Pandemic | COVID-Related

State to repay inmates for seized unemployment benefits

The state has agreed to return unemployment benefits it seized from about 50 incarcerated workers at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

The U.S. District Court in Portland received Tuesday, April 26 a request from the state to approve the settlement of a class action lawsuit challenging the state’s seizure of unemployment benefits that had been awarded to inmates when COVID-19 forced them to leave their work release jobs in the community.

The lawsuit was filed in June 2020 by attorney Christopher MacLean of Camden on behalf of then inmate Marc Sparks. The lawsuit asked the U.S. District Court to rule the order by Gov. Janet Mills to stop the payments was

California firefighter settles whistleblower lawsuit against US Forest Service

Former Klamath National Forest seasonal firefighter Pedro Rios ended up on the U.S. Forest Service’s “do not rehire” list after a 2020 post on social media about what he perceived as the agency’s lax COVID-19 rules during the pandemic, which could have endangered the health of his young son.

Rios sued the agency, alleging that refusing to rehire him for the 2021 fire season was the result of “retaliation for whistleblowing activity.”

Earlier this month, the Forest Service reached a settlement to award Rios $115,000 in back pay, after an administrative judge for the government’s Merit Systems Protection Board found that Rios had “exhausted his administrative remedies and made non-frivolous allegations entitling him to a hearing.”

Administrative Judge Michael Shachat also ordered the agency to

Lawsuit: COVID treatment discriminates against white people

Two white men sued city health departments Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court claiming eligibility requirements for COVID-19 treatments are anti-white.

Jonathan Roberts, 61, and Charles Vavruska, 55, are suing based on New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene guidelines that instruct healthcare providers to “consider race and ethnicity when assessing an individual’s risk.”

The guidelines include this instruction in a list of factors to consider when evaluating eligibility for monoclonal antibodies and oral antivirals like Paxlovid and molnupiravir, which are in short supply.

The guidelines elaborate that “Impacts of longstanding systemic health and social inequities put Black, Indigenous and People of Color at increased risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes and death.”

The suit claims that considering race or ethnicity as a medical risk factor has “no basis in science.”

Medical consensus agrees that Black Americans are getting more severe coronavirus symptoms and dying at a higher rate than white Americans.

A study cited by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found about 90% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 had an underlying condition.

An article published in John Hopkins Medicine by endocrinologist Dr. Sherita Hill Golden says people of color are more likely to have chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and lung disease.

According to Golden, those underlying conditions may have gone untreated due to inconsistent access to healthcare. Black Americans are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured compared to white Americans.

Rutgers Settles Tuition Reimbursement Lawsuit In COVID Shutdown

Rutgers University in New Jersey agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by a parent against the school, who argued that their daughter did not receive the college education they paid for when the campus went all virtual in spring of 2020.

On Friday, Rutgers agreed to pay a $5 million settlement on behalf of everyone who paid Rutgers Spring 2020 semester fees. New Jersey Superior Court Judge Alberto Rivas approved the settlement last week: It means all 64,500 Rutgers undergrads who paid spring 2020 tuition will get about a $63 refund, NJ Spotlight reported.

Although the refund is very small, Rutgers appears to be the first college in America that closed because of coronavirus and is now giving refunds acknowledging the differences in in-class and online learning.

The Real Cause of the Crisis in Our Hospitals Is Greed

We’re entering our third year of Covid, and America’s nurses — who we celebrated as heroes during the early days of lockdown — are now leaving the bedside. The pandemic arrived with many people having great hope for reform on many fronts, including the nursing industry, but much of that optimism seems to have faded.

In the Opinion Video above, nurses set the record straight about the root cause of the nursing crisis: chronic understaffing by profit-driven hospitals that predates the pandemic. “I could no longer work in critical care under the conditions I was being forced to work under with poor staffing,” explains one nurse, “and that’s when I left.” They also tear down the common misconception that there’s a shortage of nurses. In fact, there are more qualified nurses today in America than ever before.

To keep patients safe and protect our health care workers, lawmakers could regulate nurse-patient ratios, which California put in place in 2004, with positive results. Similar legislation was proposed and defeated in Massachusetts several years ago (with help from a $25 million “no” campaign funded by the hospital lobby), but it is currently on the table in Illinois and Pennsylvania. These laws could save patient lives and create a more just work environment for a vulnerable generation of nurses, the ones we pledged to honor and protect at the start of the pandemic.

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