Archives for category: Health

The Washington Post reports today that the Pentagon diverted coronavirus funds for such things as building jet engines.

A $1 billion fund Congress gave the Pentagon in March to build up the country’s supplies of medical equipment has instead been mostly funneled to defense contractors and used for making things such as jet engine parts, body armor and dress uniforms.


The change illustrates how one taxpayer-backed effort to battle the novel coronavirus, which has killed roughly 200,000 Americans, was instead diverted toward patching up long-standing perceived gaps in military supplies.
The Cares Act, which Congress passed earlier this year, gave the Pentagon money to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.”

But a few weeks later, the Defense Department began reshaping how it would award the money in a way that represented a major departure from Congress’s original intent.
The payments were made even though U.S. health officials believe there are still major funding gaps in responding to the pandemic. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in Senate testimony last week that states desperately need $6 billion to distribute vaccines to Americans early next year. There remains a severe shortage of N95 masks at numerous U.S. hospitals. These are the types of problems that the money was originally intended to address.

We have already seen how federal funding for the pandemic favored private and charter schools, which received six times as much money as public schools.

Nancy Shively is a special education teacher in Oklahoma. She is a lifelong Republican. She voted for Trump in 2016. She now knows this was a huge mistake that has put her life and the lives of her colleagues at risk. She has switched her registration to independent and will vote for Joe Biden this time.

Her vote for Trump, she fears, may have been tantamount to signing her death warrant.

She writes:

I live and teach in a small Oklahoma town. It’s not far from the site of President Trump’s Tulsa campaign rally on June 20 that appears, as common sense would have predicted, to be a super-spreader event. About two weeks after the rally, Tulsa County reported a record high number of cases…

I am over 60, with two autoimmune diseases. This outbreak has me worried as it is. Now, with the prospect of schools reopening in a few short weeks, I am terrified.

And I am not the only one. One young teacher I know has chronic kidney problems and is at high risk for complications if she contracts COVID-19. She can’t quit her only source of income. Taking its cue from our governor, who hosted Trump’s rally and has now tested positive for COVID-19 himself, her school district has announced that wearing a mask will be optional, though the state is considering requiring it…

Our country has long devalued and underpaid teachers, refusing to adequately fund the public schools that support our democracy. At the same time, teachers routinely have to use their own money to buy classroom supplies. Now the government is turning to us to risk our health or possibly our lives during a pandemic. My school district has no mask mandate and two nurses for more than 2,400 students in 5 school buildings. How is that going to work?…

Teaching is a calling and Oklahoma teachers are as tough as they come. Some have sheltered their students as a tornado ripped the school building from over their heads. Most of us would do anything to help our students succeed.

So now the man I gambled on to be president is asking us to risk our health and our very lives. The odds are most definitely not in our favor.

Mercedes Schneider is back to work teaching high school English in Louisiana. She is doing her best to keep her students socially distanced, though she hasn’t figured out how that will be possible when her class size reaches 24.

But the silver lining is that her students are wearing masks! They are not acting stupid and refusing to protect themselves and others! That’s good news for them and for her.

Capital & Main, a major source on investigative journalism, reports on a dramatic surge in the number of uninsured people in the first three years of Trump’s term. Health insurance was a decisive issue in the 2018 elections, and may be decisive again this year as the number of vulnerable people grows.

Danny Feingold, publisher of Capital & Main, writes:

Capital & Main just published a major news story on the large increase under Donald Trump of uninsured Americans in battleground states. This article, based on original analysis of new Census data released today, is the first to report that nearly 1.6 million more people in battleground states were uninsured during Trump’s initial three years in office.

The data do not reflect the millions of additional people who are estimated to have lost health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our story by senior reporter Jessica Goodheart — co-published by USA Today – reports that Florida saw an increase of nearly a quarter million uninsured during Trump’s first three years, while North Carolina, Arizona and Ohio each saw the number of people without health insurance rise by more than 100,000. Texas had by far the largest increase in uninsured residents, with nearly 700,00 people, while other key battleground states including Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa also saw a significant rise in those without health insurance.

Cynthia Nixon, award-winning actress, is an activist for public schools. She ran against Andrew Cuomo for Governor in the Democratic primary in 2018. He had collected $35 million or so before the campaign started and outspent her 35-1. Her big issue was inevitable school
funding. (I endorsed her.)

She wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times contrasting the resources available to make her TV show set completely safe and the inadequate, spotty measures to make the schools safe for 1.1 million children.

Priorities! Kids don’t count!

