Mass Approval of President Biden COVID Handling

A new poll conducted by The Associated Press – NORC, as published by USA Today News, highlighted that President Joe Biden has received the approval of the majority of Americans. The report also mentions that this approval stems largely from the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

There has also been a noticeable improvement in the overall optimism on the state of the country as recorded by the poll. 54% of Americans believe that the country is on the right track while 44% think that the country is on the wrong track.

These positive points are one of the highest recorded since 2017 and have encouraged the credibility of the White House. The rating stems from President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office, with significant highlights as securing the $1.9 trillion relief package and boosting COVID-19 vaccines in all areas of the country.

A statistical analytical website, FiveThirtyEight, also has a live poll on President Joe Biden’s response to the pandemic and it shows that as of May 26, 63.1% approve of his response. It might be important to compare this figure with the last monitored rating of former President Trump resulting in 38.9% approval and a large 57.1 disapproval rate, as noted in January 2021.

A similar question on Quora, also prompted a response that ‘’the president had done a superb job’’, as the majority of Americans had been vaccinated and there is no need to wear a mask, once vaccinated. This comment had several upvotes showing that other Americans concurred with the comment.

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Handling The Pandemic: Biden vs Trump

The COVID-19 Pandemic has been tagged the worst health crisis that faced the global community in over a century. It particularly affected the United States, and even though the US represents less than 5% of the global population, in September 2020, it accounted for 23% of total cases and 21% of deaths globally. Most states in the country were tagged hotspots with widespread community transmission, insufficient testing, and lack of basic supplies meant to effectively handle or manage the spread of the virus at the time. 

The effects of the pandemic were so bad that it became a major point in the 2020 presidential election. Voters considered the methodologies and records of President Trump with proposals by Democratic candidate – then former V.P. Joe Biden.

In July 2020, while unveiling an aspect of his proposed economic agenda – Build Back Better, – former V.P Joe Biden blasted the then President – Donald Trump and regarded him as not the ideal person to lead America especially in the face of the pandemic. He recalled President Trump’s brags about his expertise on the economy and yet could not explain how he would help families who had been hit the hardest by the covid-19 pandemic.

NBC News in a report last year highlighted that the former VP Joe Biden at the time restated that a presidential role included caring, leading and taking responsibility, and never giving up. The ‘Build Back Better’ agenda proposed to train a new generation of educators and caregivers and to provide families and care workers a better opportunity to make ends meet. The proposal was estimated to cost $775 billion.

The news blog further went on to highlight how V.P Joe Biden assured Americans facing financial & familial instability, that things would eventually turn out okay as he could relate with their feeling of hopelessness since he had been in a situation of despair previously.

The Trump administration allowed states to handle the major response to the virus and used the Federal government as a backup and the last resort. A news report by Kaiser Family Foundation, KFF, in 2020, compared both candidates and provided a detailed comparison of tactics, and highlighted that this decentralized nature of the public health care system demonstrated a lack of national plan which contributed to aggravating community spread.

The initial response to the pandemic was focused on sealing the country to prevent its entry, by the time this was done, community transmissions were already widespread across the nation. This was because travel restrictions, screening of passengers, and contact tracing were not effective enough to curtail the spread. Cases and death rates skyrocketed as preventive measures were not in place to manage the pandemic domestically.

Testing for the COVID-19 virus faced various issues and difficulties. Initially, there was an early yet faulty test, which amounted to a major delay and fostered the spread of the virus in the U.S. Then there was a shortage of major testing supplies, delay in result turn-around times, and confusing guidelines under the Trump administration.

Former President Trump bore misinformation about the virus, provided conflicting messages, and also clashed with public health officials. This was evidenced several times, including when he recommended the use of the drug, hydroxychloroquine in spite of a lack of evidence of the drug’s effectiveness and potential harms. He also suggested the application of UV light to or inside the body and recommended injecting disinfectants to combat the virus. Furthermore, he publicly questioned the use of face masks and gave inconsistent details about their use.

