Chadwick Boseman’s Memory Lives On

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On August 28, 2020, Chadwick Boseman passed away after a four-year long battle with colon cancer. Boseman most famously starred as T’Challa in the 2018 film, “Black Panther”, but he was more than just an actor. He was an inspiration to Black youth all over the world — a hero both on and off the screen. Despite Boseman’s passing, his memory and work will live on forever. 

While the list of superhero movies goes on and on, until “Black Panther” was released, the representation of Black characters in these films was limited. Out of the few Black characters that there are, few of them serve as the main character, and even fewer of them are in the most popular blockbusters This lack of representation is damaging to Black youth, as it sends the message that certain races are not as welcome in society as others. Additionally, it can affect kids’ mental health and self esteem: it’s harmful when you don’t see people that you can identify with that are successful in life. PBS interviewed various middle and high school students on their opinions about representation in film. One of the interviewees, Kimore Willis, stated that “It just makes you feel like, ‘Why don’t I see anybody like me?’ [It] kind of like brings your self-esteem down.” Willis’ response was echoed by many other students that were interviewed. 

However, future generations will be able to look at Boseman’s portrayal of T’Challa and not only see a superhero, but a role model and a leader. While T’Challa is an amazing superhero, Boseman’s performance was what truly brought this character to life. His devotion and commitment to the character shined through, and everyone who watched Black Panther could see Boseman’s passion and hard work in his embodiment of T’Challa. 

Boseman’s impact undoubtedly reached the people in our very own community as well.   Kaylyn Beckford, a Black student at the School describes him as “powerful” and a “role model” as well as a “worldwide phenomenon.” “It was extremely uplifting to see so many Black boys dressed up as Black Panther,” she said. 

While Boseman himself was not a superhero, he exemplified Black Panther in real life through his kind and selfless nature. The hard work that Boseman put into his films even while undergoing cancer treatments is one of the many amazing things that he has done. He made hundreds of visits to kids suffering from terminal illnesses, demonstrating his desire to both inspire and uplift others despite his own struggles. His commencement speech at Howard University is yet another example of how he strived to influence the next generation of black leaders. One striking quote from his speech was: “Many of you will leave Howard and enter systems and institutions that have a history of discrimination and marginalization.” He continued by saying that “You can use your education to improve the world that you are entering.” While Boseman is sadly no longer with us, his memory will continue to uplift and inspire Black youth for decades. 

 

Learning While Black | How Everyday Racism Impacts Black Students

How Does Biden’s VP Pick Affect his Candidacy?

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, many Americans have forgotten that the 2020 Presidential Election is less than 6 months away. With Bernie Sanders dropping out of the race last month, Joe Biden has become the presumptive Democratic nominee and has begun the vetting process for a vice president. Ever since he pledged that his running mate will be a woman, several names have been floated, and multiple reports claim that he has a shortlist of about a dozen candidates. He needs a well-liked and experienced vice president to solidify his candidacy, and his choice could make or break his chances of defeating Donald Trump in November.

One of Biden’s biggest priorities is getting progressives on board with his campaign. Many have openly expressed their concerns about  Biden, citing his vote for the Iraq War and his previous opposition to Social Security, among other things. To attract the progressive vote, he could choose Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Senator and former Presidential Candidate, to be his VP. In many ways, choosing Warren makes a lot of sense. She is progressive, well-known, and has a compelling personal story. However, Warren is far from a perfect candidate. She is 70 years old, and with Biden being 77, many advocate for a younger person to be selected. Additionally, she is not a person of color and would not racially diversify Biden’s ticket. Lastly, she is a somewhat controversial figure within the progressive movement, as many believe her decision not to drop out and support Bernie Sanders before Super Tuesday was fatal to his campaign. 

Another priority that Biden must address is his issues with minority voters. In the primaries, Latinx voters overwhelmingly backed Bernie Sanders, so if Biden wants to make states like Arizona and Texas competitive, he needs to increase their turnout. To do so, he could select Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. On paper, she seems like an ideal candidate; she is Latina, from a swing state, and young. The only problem is that she is not well-known nationally. 

