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Your Wednesday Update: Street Medics Tend to Protesters' Wounds, COVID-19; Casinos Open, Give Kids the World Closes; International Students Worry About The Future

Photo: Amy Humphries
Photo: Amy Humphries

'Street medics' fight COVID-19 and tend to protesters' wounds

LJ Dawson, NPR

Amid clouds of choking tear gas, booming flash-bang grenades and other "riot control agents," volunteer medics in Denver plunged into street protests in recent weeks to help the injured — sometimes rushing to the front lines as soon as their hospital shifts ended.

Known as "street medics," these unorthodox teams of nursing students, veterinarians, doctors, trauma surgeons, security guards, ski patrollers, nurses, wilderness EMTs and off-the-clock ambulance workers poured water — not milk — into the eyes of tear-gassed protesters. They stanched bleeding wounds and plucked disoriented teenagers from clouds of gas, entering dangerous corners where on-duty emergency health responders may fear to go.

Many are medical professionals who see parallels between the front lines of COVID-19, where they confront stark racial imbalances among those stricken by the coronavirus, and what they see as racialized police brutality.

So, donning cloth masks to protect against the virus, plus helmets, makeshift shields and other gear to guard against rubber bullets, projectiles and tear gas, the volunteer medics organized themselves into a web of first responders to care for people on the streets.

They showed up early, set up first-aid stations, established transportation networks and covered their arms, helmets and backpacks with crosses made of red duct tape, to signify that they were medics. Some stayed late into the night, past curfews, until every protester had left.

Iris Butler, a 21-year-old certified nursing assistant who works in a nursing home, decided to offer her skills after seeing a man injured by a rubber bullet on her first night at the Denver protests. She showed up as a medic every night thereafter. She didn't see it as a choice.

"I am working full time and basically being at the protest after getting straight off of work," says Butler, who is black. That's tiring, she says, but so is being a black woman in America.

After going out as a medic on her own, she soon met other volunteers. Together they used text-message chains to organize their efforts. One night, she responded to a man who had been shot with a rubber bullet in the chest; she says his torso had turned blue and purple from the impact. She also provided aid after a shooting near the protest left someone in critical condition.

Read the full article here.

Why forecasters can't make up their mind about Africa and the coronavirus

Eyder Peralta, NPR

When the new coronavirus started spreading around the world, there were dire warnings about what would happen when it hit African countries.

An earlier U.N. estimate predicted up to 3.3 million deaths in Africa, if no interventions were put in place. Top epidemiologists predicted panic, saying the death rate would be higher than Europe or China. But things have so far turned out differently in sub-Saharan Africa.

Now, there are a range of predictions – from pessimistic to guardedly optimistic.

"We are not seeing that rapid increase in the number of cases as we had actually predicted," says Benson Droti, an epidemiologist with the World Health Organization's Regional Office for Africa.

About three months since Africa recorded its first case of COVID-19, there have been fewer recorded deaths and cases than any other region in the world. According to the Africa CDC, the continent has reported nearly 200,000 cases and 5,334 deaths.

Droti and his colleagues at WHO wanted to take a new look at what was happening on the Continent, so they developed a new model last month for what the future might look like.

Read thefull article here.

Florida resort for ill children closing because of virus

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A nonprofit Florida resort that fulfills the wishes of critically ill children is shutting its doors for the time being because of coronavirus concerns.

Give Kids the World Village announced Tuesday that it was temporarily laying off most of its staff at the end of the month.

A small team of workers will remain to maintain the facilities and prepare for an eventual reopening. The 84-acre resort is located not far from Walt Disney World.

It provides a week-long, cost-free vacation to children with critical illnesses and their families.

The resort has hosted 175,000 families over three decades.

South Florida casino set for reopening after virus closure

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Florida says it will open its doors later this week for the first time since March, when coronavirus concerns forced it to close.

The casino resort in Hollywood, Florida, will open Friday with requirements that visitors wear face masks and get temperature checks upon entering.

Some table games are being retrofitted with plexiglass shields and gaming chips will be sprayed with a sanitizing solution. Capacity will be limited to 50%, and guests and workers are expected to maintain social distancing.

The resort says all of its properties have been equipped with air purification and disinfecting systems.

