Briefing for March 1-5, 2021 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for March 1-5, 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.

If you would like to receive a daily briefing, feel free to email to subscribe.

Briefing for March 5, 2021

Life, death and grief in Los Angeles: A moving photo essay from the New York Times looks at the toll the winter COVID surge had on Black and Brown Los Angelenos, who died at two to three times the rate of white residents. “In the Boyle Heights neighborhood, east of downtown Los Angeles, where half of all residents live in poverty, the number of coronavirus infections in a 14-day period last month was six times as high as it was in Bel Air, one of Los Angeles’s wealthiest neighborhoods.” 

ID requirements are meant to protect vulnerable residents, but often they bring harm: From Buzzfeed News: “Requiring proof of identification can help ensure that scarce doses go to the people who need them most, government officials and providers say, and help reduce racial and income disparities in a vaccination campaign that has so far disproportionately reachedwhite and affluent people. Sometimes, though, those rules are keeping out the very people they aim to protect. Miguel, who asked that his last name be omitted out of concern over his immigration status, has lived in Florida for more than 30 years since arriving from Colombia. But without documentation, the 68-year-old told BuzzFeed News that he’s been turned away from a vaccination site twice, even though his age qualifies him for a shot. Miguel is one of a number of vaccine-eligible people who have been turned away from vaccination sites that deem them unable to prove identity or residency. In some cases, BuzzFeed News has found, eligible people are rejected even when they show up with documents that fit the site’s stated rules, highlighting a patchwork of inconsistent and sometimes arbitrary policies across vaccination centers. While officials have imposed ID requirements with the stated intent of making vaccine distribution more equitable, they have also created barriers for many in high-risk populations, including undocumented immigrants, older adults who don’t drive, and people experiencing homelessness.” 

California to give 40% of vaccine to Latino, high-risk areas: California will begin sending 40% of all vaccine doses to the most vulnerable neighborhoods in the state to try to inoculate people most at risk from the coronavirus and get the state’s economy open more quickly, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday in the latest shake-up to the state’s rules. The doses will be spread among 400 ZIP codes where there are about 8 million people eligible for shots, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary. Many of the neighborhoods are in Los Angeles County and the central valley, which have had among the highest rates of infection. The areas are considered most vulnerable based on metrics such as household income, education level and access to health care. Newsom said that not only is this the right thing to do, it’s critical to opening up more of the state’s economy. 

When a Texas county tried to ensure equity in vaccine distribution, it didn’t go well: Time offers Dallas County as a vivid illustration of the difficulties many local jurisdictions have had in trying to institute systems to be sure COVID vaccines are equitably made available. “Non-Hispanic white residents make up 28% of the population but were nearly 63% of those registered to receive vaccinations as of Jan. 24, about three weeks after online-only registration had opened to people ages 65 and up. But when local elected officials tried to correct the situation — by prioritizing people in neighborhoods like Ideal, where the need was greatest — the state beat back their efforts, and Dallas County returned to age-based vaccine targeting. That delivered another advantage to white Americans, who tend to live longest. So, what might have been a case study in addressing structural inequality instead demonstrated why many Black Americans mistrust the medical system.” 

To help farmworkers get COVID tests and vaccines, build trust and a safety net: A reporting partnership including NPR, Illinois Public Media and Kaiser Health News looks at efforts in Illinois and nationally to find ways to increase COVID protection efforts for farm workers, hundreds of whom have died during the pandemic. “The norms that we have seen prior to the pandemic — of not prioritizing worker health or just basic safety-net needs — need to be addressed both by state, local, federal governments and employers,” said Diana Tellefson Torres, executive director of the California-based United Farm Workers Foundation. “We’re literally talking about a life-and-death situation here.” 