Biden must also convince African Americans to turnout in large numbers. While they overwhelmingly backed him in the primaries, they failed to turn out for Hillary Clinton in 2016 the same way they turned out for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, so Biden could decide to nominate an African American in order to inspire a large turnout. Many believe that his current top choice is California Senator Kamala Harris. Simply put, Harris checks the most boxes of any choice; she is black (and Indian), is somewhat progressive, has experience as a Senator and Attorney General, and is well-known nationally. Biden could also pick Stacey Abrams of Georgia or Val Demmings of Florida to attempt to tilt those competitive states in his favor. 

Lastly, Biden would benefit from convincing some moderate, “Never Trump”
Republicans in competitive states to vote for him instead of voting for a third party candidate or sitting out the election entirely. He could increase his odds of doing so by choosing Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is ideologically very similar to Biden and has a track record of winning races in a competitive state. He could also choose Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, whose response to the Covid-19 outbreak in her state propelled herself into the national spotlight. Both of these picks would make logical sense, but would fail to racially diversify his ticket. 

Ultimately, Biden can go in many directions with his VP pick. It remains to be seen, though, whether his choice will be the difference-maker in what many are calling the most important election of our generation.

*Note: Since the time this article was written, Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto has withdrawn her name from consideration to be Joe Biden’s vice president.

2020-21 Student Council

On May 6th, the student body met virtually to elect members to fill student council positions for the 2020-2021 school year. Although it was a tight race with all very promising candidates, the student body named Lisa Kopelnik ‘21 and Cole Wogan ‘21 as All-School Co-Presidents, Sophie Coutu ‘21 and Loucas Xenakis ‘21 as All-School Spirit Masters, Audrey Hardtke ‘22 as All-School Secretary, and Hayden Thompson ‘23 as All-School Treasurer. 

With the future for the school year being so uncertain, it is important that the School’s leadership has clear first steps for the time to come, whether that be in a distance-learning format or not. 

All-School Co-Presidents Kopelnik and Wogan are working to figure out ways to create change from home. Some of their immediate goals include creating adult-free forums over Google Meet for the student body to voice their opinions and ideas and sending Google Forms where students can vote on policy proposals. Some of their goals for the year include frequent meetings with the administration, “specifically the Board of Student Life, the Board of Finances and Financial Administration” (Kopelnik). They also want to work with Ms. Pak and Ms. Tucker and “make sure we’re updated on teacher training.” 

Despite our current distance-learning format, they don’t believe we need to halt all of the projects started this year, and there is still lots of work that can be accomplished from home and online. Some of their goals include implementing consistent consent training, creating clear policies surrounding the use of derogatory language, and combating the School’s issues with racism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia. The newly-elected Co-Presidents are making it a point to prioritize policy creation and increased communication within the community and with the administration.  

By the end of their term, they want the School to be a less stressful place that cares about the emotional wellbeing of the students, prioritizes their needs, and is a safer place for marginalized communities. 

The All-School Spirit Masters Coutu and Xenakis are “prepared to go to any lengths they need to in order to make spirit inclusive, community-oriented, and fun for everyone” (Coutu). They are planning to close out the year on a high note and work with Interim Head of the Upper School Saya McKenna, administration, and student council to work through the current circumstances. Some of their ideas include a virtual lip-sync and other fun events and challenges that are online-accessible. They also want to reach out to the community for ideas and opinions and increase communication with the student body and administration. They’ve already taken the initiative to involve the students in their plans through a Google Form accessible via their Instagram (@chaboi_spirit_2020). 

Next year, they’re planning on rebooting spirit committee to reach out to different grades and keep everyone in the loop and bring back the fan-favorite game of Assassin (given that we’re back in school). They want to determine students’ favorite traditions in spirit and introduce new ones. They intend to implement more school-wide events like a field day and spaces where students can come together and take a break from the stressful school environment. Their main goals for the year are to increase transparency, encourage people to have fun, and foster community through participation in spirit days. 

All-School Secretary Hardtke wants to work on finishing the projects that were started this year, such as the Incident Feedback Form, and working with the administration to create harsher rules surrounding racial slurs. After finalizing those, she wants to start working on the goals mentioned in the leadership’s campaigns and make the student council more transparent. In order to accomplish this objective, she wants to utilize social media and make an Instagram account specifically for the student council to promote and increase communication. Ideas for said account include polls for quick feedback and weekly to bi-weekly posts to keep the student body informed. 

