Charles Ornstein

Managing Editor, Local

Photo of Charles Ornstein

Charles Ornstein is a deputy managing editor at ProPublica, overseeing the Local Reporting Network, which works with local news organizations to produce accountability journalism on issues of importance to their communities. From 2008 to 2017, he was a senior reporter covering health care and the pharmaceutical industry. He then worked as a senior editor.

Prior to joining ProPublica, he was a member of the metro investigative projects team at the Los Angeles Times. In 2004, he and Tracy Weber were lead authors on a series on Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, a troubled hospital in South Los Angeles. The articles won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service.

In 2009, he and Weber worked on a series of stories that detailed serious failures in oversight by the California Board of Registered Nursing and nursing boards around the country. The work was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

He previously worked at the Dallas Morning News, where he covered health care on the business desk and worked in the Washington bureau. Ornstein is a past president of the Association of Health Care Journalists and an adjunct journalism professor at Columbia University. Ornstein is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.

How Many People in the U.S. Are Hospitalized With COVID-19? Who Knows?

The Trump administration told hospitals to stop reporting data to the CDC, and report it to HHS instead. Vice President Mike Pence said the information would continue to be released publicly. It hasn’t worked out as promised.

Out of View: After Public Outcry, CDC Adds Hospital Data Back to Its Website — for Now

Hospitalization data is important to understanding the coronavirus’s spread and impact. But after the Trump administration changed its reporting rules, the CDC removed the data from its site, and only added it back after a public outcry.

“All the Hospitals Are Full”: In Houston, Overwhelmed ICUs Leave COVID-19 Patients Waiting in ERs

The busiest hospitals in Houston are increasingly telling emergency responders they cannot safely accept new patients as hundreds of coronavirus patients crowd emergency rooms, and hospitals scramble to open more intensive care space.

A Spike in People Dying at Home Suggests Coronavirus Deaths in Houston May Be Higher Than Reported

In Houston, one of the nation’s fastest-growing coronavirus hot spots, more residents are dying before they can make it to a hospital. Medical examiner data shows that an increasing number of these deaths are the result of COVID-19.

Internal Messages Reveal Crisis at Houston Hospitals as Coronavirus Cases Surge

Texas was one of the first states in the nation to ease social distancing mandates. In Houston, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has quadrupled since Memorial Day. “It’s time to be alarmed,” one expert said.

No, President Trump, Testing Is Not Causing Case Counts to Rise. The Virus Is Just Spreading Faster.

The Trump administration has doubled down on its claims that coronavirus case counts are up because the U.S. has increased testing. However, a closer look at graphs of testing numbers and positive cases shows that this isn’t the case for many states.

How America’s Hospitals Survived the First Wave of the Coronavirus

ProPublica deputy managing editor Charles Ornstein wanted to know why experts were wrong when they said U.S. hospitals would be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. Here’s what he learned, including what hospitals can do before the next wave.

Giving Voice to Alaska’s Unheard Sexual Assault Survivors

We’re publishing our most ambitious effort yet to give voice to those who have been sexually assaulted in Alaska. We have talked to hundreds of survivors over the past year who have shared their stories.

How Safe Are Nursing Homes Near Me? This Tool Will Help You Find Out.

Nursing Home Inspect enables you to search through thousands of nursing home inspection reports to find problems and trends. Our latest update includes data on infection control violations, and notations for facilities that have had a coronavirus case.

Nursing Homes Violated Basic Health Standards, Allowing the Coronavirus to Explode

Our analysis of federal inspection reports found that nine nursing homes put residents in “immediate jeopardy,” including a case where a nursing assistant fed a resident after changing soiled briefs without washing hands.

We Still Don’t Know How Many People Are in the Hospital With COVID-19

Many states report coronavirus cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations differently, and the federal government is way behind on data tracking. Without consistent information, the U.S. won’t be able to properly respond as new coronavirus hot spots emerge.

What We Know — and Don’t Know — About Possible Coronavirus Treatments Promoted by Trump

There isn’t enough evidence that decades-old anti-malarial drugs work for the treatment or prevention of coronavirus, but here’s what we do know so far.

Coronavirus Hospitalization Numbers Are Spotty. Journalists, Help Us Fill in the Gaps.

We don’t know how many COVID-19 patients are hospitalized across the country, because only some states are publishing data. Journalists can join our effort to gather this data from every state.

Lupus Patients Can’t Get Crucial Medication After President Trump Pushes Unproven Coronavirus Treatment

Trump’s unproven claim that hydroxychloroquine could be used to treat COVID-19 has led to hoarding, putting Lupus patients and others at even greater risk. As of Saturday afternoon, Anna Valdez had 27 pills left. That number is now down to 25.

No, President Trump, the Coronavirus Is Nothing Like H1N1 Swine Flu Either

The president has been comparing his administration’s handling of COVID-19 to the way President Barack Obama’s team dealt with the H1N1 outbreak. He is wrong.

The Five Questions Reporters Need to Ask Hospitals and Local Officials About Coronavirus

ProPublica launched a tool that allows you to look up how the number of patients with COVID-19 could affect hospitals in your area under various scenarios. Here’s how to write a local accountability story with the data.

No Matter What Some Public Officials Say, the Message You Need to Hear Is “Stay Home”

Mixed messaging from all levels of government is putting Americans at risk and will speed the spread of the coronavirus. No matter what politicians say, public health experts agree. Stay home, even if you feel fine.

This Coronavirus Is Unlike Anything in Our Lifetime, and We Have to Stop Comparing It to the Flu

Longtime health reporter Charles Ornstein says that comparing the novel coronavirus to the flu is dangerously inaccurate. Not one public health expert he trusts has called that comparison valid. Here’s why.

Are You in Coronavirus Quarantine? Tell Us What Authorities Told You So We Can Make Sure It’s Right.

We’re collecting instructions state and local health departments have given about coronavirus quarantines. Help us hear from every state and city.

Local Accountability Journalism Still Has a Huge Impact

Between the Local Reporting Network and ProPublica Illinois, our work shows that state leaders across the country are listening and things can change.

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