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Health

ER doctors on the front lines against covid struggle to find jobs



“We have been seeing really, really sick people,” he said. He had firsthand experience with the novel coronavirus, too — he caught it in March and recovered after a few feverish days.

Despite all that, the 29-year-old doctor cannot find a company in his hometown of Houston ready to hire him when he graduates next year. Durrani has searched since the summer, “getting on calls with recruiters and hospitals and whatnot,” he said. “And I haven’t locked anything down.”

Like him, many in this class of emergency medicine physicians — young doctors, called residents, who are training in this specialty — are struggling to find full-time employment, even while they work on the front lines treating covid-19 patients.

The dearth of jobs is the result of a domino effect: Many people stayed away from hospital emergency rooms this past year, wary of contracting the virus. As patient numbers dropped, emergency departments brought in less money. As a result, cash-strapped employers stopped recruiting new doctors.

“We’re putting our own lives at risk, our family’s lives at risk,” said emergency medicine physician R.J. Sontag, the president of the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association. “We’re in, frankly, a financially precarious position with a ton of debt and limited income. And the fact of the matter is that employers just aren’t hiring.”

Scientists say the coronavirus variant discovered in the United Kingdom is more transmissible but does not make people sicker. (The Washington Post)

The pandemic exposed many perplexing vulnerabilities in the American medical system — as varied as critical staffing shortages of nurses and inadequate stocks of protective equipment. This is another one. Fewer places can afford newly minted emergency medicine doctors during a crisis in which it would seem they should be in high demand.

“Calling it a paradox is exactly right,” said Janis Orlowski, the chief health-care officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges. “There’s a need for more physicians. And yet we find ourselves in this situation.”

New contracts have vanished with the “significant shortfall” in hospital and physician practice dollars, she said. The result is that after four years of medical school and up to four years of residency, some new doctors have no place to go.

“It’s by far the tightest job market in emergency medicine that I’ve ever seen,” said Mark Reiter, the chief executive of the consulting group Emergency Excellence and director of the emergency medicine residency program at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Nashville. By his conservative estimate, at least a quarter of residents are having trouble finding work.

About 2,500 new emergency medicine doctors enter the workforce each year, Sontag said. They do so heavily in debt, he said, with half of them owing more than $200,000 in school loans, and one-fourth owing over $300,000.

Many of the newest crop have had contracts altered, if not rescinded. “I have a good friend who signed a contract, bought a home, moved his wife across the country,” Sontag said, “and then he lost his contract after he’d already moved.”

The Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association does not have a tally of how many members are without jobs. But a survey from the American College of Emergency Physicians found that 20 percent of emergency medicine group practices laid off doctors this year, almost one-third furloughed them and more than half cut hours or wages.

“What we’re watching now is frightening for the residents,” said Mark Rosenberg, the American College of Emergency Physicians’ president.

Sontag, who attended the UT Health San Antonio residency program, said that only one of 12 final-year residents there has secured a job. In a typical year, all of them would have contracts by now.

Patients stay away for fear of covid-19

It wasn’t unusual for Angela Cai, a physician in her final year of residency at SUNY Downstate’s Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, to treat patients with strokes. But one man stood out — because he had waited nearly a day last April to call an ambulance.

“If people come in with strokes very early, ideally within three hours, there are some treatments you can offer to reverse the symptoms,” she said. “But that was totally out of the question for him. He wasn’t able to walk.”

She asked the man why he had delayed. “He said he was watching everything on the news and he was afraid,” she said.

That fear of catching the coronavirus fueled a sharp drop in visits to emergency departments. They plummeted by 40 percent in March and April, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s surveillance program, and children were kept away at even greater levels.

Although emergency departments in coronavirus hot zones are gateways to a flood of covid-19 patients, those zones have been distributed unevenly in time and space. Even in virus hotspots, Reiter pointed out, the pandemic can congest emergency rooms — some patients with covid-19 are kept in emergency department beds, which reduces capacity and causes waiting room delays.

