Despite plagues through the years, we were still not prepared for COVID-19
Panic swept the nation, no — the world! — as the COVID-19 pandemic spread its fingers into every nook and cranny of the world. Our communities are under great stress as we struggle to reduce the spread of the virus. From social distancing to wearing masks, people are eager to end the pandemic. However, many Americans feel like the initial response from the government was slow and that we could have reacted much sooner and with greater efficiency.
But could we have? What ability does the American government have to handle pandemics? By examining the frameworks currently in place as well as reflecting on past handling, we will grade the performance of the United States’ handling of COVID-19. Before we make any judgments about the government’s response, we should ask, “what is the government’s premade plan for pandemics?” 
In 2005, the United States rolled out a new “National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza.” Although influenza differs greatly from COVID-19, the general framework behind government preparedness and response to pandemics applies to both. The 2005 plan is fairly robust for being disclosed to the public, indicating the various phases handling a pandemic will take as well as advice for the entire country on how to proceed. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website provides access to its “Pandemic Intervals Framework (PIF).” The PIF names and defines six phases of a pandemic and what the government’s role is in each phase at both a local and federal level. The six phases in order are “Investigation, Recognition, Initiation, Acceleration, Deceleration, [and] Preparation.” The CDC evaluates the risks a potential strain of influenza poses to society. If and when the strain becomes a pandemic, the CDC will then work to minimize loss of life while preparing for future pandemic waves.
These existing systems were put to the test due to the high level of activity and severe number of cases during the 2017-2018 flu season. This Influenza epidemic was a recent warning to the government that we would not be prepared for something more serious. Ever since the Sept. 11 attacks, the US government has poured funding into public health to protect the country against bioterrorism and pandemics. However, over the years, much of this funding has been allocated toward other ventures, taking a focus away from pandemic preparedness. 
Even with this plan in place, there are other social factors that chokehold the country’s ability to deal with novel viruses. Doctor Jonathan D. Quick, a professor of global health  at Duke University and physician who specializes in public health management, has spread awareness for the advancement of public health and pandemic preparedness in many of his publications. In a 2018 TIME magazine article, Dr. Quick discusses how Americans can grow complacent when pandemic waves subside, using flu outbreaks as an example. Dr. Quick said, “as soon as headlines about the flu are gone, hospitals are emptied of flu patients, schools are back in session and workplace absenteeism declines, we go back to business as usual.”
Throughout February, when the coronavirus began its march to the Western Hemisphere, many people were unafraid of the “flu-like” symptoms and believed the virus would act out like another familiar strain of the flu. With news that COVID-19 had a low mortality rate for children, teens and young adults, entire generations of people were emboldened with confidence that this would be a low threat to our health. My classmates were no exception and while we saw the news of the virus ever-encroaching toward us we brushed it off because we would be less affected. 
With multiple countries shutting down entire cities, a pandemic became likely. The naive confidence of many Americans even persisted in government officials which only made the general population less afraid. Because of this error in judgment, the virus exploded in the US. Many Americans don’t take the flu very seriously, and initial talk of COVID-19 seeming similar to the flu may be one factor that prevented us from tackling COVID-19 in its earlier stages. Unfortunately, we haven’t learned from past mistakes. When the infamous 1918 flu pandemic reached the American continent, it ravaged naval and army bases and installations. 
One city particularly affected was Philadelphia. Wilmer Krusen, Philadelphia’s public health director, was unaware of the flu’s severity. On Sept. 19, the flu arrived via sick soldiers coming back from Europe and entering the Philadelphia Navy Yard. While many physicians were wary of the disease reaching the city, Krusen decided to allow business as usual. On Sept. 28, 9 days after the arrival of the flu to Philadelphia, the Liberty Loans Parade was held to support war efforts. At the time, it was the largest parade in Philadephia’s history, amassing large crowds of up to 200,000 spectators. Unfortunately, a day later, every hospital in Philadelphia was completely packed with flu patients. Many thousands more would continue to get infected and die. Even still, politicians clamored for the end of stay-at-home orders and didn’t take the virus seriously despite new cases and a growing death toll.
