Black Woman To Co-Chair Biden COVID-19 Taskforce & Reflections on a Pandemic Newsletter

Half of Black adults in recent poll say no to a future vaccine, racial disparities in unemployment benefits grow, Black women carry a unique burden, Black seniors share pandemic experiences & more.

Speak Patrice Presents: Coronavirus News for Black Folks is an independent newsletter that aims to empower our community by sharing coronavirus (COVID-19) news and stories as they relate to the Black Diaspora. We have 2,152 subscribers as of November 12, 2020. Please consider (1) clicking that itty bitty ❤️ at the top of this email next to my name to “like” us, (2) subscribing, and (3) supporting this newsletter by sharing it with your friends and family.

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48 days…

That’s how long it’s been since I’ve published a Coronavirus News for Black Folks newsletter. A lot has happened, most notably the presidential election and the calling of the race for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Less publicly notable events include celebrating my birthday, settling into a new home, adopting a dog from my local animal shelter, joining a book writing workshop, and starting virtual family therapy. I also finally finished writing a 3,400+ word feature about this newsletter for WIRED magazine’s Dec 2020/Jan 2021 issue. A lot.

During those 48 days, election coverage increasingly and understandably took center stage, leaving little spotlight for nuanced, microlevel coronavirus news outside of national cases surging. The reporting on the pandemic and its impact on Black communities still continued regardless, as proven in the stories featured below. The majority of relevant articles published addressed vaccinations, both the lack of substantial Black participation in the trials and the existence of and reasons for skepticism and apprehension among Black people. While important to record and chronicle, these stories are honestly feeling kinda played out the same way the fifty-leven “Black people are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Why?” stories did back in the spring. I look forward to reading stories that either offer possible solutions to this issue or a new angle (though I did appreciate Nicholas St. Fleur’s STAT story on HBCU presidents who entered the group chat).

But as I continued searching for stories for today’s newsletter, I discovered ProPublica’s in-depth investigative report on Black Louisianans infected with COVID-19 essentially being sent home to die, The Undefeated’s ongoing digital tribute honoring Black lives lost to COVID-19 and their 6-part series based on race and health care and extensive polling, and other thoughtful articles highlighting often overlooked groups, like Black midwifes, Black teachers, and Black seniors. Coronavirus news about Black people is still being reported on because we are still in the midst of a pandemic whose effects will linger and disproportionately ravage individual lives, families, and communities long after an effective vaccine is distributed. As cases continue to surge (mostly in areas that overwhelmingly voted for President Trump) and experts predict a third COVID-19 wave this winter, it’s important that journalists of all races and media outlets keep that same energy they had when reporting on racism and inequity was trending and broaden their coverage to also address Black liberation efforts. I’ll still be here, gathering and distributing those stories to share with you all.

—Patrice Peck, (tw/ig)

P.S. Some quick thank you’s: To George McCalman, the subscriber and artist who pitched the WIRED magazine feature to me back in June and created the original artwork, thank you for your vision. To my editor, John Gravois, many thanks for appreciating and amplifying my voice with considerate, rigorous edits. Shout out to Melissa Wertheimer for selecting CNFBF for the Library of Congress’ Coronavirus Web Archive, an archive documenting the pandemic's impact on American life. And to recent subscribers. Welcome and thank you for signing up.

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📍 10 MUST-READ STORIES

1.What Writing a Pandemic Newsletter Taught Me About America | WIRED

“While I've been reporting on the Black community my entire career, I have no particular background in science or medicine. But all of a sudden I feel like I'm on a front line. Is this what it's always been like? And I start wanting to understand better who's gone before me.”


2.Honoring Black lives lost to COVID-19 | The Undefeated

An ongoing tribute to family, friends, co-workers, community leaders and neighbors who lived a life undefeated.

“This was a time we may come to speak of as The Before. A time when Laneeka Barksdale, a 47-year-old ballroom dancer in Detroit who also drove a Lyft because the struggle is real, was still alive. So was Otis Knapp Lee, a 72-year-old deli owner, known as the Corned Beef King of Detroit.

