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Your Friday Update: COVID-19 Scams Target Seniors, Safety Precautions for Protesters During Pandemic, Doctors Warn About Unequal Treatment for Black Patients – Central Florida News | #coronavirus | #scams | #covid19


Protesters gather outside Orlando City Hall on Thursday, June 4th. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Stay up to date on coronavirus coverage: Listen to WMFE on your radio, the WMFE mobile app or your smart speaker — say “Alexa, play NPR” or “WMFE” and you’ll be connected.

Your latest coronavirus count to end the week

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

Florida now has 70,971 coronavirus cases, with the death toll climbing to 2,877, according to the latest figures from the Florida Department of Health.

11,706 people have been hospitalized.

Orange County has 2,676 cases, the most in Central Florida, and 368 people have been hospitalized. Forty-six people have died from COVID-19 in Orange County.

Osceola County has 747 cases and 158 hospitalizations. Twenty-one people have died in Osceola County from COVID-19.

Sumter County, home to the sprawling retirement community of The Villages, has 264 confirmed cases and 45 hospitalizations. Lake County has 368 cases and 79 hospitalizations. Thirty-three people have died in the counties from COVID-19.

Hover over the map above or click on the link for the latest count in your area. 

Experts are warning of a possible second surge of COVID-19 in the state and recommend people practice good hygiene, social distancing, and wear a face mask.

As they reopen, congregations grapple with including seniors

As states begin loosening lockdown restrictions and churches contemplate how to reopen safely, clergy and other religious leaders face difficult decisions when it comes to their senior members.

Mounting evidence suggests houses of worship are probably among the riskiest places for older people— many of whom are the most loyal of church members.

Some congregations are beginning to find ways to engage older adults and allow them to contribute to the life of the church, while also working to keep this vulnerable population safe.

NBA gives teams, players more detailed schedule for restart

The NBA has given teams a more definitive timetable for the restart to the pandemic-interrupted season.

That includes required coronavirus testing that is set to begin this month and mandatory individual workouts in early July before training camps.

The league is still working on completing the health and safety protocols that will essentially become the rulebook for the restart at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida.

Talks with the players’ union on those matters are continuing.

‘Soft opening’ for census door knocking to begin next month

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A “soft launch” of home visits to those who haven’t responded to the 2020 census is expected to begin next month.

U.S. Census Bureau officials made the announcement in a statement Friday.

The “soft launch” will start in six locations around the country to be named later.

Meanwhile, in-person interviews in remote parts of northern Maine and southeast Alaska will resume later this month, prior to the soft launch.

The bureau says all census takers will be trained in social distancing and will be provided with personal protective equipment.

Moody warns of COVID-19 scam targeting seniors

Tom Urban, WLRN

Attorney General Ashley Moody is warning Floridians about a new scam targeting senior citizens.

Crooks are using social media to offer fake COVID-19 grants to seniors who are staying home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Scam artists are hacking Facebook and other social media accounts and sending messages to victims from what appears to be a friend’s profile.

Those being scammed are then sent to a fraudulent website, purporting to be with the U.S. Treasury Department, where seniors are asked to enter personal information such as bank account numbers.

To make the scam seem legitimate, some seniors are even being tricked into filming cell phone videos to send to other friends, according to Moody.

“They are using other seniors to lure seniors to fall prey for this, as if others have done this and gotten all this grant money because they’ve isolated. That has not happened. This is a fraud,” Moody said.

While the original website has been shut down, Moody worries the criminals will just move on to another site to continue the scams.

She says no governmental agency is offering anything to people, simply for staying home.

Safety precautions are encouraged while protesting during a pandemic

Blaise Gainey, WFSU

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people participating in events involving shouting, chanting or singing, to use cloth face coverings to lower the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

This comes a day after nearly 1,700 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Florida Thursday. It marks the highest single-day count since the Florida Department of Health started keeping track in March.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield says people must make sure to continue following guidelines.

“I know that people are eager to return to normal activities and ways of life. However, it’s important to remember this situation is unprecedented and the pandemic has not ended. And as I said earlier it’s going to be critical to embrace the principles of social distancing and hygiene and wearing a face-covering in public,” Redfield said.

The CDC also warned about additional challenges in the fall and winter when the seasonal flu could be circulating along with COVID-19.

Health care providers point out racial injustice, unequal medical treatment for Black patients

Veronica Zaragovia, WLRN

Health care workers in South Florida took part in vigils and demonstrations this week to express concern over deaths of Black Americans, in particular, George Floyd.