The results of this behavior are self-evident. An almost complete opposite response to Philadelphia was the city of St. Louis, MO. When signs of the flu pandemic first showed, the St. Louis administration enforced stay-at-home orders. Led by health commissioner Dr. Max Starkoff, the city banned public gatherings and closed all public buildings, especially schools. Thousands of patients were treated by volunteer nurses in their own homes and St. Louis’ infection curve was successfully flattened. Even under fire from small business owners, the administration held its ground. The results were exactly what anyone could ever hope for. 
This type of action was not present in America’s response to COVID-19. Setting aside the sheer delay it took to take the virus seriously, the response was lackluster. Swift, decisive, and accurate action is needed to combat the lack of funding and cultural inaction but of course the actual virus itself. Of course, COVID-19 is a respiratory infection, which requires much more equipment than influenza, however, the response time and effect of the response is what is under scrutiny. 
Researching responses to pandemics in history has been eye-opening. Despite the championing of an education in world and American history to learn from past mistakes, the country is proving itself to be forgetful and naive, continuing to fall into the same pits as before. 
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A sledgehammer for workers’ rights:’ Sitting down with labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan
Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash
As I sat in my home office preparing for my second interview with Shannon Liss-Riordan, I couldn’t help but reflect on how drastically things had changed over the past couple of months. I thought back to my first interview with her in February and I  remembered climbing up the stairs to the second floor of an office building in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. I noticed how new and modern everything looked as I walked through the large glass doors leading me into the spacious waiting area adorned with artwork and leather furniture. 
Fast forward to April, the city of Boston is under stay at home orders and I am preparing to conduct a follow up interview with Liss-Riordan via Zoom. I reviewed my notes from our previous interview, looked up to the computer screen and said “I have to ask this question first: How did you get the nickname The Sledgehammer?” 
Before I explain that awesome nickname, it's important to know who exactly this hero is. Liss-Riordan is an American labor attorney who is well known for her dedication to protecting women, families and workers. Originally from Texas, she moved to Boston to study science but later learned that her passion was law and went on to attend and graduate from Harvard Law School. Since then she has started her own law practice in Boston called  Lichten & Liss-Riordan, P.C. and has argued cases across the country. 
“Big corporations and the rich and powerful have so much power in so many ways over regular working people who go to work for a living. If we don't have laws that are enforced to try and keep some balance then the working people can really be taken advantage of and I've just seen that in so many different ways.”
After graduating Harvard Law School, Liss-Riordan moved to New York and worked with ex-congress woman Bella Abzug. She was inspired by Abzug’s passion for the women's rights movement. She knew that she wanted to represent people without a voice and help regular working people who have been taken advantage of. After realizing her dreams of becoming a labor attorney it didn't take long for her to find success and acquire such a legendary nickname.
Shannon smiled and began telling me the story of how she got the nickname “The Sledgehammer” from her former clients at SkyCaps. Skycaps are the people who check in your bags for you at the airport so you don't have to wait in a long line. They are the first friendly face that a lot of people see when they fly out of Logan Airport and they make most of their money through tips. Liss-Riordan initiated a lawsuit against American Airlines because they were looking for a way to raise fees when they realised that passengers were giving a lot of cash to SkyCaps. They decided to put up a sign at the airport that said “Curbside check in $2 per bag”. The SkyCaps were very upset about this because it destroyed the income they were earning from tips.
Basically, these big corporations were attempting to increase their profits at the expense of low paid Skycaps employees. As Liss Riordan put it: “Everyone thought that the two dollars a bag was the tip and so the SkyCaps were no longer getting tips. So we brought this case to trial and we proved to the jury that people thought they were tipping the Skycaps when they paid this two dollar fee. It was this big victory and first we got American Airlines and then United Airlines and then US Airways to stop the two dollar per bag charge.” It was during the celebration following the victory that she was dubbed “Sledgehammer Shannon” by her clients. 
If you're still not a believer in her dedication to helping the underdog, Liss-Riordan also reflected upon a number of other cases she worked on in defense of workers rights during the interview. She told me the story of how she ended up investing in a local pizza franchise, the Upper Crust, who’s employees she represented in a case against the former owners. After the Upper Crust owners filed for bankruptcy Liss-Riordan and her husband went to an auction and bought one of the stores and re-named it the Just Crust. “We turned it into a pizza shop focused on justice for the workers and based it on a fair employment model where the workers were treated well.” Stories like this one made it clear that she was truly invested in her community. 
