What Do Coronavirus Racial Disparities Look Like State By State?

More on race-based data:

In April, New Orleans health officials realized their drive-through testing strategy for the coronavirus wasn’t working. The reason? Census tract data revealed hot spots for the virus were located in predominantly low-income African-American neighborhoods where many residents lacked cars.

In response, officials have changed their strategy, sending mobile testing vans to some of those areas, says Thomas LaVeist, dean of Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and co-chair of Louisiana’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.

“Data is the only way that we can see the virus,” LaVeist says. “We only have indicators. We can’t actually look at a person and tell who’s been infected. So what we have is data right now.”

Until a few weeks ago, racial data for COVID-19 was sparse. It’s still incomplete, but now 48 states plus Washington D.C., report at least some data; in total, race or ethnicity is known for around half of all cases and 90% of deaths. And though gaps remain, the pattern is clear: Communities of color are being hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19.

Public health experts say focusing on these disparities is crucial for helping communities respond to the virus effectively — so everyone is safer.

“I think it’s incumbent on all of us to realize that the health of all of us depends on the health of each of us,” says Dr. Alicia Fernandez, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, whose research focuses on health care disparities.

NPR analyzed COVID-19 demographic data collected by the COVID Racial Tracker, a joint project of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center and the COVID Tracking Project. This analysis compares each racial or ethnic group’s share of infections or deaths — where race and ethnicity is known — with their share of population. Here’s what it shows:

  • Nationally, African-American deaths from COVID-19 are nearly two times greater than would be expected based on their share of the population. In four states, the rate is three or more times greater.
  • In 42 states plus Washington D.C., Hispanics/Latinos make up a greater share of confirmed cases than their share of the population. In eight states, it’s more than four times greater.
  • White deaths from COVID-19 are lower than their share of the population in 37 states and the District of Columbia.

Major holes in the data remain: 48% of cases and 9% of deaths still have no race tied to them. And that can hamper response to the crisis across the U.S., now and in the future, says Dr. Utibe Essien, a health equity researcher at the University of Pittsburgh who has studied COVID-19 racial and ethnic disparities.

“If we don’t know who is sick, we’re not going to know in six months, 12 months, 18, however long it takes, who should be getting the vaccination. We’re not going to know where we should be directing our personal protective equipment to make sure that health care workers are protected,” he says.

A heavy toll of African-American deaths

NPR’s analysis finds that in 32 states plus Washington D.C., blacks are dying at rates higher than their proportion of the population. In 21 states, it’s substantially higher, more than 50% above what would be expected. For example, in Wisconsin, at least 141 African Americans have died, representing 27% of all deaths in a state where just 6% of the state’s population is black.

“I’ve been at health equity research for a couple of decades now. Those of us in the field, sadly, expected this,” says Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, director of the Equity Research and Innovation Center at Yale School of Medicine.

“We know that these racial ethnic disparities in COVID-19 are the result of pre-pandemic realities. It’s a legacy of structural discrimination that has limited access to health and wealth for people of color,” she says.

African-Americans have higher rates of underlying conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease, that are linked to more severe cases of COVID-19, Nunez-Smith notes. They also often have less access to quality health care, and are disproportionately represented in essential frontline jobs that can’t be done from home, increasing their exposure to the virus.

Data from a recently published paper in the Annals of Epidemiology reinforces the finding that African-Americans are harder hit in this pandemic. The study from researchers at amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, looks at county-level health outcomes, comparing counties with disproportionately black populations to all other counties.

Their analysis shows that while disproportionately black counties account for only 30% of the U.S. population, they were the location of 56% of COVID-19 deaths. And even disproportionately black counties with above-average wealth and health care coverage bore an unequal share of deaths.

“There’s a structural issue that’s taking place here, it’s not a genetic issue for all non-white individuals in the U.S.,” says Greg Millett, director of public policy at amfAR and lead researcher on the paper.

Hispanics bear a disproportionate share of infections

Latinos and Hispanics test positive for the coronavirus at rates higher than would be expected for their share of the population in all but one of the 44 jurisdictions that report Hispanic ethnicity data (42 states plus Washington D.C.). The rates are two times higher in 30 states, and over four times higher in eight states. For example, in Virginia more than 12,000 cases — 49% of all cases with known ethnicity — come from the Hispanic and Latino community, which makes up only 10% of the population.

Fernandez has seen these disparities first-hand as an internist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. While Latinos made up about 35% of patients there before the pandemic, she says they now make up over 80% of COVID-19 cases at the hospital.

“In the early stages, when we were noticing increased Latino hospitalization at our own hospital and we felt that no one was paying attention and that people were just happy that San Francisco was crushing the curve,” she says. “It felt horrendous. It felt as if people were dismissing those lives. … It took people longer to realize what was going on.”

Like African-Americans, Latinos are over-represented in essential jobs that increase their exposure to the virus, says Fernandez. Regardless of their occupation, high rates of poverty and low wages mean that many Latinos feel compelled to leave home to seek work. Dense, multi-generational housing conditions make it easier for the virus to spread, she says.

The disproportionate share of deaths isn’t as stark for Latinos as it is for African-Americans. Fernandez says that’s likely because the U.S. Latino population overall is younger — nearly three-quarters are millennials or younger, according to data from the Pew Research Center. But in California, “when you look at it by age groups, [older] Latinos are just as likely to die as African-Americans,” she says.

Other racial groups

While data for smaller minority populations is harder to come by, where it exists, it also shows glaring disparities. In New Mexico, Native American communities have accounted for 60% of cases but only 9% of the population. Similarly, in Arizona, at least 136 Native American have died from COVID-19, a striking 21% of deaths in a state where just 4% of the population are Native American.

In several states Asian Americans have seen a disproportionate share of cases. In South Dakota, for example, they account for only 2% of the population but 12% of cases. But beyond these places, data can be spotty. In Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, Asian Americans and Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders are counted together, making comparison to census data difficult.

Fernandez points out that if COVID-19 demographic reporting included language, public health officials might see differences among different Asian groups, such as Vietnamese or Filipino Americans. “That’s what’s going to allow public health officials to really target different communities,” she says. “We need that kind of information.”

Understanding the unknowns

Months into the pandemic, painting a national picture of how minorities are being affected remains a fraught proposition, because in many states, large gaps remain in the data.

For instance, in New York state — until recently the epicenter of the the U.S outbreak — race and ethnicity data are available for deaths but not for cases. In Texas, which has a large minority population and a sizable outbreak, less than 25% of cases and deaths have race or ethnicity data associated with them.

There are also still concerns about how some states are collecting data, says Christopher Petrella, director of engagement for the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. For example, he says West Virginia, which claims to have race data for 100% of positive cases and 82% of deaths only reports three categories: white, black and “other.”

Also some states appear to be listing Hispanics under the white category, says Samantha Artiga, director of the Disparities Policy Project at Kaiser Family Foundation,

“There’s a lot of variation across states in terms of how they report the data that makes comparing the data across states hard, as well as getting a full national picture,” Artiga says.

But experts fear that the available data actually undercounts the disparity observed in communities of color.

“I think we have the undercount anyway, because we know that minority communities are less likely to be tested for COVID-19,” says Millett. NPR’s own analysis found that in four out of six cities in Texas, testing sites were disproportionately located in whiter communities. Millet points to a recent study, released pre-peer review, that found that when testing levels went up in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Chicago and New York City, so too did the evidence of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on these communities.

Lawmakers have raised concern about the way the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports racial and ethnic data; the agency didn’t report on demographics early on in the crisis, and even now it updates it weekly but with a one- to two-week lag. Democratic senators Patty Murray of Washington and Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., of New Jersey called a recent report on demographics the CDC submitted to Congress “woefully inadequate.”

“The U.S. response to COVID-19 has been plagued by insufficient data on the impact of the virus, as well as the federal government’s response to it,” Murray and Pallone wrote in a letter sent May 22 to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. They called on the Trump administration to provide more comprehensive demographic data.