Some providers told WLRN that they also worry about the unequal health care provided to Black patients.

All lives have equal importance to health care workers, says Tondra Anderson-Rhodes. Including Black lives. She’s the chief medical officer at Memorial Hospital in Miramar.

“As a Black female, a black woman, as a black mother, I have to be able to say and can not be silenced that black lives do matter,” Anderson-Rhodes said.

She joined hospital colleagues who kneeled to protest the treatment of Black people by police.

“For those who can spare another 8 minutes and 46 seconds, we want to take this time to kneel as health care workers in remembrance of George Floyd,” Anderson-Rhodes said.

Marthany Jean-Baptiste kneeled too, but at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach. She’s a registered nurse there, and a member of the healthcare union 1199 SEIU.

Jean-Baptiste says Black people don’t get equal treatment at hospitals, either.

“Most African Americans don’t have private insurance. Most of them have Medicaid or they’re not able to have insurance, and so that predicts also what kind of treatment they receive at hospitals,” Jean-Baptiste said.

She says right now, she’s juggling concerns over racial injustice and the new coronavirus. Jean-Baptiste says she has anxiety about getting COVID-19 and passing it on to her 2-year-old daughter.

Here’s a rundown of the different virtual Pulse memorials happening in Orlando

Danielle Prieur, WMFE

Coronavirus cases are up in Florida and Orange County, which means Pulse memorials are mostly online this year for the fourth anniversary of the shooting that killed 49 people.

At noon, tune into a virtual ringing of the bells on the One Orlando Alliance Facebook page.

At 7 pm, the traditional Pulse memorial ceremony will be held for victims’ families, survivors, first responders, and the larger community.

Watch it here in English:

“On June 12 of each year, onePULSE Foundation holds an Annual Remembrance Ceremony at the site of the Pulse nightclub. The observance brings together the families of those whose lives were tragically taken and provides them a space to remember their loved ones in peace. We also honor all who survived, the brave first responders and our trauma teams who sacrificed so much to save so many. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony is virtual. The pre-taped program includes the reading of the 49 names by family members, and remarks from City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings, onePULSE Foundation Board Chair Earl Crittenden, and onePULSE Foundation Founder and CEO Barbara Poma. Additionally, Orlando Poet Laureate Susan Lilley has written two original poems for survivors and first responders, read by each of the mayors during their comments. Also, Orlando-raised singer, actor and Broadway star Norm Lewis and Latin singer/song writer, record producer and author Yaire perform during the ceremony. Senior Pastor, Reverend Terri Steed Pierce and Associate Pastor, Reverend Stanley Ramos of Joy Metropolitan Community Church lead the invocation.”

La ceremona tambien esta disponsible en espanol:

“El 12 de junio de cada año, la Fundación onePULSE celebra una Ceremonia Anual de Recordación en el lugar del Club Nocturno Pulse. La celebración reúne a las familias de aquellos cuyas vidas fueron tomadas trágicamente y les brinda un espacio para recordar a sus seres queridos en paz. También honramos a todos los que sobrevivieron, a los valientes socorristas y a nuestros equipos de trauma que sacrificaron tanto para salvar a tantos. Este año, debido a la pandemia de COVID-19, la ceremonia es virtual. El programa pregrabado incluye la lectura de los 49 nombres por miembros de la familia y comentarios del alcalde de la ciudad de Orlando, Buddy Dyer, el alcalde del condado de Orange Jerry L. Demings, el presidente de la junta directiva de la Fundación onePULSE, Earl Crittenden, y la fundadora y directora ejecutiva de la Fundación onePULSE, Barbara Poma. Además, la Poeta Laureada de Orlando Susan Lilley ha escrito dos poemas originales para los sobrevivientes y el personal de primera respuesta que serán leídos por cada uno de los alcaldes durante sus comentarios. También, el cantante, actor y estrella de Broadway, Norm Lewis, y la cantante/compositora latina, productora discográfica y autora Yaire, actuarán durante la ceremonia. La reverendo Terri Steed Pierce, Pastora Principal y el reverendo Stanley Ramos, Pastor Asociado de la Iglesia Comunitaria Metropolitana Joy dirigirán la invocación.”

