A “liberal” lesbian teenager has outed her family as being involved in a violent confrontation during the US Capitol riots.
Five people died during the chaotic Capitol riots on 6 January, which followed months of escalating posturing and rhetoric by MAGA extremists who vowed not to let president-elect Joe Biden take power.
One woman was shot by police, and three others died as a result of “medical emergencies”, officials said. Fourteen police officers were injured.
Images of white supremacists assaulting police officers spread rapidly online, as both law enforcement and the general public sought to identify the armed and angry Donald Trump supporters.
Helena Duke, a “liberal” lesbian teenager, saw three of her family members in videos of the riots – and identified them online.
“Hi this is the liberal lesbian of the family who has been kicked out multiple times for her views and for going to BLM protests to care what happens to me,” Duke posted alongside pictures of three people on Twitter.
“So, Mom: Therese Duke. Uncle: Richard Lorenz. Aunt: Annie Lorenz,” she added.
Duke’s mum, Therese, had initially lied to her about where she was going – saying she was accompanying a relative to a medical appointment, BuzzFeed News reports.
But Duke and her cousin worked together to reveal that Therese had actually gone to Washington DC during the violent attempted coup.
“My initial reaction was more like, ‘Oh my gosh, I was right. I was actually right about them being there,’” Helena, 18, told BuzzFeed News. “It was very surreal because it was an insane video, first of all, and then it was the revelation that, ‘Oh, that’s my mother. That’s her.’”
Duke said her mum was previously a Democrat voter but made a swift switch to the right when Trump was elected in 2016.
She’s been praised for her bravery in outing her family, particularly by other people who’ve lost family members to the “Trump cult”. Many of them contacted her to sympathise.
“I think it kind of makes me feel better knowing other people have gone through the same thing,” Duke said. “I obviously feel very sad that they have to go through it too, but that I’m not alone, and that they’re not alone.”
It is unclear whether Duke’s family actually stormed the Capitol or if they remained outside. On returning home they asked Duke to take down her tweets identifying them. She refused.
Residents of Heber City, Utah, may not see rainbow banners waving along their Main Street during Pride Month, as they have in years past, but they’ll soon get an LGBTQ center to call their own.
Inspired by headlines about a controversial ordinance that may prevent advocates from installing Pride banners on city lampposts during Pride Month in June, the LGBTQ nonprofit Encircle announced that it will erect an LGBTQ resource center in Heber City. Encircle Heber, which will be just blocks from the public high school, will take the shape of a newly constructed house with a large gathering area, therapy rooms, a music room and an art room.
“The house, of course, is a safe space; it makes it feel like home, look like home, so that these individuals have a place to come every day and feel loved and accepted, maybe when they don’t feel at home in a school or church or even their own homes,” Encircle Executive Director Stephanie Larsen said.
Since 2019, the sight of rainbow flags on Heber City lampposts during June has ignited debate in the small, predominantly Mormon town, with some conservative residents viewing the banners as city-sanctioned “political” speech. In response to the backlash, the City Council passed an ordinance in August to restrict “political” banners and require that all banners on city lampposts get sponsorship from the city, Wasatch County or the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce. Because of the debate within the community over whether Pride banners are “political,” it’s unclear whether city officials will approve them this year.
“We call flags ‘political,’ yet behind every flag there is an individual who, I believe, those flags are sending a message of acceptance and love for those who are in the community who are LGBTQ,” said Larsen, whose organization has built LGBTQ community centers in three other cities in Utah.
While proponents argue that the ordinance is necessary to prevent potential hate groups from displaying their own banners, LGBTQ advocates claim that the ordinance is a thinly veiled attempt to ban rainbow flags from being publicly displayed in the city. Similar controversy over Pride banners flared in other cities last year, including Reading, Pennsylvania; Woonsocket, Rhode Island; Foster City, California; and Minot, North Dakota.
Heber City is far from the only community in Utah where Pride flags have stirred contention. For the last two years, the Salt Lake City-based nonprofit Project Rainbow has rented out rainbow flags for $14 to people across Utah so they could stake them in their yards during the city’s Pride festivities. While the group staked about 1,400 rented flags in 2019 and more than doubled that number in 2020, many flags were stolen or vandalized, said the group’s founder, Lucas Horns. Horns estimated that 10 percent of the group’s flags staked across the state last year were stolen or vandalized, and he said the organization even got backlash on social media from people accusing it of “forcing their beliefs” on communities.