Tensions over vaccine equity pit rural against urban America: The Associated Press reports: “The U.S. vaccine campaign has heightened tensions between rural and urban America, where from Oregon to Tennessee to upstate New York complaints are surfacing of a real — or perceived — inequity in vaccine allocation. In some cases, recriminations over how scarce vaccines are distributed have taken on partisan tones, with rural Republican lawmakers in Democrat-led states complaining of ‘picking winners and losers,’ and urbanites traveling hours to rural GOP-leaning communities to score COVID-19 shots when there are none in their city. In Oregon, state GOP lawmakers walked out of a Legislative session last week over the Democratic governor’s vaccine plans, citing rural vaccine distribution among their concerns. In upstate New York, public health officials in rural counties have complained of disparities in vaccine allocation, and in North Carolina, rural lawmakers say too many doses were going to mass vaccine centers in big cities. In Tennessee, Missouri and Alabama, a dearth of shots in urban areas with the greatest number of health care workers has led senior citizens to snap up appointment hours from their homes. The result is a hodgepodge of approaches that can look like the exact opposite of equity, where those most likely to be vaccinated are people with the savvy and means to search out a shot and travel to wherever it is.” 

Remote schedules could mean fewer women in the office: Writing for the Washington Post, Barnard College President Sian Beilock expresses concern that post-pandemic schedules that allow more remote work could unduly burden women, who often still have to carry the brunt of the burden of domestic responsibilities. “The expectation that women will serve as primary caregivers is a major reason for their exodus from the workforce. All of which raises the question: If remote work is here to stay, will the proposed flexibility actually result in greater equity, employee satisfaction and retention — let alone provide the mental health benefits women need to do our jobs well?” 

Briefing for March 4, 2021

The battle for Waterloo: An in-depth look by ProPublica at the role of the meatpacking industry in the pandemic’s devastating impact on Waterloo, Iowa: “Perhaps no industry has attracted such widespread infamy for its handling of COVID-19 this year as the nation’s meatpackers. As the pandemic spread across the country, one plant after another became a hotbed of the virus, which exploded onto unprepared communities as companies fought to keep their plants open and the meat coming. ProPublica first wrote about the risks facing meatpacking workers before the outbreaks occurred, then documented how the industry ignored years of warnings, blindsiding local health officials and leaving workers to serve as kindling when COVID-19 arrived. But to understand how things got to this point — how American cities came to be held hostage to global meat corporations — there may be no better place to go than Waterloo, where the outbreak at Tyson’s pork plant took a stunning toll on both workers and the community.” 

Community college enrollment drops, though political clout grows: From The Washington Post: “Community colleges, long the unsung foundation of higher education in America, have reached a perilous turning point. These two-year public colleges, offering associate’s degrees, workforce training and a low-price opportunity to get started on a bachelor’s degree, had roughly 10% fewer students at the beginning of the school year compared to 2019. No other sector of higher ed lost as much enrollment — a devastating development for these schools that serve large numbers of disadvantaged students and are open to all who apply. History suggests that when the economy sinks, people flock to community college to upgrade skills and résumés. That didn’t happen last year. But community colleges now have a powerful White House ally in first lady Jill Biden, who is an English professor at a major one in Northern Virginia. The Biden administration is likely to push for tuition breaks and other measures that benefit community college students. It’s the broadest political opening for these colleges in the last decade.” 

Rural Americans in pharmacy deserts hurting for vaccines: From Kaiser Health News: “As the Biden administration accelerates a plan to use pharmacies to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, significant areas of the country lack brick-and-mortar pharmacies capable of administering the protective shots. A recent analysis by the Rural Policy Research Institute found that 111 rural counties, mostly between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, have no pharmacy that can give the vaccines. That could leave thousands of vulnerable Americans struggling to find vaccines, which in turn threatens to prolong the pandemic in many hard-hit rural regions. And in those areas without pharmacies, rural residents may have to drive long distances to get shots and do so twice for two-dose vaccines. An analysis by the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy and the West Health Policy Center found that 89% of Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy. But more than 1.6 million people must travel more than 20 miles to the nearest pharmacy, which can mean facing difficult weather and road conditions in remote areas. ‘If pharmacies are closed, especially in places where there’s no other health care provider, then you’ve got essentially a health care desert,’ said Michael Hogue, president of the American Pharmacists Association. ‘You have to be dependent on either a mobile clinic coming in from another area to provide vaccines, or the citizens are going to have to drive farther to get a vaccine.’” 