The number of emergency department patients overall is 15 percent below last year’s levels, Reiter said.

“In the thick of it, I definitely wasn’t thinking about my job,” Cai said. “I didn’t really make the connection between how this unprecedented drop in [emergency department] volume would affect my job market.” Cai is still finalizing her plans for what she will do after graduation.

A ‘golden ticket’ no longer

Before the coronavirus, new emergency medicine doctors could expect to receive multiple offers in the last year of their residency programs.

“The residents had their pick of where they wanted to go,” Rosenberg said. If a particular hospital didn’t need more emergency staff, it was often the case another one nearby did.

Hospitals, outside of academic centers, rarely hire emergency doctors outright. Most medical centers instead have contracts with physician provider groups. Those can be small, doctor-run companies, or large corporations, backed by private-equity firms, that employ thousands of doctors who work at hundreds of hospitals.

More than half of the emergency doctors in the United States are employed by investment-firm-owned companies, Reiter said, and those companies have generally been “more aggressive” when cutting back doctors’ hours amid the pandemic.

In the past, recruiters representing employers flocked to residency programs, offering salary advances or to pay moving expenses.

“Residency-trained emergency medicine doctors, for a couple of decades, have had the golden ticket,” said Michael Belkin, a vice president at the physician-recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins. “They could call their shots; they could demand high dollars.”

Since 2008, the number of emergency doctors in the United States has grown from 40,000 to almost 50,000; there are fewer of these specialists per person, though, particularly at rural hospitals. In that same period, the number of doctors enrolled in emergency residency programs grew from about 4,500 to nearly 8,000.

That growth has also increased the competition for jobs, Reiter said.

One doctor in a Midwestern city, a recent graduate of an emergency residency program who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid potential career harm, described a fraught path to employment: Last fall, several clinician groups offered the doctor a job. The physician decided to join a small, doctor-run firm.

In the late spring, the emergency department where the doctor was completing a residency began to cut back shifts as non-covid-19 patients stopped coming. The doctor received a call from the new employer, expecting to hear the company was reducing hours, too.

Instead, the firm withdrew the job offer, exercising a 90-day termination clause in the contract. The doctor asked the other groups, whose offers the physician had declined in the fall, for work. None hired the doctor, who has more than $300,000 of student debt.

The doctor found a temporary position at a hospital where, during the first wave of the pandemic, few people visited the emergency department. Now, though, that city is experiencing a surge in patients from the pandemic.

“The acuity of illness has gone up quite a bit in the past few months, particularly with respiratory complaints related to the coronavirus,” the doctor said. “Our census within the hospitals has skyrocketed to pretty much 100 percent capacity.” Amid this rise, the original firm agreed to hire the doctor to begin early this year.

Some residents have opted to apply for emergency medicine fellowships, which provide additional expertise in toxicology, ultrasounds, wilderness medicine or other subjects at academic centers.

“All fellowships have become more competitive this year,” Sontag said. Opting for a fellowship also has financial consequences; the pay in a fellowship is closer to a resident’s salary — an average of about $59,000 — than it is to a full-time attending physician’s salary, an amount in the six figures.

A rough road to recovery

U.S. hospitals — many of them operating on thin margins before the pandemic — lost $50 billion per month in the period from March through June, not including government relief money, according to an estimate by the American Hospital Association. A drop in emergency patients was not the only factor. Scheduled and elective surgeries, previously consistent revenue streams, were canceled. Health-care providers also had to spend money on protective gear and ventilators.

“Cash conservation is probably key for most of these places,” said Kayla Cline, an expert in hospital finances at Texas A&M University.

Congress offered $175 billion of financial relief to the health-care system as part of the massive coronavirus aid packages passed earlier last year. But “often the money didn’t trickle down as it was intended” to practice groups that employ physicians, Sontag said. At least $1.5 billion of interest-free loans went to hospitals and staffing companies owned by well-funded investment firms, according to a Bloomberg News analysis.

