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Rebecca Hersher

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.

Hersher was part of the NPR team that won a Peabody award for coverage of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and produced a story from Liberia that won an Edward R. Murrow award for use of sound. She was a finalist for the 2017 Daniel Schorr prize; a 2017 Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting fellow, reporting on sanitation in Haiti; and a 2015 NPR Above the Fray fellow, investigating the causes of the suicide epidemic in Greenland.

Prior to working at NPR, Hersher reported on biomedical research and pharmaceutical news for Nature Medicine.

When Amanda Daniels found an affordable first-floor apartment in Wicker Park, a hip Chicago neighborhood, she was excited.

"It had a washer and dryer, which is like gold. And it had a huge shared patio space," she remembers. "I was like, 'This place is awesome.' "

Daniels was living paycheck to paycheck at the time. The year after she moved in, a summer rainstorm flooded her living room with brown water. It destroyed her rug and table, but she salvaged what she could and moved.

Five years ago, the Obbink family decided to buy a house in Virginia Beach, Va.

Kerrie Obbink led the charge because her husband, Steve, was an active-duty member of the Navy. That was why they had moved from Connecticut to Virginia in the first place. Kerrie started looking for houses that were in their price range, and where she could imagine raising their children.

It didn't take long to find a place that seemed right. "He liked the standalone garage," she remembers, "and there was a park across the street with playing fields, which was nice."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

Each family had their reasons for ending up in harm's way.

For the Harts, it was the chance to have a large backyard in a quiet part of Ashland, Ore. The porch of the Baltimore house was perfect for Scott Harris' barbecue equipment. Kevin Boudreaux had grown up on the bayou and wanted to settle near his childhood home in Cameron, La.

A 25-year-old was infected twice with the coronavirus earlier this year, scientists in Nevada have confirmed. It is the first confirmed case of so-called reinfection with the virus in the U.S. and the fifth confirmed reinfection case worldwide.

The cases underscore the importance of social distancing and wearing masks even if you were previously infected with the virus, and they raise questions about how the human immune system reacts to the virus.

On Nov. 4, the day after the election, the United States will officially exit the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The date is a coincidence. Still, the timing underscores a crucial victory for the Trump administration in its efforts to derail federal action on global warming, which the president dismisses as a hoax.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency fails to help tens of thousands of people whose homes have repeatedly flooded, according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security.

Updated at 6:15 p.m.

David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology who has spent much of his career questioning basic tenets of climate science, has been hired for a top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Updated at 11:45 a.m.

Hurricane Laura tore through a region that is home to dozens of major oil refineries, petrochemical plants and plastics facilities. Now, residents could be breathing dangerously polluted air from those sites, public health experts and local advocates say.

The upshot of climate change is that everyone alive is destined to experience unprecedented disasters. The most powerful hurricanes, the most intense wildfires, the most prolonged heat waves and the most frequent outbreaks of new diseases are all in our future. Records will be broken, again and again.

But the predicted destruction is still shocking when it unfolds at the same time.

Hurricane Laura's top wind speeds nearly doubled in just 24 hours as it approached the border between Texas and Louisiana. The wall of water it pushed in front of it grew until forecasters warned that it would produce "unsurvivable" storm surge.

Updated Friday, 4:30 p.m. ET

Millions of people rely on real estate websites when they're hoping to buy or rent a home. Major sites such as Zillow, Redfin, Trulia and Realtor.com feature kitchens, bathrooms, mortgage estimates and even school ratings. But those sites don't show buyers whether the house is likely to flood while they're living there.

Millions of Americans live in the potential path of a hurricane.

The good news is that hurricane and cyclone forecasts have gotten significantly more accurate in recent decades. The bad news is that climate change and population growth combine to make hurricanes more dangerous to more people.

And research suggests that people are confused by common graphics and warnings about where hurricanes are headed and how they'll affect communities in their path.

Here are some basic principles you can use to avoid confusion when a hurricane is headed your way.

Scientists are trying to understand how much plastic humans are pumping into the ocean and how long it sticks around. A study published this week says it may be much more than earlier estimates.

