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Coronavirus

After Rapper Launches Anti-Mask, Anti-Vaccine Rant, Black Doctors Speak Out

In a culture that worships celebrities and amplifies their words and actions, the coronavirus pandemic has presented an opportunity for some to apply and others to confuse.

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Busta Rhymes/Courtesy of Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

In a culture that worships celebrities and amplifies their words and actions, the coronavirus pandemic has presented an opportunity for some to apply and others to confuse.

Even after over 635,000 have died in the U.S. as a result of the coronavirus, some celebrities have continued to loudly protest against the advice of doctors and other medical professionals. 

Over 4.5 million around the world have died as a result of the pandemic.

This week, anti-mask and anti-vaxxer celebrity Eric Clapton wrote a song entitled “This Has Got to Stop” to express his dissatisfaction regarding government mandates on masks. “I’m used to being free,” Clapton sings in his new track.

A week before Clapton’s song dropped, rapper Busta Rhymes, whose real name is Trevor Smith, had something to say on COVID on Aug. 24.

“It’s called the God-given right of freedom, right? No human being is supposed to tell you that you can’t even breathe freely. F*** your mask… some of y’all might feel differently, but f*** your mask,” he said.

His comments went viral and so did the reaction against them. On Roland Martin Unfiltered, the daily digital broadcast hosted by Martin, three Black doctors were featured to comment on what the rapper said and anti-vaxxer efforts in general.

“A throat doctor later discovered that there were polyps in his throat, restricting 90% of his breathing and he had to have emergency surgery.” 

You’d think Busta Rhymes would be more concerned about a virus that attacks your respiratory system given his history. Dumb ass,” wrote Reecie Colbert from her popular Twitter account @BlackWomenViews.

“Confirmed: Busta Rhymes is better when he’s rapping too fast for us to really understand what he’s saying,” wrote Brandon Kyle Scott on Twitter. Then came the medical professionals.

“It angers me, and it vexes my soul when I hear entertainers and other people who have mass followings say ignorant things such as Busta Rhymes. I was telling my students today about wearing a mask and getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Kristy McDowell on Roland Martin Unfiltered on August 24.

“If you don’t get the vaccine, you are gambling with your life,” she added.

Dr. Joseph Graves, Jr. said, “It’s one thing to do stupid things that put your own life at risk… It’s an entirely other thing when you take a public platform, and you use your celebrity to get up there to tell other people that it’s OK in the middle of the deadliest pandemic since 1918.  Those people who die because they listened to a video.”

Kellen Squire, a Virginia emergency room nurse, wrote on Aug. 29, “It’s not any easier watching unvaccinated people die. I see people sardonically joke, play stupid games, etc. But they almost all understand the magnitude of their f***up… albeit way too late. The look in their eyes. There’s no peace — it’s just panic until the end.”

Despite misinformation, political discord and political policy changes, 51 percent of the American population is vaccinated.

Activism

Alameda County Awards $4 Million in Grants for Licensed Early Care & Education Providers 

“Childcare keeps Alameda County working, and these awards are one step to supporting equity and social justice in a field where the workforce is held predominantly by women of color,” said Ford. Since March 2020, the Alameda County Emergency Child Care Response Team (ECCRT), a cross-sector collaborative of eight county-wide stakeholder agencies, has convened and concentrated its efforts to plan and align its immediate County COVID-19 response to support the ECE field.

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Women of color dominate the workforce providing childcare. iStock photo image.
Women of color dominate the workforce providing childcare. iStock photo image.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved the distribution of $4 million in one-time federal relief grants to support local Early Care and Education (ECE) system needs and infrastructure made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

“The COVID pandemic has highlighted the critical role of childcare in the United States and especially in Alameda County. Childcare is a key economic driver for families, employers, and communities to thrive,” said Supervisor Keith Carson, president of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

To apply for grants, licensed childcare providers will be required to complete a general County online application to verify they are currently active, licensed and providing care. Applications are available in the County’s threshold languages and can be found at this link.

The application portal for federal relief funds will be promoted by local resource and referral agencies like BANANAS, 4Cs and Hively, First 5 Alameda County, Emergency Child Care Response Team and the ECE Planning Council.

