Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!
CDC reports: The effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minority groups is still emerging; however, current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.
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I am a 78-year-old, retired, Black male who is deeply appreciative of the fact that, on February 16, 2021, I received my second Coronavirus vaccination. Nevertheless, I write to describe the taxing two-month process it took to do so in the world’s most “advanced” nation. In pursuit of being vaccinated, the difficulties encountered concretized the significance of the  “the digital divide,” and  “systemic public health issues” as a function of one’s low-income status and race.
Being fully aware of the long abuse of Blacks by some health professionals, I was initially in a “paranoid state of mind” regarding whether to take a Coronavirus vaccine. The “Tuskegee Syphilis Study” and “the misappropriation of Henrietta Lacks‘ cells” were not faded memories for me. I was also reticent because of how fast the vaccines were federally approved and unclear regarding side effects.
The erosion of my vaccination fears began when I learned that the brilliant Black scientist Kizzmekia Corbett played a critical role in the development of the vaccines. My reservations also declined after I learned that two highly respected friends, Dr. Chenits and Dr. Margaret Pettigrew, participated in clinical trials and, subsequently, recommended the vaccines. On a personal level, I was motivated to get vaccinated because Spring was rapidly approaching and, being addicted to fishing, I did not want to miss the early runs of Crappie, White Perch, and Yellow Perch here in Maryland.
“Spring Fever” annually afflicts those who fish and, having been sheltered in much of the 2020 fishing season, “Spring Fever” hit me hard right after January 1, 2021. As such, I knew I needed to be vaccinated if I were to go in and out of bait shops as well as fish with a few buddies without social distancing at my fishing camp in central Pennsylvania. With my fears mostly gone and the desire to fish, I began searching for a vaccination appointment and immediately got reminded that I was “technologically challenged” and, later in the process, which side I was on when it came to the “digital divide.”
The protracted search for my first Coronavirus vaccination required ownership of an iPhone, iPad, and laptop computer –items which a poverty level household of four would find very difficult to purchase given their annual income of approximately $26,500. Even with these items in my possession, I needed the help of several people to  download relevant Apps to my iPad and iPhone;  obtain a 4 digit code to set up the “My Portfolio App” which was needed to do things such as book and confirm vaccination appointments as well as preregister the day before each vaccination;  sync my iPhone and iPad to receive texts from the Hospital Center that provided my vaccinations; and  use my laptop to search extensively for vaccination providers in accordance with my 1B priority classification for receiving a vaccination. Some more technologically literate than I might have gotten by without the laptop, but the relevant vaccination searches proved easiest for me when I used the laptop.
Another tremendous source of frustration was the problematic enrollment “systems!” The beginnings of this nightmare started when my primary care physician’s office promised to email me a numerical code essential for downloading the “My Portfolio App.” The code was to arrive within 48 hours, but to date it has not arrived. I received a 4-digit code from a second source, after being placed on hold for more than 45 minutes.
Going online to the designated Maryland County Health Department to sign up for a 1B priority vaccination proved to be fruitless. Using the designated County website, neither my wife nor I received the stipulated follow up email response. A week later, we used a different website for that same County office; received an email response that we were in category 1B; but we have never been scheduled for a vaccination even though they stated they were also vaccinating those in category 1C.
On the several occasions, while seeking a vaccination appointment, I was put on hold for almost an hour. On those occasions, I was reminded of how fortunate I was to have unlimited minutes telephone service. My awareness was also heightened regarding those who are not fortunate enough to have access to the essential technology and I wondered how they might ever get vaccinated. Added concern for others emanated from the fact that I and my wife did not get vaccinated because of our ownership of or limited ability to use technology, but because of an intervention.
After getting nowhere in terms of obtaining a vaccination appointment, I called my son and must have literally “bent his ear.” He interrupted me with, “Daddy, I will call you back in a few minutes” and, when he called back, the following “discussion” occurred: “Daddy, get my mother and both of you turn on your computers. Go to www… and click on the button that says… Ok, now click on the button that says… and then fill in your personal information. Let me know when you finish.” We did as instructed and asked, “What’s next?” He said, “Ok, click on submit and let me know what it says.” I replied, “It says ‘your information has been received. You will be notified of an appointment.” Then, as my son said would happen, in two days we both received notification of appointment dates.
In short, we got appointments because just a few days earlier our son received an appointment after he had studied the websites in our surrounding communities and learned things such as  which sites had long waiting lists;  which were best given our ages;  the days and times appointments were electronically offered;  how quickly the appointments were taken; and  the fact that if we both simultaneously requested 7:15 a.m., then we would get appointments within a few minutes of each other which is exactly what happened for both vaccinations.
Given my experiences in obtaining vaccinations and, subsequently, having spent hours trying to help others who wish to be vaccinated, it is clear just how bad things are in the absence of  a national strategy;  effective state strategies;  “people friendly” processes to sign up for vaccinations;  appropriate coordination between manufactures, distributors and providers; and  what seems to be a national pattern of lower socio-economic, Black, and Latinx Americans disproportionately receiving fewer vaccinations. IT IS NO ACCIDENT THAT BLACK AND LATINX AMERICANS ARE DYING AT A RATE THREE TIMES THAT OF WHITE AMERICANS, BUT WHITE AMERICANS IN PENNSLVANIA, FOR EXAMPLE, ARE BEING VACCINATED AT FOUR TIMES THE RATE OF BLACKS (See Nicole Karlis, January 29, 2021).
