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‘Our New York moment’: Southern California bounces back as virus rises

By almost all major metrics, the spread of the virus is profoundly more severe in Southern California. The San Francisco Bay Area has 4 percent of its intensive care beds still available and the far north of California 25 percent. Southern California hit zero percent weeks ago.

Los Angeles County has reported more cases this week than San Francisco has reported throughout the pandemic.

“It’s day and night,” said Dr. Bob Wachter, professor and head of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

The reasons for the split, according to experts, are complex and numerous.

The Bay Area has one of the highest average incomes in California, possibly giving residents more ways to protect themselves. Many in the North are employed in the tech industry, which at the onset of the pandemic led to working from home. Compared to Southern California, the Bay Area also has a higher percentage of White and Asian households, groups that had the lowest infection rates in the state.

In the Los Angeles area, in the parking lot outside the Huntington Park Community Hospital, Mr Estrada saw more than a dozen bodies brought into an unmarked white refrigerated container, the makeshift mortuary.

“You basically wait until you see your family member come out in a bag,” he says.

Her 72-year-old grandmother was recently placed on a ventilator.

“She’s fighting right now,” he said. “So if she’s fighting, we have to stay here fighting for her.

Manny Fernandez reported from Los Angeles, Thomas fuller from Moraga, California, and Mitch smith from Chicago. Reporting was contributed by Louis keene of Huntington Park, California, Ana Facio-Krajcer from Los Angeles and Joe Purtell from San Francisco.

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As virus rises, vaccine distribution is yet another hurdle for states

The coronavirus vaccine may end the pandemic at some point, but for now, its slow rollout is straining the relationship between the federal government and states and cities, and adds another huge challenge for them. overworked health services.

In one Tweeter President Trump said on Friday that states were responsible for the slow start in vaccination of Americans, after the “successful and massive distribution of vaccines by the federal government.”

But Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a time when the coronavirus is infecting a new person every six seconds in Los Angeles County, and the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 across California has more than doubled in a month, laziness in vaccine distribution was not acceptable.

The Trump administration had said 20 million people would be vaccinated by the end of 2020. The figure was closer to four million.

“We are currently at a rate to deliver vaccines to Los Angeles over five years, instead of over six months,” Garcetti said on the CBS “Face the Nation” program. He criticized the Trump administration for not planning ahead by training more medical workers to administer the vaccine and for not helping state and local governments enough.

“The federal government cannot tell local governments and state governments to do something and not give us help,” he said.

Congress passed a stimulus package on Dec. 27 that will provide $ 9 billion for vaccination costs, on top of the $ 340 million the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent to states in September and December. But the new funds will arrive long after local health services – already overburdened with mass testing and contact tracing efforts – have had to start planning and administering the vaccines.

The process is entering a new level of chaos as public health departments begin to make the vaccine available to high-risk members of the general public. In Houston, the city’s health service phone system crashed on Saturday, the first day of a free immunization clinic, after receiving more than 250,000 calls.

Seniors from Tullahoma, Tennessee lined up on a sidewalk on Saturday, leaning on walkers and sitting on lawn chairs, wrapped in thick blankets and coats, to wait for the county health department to open its doors. free clinic. The clinic ran out of vaccine stock before 10 a.m.

States said their efforts were starting to gain momentum and some of the initial issues had been resolved.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Sunday that the slow start of the vaccination campaign was in part due to the holidays, when many public health workers were on vacation. It was also a time when virus cases were increasing across the country, leaving less local public health resources available than if the vaccine had arrived when cases were under control.

“The good news is that we are seeing it accelerating rapidly, thanks to our state partners,” Dr Adams said of the CNN State of the Union program. “In the past 72 hours, we’ve seen 1.5 million first reported gunshots.”

He said it was no surprise that the program ran into problems.

“This was always going to be the toughest vaccine roll out in history, even if it didn’t overlap with a flare-up and a holiday season,” Dr Adams said, repeating a post he attributed to Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s leader. expert in infectious diseases.

Another hurdle looms now, one that Dr. Adams says is “terribly concerned”: persuading enough Americans to get vaccinated.

In Ohio, for example, Gov. Mike DeWine said about 60% of state nursing home workers have refused to be vaccinated so far, a statistic he repeated on Sunday during ‘a television appearance. Mr. DeWine did not specify where the figure came from; his office referred the inquiries to the state’s health ministry, which did not respond to inquiries on Sunday.

The figure is true for Pete Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association, which represents about two-thirds of Ohio’s skilled nursing facilities. In conversations with members of the association, Mr Van Runkle said many of them reported that less than half of their employees chose to receive the vaccine, and one said that only 30 % had done so.