This was before the COVID-19 pandemic, when the world felt safer for Black people. The wise child asks, ‘When has the world ever been safe for Black people?’ And the answer has always been, ‘Here and there, by and by, depending.’ Such are the vagaries of Black life and death. The time, for us, is always later than you think. It is very late now.”


3.The Pandemic’s Real Toll? 300,000 Deaths, and It’s Not Just From the Coronavirus | The New York Times

“The results indicate that the pandemic ‘is having a tremendous and significant impact on death in the country, and it may extend well beyond those deaths that are directly classified as Covid deaths,’ Dr. Sutton said.

The analysis highlights two disturbing trends. The researchers discovered a high percentage of excess deaths in an unexpected group: young adults in the prime of life. And the coronavirus has greatly raised deaths over all among people of color.”


From Race & Health Care: A 6-part series detailing the results of a national poll of Black opinion led by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and The Undefeated.

4.Half of Black adults say they won’t take a coronavirus vaccine | The Undefeated

“By comparison, 2 in 3 white people said they would definitely or probably get vaccinated, as did 6 in 10 Hispanics. The vast majority of African Americans who said they would not take a coronavirus vaccine did not think that it would be properly tested, distributed fairly or developed with the needs of Black people in mind.”

Related & Recommended: ‘I Won’t Be Used as a Guinea Pig for White People’ | The New York Times


5.OP-ED: Facing both covid-19 and racism, Black women are carrying a particularly heavy burden (paywall) | The Washington Post

“Lately we have seen an unusual number of Black women exhibit symptoms that would normally be attributed to depression, including fatigue, sleep disturbances and hopelessness. […]

In the case of Black women, the symptoms are the inevitable result of the pandemic’s impact on human psyches that are already systematically oppressed and battered. Our current mental health systems over-pathologize Black women’s experience of pain and trauma without first affirming the source of the stress: ongoing delayed justice for our community.”


6.The Mental Health Struggle of America’s Black Teachers | Elemental

“Teachers like Lawrence are devoting their energy to their students’ needs while also dealing with their own underlying conditions and racist systems that make them especially at risk of Covid-19 if in-person instruction resumes. These dual tragedies are taking a toll on the mental health of Black teachers across the nation.”


7.Unemployment benefits: Racial disparity in jobless aid grows as Congress stalls on COVID-19 stimulus | USA TODAY

“‘Based on where Black workers live, they’re going to get less in unemployment insurance because they aren’t evenly distributed across the U.S.,’ Edwards says.

‘This is the danger of having policies that vary by state. The differences could mean that you end up with wide disparities in unemployment benefits since some states are more generous than others.’”


8.Sent Home to Die | ProPublica

“Nationally, coronavirus patients aged 85 and older died at home only 4% of the time, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; local coroner records show that in New Orleans, it was 17%. […]

Before they died, about two dozen patients first sought care at a hospital, which then discharged them, in many cases sending them home to die with hospice care. All were Black. The vast majority came from Ochsner Health, the largest hospital network in Louisiana, which treated 60% of the region’s critically ill coronavirus patients.”


9.Why coronavirus is hitting Black seniors especially hard | Kaiser Health News

“A KHN analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscores the extent of their vulnerability. It found that African Americans ages 65 to 74 died of COVID-19 five times as often as whites. In the 75-to-84 group, the death rate for Blacks was 3½ times greater. Among those 85 and older, Blacks died twice as often.”


10.Biden’s New Coronavirus Task Force Is Co-Chaired By A Black Woman | NewsOne

“The associate professor of internal medicine, public health and management at Yale University is also the associate dean for health equity research at Yale’s medical school who specializes in health care for marginalized populations.”


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🇺🇸 10 National News Stories

1.When churches turn into COVID-19 testing sites| Deseret News

“With many houses of worship either shut down or offering limited spiritual services, they are, instead, using their parking lots as makeshift COVID-19 testing centers. In many cases, they are offering free coronavirus tests in hopes of helping the most vulnerable groups — minorities and immigrants. Churches also serve as a point of contact between public health departments and marginalized communities, making them conduits of information about the disease and prevention.”