Take a moment for some music: Tiny Desk Concert series goes home

NPR Music 

Before Paris Jones, aka PJ, starts “Smoke,” the second song of her Tiny Desk (home) concert, she briefly reveals the meaning: “So the thing about me is that I got a lot of different influences. John Mayer got a song called ‘Slow Dancing In A Burning Room’ and this is my take on it.” One listen and it’s clear that those “different influences” don’t fit a genre or era and could be any number of artists — and they all come together in ways I haven’t seen or heard in a long time.

Backed by Drin Elliot on the keys, the Los Angeles-based North Carolina native breezes through two tracks off of her new EP, Waiting on Paris, from quarantine digs complete with mannequins, floral arrangements and radiant artwork. For the final song and with the biggest grin on her face she “switches vibes” with the upbeat and anthemic “Element,” from this season of HBO’s Insecure. Here, her energy is nearly impossible to harness as she exclaims “quarantined but in my element!” There’s plenty to sulk over in these times, so let PJ’s performance and beaming spirit remind us of the joy that most of us deserve through it all.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music’s Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It’s the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Coronavirus ‘long-haulers’ have been sick for months. Why?

Short Wave, NPR

That’s what they call themselves: long-haulers. They’ve been sick for months. Many have never had a positive test. Doctors cannot explain their illness any other way, and can only guess at why the virus appears to be with them for so long.

Ed Yong of The Atlantic explains what might be going on, and why their experience mirrors that of other sufferers with chronic illnesses who battle to be believed. We also spoke with Hannah Davis, a long-hauler from New York City.

Read Ed’s story on long-haulers here.

Read more about the long haulers’ research group here, read their report here, and join their support group here.

Virtual ceremony for 4th anniversary of nightclub massacre

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A ceremony commemorating the fourth anniversary of a massacre at a gay nightclub in Florida is being held virtually because of the coronavirus.

In years past, members of the public gathered outside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando to remember the victims. Instead, a pre-taped, online ceremony was being held Friday to remember the 49 people who were killed in June 2016.

The area around the club was closed to the public Friday, though survivors, family members of victims and first-responders were being allowed to visit.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff on Friday.

Stocks rebound after dramatic plunge spurred by spike in coronavirus cases

Avie Schneider, NPR

Major stock indexes opened up sharply higher, a day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average dove 1,861 points amid spikes in new coronavirus cases in states that had reopened their economies.

The Dow was up more than 700 points, or nearly 3%, Friday morning and the S&P 500 gained about 2.5%. A day earlier, the Dow lost about 7% and and the S&P 500 dove nearly 6%.

The market’s volatility comes as a number of states, including Florida and South Carolina, reported surges in new coronavirus cases, raising concerns that a second wave will trigger renewed lockdowns and stall an economic recovery. Florida reported nearly 1,700 new cases Thursday — the biggest jump since March. South Carolina announced nearly 700 new cases, a record high.

The Federal Reserve issued new projections this week that unemployment would remain high through at least next year, which also weighed on the markets.

Dear Class of 2020: Graduation messages from frontline workers

Barry Gordemer, NPR

Frontline workers are the mostly unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their jobs are critical and can’t be done from home. They’re nurses and orderlies, grocery store workers and letter carriers. They run warehouses, deliver packages and drive trucks, buses and trains.

These workers may have been required to be on the job during the pandemic, but many — often guided by a sense of duty, commitment, compassion and honor — are proud to do it.

Duty, commitment, compassion and honor. These are thematic cornerstones of high school graduation speeches, so NPR asked everyday workers, who normally would not be asked speak at a commencement ceremony, to offer insight forged by the simple act of showing up every day and doing what needs to be done.

Ashley Robinson, Nurse

Dear Class of 2020,

My name is Ashley Robinson and I have been a nurse for nine years.

Working on the frontline during this pandemic has had its ups and down.

My coworkers and I worked hard to adjust to the increasing volume of patients coming to be treated for COVID-19. We had to become creative in finding ways to take care of the influx of patients.

During this pandemic I have learned to be more compassionate for patients because they were alone, scared and without their family.

One day the ER was filled to capacity. We were taking care of patients in the hall because they were too sick to leave the lobby. Once I became so overwhelmed, I had to remove myself. I walked out on the ramp and FaceTimed my husband and I broke down. At that moment I felt defeated and wanted to give up. But I realized the situation was much bigger than me. As a leader, I had to stay strong because not only the patients depended on me, but my coworkers also.

