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The Impact of COVID is Already REAL

Families across DC are already feeling the very real impact of Coronavirus in our communities. These impacts are deepening existing inequities in our city and disproportionately affecting our Black and Brown families, many of whom live East of the River in Wards 7 and 8. 

As we move through the phases of DC reopening and toward school reopening in the fall, it is the responsibility of our city’s decision-makers to listen to what is happening on the ground -- to listen to parents and families -- in order to determine the best path forward.

Read on for personal stories -- stories about how Coronavirus has upended life -- from three parent leaders and from our Executive Director. Their experiences are backed up by DATA. Hear their voices and keep parents and families at the center of all planning for Coronavirus recovery -- through school reopening and beyond.

We cannot afford to do otherwise.

Nicole Johnson-Douglas

Ward 8 Parent Leaders in Education (PLE) Board Member

I have lived through a number of things in life, but I have never experienced the various things that we have experienced during this COVID-19 Pandemic. We have always been a close-knit family, including my elderly grandmother who raised me and has been a big supporter of each of my children. During this time, we had to make a life changing decision to not be in the same home with my grandmother: the person who has been my stability for 40 years and who has been a common force for my children. As I think further, we had to make some major life changing decisions that will impact us for a while, including, as a business owner and the primary breadwinner, deciding to "temporarily close" my consulting firm so that I could ensure my kids - Aniya, Rayah and Rayghan - are all educated at the highest level and prepared for their next levels of education with minimal gaps and loss. All while caring for my husband and ensuring he has all the medical supports that he needs to survive in this time. 

As we move towards this next school year, I am concerned that Aniya did not have a normal senior year and is now forced to start her freshman year of college virtually without some of the services that she needs. I am concerned about the readiness of our schools to receive students who have health issues, like Rayah who has Chronic Lung Disease. I am concerned about the lack of services Rayghan received during this pandemic and how he will adjust to these new normals. 

I am concerned that as a city we are making decisions regarding our students without having families at the forefront of the work.

Nicole's Concerns are Backed Up by DATA...

Over 119,000 people have filed for unemployment in DC since early March, and many more face ever-increasing anxiety about how to put food on the table, pay rent, or get basic medicine and supplies for their families due to loss of work and income - especially those who are excluded from relief benefits like undocumented immigrants. 

The impact on income isn’t shared equally across the District. In May, Ward 8’s unemployment rate was 16.8%, nearly double that of DC as a whole.
Nicole isn’t alone in her challenge of balancing supporting her children’s education and work demands. PAVE’s parent impact survey from April 2020 showed that managing learning at home was the TOP challenge for parents, followed by concerns about their family’s health and their job.

Quentin Hairston

Ward 8 Parent Leader

Several members of my family, including my sister, my ex-mother in law (who was helping me with my kids), a friend of my sister's, along with her infant child, and myself, all tested positive for COVID-19. My sister had to be hospitalized twice with severe respiratory symptoms, and my former mother in law is currently hospitalized and recovering from COVID-19. I strongly believe that my oldest daughter was infected as well, but her symptoms went away after about three days. My symptoms were mild and lasted about eight days. My biggest fear was passing the virus on to my kids and niece, and not being able to fully isolate from them because they still needed to be taken care of and fed, even with protections such as wearing masks and gloves while preparing and serving them food, frequent disinfection of household items, hand-washing, etc. 

As a teacher of early childhood/primary grades, I am extremely concerned about schools reopening for in-person learning when we return in the fall. 

Young children learn by touch, play, and close proximity, and there really is no effective way to socially distance children at this age. Additionally, one cannot expect a child to wear a mask for 8 hours a day (or more, if they are in before/aftercare). Wearing a mask is uncomfortable enough for adults; I can't even imagine how uncomfortable it will be for children, with the expectation that it must be worn for the entirety of the school day. For teachers, especially early childhood and primary (grades K-3rd) teachers, students learn sounds and phonics by watching the movement of our mouth and listening to the sounds we produce. How is any of that going to be possible if the sound of our voice is distorted by wearing the mask? How are children going to be able to see our mouths produce sounds unless the mask is see-through? Lastly, if we go with a hybrid model for instruction, we need to make sure students and families are able to access instruction virtually, with technology and access to the Internet, in case a renewed wave of COVID-19 hits and schools are forced to implement 100% virtual learning once again.

