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Safe, Queer Space to Aid in Personal Fitness Goals

Classes are offered 6 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and there is one class at 9 a.m. on Saturdays. For more information, visit the website at: www.thequeergym.com/home

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Coach Nat and Person(s) from Queer Gym provided by Visit Oakland

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of public spaces that are deemed safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community, especially gyms. Nathalie Huerta, A.K.A Coach Nat, had experienced this firsthand and decided to take matters into her own hands.

She opened the first LGBTQ+ gym in the nation in 2010, the Queer Gym. 

With a mission statement in mind, “to create happy, healthy homos” the gym is owned and managed by members of the LGBTQ+ community and run completely online. While there is a physical gym, once the pandemic hit it made the transition to completely online to extend the reach into the community. This unique environment also offers personalized workouts for those who are transitioning.

The Queer Gym is located at 1243 E 12th St, Oakland in. The gym can be reached at  (510) 866-4250 and also on  Twitter and Facebook. Classes are offered 6 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and there is one class at 9 a.m. on Saturdays. For more information, visit the website at: www.thequeergym.com/home

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#NNPA BlackPress

Holiday Season Routinely Sees Rise in Human Trafficking

The number of persons convicted of a federal human trafficking offense increased from 2011 (464 persons) to 2019 (837 persons) before falling in 2020 (658 persons). Of the 1,169 defendants charged in U.S. district court with human trafficking offenses in the fiscal year 2020 — 92% were male, 63% were white, 18% were black, 17% were Hispanic, 95% were U.S. citizens, and 66% had no prior convictions.

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If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-373-7888 to speak with a specially trained Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocate.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-373-7888 to speak with a specially trained Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocate.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire

Federal prosecutors said the fight against human trafficking, a crime that harms some of the most vulnerable members of society, counts among their highest priorities.

“We are committed to vindicating the rights of human trafficking crime victims by bringing their traffickers to justice and working to ensure that survivors have access to restitution, services, and assistance that are needed to rebuild their lives,” U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg said in a statement.

U.S. Department of Justice officials maintain that their strong efforts continue to combat human trafficking.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Attorney General released the Department of Justice’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking.

The strategy laid out the Department’s multi-year plan to combat all forms of human trafficking, focusing on efforts to protect victims of trafficking, prosecute human trafficking cases, and prevent further acts of human trafficking.

The Human Trafficking Institute estimates that there are 24.9 million victims of human trafficking globally.

In 2020, the Institute reported that federal courts in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 4 U.S. territories handled 579 active human trafficking prosecutions, 94% of which were sex trafficking cases and 6% forced labor cases.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, individuals prosecuted for human trafficking increased from 729 in 2011 to 1,343 in 2020, an 84% rise.

The number of persons convicted of a federal human trafficking offense increased from 2011 (464 persons) to 2019 (837 persons) before falling in 2020 (658 persons). Of the 1,169 defendants charged in U.S. district court with human trafficking offenses in the fiscal year 2020 — 92% were male, 63% were white, 18% were black, 17% were Hispanic, 95% were U.S. citizens, and 66% had no prior convictions.

By the end of 2020, for the 47 states that reported data, 1,564 persons were in the custody of a state prison serving a sentence for a human trafficking offense.

The District of Columbia reported zero new criminal human trafficking cases filed in federal courts in 2021.

The advocacy organization Hope for Justice defines human trafficking as modern slavery, where one person controls another for profit by exploiting a vulnerability.

Victims usually are forced to work or are sexually exploited, and the trafficker keeps all or nearly all the money. The control can be physical, financial, or psychological.

ChildWelfare.com says the legal definition of trafficking involves “the exploitation of people through force, coercion, threat, and deception and includes human rights abuses such as debt bondage, deprivation of liberty, and lack of control over freedom and labor.”

The organization noted that trafficking could be for purposes of sexual exploitation or labor exploitation.

In 2004, officials formed the D.C. Human Trafficking Task Force to increase the prosecution of traffickers while identifying and serving the victims.

The task force’s primary goal is to “facilitate a more coordinated anti-trafficking effort in the D.C. area through protocol development, extensive community outreach, proactive investigations, law enforcement training, intelligence sharing, and more formalized partnerships between law enforcement organizations and non-governmental organizations.”