A tailored public health response

Essien says he’s heard concerns from colleagues that by focusing on race and ethnicity in the disease, “some of the empathy for managing and treating is going to go away.”

“If people feel like, ‘Well, this is a them problem and not a me problem… then that may potentially affect the way that people think about the opening up of the country,” he says.

But unless testing and other resources are directed now to communities that need them most, the pandemic will go on for everyone, says Nunez-Smith.

“This is important for everyone’s health and safety,” she says.

Nunez-Smith says race and ethnicity data is necessary for officials to craft tailored public health responses.

For many people, physical distancing is a privilege,” she says. “If you live in a crowded neighborhood or you share a household with many other people, we need to give messaging specific to those conditions. If you need to leave work every day or leave home for work every day, if you need to take public transportation to get to an essential front line job, how can you keep safe?”

A tailored public health response is already happening in Louisiana, where LaVeist says his task force has recently recruited celebrities like Big Freedia, a pioneer of the New Orleans hip-hop subgenre called bounce, to counter misinformation and spread public health messages about COVID-19 to the African-American community.

Given the pandemic’s disparate toll on communities of color, in particular low-income ones, Fernandez and Nunez-Smith say the public health response should include helping to meet basic needs like providing food, wage supports and even temporary housing for people who get sick or exposed to the virus.

“We have to guarantee that if we recommend to someone that they should be in quarantine or they should be in isolation, that they can do so safely and effectively,” Nunez-Smith says.

Nunez-Smith says if you don’t direct resources now to minority communities that need them most, there’s a danger they might be less likely to trust and buy into public health messaging needed to stem the pandemic. Already, polls show widespread distrust of President Trump among African-Americans, and that a majority of them believe the Trump administration’s push to reopen states came only after it became clear that people of color were bearing the brunt of the pandemic.

Fernandez notes that among Latinos, distrust could also hamper efforts to conduct effective contact tracing, because people who are undocumented or in mixed-status families may be reluctant to disclose who they’ve been in contact with.

“This is a terrible time for all of us who do health equity work,” says Fernandez, “partly because this is so predictable and partly because we’re standing here waving our arms saying, ‘Wait, wait. We need help.’ “

Source: What Do Coronavirus Racial Disparities Look Like State By State?

Canada immigration intake expected to fall by half due to COVID-19

RBC report is getting some well-deserved attention. Will have better sense of likely numbers once we have a few months data but estimates appear reasonable, as well as regions and programs more affected:

Canada’s annual immigration intake is expected to decline in 2020 by half from last year’s levels as a result of the global pandemic, raising concerns over the impact on the country’s newcomer-fuelled economy.

Canada welcomed 341,000 permanent residents in 2019 and was set to usher in another 370,000 this year, but that number is forecast to be down by as many as 170,000, according to a RBC report released Friday.

First-quarter immigration data on arrivals all indicated drastic decreases in the number of permanent residents, migrant workers and international students.

“The disruption will reverberate across the economy, given our reliance on immigration for labour-force growth and to offset Canada’s aging demographic,” warned the analysis by RBC senior economist Andrew Agopsowicz.

“Among the potential casualties: industries with labour shortages, urban rental and housing markets, and university budgets. Canada will need a younger and growing population to maintain growth and support the unprecedented expansion of the fiscal deficit that came in response to the crisis.”

In March, Ottawa had set a target to bring in 370,000 new permanent residents this year, up from 341,000 in 2019. Just days after the announcement, concerns about the spread of COVID-19 prompted the federal government to impose travel restrictions.

Although these health and safety measures only started in Canada in mid-March, the impacts of the pandemic on immigration had already been felt in other parts of the world, resulting in the disruption of visa services and travels.

These early immigration numbers may be an indication of what is to come as the global pandemic is expected to last through at least this fall, if not longer:

  • Permanent resident entries were down 30 per cent in March versus a year earlier.
  • Temporary foreign worker admission in the agricultural sector fell 45 per cent in March from a year earlier.
  • The number of students entering on study visas fell 45 per cent in March from a year earlier.

“If these restrictions last all summer, we expect to see 170,000 fewer permanent residents entering the country in 2020 than planned — all in a year in which Canada was supposed to welcome a record number of newcomers,” said the report.

“While temporary foreign workers are exempt from entry restrictions, fewer are coming. The overall number of TFWs entering Canada in March was down 35 per cent versus the same month last year. In the agriculture sector — where they represent a key source of labour — the drop was an even sharper 45 per cent.”

Agopsowicz cautioned that Canada’s international education sector is also taking a huge hit, with fall enrolments expected to be down sharply amid travel restrictions and a broad, possibly permanent shift to remote learning.

In 2018 alone, international students pumped $21.6 billion into schools, communities and the broader Canadian economy.

At University of Toronto, for instance, international enrolments has doubled since 2010 to 25 per cent of the student body. If just one-fifth of its foreign students opt not to study in Canada this year, said the report, it could mean a shortfall of around $200 million on a $3 billion budget.

“That reduction could also hurt the small businesses and landlords who depend on these students for revenue,” it said. “A decline in foreign students could also affect what’s been an important source of new permanent residents.”

Canada’s immigration selection system has increasingly favoured international students, with their Canadian academic credentials and work experience. In 2019, some 11,000 new permanent residents had previously studied in Canada.

Last year, Canada’s population grew by 1.6 per cent or 580,000 people, with immigrants accounting for more than 80 per cent of the growth, said the report. While 30 per cent of the overall population is at least 55, only 8 per cent of immigrants are.

“Even before the pandemic, Canada relied on immigration to offset the fiscal challenge posed by an aging population,” the report noted. “With the tab of fighting COVID-19 already nearing $160 billion, Canada needs a growing labour force more than ever.”

Source: Canada immigration intake expected to fall by half due to COVID-19

Which workers are being hit hardest by the COVID-19 lockdown? These 6 graphics paint a stark picture of Canadian inequality

Good analysis and series of charts (go to article link for charts) by Mikal Skuterud showing the different groups most affected:

The COVID-19 lockdown is proving to be a “highly unequal economic shock,” hitting not only low-wage hourly workers the hardest, but also women in non-unionized jobs, according to an analysis of Statistics Canada labour force data by Waterloo professor of economics Mikal Skuterud.

The data also shows women with small children are losing more hours of work, compared to those with older kids, and that self-employed workers, who include small business owners, are feeling the pinch much more than employees in the private or public sector.

Skuterud says many of those jobs may be lost forever and the impact of those losses will widen the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots.”

This recession “has hit lower income people and families, more than people like me,” says Skuterud, who continues to work from home. “It’s been very unequal. And that’s a concern.

“The question is what’s this going to do to inequality.”

By his estimates, three to five million workers in Canada have been affected and Skuterud believes many of those people will not go back to the jobs they once did.

“People are going to have to move and find jobs in other sectors, and maybe these are sectors where they don’t have the skills they need,” says Skuterud. “All of this is going to become a big issue coming forward.”

Skuterud’s analysis is based on Statistics Canada’s labour force survey from April. The survey, of up to 60,000 people, is done each month online or by phone. Like the census, participation is mandatory under the Statistics Act.

Not your traditional recession

Typically, recessions come from the demand side of the market, says Skuterud. Consumers stop buying goods, companies don’t need to produce as much and, when production slows down, they lay off workers.

In the COVID-19 crisis, workers were told to stay home practically overnight.

And instead of the typical job losses in manufacturing and construction, the initial economic shock is happening in jobs where people have human interactions, says Skuterud.

A lot of those jobs are in the lower-wage service and retail industry, with lower hourly wages, where the workforce is predominantly female, he says.

“The financial crisis of 2008 didn’t happen overnight. It just wasn’t nearly the same magnitude, not nearly as many workers were affected as this.”

Non-unionized women hit hardest

The biggest job losses are in areas with human interaction, such as cashiers or any kind of retail. “It’s the type of jobs that women are concentrated in and lower wage workers are concentrated in,” says Skuterud.