Scramble for shots continues nationwide: USA Today reports: “Despite the extraordinary success of creating three vaccines to fight COVID-19 in less than a year, America’s fragmented health system meant there was no simple, unified way to sign up to get a shot. ‘Appointment scheduling has become a big issue,’ said Tinglong Dai, a professor of operations management at the Johns Hopkins University school of business who has written about the problem. ‘It’s cruel when people have to suffer through this because the government isn’t doing the hard work.’ In a news conference on Monday, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients acknowledged the problem. ‘We’re also looking at lower-tech solutions that the federal government might be able to provide, whether those are call centers or people to help navigate the system,’ he said. ‘Overall, scheduling remains for far too many people, too frustrating. And we need to make it better.'” 

U.S. workplace safety enforcer failed during pandemic, watchdog says: The nation’s enforcer of safety in the workplace hasn’t done enough to protect workers during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a watchdog report released Tuesday. During the first six months after the widespread outbreak of COVID-19 last year, inspections by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the agency that regulates workplace safety, dropped by half — even as safety complaints to the agency increased by 15%, according to a report by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of the Inspector General. OSHA initially made this change to protect its own workforce — but eliminating in-person inspections means it’s likely that many workplace violations were overlooked, “placing employees’ safety at greater risk,” the report found. 

Leading pediatrician says the pandemic has taken an alarming toll on children: Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, writes for CNN: “Almost a year into the pandemic, what began as a public health emergency is turning into a mental health crisis among our nation’s children and adolescents as they struggle with social isolation, grief, and the switch to remote learning. It is becoming increasingly clear that this crisis will endure well beyond the pandemic. It’s why recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association launched an awareness campaign to highlight the escalating crisis and share ideas about what government and communities can do to ensure families have access to mental health services.” 

Mitt Romney’s plan for ‘Social Security for kids’: Niskanen Center Director of Poverty and Welfare Policy Sam Hammond helped author Sen. Mitt Romney’s Family Security Act, which would replace the Child Tax Credit with a flat, universal child allowance equal to $4,200 for children ages 0 to 5 and $3,000 for ages 6 to 17. Hammond spoke to Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity about the proposal as well as the new focus among some on the right on a variety of proposals that would appeal to working class Americans.  

Vilsack signals food aid increases beyond COVID crisis: U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is signaling a push to increase food assistance beyond the COVID-19 economic crisis. The standard benefits may be too low, and the way they’re calculated is outdated, Vilsack said Wednesday. The Agriculture Department has already begun a review that could lead to more aid. During the pandemic, the maximum food-stamp benefit was raised by 15%, a boost that President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion virus-relief package would extend through September. The increase during the economic crisis “is an indication we have some work to do in terms of the appropriateness, the level of benefits,” Vilsack said at a virtual National Press Club speech on hunger in America. 

Briefing for March 3, 2021

States fail to prioritize homeless people for vaccines: From Pew’s Stateline: “Many homeless people have underlying medical conditions. They are more likely to be people of color, and many are older adults — all groups disproportionately at risk for serious harm from the virus… Yet at least 20 states don’t include people living in homeless shelters in their vaccine distribution plans, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy, a nonpartisan research organization with offices in Washington, D.C., and Portland, Maine. Few state plans even mention homeless people not in shelters. And some states that did prioritize shelter residents in early plans changed tack, moving them further down the list. Advocates for homeless people want states to put this group at the top of the vaccine distribution list. Prioritizing those experiencing homelessness would allow medical providers to bring vaccines directly to shelters, advocates say, creating a more efficient system that could inoculate more people, keep track of who has which shot and confront vaccine hesitancy.” 

