Dane County convenes first meeting of task force to help prevent deaths from suicide, drug overdose and alcoholism

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi

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Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi convened the first meeting of a task force that is aiming to help prevent deaths from suicide, drug overdose and alcoholism as deaths from some of those causes ticked up last year amid the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Parisi convened more than 20 individuals on Wednesday over Zoom to develop a plan to help prevent what the coalition is calling preventable “deaths from despair.” The term refers to a trend in increased mortality from opioid overdoses, suicide and chronic alcoholism over the past two decades almost exclusively among white Americans without a four-year college degree. Some experts have attributed to the decline of steady-paying manufacturing jobs and the stability and meaning it brought working people, and problems with the American health care system and social safety net. 

Still, task force members said the opioid epidemic is increasingly affecting African-Americans in Dane County.

The task force included people from a variety of backgrounds, such as clinical mental health providers, police, fire and EMS responders, area businesses, crisis service providers, judiciary and community advocates. 

The task force plans to meet three times over the summer and early fall and then again in December to determine what the group has accomplished, and to plan for 2022. 

“In spite of our strong local economy, active social networks and excellent health care, Dane County has not been spared losses caused by the opioid overdose epidemic and suicide,” Parisi said in a statement. “Then came the COVID pandemic, and we have seen a 40% increase in drug and alcohol-related EMS calls. We can’t stand by and watch this trend continue as communities of color have been especially hard hit and bear a disproportionate burden. The task force will intensify our efforts to end preventable deaths by expanding our successful programs and implementing new strategies to save lives.”

According to figures from the Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office, 1,022 people have died by suicide or drug overdose in Dane County since 2016, and the figures have increased in the first months of 2021, with most overdoses occurring due to opiates. 

Preliminary data from 2020 from the Dane County Medical Examiner shows increases in both suicides and overdoses. In 2020, the county has reported 75 deaths by suicide, compared to 60 such deaths in 2019. Additionally, the county recorded 127 fatal opiate overdoses in 2020, an increase from 113 in 2019 and 98 in 2018. 

Emergency medical services agencies in Dane County responded to a 23% higher volume of suspected opioid overdoses in 2020 compared to 2019, with peak volumes occurring in May 2020, as job losses from the pandemic mounted. 

The highest volume of emergency medical service responses to suspected opioid overdoses over the past three years happened between March and July of 2020, however, the sustained increase began as early as fall of 2019.

“This demonstrates that drug-involved overdoses have always been an issue of concern, and the COVID pandemic magnified challenges in accessing and engaging in treatment and recovery services,” Dane County spokesperson Ariana Vruwink said. 

The task force will work over the summer on setting goals for the task force that relate to measurable outcomes. 

Parisi said Dane County is in the planning stages of creating a triage center to immediately support people in crisis, and is also working to address the way the criminal justice system approaches treatment of substance use disorders and mental illness. 

Parisi also highlighted the launch of the Dane County Behavioral Health Resource Center, a service designed to help any Dane County resident seek assistance and access behavioral health services.

Reset, restart: Madison-area businesses embrace new reality

To survive, business owners know they need to be prepared for what’s next. It’s safe to say most weren’t prepared for the cataclysm of the last year. Yet, most adapted. From reducing hours and adding curbside pickup or outdoor seating to changing product lines, finding new suppliers and moving their operations online, companies reinvented themselves. Some of those changes were temporary; others will alter the face of Madison’s business community for years to come.

Curbside pickup and e-commerce are here to stay, but storekeepers can put away the disinfectant wipes.

Workers can be very productive from home, but that office space is also an important component of creativity and collaboration. The challenge is creating an environment that can support both.

Sponsored Content: As the Princeton Club successfully prepared for the safe return of its members during the pandemic, it also planned for a brighter, cutting-edge future in which people place an even stronger emphasis on their health and fitness.

“It’s actually … not so hard to change people’s confidence so long as they are out and able to evidence other people doing the kinds of things that maybe people were doing before the pandemic.”

As work, school and most social interactions shifted to online platforms, internet usage skyrocketed by as much as 50%, according to a report from OpenVault.

The River Food Pantry wants to expand, United Way of Dane County is hoping for increased donations while Habitat for Humanity of Dane County wants to build more homes but is concerned about the rising costs of building materials.

Sponsored Content: Grieving the loss of a loved one is difficult enough, but the COVID-19 pandemic provided Cress Funeral and Cremation Service with a demanding new challenge; how to best serve families while protecting public health.

Experts say cities need to get creative by converting some ground-floor space to apartments, private offices or popup stores.

Some Madison-area restaurant owners that developed online restaurant concepts during the pandemic say the experiments paid off.

Federal aid and investment gains helped offset losses from halted procedures and a decline in routine care.

Sponsored Content: The Wisconsin Idea is the notion that the benefits of the University of Wisconsin should ripple well beyond the borders of campus. 

As one of the smallest brewpubs in the state, the pandemic almost shuttered the business. But the owner has a new knee, new beer and a new outdoor patio along East Washington Avenue.

“In other countries, being a butcher, sausage maker or master meat crafter has great prestige.”

Sponsored Content: Up Close & Musical® is a program of the Madison Symphony Orchestra that delivers the foundations of music to Dane County elementary schools each year.

The Overture Center for the Arts shut off programming cold when the pandemic hit — but now shows are being re-booked and Overture hopes to re-open its doors in September.

Kanopy Dance plans to bring long-distance guest artists into the studio via streaming to enhance in-person instruction. 

Sponsored Content: Steps to consider to prepare your financial portfolio

“I love not having to wander around a store. For me drive up shopping really works.”

The pandemic had devastating consequences for many Madison-area businesses. Some didn’t make it. Others found a way to limp through. The commo…

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Post-COVID, bold actions must address detrimental impacts on students

At the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), our critical work to eliminate multigenerational poverty and create a culture of achievement for African American scholars and their families living in north Minneapolis was challenged this past year by the pandemic, community violence and longstanding inequities in our educational system. To best support our scholars, families and collaboration partners, we reviewed emerging literature that has identified four detrimental impacts of COVID -19 on students’ well-being and learning. As a result, we believe bold actions are necessary to ensure a quality education for these students, going forward:

  1. Students are experiencing mental health declines.

In the Vanderbilt Child Health Covid-19 Poll, administered in June 2020, 25% of parents surveyed reported worsening mental health in their children, and 14% reported declining behavioral health. This deterioration was linked to an increase in food insecurity, delays in health care visits and loss of child care. Fall 2020 results from our NAZ survey of families suggest scholars have a reduced sense of safety and increased level of anxiety, caused by less social interaction with friends, difficulties adapting to distance and hybrid learning, continually changing routines, and exposure to high levels of community violence.

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  1. Students are experiencing significant learning loss.

According to one study (Dorn, et al, 2020) which estimated learning loss based on students’ return to in-class instruction in January 2021, low-income, Black, and Hispanic students were estimated to lose 12.4, 10.3, and 9.2 months of learning, respectively, compared to white students, who were estimated to lose 6.0 months. These numbers likely underestimate actual learning loss because significant numbers of students, especially low-income students, have not been assessed since returning to class, are not attending school, or are logging in to classes inconsistently. The loss in learning is greater in math than in reading.