2.Black Women Turn to Midwives to Avoid COVID and ‘Feel Cared For’ | California Healthline

“Many Americans think of giving birth at home as backward and scary, or as a quixotic practice of privileged white women, akin to cloth diaper services and home-cooked baby food. But the growing interest in home births in recent years has fueled a growing Black midwifery movement that harks back to a venerable, if long-forgotten, tradition in the United States.”


3.Study: Heart health a major factor in deadly COVID-19 cases, especially among minorities | LEX18

“Research has revealed poor cardiovascular health as a leading cause of deadly COVID-19 cases among minorities, according to a University of Kentucky professor of epidemiology and dean of the College of Public Health.”


4.Covid-19’s stunningly unequal death toll in America, in one chart | Vox

“Housing segregation is arguably the root cause of those disparities, a manifestation of the systemic racism that has plagued Black Americans’ health since the age of slavery. It can be blamed on what was called “redlining” during the mid-20th century.”


5.In Mississippi, more White people now have gotten Covid-19 than African Americans. Attitudes about masks might help explain why, official says | CNN

“Whites surpassed African Americans in Mississippi's overall reported Covid-19 death toll around September 21 for the first time since the state health department started publishing data by race in June. […]

While several factors may be at play, the state health officer suggests one in particular: He thinks large segments of the White population aren't social distancing and wearing masks as wholeheartedly as much of the Black community has been recently.”


6.Two Black university leaders urged their campuses to join a Covid-19 vaccine trial. The backlash was swift | STAT

“‘Our children are not lab rats for drug companies,’ said one post. ‘I can’t believe a HBCU would do this to our people,’ said another reply. ‘Tuskegee, Tuskegee. … Me and mine aren’t first in line,’ said another response.”

Related & Recommended: Health experts want to prioritize people of color for a Covid-19 vaccine. But how should it be done? | STAT


7.OP-ED: Prisons Are a Public Health Crisis — and the Cure Is Right in Front of Us | LEVEL

“Ending pandemics is going to take not only calls to defund the police or abolish the prison industrial complex, but to also plan for a new social contract. One that devises community-developed systems that provide for lives of dignity and joy, and minimize violence, greed, and deprivation. Our carceral system renders those who are locked in it as outside the parameters of citizens, of community members, and even outside notions of ‘the public.’”


8.A South Philly rowhouse is becoming a free primary care clinic with a specialty in equity | The Philadelphia Inquirer

“After breaking ground earlier this month, Pitts' team is busy converting the home into an independently operating free primary care clinic. The whole endeavor will cost over $100,000. To make the clinic accessible for those with disabilities, the front door and windows will be removed to install a wider entrance. Walls will be added to what is currently the living room to create two exam rooms. The bathroom, currently at the back of the house, will be transformed into a dental unit.”


9.No Home, No Wi-Fi: Pandemic Adds to Strain on Poor College Students | The New York Times

“Black and Latino students have been hit particularly hard. EAB, an educational research firm based in Washington, found that students of color had submitted a free application for federal student aid at far lower rates in 2020 than in previous years. The firm’s researchers also found that far more low-income students, particularly students of color, had committed to colleges but not shown up compared with last year.”

Recommended: ‘You’re Out of Your Mind if You Think I’m Ever Going Back to School’ | The New York Times


10.Curating the experience of Black America in the age of pandemic | The Harvard Gazette

“‘We want to know the Black experience from the bottom to the top,’ she said. ‘We want to give Black people the opportunity that 100 years from now, researchers would look back and find intimate accounts of a Black person’s everyday life, which is something we don’t have enough of because our history in this country wasn’t preserved for such a long time because it wasn’t valued or seen as important.’”