Additionally, while the holiday season counts as a time of joy, happiness, and fun, the nonprofit Shero Foundation said for human trafficking victims, the holidays are no different from any other day.

Law enforcement officials said traffickers typically increase their illegal activities during the holiday season.

“We let our guard down because you’re supposed to be joyful, and, you know, it’s a great time of year. And unfortunately, we have people out there that don’t care what time of year it is,” Tony Mancuso, a sheriff in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, told reporters in a pre-Christmas interview in 2021.

“California is home to some of the largest hubs for sex and labor trafficking in the United States, and it is beyond the time our state takes the necessary steps in combatting this criminal enterprise,” Democratic Assemblymember Tim Grayson insisted.

Grayson noted that human trafficking was a $150 billion-a-year global industry and introduced a bill to establish the California Multidisciplinary Alliance to Stop Trafficking Act (California MAST).

The bill aims to examine and evaluate existing programs and outreach for survivors and victims of human trafficking and provide recommendations to strengthen California’s response to supporting survivors and holding offenders accountable.

“In my search for a better life, I found myself exploited by various individuals similar to other child trafficking survivors,” said Jimmy Lopez, survivor advocate for the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. “Human trafficking is an invisible crisis plaguing our state and forcing thousands of children to grow up too fast; we must stop trafficking in its tracks, and we must hold offenders accountable,” Lopez said.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-373-7888 to speak with a specially trained Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocate.

Support is provided in more than 200 languages. Hotline officials said they are there to listen and connect those in need with the help required to stay safe. Callers can dial 711 to access the Hotline using TTY.

You can also email help@humantraffickinghotline.org.

To report a potential human trafficking situation, call the hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or submit a tip online here.

All communication with the hotline is strictly confidential.

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Advice

What Parents Should Know About RSV, A Respiratory Virus

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, can include symptoms similar to a common cold. However, the virus can develop into something more serious. RSV can infect people of all ages but is most severe for older adults and young children.

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Dr. Frederick Kuo
Dr. Frederick Kuo

By Frederick Kuo

As RSV cases continue to spike across parts of the U.S. — with some areas nearing seasonal peak levels — those typical “bugs” your child brings home may have you feeling on edge. With so much swirling around these days, it can be difficult to know what’s behind a constant cough, especially if your child is very young.

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, can include symptoms similar to a common cold. However, the virus can develop into something more serious. RSV can infect people of all ages but is most severe for older adults and young children.

Usually almost every child under the age of 2 has been exposed to RSV, but due to all the pandemic response over the last few years, kids have not been exposed as much to RSV. That is one of the reasons why we are seeing such a spike this year, as well as RSV in children older than 2.

Symptoms

RSV symptoms may vary and typically begin four to six days after infection. The most common symptoms might include:

  • Runny nose
  • Low appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

For young infants with RSV, they might be irritable, sluggish or find it harder to breathe.

Your pediatrician will be able to figure out whether it’s a common cold, COVID-19 or RSV, if you have concerns about symptoms your child is showing. They might perform tests, like chest X-rays, to see if pneumonia has developed.

When should you call a doctor?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes an increase in RSV-associated emergency room visits. However, most cases will go away on their own in a week or two. Symptoms are typically at their worst on days three to five of infection. Only 3% of children with RSV will require a hospital stay.

If symptoms become severe, contact your pediatrician right away. This may include:

  • Symptoms of bronchiolitis
  • Symptoms of dehydration (only one wet diaper in 8 hours or more)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Gray or blue lips, tongue or skin
  • A significant decrease in activity or alertness

Even though RSV is common, and it might seem difficult to figure out how severe it will become, there are some risk factors parents should be aware of.

  • Children who are born premature or are 6 months old or younger are most at-risk for RSV complications
  • Children with chronic heart or lung disease, or a weaker immune system, can also be susceptible to RSV

Treatment

There’s currently no vaccine to prevent RSV and no specific treatment for the infection. As stated, most cases will resolve on their own. However, there are a few things you can do to help relieve the symptoms:

  • Manage pain and fever with over-the-counter medications (consult your pediatrician for guidance and never give aspirin to children)
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Nasal salineto help with breathing
  • Cool-mist humidifier to help break up mucus

Talk to your health care provider before you give any over-the-counter cold medicine to your child.