One consequence of the pandemic, though, may work to the advantage of new doctors seeking jobs: Some emergency medicine doctors are retiring sooner than they otherwise might have.

The crisis has made a difficult job more challenging. “There’s a lot of depression, PTSD, suicide and the like,” Rosenberg said. “And a couple of things that people like to do after a long shift — maybe go out for a beer, hug a friend, cry on a shoulder — we can’t do any of them now.”

Doctors who work in emergency departments are more susceptible to burnout than average physicians. “There’s only so much trauma and so much — I don’t know how else to say it, but — patient loss that one can handle,” Belkin said.

Orlowski said that when elective surgeries were allowed to resume over the summer, with the drop in coronavirus cases, doctors told her “things were just going gangbusters.” She predicted that patients will similarly return to emergency departments as vaccines against the novel coronavirus become more widely available.

But the job market’s recovery could be slow.

“It’s going to take hospitals two, three, four years to get beyond the financial problems that will occur from this year,” Orlowski said. Until that happens, she said, she expects employers to be more conservative in hiring.



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Dining News

Schools Struggle to Get Meals to Their Students During Pandemic


Behind schools’ struggle to get meals to their students

As classes restart remotely, educators are worried about whether or not students from low-income households are getting the meals they would be if schools were back in session physically, NPR reports. Of the children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, only about 15 percent are actually getting that food.

Since spring, many districts have shifted to their summer food distribution programs, in which, typically, families can drop by certain schools between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to pick up lunch bags. This has been helped by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s expanded flexibility that enables any child to get a meal, regardless of whether or not they actually attend that school. While these waivers and their extension through the end of the year have been applauded, schools are still serving significantly fewer meals than they would be during a normal school term, likely in part because there’s still the major hurdle of requiring families to physically show up at a designated pick-up site at a certain time. As NPR reports:

Often, parents and caregivers have to work, and can’t get away in the middle of the day. Or they don’t have a way to get to the designated pick-up site. Or they’re not comfortable making daily food runs in a pandemic.

In the face of this challenge, some school nutrition directors are attempting to deliver meals across their districts, although they’re hindered by financial difficulties. Another potential solution would be to extend the Pandemic EBT program, which allowed families to receive the value of school meals directly on a debit card or on their existing SNAP (food stamps) debit cards. As helpful as the USDA’s efforts to feed America through flexible school meal distribution and food banks, experts say that the most effective way to address hunger across the country would be to increase funding for SNAP.

And in other news…

  • The International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Food (ICMSF), an organization of scientific experts on food contamination and safety, echo the WHO, the CDC, and the FDA in saying that there is no evidence so far that food, food packaging, or food handling is a source for the coronavirus. “The focus for food businesses should be on protecting food workers, consumers and restaurant patrons from becoming infected by person-to-person SARS-CoV-2 spread,” the ICMSF wrote in a statement. [CNN]
  • Wineries and farms whose businesses have been decimated by the pandemic are turning to renting out their land as campsites. [CNBC]
  • Some rural California farmers were left to battle wildfires on their own. [Modern Farmer]
  • The $7.3 billion acquisition of Grubhub by Netherlands-based company Just Eat Takeaway now has an estimated completion date of December 31, 2021. [The Street]
  • Golden Corral AYCE in the time of COVID-19. [Business Insider]

• All AM Intel Coverage [E]



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Entertaiment

Kristen Wiig Reflects on “Isolating” IVF Journey and Fertility Struggle


Wiig also noted that when she would talk about her IVF journey, she would meet others who were going through the process as well. As she explained, “It’s like this underground community that’s talked about but not talked about.”

The actress also recalled, “I remember when our doctor mentioned going other routes, and I was just like, ‘Nope. Don’t ever bring that up again. I’m getting pregnant. I’m doing this.’ I finally realized that I just needed help. And, thank God, we found the most amazing surrogate.”

