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15 U.S. Cities with the Biggest Decline in Air Pollution

This story originally appeared on Filterbuy.

While the recent wildfires in Western states have introduced new concerns about air quality, the U.S. has made huge strides in the reduction of air pollution in recent decades.

As a result of the Clean Air Act and modern pollution control technologies, emissions of common air pollutants have dropped by more than 70% since 1970, according to new data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

These reductions, which the EPA claims have significantly improved the environment and human health, occurred despite a growing population, increased energy use and more cars on American roads.

The EPA measures air quality through the Air Quality Index, or AQI. The AQI rates air quality with values between 0 and 500. An AQI over 100 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, and anything over 150 is unhealthy for everyone. Major pollutants accounted for by the AQI and regulated by the Clean Air Act include ground-level ozone, particle pollution (or particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and lead.

Components of air pollution pose dangers to the environment and to overall health. Health effects can include reduced oxygen levels; respiratory symptoms; eye, ear and nose irritation; damage to the nervous system; high blood pressure; and heart disease. Those most at risk from air pollution include unborn babies, children, older adults, and people with asthma, heart, and lung disease.

To determine the metropolitan areas with the largest decreases in air pollution over the past decade, researchers at Filterbuy ranked locations by the percentage change in median AQI between the five-year period ending in 2019 and the five-year period ending in 2009. Five-year periods were used to lessen the effects of annual variability in AQI on the overall results.

Here are the large metropolitan areas with the biggest improvement in air quality over the past decade.

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Soaring virus infection puts more French cities on alert

PARIS (AP) — Four French cities have joined Paris and Marseille in the maximum alert status to fight the spread of the coronavirus, and it appeared likely that the list would soon grow as infections soar.

Bars shut down and other severe measures are ordered under maximum alert.

Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne in the southeast and Lille in the north moved to maximum alert on Saturday when health authorities reported nearly 26,900 new daily infections in 24 hours. There were just under 5,000 new hospitalizations over the past week, with 928 of them in ICUs, and the positive rate for the increasing number of COVID-19 tests climbed to 11%. Nearly 32,690 coronavirus deaths have been counted in France, but the actual number is likely higher due to deaths at home and incomplete reporting from hospitals or rest homes.

While France girded itself for a climb in critical numbers, a consultation by the National Order of Nurses published Sunday suggested that a significant number feel tired and fed up, with 37% saying that the coronavirus pandemic is making them want to change jobs.


Nearly 59,400 nurses responded to the Oct. 2-7 internal survey on the impact of the health crisis on their working conditions, out of 350,000 in the Order of Nurses. A spokesman for the order, Adrien de Casabianca, described the survey as a “consultation” without the classic methodology of a poll.

The numbers painted a grim diagnosis of the profession and suggested that French medical facilities may not be keeping pace with the growing need, despite lessons that should have been learned from the height of the virus crisis last spring.

Of nurses in public establishments, 43% feel that “we are not better prepared collectively to respond to a new wave of infections,” according to the survey. The figure rises to 46% for nurses in the private domain. And about two-thirds of respondents say their working conditions have deteriorated since the start of the crisis.

Burnout looms, the survey shows, with 57% of respondents saying they have been professionally exhausted since the start of pandemic, while nearly half saying there’s a strong risk that fatigue will impact the quality of care patients receive.

For 37% of the nurses responding, “the crisis … makes them want to change jobs,” and 43% “don’t know if they will still be nurses in five years,” according to the survey.

The National Order of Nurses notes that 34,000 nurses’ jobs in France are currently vacant.

Nurses and other health professionals in France and elsewhere have sporadically demonstrated for higher salaries, better working conditions and more personnel, even during the pandemic. They were given small salary hikes in France starting this fall.

“Today, nurses must deal with a growth in COVID-19 cases and feel unarmed to do so,” the president of the National Order of Nurses, Patrick Chamboredon, said in a statement accompanying the survey.

With nurses “indispensable” to the functioning of the health system, “we cannot accept that,” he said.

The head of the

The U.S. Cities Most Vulnerable to COVID-19 and Poor Mental Health | Cities

For many Americans, the novel coronavirus outbreak has seemed to stretch on for an eternity. Nationwide lockdowns in the spring prompted white collar employees to work from home, often forcing them to simultaneously juggle family and professional responsibilities. And although certain states have eased more restrictions than others, school districts remain shuttered throughout the country. Thousands of working parents are still without respite. Meanwhile, front-line workers without the luxury to work from home continue to put their lives at risk.

Just prior to World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10, the Surgo Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, and Mental Health America, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness, published a report highlighting 13 American cities that they say are especially vulnerable to the twin crises of COVID-19 and steep declines in mental health.

Their study evaluated cities based on the percentage of residents living in communities that were both ill-equipped to deal with coronavirus outbreaks and had high rates of poor mental health; their state’s access to mental health care; and whether they had a higher than average ratio of residents to mental health care providers. Metrics on states’ access to mental health came from Mental Health America, while data on resident to mental health care provider ratios came from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.The cities ranking also drew from Surgo’s COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index, and from 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in which individuals self-reported having poor mental health within specific census tracts.

Camden, New Jersey, scored the worst on the list, with as many as 84% of residents living in communities that exhibited high rates of poor mental health and vulnerability to COVID-19. Two other New Jersey cities – Passaic (No. 5), with 65% of residents vulnerable to both COVID-19 and poor mental health, and Trenton (No. 13), with 50% of their residents at risk – also made the list.

