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Publish, not perish: LGBTQ media confront COVID-19

‘At the end of this, we will be stronger than ever’

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quarantine, LGBT press, LGBTQ media, gay news, Washington Blade

The March 20 front page of the Los Angeles Blade. (Image courtesy of the Blade)

The LGBTQ media are reeling from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, as venues remain shuttered and public gatherings are cancelled or postponed in markets across the country.

But those at the helm of several publications say they’re determined to keep delivering the news, information, and insight their loyal readership relies on, by shoring up steadfast relationships and cultivating new clients.

“Almost immediately, we got calls to cancel advertising” at the onset of COVID-19, recalls Jan Stevenson, co-publisher and CFO of Pride Source Media Group, whose biweekly LGBTQ print publication, Between The Lines, is normally available for free pickup at over 600 locations throughout the greater Michigan area (see pridesource.com for more info).

The closure of most of their distribution sites, notes Stevenson, led to the decision to publish “only a PDF version of the paper, and to include all the booked ads, except for events that were cancelled, at no charge.”

Pride Source, which Stevenson owns alongside her wife, Susan Horowitz, sent a message to advertisers “acknowledging that with everything they are facing, the last thing they need to worry about is their ads with us—so we froze, in place, all contracts, to be revisited when things open up. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and thankful.”

Between the Lines re-established itself as a print publication when the hard copy edition resumed on April 30. Still, says Stevenson, “Michigan’s largest Pride celebrations have all been either rescheduled or cancelled. It will result in a huge loss of revenue for our publications. We are conserving our resources now, applying for whatever assistance we can, and hoping to weather the rest of 2020.”

Pride month and its perennial attendant revenue “is everything for every gay publication,” says Troy Masters, publisher of the Los Angeles Blade (losangelesblade.com), a weekly print publication that, like Between the Lines, is part of the 12-member National LGBT Media Association (nationallgbtmediaassociation.com). “It represents a disproportionate percentage [of annual sales income],” notes Masters.

Says Masters of the postponed LA Pride Festival and Parade and other events: “Events are critical in this market and very popular with potential sponsors, but that is presently impossible… Asking people to spend money on marketing is very hard, although we have had success talking to our regular clients about collections. We’ve actually gained a few small ones. A hardware store comes to mind, but we remain down in advertising numbers and revenue.”

On March 6, anticipating the looming crisis, the paper revised its distribution to focus “on every residence and apartment building on key blocks of West Hollywood, as well as grocery stores we can access,” says Masters, who notes the Blade continues to be available via street boxes, albeit only within the West Hollywood area.

Norm Kent, founder/publisher of the South Florida Gay News (southfloridagaynews.com), is similarly determined to forge ahead.

“I will just give you the grim outline,” says Kent. “We are facing a disease that is threatening our lives, as well as our livelihoods—and I am more concerned about our community surviving and my friends living than I am my newspaper printing. You can start a paper up again, not a life. So what material losses I endure are inconsequential compared to the friends I may lose.”

The advertising revenue lost from the postponement of April’s Pride of the Americas festival in Fort Lauderdale and March’s Miami Beach Pride and Palm Beach Pride, notes Kent, represents “the balance of our year. So we’re going to have to find a way to engage this adversity, with a smaller paper that is laser-focused, understanding that bigger is not always better, and sometimes, less is more.”

Last March 24, recalls Kent, “I published one of the largest weekly gay papers in history, at 124 pages. One year later, the paper was 28 pages. But the real losses are being endured by the social service programs that were the intended beneficiaries of those events.”

Notes Kent, who left his position as executive director of AIDS Project Florida to found his publication, “I’ve always cared more about people than profits, and that’s why I’m going to use all my resources to tread water in the tides of a rising ocean—and I’m pretty confident, because I’m a good swimmer.”

Some silver linings remain, notes Masters, of the Los Angeles Blade. Advertisers including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AIDS Project Los Angeles, and the City of West Hollywood, who’ve been a consistent presence throughout since the paper’s 2017 inception, have increased their visibility throughout the COVID-19 crisis, both in print and online.

Stevenson says that online traffic is up significantly, noting, “People obviously want to stay connected, and are concerned about how the pandemic is impacting LGBTQ people and organizations. The other non-pandemic news about LGBTQ issues—like the passage of anti-trans legislation—is getting a lot of traction.”

Furthermore, says Stevenson, local health departments wanting to communicate messages about HIV testing and COVID-19 services have come on board, along with several others who’ve requested banner ads and other online outreach.

That presence sends more than just a message about products and services.

“Our community is especially receptive to seeing that people are supportive,” maintains Masters. “That’s always true, but in a pandemic that echoes the trauma of the AIDS crisis, it’s especially true. We want to know that our gains are important and that we are included.”

“There are some real heroes out there in LGBTQ media, like Comcast and [HIV/AIDS treatment provider] Gilead, who are continuing their campaigns in LGBTQ media,” says Todd Evans, president and CEO of Rivendell Media (rivendellmedia.com), which places advertisements for the National LGBT Media Association. Together, the association’s members — including Boston’s Bay Windows and the Dallas Voice— reach an estimated 500,000 weekly print and online readers.

“In a time when the news is dominated by a crisis,” notes Evans, “LGBTQ consumers want to know who is supporting us, and who is not.

One big difference with this crisis versus 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, and the financial crisis of 2008/2009, says Evans, is, “We’ve had virtually no cancelling of ads. I’ve had a few campaigns that were just ready to start now, so they’re delaying, which makes sense. So I think that shows that advertisers are waiting for information—how long we stay at home, how long distribution points are closed.”

That said, says Evans, “The community still needs its news. We still want to know who supports us, and who doesn’t. I know myself, as a super-consumer of news media, when it comes to the LGBTQ community, I only find out, especially the political stuff, via our own media… I truly feel, at the end of this, that we will be stronger than ever as a community, because we’re used to fighting—and we’re also used to being under attack.”

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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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