As the Covid-19 pandemic was starting to unfold, Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins compiled data on infection rates by race and used it to warn his black residents about their increased risk. Unfortunately, he was one of the few city leaders in the country to identify the deadly correlation between structural racism and coronavirus pandemic. The Washington Post Robert Samuels, Aaron Williams, Tracy Jan and Jose A. Del Real explain the factors that led cities across the country to squander early opportunities to protect their black residents.
(I)n the midst of a global pandemic, other local leaders appeared nervous about Perkins publicizing his findings. It resurrected a familiar conversation in this country, in times of crisis or not, about whether drawing attention to race would do more harm than good. Those concerns initially helped delay the release of data about the virus’s racial impact. … Advocates and public health researchers in Louisiana have said the lesson from cities such as Shreveport is to release race-related data more immediately and in more detail so local leaders have less guesswork about where to place resources. They argue more data on testing and hospitalization is needed to prevent black communities from becoming collateral damage in efforts to restart the state economy.
Criminal justice reforms gain momentum
While most of the attention of the regular legislative session was focused on the state budget negotiations, “tort reform” bills and a slew of business tax breaks, about a dozen criminal justice reform bills managed to make their way to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk. Nola.com | The Advocate’s Mark Ballard explains how advocates pushed through these reforms in the middle of a pandemic-shortened session:
(A)t least one — House Bill 643 — is a groundbreaking idea. HB643 would allow parole officers to recommend reducing supervision requirements of released prisoners who are doing a good job. “This was the best year we’ve had since the reforms of 2017. We got a lot of common-sense solutions that go a long way,” said Scott Peyton, a former parole officer who is the state director for the national group, Right on Crime, based in Austin, Texas.
The Advocate | Times-Picayune editorial board praised the bipartisanship of lawmakers as a bright spot of the regular session.
This has been a trend for several years now, with Democrats and Republicans — and their diverse electoral constituencies, from social justice advocates to libertarians and religious conservatives — recognizing that Louisiana’s tough-on-crime policies and nation-leading mass incarceration have cost too much, ruined too many lives, and devastated too many communities and families without making Louisiana safer. Again this year, policies to reduce the prison population, alleviate inhumane conditions and help those who’ve been released reenter society won broad support from politicians who know their votes could come back to bite them come election time.
Who pays for the tests?
Testing nursing home workers for Covid-19 is vital to containing the high death toll at the facilities in which they work. But as the New York Times’ Katie Thomas explains, a patchwork of federal and state recommendations is creating a major question that could cost thousands of jobs and lives – who pays for the tests?
Tests of nursing home residents can be billed to insurers like Medicare and Medicaid, but the question of who pays for workers’ testing is less clear. Nursing home employees are some of the lowest paid workers in the health care industry and often work by the hour, and for multiple facilities. Many do not have health insurance, and about 42 percent of workers who care for older people receive some kind of public assistance. Nursing homes, which have received nearly $5 billion in federal stimulus funding to cover coronavirus expenses — including testing — have pushed back against paying for the tests, and asked for more government help. Insurers have also said they should not be required to pay.
LSU needs to hold students accountable
LSU interim president Tom Galligan met with and apologized to black students on Monday, a day after the school’s bungled response to an incoming student’s racist post on social media. Louisiana’s flagship university faced criticism for initially stating it could not take actions against the student, citing free speech. However, the University of Florida recently revoked a prospective student’s admission for posting racist content. The Advocate’s Brooks Kubena explains:
Galligan did not disclose the specific consequences, if any, the incoming student will face, citing privacy protections under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act; but the student leaders presented a list of changes they wanted made to LSU’s student code of conduct that would cover future scenarios and provide more clarity and explicit language that pertains to offensive language towards minority groups. “Changing or editing or revising the code of conduct is positive,” said Devin Woodson, a 20-year-old junior and co-chair of the LSU Black Male Leadership Initiative. “But to end racist speech anywhere in America, especially at a university level, it has to be more than just the wording. We have to make sure we’re keeping everyone accountable.”
Didja Know?: Special session and the need for race equity
In this episode we recap the first week of the special legislative session, the status of state budget negotiations – and what’s driving them – and explain why it’s vital that lawmakers prioritize race equity in the Covid-19 recovery effort. Click here to listen.
Number of the Day
40% – Percent of black Louisianans who know someone who has died from complications related to Covid-19. This is compared to only 17% of white Louisianans. (Source: LSU Manship School of Mass Communication).