The Director and Chief of the World Health Organization is reprimanding the world’s leaders for spreading mixed messages regarding Covid-19.
It’s been over six months since the coronavirus initially appeared in Wuhan, China. Now, half a year later, the virus is continuing to rapidly spread in what experts are calling the “once-in-a-century pandemic.”
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently held a mission briefing in Geneva where he told members that the virus can be brought under control, however, in most of the world it’s doing the opposite and getting worse. As of this week the Covid-19 virus has infected more than 12 million people worldwide and has killed at least 550,000; although lack of testing facility data has experts believing that number to be much higher, especially in the US.
More than half of the world’s cases have been found in North and South America according to WHO’s latest report.
“The pandemic is still accelerating. The total number of cases has doubled in the last six weeks.”
Although the world is seeing massive spikes in cases, there are also many countries that have the pandemic relatively under control and contained. These countries used fundamental public health measures such as widespread testing of all citizens, contact tracing, and isolating all exposed individuals.
Ghebreyesus went on to explain how this virus may have “upended health systems in some of the world’s wealthiest nations,” but other countries, such as New Zealand, were able to rise to the occasion and implement a successful response to the outbreak by putting its countries healthcare experts at the forefront of policy-making decisions. This briefing also came days after president of the United States Donald Trump and his administration submitted their notice to the United Nations that the country would be withdrawing from the WHO.
This news has many Americans worried, however, the submission of the notice to the UN is just step 1 in a major yearlong process to actually withdraw from the WHO. There are many outside factors that will make the US’s withdrawal difficult in the long run; such as the election coming up this November and Trump’s need to convince Congress that withdrawing would be the best decision during a pandemic.
While the Trump administration has consistently criticized WHO’s response to the virus, Ghebreyesus continued to defend it, stating that the UN health agency warned countries early on about the threat of this virus to coordinate global research responses.
“For years, many of us warned that a catastrophic respiratory pandemic was inevitable. But despite all the warnings, the world was not ready. Our communities were not ready. Our supply chains collapsed. It is time for a very honest reflection.”
The WHO has now created The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response which will be led by the former prime minister of New Zealand Helen Clark and the former president of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Both Clark and Sirleaf will have full control over who else is added to the panel based on how well their countries have coped with Covid-19.
Ghebreyesus also called on the world’s leaders to unite in collaboration against this virus, as they should’ve been this whole time. Now that we’ve seen how this virus works within different systems and policies for half of a year, we can better understand how to contain it and stop the spread; it’s more so now about actually implementing those changes.
Spain officially ended its national state of emergency this past Sunday (June 21st) after spending the past three months in lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. Spain’s 47 million citizens will now be able to freely travel throughout the entire country for the first time since Mid-March. The country is also allowing visitors from the 27 European countries that have also approved of visa-free travel without requiring them to quarantine for two weeks.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez made a statement when he lifted the order, claiming that health, safety, and hygiene policies must still be enforced and followed, and he also warned that “the virus can return and it can hit us again in a second wave, and we have to do whatever we can to avoid that at all costs.”
According to Spain’s tourism industry, the country typically attracts 80 million tourists every year, which makes vacationers responsible for about 12% of Spain’s overall economy. The country has obviously not seen anywhere close to those numbers yet, and even with Spain reopening some of its larger airports, the country is still seeing a massive decline in travel, as is the rest of the world.
Several local restaurants and bars within Spain have remained open throughout the past three months, however, many had outdoor seating and/or major social distancing policies enforced within them. In regards to other spanish speaking countries in the world, Spain has truly remained the least infected, however, the damage the virus inflicted on the country was still extremely devastating.
According to Johns Hopkins University, which has been keeping extensive records of all Covid-19 cases throughout the world since this pandemic initially began, Spain’s death toll is more than 28,000, the third-highest in Europe, however, Spain is also one of the larger countries in Europe as well.