Looking back at the surrogacy process, Wiig said “so many things were bittersweet,” telling the publication, “I was over the moon feeling them kick for the first time, but then I would get in my head and ask myself all these questions, like, ‘Why couldn’t I do this?’ At the same time I would tell myself it didn’t matter. She was giving us the greatest gift, and I just wanted them to get here!”

Wiig added, “Overall it was a very beautiful thing, and now that I’m on the other side, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”



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Breaking New

Guyana Swears In New Leader, Resolving Struggle for Control of Oil Wealth


GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Guyana’s opposition party has won a bitterly contested general election, ending a prolonged political standoff that had crippled investment and heightened ethnic tensions in the small South American nation.

The opposition candidate Irfaan Ali was sworn in on Sunday as Guyana’s president shortly after the national electoral commission said he had beaten the incumbent, David Granger, by just over 15,000 votes. The governing party said it planned to challenge his victory, alleging fraud.

As president, Mr. Ali will manage billions of dollars in new oil revenues, which have transformed Guyana, an impoverished former British colony, into the world’s fastest-growing economy this year.

Mr. Ali’s assumption of office follows five months of political wrangling between Guyana’s two major political parties over the outcome of the March 2 vote, which exposed deep tensions between Black citizens and those of Indian descent. The power struggle has been amplified by the newfound wealth pouring in from offshore oil fields where production began in January.

The election dispute brought a 100-day ballot recount, at least half a dozen court cases and accusations of fraud against both major parties.

After the recount showed Mr. Ali winning a slim victory, the governing party’s allies in the electoral commission repeatedly tried to present results that did not match the recount tally approved by electoral observers.

Members of the governing party also flooded the courts with petitions for injunctions to block the declaration of results.

Growing international pressure and economic pain appeared to persuade the governing party to cede power. Mr. Granger’s intransigence was condemned by practically all of Guyana’s economic partners, including its usually restrained Caribbean neighbors and the United States, which revoked visas of top government officials for subverting the elections.

Mr. Granger continues to assert that a quarter of all the votes showed signs of irregularities, although the results were endorsed by at least four major groups of international observers.

In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Granger said that he “cannot endorse a flawed report,” and that he would continue to “campaign to ensure that the votes of all Guyanese are accurately recorded.” He added that he would challenge the results in court, but stopped short of calling supporters into the streets.



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Celebrity

Kenneth and Armando Struggle With PDA in 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way Sneak Peek


Kenneth and Armando are finally reunited, but there’s a hard road ahead for these lovebirds. 

On last week’s 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way, Kenneth made is way from Florida to Mexico to live with Armando, and both men couldn’t have been happier.

“You made my dream come true,” Armando said. 

“You made mine,” Kenneth replied. 

Now, in a new sneak peek exclusive to E! News, the couple has to deal with a few realities. Armando, 31, is newly out of the closet while Kenneth, 57, has been out for most of his life. Armando’s not prepared to show PDA on the street in Mexico, while Kenneth wants to hold his boyfriend’s hand as they take a walk.

“No, not here,” Armando says to hand holding, and to kissing he says, “Not right now.” 

“I know from my past visits to Mexico to see Armando, he does not like any kind of PDA. But I moved here. This is our life now,” Kenneth says in a confessional. “I know I’m planning on asking him very soon to marry me, and I would think he would be farther along than what he is.” 



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Breaking New

Civil rights protesters from the 1950s and 1960s on their struggle — and our present moment


Now in their 70s and 80s, these pioneers tell us how things have changed in the fight for equality — and how much farther we need to go.

THEN: For integration of public schools, fair housing and equal access to public accommodations

NOW: For an end to police brutality against people of color; against institutional racism in all its forms

Who is protesting

THEN: Young, mostly black people, based mostly in the South. Many were inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, although others thought he moved too slowly.

