Gabrielle Emanuel | New Hampshire Public Radio

Gabrielle Emanuel

When COVID-19 first arrived in the U.S., Jodee Pineau-Chaisson was working as the director of social services for a nursing home in western Massachusetts. By the middle of April, residents at the Center for Extended Care in Amherst were getting sick.

Growing up in Russia, Elena Muraveva was taught the importance of self-reliance.

"I really don't like to complain," she said.

But her days are now defined by debilitating pain and frequent migraines. It's the result of a years-long battle with breast cancer that has also left Muraveva, 52, unable to work.

So she was relieved last year to learn she might qualify for disability benefits. She was given a piece of paper with the address of her local Social Security Administration field office in Philadelphia.

The number of applicants for Supplemental Security Income, a federal program for people in dire financial situations, has plummeted.

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In Massachusetts, many young, healthy medical researchers are rolling up their sleeves to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, at-risk elderly are waiting on the sidelines. According to the state's phased vaccine rollout, seniors are not yet eligible for the shots but everyone employed by a hospital, including those working remotely, can get it.

This situation has infuriated many elderly adults. Carol Halberstadt, 82, is one of them.

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Carlos Reyes wears a mask at home and eats alone in his bedroom. During the night, he has nightmares of accidently infecting his family with COVID-19. During the day, he works as a certified nursing assistant at nursing homes in central Massachusetts, often caring for COVID-19 patients.

Reyes assumed that as a front-line health care worker, he would be among the first to receive the vaccine. But when he asked his nursing homes about getting a shot, the answer was "no."

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Health care workers across the country have started receiving COVID-19 vaccines, but doctors and nurses at some of the nation's top hospitals are raising the alarm, charging that vaccine distribution has been unfair and a chaotic "free-for-all."

At hospitals in Massachusetts, New York, Arizona, California and elsewhere, medical professionals say that those with the most exposure to COVID-19 patients are not always the first to get vaccinated. And others who have little or no contact with COVID-19 patients have received vaccinations.

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Shanna LaFountain has been a nursing assistant in New England for 20 years. About two months ago, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, she stopped working.

"It was an extremely hard decision," she said.

LaFountain has three children and made the decision once their schools closed and their learning went online.

"My son was not answering teachers, not doing assignments," she said. "I had to be home with my children."

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Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

Former billionaire and pharmaceutical executive John Kapoor has been sentenced to five years and six months in prison. His sentencing is the culmination of a months-long criminal trial in Boston's Moakley U.S. Courthouse that resulted in the first successful prosecution of pharmaceutical executives tied to the opioid epidemic.

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Sentencing is scheduled to begin on Monday in the criminal trial of top executives at Insys Therapeutics. This landmark case was the first successful prosecution of high-ranking pharmaceutical executives linked to the opioid crisis, including onetime billionaire John Kapoor.

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Insys Therapeutics, an opioid manufacturer, has agreed to pay $225 million to settle the federal government's criminal and civil investigations into the company's marketing practices. As part of the settlement, Insys Therapeutics admitted to bribing doctors to prescribe its opioid painkiller.

Last month, a federal jury in Boston found five top Insys Therapeutics executives guilty of racketeering conspiracy for these same practices. Now, the federal government is holding the company accountable.

Fifteen years ago Friday, Hillary and Julie Goodridge married amid great fanfare and great protests.

In pastel suits, with broad smiles and colorful streamers, they exchanged vows and rings just hours after Massachusetts became the first state in America to allow same-sex marriage.

The Goodridges were the face of the movement. The lawsuit that made gay and lesbian marriages a reality bears their name: Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. Historians often divide the equal-marriage movement into "before Goodridge" and "after Goodridge."

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Updated 5:30 p.m. ET

A jury in Boston has found onetime billionaire and drug company executive John Kapoor and his four co-defendants guilty of a racketeering conspiracy. The verdict came Wednesday after 15 days of deliberation.

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Two months ago, Paul Lara saw a letter from his doctor to his insurance company. He recalls looking at the bottom of the page, next to the doctor's signature, "It says: Does this patient have cancer? He marked yes."

Only one problem: Paul Lara has never had cancer.

After decades as a commercial fisherman in Texas, Lara was badly injured on the job. In 2013, his doctor prescribed a high dose of an opioid called Subsys for Lara's back and neck pain. The fentanyl-based spray can be up to 100 times stronger than morphine.

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We're reporting this week on the most common reading disability. Ask just about anyone what dyslexia is, you'll almost certainly hear something like this.

Part 3 of our series "Unlocking Dyslexia."

A mother who spent years coaching and encouraging her dyslexic son recalls his childhood with one pervasive feeling: "It was really scary."

One father told me his home life was ruined. Trying to do homework with his struggling daughter, he says, felt like "a nightmare every night." Optimism and determination would inevitably descend into tears and anxiety. The culprit: dyslexia.

When it comes to sentence structure, Rocky, a sea lion, was a stickler.

"It really mattered to her, what's going to be the direct and indirect object," says Kathy Streeter, an animal trainer.

For Sierra, it isn't the grammar that interests her. It's the vocalizations. This California sea lion loves experimenting with her vocal range, and she hates being interrupted.

Part of our NPR Ed series on mental health in schools.

Every Monday morning at Harvie Elementary School, in Henrico County, Va., Brett Welch stands outside her office door as kids file in.

"The first thing I'm looking for are the faces," says Welch, a school counselor. She's searching for hints of fear, pain or anger.

"Maybe there was a domestic incident at the house that weekend," says Welch. "That's reality for a lot of our kids."

Walking to work in the Mission District of San Francisco, John Luna noticed a pattern. Just after the first and the 15th of the month, he says, he saw long lines of people.

"It's like trying to get into the most popular nightclub in the city," says Luna. But what he found at the front of the line was not a bar or lounge. Instead, the long lines led to check cashing outlets and payday lenders.

Four guys walk into a diner.

One, in a plaid shirt, sells golf equipment online. His name is Chris Regan. Two — Eric Schiffhauer and Jordan Wagner — are midway through their Ph.D.'s at Johns Hopkins University.

And the other, Jebree Christian, is a recent high school graduate from West Baltimore. His arms are covered in tattoos, most of them commemorating someone he has lost.

Each Sunday, they gather here at Jimmy's on Baltimore's harbor.

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