Fair Haven Community Rises Up Against COVID

by Charla Nich, Vaccinate Fair Haven!

COVID struck people of color differently, devastating entire families and communities. COVID hospitalizations and deaths in Connecticut have disproportionately affected people of color – and the vaccination rollout is the same.

During the worst months of the pandemic, hospitalization rates were 3 times as high for people of color and death rates were 2 times as high compared to whites.  Currently. while 45% of white residents in Connecticut have been fully vaccinated, only 24% of Black and Latino residents have.

The state’s response to the crisis in communities of color has been horribly inadequate, highlighting the structural inequities that continue to exist. Since the outset of the pandemic, the state’s response to the hardest-hit communities of color has been neglectful and woefully inadequate. People of color continue to face structural barriers that the state has largely ignored – lack of access to vaccines, language barriers (a state website that continues to be largely in English), access to wifi, access to computers, and transportation challenges. This has led to the existing disparities that currently exist and that the state has failed to address.

Fair Haven fought back! Vaccinate Fair Haven! is a community-led effort and a response to the state’s neglect. It targeted a low-income zip code – a New Haven section rich with culture and largely populated by Latines and African Americans. This is the only such canvassing project in the country with the objective of knocking on every door in an entire zip code to bring trained bilingual health promoters to talk with residents about the importance of vaccination and schedule eligible residents on the spot – offering free transportation to those who needed it and in-home shots to the homebound.

Over 400 volunteers and 16 community groups tackled the disparity together. Volunteers were trained, “turfs” were assigned, and people walked and knocked on doors. From the March 13th launch and many days since, volunteers walked, knocked, called, and staffed the vaccination site. They left informational flyers behind at every single house. On May 5, VFH accomplished its mission – knocking on every single one of the 5,648 doors in Fair Haven.

Did Vaccinate Fair Haven! impact the COVID vaccination rates? Early results are promising. In January, 30% of the vaccinations the Fair Haven Community Health Center provided were for people of color, and in April 79% of those vaccinated were people of color. Across the state, 17% of first-time vaccinations were administered to people of color. In Fair Haven, 52% of first dose vaccinations were administered to people of color.

The Vaccinate Fair Haven! efforts to address the racial/ ethnic disparities by reducing the systemic barriers – language, transportation, information access, internet access – have resulted in greatly improved vaccination rates for our neighbors.

Temporary Rental Housing Assistance Program: UniteCT Information

by Tebben Lopez, Neighborhood Housing Services

As the COVID-19 pandemic systematically shut down businesses and caused many people to lose their jobs, the consequence of mass eviction loomed larger each month.

“With the severity of the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Temporary Rental Housing Assistance Program (TRHAP), administered by the Department of Housing (DOH), was a critically needed tool to address a catastrophic need,” Managing Director of the HomeOwnership Center, Bridgette Russell, explained, “Renters facing job loss and furloughs were suddenly unable to pay their rent, and TRHAP, along with the Governor’s mandated eviction moratorium, provided a short-term solution to quell an impending eviction tsunami.”

With the assistance of selected administrators and NHS of New Haven’s HomeOwnership Center, the state got to work distributing the funds. The Governor first set aside $10 million that grew in short order to $40 million by the end of the temporary assistance program in December.

The HOC began to work with individuals assigned to their department to bring them up to $4,000 in order to help them with back rent and forward-facing rent. In total, NHS assisted 448 families with over $1,415,000 in assistance. “After COVID-19 shut down my work, I was in a panic,” Monika C. shared. The program came at the perfect time, helping with her rent, and she was grateful to be accepted. “A huge thank you to NHS of New Haven and the Department of Housing for helping me through the process!”

“Helping tenants and landlords submit applications for the Temporary Rental Housing Assistance Program was deeply meaningful and often very moving work,” HOC Coordinator, Robin Ladouceur, reflected. “The range of applicants with whom I worked was broad – from the older man who lost his job and could not find a new one in a job market that privileges youth; to the single mom of two who received a cancer diagnosis in the midst of the pandemic; to a young new mother faced with raising her daughter alone; to all the countless families touched by COVID-19.”

The prolonged nature of the pandemic means that the scale of need for rental assistance was and continues to be staggering. “At least 3-5 times per week I receive inquiries from individuals who passed through the TRHAP program asking if there are other ways to receive assistance, Robin said. “I am grateful to be able to say that a new State of Connecticut Department of Housing Rental Assistance Program will be commencing in March and everyone who went through TRHAP may be eligible to apply. More help is on the way!”