Job losses among non-unionized women paid by the hour have been three times larger than among unionized women paid by the hour, such as nurses, says Skuterud.

As a result of the lockdown, women with young children have experienced the biggest loss in total working hours.

“We know from lots of research that caregiving falls on women,” says Skuterud. “For sure that’s what’s happening.”

Women in science have complained of not being able to work as much as their male counterparts during the pandemic and, in the university environment, Skuterud has noticed a bigger decrease in the number of academic papers from women compared to men.

He says it’s critical to address child care when we begin to turn the corner.

How families are faring

In general, recessions hurt families more than individuals, often because spouses work in the same sector and layoffs affect both spouses.

Skuterud says that’s not happening this time around, although the percentage of couples who’ve both lost their jobs went up from February to April this year.

In “this recession, the effect at the individual level has been massive,” he says.

Self-employed workers

Hours on the job for self-employed workers dropped by nearly 50 per cent between mid-February and mid-April, and private sector workers experienced a higher proportion of job losses.

“There are a lot of self-employed people: marginal business owners, workers in the gig economy, people driving Ubers,” says Skuterud. “These people have really been hit hard.”

“Going forward it will be interesting to see how many people move into self-employment,” he says. “And not because there’s good opportunity, but because of survival.

“There’s going to be more and more people looking for those jobs just to survive.”

Impact biggest in people who rent

From February to April 2020, a larger proportion of people who rent lost their jobs compared to people who owned their own homes.

It’s another indicator “that the recession has really hit lower income people harder,” says Skuterud. “That’s the bottom line in all of these charts.”

Source: Which workers are being hit hardest by the COVID-19 lockdown? These 6 graphics paint a stark picture of Canadian inequality

Ian Young on How Local Chinese Communities Helped BC’s COVID-19 Fight

Ian Young does some of the best reporting on the West Coast. This profile demonstrates the irony of those blaming Chinese Canadians, whereas they were the quickest to understand the threat and react accordingly, and were critical of Dr. Tam’s (and the government’s slower response:

“Cast your mind back to the distant days of January, when the Chinese communities in Richmond started masking up, staying home and avoiding busy places,” Ian Young tells me.

Oh boy. By that time, my relatives were already frantically sending me lists of local places that a rumoured virus carrier had visited. My Chinese landlord in Vancouver knew my dad worked in health care and asked me to help him order boxes of masks. A Chinese friend, from Hong Kong, wanted to wear a mask on a Vancouver bus but was scared about what others might think.

But few other British Columbians were worried about COVID-19. This was before the ubiquity of physical distancing, before the mad rush to stock up on personal products. Dr. Bonnie Henry wasn’t yet a household name. Media were busy reporting on events unfolding in Wet’suwet’en territory.

Among local Chinese, however, it was a different story. Young, a Vancouver-based correspondent for Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, was watching closely.

Metro Vancouver’s various Chinese communities — ethnic Chinese with ties to various parts of East Asia — felt the panic from overseas. News of something akin to SARS spreading in Wuhan went viral among B.C.’s Chinese before the virus itself did.

Many members stopped visiting Chinese restaurants and shopping centres, Young noted. The resulting quiet was regarded as a “curiosity” by people who weren’t connected to the city’s Chinese communities, he found.

Politicians encouraged people to support Chinese businesses, pinning the loss of patrons on rumours and racism. Health Minister Adrian Dix and others marched through Burnaby’s Crystal Mall, a popular Chinese destination with a wet market, in February to show their support.

Young didn’t mince words on Twitter: “Don’t imagine that white-knight stylings will make you the saviour, when what’s really needed is for Chinese folk themselves to feel more comfortable going out again like they used to do.”

Many East Asian locals had already started physical distancing by January. That’s because many had lived through SARS and had, as Young describes it, a “gut reaction and cultural memory.” (Young was the editor in charge of the South China Morning Post’s SARS quarantine team in Hong Kong, and likened the impact of the virus and the climate of fear to that of 9/11.)

It’s insights like this that make Young’s coverage of Metro Vancouver’s Chinese and the city’s ties to East Asia unique, especially when mainstream English media rarely have the cultural expertise or contacts. Instead, they tend to interview the same few Chinese voices over and over again.

Young, for example, recently reported on why chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam isn’t liked by many Chinese in Canada. Those lacking cultural and political perspective might wonder why ethnic Chinese might be so critical of her.

With the same kind of myth-busting, analysis and commentary he brings to his coverage of the local housing crisis, Young has been unpacking the pandemic as it relates to B.C.’s Chinese, from “maskaphobia” to the politics of health.

I recently chatted with Young about his astute coverage.

On the early start to physical distancing

On Feb. 8, Young took a photo of an empty Aberdeen Centre, a mall in Richmond, B.C.

“This was a profound thing,” said Young. “Aberdeen Centre to me is as close to a city square as anywhere in Richmond — I’m talking specifically about ‘Chinese Richmond.’”

The mall typically hosts holiday celebrations, fairs and community displays. The Aberdeen transit station attached to the mall was also where local residents on opposing sides of the Hong Kong protests clashed last fall.

“The food court has got 800 seats, and it’s always packed. You’re doing laps with your tray trying to find a seat. So it was shocking that it was deserted,” said Young.

“This was something that had entered the mindset of Richmondites, and [yet] it was barely being reported. The Chinese communities were certainly ahead of the curve. That should be acknowledged.”

It was only after Young pointed it out that outlets like CBC began picking up on the story.

On an expert’s response to the early start

Last month, Young interviewed a Canadian expert in new and re-emerging viruses who said he “absolutely” believes the early response by B.C.’s Chinese may have helped the province combat the virus more successfully than other jurisdictions.

University of Manitoba professor Jason Kindrachuk said more research is needed to determine the true impact but called the community’s quick action “fantastic” and said it “needs to be applauded and recognized.”

“There may have been a grassroots movement,” Kindrachuk, a former Vancouver resident who worked in Africa during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, told Young. “What you have in B.C. is a Chinese community that was seeing the impacts across Asia [and] had been through SARS.”

On the unintended revelation of Richmond’s low infection rate

“I think there was this perception that went on for so long about Richmond being a hot spot of infection because there’s so many Chinese people,” said Young. “It plays to a lot of racist tropes about cleanliness and disease in general.”

One piece of fake news that went viral online showed Chinese climbing Costco scaffolding to get bags of rice, allegedly in Richmond.

According to the most recent census, 54 per cent of Richmond residents identify as ethnic Chinese. (Richmond is 23 per cent white.)

B.C. doesn’t share information on specific communities with confirmed COVID-19 cases, only which health authority they fall into.

Health officials have said this reduces stigma in hard-hit places and prevents a false sense of security in others.

“It’s irrelevant what community you’re in,” Henry has said. “The risk of this virus is everywhere in British Columbia.”

Richmond is part of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. The figures released by government don’t let the public know whether a COVID-19 case is in Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore or a number of smaller coastal communities.

But in late April, Young tuned into Facebook Live chat with a VCH doctor who shared a partial breakdown of cases. Richmond only had 10 per cent of the jurisdiction’s cases, whereas 60 per cent were in Vancouver and 30 per cent on the North Shore.

On a per capita basis, Richmond’s rate of infection is 36.8 cases per 100,000 people. This is half Vancouver’s rate and about one-quarter of Canada’s rate of 120 cases per 100,000 people.

Young said Richmond had “a very laudable reaction” to COVID-19.

“I think it’s worth pointing out that despite being the most Chinese city in the world outside Asia, with all these links to China and Hong Kong, it had half the rate of infection of Vancouver just over the river. And I don’t think that’s captured as a fact in common perception.”

The public wasn’t meant to know these specifics. When Young put the numbers to the health authority itself, a spokesperson said that it wouldn’t elaborate.

