!…

That’s Patricia Rodriguez speaking Spanish to the kids and some of their parents at one of the stops. The mask she wears can’t muffle her hearty greetings. She and fellow bus driver Eddie Miller had never met Bates before the pandemic changed everything. Now they’re a team. Bates drives while Rodriguez and Miller hand out about 100 sack lunches and twice as many cartons of milk or juice each day.

VOICE ON RADIO: We’re three lunches short over here…

Their routine continues for 10 to 12 stops. A few times they’ve run out of meals before running out of students. A trip back to the school or a rendezvous with buses that have extras and Bates and crew return to finish their route.

On the route, Bates sees only the junior high students he takes to and from school. And he wonders how his other kids are doing. The last day he drove them home, each busload had a different mood. His elementary students acted as if summer break had arrived early. But a somber mood filled the bus of high schoolers.

BATES: All the uncertainty, the anticipation of that was not something they were looking forward to. I could hear them mumbling about that…

But does he worry about himself? Yes. Sort of.

At 83-years old, Bates understands he and his wife Katie are among those most vulnerable to potentially deadly complications should they contract the coronavirus. So, he takes what precautions he can, leaves the ‘what-ifs’ to God, and goes to work each day. Besides, he says he’s a “young” 83.

BATES: Good morning!

During the last few weeks Bates has noticed a change among some of his middle school students. Students who rarely acknowledged him during the daily bus ride now make eye contact and give a slight smile and mumble “Good morning.” Another greets him with a “Hi, Mr. Tommy!”

BATES: I’m seeing a difference in some of their attitudes. I think the tragedy of the virus has sort of sobered everybody to a new awakening, really.

Bates is aware of his potential influence on the students. He’s the first person associated with the schools the students encounter each day. And now, during the global pandemic, he and his partners may be the only ones. 

BATES: I’ve got a ready smile and I’m a happy guy. And I’m an up guy. And they see that. And that’s just naturally who the Lord has made me. And the way I see my relationship with them, the hope that I see, is kinda like, kinda like a ripple on a lake. You know. You throw a rock in the lake and it creates ripples and the ripples go and go and go and go. You just don’t have any idea what influence you’re having. I hope it’s good.


Reporting for WORLD, I’m Bonnie Pritchett.

NICK EICHER: Today is Tuesday, April 21st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. 

Quick reminder: This week on The Olasky Interview podcast, WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky interviews political analyst Tim Carney. They talk about Carney’s book Alienated America and some of the factors that led to President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory—and whether those factors are still in play for this year’s election.

EICHER: Here now is George Grant with a coronavirus edition of Word Play.

GEORGE GRANT, COMMENTATOR: The Bubonic Plague was a scourge that ravaged the world’s population again and again from the 14th to the 17th centuries. The last wave of the epidemic swept through the city of London in the spring of 1665, with an estimated 100,000 fatalities. 

Once infected, the chances of surviving the plague were terrifyingly slim; most people, as Daniel Defoe recorded, were “immediately and violently overwhelmed” with it.

The spread of the coronavirus can hardly be compared with the much more deadly plague, but reading the daily entries of Samuel Pepys in his famous diary does afford fascinating parallels between then and now. 

Pepys was a member of Parliament and Chief Secretary of the Admiralty under King Charles II. He gained renown for his trenchant observations of everyday life in the 17th century.

The first recorded plague deaths in London were in March but for weeks Pepys was far more interested with the trade war England was waging with her European neighbors. But, by April he wrote that all the news at his local coffee-house was of the plague “and some of the remedies against it: some saying one thing and some another.” 

As the contagion spread the king and his court left the city for the safety of the countryside—as did most doctors, lawyers, and wealthy merchants. Parliament was suspended. Theaters and courts were closed. Sporting events were canceled. Trade at home and abroad was suspended. 

The Council of Scotland closed its border with England and, according to the Royal Archives, “people’s lives and businesses suffered terribly because so many were shut in their homes.” Pepys wrote, “Lord! How sad a sight to see the streets so empty.”

Apparently, it was at this time that two, now familiar terms, first came to be used by Pepys and others: epidemic and quarantine. Epidemic comes from the Greek epi meaning “upon” and demos meaning “people.” It meant “prevalence among the people,” referring to any trend or fashion. But, during the plague Pepys associated the word with the spread of infectious diseases. 

Likewise, quarantine comes from the Old French maritime term, quarante, meaning “40 days.” Pepys uses the word to describe a medical isolation of any kind or duration—thus, it was a neologism with the connotation we still use today.

The contagion eventually ran its course, London recovered robustly—at least for a year. Then came the Great Fire which swept through the city destroying more than 70,000 homes, nearly 100 churches, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, and most businesses. 

It was his account of the Great Fire that has made Pepys’ diary such a classic. But, rereading his account of the plague the previous year, I am reminded of its surprising relevance.

I’m George Grant.

NICK EICHER: Tomorrow: States are rolling out plans to reopen some businesses. Obviously a big need that’s not without risk—and we’ll talk about that on Washington Wednesday.

And, we’ll talk to one of our own about his experience with COVID-19.

That and more tomorrow. 

I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.

The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.

WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.

Jesus said that in Him you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; Jesus has overcome the world.

Thanks for listening, and please join us again tomorrow.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

Like this story?

To hear a lot more like it, subscribe to The World and Everything in It via iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, or Pocket Casts.







Pocket Casts

(Requires a fee)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.