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    Community news from around the area | News, Sports, Jobs – The Daily Times - May 24, 2020 by admin

    QUARTET TO PERFORM Members of a Joyful Noise, from left, Brenda Cottrell, Lesa Costlow, Earl Tuttle and Chelsa Clegg will be among those performing at a singspiration set for Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Toronto High School parking lot.-- Contributed

    Joyful Noise Singspiration

    Sunday afternoon in Toronto

    TORONTO The Toronto High School parking lot will be the site of a A Joyful Noise Quartet Singspiration.

    It will be held Sunday beginning at 4 p.m. and feature A Joyful Noise, comprised of Brenda Cottrell, Lesa Costlow, Chelsea Clegg and Earl Tuttle; the Blest Trio with Laurie Brookes as accompanist; Tom Graham, Jefferson County commissioner; Doc Roe; and Ron Retzer.

    Attendees can tune in their radio to 99.3 FM and are asked to remain in their vehicles. Those who exit must wear a mask, according to information provided. There will be no public restroom facilities available.

    Community blood drive still

    accepting donors for Sunday

    WEIRTON Cove Presbyterian Church in Weirton is hosting a community blood drive as an outreach program to help support area hospitals and patients.

    It will be held in the fellowship hall from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday at the church, which is located at 3404 Main St.

    Participants must pre-register in order to donate. To do so, visit Vitalant.org and click on the make appointment button and search with group code G0010028 Another option is to download the Vitalant-Pittsburgh mobile app to a smartphone or call or call (412) 209-7000 or Rachel Bennett at (412) 736-5506.

    No walk-ins will be accepted.

    Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many blood drives have been canceled, resulting in decreased blood donations and supply, according to a news release. One unit of blood can save three lives. Blood is separated into red cells, plasma and platelets.

    Weirton Medical Center blood services are provided by Vitalant, formerly the Central Blood Bank of Pittsburgh.

    Donations will directly help our community of Weirton as well as other local communities, the news release adds. Social distancing will be practiced during this event.

    To save time, donors can complete their health history questionnaire online on the same day as their donation. Go to Vitalant.org, select donate and then health history questionnaire.

    Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, according to a fact sheet provided. One in seven people entering a hospital will need blood.

    Church parking lot service

    Sunday at First Westminster

    STEUBENVILLE First Westminster Presbyterian Church, 235 N. Fourth St., will be holding a Memorial Day Tailgate Service in the church parking lot on Sunday, beginning at 10:45 a.m., the regular church worship time.

    Those planning to attend are asked to bring a lawn chair and join us. We will be following social distancing protocols and the masks are encouraged. Families/households may sit together but there will be 6 feet between the next family, according to a church spokesperson. Spaces will be marked in the parking lot. We will honor our veterans and our graduates.

    The service will be on Facebook Live on Sunday at 10:45 a.m. and archived at firstwestminster.org.

    Food distribution, thrift store

    reopenings are announced

    The Brooke-Hancock County Salvation Army, in conjunction with the Mountaineer Food Bank, will host a food distribution and has reopened its thrift stores in Weirton and Wellsburg.

    A Just in Time food distribution will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at the Wellsburg service center at 401 Commerce St.

    A state identification card is needed to show proof of residency.

    The Weirton thrift store on Penco Road is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and the thrift store at the Wellsburg service center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

    In keeping with state restrictions spurred by the pandemic, customers will be limited to nine at a time. Because the stores have been closed since the stay-at-home order, no donations are being accepted at this time.

    Faith in the Future scheduled

    June 3 at Seventh Street Plaza

    STEUBENVILLE Faith in the Future Ohio Valley has announced its next opportunity to meet, network and pray for our economic development has been scheduled for June 3 from noon to 1 p.m.

    It will be held at Urban Missions Seventh Street Plaza, located at Seventh and Washington streets, Steubenville.

    The Rev. Ashley Steele, Urban Missions executive director, will host the luncheon and lead us as well as share with us the exciting developments happening with the Urban Mission and happenings in the Ohio Valley.

    Lunch will be catered, and there will be tents set up and outdoor seating necessary to comply with social distancing rules.

    Its Facebook information noted Faith in the Future Ohio Valley is the faith community of Jefferson County, concerned for the spiritual and the temporal needs of our community, strives to create a climate for the economic development of our area through prayer, leadership, encouragement and teamwork.

    For reservations, text to (919) 349-2038 or e-mail tmcmanamon@onesourcebenefits.com.

    Mystery bag auctions winding

    down for Salvation Army

    STEUBENVILLE During May, the Salvation Army of Steubenville is hosting a mystery bag auction on its Facebook page every Monday and Friday.

    The final two are approaching.

    The auctions begin at 9 a.m. and end at 7 p.m. The mystery bags are filled with goodies for adults, children and your entire household, notes the post on the Salvation Armys Facebook page. All proceeds go toward food for those who need help during the pandemic.

    Here is how to play: The first person to comment will put a $1 sign in their comment. Every person who comments after that will increase their donation by $1. The last person to comment before the auction closes at 7 p.m. will win and be contacted.

    Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

    See original here:
    Community news from around the area | News, Sports, Jobs - The Daily Times

    Here’s why Alberta’s economic angst could have a deep, echoing impact in N.L. – CBC.ca - May 24, 2020 by admin

    Andrew Ivany says the relationship between the province he calls home and the province he's travelled to for work remains strong.

    "Like they say, Fort Mac is the second biggest city in Newfoundland," he said, referring to Fort McMurray.

    "Alberta and Newfoundland go hand in hand."

    Ivany recently drove thousands of kilometres back home. Thetrip was bookended by quarantines at his job site in Sylvan Lake, near Red Deer, before he left, and at a relative's cabin on the Avalon Peninsula when he arrived in Newfoundland.

    "Alberta has provided a lot of opportunity for Newfoundlanders," Ivanytold CBC News.

    "I mean, it's a place for guys [who] don't grow up with much, and we go out and we work hard. Alberta is just like a second home.That's how I consider it,anyways."

    Ivany is one of thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who've made the trek out west to seek out that opportunity.

    And with the pandemic and oil crash sapping the economic lifeblood of Alberta, the ripple effects are being felt at home, too.

    The problems come on top of already severe problems in Newfoundland and Labrador's own oil industry. Drilling has been halted at the Hibernia platform, the Terra Nova field has already been dormant for months, and an ambitious deepsea project has been put on the backburner.