On why Dr. Theresa Tam is criticized by some Chinese Canadians

Born in Hong Kong, Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has received plenty of racist hate online.

And she’s been criticized by high-profile conservatives like Ontario MP Derek Sloan who questioned whether she was more loyal to China than Canada and called for her firing.

But look within Canada’s Chinese communities and you’ll find people critical of Tam and her advice too, simply based on her record on the job.

“All these people in my ethnic Chinese circle were vehemently critical of Dr. Tam in ways that my non-Chinese friends and acquaintances would be very reluctant to state, fearing themselves grouped with racist rabble-rousers,” said Young.

“I’m not suggesting that racism gets a pass. What I am pointing out is that Chinese communities here are not shy about expressing things that some people in non-Chinese communities would be reluctant to do as a simple matter of solidarity against racism.”

Aside from bigots who seem to be targeting Tam for being a woman and for being ethnically Chinese, her connections to the World Health Organization have been a point of controversy.

Tam, who’s served on a number of WHO committees and missions in the past, is currently an advisor to the agency’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on COVID-19.

“It’s a hugely controversial thing in some Chinese community circles to champion the WHO because of its stance on Taiwan as a non-nation.”

The WHO has been criticized for uncritically accepting China’s virus data, parroting its messaging and being overly complimentary to the country.

On top of this, there’s also Tam’s describing COVID-19 as “low” risk until March 15 and her long dismissal of the need for the public to wear face masks. In April, she said that wearing them “seems a sensible thing to do”and on May 20 she said masks would serve as an “added layer of protection” when physical distancing is not possible.

“It really pissed off so many in the Chinese community, particularly those who believe the real successes that places like Hong Kong and Taiwan have had,” said Young.

“All sorts of highly-qualified people have praised mask-wearing. So we’re talking about big sections of the community fully invested in masks, and they see Dr. Tam basically flip-flopping, taking a position that’s neither here nor there.”

On ‘maskaphobia’ and where it comes from

On April 15 in Vancouver, a man told two Asian women wearing masks “Go back to your country. That’s where it all started.” A third woman who came to their defence was attacked by the man, who kicked her, wrestled her to the floor and ripped out a clump of her hair.

This was one of many racist and violent incidents against people who are or look East Asian, often in masks, around the world. On May 22, the Vancouver Police Department noted they had opened 77 hate-associated police files so far in 2020, compared to 26 in the same period last year.

Young interviewed sociologist Yinxuan Huang of the University of Manchester, who’s been examining “maskaphobia.”

“It is on the one hand a cultural conflict between the East, where wearing masks are pretty normal, and the West, where wearing masks can present a different meaning, even a sort of threat to some extent,” Huang told Young. “This cultural difference has become an excuse to legitimize xenophobia, particularly given that China is where the pandemic started.”

Wearing masks has made Asians in overseas communities “clear targets” of amplified racism, Huang added, which often stems from a perception of Asians as being bad at integrating with the mainstream society they’ve moved to.

Health authorities in Canada have expressed worry that if they recommend masks, then the public will start ignoring other measures such as hand washing and social distancing.

“I don’t think people are as stupid at health authorities seem to assume,” said Young. “They say that masks don’t work 100 per cent of the time. Of course they don’t! Nothing does. But the absence of 100-per-cent efficacy doesn’t mean they don’t help.”

Why Young isn’t afraid to engage trolls on Twitter

Young’s reporting on the role of immigration and foreign money in Vancouver real estate has long attracted Twitter trolls and armchair analysts in denial of his research.

His COVID-19 reporting has attracted a similar new audience, from virus skeptics to those who believe this all started from bat soup in China.

“I always try to engage, unless someone is outright rude to me at the first instance,” said Young. “For a lot of trolls, they can be quite surprised when someone engages and says, ‘Hi there.’ Some of them say ‘I dare you to block me! Block me won’t you!’

“You also run the risk of silo-ing yourself if your immediate reaction is just to block. I actually don’t block that many people…. There are some terrible people out there. There are hardcore irredeemable racists, but I try to converse. I don’t mind taking the piss a bit with them too. People treat Twitter different ways. I treat it as a conversation.”

On the divides and differences between ‘Chinese Vancouver’ and the rest of Vancouver

After decades of immigration, Chinese communities in Metro Vancouver have their own social networks, information channels and particular destinations. The pandemic has highlighted this parallel “Chinese Vancouver” and how it seems to exist outside of the mainstream.

After all, Aberdeen Centre, the popular Chinese “city square,” was empty of patrons in February, while Vancouver’s mayor had to shut down bars on St. Patrick’s Day in March and instruct people to instead “drink a Guinness at home.”

I put the question of these divides and differences to Young.

“It’s definitely not an enclave. It’s bigger than [an] enclave,” said Young. “We do have quite segregated parallel cities. But there’s different kinds of Vancouver; there’s all sorts of different ethnic Vancouvers. It’s an inconvenient thing to think about, but it shapes so many people’s personal understandings of what they mean by ‘Vancouver.’

“In Hong Kong, Vancouver occupies a huge space in people’s minds. It’s a special place. You watch Asian dramas on TV that reference someone in Vancouver. You go to karaoke in Hong Kong, and there are these generic videos filmed at Stanley Park or Kits Beach associated to versions of western songs filmed. Vancouver punches so far above its weight. But these Vancouvers aren’t a Vancouver that non-Chinese Vancouverites understand.”

On being a Vancouver correspondent for a Hong Kong-based international paper

Young is originally from Australia, where he worked in newspapers before reporting for the London Evening Standard and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. He became the international editor there before arriving in Canada in 2010 and becoming the Vancouver correspondent.

“I’ve always been an outsider for various reasons throughout my career,” said Young. “If you’re an ethnic Chinese person in Australia, you’re an outsider for a start. That was the same in London. And when you go to Hong Kong, you’re an outsider for different reasons: my accent and because I don’t speak Chinese. But when I came over here to Vancouver, all that merged and I kind of ended up straddling a lot of different worlds.

“I do occupy a strange place. There’s lots of things I’ve written about that are huge surprises to people in Chinese communities when they see it in English.

“As a foreign correspondent writing for not just the Vancouver community but also people who are observing Vancouver from afar, there’s a different perspective. I think the fact that there is now a small community of foreign correspondents who are taking a foreign correspondent’s eye to Vancouver is useful, because Vancouver, like any other city, can be an insular place.

“When you’re a goldfish, you don’t know you’re living in a bowl. And when I say outsider’s perspective, I’m not just talking about me, but my editor’s perspective as well. It’s useful to understanding the city, not just for the people who are there.”  [Tyee]

Source: thetyee.ca/News/2020/05/2…

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries, Quebec similar to worst hit European countries

A number of us were discussing COVID-19 and the wide variances between different provinces in terms of infections and deaths. So we decided to see what the data looked like, comparing Canada and its provinces to other G7 countries and Australia, with New York and California.

The table below dramatizes just how. bad the situation is in Quebec, where Quebec has the second highest level of infections and the fourth highest level of deaths per million, comparable  to the worst hit European countries (data from the Globe’s daily tracker) Canada without Quebec is better than any other G7 country save Japan.

On the other hand, it highlights the West and Atlantic Canada with lower infection and death rates..

Per Million

2020-05-27

Population

Death

Infection

Death

Infection

New York 19.5 1,502.7 18,658.3 29,302 363,836
UK 66.5 558.3 4,009.1 37,130 266,602
Italy 60.4 545.6 3,817.1 32,955 230,555
Quebec 8.4 492.7 5,785.5 4,139 48,598
France 67.0 425.9 2,729.1 28,533 182,847
USA 326.7 302.8 5,146.7 98,929 1,681,418
Canada 37.8 175.6 2,292.2 6,639 86,647
Ontario 14.4 147.4 1,818.8 2,123 26,191
Germany 82.9 101.2 2,186.9 8,386 181,293
California 39.6 96.6 2,520.5 3,826 99,810
Canada less Quebec 29.3 84.6 1,288.7 2,500 38,049
Alberta 4.4 31.6 1,568.4 139 6,901
British Columbia 5.1 31.6 498.2 161 2,541
Atlantic Canada 2.4 25.8 612.9 62 1,471
Japan 126.5 6.7 131.4 846 16,623
Prairies (MB, SK) 2.6 5.8 356.2 15 926
Australia 25.2 4.1 283.3 103 7,139
Canadian population 2019, other countries 2018
Canada less Quebec 29.3

84.6

1,288.7

2,500

38,049

Health agency reveals race-based data guideline as calls grow for nation-wide collection

Yes!

