Sunday, March 7, 2021

Last Call For America Goes Viral, Con't

Nearly 70% of Americans approve of President Joe Biden's handling of COVID-19 so far in a new ABC News poll as the administration is rolling out tens of millions of vaccine doses per week now, but Americans are split on two specific topics: reopening schools to in-class learning, and the difficulty of getting the vaccine for those who want it.

A new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds that even as American concern about the coronavirus wanes, most believe public health restrictions, like mask mandates or limits on public gatherings, are being loosened too quickly. However, opinions on re-opening schools and businesses are more mixed, reflecting the public’s desire to return to a semblance of normalcy. As the country navigates the hoped-for end of the pandemic, two-thirds of the American public continue to approve of the way Joe Biden is handling the coronavirus response. 
Two-thirds (68%) of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the pandemic.
Support for Biden breaks clearly along partisan lines with virtually all Democrats (98%) approving compared to only a third (35%) of Republicans. However, that compares favorably to the last ABC/Ipsos poll asking about former President Trump’s handling of the pandemic when 79% Republicans approved compared to only 4% of Democrats.

Concern about being infected with the coronavirus is down from last fall. However, most Americans believe public health restrictions are being lifted too quickly, reflecting continued support for measures to limit the pandemic. 
Just under three-quarters (72%) of Americans are very or somewhat concerned about being infected with the coronavirus, down from 78% in October and 89% in April of 2020. 
A majority of Americans say that mask mandates (56%) and restrictions on public gatherings (50%) are being loosened too quickly. The remainder are split roughly equally between believing these rules are being relaxed at the right pace or too slowly. 
Attitudes on re-opening schools and businesses are more split with roughly a third on each believing it is happening too quickly, at the right pace, or too slowly. 
Over a quarter of American adults (28%) report receiving at least one dose of the vaccine. Another 15% have tried to schedule an appointment but have not been able to receive a shot yet. 
Among those who have or have tried to get the vaccine, about half (48%) describe the process of finding and registering for the vaccine appointment to be very or somewhat difficult.
Republicans politicizing the pandemic from day one has greatly harmed the country, hurt students, teachers, business owners, workers, you name it. I still don't expect the majority of Republicans to admit to getting the vaccine, ever.

But they will. Like Trump, they'll do it, and never tell anyone, and then lie about it.

Texas's Race To The Bottom, Con't

Racist Texans, infuriated by a Mexican restaurant's decision to require masks, called ICE to raid the place because as we all know, businesses have not business telling customers what to do when it inconveniences white Republicans, and all Mexican restaurants are staffed by "illegals" and stuff.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit and restaurant owners faced difficult decisions, the Richards family that owns Picos, a Mexican restaurant in Houston, quickly adapted to continue sharing their Latin cuisine — from selling to-go margarita kits to stationing a mariachi band at the curbside pickup.

This week, after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Tuesday that he would rescind the statewide mask mandate while the vast majority of residents remain unvaccinated, the tough choice to enforce public health guidance fell to business owners, and Picos announced it would continue requiring masks. But, after such a challenging year, the reaction to their decision was disheartening, co-owner Monica Richards said: Several people sent hateful messages through social media and called the restaurant, threatening to report staffers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“It was just horrific,” Richards said. “People don’t understand unless you’re in our business what it felt like, how hard it was to go through everything we went through during covid. For people to be negative toward us for trying to remain safe, so that this doesn’t continue to happen, just makes zero sense to us.”

Abbott’s decision to lift the mandate will make Texas the largest state to not require masks, which has not come easily for many businesses that are navigating enforcement mask rules to protect employees and customers while facing backlash. Masks, which health experts say are among the most effective ways to curb the spread of the coronavirus, have become a partisan symbol, with one conservative group planning a mask burning party for March 10, the day the order is lifted.

When the mandate is rescinded, the majority of Texas restaurant owners say they will continue requiring staff to wear masks, but they are split on making the same demands of customers, according to the Texas Restaurant Association, which informally surveyed its members this week. The association’s updated guidance recommends restaurants mandate employees wear masks and encourages guests to do the same, spokeswoman Anna Tauzin said.

If a restaurant requires masks, it is unfair to argue the choice infringes on business, Tauzin said.

“This is a decision business owners are making, and it’s right for them,” Tauzin said. “For a group that touts personal responsibility is something key to good stewardship of your business, it seems strange that they might criticize or throw insults at people who are trying to do just that. It’s alarming.”

There have not been many instances reported to the association of harmful fallout for businesses that are continuing to require masks since Abbott’s announcement, such as what Picos faced. Yet restaurants have endured a share of violence and harassment this year as other businesses have remained closed.

And these assholes are doing this because they feel like asking them to wear masks is exactly the gay panic of 30 years ago, like denying service to Black folk at lunch counters 60 years ago, or making Jews wear stars 90 years ago.