Tebben Lopez, Communications Specialist
(203) 562-0598 x224, 333 Sherman Ave. New Haven
www.nhsofnewhaven.org
@NHSofNewHaven

Vigil Honors Lives Lost to COVID in New Haven

by Megan Fountain, Unidad Latina en Accíon

In a vigil to commemorate one year of the COVID crisis, on March 22 the immigrant organization Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA), along with Black & Brown United in Action, and Hamden Action Now remembered 186 lives lost in New Haven, including two of their loved ones, Nora Garcia and Ignacia Teniza.

photo: Frank Panzarella

To the crowd of sixty people, ULA announced a Rental Relief Fund and called for an economic recovery for immigrants. ULA released a report documenting the needs of their community and the urgent demand for an economic recovery to include immigrants. Since the pandemic began, ULA has mobilized nearly a dozen car caravans to the state capitol and governor’s mansion calling for COVID relief for “essential” undocumented workers, who have been excluded from unemployment insurance and federal stimulus payments.

While US Congress has failed to provide any relief to undocumented workers, the state of Connecticut last week launched UniteCT, a $235 million rental assistance program that is open to all residents regardless of immigrant status. At the same time, the state legislature is considering Senate Bill 956, which would open Husky health insurance to immigrants. The rental assistance fund comes after ULA and partner organizations negotiated for nearly one year with the Connecticut Department of Housing and distributed $2.5 million in a pilot program.

“Today as we remember Nora and Ignacia and the 186 lives lost in our city, we will call for a new day in Connecticut, when healthcare and economic security will be a right for all of us, not just for a few of us,” said John Jairo Lugo, Community Organizing Director of ULA.  “As we mourn the dead, we must denounce the deadly racial and economic inequities in this state, and we must fight for the living by creating a recovery for all that includes undocumented workers and families.”

For more information: Megan Fountain, (203) 479-2959, megan@ulanewhaven.org.

COVID-19 Vaccine Info and Other State Updates

From Sen. Chris Murphy’s Office

All Connecticut residents over the age of 16 will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 1 and can sign up for a vaccine appointment at https://portal.ct.gov/Vaccine-Portal [as well as through the Vaccine Administration Management System at https://dphsubmissions.ct.gov/OnlineVaccine or call (877) 918-2224 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can also call the City of New Haven Health Department at (203) 639-2245, and Yale New Haven Health at (833) ASK-YNHH [(833) 275-9644)].

Starting March 19, Connecticut eased a number of COVID-19 restrictions. Among other changes, restaurants, retail stores, offices, libraries, houses of worship, indoor recreation (excluding theaters), gyms and fitness centers, museums, aquariums and zoos are allowed to operate at 100% capacity. Mask requirements and social distancing rules remain in effect.

Members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation, Gov. Ned Lamont and Connecticut Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno announced the launch of UniteCT, a new state program to provide rental and utility assistance to qualified Connecticut households financially impacted by COVID-19. UniteCT may provide up to $10,000 in rental assistance and up to $1,500 in electric utility arrearage payments to landlords and utility companies on behalf of approved tenants. To learn more about the qualifications and apply for assistance go to bit.ly/UniteCT.

Connecticut’s Congressional Delegation, Gov. Lamont and CT Airport Authority Executive Director Kevin Dillon announced that CT’s airports have been awarded more than $8.8 million in federal grant funding under the COVID-19 pandemic relief plan passed by Congress in December.

Gov. Lamont and Attorney General William Tong are warning Connecticut residents to be on alert for potential scams related to COVID-19 vaccines. To protect themselves against vaccine-related scams: 1) Do not pay anything to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine; 2) Ignore sales ads related to the vaccine; 3) Beware of unsolicited emails or texts concerning the vaccine, including offers of rewards or payments; and 4) Do not share personal, financial, or health information with unfamiliar people.

Gov. Lamont announced that he has signed an executive order modifying certain state laws in order to allow expanded access to telehealth services to continue in Connecticut during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The filing and payment deadline for Connecticut and federal individual income taxes has been extended to May 17, 2021. For information on federal coronavirus relief, including help for small businesses, direct cash payments and more, visit murphy.senate.gov/coronavirus. This page provides answers to frequently asked questions and gives a summary of available programs and funding. For the latest information about keeping you or your family safe go to cdc.gov/coronavirus. For resources and information about Connecticut’s response, including updates about vaccine distribution, visit ct.gov/coronavirus.