📰 5 Local News Stories

CALIFORNIA:

Coronavirus Test Site At Oakland Church Detects Unexpected Infection Rate In Black Population | KPIX 5 News

NEW YORK :

A Grand Harlem Ballroom Is Empty Again in Coronavirus Pandemic (paywall) | Wall Street Journal

ILLINOIS:

Alderman, Community Groups Demand More Coronavirus Testing Sites, Flu Shots | Block Club Chicago

Chicago’s Biggest Coronavirus Surge Is On The Southwest Side, Where Groups Are Begging For More Testing | Block Club Chicago

NORTH CAROLINA:

COVID-19 hit students of color harder, exposed inequity | EdNC


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🎥 VIDEO NEWS

'Death sentence': Black Americans living in cancer alley now dying from COVID-19 | USA TODAY

“Americans living in ‘Cancer Alley’ suffer from high rates of cancer. In part 1 of this six-part series, USA TODAY investigates how racism fuels COVID-19 deaths.”


Clergy & Clinicians discuss the impact of COVIC-19 on the Chicago African-American community | Northwestern Medicine

“Dr. Clyde Yancy (Northwestern Medicine) and Pastor Chris Harris (Bright Star Community Outreach) talk about the COVID-19 impact on the African-American community. This is the first in a monthly African-American video series.”


What To Know About Covid-19 Seven Months In | Black Love Doc

“#BlackLoveDoc's special shines a light on the tragic realities of COVID-19. While we may be ‘getting used’ to this Coronavirus world, let us not make the lethal mistake of thinking that COVID-19 isn't still a real and present danger to ourselves and our loved ones.”


🛎️ NOT CORONAVIRUS NEWS, BUT ALSO IMPORTANT

What Happened To Quawan Charles? | ESSENCE

“Quawan Charles, 15, who was last seen alive leaving his home in Baldwin, Louisiana, on Oct. 30, with an unidentified person, was found dead in a field in Loreauville, Louisiana, on Nov. 2 and his distraught family is searching for answers. […]

Social media has amplified calls of justice for Quawan, with many people pointing out the similarities between his visible injuries to those of Emmett Till.”


Biden is right that America needs healing. Just not yet. | The Washington Post

“The road to healing will be long, and healing, as we know, can come in many forms. We often think of it as forces coming together in unity. Too often healing requires a certain degree of amnesia with calls to forgive and forget in an effort to move on.”


After Weeks of Protests, #EndSARS Has Become a Rallying Cry for a New Nigerian Generation | Rolling Stone

“The aftermath of the events on October 20th energized people to fight for a new generation. It seemed like no one was letting up. But just as quickly as hope rises, it can dissipate. The daunting goal of making real governmental change led to people asking who could lead the revolution.”


Policing of Black Lives Matter Protests in the UK Was 'Institutionally Racist', Report Says | VICE

“It references numerous instances of discriminatory behaviour by police, such as an injured young Black man being searched by officers after he asked for help, or a Black woman who was knocked unconscious by a police horse during a kettle. In the latter case, a police officer on horseback attempted to control a crowd of peaceful protesters, causing the officer to fall off the horse and for it to charge into the crowd where the woman was injured.”


Why I risked my safety to protest against anti-abortion laws as a black Polish woman | gal-dem

“While the protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, I knew I would be one of few darker-skinned protestors, and to be honest, it made me very anxious. I am completely used to being the only black person in the room. I am used to people staring at me or trying to touch my hair on public transport. But while it doesn’t happen often, sometimes I wish the colour of my skin was less visible. Before the protest, I read the list of things I should take with me just in case I would be stopped by the police, beaten up or pepper-sprayed.”


The Global ‘Green Book’ That Black Travelers Need Now | ZORA

“‘Black people were explorers before we were enslaved,’ she says. ‘We should celebrate Victor Hugo Green like we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He [helped] Black people to travel and stay alive. Homer B. Roberts sold cars to Black people in Kansas City and Chicago; loaned them money to buy cars so they could travel. I created this book to bring back our history that’s been lost.’”


Leaving the US Will Never Be the Antidote to Racism | ZORA

“…the thing is, I’ve lived outside the U.S. for about 10 years — in Cameroon, Costa Rica, and now Turkey. I have loved living overseas, but when it comes to race, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. If I had left America to escape the kind of racism I face at home — I didn’t; I moved for love — I’d have been disappointed.”