Upon wrapping up our interview, I began to understand the importance of having professionals like Liss-Riordan in the community who stand up for employees and protect their rights. I imagine myself working as a SkyCap or at a pizzeria and how frustrating and powerless someone can feel when they don´t have a voice that will represent them. Even though the world is on pause she hasn't stopped serving justice. Today, Liss-Riordan continues to bring justice to people in need via Zoom. The world would certainly be a better place with more lawyers like her.
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Thousands of Immigrants Face Racism on the Island Hispaniola Shared by two Nations: Haiti and the Dominican Republic
Whenever the word “Racism” is brought up, a lot of different emotions come up. Maybe sorrow, hope, or guilt. The reality is — it isn’t over, and there is still much work to be done.
This is exactly the case on the island of Hispaniola, where two countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, are split by a border and discrimination. Here many Haitians face racism and often are considered less than because of their darker skin. To understand why, looking back at the history is helpful. According to Vox, Haiti was colonized by the French, and the Dominican Republic was colonized by the Spanish. After the Haitian Revolution in the late 1700s - early 1800s, Haiti declared itself the first black, former-slave republic in the world. Sadly, after they declared independence, the French claimed that the Haitians owed them 15 Million francs for “stealing all of their assets,” which destroyed the Haitian economy. The Dominican Republic, which was better set up for the future by the Spanish, because of the fewer slaves brought over, absence of debt and diverse population, is a much richer nation today than Haiti.
Knowing the history, it becomes clear how discrimination is still happening today. In 2010, the Dominican Republic implemented racist immigration laws, by repealing birthright citizenship. According to CNN, “the country's highest court ruled in 2013 that all residents born to immigrant parents dating back more than 80 years were not entitled to citizenship.” This caused 210,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent to become stateless. This is what caused Benard Teillon, a Haitian immigrant, to want to leave the Dominican Republic because “so many of [his] countrymen [were] fighting so hard to get a simple identification card, and they still face so much discrimination in [the Dominican Republic].”
Eventually, the Dominican Republic created a path of citizenship for Dominicans of Haitian descent to follow, but only 64,000 people benefitted from the law. This law was a ticking time bomb—Haitians had a time limit for redeeming their citizenship. The lines at the offices for the path to citizenship were long every day, and some had to wait for hours on end to reclaim their citizenship.
Although this happened in 2013, effects are still seen today. For instance, 95% of the collectors of current bean planting are Haitians in the Dominican Republic, so the deportation of Haitians could seriously impact the Dominican Republic’s labor industries. Back in January 2020, Dominican Today reports farmers asking for the deportation of Haitians to stop. Not only do they deport Haitians, but the military also “penetrates the farms in the early morning, breaks the doors, seizes the Haitians, who, they say, strip money, cell phones and other belongings they own, an action they describe as violating human rights.” However, Haitians representing 95% of the workforce isn’t necessarily a good thing—the workforce is very labor-intensive and doesn’t pay well. It goes to show how Haitians are put down by Dominicans. The farmers are asking for deportations to stop for the wrong reasons, but as long as the deportation stops, that’s still one problem solved.
Knowing the history of the two nations, it becomes clear why, according to Vox in 2017, a Haitian baby is two times more likely to die than a Dominican baby. Dominicans are expected to live 15 years longer, and there are about two times more people in Haiti living with AIDS/HIV. Also, the unemployment rate is 13.8% in the Dominican Republic while in Haiti the unemployment rate is 40.6%. Because of the way the two nations were developed, many impacts can still be seen today. Haitians also deal with racism every-day, and it begins to make sense why many of these prejudices are embedded even in Dominican immigrants in the United States.
Haitian Boston 15-year old teenager Ann Richeme, a rising Sophomore, describes the racism like this, “Most Dominicans look down on Haitians because of their living habits and all the stereotypes surrounding them.” Richeme’s Mother, Rose-Line, personally experienced this, stating that she experienced vendors changing the prices of products depending on whether she spoke Spanish or not. She said that Haitians would receive dirty looks and that Dominican children weren’t allowed to play with Haitian children.