    A recent report predicted that Alberta's economy would shrink by an unprecedented 5.8 per cent in 2020, and unemployment could average more than 11 per cent.

    All that bad news out west could have a big impact in the east.

    While some people pull up stakes and move, many don't. For them, it's a commuter existence fly-in, fly-out earning Alberta dollars that help some Newfoundland outports stay afloat.

    "It's very clear that COVID-19 is posing major problems for these workers and their families, in the sense that it's very difficult now to be mobile, to live in this province and work in other provinces," said Barbara Neis, a distinguished research professor of sociology at Memorial University.

    Neis runs a project called On The Move, a national partnership that studies the mobile labour force.

    That labour force has had a big impact on the economy in Newfoundland and Labrador.

    "It's like an iceberg. We've had this particularly in some regions this large population, we're talking about thousands of workers, who have relied on being mobile in and out of the province and helped to sustain rural communities," Neis said.

    Like an iceberg, much of the current data that would reveal the scope of the issue remains below the surface.

    There is a years-long lag in Statistics Canada figures on how much workers who live in one province make elsewhere.

    But historic numbers show that the contribution is significant.

    In 2014, workers living in Newfoundland and Labrador made nearly $1.1 billion in earnings in other provinces. More than $700 million of that total was earned in Alberta.

    Resident employees people who lived and worked in Newfoundland and Labrador made just over $11 billion.

    So for every $10 made inside the province that year, about $1 was earned outside the province the vast majority of that, in Alberta.

    That year, more than 19,000 people living in Newfoundland and Labrador earned income outside the province. More than half of them almost 11,000 did so in Alberta.

    The number dropped in subsequent years, amid an economic downturn.

    In 2016 the most recent year for which statistics are available the number of workers travelling from the province to the rest of Canada dropped to just over 14,000. They pulled in less than $700 million roughly half of that in Alberta.

    At peak, in the economic boom time of 2008, 14,000 people living in Newfoundland and Labrador commuted to work in Alberta alone.

    The oilsands have been a key destination for that mobile labour force.

    In the boom times around 2008, the majority of rotational workers in the oilsands were from Atlantic Canada.

    Fast forward a decade, to late 2017, and one in nine of those travelling workers called Newfoundland and Labrador home, according to an industry survey.

    Today, the Alberta oilpatch is facing a double-edged sword dealing with the fallout of cratering crude prices on one side, and addressing health concerns caused by COVID-19 on the other.

    "It has been, I'd say, a pretty unprecedented time," said Shafak Sajid, a policy analyst with the Oil Sands Community Alliance, an umbrella group representing the major industry players.

    On the economic side, there have been billions slashed from planned capital investments, big voluntary production cuts, and project slowdowns.

    "A number of companies have postponed scheduled turnaround or maintenance, just to reduce and minimize the activity on site while the pandemic guidance is in place," Sajid said.

    On the health side, concerns have been expressed about the use of fly-in workers, and the possibility they could unwittingly spread the coronavirus.

    An outbreak at the Kearl site near Fort McMurray has been linked to more than 100 COVID-19 infections across five provinces including one in Newfoundland and Labrador.

    Sajid said companies have been working to adjust their operations to conform with public-health guidance everything from altering shift rotations and work schedules, to changing how workers are fed (pre-packaged meals instead of buffets), to enhanced screening and physical distancing measures.

    "I would say that camps continue to be a vital component of sustaining the oilsands operation. I don't see those going anywhere," Sajid said.

    "And as far as fly-in, fly-out workers are concerned, that is a strategy that we need to effectively staff our operations. I don't see that shifting in a major way."

    University of Alberta professor Sara Dorow says the western province is currently facing the "double whammy" of a health crisis and an oil crisis.

    She saidthey are both separate and related issues, and have both separate and compounding effects on mobile workers.

    "The pandemic has exacerbated what was already an oil downturn, and we're now in crisis mode in the oil economy which has been sort of happening over years, but has really come to a head with the decreased demand for oil," Dorow told CBC News in an interview.

    Dorow is chair of sociology at the University of Alberta, and has been researching the political economy of the oilsands for over a decade.

    She saidthe workforce has been reduced at some sites by up to 60 per cent, and there are questions about what happens next.

    "We don't know if industry will return to the usual shutdown approach, where thousands of workers fly in for these two-month periods," Dorow said.

    "So that means a lot of people who are relying on that are [on] pins and needles about future prospects for work."

    Dorow saidthe current added stress and difficulty for fly-in, fly-out workers has been compounded by the financial and economic uncertainty they are facing.

    "I think that we're in a very important turning point what I hope is a turning point which is that the confluence of the pandemic and the oil crisis should be a wake-up call," she said.

    "That relying on one economy that is a fickle boom-and-bust economy is a real problem, and that we need to diversify. Not just here, but in the places from which [fly-in, fly-out]workers come."

    This coverage is part of Changing Course, a series of stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador that's taking a closer look at how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting local industries and businesses, and how they're adapting during these uncertain times to stay afloat.

    See the original post here:
    Here's why Alberta's economic angst could have a deep, echoing impact in N.L. - CBC.ca

    YMCA announces 13 summer meal sites in the area – The Daily Post-Athenian - May 22, 2020 by admin

    The Athens-McMinn Family YMCA has announced 13 summer meal sites available to children ages 18 and under.

    The meals are free for children and will be handed out every Monday and Thursday beginning May 28.

    Currently, the YMCA is serving multiple rural communities in McMinn County at just under 1,000 meals a week with eight drive thru routes in response to COVID-19.

    We have a year-round program in place that became a delivery and drive thru service in March when COVID-19 significantly increased the need to get food to kids, stated Debbie Crews, YMCA director of outreach programs. The opportunity to expand our recurring summer programming is absolutely in response to the pandemic and families in even greater need. We are now serving meals at four schools including Niota, Rogers Creek, Calhoun and Etowah City.

    Families can expect Monday and Thursday food packages to include packed meals for the weekdays when sites are not set up.

    The program expansion will allow us to reach the whole county and ensure kids are fed this summer. We could not do this without the help of some amazing educators willing to work this summer in helping us serve at these sites, Crews said.

    The list of meal sites for the 2020 summer:

    YMCA: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

    Lee Manor Apartments: 11:30 a.m. to noon

    Ridgetop Apartments: 12:15 - 12:45 p.m.

    on County Road 213: 11:30 a.m. to noon

    Cherokee Point Community: 12:15 - 12:45 p.m.

    Holiday Mobile Home Community: 1 - 1:30 p.m.