Will take some time given the coordination required to ensure consistent data across provinces, with Quebec unlikely to play ball unfortunately (CIHI data does not automatically include Quebec data. When I asked the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux for the comparable birth tourism (non-resident) birth statistics, I was met by bureaucratic obfuscation and had to go to major hospitals directly):

In response to calls for better demographic data to understand health inequities and COVID-19, this week the Canadian Institute for Health Information is releasing an interim race data standard that public health agencies can use.

Many advocates, though, are pushing for more than advice, saying the federal government has a leadership role to play to ensure there’s consistent data, regardless of jurisdiction. That gap in information affects the provincial, territorial, and federal response to the pandemic and until the country moves forward with race-based and disaggregated income data, Canada “can’t possibly target resources” and care where they’re most needed, said Dr. Jennifer Rayner, an epidemiologist and director of research at the Alliance for Healthier Communities.

“It’s ignorance and blindness to where there’s gross inequities. Until we know where the discrepancies and inequities in health are, we can never tackle them,” she said, saying communities need action and the work needs to start somewhere. “I hate to keep waiting until we get it all perfect.”

The alliance is part of a national working table headed by Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)—which the institute notes are not formal—that’s considering two things: what data to collect, and how to train health professionals so they’re comfortable asking these questions. While this work has been going on for years, the report on the interim standard noted a “heightened awareness and interest” in collecting such data to better understand COVID-19’s spread.

The lack of data on race in Canada makes it difficult to monitor racial health inequalities and CIHI’s interim standard was created in an effort to “harmonize and facilitate collection of high-quality data,” according to a copy shared with The Hill Times of the standard, “Race-Based Data Collection and Health Reporting,” to be released later this week.

It proposed two questions asking patients to identify their race categories (also giving the option of “prefer not to answer”) and whether they identify as First Nations, Inuit, or Métis.

Though the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has said it is looking into the possibility of collecting more demographic data related to COVID, most said it’s a matter of political will, under the direction of Health Minister Patty Hajdu (Thunder Bay-Superior North, Ont.) and Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller (Ville-Marie–Le Sud-Ouest–Île-des-Soeurs, Que.).

When asked, neither of the ministers’ offices, the PHAC, or CIHI offered a position on whether such data should be collected nation wide.

However, Ms. Hajdu’s spokesperson, Cole Davidson, said in an email that “[d]emographic data collection and data sharing between the federal and provincial/territorial governments is crucial to advancing our knowledge of COVID-19 and understanding potential inequalities in our health care system. We’re working with provinces and territories to ensure we’re collecting the data we need to better understand this pandemic.”

And while these conversations are happening, advocates say it’s not leading to the outcome that is becoming more urgent by the day—a commitment and timeframe for nationwide data collection.

“As a national strategy, if you don’t value gathering the data it’s hard to motivate other places to do so,” said Aimée-Angélique Bouka, the College of Family Physicians of Canada vice-chair-elect for residents. “You’ll see disparity across the board if you don’t see proper federal leadership in the project.”

‘It’s all about political will’

Canada has a blind spot regarding its treatment of racialized groups and immigrants, despite the evidence, she said.

COVID-19 was thought to be “the grand equalizer,” but some populations have proved more vulnerable. In the United States, by mid-April nearly one-third of those who died were African American, an Associated Press report revealed, though Black people represent about 14 per cent of the population where they reported. Such disparities exist in Canada, though Dr. Bouka said society is uncomfortable with painful questions that reveal a pattern of neglect.

“COVID is only a snapshot and a clear representation of what happens in our country in a systematic way.”

She said she would add a question about immigrant status, and how long a person has been in Canada as other important markers that influence health, said Dr. Bouka, who wrote about that blind spot for Policy Optionsthis month.

Because we don’t have this self awareness we are slow to accept it, but once the outbreaks became evident, demographics became impossible to ignore, she said.

For more than two decades, Independent Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard has been calling for race-based data collection.

“It’s so frustrating and infuriating,” said Sen. Bernard (East Preston, N.S.), a former social worker and researcher who co-authored a 2010 book, Race and Well-Being, which she said demonstrated racism is an everyday experience for Black Canadians and has an impact on all forms of their health.

“I can’t help but ask myself, ‘How many more casualties do we have to see before there’s a true appreciation for why the collection of this data across all provinces and territories [is] essential?’”

Sen. Bernard said she has been asking these questions of Liberal ministers and their aides—she’s not comfortable divulging the details of these conversations—and while she remains hopeful, she said it’s “all the more urgent to make the decision now.”

“We need to be on the same page with this, and let’s cut through the politics,” she said, and look at COVID-19 as a starting point, an “awakening” for the inequities in health that long predated the pandemic.

Unfortunately, it takes more than proof to shift policy, said Dr. Bouka and it becomes about building more evidence and raising enough voices to make inaction impossible.

“It’s mostly us being reminded so politicians can’t ignore it. Ultimately, it’s all about political will. If your weaknesses are shown repeatedly, then you can’t just pretend that you didn’t know,” she said.

Though it’s left up to the individual jurisdictions, Sen. Bernard said it’s important to have data that’s consistent across the country, which requires leadership so that it is collected in the same way.

Alex Maheux, CIHI spokesman said by email it’s up to the provinces and territories to decide how to proceed, but it has expressed willingness to support jurisdictions in that data collection and is currently working with partners to understand race and ethnicity data needs.

Earlier this month, Manitoba became the first province to track the ethnicity of COVID-19 patients while Quebec and Ontario have said they will as well. At a local level, Toronto has also said it tracks demographics.

In mid-July, CIHI said it will also publish a broader discussion document, followed by ongoing engagement with relevant stakeholders to “refine” the standard, if needed.

Public Health Agency of Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette said by email the government is committed to working with the provinces and territories—as well as other partners—to improve data completeness and access, including demographic information.

“These indicators will help to further our understanding of COVID-19 among different population subgroups and to monitor trends going forward,” she said, and it plays “a critical role” in helping to understand disease severity and risk factors, to monitor trends over time, and to ensure that public health measures can be effectively designed and delivered where needed.”

Data collection on Indigenous people ‘distinct’

CIHI’s standard notes that though Indigenous groups are often considered alongside racial and ethnic categories, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis have “inherent and collective rights to self-determination,” including ownership and governance of their data. That warrants “distinct consideration” and must include engagement with Indigenous communities and data governance agreements.

Canada tracks on-reserve cases of the coronavirus, but with nearly half of First Nations living off-reserve, the picture is incomplete. Yellowhead Institute independently researched, and on May 12 published findings revealing more than triple the cases reported by Indigenous Services Canada. Mr. Miller has acknowledged the department’s data is insufficientand on May 9 announced $250,000 towards improving data collection—not enough, according to Yellowhead researcher Courtney Skye.

“If we’re going to recognize First Nations, Indigenous, and Inuit are more impacted and more at risk for poor outcomes because of COVID-19, there needs to be a multi-jurisdictional prioritization of getting proper information available to communities to make informed decisions,” she said.

“Communities have a right to that information and the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to make sure this work is adequately funded.”

Rose LeMay, CEO of the Indigenous Reconciliation Group and regular Hill Timescolumnist, penned a plea in April for COVID-19 data that notes background and Indigeneity. A month later, she said she remains baffled there’s been limited movement to close the data gap.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime data dump, if we were to access it, because this shows the inequities of the system”, she said, noting Canada has “substantial work” to build trust given its problematic history collecting information on Indigenous people, and declaring who is and isn’t status.

