As the holidays near, the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, putting families in a quandary

“Covid doesn’t care that it’s a holiday, and unfortunately covid is on the rise across the nation,” she said. “Now is not the time to let our guard down and say it’s the holiday and let’s be merry. I think we need to maintain our vigilance here.”

The coronavirus pandemic numbers have been going the wrong direction for more than a month, topping 80,000 newly confirmed infections daily across the country, with hospitalizations rising in more than three dozen states and deaths creeping upward. Now, the United States is barreling toward another inflection point: a holiday season dictated by the calendar and demanded by tradition.

The anticipated surge in interstate travel, family gatherings and indoor socializing is expected to facilitate the spread of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. This isn’t like the run-up to Memorial Day or Independence Day: Barbecues outdoors, or pool parties, aren’t on the itinerary of many people.

The fall and winter holidays are homey by nature. Respiratory viruses thrive in dry, warm indoor conditions in which people crowd together. The statistical peak of flu season typically comes close on the heels of Christmas and New Year’s. Colder weather is already driving people indoors.

The government’s top doctors have said they believe the recent national spike in infections has largely been driven by household transmission. Superspreader events have gotten a lot of attention, but it’s the prosaic meals with family and friends that are driving up caseloads.

This trend presents people with difficult individual choices — and those choices carry societal consequences. Epidemiologists look at the broad effect of a contagion, not simply the effects on individuals. Thanksgiving, for example, is an extremely busy travel period in America. The coronavirus exploits travelers to spread in places where it has been sparse or absent.

“I am nervous about Thanksgiving,” said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist at the University of California at Irvine. “I’m nervous because I know what happens when you multiply the risks by millions of households.”

The scientists are not telling people to cancel their holiday plans, necessarily. But they are urging people to think of alternative ways to celebrate. They do not say it explicitly, but they are encouraging a kind of rationing of togetherness.

“This is not the cold. This is not the flu. This is much worse. People are dying. Our well-being as a country depends on us getting this thing under control,” Alexander said.

Public-health officials doubt an elegant way exists to finesse the 2020 pandemic-shrouded holidays with minimal disruption — for example, by working through a checklist of best practices that include timely testing, scrupulous social distancing and disciplined mask-wearing. Instead, people will need to make serious adjustments as they calculate the risks and rewards of holiday gatherings.

“There’s no easy answer here, just like with everything else. It’s not about safe or unsafe. It’s about figuring out how to balance various risks and keeping risks as low as possible,” Harvard epidemiologist Julia Marcus said.

“This is not a

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A child care emergency for working families

Three months ago, my wife and I became parents and joined the 41 million other Americans — one-third of the U.S. workforce –— who balance the demands of work and parenting. Anyone who has weathered the many late nights, early mornings  and diaper changes quickly learns three things: Parenting is hard. Being a working parent is even harder. And being a working parent during a pandemic is downright herculean.  

There is a child care emergency unfolding across the United States. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 741,000 children in the United States have tested positive for the coronavirus. As a result, some 40 percent of U.S. daycares have closed. 

Families have been left with few options. Without child care, parents are being forced to choose between work and their children’s development. In fact, women exited the workforce in August and September at four times the rate of men. 

This is not sustainable. Working families need help as the country appears to be entering a third wave of coronavirus infections, with hospitalizations rising in 37 states. Because of the federal government’s botched pandemic response, 4.5 million U.S. child care slots could be permanently lost. 

It’s clear we need new leadership and real action — not wishful thinking. As a former state government official who responded to emergencies, I see opportunities for change with three key solutions: 

First, provide more support to child care providers and facilities. The CARES Act provided $3.5 billion to child care providers, but this is woefully insufficient. According to industry experts, the need is closer to $96 billion. There is no more important investment than our children, and Congress must provide more support immediately.  

Also, since many of these providers operate as small businesses, an expanded second Paycheck Protection Program should specifically support child care facilities. Unfortunately, only 5 percent of child care facilities reportedly benefited from relief loans nationwide.  

