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COVID exposes need for LGBTQ data and compassionate cultural competency

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The sun is out, an early summer beckons and if not for the masks and gloves and deserted streets in once-popular ghost towns, restless Californians may not know that a silent highly contagious plague is sweeping the land. Even more silent is the ignored erasure of the LGBTQ community.

From the start of what is now a global pandemic threatening a worldwide economic depression, the federal government has been churning out mixed messages and lies and blatantly continuing its ruthless destruction of LGBTQ rights.

“The Trump administration is moving to scrap an Obama-era policy that protected LGBTQ patients from discrimination, alarming health experts who warn that the regulatory rollback could harm vulnerable people during a pandemic,” Politico reported April 24, referring to an ObamaCare provision that prohibits healthcare discrimination based on sex and gender identity. Vox reports that the new rule could go into effect in the middle of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, as if fear of the virus was not enough, the LGBTQ community is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. A negative ruling could jeopardize LGBTQ rights in employment, education, healthcare and housing and dramatically erode the road to full equality.

Additionally, LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS non-profits that provide essential, culturally competent safety nets are facing what out California State Sen. Scott Wiener described during an April 21 virtual Equality California town hall as a “mass extinction.” Most are frantically fundraising for survival and adjusting to continue service, while still clamoring for data.

On April 29, for instance, the Human Rights Campaign laid off 22 staffers.

“COVID-19 is affecting the nation and no industry or workplace is free from its impact,” Interim HRC Communications Director Nick Morrow told the Blade in a statement. “For us, the economic reality is that because of the cancellation of events that represent critical funding streams, the decline of our economy, and our ineligibility for any federal funding, we could not make up this shortfall without impossibly difficult decisions.”

On April 26, GLAAD held a live-streamed celebrity-filled fundraiser entitled “Together in Pride: You Are Not Alone” for CenterLink.  The event raised more than $230,000 with funds still coming in; $150,000 was gifted by the Ariadne Getty Foundation, GLAAD’s largest donor, the LA Blade reported; 10% of the funds will go to GLAAD to cover administrative costs for producing the event, says GLAAD’s Rich Ferraro. The remaining funds will be divided equally among the 185 centers that participated, says Interim CenterLink CEO Denise Spivak.

But no one from the Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco LGBTQ centers was on the list of nonprofit leaders compiled by the California Association of Nonprofits for a March 21 “urgent request” letter (updated April 15) to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the leaders of the California Legislature “for support of California’s nonprofits during COVID-19 crisis.”

“Government relies on nonprofits to provide 32 percent of Medi-Cal services, one example of nonprofits delivering services for government. California nonprofits rely on government funding for 30 percent of the sector’s total revenue. As California’s nonprofits step up, we count on the government to step with us,” wrote the Association’s Jennifer Fearing.

One month later, Newsom announced the Californians For All Service initiative “to connect Californians with safe volunteer opportunities and encourage those unable to physically volunteer to think creatively about ways to make a difference in their communities.”

“Whether it’s volunteering at a food bank to feed older Californians, blood drives or supporting local nonprofits, there’s no shortage of opportunities for Californians to step up and meet the moment,” Newsom said.

But while a good and useful idea,  CaliforniansForAll.ca.gov lacks the cultural competency LGBTQ people are craving. For instance, in the section about donating blood, there is no asterisk warning that LGBTQ are not allowed to donate blood. So, if a young closeted Marine is peer-pressured into donating blood at one of many designated military spots, he may either be outed or embarrassed or have to lie during the screening process.

And in the Non-Profit section, none of the SoCal organizations vetted by Philanthropy CA are LGBTQ.

If Gov. Newsom and other public and elected officials uttered this minority’s name — “LGBTQ” — would that help? Only seven LGBT-related organizations were on the California Association of Nonprofits’ list of 1,066 nonprofit leaders. APLA Health and AIDS Legal Referral Panel represented people living with HIV.

“Under a public health emergency like COVID-19, over the past month we have seen a significant drop-off in people’s ability to stay connected to us because we’re not allowed to provide the wraparound services that have made us successful,” Cyndee Clay, the executive director at HIPS, a needle exchange center in Washington, D.C., told ABC News. “Under these circumstances, it’s frustrating and it means people are going to die. And that’s a really heavy thing to think about.”

