Briefing for February 16-19, 2021 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for February 16-19, 2021 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

We are struck that one of the few certainties about the coronavirus outbreak is that low-income communities and workers in low-income, service sector occupations will be disproportionately impacted — likely in devastating fashion.

One step in combatting this will be to share information about what is happening and what can be done. That’s why we are offering a daily news service summarizing relevant stories, which you can read below.

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Briefing for February 19, 2021

How policymakers can make sure the pandemic doesn’t widen the racial wealth gap: Kilolo Kijakazi, Margaret Simms, Signe-Mary McKernan and Cary Lou of the Urban Institute write that a mix of short-term aid and long-term structural change must be balanced for an equitable recovery from the pandemic’s economic fallout. “By enacting short-term solutions, policymakers can help ensure the racial wealth gap does not widen further as we fight the pandemic and look toward recovery and rebuilding. Longer-term solutions would set the country on a path of greater equity and inclusion and take steps toward closing the wealth gap, creating a healthier economy and more prosperous future for all Americans.” 

The COVID relief bill could have massive healthcare implications: Dylan Scott writes for Vox: “The COVID-19 relief package proposed by President Joe Biden and being considered by Democrats in Congress could expand health care coverage to millions of people, the most significant step in the last 10 years toward patching up some of the holes in the Affordable Care Act. The ACA led to a historically low uninsured rate in the US — 8.6% in 2016 — but the number of uninsured Americans started ticking up again during the Trump administration, rising to 9.2% by 2019. Then millions of people lost their insurance (along with their jobs) during the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 relief plan is trying to move the rate back in the other direction. The most effective provision would be a two-year expansion of the ACA’s premium subsidies, which Americans can use to purchase private health insurance on the marketplaces the law established. The House version of the COVID-19 relief bill would increase the size of the subsidy for those already eligible for assistance (people making between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level). It would also extend subsidies for people earning more than 400% of the poverty level, ensuring that nobody would pay more than 8.5% of their income for health coverage. This would provide help to one of the populations left out of the ACA: the roughly 2.6 million people who make too much money to qualify for subsidies and are currently uninsured. Based on prior estimates of such a proposal, somewhere between 4 million and 5 million people would be expected to gain coverage as a result of expanding the subsidies. The Biden administration has already opened ACA enrollment to everybody until May 15, which would give people an immediate opening to take advantage of the new benefits. 

Harris sees ‘emergency’ in number of women leaving the workforce: Vice President Kamala Harris said on Thursday that the 2.5 million women who have left the work force since the beginning of the pandemic constituted a “national emergency” that could be addressed by the Biden administration’s coronavirus relief plan. That number, according to Labor Department data, compares with 1.8 million men who have left the work force. For many women, the demands of child care, coupled with layoffs and furloughs in an economy hit hard by the pandemic, have forced them out of the labor market. “Our economy cannot fully recover unless women can participate fully,” Ms. Harris said on a video call with several women’s advocacy groups and lawmakers, essentially reiterating the argument she made in a Washington Post op-ed published last week. 

The struggle to vaccinate the homeless: People experiencing homelessness are especially vulnerable to disease and often live in close quarters. Reaching them for COVID-19 vaccination is crucial, public health officials say, yet also presents some unique challenges. Addresses and phone numbers change constantly. Few of the people affected have reliable Internet access. Also, the pandemic put a halt to many mobile clinics and other outreach efforts to homeless encampments; in the meantime, patients scattered or avoided the clinic for fear of infection. “If they’re experiencing homelessness, all bets are off,” Kevin Lindamood, CEO of Health Care for the Homeless in Baltimore, a community health clinic that treats 10,000 patients a year and recently started patient vaccinations, told NPR. “It’s incredibly hard to reach people even in non-COVID times.” 

Some retirement communities recruit new residents with promises of vaccine: As the coronavirus death toll soars and demand for the COVID-19 vaccines dwarfs supply, an army of hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and long-term care facilities has been tasked with getting shots into arms. Some are also using that role to attract new business — the latest reminder that health care, even amid a global pandemic, is a commercial endeavor where some see opportunities to be seized. “Most private sector companies distributing vaccines are motivated by the public health imperative. At some point, their DNA also kicks in,” said Roberta Clarke, associate professor emeritus of marketing at Boston University. 