Thousands of international students in Florida are facing uncertainty about their immigration status amid the pandemic

Gina Gordan, WFSU Foreign students are usually required to take a certain amount of in-person classes to meet visa requirements. But universities had to shift classes online through the summer, and many plan to keep some courses online when campuses reopen in the fall. In March, the Department of Homeland Security relaxed the rules to allow students to continue their studies remotely, but the federal exception has not been extended to the fall. Plus, global travel restrictions could make it difficult for international students to obtain visas or book flights to the U.S. in time to start the fall semester.

Major League Soccer is set to resume its season with a tournament starting July 8 in Orlando

Abe Aboraya, WMFE

Teams could start arriving as soon as June 24th to begin practice for what’s being called the “MLS is Back” tournament.

The league’s 26 teams will play a total of 54 games through August 11 at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber says he is confident that the rest of the 2020 season will be played in home markets across the country. 

“I do believe we’ll get back to our markets, I think all our fans should expect that to happen. When that will happen is uncertain. And whether or not we have any markets with fans is also uncertain," Garber said.

Major League Soccer suspended play on March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak after its teams had played just two games. 

Separately, the NBA is expected to play a 22-team season at the Disney campus in late July.

Are you a mask maker who has responded to the pandemic with innovation and creativity? If so, the College of Central Florida's Webber Center wants to hear from you.

Joe Byrnes, WMFE

The college has put out a call for entries for an exhibit with the working title "Masks and Makers" that will open in mid-August.

Fine arts professor Tyrus Clutter says he saw artists being creative with 3-D printers and plexiglass.

"Then seeing that a lot of artists and designers were doing kind of innovative things, not just your normal mask, either by the design or coming up with new or innovative designs because they wanted to help," Clutter said.

But Clutter says the exhibit is open to much more than that - including masks that make fashion statements or political ones.

To answer the call, artists should send photos and other information via email to the gallery coordinator. Visit wmfe.org for details.

Protesting? Here's how to help keep your family safe from COVID-19 when you go home

Maria Godoy, NPR

Protesting during a pandemic likely leaves participants with at least two questions: Did I get infected? And might I be putting others at risk?

Given that COVID-19 has an incubation time of up to two weeks, experts say it will take a couple of weeks before the impact of the protests on community transmission is known. But in the meantime, there are critical steps you can take to minimize the risks to yourself and those you live with.

Those steps should begin before you even head out, says Dr. Cassandra Pierre, an infectious disease specialist at Boston Medical Center and assistant professor at the Boston University School of Medicine.

If you live with others, she says, "you really have to do a risk calculation about who you're living with, who you care for, what your job might be." That's because it's hard to keep a safe distance in large crowds, and often protests involve other high-risk activities like singing and chanting, which can spread the virus. If your household includes vulnerable people, such as an elderly grandparent or someone who is immunocompromised, she says, consider an alternate form of protest – like a car caravan.

Like many public health experts, including those at the World Health Organization, Pierre, who is African American, says she thinks the demonstrations are necessary, even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

"COVID has fed off the pandemic of racism," she says, noting that the coronavirus has taken adisproportionate toll on black and brown communities. But she says, even so, that those who choose to demonstrate need to realize that "it's not just your life that you're potentially jeopardizing."

If you've been at a protest recently, or still are going out, here's how to protect those you live with.

Read her suggestions here.

Kids and COVID-19; mixed messages on asymptomatic spread

Coronavirus Daily, NPR

George Floyd's killing by police sparked protests around the world. Because of the coronavirus, attendance at Floyd's Houston funeral was limited and mourners were encouraged to wear masks.

People of color have been hit hard by the coronavirus because of risk factors including chronic health conditions and less access to health care. Experts say scientists need better data on who's getting sick and public health officials need to communicate better with communities of color.

A top official from the World Health Organization walked back a statement Monday in which she said transmission from asymptomatic carriers of the virus is "very rare."

A small but growing number of kids have a dangerous reaction to coronavirus called multi-inflammatory syndrome, which can cause inflamed hearts, lungs and other organs.

Plus, one man built an art piece he calls a 'Doorway To Imagination' in his social distancing-created free time.

NASCAR set to allow fans back in Florida, Alabama

The Associated Press

NASCAR will allow a limited number of fans to return to races later this month amid the pandemic. The plan for Homestead-Miami Speedway this Sunday is to allow up to 1,000 South Florida service members to attend the Cup Series race.

Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama will permit up to 5,000 guests in the frontstretch grandstands for the June 21 race.

NASCAR says all fans will be screened before entering, required to wear face coverings, mandated to stay six feet apart from each other and will not have access to the infield.

For kids stuck at home during the pandemic, free art supplies from FIU's Frost Museum

Jessica Bakeman, WLRN
During a typical year, Florida International University’s art museum would bring in students from two Miami-Dade elementary schools for some hands-on art education. The coronavirus got in the way this spring. So the museum brought art directly to the kids instead. A teacher bangs a wooden spoon on the back of a saucepan. That, plus honking horns and the standard graduations songs — Pomp and Circumstance and Vitamin C’s 1999 hit — are the soundtrack of this drive-through celebration. “We were both crying, like the entire time. And then we parked across the street just to be able to see all the other cars and be able to wave. And if we saw anyone that we recognized, we started honking.” Ivania Delgado brought her daughter to this coronavirus-style drive-through graduation last week — but Maya’s not a high school senior. “I spent, like, a lot of time in that school.” About half her life so far. Maya Cardona is 10 years old — and just finished fifth grade at Sweetwater Elementary in Miami-Dade County. “So I really love that school. And I'm glad I had the opportunity to say goodbye before I went on to middle school.” Maya says the graduation was extra special because her class of 115 students got bags full of free art supplies from Florida International University’s Frost Art Museum. “I’m planning to, like, draw with the art supplies.” Miriam Machado lists the contents of the take-home packages. She’s director of education at the Frost Museum. “A little bit of bling. You know, things to stick on.” The museum works with kids from Sweetwater and also Finlay Elementary - both are near the university’s main campus. And both are Title I schools, which means most students qualify for free or discounted lunch. Machado says the families can’t always afford art supplies, especially since the pandemic has left so many unemployed. A parent of one of the Finlay students sent Machado a note thanking her for the art packages. The mom wrote: “En medio de una crisis que alguien se acuerde de tu pequeño vale más que mil lingotes de oro.” “In the middle of a crisis, for someone to remember your little one is worth more than a thousand gold bars.”

Modelers suggest pandemic lockdowns saved millions from dying of COVID-19

Jason Beaubien, NPR Two new papers published in the journal  Nature say that lockdowns put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus were highly effective, prevented tens of millions of infections and saved millions of lives. "Our estimates show that lockdowns had a really dramatic effect in reducing transmission," says  Samir Bhatt, a senior lecturer at the Imperial College London's School of Public Health, who worked on  one of the papers published in Nature. Bhatt's team analyzed infection and death rates in 11 European nations through May 4. They estimate that an additional 3.1 million people in those countries would have died if lockdowns had not been put in place. "Without them we believe the toll would have been huge," Bhatt says. In addition to the paper from Bhatt and his colleagues,  Nature also published a  separate study from the  Global Policy Lab at the University of California, Berkeley. That study analyzed lockdowns in China, South Korea, Iran, France, Italy and the United States. It found that the lockdowns in those six countries averted 62 million confirmed cases. Read the full article here.

U.N. Chief: Security Council gridlock blocks effective coronavirus response

Ari Shapiro, NPR The coronavirus pandemic set a new record this weekend: More than 136,000 new cases around the world were reported on Sunday,  the highest number in a single day. The statistic comes from the United Nations, the global body the world often turns to in a crisis. "If the pandemic represents something, it is a demonstration of our fragility. Something that you can only see in a microscope has put us on our knees," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said during an interview with  All Things Considered. "And that humility should lead us to solidarity and unity." Instead, he says, there was no unity in the strategy to fight the pandemic. "Each country went its own way, with the epicenter moving from country to country." The U.N. can distribute aid and help governments shape their coronavirus responses. But it has limited tools to force a country to, say, follow guidelines from the World Health Organization, a U.N. agency. And gridlock in the U.N. Security Council — which can pass enforceable resolutions — has stalled any real action.

Federal dollars for South Florida in jeopardy due to low census self-response rate

Veronica Zaragovia, WLRN
The 2020 Census is underway. And so far the self-response rate in Florida is at just under 60 percent. Hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions all stand to lose federal dollars if people don’t get counted. Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich says she’s especially worried because of hurricane season and the COVID-19 pandemic. "We’re using methods that we never thought about using before this happened. One of them are the feeding programs. We have tremendous numbers of feeding programs all across the county," Rich said. Meals come with postcards that explain how to take the survey. In South Florida, Monroe County has the lowest response rate, followed by Miami-Dade, Broward and then Palm Beach. The Census Bureau stops counting in late October.