Second, help child care facilities meet pandemic safety standards and expand availability. Before the pandemic, 43 percent of parents reported difficulty locating child care. Many faced long wait lists and many more struggled to find convenient, affordable care. With the pandemic shrinking child care availability and social distancing requirements limiting enrollment, we need to construct new facilities and renovate existing ones to ensure parents have access to care that meets new safety standards. 

To support and spur this development, we need a new child care construction tax credit of at least 50 percent for the first million dollars of construction costs to encourage all businesses to provide on-site child care at places of work. Minority-owned and smaller child care facilities should have access to grant funding for upgrades too. 

Third, pay, protect and support child care workers. Ninety percent of child care educators and caregivers are women. They work long, stressful hours and now, in the middle of a pandemic, are being asked to risk their health, and maybe even their lives, to care for our children for an average of $10

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Pittman Expands Financial Aid For Coronavirus Patients, Families

MILLERSVILLE, MD — Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman launched three initiatives Thursday to help locals weather the coronavirus fallout. The programs will help residents pay bills, find resources and cope with virus-related deaths.

Water Shutoffs

The first initiative looks to help struggling families pay their water bills. Pittman announced the relief effort at a press conference in front of a Millersville water tower.

About 20,000 county residents are behind on their water payements, Pittman said. That’s up 19,000 from this time last year, the county executive added.

“If we don’t help these people, they could not only have their water cut off, but the liens that we are required to put on their homes, and the subsequent foreclosure proceedings could leave them homeless,” Pittman said in a press release after the conference. “Helping to pay their bills is essential.”

Pittman recently bought time for these families by signing Executive Order 30. The mandate prohibited water shutoffs for nonpayment until Nov. 16.

The county will mail applications for the Water Bill Relief Program to residents who qualify. Interested applicants may also dial (410) 222-1144 or email [email protected] TTY users should call Maryland Relay at 7-1-1.

Family Resources

Pittman also announced the COVID Care Coordination Program, an extension of the Department of Health’s contract tracing. The program’s case managers will reach out to people who test positive for coronavirus. The bilingual workers can help find food, shelter, housing, commodities and financial assistance.

The final initiative addresses the pandemic’s effects on mental health. This COVID Recovery and Grief Support Program will offer counseling to families who lost a loved one to coronavirus.

The extra money will bolster the mental health warm line, which has answered more calls during the pandemic. Residents can reach the line at (410) 768-5522.

“What we are experiencing is an increase in the number of individuals who are seeking additional mental health support, many of whom have financial barriers,” said Adrienne Mickler, the executive director of the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency. “These funds will support urgent care appointments and follow up treatment.”

CARES Act Check-In

Pittman will fund his $2 million plan with money from the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, better known as the CARES Act. Anne Arundel County got $101.1 million in CARES Act funding after Congress passed the stimulus package in March.

The county executive’s announcement came hours before Gov. Larry Hogan announced his $250 million plan to keep Maryland’s small businesses afloat. Hogan stressed the importance of spending CARES Act money soon, noting that it expires at the end of the year.

Pittman said that Anne Arundel County has about $25 million to $30 million left in its CARES Act account. Residents can track the county’s coronavirus spending and find resources at this link. The website shows that Anne Arundel has about $52.2 million of CARES Act money remaining, but Pittman noted that the portal needs to be updated with the county’s latest expenditures.

“Water bill

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Families sue Pennsylvania nursing home in wake of 73 COVID deaths

The families said staff failed to take proper measures to stem the outbreak.

The families of some of the 73 residents residents who have died from COVID-19 while living at a Pennsylvania nursing home have filed a lawsuit against the facility, accusing it of recklessly handling the virus outbreak.

The families of 10 deceased residents teamed up with the families of five current residents at the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in a lawsuit against the nursing home, saying staff failed to take proper measures to stem the outbreak.

“They show clear evidence of poor infection control, poor training, poor supervision, transparency problems, cross-contamination, lack of supplies — it goes on and on,” Bob Daley, one of the attorneys representing the families, said Thursday. “What happened at Brighton was nothing short of a tragedy. … Brighton as an entity systematically failed its residents.”

