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LA County health officials worried of coronavirus among homeless

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “It would be useful to be more proactive about giving out flu shots to homeless people,” said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, professor of medicine and public health at UCLA, adding that the flu remains more prevalent than coronavirus, and preventing those cases in the homeless community has the dual benefit of improving overall health and keeping flu cases out of emergency rooms. “On a day-to-day basis, they are at much greater risk for influenza,” he said.

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People living outdoors often do so in close quarters and lack the ability to maintain basic hygiene, including precautions such as hand washing. They may also face more danger from serious infection because existing illnesses or frequent use of drugs or alcohol all factor to make a case of COVID-19 illness more severe. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Growing population at risk of immediate illness

By Merdies Hayes, Managing Editor, Our Weekly News

The potential for an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among the nation’s homeless population is increasing daily. Public health officials in Los Angeles County and statewide are concerned for this unsheltered population because of the susceptibility of illness, particularly the flu and other concerns that can begin small and rapidly become a life-altering event.

In Sacramento recently, A Solano County woman came down with a suspected viral infection and needed treatment. She was taken to the hospital, not knowing that she would become the first person in the nation to be diagnosed with the novel coronavirus without a known cause. The hospital’s emergency room is often filled with homeless patients, whose immune systems have become significantly weakened from living in filthy encampments on riverbeds, in alleys and on city sidewalks.

New cases of virus through community spread

This week, Los Angeles County witnessed its first two cases of coronavirus through community spread. While the sources are unknown, the danger of contracting the virus by living in a homeless encampment has received the attention of county officials. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has called for extra precautions for this especially vulnerable population.

“While this is a challenging issue for everyone, people experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable and we must do everything we can to help them,” Ridley-Thomas said. “LA County is being proactive and collaborating with stakeholders. The board urges everyone to be calm, cautious, mindful and empathetic as we work together to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”

In addition to voting for a motion presented by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis in declaring a local emergency, Ridley-Thomas asked LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer about the need to roll out sanitation stations and other measures to prevent any outbreaks among people living on the street. Ferrer said the ordinary safety precautions for the general public can be all but “impossible” to instill among the homeless population of which—taken on an individual basis—are never in the same place twice from day to day.

Homeless often ‘sicker than general public’

“[The homeless] cannot stay home when they’re sick. They cannot wash their hands often,” Ferrer said.  “Many times, they don’t have a medical provider that they’re in contact with.” Ferrer further explained they are aware of many people experiencing homelessness are “sicker than the general public” and already have heightened mortality rates.

“We are very concerned that novel coronavirus can disproportionately devastate people who are experiencing homelessness,” she added.

Throughout the county, members of Ferrer’s department are visiting hundreds of interim housing facilities (mostly homeless shelters) to ensure each has adequate facilities and links to medical providers. The Public Health department has also met with leaders of several departments and agencies—including LA County’s Homeless Initiative and Office of Emergency Management—as well as the Los Angeles Homeless Services Department—to better identify locations where homeless persons who show symptoms of coronavirus can be safely placed to monitor their health.

“If we do start seeing cases among people who are experiencing homelessness, we need to be prepared to house people who have mild illness and don’t require hospitalization,” Ferrer recently told the Board of Supervisors. “These folks will require…a place where they can be isolated and other folks who are (their) close contacts will require a place where they, too, can be quarantined.”

Greater risk of serious complications

Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, professor of medicine and public health at UCLA, concurs that people living in crowded, unsanitary conditions are at increased risk of an infectious disease like coronavirus.

“This is definitely a population…with other chronic medical conditions, so should they acquire coronavirus, they are potentially at risk for more serious complications,” Klausner said.

People living outdoors often do so in close quarters and lack the ability to maintain basic hygiene, including precautions such as hand washing. They may also face more danger from serious infection because existing illnesses or frequent use of drugs or alcohol all factor to make a case of COVID-19 illness more severe.

With an unprecedented number of people living on the streets of LA County, and large encampments now more common in urban areas, coronavirus has created a situation unlike that of previous outbreaks of communicable disease. This has led to an uncertain scenario in which planning is happening as the outbreak evolves. Local public health officials, therefore, are dealing with the possible complexities of managing a pandemic in the middle of a homelessness crisis.

Klausner believes it is a good idea for county health officials to reach out to homeless people to inform them about the coronavirus and screen them for infection.

Flu more prevalent than coronavirus

“It would be useful to be more proactive about giving out flu shots to homeless people,” Klausner said, adding that the flu remains more prevalent than coronavirus, and preventing those cases in the homeless community has the dual benefit of improving overall health and keeping flu cases out of emergency rooms. “On a day-to-day basis, they are at much greater risk for influenza,” he said.

The homeless are more vulnerable to ill health, including contracting an infectious disease. Last year, there was an outbreak of typhus in the squalor of skid row in Downtown Los Angeles. In other places, including San Diego, homeless persons have seen cases of hepatitis A. In Santa Monica early this year, there were a few cases of trench fever, which is transmitted by body lice.

