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COVID-19 factors in hate crimes spike

Critics fault Trump’s use of ‘Chinese virus’

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hate crimes, gay news, Washington Blade

President Donald Trump has refused to refer to the virus by its given scientific label, instead referring to it as ‘the Chinese Virus.’ (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr)

LOS ANGELES — As the number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases increases daily in California there has also been a sharp increase in incidents of racist or hateful comments directed at Asian-Americans, LGBTQ people, and immigrants. These incidents represent a spike in an already worrisome trend of anti-LGBTQ animus, Lecia Brooks, a spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center, (SPLC) tells the Los Angeles Blade.

A significant factor fueling the frequency of this trend is the racist rhetoric of President Donald Trump, Brooks says. Trump has refused to refer to the virus and the accompanying pandemic by its given scientific label, instead referring to it as ‘the Chinese Virus,’ in press briefings and photo opportunities. This has also caused some members of the West Wing staff to label it inaccurately and in a seemingly racist way. On March 17, CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jang, a Chinese-American tweeted, “This morning a White House official referred to #Coronavirus as the “Kung Flu” to my face. Makes me wonder what they’re calling it behind my back,” she wrote.

In a press briefing later by the White House Coronavirus Response Task Force, when pressed by the assembled press corps, Trump deflected on the question of evading personal responsibility instead insisting that his label was accurate because the now global pandemic’s epicenter was China. During another briefing, in a moment captured by Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford that showed Trump’s notes and remarks laid out on the podium, the word “coronavirus” was marked out and replaced with “Chinese Virus” in Trump’s trademark black Sharpie.

Throughout the pandemic, Trump has been unrepentant in his labeling, which gives white nationalists and others freedom to be deplorable and racist toward other Americans the SPLC’s Brooks says.

In California, the rise in hateful incidents, especially those directed at Asian Californians, caused California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra to post his own push back on Twitter. “Bigotry is not the cure to this public health crisis. Racism and xenophobia will not be tolerated — and in fact, they only make this moment worse. Let’s work together and listen to our public health officials,” he wrote.

But other minority communities have also been the targets of hateful commentary, the LGBTQ community being targeted by religious fundamentalists including notoriously homophobic Rev. Rick Wiles, a pastor, and presidential ‘spiritual’ adviser from Vero Beach, Fla.

“Plagues are one of the last steps of judgment,” Wiles said in a broadcast of his TruNews program at the end of January. He then went on to say that China is a “godless communist government” and “the United States is not much better.”

“Look at the spiritual rebellion that is in this country, the hatred of God, the hatred of the Bible, the hatred of righteousness,” he warned. “Just vile, disgusting people in this country now, transgendering little children, perverting them. Look at the rapes, and the sexual immorality, and the filth on our TVs and our movies.”

More worrisome than the elevated number of hate/racist incidents directed at others during the COVID-19 pandemic says SPLC’s Brooks, is the overall disturbing trend of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and incidents, which has seen a 43 percent increase even as the overall numbers of hate groups actually have been in decline.

The primary factor and consideration Brooks points out is the president’s close relationship with anti-LGBTQ groups such as the Washington D.C.-based Family Research Council, and homophobes like Wiles.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual Year in Hate and Extremism report released on March 18, the white nationalist movement that was emboldened by the election of President Trump grew for a second straight year in 2019, as the number of hate groups in the movement, rose to 155 – a 55 percent increase since 2017.

However, Brooks told the Blade that the SPLC had identified 940 hate groups operating across the country in 2019, which represented a slight decline from the all-time high of 1,020 in 2018. Yet she said, the fact remained that even with a number of significant neo-Nazi groups dropping as the result of leadership turmoil, Brooks cautioned that the groups remaining behind adhere to some form of white supremacist ideology.

Addressing the rise of anti-LGBTQI+ animus, Brooks pointed out that actions by the Trump administration, including recent actions stripping LGBTQ federal workers of equality rights, especially trans workers, has also been accompanied by a number of anti-trans legislation in 12-plus states. Idaho’s recent bill set to become law as well as Alabama’s legislation would effectively criminalize transition by youth, she noted.

“Basically, [Trump’s] relationship with anti-LGBTQI+ organizations and individuals has caused the uptick,” Brooks said. “That 43 percent number includes the murders of trans women of color and attacks on gay couples, which is directly because Trump has elevated the voices of these homophobes masquerading as ‘Christian leaders,’” she added.

