BET Reports On COVID-19 Updates, Facts And News You Need To Know


As the fight against coronavirus pandemic continues, will be bringing updated information about the progress of health officials, the federal government and updates in other parts of the world on happenings.

Keep checking back for more daily posts to keep you abreast of what is taking place from all corners.

NYC Health + Hospitals Takes The Lead

June 12, 2020: New York City: In an effort to suppress the growing threat of the coronavirus pandemic, the New York City Health + Hospitals, the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), and the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio have come together to announce the creation of a Test and Trace Corps. This group of individuals will manage every aspect of the positive cases of coronavirus they see and collect data under one unified operational system. 

In doing so, the hope is to provide additional resources for testing and follow up medical care, particularly for those communities that are more susceptible to the disease. It will also allow for tracing of all those who test positive and their close contacts as part of an integrated program. All this, while the city is still officially under lock down with a plan to safely re-open in stages within the next few weeks. 

It also means employment opportunities for hundreds of out of work New Yorkers who now have the chance to be hired within the Health + Hospitals structure. The Test and Trace Corps is recruiting, training, and hiring thousands of contact tracers and other positions to meet these goals. As a contact tracer, you’ll investigate cases, trace and monitor contacts, and manage all case data and inquiries.


For the latest on the coronavirus, check out BET’s blog on the virus, and contact your local health department or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

African Americans With Diabetes Facing Higher Coronavirus Risk, Doctor Says

Wednesday, May 20, 2020: Diabetes, a historically consistent health problem in the African American community is now seen as a culprit in coronavirus deaths among Black people, which are the most disproportionately high among demographics in America.

Dr. Jennifer Caudle, associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Rowan University told Yahoo News that African Americans are 80 percent more likely than whites to be diagnosed with diabetes, putting patients at higher risk for COVID-19.

“Diabetes is a condition that can affect your whole body in different ways,” she said. “When we talk about African-Americans, what we’ve seen is it’s almost compounded when we talk about COVID-19.”

Data from Chicago show 50 percent of those who died from coronavirus  in the city were African American, although Blacks make up roughly 30 percent of the population. For other places, the figures are similar.  “We are often making up a large percentage of those who are becoming severely ill with COVID-19 or dying from complications of COVID-19,” said Caudle.

She said people living with diabetes should be aware of the risks involved with coronavirus and take care of themselves.

“We certainly know that people with controlled underlying illness may do better [with COVID-19] than those who don’t have controlled illness,” she said. “We want diabetes to be under control.” — Madison J. Gray

For the latest on the coronavirus, check out BET’s blog on the virus, and contact your local health department or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Poll: Black People Want More States To Slow Down Nationwide Reopening

Wednesday May 13, 2020: Coronavirus cases continue to affect African Americans disproportionately on a nationwide basis with new data coming from states and municipalities showing the consistent number of infections and fatalities.

Despite the number of cases decreasing in some places and remaining constant in others, Black people are still concerned about how the reopening of businesses and public areas will affect them. As we know, African Americans are overall statistically more vulnerable than whites to contract the disease. But according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll, almost 3 in 4 people said the U.S. should keep trying to slow the spread of coronavirus, even if that means businesses remain closed. For African Americans it was 9 in 10.

“It’s clear that there’s a disproportionate impact of covid-19 diagnoses and deaths among African Americans,” Gregorio Millett, vice president of Amfar, the Foundation for AIDS Research told The Post. “All of my colleagues fear that with these policies to open up communities, that the brunt of the covid-19 epidemic is not going to be borne equally on all communities, that we will likely see greater covid-19 deaths as well as cases in African American communities.”

The pandemic has also affected the employment outlook for Black people. In another Post-Ipsos poll, 16 percent of African Americans say they have lost their jobs since the beginning of the virus spread. For whites that number was 11 percent. — Madison J. Gray

Study: Counties With Majority Black Residents Have Triple The Coronavirus Infections Of White Counties

Monday May 11, 2020: In urban areas, the figures on disproportionate COVID-19  infection and death rates among African Americans have been snowballing for weeks. Cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans and others have seen rates of 70 percent or more and in other places like Prince George’s County, Maryland and Richmond, Virginia have experienced sudden surges.

Now, there is new data showing that counties with the highest African American population proportions are also experiencing the highest death rates, according to Bloomberg News. In fact, the higher the Black population, the worse the health disparity.