High turnover at U.S. nursing homes poses risks for residents: From The New York Times: “Extraordinarily high turnover among staffs at nursing homes likely contributed to the shocking number of deaths at the facilities during the pandemic, the authors of a new study suggested. The study, which was published Monday in Health Affairs, a health policy journal, represents a comprehensive look at the turnover rates in 15,645 nursing homes across the country, accounting for nearly all of the facilities certified by the federal government. The researchers found the average annual rate was 128%, with some facilities experiencing turnover that exceeded 300%. ‘It was really staggering,’ said David Grabowski, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and one of the study’s authors. Researchers pointed to the findings to urge Medicare to publish the turnover rates at individual nursing home sites as a way of putting a spotlight on substandard conditions and pressuring owners to make improvements. Inadequate staffing — and low pay — has long plagued nursing homes and quality-of-care for the more than one million residents who live in these facilities. But the pandemic has exposed these issues even more sharply, with investigations underway into some states’ oversight of the facilities as COVID-19 cases spiraled unchecked and deaths skyrocketed.” 
Teenagers’ mental health claims doubled last spring: Teenagers’ demand for mental health care skyrocketed last year amid the pandemic, even as their overall need for care declined, according to a new analysis by FAIR Health. Some details, as reported by Axios

  • Mental health care claim lines — or individual health services — for children 13-18 doubled in March and April of last year, compared to 2019. In contrast, the number of overall claim lines for this age group was about half of the 2019 level. 
  • Females were much more likely to require mental health care than males.  
  • The percentage of all medical claim lines that were for intentional self-harm nearly doubled in March and April, compared to the same month in 2019. Claim lines for overdoses increased by 94.91% in March and 119.31% in April compared to the year before. Both remained elevated through November. 
  • The most common diagnoses in teenagers were consistently major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and adjustment disorders.  

States where children have struggled the most: The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted childhood in every state, with particularly devastating consequences in the South, where families are most likely to run low on food and struggle with bills and access to online schooling, according to a new report. Louisiana — where 1 in 4 families lack sufficient food, more than anywhere else in the country — placed as the “worst” state for children during the pandemic, the global nonprofit Save the Children found in its ranking based on U.S. census surveys. It was followed by Mississippi, Texas, New Mexico and Alabama. Minnesota and Utah were the states where children fared the best, with Washington, New Hampshire and North Dakota rounding out the top five. 

College students re-evaluate their plans in a post-COVID world: A majority of college students are expecting the coronavirus pandemic to have a negative effect on their ability to find a good job, whether in their career field or at all, as well as their short-term prospects — but many aren’t sure what this will mean for the long term. “Students graduating in 2020 or 2021 likely had different expectations regarding their postgraduate careers when they first enrolled. During their time in school, the entire world around them shifted, tanking the economy and gaining them millions of job market competitors,” said Kristyn Pilgrim, who authored the analysis for College Finance. In a survey of 402 college students pursuing either an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, most were aiming for at least an entry-level job in their field, if not a professional-level job. But only 39% expected to get that entry-level job, and only 1 in 5 expected to get a professional-level job in their field, with others expecting part-time jobs, internships, freelance gigs or taking an entry-level job in a different field altogether.  

Another child allowance proposal: Oren Cass, founder and executive director of American Compass, argues in the New York Times that child allowance proposals from President Biden and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) go too far and that increased benefits should “…go only to working households. The existing safety net remains the more appropriate support for the non-working poor.” American Compass has proposed its own child allowance measure, the Family Income Supplemental Credit, which would mirror Romney’s plan to give families $4,200 annually for each child aged 1 to 5 and $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17, but would cap a family’s annual benefit at their earnings from the prior year. “The test is, essentially, ‘Did someone in your household work last year?’ If so, you are ‘paid in’ to receive the supplement,” Cass writes. 

One Medical’s vaccine practices spark congressional investigation: The consequences are deepening for concierge health care provider One Medical following an NPR investigation that found the company administered COVID-19 vaccinations to those with connections to leadership, as well as ineligible patients. The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis is launching its own investigation into the San Francisco-based company’s practices, NPR has learned. The probe has plunged the publicly traded company, whose business model depends on patients paying a $199 annual fee for VIP health care services, into damage control mode. “Despite being warned that the company’s lax oversight of vaccine eligibility rules was allowing ineligible patients to jump the line, One Medical has reportedly failed to properly implement an effective protocol to verify eligibility and instructed staff not to police eligibility,” wrote subcommittee chairman James Clyburn (D-SC) in a letter sent to One Medical late Monday night. 