COVID-19 Vaccine Information

By now, we hope PAR readers know that residents 65 years of age and older can get the COVID-19 vaccine. As of this printing, eligibility will shortly be given to front-line workers and people with underlying health conditions. Please call 2-1-1 for updated COVID-19 information. As we said last month, we want all of our readers to continue to wear masks and observe the recommended 6-feet anti-social distance guidelines. It won’t be for too much longer. Remember, it’s better to be patient than to be a patient.

You can get an appointment online or by phone.

To register online, please visit the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) at https://dphsubmissions.ct.gov/OnlineVaccine. When accepted into the registration portal, you will receive emails detailing the next steps necessary in the scheduling process.

To register by phone, please call (877) 918-2224 during weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
You can also call the City of New Haven Health Department at (203) 639-2245, and Yale New Haven Health at (833) ASK-YNHH [(833) 275-9644)].

For more information on Coronavirus and the vaccine, visit: https://portal.ct.gov/coronavirus. Or call the CT Virtual Assistant: (833) 250-7633. For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, please use 7-1-1 for relay services.

Department of Education Seeking Contact Tracing Support Staff

The Connecticut Department of Education is seeking to hire support staff for a K-12 contact tracing program, hoping to better control and monitor the potential spread of COVID-19 among students, staff, and faculty members. The contact tracing protocol involves finding individuals who came within close contact with infectious or potentially infectious individuals, isolating them, and voluntarily quarantining them. To apply, please fill out an application form at docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSclg9uTdIWRs51y7Z03uLPTP3VHsFkmlRyb6UntLJXX82J6mQ/viewform

COVID-19 Vaccine Information

By now, we hope PAR readers know that residents 75 years of age and older can get the COVID-19 vaccine. As of this printing, sometime in February, eligibility for the vaccine will be granted to people 65 years of age and older, front line workers, and people with underlying health conditions. Please call 2-1-1 for updated COVID-19 information. We want all of our readers to continue to wear masks and observe the recommended 6-feet anti-social distance guidelines. It won’t be for too much longer. Remember, it’s better to be patient than to be a patient.

The following notice was sent out by Sen. Martin Looney.

Those 75 and Older Can Now Register to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine

The state’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts have now expanded to phase 1b, and as a result, Connecticut residents who are 75 years or older now qualify to receive vaccines. Due to limited supply of the vaccine, registering through an online or phone system will be necessary.

To register online, please visit the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS). When accepted into the registration portal, you will receive emails detailing the next steps necessary in the scheduling process.

To register by phone, please call (877) 918-2224 during weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
For more information on Coronavirus and the vaccine, visit: https://portal.ct.gov/coronavirus. Or call the CT Virtual Assistant: (833) 250-7633. For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, please use 7-1-1 for relay services.

Alert: Pandemic Protocol at Yale New Haven Health Restricts Life-Saving Efforts for Some Patients

The PAR newsletter has received a copy of the “Yale New Haven Health Resuscitation Protocol for the COVID-19 Pandemic,” updated and issued to all medical staff on November 12. It was accompanied by the following comments.

Couched in vague language open to wide interpretation, this memorandum’s overall point is clear: even if critical care patients and/or their representatives desire intervention such as resuscitation or intubation, or have not yet made their wishes known, they may nevertheless be assigned “Do Not Resuscitate/Do Not Intubate” status by agreement of “two or more physicians.” While patient wishes, or those of their advocates, are to be “considered” if they can be “obtained,” the system is not bound to honor them, and is unlikely to do so if they contradict practitioners’ assessments.

It is stated that one reason to limit (or prohibit) cardiopulmonary resuscitation of “critically ill patients with COVID-19” is to avoid “exposing health care workers to high risk of infectious transmission,” a laudable goal on the face of it. Health care workers have been truly heroic in doing their jobs during this pandemic under terrible conditions. But they know that theirs is not a no- or even low-risk job. And PPE including face shields and masks are more available now than they were in the earliest days. Meanwhile, people go to the emergency room and to the hospital seeking critical care, believing in good faith that they will receive it. Are they to be denied that care because providing it has become too risky? And are people now required to merely accept the judgment of doctors they may never even have met, knowing the health care system is under serious economic pressure to have fewer, less critically ill patients?

The memo states that, in addition to this “system-wide notice,” “ the YNHHS Chief Clinical Officer, in collaboration with the YNHHS Chief Executive Officer and YNHHS Senior Vice President and General Counsel…shall determine an appropriate manner of notifying the public, patients and other stakeholders.” (Emphasis added.)