The lawsuit names Brighton Rehab’s owners and its medical director and accuses leaders of “managerial and operational negligence, carelessness, recklessness and willful and wanton conduct,” according to the complaint. The suit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.

PHOTO: Rob Peirce speaks during a news conference about a lawsuit filed against Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center for its response to the Covid-19 outbreaks in the facility in Beaver, Pa., Oct. 21, 2020.

Rob Peirce speaks while surrounded by other lawyers involved and family members of residents during a news conference about a lawsuit filed against Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center for its response to the Covid-19 outbreaks in the facility in Beaver, Pa., Oct. 21, 2020.

Brighton allegedly failed to separate infected residents from the general population, allowed infected workers to continue working and shared misinformation about the outbreak to family members and health officials, according to the suit.

Lawyers for the residents also claimed Brighton was severely understaffed during the pandemic, which forced workers to “cut corners while struggling to care for hundreds of residents during the pandemic,” according to the suit.

In response to the lawsuit, a Brighton spokesperson denied the claims and said the facility followed the guidance of local governmental health officials throughout the pandemic.

“Right now, the facility’s sole focus remains on ensuring the health and well-being of all residents and staff,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The facility has been

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Virus shutdowns took a grim toll on amputee veterans who died by suicide, families say

His life became a blur of surgeries and recovery, and in moments of darkness, he had contemplated ending it all, he later said.

But Hamill renewed his spirits as a motivational speaker and advocate for other veterans, many of whom became part of a legion of social media followers drawn to his gritty determination.

His post on April 19 had a different tone.

“My own personal hell has been reignited,” Hamill wrote on Instagram. “This pandemic, although viral in nature; alludes to what happens to us as human beings, when we are stripped of our outlets, and are deprived of our ability to socialize.”

Hamill died two weeks later of an apparent suicide at the age of 31.

View this post on Instagram

Part 1 of 3. “These are the times, that try men’s souls.” • For the past month or so, I’ve sat back and watched human beings make sense of the world’s current predicament; and how it correlates to, and affects, their daily lives. I have watched many attempt to make sense of all of this. Inspire their peers across a variety of platforms, justify everything they perceive as they see fit. I’ve watched multi-million dollar earning business owners blast their inspirational speeches, and give their tools for motivation. I’ve watched actual entrepreneurs, to include some of my closest and dearest friends, suffer, as they watch their dreams get suffocated by the current state of affairs and all of its ironies. I’ve observed and listened to all the ‘loudest (men/women) in the room’, tout their recipe for success, only to succumb to the gravity of our current hardships with a parting whisper. There is a harsh reality that most of us have finally realized, that transcends our current socioeconomic environment. One that many, though still afflicted, shrug off because of stubbornness. That they ignore. That they pretend doesn’t exist outside their small bubble, in their day to day lives. Yes, we’ve all been stymied during what should be a period of growth; springtime, a source of new beginnings and hope. Coming out of the ever inevitable depression and seclusion of winter, this following season seems to be some cruel universal joke played upon us as a species. Compounding these present set of circumstances, there are those of us who live in the grips of mental illness or injury. Living in a veritable prison of sadness, fear, devastation, and utter agony. Day in, and day out. I began writing this at 03:46 in the morning, on April 19th, 2020. I’ve been drunk on red wine since the previous night. I haven’t slept. I haven’t stopped suffering. My own personal hell has been reignited, in light of present circumstances affecting us all. This pandemic, although viral in nature; alludes to what happens to us as human beings, when we are stripped of our outlets, and are deprived of our ability to socialize.

A post shared by Rory Hamill (@rory.hamill) on

As coronavirus restrictions unfurled

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Head Start never stops working for children and families, and neither should Congress

For 55 years, Head Start has stood by America’s children and families. Created as part of the War on Poverty, locally operated Head Start programs have prepared nearly 40 million children from at-risk backgrounds for success in school and life. Today, an unwavering bipartisan commitment from Congress enables Head Start programs across the nation to serve the educational, socio-emotional, health, and nutrition needs of more than 1 million children in safe, nurturing environments.