Finally, All-School Treasurer Thompson wants to do more fundraising (whether it be online or in-person) next year for both the student council and outside organizations. She admits that planning student events will be more difficult during a pandemic, but she is willing to work with the business office to make the proper adjustments. She also wants to fund more clubs, make it easier for them to reach out, plan more student events if possible, and encourage the student body to input ideas. She is ready to listen to her fellow student council members and allocate funds to whatever requires increased funding, ranging from spirit days to racial training and mental health days. Her main priority is improving student experience, and she wants to put funding towards activities and events that benefit the students the most.     

Overall, the leaders’ main goals are to create lasting and meaningful change, increase transparency, and make the school year great for everyone, whether online or in-person. Student council advisor Ms. McKenna is also hopeful for this upcoming school year, stating, “I was so pleased to see so many invested students put themselves forward as candidates for leadership. Their statements and platforms reflected very detailed and comprehensive goals for building and strengthening our community and delivering upon our mission—especially by continuing to elevate and address the issues raised by our community of color. This is important work at any time, but especially so in a period of distance and disruption. There is a lot of important and challenging work ahead of us as we return to campus in the 20-21 SY, and this team seems well-equipped and committed to delivering upon their goals of prioritizing the student experience.” 

Schooling in a Time of Crisis

Let’s admit it. School life is anything but normal nowadays. Just a few weeks ago we were spending warm spring afternoons on the patio, navigating the bustling hallway traffic, spending free periods in the library while sneaking whispers to friends, surviving long blocks, and attending assemblies twice a week in the MEW. As the school year comes to a close, we now find ourselves waking up twenty minutes before classes, baking copious amounts of bread, viewing our teachers and classmates through computer screens, and attempting to make it through our afternoons, all while keeping up with the latest news updates. 

The transition to distance learning wasn’t exactly smooth for everyone, and the Division Heads, Assistant Division Heads, and Dean of Academics and Community were hard at work crafting a new schedule that would maximize student-teacher interactions while still regulating screen time. Despite continuous redrafts of the schedule, students are still struggling to manage their time, workload, and stress. 

The initial distance learning schedule that went into full effect on Wednesday, March 18th only outlined the synchronous times. The schedule was designed so that students would be online from between 10 am and 12 pm, each class would check-in two times a week for 20 minutes, and students would receive 10-minute breaks in-between classes. That left students free to do work in the afternoons. 

Based on an overwhelming amount of feedback and survey data from students, parents, teachers, and neighboring schools, the administration decided to make some major changes, including the extension of class periods, alternating synchronous and asynchronous time, increasing the number of club meetings, and limiting advising to once a week. 

In an interview conducted by Sonia Mahajan, Saya McKenna clarified that the administration “didn’t want to extend synchronous screen time beyond 30 minutes because of data and reports of diminishing returns (and other damaging side effects) of excessive screen time. That said, we still imagine that students will be in front of screens for more than 30 minutes, given that a lot of instructional resources, materials, and interaction with peers are now accessed and conducted virtually.” 

Even when social distancing, the School’s notorious amount of homework continues to consume a major portion of students’ time. The heavy amount of work, coupled with the alternating synchronous and asynchronous sessions, has led to some confusion amongst students and teachers. The student feedback, which McKenna reported, stated that “having assignments due before the next class meeting verses at the end of the period relieves stress for a variety of reasons [because it allows for] some breathing room and less time pressure for students who need more processing time.” In attempts to relieve stress and minimize screen fatigue, the administration asks that teachers be mindful of the amount of classwork they assign during the 45-minute asynchronous sessions “so that students can complete their work within the allocated school day [instead of] adding on additional work that cuts into necessary downtime and family time.”

As someone who has relatively good time management and executive functioning skills (at least that’s what I like to think), I much preferred having all of the synchronous meetings in the morning so that I could have my entire lunch and afternoons free to do work. I do agree that 30-minute classes are much more productive and valuable, but I personally find those 45-minute breaks in between classes a bit awkward. 

