Daily Archives: Apr 6, 2020

CHICAGO (AP) — La alcaldesa de Chicago Lori Lightfoot prometió el lunes una agresiva campaña de salud pública dirigida a las comunidades negras y latinas debido a que un abrumador número de afroestadounidenses ha fallecido a causa de la enfermedad COVID-19, de acuerdo con datos preliminares.

Los residentes negros representaron el 52% de los casos confirmados del nuevo coronavirus y el 72% de las muertes por complicaciones relacionadas con la enfermedad en la ciudad, pese a que constituyen apenas el 30% de la población de la urbe, de acuerdo con la agencia de salud pública local.

Los expertos en salud pública de Chicago dijeron que la tendencia no fue una sorpresa para cualquiera que esté familiarizado con las añejas barreras en torno a la atención médica en una ciudad que está dividida geográficamente: los residentes en el sur y oeste de la ciudad históricamente tienen menos acceso al sistema de salud pública, tienen mayores tasas de pobreza y laboran en empleos que les requieren seguirse presentando en su lugar de trabajo, mientras que otros pueden trabajar desde casa.

Condiciones similares caracterizan otras metrópolis con grandes poblaciones de raza negra que tienen brotes de coronavirus, como Nueva York, Detroit, Milwaukee y Nueva Orleans. Las cifras publicadas el lunes por el Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de Michigan mostró que los afroestadounidenses, que representan el 14% de la población del estado, han constituido 33% de los casos confirmados de coronavirus en la entidad y 41% de los decesos.

Sin embargo, la alcaldesa Lightfoot dijo que las disparidades en Chicago “te dejan sin palabras” y requieren una respuesta inmediata por parte de la ciudad, de activistas y de proveedores de servicios médicos.

Un nuevo equipo de representantes de la ciudad y de la comunidad se enfocará en contactar a los residentes mayores de 50 años y a aquellos que son considerados vulnerables al virus debido a enfermedades preexistentes para darles información sobre prevención y recursos para los que se enfermen.

El sistema de tránsito de la ciudad aumentará la vigilancia en sus autobuses y añadirá vehículos a las líneas que siguen siendo muy utilizadas, y los inspectores de la ciudad visitarán los supermercados y tiendas pequeñas para implementar medidas de distanciamiento social, señaló la alcaldesa.

“No podemos simplemente quedarnos esperando y dejar que esta enfermedad haga estragos en nuestras comunidades”, manifestó Lightfoot. “Hay vidas que en verdad están en riesgo”.

El comisionado de salud pública de la ciudad también ordenó a todos los proveedores de servicios médicos recopilar información sobre la raza y etnia de los pacientes infectados, buscando abordar las brechas existentes. La dirigente del departamento, la médica Allison Arwady, dijo que un cuarto de los resultados de las pruebas que han sido enviadas a su oficina hasta ahora no han incluido esa información.

NEW YORK (AP) — Hopeful birdsong and foreboding sirens. Chiming church bells and bleating ferry horns.

The coronavirus crisis has drastically transformed the world in sound. The routine cacophony of daily life has calmed, lending more weight to the noises left behind. And in those mundane sounds, now so unexpectedly bared, many have found comfort, hope and dread.

Here in the U.S., in the grind of the pandemic, sound has become a shared experience, in joy and sadness. The eyes may be windows to the soul, but these days, as isolation persists, the ears feel tethered to our hearts.

“After 9/11, I remember we actually wanted to hear the sound of ambulances on our quiet streets because that meant there were survivors, but we didn’t hear those sounds and it was heartbreaking. Today, I hear an ambulance on my strangely quiet street and my heart breaks, too,” said 61-year-old Meg Gifford, a former Wall Streeter who lives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

In European hot spots, there’s balcony singing. In New York, at 7 p.m. for the duration, the city ignites for a few moments in whoops and claps as the home bound lean out their windows making noise together.

It’s not the sounds but the silence that has made us master eavesdroppers, with an eerie recognition of overheard snippets in New York streets and parks as the sheltered venture out, if just for a little while:

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“It looks good long,” a woman reassures.

“Don’t touch buddy. You can’t touch anything, remember,” a father warns.

“Yeah but we’re not making any money right now, so,” a businessman explains.

“Look, mama, the birds,” a small girl notices, looking up into trees.

In another hard-hit city, San Francisco, 58-year-old Markus Hawkins is a visually impaired musician and massage therapist who lives alone in the Tenderloin district above a bakery, still open, and next to a restaurant, ordered shut.

His life is guided by aural cues, and they’ve changed dramatically. With the city largely silent, his world feels intensely louder.

“Oh my God, it’s been difficult,” Hawkins said.

There’s the constant door slamming from the bakery, and an industrial compressor for a freezer or refrigerator that clicks on every two to three minutes, 24 hours a day, creating “this horrible buzz.” Pre-lockdown, they went ignored.

At night, he lost his soothing white noise: an exhaust fan from the restaurant. And he hears conversations. Lots of conversations, because “nothing is drowning them out.”

