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Podcasts for the Coronavirus Era

Programs focus on news and escape, information and impact

A man sitting on a sofa listening to audio on headphones while holding a coffee mug

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Those with more time on their hands during days of quarantine may be discovering the delights of podcasts, episodic digital audio series. And many podcasters are offering up more about the top topic of interest: the coronavirus.

Established news providers and health experts provided a first wave of podcasts about COVID-19, putting the crisis into context.

A second wave comes from less obvious sources; these podcasts offer information, connection and inspiration through the coronavirus shock wave. Here are some to try.

Coronavirus Global Update

(Apple)

The BBC harnesses its newsrooms around the world to keep listeners updated on the pandemic. It's a just-the-facts approach, with five-minute episodes each day featuring headlines from London to Lahore, Pakistan, to Los Angeles.

Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction With Dr. Sanjay Gupta

(Apple/Google)

CNN's chief medical correspondent leads this weekday podcast. Each episode focuses on one aspect of the evolving developments. Gupta, who is a neurosurgeon, talks to medical providers, listeners and fellow CNN correspondents about the hard facts we're all facing, as well as the impact on our lives. Episodes average less than 10 minutes.


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Public Health on Call

(Apple/Google)

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, one of the U.S.'s top-ranked schools of public health, produces this sober deep dive into COVID-19. It's a less polished production, but it's dense with expert analysis of the science and public health implications of the virus. Episodes are about 15 minutes.

The Women

(Apple/Google)

Rose Reid's iHeartRadio podcast, normally featuring in-depth interviews with female changemakers, has narrowed its focus to women on the front lines of fighting the coronavirus. The women featured vary from a doctor in charge of testing at an Atlanta hospital to a pregnant French woman developing her new birth plan. Episodes range from around 30 to 60 minutes.

Make Me Smart

(Apple/Google)

The economic impact of the coronavirus has been unprecedented. This daily podcast, from Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood of public radio's Marketplace, examines how the economy is fairing in the short term, as well as the potential long-term financial impact. Episodes are around 10 minutes long.

Home Cooking

(Apple/Google)

Here's your chance at quarantine-cooking guidance from James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and chef Samin Nosrat. The writer of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and star of the Netflix show of the same name — joined by cohost Hrishikesh Hirway — opens up email and phone connections to field questions about what to cook with your pantry finds. Listeners also share their quarantine stories. The debut episode was 58 minutes long.

Staying In With Emily & Kumail

(Apple/Google)

You may know Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani from The Big Sick, the movie based on the real lives of the “chronically sick person” and the actor-comedian, respectively. Because of her illness, Gordon often needs to self-quarantine, even in non-coronavirus times. The two tap into their years of at-home experience to “advise you on how to stay calm and avoid cabin fever,” and they throw in a little comedy, too. Episodes are over an hour long.

A pair of headphones plugged into a smartphone that is playing a podcast

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How to Listen to Podcasts

If you’ve never listened to a podcast before, now is a great time to learn how. Here’s a primer.

On your phone: Most people listen to podcasts through an app on their smartphone. This makes it handy, in normal times, to listen on the go. Apple and Android phones each typically come with their own podcast apps preinstalled. If the app’s missing from your phone, you can download Apple Podcasts for iPhones or Google Podcasts for Android devices for free.

Each app features two principal ways to find podcasts: You can browse categories of featured podcasts, or search the extended podcast universe. Once you find the podcast you’re looking for, tap on Subscribe; the app will list all existing episodes for that podcast and will update with new episodes as they are released. To listen to an episode, press lay to stream the program via the internet. Or, download episodes so you can play them without an internet connection. To listen to podcasts on a tablet device like an iPad, follow these same steps.

The Apple and Google podcast apps aren’t your only app options. Spotify and Pocket Casts are two other popular apps for your phone or tablet, whether you’re an Apple or Android user. Most podcasts are distributed broadly to a number of common providers.

On your home computer: Surprisingly, listening to podcasts on your computer is not as easy as on your phone. If you know the podcast you’re interested in, the best way to hear it is to do a Google search for that podcast and find its website. Episodes should be playable there with just a click. Apple Mac users can also find podcasts through the preinstalled iTunes app on their computers. You can also go to popular podcast platforms, such as Spotify, TuneIn and others.

Michael Yessis is editor of “This Week in Podcasts,” an email newsletter.

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