Other countries like Brazil, however, are dealing with nearly 50,000 new cases every single day! According to health officials in Brazil, President Jair Bolosonaro has been downplaying the risks of Covid-19 the same exact way that President Trump is here in the US; unsurprisingly, the US and Brazil currently occupy the top two sports for highest death tolls in the world.
South Africa is reporting around 5,000 new cases everyday, and recorded 46 deaths this past weekend. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that they would also be loosening their lockdown restrictions, despite case numbers continuing to increase. In all of these countries the rush to reopen is driven by the desire to improve the economy.
India began easing their lockdowns last month and it helped their economy recover slightly, however, it resulted in a massive spike in cases as well. Now, New Delhi is converting its train carriages to makeshift Covid-19 ICU beds.
Here in the US, the virus is mainly spreading throughout the West and the South, specifically among the many states that began prematurely opening within the past month. States like Arizona, California, Florida, and South Carolina are all reporting record-breaking single-day spikes in cases as a direct result of those re-openings as well.
While the desire to get back to a life of normalcy and rebuild the extensive damage done to the economy is strong, we have to remember that this pandemic is nowhere near finished. Case numbers are continuously rising, and haven’t stopped. Listen to your healthcare providers and wear a mask in public, continue to abide by social distancing policies, and stay home, we’re all in this together unless we aren’t.
Arizona, California, Florida, South Carolina, and Texas have all reported state record-breaking single-day increases in coronavirus cases within this past week alone. The numbers are a result of a multitude of states in the South and West that are reporting an increase in new infections and hospitalizations. Most of the states experiencing record-setting case numbers were the ones who aggressively reopened within the past month.
In Arizona specifically there’s been 2,519 new cases reported for this Thursday alone, which surpassed their previous single-day high of 2,392. Arizona has reported that many of their hospitals are nearing capacity due to this massive spike, and the patients who are currently in the ICU make up about 84% of all sick patients for the state.
Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey recently announced a slew of new policies that would require things like masks and gloves to be worn throughout certain establishments/when in public in general; something many other states have been continuously doing since this pandemic began.
Florida officials announced 3,207 new cases of Covid-19 also appeared this Thursday morning; their previous single-day peak was at 2,783 cases, so this is a huge difference for the state. The total number of cases in Florida is around 86,000, making them one of the most infected states in the country. They also were among the first states to reopen, and generally speaking, they never fully adopted social distancing/lockdown procedures for a majority of its cities and residential areas.
California officials reported 4,084 new coronavirus cases this Thursday, this is the first time the state has reported more than 4,000 cases in a single day. The state itself has reported a total of 161,099 cases, and around 5,200 deaths due to the virus. Los Angeles County is the epicenter of new cases for California, which reported 2,115 of the 4,084 new cases this Thursday. Governor Gavin Newsom announced a statewide restriction on movement and business re-openings, however, he also allowed for the reopening of restaurants and retail stores back in May.
South Carolina only reported 987 new cases this Thursday, however, this is the most cases the state has seen in a single week. In total South Carolina has recorded 21,533, but it’s important to note that these drastic differences in case numbers per state are dependent on population size. So 21,000+ cases in South Carolina for them is just as severe as 80,000+ cases in Florida.
“There is no vaccine for COVID-19. There are only individual behaviors and actions we must all maintain that help stop its spread. This virus does not spread on its own. It’s spread around our state by infected people who carry it wherever they go – their work, the supermarket, the post office, a friend’s house,” said South Carolina state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell, as she pleaded with residents to continue to wear masks and stay home.
Texas reported 3,516 new cases Thursday, topping their previous record of 3,129. Texas itself is nearing the 100,000 mark for its total number of cases. Governor Greg Abott recently gave a news briefing in which he urged his citizens not to panic and that a majority of this spike likely came from the prison systems in Texas. However, Abott didn’t acknowledge the fact that they ended their stay-at-home order on May 1st, which prompted many residents to return to their normal lives, mask free.