Heber City resident Allison Phillips Belnap, 47, is a lesbian, a suicide survivor and a former Mormon. She raised money in 2019 and 2020 to install the rainbow banners on the city’s lampposts hoping to show support for LGBTQ youths and to help curb the suicide rate of young people in Utah, where the youth suicide rate has tripled since 2017. She said it’s “so exciting” that Encircle, which provides suicide prevention services for queer youths, will open a center in Heber City.
“I think it’s going to create a space that hasn’t existed,” she said. “That’s going to prove very important as we support [LGBTQ] youth and try to diminish the negative mental health effects that have been happening in that population and the troublesome trends towards increased suicidality in that population.”
More than $350,000 has been raised to build the resource center, which is expected to open in the fall. In addition to therapy and suicide prevention services, the center will host “friendship circles” for LGBTQ youths and will also offer support to parents who need help understanding and accepting their LGBTQ kids, Larsen said.https://www.instagram.com/p/CIO_1WXBfZn/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=8&wp=1116&rd=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com&rp=%2Ffeature%2Fnbc-out%2Flgbtq-center-open-utah-town-embroiled-rainbow-flag-controversy-n1253779#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A717%2C%22ls%22%3A692.0000000000001%2C%22le%22%3A715%7D
But what does “back” actually mean when the U.S. is still in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic, and the vast majority of Americans are not vaccinated? Is it safer now to spend time around friends, family or other daily contacts who haven’t gotten their shots? Can you see someone who has been vaccinated even if you have not?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines appear to be remarkably effective based on the data currently available. The Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 seven days after the second “booster” dose, while the Moderna vaccine is 94% effective 14 days after the second dose. THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO TAKING CARE OF YOUR MIND AND BODYSubscribe to HuffPost’s wellness emailSuccessfully Subscribed!Wellness delivered to your inbox
The key there is that both shots require two doses to provide full immunity, and those shots must be spaced out quite a bit (21 days between doses for the Pfizer vaccine; 28 for the Moderna). https://action.publicgood.com/embed.html?partner_id=verizon-huffpost&utm_source=verizon-huffpost&title=Is%20It%20Safe%20To%20See%20People%20Who%20Have%20Gotten%20The%20COVID-19%20Vaccine%3F&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffpost.com%2Fentry%2Fsafe-be-around-someone-covid-vaccine_l_5ffc6e7ec5b63642b6fdbfd7&utm_content=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffpost.com%2Fentry%2Fsafe-be-around-someone-covid-vaccine_l_5ffc6e7ec5b63642b6fdbfd7&widget_type=card&action=Default&is_flex=true&match_type=terms&content_id=14026737&cid_match_type=regex&ga_not_allowed=true&tag=coronavirus%20~%20mountain%20dew%20terms%20match&target_id=5d10e3b1-74cb-4571-9f3c-b475ab3c1b69&target_type=campaign&is_filter=true&url_id=25984419&parent_org=verizon&target_name=Step%20Up%20and%20Help%20Communities%20in%20Need&is_sponsored=true&sponsor_name=MTN%20DEW%C2%AE
“It takes a while for immunity to build up,” explained Edgar Sanchez, the vice chairman of the infectious disease group with Orlando Health in Florida. Experts believe it is likely that the first shot alone offers some level of protection against COVID-19, but it’s not clear how much — or at what point that immunity boost kicks in.
Sanchez, for example, had just received his second vaccine dose when he spoke to HuffPost — and said he was feeling “great” emotionally and physically (despite a heavy arm), but that he wasn’t behaving any differently.
“It doesn’t mean today I’m free to just do whatever I want,” he said. “I saw COVID-19 patients today, and I was taking just as many precautions as I did yesterday before I was vaccinated.”
Once you’ve been fully vaccinated, your own risk of getting COVID-19 goes way down.
The good news?
“If you have been vaccinated, you can believe that your own risk of getting symptomatic or severe COVID-19 disease is significantly reduced,” said Eric Robinette, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio.
But “significantly reduced” is not the same as nonexistent.
Even though both vaccines appear to be highly effective at protecting individuals against COVID-19, it’s still possible for a person who has received both doses to catch the virus.
And you *could* still pass the virus on to someone else.
It’s currently unclear whether getting vaccinated protects a person from spreading the coronavirus to others. That is something that is usually determined in vaccine research trials, but it hasn’t been sorted out because of the sprint to create COVID-19 vaccines. And researchers aren’t yet sure whether the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines protect against asymptomatic infection.
