Table of Contents
Biden Making Rapid Changes to Federal Approach to COVID-19 and to Racism
President Biden has signed dozens of Executive Orders, Directives, and other measures in the days since taking office. A few of the most important with respect to COVID-19 and racism:
Mount vaccination campaign amid goals such as 100 million shots in 100 days
Require masks/distancing on all federal property and by federal workers
Require face masks at airports, other modes of transportation
Establish "COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board," expand testing
Fill supply shortfalls in fight vs. COVID-19 with Defense Production Act, other measures
Bolster access to COVID-19 treatments and clinical care
Improve collection/analysis of COVID-related data
Create position of COVID-19 response coordinator
Establish a "COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force"
Re-engage with World Health Organization
Ask agencies to extend eviction/foreclosure moratoriums
Ask Education Dept. to extend student-loan pause
Provide guidance on safely reopening schools
OSHA guidance for keeping workers safe from COVID-19
Increase FEMA reimbursement to states for National Guard, PPE
Support international response to COVID-19, "restore U.S. global leadership"
Preserve/fortify DACA, which helps "Dreamers"
End "harsh and extreme immigration enforcement"
Reverse travel ban targeting primarily Muslim countries
Launch an initiative to advance racial equity, end "1776 Commission"
Revoke order that aims to exclude undocumented immigrants from census
Stop construction of border wall
Revoke permit for Keystone XL pipeline
Extend protection from deportation for Liberians in U.S.
A number of other executive orders and directives were also signed, including one that will significantly benefit LGBTQ+ communities, by enforcing the prohibition on discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity.
"All of President Biden’s key executive orders — in one chart"
Indoor Dining to Reopen in Michigan February 1st
MDHHS has announced that as of February 1st, indoor dining will be allowed in Michigan, with restrictions still in place.
"Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity with up to 100 people. Tables must be six feet apart with no more than six people per table. Outdoor tents with four sides are permitted under these same rules. Bars and restaurants must close by 10 p.m. Additionally, contact information must be collected from diners for contact tracing purposes."
Diners are required to wear a mask when not actively eating or drinking. MDHHS has provided a simple "Dining During COVID-19" guide.
Concessions at movie theaters, stadiums, and casinos will also be allowed, as will personal services that require mask removal and non-residential gatherings of up to 10 people from two households. The new order will be in effect from February 1st through February 21st
Feb. 1: Indoor dining guidelines
Tables of six people or less
Code of Conduct posted
Tents with four sides allowed if these rules are followed
Six feet between tables
Seated service only
10 p.m. curfew
Limit to 25% capacity and no more than 100 people
Wear mask except when eating or drinking
Collect names and numbers for exposure notification
Even with these requirements, indoor dining remains high-risk. Consider reducing your risk:
Choose takeout, delivery, or outdoor dining
Dine only with members of your household
Look for the logo: MI COVID-19 Safer Dining certified bars and restaurants have taken extra steps to make dining safer. Go to Michigan.gov/COVIDSaferDining for a list.
For more information about indoor dining, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus. Questions or concerns can be emailed to COVID19@michigan.gov.
COVID-19, Feb. 1: Gathering Guidelines
Two-household gathering (high precautions)*
Small outdoor gatherings (25 people)
Preschool through 12th grade (local district choice)
Manufacturing, construction, other work that is impossible to do remotely, including technical education
Hair salons, barber shops, other personal services
Gyms, pools, roller and ice rinks
Restaurants and bars*
Parks and outdoor recreation
Funerals (25 people)
Theaters, movie theaters, stadiums, arenas
Bingo halls, casinos, arcades
Indoor group fitness classes
Workplaces, when work can be done from home
Contact sports, except professional sports
*See DHHS guidance for safety practices.**Includes a limited number of NCAA sport
For more information about the order, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus. Questions or concerns can be emailed to COVID19@michigan.gov.
"January 22, 2021 Gatherings and Face Mask Order"
"Indoor Dining Reopens February 1; Caution and Focus on Enhanced Ventilation Recommended"
First Cases of More Infectious COVID-19 Virus Variant In Michigan
The variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 first found in the UK (as reported in our December 20 update) has now reached Michigan. The first case in the state was found in Washtenaw County last weekend. The strain appears to be at least 50% more transmissible (i.e., it spreads more easily), though there is not yet any evidence that it is more deadly or causes more severe infections. Please continue to wear a mask and maintain physical distance whenever you are around people from outside your household, wash your hands, and follow other health precautions.