  1. Students are experiencing great variation in learning opportunities and instructional quality.

Despite major efforts by school districts and communities to provide essential technology to students and families for distance learning, the digital divide persists with stark inequities in access to high-quality online education, including high-speed internet and internet-capable devices as well as training and support for students, parents and teachers. In addition to quality, the quantity of student learning is less than a typical year with curricula reduced to accommodate pandemic-induced limitations on class time. Schools serving high numbers of children living in poverty or children of color are less likely to offer in-person instruction.

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  1. Assessing student learning during the pandemic with reliability and validity is even more difficult than usual.

2020 regular springtime state standardized testing did not occur, so there was no uniform measure of student performance. In 2021, state standardized tests will only be administered to students attending school in-person, not the significant number of students opting for distance learning. Students in school are unlikely to be invested in taking them or may experience additional stress as a result of taking them. Some districts administered progress tests online during the fall and winter, but younger students’ lack of familiarity with online test-taking, older students’ decreased motivation for testing, and variation in home testing conditions make interpretation and use of the results concerning.

Amy Susman-Stillman

Amy Susman-Stillman

To remedy the current situation, we urge administrators and educators to take the following steps:

  • Simultaneously address mental health and learning. We know now that prioritizing academic concerns led to limited success and ongoing challenges in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Prioritizing social-emotional learning and mental health in the short-term and academic learning over the long-term, with trauma-informed interventions, will help students regain social and academic footing following this disruptive year.
  • Provide a system of integrated, individualized student support. A comprehensive review of each student’s strengths and needs across multiple domains (academic, health, social and emotional well-being, family) would allow schools and partners to provide students with individualized resources and support systems.
  • Address the ongoing digital divide. Online instruction will become a permanent component of contemporary education. Federal, state and local governments and entities must prioritize students with the greatest digital needs, and provide teachers with the necessary supports to provide high-quality online instruction.
  • Accelerate learning. Ensure age-appropriate, challenging, grade-level content as students return to learning environments. Creatively use time and opportunity – extend learning time, expand after-school and summer programming, increase subject learning time during the school day, modify instructional practices to focus on areas needing acceleration, and offer high-dosage tutoring.
  • Gather “opportunity to learn” data alongside academic assessment data. Include COVID-specific data, such as student access to devices and reliable broadband and time spent in distance, hybrid and in-person learning, as well as student engagement and basic demographics. Policymakers, districts and schools can then contextualize student performance and make informed decisions about allocation of resources and best practices.

The consequences of the pandemic on students’ health and learning are profound and not yet fully understood. How long will it take for our scholars to recover and forge ahead emotionally and academically? This is a clarion call to our communities to join with our educators, parents, and policymakers to make changes in our educational system that will benefit all students, and particularly low-income scholars and students of color who are most in need. None of us should be satisfied until every child in our community has the social, academic and psychological support to reach their fullest potential.

Amy Susman-Stillman Is the director of evaluation for the Northside Achievement Zone, whose mission is to end generational poverty and build a culture of achievement in north Minneapolis where all low-income children of color graduate from high school college- and career-ready. 

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King County remains in Phase 3: What that means for our community | Public Health Insider

This article was originally written by Public Health Insider, the official blog for Public Health — Seattle & King County:

Governor Jay Inslee announced yesterday that King County will remain in Phase 3 of Washington state’s Roadmap to Recovery for the next two weeks. In Phase 3, indoor spaces such as restaurants, gyms and museums will be able to continue to operate with up to 50 percent of capacity.

In King County, cases remain high, and cases and hospitalizations have been on the increase since mid-March. But after several weeks of cases rising, in the past week cases have remained stable, showing signs that the recent increase may be starting to level off.

Overall, rates of COVID-19 remain highest in south and southeast King County. These areas continue to experience higher rates of hospitalizations, a continued concerning trend.

Notably, over the past two weeks, the arrival of plenty of vaccine into King County has been a game-changer. For the first time in over a year, as a community, we have the very real opportunity to get the pandemic under control.

“It is too early to tell if we have passed the peak of this recent surge. A two-week pause at this time recognizes this uncertainty and provides time to see whether we are turning a corner and which direction we are heading, while we continue to do everything we possibly can to get more people vaccinated,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Our best path out of the painful cycle of COVID-19 resurgences and restrictions – and for a return to normalcy as quickly as possible – is by rolling up our sleeves and getting vaccinated. As more people get vaccinated, the number of infections and hospitalizations will go down and all of us will be safer.”


Currently, people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s are experiencing more severe disease and hospitalizations than earlier in the pandemic. This age group only became eligible for the vaccine in the past three weeks. Already, more than half have received a first dose.

If even more young and middle-aged adults get vaccinated in coming weeks, that could bring a substantial drop in COVID-19 infections.

King County is already seeing evidence that remarkable turnarounds are possible by looking at older adults.

Over 90 percent of residents age 65 and older have received at least one dose. This level of vaccine coverage is starting to drive down hospitalizations and deaths in this age group. Hospitalizations among older adults have fallen substantially since January, dropping 80 percent among people age 75 and older and down 58 percent among people age 65-74.

Our county has had a deliberate focus on ensuring access to vaccine for communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Communities are looking out for one another, and thanks to their efforts, we are seeing results.

While there is still more work to be done, among people age 65 and older, 84 percent of Asian Americans, 82 percent of Black and African Americans, and 85 percent of Hispanics have received at least one dose along with 90 percent of White Americans in this age group. There is close to full coverage in this age range for Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander groups and American Indian and Alaskan Native groups.

And our community continues to step up by making vaccine even more accessible. For example, a partnership helped vaccinate more than 200 local residents last week in the Skyway neighborhood, located between Renton and Seattle. The effort included neighborhood businesses, the local fire department, community groups, health care providers, and Public Health.


How successful we ultimately are as a community and how quickly we get back to our activities depends on how many of us get vaccinated and how quickly we do so. If vaccine coverage stalls, then we are greater risk for more outbreaks, severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. Unfortunately, we will also be at risk of greater restrictions.

But as more and more people getting vaccinated, and the quicker we do, the safer we will all be and the more we will be able to get back to our pre-Covid lives, from travel to gathering with friends to having our kids in school without the risk of infecting others.

In the meantime, fighting COVID has always required doing more than one thing.

  • Wear masks, especially indoors with unvaccinated people you don’t live with and in crowded places.
  • Keep gatherings small.

Until the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations decline, and more people are vaccinated, everyone needs to take these steps for a while longer.


Many vaccination sites are accepting patients without appointments during the days and hours noted below. All sites are ADA and offer interpretation services on-site.

For those living or working in Federal Way, a new Federal Way vaccination site opened on May 3. Appointments are required in advance but the site is specifically open on weekends, Saturdays, 8:30am-4:30pm, and Sundays, 10am-2pm.

And for Mariners and Sounders fans, the City of Seattle is offering vaccinations to all eligible fans at home games.

For additional vaccination locations, assistance, resources, and information, visit: KingCounty.gov/Vaccine.