That could be addressed by involving organizations perceived as objective to lead the way alongside Indigenous groups, and would likely require building new partnerships to do it well.

The lack of trust shouldn’t stop this work from happening, she said, adding the “how” is a “purely technical exercise” that she said she thinks Canada’s health-care system is capable of managing.

Ms. Skye said the patchwork approach isn’t working and it needs to be led by Indigenous people and be properly resourced. She added that this is another indication that the Liberal government’s approach to reconciliation is more for “show” than addressing “tangible barriers,” like health, that impact the daily lives of Indigenous people.

“These realities are known, are well-documented, and have existed for a long time, and there hasn’t been enough of the practical work done on behalf of the federal government and provinces,” she said. “It does come down to the will of the government.”

Source: Health agency reveals race-based data guideline as calls grow for nation-wide collection 

Matas and Cotler: Legal steps must be taken against China for initial inaction

In order to safeguard global public health, the world must take action against the Government of China for its role in this global pandemic crisis. The Chinese Communist Party of China (CCP) and the Government of China, which the party directs, bear a large measure of responsibility for the global spread of COVID-19.

In the early days of the pandemic’s spread and during the Lunar New Year travel season, the Chinese government downplayed the severity of the illness and its spread. Human Rights Watch said in January that Chinese authorities had “detained people for ‘rumor-mongering,’ censored online discussions of the epidemic, curbed media reporting, and failed to ensure appropriate access to medical care for those with virus symptoms and others with medical needs.” Amnesty International warned soon after that the withholding of information was putting at risk the medical community’s ability to combat the virus.

There is authoritative and compelling evidence – including a study from the University of Southampton – that if interventions in China had been conducted three weeks earlier, transmission of COVID-19 could have been reduced by 95 per cent.

Meanwhile, an analysis of Chinese censorship around COVID-19, by the Munk School’s Citizen Lab, found that “Censorship of COVID-19 content started at early stages of the outbreak and continued to expand blocking a wide range of speech, from criticism of the government to officially sanctioned facts and information.”

The Chinese government’s wrongdoing and the suffering of its victims within its borders and internationally calls out for justice and accountability. There are clear and compelling legal remedies that should be considered to effectively address and redress this matter.

International

The International Court of Justice through a request for an advisory opinion from the United Nations General Assembly

The United Nations Charter provides that the UN General Assembly may request the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to give an advisory opinion on any legal question. Any UN member state can ask the General Assembly to make such a request to the ICJ, and China would not be able to veto such a resolution. The General Assembly could therefore request that the ICJ determine whether the actions of Xi Xinping’s China regarding coronavirus were in breach of its international legal obligations.

United Nations Human Rights Council

The United Nations Human Rights Council can pass a condemnatory resolution, or even establish a commission of inquiry into China’s actions regarding the coronavirus. If such initiatives are unlikely to muster the necessary majority of votes by member states of the council, independent statements can be made at the council’s regular sessions. Under agenda item 4 — “human rights situations that require the council’s attention” — any country, whether a member of the council or not, can deliver an oral statement. The wrongdoing of the Chinese government in the global spread of the coronavirus should be a matter of continuing concern at future sessions of the Human Rights Council.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, currently Dr. Dainius Puras, can consider individual complaints, issue annual reports and conduct country visits. Accordingly, he should be asked to address China’s culpability in the spread of COVID-19.

There is a sense of urgency to such a prospective path towards accountability, as the current Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health will be replaced at the Council Session taking place between June 15th and July 3rd.

China was appointed in April to the Consultative Group of the Human Rights Council. The group advises the President of the council on the appointment of special rapporteurs and holds final approval over council appointments. It is therefore unlikely that the council, with a member of the Chinese Communist Party as part of its makeup, would appoint to any specialized mechanism a person who may be critical of the government of China.

The World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) was critical in 2003 of the Chinese Communist Party for its secrecy, dishonesty and cover-up concerning the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Guangzhou, Guangdong of 2002. However, the behaviour of the WHO in the current pandemic is disappointing.

One might have hoped that the Chinese government has learned the lessons of its failures from the time of the SARS outbreak. Instead, of China reforming its policies and practices, it is the WHO that has altered its approach, failing to stand up to China.

The WHO has an important ongoing mandate and responsibility for our health and security which becomes particularly urgent in a time of a global pandemic, such as SARS in 2003 and now with COVID-19. Therefore, the WHO must be a particular focus of accountability efforts and encouraged to do the right thing, which is also the smart thing, for global public health and effectively confronting the Coronavirus.

International Health Regulations

The International Health Regulations were adopted in 2005 by the World Health Assembly of the WHO, to protect humanity from the international spread of disease. The unprecedented global impact of COVID-19 has demonstrated the ineffectiveness of these regulations.

In particular, there are no effective mechanisms when a state party violates regulations. All measures are subject to the approval of the violating state party, an unrealistic expectation when it comes to Xi Jinping’s China.

Yet, these regulations should not be rendered inoperative merely because of the necessity of agreement from Xi Xinping’s China to make them effective. An effort should be undertaken to render these regulations operable, and the very pursuit of this objective will underpin accountability efforts, promote a truthful narrative and mitigate Chinese propaganda.

International Court of Justice through the World Health Organization

The Constitution of the WHO provides that any dispute concerning the application of the constitution not settled by negotiation or by the World Health Assembly shall be referred to the International Court of Justice. A dispute regarding whether Xi Xinping’s China violated the International Health Regulations would likely constitute a dispute that could be referred by any WHO member state to the International Court of Justice.

The World Health Assembly

More broadly, the systemic challenges of the WHO must be addressed, and its next gathering from May 17 to 21 in Geneva presents such an opportunity. Ironically, the assembly may be unable to meet due to the failings of the WHO and the International Health Regulations in combatting the spread of COVID19.

In the World Health Assembly, as in the United Nations General Assembly, Xi Xinping’s China does not have a veto. This an opportunity for the international community to prioritize public health and pursue justice regarding the pandemic.

The Biological Weapons Convention

The Biological Weapons Convention obligates state parties, of which China is one, not to retain biological agents other than for peaceful purposes. A biological agent has been defined under the Convention to mean any organism which can cause death, disease or incapacity. 

Repressing or misrepresenting information about the virus, detaining health practitioners who seek to sound the alarm, and arguing publicly against global travel restrictions, are forms of retention of the virus that have harmed global peace and security.

Any state party to the convention could therefore make a complaint to the U.N. Security Council. Given that the convention has 183 state parties, that includes nearly every country in the world. The UN Security Council, on receipt of a complaint of violation, must investigate the matter and produce a report.

National

Magnitsky laws

Magnitsky laws for global justice and accountability, named for murdered Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, allows for the public listing of serious human rights violators – naming and shaming them – and subjecting them to visa bans and asset seizures, thus challenging the cultures of corruption and criminality, and the impunity that underpins them.

There are six countries with this law. None of them have targeted any rights violators in Xi Xinping’s China. More countries should enact such laws, and all those with Magnitsky legislation should consider implementing them to pursue justice and accountability for those responsible for perpetrating and perpetuating COVID-19.

Universal jurisdiction laws on crimes against humanity through prosecution 

Many countries have laws which allow for the domestic prosecution of those who have committed crimes against humanity abroad. While these laws typically apply to permanent residents and citizens, some may also apply to visitors.

The accused would have to be found in the territory of the country in order for the local courts to have jurisdiction. While it varies by country – with some allowing for the private initiation of prosecutions – it is most often the exclusive decision of public prosecutors. Prosecutors are, however, usually reluctant to engage in such prosecutions, due to the prohibitive costs and evidentiary obstacles inherent in a case where the criminality and material evidence is abroad. Where private prosecutions are possible, they should be vigorously pursued.