Mr Van Runkle attributed the low numbers to misinformation and fear, and expressed hope that reluctant workers will change their mind after seeing colleagues vaccinated without adverse effects.

“People are sensitive to this misinformation,” he said. “As they see what real life brings, I hope it makes a difference.”

In an appearance on CNN on Sunday, Gov. DeWine said low acceptance rates among nursing home workers alarmed him and would prompt more efforts to educate about vaccine safety. He noted that nursing homes that educated their workers about the vaccine in advance had much higher compliance.

“You have a risk,” he said of the nursing home workers, “but also the people in this nursing home have a risk, and this injection works and is actually very, very safe. .

In Los Angeles, which has become one of the nation’s worst coronavirus hotspots, Mayor Garcetti has warned that masked orders and restrictions on business have not been enough to slow the virus down in private settings, where people let their guard down.

“It’s something that’s really spreading around the house now,” Garcetti said. “It’s a message to all of America: we may not all be the same density as LA, but what happens in Los Angeles can and will happen in many communities.

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As virus rises, Arizona teachers protest by calling in sick

Following nationwide debates over whether to keep classrooms open during the current surge in coronavirus cases, about 100 teachers in Arizona’s third largest school district staged an illness on Friday, demanding as schools close after winter break and stay away until infection in the area the rate drops.

The protest in the Chandler Unified School District, a sprawling chain of suburbs east of Phoenix with 46,000 students, was planned in opposition to the district’s recently announced plan to continue teaching in person in January despite a sharp rise in infections in the area, according to a letter teachers sent to the district on Thursday.

“When we went back to in-person learning, teachers and parents did it knowing that if a ONE metric went into the red, we would go back to virtual learning,” the letter said. “We were also assured that we would not be expected to teach virtually and in person at the same time. Both of these promises have now been broken.

The disease represents only a small fraction of the district’s 2,000 teachers, and the district said it had found enough replacement teachers to keep all of its schools open. But it underscores the anxiety of many teachers in a county that has hit new peaks in coronavirus infections and deaths in recent weeks.

The state and Maricopa County, home to the Chandler School District, established one-day records over the past week, and Maricopa County added more cases on Thursday than almost any other county in the States- United. This month, both parents of a student at Chandler High School died hours apart from complications from Covid-19.

The protest also reflects the controversial debate over the safety of in-person teaching that is unfolding in many school districts across the country as another wave of the pandemic continues to spread to many states.

Responses varied greatly from state to state and even district to district, as elected officials, teachers’ unions, parents and school administrators debated how to balance the issues. of health and safety with the educational concerns that students lose in distance education. The country has about 13,000 school districts, most of which are run by independently elected school boards.

In November, Kentucky ordered all schools, including private schools, to temporarily close and switch to distance learning, while Michigan ordered all high schools to temporarily suspend in-person education. . But many districts in Georgia, Texas and Florida, where Republican governors have insisted on keeping schools open, have resisted closures of classrooms even as cases of the virus increased this fall.

Providence, RI, Los Angeles and Miami-Dade County have all seen cases rise sharply in recent weeks – but all have responded differently.

Providence reduced the density of its high schools by moving 10th and 11th grade students to distance learning, but kept 9th and 12th grade students to attend every alternate day. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the country, has only hosted distance learning courses this semester and will do so for the foreseeable future. And the Miami-Dade School District continues to receive students who have opted for face-to-face instruction in classrooms five days a week.

The patchwork of approaches is even visible in Arizona. Some of the neighbors in Chandler School District in Maricopa County have switched to virtual or hybrid education during the push, plan to do so in the near future, or have postponed the reopening.

The Paradise Valley Unified School District, north of Phoenix, switched to distance education just before Thanksgiving due to a rising tide of virus cases. The district superintendent resigned this week, reportedly over threats from people wanting classrooms to reopen.

Chandler Unified School District started the year completely distant and has phased the return to classrooms by age group. But it also allowed students to enroll in its “online academy,” a separate, entirely distance-learning program that has attracted between 9,000 and 10,000 students, district officials said.

When the school board voted to continue in-person teaching on Wednesday, it also agreed to allow in-person students in Grades 7 to 12 to take distance education for at least the first two weeks of January, in using the same online platform that serves students in quarantine. The district requires social distancing and face coverings in all schools, officials said.

But teachers who have joined the protest want the district to become completely isolated in January and to remain closed until the rate of transmission of the virus has dropped to what they deem safer. They also asked for a role in the decision-making process between in-person and distance education.

“Our educators are exhausted and pushed to their breaking point,” said the Chandler Education Association, a teacher advocacy group.

Over three-quarters of students in the district attend all of their classes in person, with the remainder receiving distance education.