The trans community is virtually invisible. Bamby Salcedo and Michaé De La Cuadra of [email protected] Coalition pointed out in letters to LGBT funders and elected officials that “people who could once support themselves have become homeless and are not able to make enough money to pay for rent or buy food. Many members of our community who work in service industries like beauty salons and sex work are forced further into poverty.”

“As trans people we are the ones who get the short end of the stick when it comes to getting support in general,” Salcedo tells the LA Blade.  “The reality is – we, as trans people are regularly at the bottom of everything. And in this case, even the access to healthcare. We are not a priority.”

Though the California COVID-19 website has resource “guidance” for seniors and teens experiencing trauma, the ACLU of Northern California spells out the ignored bigger picture.

LGBTQ people, “particularly those who are transgender, gender non-conforming or intersex (‘TGI’), have experienced systemic bias and discrimination that increase susceptibility to severe harm from COVID-19 and warrant data collection to assess the specific effects of the pandemic on LGBTQ Californians,” the ACLU/NorCal wrote in a detailed letter to Newsom on April 21. “Societal marginalization, family rejection, and implicit as well as overt bias cause LGBTQ people to experience higher levels of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health problems, as well as suicidality, self-harm, and substance abuse, beginning in adolescence. These patterns may result in LGBTQ people being less likely to seek, or to successfully obtain, testing and treatment for COVID-19 symptoms.”

Additionally, says the ACLU, “LGBTQ people also suffer the cumulative impacts of longstanding difficulty accessing appropriate health care. Many LGBTQ people have experienced outright denial of care based on their identity, discriminatory treatment or harassment, or lack of cultural competence on the part of a health care provider to whom they turned for diagnosis and treatment. Some religiously-affiliated health care institutions maintain policies or practices of outright discrimination against LGBTQ people. Community anxiety about these issues and how they may compound the effects of the COVID-19 crisis has intensified in response to the involvement of Samaritan’s Purse, a religiously-affiliated group that maintains an overt policy of excluding volunteers who identify as LGBTQ, in New York City’s pandemic response.”

LGBTQ people “are also disproportionately affected by physical health conditions that likely increase their susceptibility to harm from COVID-19,” which the letter details. “It is important to collect data on both sexual orientation and gender identity in order to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on LGBTQ Californians and to tailor existing and future policies and programs to the needs of TGI and LGBTQ communities where appropriate.”

There have been many attempts to get Newsom’s attention, including Twitter and Facebook appeals by the [email protected] Coalition. Wiener and Assemblymember Todd Gloria, representing the LGBT Legislative Caucus, as well as Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur and others have sent letters to Newsom and leadership urging urgent help – to which there has been no reply.

“The LGBTQ community is being badly harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, yet our community is either being ignored in the pandemic response or actively harmed. We just learned what we already suspected: that LGBTQ people are being disproportionately damaged by layoffs and other pandemic-caused economic harms,” Wiener said in his statement.

“And we know that LGBTQ people are at heightened risk for serious COVID-19 symptoms, due to higher rates of HIV, cancer, smoking, and homelessness,” Wiener continued.

“Yet, despite those facts, the Trump administration is proposing to make it legal for healthcare providers to refuse to treat LGBTQ people. Neither the federal government nor state government is collecting data on the pandemic’s impacts on the LGBTQ community. And, in general, our community is being ignored,” he said. “As we move through this pandemic, we need to ensure that the LGBTQ community – and all marginalized communities – are receiving the focus and resources they need to survive and thrive.”

Perhaps because of the timing of Wiener’s statement, the LA Blade was called upon to ask a question during Newsom’s news conference.

Newsom seemed annoyed, as if asking the question implied that Newsom, a longstanding  LGBTQ ally, was deserting the community.

“We’re making sure that we’re breaking down data – it’s very important to me,” Newsom said. “For the life of me — I hope people aren’t accusing — even my friends in the Legislature… of not having deep sensitivity and deep compassion and concern for the unique needs of the LGBTQ community.”

“It’s been a big cause of my life,” Newsom continued. “And a big reason I’m able to answer the ‘why’ question: Why am I even interested in public service? It’s one of the reasons I care deeply, because I care about all communities that have been impacted and oppressed and are disproportionally struggling because of race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.”

Newsom turned the question over to Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, “who’s also made this the cause of her life and she can perhaps talk a little bit more specifically about what our data collection does look like and what it will look like as we march forward into the future,” Newsom said.

Angell thanked the LA Blade for “that very important question. Absolutely — inequities or lack of access to care across the spectrum of our populations is of primary concern, particularly in the face of COVID-19. Our LGBTQ community also deserves and needs to have that data to understand and for our communities to be able to act and respond accordingly,” she said.

