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COVID: US schools open or not, students of colour bear the brunt | News



Racial inequality in the United States has become a defining feature of the coronavirus pandemic, according to recent data, in terms of its health and economic impact, as well as its effect on education.

As schools are set to reopen across the country in various forms, Black and Latino children will be disproportionally affected, regardless if schools remain physically closed or if they reopen.

According to recent polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), children of colour are more likely to fall behind the longer they stay home from school because they have limited access to critical resources and their parents have more health and economic fears – raising concerns that the pandemic will only exacerbate inequities in American society.

Low-income children, who are mostly Black and Latino, struggle for access to computers and internet service. They also face pressures at home that wealthier, mostly white families do not. Black and Latino parents are more worried than white parents that their children will fall behind in school, and fear they will be unable to work, even from home, while supervising children.

A worker cleans the walls in a classroom at Freedom Preparatory Academy on May 18, 2020 in Provo, Utah. [George Frey/Getty Images/AFP]

 Parents of colour are also more worried than white parents about losing the other benefits that schools provide, like social services and food.

With coronavirus infections still rising across many states in the country, many school districts are planning to start the school year either fully or partially online. 

President Donald Trump, who is running for re-election in November, has made plain his desire to see schools reopen in the fall so that parents can get back to work and help the US economy bounce back after a shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines that strongly supported schools reopening this academic year, arguing children learn best when they are physically in their classrooms.

But many local leaders said the health risks are too great. Although children do not get particularly sick from COVID-19, less is known about how much they can spread it to others, raising worry about the health of teachers and school employees.

Further reflecting the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on communities of colour, 91 percent said they are either “very worried” or “somewhat worried” about their child getting sick with coronavirus if they return to school this school year, compared with 55 percent of white parents, according to the KFF poll published on Monday.

Olivia Chan's father helps her with a new mask she received during a graduation ceremony for her Pre-K class in front of Bradford School in Jersey City, N.J. School districts that plan to reopen class

Olivia Chan’s father helps her with a new mask she received during a graduation ceremony for her Pre-K class in front of Bradford School in Jersey City [File: Seth Wenig/AP Photo]

 And 73 percent of parents of colour are worried about their children falling behind academically, while 65 percent of parents of colour were worried losing income if they cannot go to work, compared with 41 percent of white parents. 

There is also evidence that learning loss will probably be greatest among Black and Latino students, who are less likely to have access to high-quality remote learning or to a conducive learning environment, such as a quiet space, their own devices, high-speed internet and parental supervision.

According to an analysis by McKinsey, students will likely lose on average 6.8 months of learning if in-class instruction does not resume until January 2021. But Black students may fall behind by 10.3 months and Latino students by 9.2 months.

But as half-dozen US states reporting record numbers for coronavirus deaths, a bitter political debate is raging about the reopening of schools in the coming weeks.

While Trump and members of his administration continue to push for students to return to class, many teachers and local officials continue to call for online learning.

On Tuesday, one of the largest teachers’ union in the country, said it was authorising its members to strike if their schools plan to reopen without proper safety measures.


A high school teacher holding a sign during a protest calling for schools to enforce mask-wearing and to implement other safety measures in advance of schools reopening in Salt Lake City, Utah [AP Photo/Rick Bowmer] 

“We will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said during the union’s virtual convention on Tuesday. “But if authorities don’t protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, as our executive council voted last week, nothing is off the table.”

The group said school buildings should open only in areas where coronavirus infections are low enough and if schools enact certain safety measures.

According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 4.3 million Americans have contracted the virus, and more than 149,000 have died, leading the world in both figures.

Further highlighting the tension around the issue, while school districts in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Houston have announced they will all begin the school year online only, the Texas Education Agency, the state’s overseer of public education, said it would deny funding to schools that delay in-person classes because of orders by local health authorities related to the pandemic.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued guidance that health authorities cannot impose “blanket” school closures for coronavirus prevention. Any such decision is up to school officials, he said.

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Israel allows limited Gaza exports, one month after truce | Gaza News




Israel has allowed a limited resumption of commercial exports from the besieged Gaza Strip in what it called a “conditional” measure, one month after a truce halted an 11-day offensive on the Strip.

“Following a security evaluation, a decision has been made for the first time since the end of (the fighting) to enable … (the) limited export of agricultural produce from the Gaza Strip,” COGAT, a branch of Israel’s Defence Ministry, said on Monday.

COGAT said the measure was approved by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government and was “conditional upon the preservation of security stability”.