Case numbers for Covid-19 are continuously rising and that pattern will continue unless everyone agrees to abide by social distancing protocols and personal stay-home orders. Government officials understandably want to reopen so that their economies can begin to recover, however, it’ll be impossible to revive the economy if every citizen is sick in a hospital or worse, dead.
Trump is expected to present an executive order to the White House that would create a national database of police misconduct, this way officers with a history of overly aggressive behavior can’t be transferred to another department to avoid public scrutiny.
President Donald Trump is planning on restarting his campaign rallies for the November 2020 election, however, he’s already received some major backlash given the context of the entire announcement. Trump’s campaign trail was put to an obvious halt amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which is still very much a public health issue that has infected nearly 2 million Americans and killed more than 112,000 people in the US alone.
The New York Times reported this week that Trump’s first “rebooted rally” will be taking place on June 19th in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Right away, individuals on social media pointed out that Trump scheduled this rally on Juneteenth; a national holiday meant to celebrate the end of slavery, it’s also referred to as Independence Day for Black Americans. Beyond that, the fact that the rally is taking place in Tulsa, Oklahoma – the same spot that the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 that killed over 300 black Americans took place – has many individuals angry with the president’s tone deafness given the current protests against police brutality in light of George Floyd’s murder.
The Tulsa Race Massacre occurred almost 100 years ago in Oklahoma in a place referred to at the time as “Black Wall Street.” This area of Tulsa was technically known as the Greenwood District, and was known for its large population of successful black Americans (there were over 300 black-owned businesses in the district). Unfortunately, successful black individuals caused racial tensions to heighten among white individuals living in Tulsa, as they were threatened by that success.
One day, a 17-year-old white girl named Sarah Page claimed that a 19-year-old black man, Dick Rowland, assaulted her, igniting massive mobs of armed white men to storm Black Wall Street. Rowland was arrested and held in court, where even larger white mobs waited outside for him to be released so that they could lynch him. The next part of the story varies based on who you ask, but basically, a group of black veterans came to the courthouse to try to deescalate the situation, eventually a gun shot was heard and complete chaos broke out, leaving two white men dead, and over 300 black individuals dead and many unaccounted for; even to this day. The newspaper headlines the next day, however, only reported on the white deaths. More than 1,200 houses were destroyed, and now an interstate is paved over the spot where Black Wall Street used to thrive.
Many individuals weren’t even aware of this massacre until these protests began, as they don’t teach about it in American schools. It’s ignited an even larger conversation about the type of history that’s taught in our education system, and the many stories/historical events involving black individuals, and POC in general, that have been completely erased from all textbooks. The president’s announcement that this will be where he hosts his first reboot rally has ignited that same frustration induced by lack his of acknowledgment in the protests as well.
In a statement from Trump’s campaign adviser Katrina Pierson, she defended the decision to host the rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth, stating that: “As part of the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of the history of Juneteenth, which is the anniversary of the last reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. Joe Biden spent last Juneteenth raising money at a private fundraiser and defending comments he made celebrating his work with segregationist senators,” Pierson wrote.
Beyond the racial insensitivity that many are calling out Trump for in relation to this Juneteenth rally, many are also calling him out for restarting political rallies while we’re still in the middle of a worldwide health pandemic. This move was likely due to the fact that Trump is already behind Biden in the polls and the fact that Trump has done historically very well among his Oklahoma voters.
The Centers for Disease Control is still emphasizing that all Americans should avoid mass gatherings at all cost. Oklahoma is one of the 19 states that has recently reported a spike in new Covid-19 cases amid many states reopening weeks ago. Within the past week alone Oklahoma has reported 7,480 new cases and 355 deaths.
What’s most important is that everyone continues to take this pandemic as seriously as they were in March. Continue to social distance, where a mask in public settings, wash your hands consistently, and stay home unless absolutely necessary.