University of South Florida board approves reopening plan

Mark Schreiner, WUSF

The University of South Florida Board of Trustees has approved a plan to reopen in the fall semester.
Classes will be done in person, online, and a hybrid of the two. But classes of one hundred students or more will have to be completely online. Donna Petersen, Dean of the USF College of Public Health, says all students from outside Florida, as well as those from state counties with high rates of coronavirus, will need to be tested within the two weeks before returning to campus. "We're also asking any student who is intending to live in a residence hall on either the Tampa or St. Petersburg campuses to also be tested within two weeks before coming back to campus and we will take a ten percent sample of everyone else," Petersen said. Once classes reopen, a random sample of ten percent of students, faculty, and staff will be tested on a weekly basis. The USF plan needs to be submitted to the Florida Board of Governors by Friday - and will be formally presented to the governors June 23.

America's independent music venues could close soon due to coronavirus

Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR Across the country, music venues remain closed due to the pandemic — and according to a new survey, 90 percent of independent venue owners, promoters and bookers say that they will have to close permanently within the next few months, if they can't get an infusion of targeted government funding. The  survey of nearly 2,000 music professionals was conducted by the National Independent Venue Association ( NIVA), a recently established advocacy group for music venue owners and promoters. Its members include The Bowery Ballroom in New York City, Troubador in Los Angeles, 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. and Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. NIVA members were asked seven weeks ago if their businesses could remain open for six months without governmental assistance that went beyond the  Payment Protection Program. The association points out that at this point, most musicians make the bulk of their income through live performances and touring — which they can't do for the foreseeable future. The entertainment business is scheduled to be among the very last industries to reopen across the country, and many experts and industry leaders are now assuming that they won't be able to reopen before  2021. Even if venues were allowed to reopen sooner, public health restrictions like severely limited audience capacity would make their businesses economically unviable, the venue owners and promoters say. As a result, NIVA is looking to Congress to pass specific relief funding that would address their members' needs. In early April, the concert industry trade publication  Pollstar estimated nearly $9 billion in industry losses due to coronavirus cancellations for 2020; on Monday, the advocacy group Americans for the Arts released its most recent impact findings, saying that  62 percent of American artists (across all disciplines) are now unemployed. Whenever people eventually do go back out to hear live music, smaller clubs, festivals and niche artists may already be gone. Within the music community, performers and industry advocates have been expressing fear that the remaining music venues will be those owned and controlled by massive entities like Live Nation and AEG Presents. (On Monday, AEG Presents  announced that it was taking significant steps to cut costs, including layoffs, furloughs and salary reductions.) A number of prominent musicians are publicly supporting the association's quest for federal relief, including Billy Joel, Lady Gaga, Kacey Musgraves and Willie Nelson.

Florida's rising COVID-19 numbers: What do they mean?

Greg Allen, NPR Over the last week, Florida has seen rising numbers of new COVID-19 cases. Since last Tuesday, the number of people who tested positive for the coronavirus totaled more than 1,000 each day. Saturday's total of 1,426 positive tests was the most since early April. A similar rise in new cases is happening in other states, including North Carolina, Texas and California. It's leading to worries that as businesses reopen and stay-at-home orders are lifted, relaxed guidelines could lead to new outbreaks and even a second wave of infections. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis downplayed concerns that the rising numbers are related to the state's reopening. He said he believes more people are turning up positive for the coronavirus because more people are being tested. "We've now, in the last two weeks averaged 30,000 test results a day in the state of Florida. If you go back to the ... beginning of April, we weren't even doing 10,000 test results a day." DeSantis pointed to the state's low rate of positive tests. In Miami-Dade County, the area in Florida hardest hit by the pandemic, the positive rate is around 5% now, much lower than it was in April, when it was more than 10%. With widespread testing now available for anyone who wants it, DeSantis said many people without symptoms are being found positive for the coronavirus. "These are people, a lot of them don't even think they're necessarily sick, but (testing) is there so they go," he said. "And granted, 98% of them are negative, but you do find cases." Mary Jo Trepka, a professor of epidemiology at Florida International University, agrees that increased testing is a major factor in the rising numbers. "It's easier to get testing now. Before, the people very, very sick in the hospital were being tested, but not necessarily people who were more mildly ill," she said. Also more positive cases are being identified through contact tracing, Trepka said. "And so you're more likely to pick up those people who are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic," she said. Areas of concern, DeSantis said, are agriculture communities in South Florida, where workers live in close quarters. "They've been going and aggressively testing all those areas," DeSantis said. Prisons are another area where outbreaks are being monitored and contained. DeSantis said by the end of the week, every resident and worker in the state's nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will have been tested for the coronavirus. But those entities remain a pandemic hot spot. The infection rate among residents of long-term care facilities is significantly higher than it is for other people tested in Florida. Trepka said that at least in Miami-Dade she is seeing an impact from the opening of businesses and a relaxing of social distancing guidelines. The rate of positive cases among those tested for the coronavirus, which was steadily declining, has now leveled off. Trepka said, "It looks like some of the gains that we were making when we were completely closed down, we're no longer seeing those gains in terms of a decrease in positivity rates."