Jack L. Daniel
Co-Founder, Freed Panther Society
Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media
Author, Negotiating a Historically White University While Black
February 19, 2021
The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) today announced that it has opened additional vaccination appointments for individuals 65 years of age and older for February 9-13, 2021. Appointments are required for the site and remain in great demand as the department continues to vaccinate eligible healthcare workers and those returning for the second shot in the vaccination series.
Individuals 65 and older can register for appointments using the following links:
Tuesday, February 9 (8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.):
Wednesday February 10 (8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.):
Thursday, February 11 (8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.):
Friday, February 12 (8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.):
Saturday, February 13 (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.):
Please note that the vaccine registration system will not work on Internet Explorer but works on other web browsers. Users will be asked about insurance during registration, but insurance is not required for the vaccine. The vaccine will be provided at no cost.
The links above connect users to the PrepMod scheduling system used by ACHD and Pennsylvania Department of Health. If a vaccination slot is available for a given day, the link will redirect to a page titled “Sign Up for Vaccinations – Monroeville DoubleTree – 65+ Clinic” with the date of the clinic. Individuals will be able to enter their information and select a time for vaccination. Selecting a time for vaccination is the last step of the registration process. After scheduling an appointment, users will receive a confirmation email to the address provided during registration.
If the user is redirected to the state’s vaccine page and eligibility quiz, the appointments for the date selected are full and the user should try to schedule for another date.
Eligible health care workers are also continuing to be scheduled for appointments. Those registration links are sent directly to registered employers to be shared with their personnel. Further sharing of the links to non-eligible individuals may result in cancellation of appointments, or in those individuals being turned away at the site.
Individuals who received their first shot of the vaccine from the Health Department will also be contacted directly with registration links to schedule the second shot in the series and should not use the public links.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Point of Dispensing (POD) is set up at the DoubleTree Hotel in Monroeville and is administering the Moderna vaccine. The POD is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment only. There are no walk-in appointments. Individuals without appointments will be turned away.
As has been the case, ACHD expects that the available appointments will fill quickly. Users may try to find an appointment at the Monroeville POD on another day and may check back often to see if an appointment becomes available. If someone cancels a scheduled appointment, their appointment will be made available. If users cannot keep a vaccination appointment, please cancel or reschedule in order to provide the appointment to someone else.
At the POD, individuals will be asked to provide verification of their age, or employment if a healthcare worker. Anyone who is not able to provide verification, who is under 65 or who is not an eligible healthcare worker, will be turned away. Registering for a vaccine appointment when a person knowingly does not fit the criteria takes away appointments from others in the community in need of appointments. It also hinders the Health Department’s vaccination efforts. Individuals are asked not to register for an appointment at the Monroeville POD if they do not meet the criteria.
Individuals who received a first dose of the vaccine through a different vaccine provider should contact the vaccination provider that administered the first dose to arrange the second dose.
More information about the COVID-19 vaccines and Allegheny County’s vaccination efforts is available at www.alleghenycounty.us/COVIDvaccine.
To receive updates about Allegheny County’s vaccination efforts, sign up for the COVID-19 Vaccine Information subscription in Allegheny Alerts at www.alleghenycounty.us/alerts.
Partnership Providing Resource for Healthcare Providers, School Administrators, Parents
PITTSBURGH – The Allegheny County Health Department announced today that additional services will be provided through the United Way’s 2-1-1 help line relating to school and COVID. Beginning immediately, the help line will now be able to assist in answering questions and providing consistent guidance and the most up-to-date information to healthcare providers, school administrators and parents.
This new resource is being provided through a partnership between the Health Department, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Poison Center, and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Nurse Triage Line. Additional support for the enhanced triage line will come from physicians with UPMC Children’s Hospital, AHN Pediatrics, Sewickley Valley Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Kids Plus Pediatrics, Pediatrics South and Children’s Community Pediatrics.
This service adds nurses to 2-1-1’s resources to bolster the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s ability to connect people to services and information they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know that parents, pediatricians and school administrators may have questions as children head back to school,” said Health Department Director Debra Bogen, MD, FAAP, FABM. “We want this to be a resource for anyone seeking the most up-to-date information and guidance about COVID-19.”
Calls to 2-1-1 for the nurses will be routed through a triage system. The 2-1-1 call center will take down a person’s information and provide it to an on-call nurse to return the call. People may also text questions to 2-1-1 by using 898-211 or submit questions using the instant message feature or online form available at http://pa211sw.org.
“For more than a decade, 2-1-1 has been a critical resource for our community. The pandemic helped to shine a light on its long time role of connecting people who need help with resources,” said Bobbi Watt Geer, President and CEO, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania. “We’ve seen double the call volume since March. Thanks to this partnership, we will be able to add access to nurses, making 2-1-1 even more valuable during this unprecedented health crisis.”
Nurses will be available to field questions between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The average call back time during these hours will be about 20 minutes. Calls to 2-1-1 outside of those hours will be forwarded to the nurses, but people should not expect a return call until the next business day.
Nurses will be able to provide guidance to pediatricians who may be fielding calls from families, to answer questions about safety protocols and procedures from school administrators, and to respond to questions and concerns from parents.