Protests against police brutality and systematic racism have been occurring in all 50 states within the past week as a result of the unfathomable murder of George Floyd. Beyond that, protests have also begun all across the globe to fight for America, and also the racism problems within each country.
Specifically, the people of France began taking to the streets shortly after the protests in America began. More than 20,000 french individuals met up in the French capital this past Tuesday, despite a nationwide ban on large gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic. They chanted “no justice, no peace” in french in front of the courthouse in Paris, and while the protest was partially inspired by what’s occurring here in America, the people of France were specifically chanting Justice for Adama Traoré.
In 2016, Traoré, a French black man, died in police custody in a small suburb outside of Paris. There is no video evidence of what occurred to Traoré while in custody, however, the people of France believe that he was murdered due to asphyxiation caused by the police, just like Floyd. Like countless cases of police brutality against black people in America, no arrests were ever made in Traoré’s case, and France has used the globe’s motivation for change for their own country, and are now demanding justice.
“Tonight this fight is no longer just the fight of the Traoré family, it’s everyone’s struggle. We are fighting for our brother, in the U.S. George Floyd, and for Adama,” yelled Assa Traoré, Adama’s older sister.
Assa Traoré founded the organization “Justice and Truth for Adama” after her brother’s death, and their main goal is proving that Traoré was in fact murdered by the police. All investigations within the past four years relating to Traoré have all been inconclusive. This week was the first time since his death that mainstream media began reporting on it again, and now the country, along with the rest of the world, has all eyes on their citizens fighting for justice and peace.
“We are seeing a coalescing of what’s happening here and what’s happening in America. The George Floyd case is finding a very strong echo in France. There is no justice in France, either, and France is very hypocritical about racism. They always denounce what happens in the U.S. — like, ‘oh look, they are killing black people, this is not good.’ But we have our own case [Traoré] and they can’t deal with it. We want them to deal with it,” Nineteen-year-old Jennifer Curier said to the French media at the protest.
French media outlets are constantly covering protests in France and in the US simultaneously and comparing the two. While the specific cases of police brutality and racism are much different for both countries, the existence of that racism within both political systems unites us in more ways than we even know.
The protests have also been occurring in countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Spain, etc., and while a majority of them began in solidarity with America and George Floyd, the citizens within each of these countries are also fighting their own governments and police systems.
The world hasn’t been this publicly united in quite some time, but what does that exactly say about the people in power, the media, and our own personal prejudices against these countries? As we’ve clearly seen, we’re all fighting the same fight more or less because we’ve all been enduring similar injustices for centuries, so why haven’t we united before?
Regardless, it’s happening now, and it’s quite astounding to see, If you want to know more about the Black Lives Matter movement and how you can directly help from home, click here for access to dozens of petitions, donation pages, and fundraising efforts specifically for those fighting for racial equality right now.
The University of California Board of Regents unanimously voted this week to suspend all SAT and ACT testing requirements for college freshman applicants until 2024, and will move to eliminate the requirement completely by the end of that five year period. The plan was originally proposed by the university’s system’s president, Janet Napolitano, and is being viewed as a landmark decision coming from one of the country’s most prestigious universities.
“Today’s decision by the Board marks a significant change for the University’s undergraduate admissions. Instead, the UC system – which includes about 280,000 students across the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, Berkeley, and seven other undergraduate schools – will focus on creating its own test that better aligns with the content the University expects students to have mastered for college readiness” and its values, according to a news release from the university.
The approval plan will specifically make sending all SAT and ACT test scores optional through 2024, a policy that a few other prestigious universities in America have also begun implementing within the past few years; such as American University in Washington DC. By 2025, the board claims that testing requirements in general would be completely eliminated for prospective college students.
“I think this is an incredible step in the right direction toward aligning our admissions policy with the broad-based values of the University. I see our role as fiduciaries and stewards of the public good and this proposal before us is an incredible step in the right direction,” UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Pérez said in the release.