How it spreads

RSV is typically spread through coughs and sneezes, but can spread when someone touches a surface that has the virus on it and then touches their face, before washing their hands.

The following tips may help reduce your family’s risk:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your arm, not your hands
  • Avoid close contact with others, especially those who are sick
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home
  • If you’re sick, stay home

The best way to avoid transmission of RSV is what we have been doing very well over the last few years: Scrupulous hand hygiene with washing our hands frequently with soap and water, and cleaning the surfaces small hands get to, like doorknobs and handles. Also, wear a mask if you have any respiratory symptoms.

With the knowledge of what RSV may look like — and how it is different from other viruses — you’ll be able to take steps to keep your child as healthy as possible all year round.

For more information, visit the CDC website.

Dr. Frederick Kuo, MD, MBA, is the chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare, Northern California.

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Bay Area

OUSD is No Longer Publishing its COVID Data

Teachers, students and the Oakland Education Association had been vocal about COVID safety issues during the last two school years. Last January, OUSD teachers protested, as did students, in independent non-union affiliated sick-out and/or walk-out actions calling for better COVID safety measures. OEA pressed the district and negotiated over safety issues, and eventually struck a safety agreement deal that included making high quality masks available for free at all schools. This year, though, there have not been COVID protests. None of the four newsletters OEA has released this year have the word COVID in them, and its website no longer has any navigable page for COVID resources.

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“The data dashboard provided imperfect but vital information to understand where things were at,” Dorothy Graham said. “You could see the spikes in cases and know how urgent it was to test.”

By Zack Haber

The Oakland Unified School District is no longer publishing data this school year to inform students, staff, parents and the public about positive COVID cases in schools.

“The district is responding to all positive cases of which we are notified,” wrote OUSD spokesperson John Sasaki in an email to the Post News Group. “However, consistent with state and county guidance, we are no longer aggregating and cleaning the data in the same way we were last year.”

During last school year, OUSD, along with neighboring school districts, published regularly updated dashboards that informed the public about positive COVID cases both district wide and in individual schools. While OUSD has retired its COVID dashboard, the Alameda, Berkeley, Emeryville, and San Leandro Unified School Districts are continuing to update theirs.

In an email, Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Trish McDermott wrote that her district continues to “share our case count information with our community on our dashboard to inform their own choices about masking and testing.”

Spokesperson Keziah Moss wrote that the San Leandro School District has “continually operated with full transparency with our staff and families.” Moss called the publicly accessible COVID data “helpful to everyone as we monitor health and wellness in our schools.”

In an interview with the Post News Group, OUSD parent Innosanto Nagara expressed frustration about the dashboard’s removal, and also cast doubt on the adequacy of OUSD’s process of testing and collecting COVID data.

“Without the dashboard I have no idea how many students have COVID,” said Nagara. “But it’s not just the dashboard that’s gone. Basically, the whole system of monitoring, testing, and reporting is gone too.”

According to Nagara, last school year his son was tested for COVID twice a week at the school he attends, Melrose Leadership Academy, but that practice has ended.

“Before this school year started our school sent out an email saying you could come pick up a test,” said Nagara. “And that was all I’ve heard about testing.”

According to Sasaki, OUSD’s decision to retire its dashboard is “in alignment with” a resolution the school board passed on June 22. The resolution no longer requires the district to publish its COVID data and ended bi-weekly testing at all schools. While the district is still required to distribute take-home tests to students and host staffed testing hubs, there are no requirements as to how many tests must be distributed or how many hubs must remain open. Sasaki says rapid tests are available to all students who are symptomatic or exposed. This month, OUSD has two to four testing hubs for PCR testing open during weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., which is roughly the same hours that schools are open.

Board Director Mike Hutchinson, who introduced the resolution, told this reporter in a message that the resolution’s intent was “resetting the district’s response to COVID this year, so we are in alignment with the state and the CDC and still have flexibility to shift if needed.”

“Thankfully we don’t need the same level of testing or reporting that we did last year,” wrote Hutchinson. “It’s good news that we’ve been able to scale back and shift our response to COVID.”

