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Half of households in 4 largest US cities report financial problems due to pandemic: POLL – ABC News

About one in three households report using most of their savings.

September 9, 2020, 10:14 AM

6 min read

Americans already enduring the most frayed financial safety nets now find themselves on the fault lines exacerbated by the novel coronavirus. New polling reveals the strain born by families caught in the crosshairs of several issues converging on the country: COVID-19 and systemic racial, socioeconomic and health inequality.

The survey, released Wednesday from NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explores COVID-19’s impact on households in the nation’s four largest cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.

At least half the households in all four cities report facing serious financial problems in the midst, and because, of the pandemic. The study, conducted July 1 – Aug. 3, found many households’ savings are drained. It also showed many are struggling to pay rent, pay major bills and ensuring the household has enough to eat. More than half are reporting serious problems caring for their children.

In nearly every case, the impact hits disproportionately harder amongst Black and Latino households, and households with incomes below $100,000. It underscores a blow already sustained by those groups amid the pandemic.

Economic fallout from COVID-19 has slammed communities of color, more harshly affected by record unemployment numbers now weathered by the nation. Those same groups, increasing evidence shows, are already disproportionately affected by the virus itself.

“These communities remain so vulnerable and in some serious trouble,” Dr. Robert Blendon, professor of Public Health and Political Analysis at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told ABC News. “We hear those PSA’s that say – we’re all in this together. It turns out, that’s not correct: what we see in the survey is, if you earn less, every increment down, you have more troubles. And if you’re Latino, or Black, your problems are dramatically more serious.”

In New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, about one in three households report using up all, or most of their savings during the pandemic; in Houston, even worse: four in 10.

“Unless we find a way to add some cushion, we’re going to have extraordinarily heartbreaking pictures of people losing their abilities to ever recover,” Blendon said. “Whatever we have here – it’s only going to get worse unless something intervenes.”

Half of New York and Chicago households, even more in Los Angeles and Houston, reported having lost their jobs, being furloughed, their wages or hours reduced, since the virus’ outbreak, the poll said.

Across all four cities, at least one in four households report serious trouble paying utility bills and as many as one in three of households reported serious problems affording food.

In each city, the impact excessively hit Black and Latino households and those already treading financial water.

On healthcare across all four cities, households reported members being unable to get medical care for serious problems when they needed it, and faced negative health consequences for it.

The feeling of vulnerability is widespread. Homes with health care workers, specifically patient care providers, shared serious concerns about their safety from the virus. And those for whom public transit is the only way to get to an even more necessary job also share serious concerns about their safety.

The portrait emerging from these data points bears out the dire straits so many have already been feeling amid this months-long health crisis, experts say.

“It’s not a pretty picture,” Dr. Julie Morita, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told ABC News. “People struggling to make ends meet and struggling to meet the basics – basically living on the edge. And then what pandemic does – is just push them over the edge.”

“This pandemic has revealed glaring problems in the nation’s healthcare system,” said Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “At a time when a significant number of people need health care most, many cannot get it. We need to be able to provide safe, affordable health care for people with Covid-19 as well as for the many with chronic medical conditions so rampant in America. It is unacceptable that in a wealthy nation like ours factors such as income or race play such a big role in health care access.”

Now with the insight their survey yields, Morita said, they hope to inform policy.

“I’m hopeful this will motivate us to move forward with policies that will really address the structural barriers that have been out there for so long,” Morita said. “What can we do to help people keep off that edge, to a better living baseline when the next pandemic comes – because we know there will be another one – and we can prevent these inequities from occurring again.”

ABC News’ Eric Strauss contributed to this report.

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World’s largest single-day jump in coronavirus cases recorded in India – The Hill

India recorded its highest single-day total of new coronavirus cases Sunday with 78,761 new cases.

The new total gives the country more than 3.5 million new cases. The nation, which has reported more than 75,000 new infectious four days in a row, has the fastest-growing daily caseload of any country, according to The Associated Press.

The country has dramatically increased testing, conducting nearly 1 million per day. A few months ago, it was conducting only 200,000 per day, according to the AP. The country also reports a recovery rate of nearly 77 percent.

India has credited a policy of “testing aggressively, tracking comprehensively and treating efficiently” in hospitals and monitored quarantines. However, the nation has reported approximately 1,000 deaths from the virus per day with more than 63,000 deaths thus far. The country is nearing the third-highest death toll worldwide, after the U.S. and Brazil.