“At UPMC Children’s, our top priority is to provide the highest quality of care and support to patients and families,” said Brian S. Martin, DMD, MS, Vice President of Medical Affairs at UPMC Children’s. “We will continue to provide our pediatric expertise to school nurses and administrators and ensure support for families in following up with their primary care providers/medical home.”
The UPMC Children’s Nurse Triage Line has been taking calls for nearly 25 years. The Health Department has contracted with the call line to handle COVID-19 questions and concerns related to schools from anyone, regardless of their physician or insurance provider.
The new resource is not for specific questions about a child’s health or a case of COVID-19. Parents with questions about their child’s health should contact their pediatric health care provider. School administrators with questions or information pertaining to a specific case of COVID-19 should continue to contact the Health Department.
This service is being offered in addition to the COVID-19 hotline for which the Health Department, United Way, and the Pittsburgh Poison Center partner to answer questions and concerns related to COVID-19.
Northside Community Development Fund Ready to Support Business Owners in the Second Round of the PA Coronavirus Small Business Assistance Program Round Two of the $225 Million Grant Program Opens August 10
Northside Community Development Fund (The Fund) is ready to help small and historically disadvantaged business owners in Allegheny, Beaver, Greene, Lawrence and Washington counties apply for the second round of the PA Coronavirus Small Business Assistance Program. Those who qualify for this grant program are encouraged to visit The Fund’s website at NSCDFund.org/PABusinessGrants to receive more information and support with the application process. The grant opens on August 10, 9:00 a.m. and stays open for 15 business days, closing on August 28, 11:59 p.m.
“After a strong first round of applications, we are ready to support small business owners, especially those who are historically disadvantaged, in the second round of this grant program,” says Mark P. Masterson, Executive Director, Northside Community Development Fund. “By administering these grants through local CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions), we have the opportunity to help those businesses who need the resources most and may not have received the support they’ve needed through other programs. However, it’s important to note that this will likely be the final round for this grant program, unless the state provides more funding for this vitally important program.”
In the first round, close to 5,000 small businesses throughout the state of Pennsylvania were approved for funding, with 51% being owned by historically disadvantaged business owners. In addition, more than 2,400 of the total small businesses approved are located in rural or disadvantaged communities with over 1,200 in communities targeted by state government programs like Main Street and Elm Street.
Grants will range from $5,000 to $50,000 for businesses with 25 or less employees and revenues less than $1 million. Eligible business owners must apply online through the application portal. If they need assistance with their application, please visit The Funds website for more information on how to receive support. The PA Coronavirus Small Business Assistance Program will accept applications for 15 business days following the opening. All applications submitted through the online portal before the end of the second round on August 28 at 11:59 p.m. will be considered for funding.
To learn more about the PA Coronavirus Small Business Assistance Program and access the resources the Northside Community Development Fund is providing, visit NSCDFund.org/PABusinessGrants.
About Northside Community Development Fund
The Northside Community Development Fund is a neighborhood-focused community loan fund that started on Pittsburgh’s Northside 20 years ago. We make thriving communities for all by promoting economic opportunity and community revitalization. We help underserved populations by providing capital to spur business and job growth, the creation of affordable housing, and the redevelopment of Northside neighborhoods. All of these activities must include opportunities for all members of the community, including racial and ethnic minorities and women.
With the PA Coronavirus Small Business Assistance Program, they are one of 17 CFDIs to help administer the $225M of grants. They will be expanding beyond their Northside roots to serve all applicable businesses, including historically disadvantaged business owners in Allegheny, Beaver, Greene, Lawrence and Washington counties.
(Partner to PUM)
During international supply chain issues and a community internet void
Committed to transparency, Superintendent Anthony Hamlet has released the Pittsburgh Public Schools Tackles the Digital Divide in the Era of Covid-19 report. The report encapsulates the arduous task the District has undertaken to regroup, reassess and distribute its computer tech inventory during an international technology supply shortage. Released to the Board yesterday, the accountability report spells out the District’s current computer inventory, what devices are usable for educational instruction, how many devices need reimaging and updating, how many devices have been distributed, and how many new devices are on the way.
“Through the red, yellow and green phases of the pandemic, our administration has remained transparent and proactive in all things related to our technology challenges and new purchases, we intend to remain crystal clear through this accountability report of our progress to becoming a 1:1 device district,” said Superintendent Anthony Hamlet. “The District has not received a request from the City Controller’s Office; however, we are aware of media reports related to his interest in our tech distribution plan. Preparing and planning a safe and effective reopening of schools is our number one priority.”
The Pittsburgh Public Schools Tackles the Digital Divide in the Era of COVID-19 report tracks the District’s timeline for distribution during the 2019-2020 school year, including the District inventory of laptops collected and reimaged and iPads collected per school, and reset for distribution. The report additionally recaps the 2019-2020 distribution schedule.
“We want to assure the public that all devices have been ordered to meet our goal of becoming a 1:1 school district. Even so, an international tech supply shortage has PPS, like districts across the country, waiting for back-ordered device purchases. We will continue to prioritize the distribution of devices to students who need until the purchased devices are delivered to fulfill the 1:1 need.”
