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The Coronavirus Pandemic: Suggestions for Maintaining Health and Wellness

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In just a short period of about 4 months, the coronavirus became a worldwide pandemic affecting almost every country on the globe. The speed with which the disease has spread and the lack of an appropriate vaccine for the virus is frightening. This virus has disrupted normal activities throughout the world. 

All attention has been focused on steps to prevent/limit the spread of the virus. The community should follow the guidelines provided by public health officials to protect themselves from becoming infected, such as physical distancing, washing hands, not touching eyes/nose/mouth, etc. A challenging aspect of this virus is that people may have it, be contagious and not know it because they have no symptoms. Given that, these precautions require us to care about not spreading it to others in the community who may be particularly vulnerable. These precautions can limit the possibility of people becoming infected with the virus and halt the spread of the virus.

The coronavirus has created uncertainty and anxiety around the world. As the virus continues to spread, one effect that is apparently going unnoticed is the mental health effects that it brings. The situation is in flux and changes with almost every passing hour. Given the potential spread of the virus over the coming weeks, we can anticipate additional impacts that may produce even greater stress. Governor Newsom followed six Bay Area counties and issued a shelter in place order. Uncertainty surrounds the date this order will be lifted as the virus continues to spread in California and other parts of the country

As healers, the health and wellbeing of society are our first priorities, and we have to do everything we can to support the community during these difficult times. While we love our family, it can become challenging to spend lots of unexpected time together during this period of rapid change and uncertainty.  In our African traditional beliefs, “love” is called “Zola,” in KiKongo.  “Zola” activates our self-healing capacity. During this worldwide health crisis, and all the time, we should “Zola up” on our families, each other and everyone we cherish.  As community healers, we readily embrace our duty to protect our community, and to that end, we want to offer the following steps to help alleviate the anxiety, sense of helplessness, and stress that the pandemic is creating.

  1. With the closure of schools, parents have the added responsibility of caring for their children for the whole day. As parents, we have to create additional at-home activities for our children to keep them engaged and learning. This will be an opportunity to create activities that could excite your children’s desire to learn things that interest and inspire them. You can encourage your children by helping them with their schoolwork, reading to them, story-telling, playing games, making chores fun with rewards, etc. These activities can help to enhance the parent/child relationship and reduce the fixation on the stressful nature of the uncertainty and anxiety.
  2. With everyone in the house all day, we will see behaviors that we were sheltered from while we were at work or in school. It is important to tolerate these different behaviors as long as they are not harmful to others. 
  3. Respect that everyone in the home has a voice, listen gracefully and accept that we do not all think alike. We should not correct another person’s way of thinking if it is not harmful. It is not a good idea to criticize someone at home when you have to spend weeks together.
  4. We must be kind and considerate to others. 
  5. We must not bully anyone into doing what we want them to do, unless it is to save a life.
  6. Parents and caretakers have to create respite time for themselves and their children. Exercising, stretching, meditating, dancing, drawing, painting, listening to music, and other arts-and-craft activities can all aid in this situation.
  7. Pray this will be over soon and life will return to a more optimal situation.
  8. Please do not get caught up in the hysteria and engage in panic buying. Panic buying and hoarding only serve to make the situation worse. We do have to buy extra food to feed the children who are now at home during the day; but we have to avoid the urge to hoard extra supplies. If you don’t already do so, consider adding foods that strengthen your immune systems like carrots, cabbage, collard greens, eggs, chicken, fish as well as garlic, ginger, turmeric, fruits and blueberries.
  9.  Be sure to wash your clothes regularly. If you go out in the public, wash your outer garments as soon as possible.
  10. Have a dedicated space to open and read mail. This should not be on the dining table or kitchen counter. Once the mail is read, keep bills and other information in a separate location, and discard envelopes and other junk mail in the recyclable bin. Wash your hands after handling the mail.
  11. We have to practice good mental health by focusing on the positives that can emerge from the crisis, like enhanced familial relations and reduced concentration on stress involved with the virus. Be sure to tell each other that you love, enjoy, and care for each other.

The community should follow the guidelines provided by public health officials to protect themselves from becoming infected, i.e., physical distancing, washing hands, not touching eyes/nose/mouth, etc.

In addition, the Ancient African principles of MAAT (truth, justice, order, harmony, balance, reciprocity, and righteousness) can assist us in maintaining a healthy mental state.  Below is a list of suggested ways to apply these principles as you spend time in close quarters with your loved ones. 

Truth – This is the perfect environment for rumors to spread like wildfire. Be especially mindful of this reality and diligently seek to ascertain the truth to avoid allowing reckless panic to drive your decisions. 