Kamil Spagnoli, a 42-year-old single mom of two grade-schoolers, is also visually impaired. She uses a cane to get around Stony Brook, where she lives east of Manhattan near a hospital with a high-level trauma center. When the virus first struck the city in a big way, sending her and her kids into isolation as well, she heard an unusually high number of medical helicopters overhead — four or five a day.

“Did it mean people were getting treated?” Spagnoli wondered. “Now, there’s nothing.”

She, too, is doing without familiar sounds that help with routine things. She listens for traffic flow to cross streets. The silence feels dangerous.

“Now there’s no traffic. I’m not going anywhere,” Spagnoli said. “I can’t get a sense of what’s around me visually and I need that sound feedback.”

In Seattle, another early U.S. hot spot, fewer ferries means fewer familiar horns that normally punctuate each day like an extra clock. There are worries there as well playing out in sound and silence.

Is that fire truck in the distance rushing to help someone who can’t breathe? Will the noisy weekend crowds return to the city’s popular, now empty Space Needle?

Early in the American outbreak, the Life Care Center in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland saw more than 129 people sickened and more than three dozen die from the virus, making it the epicenter before the insidious spread.

The sounds of sirens as ambulances turned up a hill to the nursing home brought on immediate dread for loved ones and others gathered outside. Weeks later, after the threat moved on, fewer ambulances made that turn, continuing to other destinations.

But where? The emergency is too big to know exactly.

Other sounds now soothe. As spring descends, birdsong is prevalent.

There’s the quirky squeak of the American goldfinch, owl-like coos of mourning doves and the whinnying of the downy woodpecker as Central Park offers avid urban birders some respite.

There are no services to announce or ceremonies to mark in locked down areas, yet church bells ring on, uplifting many of all faiths who barely took notice in happier — and noisier — times. It’s a phenomenon Isaac Weiner finds historically ironic.

The associate professor at Ohio State University researched centuries of church bell ringing and controversy for his 2013 book, “Religion Out Loud: Religious Sound, Public Space, and American Pluralism.”

“There are traditions that during times of plague and epidemic, many churches would often voluntarily refrain from ringing bells,” Weiner said. “There was fear that the bells might exacerbate people’s illnesses in their time of convalescence.”

As the sick and dying multiply, the bells of today serve as a steadfast call to action: Keep listening.

NEW YORK (AP) — Small business owners hoping for quick loans from the government were in a holding pattern Monday — waiting on their bank to either take their application or, if it did, send them the money.

Business owners began submitting applications to banks, credit unions and other financial institutions late last week, or at least trying to. If successful, owners received notifications that their applications had been received, but for many, there was no further word by Monday afternoon.

Two of the nation’s largest banks, J.P. Morgan Chase and Citibank, aren’t yet set up to take applications. That leaves their small business customers to worry that the $349 billion the government has budgeted for the relief loans will run out before they can apply.

Lori Ames emailed Chase on Friday, the first day applications were being accepted for what’s called the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the government’s $2 trillion coronarvirus rescue plan. She was still waiting Monday for an opportunity to apply.

“In the meantime I’ve filed my application via (online loan marketplace) Lendio because at the rate Chase is going, by the time they accept applications the allocated money could be gone,” says Ames, owner of The PR Freelancer, a publicity firm located in Babylon, New York.

The loans are being approved and guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. While the agency released loan application statistics throughout the day Friday, it did not do so Monday; when asked for the reason, the agency did not immediately respond.

Banking industry officials have said the slowdown in getting funds to customers has mostly been on the SBA’s side, although they said the government was making progress. SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza tweeted Monday afternoon that Bitty & Beaus Coffee, a Wilmington, North Carolina-based coffee shop chain, had received loan money. But many other owners were waiting.

Huntington Bank, the largest SBA lender by volume, said it got 16,000 applications for loans over the weekend. The bank did 35,000 applications for SBA loans in 2019, said bank CEO Steve Steinour.

“It’s been a tsunami of applications,” Steinour said.

While there’s been a flood of applications, funds have yet to get to most businesses. Huntington expects to be able to fund the loans and disburse the proceeds to businesses Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Tanya Rutner Hartman applied over the phone with Huntington for a loan for her company, GIlded Social, a retailer of formal wear and bridesmaids’ dresses in Columbus, Ohio. She was still waiting on a promised call from an underwriter Monday afternoon.

Hartman is keeping her two staffers on the payroll although her business is closed. She has enough cash for another 2 1/2 weeks, but is hoping to get the loan money much sooner.

“So long as it comes through, I’m going to be OK. I’m trying to not panic until I have to panic,” she said.

Karen Kerrigan, president of the advocacy group Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, said small businesses and bankers still have too many questions about the lending process.

“We know there are limitations to government, and that the program was executed very quickly. Hopefully the friction and problems with the system and rules will get worked out,” she said.