Caregivers are missing from the long-term COVID recovery conversation: Writing for STAT, Jennifer Olsen, the chief executive officer of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, says those taking care of COVID patients struggling with long-term symptoms could be a valuable resources for science and medical researchers. “In addition to studying long-haulers, researchers should be studying their caregivers. Such work would have the potential for a triple impact. Not only would questioning caregivers yield more accurate information about long-haulers, it also could create greater understanding about the disease itself by allowing researchers to compare the sequelae of long-haulers side by side with those of their caregivers, who most likely were also exposed to the coronavirus but had a different experience of the disease. A third far-reaching impact of including caregivers in COVID-19 research is what will be learned about caregivers themselves, whose experiences are largely misunderstood.” 

Digital divide reaches into worship life too: For places of worship, COVID-19 has upended traditions and emptied sacred spaces. About 45% of Americans attend religious services regularly, most of them in Christian churches — or they did, until last spring. Then shutdowns and stay-at-home orders sent congregations scrambling to move their services online, similar to schools and workplaces. Some larger churches found themselves well prepared, with the resources and technical savvy to keep attendance and alms steady throughout the year. Other churches found themselves in trouble, struggling to reach worshippers virtually while facing budget cuts, layoffs, and the threat of bankruptcy or even permanent closure. Nearly one year into the pandemic, its effects on religious life, like other aspects of American society, appears unevenly distributed, with large, successful churches continuing to do well and struggling churches falling further behind.

Briefing for February 18, 2021

Millions of jobs aren’t coming back, even after the pandemic ends: Millions of jobs that have been shortchanged or wiped out entirely by the coronavirus pandemic are unlikely to come back, economists warn, setting up a massive need for career changes and retraining in the United States. The coronavirus pandemic has triggered permanent shifts in how and where people work. Businesses are planning for a future where more people are working from home, traveling less for business, or replacing workers with robots. All of these modifications mean many workers will not be able to do the same job they did before the pandemic, even after much of the U.S. population gets vaccinated against the virus. Microsoft founder-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates raised eyebrows in November when he predicted that half of business travel and 30% of “days in the office” would go away forever. That forecast no longer seems far-fetched. In a report coming out later this week that was previewed to The Washington Post, the McKinsey Global Institute says that 20% of business travel won’t come back and about 20% of workers could end up working from home indefinitely. These shifts mean fewer jobs at hotels, restaurants and downtown shops, in addition to ongoing automation of office support roles and some factory jobs. 

How philanthropy can support equitable vaccine distribution: Four guidelines from Kathleen Kelly Janus, senior advisor on social innovation to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), for how philanthropy “…can effectively partner with governments now to support equitable vaccination distribution and ensure that more individuals are vaccinated against COVID-19.” 

  • Invest in trusted messengers 
  • Support innovative delivery of vaccines 
  • Support job training programs for community health workers 
  • Invest in coordination 

Why Biden has the chance to cut deals with red state Medicaid holdouts: From Kaiser Health News: “President Joe Biden has an unexpected opening to cut deals with red states to expand Medicaid, raising the prospect that the new administration could extend health protections to millions of uninsured Americans and reach a goal that has eluded Democrats for a decade. The opportunity emerges as the COVID-19 pandemic saps state budgets and strains safety nets. That may help break the Medicaid deadlock in some of the 12 states that have rejected federal funding made available by the Affordable Care Act, health officials, patient advocates and political observers say.” 

How a Black bioethicist makes the case for vaccination to people of color: Keisha Ray, a bioethicist and professor at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, has become an unofficial ambassador during the pandemic, trying to convince people of color to get vaccinated against COVID-19. She tells Vox she believes all Americans have a moral obligation to be vaccinated: “When our actions can have devastating consequences for people globally, near and far from us, then the moral obligation to protect everyone is something we have to take very seriously. And it’s a mutual obligation. Things like vaccines can only work if we all take this obligation to each other seriously.” 

Five ways the Biden administration can help rural America recover: The full force of the coronavirus pandemic was slow to come to rural America, but its impact has been devastating in recent months. Three leading experts on rural trends — Ann Eisenberg, Associate Professor of Law, University of South Carolina; Jessica A. Shoemaker, Professor of Law, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; and Lisa R. Pruitt, Martin Luther King, Jr., Professor of Law, University of California, Davis — recently joined together to write an article for The Conversation about policies the Biden administration can use to help rural Americans recover. They spoke with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity about their recommendations. 