Justice – The reality is that during times like this, we as a people will collectively be negatively impacted. Do not fall prey to participating in or encouraging behaviors that are unfair or unjust. Even if you have the power and authority. Do not be a bully. Share your power and allow others to practice having a “voice”.

Righteousness – Engage in behaviors that demonstrate acts of kindness and consideration.  Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. Practice this, even when it is not desired. Heaping loving kindness on others keeps you in a positive state. Always do the right thing.

Reciprocity – Make sure everyone has a role in helping the family during this time. Engage in activities that are mutually beneficial to everyone. Do not blast music that only you like, do not hog shared spaces or items, etc. Model volunteering to do things for others and the whole family.

Balance – This principle relates directly to the strategies noted in harmony. Balance being in your “own space” with being “together in the space”. Balance also is important as it relates to EVERYTHING the family consumes during this time, e.g. information on the virus, social media, items purchased, etc.  

Harmony – As time in the shelter-in-place passes, getting along with each other can become more challenging. Schedule intentional breaks from each other. Call it mediation time, reading time, or journaling time. Do it everyday and in spaces where you are all still physically present but in your “own space”.  

Order – Predictably, the current chaos that some are experiencing can be worse.  Remember to stay in control of the things that you can control. Be intentional about maintaining order in your household. Examples include, creating and maintaining a schedule for eating, sleeping, and playing. Treating this like a vacation can get old quickly as the shut-in time increases.

These practices would aid us to feel at peace and sleep well as we wait out this forced shut-in together. As the reality of the virus unfolds we, The Bay Area Chapter of Black Psychologists, have to continue to do the critical work of healing our community as well as all people by assisting in reducing stress and maintaining well-being during this current crisis.  

The Bay Area Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi-Bay Area) is committed to providing the Post Newspaper readership with monthly discussions about critical issues in Black Mental Health. The ABPsi-Bay Area Chapter is a healing resource. We can be contacted at (bayareaabpsi@gmail.com) and readers are welcome to join us at our monthly chapter meetings, every third Saturday at the West Oakland Youth Center from 10a.m. to 12p.m when gatherings are allowed.

The Bay Area Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi-Bay Area) is committed to providing the Post Newspaper readership with monthly discussions about critical issues in Black Mental Health. The ABPsi-Bay Area Chapter is a healing resource. We can be contacted at (bayareaabpsi@gmail.com) and readers are welcome to join us at our monthly chapter meetings, every third Saturday at the West Oakland Youth Center from 10a.m. to 12p.m when gatherings are allowed.

Bay Area

Most Californians Worry Schools Won’t Reopen Fully Next Fall, Poll Says

The majority say they approve of how Newsom handled schools this year.

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More than 4 in 5 California adults, including public school parents, believe that the pandemic has caused children, especially low-income children and English learners, to fall behind academically.

  Six in 10 Californians are concerned that schools will not be open for full-time, in-person instruction in the fall, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released on April 28.

  The annual survey of Californians’ perspectives on education also found that a majority approved of the way Gov. Gavin Newsom has handled K-12 public schools, although opinions were split along partisan lines, with 22% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats supporting him on the issue.

  And perhaps in an indication of the erosion of support for public schools, 42% of parents say they would send their youngest child to a private school if cost and location were not at issue. This compares with 31% who would choose a traditional public school, 14% a charter school, and 13% a religious school. The preference for a private school increased from 35% last year and 31% two years ago.

  The survey of 1,602 adults over 18 was taken from April 1-14 and was offered in English or a choice of Spanish and three other languages. The margin of error was 3.4%, plus or minus, overall, and 7.4%, plus or minus, for the 295 respondents who are public school parents.

  Facing a recall election, Newsom can take solace in the poll’s finding that a majority of Californians (57% of adults, 64% of public-school parents) approve of how he has handled K-12 education.

  “Majorities of Californians approve of the way that Governor Newsom is handling the state’s K-12 public schools and school reopening, while they remain deeply divided along party lines,” said Mark Baldassare, president, and CEO of PPIC.

  However, a year ago, when the last survey was taken weeks after schools closed quickly in response to the first throes of the pandemic, his approval marks were higher, with 73% of adults and 78% of public school parents expressing approval.