In an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau numbers and data from Johns Hopkins University, in areas where the Black population is more than 13.4 percent — which is their proportion of the national population — the death rate is almost twice that of the national average. However, according to an April article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the data shows that the infection rate is triple the rate compared to majority white counties where the deaths of Black individuals increase six-fold.

Although many areas have not provided specific racial infection data, healthcare disparities among nonwhite communities are being blamed. Comorbidities that are too common among African Americans like hypertension, diabetes, obesity and heart disease factor in as ailments that coronavirus exploits, the article notes.

“There is nothing different biologically about race. It is the conditions of our lives,” Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, PhD, former president of the American Public Health Association, told MedPage Today. “We have to acknowledge that now and always.”

President Trump promised more data on race and coronavirus would be available in April, but that was pushed back to “early May” by federal officials. But the Trump administration has said that early findings indicate that more testing for the virus is needed in minority neighborhoods. To lead his Black outreach strategy, Trump has tapped Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who says he will make a presentation at the White House this month, according to South Carolina newspaper The State. — Madison J. Gray

Despite Harsh Impact of Coronavirus Black Faith Remains Unbroken

Monday, May 4, 2020: The effects coronavirus is having on health and well being within the African American community has become all too obvious as documentation from state governments as well as the federal government becomes available.

But despite all the ways in which the pandemic is affecting people of color, religious faith among Black people has not waivered one bit, according to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. 

The survey shows that 56 percent of people who attend historically African American churches say their faith has strengthened since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, despite many of their houses of worship being closed.

Black people are also more likely than whites (35 percent)  to say their faith has grown during the pandemic, according to the research. It was, however, unclear how many African Americans have converted to watching church services online, but Pew said 57 percent of adults, who attend services at least monthly, say they have watched online or religious programming on television due to the pandemic.

African Americans of faith have unfortunately had their faith vastly tested with the loss of several key figures in their churches and mosques. In the Church of God In Christ, several important and influential leaders have been taken by COVID-19, costing the denomination 30 bishops and clergy.

“This will change the ecosystem of Black church life,” Anthea Butler, a University of Pennsylvania associate professor of religious studies told The Washington Post recently. “It’s showing the inequities of health disparities and economic disparities in the black community.”

There are places where the faithful are mobilizing against coronavirus. In Philadelphia, the West Philadelphia Seventh Day Adventist Church has stepped up as a beacon to their community by providing testing for people in the neighborhood.

“When times get dark, the church demonstrates its relevance. What you’re seeing now is the church, as it has always been in the Black community in particular, filling the place where government and social-economics fail,” Pastor Nick Taliaferro told the Philadelphia Tribune.

Also, a group called The National Black Muslim COVID Coalition has conducted their own survey to compile information about how the disease is affecting Islamic communities.  

“This is something many of us have thought about and wanted to do for our communities, and the pandemic was definitely a catalyst for it,” Asha Noor, who represents the coalition, recently told Religion News Service. “Our community’s voices are really important, and they’re critically important during moments of crisis and conflict like this.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says African Americans make up 28.5 percent of coronavirus cases for which racial backgrounds are reported.- Madison J. Gray 

Black Scientists Hope To Begin Antiviral Drug Testing For Coronavirus In Two Weeks

A laboratory at Nashville’s Meharry Medical College is reportedly two weeks away from testing an anti-virus to prevent the coronavirus.

Dr. Donald Alcendor, who worked on a successful anti-virus to the Zika virus, told NBC News that the disproportionate level of positive testing for COVID-19 among African Americans further compels everyone at Meharry to do their best. The school was founded in 1876 to teach medicine to Black people who had been enslaved.

RELATED: Barack Obama Calls Out Trump Administration For Fuel Efficiency Standards

“This is bigger than COVID-19,” said Dr. Linda Witt, the senior associate vice president for development at the HBCU. “We are called to serve on the front lines. For Meharrians, it’s natural to go into our communities. We exist in the Black community. But it’s at a heightened level now. And having an HBCU presence, voice and expertise is essential.”

Pharmaceutical companies and scientists are scurrying to create a drug to treat the coronavirus. Alcendor says he embraces his role in the race for the cure.

“Usually, we all wear different hats and do various jobs,” Alcendor said. “The process is understanding how the virus gets into your system, where it goes and how it infects,” Alcendor said about developing an antiviral drug. “The struggle is that it is a single-strand that produces tremendous inflammation. The patient will feel like he’s drowning.” — BET Staff

For the latest on the coronavirus, check out BET’s blog on the virus, and contact your local health department or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Global Coronavirus Cases Pass 3 Million Leaves Few Answers For African Americans

Monday, April 27, 2020: Coronavirus hit a sad, but sobering, threshold on Monday as the number of cases worldwide crossed a critical mark.

Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that 3,017,806 people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19 with 209,661 deaths and 885,302 recoveries. The United States, once with the fewest known cases, now eclipses other nations with 979,077 cases, and 55,563 deaths and 107,526 recoveries.

RELATED: Senegalese Lab Uses Expertise To Develop $1 Coronavirus Testing Kit

The number comes just two weeks after global cases hit 2 million. With no cure nor a vaccine within sight of at least a year and practical treatments falling into the sphere of political debate, nations continue to try to guide its citizenry on exactly how to live in with an unprecedented pandemic while attempting to rescue their economies.

In the United States, New York and New Jersey remain the hardest high states although officials report gradual signs of a slow down in the number of infections and daily death tolls. Other states are looking at loosening restrictions or allowing businesses to open up despite public health warnings that it could be too soon.

That remains a concern in the African American community where data from several cities show that Black people are hit disproportionately harder by the virus largely as a result of existing disparities. 

In Richmond, Virginia, for example, each of the eight people who died of COVID-19 are Black and yet, African Americans comprise 48 percent of the city’s population. On a broader scale, African Americans comprise of 28 percent of COVID-19 related deaths in New York City although they make up 22 percent of the population. 

National data is still sketchy because not every state or municipality has been collecting data on coronavirus patients by race. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released data for cases in which race was specified and their results find that 92,164 or 29.5 percent of Americans who have tested positive are identidy as Black/African American. 

Cases of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease stand as underlying conditions that COVID-19 exploits to sicken and eventually kill African Americans, health care data shows. But it is still difficult to gauge exactly how badly coronavirus has truly hurt Black people because only half of all states have released demographic information on how many people have actually died, according to the Associated Press. 

“It’s America’s unfinished business — we’re free, but not equal,” civil rights leader and head of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Rev. Jesse Jackson told the AP. “There’s a reality check that has been brought by the coronavirus, that exposes the weakness and the opportunity.”— Madison J. Gray

Study: African Americans Have High Rate of COVID-19 Hospitalizations

Although broad comprehensive nationwide datasets showing exactly how African Americans are affected by coronavirus have not become available, a new study shows 1 in 3 people who need hospitalization for the disease are Black.

The research, which studied a group of 1,500 people in 14 states, was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that while white people comprise 45 percent of the hospitalizations, they make up 76 percent of the nation’s population. By contrast, Black people are 33 percent of those hospitalized, but are 13 percent of the population. Latinos made up only 8 percent, but are 18 percent of the U.S. population.

The results of the study appear in the medical publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, NPR reported Friday.

Those hospitalized were mostly aged 65 years or older and 54 percent were men. Symptoms at the time of admission included coughing, at 86 percent; fever or chills, at 85 percent; and shortness of breath at 80 percent.

“These findings underscore the importance of preventive measures (e.g., social distancing, respiratory hygiene, and wearing face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain),” the study’s authors wrote, “to protect older adults and persons with underlying medical conditions, as well as the general public.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said at a press briefing this week that African Americans are not necessarily more likely to be infected by coronavirus, but “underlying medical conditions, [including] diabetes, hypertension, obesity, [and] asthma”  increase the likelihood that Black people end up in an intensive care unit or face fatality from the disease.” — BET Staff

Detroit Will Be First City to Try 15-Minute Coronavirus Testing

Thursday, April 2, 2020: Testing for coronavirus usually takes days to receive results, but beginning Thursday (April 2), Detroit will be the first city to complete tests in a matter of minutes.

According to WXYZ, Detroit has access to special coronavirus test kits that can receive results in 15 minutes. Testing with the new kits has started for city police, first responders and bus drivers.

First responders in Detroit have been heavily impacted by COVID-19. Receiving the test results in minutes could be a major game changer in the fight against the pandemic allowing infected patients to be identified before they even show any symptoms.

On Friday (March 27), Mayor Mike Duggan announced that police chief James Craig tested positive for the disease, marking the 91th person (75 officers and 15 other department employees) fighting the virus and putting 468 officers in quarantine. Detroit’s Fire Department currently has 17 employees who have tested positive with 146 workers in quarantine.

According to the Detroit News,  the city hopes to conduct 1,000 coronavirus tests daily.–Vanessa Etienne

Democratic National Convention Postponed Til August Due To Coronavirus Concerns

The Democratic National Convention, which had been scheduled for July in Milwaukee, has been postponed until August 17.

While Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are continuing their campaigns for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, the convention — where the party’s nominee is officially selected by the delegates — has been pushed back due to coronavirus concerns and the extension of shelter-in-place orders across the country. The announcement was made Thursday (April 2) morning.

“In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention,” Joe Solmonese, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, said in a statement Thursday. “During this critical time, when the scope and scale of the pandemic and its impact remain unknown, we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of health care professionals and emergency responders.”

15 states have postponed their primaries in the wake of COVID-19, according to the New York Times. Wisconsin is holding firm to its April 7th date, but the governor plans to send every voter an absentee ballot.

BET Staff

Coronavirus Stimulus Checks Could Arrive ‘Within Three Weeks’ For Selected People

Wednesday, April 1, 2020: As the unemployment rate spirals out of control and President Donald Trump warns of a “painful” two weeks ahead, the coronavirus stimulus checks promised by the federal government could arrive for some Americans within three weeks.

On March 30, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CBS’ Face the Nation that some payments will go out “within three weeks.” However, only if you have your direct deposit information on file with the IRS within the past two years. 

He explained, “We will create a web-based system for people where [if] we don’t have their direct deposit [information], they can upload it so that they can get the money immediately as opposed to checks in the mail.”

See below:

NBC News explains, “Payments up to $1,200 per person, with an additional $500 per child under 17, will be made to U.S. residents with Social Security numbers who earn under $75,000. The amount decreases by $5 per every $100 earned after that, zeroing out at $99,000. For married couples, the phaseout range is $150,000 to $198,000.”

It’s not clear how everyone else will or when they will receive the stimulus check but NBC News reports, “The IRS said Americans who weren’t required to file taxes in the last two years will have to file a ‘simple tax return’ with basic information like filing status, number of dependents and bank information so the government can send the money.”

In a bizarre twist, Trump reportedly wants his signature on each of those check payments, according to The Wall Street Journal. When asked to verify, the White House refused to comment. – BET Staff

Organizers Stunned After Coronavirus Hits Attendees of Black Ski Event

Tuesday, March 31, 2020: Several attendees of an Idaho ski event targeted at African American ski enthusiasts have tested positive for coronavirus, which apparently hit the annual gathering before anyone realized the danger the disease would eventually pose.

“It was at a time when the serious nature of coronavirus was not conveyed by the supposed leadership of the country,” said Brad Corbin who has attended the National Brotherhood of Skiers’ ski summit regularly for the last 25 years. “I’m sure it would have been canceled. But it was classified as a ‘hoax.’

Corbin told NBC News that he missed the event this year because he didn’t want to go to the Sun Valley, Idaho location. But feels he dodged a bullet because six of the 600 who were in attendance have already been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Only after the event took place, the organization notified its 3,000 members that attendees from Ft. Washington, Md., Detroit, Washington D.C., and New York had tested positive.

“Our hearts and prayers are with everyone and every family that has encountered COVID-19, the flu, pneumonia or any other virus that is affecting our population,” read an email from the group. “We wish you a swift and speedy recovery. Please keep each other in your prayers and stay safe.”

National Brotherhood of Skiers’ president Peggie Allen, along with Sun Valley and Ketchum, Idaho mayors Peter Hendricks and Neil Bradshaw released a statement addressing the news of the infections.

“There is no evidence as to when and how the virus first entered Sun Valley or Ketchum. Sun Valley is a ski destination which hosts national and international tourists,” the statement said. “It had numerous visiting guests and organizations before, and during the same time the NBS members were visiting. It is virtually impossible to pinpoint a group or person who were carriers of the virus.”

“We all love this valley and our main concern now is that everyone who has been affected in the NBS and other groups, and in all of Blaine County, recovers in better health. Know we are here to support them,” the statement said.

Around the time of the event, Feb. 27 to March 7, infections around the country had yet to skyrocket to the levels they are currently and officials were not focused on it as they were in China, which was at the time leading the world in infections and deaths from coronavirus.

“This unfortunate case at the Black ski summit validates all the suggested precautions that have been repeated over the last several weeks,” he added. “All the things suggested we do now are on target and appropriate when you hear about situations from early March,” Dr. Pierre Vigilance, a former associate dean at George Washington University’s School of Public Health told NBC News.

“The big takeaway is that we do not know who we are putting at risk for the sake of a social event. And while we may not have known the extent that we do now, our behavior related to social interchanges has to change.” — Madison J. Gray

FDA Gives Emergency Approval For Malarial Drug To Treat Coronavirus

Monday, March 30, 2020: A drug used to treat malaria patients has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to treat coronavirus, despite it being unproven as a medicine for patients of the disease.

