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CDC MMWR Report Estimates More than Half of U.S. Population Has Had COVID-19, Including 75% of Children
In a recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), ongoing data collected from 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico looked at the proportion of the U.S. populations that has had COVID-19 infection-induced antibodies from September 2021 to February 2022. The data showed that the prevalence of those samples with antibodies had increased from 36.5% to 63.7%, suggesting that more than half of the people in the U.S. have had COVID-19 infections. Of note, the data also showed a significant increase in evidence of infection in children, and estimated that 75% of children have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The most significant increase occurred since the Omicron variant became the dominant variant. Data showed that evidence of infection was around 34% in individuals of all ages, and 45% in those 17 and under in December of 2021. By February of 2022, 58% of individuals of all ages showed evidence of prior infection and 75% in children. While prior infection may provide protection against reinfection, getting vaccinated and staying up to date is far safer. If you are able to get vaccinated and boosted, do so when you can, and continue to wear good masks and socially distance when you can to protect yourself and others.
COVID-19 Was the Third Leading Cause of Death in 2021
On Friday, the CDC released provisional mortality data for 2021, showing that COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States, being responsible for 13.3% of deaths last year. The CDC collects mortality statistics from death certificates, and generally releases final data 11 months after the end of the year, after conducting investigations into some causes of death and processing data. Provisional data, which hasn't yet gone through final review, gives an early estimate. According to the provisional data, 3,458,697 people died in the U.S. in 2021. The top four causes of death were heart disease (693,021 deaths), cancer (604,553 deaths), COVID-19 (415,399 deaths), and unintentional injuries (219,487 deaths). The overall age-adjusted death rate also increased by 0.7% from 2020 to 2021.
"Provisional Mortality Data — United States, 2021"
"CDC reports examine U.S. Death Rates for 2021"
MDHHS Urges COVID-19 Vaccines and Plans as Cases Expected to Rise
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a reminder to Michigan residents to get vaccinated and booster, and to have a COVID-19 plan, as cases are expected to rise sharply in May.
Make a COVID-19 Plan
Make a plan for vaccination or learn if you are eligible for boosters.
Ages 5 and older can get vaccinated.
Ages 12 and older can get the booster.
Ages 50 and older, or 12 and older and moderately to severely immunocompromised, can schedule a second booster.
Learn more about vaccines and whether you're up-to-date at Michigan.gov/COVIDVaccine.
Keep a supply of well-fitting masks.
Masks are helpful tools to reduce COVID-19 transmission, especially if:
You are unwell or test positive for COVID-19.
You have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
You are concerned about the risk of transmission in a particular setting. Respect that others may have a risk different than yours.
Learn more about masking at Michigan.gov/MaskUp.
Keep a supply of over-the-counter COVID-19 tests.
Tests are useful for early detection of COVID-19, especially if:
You have symptoms of or have been exposed to COVID-19.
You are traveling or will be attending a large or unmasked Gathering. Test before and after attending large events.
Over-the-counter tests are available at libraries and schools through MIbackpack, also through federal distribution programs.
Learn more about COVID-19 testing at Michigan.gov/COVIDTest.
Learn if you're eligible for COVID-19 therapeutics.
Talk to a primary care provider about whether you are eligible for preventative antibodies or for COVID-19 antiviral treatment if you become infected.
Learn more about COVID-19 therapeutics at Michigan.gov/COVIDTherapy.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
Visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus for current COVID-19 information.
"MDHHS reminds Michigan residents to test get vaccinated and boosted as COVID-19 cases expected to rise through May"
"MDHHS encourages vaccines, booster shots as COVID-19 cases increase "
Michigan Man Charged with Federal Hate Crimes
[Content Warning: Racist Language and Threats]
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that a 61-year-old retired optometrist from Saginaw, Michigan had been charged with federal hate crimes. The man allegedly called nine Starbucks stores (located in Saginaw, Ann Arbor, Flint, Bay City, Birch Run, Allen Park, and Oak Park) in June of 2020, and told whichever employee answered "Tell all the Starbucks workers wearing BLM shirts that the only good [N-word] is a dead [N-word]," "Tell the employees working there wearing the Black Lives Matter shirts — especially the white people — that the only good [N-word] is a dead [N-word]," or a variation on the same message. In at least one case, he allegedly added "I'm gonna go out and lynch me a [N-word]." He allegedly made the calls two days after Starbucks announced that it was providing Black Lives Matter t-shirts to employees who wanted to wear them at work.
In addition, he allegedly left nooses in the parking lots of Kroger and Walmart stores in Saginaw, one inside a 7-Eleven's beverage cooler, and one in a truck belonging to a Black man that was parked in a driveway in Saginaw. A handwritten note was attached to each noose, reading "An accessory to be worn with your 'BLM' t-shirt. Happy protesting!"
"Michigan Man Charged with Hate Crimes for Attempting to Intimidate Protesters from Supporting Black Lives Matter"
"Feds: Saginaw optometrist called 9 Starbucks stores, threatened BLM supporters"
Racism within Minneapolis Police Department
A new report from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights showed that there were patterns of racism within the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) that violate the Minnesota Human Rights Act. This comes after a two-year investigation that started after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, revewing 10 years of data. After reviewing body cam footage, discipline records, and talking with community members and officers, the investigators found plenty of racist and misogynistic slurs by officers that were used against community members and even colleagues. The report also showed that severe force was more likely to be used on Black individuals than white individuals in similar situations and that treatment was drastically different toward different racial groups, and that the MPD’s approach “emphasizes aggression” that “results in unnecessary escalation and/or excessive force during encounters.” MPD officers were even found to have used fake social media accounts to pose as Black community members and criticize NAACP members and city officials. The culture of the police department is racist and misogynistic, which in turns undermines the criminal justice system. This report does not come as a surprise to Black community members who have been speaking out against the racist treatment by the Minneapolis Police Department for years. The Police Department has made slight reforms in the past two years, such as banning chokeholds but not enough has been done to create transformational change. The United States Justice Department is also investigating the department for discrimination and unlawful policing.