Many of my peers expressed similar reactions to this aspect of the schedule, explaining that it typically takes more than 45 fully focused minutes to complete an assignment, and having to stop in the middle and come back to it later in the day is somewhat disorienting. McKenna stated, “We hope that the classwork (perhaps the more encompassing term) assigned will be do-able within the school day (asynchronous and homework blocks)… so that’s about 75 minutes of work per class with overflow limited to 30 minutes one to two times a week.”

For many students, including myself, switching between assignments is quite draining because we have to constantly shift our focus from one topic to the next. Though our current schedule is more detailed and fully fleshed out, I’m strangely feeling more unorganized. Nonetheless, I understand the intention of the 45-minute breaks because some students function better with a more structured day. Unfortunately for us students who prefer more flexibility, specifically the upperclassmen, we now have to pay the price. 

For those wondering if there will be any more changes made to the schedule if we have to continue this distanced format in the future, McKenna stated that the administration “will be formally surveying the broader community and continuing broader research to see if and how [they] can adjust and improve the experience.” For now, the schedule remains the same.

When taking all the feedback and adjustments into account, we must keep in mind that this time is a learning experience for both students and staff members. While we try to retain some normalcy in our lives, we must realize that our current situation is much more permanent than we hoped it would be. Our new, confusing reality now purely consists of virtual interactions, and whether we like it or not, we must accept the fact that we are schooling in a time of crisis. It’s not going to be easy for everyone, but the least we can do right now is attempt to welcome change.

Stories Through Steppin’

Note:  While this show occurred before we retreated into quarantine, we decided that the article is still a meaningful review to share.

 

Walking in to the step show, you can immediately tell that this is unlike any performing arts show you have ever been to. Bright lights, music blasting, and people dancing gives you the feeling of entering a party rather than a performance. The newest rap and hip hop shake the floor, interrupted only by the quintessential R&B hits of earlier generations. It didn’t matter if it was Aaliyah or Roddy Rich; if you could dance to it, they’re playing it. Young and old folk alike swayed and stepped, sliding in unison. They did not tell you to put your phone away as at a typical play, instead encouraging the audience “to charge up [their] phones and get ready to put this up on insta.” Kids demonstrated the popular “renegade” dance before the show. And after, their parents showed off the electric slide from their childhood. Doing the “wobble” was all but a requirement for those of us in the audience. Everyone danced together, no matter where they were from, what they looked like, or which team their kids were on. The music was played in its full, explicit entirety: an uncensored, unfiltered, unapologetic tribute to Blackness. A student led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, and during the line, “with liberty and justice for all,” half of the crowd spontaneously said “with liberty and justice for some.” The most powerful moment of the show was the student rendition of the Black National Anthem. The power came not from her spectacular performance, but from everyone singing in unison. Everyone sang the song that embodies pride in Black history, Black culture, and Black triumph. Everyone sang in defiance against a system that has only suppressed Black pride. At the end, everyone raised their fist in the air: Black power. 

On the final day of Black History Month, Black history was appropriately a throughline of the show. A local Black educator led us in call and response: “Black, HISTORY, Black, HISTORY… I’M Black AND I’M PROUD… Black history is what I’ve been making since I came out of the womb, and when I drop this mic, you should make some too.” And this all was just the introduction to the show.

The Wikipedia entry for stepping (steppin’) says that it “is a form of percussive dance in which the participant’s entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds,” but this definition does not even begin to capture the essence of what steppin’ is. The origins of steppin’ can be traced back to South Africa, and it’s a way for the Black community to uphold the African traditions that were stripped through slavery; it’s a way to uphold Black history. 

During the show, teams of multiple ages, from multiple places, competed in front of judges. Elementary school kids and high school seniors alike stepped to represent themselves, their schools, and their ancestry. Although mostly Black, the step teams featured a diverse mix of students. Each step routine told a story. One was in the form of a podcast, and another was about Chick-Fil-A. Each was meticulously planned and flawlessly executed, despite the multitude of cameras and the immense pressure. Between the routines, Black entrepreneurs were invited on stage to promote their businesses. One business made shirts that said “from the hometown to college town,” and another made shirts that said “I love to see my people doing good.” During these breaks was when the prominent message to the youth was stressed: college education is the most important thing for you. Stemming from steppin’s prominence on college campuses, the show took time to honor Black scholars: college graduates and doctors, business owners and artists. They offered scholarships to Historically Black Colleges and Universities to seniors competing in the show. College education is how you find excellence, and as one entrepreneur said, “Black lives matter, Black excellence matters, Black business matters.” The most memorable moment was when the MC asked if anyone in the audience had a poem to share. One high school girl, Chienne, from El Camino Real in Los Angeles, delivered her powerful poem titled “The African American Disease.” The poem described how she must have a disease, because she feels as if her life could just end because of the color of her skin, and how police officers and white supremacists could take her life just as abruptly as a disease can. 