Los Angeles City Council members Mitch O’Farrell and Monica Rodriguez presented a motion recently to direct the city to install sanitation stations at homeless encampments big and small in an effort to protect an estimated 36,000 persons against the coronavirus outbreak.

“While the coronavirus is mainly affecting travel and tourism, it is imperative we have a lens focused on (its) potential to imperil those experiencing homelessness,” O’Farrell said. “I want to ensure we have the necessary hygiene stations and resources available from our local, state and federal partners to address this rapidly moving urgent public health issue.”

Spreading from person-to-person

Experts believe that coronavirus is spread mainly from person-to-person in the following ways:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet);
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes;
  • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly inhaled into the lungs;
  • It may be possible that a person can contract coronavirus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. Experts don’t believe that this is the main way the virus spreads.

Health practitioners nationwide believe that people are most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed COVID-19 cases. Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure and include: Fever, cough and shortness of breath.

People who believe they have been exposed to coronavirus should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Many longtime homeless persons do not have a doctor nor healthcare insurance. This is primarily why the LA City Council is debating the installation of sanitation stations along skid row and at the growing amount of homeless encampments citywide and, possibly, throughout the county.

The risk for homeless seniors

Homeless seniors are at particular risk of coronavirus. The immune system naturally weakens as you age. If an older adult contracts the disease, they tend to have a higher amount of the virus because they can’t get rid of it and it tends to infiltrate deep into their lungs.

In effect, persons with the most robust immune systems have a better chance of warding off the infection—if detected early. Homeless seniors, however, often have pre-existing co-morbidities (simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases). Anyone who has a lung disease is at very high risk. Anyone with Type 2 diabetes is more susceptible to infection—especially from the aforementioned lung infections. Additionally, there a myriad of health concerns (i.e. heart disease, high blood pressure) for elderly homeless persons that can be exacerbated by the cononavirus.

There are many ways to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. First of all, stay at home if you’re sick. Limit close contact with people who are sick. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Always cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue. And get a flu shot to prevent influenza.

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Brittney Griner Sentenced to More than 9 years in Russian Prison

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The lawyers of WNBA star Brittney Griner, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a written statement following the verdict announcement that the court ignored all the evidence they presented and that they will appeal the decision. “We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality,” Attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in a statement.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

WNBA Superstar Brittney Griner has been sentenced to more than 9 years in a Russian prison following her conviction on drug charges.

Her lawyers called the verdict a disappointment and vowed to appeal.

The lawyers of WNBA star Brittney Griner, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a written statement following the verdict announcement that the court ignored all the evidence they presented and that they will appeal the decision.

“We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality,” Attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in a statement.

“The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense, and most importantly, the guilty plea. This contradicts the existing legal practice.

“Taking into account the amount of the substance (not to mention the defects of the expertise) and the plea, the verdict is absolutely unreasonable. We will certainly file an appeal,” they added.

Russian officials contended that Griner committed the crime on purpose. They also levied a fine totaling about $16,400 American dollars on the basketball star.

Authorities arrested Griner on Feb. 17 at an airport in Moscow after finding less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.

She has been detained since then.

Recently, American officials revealed that the Biden-Harris administration had offered notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the release of Griner and Paul Whelan.

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” President Biden said.

“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”

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Report: Human Rights Violations in Prisons Throughout Southern United States Cause Disparate and Lasting Harm in Black Communities  

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The U.S. has long failed to live up to its international human rights treaty obligations on eliminating racial discrimination, perhaps more so in the area of mass incarceration and prison conditions than in any other context,” said Lisa Borden, Senior Policy Counsel, International Advocacy at the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

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NNPA Newswire

NEW YORK – The Southern Prisons Coalition, a group of civil and human rights organizations, submitted a new report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on the devastating consequences of incarceration on Black people throughout the southern United States.

With the long-term goal of eliminating all forms of racial discrimination in the criminal legal system, including the carceral system, the report describes the widespread, disparate harms resulting from the arrests, harsh prison sentences, and incarceration on Black communities.

The report also cites the devastating impacts of solitary confinement, prison labor, the school to prison pipeline, and incarceration of parents on Black families.

On August 8, 2022, the UN will review the United States’ compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination for the first time since 2014.

Among the ongoing stark racial disparities throughout prisons in the southern United States, Black people are five times more likely to be incarcerated in state prisons.

In states like Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas, where Black communities comprise 38% of the total population, Black individuals account for as much as 67% of the total incarcerated population.

While incarcerated, Black people are more than eight times more likely to be placed in solitary confinement, and they are 10 times more likely to be held there for exceedingly long periods of time.

