Things That Matter

This Is What America Looked Like On Memorial Day Despite A Pandemic Killing 100,000 Americans (And Counting)

So the United States is still in the midst of a pandemic with at least 18 states still seeing an increase in daily cases of Coronavirus. In fact, just on Friday, the country as a whole saw a single-day increase of more than 24,000 new cases. In one day.

Yet it seems that many Americans aren’t paying attention to the news or they simply just don’t care – as crowds packed beaches, lakes, parks, and pools across the country.

To many party-goers, they say it’s their right to do what they want and to celebrate how they want. To millions of responsible Americans, it’s more about responsibility and caring for your community by adhering to the social distancing requirements until the pandemic is under control – which could still be months away.

Many Americans have flocked to parks, restaurants and beaches to celebrate Memorial Day weekend.

Credit: Alex Edelman/ Getty

Governments across the country had announced that Memorial Day weekend would serve as a sort of test on whether or not they’d be able to really start relaxing stay-at-home orders. It all depended on how the public reacted and if they adhered to social distancing measures.

However, one quick look at social media showing pool parties and crowded beaches from Florida to California, show that much of the country truly failed at protecting themselves and their communities.

Commissioner for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn, told Americans that “with the country starting to open up this holiday weekend, I again remind everyone that the coronavirus is not yet contained.” It’s important reminder that millions of Americans seem to have forgotten.

He added “It is up to every individual to protect themselves and their community. Social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks protect us all.”

From Florida to California, millions of people totally ignored the ongoing crisis so they could party instead.

Crowds packed beaches in Florida, Maryland, Georgia, Virginia and Indiana. Many people ventured out without masks and others failed to keep their distance even as officials highlighted the continued importance of both in order to prevent another surge of infections. But it seems like many people just didn’t care.

One party-goer told WGHP, “We’re tired of being stuck in the house. I’m not afraid of this virus one bit. People have the right to choose where they go and what they do.”

And in Missiouri’s Lakes of the Ozarks, hundreds attended pool parties despite an ongoing rise in cases in the area. And those party-goers, now pose a new threat to the region.

Lyda Krewson, the mayor of St Louis, Missouri, said: “It’s irresponsible and dangerous to engage in such high risk behaviour just to have some fun over the extended holiday weekend. Now, these folks will be going home to St. Louis and counties across Missouri and the Midwest, raising concerns about the potential of more positive cases, hospitalisations, and tragically, deaths. Deeply disturbing.”

Meanwhile, in California, people packed the beaches in Orange County and few were using masks.

Credit: Ralph Williams / Getty

Health officials Had said that Memorial Day weekend would serve as a test of whether California can actually ease stay-at-home orders. So how did the state do?

Well, from San Diego to Venice, beaches were packed with varying degrees of social distancing. New POrt Beach was packed with beach-goers flouting rules about hanging out in groups of more than 10.

While in Venice, the boardwalk was heaving with crowds and not everyone was wearing a face mask. Despite the digital billboard saying “wear face covering,” only some people wore face masks as they enjoyed a stroll on the Venice Beach boardwalk on Saturday.

And a popular hiking spot outside LA had to be shut down by authorities because it became so overcrowded it was impossible to follow social distancing guidelines.

Just because you can go to the beach or bars doesn’t mean it’s time to let your guard down.

In fact, some states are seeing new spikes in coronavirus cases. Both North Carolina and Arkansas are seeing major spikes in new cases. In North Carolina, they reported the highest single-day increase just a day after they entered the second phase of reopening. And in Arkansas, the governor said his state is experiencing a “second peak.”

There have also been reports of increased cases emerging in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., Nebraska and Illinois.

Yet so many seem to think they have a right not to wear a mask. However, even one of the White House’s leading Coronavirus experts, Dr. Birx, has reminded the country that using a mask is extremely important.

“Out of respect for each other, as Americans that care for each other, we need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social distance, she said in an interview with ABC News.