Large Family Child Care (FCC) and center-based licensed programs will qualify for a minimum award of $3,350 and small licensed FCC’s will qualify for a minimum award of $2,350.

“While the ECE field has shown tremendous creativity and resilience to keep their doors open to support children and families, they have also been severely impacted by the challenges of COVID-19 and struggle to keep their doors open,” said Andrea Ford, interim agency director for the Alameda County Social Services Agency.

“Childcare keeps Alameda County working, and these awards are one step to supporting equity and social justice in a field where the workforce is held predominantly by women of color,” said Ford.

Since March 2020, the Alameda County Emergency Child Care Response Team (ECCRT), a cross-sector collaborative of eight county-wide stakeholder agencies, has convened and concentrated its efforts to plan and align its immediate County COVID-19 response to support the ECE field.

Led by the Alameda County Social Services Agency, partner agencies include Alameda County Early Care & Education Planning Council, Alameda County Office of Education, Alameda County Public Health, BANANAS, Community Child Care Council (4Cs) of Alameda County, First 5 Alameda County (F5AC) and Hively. The goal is to ensure the grants funding reaches most if not all licensed ECE providers throughout the County.

The pandemic continues its impact on the ECE system. Nationally, nearly half of childcare providers closed at the beginning of the pandemic, and while many have reopened, data shows that, “86% are serving significantly fewer children than they were prior to the pandemic; on average, enrollment is down by 67%. Two out of five childcare providers are certain that they will close permanently without additional public assistance.”1

Alameda County tremendously values the local ECE field and is honored to provide some relief as we collectively work towards the long road to recovery,” said Ford.

For more information, ssachildcaregrant@acgov.org.

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Bay Area

Board Bars Evictions Related to COVID-19

Several times during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Board has passed resolutions barring evictions for nonpayment of rent arising directly from the coronavirus. Preventing evictions for nonpayment due to financial hardship related to COVID-19 allows the County and its partners to continue making funds available for tenants who have struggled to pay rent. Since spring 2020, nearly 1,260 local households have received County-sponsored COVID-19 rental assistance.

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The County budget is balanced and structurally sound, although national economic indicators are showing signs that the recovery is slowing down.
The County budget is balanced and structurally sound, although national economic indicators are showing signs that the recovery is slowing down.

Protections intended for those experiencing hardship because of pandemic

Courtesy of Marin County

Determined to prevent housing displacement for residents financially hampered by the ongoing pandemic, the Marin County Board of Supervisors took another action June 21 to prohibit residential renter evictions in unincorporated Marin effective July 1 through Sept. 30, 2022. The State of California’s eviction protections are scheduled to expire June 30.

Several times during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Board has passed resolutions barring evictions for nonpayment of rent arising directly from the coronavirus. Preventing evictions for nonpayment due to financial hardship related to COVID-19 allows the County and its partners to continue making funds available for tenants who have struggled to pay rent. Since spring 2020, nearly 1,260 local households have received County-sponsored COVID-19 rental assistance.

The County is continuing to assist tenants who have applied for rental assistance and working with community partners to assure an equitable distribution of federal funds earmarked for eviction prevention. All renters have been protected by state or local laws, regardless of a person’s citizenship status, during the public health emergency. The County continues to process rental assistance applications as quickly as possible with added staff over the past year to accommodate assistance applications.

Rental assistance priority has been given to households that are considered extremely low income, which in Marin would be a family of three with an income of no more than $43,550. Nationally, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are often at the highest risk of housing displacement. The County recognizes that those most in need of eviction protection experience barriers to access such a program. While more than two-thirds of non-Hispanic white residents are homeowners in Marin, roughly three-quarters of both Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx communities in Marin are renters.

Between state and federal funds, the County’s pandemic rental assistance program was awarded $36,414,871 of which $23,970,885 has been distributed to 1,260 local households in need. There is a remaining balance of $8,579,705, which will serve the remaining applicants and waiting list and is anticipated to be spent by September 30, 2022.

Clearing accumulated debt is designed to provide a lifeline to the hardest-hit families and provide income stability for landlords. Several local agencies, such as Canal Alliance, Community Action Marin, and North Marin Community Services, are assisting applicants with the process.