“This important new report shines a light on the explosion of anti-LGBTQ groups across our country,” Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, wrote in a press statement. “The resurgence of these groups poses a real danger to LGBTQ people and to the progress we have made, which feels increasingly precarious in the face of this administration’s shocking support for anti-LGBTQ hate groups and apparent determination to roll back even the most basic legal protections for LGBTQ people. Now more than ever, we must push back against these hateful narratives and call on elected officials and others to stand up for our common humanity.”

“Stoking the fires of intolerance is unacceptable, especially during this time of crisis” a spokesperson for California Attorney General Becerra told the Los Angeles Blade on Monday. “Every effort will be made to address those actions promptly — hateful behavior cannot be tolerated.”

“Blaming an ethnic group, or the LGBTQI+ community right now for the COVID-19 crisis is immoral,” Brooks said. “The SPLC will continue to monitor the crisis especially with an eye toward Asian Americans, but also immigrant groups as the white nationalists place blame there for the outbreak,” she said.

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Coronavirus

White House orders distribution of 400 million free N95 masks

Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator; “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks”

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President Joe Biden (Blade file photo/screenshot)

WASHINGTON – As the latest surge of the highly contagious and easily transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to cause a rise in hospitalizations, especially among unvaccinated adults and children, the White House announced Wednesday it is making 400 million N95 masks available for free at thousands of locations across the nation.

The plan an admkistartion official said, is to start shipping the nonsurgical masks to pharmacies and community health centers to distribute this week, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile.

In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator, said, “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks.”

The N95 masks will be made available to everybody, and recipients will not be prioritized based on vulnerability to Covid, income or other criteria. Inglesby said the administration was “confident that people who want to access them will be able to access them,” but it was not immediately clear how many masks a person could receive at one time.

On January 13, President Joe Biden had announced a plan to have the government distribute 1 billion rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests free to Americans, along with the N95 masks, as the administration works to fight the spiraling upward spike in coronavirus cases.

The White House website to order free at-home Covid tests went live Tuesday. The website says: “Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.”

A White House official said Wednesday that the distribution of 400 million masks would be the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.

Inglesby told NBC News that the administration was “absolutely preparing for the possibility of additional variants in the future” and that people could expect the government to make N95 masks “more and more available.”

Biden announces free masks, tests to fight omicron:

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Coronavirus

COVID-19 Cases increase by nearly 10 times in one month

While hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID

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Graphic courtesy of UCLA/Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

LOS ANGELES – A total of 31,576 new COVID-19 cases were documented on Monday — up ten times the number of cases reported on Dec. 17, 2021, when there were 3,360 new cases recorded the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported Monday.

There are  4,564 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, nearly 6 times the number from one month ago when 772 people were hospitalized. The daily positivity rate is 16.5%, more than 8 times the 2% daily positivity rate on December 17th.

Just one week ago, the county surpassed 2 million total COVID-19 cases, with the figure reaching 2,289,045 cases as of Monday.

“On this national holiday where we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, we remember his deep commitment to health equity.  As Reverend King memorably said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death,’ ” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“Tragically, we have seen this play out in real life and very clearly over the past two years with the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color. From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation,” she added.

“The good news is that while hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID but, are identified with COVID when tested for COVID upon hospital admission,” the health department said in a statement released last week.

As of Friday, more than 80% of all adult ICU beds in the county were occupied.

There are also 27 new deaths due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and 31,576 new positive cases.

The public health department also noted that while the number of children hospitalized with the virus remains low, the number of them admitted to L.A. County hospitals “significantly increased” over the past month, with the largest increase among children younger than 5 years old.

The increase mirrors trends seen nationwide for the age group — the only one not yet eligible for the vaccine.

The county also saw its highest coronavirus death rate in nearly 10 months over this past week, with an average of 40 COVID-19 deaths a day.

“From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation. As we continue to implement strategies – enforcing worker protections through our Health Officer Orders, providing resources needed by many to survive the impact of the pandemic, funding community-based organizations in hard hit areas to serve as trusted public health messengers, and increasing vaccination access in under-sourced neighborhoods – we also need to come together to address the impact that racism, historical disinvestment, and social marginalization have on COVID-19 outcomes,” Ferrer said.