Palestinian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media, said 11 truckloads of clothes were exported through Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing for the first time in 40 days. On Sunday, Israel said it would allow limited agricultural exports from Gaza.

A Palestinian police officer searches a truck’s fabrics cargo slated for export at the Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, June 21, 2021. [Said Khatib/AFP]

The easing also included the resumption of mail service in and out of Gaza, according to Saleh al-Zeq, an official from the Palestinian Authority’s liaison committee. Thousands of passports and paperwork have been delayed since the fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules Gaza, broke out on May 10.

However, other restrictions by Israel remain in place and are taking a toll on different sectors in Gaza.

On Monday, a Pepsi bottling plant said it was closing and laying off 250 workers because raw materials needed to stay in business were being kept away. Instead, the company will import ready-made products from its factory in the occupied West Bank.

“The raw materials have not been allowed. We have been waiting for them for 60 days,” said Hammam Alyazji, development manager at the factory. The materials include carbon dioxide and syrup.

The resumption of exports does not include fish, said Nezzar Ayyash of the fishermen’s union. He said Israel reduced the fishing by more than half, keeping it at six nautical miles (11kilometres) instead of 20 miles (37km), as agreed upon in the Oslo Accords.

“This is very bad for the livelihood of fishermen; buying power is low in Gaza and the fishermen barely make up their fuel expenses,” he said.

Other restrictions include a limit on the number of medical patients who can get treatment in Israel or the occupied West Bank.

Head of the political wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, speaks to reporters during a press conference in Gaza City on June 21, 2021. [Mohammed Abed/ AFP]

‘No intentions to solve humanitarian crisis’

Following a meeting with United Nations mediators, Hamas’s leader in Gaza Yahya al-Sinwar said the easing of Israeli restrictions was not enough and did nothing to change the situation in Gaza, pointing out that Israel continues to block international aid, as well as critical fuel deliveries needed for the electricity plant.

“The meeting was bad, it was not at all positive,” he told reporters.

“They listened to us attentively, but there are no signs that there are intentions towards solving the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip,” Sinwar added.

He added that Israel was “blackmailing” Hamas in exchange for further lifting of restrictions.

Sinwar was apparently referring to Israel’s position that a major improvement in Gaza hinged on Hamas releasing two Israelis and the bodies of two soldiers it holds captive. Sinwar said he told the UN’s top regional envoy, Tor Wennesland, that Hamas “will not accept that”.

Israel keeps tight controls on Gaza crossings, with support from neighbouring Egypt, citing threats from Hamas. The Israeli restrictions were intensified during the May fighting, effectively halting all exports.

Sinwar also accused Israel of keeping out aid from Qatar, which in recent years has bankrolled Gaza reconstruction projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“It seems the occupation (Israel) didn’t understand our message, and that we maybe need to carry out popular resistance to put pressure on the occupation,” Sinwar said.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office did not provide comment on Sinwar’s remarks.

At a memorial service on Sunday for Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war, Bennett, who was sworn in last week and replaced longtime prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel would not tolerate any resumption of hostilities.

“(We) will not tolerate even a few rockets. We will not show forbearance nor exercise containment towards splinter factions,” he said, alluding to past attacks by armed groups other than Hamas.

“Our patience has run out.”

Egypt and the United Nations stepped up mediation last week after Israeli air raids pounded the Gaza Strip, challenging the fragile ceasefire.

The war killed 257 Palestinians including 66 children. Thirteen people were killed in Israel, including two children.

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Japan begins workplace vaccination as Uganda records lowest deaths in a week




Employees of the beverage maker Suntory register to receive shots of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at their office building as the company began its workplace vaccination

Employees of the beverage maker Suntory register to receive shots of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at their office building as the company began its workplace vaccination

Thousands of Japanese companies began the rollout of their workplace vaccine programs Monday, inoculating company workers and their families.

Some of the companies had been critical of what they said was the government’s slow pace of Japan’s COVID-19 inoculation campaign. Toyota and Suntory are among the companies participating in the workplace program with vaccines provided by the government.

Thousands of people are expected to receive shots through the workplace initiative. The start of the workplace program comes just weeks before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics.

Meanwhile, Uganda’s coronavirus deaths increased by 20 to 680 on Monday according to test results recorded on June 19. The 20 daily deaths is the lowest daily total recorded in a week after 34, 42, 42, 34, 49, 25 deaths were recorded on June 18, June 17, June 16, June 15, June 15, June 14 respectively   

In India, the Health ministry reported 53,256 new COVID cases Monday in the previous 24-hour period, the lowest daily number in 88 days, or about 3 months. Taiwan recorded its lowest number of new COVID-19 infections since May 15. Health officials announced 75 new infections Monday. Sunday Taiwan received 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccines from the United States.

