Freedman Consulting, LLC | Briefing for March 22-26, 2021 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities
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Briefing for March 22-26, 2021 on COVID-19 and Low-Income Communities

Briefing for March 22-26, 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 schumitz@tfreedmanconsulting.com to subscribe.

Briefing for March 26, 2021



Hundreds of migrant kids with positive COVID tests held in shelters: Nearly 2,900 unaccompanied minors tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival at U.S. government shelters over the past year — including around 300 currently in the system — a Department of Health and Human Services official tells Axios. The numbers highlight the staggering challenges in trying to manage a child migration crisis during a pandemic, while weighing human rights and child welfare concerns against immigration laws. Of the unaccompanied children currently in shelters, only about 3% are currently in isolation after testing positive when they arrived, according to the latest statistics provided to Axios. About 7.4% of testsgiven to unaccompanied minors in the past year turned out positive, according to HHS’ stats. “The positivity rate in general is what was anticipated, and planning has resulted in robust response,” HHS spokesperson Mark Weber told Axios. There are more than 200 facilities in 22 states. But the positivity rate has been higher — about 10% — at the Carrizo Springs shelter in Texas, opened last month as the first overflow shelter to be used by the Biden administration. 

Distrust of prison health officials fuels vaccine hesitancy among inmates: A Kaiser Health News story pinpoints inmate anger and distrust over lack of COVID precautions early in the pandemic as a driving force for vaccine hesitancy among prison populations: “At a county jail in Massachusetts, nearly 60% of more than 400 people incarcerated said in January they would not agree to be vaccinated. At a federal prison in Connecticut, 212 of the 550 inmates offered the vaccines by early March declined the shots, including some who were medically vulnerable, The Associated Press reported. The Missouri Department of Corrections said March 12 that more than 4,200 state inmates had received the vaccine out of 8,000 who were eligible because they were at least 65 years old or had certain medical conditions. Officials were still working to vaccinate 1,000 additional eligible inmates who had requested the shots. The department had not begun vaccinating the remaining 15,000 inmates or surveyed them to determine their interest in the vaccines. So far, about 18% of the total prison population has been vaccinated, which roughly tracks with the overall rate in Missouri even though inmates are at higher risk for COVID than Missourians generally and should be easier to vaccinate given they are already in one place together.” 

Counties with larger communities of residents of color had more COVID cases, CDC says: Counties in the United States with large Black, Asian and Hispanic populations were hit harder by COVID-19 in the early months of the pandemic, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a new study published Wednesday, CDC researchers said more than a quarter of counties with large Asian or Black populations reported a high Covid-19 incidence rate in the first two weeks of April last year. The CDC defines high incidence as more than 100 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the total population. At the time, about 11.4% of all counties had a high COVID-19 incidence rate, compared with nearly 29% of counties with an above-average share of Asian residents and nearly 28% of counties with an above-average share of Black residents, the study indicates. “Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have placed many racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk for COVID-19,” researchers wrote. “CDC continues to work with local and state health departments to improve reporting of race and ethnicity.” 

Biden child tax increase could make extraordinary reduction in child poverty: Harvard Kennedy School professor and noted poverty expert David Ellwood spoke recently about the Biden administration’s projections that the American Rescue Act’s increase in the Child Tax Credit could reduce child poverty by up to 50 percent. “Most projections I have seen suggest child poverty reductions of between 40 and 50 percent. And I have no reason to doubt these numbers. This is astonishingly good news, and Biden and his team deserve enormous credit for the achievement. I do hope people realize what this does and does not mean. The poverty line is a number that was set many years ago and is updated for inflation every year. The projected poverty line for a family of four for 2021 is $26,500—not much in today’s world. The increased size and refundability of the child tax credit helps people who have income from earnings or other sources cross over this threshold. It is unlikely to transform their lives all by itself. Note also that many provisions are due to expire in a few years, so absent additional legislation, some of the improvements may be temporary.” 