Since this is an update of a memo originally circulated in April which, to our knowledge, was never made available for public comment or scrutiny, PAR decided its readers should learn about this in a timely manner. Feel free to email us for a copy of the full memo at parnewhaven@hotmail.com.

State Launches $9 Million Arts Relief Fund

by Thomas Breen, New Haven Independent, Oct. 19, 2020

Arts nonprofits that have been pummeled by the COVID-19 pandemic have a new $9 million state relief fund to turn to for support in helping pay staff, cover student scholarships, and generally stay afloat during the ongoing economic downturn.

State Director of Arts, Preservation and Museums Liz Shapiro announced the imminent launch of the new financial aid effort Monday morning during a press conference held on the front steps of Neighborhood Music School on Audubon Street.

Flanked by Gov. Ned Lamont, Mayor Justin Elicker, and a host of state legislators and New Haven arts leaders, Shapiro said the COVID Relief Fund for the Arts will provide a baseline grant of $5,000 each for eligible recipients.

The fund will also provide a matching grant worth up to $750,000 each, as calculated at 50 percent of total private donations raised by an eligible organization between the start of the pandemic in early March and Nov. 1.

“Is this going to fix all things for all people?” asked Shapiro. “I don’t think we’re in a situation where we can fix all things for all nonprofits, all arts agencies, or all businesses. Is this going to help? Yes. Absolutely.”

The fund—which is made up of federal CARES Act money allocated by the state and which will be open to applications starting Friday and ending Nov. 3—is reserved for three specific types of arts nonprofit organizations: performing arts centers, performing groups, and schools of the arts.

Eligible organizations must show a documented loss of earned income of at least 20 percent year-to-date as of Sept. 30 in comparison to the same period last year. They have been established by Oct. 1, 2019. And they must have at least one full-time paid staff member, either salaried or contractual.

The complete article can be read online at https://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/state_arts_grant.

Update from Nicaragua as the Pandemic Arrives

by Susan Bramhall, New Haven/ León Sister City Project

In March and April, as the world began to face the historic public health crisis caused by COVID-19, the Nicaraguan government flagrantly ignored recommendations of health and human rights organizations by encouraging mass gatherings and requiring school attendance. During the April holidays, people were encouraged to celebrate semana santa as usual with trips to the beach and large gatherings. As of this writing, there are still no recommended social distancing measures and professional sports events continue to draw fans.

In the last few weeks, reports of the coronavirus illness have begun to emerge in the larger cities and there is now an outbreak in Chinandega – not far from our Sister City, León. There is still no acknowledgment that the pandemic is the cause but hospitals are reporting many cases of atypical pneumonia and a rise in sudden deaths from heart attack and stroke. Nicaraguans are reporting that when patients die, the bodies are buried immediately, often before families are notified. Testing, treatment and results are kept secret leading to more fear and suspicion.

The staff of the New Haven/León Sister City Project are currently healthy and trying to work from home but it is difficult to do social distancing or self-isolation. It is common for homes to contain large extended families and multiple generations and often a small store open to the public. During March and April, our staff was able to continue visiting the rural communities bringing some protective gear (masks) and, most important, information about the facts of the situation. As the community has begun to hear of the cases in nearby areas they are becoming more fearful of people from the city and our staff are now doing as much as they can from their homes.
Our León Director, Erendira Vanegas, reminds us that this is a new crisis within the existing crisis created by the 2018 crackdown against protest and the devastating effect that was already having on the Nicaraguan economy. The crisis created by the pandemic on top of the economic challenges already in play have been overwhelming and has created increased food insecurity. Our Nicaraguan team advises that an urgent need is enhanced access to food for the rural population. The Sister City Project has long been supplementing the meal that children get at school – a meal they may miss if they are not in school. We are currently researching organizations we can partner with to ensure food security for Goyena and Troilo.

If you would like to make a special donation to bolster our programs please visit our website at newhavenleon.org/get-involved/give.

As always, muchisimas gracias to all our supporters in the area.

Reach Out New Haven: Call if You Need Help

In these anxious, isolating and uncertain times, many people don’t know where to turn for resources and someone to talk with. The Clifford Beers Center has launched a warmline to help connect you with various programs for your needs. Also, if you want someone to talk with, have questions on how to get information about COVID-19, or need help, we are here with compassionate listeners who are trained in providing mental health guidance. Please call us for help! The number is (203) 287-2460.

Visit our website for more information and a listing of links for useful information at www.cliffordbeers.org/covid-19-resources.

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