According to the WBUR in 2015, there were protests in Boston by Haitians and Dominicans to stop the tourism in the Dominican Republic as a way of “fighting” the deportation issues. Rising 15-year-old sophomore Jeffrey Vittini is a Dominican teenager living in Boston and he says that he “disagrees with stopping the tourism in the Dominican Republic because it wouldn’t help the Haitians.” He later goes on to describe the racism as “pointless” and that the Dominican Republic should just be kinder to the nation with whom they share an island.
Overall, the deportation law that the Dominican Republic implemented in 2013 stands today. Although there have been many changes, such as the path to citizenship, many more steps must be taken. In only the first year of these laws being enforced, 210,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent were stripped of their citizenship, and that number only continues to rise. Being a Dominican myself, it shames me to hear the racist actions my own country has taken, but as long as the United Nations and Haitians and Dominicans continue to protest, I’m sure that eventually, this deportation will stop.

According to PBS, Givena Reyes, a Haitian living in the Dominican Republic, sees it like this: “[t]here are Dominicans with black skin. And there are Haitians with white skin. I don't understand why they don't hold everyone to the same standard.”
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Teachers, students, nurses speak on COVID-19
Ever since Covid-19 became the center of attention in the United States, it has been the cause of great stress, grief and even confusion. Everywhere we turn it's “BREAKING NEWS” or “Coronavirus.” Lives have been changed since different states enforced stay-at-home policies, locking down states and closing non-essential businesses. Graduation ceremonies and commencements have been cancelled, the fate of returning to school cancelled in some states and up in the air in others. For most, we are living in a pandemic for the first times in our lives. 
COVID-19, the CO standing for “corona’, the VI for ‘virus’ and the D for ‘disease’ and the 19 references the virus being discovered in 2019. It has also been referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus,” since this is the first time the world has experienced this new and devastating disease. When COVID-19 first surfaced it was said that it only affected older people. Now as more research is coming out, we are aware that this novel virus affects the elderly, babies and those who have compromised immune systems. The three most important orders from the CDC during this time are to socially-distance, or keep away from other people, stay indoors and to frequently wash your hands. 
The outbreak of this virus has led to the closure of school districts all over the country, as well as the closure of universities and colleges, pushing non-essential workers indoors and college students back home. 
Ava Healy, a senior at Boston Latin Academy, expressed that she is adjusting to the closure of school and transition from in-school learning to e-learning. “I feel like I’ve been adjusting pretty well. The beginning was really tough because I’m used to doing my work either at school or the library,” she said.
Nathalie Diaz, a freshman at Connecticut College, shared that her school did the best they could to help everyone. “They paid for a lot of the plane tickets and moving expenses for international students.” Her school also provided the option of a pass/fail or letter grade option for end of semester grades. 
Will Ma-Coley, a nurse at Jamaica Plain VA Medical Center, admits that his work life since COVID-19 has become drastically different. “Things have changed a lot. So, now we have to wear masks all day when we are at work and we never used to do that before. And now we do a lot of cleaning, for me I really do a lot. So when I get to work before I do anything, I will wipe down the chairs, wipe down the counter, wipe down the keyboard, the computers, the telephone, the door handles—every little thing that I feel like people can touch. You don’t know who’s been there, and who’s touched what.” 
“It’s literally working twice as hard and feeling half as productive.” Aine Ni Cheallaigh Cook, a history teacher at Boston Latin Academy stated. 
“First of all I miss my students, so I’m a little sad… the most challenging part of this is not being able to give academic and emotional support in the minute that students need it,” Cook expressed about the transition from in-class learning to e-learning. “My particular concern is of the inequity of which my students live. And so I find myself thinking particularly about my students who are homeless, who struggle from food inequity. Who are undocummented, whose parents have lost their jobs, who cannot apply for the forgiveness of rent… and so they’re just kind of left in the wind.” 
The city of Boston has made abundant efforts to help those in need during this time with businesses and organizations delivering fruits and vegetables to those who need it, or opening their doors to children and families who need a meal. The city is also making efforts to help Bostonians who are experiencing difficulty with paying their rent, through the Rental Relief Fund. Some other resources in Boston are the Brown Bag Resource, FoodSource Hotline, SNAP Benefits, all of which are food support for the Boston population.
“I think that everything I know about the American economy has revealed itself to me in the fact that, if schools are closed, kids can’t eat. It reminds me of the power and influence we have as schools…” Cook remarked on the impact of schools on children. 