Latino leaders in Fresno call for investigation of poultry plant being tipped to COVID investigation: From the Fresno Bee: “The California Latino Legislative Caucus on Thursday called for an investigation of the Fresno County Department of Public Health after a Fresno Bee story revealed officials tipped off Foster Farms about looming COVID-19 inspections.The 29-member caucus has asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to launch the investigation. The California Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus sent its own letter to the governor for the same reasons. The calls for the investigation come after emails showed that during the coronavirus outbreak at the Foster Farms South Cherry Avenue plant, Fresno County Department of Health officials warned company executives about a Cal/OSHA inspection, coached the corporation on talking points, withheld information from the public and issued no COVID-related corrective actions . . . At least five people who worked at the plant have died in connection to the virus and hundreds have been infected, according to the company and Cal/OSHA. At least 22 people who worked at Foster Farms’ Fresno facilities have been hospitalized related to the virus.” 

One state’s struggle with dropping community college enrollments: The EdNC team looks for the reasons behind why the state’s community college enrollment “fell 11% in fall 2020 compared to fall 2019. All but four of the 58 community colleges — Isothermal, Caldwell, Davidson-Davie, and James Sprunt — experienced enrollment declines between fall 2019 and fall 2020. Enrollment declines were largest among workforce training and basic skills courses: Workforce training dropped 22% from the previous fall and basic skills dropped 51%. Curriculum programs saw a 6% decline from fall 2019.” Some of the causes they identified:

  • Historically, community colleges serve more diverse populations– often those who have traditionally been underserved in all facets, including the education system. Those students faced additional challenges during the pandemic.
  • Broadband access to virtual classes continues to be a barrier for many students.
  • Some community college classes, such as those that require labs and clinics or welding and automotive repair, that have been challenging to move online because they require more hands-on learning.
  • A year of virtual high school made it more difficult for many students to access post-graduate opportunities. 

Briefing for March 25, 2021



New data illustrates struggles of working women during the pandemic: Key takeaways from a Kaiser Family Foundation Women’s Health Survey conducted late last year

  • One in ten women report quitting a job due to a pandemic-related reason and almost half said that one of the reasons was because they felt unsafe at their workplace. 
  • School closures had a substantial effect on working mothers’ ability to fulfill work obligations. One in ten working mothers with children under 18 said they quit a job due to COVID and half of this group cited school closures as one of the reasons. Three out of ten working mothers said they had to take time off because school or daycare was closed. 
  • In addition to juggling new, increased home and work responsibilities, many women went without pay due to school closures. Almost half (47%) of working mothers said they took unpaid sick leave because their child’s school or daycare was closed. This rose to 65% among low-income mothers and 70% among those working part-time jobs. 
  • Family caregiving responsibilities before and after the pandemic have largely fallen on women. More than one in ten women report they were caring for a family member who needed special assistance prior to the pandemic. Over one in ten women report that they have new caregiving responsibilities as a result of the pandemic. 
  • Over half of mothers with school age children said that the stress and worry of the pandemic has affected their mental health, with one in five characterizing the impact as “major.” However, only 16% of mothers have sought mental health care.  

Pandemic may leave 12 million children worldwide unable to read, report warns: From The Hill: A new analysis says more than half of the world’s ten-year-olds could be unable to read and understand a sentence by the end of 2021, a figure that’s been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The report released Monday from anti-poverty nonprofit One Campaign warned that 70 million ten-year-olds in 2021 alone could lack the basic literacy skills expected of a child of that age. Of that 70 million, nearly 12 million could be unable to read as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on education. The analysis is based on official “learning poverty” figures from the World Bank and UNESCO, and population data from the United Nations.  

Stacey Abrams sets her sights on vaccine access in rural Georgia: Writing for Facing South, Greg Kaufman looks at the latest organizing project of Stacey Abrams: “In 2020, Stacey Abrams and organizers across Georgia were successful in turning the state blue and, arguably, saving lives by denying Donald Trump and his accomplices four more years. Now they have set their sights on an even more concrete life-saving effort — transforming the state’s woeful COVID-19 vaccination record, currently worst in the nation with only 15.7% of its adult population receiving at least one dose. Last week, Abrams launched the Count Me In initiative to help hard-to-reach Georgians get vaccinated, with a particular focus on Black, Latinx, and Native communities. Utilizing the existing field infrastructure of the Abrams-founded nonprofit Fair Count, which recently mobilized U.S. Census and election participation, the initiative will engage in phone banking, texting, canvassing, literature drops, and other organizing methods aimed at getting shots in arms.” 