Nine of the 13 cities on the list were in the Rust Belt, including Reading, Pennsylvania (No. 2); Detroit (No. 3); and Rochester, New York (No. 7). Nearly half of the at-risk cities were in either New Jersey or New York.

“The rates of poor mental health outcomes are extremely high in the Rust Belt,” Surgo analyst Christine Campigotto told U.S. News. “When you look at rates of poor mental health in a map, the Rust Belt stands out.”

The four geographic outliers were Springdale, Arkansas; Albany, Georgia; San Bernardino, California; and New Bedford, Massachusetts. New Bedford’s appearance on the list is notable because the report references Massachusetts’ high ranking in terms of access to mental health care.

“These are tumultuous times for Americans, and they are taking a toll on our mental health,” Surgo Foundation co-founder Sema Sgaier said in a press release. “I hope our findings will spur local officials to adopt data-driven responses to ensure appropriate and equitable allocation of mental health resources to these communities.”

Here are the 13 cities most impacted

Cities Declare Racism a Health Crisis, but Some Doubt Impact | Wisconsin News

By SOPHIA TAREEN, Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — Christy DeGallerie noticed a startling trend in her online group for coronavirus survivors: White patients got medications she’d never heard of, were offered X-rays and their doctors listened to their concerns.

That wasn’t her experience. When the 29-year-old Black woman sought a COVID-19 test at a New York emergency room, a nurse said she didn’t have a fever. DeGallerie appealed to a doctor of color, who told the nurse to check again. It registered 101 degrees.

“We know our pain is questioned and our pain is not real to them,” said DeGallerie, who later started a group for Black COVID-19 survivors. “Getting medical help shouldn’t be discouraging for anyone. It is a discouraging place for Black people.”

Addressing experiences like DeGallerie’s has become a priority for a growing number of local governments, many responding to a pandemic that’s amplified racial disparities and the call for racial justice after the police killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans. Since last year, about 70 cities, roughly three dozen counties and three states have declared racism a public health crisis, according to the American Public Health Association.

Local leaders say formally acknowledging the role racism plays not just in health care but in housing, the environment, policing and food access is a bold step, especially when it wasn’t always a common notion among public health experts. But what the declarations do to address systemic inequalities vary widely, with skeptics saying they are merely symbolic.

Kansas City, Missouri, and Indianapolis used their declarations to calculate how to dispense public funding. The mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, a mostly white community of roughly 40,000, used a declaration to make Juneteenth a paid city employee holiday. The Minnesota House passed a resolution vowing to “actively participate in the dismantling of racism.” Wisconsin’s governor made a verbal commitment, while governors in Nevada and Michigan signed public documents.

“It is only after we have fully defined the injustice that we can begin to take steps to replace it with a greater system of justice that enables all Michiganders to pursue their fullest dreams and potential,” Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said in a statement.

Wisconsin’s Milwaukee County takes credit for being the first with its May 2019 order. It acted because of sobering health disparities in Wisconsin’s most populous county, where nearly 70% of the state’s Black residents live. It’s the only county with a significantly higher poverty rate than the state average, 17.5% compared with 10.8% statewide, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison report.

County officials developed a “racial equity budget tool,” requiring departments to explain plans to hire and retain a diverse workforce and how budgets affect disadvantaged communities.

“The framing helped accelerate the conversation, not only stakeholders could actually grasp and understand,” said Jeff Roman, head of the county’s Office on African American Affairs.

Kansas City was another early adopter in August 2019. Councilwoman Melissa Robinson called it a new decision-making lens.

For instance, when the

Here’s Why Some Cities Are Giving Cash to Residents

Cities including Stockton, Calif. and Hudson, N.Y. are experimenting with different models related to universal basic income. In Stockton, a program that allocated $500 a month to 125 randomly selected households in low-income neighborhoods was scheduled to end in July has been extended until January. Meanwhile, Hudson is launching a pilot program to give $500 a month to randomly selected residents for five years.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
1. The funds have helped recipients get through the pandemic.

More than half of the funds from Stockton’s $3.8 million experiment have been spent on food and utilities, according to preliminary findings. Stockton’s 30-year-old mayor, Michael Tubbs, who pioneered the project, said of the spending, “What we found is that you can trust people to make good decisions.”

2. Critics are skeptical about the concept.

Some economists argue that no-strings-attached cash could be a disincentive for people to find work—especially if the money is only given to low income households. However, studies of universal cash transfers in Alaska and among the Eastern Band of Cherokees in North Carolina found no negative effect on work. On a national level, a similar program targeting households within certain income brackets could cost as much as $1.2 trillion, according to economists Melissa Kearney and Magne Mogstad. Kearney said it would likely have to replace existing safety net programs.

3. Some mayors are still willing to give it a shot

Roughly two dozen mayors from cities as large as Los Angeles and as small as Holyoke, Mass., have signed on to a newly formed coalition advocating for a nationwide guaranteed income. “This Covid[-19] economy has just yanked the rug out from our communities across the country in a way we’ve never experienced before,” said Melvin Carter, mayor of Saint Paul, Minn., and a member of the group. He said his city is working with donors to set up its own experiment similar to the one in Stockton.

Read the original article by David Harrison here.

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