Two phone calls exposed the differences in resources, planning, and care for health and safety:

On the call related to my show, I heard about the many tours the industrial hygienist had taken of the set and about the renovation of some of our work spaces to be coronavirus-safe. Out of an abundance of caution, even some spaces that looked fairly healthy had been eliminated.

I also heard about how the crew and production staff would be divided into strict pods; they would be tested before they started work and then tested one to three times a week. Actors, who need to remove their masks, would be tested every day. Anyone coming to New York from out of state would need to quarantine for two weeks before being allowed on set.

Air purifiers have been purchased, filtration systems have been upgraded, and an entire department has been created solely to deal with safety protocols and testing. And Covid-19-upgraded vans and shuttles, along with extra parking lots, were available to ensure that everyone had safe transportation to work.

The second call was a meeting of the parents association at my son’s public school. I heard that teachers and administrators could choose to be tested for the coronavirus before the school year began and that people entering the school could decide whether they wanted their temperature taken.

I heard about classroom pods limited to nine students, a restriction made irrelevant by the number of people moving freely from pod to pod — teachers, school staff members and even parents who are now being recruited as substitute teachers by overwhelmed school administrators. I heard about the several hundred school nurses who still needed to be hired in the system.

I heard that building inspections would begin just a few weeks before school was set to open, even though out of the 1,700 buildings to be examined, a thousand already have documented ventilation problems. And I could only shake my head as I later saw that the system for testing these ventilation systems involves using a yardstick with a piece of toilet paper attached to it by paper clip to gauge airflow.

Needless to say, the care and investment given to restarting television and film production in New York looks nothing like the uncertain, chaotic, shamefully underfunded and profoundly unsafe approach to reopening the public schools, which serve 1.1 million children, nearly three-quarters of them deeply underprivileged.

This pandemic has laid bare our society’s inequities, and nowhere more than in our public schools. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, lauded as a hero for his handling of the state’s pandemic response, has overseen a supposedly temporary 20 percent reduction of its payments to school districts since this summer.

In New York City, the decrease would amount to a $2.3 billion loss for the schools over the next year. The city schools chancellor, Richard Carranza, said that the cuts, if made permanent, would mean “game over” for in-person learning, and would lead to programming cuts and 9,000 layoffs in the Department of Education.

Yet the governor has resisted raising taxes on the state’s 118 billionaires (up from 112 last year), who have seen their collective wealth increase by $77 billion during the pandemic, a figure that dwarfs the state’s projected budget gap of $14.5 billion this year.

Even before the pandemic, New York State was second in the country when it comes to inequities in education funding — with rich districts getting $10,000 more per student on average than poor districts. (The state’s failure to equitably and fully fund New York’s low-income school districts motivated me to run for governor in 2018.)

The city has compounded the continuing disinvestment in our public schools. In June, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council pushed through nearly $1 billion in cuts and savings to the education budget. Coupled with the state reductions, the schools are now facing a staggering cut of $3.3 billion.

The mayor has been hamstrung by the governor and his own political miscalculations and leadership failures. As experts warned of a pandemic earlier this year, the mayor, echoing Mr. Cuomo’s confidence that the virus could be contained, resisted calls to close the schools.

By early May, at least 74 Department of Education employees had died in connection with Covid-19. (Researchers at Columbia found that had the city shut down even a week earlier than March 16, the date when schools were finally closed, some 18,500 Covid-19 deaths citywide could have been avoided.)

Over the summer, as schools in Los Angeles and Chicago decided to go fully remote this fall, giving them crucial weeks to prepare for remote learning and make accommodations for the neediest students, our mayor at first stubbornly refused the pleas of parents and teachers and pushed for reopening in person without delay.

The mayor, whom I endorsed in 2013, has insisted correctly that schools are vital for the city’s most vulnerable families. His desire to reopen on time, however, has not been backed up with adequate safety measures.

It is noteworthy that a survey last month by the Education Trust-New York found that Black, Latino and low-income families — many of whom have already been disproportionately hit by the virus — were significantly more wary of reopening schools this fall. Only when threatened with a strike by teachers (who were largely demanding many basic safety measures) did the mayor finally agree to delay opening, albeit by less than two weeks. As a result, all city public school students are now without schooling, remote or in person, for most of this month.

Instead of asking our wealthiest citizens to pay more during a time of crisis, New York is imposing austerity on public schools — even though fewer dollars mean fewer safety measures, more cases and more deaths.