NOW: A larger nationwide coalition of people of all colors, including members of the decentralized Black Lives Matter movement

How they protest

THEN: A nonviolent, multi-pronged approach combining marches, rallies, Freedom Rides, sit-ins and congressional hearings

NOW: Peaceful rallies and street protests with flashes of violence in places like Ferguson (2014), Baltimore (2015) and in numerous cities after the death of George Floyd

One Freedom Rider described how nonviolent civil rights protesters underwent training on how to respond when they were verbally abused or physically assaulted.

How they spread their message

THEN: Rallies, speeches, opinion pieces, interviews with the news media, nonviolent protests that deliberately courted violence

NOW: Social media and phone cameras give protesters a new tool that’s used to organize, to spread messaging and to hold wrongdoers accountable

One Freedom Rider described how the open-casket funeral of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old lynched by whites in 1955 in Mississippi, shocked the nation when news photos of his battered face appeared in newspapers across the country:

Their slogans

THEN: “We shall overcome,” “I am a man,” “Freedom now,” “Black power”

NOW: #BlackLivesMatter, “I can’t breathe,” “Say his name …” “Hands up don’t shoot”

One civil rights protester described how some white people in the 1950s and 1960s had their own weaponized language:

The response

THEN: Assassinations, bombings, police dogs, fire hoses, officers with clubs, discriminatory code words such as “agitators,” “outsiders”

NOW: Riot gear, tear gas, flash bangs, discriminatory code words such as “thugs”

A member of the Little Rock Nine described her reaction to President Trump saying that protesters who breached the White House fence would be met by “vicious dogs”:

CNN’s Brandon Griggs and John Blake contributed to this story.



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Breaking New

Laid-off workers struggle with no social safety net


Now that scenario is playing out in real time across the country, exposing the threadbare social safety net in America for minimum-wage workers and amplifying the drumbeat from labor unions for policies that would do more to protect the working class.

As laid-off workers wait for unemployment checks and the promised relief from the stimulus bill passed by Congress, many are barely scratching out an existence. They’re dipping into the last of their savings and counting on the patchwork of orders barring evictions of coronavirus-impacted families while facing the reality that these stay-at-home orders could last for another month or longer. The country lost 701,000 jobs in March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. But the March jobs report does not capture the soaring jobless claims data from the past two weeks.
A mid-March study for the American Hotel & Lodging Association by Oxford Economics predicted that California would have more hotel-related job losses (414,069) than any other state, followed by Florida, Texas and New York. (Overall, the American Hotel & Lodging Association estimates that as many as 44% of hotel employees have or will lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic).
Labor leaders in California, who have been at the forefront in pressing for some of the most progressive policies in the nation hope the silver lining of this pandemic will be to convince more Americans that low-wage workers need more assistance. That includes the push for a national $15 dollar-an-hour minimum wage, a move supported by Biden and Sanders.

‘I’m very, very worried’

Among those teetering on the edge of financial disaster is Walter Almendarez, who worked for 23 years as a bellman in the elegant corridors of the famed Chateau Marmont, the landmark Los Angeles hotel where the likes of Charlize Theron and Marion Cotillard were routinely spotted on the patio.

The 43-year-old made enough on a salary of $15.45 an hour and tips to take care of his wife and his 7-month-old baby, while helping to support his 77-year-old father and 67-year-old mother, who both receive Social Security and live with Almendarez and his wife.

Then coronavirus swept into California. In early March, Almendarez was asked to take a week’s vacation, then a second. Finally on March 19, he was fired with no guarantee that he would be rehired after the crisis passed. For now, Almendarez and his wife are trying to make each pack of diapers last as long as possible.
Last week, Almendarez was among 2,500 workers who drove to a mobile pantry distribution organized by the Los Angeles Federation of Labor to pick up a box filled with rice, pasta, powdered milk and plums, provided by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

He wasn’t able to make the $1,500 payment due Wednesday on the family’s rent-to-own house in Palmdale. And Tuesday brought a new anxiety for his wife: he said it was the last day the family had health insurance through his job.