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Stellar Award-Nominated Group, Trilogy, “Keep It Movin” With The Release Of Their Anticipated Album “Blank Script”

Stellar Award-Nominated Group, Trilogy, “Keep It Movin” With The Release Of Their Anticipated Album “Blank Script” – African American News Today – EIN Presswire

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WFISD honors Partners in Education for supporting students

Wichita Falls ISD recognized partners and mentors Tuesday who have made outstanding contributions to schools through the Partners in Education program, officials said. 

WFISD handed out PIE awards at an reception to honor this school year’s 32nd anniversary winners, officials said. 

For more information about PIE, contact January Cadotte, PIE coordinator at jbcadotte@wfisd.net or 940-235-1009. 

Here is a list of the awards, winners and their contributions. 

Partner of the Year — A partner who achieves goals through exemplary, well-balanced participation involving volunteers, funding, in-kind services and more.

Winner: United Regional Health Care System for supporting the Career Education Center

  • Provided lunches for the staff
  • Filled teacher wish lists, regardless of the request
  • Played a supportive role to the campus by being willing, able, passionate, flexible, imaginative and easy to work with
United Regional Health Care System won the Partner of the Year Award Tuesday. URHCS was represented by, left to right, Erin Dillard, Kim Maddin and Synthia Kirby for Wichita Falls ISD's 32nd annual Partners in Education awards.

Program of the Year — A program displaying the highest degree of teamwork, resource utilization and results.

Winner: PETS Clinic for support of the Career Education Center

  • A vital partner for the WFISD Veterinary Science program since 2013
  • Allows students to intern at their clinic to gain clinical hours that apply towards the students’ Certified Veterinary Assistant licenses
  • After receiving their licenses, students have also been offered jobs to work at PETS.
  • Continued to open their doors to intern students during the COVID-19 pandemic
  •  Students receive hands-on experience in exam rooms, surgery and post-surgical care.

Organization of the Year — An organization reflecting an outstanding commitment to PIE

Winner: Southwest Rotary Club of Wichita Falls for supporting Fain Elementary School

  • Has supported Fain’s mission to create a makerspace and Dexter Lab, and to extend the learning common area to an outdoor space
  • Annual donations ranging from $1,000 to $2,000
  • Members hosted their club meeting at Fain to allow students to learn success skills by presenting their ideas to them and showcasing the vision they have created.
  • Members have offered support from donating old electronics to the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math Club to giving tours of their businesses. 

Extra Mile Award — A partner who goes beyond the expectations of the adopted school and PIE

Ronnie Williams for supporting Kirby Middle School

  • Recognizes needs without having to be told and fulfills them without being asked
  • Has a caring heart that shines in all that he does
  • Each year he contributes clothes to kids in need
  • Rewards students with pizza parties for academic achievements
  • Donated coats to ensure students were warm during the bitter months
  • Sponsors a Young Men’s Club for sixth-grade boys to help ease the transition from elementary to middle school

Staff Appreciation Award — A partner whose special projects best support school staff

Winner: Rockstar Nails & Spa for supporting West Foundation Elementary School

  • The business makes a donation of $2,000 each year for student and teacher needs.
  • Their contributions have provided small houses in the form of pods to create fun learning environments.
  • Their monetary donations continue enhancing student learning at West Foundation Elementary.
Attendees at the 2020-2021 Partners In Education Awards Reception on Tuesday.

Rookie of the Year — First-year partner whose participation goes far beyond the boundaries of a new partner

The Bell Family for support of Kirby Middle School

  • They have donated shirts and ties to the Young Men’s Club where Andrew Bell also serves as a mentor.
  • Make frequent donations of clothes to the school’s Communities In Schools clothes closet
  • Often facilitates connections with members of the community that lead to additional donations or opportunities for Kirby students 
  • Coordinated efforts to get meals at Texas Roadhouse and tickets to a Midwestern State University basketball game donated for the Young Men’s Group
  • Gives countless hours mentoring and delivering in-kind services, along with extensive support through donations and giving

Mentor of the Year – A mentor whose volunteer efforts best exemplify the purpose of mentoring

Winner: Shelia Verret for support of Milam Elementary School

  • She logs 145 to 200 hours a month in volunteer hours.
  • Works daily, reading with kindergarten students
  • She works diligently to ensure that kindergarten students can read when they leave in May.
  • Offers to help out when Milam is in need of parent involvement activities or other extra events at school
  • Runs copies for the kindergarten team
  • Provides lunch
  • Always asking how she can help
  • She is such a hard worker that oftentimes the staff forgets that she is a volunteer. 
Mirela Miclaus won the Volunteer of the Year Award at the 2020-2021 Partners In Education Awards Reception Tuesday for her support of Sheppard Elementary School.

Volunteer of the Year — An individual whose generous gifts of time contribute to student success

Winner: Mirela Miclaus for support of Sheppard Elementary School

  • Has been volunteering at Sheppard Elementary since her arrival from Romania in 2020. Volunteers countless hours five days a week.
  • Works countless hours in the workroom cutting, laminating and making copies for teachers
  • Spends time reading one-on-one with students in the hallway, helping in the music and art classroom, assisting the campus secretary and even greeting students as they arrive in the mornings
  • Staff members will find Mirela walking around the school ready to help with a friendly smile and “Hello, how are you doing?” attitude.

Mentor Program of the Year — A group mentor program that best exemplifies the purpose of mentoring

Wichita Falls High School Peer Assistance and Leadership program for support of Zundy Elementary School 

  • Award winner in 2013, 2015 and 2020 but has continued to step up their game
  • In a year that many high school students would consider disappointing, the WFHS PALS have gone above and beyond to develop meaningful relationships with the kids they mentor. 
  • Helped a disabled student, who is in a wheelchair, thrive in physical education class by encouraging the PE coach to obtain smaller, tacky, textured footballs that are easier for the student to catch and throw
  • Helped a troubled young girl who would often find herself fighting with other girls learn the skills needed to effectively work through conflicts with peers and practice self-love and self-respect
  • One PALS student helped a very troubled boy learn to respectfully communicate with his teachers when he is upset. He did this by modeling the desired behavior, going with the student to make necessary apologies and setting goals to improve. As a result, the student’s conduct and grades have improved .
  • Completed multiple service projects and supply drives for Faith Mission, the Wichita County Humane Society, the WFHS Life class, Zundy Valentine’s Day parties and much more
Several participants interact before the presentation of awards at the 2020-2021 Partners In Education Awards Reception.