All of which means that an individual who has received both doses of the vaccine could potentially unknowingly become infected without showing any symptoms. And that person could then pass COVID-19 along to his or her contacts without realizing it — again, despite being vaccinated.
“We do not have clinical data as to whether the vaccine prevents people from developing asymptomatic COVID infection that they can transmit to others,” Robinette said. “That type of immunity is referred to as ‘sterilizing immunity,’ the idea being that the person not only doesn’t get sick, but is also ‘sterilized’ of the virus.”
He said he suspects researchers will have more information on this question in the coming months, and they tend to be hopeful the answer will be good.
“I am optimistic based on the basic science information previously described that the vaccine will at least reduce transmission risk,” Robinette said. “For now, the safe thing is to assume that only the person who has received the vaccine is protected from COVID-19.”
Masks and distancing are still necessary.
Because the vaccines do not offer 100% protection — and because it’s possible that a person who has been vaccinated can unknowingly spread the virus to others — it’s essential to continue following proven public health measures, like universal masking and physical distancing.
Does that mean that, say, a grandparent cannot visit a family member they haven’t seen in months? Or that a vaccinated health care worker can’t spend time with a friend who has not yet received both shots? Those are decisions that individuals are going to have to make themselves (heeding local restrictions, of course) — but with the understanding that certain precautions should stay in place.
“Especially in the beginning, when most people are not vaccinated, we really should not be changing behaviors at all,” Sanchez said. “We still need to wear masks, we still need to social distance.”
It’s going to take a while until we reach herd immunity.
Infectious disease experts have waffled on what it will take to reach herd immunity in the U.S. Initially, they estimated that 60% to 70% of the population will need resistance to COVID-19 in order to stop it from spreading; now they’re saying it is probably more like 75% to 85%, or perhaps even higher.
Getting to that point will hinge largely on vaccination. The vaccine rollout has been slow thus far, and there is no approved vaccine for children yet. Health officials have said in the past that most adults in the U.S. should have access to the vaccine by the end of June; it’s not clear whether we are still on target for that goal.
Experts say we’re likely going to be living with relatively easy, low-cost public health precautions — again, like masking, distancing and strict adherence to hand-washing — for some time.
“I hope,” Robinette said of those who receive both doses of the vaccine relatively early on in the rollout, “that people will use their newfound freedom to help others who haven’t yet been fortunate enough to be able to get the vaccine.”
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.
Shortly after a mob of President Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, Kristopher Dreww recorded a fiery video in his Washington, D.C., hotel room. Full of bravado, the 32-year-old Huntington Beach hairdresser and well-known far-right activist praised the insurrectionists as patriots and dispelled the rumor that Antifa members had any involvement the siege that delayed Congress’ certification of electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden.
“I just got back from storming the Capitol,” said Dreww, who appeared energized and jittery in the video. “It was successful. For all you bitches on Facebook going crazy talking about it was Antifa, and saying it wasn’t us, it was us. We proudly took back our Capitol. They brought the National Guard out for us. We had the (expletive) cops running from us. Not because they are bitches but because they are smart. We did it. God it’s so exhilarating!”
Read the full article. As you’ll see, Dreww now tearfully claims he was peacefully eating a sandwich under a tree during the riot and that the FBI would be “wasting their time” coming after him. Dreww says he fears for his life and that his beauty salon is doomed. His YouTube channelis titled “The Adorable Deplorable” and many of his clips featured him “owning” gays by showing up at LGBT events in Trump drag.
Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, has urged anyone travelling abroad to party during the coronavirus pandemic to rethink their actions.
LGBT+ people across the world have watched on in horror in recent weeks as queer people – largely cis, white gay men – flocked to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico for circuit parties, despite an alarming rise in the number of people contracting the virus in many parts of the world.
When asked if he had a message for those travelling abroad at a press conference on Thursday (7 January), Garcetti said there was “no issue towards the LGBT+ community per se”, making the wider plea: “This is not a time to be partying anywhere.”
LA mayor Eric Garcetti says a few days of fun could result in people dying.
The mayor continued: “There’s a mandatory isolation quarantine when you come back of 10 days if you leave this city, and right now the guidance is against that – full stop, period.
“Are you really going to have a few days of fun that results in somebody you know being hospitalised or worse yet, dying? Or even you? Don’t do it. I’ve said from the beginning of this, don’t be stupid.
“I know how tough it is right now, I know how much people need to be together, I know how much they want to be together. But if people die they will never be together.”