Biden administration eyes extended ban on tenant evictions: From the Washington Post: “The Biden administration is weighing whether to extend a soon-expiring federal policy that prohibits landlords from evicting their cash-strapped tenants, as the U.S. government seeks to buy more time for an estimated 10 million families who have fallen behind on their rent. The extension under discussion could run at least through July, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a decision that isn’t yet final. Without it, the federal eviction ban is set to lapse in seven days, opening the door for some Americans to be removed from their homes. The issue has taken on fresh urgency at a time when the federal government is racing to distribute roughly $47 billion in new coronavirus relief to families still struggling to pay off back-due rent and ever-mounting utility bills. Lawmakers authorized roughly half of the aid as part of the stimulus adopted in December, and the rest through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that Biden signed into law this month — yet most of the money has not reached those who need it most as a result of implementation delays.” 

‘The Debt Project’ — 99 portraits of American debt: One of the many hard truths the pandemic has brought home is that financial hardship is only an emergency away for most Americans. In 2013, photographer Brittany Powell made the decision to file for bankruptcy and the experience prompted her to begin shooting a series of portraits of other Americans who faced substantial debt. Her personal experience, inspired by the “We Are the 99%” slogan that came out of the Occupy movement, prompted her to start the Debt Project, an exploration of the role debt and finance plays in 99 different lives and in the nation as a whole. Powell’s respectful representation of Americans dealing with financial adversity comes as the poverty/opportunity field grapples with similar issues of representation and narrative. Powell spoke to Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity recently about her work

Becerra says government must reach people where they are to surmount vaccine inequities: Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told the Washington Post that the federal campaign to vaccinate Americans against the coronavirus must “reach people where they are,” bringing vaccine-filled syringes into farm fields and onto construction sites to ease profound racial and ethnic disparities in who has been receiving the protective shots. “We’re not going to say, ‘Now, just come get your vaccine,’ which is a very different model than we’ve done in the past,” Becerra said in his first interview since being sworn in as the nation’s top health official late last week. Too often, he said, Black and Latino Americans in low-wage jobs believe “their government thinks they are invisible.” Becerra also said federal health officials will work more intensely to address behavioral health problems exacerbated by the year-old coronavirus pandemic. He said the problems include addictions, mental illnesses and a spike in suicides — all fostered by the isolation that has been a pandemic side effect and has, in turn, often lessened treatment for behavioral health issues. 

The biggest barriers to vaccination for Black and Latinx people: Scientific American visualizes Kaiser Family Foundation data on COVID-19 cases, deaths and vaccination rates among people who identify as Black, white, Asian or Hispanic. Scientific American visualized these data for five populous states with some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks: California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois, showing that Hispanic people had some of the lowest vaccination rates proportional to their share of the population, especially in California and Texas. Black people in New York, Illinois and Florida are getting vaccinated at notably lower levels as well. The analysis: “Many factors may be behind these discrepancies: Age minimums for COVID vaccination could favor white Americans, who have a longer life expectancy than Black Americans. Poor Internet access may make securing vaccine appointments a challenge. And not owning a vehicle or living near public transit makes it harder to get to vaccination sites. For some immigrants, language barriers and onerous proof-of-eligibility requirements add more difficulties. One of the primary qualifications for a COVID vaccine in many states is being older (typically age 60 or above), which is known to be among the biggest risk factors for severe disease and death from the novel coronavirus. But because of Black Americans’ shorter life expectancy, fewer of them may be eligible for a vaccine — despite being at a higher risk of death than similar-aged or older white people.” 