Quentin's Concerns are Backed Up by DATA...

PAVE partnered with The Flamboyan Foundation to ask 751 families about their preferences about returning to school, with 68% of participants residing in Ward 7 and 8. 

  • 27% of families preferred distance learning as opposed to in-school options. 
  • The top three most important factors for returning to school were:
    • Ensuring proper social distancing is in place (69%)
    • Access to technology (33%)
    • Maintaining their work schedule (33%)

In each and every focus group PAVE has hosted since COVID-19 about school reopening, parents echoed those feelings and added: 

  • Parents are struggling with the competing priorities of needing to go back to work and access to child care, wanting their children to get the best education and socialize with other kids, and keeping them safe.
  • Families with young children are even more hesitant to send their children back to school because it will be harder to enforce social distancing and keep them safe. 
  • Some parents were concerned about social distance/safety measures further traumatizing students, like masks (as Quentin mentioned), barriers, and fewer opportunities to freely play. 

Check out the full reports from PAVE’s school reopening and school schedule focus groups to learn more! 

Yesenia Medrano

Ward 7 Parent Leader, Miembro de la Mesa Directiva de Padres Latinos

Mi familia a sido muy afectada durante toda esta pandemia de una manera que nunca pensé. Al principio, pensamos que todo iba ser rápido, después de un mes nos empezamos a preocupar, porque no teníamos para la renta, o la comida y todas las 5 personas que vivíamos en mi casa perdimos nuestros empleos. Todos los ahorros se nos acabaron y después de cuatro meses no sabíamos qué hacer. No teníamos trabajo, no teníamos dinero, y algunas de nuestras familias se empezaron a enfermar del virus. Y después todos en mi familia nos enfermamos del virus, hasta el punto que perdimos a mi cuando, murió debido al (COVID-19) y todos en la familia nos deprimimos mucho, y no solo era la parte económica sino también nuestras vidas estaban en peligro. Yo no podía tener a mi hijo conmigo por miedo a que él se enfermara. Los restaurantes que en los que trabajamos con mi familia cerraron del todo y conseguir trabajo en este momento es muy difícil. Pero en medio de esta situación la ayuda de PAVE ha sido una gran bendición porque no hemos recibido ayuda de nadie ni de la ciudad por nuestra situación migratoria, solo de la organización PAVE con comida, dinero, y apoyo psicológico y emocional nos a brindado su apoyo. Para mi PAVE es lo mejor que me a pasado porque gracias a PAVE yo e podido comer, bañarme, y conozco mis derechos y me siento valorada con familia. PAVE es un soporte grande para mi familia. Nuestra familia necesita un empleo, pero los restaurantes están aprovechando de los empleados porque donde buscamos están rebajando el sueldo todos los empleadores están aprovechando los empleados porque conocen la necesidad de ellos. También, donde buscamos empleo nos exigen la prueba del (COVID-19) pero a los hospitales que vamos hacernos las pruebas no nos permiten hacernos las pruebas, entonces no podemos solicitar trabajo. Por ahora no se que va a pasar con mi familia, pero sabemos que contamos con PAVE que nunca nos a dejado solos durante esta pandemia.

Mi mayor preocupación es el riesgo de infección a lo que van a estar expuestos los niños y las familias, porque los niños son muy inocentes y no saben cómo mantener distancia. Sabemos que los niños van a querer abrazar a otros niños o sus maestras. Mi niño está traumatizado y llora muchisimo, en las noches se despierta a llorar y se que necesita un psicólogo porque esta situación lo está matando. Yo no soportaría que mi hijo se enfermara con este virus porque yo lo he protegido mucho durante este tiempo y no puedo pensar que solo por volver a la escuela el se me enfermara. Yo se que es estar con ese virus y es muy duro la recuperación, y algunas personas como mi cuñado no sobreviven. Por esta razón yo le pido a DCPS que piense en las familias y en su salud primero que todo a la hora de pensar en reabrir. Yo quiero que él vuelva a la escuela a socializar pero se que el no esta preparado y yo tampoco. Yo se que estar en casa y recibir clases virtuales no es lo mismo que estar en persona, pero es la mejor solución hasta que esta pandemia pasa. Yo quiero regresar a la escuela cuando todo vuelva a la normalidad. Pienso que todos los días las escuelas deben desinfectar y las maestras tienen que tener unas reglas de interacción y tratamientos en caso de contagio.