It became apparent during the show that all of the teams were cheering for all of their competitors, despite a cash prize for the winners. All of the parents rooted for the children of other parents and everyone supported each other, rather than competed against them. The event shows that steppin’ not only serves to preserve history and pride, but serves to strengthen the Black community and elevate one another. This was not a display or a performance or a competition. This was a celebration; a celebration of Black history, Black scholarship, Black excellence, Black pride, and Black triumph.

It’s impossible to explain the emotion and the power of a step show experience in just 700 words. Steppin’ is something that you very much have to experience to truly understand.

Environmental Benefits of COVID-19

After receiving countless negative updates on America’s current COVID-19 statistics, my outlook on our current situation has grown to be quite negative. However, it is important to remember that social distancing can have positive side effects in which the environment, wild animals, and our pets all benefit from. 

The climate change benefits of coronavirus are immense, starting with the mass reduction of carbon emissions, emissions that have been dramatically decreased due to the increased number of people working from home. Between February 3rd and March 1st, China experienced a 25% decrease in carbon emissions, a decrease that measures to an estimated 200 million tons of carbon. China’s coal consumption also dropped by 36% from February 3rd to March 1st. Additionally, air quality in both Italy and China have improved immensely. These significant changes were captured by NASA below.  

Many wild animals have been spotted exploring cities while people are staying indoors. While wild deer are normally fed by tourists in parks, they now freely roam the empty urban streets of Nara, Japan. In New Delhi and Thailand, monkeys have been congregating in front of shops in search of food. And right here in Oakland, Guardian editor Charlotte Simmonds spotted wild turkeys playing on the playground at the elementary school next door. 

A girl wearing a face mask looks at a sika deer at a temple on March 12, 2020 in Nara, Japan.

Rivers worldwide are appearing crystal clear for the first time in ages, revealing fish and other marine life. In Venice, many attribute the water clarity to the minimal traffic on the canals, which calm has allowed sediments within the water to settle. In San Antonio, Texas, occupants have also observed that their local waterways have cleared due to the cancellation of Go Rio Cruises and other activities. People are pointing out objects in the water like crabs and beads left over from Mardi Gras events in February. 

The coronavirus has also allowed for beautiful moments of solidarity amid isolation. Videos of Italians singing from windows have circulated the internet, and neighbors have been offering to aid each other with groceries through postcards or notices in apartment buildings. In Nevada, a medical student set up a group of “shopping angels” who deliver groceries to elderly citizens or those with compromised immune systems. Therapists have created platforms on social media to aid with increased anxiety and stress. One small organization, the Help Hub, made their online services available nationally through the support of therapists around the country. Hopefully hearing about these snippets of kindness and environmental healing among the chaos of a global pandemic improve the quality of your day! 

Francesco and Greta Innominati wave after placing a banner reading “Everything is gone be all right” out of a window of their apartment in Rome on March 13, 2020.

 

The Return of Yellow Peril?

Growing cases of the coronavirus are fueling racist sentiment targeting Asians across the globe. Many are viewing the spread of the virus as an excuse to voice their xenophobic beliefs and falsely profile Asians. While some are turning to humor, others view this pandemic as an opportunity to safely express their blatantly offensive rhetoric.

The idea of a “Yellow Peril” originated in the late 19th century during the surge of Chinese immigration to the United States and referred to the irrational fear of East Asians as a source of danger. The term expressed a belief that Asians were somehow a threat to the Western World and embodies the work of anti-Asian stereotypes. That being said, are people’s responses to the coronavirus suggesting that we are reverting back to the base fear of foreigners? 