Prominent scientists call on CDC to better protect workers from COVID: A prominent group of academics is pressing the Biden administration to move faster and take stronger action to protect high-risk workers from airborne exposure to the coronavirus, urging enforceable standards to help safeguard risky workplaces including health care facilities, food processing plants and prisons. The researchers say that even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged the virus can spread through tiny airborne particles, it needs to take “strong immediate” action to update its guidance to reduce the risk. “This is the opportunity now,” said David Michaels, a professor at George Washington University and former director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Changes to help drive down the spread of the virus could include broader use of N95 masks in workplaces as well as better ventilation, according to a letter sent Monday to the CDC. 

Vaccine rollout is too slow for California’s essential workers: Millions of front-line workers in California are falling through the cracks of an undersupplied COVID-19 vaccine distribution system, putting entire communities at prolonged risk of illness and raising the question among workers: Who counts as “essential,” and who gets to decide? The state’s front-line workforce includes 5.7 million people at heightened risk during the pandemic, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. They package food, prune fields, clean offices and assemble cloth face masks, among other jobs. Some have higher-paid roles in public health and public corrections. All are at risk of contracting the virus because they regularly interact with other people — customers and colleagues — as they keep services running and pantries stocked. 

For pandemic-era high school students, the thrill is gone: From the Chicago Tribune: “Nearly one year after the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, students across Chicago and the suburbs say when it comes to high school, the thrill is gone, with simple pleasures such as huddling with friends in the hallways and catching up over lunch in the cafeteria displaced by a dystopian landscape of remote learning and virtual extracurriculars. Some high schools outside of Chicago have reopened classrooms to offer limited in-person instruction, but student attendance overall has been abysmal. Many teens have concluded that as everything they cherished about high school is now forbidden, they might as well get some extra sleep, and sign on to remote learning from their bedrooms. After 11 months of remote learning, and what many teens describe as the soul-crushing disappointment of canceled after-school activities, experts say a burgeoning number of teens — some of whom have never before faced mental health issues — are now struggling with anxiety and depression due to heightened levels of stress and social isolation.” 

No one knows the true COVID toll on the LGBTQ community: From the Washington Post: “A report the CDC released this month found that gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the United States have higher rates of self-reported underlying conditions associated with severe COVID-19 outcomes, including asthma, cancer, heart disease, obesity, kidney disease and stroke, than heterosexual people. Within this community, Black and Hispanic people are particularly vulnerable, according to the report, which relied on 2017-2019 data from a collection of population health surveys called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The report is the CDC’s first in-depth study focusing on the potential impact of the coronavirus on the LGBTQ population. But as the report’s authors point out, no one knows the true toll of the virus on that community — because the United States is not collecting the data necessary to study it.” 

Evictions, homelessness surge in southwest Louisiana after two hurricanes: The cascading crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and two hurricanes — and the subsequent lack of sufficient and timely aid — has left renters in southwest Louisiana with few options for places to live. Job losses during the pandemic left many struggling to make ends meet. Lawyers are investigating what they consider to be  FEMA’s inadequate response to the storms. And despite a federal eviction moratorium — which President Joe Biden extended through March — landlords have used loopholes in state rental laws to put people on the curb. “The problem here is housing, homelessness,” Lake Charles personal care attendant Sasha Miller told Southerly. “A lot of people that lost their homes are now homeless.” Post-hurricane evictions and a lack of affordable rentals have led to an increase in homelessness. But understanding the scope of the problem is nearly impossible, said Gordon Levine, manager of the Louisiana Balance of State Continuum of Care, a stakeholder group for homelessness service organizations. After the hurricanes, “…we became meaningfully unable to quantify what homelessness looks like in southwest Louisiana,” he said. 

