2021 Video: Spot News/Feature Reporting - Silver

During the height of the global COVID-19 pandemic, NOVA producer Arlo Pérez Esquivel left his home in Boston and traveled to stay with family in his hometown of Uruapan, Mexico. At the time, Boston and its surrounding county were reporting tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases among its population of 800,000 people. Meanwhile Uruapan and the surrounding region, collectively home to about 700,000 people, reported only a fraction of that number. When he arrived in Uruapan, Pérez noticed that reported cases weren’t accurately representing the number of sick and dying people around him. In a story that is both informative and deeply personal, Pérez set out to answer the video’s titular question—why are Mexico’s COVID-19 cases and deaths underreported? He found that many Mexican residents have avoided COVID-19 testing due to a cultural and social stigma around the virus, and that many deaths are not reported to bypass the mandatory cremation of COVID-19 victims in favor of a more traditional Catholic burial. Pérez “reminds us why diversity in science reporting matters,” said British science journalistMe and judge Angela Saini. “Through a personal story, he investigates an overlooked aspect of the pandemic.” The story reveals the importance of cultural context when referencing COVID-19 positivity rates in different locations, showing just “how much public health has to do with cultural and social issues,” said Dutch freelance journalist and judge Jop de Vrieze. “As both a science communicator and a native of the region, I was in a unique position to look into this story and to give a voice to communities that are often forgotten,” Pérez said. “I never expected my coverage of the COVID-19 situation in a remote part of Mexico to garner the attention it did, let alone win an award.”