The FDA announced emergency approval of the Trump Administration’s plan to distribute the drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to hospitals across the nation to fight respiratory symptoms caused by COVID-19.

But the drugs have side effects and doctors say they could become widespread as they are distributed. “The concern really is if we’re talking millions of patients, then this issue of drug induced sudden cardiac death is absolutely going to rear its ugly head,’’ said Dr. Michael Ackerman, a pediatric cardiologist and professor at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, told The Washington Post.

Because there are currently no other treatments for coronavirus available, the FDA was willing to take the risk, according to an approval letter.

“It is reasonable to believe that chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate may be effective in treating covid-19,” FDA chief scientist, Denise Hinton, wrote in the letter.

Other countries, it cites, have adopted the drug as a treatment. But warnings have reportedly come out of Nigeria claiming that patients have suffered poisoning from choloroquine.

Its health ministry has said there is no hard evidence the drug can really treat coronavirus.

Dr. Michel Yao, an Africa emergency response program manager for the World Health Organization, also told  CNN that there are at least 20 different drugs and the same number of vaccines under clinical trials. Yao continued saying that it is too early to make any recommendations about the effectiveness of any treatment of the virus. 

“It is difficult for us to recommend at this stage that any of the medicine can be of use for the treatment of coronavirus,” Yao said. “It is too early to rush to the decision that chloroquine … at least for WHO to recommend it for the treatment of coronavirus.” — Madison J. Gray

Louisiana Pastor Refuses To Obey Coronavirus Order Preaching To Over 1,000 People At Church Service

March 25, 2020: The coronavirus is quickly spreading in Louisiana but a lone wolf pastor claims it is all about the politics.

Tony Spell, the pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana had over 1,100 people at his church services on Sunday, March 22. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has already ordered everyone to avoid crowds of 50 or more in an act of social distancing to avoid the further spreading of the COVID-19 disease.  

According to WAFB, Spell said, “It’s not a concern. The virus, we believe, is politically motivated. We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.”

He also added, “We have 27 buses on Sundays picking up people in a five-parish area.”

Spell claimed police showed up and told him that the National Guard would be sure to break up any future gatherings that exceed 50 people. However, NBC News reports a National Guard spokesman said “it is not involved in the matter and has no role in enforcing social distancing requirements as set by Gov. John Bel Edwards.”

In response to his actions, a Change.Org petition has called for Spell to be prosecuted.

“We ask our Governor to have Spell arrested immediately and charged with 1800 counts of reckless endangerment for a start, for the countless lives he will be brutalizing and even ending with his selfishness and ignorance. We further ask that he be made personally to answer legally for each and every infection and death in the 5 parishes surrounding his church in East Baton Rouge Parish occuring anytime after 17 March 2020,” the petition reads.

There are currently over 5,000 signatures in support of the petition’s efforts.

Spell also said if anyone in his congregation is infected with the coronavirus, he will heal them through God. See the news clip below:

Johns Hopkins University researchers report as of today, March 25, more than 55,000 people in the United States are infected with the coronavirus and more than 800 have died. Over 1,700 cases have been reported in Louisiana and at least 65 deaths. Globally 441,000 people have been infected, with a death total of at least 19,784.

For the latest on the coronavirus, contact your local health department and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. BET Staff

Texas And Ohio Ban Abortions During The Coronavirus Outbreak

Tuesday, March 24, 2020: Texas has some of the strictest abortion laws in the country. Now, the state has a impleneted a ban on abortions during the coronavrius, pandemic unless the life of the mother is threatened.

According to NBC, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said abortion did not qualify as an “essential” medical procedure. All scheduled abortions are immiadately postponed as of Monday, March 23.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton followed up with a statement that read in part, “No one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers. Those who violate the governor’s order will be met with the full force of the law.”

Not complying with the order, which remains in effect until April 21, could result in fines up to $1,000 or 180 days in jail.

Related: Alabama’s Near-Total Abortion Ban Temporarily Blocked By Federal Judge

The war on women in Texas has been happening for years. In 2013, former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis stood in front of her colleagues for 13 hours — with no bathroom breaks — blocking the passing of a controversial anti-abortion bill in her state. However, the Texas House of Representatives passed the controversial anti-abortion bill despite Davis’ efforts in a 98-49 vote.