“This data can be difficult to collect through our current standard mechanisms of reporting because this is information that is not necessarily reported regularly – very much like the data we’re collecting around race and ethnicity. These are things we’re looking very carefully at and looking at ways of improving our system so we can get this information into the hands of people who can take action on it – ourselves and our local county authorities, as well. So, we’ll be reporting back to you for methods that we’re coming up with that – and again thank you for your question.  This is incredibly important to ourselves as an administration and as a state.”

But being nice is not an answer.

“The LGBTQ+ community is facing a perfect storm of the worst health, economic, social impacts” of the COVID-19 crisis, Zbur told the Blade. “At the same time, the social safety net that we built for ourselves during the AIDS crisis is at risk of failing due to lack of funding. To be clear, that would be catastrophic. Unfortunately, neither the federal government nor the state appear to be gathering data on the impact of this crisis on LGBTQ+ people, and we are concerned that our community will be left out of the programs developed to address the crisis.”

“We are fortunate,” Zbur continued, “that Governor Newsom has been one of our staunchest allies throughout his career, and we have asked him to ensure that the state gathers the necessary data and provides targeted relief to LGBTQ+ people and the nonprofit organizations that serve our community.”

But four days later, Angell failed to even reference the LGBTQ community in an interview with the New York Times.

“Every number represents a person, so every number is something we worry about,” Angell told The Time’s Jill Cowan for her April 28 California newsletter. “But we particularly worry when we see trends, which tell us something, at a systems level, is happening. So, by understanding those trends, we see an opportunity to address inequity.”

But how can public health officials determine if there is an LGBTQ trend without collecting LGBTQ data or doing culturally competent contact tracing?

Meanwhile, Angell is right: every number represents a person, a human being whose life has been impacted or cut short. As of April 30, there count had reached more than 62,000 dead in America. How many were members of the LGBTQ community?

A source at the LA County Coroner’s office says LGBTQ data can be collected after death through contacts with survivors, such as family. But, as the AIDS crisis underscored, sometimes families are not the best sources of information, fearing societal shame and stigma associated with being LGBTQ or of being outed as undocumented.

[email protected] Coalition founder Bamby Salcedo’s friend Lorena Borjas died of COVID-19 and there was not only a national community prayer for her, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo included her among those he honored during his daily briefing.

However, the stigma of both the virus and gender identity has caused friends to adhere to family wishes and not identify the loved one upon death.

“I know of at least one trans Latina who recently died of COVID-19. In fact, we just had a virtual meeting last Saturday night for her. I met her about 20 years ago when I was working at Bienestar. She was such a beautiful person with a beautiful soul. Every time she would come to our groups, she always had a beautiful smile that would brighten the whole room. She was very much loved by all of us here and all of the Trans Latina local community. Losing her is a total devastation to our community, particularly those who were closest to her,” Salcedo tells the Blade.

“Unfortunately, the family does not want me to put her name out there. I think it’s the stigma, the shame that comes with this pandemic, too. I know there are more.”

If her death is even noted, she will fall into the state category of “Latino” or “Other.”

Scott Blanks’ story seemed something of a mystery, too.

Eleven days after Blanks died, the LA Times published a lovely remembrance of him with the headline: “He was the life of the dance floor, until coronavirus took him down.”

“Scott Blanks seemed to be able to tackle anything in life with good humor. More often than not, he put his worries on the back burner and focused instead on the good things in life, dancing many nights away with a seemingly endless circle of friends,” wrote The Times. “But on March 18, Blanks let out a rare cry for support” suffering from COVID-19.

“From the hospital, the morning before he would be placed on a ventilator, he posted on Facebook: ‘These [past] two weeks I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy! Keep me in your prayers please! It’s already been a really bumpy ride!’” wrote Times reporter Alejandra Reyes-Velarde. “Blanks, a 34-year-old dental assistant from Whittier, died on March 27 from COVID-19.”

Nowhere does the story say Blanks was gay, though clues abound.

“Jessie Funes-Macdonald cried when she heard dance music, thinking about “the times they had gone dancing at West Hollywood clubs as Pasadena City College students. He was a good dancer. He loved to sing, and he especially loved Beyoncé, Funes-Macdonald said,” The Times reported.

In college, Blanks was “involved in academic fraternities, leadership groups and LGBTQ clubs.”