The public’s ignorance and misinformation about the novel coronavirus has led to racist and xenophobic attacks against anyone in the United States who appears to be East Asian. This racist sentiment has even manifested itself in the form of assault and verbal abuse. Asian Americans in Los Angeles and New York City have reported hearing numerous public transportation passengers claiming that all Chinese people are diseased and lack basic hygiene, singling out other Asian Americans who are not even Chinese. Perhaps the most widespread form of xenophobia manifests itself in fear mongering stereotypes about Asian food, one tweet stating: “Because of some fools in China who eat weird [foods] like bats, rats, and snakes, the entire world is about to suffer a plague.”

Many are using the global hashtag “#JeNeSuisPasUnVirus” (“I am not a virus”) and other social media platforms in an attempt to defend themselves over misguided fears. The false profiling of Asians in response to the spread of the virus has led to all Asians feeling threatened and ostracized, just because of their facial features.

Not only has the coronavirus sparked racism in the United States, but it has also brought intra-Asian oppression to light. Japanese citizens have called Chinese tourists “dirty bioterrorists,” and the hashtag “#ChineseDontComeToJapan” is currently trending on Twitter. In South Korea and Malaysia, millions of people have signed petitions asking that Chinese people be banned from entering their countries. A number of Vietnamese hotels and inns have hung signs on their doors saying that Chinese guests are unwelcome, many Vietnamese even going online to demand that the border crossings with China be closed. 

The response from China’s bordering countries shows that everyone, even fellow Asians, must take accountability. While it is one thing to feel nervous about the virus, it’s another thing to accuse an entire race and group xenophobia into the fear of catching a sickness. 

What Should We Do To Stop the Spread?

The coronavirus has recently become the center of many lives. The impact of the virus has reached new heights: the number of people infected with the virus has multiplied, and the School has implemented distance learning, something that has caused feelings of anxiety amongst some in the School community. However, there are several things we can do as individuals to slow the spread and stay safe.

Anyone can choose to take even the smallest of steps to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Here are a few steps you can take to stay safe:

  1. People are saying it all the time, so “wash your hands”. Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds reduces your risk and the risk of the people around you of contracting the virus. For more information, here’s the link to a video that explains the details of handwashing. 
  2. Avoid touching your face unless you just washed your hands.
  3. Avoid close contact with others. The coronavirus spreads through respiratory droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze, meaning being close to people as they cough or sneeze may not be the best for your health. Granted, this step should be easier with a shelter in place order and distance learning, but even when you are going for a walk or to the grocery store, try to maintain a large personal space bubble. Many students may want to spend time with their friends, but social distancing will have little effect if not everyone is doing it.
  4. Often clean and disinfect surfaces that you or other people touch. According to Aylin Woodward, a writer for Business Insider, new research as of March 17th suggests that the virus can live on surfaces for anywhere between a few hours to a few days. Keeping these surfaces clean limits the opportunity for the coronavirus to infect you.

Most importantly, remember even if you are not at risk, some people are. Whether or not these are people you know, they could just happen to be affected by your actions. So, try to keep up the good work and focus on staying healthy so that others can stay healthy too.

 

The Birds Are Chirping

The environmental impact of Covid-19 may be the only benefit received from the deadly virus. The United States currently emits more than 5,800 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), representing 19 percent of all global CO2 emissions despite our nation only making up 5 percent of the world’s population. Of these high emissions, 23 percent is due to transportation – cars, trucks, and airplanes. However, with shelter-in-place orders across the nation along with business and transportation closures, nitrogen and carbon levels in the United States have dropped drastically. Pollution levels in the atmosphere are typically highest during rush hour times in the morning and evening, however traffic has subsided, and rush hour is non-existent. Without the typical highway congestion, the New York Times states that traffic in Los Angeles is moving 53 times faster now than before receiving shelter-in-place orders. The number of cars crossing the Bay Bridge every day has fallen by 40 percent. Similarly, the number of cars that go into downtown Seattle for work has also fallen by 40 percent. In New York, carbon monoxide levels compared to the same time last year have reduced by 50 percent.
According to BBC, coal use in China fell by 40 percent since the last quarter of 2019, nitrogen dioxide levels dropped by 35 percent (60 percent in some cities), and the amount of “good air quality days” has risen 11.4 percent compared to the same time last year. Nitrogen dioxide levels fell 40 percent in Milan, Italy. Nitrogen dioxide levels in Madrid and Barcelona are at historic lows, dropping by 75 and 45 percent respectively since before the Covid lockdown. The reduction in air pollution is directly linked to Madrid and Barcelona’s 60 percent reduction in transportation. 