Briefing for March 24, 2021



Vaccination sign-ups prove daunting for non-English speakers: Kaiser Health News looks at the obstacles for non-English speakers in accessing COVID vaccine appointments. “President Joe Biden announced this month that by May 1 the federal government would launch a website and new call center to help people find vaccine appointments, but officials have declined to elaborate on whether the website will be translated into non-English languages and which languages will be available through the call center. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to questions about language access. Approximately 5.3 million U.S. households have limited English proficiency, according to the U.S. Census 2019 American Community Survey. And, it found, nearly 68 million people speak a language other than English at home.” 

Inside the scramble to deliver vaccines to the homebound: From STAT: “Homebound individuals, who are among the country’s most at-risk, have little chance of receiving a vaccine if not for the heroism from individual health workers and their choice to spend precious hours making painstaking, door-to-door treks to administer doses one at a time… While most homebound Americans have been vaccine-eligible for months, many have been forgotten by a system that prioritized mass vaccination sites and assisted living facilities. More than three months into the U.S. vaccination campaign, there is still no national plan to vaccinate those confined to their home by illness, frailty, or disability. In most cases, the infrastructure for reaching them consists of little more than a doctor, a car, and a cooler.” 

How low-wage work could get even worse in a post-pandemic future: From CNBC: “The failure of a federal $15 minimum wage to protect its place in the Biden stimulus package will not be the only headwind for low-wage workers as advanced economies like the U.S. emerge from the COVID-19 recession. More than 100 million low-wage workers globally will need to find a different occupation by 2030, according to a recent McKinsey & Company forecast, with the situation worse in the largest economies, and signaling a labor market shift that would replace decades during which job losses have been concentrated in the middle-income positions. Some factors at work in the low-wage worker outlook are not new. Recessions result in job losses, and some of those jobs never come back even as the global economy recovers. While the COVID-19 recession is a unique one, research from past economic downturns back to the 1980s found that 88% of job losses in post-recession recoveries in the United States were those involving repetitive tasks. This time, the pace of automation may accelerate even more as a result of the pandemic, and specifically at the low-end of wages.” 

Black workers left behind in pandemic recovery: Politico reports: “Black Americans, who were among the hardest hit by coronavirus layoffs, are now recovering at the slowest rate, a one-two punch that threatens to worsen the United States’ already stark wealth and income disparities long after the pandemic recedes. While Hispanic workers initially saw the sharpest uptick in unemployment when business shutdowns began last spring, Black people have seen a slower return to work even as the economy is poised for a robust rebound, government data and economic analyses show. When the overall unemployment rate ticked down in February, Black workers were the only group that saw a rise in joblessness, a 0.7 percentage point increase. The share of Black Americans holding jobs also dropped over the month while it continued to move up for all other races and ethnicities.”

Rents for the rich are dropping while rents for low-income Americans are rising: Washington Post columnist Katherine Rampell looks at the unequal cost of housing even as the pandemic recovery gathers strength. “Much has been written about the two-track, or “K-shaped,” economic recovery, in which higher-income households have generally been doing well financially, while lower- and moderate-income ones are floundering. High-wage employment has recovered to roughly where it was pre-pandemic; the number of low-wage jobs, on the other hand, is still deeply in the hole. But that’s not the only way that the poor have gotten a raw deal. Low-income households are getting squeezed from both directions — less income and higher prices for what is usually their biggest single monthly expense: rent. For well-off tenants, bargains abound. In most major metro areas, rents for high-end residential housing have plummeted, according to data from CoStar, a real-estate analytics company.” 

The unending tragedy of foster care during a pandemic: A Mother Jones investigation finds the pandemic has kept families in the foster care system separated longer than usual. “As the pandemic has slowed the child welfare system, thousands of fractured families… have been in limbo. Family court shutdowns created case backlogs across the country. As in-person visits became virtual, parents went weeks or months without seeing their children. Therapy, addiction treatment, and classes parents needed to complete to reunite with their children became even harder to access. In a typical year, a little more than half of the children in foster care return to the permanent care of their biological parents. Experts agree that this outcome, called reunification, is by far the best option if parents prove to be safe caregivers. But in 2020, reunifications plummeted, according to public records from more than a dozen municipalities examined by Mother Jones. In effect, many families that normally would have been reunited remain separated. Some municipalities saw slight reductions in their foster care populations in 2020, likely due to children having less contact with teachers and other adults who are legally required to report suspected child abuse or neglect. But reunifications dropped at far steeper rates — by 20% or more in seven out of the 10 most populous cities.” 

