Backyard Talk

Is It A Surprise That Low-Income and Communities Of Color Are At Higher Risk of Serious Illnesses If Infected With The Coronavirus ???

Blog by Sharon Franklin
On May 7, 2020  A group from the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. has steadily climbed.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local governments continue to release data about the characteristics of people who have developed serious illness when infected with coronavirus, as well as the number of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19.  The emerging national and state level data suggest that serious illness resulting from coronavirus disproportionately affects people in communities of color, due to the underlying health and economic challenges.  Notably, adults with low incomes are more likely to have higher rates of chronic conditions compared to adults with high incomes, which could increase their risk of serious illness, if infected with coronavirus.
The Key Findings Show
In a previous study this research group found that approximately one in five adults (21%) ages 18-64 have a higher risk of developing serious illness, if they become infected with the coronavirus due to underlying health conditions.  In this study they found that American Indian/Alaska Native and Black Adults are at higher risk of serious illness if infected with coronavirus than White adults.  More than one in three (34%) American Indian/Alaska Native and 27% Black Adults are at higher risk of serious Illness if infected with the Coronavirus, greater than other racial and ethnic groups.  
More than one in four (27%) Black non-elderly adults who are at a higher risk of serious illness if infected with the coronavirus, compared to about one in five (21%) of White adults.
More than one in three (35%) non-elderly adults with household incomes below $15,000 are at higher risk of serious illness if infected with coronavirus, compared to about one in seven (16%) adults with household incomes greater than $50,000 See Figure 2.
Conclusion: American Indian/Alaska Native and Black Adults are at higher risk of serious illness if infected with the Coronavirus, compared to White adults; and  A larger share of non-elderly adults with lower household income compared to higher household incomes have a greater risk of serious illness if they are infected with the coronavirus. 

To learn more click here. 

Homepage News Archive

Environmental Chemicals Can Increase the Severity of Exposure to Viruses

Americans are exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals on a daily basis through the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the household products we bring into the house. Most endocrine disrupting chemicals have the ability to imitate developmental hormones in the body, or if exposed to at an early age, can lead to chronic conditions including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and asthma. These preexisting conditions can increase the severity of the coronavirus. Although the immediate national concern is to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we should consider what changes can be made to reduce our exposure to disruptive chemicals in the environment to protect ourselves from future viruses and pandemics. Read More.


Virtual Protests Against the Keystone XL Pipeline

A pandemic can’t stop people from protesting. As the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline begins, the Indigenous Environmental Network has found a creative way to express their disapproval of the project by posting a “virtual banner” as a video on social media. The banner reads,”Not Today. Not Tomorrow. Not Ever. No KXL. Mni Wiconi.” TC Energy began construction on the project, despite orders by a federal judge to halt work after it was determined that the company did not receive a proper permit from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. The Indigenous Environmental Network continues to find creative ways to fight the construction of the pipeline at a time when traditional protests are not an option. Read More.

News Archive

Lawsuits Raised Against New Federal Water Rule

A handful of environmental groups have filed lawsuits against the Trump administration’s finalization of a new rule that will weaken waterway protections set in place under the Obama Clean Water rule. Groups including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and ShoreRivers filed lawsuits in Baltimore on April 27 and the Southern Environmental Law Group, representing numerous other environmental organizations, filed suit on April 29. Most recently, a coalition of 19 states, including Maryland, Virginia, and New York have filed a lawsuit to encourage a new rule that will ensure the protection of the United States’ water systems. Read More.


EPA Announces Grants Available for Public Health Projects in New England

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it will award grants to community project in the New England area. Projects eligible for the grant must be either be located in or working for “areas needing to create community resilience; environmental justice areas of potential concern; or sensitive populations.” In the current circumstances, it is important to recognize the important work of groups that continue to fight for the protection of public health and the environment. Read More.


UPDATED: Harvard Study Linking Pollution and COVID-19 Severity

Is air pollution connected to higher coronavirus death rates? Various studies around the world, including one in Italy and one in England, are working to answer this question. In early April, the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health released findings on a study that found a positive correlation between long term exposure to particulate matter (PM 2.5) and higher death rates from virus. The study seeks to answer if exposure to air pollution leads to more severe outcomes to patients infected with COVID-19. The study has since been updated on April 24 to include updated conditions of the virus and additional variables connected to the spread of the virus.
Find Harvard University’s health study here.


Will New York’s Streets Look the Same After the Virus?

Large events, such as hurricanes, wars, or the mass transmission of disease, have a tendency to reinvent how a city is designed or operates. One example is the construction of fountains and parks in Paris after a cholera outbreak in efforts to eradicate the disease. New York city, one of the loudest cities in the United States from to its busy streets and one of the hardest hit areas for the coronavirus, could see a change in the way the city is structured. Could the city see less cars to accommodate for a more pedestrian lifestyle? It cannot be fully determined how the city might change, but it begs the question of how other cities around the country could change in response to the virus.
The following article is reprinted on our webpage from the New York Times written by Ginia Bellafante.

