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New Variant of Coronavirus Emerges in the U.K.

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The British Government confirmed Wednesday that a new and potentially more infectious variant of the coronavirus was identified in South Africa, and has emerged in the United Kingdom earlier this month.

What We Know:

  • British Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced to reporters on Wednesday that a new variant of coronavirus was identified in two cases “thanks to the impressive genomic capability of the South Africans”.

“This new variant is highly concerning, because it is yet more transmissible, and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant has been discovered in the UK,” he said.

  • Differing from other mutations of the virus, this new variant is likely more contagious than previous versions of the virus. The variant, which now accounts for more than 60% of the cases in London, has 17 different mutations in its genetic code. Eight of those mutations occur in a critical part of the virus, called the spike protein, which reaches out and binds to human cells during the initial stages of infection.
  • As scientists learned more about the genetic mutation of the disease, countries around the world began closing their borders to those coming in from South Africa. Earlier this month, scientists in the United Kingdom detected the new strain of the virus, which is believed to have mutated as early as September. Health officials have now closed international travel to the U.K. and the British government has locked down much of the country, as well.
  • According to the World Health Organization, the new variant has yet been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, and Australia. Many European countries, including those mentioned, have begun to close their borders as a result.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the new coronavirus strain could be circulating in the U.S. unnoticed. Thus far, the new variants have not yet been detected within the United States. Meanwhile, countries are also re-implementing stay-at-home orders and mask mandates.
  • President Trump’s vaccine czar, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, said Monday that the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 shots should be effective against the new strain.

Individuals around the world are beginning to receive the first dose of the vaccine for the coronavirus, which is nearing a global death toll of 2 million in just one year.

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black Alerts and the host of Boss Mornings and Unmuted Nation. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

Community Alerts

COMMUNITY ALERT: Delta variant spreading vastly in Black communities, health experts say get vaccinated

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As COVID-19 infections continue to rise nationwide, health experts and local leaders are encouraging Black communities to get vaccinated.

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Black Americans account for 51% of all new COVID-19 cases and the delta variant has made up 51% of new cases in LA County in the past eight weeks. 42% of all new cases have been from members of Latinx/Hispanic communities.

Data from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Healthcare (MLKCH), one of Los Angeles’ leading medical institutions, released data on July 19 via Facebook showing that Black Americans are being hit harder by the virus than other communities.  Dr. Elaine Batchlor of the MLKCH says “The delta variant is spreading quickly and can cause more severe illness. Unfortunately, the Black community is lagging behind in COVID vaccination and as a result, is experiencing higher rates of infection and hospitalization. Let’s not allow this terrible disease to decimate our community again.”

Data from Los Angeles is just a snapshot view into how COVID-19 is spreading in our communities. Misinformation and poor availability were limiters earlier in the year. Now with rampant availability, members of Black and brown communities are still opting-out of getting the vaccine.  It’s not an option once it’s too late.

An unfortunate, but certain frustration has been rooted in confusion between the mere definition of a vaccine versus the definition of a cure.  A vaccine is defined as a substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases, prepared from the causative agent of a disease, its products, or a synthetic substitute, treated to act as an antigen without inducing the disease. A cure relieves (a person or animal) of the symptoms of a disease or condition. There is no cure to COVID-19 and a vaccine will not cure you of an illness.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading scientific voice in the US, said Sunday that the US is “going in the wrong direction” as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise, particularly among unvaccinated Americans.

“If you look at the inflection of the curve of new cases and, as you said in the run-in to this interview, that it is among the unvaccinated. And since we have 50% of the country is not fully vaccinated, that’s a problem,” Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” when asked about a model projecting a worst case scenario of 4,000 deaths a day in the US from Covid-19, if vaccination rates do not improve.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updates COVID-19 guidance regularly.  Black News Alerts will continue to publish pertinent information for our community and updates regarding outbreaks and support systems available in each community.

See COVID-19 Facts and Myths

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Community Alerts are issued by the Black News Alerts editorial and management team after any public, social or health issue is deemed critical information for our community. A full list of community alerts is available at blackness alerts.com. Geographical alerts may be issued for subscribers of the Black News Alerts mobile app.

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Inclusion of Minimum Wage Increase in COVID Relief Bill Denied

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Parliamentarian says the $15 hourly minimum wage increase is not allowed in the Covid Relief Bill.

What We Know:

  • On Thursday, February 25, the Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, denied the proposed Covid Relief Bill’s inclusion of a minimum wage increase. This bill was not compliant with the governing rules budget, and the process enabled Democrats to pass the rescue package without the GOP votes. Democrats considered raising the federal minimum wage a priority.
  • The minimum wage is supposed to be a living wage, but that is not the case. Nearly half of all private-sector workers do not have earned sick time, according to oxfamamerica.org. The hourly rate hasn’t kept up with the cost of living since the late 1960s. The earnings of a minimum-wage worker with a family of four fall well below the poverty line, according to investopedia.com.
  • Many struggling Americans claimed Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) relief, which helps low-to-moderate-income workers get a tax break. The amount of credit may change if children, dependents, or the disabled meet the criteria. If this bill passes, then the EITC can expand. The number of jobs lost more than doubles the numbers seen in the 2007-2009 Great Recession, when 8.7 million Americans lost their jobs, according to cidrap.umn.edu.
  • The advantages of increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 would be taking tax deductions away from large profitable corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour. It will lift almost 1 million people out of poverty, and raise the pay floor.

Raising the federal minimum wage would hopefully provide more financial security for many of those still in a financial bondage position. 

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Community Alerts

Florida Sheriff Uses Grades and Abuse Histories to Label Schoolchildren Potential Criminals

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The Pasco Sheriff’s Office (Pasco County, FL) reportedly keeps a list of students they think could “fall into a life of crime” based on their history of abuse and violence or whether the student has gotten bad grades in school, according to the office’s internal intelligence manual, first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

What We Know:

  • The list is assembled using sensitive data from several middle and high schools. Using the school district data, they are able to see which children are struggling academically, racking up absences, or are sent to the office for disciplinary purposes. Furthermore, records from the State Department of Children and Families flag kids who have witnessed household violence or experienced it themselves.
  • There are currently four hundred and twenty students on the list. According to the Sheriff’s office manual, these students are more likely to become criminals due to the factors included in the criteria.
  • According to several statements released by the Sheriff’s Office, the list is used only to help the deputies assigned to middle and high schools offer “mentorship” and “resources” to students. Specifically, the statements explained a program where school resource officers take children fishing and another where they give clothes to kids in need.
  • The process of identifying “at-risk students” is mainly executed in secret. The Sheriff’s Office does not advise the kids or their parents about the designation on the list. In an interview, school superintendent Kurt Browning said he had no knowledge of such a list, along with the principals of two Pasco high schools.
  • Law enforcement experts, including some that focus on student privacy issues, questioned the justification for the Sheriff’s Office digging through children’s education and welfare records. They consider the program highly unusual and claim it was a “clear misuse of children’s confidential information that stretched the limits of the law.”

The Department of Children and Families has yet to answer whether or not it knew its data was being used for such purpose. Additionally, Sheriff Chris Nocco declined requests to be interviewed, and the agency refused to make anyone from the intelligence-led policing or school resourcing divisions available for questions.

(more…)

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