Why Countries With Women Leaders are Beating Coronavirus

When it comes to Covid-19, unlike manliness, different approaches can be measured objectively by numbers of cases and deaths. By that measure, the heads of state who imposed isolation measures early, relying on medical experts, clearly saved lives in places such as New Zealand, Germany, and Taiwan. Those countries’ leaders are female and have drawn attention. But, another factor is this: being women, those leaders do not carry the baggage of worrying about their manliness.  They are free to respond to a major problem dispassionately, based on “sober judgment” and without regard to bravado. 

It can take more strength to tell people not to act than to encourage their aggressiveness. The leaders who imposed swift quarantines showed such strength. The adverse economic impacts of curbing movement and commerce were easy to anticipate, but the upside was not clear: what if the quarantines did not prove effective in reducing virus transmission and death?  

“Cover Your Face in Public,” a large highway sign instructs drivers entering Manhattan. “We are NY Tough,” reads the next digital panel.

Nice try, communications team, but when President Trump consistently derides mask-wearing as “weak,” equating it with toughness is a hard sell.  Yet the sign-writers evidently believed that to counter the “weak” narrative, only “tough” would do. 

Are they really talking about masks?  Or are they talking about manliness? Given the history of our nation’s conversation about “manliness,” it’s a valid question.  

Sociologist Michael Kimmel has written that “the story of America [is] a story of proving and testing manhood.” In the late 1890’s, for example, when President William McKinley sought to avoid war with Spain over its brutal treatment of Cubans, Theodore Roosevelt, then a Navy bureaucrat, accused McKinley of having “no more backbone than a chocolate éclair.” Jingoist newspapers agreed, calling McKinley a “goody-goody man”—or no man at all. The New York Journal published a cartoon depicting McKinley as an elderly woman pushing a broom against the will of Congress and “The People,” represented as menacing ocean waves. The caption read “Another Old Woman Tries to Sweep Back the Sea.”

Roosevelt and other hawks declared that war against Spain would strengthen American men, who had become too “soft” in their view. If men were stronger, the argument went, women would give up their quest for the vote and focus on being wives and mothers, satisfied that the nation was in good, manly hands. War did take place in summer 1898, and the quick trouncing of Spain ushered in a hyper-aggressive standard of masculinity that still holds sway with many—though women hardly forsook the vote and participation in public life.

In the face of the threats we’re confronting today, including a pandemic, it is important to remember that even in the 1890s a large number of men did not support a martial definition of manliness.   

Senator David Hill of New York, for example, asserted that whether to fight Spain was not “simply a question as to whether we were a brave enough people to enter upon the experiment.” As historian Kristin Hoganson writes, Hill “and like-minded leaders regarded the Cuban issue not as a crusade but as a policy issue to be settled by sober statement and foreign policy authorities. In effect, they contended that the kind of manhood that should govern foreign policy debate was…that of the dispassionate, educated expert, someone who exercised restraint and sober judgment.”

That sounds a lot like the debates over how to respond to Covid-19: medical expertise and the virtues of compassion and restraint versus assertions of individual “freedom” to do as one pleases. 

Today, few officials would argue that a course of action is right because it is “manly.” A statement such as ”I want American manhood asserted” (Sen. William M. Stewart, R, Nev., speaking in 1897) would be considered as retrograde in 2020 as “men working” signs.

But concerns with manliness still influence our politics. They are more coded, especially in the language of President Trump, who has resurrected Roosevelt’s least estimable traits by portraying life as a struggle between the strong and the weak. Jeff Sessions was “very weak” and not “being a man” when he decided to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is “that woman from Michigan.” Amid the current wave of protests triggered by the death of George Floyd, he is pushing for governors to “get tough” and telling them, “most of you are weak.”

Trump is not the only male leader to insert coded manliness concerns into the Covid-12 debate. When Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he was willing to die to save the economy, that also echoed Roosevelt. Faced with an enemy unbeatable through physical force, Patrick turned to dying for his country as a supposedly heroic option.

Yet Covid-19 teaches that strength is not the same as physical power, nor is strength male or female. Those who insist on characterizing Covid-19 as an enemy in a war must accept that in this war, the men and women who made us stand back may have shown the strength we most need. 