Cholera changed the face of Paris. Will Covid-19 change the streets of New York?

By Ginia Bellafante
May 1, 2020

Late Tuesday afternoon, New York’s City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, was on a nine-mile walk, one the current crisis has him taking everyday — the quest for fresh air and decompression. Beginning from his boyfriend’s apartment in Williamsburg, he heads north into Queens over the Pulaski Bridge and through Hunter’s Point South Park. That is where he was when I caught up with him by phone, watching people for the most part diligently perform the choreography of social distance without, he noted, the interventions of the police.
For several weeks, Mr. Johnson had been pushing to close miles of city streets to cars as a means of accommodating what would only become a growing desperation to safely and more comfortably walk and bike outside as warmer weather approached. Mayor Bill de Blasio resisted for a long time, initiating a small pilot program and then abruptly shutting it down deciding that it wasn’t worth the trouble. He maintained that the Police Department, itself badly hit by the pandemic, was too depleted to enforce the plan, which implied that law enforcement was essential to carrying it out.
This week the mayor announced that he would indeed set aside up 100 miles of road in phases, the first 40 miles over the next month. Though many of the details have yet to be finalized, the police will monitor closings in some capacity. Advocates for livable streets have had a hard time understanding why the police would be so critical to the venture given that other cities like Oakland, Calif., have largely managed to ban traffic from select locations with barricades and signs.
Crises of the kind we are experiencing require nimble and innovative thinking, the willingness to break with frameworks of the past. The slow implementation of a measure that seems at once relatively simple and destined to provide so much good, offers one more example of the bureaucratic inertia that has distinguished management of the corona outbreak at so many different levels of government. If we can’t quickly summon cars off the street — and only some of them and just provisionally — at a time when no one is going anywhere, how can we expect the city to brilliantly and flexibly reimagine itself once the pandemic is over?
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, public-health catastrophes managed to inaugurate the wholesale re-engineering of societies. Ingenuity was the hallmark of a time in which public health was intricately linked to urban planning and design. The continued eruptions of cholera and other diseases ultimately brought about transformative infrastructural changes to deliver clean air and water to places marked by filth, stench, pestilence.
The Paris that Georges-Eugène Haussmann famously conceived — a city of wide boulevards, parks, fountains — arose in response to a cholera outbreak that had moved the French government to demolish medieval buildings where illness was thought to spread too easily.

In this country, by the 1870s, the seven founding members of the American Public Health Association included an architect and a housing specialist. Frederick Law Olmsted was already a celebrated landscape architect when he became secretary of the United States Sanitary Commission, a precursor to the Red Cross, where he oversaw a medical network that aided wounded soldiers during the Civil War.
The ongoing health emergencies of the period were deeply personal for him. Olmsted’s first child had died of cholera. Both his brother and stepson were lost to tuber­culosis. The urban parks movement, led by Olmsted, was built on the notion that green space was the respiratory apparatus for any urban environment, the prerequisite for expectations of sound collective health.
Later, the advance of Modernist architecture was grounded in some of the same assumptions about the curative properties of light and air. The flat roofs, terraces, balconies, huge windows — the lean clinical aesthetic borrowed to a great extent from the design of sanitariums where tuberculosis patients were sent for treatment.

Twenty years earlier, Le Corbusier, the Swiss architect whose legacy is best observed in the unadorned apartment tower, looked to a future where cities were distinguished by a kind of stylized hygiene. “There are no more dirty, dark corners,” he wrote. “Everything is shown as it is. Then comes inner cleanliness.”
What New York will look like — how and under what circumstances we will come to feel “clean” — remains the great uncertainty. Disaster brings the opportunity for reinvention, but how enthusiastically will we embrace it? The two major cataclysms to afflict 21st century New York — 9/11 and then a decade later, Hurricane Sandy — similarly occasioned chances to abandon anachronistic approaches to the development of public and private space; were those chances squandered?

After the Twin Towers fell, government authorities and committees and subcommittees were formed and spent many years and billions of dollars to essentially refashion Lower Manhattan into a bigger and more elite mall. (Has anyone you have ever known set foot in the Montblanc store in the Oculus? Or even thought about it?) Hurricane Sandy was supposed to have awakened us, viscerally, to the threats of climate change, and instead it led the real-estate industry right back to constructing high-rises on the waterfront, adjusting by moving building mechanicals to the top of whatever went up.
The back and forth over whether or not to open streets fully to pedestrians and how to do it stems in part from concerns held by the police department that drivers won’t behave themselves and might ram either by accident or intent into people retreating onto open streets. This is the reasonable mind-set of counterterrorism, one that dominated the thinking of the department, to great success, for two decades. But it now requires a shift to new and different realities.
Much of the opposition to how New York might do things differently in the age of the coronavirus has followed the logic that we cannot adopt models deployed in other cities because we are not other cities — we are not Oakland; we are not Denver. We are bigger, denser, more complicated.
“I am so tired of this argument about New York exceptionalism,’’ Corey Johnson told me. “We are New York. The whole point is that we are creative.”

