10 Must-Read Stories from Baltimore-based Writers and Publications
April 9, 2020
Words: Rebecca Juliette
This week’s news includes: BmoreArt contributor Brandon Soderberg on COVID-19’s effect on culturally stigmatized communities in Baltimore, Council President Brandon Scott pushes for data about coronavirus health disparities, Housing Authority restricts food distribution to public housing, and more from the Baltimore Brew, Fishbowl, Baltimore Beat, AFRO Newspaper, and other sources.
Excerpt: The coronavirus has severely interrupted and complicated Baltimore’s drug trade as well as requiring sellers and buyers to get creative in practicing harm reduction. COVID-19 has also moved local harm reductionists, such as the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition (BHRC) to monitor the virus’s effects on the drug economy and reimagine how to do its work, assisting the already-vulnerable while protecting themselves at the same time. It is a crisis within the crisis they’ve already been dealing with for years.
“The ‘being a listener’ aspect is so important, I mean, it always is with this work, especially doing street outreach, but right now especially,” Dave Fell, BHRC’s legislative advocacy intern, said. “I love playing that role in street outreach, just being like, ‘Talk to me about anything you want.’ Because you can’t actually be there for the community if you’re not actually listening to the community, if you’re still trying to impose your version of what you think is right.”
Excerpt: City Council President Brandon Scott introduced a bill and a resolution Monday pushing for data that would help the public understand health disparities during the coronavirus pandemic. Responding to reports from other cities that the virus is disproportionately affecting poor and black neighborhoods, Scott’s bill requires Baltimore’s health department to report the age, race, gender and zip code of all patients diagnosed with a disease causing a state health emergency, as well as the number of deaths.
“We have to be able to have this data aggregated in this way so we can make sure we are attacking this virus,” Scott said. He said the data would improve our “understanding the deep, deep disparity this is causing people across the board.”
Excerpt: Baltimore City hopes to open a coronavirus testing site in the parking lot of Pimlico Race Course by the end of this week, city officials said Tuesday. Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said the site is just waiting to receive testing kits. Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said LifeBridge Health will be providing some of the clinical support for the site, and the Maryland Department of Health will be providing tests.
In addition to COVID-19 testing, the city is also setting up various telemedicine and other resources to allow Baltimoreans to obtain medical advice and treatment at home. The city is building on a public-private partnership with local medical providers announced last week by staffing a call center with trained health care professionals who can advise people experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, Young said. Young said the call center will be “critical in supporting people from the safety of their homes.”
Excerpt: Larry Hogan was annoyed. On a conference call, Mr. Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, had just learned that several South Korean companies were ready to ship more coronavirus test kits to his state. But they were stymied because the Food and Drug Administration had not yet approved their use. “I don’t care if we have F.D.A. approval or not,” Mr. Hogan said into a speakerphone in the governor’s reception room, where he was flanked by a container of Purell and a 9 a.m. Diet Coke, with aides sitting six feet apart around a large table. “We’ve got people dying,” he said, adding, “I don’t want to wait for permission.”
Frustrated by limited support and unclear guidance from the Trump administration, governors across the country, including some Republicans, have been squaring off with the White House and striking out on their own to secure supplies. Mr. Hogan, in his second term in a very blue state, has tried to stay miles ahead of the virus’s incursion here, like several other governors — notably Jay Inslee of Washington and Mike DeWine of Ohio — whose responses have been given better marks from Americans than the president’s.
Excerpt: Baltimore City’s Housing Authority threatened Reverend Annie Chambers with eviction and arrest in an attempt to stop her from distributing food donations to her neighbors at the public housing community Douglass Homes last week. Cheryl Harrison-Jackson, a supervisor from the Housing Authority, turned away representatives from local nonprofit organizations the Franciscan Center and the Living Classroom, saying that only government organizations can provide food to public housing residents. The Living Classroom, which has a contract with the Housing Authority, was forced to halt donations to Douglass Homes residents. The Franciscan Center provided food that day, but no longer delivers to public housing and now requires residents to pick the food up from them.
