When her car started making a noise more than a year ago, Chinara Johnson parked the vehicle and hasn’t used it since. As a New Haven mother of 5-year-old twin boys, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, and an 8-year-old daughter, Johnson doesn’t have the money to get the car running properly again. She also didn’t have money for childcare as she underwent breast cancer treatments, including surgery and chemotherapy, and is now struggling with increased utility and food bills since the kids are home during the pandemic. Over the past few years, Johnson has not been eligible for federal child tax credits because she doesn’t make enough money. But under the American Family Act—sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, and others—Johnson would qualify to receive direct payments of $3,600 each for the boys and $3,000 for her daughter in federal child tax credits.
Ruben Ortiz admitted he was concerned the first time he picked up takeout from the New Haven restaurant where he worked until the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the state in mid-March. “I walked in and thought, I can’t do this,” the New Haven resident said of his concerns about transmission of the virus that has killed more than 4,400 residents statewide. “I was inside, and it was making me uncomfortable.”
Like millions of employees throughout the country, particularly those working low-wage restaurant, hospitality, retail or cleaning jobs, Ortiz has no idea what the future will bring. He was out of work for 13 weeks. Then the Cast Iron Chop House began to see enough customers to schedule four waiters a night, compared with the eight to 10 who worked nightly before the pandemic.
Vape manufacturers have long been accused of marketing to teens with flavors like mango and cotton candy. Now vaping opponents say vape manufacturers are exploiting the coronavirus with face mask and hand sanitizer giveaways and #COVID-19 discounts. One maker of disposable vapes, Bidi Vapor, declared on Instagram: “A Bidi Stick a day keeps the pulmonologist away.”
The national Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says the tactics are hypocritical. Its president, Matthew L. Myers, said it’s imperative that young people quit vaping to avoid being susceptible to COVID-19. “Never before in our history has it been more important for young people to have healthy lungs,’’ Myers said.
Jesus Manuel Gomez quit his restaurant dishwashing job when he saw the effect his long work days had on his 10-year-old son with special needs. Although he was scheduled to work from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., the Honduran native said through a Spanish-speaking interpreter that he would get out between midnight and 1 a.m. and then still be asleep when his son left for school the next morning. “He takes medication so he can concentrate and gets treatment at school,” Gomez said of his son. “But when I saw what was happening with my schedule, that it was impacting his ability to focus even though he was getting treatment, I only worked there a couple of weeks.” More than one-fourth of the state’s 885,000 hourly employees who potentially face wide swings in work schedules are parents of children under the age of 18, putting their kids at risk for behavioral issues, a newly released report by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth concluded.
On a snowy Saturday morning in January, Selvin, 13, and his mother were in the basement of the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven, to support a friend in sanctuary. As they sat there, the boy tried to push away thoughts of how it would be when ICE came to take away his own mother, who is also under a deportation order. “I’m going to be alone with my little brother and my dad,” Selvin said. “Sometimes I feel I don’t want to talk to anybody. I just go to my room, lock the door, and I feel depressed.”
Selvin – whose family asked that his last name be withheld – is among thousands of immigrant children in Connecticut and nationally feeling the effects of prolonged stress, which can become so toxic it can damage the developing brain.
If you are an American woman, be afraid of the Trump administration’s latest attempts to repeal Obamacare. If you are an American woman living in poverty, be very afraid. Connecticut has taken note. During the legislative session that just ended, the Connecticut Senate unanimously voted to protect 21 health benefits (such as contraceptives and mammograms) that Trumpcare would obliterate. Sadly, that bill died in the House.
Now is the time to repeal a 40-year-old law that perpetuates inequality among women. The Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in certain circumstances, is unfair. The amendment targets women who rely on Medicaid for their health care coverage. According to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, roughly two out of three adult women enrolled in Medicaid are between the ages of 19 and 44—the reproductive years. Abortions can run upward of $1,000, which places the (legal) procedure out of reach for most women living in poverty.
Michael Baudin of Manchester retired eight years ago after a career in auto repair, but now the 76-year-old is back working part time as a driver so he can afford prescription medications. “Every year premiums go up and my co-pay is increasing,” he said. “I take medication for cholesterol, hypertension, heart, prostate and digestion. My wife quit her job due to health issues and her medication is expensive too.”
Baudin says his out-of-pocket cost for a 90-day supply of just one drug, Creon from AbbVie Inc., which he takes for digestion, is $100. The drug does not have a generic equivalent.
Connecticut had the highest total number of foodborne illness outbreaks in New England from 2005 to 2014, according to federal data – a distinction that experts say is fueled by better reporting, while higher rates of certain pathogens also may contribute. An analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that Connecticut had 2,259 cases of foodborne illness in 154 single-state outbreaks in that 10-year period. For five of those years, Connecticut reported more single-state outbreaks than any other New England state. For eight years, its outbreak count exceeded that of its more populous neighbor, Massachusetts. And for nine of those years, it topped New Jersey.
Is this any way to fight an epidemic? The Zika virus, which if contracted during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect of the brain, has been reported in at least 45 states, including Connecticut. There is no treatment for the infection, neither in patients who are pregnant and those who aren’t—though work continues on a vaccine. Of course, that work could go more quickly if there was adequate funding. Federal officials have known about the seriousness of the Zika virus for more than a year, yet important funding has been tied up in the worst kind of Washington impasse.