Black Man Allegedly "Executed" by Grand Rapids Police

On Monday, Grand Rapids police allegedly executed a Black man, Patrick Lyoya, after pulling him over for a license plate violation. The Kent County Prosecutor asked the Grand Rapids Police Department not to release video of the incident earlier in the week, but after significant public pressure, the Grand Rapids Police Chief released a statement on Friday announcing that the video would be released by noon on April 15th. While police claim that Lyoya was pulled over, Lyoya's family say that he was checking on a car problem when police approached him. Lyoya fled on foot, leaving a passenger in the car. There was an altercation between Lyoya and police, and an officer allegedly shot Lyoya in the back of the head while he was lying on the ground.

Video of the incident was shown to Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack, Lyoya's father, and an interpreter. Commissioner Womack stated that "this was an execution," asked for the officer to be charged and fired, and said he would write a letter to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel "to let her know that a young man was shot in the back of the head by law enforcement while laying down and I am witnessing inconsistencies with the process." The interpreter, Israel Siku, said that police "shot [Patrick Lyoya] in the back of the head, point blank."

Protesters held a candlelight vigil and marched on Saturday in Grand Rapids, calling for justice for Patrick Lyoya. Patrick's parents took part in the event, and his father said, through an interpreter: "Where I came from, I have seen people being killed. I never witnessed like how my son was killed. The way that the police assassinate my son." "I would like this protest to be a peaceful protest, but I want them to show the world that what is happening right now, is not right. It’s not good. The world needs to know the truth. People need to fight for justice for Patrick."

Lyoya's family lives in Lansing, and immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014. Their native language is Swahili.

The officer who killed Lyoya has been placed on administrative leave while the incident is investigated.

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Risk of Cardiac Complications From COVID-19 Much Higher Than From mRNA Vaccines

A recent study published by the CDC as an MMWR Early Release compared the risks of cardiac complications, particularly pericarditis and myocarditis, from SARS-CoV-2 virus infection versus receiving a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. The study looked at over 15 million health records of individuals 5 years of age and older, with many of the study groups focused on younger male populations due to already known higher risk of cardiac complications in these populations from mRNA vaccines. The study found that adolescent males ages 12-17 years old were still 2-6 times more likely to be at risk of cardiac complications from the SARS-CoV-2 virus compared to mRNA vaccination. The difference was even higher in males 18-29 years of age, with the risk of cardiac complications from infection being 7-8 times higher than from mRNA vaccination. This data continues to support current knowledge, that while cardiac complications are a rare but possible side effect of mRNA COVID-19 vaccination, vaccination is still less likely to cause these complications compared to COVID-19 infection. Thus, if you are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and/or booster, please get one as soon as you can!

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Senate Confirms Nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to U.S. Supreme Court

On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was nominated by President Biden to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Jackson will be sworn in this summer after Justice Stephen Breyer retires, and will become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson issued a statement after the confirmation:

"Today's vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court is of enormous consequence to our nation and to history. After 233 years, the Court will finally have a Black woman justice deciding our most significant cases with tremendous impact on our lives and the lives of our families.

"This has taken far too long. Fifty-five years ago, former NAACP Chief Counsel Thurgood Marshall broke down the wall when he was confirmed as the first Black American to sit on the Supreme Court. Today, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson shatters the glass ceiling to finally make room for a Black woman on our nation's highest court."

He went on to say that

"History is watching this moment. The votes to confirm Judge Jackson will [be] recorded as ones in favor of justice and equality. The votes against her will forever be known as hostile and cowardly, as were the attacks by certain Senators throughout this process. The unjust hurdles Black women like Ketanji Brown Jackson face each and every day were regrettably centerstage during her confirmation. But as Black women do, Ketanji Brown Jackson outshined the hate. Today and every day, we celebrate Black women."

We previously covered the sexism and racism Judge Jackson faced in her Senate confirmation hearings from Republicans and her credentials and experience. Only three Republicans voted in favor of Judge Jackson's confirmation on Thursday.

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New Data Suggests COVID-19 Infections Across Africa 97 Times Higher than Previous Data Suggested

A recent analysis out of the World Health Organization which is still under peer review and has not yet been published has found that up to 65% of Africans have been infected with COVID-19. This analysis, which compiles information from 150 studies across the continent looking at the presence of antibodies in different communities between January 2020 and December 2021, determined that the number of people who have been infected was 97 times higher than what has previously been confirmed with positive test results. Underestimation is expected and has been happening globally, due to underreporting and limited testing. However, the number of people in Africa found to have antibodies to COVID-19, suggesting a previous infection, suggests that the continent has actually experienced some of the highest case counts in the world. The WHO study found that people in the Eastern, Western, and Central regions of Africa had the highest infection rates, especially in more dense communities. According to the WHO, it is believed that this vast underestimation is in part due to limited testing and vaccination, with only 16% of the continent being fully vaccinated, and in part due to the high rate of asymptomatic infections. Per the WHO, factors potentially contributing to a greater percentage of asymptomatic symptoms include a younger population which is more likely to experience mild symptoms and fewer people having the medical conditions that might put someone at greater risk from COVID-19, like high blood pressure and diabetes. It is important to note, though, that the cases across the continent require further study to better understand how COVID-19 has affected different countries in Africa and support a localized approach to supporting the needs of communities with cultural and systemic differences. For a visual representation of localized antibody studies thus far, click here for the tracker and click here for the Lancet article which discusses the dashboard in more detail. 