    Englewood Pool: noon to 12:45 p.m.

    Niota Elementary School: 9:30 a.m. to noon

    Etowah City School: 9:30 a.m. to noon

    Rogers Creek School: 9:30 a.m. to noon

    Calhoun School: 9:30 a.m. to noon

    The YMCA will also provide lunch meals for the following libraries summer programming:

    EG Fisher Library: 11:30 a.m. to noon, Monday-Friday beginning June1

    Etowah Carnegie Library: 12:30 - 1:30 p.m., Monday to Friday beginning June 2.

    Community members can call 423-745-4904 for more information.

    Excerpt from:
    YMCA announces 13 summer meal sites in the area - The Daily Post-Athenian

    Verizon network investment on its way to 22 Upstate communities – Verizon News - May 22, 2020 by admin

    NEW YORK Verizon has secured agreements from 22 communities in New York that will allow the company to invest heavily in its 4G LTE network and build out its next-generation wireless networks. The cities of Auburn, Binghamton, Corning, Poughkeepsie, Schenectady, Syracuse, White Plains and Yonkers, the towns of Camillus, Cicero, Gates, Irondequoit, Manlius, Niskayuna, Sweden, the villages of Arcade, Minoa, Naples Phoenix, Port Dickinson, and Webster, and the County of Erie, have all approved agreements with Verizon to allow the company to begin deployment of new infrastructure necessary to support increasing capacity for 4G LTE and building out next-generation wireless technology all at no cost to taxpayers.

    In todays world, fast and reliable wireless service has become a crucial part of everyday lifefor businesses and consumers alike. As mobile technology has become more widely available and affordable, consumers are using their smart devices more than ever before. Email, video-chatting, posting to social networks, streaming music at home or on-the-go, and managing business operations on smart devices from almost anywhere are all part of todays mobile society. Ongoing development of new technologies that are dependent on mobile broadband such as smart city applications, public safety interoperability, telemedicine and in education are part of the rapid and ever-expanding evolution of services to the public.

    Accenture has found that 5G and small cell deployments will provide tremendous economic benefits. Specifically, Accenture estimates that wireless operators will invest as much as $275 billion nationwide over seven years creating up to three million jobs and adding approximately $500 billion to the U.S. GDP through direct and indirect potential benefits. In New York, 5G deployment in a city like New York City may create over 78,000 jobs and increase GDP by over $12.7 billion, and a community like Syracuse may create over 1,300 jobs and increase GDP by over $200 million.

    Mayor Ben Walsh has pointed to 5G as a critical piece of the Syracuse Surge -- a strategy for inclusive growth in the New Economy. The 5G network will make Syracuse a more attractive place for businesses and tech start-ups. We are actively working with Verizon to prepare our City to be competitive in the new economy, said Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. Were proud to be considered New York States Flagship Smart City. Working within the guidelines established by the FCC, weve worked with Verizon to develop a model for successful agreements and installations in Syracuse.

    Mayor Gary McCarthys Smart City initiative has the city of Schenectady positioned as a potential global leader in municipal sustainability and innovation. New small cells and fiber are key to the continued improvement of 4G networks and represent the groundwork needed for planning 5G deployments said McCarthy. We look forward to continuing to work with Verizon as they enhance their wireless network in our city as we build a smarter, safer and more sustainable Schenectady for the 21st century.

    In partnering with Verizon, the Town of Irondequoit has spearheaded investment in telecommunications infrastructure that ensures good jobs and state-of-the-art technology that will allow the Town to be competitive in the new gig economy. Irondequoit is proud that it will lead the way as one of the first communities in Upstate New York to help drive economic and consumer benefits, said Irondequoit Supervisor David Seeley.

    Another great example of a collaborative partner is the town of Greece, who recognized the need to ready the town for next-generation networks and worked with Verizon to update the towns existing permitting policies for all carriers to attract new investments for consumers and first responders.

    "Verizon has been a strong partner to our town," said Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich. "I'm pleased to see Verizon expanding their wireless network in Greece, and look forward to their continued investment in our town.

    In securing MLAs and cooperation from these communities, Verizon has signaled its intention to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into these localities to bring its next-generation wireless service into the market. The company is continuing to develop its plans and hopes to have discussions with other municipalities in the region, pending available build schedules.

    "We're excited that these New York communities have seen the benefits that a robust wireless network can bring to their residents and first-responders," said Anthony Lewis, Verizon vice president for the New York region. "Our investment in local infrastructure ensures good jobs and state-of-the-art wireless technology. These communities have recognized the economic and consumer benefits of wireless investment and competition.

    Verizon continues to invest in the state's infrastructure by building, maintaining and enhancing its wireless and wireless networks across New York.

    How 5G Can Help Municipalities Become Vibrant Smart Cities, Accenture Strategy, Jan 12, 2017, https://newsroom.accenture.com/content/1101/files/Accenture_5G-Municipalities-Become-Smart-Cities.pdf, last accessed 1/29/2020.

    Read more here:
    Verizon network investment on its way to 22 Upstate communities - Verizon News

    Hermiston City Council to consider appointment of a new councilor on Tuesday – East Oregonian - May 22, 2020 by admin

    HERMISTON The Hermiston City Council will consider appointing a replacement for councilor John Kirwan when it meets on Tuesday.

    Kirwan resigned in April after announcing he would be leaving Hermiston to pursue a career opportunity. The council has received one application, from David McCarthy.

    McCarthy is an account manager at KOHU/The Q radio station in Hermiston and president of the Hermiston Kiwanis Club. If appointed, he would serve out the remainder of 2020 in Kirwan's at-large council seat and have to run for the seat in the November general election if he wanted to serve longer.

    Also on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting is a public hearing and council vote on the vacation of an undeveloped right-of-way for East Ridgeway Avenue. Santiago Communities, a developer planning a 199-space mobile home park north of the property, hopes to use the 527-foot strip of land between Northeast Eighth Street and East Diagonal Boulevard to help meet setback requirements for the development.

    The city council will discuss construction of a new city hall, which City Manager Byron Smith reported at April's meeting has hit a snag after one source of funding for the project is no longer available.

    They will also vote on changes to the city's code of ordinances regardingthe municipal court to eliminate redundant language and make the court's role in the city more clear.

    The agenda includes three resolutions regarding grants. One allows the city to pursue grant money for land use planning; one directs the city manager to apply for a grant for replacement of a sewer line serving the city's southern industrial area; and one calls for Congress to provide additional funding to cities affected by COVID-19.