Carbon Dioxide Emissions the Lowest in Ten Years

The International Energy Agency has released a report explaining that carbon dioxide emission levels are the lowest the world has seen in the last ten years. The EIA states that global carbon dioxide emissions will drop by 8% this year. Because of the change in economic activity due to the pandemic, the world has seen a decrease in global energy demands and a decrease in coal, oil and gas use. Read More.

The following article is reprinted on our webpage from the Washington Post written by Steven Mufson.

Coronavirus is driving down global carbon dioxide emissions to levels last seen 10 years ago, agency says

IEA says the drop in CO2 emissions is six times as large as previous record in 2009

April 30, 2020 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

The wide-scale restriction of movement resulting from the coronavirus pandemic is driving down global carbon dioxide emissions to levels last seen 10 years ago, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.

The world’s CO2 emissions will plunge 8 percent this year, a reduction six times as large as the previous global record set in 2009 when the financial crisis rocked the world economy, the IEA said in the report. That would be an “unprecedented rate,” the report said, noting that the drop would probably be twice as large as all declines in CO2 emissions since the end of World War II.
But the IEA warned that the decline in CO2 emissions was not permanent. After previous crises, the rebounds in emissions were larger than the declines. The agency said the world needed a wave of investment to restart the economy with “cleaner and more resilient energy infrastructure.”
The drop in carbon dioxide emissions, which are a leading cause of climate change, “is because of the premature deaths and economic trauma around the world and in my view it is absolutely nothing to cheer,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said in an interview. But, he said, from a climate and energy standpoint, “the important thing is what happens next year,” and whether governments and private companies continue to invest in renewable energy.
Some energy and climate experts have expressed surprise that the fall in CO2 emissions has not been even larger given the vast number of people around the world who are staying at home and away from work and other people.
“It’s a sobering reminder of how hard it is to get off of oil and decarbonize the global economy,” said Jason Bordoff, founding director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. “This is the most extreme demand-side response anyone could imagine.”
The IEA report says the curtailment of economic activity pushed down global energy demand by 3.8 percent in the first quarter of the year and is likely to drive down energy use by 6 percent over the entire year, the sharpest drop since the end of World War II.
In the first quarter of 2020, the hardest-hit sector was coal, which fell 8 percent compared to the first quarter last year. That was partly because the coronavirus outbreak first hit China, where more than half of the world’s coal is consumed.
Transportation was also hit hard, as lockdowns drove down gasoline use by 5 percent in the first quarter. Much of that was in the United States. Overall, oil demand in April is estimated to be 29 million barrels a day lower than a year ago, the agency said, falling to a level last seen in 1995. That amounts to about a 30 percent decline. For the entire second quarter, oil demand is expected to be stuck near 23.1 million barrels a day, the IEA said.
Mild weather in the United States contributed to the 18 percent decline in residential and commercial natural gas consumption there.
“We have seen this demand shock, a historic shock to the entire energy world,” Birol said. “This will change how we look at the energy sector completely.”

Steven Mufson covers the business of climate change. Since joining The Washington Post in 1989, he has covered economic policy, China, diplomacy, energy and the White House. Earlier he worked for The Wall Street Journal in New York, London and Johannesburg.


Two Colleges In Pennsylvania Reach Carbon Neutral Goals

Two colleges in Pennsylvania, Allegheny College and Dickinson College, have reached their goals to become completely carbon neutral. In 2008, both colleges were emitting nearly 20,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air of the fifth largest carbon dioxide emitting state in the country. To achieve their carbon neutral goals, each college took to implementing new systems such as planting trees, using renewable energy credits, using student engaged challenges, and more. The two colleges explained that the entirety of their goal was not to become completely carbon neutral, but rather establish an environment that encourages the community to partake in sustainable practices. Read More.


Could Household Chemicals Increase Dangers to COVID-19?

Many studies have examined the effect of long term exposure to air pollution outside and the impact it could have on COVID-19 severity. While we are all in our homes, it might be time to examine the toxic household products that affect our immune systems. Synthetic chemicals and “forever chemicals” can be found in products around the house that children could be exposed to or enter into drinking water. Although removing these items from the house today will not change our risks to the coronavirus now, it could change how we respond to viruses in the future. Read More.