89.1 WEMU

COVID-19

The Americans with Disabilities Act says schools have to help not just students but parents with disabilities, too, like making sure deaf or blind parents can communicate during parent-teacher conferences. But what happens when kids are learning at home? That's uncharted territory.

While the country's attention is fixed on the rollout of the vaccine and the arrival of a new administration, the coronavirus pandemic rages on. In many parts of the U.S., case counts and deaths are still sky-high. And new variants of the virus are worrying scientists and prompting new restrictions across the globe.

When the health system first collapsed in the Amazonian city of Manaus, Brazil, and COVID-19 victims were buried in mass graves, the mayor sent a desperate appeal to then-President Donald Trump and other world leaders.

"We are doing our best, but I tell you, it's still very little in [the] face of the oncoming barbarism" said Arthur Virgílio Neto in a video message. "We cannot be silent. We need all possible help."

As slow as the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has been in the United States, some estimates say billions of people around the world won't be vaccinated for COVID-19 until 2022 or 2023.

Bloomberg has been publishing a map that shows the level of vaccine distribution in different countries and virtually the entire continent of Africa — more than 50 nations — is blank.

Debbie Dingell
Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

Earlier this week, former President Donald Trump left for Florida, while newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden got right to work.  WEMU's David Fair caught up with 12th District Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, after a whirlwind week, to reflect on the last four years and look at immediate priorities now. 


When Super Bowl LV kicks off next month in Tampa Bay, Fla., some special guests will be in attendance – thousands of health care workers from around the country.

Japanese officials are swatting away rumors and reports that the government has concluded that, with the Tokyo Olympics 151 days away and much of the country in a COVID-19 state of emergency, the games cannot be held.

On a recent Friday afternoon, the critical care charge nurse at a South Los Angeles hospital tries to send another nurse off to grab lunch. Maria Arechiga is interrupted by the beeping of an alarm, the vitals of a patient declining, organs failing.

She dons a surgical gown and unzips a plastic tarp that hangs from the doorway of a hospital room — a makeshift isolation room on this floor temporarily transformed into a larger intensive care unit to make space for the patients that just keep coming. She slips inside.

Michigan Collaborative for Mindfulness in Education / mc4me.org

This has been a challenging school year due to the pandemic for Michigan schoolchildren, but there is an Ann Arbor organization that works to bring "mindfulness" to students.

In this week's "Art and Soul," Lisa Barry talks with Dr. Rita Benn, co-founder and acting executive director of the "Michigan Collaborative For Mindfulness in Education" about how their program is more necessary than ever bringing tools and support to students and teachers.


The number of Americans filing for new state unemployment benefits dipped to 900,000 — down from the previous week but still high by historical standards, signaling the economic challenges facing the Biden administration.

The latest weekly data from the Labor Department was likely distorted somewhat by the ebb and flow of government relief programs, but the overall picture continues to show a struggling U.S. job market as President Biden takes office.

Updated at 10:06 a.m. ET

"I am honored to announce that the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization," Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday, informing the WHO's executive board that President Biden has reversed former President Donald Trump's move to leave the U.N.'s health agency.

The U.S. will also fulfill its financial obligations to the WHO, Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, said, as well as cease a drawdown of U.S. staff who work with the organization.

Updated at 3:36 p.m. ET

President Biden signed a series of orders and directives on his second day in office to take charge of stopping the spread of the coronavirussteps that he and his advisers say will start to boost testing, vaccinations, supplies and treatments.

A growing number of grocers are adopting a novel approach in the race to get their workers vaccinated against COVID-19: providing pay incentives.

Aldi this week became the latest grocery chain to offer employees compensation for getting vaccinated, saying it would provide workers with two hours of pay for each of the two vaccine doses.

The grocer also promised workers receiving vaccines that they would not lose pay for missed hours from work and that it would help pay for the shots.

The devastating fall and winter wave of coronavirus infections that is causing so much misery across the U.S. appears to have finally peaked, according to several researchers who are closely tracking the virus.

While another surge remains possible, especially with new, more infectious variants on the horizon, the number of new daily infections in the current wave appears to have hit a high in the past week or two and has been steadily declining in most states since, the researchers say.

Most of us don't have to think too often about the logistics of dying and about what closure, like wakes, funerals, memorials, actually requires.

But Todd Beckley has to. The Los Angeles County-area funeral director says he's never experienced anything like the coronavirus pandemic. He says that Inglewood Cemetery Mortuary where he works is so overwhelmed, they're using "every embalming table, every gurney, every table."

