Intro and Disclaimer

QM would like to help you make sense of information being circulated by: 1. Translating data into digestible language, 2. Dispelling misconceptions and linking to evidence, and 3. Curating relevant data, and articles on a weekly basis. Our Round Up/ Mythbusting projects are intended to help our QM family make sense of information being circulated. Taking control of our health as a queer community includes making institutional knowledge accessible to the public. 

Disclaimer: Although this information has been evaluated and determined to be accurate by Queering Medicine (QM), we at QM do not want to give the impression that we are the sole gatekeepers of medical knowledge. As a collective, QM members bring professional and personal qualifications that allow us to research and share credible knowledge. Our goals for this weekly round up and myth busting is to translate data into digestible information, dispel misinformation, and curate relevant data for the Lansing queer community. We encourage the community to question knowledge found outside of reputable sources, however, Queering Medicine will gladly help facilitate this process. If evidence or recommendations change, or any inaccuracies are found, we will correct them and explain the changes. If you have any questions about our methodology and sources, or you would like to point out any inaccuracies, please let us know!

Lansing City Council Approves Fines for Not Following Public Health Restrictions

The Lansing City Council approved a new city ordinance on Monday that would allow the Lansing Police Department to fine individuals and businesses up to $500 for not following health orders related to COVID-19. This ordinance was enacted to help encourage mask wearing and other emergency health orders during the pandemic to limit the spread of COVID-19. While many people support this, there has also been pushback. The criminal justice system is rife with systemic racism and BIPOC individuals are targeted more often than others. Opening up the door to allow law enforcement officers to ticket people for not wearing a mask or following other health codes could lead to disproportionate enforcement among BIPOC individuals. In New York City, the highest rates of arrests for COVID-19 related issues was highest in majority Black and Brown precincts. In addition, police can become potential super spreaders through increased exposure in the course of cracking down on COVID-19-related issues. There has already been significant spread on police forces across the nation. With increased contact with individuals, the risk of contracting COVID-19 increases. While there needs to be better and more adherence to emergency health codes, policing them may not be the answer, particularly given the likelihood of the measure being used as another means to selectively target and criminalize BIPOC. 

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Police Training Group Refers to Black Lives Matter as Terrorist Group

An Indiana-based organization that trains many small police departments in the U.S., the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), recently distributed an inflammatory training document titled "Understanding Antifa and Urban Guerrilla Warfare." The document reportedly says that Black Lives Matter and Antifa "are revolutionary movements whose aims are to overthrow the U.S. government," and that they "have no intentions to negotiate." The document refers to them as "terrorist groups." ILEETA's Executive Director responded to criticism by saying that "there will always be differences of opinion on training issues but so long as the disagreements remain professional and not personal we do not censor these ideas," and "I am willing to allow the trainer to evaluate the information themselves,” statements that attempt to absolve the group of responsibility and treat false, inflammatory, racist statements as legitimate training information. The document is highly concerning, painting a view of BLM that is likely to further radicalize law enforcement by pushing incorrect information rooted in racism that will increase the likelihood of the police using violent tactics and killing more Black people, including peaceful protestors. Delegitimizing anti-racist groups and treating them as a threat is an approach deeply embedded in White supremacy.

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Healthcare Workers and Long-Term Care Residents to Be First to Receive COVID-19 Vaccines

The U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is a group of medical and public health experts that provide vaccine recommendations to control diseases in the United States. Before vaccine recommendations can be made, the ACIP thoroughly reviews all available scientific data on the vaccine to determine its effectiveness and safety. It will take months for enough doses to be prepared to vaccinate the entire population, so clear directives are needed to determine who will be first to be vaccinated. As of December 3rd, the ACIP has recommended that both “1) health care personnel and 2) residents of long-term care facilities be offered COVID-19 vaccine in the initial phase of the vaccination program.” The ACIP’s recommendations are guided by four ethical principles when supply is limited: 1) maximize benefits and minimize harms, 2) mitigate health inequities, 3) promote justice, and 4) promote transparency. Their decision to include healthcare workers as one of the earliest groups to get vaccinated was made to preserve the healthcare system’s capacity to care for patients. Healthcare workers are “defined as paid or unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials.” Additionally, residents of long-term care facilities were also identified as an early vaccination group because they are at high risk for infection and severe illness from COVID-19. These residents are generally elderly, have higher rates of underlying medical conditions, and live in close proximity to other vulnerable persons. Long-term care facility residents are defined as “adults who reside in facilities that provide a range of services, including medical and personal care, to persons who are unable to live independently.” The ACIP will reevaluate their COVID-19 vaccine recommendations once the FDA authorizes or approves a vaccine.

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U.S. Lawmakers Introduce Anti-Slavery Amendment

Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate have introduced a resolution to amend the 13th Amendment to finally outlaw slavery in the United States. The 13th Amendment currently bans slavery and involuntary servitude "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted," meaning that slavery is still legal for prisoners and convicts. The loophole has resulted in a thriving prison-industrial complex in which companies and governments use prison slave labor, and incentivizes the incarceration of as many people as possible. Those that benefit from prison slave labor spend considerable resources to push for stricter laws, increased law enforcement, and increased penalties for crimes in order to ensure that they can keep labor costs down by not having to pay minimum wage. This system disproportionately impacts BIPOC, particularly Black men.

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Vaccine Update

The United Kingdom has approved Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, which is scheduled to begin being administered to people in that country starting on December 8th. The U.K. has an initial 800,000 doses promised from Pfizer, meaning that about 400,000 people may be vaccinated in this first wave, since two doses are needed for the vaccine to be effective. In contrast to plans in the United States, the U.K. has stated that they want to prioritize vaccinating elderly folks and nursing home caregivers, as these populations had the highest mortality and hospitalization rates, but not other healthcare workers. About 3.2 million people in the U.K. are over the age of 80, and there are approximately 300,000 caregivers working in nursing homes, so it may be months before the general public and other healthcare workers get vaccinated.

The European Union criticized the U.K. for approving the vaccine so quickly, stating that the entire  process took only around 10 days. EU officials have stated that a thorough review of all the data is needed, especially to build and improve trust in the vaccine. U.K. officials say they have maintained equivalency to all international standards and have reviewed the data as it has become available to them since October. The EU is recommending to all other EU countries that they do not expedite the data review process;  although the U.K. is set to leave the EU, that separation will not be complete until next year.

The U.S. is not far behind in the approval process and the FDA is scheduled to meet on December 10th to potentially grant regulatory approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Even if the vaccine is approved, it will be several months until enough doses are available to vaccinate everyone in the country. Ultimately, the vaccine will only be one part in overcoming this pandemic, and continuing to practice proper hand hygiene, wear masks, social distance, and follow public health protocols will remain essential.

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QM Public Health Crisis Round-Up Team (in no particular order):