Experts warn the U.S. is nowhere near out of the woods with coronavirus.

As of Memorial Day, more than 1.7 million Americans have been infected and more than 99,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“Look at the numbers. You’ll see that on Thursday, more than 20,000 Americans were infected,” said Dr. Seema Yasmin, a former disease detective at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an interview with CNN. On Friday, “that number went up, and there were more than 24,000 Americans newly diagnosed with Covid-19.”

Yes, you’re reading those numbers correctly. There were 24,000 new cases in just one day!

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Peru’s Indigenous Are Turning To Ancestral Medicines To Fight The Coronavirus

Culture

Peru’s Indigenous Are Turning To Ancestral Medicines To Fight The Coronavirus

Joao Laet / Getty Images

With news headlines like “How Covid-19 could destroy indigenous communities”, it’s hard to understate the affect that the Coronavirus has had on Indigenous communities across the world.

Even before the pandemic hit, native populations were already at increased risk of health complications, poor access to medical care, lack of proper education, and even premature death. The pandemic has only exacerbated these issues as government programs and NGOs who delivered aid to far flung communities have grind to a halt.

However, many communities have started taking the matter into their own hands by creating their own impromptu healthcare systems based on ancestral techniques and others have barricaded off their villages from the outside world in an effort to stem the flow of the virus.

In Peru, many Indigenous communities are turning to centuries-old medicines to fight back against the Coronavirus.

The Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on Peru – the country with the world’s highest per capita Covid-19 mortality rate. At particular risk is the nation’s large Indigenous community, who often lack proper access to education efforts and medical care. This has forced many Indigenous groups to find their own remedies.

In the Ucayali region, government rapid response teams deployed to a handful of Indigenous communities have found infection rates as high as 80% through antibody testing. Food and medicine donations have reached only a fraction of the population. Many say the only state presence they have seen is from a group responsible for collecting bodies of the dead.

At least one community, the Indigenous Shipibo from Peru’s Amazon region, have decided to rely on the wisdom of their ancestors. With hospitals far away, doctors stretch too thin and a lack of beds, many have accepted the alternative medicine.

In a report by the Associated Press, one villager, Mery Fasabi, speaks about gathering herbs, steeping them in boiling water and instructing her loved ones to breathe in the vapors. She also makes syrups of onion and ginger to help clear congested airways.

“We had knowledge about these plants, but we didn’t know if they’d really help treat COVID,” the teacher told the AP. “With the pandemic we are discovering new things.”

One of the plants the Shipibo are using is known locally as ‘matico.’ The plant has green leaves and brightly colored flowers. And although Fasabi admits that these ancestral remedies are by no means a cure, the holistic approach is proving successful. She says that “We are giving tranquility to our patients,” through words of encouragement and physical touch.

Even before the Coronavirus, Indigenous communities were at a greater risk for infectious diseases.

Indigenous peoples around the globe tend to be at higher risk from emerging infectious diseases compared to other populations. During the H1N1 pandemic in Canada in 2009, for example, aboriginal Canadians made up 16% of admissions to hospital, despite making up 3.4% of the population.

Covid-19 is no exception. In the US, one in every 2,300 indigenous Americans has died, compared to one in 3,600 white Americans.

Indigenous groups are particularly vulnerable to dying from Covid-19 because they often live days away from professional medical help. As of July 28, the disease had killed 1,108 indigenous people and there had been 27,517 recorded cases, with the majority in Brazil, according to data published by Red Eclesial Panamazonia (Repam).

Some communities are turning inward to survive COVID-19, barricading villages and growing their own food.

Despite the immense threat they face, Indigenous communities are fighting back.

“I am amazed to see the ways that indigenous peoples are stepping up to provide support where governments have not,” Tauli-Corpuz, a teacher at Mexico’s UNAM, told The Conversation. “They are providing PPE and sanitation, making their own masks, and ensuring that information on Covid-19 is available in local languages, and are distributing food and other necessities.”

