6 Women of Asian Descent Murdered in Atlanta Spa Shooting Spree that Claimed 8 Lives

On Tuesday, Robert Long, a 21 year old white man, went on a murdering spree to three massage parlors in the Atlanta area. Long targeted Young’s Asian Massage, killing two individuals and injuring three more, and two individuals who were injured later died in hospital care. An hour later, he fatally shot three women at Gold’s Spa before moving across the street to Aroma Therapy Spa where another woman was murdered. 

The names of those who were murdered or injured were released later in the week:

Long was arrested later Tuesday evening about 150 miles south of Atlanta. He admitted to the murders, which he and his attorney’s maintain was not a racially motivated murdering spree, but due to his sex addiction, claiming he needed to eliminate temptation. Asian, Pacific Islander, and Asian-American women have long been depicted as docile, submissive, and exoctic in popular culture, which leads to individuals being fetishized and hypersexualized. This creates a unique intersection of racism and misogyny, that leaves Asian, Pacific Islander and Asian-American women especially vulnerable to violence and thought of as disposable. This is especially true for massage parlor workers and sex workers, some who may be migrants and afraid of reporting incidents in fear of being deported. This murder spree is also yet another instance of the increased amounts of violence towards Asian, Pacific Islander, and Asian-American individuals since the start of the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks reports of violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, reports that there have been 3,795 reported hate incidents between March 19, 2020 and  February 28, 2021. While the shooter may claim this was not racially motivated, it is nearly impossible to untangle the deeply rooted racism and misogyny in the United States against Asian, Pacific Islander, and Asian-American women that has led to hyerpsexualization and violence. 

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COVID-19 Cases Rising in Michigan, but Declining in the U.S. Overall

While cases of COVID-19 are decreasing in most states, they are rising in Michigan. Michigan now has the highest infection rate and fourth-highest daily case rate of COVID-19 in the country, and the numbers have been rising for the past month. Michigan also has the second-most cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which is significantly more infectious and more deadly than the original strain of the virus that causes COVID-19, and a case of the variant was confirmed at MSU last week. While increasing vaccination rates are a cause for celebration, it is clear that we cannot be less vigilant yet. Wear a mask (double-mask, if possible), physically distance from those outside your household unless everyone has been fully vaccinated, wash your hands, and remember that vaccines aren't immediately effective (your body takes weeks to build up immunity after receiving a vaccine).

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MDHHS Announces New Rules for School Sports Amid COVID-19 Outbreaks

MDHHS announced new rules for youth athletes on Friday, requiring middle and high school athletes to get a COVID-19 antigen test before games and practices starting on April 2. MDHHS will reportedly provide the tests for free. According to Whitmer, "This is important because we've seen so many outbreaks associated with sports teams, and we want to identify any cases as soon as possible and prevent spread." In the updated Gatherings and Face Masks Order, MDHHS noted that "In the past four weeks, spread of COVID-19 has risen 105% amongst persons aged 10-19. As of March 11, local health departments had reported 162 new and ongoing outbreaks among K-12 schools, with 54 of those outbreaks reported in the week prior. Additionally, there are 135 identified outbreaks among minors participating in school and club sports. The social activities surrounding sports, such as team meals and parties, may be a major factor in this spread. To promote the continued safe operation of in-person schools, additional mitigation measures related to youth sports activities are warranted."

Sports-related outbreaks have been issues for multiple Lansing-area schools. One boy's high school basketball game between Okemos and Grand Ledge has been linked to at least 49 cases of the more infectious COVID-19 variant first identified in the UK (B.1.1.7), which resulted in both schools having to quarantine their teams. East Lansing also had to quarantine its boy's basketball team after a player tested positive.

In addition to the new rules for youth athletes, the updated MDHHS order allows outdoor stadiums to go up to 20% capacity, as long as certain rules are followed. Details can be found in the MDHHS "Enhanced Outdoor Stadium and Arena Guidance" document. 

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Poll Finds Little Difference In Vaccine Hesitancy Based on Race, but Major Differences Based on Political Affiliation

A recent survey of 1,127 adults conducted earlier this month by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist suggested that there was little difference in the percentage of Black and White people in the U.S. reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccine, with 25% of Black individuals stating they would not get the vaccine and 28% of White individuals stating the same. While hesitancy may be similar, if not potentially slightly lower in Black communities, vaccine access has definitely not been equitable across race and ethnicity. In addition, the survey, while it does not show significant vaccine reluctance based on racial differences, showed significant differences based on political differences, with 49% of Republican men stating they would not get the vaccine as opposed to 6% of Democratic men, and 47% of Trump supporters stating they would not get the vaccine as opposed to 10% of Biden supporters. These results are similar to other surveys conducted, showing that there is still a lot of work that may need to be done to reduce vaccine hesitancy. In addition, equitable access to the vaccine is of the utmost importance, especially for our BIPOC communities which have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. Surveys like this show that there does not appear to be any  more or less hesitancy in these communities and thus, hesitancy is not a valid excuse for why vaccine access has been inequitable.  