You will have to learn to be strong as well. I know you all had to adjust to this pandemic also. Your senior year ended early and you did not have a prom or graduation ceremony. Even though your celebration isn’t traditional, it’s still joyous and memorable.

So stay strong and continue to persevere. Take this time to reflect on the labors of the past, the accomplishments of the present and the possibilities of the future. Congratulations class of 2020, the world is yours.

Read more of their messages here.

Colleges are backing off SAT, ACT scores — but the exams will be hard to shake

Elissa Nadworny, NPR

Like many high school counselors, Crys Latham has been paying close attention to the colleges that are announcing that they’ll no longer require admissions exams for applicants. She’s a big fan of giving students the opportunity not to submit their test scores.

“We put test-optional schools on every single one of our student’s list to consider,” says Latham, who directs college counseling at Washington Latin Public Charter School, in the nation’s capital. “Because we know that not every student is going to like their scores, and a student’s test scores are not indicative of their potential or ability to be successful.”

In the last few months, Latham has had a lot of new schools to add to those lists. Nearly every day, more and more colleges announce plans to de-emphasize the role test scores play in admissions, even if only for next year’s applicants.

It started almost as soon as the coronavirus closed down schools in the U.S. A wave of colleges announced that, due to the pandemic, they would put less weight on standardized tests. If students didn’t have access to spring testing, how could colleges require them?

Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland was one of the earliest schools to use the coronavirus as a catalyst for change, but dozens of others followed. Some became test-optional, others test-blind. Some policies were just for a year, others have said they’ll test the idea out for two or three years.

But then cancelled spring testing dates became cancelled summer testing dates. In a statement in June, the College Board, which administers the SAT, requested that colleges and universities “show flexibility,” when it came to admissions testing, essentially requesting a shift towards a temporary test-optional policy.

More schools followed. The University of Virginia went test-optional for next year as did Ivy League schools like the University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth College. The California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, announced it will be test-blind, meaning it won’t consider the tests, for the next two years.

As schools continue to revamp testing policies, Crys Latham has been updating her students. She says they are excited about the news: “I now have kids who would never have considered those schools seriously before, didn’t even see it as an option for them because they felt like the scores wouldn’t have given them a chance in admission,” she says, “but now, they say, ‘Oh wow! Maybe I have a shot … maybe it is possible for me.’ ”

Read the full article here.

A new Library Of Congress project commissions music of the coronavirus pandemic

Taylor Haney, NPR

The shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic hit musicians hard, with concert halls and rehearsal spaces shuttered and silent. But a new music initiative from the Library of Congress embraces the constraints of COVID-19. The series is a collection of 10 videos of 10 different original compositions that will premiere online starting Monday, June 15. It’s called the Boccaccio Project.

David Plylar is a senior music specialist at the Library of Congress and the person who spearheaded the project; it’s named after the Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio, who saw the Black Death devastate Europe during the 14th century. Boccaccio’s The Decameron follows 10 people who flee the plague in Florence and tell each other stories in a remote refuge. Plylar says that story feels very modern.

“You can take people out of what they know about society and they still have this compulsion to tell a story,” he says. “And I felt that Boccaccio exemplifies that. And while we are much more connected now than they were in his time, we are isolated and we still have this desire to reach out to each other.”

Luciano Chessa, one of the composers commissioned by the Library of Congress, meant to stay only a week in San Francisco. Chessa flew out from New York for a concert in March. From there he had events scheduled in Colorado, in Ohio and around the country. But then, like so many other musicians, the coronavirus pandemic changed his plans.

“The world changed,” he says. “So I ended up staying in San Francisco for two months instead of just a week.”

He worried about his parents in Italy as that country felt the worst of COVID-19.

“I think the most vivid images were basically caskets in piles outside of hospitals or retirement homes,” Chessa says. “And my aunt died in March. We don’t know whether exactly [if] it was COVID-19 or not because at the time, there were no tests.”

In April, he got a commission from the Library of Congress for the Boccaccio project. The instructions were simple: Write a work responding to the pandemic — just a couple minutes long — for a single performer to videotape at home. Chessa says the commission was more than welcome.

Read the full article here. 

Florida migrant farmworker communities become coronavirus hot spots in US

The Associated Press

IMMOKALEE, Fla. (AP) — Among the numerous rural areas across the U.S. that have recently experienced coronavirus outbreaks are migrant farmworker communities in Florida.

Immokalee is one of them.