Though the primary tactic was to rely on states, the Trump administration addressed the pandemic at a national level with various efforts. A White House Task Force was set up, 3 federal emergencies were declared to allow the mobilization of resources. President Trump also signed 4 emergency spending bills passed by Congress at the time, these provided trillions of dollars to address COVID-19 and proffer relief for businesses, individuals, localities, and states. 2 of these bills included funding for other countries. The government also launched ‘Operation Warp Speed’ with its main objective to expedite research, development, and distribution of vaccines. Additional flexibilities were provided such as accelerating Medicare payments to hospitals and health care providers and instituting protections for nursing home residents. As part of the President’s second term agenda to eradicate the pandemic, his next goal was to ensure a ‘Return to Normal by 2021’, which follows the initial goal to develop a vaccine by the end of 2020.

Former VP Biden, who was a part of the Obama Administration that responded to the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, the 2014 Ebola outbreak, and the 2016 Zika outbreak. The same administration took the lead in creating a multilateral initiative – Global Health Security Agenda to serve as an incentive for progress in line with the vision to achieve a world safe and secure from global health threats presented by infectious diseases.

The proposed principles put forward by VP Joe Biden for response included ‘’restoring trust, credibility and common purpose’’. His plan details a major effort at the national level to tackle the pandemic. His approach would include the federal government, not states shouldering the responsibility for many aspects of the response to COVID-19

He further clamored to put in place measures that go beyond those passed by Congress to extend relief to schools, businesses, and individuals, support states in providing related services, and eliminate cost-sharing for treatment of affected individuals. In addition, paid sick leave would be provided to sick workers and those caring for family members, and also additional pay for frontline/essential workers.

In recent times, there has been a great improvement in handling and managing the Coronavirus. There has been a vaccine rollout and President Joe Biden has been in office for a while. A report published by FiveThirtyEight stated that more Americans endorse the tactics deployed by President Biden in handling the coronavirus as early as a month after he got into office, as compared with efforts made by former president Donald Trump.

A detailed assessment of all Americans who approve of techniques utilized by President Biden, as shown by a poll by statistical analysis from FiveThirtyEight in a publication in May, reveals that it is still skewed along partisan lines. Democrats are in favor of President Biden’s response, while Republicans are not. Independents fall in between these, though with a promising outlook for President Biden.

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Are You Still Taking COVID-19 Seriously?

Do you still wear a mask in public? Practice social distancing? Have you included constant hand washing in your daily routine?

A poll conducted by Frank Luntz and the de Beaumont Foundation surveyed about 1,100 registered voters in November 2020 and put out a press release about its findings. The poll uncovered a discrepancy in opinions about the coronavirus. 

The opinions differed by political affiliation, and there was a clear difference among members of the 2 main political parties. Based on the findings, 62% of Democrats considered the pandemic as ‘extremely serious’, while a mere 33% of Republicans had the same view. This also reflected in their response on how to best manage the effects as Republicans favored stopping the restrictions and learning to live with the virus, while Democrats were in support of enforcing the restrictions a bit more as cases were on the increase. It is believed that Republicans do not consider the pandemic seriously, partly because in communicating safety measures, officials have used language that seems ‘’invasive of their constitutional rights’’.

The Press release as reported by advisory.com highlighted shortcomings in how public health officials communicated with the public about the virus and how to improve the effectiveness subsequently. The findings include:

  • A suggestion that scientists and medical professionals speak publicly on the virus, rather than politicians.
  • Emphasize that quicker economic growth is possible if the right steps are taken immediately, which include the preventive and restrictive measures to reduce the number of cases.
  • Saying ‘’protocols’’ when referring to safety measures rather than ‘’directives’’ or ‘mandates’.
  • Using ‘’Stay-at-home-order’’ in favor of ‘‘lockdown’’.

These are some of the concerns and questions raised following the recent increase in the number of new cases of infections from the coronavirus. This surge has prompted thoughts around the possibility of a fourth wave. 

A month ago, the New York Times reported that President Joe Biden encouraged states and cities to restore the face mask directive. He also admonished Americans to behave responsibly. He mentioned that the inability to consider the seriousness of the virus was what got the country into the present situation and taking caution would go a long way.