Special Recognition Award — A business, group or individual whose creative efforts for the students and staff are unwavering and warrant special recognition

Red Lobster for supporting Lamar Elementary School 

  • Without fail, the general manager, William Taylor, is always willing to answer the call when it comes to Lamar’s needs
  • Provides gift cards for staff members for their birthdays
  • During the pandemic, the restaurant was forced to close their doors for several weeks, but Taylor and his team didn’t let that stop them.
  • Hosted a Dine to Donate event to raise funds for Lamar and several other schools
  •  Donated meals for other district events

Shining Star Award — A business, group, or individual whose creative efforts for children consistently improve children’s lives in amazing ways

Air Force Col. Joshua DeMotts,  82nd Mission Support Group commander at Sheppard Air Force Base, for support of Sheppard Elementary School

  • Had electricity installed to the campus’s outdoor pavilion with lights
  • Donated 25 gallons of hand sanitizer
  • Supplied airmen in training to help prepare the campus for the opening of the school year
  • Checks in every two weeks to make sure the campus is doing fine and doesn’t need anything
  • Went above and beyond to assist the campus when they lost their librarian to COVID
  • This commander has not only led at Sheppard with his professional expertise, but he has led with his heart as well.
  • He has served his country, our community and Sheppard Elementary extraordinarily.
  • He has fully embraced and demonstrated the SAFB motto, “We are stronger together.”

Campus Coordinator of the Year — A campus coordinator who boldly perpetuates the mission of PIE and goes beyond the expectations of a campus coordinator

Maurice Jordan for outstanding work at Booker T. Washington Elementary School

  • Third-year PIE coordinator and Read 2 Learn coordinator at Booker T. Washington Elementary
  • Goes out of his way to ensure students who are most in need of a role model are partnered with someone from the community
  • Because of COVID restrictions on campus, volunteering and mentoring have been limited. But Maurice has continued to communicate with his mentors in an effort to have an even better mentoring program next school year.
  • Played an instrumental role in working with members from SAFB to provide food for the annual food boxes
  • Participated in the African American panel at the base highlighting the need for inclusion and diversity in our community
  • Last year alone, Booker T. Washington had over 100 students with a mentor because of Maurice’s efforts.

For more information about WFISD’s PIE program, contact January Cadotte, PIE coordinator, at jbcadotte@wfisd.net or 940-235-1009. 

Check out the PIE website at wfisd.net/PIE or the program’s Facebook page

Opinion: No more money for the Milwaukee police. Use new federal dollars to help those devastated by the coronavirus pandemic

As a part of the American Rescue Plan, Milwaukee will receive about $406 million. This funding is largely unrestricted, with the first half coming sometime in early May.

This is the community’s money, and the community should have a voice in how that money is spent.

Let’s be clear: Not one dollar should be used for police, particularly since the Milwaukee Police Department already received $9.8 million of CARES Act funding. 

Instead, the $406 million should be used to support individuals and communities that have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and the economic, housing and health care crisis it precipitated.

RELATED:President Joe Biden’s COVID stimulus bill explained in 6 charts

RELATED:Wisconsin’s $5.7 billion in stimulus aid puts it near the middle of the pack

Black, Indigenous and migrant communities, workers in health care, service and other disproportionately impacted sectors, including those in the informal and gig economies, must be supported. Housing assistance should include rent and mortgage cancellation or deferment, long-term eviction moratoriums to address the looming and devastating eviction and foreclosure crisis, and permanent, quality, accessible housing for all unhoused people.

These echo the priorities named by community members in a pre-pandemic survey of 1,100 people in Milwaukee conducted by the African American Roundtable in 2019. Other priorities included summer jobs, opportunities for young people and violence prevention.

Over the course of the last two budget cycles, we have been able to move the conversation in our favor.

The 2020 budget saw an increase in wages for youth summer workers, $300,000 for emergency housing for people displaced by lead, domestic violence and sex work, and $300,000 for the Office of Violence Prevention’s 414 Life violence prevention work.

But the Milwaukee Police Department still received close to $300 million the last two years through the city budget cycle, plus more than $10 million in federal grants. That’s in addition to the CARES Act funding it received earlier this year. Continued investment in police has made it impossible to fund community demands. And the cost of policing is set to grow due to rising pension contributions starting in 2023.

Mayor Tom Barrett called Milwaukee’s 2023 budget “the pension reckoning.” In 2023, Milwaukee will begin paying around $150 million in pension contributions annually. That is $70 million to $80 million more than Milwaukee is paying in 2021. That is $70 million to $80 million in each year’s budget that could be spent on services such as jobs for public health, housing and opportunities for young people.

Police are disproportionately benefiting from the city pension system; while police and firefighters make up just 44% of the city’s active workforce, they comprise over 80% of the pension liability.

We propose that the City of Milwaukee create new programs such as a participatory budgeting trust that will allow residents from each aldermanic district to have decision-making power on how this influx of money is spent. Residents should be able to propose projects that their communities could vote on, ensuring residents have real decision-making power on what their neighborhoods need.

The American Rescue Plan is our chance to demand that Milwaukee election officials invest in programs that will lead us out of this pandemic and to more liberated Milwaukee. 

Devin Anderson is membership and coalition manager for the African American Roundtable.

Vermont Senators Debate Whether Racism Causes Statistical Lags

click to enlarge TIM NEWCOMB

  • Tim Newcomb

When Vermont Senate Minority Leader Randy Brock (R-Franklin), who is Black, spoke last Thursday to fellow senators, his words may have been music to some people’s ears, but he appeared to be out of tune with the majority of his fellow lawmakers.

Brock and colleagues had just heard a speech by Sen. Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) seeking support for H.210, “An act relating to addressing disparities and promoting equity in the health care system.” 

Hardy, who is white, told the Senate the state’s health care system fails to meet the needs of all Vermonters, especially those who have been discriminated against in the past. To right that wrong, she said, the bill would help build a more “inclusive system.” It would create an advisory commission on health equity that would include members selected by organizations representing racial, ethnic and sexual minority groups. That group would advise on the creation of a new Office of Health Equity in the Department of Health, an upgrade from the department’s current sole minority health officer, providing more authority and resources.

Brock, a former state auditor and Republican nominee for governor in 2012, expressed deep skepticism about H.210. 

“There’s a tremendous push … often, in which if you find a group of people who are not doing as well as others, to blame it on discriminatory conduct, on racism or similar kinds of activities. And there’s this disparity [between] … outcomes and the explanation of why those things occurred,” the Swanton resident said.

Brock has led a more privileged life than many Black people — and many white people, for that matter. Educated at Middlebury College and Yale University, Brock became a high-level executive at Fidelity Investments. Before he retired, he commuted to work daily by plane from Burlington to Boston. During the recent Senate debate, he argued against dividing racial minorities, LGBTQ people or those with disabilities into discrete populations that are subject to discrimination.

“Our motto as a state is ‘Freedom and Unity’; it’s not freedom and diversity,” Brock said. “I see us going down a slippery slope in which, instead of ‘Freedom and Unity,’ we are promoting freedom and the creation of a whole bunch of quote, communities, unquote, as opposed to the community that we ought to be focusing on, and that’s Vermont.”

Brock’s speech echoed sentiments expressed a day earlier by the only Black Republican in the U.S. Senate in response to President Joe Biden‘s address to Congress. 

“From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress, by doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). “Hear me clearly. America is not a racist country. It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different discrimination.”

After Brock spoke to his Vermont Senate colleagues, it was Sen. Kesha Ram‘s (D-Chittenden) turn. She said the need to address health disparities was demonstrated powerfully by how the COVID-19 crisis had affected Black and white Vermonters differently.