    The council will meet in executive session for 20 minutes to discuss "matters of trade or commerce in which the governing body is in competition with governing bodies in other states or nations."

    See the original post here:
    Hermiston City Council to consider appointment of a new councilor on Tuesday - East Oregonian

    ‘Might as well have them walk the plank’ Cuts may force many seniors into nursing homes – ABC10.com KXTV - May 22, 2020 by admin

    Gov. Newsom's proposed cuts to meet the new coronavirus economy include two California programs aimed at keeping poor and medically fragile seniors in their homes.

    SACRAMENTO, Calif Linda Jacobs worked for non-profit organizations in California for years, including directing a substance abuse program for women. She never made much money. Now, Jacob lives off her monthly Social Security checks, and at 71, she suffers from many health problems, among them diabetes, asthma, heart disease and arthritis.

    The one thing keeping her out of a nursing home, she believes, is a state program inelegantly named the Multipurpose Senior Services Program, or MSSP. The program serves more than 11,000 people like her people who are older, medically fragile and at real risk of being institutionalized in a skilled nursing facility. Every month, a social worker visits Jacobs at her mobile home in Concord to assess her needs, making sure she has enough food, arranging transportation for doctor visits, installing grab bars in her bathroom to prevent falls, even providing an emergency kit.

    Grim pandemic-fueled cuts to Californias state budget could shutter Jacobs program as early as July along with another adult day health program that supporters say also has helped keep thousands of low-income seniors out of expensive nursing homes.

    Gov. Gavin Newsoms revised budget, which must be approved by state lawmakers, eliminates the MSSP program and another one called Community-Based Adult Services (CBAS), in which seniors go to adult day health programs for medical care, physical therapy, meals and socialization. These programs, paid for by Medi-Cal, Californias Medicaid program, are considered by the federal government to be optional. In contrast, Medi-Cal must pay for nursing home care for those who qualify for it; those benefits cant be cut to trim the state budget.

    Together, the two senior health programs serve nearly 46,000 of Californias poorest and most medically frail seniors in their homes or at one of 260 adult day health centers around the state.

    Eliminating them could save the state about $410 million over the next two budget years but health advocates say that could force thousands of seniors into skilled nursing facilities in the middle of a pandemic.

    The novel coronavirus has raced through nursing homes with devastating speed. More than 4,800 California skilled nursing facility residents have contracted COVID-19, and nearly 850 have died as of May 19, according to California Department of Public Health data.

    You might as well have them walk the plank, said Barbara Porter, site director for the Multipurpose Senior Services Program in Contra Costa county, which serves 160 seniors, including Linda Jacobs.

    Porter and other local program staffers say they were blindsided by the proposed budget cuts from a governor who last year called for a new state master plan for aging by this October. Porter said the MSSP program costs no more than $5,000 per client per year, compared to the roughly $40,600 per year that Medi-Cal would pay for a typical patient to live in a skilled nursing facility, though costs can be significantly higher.

    Everyones in a state of shock about this, Porter said. What our program costs is budget dust, but it totally saves so many (seniors) from premature hospitalization and an institutional, end-of-life nursing environment.

    California, like other states, has long experimented with state-subsidized programs that offer social services and health care coordination to keep seniors independent and living in their communities, rather than institutions. The senior health programs now slated for elimination also faced the ax more than a decade ago amid budget cuts during the Great Recession. But consumer advocates filed a federal class action lawsuit against California to restore them and won in 2011, with some changes to the programs.

    Its too soon to know whether another lawsuit will be filed, said Debbie Toth, president and CEO of Choice in Aging, a nonprofit that offers adult day health services to 320 seniors in Contra Costa, Napa and Solano counties. She and other program leaders had to quickly pivot at the beginning of the pandemic to provide services remotely to seniors who once had shown up daily at the centers. They then had to close following the states stay-at-home order.

    If Californias senior budget cuts take effect, Choice in Aging would lose about 80 percent of our programs and services, Toth said. It would devastate our organization thats been around for 70 years. At least 15 people could lose their jobs, Toth said, along with hundreds of other social workers, nurses, occupational therapists and physical therapists at the many adult day health programs across the state.

    Advocates for the programs say keeping seniors out of nursing homes is better for their well-being and more cost-effective than institutionalizing them.

    But Californias adult day health program also has drawn scrutiny from federal officials. A Health and Human Services Inspector Generals report released in September found that the state needed to more closely monitor the adult day program sites. The report noted that 23 of 24 sites where it conducted unannounced inspections had violations including improper storage of patient medicines, poor record keeping, and even in a few cases rodent and bug droppings. California officials, in response to the audit, agreed with the findings and said they had stepped up inspections and training for program staff.

    Maryam Davis said she has no idea what shell do if her 86-year-old mother, Nosrat Akbari, can no longer attend her adult day health center in Walnut Creek. Akbari lives in a low-income senior community in the city, where many residents boarded a daily bus to the program run by Choice in Aging before the pandemic.

    Davis, who lives in Los Angeles, said the programs social workers gave her mother an emergency alert button on a necklace that may have saved her life when she fell late last year in her bathroom, breaking numerous bones.

    After Akbari was able to return to her apartment after a hospital stay, the program helped her obtain a hospital bed, a walker and other equipment she needed to recover at home, Davis said. Davis sister, who lives in the area, had cared for their mother until her health worsened.

    Shes one of the sweetest grandmas but she has so many medical issues, and my sister couldnt be there 24/7, Davis said. I was shocked, saddened and really concerned that they may cut this program, said Davis. It has given my mother dignity. She has so much life in her.

    Linda Jacobs, the 71-year-old Concord woman, also fears for her future. Her daughter is disabled and her sons dont live in the area, so they cant provide the help she needs, she said.

    The last thing I want to do is be in a nursing home, especially with the virus, Jacobs said. I worked hard all my life, and now Im in a position where I really rely on other people, and thats not the easiest thing for me.

    My social workers have helped me out greatly. Theyve been really, really kind to me. If I lose that, I dont know what Im going to do.

    CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

    Excerpt from:
    'Might as well have them walk the plank' Cuts may force many seniors into nursing homes - ABC10.com KXTV

    CMS Issues Guidance to States on Reopening Nursing Homes: Universal Testing Needed to Lift Visitation Ban – Skilled Nursing News - May 18, 2020 by admin

    The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released guidelines on reopening nursing homes on Monday, with parameters around testing requirements and visitation while emphasizing that nursing facilities will be among the last institutions that can safely reopen as the U.S. takes tentative steps toward moving out of COVID-19-induced lockdowns.