Briefing for February 17, 2021

Anti-immigrant sentiment complicates vaccine rollout in southern states: As states embark on the daunting task of inoculating millions of residents against COVID-19, many health officials find their mission complicated by a pervasive mistrust of government and law enforcement among unauthorized immigrants, a population estimated at 11 million across the U.S. The challenges are particularly acute in the South, where large populations of immigrants living there illegally help maintain the region’s thriving agricultural and food-processing industries even as many state and local Republican leaders, emboldened by the Trump administration’s four years of anti-immigrant vitriol, denounce unauthorized residents as criminals and call for more limited paths to citizenship. The confluence of those aggressive attitudes and a highly contagious virus has prompted concerns in some states that lackluster vaccination of people in the country without legal permission will short-circuit efforts to achieve herd immunity for the broader community. “We will never get on top of this pandemic if the undocumented are left out,” said Dr. Sharon Davis, chief medical officer at Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic in Dallas, which serves 28,000 patients, the majority of them in the country without authorization. 

Overdose deaths reach new heights during pandemic: From STAT: “Among the unrelenting death statistics flowing from the CDC last month, one grim non-COVID-19 statistic stood out: 81,003 deaths. That’s the number of people who died from drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending last June: a 20% increase and the highest number of fatal overdoses ever recorded in the U.S. in a single year. The drug deaths started spiking last spring, as the coronavirus forced shutdowns, and more recent statistics from cities throughout the U.S. and Canada show the crisis has only deepened. In Colorado, overdose deaths were up 20% through the end of last year, and those involving fentanyl doubled; British Columbia officials reported nearly five overdose deaths per day in 2020, a 74% increase over the previous year; and a study released this month showed emergency room overdose visits increased up to 45% during the pandemic, even as total ER traffic slowed markedly. The pandemic has ushered in stress, isolation, and economic upheaval — all known triggers for addiction and relapse — while robbing many people of treatment options and support systems. Addiction specialists across the country told STAT the overlapping health disasters — the historic COVID-19 pandemic colliding with a preexisting drug epidemic made deadlier by the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl — have been devastating for their patients. Many have simply disappeared; some have died; others have relapsed.” 

Family caregivers, often left off vaccine priority lists, worry what happens if they get sick: Tens of thousands of middle-aged sons and daughters caring for older relatives with serious ailments but too young to qualify for a vaccine themselves are terrified of becoming ill and wondering when they can get protected against the coronavirus. Like aides and other workers in nursing homes, these family caregivers routinely administer medications, monitor blood pressure, cook, clean and help relatives wash, get dressed and use the toilet, among many other responsibilities. But they do so in apartments and houses, not in long-term care institutions — and they’re not paid. “In all but name, they’re essential health care workers, taking care of patients who are very sick, many of whom are completely reliant upon them, some of whom are dying,” said Katherine Ornstein, a caregiving expert and associate professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Mount Sinai’s medical school in New York City. “Yet, we don’t recognize or support them as such, and that’s a tragedy.” 

Latinos face barriers like fear, language in getting vaccines: From elderly Cuban Americans in Florida to farmworkers in California, Latinos face daunting barriers to getting COVID-19 vaccines, creating risks for public health as the coronavirus mutates and spreads. America’s more than 60 million Latinos — like other people of color — have been disproportionately affected by the virus, and many are struggling with issues like a lack of knowledge about the shots, state vaccine websites that don’t have Spanish instructions, ways to find appointments in their communities and fears they could be targeted for immigration enforcement. It comes as states, cities and counties are grappling with how to ensure people of color and other underserved communities are getting the vaccine, with some targeting vulnerable ZIP codes and working with community groups to sign people up. In Arizona, where language is a barrier for some Latinos and English is the only option on the state website for vaccine appointments, a university researcher is working on an online Spanish language campaign to address vaccine misconceptions. 

Public-private vaccine equity fund aims to bring doses to communities of color in Washington state: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) and community and faith leaders from across the state announced a new public-private partnership Monday to raise $15 million to bring more COVID-19 vaccines to communities receiving too few doses — particularly Hispanic and Black people. The campaign, supported by The Starbucks Foundation and Premera Blue Cross, hopes to match $15 million in private donations with another $15 million from the state. “We won’t get through this unless we’re all in it together,” Durkan said at a virtual press conference. “If we’re intentional, we can make sure we do get shots in arms, but we need to make sure we get them in the Black and brown arms that have been so impacted.” 