In the meantime, however, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pushed for normal life to resume in the nation. India’s federal government announced the New Delhi subway will begin the reopening process Sept. 7, although schools, universities and movie theaters will remain closed until the end of the month, according to the AP.

Eight of India’s states have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, comprising nearly 73 percent of all infections. The newest surge has been predominantly driven by the state of Maharashtra, the western state where Mumbai is located. More than 24,000 deaths and about one in five of all cases originated in the state, according to the AP.

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Largest 3D Map of the Universe Ever Created: Astrophysicists Fill In 11 Billion Years of Our Universe’s Expansion History – SciTechDaily

SDSS Observable Universe Map

The SDSS map is shown as a rainbow of colors, located within the observable Universe (the outer sphere, showing fluctuations in the Cosmic Microwave Background).

We are located at the center of this map. The inset for each color-coded section of the map includes an image of a typical galaxy or quasar from that section, and also the signal of the pattern that the eBOSS team measures there. As we look out in distance, we look back in time. So, the location of these signals reveals the expansion rate of the Universe at different times in cosmic history.

Credit: Anand Raichoor (EPFL), Ashley Ross (Ohio State University) and the SDSS Collaboration

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) released a comprehensive analysis of the largest three-dimensional map of the Universe ever created, filling in the most significant gaps in our possible exploration of its history.

“We know both the ancient history of the Universe and its recent expansion history fairly well, but there’s a troublesome gap in the middle 11 billion years,” says cosmologist Kyle Dawson of the University of Utah, who leads the team announcing today’s results. “For five years, we have worked to fill in that gap, and we are using that information to provide some of the most substantial advances in cosmology in the last decade.”

“These studies allow us to connect all these measurements into a complete story of the expansion of the Universe.” — Will Percival

The new results come from the extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (eBOSS), an international collaboration of more than 100 astrophysicists that is one of the SDSS’s component surveys. At the heart of the new results are detailed measurements of more than two million galaxies and quasars covering 11 billion years of cosmic time.

We know what the Universe looked like in its infancy, thanks to the thousands of scientists from around the world who have measured the relative amounts of elements created soon after the Big Bang, and who have studied the Cosmic Microwave Background. We also know its expansion history over the last few billion years from galaxy maps and distance measurements, including those from previous phases of the SDSS.




Scientists from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) have released a comprehensive analysis of the largest three-dimensional map of the universe ever created. The new results come from the Extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (eBOSS), an SDSS collaboration of more than 100 astrophysicists worldwide. SDSS-IV Director Michael Blanton (New York University) and eBOSS Survey Scientist Will Percival (Perimeter Institute and University of Waterloo) discuss the legacy of 20 years of SDSS galaxy surveys.

“Taken together, detailed analyses of the eBOSS map and the earlier SDSS experiments have now provided the most accurate expansion history measurements over the widest-ever range of cosmic time,” says Will Percival of the University of Waterloo, eBOSS’s Survey Scientist. “These studies allow us to connect all these measurements into a complete story of the expansion of the Universe.”

The final map is shown in the image above. A close look at the map reveals the filaments and voids that define the structure in the Universe, starting from the time when the Universe was only about 300,000 years old. From this map, researchers measure patterns in the distribution of galaxies, which give several key parameters of our Universe to better than one percent accuracy. The signals of these patterns are shown in the insets in the image.

Current Expansion Rate and Curvature of the Universe

This image illustrates the impact that the eBOSS and SDSS maps have had on our understanding of the current expansion rate and curvature of the Universe from the last 20 years of work.

The gray region shows our knowledge as of 10 years ago. The blue region shows the best current measurement, which combines SDSS and other programs. The decreasing sizes of the colored regions show how our knowledge of the expansion rate has improved.

The contribution of the SDSS data to this improvement is shown by the red region. The measurements of the curvature of the Universe are shown on the horizontal axis. The SDSS results, which hone in on zero, suggest the Universe is flat, and improve significantly on constraints from other experiments. The vertical axis shows the current expansion rate of the Universe (the Hubble Constant). The Hubble Constant measurements from SDSS and other surveys are inconsistent with the measurements from nearby galaxies, which find a value close to 74 in these units – as opposed to 68 for the SDSS. Only with the data taken from SDSS and other experiments in the last decade has it been possible to reveal this discrepancy.