There are other states, beyond China, that have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 through bad public policy and poor governance. Any liability response should be compelling and comprehensive, holding all wrongdoers to account. Yet, in doing so, the intentional and particularly intensive wrongdoing of China should be duly considered.

The denial, coverup and counter-factual narrative surrounding COVID-19 – underpinned by the use of global political pressure abroad and the repression of whistleblowers and medical heroes at home – has become standard operating procedure for the Communist Party of China. Immunity and impunity invite repetition.

In order to safeguard global public health, the world must act. Short-term political or economic considerations encouraging the indulgence of wrongdoing in Xi Jinping’s  China come with a long-term cost. Preventing another pandemic and protecting humanity necessitates pursuing justice and accountability for the Communist Party’s actions.

Source: Legal steps must be taken against China for initial inaction

Paradkar: (Mostly) white covidiots at Trinity Bellwoods think the rules don’t apply to them. They’re right

Not only white folks can be covidiots. Ottawa has its share of visible minorities and whites who don’t respect social distancing visiting Dow’s Lake to look at the tulips.

André Picard notes the more fundamental issue at play, the inability of Toronto to free up more space for people (Don’t blame those who gather in parks – blame the city):

One look at images of Trinity Bellwoods Park on Saturday and it was instantly clear that idiocy is not just an affliction of the American middle class.

As a person with the luxury of living with greenery around me, I appreciate how difficult it must be to be trapped in a condo, sometimes even without balconies. I don’t blame people for wanting to break out of their confines when the sunny outside beckons so cheerily.

I get that there aren’t a lot of open spaces in the core of Toronto — although, for perspective, compared to many parts of the world, the city is positively lush.

What is bothersome is that while people around the world and even in our own city have been weathering the pandemic in far tougher conditions, in crappy apartments and crowded homes and in poverty, it was in Trinity Bellwoods that people somehow collectively felt entitled to say to hell with social distancing.

Their pleasure trumped our collective safety.

Trinity Bellwoods is considered a “gentrifying” neighbourhood with a higher concentration of white folks compared to the city. Like in all of the city, nearly half the resident are renters, and the same proportion have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the 2016 census.

Based on social-media comments and real-estate agents’ descriptions, the 32-acre Trinity Bellwoods Park is a place to be seen. That’s a concept beyond my comprehension but on Saturday it meant that people could have gone to other parks (Stanley Park, Alexandra Park) but didn’t.

I wonder if the news about who is most at risk from COVID-19 — the racialized have-nots — has created a sense of inoculation among the haves. It’s affecting those people, not us, unless we’re old. Pandemics have always killed the poorest — mainly because those are the bodies the virus comes across. People who can’t afford to hunker down necessarily place themselves at risk to keep the rest of us in comfort. Gathering in large numbers simply offers the virus more bodies to feast on.

Photographs doing the rounds on social media showed thousands of what looked like white people milling around in crowds in the west-end park, as if millions of other Torontonians were not holding back from precisely that because common sense. And courtesy. And safety.

No doubt there were racialized folks among those gathered — fools come from all races — but they were protected by the overwhelming whiteness of those around them. Had that been a sea of Black and brown folks, we’d be having a very different conversation today.

While we may call Saturday’s hordes at Trinity Bellwoods covidiots or victims of squashed housing or poor communications by the province, to me they serve as a quick snapshot as to who feels entitled to the public space in this city, who gets scrutinized and who gets penalized for existing in it.

Of course, race matters, class matters.

A couple of weeks ago, a Tamil friend in our suburban neighbourhood was taking his children for a walk, observing all social-distancing protocols. A white man working on his front lawn chided him for being outside and told him to get off the sidewalk and walk on the road.

Last month, the father of a Black teen in Ottawa accused a trustee of harassing and photo-shaming his teenage son on Facebook for shooting hoops by himself. This was before there was clarity around the use of public parks.

In Brampton, Peel Police broke up groups of people who broke social-distancing rules by playing cricket and fined them $880 each.

It was also Eid this weekend when Muslims ended the month-long fasting of Ramadan. It’s a time of celebration, but Muslim Canadians shared stories on Twitter of a visible police presence in their communities to ensure they didn’t break social-distancing rules.

In Toronto, several homeless people have also been given $880 tickets for sitting on public benches, according to Policing the Pandemic, a map that tracks criminal charges across the country. The vast majority of police enforcement thus far has been about failing to comply with distancing rules, the researchers found.

So where was the weight of all that enforcement on Saturday? How many people were fined? Mayor John Tory said the people need to “do better” and sent in bylaw officers Sunday. Is that their only accountability? To be mocked en masse and face expressions of disappointment from our leaders but bear no individual responsibility?

What about community spread? Given that Ontario’s testing and contact tracing efforts are flailing — that we don’t actually know how community transmission is spreading — will we ever be able to track how many people were endangered by the indifference of the folks at Trinity Bellwoods Park?

Has the province sought the might of the police to keep all of us safe or only some of us safe? Why does the amount of melanin in the wrongdoer dictate who gets off, and whom we choose to perceive as wrongdoer in the first place?

Guess there’s no one quite like covidiots to expose the toxic hierarchies that operate under pretty ideals of egalitarianism.

Source: Shree Paradkar(Mostly) white covidiots at Trinity Bellwoods think the rules don’t apply to them. They’re right

New data show that minorities and low-income earners are more susceptible to COVID-19

Yet another article on racial disparities, based upon Toronto Public Health census track-level data:

When the public image of Pearson International Airport turned from travel hub to petri dish in March, Rajinder Aujla’s friends and colleagues felt they had no choice but to drive toward it every day, again and again. As airport taxi and limo drivers, this is their livelihood.

A month later, Mr. Aujla, president of the Airport Taxi Association, started hearing about what may have been the consequences of all those trips. By his count, 10 drivers have died in the past month, at least six of whom tested positive for COVID-19. One was Karam Singh Punian, a close friend of Mr. Aujla, who died May 4.

He estimates that about 20 drivers contracted the virus since April. Most of the 1,500 drivers who make their living ferrying passengers to and from the airport are immigrants from places such as India, Pakistan and Egypt, he said.

“They’re all self-employed. They don’t have access to health benefits,” Mr. Aujla said. “Some of the people are the only breadwinners. Some of them have others in their family working, but their spouses are mostly out of jobs now. Everyone is staying at home.”

Preliminary data support the idea that COVID-19 is hitting marginalized communities harder than others. The situation will only worsen as provinces reopen, according to front-line health care workers and experts who study health inequities.

Public-health messages about staying home, which are aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, have largely ignored the realities faced by low-income workers, people who are homeless or other at-risk groups, said Andrew Boozary, a doctor who is executive director of health and social policy at University Health Network. He also works with Toronto’s Inner City Health Associates, a group that provides care to people living on the street and in shelters.

“Physical distancing is a privilege by postal code,” he said. “We’re seeing a public-health message that is speaking to a certain part of the population. There’s a completely separate curve that is … facing most of the cases and deaths now.”

A recent Toronto Public Health analysis of COVID-19 cases in the city showed that neighbourhoods in Toronto with the lowest incomes, highest rates of unemployment and highest concentrations of newcomers consistently had twice the number of cases of COVID-19 and more than twice the rate of hospital admissions.

That analysis was based on COVID-19 cases tracked up until May 10. It looked at census tracts throughout the city and divided Toronto into five groups for each category of analysis: income, proportion of newcomers and unemployment.

While the lowest-income group had 205 cases of COVID-19 and 34 admissions to hospital per population of 100,000, the highest income group had only 94 cases and 15 admissions.

Neighbourhoods that had the highest concentration of immigrants recorded 194 cases of COVID-19 and 31 admissions per 100,000 people, compared with the ones with the lowest number of immigrants, which had 93 cases and 12 admissions.