Garcetti’s comments come after an anonymous Instagram account, called GaysOverCovid, sparked a “civil war” within the LGBT+ community last week.
The account was set up in the summer of 2020 to call out queer people flouting coronavirus restrictions – but it has taken on a life of its own in recent weeks after a huge number of gay men travelled to Puerto Vallarta to attend New Year’s Eve festivities.
The account has won praise from many queer people for calling out bad behaviour that puts other people’s lives and health at risk – however, others have defended the queer people exposed on the account, criticising the anonymous curator for sharing details of their holidays in the process.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order on Friday blocking, in its entirety, a Trump administration rule that would have made it virtually impossible for all refugees, including those who are LGBTQ or living with HIV, to secure asylum in the United States. The rule was set to go into effect on Jan. 11.
“Today’s ruling halts the most sweeping illegal, anti-refugee volley of the Trump administration,” said Bridget Crawford, legal director for Immigration Equality. “Asylum is an international human right. LGBTQ and HIV-positive refugees fleeing persecution will always be welcomed in the U.S.”
The case, Immigration Equality v. Department of Homeland Security, was filed on behalf of plaintiffs Immigration Equality, Oasis Legal Services, The TransLatin@ Coalition, Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, and Transgender Law Center. Had the rule been allowed to go into effect, the population these organizations directly serve, asylum seekers who are LGBTQ or living with HIV, will face insurmountable barriers to asylum in the U.S., despite the fact that they have remarkably strong asylum claims.
“In effect, the government keeps crashing the same car into a gate, hoping that someday it might break through … But our system has no room for relitigating the same facts and law in successive district court cases ad infinitum … Plaintiffs provide legal services and other assistance to those seeking asylum and similar protections from persecution or violence in their home countries. They have provided ample evidence that if enacted, the Rule would harm this mission … A nationwide injunction is warranted.”
“This rule is part of the Trump administration’s relentless efforts to close our doors to migrants and here, in particular, to refugees escaping persecution, even as the administration’s days wane. The rule is rooted in xenophobia and cruelty. It also is a haphazard attempt to enact a sweeping and unworkable overhaul of our asylum system, without adequate justification or compliance with the law,” said Gonzalez-Pagan in a statement. “Lives are at stake and we are relieved that the court has put this abhorrent policy on hold while we continue to make our case. We are gratified by the court’s quick action and confident that these attempted changes will never take effect.”
The rule — promulgated by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — is especially dire for people who are LGBTQ or living with HIV, who have no other recourse but to flee the unimaginable violence they experience in their countries of origin. In over 70 countries it is a crime or fundamentally unsafe to be LGBTQ or HIV-positive. The suit challenges multiple sections of the rule for creating numerous reasons why immigration judges should deny claims of refugees who otherwise qualify for asylum.
The rule denies asylum to people who:
· apply for asylum based on fear of persecution due to their gender, which may be interpreted by authorities as including LGBTQ asylum seekers;
· didn’t apply for asylum in a transit country, regardless of whether that nation is safe;
· stayed in a transit country for more than 14 days, even if they were trapped in that country;
· lived in the U.S. for more than one year without permission, even if they qualify for an exception to the one-year filing deadline;
· have otherwise strong claims of persecution if they are unable to prove that government officials participated in the abuse (e.g. violence by private actors, such as civilians who perpetrate mob violence or so-called “corrective rape,” will not count as evidence toward an asylum claim);
· are unable to explain in their first interaction with immigration officials the particular social group they are a part of, requiring LGBTQ and HIV-positive people to disclose and describe their identity and intimate details about their personal lives with particular concepts and language.
Activists around the world say the U.S. Capitol siege demonstrated white supremacy remains a pervasive problem in the U.S.
Naomi Fontanos, executive director of Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA), an LGBTQ advocacy group in the Philippines, on Saturday told the Washington Blade “the attack on the U.S. Capitol was not a revelation, but a confirmation of what America is really is: A hotbed of structural, institutional and systemic racism.”
“After the massive protests brought about by the death of George Floyd, it was saddening to see that not much has changed in terms of white supremacist, toxic masculine aggression and violence and how easily these can be mobilized under a macho-fascist leader like Trump,” said Fontanos.
Tarek Zeidan, executive director of Helem, the oldest LGBTQ rights group in Lebanon, on Friday during a WhatsApp interview from Beirut cited the “scandalous double standard at how the same police dealt with the Black Lives Matter protesters over the summer.”
