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New York City Should Have Done More Outreach in Covid-19 Hot Spots Before Surges, Community Leaders Say

This summer New York City’s public-hospital system identified the areas most at risk of a resurgence of Covid-19 and enlisted community-based organizations to help educate residents and test and trace for the virus.

Now, with the new coronavirus resurgent across pockets of the city, some say this summer’s effort was insufficient and focused on the wrong neighborhoods.

Earlier this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered new restrictions on communities around the state where the virus has rebounded. The affected areas have higher positivity rates of Covid-19 than the rest of the state and include communities in nine ZIP Codes in Brooklyn and Queens that the city has been tracking for weeks as hot spots. Large Orthodox Jewish communities reside in most of the hot spots.

Of the nine ZIP Codes targeted by the city, only one was listed as a high priority this summer by the Health + Hospitals system in a request for grant applications from community-based organizations to help test and trace the virus. Five of the nine ZIP Codes were listed as a low priority and three weren’t listed at all.

Health officials said the neighborhoods under scrutiny now weren’t as high a priority in the summer when other areas were experiencing worsening numbers or were improving at a slower rate than the citywide average.

None of the community-based organizations awarded grants under the program were from the Orthodox community. But officials said that many organizations had now been enlisted to help with the response to the surge in Orthodox neighborhoods.

Officials said that one aim of the city’s outreach to community-based organizations was to address structural conditions of racism that exacerbated the effects of the pandemic. City data show that the pandemic disproportionately affected low-income neighborhoods and people of color compared with whites and higher-income neighborhoods.

Christopher Miller, a spokesman for the city’s hospital system, Health + Hospitals, said: “We continue to identify new organizations to partner with as positivity increases in certain neighborhoods.”

A worker from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs handing out masks and printed information about Covid-19 testing in July in New York.



Photo:

Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

The city’s health department, which also does education on the virus, said since February it has done extensive outreach in the communities that are now under lockdowns. The outreach includes advertisements in local newspapers in multiple languages, community round tables and talks with leaders, including rabbis. In late August, officials also began distributing masks at synagogues and conducting testing, according to the health department.

City officials said they have also recently increased testing in these communities.

Carlina Rivera, the Democratic chairwoman of New York City Council’s committee on hospitals, said the hospital system hasn’t been forthcoming about the methods it used to prioritize certain areas or about how many contact tracers speak languages such as Yiddish.

“We think Health and Hospitals is doing their best, but that just might not be enough for an organization that is used to emergency treatment inside a hospital,”

2 Philippine tourist spots partially reopen

MANILA, Philippines — Two of the most popular Philippine tourist destinations, including the Boracay beach, have partially reopened with only a fraction of their usual crowds showing up given continuing coronavirus restrictions.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said Friday that 35 local tourists, including seven from Manila, came on the first day of the reopening of Boracay, a central island famous for its powdery white sands, azure waters and stunning sunsets. Only local tourists from regions with low-level quarantine designations could go, subject to safeguards, including tests showing a visitor is coronavirus-free.

The mountain city of Baguio, regarded as a summer hideaway for its pine trees, cool breeze and picturesque upland views, has been reopened to tourists only from its northern region, she told ABS-CBN News.

Despite the urgent need to revive the tourism industry, it’s being done “very slowly, cautiously,” she said, adding mayors and governors would have to approve the reopening of tourism spots. “We really have to be careful,” she said.

Like in most countries, the pandemic has devastated the tourism industry in the Philippines, which now has the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia at more than 314,000, with 5,504 deaths.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Push to bring coronavirus vaccines to the poor faces trouble

— In Appalachia, people watch COVID-19, race issues from afar

— NFL postpones Steelers-Titans game after more positive tests

— The White House is backing a $400 per week pandemic jobless benefit and possible COVID-19 relief bill with a price tag above $1.5 trillion.

— France’s health minister is threatening to close bars and ban family gatherings, if the rise in virus cases doesn’t improve.

— Americans seeking unemployment benefits declined last week to a still-high 837,000, suggesting the economy is struggling to sustain a tentative recovery from the summer.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LOS ANGELES — California’s plan to safely reopen its economy will begin to require counties to bring down coronavirus infection rates in disadvantaged communities that have been harder hit by the pandemic.

The complex new rules announced late Wednesday set in place an “equity metric.”

It will force larger counties to control the spread of COVID-19 in areas where Black, Latino and Pacific Islander groups have suffered a disproportionate share of the cases because of a variety of socioeconomic factors.

Some counties welcomed the news and said it will build on efforts underway. Supporters of a more rapid reopening criticized the measure.

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NEW ORLEANS — Starting this weekend, New Orleans bars will be allowed to sell drinks to go and restaurants may operate at 75% indoor capacity instead of 50% since a number of coronavirus indicators have stayed low, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said.

The limit for restaurants and other businesses matches the state limit set weeks ago. If all goes well, New Orleans could match all state reopening levels by Oct. 31, with two more

New York Worries Over 20 Coronavirus Hot Spots, Wisconsin Sees Troubling Trends | Top News

By Jonathan Allen and Lisa Shumaker

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York state reported an uptick of positive coronavirus tests in 20 “hot spots” on Thursday, while Midwest states also reported rising caseloads led by Wisconsin, where U.S. President Donald Tramp will hold rallies over the weekend.

New cases of COVID-19 rose in 27 out of 50 U.S. states in September compared with August, with an increase of 111% in Wisconsin, according to a Reuters analysis.

Wisconsin is also dealing with a troubling rise in serious COVID-19 cases that threaten to overwhelm hospitals.

“Our emergency department has had several instances in the past week where it was past capacity and needed to place patients in beds in the hallways,” Bellin Health, which runs a hospital in Green Bay, said in a statement. “Our ICU (intensive care unit) beds have also been full, or nearly full, during the past week.”

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer at the Wisconsin department of Health Services, said the state’s outbreak started in younger people and has now spread throughout the community.

“Public gatherings of any kind are dangerous right now, more so than they have been at any time during this epidemic,” he told CNN on Thursday.

In New York, which grappled with the world’s most rampant outbreak earlier this the year, officials said they were worried about clusters of cases in 20 ZIP code areas across the state, where the average rate of positive tests rose to 6.5% from 5.5% the day before.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy encouraged residents to download onto their smartphones a new voluntary contact-tracing app, COVID Alert, they launched on Thursday. The app uses Bluetooth technology to alert users if they have recently been near someone who later tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Many of New York’s 20 hot spots — half of which are in New York City — include Orthodox Jewish communities. Cuomo said he talked to community leaders about enforcing social distancing measures.

“A cluster today can become community spread tomorrow,” Cuomo said on a briefing call with reporters. “These ZIP codes are not hermetically sealed.”

He implored local authorities to increase enforcement measures. “If they’re not wearing masks, they should be fined,” Cuomo said.

Wisconsin health officials are urging residents to stay home and avoid large gatherings ahead of Trump’s weekend rallies in La Crosse and Green Bay in the run up to the Nov. 3 election.

An indoor Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in July likely contributed to a subsequent rise in cases there, city health officials said.

“This spike we’re seeing in Brown County, Wisconsin should be a wakeup call to anyone who lives here that our community is facing a crisis,” Dr. Paul Casey, medical director of the emergency department at Bellin Hospital, told CNN.

Cases, hospitalizations, positive test rates and deaths are all climbing in Wisconsin, according to a Reuters analysis.

Over the past week, 21% of coronavirus tests on average came back