    CMS announced that states have flexibility on deciding how the criteria in the guidelines should be implemented, given the variety in how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting different communities.

    For instance, states can require that all facilities in certain regions meet the reopening benchmarks, or make the call on a building-by-building basis.

    However, the agency adamantly recommended that nursing homes secure COVID-19 testing for all residents and staff before advancing through the three planned phases of reopening, or relaxing any restrictions.

    CMS recommends nursing homes do not advance through any of the stages of reopening or relax any restrictions until all residents and staff have received a baseline test to establish that there are no known cases of COVID-19 in the facility, CMS administrator Seema Verma said on a call with reporters held Monday evening. In addition to the baseline test, we are calling on nursing homes to screen all staff daily and test them weekly. Further testing of residents may be necessary upon identification of coronavirus symptoms.

    The factors CMS listed to inform the relaxation of restrictions on skilled nursing facilities include:

    Due to the elevated risk COVID-19 poses to nursing home residents, we recommend additional criteria for advancing through phases of reopening nursing homes than is recommended in the broader administrations Opening Up America Again framework, CMS wrote.

    These additional criteria include states surveying SNFs that experienced a significant COVID-19 outbreak prior to reopening to make sure the facility is preventing transmission.

    In essence, a nursing homes opening needs to lag behind the general communitys reopening by 14 days, according to the guidance.

    Adequate testing plans for SNFs a long-standing pain point in the COVID-19 pandemic should consider several factors. These include:

    SNFs across the country have reported challenges related to the capacity to both secure testing and get results back; in New York, operators have expressed concerns about the ability to scale up testing amid new mandates, while laboratories in the state reported being overwhelmed.

    PruittHealth, which operates primarily in the Southeast of the U.S., had to scramble to secure adequate testing for residents, and at least as of the end of April, did not have the capacity to test staff despite being able to scale up its testing resources considerably.

    And the president and CEO of one of the largest nursing home operators in the U.S. said that while the SNF testing situation is improving, theres still a lot of ground to make up, given that most SNFs dont have their own labs and supplies for the tests have been short.

    You have a supply issue, and a logistical issue, and a capacity issue all of which are improving, but by no means do we have the resources we need to test, to really identify where the virus exists and prevent the spread, George Hager, the president and CEO of the Kennett Square, Pa.-based Genesis HealthCare (NYSE: GEN) told SNN on May 5.

    The testing methods might vary by what is available in a community, whether that includes a local hospital lab using high-throughput testing, working with state labs, or mobile efforts with a point-of-care test from Abbott which has separately drawn scrutiny over the accuracy of its results.

    But at the federal level, CMS is comfortable with the testing capacity across the country, Verma said.

    We feel that there is sufficient testing capacity available in all states, and so these recommendations and guidelines were put together with that in mind, the administrator said Monday.

    LeadingAge, an association which represents non-profit senior housing and care providers, disagreed strongly with Vermas assertions, stating that the guidance from CMS is not grounded in the everyday realities.

    We need funding to make both of those possible for the brave people who care for vulnerable older adults day in and day out, LeadingAge president and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said in a statement provided to SNN. Our members pay between $200,000 and $250,000 per week to test staff just twice a week. Thats $1 million a month. Nursing homes need help from federal or state governments to cover these necessary costs. Todays guidance delivers none of that.

    The American Health Care Association (AHCA), which represents 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the U.S., expressed support for the new guidance and appreciation for the focus on testing in a statement attributed to president and CEO Mark Parkinson. But it also emphasized the need for support and funding for long-term care.

    Moving forward, it is vital that all long term care facilities receive additional support and funding from state governments to conduct expanded testing, Parkinson said in the statement. We encourage governors to use the $11 billion that has been allocated to states for expanding testing in our nursing homes, assisted living communities and other long term care facilities.

    Here is the original post:
    CMS Issues Guidance to States on Reopening Nursing Homes: Universal Testing Needed to Lift Visitation Ban - Skilled Nursing News

    2020 Census response rate will impact Cape Fear region’s federal funding, political representation – WWAY NewsChannel 3 - May 18, 2020 by admin

    WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) The U.S. Census is taking place right now and some areas have had a higher response rate than others.

    The Census counts every person in the United States and five U.S. territories. As of May 18, the national response rate was 59.5 percent.

    North Carolinas response rate was slightly lower at 55.7 percent with 44.1 percent completing the census online.

    In the Cape Fear region alone, New Hanover County is leading with a response rate of 56 percent followed by Pender County (50.2 percent), Brunswick County (47.9 percent), Columbus County (46.4 percent) and Bladen County (41.2 percent).

    The Census Bureau has been sending out information since mid-March to all the households in America, so right now were about tied now for 67th of the 100 counties in North Carolina, said Brunswick County Public Information Officer Meagan Kascsak.

    If you think the Census doesnt impact you, think again.

    The Census is a constitutionally-required event and its really important for us all to participate because all the information we collect is going to help our elected officials in our communities in the next 10 years, Kascsak said.

    That information will determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, school lunch programs, block grants for community mental health services, highway planning and construction, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

    The information is also important for economic development and business recruitment purposes, too. It can also help a region prepare for a natural disaster.

    Its also important to know how many people are living in a community for emergency situations so we know how many people might be impacted when a hurricane is coming to a section or region of the country, Kascsak said.

    The Census also determines congressional representation and the drawing of congressional and state legislature districts. North Carolina is anticipated to gain another seat in the U.S. House of Representatives based on the 2020 Census count.

    The Census is a quick, simple questionnaire about yourself and anyone living with you as of April 1, 2020. The questions include how many people live in a house, mobile home, or apartment and their relation to you; whether you own, rent, or occupy without rent; a persons age and date of birth; sex; race and ethnicity; and telephone number if the Census Bureau has questions about your census form.

    Its important to count everyone, including children, stepchildren, foster children, roommates, partners, etc. There are no questions about citizenship.

    You can complete the Census online, by mail or over the phone. The self-response rate through any of these three means has been extended through Oct. 31.

    If you dont complete it on your own, Census takers will make three attempts to visit your home to count in person. They will also try to connect with neighbors afterward to see how many people live in a home.

    If youre concerned about security, the Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to keep your information confidential. A violation of this is a federal crime which is punishable by prison time and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

    During the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will never ask you for your Social Security number, money or donations, anything on behalf of a political party, and your bank or credit card account numbers.