The bill then passed in the Republican-led state Senate in 2013. By 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ruling. However, with teh current Administration, abortion rights have been threatend all over country. 

Abortions bans due to the coronavirus is not limited to just the state of Texas. Officials in Ohio have also ordered an indefinite stop on abortion procedures while the pandemic ensues. –BET Staff

Surgeon General: ‘This Week, It’s Going To Get Bad’

Monday, March 23, 2020: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued a dire warning concerning the rapid spread of coronavirus across the country and believes that not enough people are taking the deadly disease seriously enough.

“I want America to understand this week, it’s going to get bad,” Adams said on NBC’s “TODAY” show.

He explained that the spread is coming from many– especially the young –who are not heeding guidelines to stay at home to mitigate widespread infection. As many municipal and state governments have repeatedly emphasized social distancing and urged people to remain in their homes, multiple reports have come in showing people congregating in parks, at beaches and on streets as they normally would. Adams says that is the opposite of what people should be doing.

“I think there are a lot of people who are doing the right things,” he explained. “But I think that unfortunately, we’re finding out a lot of people think this can’t happen to them.

“Everyone needs to act as if they have the virus right now,” he continued. “So, test or no test, we need you to understand you could be spreading it to someone else. Or you could be getting it from someone else. Stay at home.” – Madison Gray

For the latest on the coronavirus, contact your local health department and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

New York State Becomes Epicenter of Coronavirus Outbreak

Sunday, March 22, 2020: In New York State, the nation’s hardest hit by coronavirus, more than half of the cases there — 53 percent — are people aged 18-49, despite the fact that older people are more susceptible to the disease.  An annoyed Gov. Mario Cuomo said at a press conference Saturday to those who aren’t taking it seriously: “You’re not Superman and you’re not Superwoman—you can get this virus.”

Cuomo issued a “stay at home” order for the state’s residents that began Sunday evening and mandated that only essential workplaces remain open.

For the latest on the coronavirus, contact your local health department and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

FDA Approves First Rapid ‘Point-Of-Care’ COVID-19 Test That Can Provide Results In 45 Minutes

Saturday, March 21, 2020: Cepheid, a molecular diagnostics company, received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday (March 21) to use its first rapid point-of-care test to detect the novel coronavirus.

The test, named SAR-CoV-2 Xpert Xpress, is designed to be given to patients at the point-of-care and can detect the virus that causes COVID-19 in 45 minutes, which is the fastest test to do so.

According to the Cepheid website, most tests have been known to take days. Cepheid, on the other hand, only takes a minute to prepare the cartridge with a patient sample and approximately 45 minutes to produce results.

“During this time of increased demand for hospital services, Clinicians urgently need an on-demand diagnostic test for real-time management of patients being evaluated for admission to health-care facilities,” Dr. David Persing, Chief Medical and Technology Officer at Cepheid, said.

He continued: “An accurate test delivered close to the patient can be transformative — and help alleviate the pressure that the emergence of the 2019-nCoV outbreak has put on healthcare facilities that need to properly allocate their respiratory isolation resources.”

According to CNBC, the tests will ship next week to central reference labs with plans of using the product by the end of the month.

As of Saturday (March 21), there have been at least 21,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States and 267 deaths.

For the latest on the coronavirus, contact your local health department and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. –Paul Meara


New Coronavirus Cases In Prisons Raises Concerns Over An Unprepared System

Friday, March 20, 2020: The first known cases of COVID-19 in the federal correctional system officially emerged on Wednesday (March 18) as the number of infected inmates and staff at local facilities across the country continues to climb.

The new cases have officials concerned about the spread of the COVID-19 disease within the tight quarters that American inmates face.

Sue Allison, an agency spokeswoman, says between Tuesday and Wednesday, a staffer at a medium security federal prison in Berlin, New Hampshire, and an employee at a Bureau of Prisons administrative facility in Grand Prairie, Texas, tested positive for the virus.

On Wednesday, local authorities said corrections officers in New York and Georgia had caught COVID-19, as well as an inmate at New York City’s Rikers Island, marking the first case at the notorious jail. 

RELATED: Ohio Jails May Release Some Inmates Due To Coronavirus Fears

In Arizona, the state’s Department of Corrections said Wednesday it would give inmates free hand soap after an advocacy group exposed a lack of cleaning supplies at local prisons.

Prison staffers have previously voiced their concern about an unprepared system, citing short staffing and a lack of proper protective equipment. Criminal justice advocates have been calling for the release of nonviolent offenders and states like Ohio are even considering releasing prisoners to combat the spread.