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Is Herd Immunity Possible with a Large Vaccine-Hesitant Population?

A recent article raised an important question about vaccinations: Is herd immunity possible when so many people are vaccine-hesitant or have refused the vaccine? While this is an important question, there are unfortunately many other factors that may play into why herd immunity may be difficult and even impossible to achieve. Early estimates stated that about 60-70% of our population needed to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity, but with more transmissible strains of the virus that causes COVID-19 appearing, that has increased the needed percentage greatly. In addition, while early evidence suggests transmission decreases with vaccination, this is not guaranteed. Combined with unequal and inequitable vaccine distribution, and changes in human behavior after vaccination (e.g., engaging in riskier behaviors, like not wearing a mask, physically distancing, etc.), there are many other potential ways for COVID-19 to continue to spread and potentially further mutate. Many who are vaccine-hesitant, however, stated that the individuals they may most likely trust are their physicians. While we continue to strive to get as many individuals vaccinated as soon as possible, it is also a reminder that while vaccination efforts are occurring, other measures are still needed, including practicing proper hand hygiene, wearing masks (and doubling up if you can), socially distancing, and following any other additional public health guidelines.

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Tennessee Says Vaccinating Individuals who are Incarcerated is a P.R. Nightmare

The advisory panel in Tennessee, which decides which residents to prioritize for vaccinations, concluded that while those who are incarcerated are at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19, prioritizing them for vaccination would be a public relations nightmare. Documents released from the advisory panel meeting stated that prioritizing those who are incarcerated would lead to a lot of media inquiry. As a result, individuals who are incarcerated will be the last group to be vaccinated in the state. This comes while recognizing that leaving the population unvaccinated will lead to COVID-19 transmission in the general public. There is no timeline for when vaccines will even make it to those who are incarcerated. This is an issue that many states are facing - even though individuals who are incarcerated live in close quarters and are unable to socially distance, leading to the perfect conditions for COVID-19 to thrive. Case rates in prisons have remained higher than rates in the general public, and in Tennessee, 1 in 3 individuals who are incarcerated have tested positive for COVID-19. Some of the largest COVID-19 clusters nationwide have been in Tennessee prisons. Additionally, systemic racism in the justice system results in BIPOC people being disproportionately incarcerated. Those who are incarcerated are portrayed as undeserving because of their so-called criminality and are often an after-thought or not thought about at all. This is rooted in an extreme lack of empathy and the lack of ability to recognize humanity in all individuals - everyone deserves to be protected from COVID-19, regardless of their incarceration status. 

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San Francisco Redirects $2.2 Million from Law Enforcement to Black Trans Community

The city of San Francisco has announced that $2.2 million over two years would be given to Black trans-serving organizations to "address historic inequities for Black transgender people." The funds come from an initiative that reinvests $120 over two years from law enforcement to the city's Black community. The $2.2 million will go to The Transgender District, TGI Justice Project, TAJA's Coalition, LYRIC, and PRC, and will be used for technical assistance and capcity building for the nonprofits.

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Some With Long-Term COVID-19 Side Effects Report Improvement With Vaccination

Recently, some individuals who have been experiencing long-term COVID-19 side effects have taken to social media and other platforms to share that their long-term symptoms have resolved after receiving the vaccine. While for those individuals this is great news, it brings up a number of important questions regarding the causes of long-term COVID-19 symptoms and how vaccines would go about improving symptoms, if they in fact do. Until then, there are definitely many unanswered questions, but if data suggest the vaccine can improve symptoms for those who have suffered from COVID-19 related issues for so long, it could be added as another benefit to being vaccinated.   

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AstraZeneca Vaccine Update

More than a dozen European countries suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to concerns of harmful side effects, but several have now resumed use of it, including France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. The suspension reversal comes after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) investigated and found no definitive link between the vaccines and disorders related to blood clots and abnormal bleeding (the source of the initial concerns and reason for suspension of its use). Countries such as Sweden, Denmark, and Norway are still suspending the AstraZeneca vaccine use. Investigations are continuing, however, as two more individuals in Denmark, both healthcare workers, were found to have blood clotting disorders after receiving the vaccine, with one of them dying. These two cases are still being investigated, and the EMA is monitoring for any other severe side effects. So far, the occurrence of these disorders is no greater in those vaccinated than what would occur in the general population, and officials still confirm that the benefits greatly outweigh the risks of the vaccines, especially as COVID-19 cases are surging in some parts of Europe.   

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Louisiana Teacher Charged with Battery of Student Wearing Black Lives Matter Hoodie

A teacher in Louisiana is facing battery charges after grabbing a student wearing a Black Lives Matter hoodie. The teacher reportedly told the ninth grader to remove the hoodie, and when he refused, "grabbed and pushed him toward an office." The student has worn the hoodie to school multiple times, and said that an administrator had previously told them that wearing it would not be a problem. In a somewhat surprising move, after the student's parents contacted the school to report the incident, the school contacted the police. The district also put the teacher on paid administrative leave, and declined to comment on whether the teacher would be fired, citing it being part of an ongoing legal process.

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