“In October of 2020, at the height of the pandemic … we had a disparity in the COVID infection rate that had Black Vermonters at 10 times the infection rate of white Vermonters,” Ram said, adding soon after, “More than anything else, the Department of Health highlighted systemic racism as underlying the disparities in this pandemic.”

One factor, Ram said, was mistrust among some Black people for “a health care system that has long not just marginalized Black Americans but has experimented on them.”

One notorious example was the Tuskegee Institute syphilis study. In 1932, employees of the U.S. Public Health Service recruited 400 sharecroppers with syphilis; they were denied treatment, and many died during the 40-year period the “experiment” ran, even after a cure for the disease was found.

Ram, whose father emigrated from India and who has made issues affecting people of color central to her work as a senator, urged her colleagues to recognize other factors, as well: “a lack of access to health care, being more likely to work frontline jobs, and the deep disparities that have plagued our nation since it was founded on enslavement and subjugation.”

Yes, enslavement and subjugation — those things and a promise of equality. We’re still working on that last part. So it’s a good thing that, after listening to Hardy and Brock and Ram, the Senate voted to advance the bill by a voice vote. It got final approval last Friday.

Now, if you’re one of those people who think the worst problem with race relations in America is “wokeness,” you should skip to the next item in this week’s column.

When we spoke earlier this week, Hardy said lawmakers had been struggling with the best language to use in writing the bill. The measure repeatedly uses the term “non-White” to describe the minority groups it is designed to assist. Backers hope the new advisory commission will suggest a different term because, she said, “‘non-White’ centers whiteness” and implies that others deviate from the standard.

Getting one’s head around this stuff may take something else the bill calls for: “cultural humility.” That, the bill says, “means the ability to maintain an interpersonal stance that is other-oriented, or open to the other, in relation to aspects of cultural identity that are most important to the client or patient.” The new advisory commission is directed to advise lawmakers on how “cultural competency, cultural humility and antiracism” can be incorporated into training and continuing education for health professionals.

In other words: Hey, Doc, try to put yourself in your patient’s shoes, even if that patient has much darker skin than you or an accent that originates in a different part of the world.

Some people will tell you how this stuff drives them nuts and what a burden it is to be expected to think about it. I’d say that, as impositions go, it doesn’t quite match nearly 250 years of slavery and 100 years of Jim Crow. If you don’t want to be at least a little bit woke, go take a nap. Maybe the world will be a better place when you open your eyes.

Newfane Calling?

The Burlington Free Press may not be the nation’s greatest daily newspaper, but in long-ago better days, the paper was respected and relied on by many in the community, despite its ownership by the distant Gannett.

Now, the paper’s new corporate owners — Gannett merged with New Media Investment Group in 2019, though it kept the Gannett name — have stooped to the petty dishonesty of telemarketers as they try to shore up its circulation. (The Freeps, which once sold more than 50,000 newspapers a day, now sells fewer than 12,000.)

A work colleague got a call last week from a number he didn’t recognize, but since his phone said the call was from Newfane, Vt., he picked up.

A telemarketer said, “Hi, my name is Jane, and I’m calling on a recorded line from the Burlington Free Press.” She offered a subscription deal, which my colleague declined. And “Jane,” it turned out, wasn’t calling “from” the Burlington Free Press, or even from Vermont. When asked, she said she was dialing from St. Paul, Minn. She offered no explanation for why the call was listed as coming from an 802 number in Newfane.

This is sad. The Freeps‘ telemarketing strategy — fooling people into answering the phone — is a common one, but we expect more from an industry whose public service is so important that it is protected by the First Amendment. Well, at least we expect more than we do from the scam artists who call and tell me the warranty on my months-old car is about to expire. Among the expectations for a newspaper is that it tries to tell the truth, both in its journalism and its business dealings.

Gannett did not reply to a request for comment sent through the Free Press.

But one thing’s clear: If the Free Press ever wants to connect with a broad swath of Vermonters again, it needs to think local and authentic.

Brady’s Bunch

When Washington, D.C., lawyer and conservative activist Victoria Toensing was served with a search warrant by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week, her last name likely rang a bell with some Vermonters.

Agents took possession of Toensing’s cellphone, part of an investigation that led to raids the same day on the New York City office and home of Rudy Giuliani, personal lawyer to former president Donald Trump.

Toensing is the mother of Brady Toensing, who until 2019 split his time between his home in Charlotte, Vt., and Washington, D.C., where he was a partner in the law firm that bears the name of his mother and stepfather, Joseph diGenova.

In Vermont, Brady Toensing was vice chair of the state Republican Party, led Trump’s 2016 campaign in the state and for years was the scourge of Vermont liberal politicians, demanding investigations into their alleged misdeeds.

Among the allegations was that Jane O’Meara Sanders had inflated donor pledges to the now-defunct Burlington College, of which she was president, to secure financing for the college to buy the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington’s former headquarters property. He also alleged that her husband, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had improperly pressured a bank to give the college the loan. Federal authorities investigated and dropped the matter without charges.

In 2019, Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, tapped Brady Toensing to be senior counsel in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy. Not much has been heard from him since then in Vermont. His LinkedIn profile shows he rejoined diGenova and Toensing in February, following the change in administrations. He did not reply to a text from Fair Game asking about the search warrant served on his mother.

The New York Times described Victoria Toensing as “close to Mr. Giuliani.” Her law firm said she is not a target of the investigation involving Giuliani. But she still had to hand over her cellphone. So if anyone’s tempted to say to her son, “B.T., phone home,” it might be tough.

It’s not always a clear path, but mothers persevere

Michaela Brehm has had to repeat her education to keep her career moving forward

Story and Photo by Deborah Lynch

Last month, sports fans sat glued to TVs watching the NCAA basketball tournament. The previously undefeated Gonzaga men’s team’s upset by Baylor in the championship game got the buzz. Nevermind that the Stanford women’s team was 31-2 on the way to its title run over Arizona, earning its first title in 29 years. Except that people did notice. A viral TikTok video highlighting inequities between men’s and women’s programs along with more unfairness pointed out during the tournament — inconsistent March Madness logo and branding among them — have raised the issue of equality.

Women’s college basketball magnifies a disparity often ignored — how hard women must work to get recognition. A happy outcome, however, can be that women often become stronger and more resolved to make things happen for themselves.

Zohreh Akhtar of Camp Hill wanted freedom more than anything. To gain it, she had to close her eyes to a philandering husband so she could leave Iran with him and their two children for his new job in the United States. Like many immigrants, she sought the freedoms the United States promised that most countries couldn’t offer — especially to women. 

Soon after they arrived in the Harrisburg area for his job, Akhtar’s husband became abusive. She left him, but it wasn’t as simple as an American divorce. She also had to sue him in Iran to break their Islamic union, otherwise, she would never have been able to return home again to see family. Without his permission, which he would never give, she would be unable to leave Iran again for the United States.  

It was complicated, but with help from her sister in Iran who was a lawyer, she achieved the second divorce. She finally had her freedom. Then, she was served court papers. He was suing her in U.S. courts for $100,000 for emotional distress.