Health care providers increasingly turn to telehealth for COVID-19 patients

Veronica Zaragovia, WLRN
Jackson Health System in Miami has started using telehealth to monitor patients in treatment for COVID-19. Florida’s largest public health system wants to monitor many patients at once, while keeping staff safe. These days, Russ Colombo, a cardiologist at Jackson Health System, will give a patient who has COVID-19 an update through a screen, instead of a room. "I just got finished talking to your husband, so I guess we’re having two separate Zoom appointments. How are you feeling?" Michael Garcia is Jackson’s chief information officer. He says now, they can make a medical decision without taking the 10 minutes to put on new protective equipment and waste less of it. "And many times we say look, the patient's not looking too good, let's go ahead and put that ventilator on or, or whatever we needed to do to save a life," Garcia said. Terry Adirim is a dean at Florida Atlantic University’s medical school. She says human contact is important in health care. "It's kind of hard to be alone, especially when you're sick and scared," Adirim said. But she says at FAU, a lot can be done virtually. "Telehealth is here to stay. Patients like it. Physicians like it, and I think we're going to continue to learn different ways to use it, just like Jackson," Adirim said. Down the line, telehealth might also enable family and friends to virtually visit a COVID-19 patient, too.

WHO creates 'confusion' about asymptomatic spread. Here's what we know

Pien Huang, NPR This week, the matter of asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 has caused much confusion — and sparked a lively debate on Twitter. It started Monday when the World Health Organization discussed the current understanding of asymptomatic transmission at a press conference. ("Asymptomatic" refers to people who are infected by the novel coronavirus but never develop any symptoms.) "From the data we have it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic actually transmits onward to a secondary individual," said Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for WHO's health emergencies program. In other words, it seems unlikely that people who are infected by the virus but don't develop symptoms are spreading the virus to others. The statement was reported by  news outlets and led to concern among researchers that WHO was confusing the public. "The  @WHO has engendered considerable confusion today (WITHOUT DATA) about people without symptoms not transmitting #SARSCoV2,"  tweeted Dr. Eric Topol, a scientist at Scripps Research — a view representative of the research community Monday. Harvard global health professor  Dr. Ashish Jha echoed the sentiment. On Tuesday, WHO held a social media  Q+A to clarify the comments. "I was responding to a question at the press conference. I wasn't stating a policy of WHO or anything like that," Van Kerkhove said. "I think that's a misunderstanding to state that asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare." Read the full article here.

The post pandemic city

The Indicator, NPR Cities that were under lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak are beginning to open up again. This week in New York City, construction crews began working again, factories began making goods and retail stores began offering curbside pickup. It will be some time before we know how much of the old economies of these cities will return — and how quickly. But the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated some of the trends that were already eroding the benefits of living in a big city, and driving people to move to smaller cities and suburbs. Meanwhile, the virus is still out there, preying on these cities' density, and their ability to crowd people and businesses together. There are tough times ahead for big American cities. But those tough times might also put in place the conditions for American cities to renew themselves in the future. Just like they have before. Like what you just read? Check out our other  coronavirus coverage.

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter and fill-in host at WMFE.