The full Pittsburgh Public Schools Tackles the Digital Divide in the Era of COVID-19 report is available on the District’s website at www.pghschools.org/ALLIN. The District will provide an additional update on device distribution as part of its All-In to Reopen Our Schools report August 4.
Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today reminded Pennsylvanians that help is available and encouraged for anyone affected financially by the COVID-19 public-health crisis by taking advantage of rent and mortgage assistance programs available to help people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of losing their housing.
“The COVID-19 emergency and economic insecurity have caused many people to lose income or employment altogether and those individuals may now be struggling to make their monthly rent or mortgage payments,” DHS Sec. Miller said. “Anyone who is worried about losing their housing should know that assistance is available and should not hesitate to reach out for help. Access to safe and secure housing is essential, especially now. We want to be sure that any Pennsylvanian who is struggling to pay rent or utilities has the help that they need and knows that they are not alone during this time.”
A U.S. Census Bureau survey foundOpens In A New Window that since mid-April, the percentage of Pennsylvania adults who consider themselves housing insecure has risen by 2.4 percent. The most recent survey – which defines housing insecurity as missing last month’s rent or mortgage payment or having slight or no confidence that a household can pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time – found that nearly 24 percent of Pennsylvanians, or 1.6 million people, are living with housing insecurity.
DHS has released $10 million in CARES Act funding to counties’ Homeless Assistance Programs (HAP) to aid in serving the increased needs of Pennsylvania citizens at risk of homelessness. HAP helps to ensure that homelessness can be avoided by offering rental assistance, emergency shelter, supportive housing services, and case management services to individuals and families. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, HAP provided these services to more than 28,000 individuals and families experiencing or at risk for homelessness.
Questions on eligibility and requests for help can be made by contacting a county HAP here. HAP services vary in each county, and counties can set their eligibility limits as they choose within 100 to 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines. HAP benefit limits are set at $1,500 maximum for a family with one or more children, and $1,000 for a single person.
More information on HAP can be found here. Other homelessness assistance programs can be found at the National Alliance to End HomelessnessOpens In A New Window, the National Coalition for the HomelessOpens In A New Window, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban DevelopmentOpens In A New Window.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) is also offering housing-related financial assistance. Applications are available at www.PHFA.org for both rental and mortgage assistance (look for the red CARES banner). All 67 counties have local organizations helping PHFA by processing the rent relief applications. PHFA will process the mortgage relief applications.
Renters who qualify may receive assistance equal to 100 percent of their monthly rent up to $750 a month for a maximum of six months of assistance for the time period between March 1 and November 30, 2020. For renters to be eligible for financial assistance, they will need to document at least a 30 percent reduction in annual income since March 1 related to COVID-19, or they must have become unemployed after March 1.
The assistance available for homeowners can be up to $1,000 a month for a maximum period of six months. The time period eligible for assistance is for mortgage payments owed from March 2020 through December 2020. Homeowners who became unemployed after March 1 or who suffered at least a 30 percent reduction in annual income due to reduced work hours and wages related to COVID-19 may be eligible for financial assistance to help with missed mortgage payments.
For more information on public assistance programs available through DHS, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.
In mid-April, Governor Tom Wolf and Lt. Governor John Fetterman announced the creation of a COVID-19 Response Task Force for Health Disparity to help communicate issues about how the pandemic is affecting the state’s minority and marginalized populations.
“About a month after the first cases of COVID-19 were identified in Pennsylvania, I asked Lt. Gov. Fetterman to chair a new task force that would identify any differences in health outcomes for different populations,” Gov. Wolf said. “And to make recommendations to ensure every Pennsylvanian, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background, has equal opportunity to survive and thrive during this pandemic and beyond.”
After months of weekly meetings and outreach from task force members to marginalized community members, the task force completed its report and presented it to the governor earlier this week. Today, the governor and lieutenant governor highlighted the recommendations in the report at an event at the York County YMCA, joined by Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.
The report includes six recommendations focused on these policy topics related to health disparity, ranked in order of urgency: housing, criminal justice, food insecurity, health disparity, education and economic opportunities. According to the report, each area either directly or indirectly affects the health of Pennsylvanians and must be addressed to appropriately remove the disparities that have existed for generations and have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“I just want to thank this diverse Task Force and group of stakeholders who gave such important insight towards the creation of this report”, said Lt. Governor John Fetterman. “With 57 specific policy recommendations, I believe that this report will be beneficial in policy development to help end the health disparities in our marginalized communities, which have been so vastly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Dr. Levine offered insight into the work of the Department of Health’s Health Equity Response Team and how that work contributes to her agency’s overall success battling the pandemic and health inequities that exist beyond COVID.
“Health disparities and health equity have been a focus of the Wolf Administration and the Department of Health long before COVID-19 swept through our country,” Dr. Levine said. “Our actions as a community can lessen the impact COVID-19 has on our fellow Pennsylvanians most at risk. You can answer the call to stop the spread when you wear a mask. You can answer the call to stop the spread when you avoid large public gatherings. You can answer the call to stop the spread when you use hand sanitizer and wash your hands frequently.”
The report is one step in many toward fair, equitable and accessible treatment of all Pennsylvanians. Gov. Wolf’s five commissions played a key role on the task force and were in daily communication with those disproportionately impacted by COVID, especially Black and Latino communities.