And there is a waiting list 23 families long.

The night before their inauguration, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris stood near the Lincoln Memorial and marked more than 400,000 people killed by the coronavirus. On Wednesday, the Biden administration takes responsibility for fighting the pandemic.

Richard Rood
University of Michigan / umich.edu

Joe Biden will be sworn in today as the 46th President of the United States.  University of Michigan professor Richard Rood is one of many experts expecting the new administration will undo the damaging environmental policies of the Trump administration and advance the effort to combat the climate crisis.  Dr. Rood discussed his predictions with WEMU's David Fair in this week's "Issues of the Environment."


Suzanne Van Dam
Doug Coombe / Concentrate Media

Each week, WEMU's Lisa Barry talks with Sarah Rigg, project manager for "On the Ground Ypsi," about an online story from Concentrate Media focusing on the Ypsilanti area.  This week, Lisa and Sarah talk with Suzanne Van Dam from the "Circles Program," part of "Friends In Deed" based in Ypsilanti, about how they have been able to stay connected and support local families even during a global health crisis.


Maine health officials discovered that a majority of Moderna vaccine shipments received across the state on Monday were not kept adequately cold during transport, meaning 4,400 doses may have to be thrown out.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, made the announcement during a "sad and somber" coronavirus briefing on Tuesday and said the problem extends to other states as well.

Updated at 5:52 p.m. ET

Four-hundred lights around the Lincoln Memorial's reflecting pool were lit Tuesday evening to honor the 400,000 people in the U.S. who have died from COVID-19.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris both spoke.

While millions wait for a lifesaving shot, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus continues to soar upward with horrifying speed. On Tuesday, the last full day of Donald Trump's presidency, the official death count reached 400,000 — a once-unthinkable number. More than 100,000 Americans have perished in the pandemic in just the past five weeks.

In Los Angeles County, an environmental regulator has temporarily relaxed limits on the number of cremations that can be performed each month, citing a backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to lead the Treasury Department, made the case for aggressive economic relief, urging lawmakers to "act big" to fight the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

At her confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee, Yellen pressed lawmakers to pass the $1.9 trillion spending package that the incoming administration has proposed to keep families and businesses afloat as well as to accelerate vaccinations against COVID-19.

Just over a year after the world's first coronavirus cases were identified in China, the country's economy has bounced back from the ravages of the pandemic.

China's economy grew by 2.3% last year, according to data published Monday by the country's National Bureau of Statistics. The steady economic recovery was largely expected, and puts China on a track that other countries haven't achieved.

A California man was arrested Saturday and accused of hiding in a restricted area of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport for three months. The man told police that COVID-19 had rendered him too scared to travel home to California, so he hid in the airport, surviving on food provided by strangers, The Associated Press reported.

Updated at 11:45 a.m. ET

Rebekah Jones, the data scientist who helped create Florida's COVID-19 dashboard, has turned herself in to police, in response to an arrest warrant issued by the state.

Jones is charged with one count of "offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices," the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in a statement Monday.

Alize Asberry Payne

2020 reinforced that there is still a lot of work to do to achieve racial equality and justice in America.  Numerous acts of police brutality and a pandemic that disproportionate impacted people of color highlight the need for greater investment in equity.  In a special Martin Luther King Jr. Day edition of "Washtenaw United," WEMU's David Fair discusses the state of "The Dream," locally and beyond, with Washtenaw County racial equity officer Alize Asberry Payne.


COVID-19
Getty Images

The first case of a variant strain of the COVID-19 virus in Michigan was found in Washtenaw County.  WEMU’s Lisa Barry spoke with Washtenaw County Health Department spokeswoman Susan Cerniglia about what happens next and why there is concern, but not surprise. 


Last spring, the pandemic stole Maddie Harvey's job on campus in the Dean of Students office. She was finishing up her senior year at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., and without the income from her job, she wasn't going to have enough money to pay her upcoming tuition bill.

"It was definitely a very vulnerable situation that I was in," says Harvey, "it's not easy to talk about when you're struggling, especially knowing that so many people were struggling at one time."

Cheers erupted in hospital wards across India on Saturday as a first group of nurses and sanitation workers rolled up their sleeves and got vaccinated against COVID-19, at the start of what's likely to become the biggest national vaccination campaign in history.

India aims to vaccinate 300 million people by July, though it could take an additional two or more years to inoculate all nearly 1.4 billion Indians. The shots are voluntary. Hospitals and clinics have been setting up and rehearsing for weeks.

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