The same pattern emerged when it came to unemployment: Areas with the highest levels of unemployment had 198 cases and 30 admissions per 100,000, versus those with the lowest unemployment, which had 98 cases and 15 admissions.

Toronto Public Health is now tracking demographic data (including race and income) to give an even more accurate picture of who is getting infected.

Arjumand Siddiqi, Canada Research Chair in population health equity, said many of the essential workers keeping society going during COVID-19, including janitors, long-term care workers, grocery clerks and transit operators, fall into the at-risk categories.

“They tend to be lower wage, and they tend to consist of black and brown people,” said Dr. Siddiqi, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “Every time we see a long-term care worker on TV, it’s almost invariably a black woman.”

In Montreal, Canada’s hardest-hit city, many of those workers live in Montréal-Nord, which has the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases and has become the epicentre of the outbreak.

This low-income enclave is a “springboard” for immigrants from places such as Haiti and North Africa, many of whom live in close quarters in high-rise apartment buildings and work in the vulnerable health and service sectors. All these factors have contributed to its high rate of infection, said Bochra Manai, executive director of Parole d’excluEs, a social-services organization that works in the neighbourhood.

The area had 2,593 cases per 100,000 residents as of May 21, by far the most of any borough and well over double the city average. (In part because of its government structure, made up of 19 boroughs, Montreal has more precise neighbourhood data on cases and deaths.)

In Canada’s largest cities, points out Kwame McKenzie, the CEO of health-policy think thank the Wellesley Institute, accommodation is expensive, “and we know that people with lower incomes tend to be in more concentrated or overcrowded places where it is more difficult to physically isolate.”

That was precisely the challenge Fahim Sultana Rigi faced in late April.

After breathing difficulties landed her in hospital and she tested positive for COVID-19, Ms. Rigi was told to self-isolate at home for two weeks.

This was no small feat: She shares a three-bedroom apartment in an 11-floor housing co-op in the densely populated St. Lawrence neighbourhood in Toronto with her husband, Emad Hussain, and four children. Her eldest son was temporarily moved to a room with a sibling, Mr. Hussain shared a room with two of his other children, and Ms. Rigi was in a room on her own.

As his two-year-old cried and begged to see his mother, Mr. Hussain tried his best to help maintain the quarantine. His work ground to a halt as he took on the job of parenting his children solo.

His wife is only 41 but had pre-existing health conditions – thyroid problems and diabetes – so he worried about her recovery.

Research suggests immigrants and low-income earners are more likely to suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic illnesses, and those with these pre-existing conditions can face higher rates of hospital admissions and worse outcomes if they are infected with COVID-19.

Just a few days into isolation, Ms. Rigi woke early one morning struggling to breathe. She summoned her husband to her side and frantically gestured to call 911. After spending nine hours in hospital and receiving oxygen, Ms. Rigi was discharged again, continued to isolate and has since recovered – though she still suffers from body pain and exhaustion.

Still, Mr. Hussain can’t forget the fear he felt in those first days that spurred some grim research.

“If I got infected, or if I passed away or my wife passed away, how could we manage those children? Those were the legal things I was looking for,” he said.

Source: New data show that minorities and low-income earners are more susceptible to COVID-19 ‘Physical distancing is a privilege by postal code,’ one doctor says of the dichotomy of infection rates between marginalized communities and wealthier neighbourhoods

Calls grow for asylum seekers working on COVID-19 front lines to be allowed to stay in Canada

No surprise at the calls and reasonable for government to be non-committal at this stage:

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the crucial role asylum seekers and others with precarious status play in Quebec’s economy.

They work long hours in meat-packing plants and warehouses, or tending to elderly people in long-term care homes — low-paying jobs that are difficult to fill.

But they may not be able to stay in Canada when deportations, which have nearly ground to a halt during the COVID-19 crisis, resume.

There are growing calls, however, from community organizers, advocates and opposition politicians in both Quebec and Ottawa for that to change.”What we realize more and more is that those failed claimants are working in essential services most of the time,” said Guillaume Cliche-Rivard, the president of Quebec’s association of immigration lawyers.

About 30,000 asylum seekers who crossed into Canada between 2017 and December 2019 are still waiting for their refugee claims to be heard, according to the latest figures from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

Others whose claims have been rejected have applied for permanent residency on humanitarian grounds.

That process takes an average of 30 months, Cliche-Rivard said.

In the meantime, they are working.

While the province says it has no record of the total number of asylum seekers doing work in, for example, long-term care homes, Marjorie Villefranche, executive director of Maison d’Haiti, estimates that about 1,200 of the 5,000 Haitian asylum seekers the organization has helped since 2017 have become orderlies.Cliche-Rivard said the federal government should set up a program that speeds up the application process for permanent residency, and formally takes into account the contributions claimants have made to fast-track their application.

Doing so would offer “clear recognition of what those people have been doing for the province and for the country,” he said.

NDP wants a ‘special program’

The federal NDP is also calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to create a special program granting permanent residency to those working on the front lines.

“They are risking their lives to support others in the face of the pandemic,” said Jenny Kwan, the party’s immigration critic and the MP for Vancouver East.

Her party has tabled a petition on behalf of a Montreal community group that calls on Trudeau to, “show leadership by implementing a special program to regularize the status of asylum seekers working to fight COVID-19, and therefore supporting the health and safety of all Canadians, for humanitarian reasons.”

Federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has given no indication the government plans to change the way it processes applications or make any exceptions.

But he said in a statement that, “all eligible asylum claimants receive a full and fair hearing on the individual merits of their claim.”

“Asylum claimants are allowed to work or study and receive basic health-care coverage.”

Legault’s party votes down proposal

Peter Kent, the federal Conservative immigration critic, suggested that Quebec, which has jurisdiction over immigration when it comes to economic applicants, “could move to accept these people as permanent residents” given the “extraordinary circumstances.”

It’s not clear if Quebec would have the power to do that — or if Premier François Legault’s government, which cut immigration levels in its first year in office, would be willing to if it could.

Last week, on the National Assembly’s first day back in session, independent MNA Catherine Fournier tabled a motion to recognize the contribution of “hundreds of asylum seekers, mostly of Haitian origin,” working in long-term care homes.

She said the province should ask Ottawa to, “quickly regularize their status, in order to recognize the work accomplished during the current health crisis.”Quebec’s three opposition parties — the Liberals, Québec Solidaire and the Parti Québécois — voted in favour of the motion, but Legault’s majority Coalition Avenir Québec voted it down.

When asked why, Legault avoided answering directly, saying instead he didn’t want the border to reopen to asylum seekers any time soon.

“That doesn’t mean that asylum seekers, including members of the Haitian community — that there aren’t good people who work in our long-term care homes,” Legault said Friday.

Frantz Benjamin, the Liberal MNA for Viau, which includes Montréal-Nord, said Legault’s response was shocking.

“It was not based on the question asked by the journalist,” Benjamin, who was born in Haiti, said Tuesday.

“Those people that we call ‘guardian angels,’ we need them. We have to recognize the work of those people, most of them women.”

‘Let’s walk together’

Over the weekend, a group of activists, artists and social entrepreneurs released a video paying tribute to asylum seekers in essential jobs.

The video came out Monday, on Haiti’s National Flag Day, which fell on the same day as Journée des Patriotes in Quebec this year.

“Both celebrations are about liberation movements,” said Fabrice Vil, a Montrealer of Haitian background and the founder of Pour3Points, an organization that trains sports coaches to help support kids struggling at school and at home.

He helped produce the video, called Je me souviendrai – Marchons Unis — a play on Quebec’s official motto, “I remember,” followed by, “Let’s walk together.”

The song in the video is set to the melody of La Dessalinienne, Haiti’s national anthem.

“The current pandemic is really showing that we all depend on each other — and that there are people that sometimes we don’t see as being relevant to our own lives who are currently sacrificing their own lives to support the collectivity,” Vil said.

Source: Calls grow for asylum seekers working on COVID-19 front lines to be allowed to stay in Canada