COVID-19’s effect on different groups of people has not been that dissimilar; teachers, students, parents and healthcare workers are all feeling the effects of these uncertain times. As people are being laid off from work and discussion around when to open up different states remains up in the air, there's only so much to hope for and to prioritize right now. “The only goal I have right now is to get a job to help my mom out. At any second she could get laid off and I don’t want my siblings to have to be hungry because she won’t be making money.” Diaz said. 
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Science & Health
Global warming is taking the penguins
Imagine your world, your only home, was slowly breaking down into pieces that made living very hard. And, your food supply was diminishing too much, too fast.
Global warming is the slow destruction of our little blue planet over time as radiation, or heat waves from the sun, get trapped in our atmosphere over time. Gases from pollution such as factory smoke, cigarette smoke, power plants, cars, methane gas (often from cow farts) and more are trapped in the atmosphere. The gases’ heat causes our atmosphere to heat up. Since our atmosphere is a layer covering all of the Earth, the global temperature also rises. 
Now, you may ask yourself, Why are you telling me that? It doesn’t sound like our worst problem … the coronavirus is? Well, maybe this isn’t your biggest problem, but it most definitely is a problem that needs fixing. Did you know that Earth is three-quarters water if you exclude all the ice in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans? Since our Earth’s temperature is rising, all the heat is causing the ice in the Arctic and Atlantic to melt. Animals that live in these areas such as penguins, polar bears, seals, turtles and a lot more are losing their habitats. Their homes are literally being melted away. Their entire species are doomed to be endangered, or worse, extinct. 
In fact, “there are 17 species of penguins in the Southern Hemisphere and nearly all of them are in danger,” said Derrick Z. Jackson, [didn’t get back to me about this]. Due to global warming, the polar ice caps are melting, so penguins are literally losing their habitats. Not to mention that melting ice also kills krill, the tiny fish that penguins eat. Penguins are losing their environments, no their homes, and facing starvation all at the same time. Imagine if that happened to you.
As their homes are being melted away, many animals are drowning because they got caught in the crossfire of you polluting our atmosphere and causing this poor unsuspecting animal to lose its home, and in this scenario, its life. Over time, species will decrease in population, and without predators, the prey populations will flourish.
In the Northern Hemisphere, puffins were nearly completely hunted and killed off in Maine during the 1900s. Luckily, the Puffin Project was started and it restored the puffin population back to a state where it isn’t at all close to endangerment. Now, some people question if it was even worth restoring the population because of global warming.
The puffins live all around the Gulf of Maine and a couple of Canadian islands, Jackson said. This is the fastest-warming ocean water on earth due to global warming. Fish in those areas will swim to other areas with cooler water. Now the puffins have no food, which is why the population has begun to once again decrease. Not to mention that the water will only get warmer as global warming goes on, so was the Puffin Project in vain? Will those puffins actually die because of global warming?
This imbalance in the environment will topple like dominos, or rather, change one thing after another in the environment. If one species is wiped out, its prey, who will become the new predator, will eat all of its prey and have that species near extinction since there is an uneven ratio of predator to prey. The new prey population will decrease until it’s near extinction and then the new predator's species will begin to decrease as well since there is no food anymore. So over time, everyone dies. Or, as I said before, the slow destruction of our earth. All because you decide to pollute your Earth by smoking, driving your car, working at a power plant and more activities that release gas into our atmosphere that contributes to global warming.
Not only do the animals living in those areas lose their homes, but the decrease in population also makes it harder for animals to find a mate. So it’s even harder for the species to survive because they can’t slowly increase the population through reproduction.  
If you could please just take some time to walk or take public transportation and avoid adding to the amount of gases in our atmosphere, then you can help our earth.
It doesn’t have to be solving world hunger or peace, but there are ways that everyday people like you and me can help. You can “vote for politicians who want to take care of science-related issues and pollution,” Jackson explained. “[People] who advocate policies to get rid of fossil fuels.” You can also use solar panels, drive less and take public transportation. In fact, much of the world is already on the way to using solar energy. Puerto Rico has some laws, and Germany and other countries in northern Europe do as well. Some places even have set targets to be carbon neutral by 2040 or 2050. 
Maybe it won’t make such a big difference to you, but it does help. It helps our Earth and the little suffering animals in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.
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