By some measures, the plastic trash that's floating on the surface of the water only accounts for about 1% of the plastic pollution that humans generate.

In mid-April, hundreds of scientists from around the world were supposed to fly to Ecuador for a five-day meeting about the latest research on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The places with the most severe air pollution nearly 40 years ago remain among the most polluted places today, according to a new study that uses historical air pollution data to track disparities in air quality over time.

Decades of research and the lived experiences of millions of Americans have established that people in the United States do not have equal access to clean air, and that poor people and people of color are more likely to breathe polluted air than their fellow citizens who are white or rich.

Local officials and public health experts warn that domestic violence is spiking in Australia as the country deals with the aftermath of catastrophic fires paired with the global pandemic.

The fires killed at least 35 people and destroyed nearly 2,000 houses in the southeastern part of the country in 2019 and early 2020, leaving thousands of Australians jobless and still in temporary housing as the coronavirus pandemic swept through with its widespread lockdowns, illness and economic pain.

A handful of states are preparing to spend millions of dollars to address flooding, as extreme rain and sea level rise threaten communities along rivers and coastlines.

On July 1, Virginia's new Community Flood Preparedness Fund went into effect. It will set aside an estimated $45 million a year for flood mitigation projects. To fund the program, Virginia joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which regulates emissions in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic by auctioning off emissions allowances.

President Trump's nominee to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission is Nancy Beck, a toxicologist who currently leads chemical and pesticide regulation at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The CPSC is the top federal consumer watchdog in the country. Its five-member board, which Beck will lead for seven years if she is confirmed, is responsible for reviewing safety information and collecting injury reports for more than 15,000 types of products, from baby toys to sports equipment to home appliances.

Some of the country's most polluting industries have flooded state regulators with requests to ease environmental regulations, according to an NPR review of hundreds of state environmental records.

Companies across the country say the pandemic is interfering with their ability to comply with laws that protect the public from pollution.

Thousands of people in Baltimore have joined multiple marches over the past week, mourning the violent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and calling for less funding for the Baltimore Police Department and more money for education, health and local groups in predominantly African American neighborhoods in the city.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts 2020 will be an above-average hurricane season, with six to 10 hurricanes. NOAA expects three to six to be Category 3 or higher, with sustained wind speeds above 110 miles per hour.

Don't see the graphic above? Click here.

With traffic dramatically down in recent months, the United States is in the middle of an accidental experiment showing what happens to air pollution when millions of people stop driving.

Unprecedented job losses and furloughs have pushed millions of Americans to the brink of eviction during the coronavirus pandemic, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the White House have failed to fund a legal assistance program that is routinely available to disaster survivors.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Multiple cities have started door-to-door coronavirus screenings and testing in an effort to identify those who are infected and help severely ill people get treated.

It's a small part of a larger effort to test more Americans for coronavirus in order to get a handle on how widely it has spread and prevent another wave of infections as some parts of the economy slowly reopen.

The number of people breathing unhealthy air in the United States is increasing despite decades of declines in the overall amount of air pollution being released, and climate change is a major cause.

The number of patients being treated at overflow hospitals in New York City has more than doubled in the last two days, the Department of Defense says.

On Thursday, military doctors and nurses were treating 189 patients at the overflow hospital at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, including 15 patients who are being treated in an intensive care unit inside the facility. The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort currently has 53 patients, including 10 who are critically ill with COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the two facilities had fewer than 100 patients combined.

"An ICU. What is it?" asks Dr. Robert Foronjy. It's late afternoon. He's in his office at University Hospital Brooklyn.

"It's people," he says. "You think of an ICU, maybe you think four walls, some beds. But really it's people."

The USNS Comfort hospital ship and an emergency hospital at the Javits Center are meant to be relief valves for hospitals in New York City, where more than 14,000 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19. But the facilities have been largely empty, leading officials to try to streamline their operations.

Now, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is hoping the Comfort can join the Javits Center on the front line of the fight against the coronavirus.

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