Property owners may call the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at (415) 473-6450 for assistance on rights and responsibilities. Renters are encouraged to contact Legal Aid of Marin at (415) 492-0230, extension 102, for inquiries on eviction protections.

Anyone needing help with the online application may call (415) 473-2223 or email staff to learn more about the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. More information about the County’s eviction moratorium is on the County’s COVID-19 Renter Protections webpage.

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Bay Area

Marin Prepares to Vaccinate Young Children

Parents and guardians should contact their pediatrician to discuss appropriate timing to have their child vaccinated for COVID-19, especially if due for another routine pediatric vaccination. Children in their first 5 years are regularly visiting their pediatrician and vaccines are a routine part of these visits. The COVID-19 vaccine can be given in the same visit as the other important vaccines needed. MCPH will support pediatricians to ensure access to the vaccine over the coming weeks.

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Parents and guardians in Marin County will be able to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments for kids 6 months to 4 years starting this week. (Copyright-free photo from Unsplash).
Parents and guardians in Marin County will be able to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments for kids 6 months to 4 years starting this week. (Copyright-free photo from Unsplash).

New COVID-19 vaccine reduces risk in childcare and youth settings

Courtesy of Marin County

Now that federal and state regulators have approved the use of COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months through 4 years old, local pediatricians, health centers and Marin County Public Health (MCPH) are preparing to vaccinate the nearly 8,000 children in that age group who call Marin County home. Appointments are opening this week.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health Officer. “Until now, 8,000 of our residents – everyone under 5 years – has been excluded from the protection of vaccines because they were too young. Vaccinations will make every setting where kids gather safer, for kids and adults. We’ll all be able to worry a lot less about childcare centers, playdates, parties, and summer camps.”

Community transmission rates in Marin and across the Bay Area remain high. Since the beginning of June, Marin children up to 4 years old have the highest rates of COVID-19 of any age group. Nationally, over 500 children aged 5 or younger have died from COVID-19, making the virus among the top 10 causes of death in children.

The two authorized vaccines are Moderna and Pfizer, offered in lower doses than for adults and older children. Moderna will be for children aged 6 months to 5 years, as two shots spaced one month apart. The Pfizer vaccine will be for children 6 months through 4 years, as three shots over 11 weeks, two within three weeks and a third eight weeks later. The three-dose Pfizer regimen was found to be 80% effective at preventing infection, roughly twice as effective as the Moderna vaccine.

One of the settings that will benefit most from pediatric COVID-19 vaccination is childcare. In Marin, over 80% of school-aged children 5-18 are fully vaccinated, after a dedicated countywide campaign to make schools safer through vaccinations.

“Our childcare providers have been heroes, taking care of our kids since the very beginning of the pandemic while knowing none of the children were vaccinated,” said Michelle Fadelli, Manager of Public Policy and Communications at First 5 Marin. “Now very young children will be safer in childcare, and their providers will be, too.”

ACCESSING THE VACCINE

Parents and guardians should contact their pediatrician to discuss appropriate timing to have their child vaccinated for COVID-19, especially if due for another routine pediatric vaccination. Children in their first 5 years are regularly visiting their pediatrician and vaccines are a routine part of these visits. The COVID-19 vaccine can be given in the same visit as the other important vaccines needed. MCPH will support pediatricians to ensure access to the vaccine over the coming weeks.

Kaiser Permanente, which is the primary medical provider for more than half of Marin households, will welcome children 6 months to 5 years old for COVID-19 vaccination starting Friday, June 24. Parents and guardians can book a vaccination appointment via Kaiser’s call center at (415) 444-4460. Walk-ins or drop-ins are not immediately available.

In addition, parents and guardians will be able to find appointments in a variety of settings – including pharmacies, pediatricians, and public health clinics – online via MyTurn.ca.gov. Select MCPH clinics will offer vaccines to infants and young children without a primary care physician beginning Thursday, June 23. Appointments can be made online via MyTurn and the ongoing schedule will be published at GetVaccinatedMarin.org.

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Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
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