All elected directors currently serving on the school board voted to approve Hutchinson’s resolution. Director Kyra Mungia, who was appointed to the board, had not yet taken on her position when the vote was held.

In an email to this reporter, Board Director Sam Davis wrote that while he had been “an advocate of more available [COVID] data” during last school year, he “didn’t see any reason to push back against” Hutchinson’s resolution for this year. Davis called the gathering and reporting of COVID data as “a big lift,” and wrote that “it does not seem like schools should be under the burden of doing that work when it is not being done for any of the places where people are gathering in large numbers, usually unmasked, such as bars, concerts and restaurants, in ways that are probably contributing a lot more to community transmission than schools are.”

Board Directors Aimee Eng, Clifford Thompson, and VanCedric Williams, did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story. Director Gary Yee did not answer when asked why he voted to approve Hutchinson’s resolution but wrote in an email he thought that Superintendent Dr Kyla Johnson-Trammell’s implementation of the resolution was consistent with its intent.

During public comments of a school board meeting on Aug. 24, Dorothy Graham criticized OUSD for no longer publishing COVID data.

“How are families supposed to understand the spread of COVID in our schools and the risk to our students with no data?” she asked.

Graham is a former director of the Alameda Health Consortium and has over 40 years experience working in public health. She’s also a high COVID risk individual with a grandson who attends an OUSD school. In an interview, Graham said she felt that OUSD is shifting its response from collective to individual responsibility. Like other districts in the area and across the country, masks are now optional at OUSD. Grahams is critical of the district’s choice to no longer release COVID data while the end of required masking could put more people at risk and feels it’s especially important now that people have access to COVID data so they can make informed risk assessment choices.

“The data dashboard provided imperfect but vital information to understand where things were at,” Graham said. “You could see the spikes in cases and know how urgent it was to test.”

As the OUSD school year started in early August, the CDC was saying COVID transmission was high throughout the Bay Area. It is unclear how widespread COVID is now and if it is less of a risk this school year. Vaccinations provide protection for many people against the worst COVID symptoms, but their potency wanes as time passes and over 25% of students and 45% of Black students are not vaccinated.

It is also unclear how widespread COVID is currently in Alameda county. Since last spring, private and state health institutes and departments have been saying that COVID case rates have likely become increasingly undercounted as take-home COVID tests are more available while government testing is less available. The increased ability to test independently has caused people to report their cases to health departments less frequently. The county’s data dashboards currently show that rates of reported COVID cases over the last four months have sharply fallen. They also show COVID related hospitalizations and inpatient rates have sharply risen for about the last six months. The county is currently administering tests at about the same rate as they were at the start of the pandemic.

Graham feels not many people are speaking out about OUSD related COVID issues.

“I was the only person to mention the word COVID at the board meeting,” she said. “Voices you’d expect to be speaking out about this, aren’t.”

Teachers, students and the Oakland Education Association had been vocal about COVID safety issues during the last two school years. Last January, OUSD teachers protested, as did students, in independent non-union affiliated sick-out and/or walk-out actions calling for better COVID safety measures. OEA pressed the district and negotiated over safety issues, and eventually struck a safety agreement deal that included making high quality masks available for free at all schools. This year, though, there have not been COVID protests. None of the four newsletters OEA has released this year have the word COVID in them, and its website no longer has any navigable page for COVID resources.

In a statement emailed to this reporter, OEA President Keith Brown wrote that “We can’t let our guard down against COVID.” Brown pointed out that agreements made with the district last school year have continued into this year. These include providing classrooms with quality air filtration, providing substitute teachers in classrooms, and ensuring that “OUSD maintains a stockpile of high-quality masks and rapid tests.”

According to Brown, OEA has also been encouraging more transparency in relation to COVID data this year.

“Our safety agreement sets the minimum, and we will continue to encourage OUSD to go above and beyond,” Brown wrote, “including transparently reporting known cases.”

In the meantime, OUSD parent Innosanto Nagara and grandparent Dorothy Graham remain unsatisfied with the district’s COVID procedures and want more transparency.

“I feel like we sent kids in this year like COVID was over from the district’s concern,” said Nagara.

“I think they retired the dashboard very prematurely.” said Graham. “Why is this controversial? Releasing the data should just be common sense.”

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