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Another Omicron Subvariant, XE, Detected

In recent news, a new variant called “XE” has been making headlines. To clarify, XE is a subvariant of the already-known Omicron variant that contains genetic material from both the BA.1 and BA.2 subvariants of the Omicron variant. “XE” is how scientists have classified this subvariant currently. This subvariant was first detected in the U.K. earlier this year, and early data suggest that it might be more transmissible than the BA.2 variant of Omicron, however it is too early to tell. In addition, higher transmissibility does not mean it is more deadly, however it does mean more people are likely to get infected. Per the WHO, because this is related to Omicron, it is still a variant of concern, however data tracking for subvariants/sublineages is different. Again, it is still too early to know much about XE, however it is best to continue getting vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible, continuing to socially distance, wear high quality masks (i.e., N95, KN95, or KF94 masks), and continue to practice proper hand hygiene in order to best protect yourselves and others.

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White Americans Less Likely to Support Pandemic Response When Aware of Racial Disparities

A new study released last week demonstrates white U.S. residents lack of support for COVID-19 policies when they were aware of racial disparities in COVID-19 rates. While the media extensively covered the racial disparities in COVID-19 infection and death, this did not lead to support of policies or changing of personal behavior in white residents. In fact, the study showed that consistently reading or hearing about racial disparities (i.e., greater negative impacts of the pandemic on BIPOC) reduced empathy for those vulnerable to the disease. White residents' unwillingness to support measures because they will benefit Black and Brown residents has been seen across the country’s history, from labor unions to government support policies, even if white people will also benefit from them. While this study was done in the fall of 2020, the outcome is still relevant as officials have begun to pare back safety measures. Black and Brown residents are disportionately impacted by COVID-19 because of systemic racism, not because of individual choices. While many want the pandemic to be over, it is not. There are new variants on the rise and many residents are coping with the effects of long Covid. Removing safety precautions will disportionately impact Black and Brown communities and will continue to perpetuate the inequities we have seen throughout the pandemic. 

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Pandemic Found to Perpetuate Racial Disparities In Education Attainment 

An analysis coming out of the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics initiative found that COVID-19 disproportionately affected Black, Latino, and other/multiethnic students pursuing higher education or educational opportunities beyond high school in 2021. In the study, "other/multiethnic" was defined as students of races other than white, Black, Asian, or Latino, as well as students who reported being of more than one race or ethnicity. The data analyzed for the study was originally part of a new US Census Bureau Survey called the Household Pulse Survey, which looks at the social and economic impact of the pandemic on households, including plans for education. The analysis found that when the pandemic first started and before there were vaccines, 10.6% of Latino students planned to cancel all their plans for higher education. This was also true for 9.9% of Black students. For comparison, 5.5% of Asian students and 5.4% of white students said they had plans to cancel all their higher education plans. Students who were identified as other/multiethnic were the most likely to say they planned to drop all their classes, at 11.3%. The analysis also looked at how vaccines helped students feel confident in staying or returning to school. Post-vaccine, the number of Latino students saying they planned to cancel their school plans decreased to 3.9%, the number of Black students decreased to 4.4% and the number of students identified as other/multiethnic decreased to 4.6%. Despite increasing confidence in returning to school after vaccines, racial disparities persisted after vaccines became available. Socioeconomic factors were identified as a major factor for students who did not plan to return to school full time or at all. Of all students reporting that they did not plan to return to school in full capacity pre-vaccine, 40% said it was because of pandemic-related income changes. Socioeconomic challenges disproportionately affected other/multiethnic, Black, and Latino students, with 48% of students identified as other/multiethnic citing economic challenges as well as 44.9% of Black students and 44.8% of Latino students. These disparities point to the greater systemic barriers many students of color face in their attainment of higher education, and there is concern that pandemic-related challenges will only further perpetuate inequity in education access and financial security longterm for these students and their families. 

For the full details click here

For a previous study looking at the pandemic’s impact on education plans for 2020 click here

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Survey Shows Views and Experiences of Black People in U.S. Regarding Science and Medicine

A new study from the Pew Research Center examined the views and experiences of Black people in the United States regardings science, medicine, and COVID-19. Among the findings:

Black adults were more likely to be aware of the Tuskegee syphilis study, an unethical and racist study that resulted in the deaths of more than 100 Black men between 1932 and 1972, with 75% saying they have heard or read about it, compared to 57% of all U.S. adults. 49% of Black adults said they had heard or read "a lot" about the study, compared to only 25% of all U.S. adults. 61% of Black adults said that "research misconduct is just as likely today as it has been in the past" (comparable to 60% of the overall adult population), and 55% of Black adults said that "research misconduct by medical research scientists" is a "very big" or "moderately big" problem, compared to 48% of all U.S. adults. These findings provide statistical details regarding the well-founded mistrust of medical research by Black people in the United States today, which underlies mistrust in COVID-19 vaccines among Black people.

34% of Black adults said they can rely "a lot" on COVID-19 experts for information about the pandemic and COVID-19 vaccines, and 39% said they can rely "some" on them. Only 10% said they can rely "a lot" on journalists (42% said they can rely "some" on journalists) regarding COVID-19 information.

Black adults don't believe that science and engineering jobs are welcoming to Black people:

Additional findings include data showing that young Black women are more likely to have had bad experiences with doctors than older Black women.

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This Week's QM Round-Up Contributors (in alphabetical order):