The work of the task force will help inform an internal steering committee on dismantling racism that Gov. Wolf established recently.
“The steering committee is made up of key cabinet members working together with our policy leaders to build a short- and long-term policy agenda to dismantle the systemic racism and resulting inequities that exist around us, inequities that have been exacerbated by this pandemic,” Gov. Wolf said. “My goal is to be intentional in all aspects of commonwealth work to maintain a commitment to a diverse, culturally responsive workforce.
“I’m grateful to the members of the task force for their work. It is our intention to use the information gathered in this report as the basis for lasting change.”
Source: PA Gov.
Governor Tom Wolf and Lt. Governor John Fetterman
“Math Problem: High School student with Corona rides the bus, capacity 60; enters gym class with 40; goes to seven classes with 24 in each class; eats lunch with 200, while passing between classes multiple times. How many students will be sent home for 14 days because of exposure?” (Attributed to a Retired School Teacher)
For the past three dangerous years, we have witnessed POTUS 45 and his crew do their best to turn the American democracy into an Idiocracy --a dumbed down alternative universe based on lies and ignorance that place American citizens at risk! Their latest reckless disregard for the truth as well as people’s lives consists of their idiotic statements and actions regarding our children, teachers, and staff returning to school in a few weeks. Some of their recent asinine statements are as follows:
· “We know that children get the virus at a far lower rate than any other part of the population, …And again, there is nothing in the data that would suggest that kids being back in school is dangerous to them.” (Betsy DeVos, reported by the Washington Times, July 12, 2020)
· “We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools, to get them open, and it’s very important, … young people do extraordinarily well with the disease caused by the virus.” (POTUS 45).
“The risk is extremely low that anything will happen to them” (school age children) if they don’t have underlying conditions.” (Morgan Griffith, Republican from Virginia). He also said the risk would also be low for school staff under the age of 60.” (Politico, July 9, 2020)
Obviously, as with nations around the world, America must come to grips with one of its most difficult decisions in centuries, i.e., when and under what conditions to have children go back to school. As reported by Laurel Chor (NPR July 10, 2020), “Hong Kong offers a cautionary tale of how difficult these decisions can be. Schoolchildren were sent home at the end of January; …When Hong Kong appeared to be winning its war against COVID-19, schools started to reopen. That was the end of May. …But the city is now fighting a third wave of infections, and the education bureau announced that the school year would end on Friday…”
In Israel, there was a major surge in new COVID-19 cases when the schools opened prematurely. From a low of 50 new cases per day, the country went to 1,500 per day. As reported by the Wall Street Journal(July 15, 2020), “The surge followed outbreaks in schools that by Monday had infected at least 1,335 students and 691 staff since the schools reopened in early May, according to the education ministry.” Belatedly, one Israel principal stated, “It’s pretty clear that in coronavirus conditions, you cannot continue t teach in full classrooms without a massive outbreak.”
With ignorance determined to be bliss, POTUS 45 repeatedly refuses to learn from the experiences of others. Instead, in a scenario reminiscent of the 1978 Jonestown mass murder-suicide led by cult leader Jim Jones in Guyana where 900 died, POTUS 45 arrogantly uses the full weight of the presidency to force schools to reopen sooner than they should. Should he succeed, it could result in America’s largest mass murder, surpassing Jonestown. He does so with no regard for the widespread concerns repeatedly expressed in, for example, a popular Facebook post, e.g.,
· If a teacher tests positive for COVID-19 are they required to quarantine for 2-3 weeks? Is their sick leave covered, paid?
· If that teacher has 5 classes a day with 30 students each, do all 150 of those students need to then stay home and quarantine for 14 days?
· Do all 150 of those students now have to get tested? Who pays for those tests? Are they happening at school? How are the parents being notified? Does anyone in each of those kids’ families need to get tested? Who pays for that?
· Where is the district going to find a substitute teacher who will work in a classroom full of exposed, possibly infected students for substitute pay?
· What if a student in our kid’s class tests positive? What if your kid tests positive? Does every other student and teacher they have been around quarantine?
· What is the stress going to do to our teachers? How does it affect their health and well-being? How does it affect their ability to teach?
The foregoing questions are the mere tip of the iceberg when it comes to the matters that must be addressed before putting children, teachers, school staff, and, in turn, parents and other family members at risk of the deadly virus. Anya Kamenetz (June 9, 2020) succinctly stated, “What's at stake: An unknown number of lives, the futures of tens of millions of children, the livelihoods of their caregivers, the working conditions of millions of educators, and people's trust in a fundamental American institution.” Yet, the leaders of the Idiocracy are as devoid of valid and reliable plans as they were when it came time to handle the Covoid-19 pandemic. Fortunately, more than two-thirds of people polled no longer trust what POTUS 45 says about the virus and they, along with school personnel, will protect the lives of our children.
No matter who demands what about schools reopening, classrooms will be relatively empty if the current virus surge continues. Parents and teachers will resist putting their children in deadly situations. Those needing to work and requiring child care will remain at home –especially given that  underpaid yet essential childcare workers will refuse to put themselves as well as children in danger; and  it is estimated that 50% of childcare facilities will soon go out of business.