Credit: Eva-Maria Mueller (Oxford University) and the SDSS Collaboration

This map represents the combined effort of more than 20 years of mapping the Universe using the Sloan Foundation telescope. The cosmic history that has been revealed in this map shows that about six billion years ago, the expansion of the Universe began to accelerate, and has continued to get faster and faster ever since. This accelerated expansion seems to be due to a mysterious invisible component of the Universe called “dark energy,” consistent with Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity but extremely difficult to reconcile with our current understanding of particle physics.

Combining observations from eBOSS with studies of the Universe in its infancy reveals cracks in this picture of the Universe. In particular, the eBOSS team’s measurement of the current rate of expansion of the Universe (the “Hubble Constant”) is about 10 percent lower than the value found from distances to nearby galaxies. The high precision of the eBOSS data means that it is highly unlikely that this mismatch is due to chance, and the rich variety of eBOSS data gives us multiple independent ways to draw the same conclusion.




Scientists from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) have released a comprehensive analysis of the largest three-dimensional map of the universe ever created. The new results come from the Extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (eBOSS), an SDSS collaboration of more than 100 astrophysicists worldwide. They provide detailed measurements of more than two million galaxies and quasars, filling in 11 billion years in our picture of the universe.

eBOSS Principal Investigator Kyle Dawson (University of Utah), Survey Scientist Will Percival (Perimeter Institute and University of Waterloo), and Jiamin Hou (Max Planck Institute for Extragalactic Physics) – one of the analysis leads – discuss the new results, how the eBOSS project is run, and what the results mean for our understanding of the universe.

“Only with maps like ours can you actually say for sure that there is a mismatch in the Hubble Constant,” says Eva-Maria Mueller of the University of Oxford, who led the analysis to interpret the results from the full SDSS sample. “These newest maps from eBOSS show it more clearly than ever before.”

There is no broadly accepted explanation for this discrepancy in measured expansion rates, but one exciting possibility is that a previously-unknown form of matter or energy from the early Universe might have left a trace on our history.

In total, the eBOSS team made the results from more than 20 scientific papers public today. Those papers describe, in more than 500 pages, the team’s analyses of the latest eBOSS data, marking the completion of the key goals of the survey.

Within the eBOSS team, individual groups at Universities around the world focused on different aspects of the analysis. To create the part of the map dating back six billion years, the team used large, red galaxies. Farther out, they used younger, blue galaxies. Finally, to map the Universe eleven billion years in the past and more, they used quasars, which are bright galaxies lit up by material falling onto a central supermassive black hole. Each of these samples required careful analysis in order to remove contaminants, and reveal the patterns of the Universe.

“By combining SDSS data with additional data from the Cosmic Microwave Background, supernovae, and other programs, we can simultaneously measure many fundamental properties of the Universe,” says Mueller. “The SDSS data cover such a large swath of cosmic time that they provide the biggest advances of any probe to measure the geometrical curvature of the Universe, finding it to be flat. They also allow measurements of the local expansion rate to better than one percent.”

eBOSS, and SDSS more generally, leaves the puzzle of dark energy, and the mismatch of local and early Universe expansion rate, as a legacy to future projects. In the next decade, future surveys may resolve the conundrum, or perhaps, will reveal more surprises.

Meanwhile, with continued support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and institutional members, the SDSS is nowhere near done with its mission to map the Universe. Karen Masters of Haverford College, Spokesperson for the current phase of SDSS, described her excitement about the next phase. “The Sloan Foundation Telescope and its near-twin at Las Campanas Observatory will continue to make astronomical discoveries mapping millions of stars and black holes as they change and evolve over cosmic time.” The SDSS team is busy building the hardware to start this new phase and is looking forward to the new discoveries of the next 20 years.

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Superintendent for one of US’s largest public school systems has a message for DeVos: ‘You can’t put every kid back in a school’ – CNN

(CNN)The signage reminding students to stay 6 feet apart is already on the floors. The plexiglass is up in the front office. The desks are spaced in a socially-distanced way in the classrooms.