Briefing for March 2, 2021

Johnson & Johnson vaccine deepens concerns about geographic and racial inequities: From The Washington Post: “The nation has a third weapon to wield against the coronavirus, and this one doesn’t need to be kept frozen or followed by a booster shot. Those attributes of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine, which gained regulatory clearance on Saturday, promise to help state and local officials quell the pandemic. First, however, they will need to determine its place in an expanding anti-virus arsenal, where it joins vaccines with sky-high efficacy rates that are still in short supply. Decisions to send the shots to harder-to-reach communities make practical sense, because Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine is easier to store and use. But they could drive perceptions of a two-tiered vaccine system, riven along racial or class lines — with marginalized communities getting what they think is an inferior product. The issue came up on a recent call between governors and Biden administration officials coordinating the country’s coronavirus response. Gov. Charlie Baker, a Massachusetts Republican and former health insurance executive, stressed the need for prominent health officials to communicate clearly about the benefits of the one-shot vaccine, according to three people who heard his remarks and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private conversation.” 

Rural hospitals risk closure due to COVID-related drop in revenue: According to a report issued last week by the American Hospital Association (AHA), American hospitals and health care systems will lose between $53 and $122 billion in revenue in 2021, mainly due to COVID-19 and reduced patient volumes. In 2020, hospitals lost an estimated $323 billion in revenue. According to the Chartis Center for Rural Health, more than 450 rural hospitals are at risk of closing, with 200 of them considered high risk. Last year, in the midst of the pandemic, 19 rural hospitals closed, exceeding 2019’s record 18 closures. Since 2005, 179 rural hospitals have closed.  

COVID relief bill could trigger Medicaid cuts, higher student loan fees: The COVID relief bill passed by the House of Representatives over the weekend could trigger billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare and other federal programs, like ones that support unemployed workers and student-loan borrowers, if it’s ultimately passed into law. The funding cuts would take effect in 2022 and last for several years. Republicans are using the specter of pullbacks to argue against issuing more pandemic aid, which includes $1,400 stimulus checks and more jobless benefits. The cuts are due to a rule — the PAYGO Act — that corrects for additions to the federal deficit by automatically pulling back funding from certain departments and programs. The pandemic aid measure would raise the federal deficit by $1.9 trillion over a decade, according to a Congressional Budget Office memo issued Thursday by director Phillip Swagel. As a result, Medicare funding would be trimmed by 4%, or $36 billion, starting next year, said Swagel. 

Millions couldn’t afford diapers before the pandemic; Now diaper banks can’t keep up: Requests have doubled, tripled and even quadrupled at some of the nation’s diaper banks, social services workers say, with diaper shortages and families lining up for hours in some communities. Meanwhile, the cash and in-kind donations that keep diaper banks afloat have slumped, and their mostly volunteer workforce has shriveled since the pandemic. Diaper need is an often-overlooked measure of Americans’ economic reversals, Joanne Samuel Goldblum, chief executive and founder of the National Diaper Bank Network, tells the Washington Post. There are so many people “who do not have enough money to meet their basic needs, and what we’ve found is that diaper need is a window into poverty.” 

Why kids are hitting the pandemic wall: From CNN: “Across time zones, age groups and socioeconomic lines, young people appear to be hitting a breaking point that developmental psychologists are calling the ‘pandemic wall.’ As we near the one-year anniversary of the pandemic and associated social distancing measures, kids and parents alike are grieving the end of how our lives used to be. It doesn’t even matter how dramatically kids’ lives have changed, experts say. The fact that disruption has become normalized is traumatizing enough. Leslie Forde, founder of Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs, a think tank in Boston that researches how mothers can reduce stress and prioritize self-care, has surveyed or interviewed more than 1,600 families about the effects of the pandemic on school-age children since COVID-19 began. Her takeaway: Navigating constant change has gotten old for all of us. ‘Our brains are sick of it,’ Forde said. ‘There’s a certain amount of disconnect between what happened when we suddenly pulled kids out of school and thought it was temporary to where we are today. I don’t think anyone has healed from or reconciled that disconnect. I think it’s been hardest on our kids.'” 