Meanwhile, as we face the distinct probability that schools will not open in full force, there remains another issue begging to be addressed. Privileged parents will be able to assist their children with on-line learning and, if necessary, home-school their children whereas those less fortunate won’t be able to do so and, in turn, the achievement gap will widen. Therefore, now is also the time to do things such as make educational technology available to those families on the downside of the digital divide. Higher education scholars should turn their attention to what must be done to prevent all children from losing a year or more in terms of their educational development.
Without delay, steps should be taken to provide essential educational workers, at all levels, with the salaries they deserve for serving simultaneously as educators as well as social service providers. Similarly, now is the time to address the schools’ infrastructure needs, everything from proper ventilation and classroom spacing to essential educational supplies. All parents should study carefully the science-based implementation plans for their respective school districts. Finally, in November, 2020, right-minded citizens must take steps to end the current Idiocracy.
Jack L. Daniel
Co-Founder, Freed Panther Society
Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media
Author, Negotiating a Historically White University While Black
July 19, 2020
1Hood Media is a collective of socially conscious Hip Hop artists and activists, who believe that art is the best way to challenge inequity, raise awareness and unify humanity. We are young creatives who work in and with our community, telling our own stories, while partnering with those of like mind and vision.
It is CEA’s aim and commitment to work with individuals and families to build, foster and empower the African-American community through capitalization of indigenous support, community stakeholders, organized networks, and community education.
The City of Pittsburgh, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Management Agency are working in consultation with the Allegheny County Health Department, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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Given my more than 50 years of experience in higher education, it seemed highly unreasonable for college administrators to expect their students  to resume residential life;  enroll in a mix of in-person and virtual classes; and  refrain from activities that would create spikes in Coronavirus infections. An abundance of evidence suggested that succeeding in doing so was as improbable as winning the daily state lottery, that much sooner than later schools would be forced to end in-person classes and/or close residence halls.
College students represent the “best and brightest” among us as evidenced by standardized test scores, high school grades, and other measures of academic achievement. However, parents as well as college administrators know how “young and dumb” college students can be as evidenced by Brigham Young students recently using the “young and dumb” phrase to describe their defiance of their campus’ Coronavirus guidelines.
Across the nation, the “best and brightest” have demonstrated just how “young and dumb” they can be with the results being alarming rises in Coronaviruses cases. In just a few days after opening, for example, Towson State University closed its residence halls. At the University of Pittsburgh, Dean Kenyon Bonner declared several students persona non grata as well as suspended 8 Greek life organizations for inappropriate behaviors. College students “gone wild” --drinking heavily and ignoring Coronavirus safety guidelines-- contributed to infection spikes on campuses such as the universities of Alabama, Baylor, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Notre Dame, SUNY Albany, and CAL POLY. As of September 1, 2020, the University of Alabama had 1,201 cases, followed by North Carolina at Chapel Hill with 1,025.
There are multiple college student characteristics that presaged the fact that many college students would not adhere to Coronavirus safety guidelines, that they would in fact engage in risky behaviors because they had done so prior to the Coronavirus pandemic. For example, college administrators know that “The beginning of the school year can be one of the most dangerous times for female college students. It marks the start of the "red zone" – from the first day on campus until Thanksgiving break – when the risk of sexual assault is said to be highest. More than 50% of college sexual assaults take place between August and November, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which advocates nationally against sexual violence…” (See Alia E. Dastagir, August 26, 2019, USA Today).
College administrators also know that large, late-night gatherings of college students engaged in heavy drinking and raucous behavior are nothing new. More than a decade ago when I became a Dean of Student Affairs, I scheduled a late Thursday afternoon meeting with student leaders. A student leader came to me and said, “No one is going to be there. Everyone starts drinking Thursday afternoon and parties continue through Saturday night.”
Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, college officials knew that their “bright young adults” arrived on campus with a vast array of problems for which they needed considerable psychological counselling. A July 11, 2020 American Psychological Association report indicated, “Demand for mental health services at college counseling centers in the United States has been on the rise for years. In 2019, nearly 90% of counseling center directors reported an increase in students seeking services... data from more than 200,000 college students at 163 institutions show there’s been a steady uptick in threats to self—including suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and non-suicidal self-injury—as well as depression, anxiety, social anxiety, and traumatic experiences…”
Along with the Coronavirus and systemic White racism pandemics, there has been a long-term “silent pandemic” related to young people and sexually transmitted diseases. As Jeannie Kenkare wrote on September 26, 2017, “According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 50 percent of the 20 million new STDs diagnosed each year are among young people between the ages of 15–24 years. A large percentage of these cases occur among college students, who often underestimate the risks of having unprotected sex…” On the contrary, “hookups,” i.e., casual “meaningless” sex is often normative.
To their credit, college administrators promulgated an array of very specific student and faculty guidelines per the reopening of their campuses. It was indeed a very high if not unreasonable expectation, however, that students would abide by the guidelines. Why, for example, would campus administrators expect students to return to campus after, for months, being under the close supervision of parents/guardians; having been controlled by local and state guidelines per things such as social distancing and wearing masks; and with bars and restaurants having been closed, that significant numbers of their students would not exercise restraint when they returned to campus? It was no more reasonable than expecting college students not to riot and destroy property after a major sports victory without having implemented very strict controls.