On April 25, the LA Times posited Blanks as “the face” of young blacks and Latinos dying of COVID-19. “Black and Latino Californians ages 18 to 64 are dying more frequently of COVID-19 than their white and Asian counterparts relative to their share of the population, a Times analysis of state health department data shows,” reads the opening line.

“None of us knew what the numbers would look like. But we know that this is going to disproportionately affect communities that have fewer resources, have higher rates of underlying disease,” Angell told The Times.  “That’s the reality of inequities in our country. It’s something that we’re working very hard to address. It’s not acceptable. It’s not just.”

LGBTQ inequities, however, do seem acceptable — except to those who’ve lost someone they love like Jessie Marlene Funes-Macdonald.

“I love Scott very much and his life ended too soon,” Funes-Macdonald told the LA Blade, confirming that Blanks was a “genuine, beautiful gay black man who loved to dance” and “was always involved in being of service.”

Funes-Macdonald, who runs a non-profit called House of Pride & Equality in Santa Maria, is angry. Her friend Scott did not have to die.

“I strongly believe that everyone that has died is because the administration did not act sooner and ignored the seriousness of Covid-19,” says Funes-Macdonald, married to Audy Macdonald. “This administration could have saved lives. Instead my friend died and I have nothing but anger toward this administration.”

Funes-Macdonald says she’ll be establishing a scholarship in Scott Blanks’ honor. “It will be for LGBTQ+ youth who volunteer and do service for the community,” she says, modeling what her black gay friend Scott represented to the community. (For more information on the scholarship, please visit www.houseofprideandequality.org)

Luckily, LGBTQ people are still visible to each other.

Jeff Wacha told the story through Facebook posts of what happened to his beloved husband, Garry Bowie, the late executive director of Being Alive in West Hollywood. Bowie’s death was probably counted as a data point in the “White” category, those his life counted as way more than a statistic the his love, his pets, his friends, and his community.

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LA County requiring vax proof for indoor bars & nightclubs by Oct. 7

Participants and workers at outdoor “mega events” with more than 10,000 attendees must provide proof of vax or show a recent negative test

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that it will begin requiring verification of vaccination in select high-risk settings by October 7.

During a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday, L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the supervisors that vaccine verification will be required for customers and employees at indoor portions of bars, wineries, breweries, night clubs, and lounges.

The modified Health Officer Order would require customers and employees at bars, breweries, wineries, night clubs and lounges to have at least one dose of the vaccine by October 7 and both doses by November 4.

Public Health will require vaccination verification or a negative test within 72 hours prior to attending outdoor mega events. Participants and workers at outdoor “mega events” with more than 10,000 attendees must provide proof of vax or show a recent negative test.

Attendees at indoor mega events are already required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result prior to entry. 

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials are prepared to move forward with the updated order later this week, Ferrer said.

“This modified health officer order aligns with the continued need to reduce risk for transmission and increase vaccination coverage,” Ferrer said. “This is a reasonable path forward that can position us to be better able to break the cycle of surges.”

She noted that while the health order won’t require it, Public Health will recommend that restaurants also begin verifying vaccination status for indoor dining.

“As evidence mounts affirming the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, vaccination mandates are an increasingly important tool to prevent future COVID surges that cause widespread suffering. The modified Health Officer Order aligns with the continued need to reduce risk for transmission and increase vaccination coverage; this is a reasonable path forward that can position us to be better able to break the cycle of surges,” Ferrer added.

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LAUSD to require vaccines- Biden lays out new plan to require vaccines

“The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective & requiring students to be vaccinated is the strongest way to protect our school community.”

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Photo Credit: Los Angeles Unified School District

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Unified School District announced Thursday that it will require for students 12 and older who are attending class in person to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The LAUSD Board of Education voted, 6-0, to pass the measure making it the first major school system, the second largest in the United States to require its more than 460,000 students, including some enrolled at independent charter schools located in LAUSD owned buildings, to be vaccinated.

Interim superintendent, Megan Reilly, said at Thursday’s board meeting that student vaccination was one way to ensure that the district’s classrooms would be able to remain open. Los Angeles had some of the country’s most extended school closures last year. All students ages 12 and up will be required to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 10, 2022, unless they have a “medical or other exemption,” Reilly noted.

The science is clear — vaccinations are an essential part of protection against COVID-19,” Reilly said in a statement following the vote. “The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and requiring eligible students to be vaccinated is the strongest way to protect our school community.”