"What you need to know about the more easily spread COVID-19 variant now that it’s in Michigan"
"Michigan readies for impact of new COVID-19 strain that could dominate the US by March"
National COVID-19 Response
It has been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic started and we are now finally seeing a coordinated plan being promoted by the White House. We hope that in sharing the highlighted components of this document our QM family will begin to get a sense of how the Biden administration plans to combat the crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a lot to read through; however, the documents make efforts to highlight key components to help make sense of the plan. The National Strategy for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness is organized around seven goals outlined in a 200 page document. A key first step of this strategy was the signing of an Executive Order making face coverings mandatory in federal buildings, on federal property, and during interstate travel.
The Biden administration has dedicated a page on the White House website specifically addressing the COVID-19 pandemic stating they will
Listen to science
Ensure public health decisions are informed by public health professionals
Promote trust, transparency, common purpose, and accountability in our government
The plan includes the following high-level strategies, each of which has more detail on the website:
Ensure all Americans have access to regular, reliable, and free testing.
Fix personal protective equipment (PPE) problems for good.
Provide clear, consistent, evidence-based guidance for how communities should navigate the pandemic – and the resources for schools, small businesses, and families to make it through.
Plan for the effective, equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines — because development isn’t enough if they aren’t effectively distributed.
Protect older Americans and others at high risk.
Rebuild and expand defenses to predict, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats, including those coming from China.
Implement mask mandates nationwide by working with governors and mayors and by asking the American people to do what they do best: step up in a time of crisis.
The National Strategy serves as a roadmap to get the United States public out of the pandemic. It is an actionable plan meant to be implemented across the country at the local and national level. This is an extensive document. To help our readers identify the key components of this strategy we are highlighting the seven goals, their key actions, and immediate actions. Please feel free to explore the document in full if you desire.
Restore trust with the American people
Key Actions: Establish a national COVID-19 response structure where decision-making is driven by science and equity. Conduct regular expert-led, science-based public briefings. Publicly share data around key response indicators. Engage the American people. Lead science-first public health campaigns
Immediate Actions: The President has taken immediate action to implement goal one of the National Strategy by establishing a clear, organized, COVID-19 Response structure in the federal government. Executive Order: Organizing and Mobilizing the U.S. Government to Provide a Unified And Effective Response to Combat COVID-19 and to Provide United States Leadership on Global Health and Security (January 20, 2021).
Mount a safe, effective, equitable vaccination campaign
Key Actions: Ensure the availability of safe, effective vaccines for the American public. Accelerate getting shots into arms and get vaccines to the communities that need them most. Create as many venues as needed for people to be vaccinated. Focus on hard-to-reach and high-risk populations. Fairly compensate providers, and states and local governments for the cost of administering vaccinations. Drive equity throughout the vaccination campaign and broader pandemic response. Launch a national vaccinations public education campaign. Bolster data systems and transparency for vaccinations — Monitor vaccine safety and efficacy. Surge the health care workforce to support the vaccination effort
Immediate Actions: The President has taken immediate action to implement goal two of the National Strategy by directing the initial actions necessary to convert vaccines into vaccinations, including improving allocation, distribution, tracking, and support to state governments.
Mitigate spread through expanding masking, testing, treatment, data, workforce, and clear public health standards
Key Actions: Implement masking nationwide by working with governors, mayors, and the American people. Scale and expand testing. Prioritize therapeutics and establish a comprehensive, integrated COVID-19 treatment discovery and development program. Develop actionable, evidence-based public health guidance. Expand the U.S. public health workforce and increase clinical care capacity for COVID-19. Improve data to guide the response to COVID-19
Immediate Actions: The President has taken immediate action to implement goal three of the National Strategy by implementing masking; expanding testing; improving the public health workforce; modernizing data systems for COVID-19 and future epidemics; and providing for equitable access to treatments.
Immediately expand emergency relief and exercise the Defense Production Act
Key Actions: Increase emergency funding to states and bolster the FEMA response. Fill supply shortfalls by invoking the Defense Production Act. Identify and solve urgent COVID-19 related supply gaps and strengthen the supply chain. Secure the pandemic supply chain and create a manufacturing base in the United States. Improve distribution and expand availability of critical materials.
Immediate Actions: The President has taken immediate action to implement goal four of the National Strategy by: strengthening the pandemic supply chain; directing immediate action to use all available legal authorities, including the Defense Production Act for PPE, testing supplies, and supplies for vaccination, and increasing federal reimbursement for states to 100% for National Guard personnel and emergency supplies, including for schools.