As he waits in this excruciating period of uncertainty, Almendarez is joining forces with UNITE HERE Local 11, the union that represents many hotel and tourism workers in Los Angeles, to push for a city-wide law that would require hotel and tourism companies to hire back the workers they laid off first once the economy gets going again.

“I’m fighting. I’m fighting to help pass a law to give workers protections in the hopes that when the crisis is over I’ll be able to get back to my job,” Almendarez said. But, he added, “I’m very, very worried. Honestly, we’re really worried…. A baby not having health care?”

UNITE HERE Local 11 and the Los Angeles Federation of Labor want to see worker recall laws implemented more broadly in Los Angeles and across the country. They believe they could be modeled on an ordinance that exists in Los Angeles for hotels in a certain geographical zone around LAX airport (which requires fired workers to be rehired if the hotel changes ownership), as well as a tourism employee recall law in Santa Monica that was passed after 9/11.

The Santa Monica ordinance “worked great — everyone got their job back after 9/11 and the Santa Monica tourism industry didn’t miss a beat,” said Kurt Petersen, a co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11. “These ordinances are smart for industry,” he said, adding that “the smart companies” are “continuing to pay people, keeping them on payroll. Why? Because they’re hoping this is going to turn around and they want to have their workers ready to go.”

Petersen noted that his union, which is a part of the LA Federation of Labor, represented more than 30,000 workers before the crisis. This month they will be down to 500 workers.

“Ninety-five percent of our membership is laid off,” Petersen said. “This makes 9/11 look like the good times. This is the worst, by far, catastrophe for the tourism industry that has ever happened, certainly in our modern times and I’m worried about how long it’s going to take to come back.”

As workers wait for help from the stimulus bill and hope the state can quickly process unemployment claims, several said in interviews they simply don’t know yet how they will get by. They viewed the fact that the Trump administration agreed to enhanced unemployment benefits in the $2 trillion federal stimulus package as a positive sign there might be bipartisan collaboration on a phase-four relief package as the nation deals with the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

Beyond that, the presidential election in November and the change it could bring feels a long way off. Smaller incremental policy changes, like the one under consideration by the Los Angeles City Council, feel potentially more impactful to some in the short term.

In Sanders’ proposal to deal with Covid-19, the Vermont senator has argued that big hotel companies or airlines receiving government bailouts or loans as a result of Covid-19 must be required to protect and retain their workers. The Vermont senator would place conditions on the federal assistance to ensure any corporation receiving aid “does not lay off workers, pays workers a livable wage, provides equity to the government, puts workers on corporate boards, and does not rip-off consumers.”
Biden’s “emergency action plan to save the economy” advocated for expediting aid to businesses who commit to helping workers stay employed through the crisis and said he favored making “Americans whole for lost hours and wages.” The former vice president has also criticized President Trump for refusing to reopen the federal Affordable Care Act marketplace, which could help laid off workers find health insurance.

As fired hospitality workers strategize about how to get by in the near term, they are facing the fact that the job market has dried up while wondering whether it’s safe to work at all in California, which is under a stay-at-home order for all but essential workers.

Almendarez considered picking up some extra cash by helping a neighbor move, but then was too worried that he would risk exposing everyone in his household to the coronavirus.

Francisco Gonzalez, a 39-year-old airport cargo driver at LAX, applied for unemployment after he was laid off on March 24. He considered looking for other work, but he still wants his old job back. And he doesn’t feel that any industry is safe from the pandemic right now. Even after a brief trip to shop for groceries, he noticed that the latex gloves he was wearing were filthy after touching the cart.

“I thought, Oh my god, I better throw these away immediately as soon as I get home and wash my hands,” Gonzalez said. “I watch everything I bring into the house. I’m very worried still, because the coronavirus could be up in the air, not even where all the hands were touching. It’s crazy. I’m concerned for everyone in my family, my mom, my brother, everybody in the community and especially my co-workers that are putting themselves at risk at the (airport) terminals.”