Briefing for March 23, 2021


The missing students of the pandemic: Eli Saslow of the Washington Post profiles a California high school assistant principal determined to find students who have disappeared from online classes during the pandemic: “Rich Pimentel had already tried searching in a trailer park and a migrant camp when he started driving toward the third and final address listed in the student’s school file. He followed his GPS to a neighborhood on the edge of the desert, an oasis of palm trees and swimming pools protected by a steel gate. ‘Wow,’ Pimentel said, as he rolled down his window and pulled up to a call box. ‘Finally a happy ending. Maybe this kid’s actually okay.’ He punched in an access code, but the gate wouldn’t open. He pressed a call button to ask for help, but nobody answered. He waited for another minute, parked his truck, and started to climb the fence. On the other side, a resident waved for him to stop. ‘It’s okay,’ Pimentel said, holding up his school ID. ‘I’m an assistant principal at the high school. I’m trying to find one of our missing students.’ It had been a year since the pandemic closed Indio High School and its 2,100 students began to disappear, first from the hallways and then from virtual classes as attendance dropped from 94% down to as low as 70%. The school was like hundreds of others hit hardest by COVID-19 — mostly low-income and mostly Latino, with a vulnerable population that had suffered disproportionately from the virus and its injustices. Half of Indio’s students lived with family members who had gotten sick. A third lacked stable housing. A quarter had begun working full time or caring for younger siblings who were also home from school. At least 350 students were regularly failing to attend class, so Pimentel had decided to spend every Wednesday driving to homes across the Coachella Valley to find missing students and offer his help.” 

CDC survey shows strain on families, students from remote learning: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released results from a survey that show that American families have been strained by school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic and suffer high levels of stress when children are given online instruction. The survey, conducted Oct 8 through Nov 13, 2020, included 1,290 respondents who have children ages 5 through 12 enrolled in public or private school: 45.7% reported that their child received virtual instruction, 30.9% in-person instruction, and 23.4% combined instruction. “For 11 of 17 stress and well-being indicators concerning child mental health and physical activity and parental emotional distress, findings were worse for parents of children receiving virtual or combined instruction than were those for parents of children receiving in-person instruction,” the CDC said. Among parents with children in online school, 24.7% reported worsened mental or emotional health of children, compared with 15.9% of children learning in person. Children who attended online school also had significantly decreased physical activity (62.9% vs 52.1%) and time spent outside (58.0% vs 42.4%), when compared with children given in-person instruction. Parents of children receiving virtual instruction were also more likely than parents of children receiving combined instruction to report experiencing emotional distress (54.0% vs 42.9%), report loss of work (42.7% vs 30.6%), and have a conflict between working and providing child care (14.6% vs 8.3%). 

Medicaid incentives so far aren’t enough to sway holdout states: Democrats’ nearly $2 trillion coronavirus relief package includes a big financial incentive for the states that have opted against expanding Medicaid to provide health coverage for more low-income Americans. It’s proving to be a tough sell. The Associated Press surveyed top Republican elected officials in the dozen states that have resisted expanding coverage under a key provision of former President Barack Obama’s heath care law. Some have softened their opposition, but the key gatekeepers — governors or legislative leaders — indicated they have no plans to change course. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster remains firmly opposed to the Medicaid expansion. “Gov. McMaster isn’t for sale, regardless of whatever ill-conceived ‘incentives’ congressional Democrats may come up with,” spokesman Brian Symmes said in a statement. “What the federal spending plan does is attempt to offer a short-term solution for a long-term problem.” 

New spending package could include income inequality, equity measures: The New York Times reports that the Biden administration is preparing a $3 spending package that could include extending or making permanent poverty-fighting measures in the American Rescue Plan, such as the increase in the Child Tax Credit.