How one city helps students reverse severe learning loss during the pandemic: In North Las Vegas, Nev., an entrepreneurial group of civic leaders and educators have decided to try something different. Looking for a way to provide in-person instruction while minimizing the risks of exposure to COVID, they created the Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy. Rather than leaving families on their own to manage remote learning, SNUMA opened three learning centers in libraries and recreation centers. First through eighth-grade students tackle online math and literacy programs, aligned to state standards, in small clusters overseen by adult guides. They also have the opportunity for enrichment activities like yoga and foreign language classes, all safely socially distant and COVID-compliant. 

Expanded SNAP benefits may help more than 3 million food-insecure college students: The SNAP expansion that was part of the pandemic relief bill Congress passed in December took effect in January and will remain in place until the public health emergency is lifted. Two new criteria make it easier for students to qualify for food benefits. The changes make roughly 3 million more students eligible for help, according to an estimate from the Century Foundation. Now, low-income students may qualify if they are eligible for state or federal work-study (they needn’t be working to receive benefits) or if they have an “expected family contribution” of $0 on their federal financial aid form. (It’s not too late to fill out that form. The federal deadline for the FAFSA is June 30.) 

Briefing for February 16, 2021

Remote students are more stressed than their peers, study shows: new study from NBC News and Challenge Success, a nonprofit affiliated with the Stanford Graduate School of Education, is one of the first to shed light on the differences between students whose classes have been exclusively online and those who’ve been able to attend in person at least one day per week. The survey last fall of more than 10,000 students in 12 U.S. high schools, including Yonkers, found that students who’d spent time in the classroom reported lower rates of stress and worry than their online peers. While just over half of all students surveyed said they were more stressed about school in 2020 than they had been previously, the issue was more pronounced among remote students. 84% of remote students reported exhaustion, headaches, insomnia or other stress-related ailments, compared to 82% of students who were in the classroom on some days and 78% of students who were in the classroom full time. 

A year of hardship, helped and hindered by Washington: Jason DeParle of the New York Times profiles a Michigan single mother whose pandemic experience shows how much the federal safety net can help — and also how partisan standoffs in Congress created stress and uncertainty among those desperate for aid. 

Biden’s vaccine push runs into resistance in communities of color: Vaccine hesitancy has emerged as a crucial test for the Biden White House, which has repeatedly said racial equity will be central to his presidency. The administration is planning a sweeping campaign to promote the vaccine to minorities, but activists like Ford say the problem is already critical. Cameron Webb, Biden’s senior policy adviser for COVID-19 equity, acknowledged the administration is “swimming upstream” when it comes to vaccine hesitancy. He said it is working to get information into the hands of influencers and community leaders who can spread the word and dispel rumors. Resistance to the vaccines is not limited to minorities. A hard-line anti-vaccine movement based on misinformation, for example, uses emotional appeals on social media to win over Americans of various political stripes. 

A Biden adviser is tasked with leading the response to COVID inequities: President Biden has said repeatedly that racial equity will be at the core of his coronavirus response. Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith is in charge of making that happen. A Yale epidemiologist who grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dr. Nunez-Smith is the chairwoman of Mr. Biden’s coronavirus equity task force, charged with advising the president on how to allocate resources and reach out to underserved populations to fight a pandemic that has taken a devastating toll on people of color. “Make no mistake about it — beating this pandemic is hard work,” Dr. Nunez-Smith told reporters last week, after the White House named the members of the task force. “And beating this pandemic while making sure that everyone in every community has a fair chance to stay safe or to regain their health, well, that’s the hard work and the right work.” 

Lack of transportation and health services impedes vaccine access in communities of color: As efforts accelerate nationally to provide the coronavirus vaccine to communities of color, skepticism about the inoculations is often highlighted as a major impediment. But a lack of pharmacies, hospitals, providers and transportation has emerged as an equally significant concern in those communities, where COVID-19 has wrought its worst damage. Public health experts, physicians and civil rights advocates say attention must be paid to the practical barriers that fuel the disparities that have become a hallmark of the American health-care system. If not accounted for, they say, those same obstacles stand to stymie efforts to bridge a growing divide in coronavirus vaccinations. 