Another big bank had its own unique issue. Wells Fargo said it did $10 billion in loan applications over the weekend __ and it’s maxed out. Wells is under lending restraints from the Federal Reserve after a series of scandals — it has been fined $3 billion so far for opening about 3 million accounts without customers’ approval. So, many owners who applied for loans through Wells were disappointed.

The Fed announced a program Monday that will allow banks to sell the SBA loans on their balance sheet to the Fed, hopefully freeing up additional funds for banks to keep making additional loans. This should allow Wells Fargo, one of the largest SBA lenders, to make more loans.

The Fed said plans to announce details of its own lending program for small businesses this week.

The paycheck protection loans are separate from economic injury disaster loans the SBA is processing. Many owners are still waiting for those loans, which have more requirements and can take several weeks to process. Under the government’s rescue package, a company that gets a paycheck loan cannot use a disaster loan to cover its payroll.

Some owners could take the delays in stride.

Steve Sherman is running his lighting fixtures manufacturing company in Sandwich, Massachusetts, on his own at reduced hours after laying off four employees, including a son and a nephew, on March 23. He is hoping for a loan of around $25,000 to eventually bring them back.

Hi bank, Santander, told him Friday that a system “wasn’t up and running yet.” Now, the earliest he can apply is Wednesday, the bank says.

“I guess they want to make sure they do this right, ducks in the row or whatever you want to call it,” Sherman says.

Other owners were frustrated with the conditions the banks put on loans. A number of banks were demanding owners be established customers, with deposit accounts and loans in order to apply. That prevented many from applying.

Paul Hollowell was turned down by three separate banks Friday because he didn’t have the right combination of accounts. Finally, an officer at BBVA, where he has a loan, opened a closed branch so Hollowell could open a deposit account and apply for a loan.

Hollowell owns Lux, a company with two tanning salons and 16 employees in Dallas. He’s had to close down and has no revenue coming in, and is waiting to hear about when he’ll receive the money.

“It was definitely a full 24 hours of phone calls and frantic emails,” he said.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Stefon Diggs landing in Buffalo was a direct result of the new coronavirus pandemic potentially disrupting the NFL’s offseason practice schedule.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane altered his approach in filling the Bills’ most pressing need at receiver.

By acquiring Diggs in a trade with Minnesota last month, Beane opted to add an established player who could immediately step into the lineup, rather than risk waiting for a rookie to grow into the role with limited practice time.

“You know the draft is stacked with receivers, but I think it became ever-prescient with what’s going on around us that we don’t know what kind of offseason we’ll have,” Beane said during a video conference call with Buffalo-area-reporters Thursday.

“I just felt like it was going to be really hard, unless I traded up really high to find a guy that I know could walk in on Day 1, let’s just say August, before we get back to things,” he said. “I just felt a proven commodity was worth this.”

Though the NFL is going ahead with holding its draft this month, players have been asked to self-isolate and are barred from working out at team facilities. The league has also postponed the start of teams’ offseason workout programs, which were scheduled to begin as early as Monday.

Beane paid a big price by trading away four draft picks, including Buffalo’s first-round selection (22nd overall) this year, to acquire Diggs. Beane justified his decision to add Diggs by saying he wasn’t certain who would still be available when it came time for Buffalo to make its first-round pick in the receivers-loaded draft.

And question marks remained even when Beane factored in trading up in the draft order. He calculated the Bills could have moved up to no higher than the 18th pick, based on the team’s limited trade assets.

Entering his sixth NFL season, Diggs is an established downfield threat who has topped 1,000 yards receiving in each of his past two years. He has the potential of providing Buffalo’s Josh Allen-led offense a primary deep threat it had previously been missing, and joins a group of established receivers rounded out by John Brown and Cole Beasley.

In his first comments since completing the trade on March 16, Beane acknowledged he began changing his thought process at a time when the severity of the pandemic was first being realized.

With all North American sporting events either canceled or postponed indefinitely, Beane took into account how much time NFL teams might have to prepare for the upcoming season with what could be a limited practice schedule.

And Diggs wasn’t the only option, Beane said. Without going into specifics, he noted having had discussions with veteran free-agent receivers who, Beane said, “would be able to come in and understand our verbiage quicker than a rookie.”

Beane’s interest in Diggs dates to last season, when he first broached the possibility of a trade with the Vikings. After Minnesota rejected Buffalo’s offers, Beane said the two sides resumed discussions this offseason.

Beane said the deal came together in a matter of hours, and after the Vikings informed the Bills they had several other offers on the table.

With four years and approximately $47.5 million remaining on his current contract, Diggs arrives in Buffalo with questions about his character after he complained about his role in Minnesota. Last year, Diggs was fined more than $200,000 for skipping two days of team activities following a loss to Chicago.

Beane doesn’t expect that to be an issue, and defended Diggs by calling him a “super-competitive guy, and brings an edge to the position.”

“I’m sure there’s things that he probably wishes he would maybe have handled better in retrospect, but it’s a clean slate here,” Beane said. “We believe in our culture. We believe the facts that we know about him. We believe he’ll be a fit here.”

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