“This was a huge eye opener,” said Zeidan.
OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern echoed Zeidan in a statement to the Blade.
“Can you imagine how Black Lives Matter activists would have been treated if they attacked the Capitol,” she said. “Without a doubt, Wednesday’s events confirmed America’s double standard when it comes to race, again and again giving white people special rights.”
“The incoming Congress, president-elect and all of us must do better,” added Stern. “If the U.S. doesn’t respect human rights and democracy at home, we don’t have a leg to stand on internationally.”
Ahmed el-Hady, a queer Egyptian activist who lives in New York, during an interview with the Blade on Friday said the “biggest white militia in the United States is the police.” El-Hady added law enforcement’s response to the siege was not a surprise.
“It wasn’t really surprising who has privilege in this country,” he said.
Sally Goldner — a veteran transgender, bisexual and pansexual activist in the Australian city of Melbourne, in an email to the Blade said she watched the siege “with feelings of shock, sadness, disbelief and also feeling overwhelmed in a sense of feeling deluged.” Goldner, like el-Hady and others, also raised the issue of privilege in the U.S.
“I suppose people with all the privilege — in the case of the terrorists who stormed the Capitol, being cisgender, white, predominantly male and presumably heterosexual feel so threatened at the idea of losing power and privilege as they attempt an insurrection,” said Goldner.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are among the world leaders who condemned the siege that began as members of Congress were certifying the Electoral College results that confirmed the election of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris. Trump supporters marched to the Capitol after the outgoing president spoke at the “Save America Rally” on the Ellipse.
Brian Sicknick, a member of the U.S. Capitol Police Department, died on Thursday after rioters attacked him with a fire extinguisher during the siege.
Another Capitol Police officer shot and killed a Trump supporter outside the U.S. House of Representatives chamber. Three other people died of “medical emergencies” during the siege.
The Metropolitan Police Department on Thursday announced on Twitter that it has so far arrested 68 people, recovered six firearms and two pipe bombs in connection with the siege. CNN reported the Justice Department has charged 13 people, including an Arkansas man who was photographed sitting at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)’s desk.
Social media users continue to identify rioters once pictures of them inside the Capitol go online.
“The mob assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6 shocked the world,” ILGA World Executive Director André du Plessis told the Blade on Friday.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday in a statementsaid the siege “demonstrated clearly the destructive impact of sustained, deliberate distortion of acts, and incitement to violence and hatred by political leaders.”
“Allegations of electoral fraud have been invoked to try to undermine the right to political participation. We are encouraged to see that the process has continued in spite of serious attempts to disrupt it,” added the former Chilean president. “We call on leaders from across the political spectrum, including the President of the United States, to disavow false and dangerous narratives, and encourage their supporters to do so as well. We note with dismay the serious threats and destruction of property faced by media professionals yesterday. We support calls from many quarters for a thorough investigation into Wednesday’s events.
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, echoed Bachelet.
“The attack on the Capitol will hopefully be the last on (sic) a series of acts systematically destined to undermine the respect for human rights, the rule of law and the separation of powers,” said Madrigal-Borloz on Thursday in a tweet.
Siege ‘will forever be a stain’ on US
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster in a statement to the Blade noted the U.S. “has been the beacon of democracy that other nations admire.”
“The images of the assault on our democracy and our Capitol, led by a tyrannical president, with our government leaders inside, will forever be a stain on that beacon of democracy by the outside world,” he said.
Brewster added the world on Wednesday “did see our leaders stand strong against the president and the other insurgents.”
“Our democracy was not deterred and our Constitutional work by our leaders moved forward to certify the electoral votes and to confirm Joe Biden as the next president and Kamala Harris as vice president,” he told the Blade. “In challenging times is when a democracy shows its strength. We showed that strength!”
Tamara Adrián, the first openly transgender woman elected to the Venezuela’s National Assembly, on Friday largely agreed with Brewster.
“The existence of anti-democratic elements in any level of public life can exist in any country,” Adrián told the Blade. “A democracy’s maturity and solidity, however, is measured by its institutions’ capacity to resist these claims of democracy’s destruction. The U.S. has given a lesson of institutional maturity and solidity in the face of the pretenses of democratic destabilization.”
Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele agreed on December 15 to implement an Asylum Cooperative Agreement with the US government. It allows US immigration authorities to transfer non-Salvadoran asylum seekers to El Salvador, instead of allowing them to seek asylum in the US.