There are more than 178 million global COVID infections as of Monday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The U.S. has the most with 33.5 million, while Brazil has 18 million.

Brazil became the second country, behind the United States, to record more than half a million COVID-19 deaths, a Health ministry official said Saturday.

Health minister Marcelo Queiroga tweeted, “500,000 lives lost due to the pandemic that affects our Brazil and the world,” according to an the Agence France-Presse.

“The third wave is arriving; there’s already a change in the case and death curves,” Ethel Maciel, an epidemiologist from Espirito Santo University, told AFP. “Our vaccination (program), which could make a difference, is slow and there are no signs of restrictive measures; quite the contrary.”

Britain held its first full music festival since all mass events were canceled in March of last year, the start of the pandemic.

About 10,000 fans attended a three-day Download Festival held at Donington Park in central England. The event, which ended on Sunday, featured 40 U.K.-based bands.

All of those who attended, which was only about a tenth of the festival’s pre-pandemic audience, were required to take COVID-19 tests before the event. Neither masks nor social distancing protocols was required, event organizers said.

Britain has recorded nearly 128,000 COVID-19-related deaths, the fourth most in the world and the worst in Europe. It also ranks seventh in the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 4.6 million.

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed by four weeks a planned lifting of coronavirus-related restrictions. The restrictions were set to be lifted Monday but will now run through July 19. Britain is battling the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus, which was first identified in India.

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White House’s global COVID jab distribution plan hits a snag | Coronavirus pandemic News




The remaining 55 million COVID vaccine doses will be distributed, but not in time to meet President Biden’s deadline.

The Biden administration on Monday revealed allocation plans for 55 million coronavirus vaccination doses, amid what officials say are logistical challenges that have delayed a commitment to share 80 million with other countries by the end of June.

In a fact sheet released Monday, the White House said the majority of the 55 million shots will be shared through the COVAX global sharing mechanism. Some 14 million doses will go to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, while 16 million will go to countries in Asia, including India. About 10 million doses will go to Africa, with countries selected in coordination with the African Union.

The remaining doses, some 25 percent, will be shared directly with countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and in Europe.

Ground crew unloading a shipment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from South Africa at Toronto Pearson Airport in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada [File: Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

“Sharing millions of U.S. vaccines with other countries signals a major commitment by the U.S. Government,” the White House said in the fact sheet.

“Just like we have in our domestic response, we will move as expeditiously as possible, while abiding by U.S. and host country regulatory and legal requirements, to facilitate the safe and secure transport of vaccines across international borders.”

But President Joe Biden is expected to fall short of his commitment to ship 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses abroad by the end of June.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US-produced doses are ready, and the delays were due to regulatory and logistical hurdles.

“What we’ve found to be the biggest challenge is not actually the supply — we have plenty of doses to share with the world – but this is a Herculean logistical challenge,” Psaki said during a regular news conference on Monday.

A woman receiving a COVID-19 vaccination shot at a pharmacy in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania [File: Hannah Beier/Reuters]

So far, fewer than 10 million doses have been shipped from the US to the other countries, including 2.5 million doses delivered to Taiwan over the weekend, and about 1 million doses delivered to Mexico, Canada and South Korea earlier this month.

Psaki said shipments will go out as soon as countries are ready to receive the doses and the administration sorts out logistical complexities, including vaccination supplies like syringes and alcohol prep pads, cold storage for the doses, customs procedures and even language barriers.

Psaki said she was not aware of how many doses would be shipped by the end of the month.

The US has been shipping “excess” doses – shots that are not needed in the US – amid plummeting demand for vaccinations in recent weeks. More than 177 million Americans have received at least one shot.

Earlier this month, Biden announced that on top of the 80 million doses his administration would share globally, the US was purchasing 500 million doses from Pfizer to donate around the world over the coming year, with the first deliveries expected in August.

Workers in Taiwan unloading Moderna vaccines shipped from the US in Taoyuan, Taiwan [Ann Wang/Reuters]

The White House earlier this month also unveiled plans for the first 25 million doses for export from existing federal stockpiles of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and some have already begun shipping.

Biden initially committed to providing other nations with all 60 million US-produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has yet to be authorised for use in the US but is widely approved around the world. The AstraZeneca doses have been held up for export by a weeks-long safety review by the Food and Drug Administration.

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