    For more details about the 2020 Census, check out the following links:

    Originally posted here:
    2020 Census response rate will impact Cape Fear region's federal funding, political representation - WWAY NewsChannel 3

    How the pandemic is affecting mental health in diverse US communities – Medical News Today - May 18, 2020 by admin

    Some groups may face a disproportionate mental health impact during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include people of color, migrants, and people of various ethnic backgrounds. In this Special Feature, we dive deeper into the issue.

    The fact that the current pandemic is affecting peoples mental health as much as their physical health is no secret.

    In speaking to Medical News Today, people from all over the world have reported increased levels of stress and anxiety.

    Based on the known psychological effects of other events that have left a deep mark on global communities in the past, researchers warn that the COVID-19 pandemic could have dire consequences for mental health.

    For instance, a position paper in The Lancet Psychiatry in April argues that in the wake of the pandemic, the world may face an increase in anxiety and emotional distress, as well as other severe effects on mental health.

    However, although the pandemic is mentally and emotionally affecting many people all over the world, past evidence suggests that it may affect certain communities more than others particularly because they have reduced access to mental health services and other healthcare resources.

    According to a 2008 study in the journal Health Affairs which primarily discusses issues inherent to the United States [m]ental healthcare disparities, defined as unfair differences in access to or quality of care according to race and ethnicity, are quite common.

    In general, minorities, particularly African Americans, have poorer health and health outcomes than do [white people], its authors note.

    Although Hispanics and [black individuals] [have a] lower risk of having a psychiatric disorder as compared with their white counterparts, [] those who become ill tend to have more persistent disorders.

    But why do people of color and certain other ethnic groups experience more long-term effects on mental health? Also, how is this pandemic affecting their mental health, and what should decision makers do to support these communities?

    To find out, we spoke to people of diverse ethnic backgrounds in the U.S., asking them about their experiences.

    We also looked at existing data about mental health burdens and access to healthcare for different communities in the U.S.

    To begin with, past research has shown that African American, Native Hawaiian, Hispanic, and Asian individuals have higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than white individuals.

    Since some specialists have already expressed concern that the current pandemic may increase the risk of PTSD in the general population, it may be that it affects people of color and those from diverse ethnic groups even more significantly.

    When asked about the impact that the current pandemic has had on their mental health, one person of color told MNT: I live with PTSD, depression, and anxiety, and Ive had both positive and negative experiences with mental health during this time.

    I feel Ive been relatively lucky compared [with] many other [people of color] I know, in that I have a job that allows me to work from home, so I can keep a full-time income without taking the health risk of leaving home, they said, adding:

    I know many others dont have the same opportunities. For example, they work in service industries where theyve had their hours cut, or lost their jobs altogether, or they have to put themselves at risk by continuing to perform tasks that dont allow for physical distancing.

    Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), albeit incomplete, suggest that of all confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., 27% have been in black or African American individuals and 14.2% have been in people who describe their background as multiple or other.

    People of diverse ethnicities also account for a large proportion of the workforce deemed essential during the pandemic, which means that they are more at risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus.

    In fact, according to the CDC, Hispanic people form 53% of the agricultural workforce in the U.S., while black and African American individuals make up 30% of nurses.

    The aforementioned respondent said that their family members also fall into this category.

    I have many family members working in healthcare, and they dont have the option of staying home which then means they have to then stay away from me and other family members to avoid passing on the risk of contracting the virus, they told MNT.

    The significant exposure of people of color to the coronavirus is likely to leave a lasting mark on their mental health: A recent study from China shows that many COVID-19 survivors face traumatic stress in the aftermath of local outbreaks.

    The fact that people of color and certain other ethnic groups may face a more severe and longer lasting mental health impact than white populations is, in part, explained by the fact that they are often unable to access appropriate mental healthcare.

    According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a large number of people in the U.S. who identify as a person of color or as belonging to a minority ethnic group experience a significant degree of marginalization and discrimination. This is a top risk factor for poor mental health outcomes in the long-term.

    The APA explain that this is because discrimination and marginalization can hinder socioeconomic growth as well as access to appropriate healthcare, including formal mental health support.

    Reports from 2001 found that even when these people do access formal mental healthcare, people of color are faced with bias from health professionals, who sometimes fall short in providing the right form of intervention for them.

    However, discrimination has also taken on another aspect during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the original epicenter of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak was a city in China, people of Asian descent all around the world have started reporting an increase in racism and xenophobic violence.

    The nongovernmental human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) have recently issued a statement expressing their concern about the rise in anti-Asian discrimination.

    Racism and physical attacks on Asians and people of Asian descent have spread with the COVID-19 pandemic, and government leaders need to act decisively to address the trend, says John Sifton, HRW advocacy director for Asia.

    In speaking to MNT, a U.S. citizen who identifies as Chinese and Asian American expressed deep concern about this intensification of racism:

    May is actually Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, which is usually a time for us to celebrate the achievements weve made as a community. Instead, [it] has been an increasingly stressful time for the Asian community. Many of us have been reminded that despite being the model minority, the title can be taken away from us and the underlying racism that we want to think weve moved past can come back instantly.

    Specialists have long recognized the fact that racism, discrimination, and xenophobia are particularly harmful to mental health.

    In a 2018 position statement, the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the United Kingdom point out that racism and racial discrimination is one of many factors [that] can have a significant, negative impact on a persons life chances and mental health.

    We are particularly concerned about the disproportionate impact on people from black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities, they emphasize.

    Besides systemic biases, discrimination, and financial barriers, another significant obstacle that sometimes stands in the way of peoples access to healthcare is language.

    For example, a 2015 study in Health and Social Care in the Community found that [l]anguage and concerns about services cultural and religious appropriateness prevent a significant number of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds from receiving much-needed formal support.

    In a teleconference from April 24, 2020 sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a public health philanthropy based in Princeton, NJ Prof. Margarita Alegra, chief of the Disparities Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, argued that language barriers can be an issue for people belonging to minority groups.

    Many linguistic minorities, especially Latinos, will not have suitable resources to really access mental healthcare and substance abuse [resources] we already know that, she said, after warning about the pandemics likely impact on the mental health of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

    The feedback that MNT received from contributors outlines similar concerns. One person, who identifies as Hispanic and Mexican American, expressed worries about family members who may not be able to access support and accurate health information due to language barriers.

    Getting resources in Spanish at the beginning of this pandemic was tough, so I had to scavenge the internet to find reliable sources to share with my Spanish-speaking family members, this person told us.