Safely Reopen Schools, Businesses, And Travel While Protecting Workers
Key Actions: Implement a national strategy to support safely reopening schools. Support safe operations at child care centers and at-home providers. Support equitable reopening in higher education. Protect workers and issue stronger worker safety guidance. Provide guidance and support to safely open businesses. Promote safe travel
Immediate actions: The President has taken immediate action to implement goal five of the National Strategy by directing immediate steps to support the safe operation of schools, businesses, and travel by giving schools the tools and resources to reopen, supporting childcare, supporting businesses to stay open safely, and reopening travel.
Protect those most at risk and advance equity, including across racial, ethnic and rural/ urban lines
Key Actions: Establish the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. Increase data collection and reporting for high risk groups. Ensure equitable access to critical COVID-19 PPE, tests, therapies, and vaccines. Expand access to high quality health care. Expand the clinical and public health workforce, including community-based workers. Strengthen the social service safety net to address unmet basic needs. Support communities most at-risk for COVID-19
Immediate Actions: The President has taken immediate action to implement goal six of the National Strategy by directing immediate steps to identify and address COVID-19 related health inequities and to establish the White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.
Restore U.S. leadership globally and build better preparedness for future threats
Key Actions: Restore the U.S. relationship with the World Health Organization and seek to strengthen and reform it. Surge the international public health & humanitarian response. Restore U.S. leadership to the international COVID-19 response and advance global health security and diplomacy. Build better biopreparedness and expand resilience for biological threats
Immediate Actions: The President has taken immediate action to implement goal seven of the National Strategy by directing actions to re-engage with and seek to strengthen and reform the World Health Organization (WHO), restore a strong U.S. role in the global COVID-19 response, and advance global health security and international institutions to prevent, detect, and respond to future biological catastrophes.
While there is great opportunity and hope, we also remain watchful and vigilant of the new administration’s promises and commitments to end the COVID-19 pandemic. The Trump era is over, but we must continue to hold those in power accountable.
National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness (PDF):
COVID-19 Decreasing Life Expectancy in U.S., Particularly for Black and Latinx People
According to a recent publication, the number of COVID-19 deaths has been so large that overall life expectancy in the United States is expected to decrease by 1.13 years due to the pandemic. Due to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BIPOC, the researchers found that Black and Latinx populations in the U.S. face life expectancy reductions that are 3-4 times that of Whites. The expected reduction in life expectancy for Whites is 0.68 years (approximately 8 months), while it is 2.1 years for Black people and 3.05 years for Latinx people.
"Pandemic Shortens U.S. Life Expectancy, Study Concludes" https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/01/15/957209935/pandemic-shortens-u-s-life-expectancy-study-concludes
"Reductions in 2020 US life expectancy due to COVID-19 and the disproportionate impact on the Black and Latino populations" https://www.pnas.org/content/118/5/e2014746118
NYPD Sued by NY Attorney General Over Handling of BLM Protests
On January 14, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a suit against the New York Police Department (NYPD), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, and NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan for the mishandling of George Floyd protests. So far, James has collected over 1,300 complaints and 300 written statements from a public hearing on the police brutality folks have experienced since May, 2020. These incidents include use of force, unjustified arrests and detainings, and unlawful uses of pepper spray. Hospital workers and protestors have been among those targeted by the NYPD with some requiring staples and stitches after interactions with the police.
According to the city Department of Investigation, a large reason why the NYPD has resorted to violence is because they were unable to predict just how many protestors would come and how much violence would be enacted. Because of this lack of foresight, the police instead relied on poor judgment and no discipline. In response, James believes more federal supervision is warranted, but Mayor de Blasio believes that would only slow down current police reforms. James’ lawsuit joins others filed by organizations including Legal Aid and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
COVID-19 Outbreak in Michigan State Prison
Earlier this month, a state prison in Michigan located in Tittabawassee Township (between Saginaw and Midland), was reported to be in “outbreak status” of COVID-19 with 774 of the 1,387 inmates testing positive as of January 11, 2021. So far, 123 inmates have died of COVID-19 in Michigan. Prisons have continually been in the news as locations for extensive spread of COVID-19. According to the Marshall Project, 1 in 5 prisoners in the United States has had COVID-19, and Michigan is among the worst states in the nation, with 1 in 2 prisoners having been infected. For those in close quarters and poor prison living conditions, as well as limited access to healthcare, COVID-19 has been deadly. Many in public health and in health care have pushed for low-risk prisoners to be released due to the incredible risk COVID-19 poses for this vulnerable population, and while some cities have released prisoners who were there for minor offenses, many are still at risk of dying. Prisoners are people, and prison sentences are not death sentences.
U.S. Passes 400,000 COVID-19 Deaths
More than 400,000 people in the United States have now died of COVID-19. The milestone was reached on January 19th, just over a month after the nation passed 300,000 deaths (December 14th).