Legislation Introduced to Honor Former Foster Youth Lost to Corona Virus

From left: Foster youth advocate Dosha DJay Joi with a U.S. Rep. for Los Angeles Karen Bass, Rebecca Louve Yao of the National Foster Youth Institute, and Brittany Venter. Photo: Tasha Snowden

On May 15, 2020, Rep. Karen Bass, co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, and Rep. Gwen Moore will introduce the Dosha Joi Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act in honor of “DJay”, a former foster youth who passed away last week due to complications with COVID-19. The bill would immediately ensure that eligible former foster youth have access to Medicaid until the age of 26. Because of recently passed legislation led by Rep. Bass and others, this Medicaid clarification will go into effect in January of 2023. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers are now fighting to accelerate the coverage in DJay’s honor.

“I first met DJay when he was in Washington, DC participating in our Foster Youth Shadow Day program,” said Rep. Bass “His smile lit up dimly lit meeting rooms and his laugh bounded through these sometimes hallow hallways. DJay was someone who was effortlessly admired by his peers. His optimism was inspiring and reassuring to other participants who had never been on a plane in their life, let alone be meet with a member of Congress in the nation’s capital. As a medical student, he advocated for health reforms for current and former foster youth, much like the bill we are renaming in his honor. DJay’s death is a sad reminder that there is no time to waste to act on behalf of our nation’s foster youth. As this pandemic continues, it’s critical that we make sure everyone in this vulnerable population has the coverage and the care they need.”

Dosha “DJay” Joi spent 10 years in foster care and had health complications that he battled into adulthood. As a nursing student and advocate for children in the child welfare system, he fought to make sure they were protected and received the support they needed to thrive in care and as they transitioned into adulthood. In 2018 and 2019, he participated in National Foster Youth Shadow Day, a program that brings more than 100 current and former foster youth to Washington, DC to shadow their member of Congress and discuss legislation to reform the child welfare system. There, he touched the lives of many, including Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI), who he shadowed during the Shadow Day program.

“I first met DJay when he shadowed me in Congress during Foster Youth Day,” said Congresswoman Gwen Moore. “This was this beginning of a special bond; he later became a part of my family, enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday, brunches, and worship services together. DJay’s confidence, intelligence, drive and resilience, helped him build towards a bright future for himself and left a lasting impression on those who met him. He knew firsthand how the difficulties of becoming fully independent at age 18 can be compounded for former foster youth. His passion led to his advocacy being recognized by Wisconsin’s Department of Child and Family Services. Given his dreams to work in the health care field as a nurse and his advocacy for foster youth, I am humbled to honor his memory by introducing this legislation and will continue building on his legacy of being a champion for former foster youth.”

You can read the text of the Dosha Joi Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act here. The Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth has also introduced legislation to protect transition-age foster youth during the COVID pandemic response by allowing young people who are already participating in foster care and/or Chafee to continue to be served if they age out during the pandemic response, in addition to a resolution recognizing May as National Foster Youth Month.

Case Managers: The Other Frontline of COVID-19

Case Managers must make impossible choices to manage the complexities of an unstoppable pandemic—and they are working against the clock.

Unless, like me, you are married to or related to a Case Manager, you’ve probably never thought about what they do, yet they are critical to the healthcare system that we all rely on. They reside in the central command center of a crisis. The unrecognized role of Case Managers changes slightly depending on whether they work for a healthcare organization or hospital, long-term care facility, or social service department, but in general, they are responsible for overseeing a patient’s case to ensure the best outcome.

Case Managers, most of them registered nurses and social workers, coordinate with physicians, nurses, mental health and insurance companies, and family and friends of the patient, their client. They receive constant input from stakeholders with vastly different viewpoints, and it’s their job to bring all of that information together to ensure the best interest of their patients is being served. In addition, as part of interdisciplinary teams, professional Case Managers are responsible for tracking outcomes, not only for case management but also for the interventions of the entire team.

Case Managers have a stressful job on the best of days. COVID-19 has made it untenable.

The coronavirus has had an extraordinary impact on their professional and personal lives because we’re dealing with a pandemic that could not only infect patients but also the very system tasked with mitigating the outbreak. Doctors and hospital nurses are often spoken about as being on the frontlines of the coronavirus. I would argue that Case Managers represent another frontline; one that requires them to take incredible risks and make difficult choices every day. And for them, there is no triage.

As I mentioned, my wife is one such person. Due to the unwelcomed, invisible intrusion that is COVID-19, she is now working from home, but with an increased caseload, greater complexity, and more responsibility. And that is on top of adjusting to the reality of being isolated in our home day in and day out. As the world we’re in now calls for social distancing there’s no way for her to distance herself from the call of duty. Things were very different for her when she was able to walk down the hall to speak with a doctor or nurse about something. Now, she is tasked with coordinating people without the benefit of human connection. As many workers in America are finding out, working from home often results in a loss of work-life balance. This is especially true when your job was already taking over your life.