  The poll, which focused on education, also found:

  Of those who said children were falling behind academically during the pandemic, 60% said that was happening by a lot and 22% by a little. The views were similar among ethnic and racial groups. Eight in 10 adults said they were concerned that low-income children were falling farther behind other children. More Blacks and Latinos were very concerned about this than whites;

  Amid continuing debates and lawsuits claiming that schools aren’t opening quickly enough, slightly more adults overall than public school parents said that schools should at least be partially open now (53% vs. 48%), while 28% of all adults and 27% of public school parents said that schools should be fully open now;

  Looking ahead to the fall, 61% of all adults said they were concerned that K-12 schools would not be open for full-time in-person instruction (24% very concerned, 37% somewhat concerned), and two-thirds of public school parents said they were concerned (25% very concerned, 41% somewhat concerned).

  When it comes to their own schools, two-thirds of adults said they approved of how their school district handled closures during the pandemic. Support was highest in the Los Angeles area (74%) and the Inland Empire (68%) and lowest in Orange County and San Diego (54%). Approval among public school parents was 72%.

  The clear majority of all adults said that teachers’ salaries in their communities are too low. About 1 in 3 said salaries are just about right while 7% said they are too high, and 3% said they didn’t know. Among racial and ethnic groups, 76% of Blacks said pay is too low, compared with 59% of whites, 61% of Asian Americans, and 62% of Latinos.

  Last month, the U.S. Department of Education ruled that California school districts could substitute local assessments for the state standardized test, the Smarter Balanced assessment, under some conditions. Many districts are expected to exercise that option.

  Asked whether they favor conducting year-end state testing this spring to measure the pandemic’s impact on student learning, 75% of all adults (and a similar proportion of public school parents) said they were in favor of continuing testing, with 23% opposed. Latinos were the most in favor (83%) and Blacks the least supportive (68%) with 70% of Asian Americans and whites in favor of continuing year-end testing.

  As for the perennial issue of school funding, 49% of all adults, 53% of likely voters, and 51% of public school parents said that the current level of state funding for their local public schools is not adequate — about the same level as a year ago.

  When it comes to school construction and renovation, 59% of all adults, 55% of likely voters, and 74% of public school parents said they would vote yes on a state bond measure to pay for school construction projects. Legislative leaders plan to place a bond on the state ballot in 2022.

 

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MAYOR LONDON BREED NOMINATES CITY ATTORNEY DENNIS HERRERA TO LEAD THE SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION

As the new General Manager of the SFPUC, Herrera would bring decades of experience serving San Francisco residents and advancing the fight for significant environmental policies.

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San Francisco, CA — Today Mayor London N. Breed nominated City Attorney Dennis Herrera to serve as the next General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). Herrera was elected as City Attorney of San Francisco in 2001, and will bring decades of experience serving City residents and advancing environmental policies through his nationally-recognized office.
The SFPUC provides retail drinking water and wastewater services to the City of San Francisco, wholesale water to three Bay Area counties, green hydroelectric and solar power to Hetch Hetchy electricity customers, and power to the residents and businesses of San Francisco through the CleanPowerSF program.
“I am proud to nominate Dennis Herrera to serve as General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission,” said Mayor Breed. “Dennis has been a great champion in San Francisco across a wide range of issues from civil rights to protecting our environment, and most importantly he has been someone who always puts the people of this City first. By bringing his experience in office and his commitment to public service to this new position, I am confident the SFPUC will be able to deliver the high-quality services our residents deserve while continuing to advance nationally-recognized programs like CleanPowerSF and pursue ambitious efforts like public power. Dennis is the right leader for the hard-working employees of the SFPUC and this City.”
“I will always cherish the groundbreaking work we have done in the City Attorney’s Office over these nearly 20 years,” Herrera said. “We advanced equality for all, pushed affordable housing at every turn, gave our children better opportunities to grow and thrive, and took innovative steps to protect the environment. We never shied from the hard fights. Above all, our approach to government has had an unwavering focus on equity, ethics and integrity.”
“It is that focus that drives me to this new challenge,” Herrera said. “Public service is an honor. When you see a need, you step up to serve. The test of our age is how we respond to climate change. San Francisco’s public utility needs clean, innovative and decisive leadership to meet that challenge. I am ready to take the lead in ensuring that all San Franciscans have sustainable and affordable public power, clean and reliable water, and, overall, a public utility that once again makes them proud. I want to thank Mayor Breed for this unique opportunity to stand up for ratepayers and usher in a new era of clean leadership at the top of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.”
The next step for the nomination is for the five-member commission that oversees the SFPUC to interview City Attorney Herrera and forward him as a formal recommendation to the Mayor. After this, and once a contract is finalized, City Attorney Herrera would be officially appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Commission. This process will take a number of weeks.
For nearly two decades, Herrera has been at the forefront of pivotal water, power and sewer issues. He worked to save state ratepayers $1 billion during PG&E’s first bankruptcy in the early 2000s and has been a leading advocate for San Francisco to adopt full public power for years. In 2009, he reached a key legal agreement with Mirant to permanently close the Potrero Power Plant, San Francisco’s last fossil fuel power plant. The deal also included Mirant paying $1 million to help address pediatric asthma in nearby communities. In 2017, Herrera sued the top five investor-owned fossil fuel companies in the world, including ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, seeking billions of dollars for infrastructure to protect San Francisco against sea-level rise caused by their products, including large portions of the SFPUC’s combined sewer and stormwater system.
In 2018, Herrera defeated an attempt to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the crown jewel of the SFPUC system, which provides emissions-free hydroelectric power and clean drinking water to 2.7 million Bay Area residents. He is also leading efforts before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the courts to fight PG&E’s predatory tactics to grow its corporate monopoly by illegally overcharging public projects like schools, homeless shelters and affordable housing to connect to the energy grid.
Herrera was first elected City Attorney in December 2001, and went on to build what The American Lawyer magazine hailed as “one of the most aggressive and talented city law departments in the nation.”
Herrera’s office was involved in every phase of the legal war to achieve marriage equality, from early 2004 to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark rulings in June 2013. Herrera was also the first to challenge former President Trump’s attempts to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities. He repeatedly defeated the Trump administration in different cases as it sought to punish sanctuary cities, deny basic benefits like food stamps to legal immigrants, and discriminate in health care against women, the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable groups. He brought groundbreaking consumer protection cases against payday lenders, credit card arbitrators and others. He also brought pioneering legal cases to protect youth, including blocking an attempt to strip City College of San Francisco of its accreditation and getting e-cigarettes off San Francisco store shelves until they received required FDA approval.