The poor town of 25,000 north of the Everglades has become a hot spot, with cases more than doubling in the past two weeks. Immokalee’s caseload is heavier than Miami Beach and St. Petersburg, tourist hubs with much higher populations.

Other immigrant and poor towns in rural Florida also have seen spikes. Testing has been expanded in the community, but some say it should have started a lot earlier, when the rest of the state was first being tested.

Masks are even more important than we thought

Coronavirus Daily, NPR
Many states that reopened a few weeks ago are seeing spikes in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. In Arizona, officials say if cases continue to rise, they may have to be more aggressive about enforcing reopening protocols for businesses.

In major cities across Texas there are disparities in access to COVID-19 testing, resulting in less testing in black neighborhoods than white neighborhoods.

Dr. Atul Gawande spoke with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly about why face masks remain essential in dealing with the coronavirus and the efficacy of different masks.

To help with shortages of PPE, one volunteer group has used 3D printers at home to make nearly 40,000 NIH-approved face shields for health care workers and first responders.

GOP picks Jacksonville, Florida, for Trump convention speech

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Republicans have selected Jacksonville, Florida, to host the celebration marking President Donald Trump’s acceptance of his party’s nomination for reelection.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel made the announcement Thursday, a day after saying Jacksonville was a front-runner for the event.

The party’s more mundane business, including discussions over the platform, will still be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, because of contractual obligations.

The speech was moved after North Carolina’s Democratic governor balked at promising Trump a full-blown convention without social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Florida’s governor is a close Trump ally, and the state’s electoral votes are considered critical for Trump’s reelection bid.

EPA orders Amazon and EBay to stop selling bogus coronavirus-fighting products

Hannah Hagemann, NPR

On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered Amazon and eBay to stop selling certain pesticide-containing products, many of which claimed to fight off and disinfect from the coronavirus.

The orders also bar the e-commerce giants from selling products that contain toxic chemicals like chlorine dioxide and methylene chloride, which is federally regulated as a toxic substance.

Exposure to methylene chloride can cause death, but in one instance, eBay marketed and sold 55-gallon drums of methylene chloride as a coronavirus disinfectant and paint stripper, according to the EPA press release.

Amazon was ordered by the EPA to stop selling over 30 products and eBay, more than 40, some of which falsely claimed to provide “Epidemic Prevention,” “2020 Coronavirus Protection” and “complete sterilization including the current pandemic virus,” according to an agency press release.

As of Thursday, both eBay and Amazon still had methylene chloride listed on their websites, which is “unapproved for use against the novel coronavirus,” the agency stated.

Companies that manufacture and distribute pesticide-containing products are required by law to register the product with the EPA.

Both Amazon and eBay sold unregistered products that were not evaluated by the agency.

Amusement parks opening, with temperature checks at the gate

Cities have begun to reopen and now, so are amusement parks. SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay opened their gates Thursday, but reservations are required to limit crowds.

Face masks are also required and temperature screenings will be done at part entrances.

Disney is starting to reopen next month. The pandemic has done severe damage to the entertainment sector and airlines as well.

Delta says revenue this quarter will be down 90% from last year and on Thursday, the German airline Lufthansa said it may have to cut 22,000 jobs, more than double what it had expected earlier.

Orlando, Miami to meet in opener of MLS return tournament

Orlando City will play expansion Inter Miami in the opening match of the Major League Soccer tournament starting next month in Florida.

The matchup is a nod to the tournament’s host state.

The draw for the group stage field for the World Cup-style tournament was held a day after the MLS event was announced. The schedule of matches hasn’t be revealed.

The tournament will be played without fans at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World. It starts July 8.

Upcoming Trump rally in Tulsa faces backlash over race, coronavirus

Barbara Sprunt, NPR

The White House and Trump campaign are defending a decision to hold a rally next week in a city that was home to one of the most brutal episodes of racial violence in the country’s history, on Juneteenth — a day considered to be Independence Day for black Americans.

The rally, scheduled for June 19 in Tulsa, Okla., marks President Trump’s official return to the campaign trail after the coronavirus shifted campaigning to the virtual realm.

The president is also facing criticism over possible exposure of attendees to the coronavirus. The rally’s venue, BOK Center, can hold about 19,000 people.

A disclaimer at the bottom of the rally’s registration page reads, “By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree to not hold Donald J. Trump for President … liable for any illness or injury.”

Asked what precautions would be taken at Trump’s rallies as they restart, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday “we will ensure that everyone who goes is safe,” but she did not elaborate.