“While these conditions predate the pandemic, without deliberate collective actions to address the root causes of health inequities, we are unlikely to close the gaps we have documented for 2 long years,” she added.

California has recorded more than 7 million coronavirus cases after its fastest accumulation of reported infections in the history of the pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The unprecedented count, recorded in California’s databases late Monday, comes one week after the state tallied its 6 millionth coronavirus case.

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Coronavirus

Los Angeles County surpasses 2 million COVID cases

While hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID

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Los Angeles Blade file photo

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County health officials are urging residents to postpone nonessential gatherings and avoid some activities – especially those that will include people who are unmasked, unvaccinated or at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness.

This comes as Los Angeles County recorded a grim milestone Monday as the Department of Public Health reports that the County has now confirmed more than 2 million total cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The Los Angele Times reported early Tuesday that hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles Unified students returned to campus from winter break Tuesday morning amid a record-breaking surge in coronavirus cases.

As they stood in long lines to enter campus, the district’s health-screening system crashed. These conditions, including staffing shortages, student absences, and apprehensive parents and students, put the district’s carefully laid plans to open campuses in the nation’s second-largest school district to the test.

Although some students and parents were anxious amid the Omicron surge, they said they wanted to be back in the classroom. District leaders said strict campus safely precautions are in place, the Times reported.

The surge, which has now created uncertainty in the business community as some restaurants and other retail operations close up due to staffing shortages or out of caution, prompted County Public Health to ask that residents postpone nonessential gatherings just ahead of the long Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend.

Public Health officials are also concerned as LA-based Super Bowl is a mere month away. The recommendation is voluntary and officials have not imposed any new restrictions that could put any events in jeopardy.

The latest Public Health data shows vaccines are still the best way to protect against the coronavirus. In L.A. County cases have continued to increase rapidly across all groups however at significantly lower levels for vaccinated individuals. For the week ending December 25th, case rates were much higher for those unvaccinated. There were 991 new cases per 100,000 unvaccinated; 588 cases per 100,000 fully vaccinated without boosters; and 254 cases per 100,000 fully vaccinated with boosters.

The vaccine also continues to provide very strong protection against hospitalization and death. One way to evaluate the protection offered by vaccines is rate ratios. These ratios compare rates of an outcome in unvaccinated people with rates of the same outcome in fully vaccinated people. The higher the rate ratio, the more protective the vaccine is against the outcome.

The hospital rate ratio was 9 when comparing those unvaccinated vs those fully vaccinated without boosters, meaning a 9-fold higher rate of hospitalization for the unvaccinated compared to this protected group. More markedly, the hospital rate ratio was 38 when comparing the unvaccinated vs fully vaccinated with boosters, meaning those fully vaccinated and boosted were 38 times less likely to be hospitalized than those unvaccinated.

“With surging transmission and rapidly rising cases and hospitalizations, our already understaffed health care providers are under enormous strain as they try to care for so many COVID infected people,” Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County Health Director said.

About 14% of the patients with COVID-19 were in the ICU, and 7% were on a ventilator.

“The good news is that while hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID but, are identified with COVID when tested for COVID upon hospital admission,” the LA County Public Health Department said in a news release.

“However, at the moment, vaccinations alone are not sufficient to get us back to slowing the spread.  We all need to exercise more caution in the weeks ahead.  One effective strategy for reducing transmission is to wear a high-quality mask whenever around non-household members,” Ferrer said.

“Given the dominance of the highly infectious Omicron variant, well-fitting masks provide a great layer of protection to both the wearer and all those nearby. It is also time to pause those non-essential activities where people are unmasked and in close contact with others. The reality is that parties and events, especially those indoors, make it easy for the virus to spread. Limiting our time with others to those more essential work or school activities is a prudent action for us to take when-ever possible until the surge subsides,” she added.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and are recommended for everyone 5 years old and older to help protect against COVID-19. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status. Appointments are not needed at all Public Health vaccination sites and many community sites where first, second, and third doses are available. 

To find a vaccination site near you, or to make an appointment, please visit:

www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) or www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). 

If you need assistance, you can also call 1-833-540-0473 for help: 

  • Finding an appointment
  • Connect to free transportation to and from a vaccination site, or 
  • Schedule a home visit if you are homebound. 

For more information regarding COVID-19 in LA County you can also visit the Public Health website at www.publichealth.lacounty.gov 

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