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Barbara Lee

California to Receive $3.8 Billion in Federal Cash to Help Childcare Providers

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a childcare crisis on top of a public health crisis. Child-care providers are almost entirely women and 40% are people of color. Providing relief to help keep childcare centers and schools open is critical for our students, parents, educators, and care providers, and is essential to support our country’s economic recovery and build back better.”

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Help is on the way for childcare providers in California — an industry rocked by widespread closures with surviving operators burdened by the weight of sharp increases in their operating costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But those companies offering babysitting and other related services will soon receive an infusion of much-needed monetary aid from the federal government. 

On April 15, the Biden Administration announced the release of $39 billion in direct funding allocated for childcare providers in the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law on March 11. California U.S. Congress-member Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) welcomed the President’s announcement. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a childcare crisis on top of a public health crisis. Child-care providers are almost entirely women and 40% are people of color. Providing relief to help keep childcare centers and schools open is critical for our students, parents, educators, and care providers, and is essential to support our country’s economic recovery and build back better.”

According to a September 2020 report compiled by the Center for American Progress, the cost of center-based childcare increased by 47% due to enhanced health and safety requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. The cost of home-based family childcare increased by 70%. The report found that these increased costs were driven by the need for more staff and more sanitation supplies to meet COVID-19 protocols.

In this latest round of federal funding for childcare providers, about $25 billion will go toward funding grants through a childcare stabilization fund. Childcare providers can use these grants to help cover fixed costs like rent, make payroll and purchase sanitizing supplies. Another amount, around $15 billion, will be available as emergency funding through the Child Care and Development Fund, to provide childcare to essential workers. Lawmakers are also requiring that childcare providers who receive these funds make financial relief available for families struggling to pay tuition.

Combined with the $10 billion allocated in the December 2020 COVID-19 relief package, and $3.5 billion allocated in the March 2020 CARES Act, the child-care industry has now received more than $50 billion in federal support.

The Biden Administration’s announcement also highlighted the effects that the increased need for childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic have had on women and families of color. As of December 2020, about 1 in 4 early childhood and child-care providers that were open at the start of the pandemic have been closed. 

The affected centers are disproportionately owned by people of color, and their closures have both put women of color out of work, and left families of color without childcare. Also, since the start of the pandemic, roughly 2 million women have left the workforce due to caregiving needs.

On April 20, Lee released an announcement detailing the specific amount of funds available for California’s childcare providers. 

Over $2.3 billion will be given to the Golden State from the child-care stabilization fund, her statement said. Another $1.4 billion is available through flexible funding to make childcare across California more affordable for families, increase access to care for families receiving subsidies and increase compensation for childcare workers.

“I’m pleased to see this funding come through for families and child-care providers in the East Bay and across our state,” said Lee.

In total, California will receive nearly $3.8 billion for providers and families.

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