They are also choosing to isolate. In Ecuador’s Siekopai nation, about 45 Indigenous elders, adults and children traveled deep into the forest to their ancestral heartland of Lagartococha to escape exposure to the Coronavirus, says the nation’s president Justino Piaguaje.

Despite their best efforts, many experts are extremely concerned for the survival of many Indigenous communities.

Credit: Ginebra Peña / Amazonian Alliance

They are already facing the ‘tipping point’ of ecological collapse due to increased threats of deforestation, fires, industrial extraction, agribusiness expansion and climate change,” Amazon Watch executive director Leila Salazar-Lopez told UNESCO of Amazonian Indigenous groups.

“Now, the pandemic has created one more crisis, and as each day passes, the risk of ethnocide becomes more real.”

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Cuba Locks Down Havana To Stop Covid-19 As Cubans Struggle To Afford Everyday Items

Things That Matter

Cuba Locks Down Havana To Stop Covid-19 As Cubans Struggle To Afford Everyday Items

Ivan Bor / Getty Images

Cuba has been one of the hemisphere’s coronavirus success stories — but a sudden outbreak in its capital has brought on a strict, two-week Havana lockdown. Residents of the capital city will be forced to stay-at-home for 15-days, while people from other parts of the island ill be prohibited from visiting – essentially sealing off the city from the outside world.

Meanwhile, the Coronavirus pandemic has pummeled the island’s economy and has left many everyday items out of reach for many Cubans. Some are being forced to turn to ‘dollar stores,’ where the U.S. dollar is once again accepted as hard currency – something now allowed since 1993.

Officials have ordered a strict 15-day lockdown of Havana in an effort to stamp out the spread of Coronavirus in the capital.

Aggressive anti-virus measures, including closing down air travel, have virtually eliminated COVID-19 in Cuba with the exception of Havana, where cases have surged from a handful a day to dozens daily over the last month. 

A daily curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. was instituted Tuesday. Most stores are barred from selling to shoppers from outside the immediate neighborhood in order to discourage people from moving around the city. 

Some Havana residents complained that the measures were complicating the already difficult task of buying food in a city hit by constant shortages and endless lines for a limited supply of basic goods. Some provinces that saw no new cases for weeks have begun detecting them in recent days, often linked to travelers from Havana.

The start of in-person classes for students was also indefinitely delayed in Havana, while schools opened normally in the rest of Cuba.

To enforce the lockdown, police stationed on every road leaving Havana are supposed to stop anyone who doesn’t have a special travel permit, which is meant to be issued only in extraordinary circumstances.

Under the strict new lockdown measures, anyone who is found in violation of the stay-at-home orders face fines of up to $125 per violation, more than triple the average monthly wage.

The island nation had seemed to manage the pandemic well – with fewer cases than many of its Caribbean neighbors.

Credit: Ivan Bor / Getty Images

The island of 11 million people has reported slightly more than 4,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with fewer than 100 deaths, one of the lowest rates in the region.

The government made face masks obligatory in the early stages of its pandemic response, and in the first months of the crisis police aggressively fined and even jailed people for violations. 

That vigilance slackened somewhat as Havana moved out of the first, strictest phase of lockdown in July, when public transportation restarted and people returned to work. The number of coronavirus cases then began to climb again.

Meanwhile, the Cuban economy has tanked and residents are struggling to make ends meet now more than ever before.

Credit: Yamil Lage / Getty Images

The pandemic has hit the island’s economy particularly hard. Much of the island relies on agricultural and tourism – two sectors that have been decimated by Coronavirus.

As a result, many Cubans are struggling to afford everyday items. Rice – which used to sell for about $13 Cuban pesos per kilo is now going for triple that.

In an effort to allow Cubans better access to goods, the government has began recognizing the U.S. dollar as official currency. This is extraordinary as mere possession of U.S. dollars was long considered a criminal offense. However, the measure draws a line between the haves and have-nots, one that runs even deeper than it did before the pandemic.

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