    The gap to mental healthcare and formal social support grows even wider for those with an undocumented status.

    [Staying] at home under irritability and frustration might lead to domestic violence and child maltreatment, but people who are undocumented [] may not report [instances of domestic abuse] for fear of deportation, Prof. Alegra warned.

    We also know that some people are not even willing to go and seek medical care because [they are] worried about the Public Charge.

    This rule indicates that the authorities can deny a person a U.S. visa or U.S. citizenship if it becomes apparent that they have accessed public health benefits while staying in the country.

    Worries surrounding undocumented status also came across clearly in the response from our contributor.

    My parents have had to continue working and cant control who theyre exposed to at work, this person said. That has left me uneasy about their health. They cant telework because of their circumstance either; theyre also undocumented and have blue collar jobs.

    Stigma surrounding mental health issues in culturally homogeneous groups can also stop people from seeking the support they need.

    A 2017 study in the Rand Health Quarterly, for instance, found that levels of self-stigma were particularly high among Asian American and Latino participants.

    For Asian American [people], stigma appears to figure most prominently in their beliefs about the level of functioning and status of individuals with mental health problems, the study authors write.

    For Latino respondents, the level of self-stigmatization appeared to depend on whether or not the researchers conducted the interviews in English or Spanish.

    The contributors who reached out to MNT also consistently expressed the burden of mental health stigma in their respective communities.

    Personally, I know I can access mental health support, but I often put it as a last priority, said the contributor who identifies as Chinese and Asian American.

    They added: I know that a lot of the Asian community has never put mental health as a priority because its been seen as being weak to seek help. Asians are also split into so many different subgroups, and there are definitely certain groups that are less privileged and have less access to mental health resources (i.e., the East Asian communities).

    The respondent who identifies as Hispanic and Mexican American made a similar point about their own community:

    Many of my family in the U.S. lacks easy access to mental health support from lack of financial stability. [Mental health issues have] also been stereotyped as a sign of weakness that [] further deters them from seeking any help.

    I wish there [were] a bigger push for mental health support at a lower cost for communities my parents are in and others throughout the U.S, they said.

    I also wish there could be a greater focus to change the mindsets of the poorer communities from thinking that mental health is a further sign of weakness as they strive to be resilient through their socioeconomic challenges, they added.

    As with all complex healthcare issues, there is no easy answer when it comes to redressing the disparities in access to formal support for people of color and those from other diverse ethnic backgrounds.

    Nevertheless, where there is a will, there is a way. Both researchers and members of the public have been outlining some viable ways forward, and some employers are already making an effort to step up to the challenge.

    I feel fortunate to work where I do a place that has provided formal opportunities for me to see to my well-being through designating company holidays, offering a therapy benefit, [and] eliminating logistical stresses that I know [other people of color] face, one respondent told us.

    For example, I dont have to use [paid time off] or go unpaid to take any kind of break during my workday, and I dont get to use [paid time off] to care for my children while school is happening at home, they said, explaining their employers contribution in offsetting the mental health impact of the pandemic.

    However, changes must be systemic in order to redress the balance for all communities in the U.S.

    In her talk for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Prof. Alegra argued that the best way of ramping up mental health support for certain ethnic groups is both by looking at social research and by actively listening to the communities that require that support.

    Making sure that we integrate social science disciplines to understand whats needed in each local context is the way to go, she said.

    Additionally, [c]reating mobile teams, crisis intervention units, and especially liaison services that can operate within the community clinics during and after the pandemic could help address those disparities, in Prof. Alegras opinion.

    To address institutionalized racism, she went on, decision makers should focus on policy innovation with people of color and diverse communities as their focus.

    To bridge the gap between undocumented migrants and access to mental healthcare through nonprofit organizations, she advised actually [having] community health workers that are trained by licensed clinicians that can actually offer help in terms of mental health, providing support, providing evidence-based treatment, [] so that people out in the community can receive mental healthcare and substance abuse care actually in their language [from] people that they trust.

    [We can do it] [] directly through community-based organizations that they trust. If you ask people in the community, they can tell you who are the people, the leaders they trust, and they can also tell you [which] are the community-based organizations where they feel theyre safe.

    Prof. Margarita Alegra

    Such initiatives would formalize the efforts that people from diverse communities have been making for years to help bring support to their peers.

    Online, Im [] connected to many communities where sharing openly about mental health is the norm, one contributor told MNT. Since these communities have been building since long before this moment, I think its helped to now have support systems already in place, so I dont feel alone when my anxiety or depression is triggered by the stress and isolation.

    Im a millennial, and many of my [people of color] peers are breaking away from our families traditional shame around mental health to facilitate sharing openly across digital spaces. So in many ways, its been difficult to go into physical isolation, but on the other hand, weve been working on this muscle of supporting each other through virtual spaces since we were teenagers, they added.

    Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for a global commitment to ramping up mental health support.

    According to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, [t]he impact of the pandemic on peoples mental health is already extremely concerning.

    He has made it clear that the time to shift harmful mindsets and invest in concerted action to safeguard everyones well-being is now: A failure to take peoples emotional well-being seriously will lead to long-term social and economic costs to society.

    For live updates on the latest developments regarding the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, click here.

    Read more here:
    How the pandemic is affecting mental health in diverse US communities - Medical News Today

    ‘Serving on the front line’ – BethesdaMagazine.com - May 18, 2020 by admin

    MCPS workers distribute 2 million meals, put health concerns aside to help kids access their learning

    | Published: 2020-05-18 17:22

    MCPS employees distribute free meals at JoAnn Leleck Elementary School, of the district's 50-plus meal sites

    Photos by Caitlynn Peetz

    Shortly after the sun rose on Wednesday, Theresa Goo arrived at JoAnn Leleck at Broad Acres Elementary School in Silver Spring, just as she had done nearly every day for two months.

    With the colors of the sunrise washing over the parking lot, Goo adjusted her hat a navy ball cap with Serving on the front line stitched above the brim and got to work.

    Each day, she arrives at a strange scene. Usually, the school would be bustling with activity as staff members prepare for students to arrive for classes. But, now, as schools remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Goo, the site coordinator, works alongside just a handful of others, packing bags of food to give to students in need.

    We make sure the kids dont go hungry, Goo said, and it is our pleasure.

    About four hours before the site is set to open, Goo and her staff greet a truck that arrives to drop off food. Then, they stand six feet apart, packing the food into bags. The work is nonstop, but passes quickly.