For the interim years until 2025, the board claims that there will be a “test-blind” process for admissions, which means that SAT and ACT scores won’t be used against a person in terms of admissions, but they still can be used to help students get certain scholarships or course placements.
The University of California’s system vote could be a major turning point in terms of testing scores being included in all college applications country-wide. It’s been a heavy topic of discussion within the past decade especially, as many universities have been fairly public about how little they actually care about standardized testing scores. They’re more interested in seeing the level of course work students completed in their preliminary education, and what kinds of extra-curriculars they are involved in.
Testing score submissions have also been viewed as archaic and biased against low-income and minority students, since every test taker must check off what race/socioeconomic status they are. Along those same lines there’s been countless arguments that the SAT and ACT favor wealthier students who have access to preparatory courses and can afford to attend them. In fact, last year a civil rights advocacy group filed a lawsuit against the University of California system specifically because of the way they use testing scores for admissions.
“SAT and ACT requirements discriminate against students who can’t afford testing preparation. These tests are incredibly sensitive to socioeconomic status and race and have nothing to say about the individual,” said Alisa Hartz, an attorney with Public Counsel, the Los Angeles-based pro bono firm that filed the suit on behalf of students and advocacy groups.
The University of California system will begin implementing their suspension policy with the start of the fall 2021 semester, and it will be interesting to see what other major universities and colleges also follow suit.
Ming Smith is a photographer who’s been producing images since the 1970’s, but has never been given the praise she deserves, until now.
Coronavirus flare-ups in China and South Korea are prompting worldwide fears of a second-wave of the virus, especially considering China was one of the first countries to enact lockdown policies to fully flatten the curve. These new cases appearing in parts of Asia that have already almost fully recovered from the virus has other countries reconsidering reopening. To catch new infections and further trace the source of the virus, China is continuing to test its millions of residents. South Korea has also done the same and dispatched thousands of officers to help with the contact tracing.
Other parts of Asia, such as Russia, are still coping with their first-wave of the virus. Russia specifically is still experiencing 10,000 new cases every day, making them the country with the second-highest number of confirmed infections worldwide; trailing the US which is the most infected.
Wuhan, China, where the virus is believed to originate from, is also mandating every resident gets tested again amid new cases appearing in China. Over the next 10 days authorities in China will be testing the 11 million Wuhan residents, which is a direct response to six new coronavirus cases appearing in the city.
The reason they’re mandating such a heavy response to six cases is because those were the first new cases to appear after 35 days; Wuhan lifted their 76-day lockdown on April 8th. In South Korea authorities are also demanding that all clubs and bars in the capital city of Seoul close down again after more than 100 new cases appeared that were traced back to the establishments. In Seoul specifically more than 8,000 police have been deployed to assist with contact tracing over 11,000 residents.
“If the government of Korea hadn’t done this, then there would be 119 people out there infecting other people. So that actually gets to the point of tracing people,” explained Dr. Jerome Kim, a leading epidemiologist in the country.
Back in Russia, healthcare professionals are coping with a hospital fire tragedy that killed four patients being treated for the coronavirus. This is the second fire to take place in a Russian hospital that’s been linked to faulty ventilator machines. President Vladimir Putin’s main spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, has also recently been hospitalized amid suspicion that he was also infected. Peskov is just one of many men in Putin’s inner circle who have tested positive after working in close-contact with the president.
Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is confident that “ the country is on a steady path to ending its epidemic. [Our] government may lift the national state of emergency for much of the country as soon as Thursday — more than two weeks earlier than the current May 31 expiry date.”
Tokyo is likely to remain under emergency declaration, especially considering all of the international workers/individuals who have been flying in and out of the city before this pandemic to plan the 2020 Summer Olympics. For now, like most aspects of this pandemic, only time will tell how much worse it’s going to get in Asia, and how much we should use their experiences to better ourselves as a country.
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