New York Times educational journalist Dana Goldstein tweeted:

As the Delta variant brought another wave of COVID-19 infections this summer, in California the number of unvaccinated young people being hospitalized has increased in certain areas of the state.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health noted that while case rates increased among children in all age groups between mid-July and mid-August, cases have declined by about 30% in all age groups among children (0-4, 5-11, and 12-17 years old) over the past two weeks.

The decrease is similar to the decreases we are seeing in cases among adult residents and occurred as many schools reopened with testing, masking, infection control and outbreak management protocols in place.  Over the past week, children under 18 comprised, on average, 27% of all cases seen in L.A. County.

Among L.A. County teens 12 to 17 years old, more than half of whom are vaccinated, we see just how powerfully protective the vaccines really are. As of August 28, the case rate among unvaccinated 12 to 17-year-olds was 424 cases among every 100,000 unvaccinated children in this age group compared with 51 cases among 100,000 of those vaccinated.

Among groups ineligible for vaccination, the case rate was 130 per 100,000 children aged 0 to 4, and 230 per 100,000 children aged 5 to 11.

As of September 5, 62% of L.A. County residents 12 to 15 years old received at least one dose of vaccine, while 51% were fully vaccinated. Sixty-nine percent of residents 16 to 17 years old received at least one dose, and 59% were fully vaccinated.

In K-12 school settings countywide, between August 15 and September 7, 7,784 student cases and 1,250 staff cases were reported, with the vast majority occurring at LAUSD, which tests everyone weekly.

The second highest number of cases came from other K-12 schools in L.A. County. With more than 1.5 million students and 175,000 staff countywide (by last year’s counts), 0.5% of the student body and 0.7% of staff have become infected since school districts reopened.  This is slightly higher than the 0.4% rate of infection experienced overall in the County.

“We support the actions taken by the Los Angeles Unified School District and other schools and school districts to add an additional layer of protection at schools through a sensible school vaccine requirement for eligible students,” said Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“Vaccination remains one of the quickest and most powerful ways to decrease community transmission and prevent serious illness, which helps keep students, teachers, and staff in school, and the COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be safe and effective. Public Health will continue to work closely with school districts as they take critical actions to protect students and staff from a dangerous and highly infectious virus,” said Ferrer.

Battle over vaccinations and mask wearing has become so acrimonious in some parts of the country it is not unusual to see fistfights breaking out at school board meetings and law enforcement agencies effecting arrests as those who are adamantly opposed to coronavirus safety protocols protest, sometime violently, measures designed to protect the risk of infection by the COVID-19 virus.

As school boards weigh their options in implementation, in one highly publicized and now viral moment, anti-maskers in Rutherford County Schools in Tennessee at a school board meeting attacked a teen student who had lost a grandparent to the pandemic.

At the White House Thursday, President Joe Biden addressed the nation on his plans to implement plans to address the shortfall in the number of Americans who are vaccinated.

Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective, and free,” the President acknowledged. 

This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.  And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot

And to make matters worse, there are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19.  Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they’re ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in their communities.  This is totally unacceptable,” Biden argued. 

The President then took direct aim at officials and others who in his eyes who have blocked progress saying; “These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die.” 

President Joe Biden (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

Biden laid out the steps he was going to order to combat the lack of vaccinations in the nation.

I’m announcing that the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees, that together employ over 80 million workers, to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week. Some of the biggest companies are already requiring this: United Airlines, Disney, Tysons Food, and even Fox News,” he said.

He announced vaccination requirements for all nursing home workers who treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid and then expanded those requirements to include those who work in hospitals, home healthcare facilities, or other medical facilities –- a total of 17 million healthcare workers.

The President then said he would sign an executive order requiring all executive branch federal employees to be vaccinated as well as another executive order that will require federal contractors to do the same.

As part of his plan Biden said that the Department of Labor will require employers with 100 or more workers to give those workers paid time off to get vaccinated.  “No one should lose pay in order to get vaccinated or take a loved one to get vaccinated,” he said.

The President then noted; “And my message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for?  What more do you need to see?  We’ve made vaccinations free, safe, and convenient. The vaccine has FDA approval.  Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot.”

We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.  And your refusal has cost all of us.  So, please, do the right thing.  But just don’t take it from me; listen to the voices of unvaccinated Americans who are lying in hospital beds, taking their final breaths, saying, “If only I had gotten vaccinated.”  “If only,” he said. 