If city and state leaders cared half as much about our children as they do about television actors, we’d be raising revenue and giving our schools the funding needed to reopen safely. The attention being devoted to keeping the city’s movie sets safe shows that it’s possible. Don’t our students and teachers deserve the same level of care and investment?

The American Federation of Teachers released a new poll about reopening the schools during the pandemic:

Contact:
Andrew Crook
o: 202-393-8637
c: 607-280-6603
acrook@aft.org
http://www.aft.org

New Poll Shows America’s Parents, Teachers Want ‘Safety First’ on School Reopenings

Trump and DeVos’ Ruinous Agenda Rejected, Comfort with Return to Brick-and-Mortar Schools Significantly Higher when Protections, Funding in Place

WASHINGTON—The nation’s teachers and parents are seeing through the Trump administration’s chaos and disinformation over reopening schools this fall, new polling shows. And while supermajorities of the poll’s respondents fear they or their child will be infected with the virus, they are united behind the need to secure safety measures and the resources to pay for them, so students can return to in-person learning.

Sixty-eight percent of parents—including 82 percent of Black parents—and 77 percent of teachers say protecting the health of students and staff should be the primary factor in weighing whether, how and when schools should open their doors for in-person instruction, according to the survey, conducted by Hart Research Associates.

Just 21 percent of parents and 14 percent of teachers say schools should reopen on a normal in-person basis—as demanded by President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—and significant majorities reject the administration’s plan to strip federal aid from schools that don’t comply.

With the coronavirus still spreading rapidly in large swaths of the country, majorities of both parents and teachers worry their districts will move too quickly to fully reopen, rather than too slowly.

Majorities of teachers (60 percent) and parents (54 percent) are not comfortable starting the school year in person, and concern for personal safety is the top reason they remain leery. But, crucially, when safety protections such as masks, daily deep cleaning and sanitizing, physical distancing, proper ventilation and the funding to provide them are in place, 71 percent of parents and 79 percent of teachers are comfortable returning.

Parents and teachers voice high levels of concern about the personal risks of coronavirus infection. And 1 in 3 teachers say the pandemic has made them more likely to leave teaching earlier than they planned. Most teachers say they have purchased personal protective equipment for themselves (86 percent) or their students (11 percent).

Overall, half of parents and teachers report their schools are opening with at least some in-person instruction, with 2 in 5 schools opening remotely. Parents think remote learning has had a more negative impact on their children’s social-emotional health than on their academic progress. Most parents feel an adult will need to be with their child for remote learning; 3 in 10 of them say it will be difficult to make this happen.

Hart Research conducted the comprehensive national survey on behalf of the American Federation of Teachers, the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the NAACP.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “Parents and teachers are on the same page when it comes to school reopening—and they are united in the belief that we must protect our students, educators and communities’ safety and health and reject President Trump and Betsy DeVos’ agenda to strip schools of funding if they don’t fully reopen.

“We all want to get back to in-person learning, but that should not happen until there are COVID-19 safety measures in place and the funding to pay for them. While teachers and parents have been toiling for months to try and reopen, Trump downplayed the virus. While the president never misses an opportunity to threaten schools, or to sow confusion or chaos, he and DeVos were missing in action when it came to planning and resourcing what should have been the country’s biggest priority: reopening schools for our kids. Indeed, the only guidance DeVos has issued for this year is to mandate standardized high-stakes tests. One just wonders why kids’ and teachers’ health can be dispensable, but high-stakes testing is not.”

NAACP Vice President of Civic Engagement Jamal Watkins said: “The facts: Data, analytics and example after example have proven that the school system today is still fraught with unequal funding, environmental racism and toxic stress to which students of color are exposed—and the underlying factor is structural racism. With the mismanagement of COVID-19 and the failure of both the Trump administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, we are deeply concerned that reopening without key guardrails and a true plan that puts students, parents, educators and staff first is a disaster that will continue to unfold.

“We stand with the AFT and will use every action and tool available to us, from serving on state and local reopening committees to filing lawsuits and other advocacy actions against unsafe and unsound plans, or the faulty implementation of plans. Nothing is off the table when it comes to the safety and health of those on the frontlines in America’s schools.”

AROS Executive Director Keron Blair said: “Parents, educators and students are united in thinking that Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos have not done enough to keep our children and communities safe as they press for the reopening of schools. We have also seen that where remote learning is being offered, adequate technology has not been provided to make access to learning equitable. The coronavirus pandemic is a health crisis. It is a racial justice crisis. And it is, for sure, a crisis and failure of leadership. The information revealed in this poll strengthens our claims and adds necessary fuel to the fights that parents and educators are leading for the safe and equitable reopening of schools.”