By submitting the report to the United Nations, the Southern Prisons Coalition hopes to solicit concrete recommendations from the UN Committee as well as commitments from the United States delegation about their plans to address systemic issues in the United States prison system, particularly in the South.

According to the report, several states in the United States have also failed to meet several of the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of incarcerated people, including:

  • Work should help to prepare incarcerated people for their release from prison, including life and job skills;
  • Safety measures and labor protections for incarcerated workers should be the same as those that cover workers who are not incarcerated;
  • Incarcerated workers should receive equitable pay, be able to send money home to their families, and have a portion of their wages set aside to be given to them upon release.

“The U.S. has long failed to live up to its international human rights treaty obligations on eliminating racial discrimination, perhaps more so in the area of mass incarceration and prison conditions than in any other context,” said Lisa Borden, Senior Policy Counsel, International Advocacy at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“We hope the Committee will help to shine a light on these very dark truths and prompt the U.S. to take its obligation to make significant improvements more seriously.”

“The abuses of forced labor are inextricably tied to racial discrimination in our nation,” said Jamila Johnson, Deputy Director at the Promise of Justice Initiative.

“In Louisiana, for instance, people are still sent into the fields to labor by hand in dangerously high heat indexes, for little to no compensation, and with brutal enforcement reminiscent of slavery and the era of ‘convict leasing’.”

“This report reveals the suffering of Black people in southern U.S. prisons, whose stories of marginalization and discrimination echo the racial subjugation of slavery and convict leasing during our country’s most shameful past,” said Antonio L. Ingram II, Assistant Counsel at the Legal Defense Fund.

“Despite widespread knowledge of the longstanding racial inequalities in the criminal legal and carceral systems, the United States continues to allow egregious human rights violations to persist for Black incarcerated people in violation of international law. This report serves as a sobering reminder of how far we need to go.”

Read the full report here.

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Celebrate your birthday with 10 free items

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Is your birthday coming up, and you’re not sure how to celebrate? Beat the summer heat by grabbing free ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, or a daiquiri at WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe.” Not in the mood for sweets? Head over to Jersey Mike’s or McDonald’s. Check out the rest of these Top 10 places giving out free items on your special day.

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By Angelina Liu, Entertainment Editor of The Trendsetter / Texas Metro News

Is your birthday coming up, and you’re not sure how to celebrate? Beat the summer heat by grabbing free ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, or a daiquiri at WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe.” Not in the mood for sweets? Head over to Jersey Mike’s or McDonald’s. Check out the rest of these Top 10 places giving out free items on your special day.

1. Chocolate Secrets

At Chocolate Secrets, located at 3926 Oak Lawn Ave, Dallas, TX 75219, you can celebrate your birthday by getting one free piece of candy under their candy cases.

2. WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe”

Head to WhoDaq Daquiris “The Daiquiri Shoppe”, located at 684 W Pioneer Pkwy Suite 100, Grand Prairie, Texas 75051, to claim a free small personal daiquiri on your birthday. Quench your thirst with signature flavors such as “Strawberry Shortcake” or “Bahama Mama.”

3. Sephora

Sign up for a free, Beauty Insider account and receive your choice of 250 bonus points, Laura Mercier, Amika or Tatcha sets on your birthday. The choice of powders, lipsticks and skincare is bound to make you look fabulous for your special day.

4. Starbucks

Need a quick pick-me-up on your birthday? Starbucks has it covered! Join the Starbucks Rewards Program seven days prior to your birthday and make one purchase. Starbucks will then email you a coupon for a free food or beverage item two days before your birthday. The birthday reward qualifies for anything on the menu, including any size handcrafted drink or food item.

5. Jersey Mike’s

In the mood for a sub? Head over to Jersey Mike’s and receive a free sub and drink. Make sure to sign up for the Jersey Mike’s Subs Email Club prior to your birthday to receive this reward. Nothing tastes quite like melted cheese and meat in between a toasted baguette, along with an icy cold drink.

6. The Cheesecake Factory

Celebrating with friends? Tell your server it’s your birthday and receive a free treat as well as a song. It may be mildly embarrassing, but hey, it’s free!

7. Culver’s

Need something cold and sweet to beat the Texas heat? Head to Culver’s for a free sundae when you sign up for their rewards program. The sweet creaminess will surely not disappoint.

8. IHOP

Want to indulge in a sweet breakfast before birthday festivities? Join the International Bank of Pancakes rewards program to receive a free stack of pancakes on your birthday. Pair your pancakes with a choice of chocolate chips, syrup, fresh fruit or a dollop of whipped cream.

9. McDonald’s

Need a snack before embarking on your next birthday adventure? Download the McDonald’s app and join MyMcDonald’s Rewards to receive free large fries. Mmm, the taste and smell of fresh, perfectly salted french fries.

10. Smoothie King

Want to celebrate your birthday with a healthier option? Enjoy a birthday smoothie at Smoothie King. Download the Smoothie King app to receive this offer.

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