This week alone my wife has been charged with helping cancer patients who are unable to have critical follow-up appointments because oncology offices are closed. A two-year-old asthma patient who was discharged home because his lung doctor’s office is closed. Patients with terminal diseases who came down with coronavirus and, therefore, are unable to see their families when time with them matters most. And patients who are discharged from the hospital after testing for COVID-19 who are being told to self-quarantine but are then unable to get their results.

A lot of patients have become stranded, and even getting critically ill patient-placement has become a challenge. It’s like a scavenger hunt for empty hospital beds! And the virus hasn’t even peaked yet. All of these situations bring tears, confusion, fear, and loss—all of which my wife, and Case Managers like her, are supposed to alleviate from a remote location with little support and in the middle of a system plagued by glitches and breakdowns.

This is ground zero, folks. Case managers are in a battle behind the scenes, huddling daily to plan for the next six months. But mostly these men and women are alone, hunched over computers in trenches of their bedrooms or living rooms, making frantic phone calls, staying focused on the needs of patients even when their families need them, too.

There is no denying that the doctors and nurses you see online sharing photos of their bruised faces after spending hours in protective masks and goggles are heroes. But when those people need the go-ahead to perform surgery or need to know where to send a patient next, they turn to a Case Manager like my wife. She is a hero, too.

If God forbid, you or a loved one ends up in a hospital during this pandemic, utilize your Case Manager, trust your Case Manager, and, please, be kind to your Case Worker. He or she is making a great sacrifice to ensure the best outcome for you.

Racializing the Corona Virus Disease is Not Helpful

Over the past week, President Trump has repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus.” The virus, first reported in China in November, has now spread to every continent. Today, most reported cases are outside of China.

Mr. Trump has denied accusations of racism. Instead, he claims he is countering a disinformation campaign promoted by Chinese officials that the U.S. military was the source of the outbreak, but this assertion has not been confirmed.

Key Trump allies, including Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, have begun spreading the discredited hypothesis that the virus may have originated from a Chinese government laboratory.

When statements like these, coming from top government officials, get uncritically reproduced in some media outlets, they fuel the narrative that a single ethnic group, the Chinese, are to blame for this unfortunate pandemic.

In doing so, they fan the flames of ethnic hatred. Mainstream news outlets have documented multiple reports of individuals of Asian descent being harassed and attacked as likely carriers of the virus. In addition, small Chinese businesses saw their number of customers plummet even before social distancing rules were established in the U.S.

Blaming immigrants and ethnic minorities for health outbreaks is an age-old trope. Medical historian Howard Merkel has described how tuberculosis, bubonic plague, trachoma, typhus, cholera, and AIDS were all attributed to specific immigrant groups.

The scapegoats have changed over time. While the Chinese were accused of spreading bubonic plague in the early 1900’s, Eastern Europeans were blamed for trachoma, a dreaded eye infection that continues to rob millions of people of their sight each year. More recently, AIDS was initially considered a “Haitian” import.

On the basis of these misguided views, officials came up with ethnic-based public policies that harmed these communities and often made things worse. Some Eastern European immigrants contracted trachoma at the hands of the very U.S. health officials in Ellis Island in charge of examining them.

Similarly, when a Chinese immigrant came down with bubonic plague in 1900, the city of San Francisco quarantined its Chinatown. Since the plague was considered a “Chinese” disease, Whites were able to enter or leave. Authorities inspected every building in Chinatown and burned property suspected of harboring filth. Some concerned Chinese residents reacted by hiding sick residents. These measures were not only discriminatory, but they also failed to contain the disease.

It’s important that we recognize and keep this history in mind as we respond to the novel coronavirus. As history has shown time and again, microbes are quite egalitarian in their mode of attack. Rather than accentuating ethnic cleavages, what we need are community-wide solutions.

In my own research, I document the power that political elites, like Mr. Trump, have via their public statements to shape how the general public reacts to immigrants. I found that exposure to Mr. Trump’s derogatory statements about immigrants hardened the expressed immigration views of respondents, particularly among Republicans and individuals without college degrees. Though the effect of these statements was short-lived, Mr. Trump is known for doubling-down on his divisive rhetoric to keep his base excited.

Major health outbreaks require a global, unified response. Instead of exacerbating social divisions, as Mr. Trump is currently doing, our leaders should try to bring people together behind sound public health solutions like social distancing. Many lives may depend on it.