Fortunately, while COVID-19 has shut down many valuable forces in American life, it hasn’t stopped Head Start. In the months since the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading in the United States, Head Start staff have been working in overdrive to adapt their teaching strategies, sanitize classrooms, make necessary health-related adjustments to facilities, and provide access to quality online and other remote learning opportunities for children and families from at-risk backgrounds ― all while grappling with rising COVID-19 operational costs.

Head Start families are expressing relief that their programs have remained steadfast in their efforts to keep children healthy and prepare them for success in school and life. One Head Start parent in California shared that her program is “incorporating outdoor activity and keeping children on track. They are educating the children about why they cannot visit family and friends. They are supporting parents in managing working from home and helping our children learn at home. Our Head Start program has gone above and beyond in supporting our children.”

This fall, as more Head Start programs are engaged in reopening their classrooms safely, they are confronting the true cost of operating in the COVID-19 era. From PPE for children and staff to increased hours for janitorial staff to additional mental health services for children coping with this new trauma, Head Start programs are facing a funding shortfall that will soon impact the children and families they are supporting in navigating this crisis.

Since the start of COVID-19, Head Start programs have pivoted in countless innovative ways: conducting online classrooms, donning PPE and making home visits to check on children, erecting elaborate screening barriers and devising creative bus routes, arranging contactless health screenings and food drops — doing everything physically and financially possible to ensure children and families living on the margins aren’t pushed further to the edge. Head Start never stopped working.

That’s why Congress and the administration must not stop, either. They can start by making sure Head Start programs have the critical resources necessary to reopen classrooms safely. Based on extensive surveying of Head Start providers, the National Head Start Association estimates operational costs will increase by up to 20 percent this year as individual programs adapt and respond to the pandemic. That’s why the Head Start community has been advocating to Congress for at least $1.7 billion in emergency funding to keep up with COVID-19-related costs — PPE for teachers, IT upgrades to support virtual learning, facility adaptations, additional staff hours to meet smaller classroom ratios for social distancing, and many other needs.

Lack of emergency

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The Mental Health of Families That Have a Child With a Disability: 10 Things That Make a Difference

There is a lot of information and activities designed to increase awareness and understanding of mental health issues and to reduce the stigma that often goes along with it.

What about the mental health of families that have a child with a disability?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is defined as "a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

Your mental health is affected by numerous factors from your daily life, including the stress of balancing work with your health and relationships. " (Canadian Mental Health Association)

While most parents will say that their child has brought tremendous joy to their lives, it is no secret that the responsibility of having a child with a disability is way beyond the normal stresses of everyday life.

Over the years, I have had the privilege of speaking to many parents. Overwhelmed, exhausted, isolated, afraid, anxious, worried, sad, stressed, upset, angry, frustrated, drained, weakened and shattered are but a few emotions that parents say the experience each and every day.

There are options which provide families with a short break such home support and respite programs however the funding for these programs is relatively minimal compared to the number of hours that parents devote to the care of their child.

Lack of sleep, frequent visits to the doctor or hospital, interrupted careers, strained relationships, dropped friendships, and financial pressure are all examples of the constant and non-stop stress that a family goes through.

Not to mention the attitudinal barriers that families encounter in places at school, the playground, the hospital, the restaurant, the sports team and the list goes on.

Furthermore, parents are not very good at asking for help. In her book, Daring Greatly, Dr. Brené Brown states that "going it alone is a value we hold in high esteem in our culture." She also states that "For some reason we attach judgment to receiving help." I know that my husband and I were reluctant to receive help when it was initially offered and yet looking back, there was absolutely no way we could have done it without the support from our family, friends and funded assistance.

We are informed about the destructive effects on our health from sleep deprivation, chronic stress and secondary traumatic stress disorder as it relates to people on shift work and professional caregivers however we do not ever hear about the devastating effects on families that have a child with a disability.

The Mayo Clinic explains that the long-term effects of chronic stress can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This increases the risk of many health problems, including, anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and memory and concentration impairment.

What can be done to preserve the mental health of families that have a child with a …

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