Courts are assessing all inmates and looking to settle guilty pleas by sending some (presumably violent offenders) to prison, some to house arrest and releasing others entirely. Cuyahoga County judges are holding a special Saturday morning session to deal with the cases, according to local news network WJHW in Cleveland.

The Bureau of Prisons, on Wednesday, notified local health officials about the two cases in New Hampshire and Texas, and has begun an internal risk assessment to determine who might have been exposed to the infected workers.

Civil Rights Advocacy group, Color of Change has launched a new platform dedicated to devestaing consequences that the COVID-19 outbreak will have on prisons and jails and those who work there only to return to their communities. 

“With 2.3 million people in the United States in prison or jail on any given day, an outbreak in these facilities poses a threat to the entire country. If federal, state, and local officials take swift action, they can not only prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside prisons, jails, and detention centers and ensure the safety and wellness of our loved ones behind cages, but they can also have an enormous impact on wellness of the rest of the country,” the site reads. 

For more information on how you can help visit– Paul Meara

Photo Credit: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Rep. Maxine Waters presents fiscal stimulus and public policy plan to fight effects of COVD-19 pandemic

March 19, 2020: Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), has announced plans for a legislative package to spur fiscal stimulus as well as address public policy as the nation continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The 28-item package would focus on several areas where the population could be affected by the fallout from the disease spread including but not limited to: 

  • Providing for at least $2,000 per month for each adult and $1,000 per month for each child.

  • Suspending all consumer and small business credit card payments.

  • Prohibiting debt collection, repossession, and garnishment of wages during the pandemic

  • Providing $5 billion in emergency homeless assistance.

  • A ban on all evictions, foreclosures, and repossessions–including manufactured homes, RVs, and cars– nationwide.

  • Suspension of work and community service requirements in Federal housing programs.

  • Providing $300 million for servicer coordinators to assist elderly households.

  • Provide $290 million for fair housing enforcement.

Waters, who is chair of the House Financial Services Committee, also presented about 20 other provisions that focus on helping small businesses, aiding renters, homeowners and the homeless, protecting consumers and assisting state and local governments and territories, along with nine others that focus on rebuilding the economy after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, we have seen the devastating effects on workers, consumers, investors, markets, and the economy,” said Waters.

“Low income communities were already struggling before this crisis began and will likely be hit particularly hard by the coming recession. This is an urgent public health crisis that has quickly harmed our entire economy, and it demands swift and bold action. The Financial Services Committee will play a central role in that response. ”

For the latest on the coronavirus, contact your local health department and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.


Millennials Key To Stopping U.S. Coronavirus Cases, Official Says

Thursday, March 19, 2020: With news footage of people in Florida sunbathing on the beach and partying in Miami as if there isn’t a pandemic that threatens the global population, the public health care community is doubling down on calls for social distancing and other measures to stop the rise of coronavirus spreading.

The age group they are saying is key to this are millennials, those who are currently aged 23-38. While people who are older than 65 are seen asmost vulnerable because of weaker immune systems and other health issues that come with age, younger people tend to be less susceptible to symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

Dr. Deborah Birx, who is the response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, said the way millennials have become so good at sharing information in such a fastidious manner and acting on it is critical to stopping the pandemic.

“The millennials are incredibly good about getting information out in a clear way, but more importantly, they are incredibly good about understanding how to protect one another, how to protect their parents, and how to protect their grandparents,” Birx said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” 

“Right now we need the army of millennials out there doing everything that they can to protect themselves from getting infected because we know a lot of their cases will be mild or asymptomatic, and making sure that they’re doing every single precaution to protect their parents and grandparents,” she said.

Mitchell Donovan, 23, the Utah Jazz guard who tested positive for coronavirus last week said what scared him most was that he was asymptomatic.

“I could walk down the street if it wasn’t public knowledge that I was sick. You wouldn’t know it,” he told ABC News. “I think that’s the scariest part about this virus. You may seem fine, be fine and you never know who you may be talking to, who they’re going home to.”

Millenials are currently the largest demographic age group in America at about 71 million. Birx said those numbers make it clear why that age group is so important.

“When you look at data, it’s very important to integrate both health data and public health data and cases with census,” Brix said. “If you look at every large city across America at the census bar graph, you’ll see that in every single case the largest numbers, about 22% in many cities, are millennials.”