Huge Medicaid spike in Pennsylvania shows devastation of the pandemic: Spotlight PA tracks an explosion of Medicaid applications in Cumberland County and across the state. “Cumberland County saw a nearly 22% increase in Medicaid enrollment from February 2020 to the same month this year. While that represents the greatest increase in the state, it’s far from an outlier. Enrollment in the program rose by more than 388,000, or 13.7%, during the same time period — reaching 3.2 million people in February. The change represents a dramatic expansion of Pennsylvania’s social safety net, exceeding single-year Medicaid enrollment increases that occurred during the Great Recession, a Spotlight PA analysis found. That’s in part because more people can apply for Medicaid than in the past. In 2015, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf expanded eligibility beyond specific groups — including people with disabilities, the elderly, pregnant women and children — to adults that meet certain income requirements. Single adults between the ages of 19 and 64 are eligible if they earn about $17,775 a year or less.” 

All veterans, their spouses and caregivers, are now eligible for COVID vaccines: Veterans, their spouses and caregivers will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine through the Department of Veterans Affairs as soon as doses are available, according to newly finalized legislation. President Biden is expected to sign the congressionally approved measure into law in the coming days, the Military Times reports. Under existing rules, VA medical facilities can only give vaccines to those who are eligible for VA health services, as well as some caregivers registered in departmental support programs. The number of people eligible for the vaccine through the VA currently hovers around 7 million. Under the new bill, that figure would jump to more than 20 million, per Military Times. The bill would also allow veterans who are living abroad and enrolled in the VA’s Foreign Medical Program to access the vaccine through the department. 

Why are Black people being treated like America’s vaccine hesitancy problem? In an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Ivan Walks, former chief public health officer for the District of Columbia and principal of Ivan Walks & Associates, and Charles Ellison, host/executive producer of “Reality Check” on Philadelphia’s WURD, question the perception that the mistrust some Black Americans feel for the medical profession is somehow illegitimate: “Never mistake hesitancy for rejection. Just because the average person might say she’s hesitant about going to the dentist or being admitted for surgery doesn’t mean she ends up not doing either, especially if they’re critical procedures. It just means that person is being human and weighing conflicted feelings. Some of us are private about that skepticism and some of us are public. Harboring doubt, in that sense, is healthy because it keeps us alert. That’s exactly what most Black people who have been wrongfully accustomed to years of medical neglect, racism, and violence are doing right now: staying alert. We should be.” 

Briefing for March 22, 2021



IRS warns of delay in major child poverty initiative in COVID relief measure:Tony Romm of the Washington Post reports that a program authorized under the $1.9 trillion stimulus to combat child poverty is at risk of early delays, as the Internal Revenue Service grapples with its massive tax backlog and recent decision to extend the tax-filing deadline until May 17. The agency’s commissioner, Charles Rettig, raised the potential for hiccups at a hearing on Thursday in front of the House Ways and Means Committee — though he pledged IRS officials would “do our best” to get the highly touted coronavirus aid effort up and running by July as Congress had intended. Under the law, known as the American Rescue Plan, lawmakers with the backing of President Biden approved a sweeping yet temporary expansion of the country’s child tax credit. The government aims to pay parents $3,000 per year for kids between ages 6 to 17, and $3,600 for those under age 6, on a periodic basis — replacing the smaller annual credit that families typically claim on their yearly tax returns. 

Schools are closed, but not child care centers: From the New York Times: “Over the last year, some educators, school officials and teachers’ union leaders in New York and across the country have declared that teachers are not babysitters, and that schools are not child care centers. The sentiment has been meant to convince the public that teachers should not be responsible for supervising children just so that parents can return to work. But while some educators have been able to work from home for much, if not all, of the pandemic, child care centers have emerged as substitute schools for many thousands of American children for whom online learning is not an option. For months, those students have been supervised by child care, after-school and day care employees — sometimes in the very same classrooms that were closed for in-person instruction because of high virus cases and concerns among teachers’ unions about safety measures. That stark imbalance has underscored longstanding inequities between child care workers and public school educators, and raised uncomfortable questions about which employees are considered essential.” 