As Covid-19 forces the economy towards a recession, overall greenhouse gas emissions might fall as well. In 2008, the economic crash led to a 1.3% overall decrease in emissions. Emissions, however, were higher than ever just two years later in 2010. It is unfortunate that it took a virus to lower pollution levels in the atmosphere, and it is important that we also recognize we cannot beat climate change with a virus. It will take more policy changes for these dips in emissions to have a lasting effect, but watching carbon and nitrogen levels drop is a step towards future possibilities combating climate change. 

The Economy, Post-Coronavirus

As of late February, COVID-19 spread from China across the world, reaching many major European nations and the United States. Social distancing, the best-known approach to combat the spread of disease, was put into effect by the United States, as well as most European nations. The United States, Italy, and China missed the “early window,” the period in which social distancing would most effectively prevent major spread. Thus, social distancing is currently being extended into early May as the disease proliferates. 

In a nutshell, the stock market crash that started on February 20th resulted in liquidity shock and financial stress. It became increasingly difficult to trade liquid assets like stocks for cash, impeding all types of investments. Without investments, many companies face financial deficits resulting in problems amassing capital, the means of production, and pressure on central banks (Carlson Szlezak et al). Between financial deficits and capital problems, the market economy saw a decrease in supply, a drop in consumer confidence (and therefore, spending), and widespread layoffs. These problems, compounded by social distancing, grew tremendously. 

Social distancing by nature puts the world in a state of recession, suppressing economic growth and activity. The economy is currently “frozen” and many businesses can not profit or operate (Carlson Szlezak et al.). About 3.28 million people filed for unemployment this past month. Consumer spending makes up about 70% of the United States’ GDP, and with many people’s jobs at stake, there will be a significant decrease in consumerism; already early figures have noted a drop of at least 8%.

There are a few methods to combat the effects of this recession. On March 25, the Trump administration passed a bill to spend $2.2 trillion to stimulate the economy by giving loans to businesses and giving $1200 checks to citizens making $75000 per year or less. This package also increases unemployment insurance benefits. The stimulus bill is meant to cushion the blow for middle and lower-income citizens who were hit especially hard by the recession. Early signs from the stock market were positive, and subsequent Congressional actions have helped the market recover half of its substantial March losses.

Tests For The Rich, Not For The Rest: The Pandemic Highlights The Class Divide

Who is safe from a pandemic? Throughout the plethora of information about COVID-19, it is known that the elderly and the immunocompromised are highly susceptible to the virus and at greatest risk of death. In the American healthcare system, an even greater number of people are at risk of contracting the illness, and not receiving testing, treatment, or protective equipment. It seems, however, that the wealthy, celebrities, politicians, professional athletes, and others with large amounts of money to their name, find access to these scare items with ease. Why is that? 

Despite the United States containing the largest amount of COVID-19 cases in the world, America lacks globally in testing per capita. As of now, the United States is not conducting enough tests to adequately separate and treat infected patients to prevent the spread of the virus. Oftentimes when individuals are concerned about their health or possible contraction of the virus, hundreds to thousands are turned away from testing centers, receive their results in an extended period of time (several days), don’t have the protective equipment to prevent further spread of the disease, or are unable to receive treatment.  

Despite the scarcity of testing kits, asymptomatic celebrities, politicians, professional athletes, and the extremely wealthy are having COVID-19 tests made easily accessible, and results quickly received within several hours. Even in a global pandemic, threatening hundreds of thousands of immunocompromised and highly susceptible individuals, money is buying over the need for adequate testing. 

Not only does the high accessibility of testing and treatment available to the wealthy expose the overall corruption of the American healthcare system, but it also poses a threat to national and even global safety. If symptomatic individuals are being turned away from testing centers or denied treatment due to scarcity, those same individuals could possibly spread the virus even further. 

This isn’t to say that if an individual is asymptomatic and concerned about their health, they shouldn’t be tested. However, this does show that in the United States, even in the midst of a pandemic, healthcare is a privilege available to only those who can afford it.

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