$2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package Will Support Social Workers, Clients They Serve

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) commends Congress and the White House for passing into law the $2.2 trillion economic relief package that will provide aid to individuals, families and communities.

“Our nation is experiencing unprecedented levels of psychological and economic devastation as a result of this public health crisis” said NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. “We applaud lawmakers and the Trump Administration for working quickly in a bipartisan way to bring relief to working class and middle-class Americans, many of whom are struggling to afford housing, food and health care during this pandemic.”

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the third COVID-19 relief package that Congress has enacted in as many weeks, includes extended and increased unemployment insurance, coronavirus testing at no cost to patients (including people who are uninsured), and a $1,200 rebate for all U.S. residents with an adjusted gross income of up to $75,000 ($150,000 if married). It also contains a number of other provisions that will go a long way towards helping people as they cope with this crisis. This includes:

Economic Security

  • $1 billion for the Community Services Block Grant to help communities address the consequences of increased unemployment and economic disruption.

Mental Health

  • Extending the Medicaid Community Mental Health Services demonstration that provides coordinated care to patients with mental health and substance use disorders, through November 30, 2020.
  • Providing $425 million for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to increase access to mental health services in communities, provide suicide prevention services and care for people who are homeless. The bill also includes $45 million to respond to family and domestic violence, including providing services or shelter.

Food Security

  • Waiving nutrition requirements for Older Americans Act (OAA) meal programs to ensure older adults can get meals in case certain food options are not available.
  • Increasing the budget for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $15.5 billion, and $8.8 billion in additional funding for Child Nutrition Programs in order to ensure children receive meals while school is not in session.
  • Providing $200 million for food assistance to Puerto Rico and the territories to ensure these citizens receive more support during the pandemic.

Child Care and Development

  • $3.5 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant. This funding will allow childcare programs to maintain critical operations and ensure first responders and health care workers can access childcare during the pandemic.
  •  $750 million for Head Start to meet emergency staffing needs.

Housing

  • Providing $3 billion in rental assistance protections for low-income Americans.
  • Including $900 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds to help lower income households heat and cool their homes.

Despite being the largest stimulus package in the nation’s history, more relief will be needed due to the scope and severity of the pandemic. The legislation comes amid record-breaking unemployment claims. While there are funds in the bill for unemployment insurance coverage, that benefit is time-limited and does not cover workers’ full salaries. Further, low-income and other marginalized communities will disproportionately experience the impact of this public health crisis.

In terms of food security, despite the increase in the SNAP budget, the package does not include a 15 percent increase in the SNAP maximum benefit.  Also, COVID-19 prevention and intervention services among vulnerable populations such as those in prisons, jail, juvenile detention and immigration detention and people who are homeless was also only partially funded.

We are also disappointed that only 20 percent ($400 million) of the $2 billion needed to ensure an inclusive and fair voting process for primary and general elections was provided and allows discretion by states. NASW along with 200 organizations called for full funding of this effort in order to remove all barriers to maximum participation in the 2020 election for communities of color and marginalized communities.

Despite these gaps, which NASW will be working to address in anticipated subsequent COVI-19 relief packages, the legislation does include provisions that are helpful to social workers. Employers may provide a student loan repayment benefit to employees on a tax-free basis. An employer may contribute up to $5,250 annually toward an employee’s student loans, and such payment would be excluded from the employee’s taxable income. Also, the Secretary of Education is authorized to postpone student loan payments, principal and interest for six months, through Sept. 30, 2020, without penalty to the borrower for all federally owned loans.

The package will also facilitate even greater regulatory flexibility in telehealth than has already been implemented through prior COVID-19 policy actions. The bill gives the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) authority to waive requirements so that enrolled providers, including clinical social workers, can provide telehealth services using audio-only devices (such as telephone landlines). Under recent CMS guidance, clinical social workers and other eligible providers can, during this public health emergency, use smartphones with video chat apps such as Skype and Apple Facetime to provide services. They can also continue to use HIPAA-compliant video conferencing platforms, which was permissible prior to the pandemic. NASW will continue its advocacy to ensure that audio-only access is permitted by Medicare, which is already allowed in a number of states.

“This economic stimulus plan is an important step in helping our nation cope with this crisis,” McClain said. “We are also glad it will give social workers some of the supports that they need, such as greater flexibility to practice telehealth as they continue doing the hard work of ensuring clients access to services, including health care and mental health care they need as our nation contends with this pandemic.”

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.

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