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.
Allegheny County is experiencing a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations which, left
unchecked, poses a risk to our community and healthcare system. Additional intervention is warranted
to moderate case growth and preserve hospital capacity. It is more important than ever to follow guidance from local, state, and federal officials on how to stop the spread of the virus. Additionally, taking the steps listed below is critical to preventing the spread of the virus, protecting the lives of residents and preserving the county’s acute-care-hospital- and other healthcare-systems-capacity.
As a result, the Director of the Health Department has issued the following COVID-19 advisory: Beginning immediately, Allegheny County residents are asked to stay at home to stop social
gatherings to stem the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the county. Residents
are advised to only leave home to go to work or school, for essential needs such as seeking
medical care, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, getting food, or the like.
Residents must always wear a face mask and practice physical distancing by staying at least six
feet away from others in accordance with the November 17 state masking order:
Additionally, residents are strongly encouraged to:
a. Not have guests in their homes unless they are essential workers (e.g., home healthcare providers,
childcare workers or educators).
b. Cancel traditional Thanksgiving celebrations and celebrate virtually with non-household members.
c. Avoid unnecessary travel.
d. Limit social event gatherings.
• Social event gatherings mean any pair or group of individuals who reside in different households
who are in close proximity of one another for more than several minutes who come together for
non-business-related activities. Social event gatherings include, but are not limited to,
celebrations, parties, dinners, barbeques, and the like.
• Except as described below, there should be no indoor gatherings of more than 10 persons that includes individuals from more than one household in a residence or other private indoor location, other than to provide necessary care for a family member or as necessary due to emergency circumstances.
• Except as otherwise described below, there should be no outdoor social gatherings of more than 20 persons including people from more than one household held outside of private residences (e.g. yards), parks, or recreational spaces or event spaces.
• These limits do not supersede industries that have specified capacity guidelines in place from the Commonwealth; however, a meeting or social event that is outside of normal operations should be within the 10 (indoor) or 20 (outdoor) person limit.
This advisory shall remain in place for 30 days or until such time as the Health Director determines a change to the guidance is appropriate. All restrictions put in place by the Commonwealth and the PA Department of Health remain in effect.
Source: Allegheny County Health Department
Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen says to follow coronavirus mitigation guidelines.
People living in poor communities often lack access to health care services, a problem that becomes more pronounced during a pandemic. But a team at Duquesne University is working to change that.
The university's Center for Integrative Health (CIH) has been working with federally qualified health centers to help provide COVID-19 testing to underserved areas throughout the summer, including at the Northside Christian Health Center and East Liberty Family Health Care Center. In addition to continued coronavirus testing, the group is now arranging flu immunization clinics and chronic disease prevention management programs for the area's most vulnerable populations for the fall.
"Because of the pandemic, some individuals are forgoing needed health care, which can lead to serious complications down the road," said Dr. Jennifer Elliott, director of the CIH and associate professor of pharmacy practice at Duquesne. "Many people in these communities face multiple barriers to health care; we are committed to meeting residents where they are and connecting them to needed services."
Duquesne has teamed with the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP) and Live Well Allegheny to offer free chronic disease screenings for diabetes, cardiovascular risk and smoking. The team is also providing nationally recognized disease management programs at all housing authority locations, including 10 high rise buildings and five family communities.
"We are proud to work with Duquesne on this important initiative," said Michelle Sandidge, chief community affairs officer for HACP. "These programs are more than just wellness checks. Residents get out and see their neighbors and enjoy some social interaction, which is so important given the isolation caused by COVID-19. The impact is far-reaching for our communities."
Flu immunization clinics have been arranged at all HACP sites and in the Woodland Hills and Propel school districts through October. The team has also implemented virtual asthma screenings and is continuing the Duquesne Asthma Clinic in several school districts. These latest efforts further Duquesne's legacy in promoting health care equity and opportunity throughout the region. In the past ten years alone, the university has provided cholesterol and blood pressure screenings to more than 20,000 residents in underserved areas.
Source: Duquesne University
Duquesne students take a resident's blood pressure at the Housing Authority's Bidwell complex.
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.
Responding to COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.
All Pennsylvanians have an important role to play in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives. Here are resources to help individuals, families, and businesses do their part.
The need for social isolation during the COVID-19 crisis makes it much harder for vulnerable communities to reach food assistance. 412 Food Rescue is working with our network of nonprofit partners to gradually ramp up our Home Delivery Program.
To help aid individuals in our most vulnerable communities, Leroy Ball, President & CEO, Koppers, Pittsburgh corporations, organizations launch a fund drive to purchase and distribute essential goods...
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/.