According to a report from CIDRAP, (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy), coronavirus cases and hospitalizations increased 19% in 2 weeks before the report. They also noted a spike in northeastern states. It is also important to note that the variants of the virus are superseding the less transmissible strains.

The same report also mentioned a 57% increase in infections in Michigan and a 47% increase in hospitalizations, in less than a month after the restrictions were eased up.

As much as it would be nice to improve personally on your preventive measures, there is not much you can do, when it comes to other people and their practices. Flanagan, LCSW, MPH, MA, an oncology social worker, responded to this concern in a report on Piedmont Healthcare, He advised that in this situation, effective communication is preferred above all else.

He recommends an initial assessment of how much the individual’s behavior would affect your safety. If it is a distant relative or someone with lesser chances of encountering, then there should be less concern. He advised a discussion with the person if the person comes within your personal space more frequently. He recommends using ‘’I’’ statements in favor of ‘’you’’ as it was not possible to control another individual. Statements such as ‘’I would appreciate wearing a mask for everyone’s health and safety’’ If this does not make much difference, he suggests re-evaluating time spent and consider virtual encounters with the individual for subsequent meetings.

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Our Changing Economy

It’s a long road to recovery!!

The pandemic halted almost all facets of business, impacting the economy terribly. With the emergence of vaccines and more effective management of individuals with the virus, Americans have commenced the road to recovery, however, it is going to be a long road to recovery, as the economy Americans had grown familiar with is now a thing of the past and is ever-changing.

The use of technology and other processes such as telework, remote work, automation have been sped up faster than they ought to be. This has directly and indirectly affected trends in society and the way Americans live and work. The markets would adjust to this new normal, but that is not expected to happen immediately. 

As expected, jobs with customer-facing and interaction positions have handled more than every other sector, and there is the need to constantly think outside the box to develop ways to carry on these roles. 

Furthermore, it is expected that while this journey is in progress, several people and groups would need support to make it through to the other side due to the difference in realities. 

Though trillions of dollars have been pumped into the economy, there is still the need to do much more as more Americans remain in a tight spot and are reeling from the effects of the pandemic. Hope is being placed on Congress to provide more stimulus and help Americans get through this phase.

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Americans Have Suffered Due To Lack of Sufficient Economic Stimulus

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is still being felt across the country, despite the economic stimulus given out so far.

In December 2020, CNN reported that millions of Americans barely had enough to eat and were going hungry; had trouble paying bills, falling behind on mortgage, and rent payments and were gradually slipping into poverty. These were ascribed to the effects of the pandemic. Moreover, there was an increase in the number of Americans filing for unemployment for the first time. 

The publication called for a stimulus package as there was a noticeable boost following the initial stimulus given to Americans.

Earlier this year, at an interview with ABC News, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, while supporting President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic package, asserted that there was an urgent need for relief from the pandemic which had hit the previous year. Americans are suffering through no fault of theirs. She described the need for economic stimulus as urgent and that there was a need to think big to prevent permanent effects from the ongoing crisis. 

She further went on to mention that lots of small businesses had closed because they needed assistance. She stated that these businesses were the base of the community and it was necessary to help them to solid footing. She further remarked that she hoped that helping to pass President Biden’s bill would be her legacy as Americans have suffered in several ways as a result of the inadequate stimulus and deserved much more help from the government. 

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The Judicial Response To COVID-19

The Judicial sector is one sector no one would immediately think of when considering the COVID-19 virus and its effects. Nevertheless, its effects were felt in the Judicial system, and reaction to the pandemic was swift, preventing it from paralyzing the system.

At the emergence of the virus in March 2020, the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators quickly put together a Rapid Response Team (RRT), involving the NCSC, and laid down protocols, safety measures by the CDC to ensure a continuous process. This enabled state courts to proceed with dealings and also created the framework to ease the return to court, once possible. 

There have been innovations to help this movement, largely under 3 touch points – communications and funding, court management, and technology. This ensures that no aspect disrupts the entire system.

Efforts in place to ensure safety measures are

  • Granting extensions for court deadlines and fees payments;
  • Suspending in-person proceedings, following up with virtual access;
  • Restricting entrances to court;
  • Ending or restricting jury trials;
  • Publishing of updated and recent guides and protocols.