“[Jackson] ripped and raged and fussed like she wanted to scare someone. I told her ‘I’m not scared of you. I’m going to do what I have to do,” said Chambers, in an interview with The Real News Network in her home last week. The Housing Authority representative called the police, but police did not respond to the call and Chambers was able to distribute donations after the representative from the Housing Authority left. The majority of Douglass Homes residents experience food insecurity, and she intends to continue coordinating donations, Chambers explained. “This is a city that has failed poor people—It’s like they want to let us die,” she said.
Even though my work has stopped my bills have not... I owe tens of thousands of dollars for education, must pay rent, insurance, I need to buy food, I need to be able to get medicine.
Excerpt: Major League Baseball has pledged $1 million per team for ballpark employees facing financial hardship from the delay of the baseball season because of the coronavirus, but hundreds of concession workers who serve food at Baltimore Orioles games don’t know if they will be paid. The 700 concession workers are contractors employed by Delaware North and serve everything from beer to hotdogs and popcorn at home games in Baltimore. They are represented by Unite Here Local 7, who organized a conference call with reporters on March 26 about lost wages.
“Me and my coworkers are in desperate need of relief from the economic impacts that the quarantine has had on us,“ said Nnameke Onejeme, the chief shop steward of Local 7. “We know that Major League Baseball has made the money available, and we’re eager to use that money to care for all families during this crisis.”
In times like these, running programs for youth, I feel it is the responsibility of my team to make sure that our students are heard. That their stories matter. Their voices matter.
Excerpt: In times like these, running programs for youth, I feel it is the responsibility of my team to make sure that our students are heard. That their stories matter. Their voices matter. As Covid-19’s curve increases exponentially, I hope that the connections we make during this time of unsettling silence will be a resource, a refuge when things inevitably get worse. Our strategy for remote learning is meeting with students individually. Our target is to check-in with at least five students a day, and create media as a small team.
The parameters? We encourage them to create a social media connectivity challenge and respond to the comments on their own. They are still getting the work done, but with a little added touch that says, “We care about how Covid-19 is impacting your productivity and your disinterest in formal class structures.”
Excerpt: Legendary songwriter John Prine died on Tuesday due to covid-19 complications. If you know one John Prine song, it’s probably “Paradise,” a bittersweet lament about the devastation the coal mining industry brought to his parents’ hometown in Kentucky. Environmental devastation is often explained through numbers—2 degrees Celsius of warming, Category 5 cyclones, thousands of tons of pollution—but those numbers all affect real people with real stories. Prine’s song is a personal story about coal country, but “Paradise” also serves up a lesson for today’s climate fight: Namely, that the fight for saving what we can is worth it, even if we’re not around to see all the benefits.
Excerpt: With the global food supply chain turned on its head, consumers have been quick to express new interest in purchasing their food directly from local farmers, leaving many growers rushing to adapt this evolving market—adding e-commerce platforms to their websites, devising distribution systems for at-home delivery or drive-through pick-ups, and incorporating no-touch harvesting and handling protocols.
“It’s been an interesting challenge to wrap my mind around doing online sales for the first time,” says Elisa Lane of Two Boots Farm in Hampstead, who is shifting back to growing vegetables after a more recent focus on the local flower market, which has been impacted by postponed or cancelled events like weddings. “A lot of people really want to support local farms right now.”
Excerpt: Some businesses that applied to the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program through Bank of America say the lender gave existing borrowers the first shot at applying for the first-come, first-served funds, prompting a Baltimore public relations firm to file a class-action suit against the bank late Friday. Since the program opened Friday, unexpected snags have spurred a growing chorus of criticism from businesses as well as federal and local officials.
“What we’re seeing is a number of banks imposing requirements on borrowers that are not part of the law,” Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, said Monday. “Banks are in some cases inventing their own conditions that create barriers to small business and nonprofits, which is not right.”
Words: Rebecca Juliette
Header image from Tia Price's article for Afro News featuring Wide Angle Youth Media
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