The decision by the Trump campaign to hold a rally in Tulsa, where white mobs massacred black citizens in 1921 has been widely condemned by Democrats, including Rep. Val Demings of Florida and Sen. Kamala Harris of California.

The arena is blocks away from the site of the massacre.

Demings and Harris are among those speculated to be on presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s shortlist for vice president.

Juneteenth is a holiday that celebrates the anniversary (June 19, 1865) of when news of emancipation reached enslaved people in Texas.

TaxWatch signals state has tough choices ahead as it releases annual ‘turkey’ report on budget

Lynn Hatter, WFSU

Florida lawmakers are hoping state revenues rebound in order to avoid big cuts to the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The most recent numbers show Florida was down by more than $870 million dollars from estimates due to the coronavirus shutdowns.

Florida Taxwatch’s Dominic Colaboro says if Gov. Ron DeSantis is looking for cost-savings, he’s got about $136 million dollars worth of them:

“We fear the worst news regarding the revenue shortfall is still yet to come. But we hope it will start an upward trajectory for economic recovery. This means serious action must be taken to limit spending and increase revenues moving forward,” Colaboro said.

TaxWatch released its annual turkey watch report Thursday.

The organization defines a budget turkey as a project that was added at the last minute and didn’t go through proper vetting. It’s not a reflection on worthiness.

The budget goes into effect July 1.

Camel Lake open at Apalachicola Forest

Blaise Gainey, WFSU

The Camel Lake day-use area at Apalachicola National Forest opens at 8 am Friday morning.

While the park is open, officials are asking that people remember to avoid congregating in groups of ten or more.

Staff will conduct site cleanings on Monday and Wednesday mornings. On those days the park will open at 10 am.

Kelly Russell, the forest supervisor, says she wants the public to get outdoors and enjoy their national forests. She says time outside relieves stress and promotes wellness.

Nursing homes run short of COVID-19 protective gear as federal response falters

Jordan Rau, NPR

Across the United States, nursing homes trying to protect their residents from the coronavirus eagerly await boxes of masks, eyewear and gowns promised by the federal government. But all too often the packages deliver disappointment — if they arrive at all.

Some contain flimsy surgical masks or cloth face coverings that are explicitly not intended for medical use. Others are missing items or have far less than the full week’s worth of protective equipment the government promised to send. Instead of proper medical gowns, many packages hold large blue plastic ponchos.

“It’s like putting a trash bag on,” said Pamela Black, the administrator of Enterprise Estates Nursing Center in Enterprise, Kan. “There’s no real place for your hands to come out.”

As nursing homes remain the pandemic’s epicenter, the federal government is failing to ensure these facilities have all the personal protective equipment, or PPE, needed to prevent the spread of the virus, according to interviews with administrators and federal data.

Cloth masks and ponchos

Despite President Trump’s pledge on April 30 to “deploy every resource and power that we have” to protect older Americans, a fifth of the nation’s nursing homes — 3,213 out of more than 15,000 — reported during the last two weeks of May that they had less than a week’s supply of masks, gowns, gloves, eye protectors or hand sanitizer, according to federal records. Of those, 946 reported they have had at least one confirmed COVID infection since the pandemic began.

“The federal government’s failure to nationalize the supply chain and take control of it contributed to the deaths in nursing homes,” said Scott LaRue, president and CEO of ArchCare, the health care system of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, which operates five nursing homes.

Widespread equipment shortages continue in some places as the virus rages lethally through nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. More than 217,000 short-term patients and long-term residents in nursing homes have contracted COVID-19, and 43,000 have died.

Read the full article here.

New York City EMS workers allege retaliation after speaking about pandemic

Hansi Lo Wang, NPR

A group of New York City emergency medical service workers who gave interviews to the news media, including NPR, are suing the city for allegedly retaliating against them after speaking about their experiences responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday with the federal court in Manhattan, four EMS workers allege the city is violating their right to speak on issues of public concern under the First Amendment, as well as their due process rights.

In late April, the New York City Fire Department sent letters notifying three paramedics — including Elizabeth Bonilla, who spoke to NPR earlier that month — that they were restricted from treating patients, according to the complaint. Workers on restricted status are not allowed to receive overtime or work for any other emergency medical services in the city’s 911 system. The letters, the complaint says, gave no reason why they were put under these restrictions.

