Yuki Noguchi

The cold snap late last year hit El Paso at the exact wrong time; new COVID-19 patients were streaming into hospitals, many needing high flows of oxygen to breathe. That abrupt, massive draw on the gas created myriad problems: It froze the hospital's pipes and the vaporizers on oxygen tanks, restricting the flow by as much as 70%.

So local companies built pop-up tents with new oxygen pipes in hospital parking lots. That wasn't the only hurdle; tubes, flow meters, nasal cannulas and portable cylinders needed to make the gas breathable were also in short supply.

A year ago, hundreds of desperate consumers were emailing Mike Bowen's Texas medical supply factory every day, looking to buy N95 medical respirator masks that can filter viruses: "Scared Americans and moms and old people and people saying, 'Help me,' " Bowen recalls.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

When police killed George Floyd outside a Minneapolis corner store, it reminded the world that racism can become lethal. But just a few miles away, on the north side of the city, racial inequality plays out in a more ordinary yet still harmful way: A lack of fresh food.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Sandy Kretschmer imagines her son Henry returning home from college, dropping his bags and then giving her a big hug. But she knows the reality of this homecoming may be a lot different.

"I'll probably have a mask on, and he'll have a mask on when I hug him," she says.

Henry plans to take a COVID-19 test a few days before he leaves Iowa State University where he's a junior, and he'll self-quarantine until he heads home to Chicago.

North Minneapolis, one of the most racially diverse neighborhoods in Minnesota, was already dealing with high coronavirus infection and death rates when George Floyd was killed by police outside a corner store just 3 miles away.

Cynthia Maclin cannot get out of bed most days.

Chronic lung disease leaves her short of breath and ended her 45-year career as a medical administrator. COVID-19 cases are on the rise in her hometown of Chicago, and Maclin has already lost eight friends and family members to the virus, including the father of her two daughters. For the first time, this month, she's also unable to pay rent.

For most of her 34 years, Stephanie Parker didn't recognize she had an eating disorder.

At age 6, she recalls, she stopped eating and drinking at school — behavior that won her mother's praise. "It could have started sooner; I just don't have the memory," says Parker. In middle school, she ate abnormally large quantities, then starved herself again in the years after.

There are already federal and state laws on the books requiring insurance companies to cover mental health treatments, just as it does medical treatments and procedures such as chemotherapy or a cesarean section.

Alexea Gaffney battles health issues every day on multiple fronts. As an infectious disease doctor in Stony Brook, N.Y., she treats patients who have COVID-19. And two years ago, at age 37, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.

As a result, the physician and single mom, who is also home-schooling her 8-year-old daughter these days, is still under medical treatment for the cancer. And that makes her more vulnerable to the virus.

Blake Blackmon and his fiancée, Jessica Cournoyer, recently welcomed their second child, a cherubic-cheeked good sleeper name Beau. He entered the world last month after a quick labor, arriving almost before nurses were ready.

"As soon as the first push happened, she said, "No, no, no, stop, stop, stop! Baby's already crowning," Blackmon recalls a nurse telling Cournoyer. A team of nurses rushed in.

Audrey just turned 18 and relishes crossing into adulthood: She voted for the first time this year, graduated high school and is college-bound next month. The honors student typically wakes up "a bundle of nerves," she says, which had fueled her work volunteering, playing varsity sports and leading student government.

But for years, she also struggled with anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder — all of which drove her to work harder.

Two decades of life experience made a mental-health activist of Kai Koerber. When he was 16 and a student at a Parkland, Fla., high school, a gunman killed 17 people, including one his friends.

"I really did suffer a domestic terrorist attack, and that's not something that happens to you every day," Koerber says.

Fewer patients in recent months have been showing up for drug and alcohol treatment at REACH Health Services in Baltimore. But Dr. Yngvild Olsen, the medical director there, suspects it's not for good reasons: Some have likely relapsed or delayed drug and alcohol addiction treatment, while others likely fear infection and have stayed home.

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