Yesenia's Concerns are Backed Up by DATA...

  • DC is home to 25,000–30,000 undocumented residents. In April, the DC Council approved $5 million in relief aid for these residents -- less than $200 per person -- but so far this money hasn’t actually gotten to families, leaving many without any relief from COVID’s impact on their income and ability to provide for their families. 
  • 2014 Data shows that access to health insurance is not the same for everyone. Latinx adults are much less likely to have health insurance in DC:
  • Concern about housing insecurity was especially stark for respondents to our Spanish Coronavirus Impact Survey.
    • 22% of all parents surveyed listed uncertainty about housing as either the MOST or a VERY challenging issue, but this number was especially stark in the respondents to our Spanish-language survey: that number increased to 42%.

Maya Martin Cadogan

Ward 6 Resident, PAVE Founder and Executive Director

In late March, while PAVE was in the middle of supporting families during COVID, I learned that my Uncle and Aunt, both over 65, had COVID. My uncle was a doctor in partial retirement at a hospital in Brooklyn and caught it while taking care of his patients. They had moved to Cleveland to support my cousin and her husband, who are an ER doctor and nurse/paramedic/firefighter, respectively. And they were the ones that were caring for their newborn grandchild. Once they learned they had the virus, they had to immediately cease that care, meaning my cousin and her husband were working round the clock shifts between swapping to take care of the baby, since they were also on the frontlines of supporting communities during the pandemic. My uncle shared that this virus has been like no other that he has ever seen in the way that it attacks the body. My aunt had to be admitted to the ICU and put on a machine to help her breathe - and my uncle couldn’t be with her in the hospital. Two months later, and they say that they just stopped exhibiting symptoms and feel like their bodies are back to “normal.”

When I think about the story of my family, I think about how many PAVE families are in the exact same position. We have so many grandparents caring for grandchildren, just like my aunt and uncle were. Childcare in all of our cities is so inaccessible and expensive - even for two people with frontline jobs - and DC ranks number one in most expensive child care for infants. So, many families have to turn to relatives and local friends to be childcare providers. Also, I think about the way that this virus operates, since it has a disparate impact on Black and Brown families. My uncle and aunt are healthy, they have both worked in healthcare, and they are incredibly active physically. And yet, this still changed their lives and the lives of those around them. And we know some of the reason that the virus impacts Black and Brown families is because of the inequities in our system in housing, healthcare (especially maternal care for Black women and access to urgent care), and food (see more here), but those inequities are generational and even for those of us who have risen out of poverty, we had childhoods and generations that subjected our bodies to it and so we are also at increased risk likely because of generations of trauma which impacts us physically. Finally, when we think about reopening schools, I think about how the virus is transmitted and one of the things that they know is that it is passed most easily in enclosed spaces where people are in close proximity. It is impossible to keep young children or even teenagers wearing masks and I can’t imagine making sure they are always six feet apart since they thrive on physical connection. And so, I then think about how if we don’t do this right, the risk is that the virus will spread even more acutely in Black and Brown Wards, communities, and families than it already has and that makes me scared. No wonder that according to a recent poll, 67% of Black families were most concerned about a rush to reopen K-12 schools.

Maya's Concerns are Backed Up by DATA...

Over 83% of Washingtonians who have lost their battle with COVID-19 were above the age of 60.
Coronavirus Deaths by Age Group
Black DC residents are contracting Coronavirus and dying from Coronavirus at vastly disproportionate rates to the rest of the District. This disproportionate impact has its roots in generational inequities and is causing real trauma in Black communities, the negative long-term effects of this trauma cannot be overstated.
DC Coronavirus Cases by Race
DC Coronavirus Deaths by Race

So Where Do We Go From Here?

Parent leaders from across the District came together to draft THEIR Statement of Beliefs on a parent-centered vision for DC’s response to Coronavirus.

Tell your Councilmembers to hear their voices and keep the very REAL and disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 at the forefront of all decisions, especially around #DCSchoolsRecovery and school reopening.

Tell Your Councilmembers to Keep Parents and Families at the Center of #DCSchoolsRecovery
Copyright © 2020 Parents Amplifying Voices in Education, All rights reserved.

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