HIV doctor to lead vaccine equity efforts at CDC: The Washington Post reports that a top HIV/AIDS doctor and gay activist “has been named to a new position at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overseeing vaccine equity efforts, according to a person familiar with the move and an internal memo, underscoring the agency’s efforts to address racial and other disparities threatening the nation’s immunization effort. Demetre Daskalakis, who had been director of the CDC’s division on HIV/AIDS prevention, will become senior vaccine equity lead, according to the memo. Before joining the CDC last year, he was incident commander for COVID-19 at New York City’s health department. In his new position, he will report directly to Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the CDC. His responsibilities will include running outreach to states and other jurisdictions as they strive to close yawning racial gaps that have opened up in early immunization data, as well as coordinating with retail pharmacies and community health centers, which are cornerstones of the Biden administration’s efforts to bring shots to vulnerable communities buffeted most severely by the coronavirus.” 

More than 4 in 10 healthcare workers have not been vaccinated, poll finds: From the Washington Post: “Health-care workers were the first group in the United States to be offered coronavirus vaccinations. But three months into the effort, many remain unconvinced, unreached and unprotected. The lingering obstacles to vaccinating health-care workers foreshadow the challenge the United States will face as it expands the pool of people eligible and attempts to get the vast majority of the U.S. population vaccinated. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, barely half of front-line health-care workers (52%) said they had received at least their first vaccine dose at the time they were surveyed. More than 1 in 3 said they were not confident vaccines were sufficiently tested for safety and effectiveness. The nationally representative survey of 1,327 front-line health-care workers, conducted Feb. 11 through March 7, illustrates the challenges ahead as vaccine advocates try to persuade a wider population — with less familiarity with medicine — to get vaccinated.” 

Why many Black parents aren’t joining the push to reopen schools: From Mother Jones: “Few issues this year have been as rife with division and drama as the on-again, off-again efforts of school districts to restart in-person learning … Amid the fierce debate, Black parents across the country have largely resisted the push to return to public schools. According to a December report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 62% of white parents strongly or somewhat agreed that school should reopen this fall, while less than half of Black parents agreed. In a Pew Research survey conducted in mid-February, Black adults were the most likely of all racial groups to worry about the health risks of reopening — 80% of Black adults wanted kids to stay remote until teachers were vaccinated, for example, while only 51% of white adults felt the same. And no wonder: The pandemic has dealt a disproportionately heavy blow to Black Americans. According to CDC data published in September, Black youth accounted for 29% of COVID-19 deaths among people under 21, twice the percentage for white youth. The federal agency also found Black children under 18 at a significantly higher risk of hospitalization — almost four times higher than white children and teens. Families across racial and ethnic groups are worried about the risks of returning to classrooms. But what sets so many Black parents apart is the acute distrust underlying their doubts — doubts shaped by generations of racial discrimination and institutional inequality.” 

Pandemic underscores importance of paid leave for people of color: From USA Today: “People of color, who are more likely to die and lose their jobs during the COVID-19 crisis, are also less likely to have access to paid leave. That benefit would enable them to take time off to care for themselves and their families during the pandemic, a new report found. Among workers, 50% of Latinos and 37% of African Americans say their employers did not offer time off with pay, compared with 34% of white employees, according to the report from the National Partnership for Women & Families, citing pre-pandemic data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. ‘Women and people of color are forced to make the impossible choice between caring for themselves or a loved one, or a paycheck,” says Erika Moritsugu, vice president of government relations and economic justice for the NPWF.” 

Texas’s internet-reliant, de-centralized system leaves many eligible people unable to access COVID vaccines: The Texas Tribune looks at difficulties in the state’s vaccination process, “a time-consuming process that inherently favors people who have easy access to internet and transportation. The situation is contributing to inequitable access for many people in the state — including Black and Hispanic Texans — who are at a higher risk of dying or experiencing severe symptoms from COVID-19, experts and local officials said. Health care workers, teachers and child-care workers, long-term care facility residents, people 50 and older, and people 16 and older with certain medical vulnerabilities are eligible for the vaccine in Texas. But many of those people can’t get a shot because they can’t spend hours navigating the internet or waiting in line.” 

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