Because of childhood polio, Akhtar is unable to work long hours or do physical work, so her income is limited. She couldn’t afford more than $5,000 required by a lawyer, and since the case continued without any results in a county closer to Philadelphia, where he now lived, and she couldn’t get pro bono help, she had to represent herself. And she won. The case was thrown out, and her ex- was reprimanded by the judge.

That victory was powerful for Akhtar who said she was seeking freedom not only from the torture she had endured at the hands of her ex-husband who had once hissed at her, “You’re my hostage,” but also from a culture that would have dictated how she should raise her children.

“This is living in peace,” Akhtar said. “It has made me stronger for sure. I needed that inner strength and bliss to raise my kids right — for that alone. If I was in my country, I wouldn’t be able to have them in such a situation. … This is the freedom that sometimes is ignored and taken for granted by those who live in the U.S. and some parts of the world.” 

She might not be able to dunk a basketball, but inequalities and years of standing up to a controlling man gave Akhtar the strength she needed to find freedom for herself and her children.

Starting early, setting goals

Michelle Hall of Harrisburg was a teen mom. She had her son, Amir, after four months of bed rest when she was 17. Despite it all, she stayed on task, graduating on time from Harrisburg’s John Harris High, and working a part-time job so she could provide for her son. “When my mom said, ‘Hey, let me help you,’ I said, ‘Mom, I told you, I’m going to take care of him’ — and I did,” Hall said. “I’ve always been independent.”

When Amir was nearly 5, Hall met her future husband, Lamar Hall, and they’ve been together ever since. They also have an 11-year-old daughter, Cashmere. Amir is now 18 and a freshman at Shippensburg University. Hall and her husband have worked long hours (she was a hospice aide for more than 10 years and now works as a home health care aide, and he works at Hershey’s Reese’s plant) to improve their lives. “It’s always been my priority to make sure my kids had what I didn’t. I always set goals in life, and I always try to achieve them.”

Particularly impressive is how Hall has achieved her personal goals, too. “When I was 21, I told myself I was going to buy a house by the time I was 30, and I did,” she said. “I set goals for myself.”

Covid has made it harder to achieve those goals as she lost one job to help her daughter with virtual school, and now works a new job with long hours. Some weeks, it’s hard to find any time for herself. “With the pandemic, it kind of puts you in a little depression. So much time to think. I’m always making everyone happy, but I’m never making myself happy. … I’m trying to find time for myself,” Hall acknowledged. Her husband encourages her to do that. She’s got new goals — and they involve herself.

Taking turns

Jackie Gordon has always been focused on how to keep her career moving forward. She and her husband started passing the ball with their career advancements even before they were married.

He made the first sacrifice when she started her dream job as a nurse at Hershey. Instead of transferring to a school in Maryland, he went to Shippensburg. The next move was hers when he got a good civilian position with the U.S. Army in San Antonio, Texas. She took a few jobs that didn’t fit and landed a nursing position in a surgical trauma ICU unit at the Army hospital. She also got her master’s in nursing.

Things continued to go back and forth like that in their careers (including a long distance marriage and another stint for her in a leadership position at Hershey Med) with a master’s degree for him and a doctoral degree for her over the next few years until they landed in Germany for his job. She had just had their first child, a son. 

Now she was a new mom, living in a hotel in a country where she didn’t know the language. She used her free time to publish her doctoral work, then found adjunct teaching through the University of South Florida. She also was able to volunteer at an Army clinic. Then, her husband got a new opportunity in Austin, Texas. 

“This time it was really hard for me,” she said. “While I thought I was going to commit career suicide, my backup plan worked. I loved Germany. I loved our lives.”

She taught remotely during the first year back in the U.S. (June 2019-early 2020) until a perfect fit came along as director of Professional Practice and Innovation at a hospital 15 minutes from her home. “I absolutely love what I do,” she said.

Gordon says she and her husband have learned from every decision and move. They identify their values, then look at pros and cons and how they relate to their values, which now revolve more around their son. “You might be sacrificing the known, but what you’re doing is experiencing the unknown,” she said.

Repeat and move forward

While Gordon had to immerse in German culture, a German nurse had to make a similar move when her husband was recruited for a job at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Michaela Brehm had worked for more than 10 years as a cardiac surgery nurse in Germany, but found upon arriving in the United States that not only did she have to learn English as she knew she would have to before she could get a job, but also that she would have to retake an entire B.S.N. degree — and that was after waiting four years to get a Green card that would allow her to work.

After taking prerequisite courses, she was able to enroll in Penn State’s World Campus to complete her B.S.N. That worked well for her new employer, Holy Spirit Hospital, which had made her hire conditional upon completion of her degree within five years. Prior to getting hired, in 2013, she had to complete the NCLEX, which is a nursing competency exam. In between, in 2014, she gave birth to her son. She got the B.S.N. in December of 2017 with no plans of ever returning to school.

On a bored whim, she applied to a master’s in nursing education program in 2018 thinking she’d never be accepted, but she was. She is due to finish the master’s program this month after starting classes in spring of 2019. Along with finishing coursework and working per diem at Holy Spirit in the cardiovascular ICU — and sometimes in Covid units — she’s been homeschooling her now 7-year-old during the pandemic.

When she and her husband had first moved to the United States in 2009, Brehm pictured a much greater opportunity for herself than was her reality. “When do you have the privilege to move around the world and see a new country? We were both excited to come here,” Brehm said. “The reality is sometimes a little bit harder than you expect.”

Ever since her son was born, work, school, and two careers have made a difficult juggling act for Brehm and her husband. “It is not possible — in my opinion, you cannot raise a child when both have full-time demanding careers,” Brehm said, noting that while some can make that work, she could not.

That means she works part-time, and she and her husband try to coordinate their work schedules with day care and babysitting. Brehm has worked night shifts the past year when her husband is home, and he works days. Somehow, they make it work.

“Moms have to figure out how to do child care and do everything, and then go from there,” Brehm said. “The easiest thing is to not listen to other people.”

A new direction

Porcha Johnson, who was a regional ambassador for the One Lens project that documented the Covid-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania through photos, also realized that something had to give when she had her child in 2018.

After working as a journalist for 13 years, traveling to different cities as a reporter and anchor, 10 of those years at WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Johnson was ready to step away from that career to focus on her newborn and the businesses she had started in 2014 — she’s CEO of Black Girl Health and executive director of Black Girl Health Foundation. Black Girl Health is a burgeoning business with 6,000 newsletter subscribers and 11,000 Facebook followers.

“A lot of people have sacrificed for their husband’s career,” Johnson acknowledged, adding, “I have not, but a lot have probably lost their identity from that.”

Understanding that has helped Johnson with a growing business “that’s 100 percent mine.” The mission of BGH is to help women, specifically African-American women, in the workforce, with finances that affect mental health, with how foods affect mental health, with racial trauma, and with social trauma. Her company recognizes the many external pressures affecting women’s health, and strives to help them overcome them.


Women constantly battle the need to balance, to prioritize, to put their partners or their children first. Covid has made that even more complicated. It has magnified what was already an inequality in the labor market for women. Between February and August of 2020, mothers of children 12 and younger lost 2.2 million jobs compared to 870,000 jobs lost by fathers, according to a survey cited in a Brookings Institute report. 