On top of that, these assholes are willing to threaten and are definitely willing to cause physical harm, as January 6th showed us.

All over masks.

Sunday Long Read: The Lost Year

It's been one year since schools across America shut down to in-class learning in states across the country, and in Denver, Colorado school systems are still teaching kids over Zoom as classrooms remain empty. It's been a lost year for an entire generation of American kids, parents, teachers and more.

One day this past winter, a Denver Public Schools (DPS) fifth grader phoned a therapist who was helping her cope with her anxiety. She missed her friends and needed to talk. A single mom a few miles south in Littleton called her teenage sons from work one weekday, just to make sure they were doing OK with everything. In northeastern Colorado, a mother couldn’t get through the day without worrying about her four children, one of whom was in middle school and recently had asked the family’s Alexa device for advice on how to put an end to his suicidal thoughts.

The particular struggles for parents and children over the past year may be different, but they’re also awfully familiar and have the same root cause: pandemic-induced remote learning.

Jada Williams* knows the challenges. She’d seen her daughter’s slow academic slide begin late this past summer, just weeks into a school year that had started with students at home because of the novel coronavirus. After months of remote learning, DPS gave her 10-year-old daughter, Nia,* the option of in-person learning at east Denver’s Montclair School of Academics and Enrichment this past winter. Williams declined.

It was “the hardest decision of my life,” Williams, who is in her late thirties and Black, says. She knew how important it was for Nia to be in a classroom, but she also knew the risks associated with COVID-19, which has hit Black communities at disproportionately high rates. Williams worked two jobs, and she didn’t have the luxury of missing a paycheck if she got sick. Ultimately, sending Nia back to in-person schooling “wasn’t worth the risk” to her family’s health or their financial situation.

Williams watched her daughter’s reading aptitude slip each night as the two read before bedtime. Nia was a hands-on kid, so it was inevitable she’d eventually become lonely and disengaged from her schoolwork. Williams always believed her daughter’s situation would be temporary, but a sense of helplessness seized her as the pandemic dragged on through the summer and into the fall and winter. “I never imagined,” she says, “that this is what school would look like.”

Williams, who also has a three-year-old son, didn’t have any cushion in her budget to hire a tutor for her daughter. Nia cried when she learned of her mother’s decision to keep her home, where she would log in to school each morning as her mother took calls for her day job as an eye-examination scheduler for a managed care company. “How do you tell a child you’re keeping her from her teacher and her friends?” says Williams, who also cuts hair to supplement her income. “I want her to go back so bad. I don’t have a good answer for anything. She keeps asking me when she’s finally going to see her teachers and her friends. I keep saying, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’ How much longer can I do that?”

Nearly 100 miles north of the Williams’ home, 14-year-old Brett Shaw* sat hunched over a laptop at his kitchen table, trying to ignore his mother. His first-semester final exams were to begin the next day. Snow was piled around his family’s rustic, split-level home in the hills west of Fort Collins. It was mid-December, but indoors it looked much the same as it had every other day during the pandemic, with Brett wearing a pair of shorts, sitting next to his two younger sisters as they logged into their classes.

Brett—wiry and friendly, with a thin face and a wisp of black hair peeking out from under the back of his Dallas Cowboys beanie—had earned mostly B’s and C’s in middle school the year before. As with so many American children since then, the pandemic had upended most everything in Brett’s life. Both of his parents had temporarily lost their jobs during the previous nine months, which had been devastating to the family’s finances. Brett rarely saw his friends. He loved competitive wrestling, but he hadn’t worked out with his team in months. Of the roughly 80 days that made up Brett’s first semester, only 10 had been in an actual classroom. “I barely got to know my way around,” he said as he logged onto his English class, where the students were studying Romeo and Juliet. With one week remaining in his first freshman semester, Brett was in a bad spot academically. He had three D’s, one F, a bunch of unfinished work, and a frustrated mother trying to hold things together.

Over in the family room, Brett’s mom, Kelly Shaw,* sat at her desk. Her job as a medical coder for a hospital gave her flexibility to work from home when her husband returned to his full-time job in construction. Like most parents working through the pandemic, Kelly, who is 41, was fighting doubts about herself. One day, she’d worry she was neglecting her work and focusing too much on her children’s schooling; the next, she was certain she was ignoring her children’s schooling and focusing too much on her work. She thought about bills that would soon come due and was often angry that her school district hadn’t opened its high schools. “I feel like I’m the one who’s failing,” she said.

Kelly opened Brett’s school portal, which gave her access to attendance records, grades, and assignments. She took a deep breath. Her back stiffened. It was as if she were preparing for a crash landing.
I'm hoping schools will be fully back to normal soon, and by August at the absolute latest, the beginning of a new school year. But I can't help but think that it'll be a long time before we fully know the effect of the Lost Year of COVID on America's kids. 

It didn't have to be this way, but Trump and the GOP made it so.

Never forget that.
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