In short, given who the vast majority of students happen to be on historically White campuses where most highly privileged college students are enrolled, it was truly a longshot gamble to reopen residence halls and schedule a significant number of in-person classes. Those higher education administrators who believe otherwise should step forward and explain themselves. Meanwhile, as they shutter residence halls and switch to virtual classes, in addition to room and board restitutions, they should reimburse all payments related to the qualities of education they assert are derived from residential college experiences, e.g., face-to-face interactions with diverse students; living-learning experiences; problem solving in small groups; face-to-face dialogue with instructors; many of the activities associated with student activity fees; meals in dining halls; etc.
Jack L. Daniel
Co-founder, Freed Panther Society
Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media
Author, Negotiating a Historically White University While Black
September 2, 2020
The Department of Education today reminded school districts that the federal court ruling issued earlier this week is not a blanket end to the protection and mitigation orders that protect people from the deadly virus of COVID-19 and that we must all stay the course to protect ourselves, our families, and communities. The full letter follows:
“You are likely aware that on Monday a federal court in the Western District of Pennsylvania issued a decision striking down some of the commonwealth’s COVID-related orders. The ruling is limited to the business closure order and the stay at home orders issued in March, which were later suspended, as well as the 25-person indoor and 250-person outdoor gathering limitations.
“The actions taken by the Wolf Administration were mirrored by governors across the country and saved and continue to save lives. As such, the Wolf Administration has applied for a stay of the order and will appeal this decision. Nevertheless, we understand that you may be wondering how this development might impact your operations in the intervening time until the litigation comes to a resolution.
“The ruling was not a blanket end to the mitigation orders put in place to protect residents of the commonwealth from the deadly COVID-19 virus and we must all stay the course to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities. Indeed, all other orders of the governor and Secretary of Health remain in effect, including the order on order on face coverings.
“School entities remain responsible for enforcing the face covering order and requiring social distancing at school and at all school events, including school sporting events. The administration encourages schools to voluntarily enforce the 25- person indoor and 250-person outdoor gathering limitation while all of us wait for the court to rule on the stay request.
“We trust that school leaders understand the critical importance of maintaining the health and safety of our school communities, and further trust that they will continue to maintain strong social distancing and face covering policies necessary to contain and mitigate this virus.”
The virus that causes COVID-19 is easily transmitted, especially in group settings, and it is essential that the spread of the virus be slowed to safeguard public health and safety.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education is committed to offering guidance and resources to support and help protect school communities during this pandemic. Access additional resources for school communities during COVID-19.
Source: PA GOV
Homewood is home to many of Pittsburgh’s most admired small businesses, who for decades have lined the neighborhood’s main streets -- from Salik’s Hardware, to Wade’s Barber Shop, or Dana’s Bakery, the neighborhood is home to over 100 independently owned businesses.
Since launching in 2014, The Homewood-Brushton Business Association (HBBA), whose goal is to foster the development and growth of the Homewood-Brushton Business Community, has been dedicated to marketing their neighborhood businesses, hosting events and small business workshops, connecting entrepreneurs with resources, and building a strong network of small business owners within the community.
COVID-19 has left Pittsburgh’s small business owners and neighborhood business district organizations wondering how to overcome the economic impact of small business closures and slowdowns after many years, or even decades, of efforts were made to reinvest and build their local commercial corridors. Since first feeling the impact of COVID-19 as a nation, HBBA was at the forefront of creating solutions to best serve their small business community. With the understanding that Homewood small business would be hit hard by the economic consequences of Pennsylvania’s mandated stay-at-home order, HBBA worked to connect with local leaders and agencies to compile and distribute resources.
HBBA was awarded $10,000 by The POISE Foundation to support the HBBA COVID-19 4-key Priorities Plan (Wellness, Continuity, Outreach and Needs Assessment). As an outreach objective, HBBA has created, assembled, and is distributing “Back to Business” boxes to dozens of businesses. The kits contain masks, hand sanitizer, bleach, hand soap, paper towels, gloves, social distancing floor decals and arrows, CDC guidelines and tips for safety, neighborhood updates and upcoming events hosted by the organization.
HBBA, an all-volunteer board of neighborhood small businesses and stakeholders, purchased the supplies, packed the boxes, and has distributed 31 “Back to Business” kits to Homewood businesses with another round to come. The hope that the kits could both ignite engagement and support safe reopening.
With the development of commercial retail facing another uphill battle, the work of the HBBA is more important than ever. The group hopes to continue its efforts to promote the purchase of gift cards, take-out, and online shopping through their up-to-date website: http://homewoodbiz.org/giftcards/ and continue to raise funds to help support Homewood-based businesses in small ways, and every day.
Brittee Clay, owner of Jones Printing and President of HBBA notes: “As long as there is life, there is a potential; and as long as there is a potential, there will be a success! You will sprout again when cut down! You will rise again even when you fall!”, and that’s just what businesses in Homewood will do.
If you are interested in supporting the ongoing efforts of HBBA, PayPal donations can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow our upcoming events, please stay tuned to https://www.facebook.com/hbbapa. For more information, check out our website here http://homewoodbiz.org/.
Harrisburg, PA - As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine today implored Pennsylvanians to take the next three weeks and stand united against the virus by adhering to existing mitigation orders and stricter efforts announced today.