Vaccine rollout in Chicago is a microcosm of disparities nationwide: USA Today reports that Chicago’s majority-Hispanic ZIP code 60639 has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the city — and one of the lowest vaccination rates. Just 4%of residents in the ZIP code received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Feb. 7, according to data from the Chicago Department of Public Health. Similarly low vaccination rates exist in other majority-Latino and majority-Black neighborhoods across the city’s south and west sides, despite COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on those populations. A USA TODAY analysis of data from the city and the U.S. Census Bureau found that, citywide, the vaccination rate in Chicago’s majority-Black or Latino ZIP codes averaged 5%. Majority-white ZIP codes averaged 13%. Four of the city’s majority-white ZIP codes exceeded 20% initial vaccination, while the highest rate for any majority Black or Latino area was 12%. The data shows similar trendsin Washington and Austin, Texas, two other cities that reported vaccination rates at the neighborhood level. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show gaping disparities nationally, and a study of the states reporting race and ethnicity for vaccine recipients showed a widespread pattern of inequity. 

Rollout of vaccine among Native-Americans is seen as a success: The Pew Charitable Trust’s Stateline reports: “COVID-19 has killed Native Americans at a faster rate than any other group in the United States, nearly double the per-capita death toll for white Americans and more than a third higher than that for Black residents, who also have suffered disproportionately. Recent data shows Native deaths are increasing faster than those of other groups, worsening the disparity. But among Native Americans, the vaccine rollout so far has been a success story. As Americans have struggled to navigate confusing new online systems to schedule appointments and check eligibility, many tribes have taken a different approach: working the phones. Across Indian Country, tribal leaders say they’ve set up call centers — often staffed by fluent Native language speakers — to answer inquiries, book appointments and reach out to citizens. They’ve also gotten the word out through existing outreach programs, newsletters, social media, radio announcements and direct mail.” 

Biden extends eviction moratorium until June: On Monday, the White House announced a program to extend mortgage relief and a moratorium on home foreclosures through June as thousands of Americans continue to struggle to keep up with payments during the coronavirus pandemic. The joint effort between the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture will extend the foreclosure moratorium for homeowners, keep open the mortgage payment forbearance enrollment window and provide up to six months of additional mortgage payment forbearance, in three-month increments, for borrowers who entered forbearance on or before June 30. Those protections were set to expire on March 30.  

LGBTQ people of color are twice as likely to test positive for COVID as straight white people: Data collected in fall 2020 finds that LGBTQ people — in particular, LGBTQ people of color — have disproportionately experienced the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. Among those tested, an estimated 15% of LGBTQ people of color have tested positive for COVID-19, compared to 7% of their non-LGBT white peers. In addition, LGBTQ people of color are about twice as likely to have been laid off or furloughed from work and to struggle to pay for household goods compared to non-LGBTQ white adults. 

The loneliness of being a teenager during the pandemic: From The Washington Post: “The pandemic has punished people of all ages, overwhelming parents, isolating grandparents, shortchanging kids. But the emotional fallout for teenagers has been uniquely brutal. At just the age when they are biologically predisposed to seek independence from their families, teens have been trapped at home. Friends — who take on paramount importance during adolescence — are largely out of reach, accessible mostly by social media, which brings its own mix of satisfying and toxic elements.” 

People with dementia twice as likely to get COVID, study finds: People with dementia had significantly greater risk of contracting the coronavirus, and they were much more likely to be hospitalized and die from it than people without dementia, a new study of millions of medical records in the United States has found. Their risk could not be entirely explained by characteristics common to people with dementia that are known risk factors for COVID-19: old age, living in a nursing home and having conditions like obesity, asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. After researchers adjusted for those factors, Americans with dementia were still twice as likely to have gotten COVID-19 as of late last summer. “It’s pretty convincing in suggesting that there’s something about dementia that makes you more vulnerable,” said Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study. The study found that Black people with dementia were nearly three times as likely as white people with dementia to become infected with the virus, a finding that experts said most likely reflected the fact that people of color generally have been disproportionately harmed during the pandemic. 

California city offers ‘hero pay’ to farm workers, other essential employees: The Coachella City Council in California unanimously approved so-called “hero pay” for certain essential workers last week, and extended the controversial hazard benefits to farmworkers. The emergency ordinance requires certain agricultural operations — as well as grocery stores, retail pharmacy stores and restaurants — to provide a premium pay of an additional $4 per hour to their employees in Coachella for at least 120 days. The regulation applies to those who employ 300 or more workers nationally and more than five employees in the city. Coachella is the first city in the nation to require the premium pay for farmworkers, according to city leaders

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