    Right at 11 a.m., when MCPS meal sites officially open, a run-down green van pulls into the parking lot. Goo calls out a greeting: Hello! How many do you need?

    A young girl, with short black hair whipping in the wind, holds her hand out the window, all five fingers extended.

    Workers grab five bags, set them on a cart well more than six feet away from the packing table and retreat.

    The girl, her mouth covered with a pink cloth mask, spills from the vans backseat, bounds over to the cart, grabs the bags and climbs back into the car. Then its goodbye until Friday.

    The whole exchange takes about 45 seconds, but school officials say the benefits are immeasurable.

    I think it helps kids access their learning, Leleck Principal Harold Barber said. Before we can talk about kids having access to online learning, their basic needs need to be met first.

    Leleck is one of 51 sites where MCPS employees set up camp on weekdays to distribute the food, which includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Since March 16, the first day Maryland schools were closed, MCPS has distributed 2 million free meals about the population of the state of New Mexico to school-aged children.

    ***

    At Leleck, nearly every student has at some time been eligible for free and reduced-priced meals (FARMS), a data point the school district uses to measure poverty.

    Bordered by low-income housing, the school is home to about 800 students, many of whom have parents who have multiple jobs or are considered essential workers, still reporting to work during the strictest stretch of the states shutdown.

    Many essential jobs, like grocery store clerks and fast food workers, earn low wages and many are held by minorities. (MCPS supporting services employees, which includes food workers, make a minimum of $15.32 per hour, according to the unions salary schedule.)

    On average, Leleck gives away approximately 500 meal bags packed with items like fruit, vegetables, milk, sandwiches, cinnamon rolls, yogurt and salad each day. On Wednesday, about a dozen were delivered to nearby families with at least one person who had COVID-19.

    We have to meet families where they are, said Susan McCarron, director of MCPS Division of Food and Nutrition Services. Kids cant learn if theyre hungry or if theyre worried about where their next meal is coming from. So this is important.

    The story is the same in many communities across Montgomery County, particularly in neighborhoods with higher concentrations of poverty.

    In MCPS, about one-third of students were eligible for FARMS pre-pandemic. Its difficult to know what that number is now, but staff members say anecdotally, the need has definitely increased.

    Since the first week of March, more than 60,000 Montgomery County residents have filed initial unemployment claims, which undoubtedly will add to the number of families who need food assistance.

    Thats why the school district aims to continue providing meals at its more than 50 sites throughout the summer.

    MCPS usually distributes free meals during the summer, but at about half of the number of sites. Those locations are in the countys highest poverty neighborhoods, as outlined by federal guidelines.

    But as the economic fallout of the pandemic mounts and more residents find themselves, often for the first time, struggling to make ends meet, MCPS officials say they feel compelled to increase not decrease their efforts.

    Meal sites operate on the honor system, so if a parent shows up and says they need four meals for their children at home, they receive four meal bags, no questions asked.

    We recognize that this need will increase because of the economic insecurity that is occurring and its something were talking about now in terms of how we sustain this through the summer, said Jeanie Dawson, director of MCPS Department of Materials Management. We know our families are going to need that.

    During a meeting with the Montgomery County Council this month, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said the districts food services budget was about $4 million in the red, but added: We intend to continue meal services.

    Smith said he is hopeful the United States Department of Agriculture will grant a waiver allowing the additional sites to continue operating through the summer and that the state will use emergency federal funding to help pay the costs.

    Its a good thing were providing meals as much and as often as we can, Smith said.

    ***

    Each of the approximately 300 MCPS employees working at meal sites across the county volunteered to be part of the food distribution efforts, according to district officials. They are paid, but none is required to do this work.

    Many employees, like Goo, are helping at sites where they dont usually work, teaming up with a mix of staffers from various schools. Because they all have a common goal, the work has gone smoothly, Goo said.

    Along with school-based sites, MCPS has set up a handful of sites at apartment complexes and mobile home parks. It sends buses full of meals into high-need neighborhoods where families might not have access to transportation and otherwise could not get the free meals.

    Usually, many of the same families stop for meals each day, but Wednesdays are particularly busy.

    In April, MCPS cut the number of days it distributes meals, closing sites on Thursdays. To offset the change, food distribution sites hand out double meal bags to each family on Wednesdays.

    It gives our staff time away to decrease the number of days of exposure, and also allows parents and guardians one less day to have to come out and get meals, McCarron said. It works well, but its a lot of work.

    Many schools also distribute laptops and paper copies of class lessons on Wednesdays, prompting a steady, socially distanced stream of visitors.

    Amid all of the activity, workers remember theyre doing this job because of a disease, undetectable to the naked eye, that has sickened nearly 40,000 and killed more than 1,900 Marylanders.

    Sure, theres always a worry [about getting sick], McCarron said. We just constantly reassure them theyll always have their (personal protective equipment) and social distancing will be enforced, and that well keep doing the best we can to keep them safe.

    Meal site workers wear masks and plastic gloves at all times and, most of the time, they are spread out along a long plastic table. Theyre doing what they can to be safe, Goo said.

    Still, at least two MCPS meal site workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to messages sent to the community from the school district.

    The two workers, staffed at Glen Haven Elementary School, were quarantined, as well as everyone who worked with them. The schools kitchen was temporarily closed for deep cleaning and a food truck was brought in to continue services.

    But in a system reinvented in days Gov. Larry Hogan announced schools would close on a Thursday, and MCPS was distributing meals on Monday, the day the closures took effect there were bound to be a few hiccups.

    On March 11, MCPS officials told the Board of Education they were brainstorming what meal distribution might look like if the pandemic forced schools to close. Maybe some schools could be regional hubs to distribute meals. Maybe school buses could be used. Nothing was final, but not providing meals was never an option, school officials said.

    The next day, the plan was suddenly put in motion.

    Workers at Leleck said the first few weeks were difficult, but they have now hit their stride.

    Many of the workers across Montgomery County are women with children, who leave their young ones at home to help other peoples children.

    They stand for seven-plus consecutive hours, and they are physically and emotionally tired.

    But when that little girl, black hair blowing in the wind, hops out of her familys run-down green van on Friday, as she does most days, and says, Thank you very much, staff members smile behind their masks and keep working.

    Our number one goal is to serve our families, Dawson said. Thats at the heart of all this. Someday, this is all going to pass and well go back to normal, but these workers will be able to say they made a big difference for a lot of children.

    Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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    'Serving on the front line' - BethesdaMagazine.com

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