Biden also addressed the future availability of vaccines for children under 12 and schools.

Now, if you’re a parent of a young child, you’re wondering when will it be — when will it be — the vaccine available for them.  I strongly support an independent scientific review for vaccine uses for children under 12.  We can’t take shortcuts with that scientific work

Now to the schools.  We know that if schools follow the science and implement the safety measures — like testing, masking, adequate ventilation systems that we provided the money for, social distancing, and vaccinations — then children can be safe from COVID-19 in schools.

Today, about 90 percent of school staff and teachers are vaccinated.  We should get that to 100 percent.  […] And tonight, I’m calling on all governors to require vaccination for all teachers and staff.  Some already have done so, but we need more to step up,” Biden said.

The President castigated local and state officials he viewed as an impedimentg to winning the fight against the virus;

Let me be blunt.  My plan also takes on elected officials and states that are undermining you and these lifesaving actions.  Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs.  Talk about bullying in schools.  If they’ll not help — if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as President to get them out of the way. 

The Department of Education has already begun to take legal action against states undermining protection that local school officials have ordered.  Any teacher or school official whose pay is withheld for doing the right thing, we will have that pay restored by the federal government 100 percent.  I promise you I will have your back,” he stated.

Addressing the increasing violence against mask wearing and other simple measures Biden noted;

In addition to testing, we know masking helps stop the spread of COVID-19.  That’s why when I came into office, I required masks for all federal buildings and on federal lands, on airlines, and other modes of transportation,” he said.

Today — tonight, I’m announcing that the Transportation Safety Administration — the TSA — will double the fines on travelers that refuse to mask.  If you break the rules, be prepared to pay.  And, by the way, show some respect.  The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their job is wrong; it’s ugly,” he added.

 







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Breakthru Delta Variant on rise in LA County as Pfizer gets full FDA okay

Last week Los Angeles County surpassed the grim milestone of losing more than 25,000 residents to COVID-19

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FDA Headquarters (Blade file photo)

LOS ANGELES – Numbers of fully vaccinated people being affected by breakthrough infections of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus are rising in Los Angeles County according to L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

The latest data “reflect the reality that the vaccines do not provide 100% protection, and that with these high rates of community transmission, more fully vaccinated people are getting post-vaccination infections,” Ferrer said. “However, this very same information also makes it clear how much protection vaccinated people still have. Most of us that are fully vaccinated don’t get infected.”

Among the 5.1 million L.A. County residents who are fully vaccinated, 0.53% have tested positive, 0.014% have been hospitalized and 0.0013% — or 68 people — have died.

On Monday the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 7 new deaths and 2,331 new cases of COVID-19. There are 1,722 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized. Testing results are available for nearly 7,940,000 individuals with 16% of people testing positive. The test positivity rate is 2.8%, (Monday) a slight decrease from last week’s same-day rate of 3.4%

It was announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the license for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA) for those 12 through 15 years old and for a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals. The licensing approval was announced after another thorough evaluation of safety and effectiveness data by a panel of scientific and medical experts. FDA-approved vaccines undergo the agency’s standard process for reviewing the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical products.

Last week Los Angeles County surpassed the grim milestone of losing more than 25,000 residents to COVID-19. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is one of the leading causes of death – surpassing stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Between July 11 and August 11, hospitalizations rose by 333% to an average of 1,622 beds filled with people testing positive for COVID-19 on any given day, and deaths rose 275% to an average of 15 deaths per day

As the FDA granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, Federal officials announced changes to vaccination strategies aimed at increasing the protection afforded to people by vaccines. With emerging data indicating that certain populations will need more support to be protected, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on August 13 recommended a third dose of mRNA vaccines for immunocompromised people, including transplant recipients, people with advanced or untreated HIV infection, people actively receiving cancer treatment, and people taking immunosuppressive medications. 

Third doses have been available to eligible individuals at vaccination sites across LA County since Saturday.  Additionally, following yesterday’s announcement by the CDC that booster doses of mRNA vaccines will be offered to all vaccinated people, Public Health is continuing to work with staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities to prioritize these most vulnerable residents for booster doses to be prepared for administering these as soon as the Food and Drug Administration gives their approval.

Public Health notes the difference between third doses and booster doses is more than just language. Third doses are meant to elicit an antibody response where there was an inadequate antibody response before, while booster doses are meant to increase antibody levels that have waned after a robust increase in the months after vaccination.

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