“Today I am announcing additional, temporary COVID-19 protective mitigation measures in the commonwealth,” said Gov. Wolf. “With these measures in place, we hope to accomplish three goals: First, stop the devastating spread of COVID-19 in the commonwealth. Second, keep our hospitals and health care workers from becoming overwhelmed. And third, help Pennsylvanians get through the holiday season – and closer to a widely available vaccine – as safely as possible. This is a bridge to a better future in Pennsylvania.”
The new, limited-time mitigation orders take effect at 12:01 a.m. on December 12, and remain in effect until 8 a.m. on January 4, 2021.
“Each of the last two days we have reported the highest number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic,” Dr. Rachel Levine said. “In the past week, we have reported close to 1,100 new deaths from COVID-19 across Pennsylvania. The virus continues to strain our health care systems and the dramatic rise in cases among all age groups, including among school-age children, is alarming. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been more than 37,500 cases among children age 5 to 18, yet 9,500 of those cases occurred in the past two weeks.”
The Order provisions outlined here are accompanied by supportive data used in part to make these decisions. The data provides a sampling of research that supports why limiting gatherings, reducing occupancy, and temporarily suspending some activities, among other efforts, are considered vital to stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Two recent studies, one by Yale University and one by Stanford University, substantiate more than one of these mitigation efforts. Links to the full studies and additional data and research can be found on the Department of Health’s data page, hereOpens In A New Window.
Limited-Time Mitigation efforts announced today include:
In-Person Dining and Alcohol Sales
Multiple studies have found indoor dining to drive case increases and fatalities. A studyOpens In A New Window by JP Morgan analyzed credit card spending of more than 30 million Chase cardholders and Johns Hopkins University’s case tracker and found that higher restaurant spending in a state predicted a rise in new infections there three weeks later. Additionally, research from Stanford UniversityOpens In A New Window found that restaurants accounted for a significant amount of new infections while research from Yale UniversityOpens In A New Window found that closing restaurants reduced fatality rates.
Indoor Gatherings and Events
A new studyOpens In A New Window from Stanford University and published in the journal, nature, used cellphone data collected from 10 U.S. cities from March to May to demonstrate that restaurants, gyms, cafes, churches and other crowded indoor venues accounted for some 8 in 10 new infections in the early months of the U.S. coronavirus epidemic.
Outdoor Gatherings and Events
According to a Yale University studyOpens In A New Window, limiting outdoor gatherings was among consistent policies found to reduce fatality rates.
The CDCOpens In A New Window states that medium-sized outdoor gatherings carry a higher risk of COVID-19 spread, even with social distancing. CDC notes that the more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and COVID-19 spreading, and that the higher the level of community transmission in the area that the gathering is being held, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spreading during a gathering.
Capacity Limits for Businesses
The same Stanford University studyOpens In A New Window that collected cellphone data also noted that limiting indoor capacity can reduce COVID-19 transmissions.
Gyms and Fitness Facilities
According to a Yale University studyOpens In A New Window, closing businesses like gyms was among consistent policies found to reduce fatality rates.
The CDC puts movie theaters and other indoor settings on its list of higher-risk activitiesOpens In A New Windowfor contracting COVID-19.
In-Person Extracurricular School Activities
Our top priority is stopping the spread of this virus so students and teachers can return to their classrooms as soon as possible. DataOpens In A New Window from the Department of Health notes that one-quarter of the cases of COVID among school-age children have occurred within the past two weeks, increasing the need to keep children safe outside of school so that they can return to classrooms.
K-12 School Sports and Youth Sports
The Pennsylvania Principals Association is recommending a delay to the start of the winter sports season. The surge in casesOpens In A New Window among school-age children increases the risk that asymptomatic participants will spread the virus at a game or practice, in the locker room, while traveling to and from events, or at team meals, parties or other gatherings.
Professional and Collegiate Sports
The CDC warnsOpens In A New Window large gatherings create a high risk of COVID-19 spreading.
“We know that COVID-19 thrives in places where people gather together,” Gov. Wolf said. “Therefore, these mitigation measures target high-risk environments and activities and aim to reduce the spread of this devastating virus.”
According to Yale University research,Opens In A New Window mitigation measures such as mandatory mask requirements, and gym and restaurant closures are policies that most consistently predict lower four- to six-week-ahead fatality growth.
“The work we do now to slow the spread of COVID-19 is not only crucial to keeping our fellow Pennsylvanians safe and healthy,” Gov. Wolf said. “It will help all of us get back to normal, and back to all of the things we’ve missed, faster. And it means more Pennsylvanians will be alive to celebrate that brighter future. This year, we show our love for our families and friends by celebrating safely and protecting one another.”
Source: PA GOV
The governor released the following statement:
“During a routine test yesterday, I tested positive for COVID-19. I have no symptoms and am feeling well. I am following CDC and Department of Health guidelines. Frances has been tested and, as we await the result, is quarantining at home with me.
“I am continuing to serve the commonwealth and performing all of my duties remotely, as many are doing during the pandemic.
“As this virus rages, my positive test is a reminder that no one is immune from COVID, that following all precautions as I have done is not a guarantee, but it is what we know to be vital to stopping the spread of the disease and so I ask all Pennsylvanians to wear a mask, stay home as much as possible, socially distance yourself from those not in your household, and, most of all, take care of each other and stay safe.”