Gonzalez, who was making $15.25 an hour, keeps checking online for clues as to when an unemployment check might arrive, but there are no signs of a deposit yet. His savings might get him by for a few months, he said, “but with food, I’m going to run out eventually.”

He heard about the food distribution organized by the LA Federation of Labor, but he had no transportation to get there.

“Every day I have to eat. But I limit myself,” Gonzalez said. He bought a bag of potatoes, rice and beans, and some eggs to boil. “Only two bags of tortillas — that’s how worried I am. When I run out, that’s when I’m afraid. Because I don’t know what kind of resources I am going to get.”



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Breaking New

Food banks struggle as demand explodes thanks to coronavirus layoffs


Food banks across the nation are facing a perfect storm as they try to help the growing number of hungry Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Millions of people newly unemployed mean food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens are seeing a flood of new clients appearing at their doors, just as supplies are dwindling because of growing demand from consumers stuck at home.

Food banks are reporting a 40% increase in demand, on average, said Katie Fitzgerald, chief operating office at Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs nationwide. Some say they are seeing double to quadruple the number of people asking for help.

“It’s the speed that this is hitting us that is making it so difficult to contend with,” Fitzgerald said. “The current inventories that we have in place were not designed to serve the numbers of people who need help now.”

Feeding America depends on getting 1.4 billion meals a year in donations from retailers, such as Walmart and supermarkets. That channel has seen a “significant and fast plummet” in deliveries recently because of consumer demand in stores and supply chain constraints, Fitzgerald said. Its donations from food manufacturers, which total about 580 million meals, also have dropped by about half this month.
That’s forcing Feeding America to purchase supplies from food manufacturers and distributors, but those deliveries can take up to four weeks to arrive at the food banks in its network.

“Food banks could very well get so low on their inventories that they would not have enough food to distribute,” she said.

On top of all that, food banks rely on about 2 million volunteers — many of them senior citizens who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus — to help pack and distribute the food. Many of these folks are staying home, which makes it even tougher for food banks to handle the crush of new clients, Fitzgerald said.

The number of volunteers working at Los Angeles Regional Food Bank initially dropped dramatically, in part because the non-profit is following social distancing guidelines for volunteers to stay six feet apart, and in part because many normal volunteers are staying home, said CEO Michael Flood. But so far, it has had enough volunteers to keep operations going, even if the pace is slower.

“Usually volunteers come in and it’s like a little beehive of activity — assembly line and all that. So we’ve like completely changed that to follow these health guidelines,” Flood said. “That slows down efficiency. That slows down production. It’s kind of really changed things pretty significantly.”

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida distributed 700 boxes of food Saturday but had to turn away more than 100 cars.

Some food pantries are even having to close their doors because they don’t have enough volunteers or they can’t get enough cleaning supplies to keep everyone safe amid the pandemic.

About 55 of the 550 feeding programs that Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida serves have temporarily shut down in part because of a shortage of volunteers, said Dave Krepcho, the food bank’s CEO. He expects more to do the same.

This comes at a time when the number of Floridians searching for food assistance has skyrocketed. Second Harvest’s interactive map showing food locations now gets 1,200 clicks a day, up from 35 prior to the pandemic.

The number of meals that the Orlando-based food bank is distributing has doubled to 280,000 a day. But donations from local retailers have fallen to almost zero, forcing Second Harvest to purchase $350,000 of groceries instead of a more typical $85,000 for a three-week supply, Krepcho said.

He is awaiting an infusion of supplies from The Emergency Food Assistance Program, a federal program that just received $850 million in additional funding in the last two congressional rescue packages. It can’t come quickly enough, he said.

“My concern is that we will see food and funding dwindle,” said Krepcho, adding that some pantries already have to turn away Floridians in need. “The level of service would diminish considerably. That means tens of thousands of people in our community will literally not have food to eat.”

To safely accommodate the increased demand in the era of social distancing, food banks have been setting up drive-through locations, where staff and volunteers can just drop a box of groceries in someone’s trunk or back seat.