“We encourage staff to come to work in the best interests of their students and colleagues,” the district said in a statement. “We understand this is a stressful time and invite teachers to work directly with administration as we seek ways to reduce any negative impact on them.”

Kate taylor contribution to reports.

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Justice Barrett Rises to Top of Increasingly Conservative Justice System

– Nan Hunter, professor of law at Georgetown University

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The U.S. Senate confirmed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Monday in a 52-48 vote, with all Republicans but one, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, voting in her favor – a move that is likely to remodeling the yard for years to come.

It was the first time in 151 years that justice had been upheld without the support of a single member of the minority party, a sign of a bitterly partisan divide over judicial appointments.

“She is one of the brightest jurists in our country, and she will deliver exceptional justice in our country’s highest court,” President Trump said on Monday during Judge Barrett’s unusual night swearing-in ceremony on the lawn of the White House.

Senate Democrats and civil rights groups condemned the confirmation, viewing the process a week before the presidential election as a hypocritical takeover by the Republican Party, which denied President Barack Obama the possibility of appointing a judge to the Court nine months before the elections. in 2016.

And they view Judge Barrett as a serious threat on a wide range of issues, noting that her track record, including her recent decision to overturn a verdict awarding damages in a sexual assault case, her dissent to decisions that overturned Abortion laws and its opposition to contraceptive coverage in the Affordable Care Act all reveal its conservative tendencies.

“A vote for Barrett is a vote to take health care away from millions of people; it’s a vote to step back on reproductive freedom, ”Massachusetts Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren said over the weekend. “Endanger dreamers and immigrants. To let climate change take its toll. Endanger efforts to combat systemic racism. Endanger workers’ rights, the right to vote, LGBTQ rights and the prevention of gun violence. “

Judge Barrett’s confirmation also comes at a time when the legal system has become increasingly conservative and pro-religious, potentially cementing the right-wing tilt of the entire legal system for years to come.

From 1953 to 2005, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of religion (religious organizations or individuals) about 50% of the time, according to an analysis by Lee Epstein, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, and Eric Posner, professor of law at the University of Chicago. Beginning in 2005, under the leadership of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, the Supreme Court sided with religion almost 90% of the time.

Over time, the two professors found that there was also a change in the types of religious groups that appeared in court. From 1953 to 2005, these were either secular groups who argued against government accommodations for religion, or members of minority religious denominations, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, who opposed policies that contradicted their beliefs. , explained Ms Epstein. Under Chief Justice Roberts, most of the plaintiffs were traditional Christian groups.

At the same time, Mr Trump has appointed more judges to federal courts of appeals – the last judgment for federal cases in the Supreme Court – than any other president in his first three years in office, all of whom have strong backgrounds. conservative references, according to a New York Times Analysis. Judges installed by Republicans over the past four years now make up about a third of the entire federal appeals bench, and those appointed by Mr. Trump have garnered twice as many ‘no’ votes in the Senate as those appointed by President George W. Bush and President Obama, revealed the analysis, highlighting the increasingly adversarial nature of the appointments.

It is this changing environment that makes Justice Barrett a real threat to Liberal decisions, legal experts have said.

“It is impossible to ignore the context and the frequency with which exemptions are granted to religious groups,” said Nan Hunter, a law professor at Georgetown University, specializing in constitutional law and gender law. “The problem is that another judge who brings a very strong conservative religious judicial philosophy will, at a minimum, encourage this litigation and very likely help change the law.

“And religion is really about everything,” Ms. Hunter added. Much of the erosion of Roe v. Wade, for example, comes from cutouts made for religious reasons, she said. The same goes for opposition to birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

It is not clear how Justice Barrett would behave in her new role. She might, like most new appointees to the court, be “cautious the first year or two,” noted Ms. Epstein of the University of Washington, who also studies the behavior of federal judges.

“Kavanaugh was a great example: if you look at his voting record in the first year or two, he’s very close to Chief Justice Roberts,” Ms. Epstein said. “There wasn’t a lot of light between these two.

The main difference, however, is that when Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed Chief Justice Roberts was the center of the Supreme Court, Ms Epstein said. Judge Barrett joins a court whose center has shifted to the right, leaving Chief Justice Roberts less inclined to side with the minority.

The dynamics of the new court will soon become clear. Shortly after polling day, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear two back-to-back cases: a challenge to the Affordable Care Act and a gay rights case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, which will determine whether the government can rule out a Catholic agency that does not. working with same-sex couples in the foster care system. And if the results of the presidential election are challenged and the Supreme Court is called upon to rule, Justice Barrett has said she will not recuse herself from the case.