The Weekly: Week Two Recap

Alex Chun and Susanna Kemp

Students who tested positive for COVID-19 report delayed communication from the University regarding next steps, Northwestern climate scientists reflect on their research and COVID-19’s impact on climate change, and Evanston’s search for a new city manager continues. Check out this episode of The Weekly to hear directly from the reporters and editors who covered The Daily’s most recent top headlines.

ALEX CHUN: From the Daily Northwestern, I’m Alex Chun.

SUSANNA KEMP: And I’m Susanna Kemp. This is The Weekly, a podcast that breaks down our top headlines each week.

ALEX CHUN: First up, some students who tested positive for COVID-19 weren’t contacted immediately by the University with instructions to quarantine. One student The Daily talked to wasn’t given instructions to quarantine until over a week after they had received their positive results.

SUSANNA KEMP: Next, Northwestern climate scientists reject the idea that during COVID-19, climate change has slowed.

ALEX CHUN: And finally, Evanston’s search for a new city manager continues. What do residents say they want in their next city manager?

SUSANNA KEMP: Stay with us to hear directly from the reporters and editors who covered these stories.

ALEX CHUN: Students permitted to live on campus and upperclassmen and graduate students planning to access campus must get tested weekly for COVID-19 through the University. The COVID-19 case counter, monitored by the University, reported 14 new confirmed cases between September 18 and September 24. The week before, there were 24 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.

SUSANNA KEMP: But one graduate student who tested positive wasn’t instructed to quarantine right away after receiving their results. They took a COVID-19 test on September 11 and were notified that they had tested positive two days later. However, they didn’t receive an email from the University with guidelines and instructions regarding self-isolation for another week.

ALEX CHUN: Here to tell us more about this is campus editor Isabelle Sarraf. Isabelle, you had chatted with a few students about their experiences with NU’s COVID Case Management Team. You followed the story of one student who wasn’t notified by the University to isolate until eight days after they received their positive results. Can you walk us through the timeline?

ISABELLE SARRAF: How NU’s contact tracing works is that you should self isolate, I believe it’s 10 days after your initial test, because that accommodates for a few days beforehand that you probably were already positive but didn’t know, and then ten days after, so it’s kind of a 14 day total. The student got tested on the 11th, so their self isolation should have ended on the 21st. On the 21st, at the end of the student’s 10-day isolation, that’s the day they received a message from NU’s COVID Case Management Team telling them to start isolation. So there was just like, either some backlog, or I don’t know what kind of miscommunication, but the University was obviously very late on informing the student that they should even go into self isolation.

ALEX CHUN: And were the graduate student’s friends told to isolate by NU’s contact tracing team after the student had tested positive?

ISABELLE SARRAF: The grad student took initiative and contacted their friends when they found out they were positive, because NU hadn’t told the friends, and so they thought they would, you know, inform the friends, obviously. And I think one main takeaway that they were talking about was that if it weren’t for their initiative to tell the friends, those friends could have fully been wandering around campus, been infecting others and could have caused a massive super spread.

ALEX CHUN: Isabelle, thanks so much for chatting with us.

SUSANNA KEMP: Also this week, reporter Katie Jahns touched base with some researchers from Northwestern’s Climate Change Research Group.

ALEX CHUN: The team’s research was featured this summer in an article published by British journal Nature, called “The COVID-19 lockdowns: a window into the Earth System.” It’s about the impact of the pandemic on climate change.

SUSANNA KEMP: The article debunks the idea that climate change has slowed down because of the pandemic. So Katie, why is there this false perception that COVID-19 has halted climate change?

KATIE JAHNS: Since July, half the world’s population has been under some version of a stay-at-home order. So, you know, with a lot of people off the road, we’re seeing these observable differences: less traffic and cleaner waterways and even, like, the return of animals to more populated areas. So it can be easy to mistake some of these observable changes due to, like, less human mobility for something more than a short-term side effect of the world’s response to COVID.

SUSANNA KEMP: So how are Northwestern researchers interpreting those short-term changes?

KATIE JAHNS: Yeah, so I spoke with Northwestern’s Climate Change Research Group, and they’re a group that basically uses numerical models to create virtual simulations of Earth’s atmosphere and Earth system. And so what they’re finding and what a lot of other scientists are finding is that, even though we are seeing a short-term decrease in daily emissions during the stay at home orders, the overall concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere is still set to rise by the end of this year. The leader of the Climate Change Research Group, Daniel Horton, described it as an overflowing sink, where the water coming out of the faucet is the emissions and the overflowing sink is the Earth’s atmosphere. And so even if you turn down the faucet a little bit so that there’s less water coming out of it, no matter what, you’re still going to have an overflowing sink.