EMT John Rugen, a union officer of FDNY EMS Local 2507, was put on restricted status after the fire department first suspended him without pay for 30 days, claiming that he violated the FDNY’s social media policy and patient privacy laws without providing any evidence, according to the complaint.

Re-openings expand in capital region

Tom Flanigan, WFSU

Tallahassee residents are seeing more opportunities to play and learn as the state’s reopening continues.

The Tallahassee Museum’s popular Tree-to-Tree zipline experience is once again flying adventurers as much as sixty feet above the ground, all in keeping with Governor DeSantis’s executive order.

Operation is still restricted, however, to Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Also welcoming visitors again is the historic Lodge at Wakulla Springs.

Along with lodging, the facility, built in 1937 offers a full-service restaurant and classic soda fountain lunch counter.

And for those who’d rather stick close to home, well-known Tallahassee Master Gardener Audrey Post will conduct a Facebook seminar on building a better butterfly garden this Saturday starting at one.

That happens on the Esposito Garden Center Facebook page.

DeSantis debuts ‘road map’ for reopening schools in fall, using CARES Act money

Ryan Dailey, WFSU

Using money Florida received from the federal CARES Act, Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state has a “road map” to open schools for the fall.

He debuted the plan in Brevard County Thursday, alongside local officials and state education commissioner Richard Corcoran.

DeSantis says that federal money will also go toward summer programs that look to close the achievement gap, which the governor says widened under COVID-19 closures.

“We’ve been able to provide a road map to announce the return of our schools to on-campus instruction, and to bring long-term improvements to the instructional continuity, using the federal funds provided through the CARES Act, to make significant investments in our education system,” DeSantis said.

Through the CARES Act money earmarked for education in Florida, the state received more than $770 million meant for K-12 schools. Of that, it can directly spend $475 million.

About $173 million will be held for emergency flexible funding for districts, and $223 million will go to early learning initiatives. The state Department of Education published its 100-plus page reopening plan Thursday.

More than $870 million in CARES Act money will go toward higher education.

Music teacher’s ‘weekend’ project turns into almost 40,000 face shields

Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR

Face shields are critical gear for those on the front line of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

But like other pieces of PPE, they often still aren’t available. But one volunteer group, using 3D printers at home, has made nearly 40,000 NIH-approved face shields for health care workers and first responders — from New Jersey to the Navajo Nation.

Jacob Ezzo is a beloved middle school chorus teacher in South Orange, N.J., who’s earned commendations for his ability to get kids to love music.

In mid-March, Ezzo’s school was suspended as the coronavirus crisis set in. “We went home Friday on that half day thinking it was just going to be a 72-hour, use up our snow days, clean the school and come back” situation, he says.

Ezzo had bought himself a 3D printer a few months earlier, and he’d seen some blueprints online for how to make face shields. He figured he’d experiment over the long weekend. “It was on Sunday that I printed it off, my first one, because I was like, ‘Oh, I have Monday off. I’ll do something interesting,’ ” he laughs.

The teacher thought this would just be a short-term project to help out. “When we all started this,” he says, “we thought, ‘We’re acting as a stopgap. We’re plugging a small hole in the dam until the big industries come online and take over.’ And they just never came.”

Soon, Ezzo had connected with dozens of other volunteers — not just in his community, but across New Jersey. They call themselves the SOMA New Jersey 3D Printers Alliance; SOMA stands for the neighboring towns of South Orange and Maplewood. (The sibling communities are suburbs of New York City and adjacent to the city of Newark. Their county, Essex, is among the hardest hit in New Jersey — a national hotspot for the coronavirus.)

Just as Ezzo encourages his students to sing, he helped connect some of them with the volunteer effort. Zubin Kremer Guha, 18, is a high school senior from South Orange who attends Columbia High School. He’s also one of Ezzo’s former students.

“One of the biggest things I do is the robotics club,” Kremer Guha explains. “That’s actually how I first got into 3D printing, to make parts for those robots. I saw the opportunity where I could help people out in this hard time. So I thought, if I can, why not?”

This student has become the most prolific printer in the group. So far, he’s printed more than 3,000 face shields at his home, on several machines that hum away 24 hours a day. He’s also one of the lead coordinators on the project — all while he’s finishing up his senior year and taking his AP exams.

His mom, Devyani Guha, who is also another group coordinator, says that he is going through an astonishing amount of plastic filament to print the shields.

“Zubin actually did some personal fundraising and we stockpiled what at that time seemed like a huge number. We got 26 spools and we thought, ‘Oh my God, we are set.’”