This is how Mantua Elementary and all other public schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, are preparing for back-to-school in the age of Covid-19.
For now, students in this suburban school system, one of the largest in the nation, will only come physically back to school in a limited way: two days a week in the classroom. The rest will be virtual, and parents also have the option to keep their kids home entirely.
Scott Brabrand, the superintendent of Fairfax County schools, says this is the best option they could come up with to comply with US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
“We’re going to have PPE for all of our teachers and students, and we’re going to have a return to school in a new normal for Fairfax County and for school districts across the country,” Brabrand said during an interview in a classroom amid desks stationed 6 feet apart.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos repeatedly calls out Fairfax County, Virginia, criticizing the school system’s current plan for only two days a week in the classroom as insufficient. Devos has noted that it is well funded in one of the wealthiest parts of America.
“I would call it an elite public school system in America — offered families a so-called ‘choice’ for this fall, and their springtime attempt at distance learning was a disaster. I give this as an example because things like this cannot happen again in the fall. It would fail America’s students, and it would fail taxpayers who pay high taxes for their education,” DeVos said during a coronavirus task force press briefing last week in which she pushed hard for America’s schools to reopen full time.
“Covid hits all of us, and the guidelines for 6 feet social distancing simply mean that you can’t put every kid back in a school with the existing square footage footprint. It’s just that simple,” Brabrand said flatly in response to DeVos.
He argues that they may have plenty of resources, but that doesn’t make it any more feasible to pack students into schools and still follow social-distancing guidelines.
“This is the American Dream, American public education. We’re here to offer it to all of our students and families, and those that would critique it, I don’t think have the best interests of public education and of the United States at heart,” he said, with a not-so-subtle dig at DeVos, whose goal is to move more public funds with students into private schools.
Fairfax County is one of the largest school districts in the country with more than 188,000 students in grades pre-K-12.
Brabrand said that in normal times, students are on average about 18 inches away from one another, and he calculates that in order to have enough space for all of his students to social distance, they would almost need another school system of 200 sites.
To make his point another way, he said the school system is the size of “five Pentagons.”
“You would need another five Pentagons of space to be able to safely accommodate all of the students in Fairfax County Public Schools,” he said, which would not only be expensive but not feasible to build in the next six weeks before school starts.
“What we’re doing is the best that we can under the constraints of Covid-19,” he insisted.

Parents hoping for better

Fairfax County parent Miriam Aguila says she hopes that the best the school system can do looks a lot better than it did in the spring for her daughter, a rising kindergartner, and her son, who’s going into third grade.
She was frustrated with the virtual learning process — noting that it had too many platforms that often did not work properly.
“My son had like 200 emails that I just didn’t have the time to go through,” Aguila said of her then-second grader.
“Getting him logged on, the technical difficulties, just being there. After that, I felt like an IT person, which IT is not my field. So it was crazy,” she said, echoing the frustration and experience of parents across the country.
“There (were) many times where, thank goodness, my job was very understanding where I wasn’t available in the morning and I pushed my work schedule either in the afternoon, sometimes even when they were off in bed because it was quiet,” she recalled.
Aguila is a single mom but considers herself lucky. She can work from home and has help, including from her own mother who lives with them.
“Even my mom being here, even with that help, sometimes you got to be like, ‘Quiet. I’m on a call!'” she said.
“Sometimes I’d be up until 2, 3 in the morning just because when the house is quiet, I could focus. And then you have to be up in the morning trying to do the best you can,” she added.
Despite all that, Aguila plans to choose full-time virtual learning for the fall. She worries about exposing her 71-year-old mother, and also says if there is a spike in the area and the two-day-a-week in-person learning stops, her kids will at least have consistency.
Knowing that CNN was also talking to her school’s superintendent, she passed on a plea for virtual learning to be more streamlined for the fall.
“We had two weeks where we struggled,” Brabrand conceded, but also insisted they “soared” afterward.
“I wish we were able to do that right out of the gate. We have lessons learned, and we are using those lessons to help us be ready to have a successful fall,” he said.
Some of the problems they had in the spring — like securing the systems — have been worked out. But other challenges flagged by Aguila, like using more than one platform, will not change. They still plan to use both “Blackboard” and “Google Classroom.”
But Brabrand insists teachers are getting better training, and that any student with connectivity issues or in need of a computer or I-Pad can get one.
So far, most parents are opting for in-person learning.
As of late Friday, about half of the school district’s students had registered their preference, and Brabrand said roughly two-thirds are asking for an in-person experience, and about a third for virtual.
“A lot of our family and communities want to get back to normal, but we have to do normal in the context of Covid-19. We have to be able to reopen schools in a responsible and safe fashion, for our students, for our staff and for our community,” he said.
Everyone on site will be required to wear masks, including the youngest students, which he admits will be a challenge for the younger children.
“One of the things I told parents already, as you consider your choice about virtual or returned to school, put a mask on your child for a few hours a day now over the summer, see how it is. It’s a new experience for kids. I still believe in the resilience of children. We know that some kids, again, very early ages, that they may struggle with the mask and we need to figure out how we work with those individual kids or provide additional protections for our teachers where there are some situations.”
He said there will be other accommodations for students, including those with special needs, who can’t wear masks.
“We’re going to have PPE in some situations, gloves and gowns and face shields that will provide protection if masks aren’t the way that we can go,” he said.