Children need Child Tax Credit expansion: Writing for The Hill, Diana Cutts, Chief of Pediatrics at Hennepin County (MN) Medical Center, and Megan Sandel, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, call for passage of President Biden’s proposal to increase the Child Tax Credit. The proposal “would be a game-changer for children in America and should be combined with recurring checks to make sure that we’re getting help to families now and in the long-term so that no child has to live in poverty, and that all children have the opportunity to reach their highest potential,” they write. Drs. Cutts and Sandel are Co-Lead Principal Investigators at Children’s HealthWatch, a nonpartisan network of pediatricians, public health researchers, and children’s health and policy experts. 

Black churches play unique role in combatting vaccine fears: Kaiser Health News reports: “Many Black Americans look to their religious leaders for guidance on a wide range of issues — not just spiritual ones. Their credibility is especially crucial on matters of health, as the medical establishment works to overcome a legacy of experimentation and bias that makes some Black people distrustful of public health messages. Now that the vaccines are being distributed, public health advocates say churches are key to reaching Black citizens, especially older generations more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 disease. They have been hospitalized for COVID-19 and died at a disproportionate rate throughout the pandemic, and initial data on who is getting COVID-19 shots shows that Black people lag far behind other racial groups. Black churches have also suffered during the pandemic. African American pastors were most likely to say they had had to delete positions or cut staff pay or benefits to survive, and 60% said their congregations hadn’t gathered in person the previous month, as opposed to 9% of white pastors, according to a survey published in October by Lifeway Research, which specializes in data on Christian groups.” 

Low-income Texans already faced frigid temperatures at home — Then the winter storm hit: In the aftermath of last month’s historic ice storm, Southerly looks at the difficulty many southern communities have every winter in accessing affordable power. “Southern states have some of the highest rates of electricity usage, but lag far behind other areas of the country in energy efficiency. Southerners also spend the most on power bills. In Texas, low-income families spend 8 to 10% of their income on energy costs in a given year; across the South that number runs even higher — as much as 14% in Mississippi, where 200,000 people lost power last week. This winter, as families are already tightening their budgets due to the pandemic, the severe storm could bring even higher energy bills — on top of plumbing repairs, hotel stays for those lucky enough to find warm shelter, and restocking a week’s worth of fresh food that started to spoil during the power outages.”  

Briefing for March 1, 2021

Children of color disproportionately impacted by coronavirus, data shows: Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the nation’s health inequalities have become even more glaring, with millions of Americans of color, Black and Latino in particular, experiencing more severe illness and death due to COVID-19 than white Americans. New data now reveals that the same racial and ethnic disparities which have affected adults throughout the pandemic also extend to children of color. Black and Latino children have been affected by more COVID-19 related illness and death than other children. New demographic data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides the first comprehensive racial breakdown of COVID-19 cases and deaths in children. In children between the ages of 5 and 17, Latino children currently represent 26.9% of cases, and Black, non-Hispanic children represent 11.2% of cases. Similarly, Latino children currently represent 25.3% of coronavirus-related deaths in children, and Black, non-Hispanic children represent 15.9% of deaths. “These data clearly highlight that the incredible disparities we have witnessed throughout this pandemic are consistent across all age groups,” Dr. John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, told ABC News. “The impact of COVID in pediatric populations mirror racial disparities in the adult population, with both cases and deaths seen more frequently among Black and Latino children.” 

As COVID surged, vaccines came too late for at least 400 medical workers: From Kaiser Health News: “As health care workers in the U.S. began lining up for their first coronavirus vaccines on Dec. 14, Esmeralda Campos-Loredo was already fighting for oxygen. The 49-year-old nursing assistant and mother of two started having breathing problems just days earlier. By the time the first of her co-workers were getting shots, she was shivering in a tent in the parking lot of a Los Angeles hospital because no medical beds were available. When she gasped for air, she had to wait all day for relief due to a critical shortage of oxygen tanks. Campos-Laredo died of covid on Dec. 18, one of at least 400 health workers identified by The Guardian/KHN’s Lost on the Frontline investigation who have died since the vaccine became available in mid-December, narrowly missing the protection that might have saved their lives. In California, which became the epicenter of the national coronavirus surge following Thanksgiving, 40% of all health care worker deaths came after the vaccine was being distributed to medical staff members. An analysis of The Guardian-KHN’s Lost on the Frontline databaseindicates that at least 1 in 8 health workers lost in the pandemic died after the vaccine became available.” 