US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to terminate the deeply flawed agreement, a deeply flawed deal that presupposes El Salvador can provide a full and fair asylum procedure and protect refugees. But for some groups, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, El Salvador provides no safe haven. Its own LGBT citizens lack protection from violence and discrimination.
A recent Human Rights Watch report confirms the Salvadoran government’s own acknowledgmentthat LGBT people face “torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, excessive use of force, illegal and arbitrary arrests and other forms of abuse, much of it committed by public security agents.” Social and economic marginalization further increase the risk of violence. Many LGBT people flee from home.
Between January 2007 and November 2017, over 1,200 Salvadorans sought asylum in the US due to fear of persecution for their sexual orientation or gender identity. In a groundbreaking judgment, a UK court recently granted asylum to a non-binary Salvadoran, finding that their gender expression exposed them to police violence and daily abuse and degradation.
Five years ago, El Salvador seemed poised to champion LGBT rights. It joined the UN LGBTI Core Group. It increased sentences for bias-motivated crimes. Its Sexual Diversity Directorate trained public servants and monitored government policies for LGBT inclusiveness.
The Salvadoran government should back a gender identity law and comprehensive civil non-discrimination legislation, prosecute anti-LGBT hate crimes, and reestablish a well-resourced office to promote inclusion and eradicate anti-LGBT violence. It should axe the Asylum Cooperative Agreement.
As things stand, El Salvador fails to provide effective protection to its own LGBT citizens, let alone LGBT people fleeing persecution elsewhere.
With the coronavirus raging and leaving a deadly wake in Sonoma County, the nearly monthlong lockdown set to be lifted Saturday has been extended at least another month.
County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase confirmed Friday the local public health stay-home order that strictly limits daily life and commercial activities will remain in place four more weeks. The directive had gone into effect Dec. 12 to counter an alarming increase in COVID-19 transmission and help contend with expected challenging weeks of the infectious disease.
With 3,029 new virus infections the past two weeks and deaths mounting in January at a record pace, it’s unsurprising the lockdown will continue into February.
On Friday, local public health officials reported five more people died of complications of COVID-19, raising the weekly death toll to 23 and to 27 so far this month. Now, 219 county residents have lost their lives to the contagion since the pandemic began last March.
And this winter resurgence of the coronavirus is expected to claim more lives in the coming weeks, as one local infectious disease doctor on Thursday called the number of deaths “the tip of the iceberg.”
The physician, Dr. Gary Green, at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital predicted: “I really think that January is going to be, probably, the most deadly month in the pandemic so far.”
Mase has issued a blunt warning to county residents to adhere to the public health order because the area is experiencing “really widespread community transmission now with a case rate that is three to four times higher than what it was just six to eight weeks ago.”
Much like the widespread restrictions issued in March at the start of the pandemic, the county’s extended lockdown will deliver yet another blow to some of the county’s core economic sectors and small businesses. Restaurants, breweries and wineries only can sell food and beverages for takeout or delivery. A slew of personal care salons will remain closed for haircuts, manicures and pedicures, among other services. Hotels are barred from booking leisure travel guests.
Retail operations will be allowed to continue at 20% of customer capacity, or 35% capacity for stand-alone grocery stores.
Residents are advised to stay home, except for essential work and errands and outdoor recreation to remain healthy. All gatherings outside the home of any size are temporarily banned. Outdoor services are allowed at places of worship. Families can take their children to playgrounds.
Last month, the county’s return to a shutdown came a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-home order for all regions of the state where hospital intensive care unit bed availability dropped below 15%. At that time, the ICU capacity for Bay Area hospitals was 17.8%. This week, as of Tuesday, the latest data available, that ICU availability has plunged to 7.4% for the region.
However, Sonoma County hospitals still have roughly 28% of intensive care beds open. For the most part, they continue performing elective surgeries and keep balancing treating virus patients and those suffering with other illnesses.
Although the rampant virus spread is assaulting a broad part of the county, once again the pandemic is tormenting skilled nursing centers and residential care homes for the elderly. The virus devastated these sites in August but had ebbed, only to come roaring back. There’s been about 150 new infections at senior care homes of the county most vulnerable residents the past two weeks, and 10 residents have died from COVID-19.
For nursing home residents, death from COVID-19 is one of extreme isolation and misery, said Jenny Fish, a local hospice physician and one of the founders of HPEACE, a health care advocacy organization. Fish works with a number of hospice nurses who care for patients in local senior care homes.