Teachers’ concerns

Though some data suggest that children with Covid-19 don’t get as sick as older people, experts like Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, admit that there hasn’t been enough testing to know enough about children, especially when it comes to transmission of the virus. That unknown is leaving teachers across the country nervous about the prospect of spending all day indoors.
In Fairfax County, teachers too will be required to wear masks, even in the front of the classroom, and students who come to school without a mask will have temperature checks.
Brabrand said he wishes they could take it a step further and offer testing for the virus, but it’s not reliable or available yet.
“One of the things in learning with our health department, is you test for that moment in time. Do we have enough testing available in this country to test kids on that regular of a basis, or our faculty? I know that’s something that colleges are looking at, but then our conversations here, one of the questions is, that really is just capturing a moment in time,” he said.
“I don’t think any of us are there yet, in the United States,” he added flatly.

Funding threat

President Donald Trump spent the week aggressively pushing to reopen schools, which is not only important for children’s development but also key to jumpstarting the economy by allowing parents to leave home and go back to work.
Both Trump and DeVos are even threatening to withhold federal dollars for schools that don’t fully reopen.
The reality is that 90% of America’s schools get their funding locally.
In Fairfax County, Brabrand said only 2% of the budget comes from federal dollars.
“It’s not about political games. It’s not about budget fights. It’s about what’s doing best for America in a time of crisis, and we need clear, concise, supportive leadership that says, ‘Do it and do it well, and we’re here to support you. Tell us what you need so that we can make you be successful.’ We need fans of public education to stand up and say, ‘Superintendents across the country, school boards across the country are all trying to do the right thing, and we’re here to support you. Tell us how we can help.’ That is what is going to be the recipe for success this fall,” he said.

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For world’s largest Muslim country, a virus-disrupted and bittersweet Eid – Reuters

JAKARTA (Reuters) – For Indonesia’s 225 million Muslims, celebrating Eid al-Fitr this year, the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, is bittersweet.

Indonesian Muslims men take part in prayers during Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end the holy fasting month of Ramadan, at a mosque in Palu, Central Sulawesi Province, Indonesia, amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), May 24, 2020, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Basri Marzuki/via REUTERS

Many are forced to spend it away from their families due to travel restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19. Hundreds of mosques across Indonesia, however, are still hosting prayers, albeit while asking participants to wear masks and attempt social distancing.

Eid is traditionally a raucous three-day celebration in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, marked by large family festivities, the exchange of gifts and mass prayers.

But Indonesia has struggled to stem its coronavirus outbreak, with more than 21,000 cases. On Saturday, its reported death toll had reached 1,351, the highest in East Asia outside China.

Indonesia’s biggest Islamic group, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), issued a fatwa this week urging Muslims to pray at home, rather than congregate in mosques.

Dicky Adam Sideq chose to spend Eid in the capital Jakarta, where cases have been concentrated, rather than risk travelling 150km home to Bandung, in neighbouring West Java province.

“What if I’m an asymptomatic carrier and infect others?” the 25-year-old photo editor told Reuters, after video calling his family, who he has not seen for the last four months. “I will wait until the situation is better before going home.”

Sideq and 18 others at his boarding house decided to do morning prayers together and cook the feast they would usual eat with their families.

“The most important thing is the Eid prayer. Thankfully, we can still pray together,” he said.

Thousands of Indonesians are still congregating at mosques for prayers, despite the risks.

Novita Sari, 37, told Reuters she went to her mosque in Klaten, in Central Java, after her village chief insisted the community attend prayers because no one had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Participants were asked to wear masks and bring prayer mats from home. The mosque checked temperatures, and the elderly and young children are not allowed to attend.

“It’s okay to be worried about COVID, but we should not be paranoid,” she said. “We also need to balance our obligations to this world and to the afterlife.”

Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Angie Teo. Writing by Fanny Potkin. Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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