SUSANNA KEMP: I love that comparison. The group also looked at the relationship between climate and socioeconomics. Can you expand on that?

KATIE JAHNS: With COVID-19, the socioeconomic divide has been amplified with a lot of people losing their jobs and access to those essential resources. The pandemic is causing a deepening of global poverty. And that deepening is likely to reduce available resources that would go towards climate mitigation.

SUSANNA KEMP: Thanks for coming on, Katie.

ALEX CHUN: And we’ll wrap up with Evanston City Council’s city manager search. Wally Bobkiewicz, who held the position for 10 years, took on a position in Washington state in August 2019. Since then, Erika Storlie has served as interim city manager.

SUSANNA KEMP: Evanston contracted executive search firm GovHR USA in January to facilitate the process, and now, City Council is reviewing applicants. City editor Jacob Fulton covered this story. So Jacob, what will the search process look like going forward?

JACOB FULTON: On Friday, September 18, GovHR brought City Council a list of all the candidates and they’re going to hold a bunch of interviews in the coming weeks before bringing candidates to a community forum. And then after the community forum, City Council will pick a finalist and they’ll negotiate, and they’re scheduled to announce the next city manager in a special meeting on October 19.

ALEX CHUN: Have residents played a part in the search?

JACOB FULTON: In terms of community involvement in the selection process, there have previously been two different sessions where community members could come and talk with city officials and GovHR representatives and sort of explain what they’re looking for in a city manager candidate. Evanston is currently a part of the national discussion about defunding the police, and there’s been some resident push for a city manager who is definitely taking racial injustices and equity into account in their work. That’s been one of the big priorities for a lot of residents who have come to meetings and things along those lines.

SUSANNA KEMP: And one big piece of that is Evanston’s new reparations fund, which established a cannabis sales tax whose revenue will go toward compensating the city’s Black residents. The next city manager would be responsible for putting in place, right?

JACOB FULTON: So, when the city implemented its reparations fund, it was a pretty big deal. It’s the first of its kind across the nation. And the new city manager will be tasked with some of the implementation of that and just making sure it’s going smoothly, things along those lines. A lot of residents want to see someone that will be able to be up for that task and will be able to do so equitably and do so successfully. The other issue that a lot of people are pushing for is transparency. There was a little bit of controversy back in the end of May, beginning of June, when City Council proposed the idea of directly appointing Erika Storlie, who’s the current interim city manager, to the position without really reviewing any other applications. People didn’t really like that.

ALEX CHUN: Can you elaborate on that controversy?

JACOB FULTON: A lot of the controversy was just really surrounding the fact that she would have been directly appointed to the position without any sort of selection or interview process. There’s also been some pushback based on previous controversies with the city manager who left last year, his name was Wally Bobkiewicz. He had a couple different discrimination suits brought against him, and some residents are a little bit concerned that Erika Storlie is just going to be very similar to Bobkiewicz, because she worked with him for a long period of time. But many proponents of Erika’s work have said that her role steering the city amid a pandemic, even though she’s really only in this interim position, has sort of shown that she’d be capable of taking on the job.

SUSANNA KEMP: And is she still in the running for the position?

JACOB FULTON: Erika Storlie is, as of now, still in the running to possibly be the next city manager. She said back in June when the controversy arose about her being directly appointed to the position that she did want to see a full application and evaluation process to allow for other candidates. But she is going to apply for the position, last we’ve heard.

SUSANNA KEMP: Thanks so much, Jacob.

ALEX CHUN: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Alex Chun.

SUSANNA KEMP: And I’m Susanna Kemp. We’ll see you next week for another episode of the Weekly.

ALEX CHUN: This episode was reported by Susanna Kemp, Isabelle Sarraf, Katie Jahns, Binah Schatsky, Jacob Fulton and myself, Alex Chun. This episode was produced by both Susanna Kemp and myself. The audio editor of the Daily is me. The digital managers are Jacob Ohara and Molly Lubbers, and the editor in chief is Marissa Martinez.

Email: [email protected] and [email protected]
Twitter: @apchun01

Stories Referenced:
Northwestern’s contact tracing system falls through the cracks
Despite speculation, Northwestern climate scientists say COVID-19 is not slowing climate change
City Council to review applications for city manager position, discuss community input in selection process