The US passed 100,000 recorded deaths from COVID-19 this week – the real number likely being much higher. The Guardian breaks down how US’s “brutal fault lines – of race, partisanship, gender, poverty and misinformation – rendered it ill-prepared to meet the challenges of Covid-19.” “Coronavirus in America is a disease of the poor. That’s the view of the Rev William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. “People are being forced to work, putting profit over protection,” he said. “This pandemic will highlight how poverty – and our willingness to let people remain in it – presents a clear and present danger for all of us.” Barber, a leading voice on the scourge of income inequality which saw 41 million people officially living in poverty even before the virus made landfall in the US, also pointed out that coronavirus is a disease that benefits the rich. “Billionaires have made nearly $500m while essential workers have not even been given guaranteed health care, a living wage or a water supply that is protected from being shut off,” he said.”
Protests in Minneapolis continue in response to the police killing of George Floyd, an African-American man. Colorlines reports that “thousands of people took to the streets of Minneapolis for the second night in a row in protest of George Floyd’s deadly encounter with police officers on Monday (May 25). The rally on Wednesday (May 27) began peacefully but took a violent turn as officers “fired rubber bullets from a rooftop, several buildings caught fire, and one person was shot and killed by a store owner,” The Washington Post reports. Floyd, 46, died shortly after a white officer pinned the handcuffed father of two to the ground and proceeded to press his knee into the dying man’s back as he pleaded for mercy. “I can’t breathe… please stop,” Floyd could be heard saying to the officer on a video of the incident that quickly went viral and sparked widespread outrage… Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called for peace in a press conference held Thursday (May 28) morning. “We must restore the peace,” he said. He added that Floyd was “all about love and all about peace.” Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo spoke at the same press conference and said the riots that have been taking place are a result of the community reacting to their own trauma. He also blamed the police department for adding to that “deficit of hope.””
The New York Times reports on how violence interrupters are taking on the responsibility of persuading NYC residents to observe physical distancing. “When Iesha Sekou began passing out surgical masks and disposable gloves in Harlem early in the pandemic, some people laughed and said she was taking things too far. It was an unfamiliar role for Ms. Sekou, the founder of a nonprofit that usually works to prevent gang violence. But as deaths from the virus mounted in predominantly black neighborhoods like the one where Ms. Sekou’s group operates, people started chasing her and her workers down the street to get supplies, she said. Even young skeptics who “had their little theories” about the virus dropped their resistance after Ms. Sekou and her volunteers warned them that the police could stop them for not having a mask, or worse, they might get infected and unwittingly pass the disease along to their grandmothers. “That’s a soft spot that we were able to hit and get them to know that if you don’t want to do this for you, you don’t like the way it looks, do it for who you live with, whose couch you sleep on,” Ms. Sekou said. People like Ms. Sekou are known as “credible messengers” or “violence interrupters” in their line of work, and city officials say they may be critical to overcoming resistance to social distancing rules in some black and Hispanic neighborhoods where there is distrust of the authorities. Violence prevention groups, like Ms. Sekou’s Street Corner Resources, are part of a broader effort by City Hall to use civilians to encourage people to follow social-distancing rules rather than relying solely on police officers.”
The Washington Post reports on cities that are blocking off streets to car traffic to create more space for pedestrians and local businesses like restaurants to operate outdoors. “The pandemic “has been terrible. But there are certain byproducts that, if we take advantage of them, will let us be more of an open city, more of a city that’s usable by all sorts of people, cafes and cyclists,” D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) said. “It’s an opportunity to stop doing things in the old polluting and unhealthful ways.” Officials around the country say their moves to change public roadways have been met so far with broad support, though they acknowledge some early missteps, such as not giving enough emphasis to the specific needs of disadvantaged neighborhoods. Some of the newly closed streets also were underused or met with objections from some businesses. But cities have taken steps to address those concerns, including reopening some roads and closing others as they seek to get the balance right. Oakland, Calif., home to one of the earliest and most ambitious “Slow Streets” plans, has also been among the most open about early blind spots, with officials there saying humility and accountability are vital for cementing any such changes.”
PolicyLink’s weekly COVID-19 commentary covers water equity, unemployment among Latinos, the overwhelmingly white protest movements pushing to “reopen” states before the spread of COVID-19 is under control, what’s happening to foster kids who are aging out of the system, and how COVID-19 is exacerbating housing insecurity.
New York Magazine looks at how reopening before safety measures are in place is a form of age discrimination, as people at high risk due to age, health status, and other factors will be unable to resume their public lives.