For the latest on the coronavirus, contact your local health department and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

61-Year-Old Retired Nurse From Chicago’s South Side Becomes Illinois’ First Coronavirus Related Death

March 18, 2020: Patricia Frieson, a 61-year-old former nurse, becomes the first coronavirus-related death in Illinois.

The Chicago native passed away late Monday night (March 16) at the University of Chicago Medical Center, according to the medical examiner.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced the news at a press conference Tuesday.

“I’m deeply saddened to share the news that I have dreaded since the earliest days of this outbreak,” Pritzker said.

The medical examiner has yet to make an officialy determination on whether or not the virus caused her death, however she had tested positive for it before she died.

Frieson’s family said she suffered from severe asthma and when she went to the hospital last Thursday, she was diagnosed with pneumonia and then COVID-19.

“(She) had struggled with pain for her entire life,” said her brother, Anthony Frieson, according to WGN9. “She became a nurse to care for people. She had a deep love of God, Holy Spirit, and she lived a life trying to follow God’s will in everything she did and said.”

Frieson was a retired floor and traveling nurse who attended school in Arkansas. One of her sisters is currently under surveillance at a hospital and is reportedly experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus disease.

“It is real. It is real. There is no fooling around with this,” Anthony Frieson said. “I know my sister had pre-existing conditions but it’s a very serious condition when you get these symptoms. … It’s terrible. We lost a wonderful person. … Everyone needs to take this as serious as possible.”

For the latest on the coronavirus, contact your local health department and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

News For Parents On Coronovirus And Kids 

March 17, 2020: As more schools close and parents are forced to have long and complicated conversations with younger kids and teens about social distancing, it can be hard for younger minds to accept the current state of our world. 

Dr. Stephanie Miles-Richardson, associate dean, Graduate Education in Public Health at Morehouse School of Medicine says that while the coronavirus could take a heavier toll on the Black community, children are actually stronger than we think.

“The good news is that the young people appear to be spared from ill effects because again, likely their immune systems are stronger,” said Miles-Richardson.

“Of course if they have some other compromises, that’s different. So the message for them is to Wash! Their! Hands! When they’re out playing, if they’re not social distancing, if they’re being regular kids, they’ve just got to wash their hands often. We also have to stress hygiene and be very careful about children who live around elders because kids who are more likely to be asymptomatic are less likely to be impacted and elders are more likely to be overly impacted.”

Small Businesses To Receive $2 Million In Coronavirus Support

Tuesday, March 17, 2020: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that they will provide up to $2 million in loans for businesses impacted by the coronavirus. 

According to a news release on March 12, the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans will help businesses facing temporary loss of revenue as well as working capital. SBA Administrator Jovitta Carranza made the announcement.

“The President took bold, decisive action to make our 30 million small businesses more resilient to coronavirus-related economic disruptions,” said Carranza in the release. “Small businesses are vital economic engines in every community and state, and they have helped make our economy the strongest in the world.”

The loans can be used to pay debts, including payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years,” the statement continued. “Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay…The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses that can’t secure credit elsewhere. Businesses with credit availability are not eligible. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75 percent.”

The loan program was used in the past to help companies recover from disasters like Hurricane Sandy in 2012. 

To be eligible, the business must have 500 or fewer employees and be in a designated disaster area. The business also must not be able to obtain credit from elsewhere. For more information, visit Vanessa Etienne

First U.S. Human Trial For Coronavirus Vaccine Begins Monday

Monday, March 16, 2020: U.S. health officials have confirmed that the first human trial testing of a potential vaccine to prevent the coronavirus began Monday (March 16).

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement Monday that finding “a safe and effective vaccine” to prevent infection from the new COVID-19 “is an urgent public health priority.”

He continued: “This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”

The National Institutes of Health has reportedly been fast-tracking a collaboration with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna to develop a vaccine.

RELATED: Georgia Mother And Children Remain Trapped In Their China Apartment Over Coronavirus Fears

The trial is taking place at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, Washington, where COVID-19 cases have surged. 

According to trial details on NIH’s website, Phase 1 of the trial will test the vaccine on 45 males and non-pregnant females between the ages of 18 and 55. Dr. Lisa Jackson, a senior investigator at Kaiser, said. “This work is critical to national efforts to respond to the threat of this emerging virus. We are prepared to conduct this important trial because of our experience as an NIH clinical trials center since 2007.”

The New York Times reports at least 3,600 people in the United States are infected with the coronavirus. The number is more than likely higher all over the country but the Trump administration’s testing failures have limited medical professionals on the frontlines of the virus. 


For the latest on the coronavirus, contact your local health department and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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