On August 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of the state of Hawai’i pushed for an order concerning the extension of the time, for arraignments and other needful processes, this was done and was to expire on February 14, 2021, however, it has been renewed further till March 31, 2021, with hopes that the effects of the virus continue to reduce.

Furthermore, recently, as the COVID – 19 cases seem to reduce, court operations seem to pick up, though in line with safety practices and as much as possible with the resources.

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Increasing The Federal Minimum Wage During The Pandemic

Raise the Wage Act of 2021, also known as S.53 was introduced by Sen. B. Sanders on the 26th of January, at the 117th Congress. A bill to provide for increases in the Federal minimum wage, and other purposes. It seeks to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 206(a)(1)) to payments summarised as 

  • $9.50/hour, on the initial day;
  • $11.00/hour, effective 1 year after initial day;
  • $12.50/hour, effective 2 years after initial day;
  • $14.00/hour, effective 3 years after initial day;
  • $15.00/hour, effective 4 years after initial day;

The base minimum for tipped employees would be summarily amended to 

$4.95/hour at commencement and increased yearly by either $2.00 or an amount rounded up to the nearest multiple of $0.05, that will result in an equivalent amount of the general minimum wage, whichever is the lesser of the 2 options.

The bill also goes ahead to recommend minimum wages for new hires who are younger than 20, and individuals with disabilities. This infers a gradual increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. This would imply a gradual increase leading up to a more than 100% increase in the current minimum wage.

This increase would be highly beneficial to low-income earners, as this would enable them to afford housing and other necessities. Furthermore, it will affect the income eligibility of families made of low-income earners. As shown in an analysis by consulting giant, Novogradac, a two-person family earning the new minimum wage would be able to earn up to 60% and more of the Area Median Income (AMI) and be ineligible for LIHTC, which is a low-income housing tax credit. It further mentions that there are many areas in the country – up to 96% – where low-income earners would not qualify for, using the current minimum wage, and this would not change, even when the $15/hour minimum wage comes into full effect, with the proposed increase in the minimum wage, as they will have incomes above 80% AMI. 

The same analysis further states that a four-person household having 2 individuals earning the minimum wage would also be ineligible for the ‘lower than 60% limit for AMI’, in as many as 83% of states in the country, as their incomes are projected to be above 80% AMI.

It is important to mention that this would remain true, if the eligibility requirements for LIHTC and HUD are not modified, allowing affordable rental housing to only be available to the underemployed and unemployed.

The Congressional Budget Office, CBO, is also in agreement that the new minimum wage would affect workers, lifting close to a million people out of poverty. It goes further to analyze that it would also result in the loss of over a million jobs and that net pay for those affected by the new wage, could go as high as $333 billion in about 10 years after the enactment of the bill – an increased labor cost for firms – and this would directly affect the budget deficit. As expected, it estimates an increase in prices for goods and services and talks about an increased spending on some programs – federally financed health care – and reduced spending of others. This report, as compiled by CBO is different from the picture painted by Senator Sanders, that his bill would provide savings for taxpayers, move workers out of public assistance programs which would, in turn, reduce the deficit.

The sponsor of the House version of the bill, Education and Labor Committee Chair, Bobby Scott, says that the CBO report builds the case to gradually increase the minimum wage, through the COVID-19 stimulus package and that this increase will function as a direct stimulus for struggling families with low-income earners.

The last time Congress sought to increase the minimum wage was in 2007, as this has always been a priority to the democratic party. President Biden looked to include the new minimum wage proposal in his relief package. He, however, states this might not be possible as the republican party would not vote to pass such. Democrats believe that they will be able to pass this bill using budget reconciliation, while using the same tactics to pass President Biden’s relief stimulus package, thereby going over Republican votes. This will be a bit reaching as it would require all democrats to vote to pass it, and at the moment, not all are in support of $15 per hour

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COVID-19 in Jails and Prisons

In the early months of the pandemic, the effects were terrible and drastic, wiping out almost everything in its path. This was also because next to nothing was known about the virus. The CDC and WHO advised several precautionary and prevention methods to help reduce the spread and infection, this included handwashing and/or use of sanitizers as often as possible.