The economy is hard on women as is finding adequate and quality child care. Some women must be creative in advancing their careers while following a partner’s career. Others are stuck in low wage jobs trying to support children. Now more than ever, women are becoming the superwomen they need to be to help advance opportunity for all women. For some that has meant compromise, for others it’s a balance between two careers, and for all, it is inner strength.

Heart disease risk factors emerge at a young age in Black women

Young Black women show a high prevalence of obesity, elevated blood pressure and other lifestyle-related factors that may put them on a trajectory to develop heart disease at a young age, according to a study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 70th Annual Scientific Session.

While previous research has drawn attention to the burden of heart disease among Black women, the new study is unique in its focus on examining the age at which heart disease risk factors emerge in this population in a community setting. The researchers found high rates of lifestyle-linked risk factors among Black women as early as their 20s and 30s.

Young people should be the healthiest members of our population with normal body weight and normal blood pressure. We’re finding obesity and elevated blood pressure are present in women even at younger ages, which is worrisome. Thus, interventions like educating young women about healthy dietary choices and the benefits of exercise, improving access to health care and enhancing the ability for people to adopt healthy practices–such as increasing access to healthy foods and safe areas for physical activity–needs to start early.”

Nishant Vatsa, MD, Internal Medicine Resident at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and Study’s Lead Author

Vatsa and colleagues analyzed data collected in 2015-2018 from 945 Black women enrolled in a community health screening project in Atlanta. They assessed health markers such as body mass index (BMI), blood pressure and cholesterol levels; socioeconomic factors such as education, income and health insurance; and lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and exercise.

The average BMI for women of all age groups was 30 or above, a level considered clinically obese. Systolic blood pressure levels, a measure of the force at which blood pushes against the artery walls during a heartbeat, increased with age. From ages 20-39 years, Black women had an average systolic blood pressure of 122 mmHg–higher than the 120 mmHg considered normal by the 2017 ACC/American Heart Association Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults. Systolic blood pressures worsened in older age groups, where middle-aged and older women had an average systolic blood pressure of nearly 133 and 142, respectively.

Obesity and high blood pressure are key risk factors for heart disease. Both are known to be influenced by lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. Nearly 1 out of 3 women aged 20-39 reported eating fast food at least three times per week and 2 out of 5 consumed more than the recommended amount of salt daily. These proportions were also high in middle-aged women but lower among those older than 60.

Based on the findings, Vatsa said there should be a call for increased attention among clinicians and the public health community to help young Black women maintain their weight and blood pressure within a healthier range through lifestyle changes and medications when warranted.

“Diet and exercise play a major role in blood pressure and weight,” Vatsa said. “Primary care providers, prevention-based clinics and community organizations can facilitate interventions proven to mitigate these risk factors. Providers that treat young Black women need to be mindful of cardiovascular preventive care and be armed with resources and education.”

He added that the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected Black and other minority communities, has revealed and exacerbated the barriers Black women face in accessing preventive health care. Increased attention to reducing barriers in health care and to the adoption of a heart-healthy lifestyle can improve health in the near term and reduce the burden of heart disease for decades to come, he suggested.

The study analysis did not include participants younger than 20, and Vatsa said that some factors, such as obesity, may emerge even earlier. The study stems from the Emory Women’s Heart Center 10,000 Women Hypertension project, which offers free cardiovascular risk screenings with a focus on African-American women. While the researchers believe the observed trends are likely reflective of the broader population of Black women, they plan to compare their findings with studies from other regions of the U.S. and other racial and ethnic groups for additional insights.

Nearly 70% of Asian Americans in NYC have had a first COVID shot

Nearly half – 45 percent – of New York City’s adults have not even started their vaccine regimens, but one group is getting shots at nearly double the rate of the city as a whole. 

Asian and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Americans in New York City are speeding ahead of other groups there with 68 percent of adults getting their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines and 46 percent fully vaccinated. 

On the other hand, among adults, only 30 percent of black people in NYC have had their first dose of Covid vaccines and 49 percent of white New Yorkers. 

Latinos are the second least likely to get their shots, with just 37 percent having had their first dose and 26 percent fully vaccinated.  

But the number of people of any race or ethnicity getting vaccinated each day in NYC has plummeted in recent weeks.   

In New York City, more than 115,000 shots were given in a single day on April 8. Yesterday, that figure was four-fold lower; just 28,193 shots were recorded by the city and even with a possible lag in data, it’s a dramatic drop. 

The city is so flush with shots now, walk-up vaccines are available at all city-run sites (as long as supply lasts), but instead of lines snaking around city blocks, clinics saw a steady flow – apparently slowing – trickle of visitors.

Yet many more people than have acknowledged being vaccine-hesitant – including the vast majority of black and Latino New Yorkers – are simply failing to get the shots. 

To some extent, the high vaccination rate among Asian Americans in NYC likely reflects a cultural attitude not shared by other Americans, experts say. 

‘They come from a “we” culture that’s very much inculcated, as is a respect for elders and others in the community, so much so that they don’t even necessarily consciously articulate it that way, they just do it,’ Mayo Clinic vaccinologist Dr Gregory Poland told DailyMail.com. 

Asian Americans have the highest vaccination rates in NYC. Nearly 40% of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population group is fully vaccinated and 56% have had at least one dose, city data shows

Asian Americans have the highest vaccination rates in NYC. Nearly 40% of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population group is fully vaccinated and 56% have had at least one dose, city data shows

Asian Americans have the highest vaccination rates in NYC. Nearly 40% of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population group is fully vaccinated and 56% have had at least one dose, city data shows 

It’s seen across the U.S. 

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 45 percent of Asian Americans have received a COVID-19 vaccine – a larger share than any other race. White Americans had the next highest vaccination rate at 38 percent, while only about a quarter of black or Hispanic Americans have been vaccinated. 

In New York City, Asian Americans have the highest vaccination rate in every borough, ranging as high as 69 percent in Staten Island, with the low at 54 percent in the Bronx. 

Staten Island as a whole, however, has a lower vaccination rate than Manhattan or Queens. With just 53 percent of the population vaccinated, it may be that it had ample supply for those who were eager for vaccines. 

Numerous polls have shown that the two best predictors for who will be vaccine hesitant are, voting for Trump in 2020 and Republican party affiliation. 

In Staten Island, the lone conservative borough in liberal NYC, Trump won 62 percent of votes. 

So it may be that early in the rollout, there was more supply than demand, leaving plenty of doses available for eager patients like Asian Americans.  

Other boroughs saw considerable turnout in the early weeks of the vaccine rollout, but now the pace of vaccinations has slowed, long before NYC hits the threshold of the 11-16 percent of its residents the CDC estimates are vaccine hesitant.  

So who is missing from the vaccination drive? Neither NYC nor the U.S. as a whole has vaccinated nearly enough people for only the hesitant to be left, and there is no shortage of vaccine supply or appointments.  