Vulnerable inmates left in prison as COVID raged: As the pandemic grew worse last year, there were plans formulated for many inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes to serve out their sentences at their residences, with an electronic bracelet monitoring their movements. The goal was to protect them, reduce prison overcrowding and minimize the risk of outbreaks. But the New York Times reports that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has been slow to act. The coronavirus has infected more than 620,000 inmates and correctional officers in the nation’s prisons, jails and detention centers, according to a New York Times database. Nearly 2,800 inmates and guards have died, making correctional facilities among the most significant battlefronts of the pandemic, along with nursing homes and schools. Yet just 7,850 of the 151,735 people serving federal sentences right now have been granted home confinement — about 5%. State prison populations have fallen by 15% since the pandemic began, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, but not because inmates are being released to home confinement. Instead, many state prisons simply have stopped accepting transfers from county jails. 

A new tool could help more disabled people get vaccinated: The Washington Post’s The Lilly looks at a group of seven women, most with disabilities themselves, who launched the COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization Dashboard as a way for disabled Americans to have better information on how to access the coronavirus vaccines. As states have begun their vaccine rollouts, many have voiced a commitment to equity — especially because people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. But few states have partnered with, or even named, the disabled community in their rollout plans. Instead, advocates say, states have relied on incomplete data to determine who is high risk, and they have deprioritized people with disabilities from their rollouts. The founders hope their Vaccine Prioritization Dashboard will help people with disabilities get vaccinated, as well as fill gaps in data to inspire future policy change. 

Black women feel outsized impact from pandemic economic downturn: Almost one-third, or 29%, of U.S. adults are counting on another round of government relief to get by, and another 24% say they need it but doubt it will happen, a new CNBC + Acorns Invest in You survey conducted by SurveyMonkey found. People of color are more likely to be relying on the relief, especially Black women. Half of Black Americans and 40% of Latinos said they were counting on it, while 57% of Black women said the same. In addition, 24% of Blacks and Latinos need it but don’t think it will come to fruition. The survey was conducted Feb. 1-8 by SurveyMonkey among a national sample of 6,182 adults. Many also took emergency measures over the past year to manage their finances. Again, people of color — particularly Black women — felt the biggest impact. One-quarter of Americans have tapped into their emergency savings or borrowed money from family or friends since the COVID-19 outbreak, the survey found. Almost 40% of Black women said the same, compared to 28% of Latinas and 27% of white women. White (22%) and Latino (20%) men were the least likely to take such measures, compared to 26% of Black men. 

A new survey of New Yorkers shows pandemic inequality: From Bloomberg CityLab: “Ever since New York became one of the first U.S. cities forced to contend with coronavirus, the pandemic’s inequality was abundantly clear: There were those who worked from home or fled to second homes, and there were those who risked essential work or found themselves unemployed. A new survey quantifies how COVID-19 hit the most vulnerable in New York, and exacerbated pre-existing racial inequities around food, housing and employment. Robin Hood, a nonprofit that fights poverty in the city, and Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy published preliminary findings for its 2020 Poverty Tracker at the same time it released its annual report for 2019 to provide an early window into this inequality. Before the pandemic, Black and Latino New Yorkers surveyed were already twice as likely to be living in poverty as white New Yorkers, the report finds. In 2020, all indicators of poverty got worse: Food hardship increased sharply and unemployment skyrocketed, especially for non-white New Yorkers. But the report also shows how CARES funding and other intervention can help soften the blow when implemented at the right time. Such policies will be critical for a more equal recovery post-COVID-19, according to the researchers.” 

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