"US surpasses 400,000 deaths from Covid-19"
Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Immunity May Last At Least One Year
Representatives from Moderna at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference stated that immunity from the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine could last at least a year. While research is still needed on how long immunity lasts, immunity for at least a year would mean more time for more people to get revaccinated, should that be necessary. In addition, they state that the vaccine should be effective against the new, more infectious strains of the virus that causes COVID-19, however research is still needed to confirm that. It has only been about a year since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the US, and a lot of information is still being collected, but current information shows that existing vaccines approved for use in the U.S. are safe and effective.
Downtown East Lansing Outdoor Mask Order Extended
The City of East Lansing has extended the requirement to wear a mask in all outdoor public spaces downtown through February 28th. Exceptions to the requirement are made for people "seated at a table and eating or drinking" or those that cannot medically tolerate wearing a mask. The order includes "all outdoor public spaces within the boundaries of the East Lansing Downtown Development Authority (DDA)," which includes areas on and near Grand River Avenue from Hillside Court (on the west side of Valley Court Park) to Hagadorn Road. The region includes all of downtown East Lansing (the area around Albert Avenue from Abbot Road to Bailey Street) as well as the Cedar Village region (from Grand River Ave. to the Red Cedar River, from Bogue Street to Woodmere Avenue). Map: https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/DocumentCenter/View/9525/DDA-Boundary-Map-PDF
"City of East Lansing’s State of Emergency and Downtown Mask Order Extended"
Italy’s COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-Out Could Lead to Outing of Transgender Individuals
Italian activitists are concerned that the current vaccine process in the country could lead to transgender individuals being outed. When arriving to receive the vaccination, individuals are required to stand in gender-segregated lines for men and for women to gain entry to the facility. This could cause trouble for trans people who do not have documents that accurately reflect their gender identity or whose gender presentation does not align with common stereotypes and for individuals who identify as non-binary, genderqueer, agender, or genderfluid. Italy has a long and expensive process to change documents regarding gender identity, so it is out of reach for many trans people. Forcing individuals to force pick a line that may conflict with their gender identity is unsafe and a violation of privacy, and there is no medical reason to segregate vaccinations based on gender. Transgender individuals in Italy still face harassament and discrimination. Currently, the country does not have protections in either housing or employment based on gender identity. Activists are calling for de-segretating the gendered vaccination process and have made other recommendations to health officials to keep transgender and non-binary individuals safe.
CDC Updates Vaccine Administration Guidelines
In a recent update to COVID-19 vaccination guidelines, the CDC made two important changes, the first being that in “exceptional situations in which the first-dose vaccine product cannot be determined or is no longer available, any available mRNA COVID-19 vaccine may be administered.” This change is similar to that change made in the United Kingdom earlier this month. It is not clear what “exceptional situations” may include, and the CDC maintains that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not interchangeable. It is still best to keep to the same vaccine product once you are vaccinated, with Pfizer injections being 21 days apart and Moderna being 28 days apart.
The timing of injections, however, was the other significant change. The CDC guidelines now state that “if it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose.” The intention of this change has primarily been to ease the burden on those who may not have access or can’t strictly adhere to the 21 or 28 day vaccination schedule gap between doses. Dr. Fauci stated that “immunologically, I don’t think that’s going to make a big difference,” meaning that in his opinion, having a longer window of 6 weeks between doses shouldn’t affect efficacy too much, but the current data only addresses efficacy at shorter intervals. If you have access to the vaccine, you should continue to do your best to stick with the same product and timing between doses, Pfizer being 21 days and Moderna being 28 days apart.
Biden Chooses Transgender Doctor Rachel Levine as Assistant Health Secretary
This week, President Biden named Dr. Rachel Levine as his choice for assistant secretary of health. Dr. Levine is currently the Pennsylvania Health Secretary and has led the state’s coronavirus response efforts. If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Levine would become the highest appointed or elected openly transgender federal official. As assistant secretary of health, she would oversee health offices nationwide, the office of the Surgeon General, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and other key health programs. She was appointed Pennsylvania Health Secretary by the democratic governor in 2017, but has been confirmed three times by the Republican State Senate. She is still one of few transgender individuals to serve in elected or appointed positions in state government. President Biden is relying on her leadership and extensive experience to help with the country’s public health needs in the pandemic and beyond. Dr. Levine has worked to tackle the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania by increasing access to treatment and recovery. Additionally, her office has focused on health equity and she herself has focused on LGBTQIA+ equity issues. The Biden administration is anticipated to advance transgender rights more than any previous administration. Having transgender representation and leadership at a top level is important to understand lived experience and continue to remove barriers for optimal LGBTQIA+ health and wellbeing.