As easy and simple as these tactics sounded at the time, individuals in prisons did not have the luxury of regular hand washing or access to sanitizers, and many of them had existing health conditions, furthermore, the health care systems in these places were limited, so utilizing basic protocols would be a stretch.

An interesting case at the time, Ex Parte: Matthew Gonzalez, who was arrested for murder and released on a pretrial bond payment of $200,000 in 2019. In March 2020, he was indicted for murder and the bond increased to $500,000, he surrendered himself and was taken into custody. Later in the same month, he filed a writ application for reinstatement of previous bond amount or release on recognizance due to the jail’s inability to put in place required COVID-19 precaution and treatment systems. He cited the CDC’s guidelines and insisted that county jail was in direct violation of these guidelines and would foster a quick spread of the virus. This writ was denied, however, it brought to limelight concerns about the system in Prisons, Jails, and dealing with COVID-19.

The CDC advised:

  • Staff should stay home once ill
  • Identifying locations that can be used for isolation before the need for it
  • Providing enough supply of cleaning and medical items
  • Setting up systems for the safe transfer of individuals between facilities
  • To utilize a 14 day quarantine period where necessary

The Federal Bureau of Prisons previously released a guide suspending social and legal visits for a while, limiting staff travel and additional screening for the disease. Other methods in use to reduce spread are

  • Limiting the number of new inmates
  • Sending inmates with low threat possibility to a public safety home
  • Balancing concerns about security with ensuring adequate support to keep prisoners safe.

Ways to support locked up individuals include

  • Sign a petition to advocate for better health care for the inmates
  • Donate to a community fund used for bailout purposes
  • Advocate for inmates to be able to call their families and advocates for free during this phase.
  • Send a letter to the President, Governor, and people in authority to release the elderly, those with a medical condition, and those with a year or less in their sentence to reduce the population of inmates.
  • Find out more information and share awareness

This way, everyone can play a small role to help incarcerated individuals.

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Grannies Goods

Two middle-aged women portrayed themselves as elderly women at a vaccination center in Florida recently.

These women, aged 34 and 44 adorned themselves in bonnets, gloves including spectacles, passing off as elderly ladies to get their second shots. They had valid documents showing they had previously gotten an initial shot, implying their ruse must have worked once before; however, they were issued with warnings and denied the second shot.

At present in Florida, individuals 65 years and older and health care personnel are being prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccination.

Dr. Raul Pino, an Orange County health official disclosed that security has been increased at vaccination sites to prevent similar and other occurrences. Possibly this ruse would get the Governor’s attention and result in opening up eligibility to the vaccines.

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The Restaurant Industry During The Pandemic

The COVID-19 Pandemic has affected lots of industries, cutting right across every sector. While some sectors are gradually finding their footing, others are yet to make headway. One of such adversely affected is the Restaurant Industry.

Guy Fieri – an American restaurateur, author and, Emmy Award-winning television presenter had in the past mentioned that restaurants are the souls of the community. In recent times, he highlights that the effect on the industry was sharp and immediate following the pandemic. Some of the issues faced were total shutdowns, employee layoffs, then proceeded to the phase on how to deal with a reduced capacity, restarting businesses to serve customers safely while dealing with new rules and regulations. They also have to deal with delivery. The industry is heavily dependent on delivery apps, and they insist the charges are exploitative as delivery takes up to 30% of their revenue.

The National Restaurant Association Research Group surveyed 6,000 operators and 250 supply chain businesses and its findings revealed that:

  • 87% of full-service restaurants had reported up to 36% drop in revenue; 
  • 58% of full-service operators expect layoffs soon; 
  • 59% of operators recorded that their total labor costs were lower pre-pandemic than they are now;
  • 48% say it is likely they will remain in the industry in the months to come.

This prompted the association to send a letter to Congress detailing their findings and requesting support. It highlighted that the country’s second-largest private-sector employer was in an unprecedented economic decline, and if they continue without support, more businesses will be forced to shut down. They also requested a cap on delivery charges. 

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