They weren’t. They’ve since bought about 300 kilos of filament, and their house has been pretty much taken over by spools and printers.

Another organizer is Nino Badridze, a psychology professor living in Maplewood. She says that she wanted to be able to be proud of what she did to serve others during the pandemic. “In 10, 20, 30, 40 years’ time,” she observes, “we are all going to think back to these times and think about how we walked through them. And sitting at home and baking bread was not as gratifying, although I do that a lot too!”

So far, the group has delivered more than 39,000 face shields, including to more than three dozen hospitals. Frances Jacobus-Parker is another volunteer coordinator; she’s an art historian in Princeton. She says needs are shifting — away from hospitals and more towards long-term care facilities, like nursing homes.

“Everybody recognizes this is a crazy way to mass produce anything,” Jacobus-Parker observes. “This is not how these medical supplies sort of ideally should be being produced. They should be produced in large-scale manufacturing facilities. But it’s been a remarkably effective way to get PPE into the hands of people who need it.”

The group has already been hailed by N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy — and Jacob Ezzo says that the volunteers will keep on making the face shields, for as long as they’re needed.

“Every step of the way,” Ezzo says, “there is a whole team of people that have stepped up selflessly just to help out, which I think has been just absolutely incredible. And we’ve been able to take whoever has shown up wanting and willing to help, whether they are a grandparent or 7 years old.”

The littlest ones are helping to assemble the shields — so the older volunteers can ship them, or drive them to the people who need them.

Our Daily Breather: How quilting can help us cope with uncertainty

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that’s helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Emma Bowers
Where: Burlington, Vt.
Recommendation: Quilting

In the before-time, I very often felt, walking home from work against the flow of foot traffic towards Williamsburg’s bars and restaurants in Brooklyn, that I’d been spending too much of my 20s in my apartment.

After graduating from college in December, ending a four-year stint of having more than a handful of jobs and internships at all times, I told myself that it was paramount to my personal growth that I, uh…go out more? I had a hard time leaving the house before because I was never in it. Now, with things being the way they are, I’ve been trying to make the most of being “all in.”

I’ve been watching films (I spent an entire weekend watching Agnès Varda films on Kanopy), fostering a pup (who has since been adopted!), forcing myself to change my guitar strings (I’ve been playing guitar for a decade, but self-sufficiency is the name of the game these days), and FaceTiming my friends to oblivion.

I’ve also been falling asleep to the voice of none other than Jeff Tweedy as he narrates his memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back) which has helped me to lovingly reframe the way I think about the processes of making and loving music — which has become increasingly stressful and confusing, living in New York and going to school for music and trying to be a musician and interning in the industry in tandem.

I’ve also been spending an obscene amount of time on my phone, the only merit of which is that much of my creative inspiration comes from the same source as the mind-numbing vortex of the endless scroll. On Instagram, my “saved” tab is a collage of glazed 35mm mountain-scapes, decades-old black and white photographs of tender embraces, photogenic stacks of books pulled from the feeds of my favorite musicians and writers and very many quilts in muted whites, pinks, greens and blues.

I don’t know why I am as fascinated with quilts as I am. It might have something to do with the ongoing trend of nostalgia towards the art and objects and various other forms of physical media from the days of yore; see: vinyl, ceramics, “vintage” anything, the art of naturally dyeing your clothing, etc. But there’s something to be said for watching something that can warm, comfort and excite you come together in your own hands.

I first endeavored to make a quilt a few summers ago, when I spent two straight weeks with a sky-blue swatch of cotton in my lap and a needle pressed between my fingertips. The process was tedious, enthralling and pretty easy to get lost in.

So now, I’ve decided to cope with the uncertainty by starting a new quilt. It will be white, patched with slivers and squares of repurposed feedsacks from the 1930s and ’40s that I’ve painstakingly sourced online. I’ve started the process of piecing those bits together, after laundering and ironing them, and will soon be on to sewing. Making use of my hands in this way is the only way I know how to keep myself from scrolling, embarking on a baking project that uses every dish in my kitchen or just staring at the ceiling.

The world feels like it’s in pieces, not nearly as beautiful or benign as the squares of orange and cream calico strewn around my room, but I imagine the world would almost certainly benefit from the care of a gentle and sure hand, whole-heartedly devoted to making something beautiful, long-lasting, comforting and new out of what remains.

Like what you just read? Check out our other coronavirus coverage. 






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