Eli Chen

Eli Chen is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio. She comes to St. Louis after covering the eroding Delaware coast, bat-friendly wind turbine technology, mouse love songs and various science stories for Delaware Public Media/WDDE-FM. Before that, she corralled robots and citizen scientists for the World Science Festival in New York City and spent a brief stint booking guests for Science Friday’s live events in 2013. Eli grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, where a mixture of teen angst, a love for Ray Bradbury novels and the growing awareness about climate change propelled her to become the science storyteller she is today. When not working, Eli enjoys a solid bike ride, collects classic disco, watches standup comedy and is often found cuddling other people’s dogs. She has a bachelor’s in environmental sustainability and creative writing at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has a master’s degree in journalism, with a focus on science reporting, from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

More than 280,000 properties in Missouri are at risk of flood damage, according to a nationwide study of flood zones.

That's nearly twice the number estimated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, say researchers for the First Street Foundation, a consortium of academics. They calculated the higher figure after considering the effects of climate change and parts of the state not included in FEMA's flood insurance maps.

In Illinois, 451,700 properties are at risk of flood damage, or more than twice the number FEMA estimates.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Leticia Classen-Rodriguez planned on spending spring and summer searching for wolf spiders along a winding tree-covered road in Ladue. 

Classen-Rodriguez, a doctoral candidate in ecology at St. Louis University, records the environments of wolf spiders. She’s researching how the sounds of construction work and other human activities interfere with their ability to listen for food, mates and threats. 

But when universities and research institutions in St. Louis closed laboratories and field sites to reduce exposure to the coronavirus, Classen-Rodriguez and many other scientists had to work from home. Much of their work has been delayed or halted because developing treatments for chronic diseases and studying wild animals can’t be done remotely. 

Updated at 4:30 p.m., May 1, with details about Missouri’s plan to identify the number of nursing homes that have coronavirus cases.

In mid-April, Tim Distler’s sister told him that two residents at their mother’s nursing home had tested positive for the coronavirus. 

His sister had learned about the infected residents from their mother’s doctor, so Distler wanted to confirm the information with the director of admissions at Delmar Gardens in Fenton. 

But like many family members seeking information about how nursing homes are taking care of their loved ones, he struggled to reach anyone at the facility. With the coronavirus spreading in nursing homes across the country, state and federal officials are responding to demands for more information on long-term care facilities.

At least 49 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Missouri have residents or workers who tested positive for COVID-19, according to state health officials. 

State and federal authorities last month directed nursing homes to restrict access to visitors, increase screenings for symptoms and cancel social activities to limit exposure to the coronavirus. 

The restrictions led state surveyors to stop inspecting long-term care facilities for lapses in care. The lack of government oversight makes it hard to know if facilities are taking the necessary precautions to protect residents, said Marjorie Moore, executive director of VOYCE, a St. Louis-area advocacy group for long-term care residents.

Updated at 5:30 p.m., March 31 with comment from Washington University School of Medicine

St. Louis University doctors are using an experimental drug to treat hospitalized patients who test positive for COVID-19. 

The National Institutes of Health recently launched a study on remdesivir at SLU and about 60 research sites around the world. The intravenous drug has been used to treat a small number of COVID-19 patients, but there’s not enough evidence to show that any drug is an effective treatment. 

Determining whether remdesivir works could save lives, said Sarah George, an infectious disease researcher at SLU’s Center for Vaccine Development.