Caught in current limbo are people for whom getting vaccines presents a complicated logistical challenge: Those who work multiple jobs or shift workers who can’t afford to miss time, and people who don’t have an easy way to get to a vaccination site or are simply unaware that how to get a shot. 

During the April 17-25 walk-in clinic pilot program for people 50 and older, for example, only three clinics were open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The rest closed by 8pm at the latest, although many clinics were open on weekends as well. 

Things have gotten easier, a vaccination advocate told DailyMail.com, but now people are also less motivated to get shots, as cases and deaths decline and the situation appears less dire. To solve the issue of getting to a vaccination clinic, advocates would like to see the city offer vans to bring people to and from clinics.  

Shots are declining across the country. Just 1.2 million COVID-19 shots were given to Americans on Monday – the fewest vaccinations since February 23, Bloomberg data tracking reveals. 

Even for a typically slow Monday, it’s an abysmal vaccination rate, considering that for weeks the U.S. was giving an average of more than three million shots a day. 

Now, the seven-day rolling average of daily vaccinations has plummeted to 2.3 million, down nearly a third compared to the rate of 3.4 million a day seen just three weeks ago. 

Nearly half of the U.S. population – 44 percent – now has had at least one dose and nearly 32 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated.  

Despite the fact that fewer than half of NYC residents have had at least a first dose of Covid vaccine,28,000 shots were given yesterday, down four fold from the April 8 peak of more than 115,000 in a day

Despite the fact that fewer than half of NYC residents have had at least a first dose of Covid vaccine,28,000 shots were given yesterday, down four fold from the April 8 peak of more than 115,000 in a day

Despite the fact that fewer than half of NYC residents have had at least a first dose of Covid vaccine,28,000 shots were given yesterday, down four fold from the April 8 peak of more than 115,000 in a day 

Nationwide, the number of daily shots fell wo a low since February with just 1.2 million shots given - down from more than three million a day given just three weeks ago

Nationwide, the number of daily shots fell wo a low since February with just 1.2 million shots given - down from more than three million a day given just three weeks ago

Nationwide, the number of daily shots fell wo a low since February with just 1.2 million shots given – down from more than three million a day given just three weeks ago 

Improving COVID numbers, present a paradox as well. As vaccinations creep up, things are looking less dire in the U.S., with fewer than 50,000 new infections identified a day – a 28 percent drop in two weeks – and average daily deaths hovering just under 700, compared to nearly 840 a month prior. 

That’s great news, but it may be disincentivizing some people from getting vaccinated as they see that the nation is headed in the right direction.

‘There is no rushed feeling of “I have to get it right now,” because vaccines are available everywhere,’ Lorraine Braithwaite-Harte, Health Chair of the NAACP’s New York State Conference told DailyMail.com. 

And coupled with a reduced sense of urgency, getting a shot is still not convenient for a broad swath of people in New York and the U.S. 

‘Many people think, “I have to get to work, I can’t fit vaccination in with the hours. I have to see the hours when I can get it.” 

‘It’s not as pressing. People want the vaccine, but it’s a question of how convenient it is.’ 

‘For many, the mindset is, ‘I’ll get it. When I get it, I’ll get it, but when am I going to get it?’ Braithwaite-Hart says. 

Most pharmacies and clinics offering shots are in Manhattan, and hundreds of thousands of people in the outer boroughs are likely still not within walking distance of a vaccination site, and many have limited hours

Most pharmacies and clinics offering shots are in Manhattan, and hundreds of thousands of people in the outer boroughs are likely still not within walking distance of a vaccination site, and many have limited hours

Most pharmacies and clinics offering shots are in Manhattan, and hundreds of thousands of people in the outer boroughs are likely still not within walking distance of a vaccination site, and many have limited hours 

Yankee stadiums mass vaccination site was practically empty on April 28, when walk-up appointments were available. But NYC vaccination advocates say the focus needs to be on vaccination clinics with flexible hours that are in locations convenient to people who need to get vaccinated

Yankee stadiums mass vaccination site was practically empty on April 28, when walk-up appointments were available. But NYC vaccination advocates say the focus needs to be on vaccination clinics with flexible hours that are in locations convenient to people who need to get vaccinated

Yankee stadiums mass vaccination site was practically empty on April 28, when walk-up appointments were available. But NYC vaccination advocates say the focus needs to be on vaccination clinics with flexible hours that are in locations convenient to people who need to get vaccinated 

Citywide, 55 percent of adult New Yorkers have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 40 percent of people are fully vaccinated.  

The highest vaccination rates are in Manhattan, where nearly half of adults (49 percent) are already fully vaccinated and 64 percent have had at least one dose. 

The next highest rate is in Queens, where 42 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, followed by Staten Island with 41 percent and Brooklyn with 35 percent.

NYC’s lowest vaccination rate is in the Bronx, where just 34 percent of people are fully vaccinated and 46 percent have had at least their first dose.

That still puts the Bronx ahead of the U.S. average for vaccinations, but lagging well behind the rest of the city. 

And rates are worse among some of the most at-risk people in NYC. 

Just 30 percent of black New Yorkers have had a first dose of vaccine; the rate ranges from 29 percent in the Bronx to 37 percent in Manhattan. 

By comparison, 68 percent of Asian and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander people and 49 percent of White Nor Yorkers are fully vaccinated. 

The current trends in vaccinations are a painful mirror of the trend in COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. 

Black Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be hospitalized if they catch coronavirus and nearly twice as likely to die of the infection compared to white Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Factors like lower average incomes, poorer access to health care, higher rates of chronic disease and a greater likelihood of working essential jobs and being exposed to COVID-19 put communities of color at higher risk than white Americans. 

NYC’s massive wealth gaps played a role in the blatant racial disparities of the pandemic itself, and are now doing so again in the vaccination campaign. 

‘People with money left the city [when it was the global epicenter of the Covid pandemic] and went to areas that were not as densely populated to avoid the virus,’ explained Braithwaite-Harte. 

‘If you’re poor you can’t pick yourself up and go.’ 

She saw a similar pattern play out for vaccinations. 

‘Yes it was important to have those big vaccination sites, but lots of them were in neighborhoods in Manhattan where affluence exists,’ Lorraine says. 

‘There, you have a large pool of the white population that is highly vaccinated. The more prominent, financially speaking, a neighborhood is, the higher the vaccination rates have been. 

‘They didn’t have a the rate of death in those neighborhoods that indigent and poorer neighborhoods did. It’s a glaring divide, it’s a racial divide and you cannot escape that in NYC or any inner-city area. 

‘Show me your zip code and I’ll show you what’s happening there.’ 

Braithwaite-Harte does community outreach through a program called Let’s Get Immunized NYC, and has heard more than her share of disappointing stories about attempts to get vaccinated. 

Miscommunications have abounded during the vaccine rollout, resulting in people showing up to a vaccination site set up just to help vaccinate people in communities of color just to find out it had been dismantled because the school site was reopening for classes. 

Braithwaite-Harte says that one thing that could help the people who need vaccine doses most get them would be for the city to provide transportation to and from vaccination sites, much like the vans offered to get people to vision check or flu shot clinics in NYC.