Sindy Benavides, CEO of LULAC, said: “Our nation’s classrooms are a microcosm of what is occurring everywhere in our country during this pandemic, and we now know that even children are not immune in close proximity among themselves or with others. The only difference is that what we, as adults, decide to do is our choice, while students are being mandated, and by extension their teachers and school staff, to re-enter spaces that at present pose a risk of exposure to the virus. Latino parents are facing disproportionate challenges, including higher numbers of COVID-19 as America’s essential workers, higher unemployment rates, and lack of access to technology. LULAC has always viewed public education as an essential component for the progress of an individual and our community. However, we cannot in good faith support sending our youngsters into possible harm’s way while some elected officials play politics with their lives.”

The online poll of 1,001 parents of public school K-12 students, including 228 Latino parents and 200 Black parents, was conducted Aug. 26 to Sept. 6, 2020; the online survey of 816 public school teachers across the United States was conducted Aug. 26 to Sept. 1, 2020.

The full poll deck is available here.

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Under the weak leadership of the United States, the global reputation of the United States has plummeted, according to a new poll reported in the Washington Post.

President Trump defended his handling of the coronavirus pandemic during an interview with Fox News over the weekend, arguing that he took “tremendous steps” early in the outbreak, which “saved probably two or two and a half million lives.”


But much of the world appears to think otherwise. In a new poll of 13 nations released Tuesday, a median of 15 percent of respondents said the United States had handled the pandemic well, while 85 percent said the country had responded poorly.


The data, released by Pew Research Center, suggests that the international reputation of the United States has dropped to a new low in the face of a disorganized response to the novel coronavirus.

The country leads the world in virus-related deaths.


International affairs analysts say it may be difficult to repair the damage to the United States’ standing overseas.

Among some traditional allies like Germany, views of the United States have declined to the lowest levels since Pew began tracking them nearly two decades ago.

Amber Phillips explains in the Washington Post why Trump will continue holding indoor rallies to mostly maskless people, despite the warnings of public health officials.

The president held an indoor rally Sunday in Nevada and a large indoor event in Phoenix on Monday. More could be coming.

And reporting indicates that he thinks flouting public health advice is the right way to rally his base.

But that probably comes at the expense of picking up moderates. Polls show a majority of Americans support wearing masks and taking precautions against the virus. Not to mention hat this indoor-rally-practice creates the very real risk that the president is helping spread coronavirus in key swing states rather than slow it. But it’s what Trump wants, so it looks like it will continue. The Post’s Anne Gearan and Josh Dawsey report:

“Many around the president are acutely aware that a potential surge in coronavirus cases and deaths close to the election could be disastrous, according to campaign and White House aides, but they are mostly bowing to Trump’s desire to pack the house.”

In other words, he is endangering the lives of his most ardent supporters because he wants to impress them with his heroics. He is removed feom the crowd and is not in danger. They are in danger, not him. He doesn’t press the flesh. Their exhalations do not reach him. His friend Herman Cain died of coronavirus shortly after attending Trump’s rally in Tulsa. Coincidence? Tulsa exoerienced a surge in cases two weeks after the rally.

Trump may be a one-man super spreader.

Not a good look after 200,000 Americans have died.

But maybe this bravado impresses his MAGA base.

Donald Trump, stable genius, claims that Joe Biden is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, that is, when he’s not claiming that Biden is a tool of the “radical left.” Watch this conversation and make your own judgment. Ask yourself how Trump would fare without a script on a teleprompter. The film also serves to remind us of another Trump characteristic: He is utterly without empathy. He despises what he calls “losers.” It is impossible to forget the time he mocked a disabled journalist at one of his rallies. It’s easy to remember that he called John McCain a “loser” because he was a POW.

This is a most interesting unscripted discussion between Joe Biden and Ady Barkan.

Ady is a brilliant progressive activist who was a supporter of Sanders, Warren, and Medicare for all.

In 2016, he was stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and is completely disabled. He is dying by the day.

He asks tough questions.

I recommend the conversation.

The New York Times explains how China opened its schools safely. As an authoritarian state, dissent is not permitted. No one is allowed to disobey the rules. The rules are strictly enforced.

As a free society, we rely on people to exercise civic responsibility and good judgement to protect themselves and others.

When the president of the nation ridicules people who wears masks and doesn’t wear one himself, it’s difficult to promote civic responsibility.