Biden Administration Statement on Increasing COVID-19 Treatments Access
On April 26, the Biden administration released as statement on how they would increase access to COVID-19 treatments, including:
Nearly doubling the number of places oral antivirals are available in the coming weeks.
Launching a new effort to stand up federally-supported Test-to-Treat sites. These sites will be able to test and allow individuals to be assessed by a medical provider as well as receive COVID-19 treatment if indicated. A link to test-to-treat sites can be found here.
Supporting medical providers with more guidance and tools to understand and prescribe treatments. Treatment guidelines from the CDC continue to be shared in health advisories such as the one linked in the White House statement here.
Communicating to the U.S. population that safe, effective treatments are widely available.
Overall, this statement intends to highlight available COVID-19 treatments, particularly Paxlovid, and ensure that it becomes more accessible. It is important to note that there is still a need for preventative measures to prevent COVID-19 infection such as staying up to date on vaccinations, wearing masks, and socially distancing when possible and when you feel is best for you to best protect yourselves and others.
In the United States, disproportionate environmental impacts often fall on BIPOC communities. A new study done in California looked at pollution rates pre- and post-pandemic as a way to investigate systemic and environmental racism. The results showed that particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide that is produced primarily by transportation and is linked to regional economic activity declined at a higher rate in Latinx and Asian communities than in white communities. This held true even in lower-income, mostly Latinx communities, who drove more than wealthier communities. While Asian communities tend to be higher income, they still showed a similar decline in pollution rates, which supports that systemic racism is a root cause of disparate pollution rates, in which the pollution generated by regional economic activity has greater harmful effects on certain racial and ethnic groups. The researchers concluded that these pollution rates are not due to local conditions.
Here in Michigan, the state has released an app, the Michigan Environmental Justice Mapping and Screening Tool, that helps community members to see how much pollution is in their neighborhood. This is part of Governor Whitmer’s campaign promise to attend to environmental issues. Along with the app, Governor Whitmer has established an environmental justice advisory board. Activists would like the app to be used to influence permitting processes and to stop potentially harmful projects, but the state says that's not the intended use currently. While this is a step in making information more transparent, it does not get to the root cause of the issues to make steps towards environmental justice. Environmental racism impacts the most vulnerable communities who deserve a safe and healthy living environment just as much as everyone else.
Black Woman Jailed for Illegally Registering to Vote Won't Be Charged Again
On April 23rd, prosecutors announced that they will no longer pursue charges against a Black woman who was jailed for attempting to register to vote, but who was released in February to face a new trial after new evidence came to light.
Last year, Pamela Moses, a Black woman in Tennessee, was convicted for submitting paperwork in 2019 that said she was eligible to vote, and she spent nearly three months in prison as a result. She was ineligible to vote because, in Tennessee, people on felony probation are not eligible to vote. She stated that she believed her probation had expired because a probation officer had signed a certificate saying that it had ended and that she was eligible to vote. Prosecutors claimed that she knew was ineligible and that she had tricked the probation officer into signing the certificate. Reporters at The Guardian, however, uncovered evidence that officials at the Tennessee Department of Corrections had investigated the incorrect certificate two days after it was signed, and found that Moses had not tricked the officer, but that the officer had instead made a good-faith error. The Department of Corrections never provided that information, and the judge and jury were therefore unaware of it, leading to them convicting her. The judge in the case even yelled at Moses' lawyer during sentencing and said that she had tricked the probation officer, then sentenced her to six year in custody. As a result of the new evidence coming to light in February, the judge ordered a new trial, and she was released from prison.
A week ago, the Shelby County district attorney announced that Moses would no longer be tried "in the interest of judicial economy," and that the 82 days she already spent in jail was "sufficient."
"A woman charged with illegal voter registration won't be prosecuted in 2nd trial"
Head of MSU Native American Institute, Suing Over Discrimination, Resigns
On Wednesday, Christine Poitra, the Interim Director of the Michigan State University Native American Institute, resigned from her position, effective May 24th.
As reported in the Lansing State Journal, she wrote in her resignation email to her bosses:
"By resigning, I am freed from this deeply dysfunctional situation. No more: stalking; veiled threats; filthy texts; ableist slurs; racial epithets; cleaning the sexual lubricants; calculated inaction; being repeatedly intimidated by my white and male supervisor telling me that my unit (staffed with Native and Black women) is a 'dead office'; gaslighting; deliberate understaffing; grossly inequitable pay; calculated exclusion from college-level resources, information and support; reduced budget; damage to my reputation; missed holidays; and illnesses from the stress of navigating this hostile environment."
In January, Potra federal lawsuit against MSU for its role in perpetuating and failing to address discrimination and harassment against her, as well as for retaliating against her. Poitra is Latina and a first-generation descendant of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Poitra's former supervisor, John Norder, was reported to the institution's Office of Institutional Equity in 2018 for his sexual harassment of her. In addition to sexual harassment, Norder also made inappropriate comments about Poitra's disability and weight. While the university has a policy stating that investigations should take no longer than 120 days, the office took over 540 days to complete its investigation. Despite being found to have violated the school's Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy, he was only suspended for one month, and continues to work at MSU.
Poitra has been on family medical leave since November, dealing with the mental and physical impacts of the discrimination.
"MSU director of Native American Institute resigns, calls time there 'deeply dysfunctional'"
"Director of MSU's Native American Institute sues university for harassment, discrimination"