Cars lined up to receive groceries from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank on Monday.

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank provided food to about 4,000 vehicles at three recent events, but had to turn hundreds away. Traffic was backed up for miles, said Lisa Scales, the agency’s CEO.

On Monday, 40 cars had already lined up by 9 am ET, even though distribution didn’t start until noon. More than 800 vehicles ended up receiving boxes of groceries.

The food bank is hoping to hold two or three of these events a week, in addition to serving its 500 pantries, soup kitchens and other meal programs in southwest Pennsylvania.

“There’s a lot of fear in the community,” Scales said. “They are concerned about being able to make ends meet. They don’t know how long they will be without work.”

CNN’s Maeve Reston contributed to this story.



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Breaking New

US-China trade war: Asian stocks struggle for direction without progress on a deal



Japan’s Nikkei 225 (N225) dropped 0.2%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) seesawed in early trading. It was last up 0.1%.
South Korea’s Kospi (KOSPI) also veered between small gains and losses. It was last up 0.3%.
China’s Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) briefly dipped into the red, but then inched up 0.1%.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that American and Chinese negotiators are working to delay the next round of duties. But White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said later that the decision will ultimately be up to President Donald Trump.

“I’ve got no indication that he’s going to do anything other than have a great deal and put the tariffs on,” Navarro said on Fox Business.

US futures were all down a little more than 0.1% during Asian trading hours.

The next round of tariffs will hit about $155 billion of Chinese-made products, notably consumer goods.
China, meanwhile, has said it wants to strike a deal. On Monday, Ren Hongbin, the country’s assistant minister of commerce, said China hopes a result “satisfying both sides” can be achieved “as soon as possible.” His remarks came after China announced worse-than-expected export data for November, mostly because of plunging shipments to the United States.



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Doctors Applaud Eagles’ Brandon Brooks For Openness In Struggle With Anxiety – CBS Philly


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Eagles Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks suffered a mental health setback during Sunday’s game. The Eagles lost, but experts say mental health awareness is getting some important recognition.

Brooks has been very open about his struggles with anxiety. Doctors say everyone can learn a lot from Brooks’ brave example.

Brooks, the Eagles’ $56 million star guard, had his anxiety under control until Sunday when he had to leave the Birds’ 17-9 loss to Seattle.

The offensive line, missing Brooks, got a lot of the blame.

On Monday, Brooks tweeted:  “I woke up, and did my typical routine of morning vomiting. It didn’t go away like it normally does, tried everything I could to get back for my teammates but just wasn’t able to do it. Make no mistake I’m NOT ashamed or embarrassed by this nor what I go through daily. I’ve had this under control for a couple of years, and had a set back yesterday.”

“This is real life for him. This is serious and it’s something he battles every single day, does a great job managing that,” head coach Doug Pederson said.

Brooks was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in 2016, explaining he had an obsession with winning that wasn’t fear-based.

He said it had been under control with medications and therapy. It’s unclear what triggered the new episode.

“I think it’s very common. I just don’t think we’re talking about it enough,” therapist Dr. Argie Allen-Wilson said.

The often hidden truth is anxiety, or any mental health issue, can strike anyone — even famous athletes.

“Whether you’re a big tough guy or a tiny woman, we all have anxiety. We’re human beings, we need to put our oxygen on mask first, take care of ourselves and do the necessary things so we can be healthy inside and out,” Allen-Wilson said.

Revealing and confronting emotions is the first critical step in dealing with anxiety, which is triggered by stress.

For the Eagles, with the offensive line depleted, a lot was riding on Brooks.

“Being in the game and wanting to win, having all the pressure both externally and internally can contribute to the anxiety,” Allen-Wilson said.

Allen-Wilson says meditation and journaling — writing down feelings — can be most effective in treating and managing anxiety.

Doctors are applauding Brooks for sharing his struggles, underscoring the fact that anyone, even star athletes, can have emotional problems.

And while anxiety is highly treatable, most people don’t get help.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults.





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