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How People with Disabilities Are Confronting Harsh Discrimination Amid Pandemic

Anna Anderson

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Woman in a light blue shirt with "Jusita dhamma Earth" written on the back, pushing a man in a wheelchair outside.

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought out many inequalities in the United States, including disability discrimination. People with disabilities are expected to adapt to strict rules and regulations.

This is an unfair standard because different mental conditions may make the rules difficult or even unfeasible. In the midst of the pandemic, several instances of disability discrimination have occurred. Let’s address the incidents and focus on what we can learn from them. 

In Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, Boston Market employees called the police on Nadina Newman and her 10-year-old son Colin because Colin was not wearing a mask. Colin is non-verbal and has both Down syndrome and autism. With his disabilities, he cannot wear masks. 

The conflict arose when Newman’s car broke down on a hot, 91-degree day. The mother and son went inside the Boston Market to cool off, then asked the employee if they could stay until their ride arrived. Newman explained why Colin couldn’t wear a mask, but the employee brought over the store owner.

The owner told Newman and Colin to leave because they weren’t adhering to CDC guidelines. Newman refused to leave under the circumstances, knowing that her son wouldn’t be able to withstand the severe heat. After the refusal, the owner called the police on Newman and Colin. 

Fortunately, the police officers handled the situation as “problem solvers and peacemakers,” according to Abington Deputy Chief, Kelley Warner. After talking through conflict resolution with the Boston Market staff, the police drove the mother and son home. Warner declares that no charges have been filed. 

In light of this incident, Newman wants to spread awareness about disability discrimination during these challenging times. She wants others to realize that people with disabilities should be exempt from wearing masks.

The 4 disability symbols - animation of a person in a wheel chair, a head and brain, 2 hands signaling ok, and a person walking with a white cain.
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According to Newman, laws against discrimination should remain in place during the pandemic. Societies should promote awareness by educating people and treating all human beings with kindness and respect. We must remember that people with disabilities deserve to be treated the same as anyone else. 

A similar incident happened on a Southwest Flight. Alyssa Sadler and her 3-year-old son were removed from the plane after the boy with autism couldn’t wear a mask. The mother had a medical note explaining his sensory processing disorder, and how he dislikes having his face touched.

Nevertheless, the flight didn’t allow for an exception. When asked about the incident, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, Gary Kelly, emphasized the no-exception policy. In contrast, Sadler believes that individuals with disabilities should be exempt from wearing masks on flights for their own mental wellness. 

A lesson learned from these events is that people with disabilities must be accounted for by understanding that their boundaries may be different from ours. We cannot expect them to obey rules that cause them distress and can adjust to make things comfortable for them.

We must remember not to make them feel persecuted and be sensitive to their needs. People with disabilities always deserve to be treated with care and basic consideration. We have to protect them instead of punishing them for being who they are.

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A Holiday Like No Other: 6 Ways to Have a Safe Thanksgiving in 2020

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Group of about 7 people celebrating Thanksgiving

Autumn has arrived, midterms are over, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. It’s a well-deserved break, especially for college students, and a chance to travel back to your homes to spend time with loved ones. Only, there’s a catch. It’s Thanksgiving 2020. It’s Thanksgiving in the middle of a global pandemic.

With that said, it is important to be aware of the consequences of large gatherings as the holiday season quickly approaches. Here are a few tips on how you can plan a safer Thanksgiving. 

Follow the Usual Protocol

Wear your mask and limit social contact. Avoid unnecessary outings, such as dining in restaurants or going to the store when you don’t need to. Quarantine yourself and get tested if you’re experiencing symptoms, or were within close contact with someone with the virus.

Turn on your notifications

Depending on where you live, your phone can now alert you if you are exposed to the virus. Apple and Google have built software into the latest versions of iPhones and Android devices to detect people through Bluetooth. If you have an iPhone, go to Settings and turn on Exposure Notifications to use this feature, which will alert you to any potential contact with a person who has the virus. However, this only works when the people around you have their notifications on.

Spread of many apples and leaves out of the cornucopia basket
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Consider a Virtual Celebration

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate and spend time with loved ones in a festive way. The CDC is discouraging Thanksgiving travel as cases continue to rise. Students who need to travel back home from campus can risk exposure in any type of public transport, be it airports, bus stations, or train stations. In addition, there’s no guarantee that all your guests follow COVID-safety guidelines, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distance.

One person can jeopardize everyone’s health. So why not ditch the risks and go virtual? It’s obviously not the same, but it’s Thanksgiving 2020.

The advancement of technology is at its peak and Zoom works well enough to do the trick. Drastic situations call for drastic measures.

Thanksgiving with Housemates

Again, ditch the risks of exposure in public transport, and host your own Thanksgiving with the people you are quarantining with. If you live off-campus with a couple of friends, this is a perfect time to host a Friendsgiving. However, it’s crucial that your housemates are following the COVID-guidelines for safety. Make sure that the gathering only consists of you and your housemates to limit your exposure to the virus.

Stay Outside and Limit the Gathering

As the weather becomes cooler, the United States is experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases. COVID-19 is making headlines once more as new cases soar above the thousands on the daily. Similar to influenza, COVID-19 survives longer in cold, dry air. People tend to stay inside during the cooler months, making themselves more vulnerable to the virus due to the restriction of air ventilation. If you insist on hosting or attending a gathering, make sure it’s small and held outside. 

A set dinner table, 5 plates set with dinner cloths wrapped on top, a variety of red and orange flowers in a vase on top the of the table
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Bring Your Own Food

Food is not a direct way to spread the virus, but it is still very much possible. Limit this possibility by encouraging your guests to bring their own food and drinks. This takes away from the traditional potluck Thanksgiving dinner, but at least you don’t have to eat the bland potato salad your aunt brings every year. It’s also wise to have a dry, ventilated bag to store the masks in while eating. Remember to also maintain social distancing as you dine. 

Everyone understands. Pandemic fatigue is real and the festive holiday season seems like a perfect way to unwind and get a little bit of a breather.

But before leaving the door without a mask on, take a moment and think: should you really gamble with the possibility of jeopardizing your health, and the health of your loved ones, for one gathering? Remember, Thanksgiving 2020 is a Thanksgiving like no other. It’s important to be cautious during these unprecedented times.

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How To Make A Smaller Thanksgiving Feast For Less Than 3 People

Mariah Olmstead

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A large Turkey float during the a parade in New York.
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On Thanksgiving, families across the U.S. gather in large numbers and eat a feast of delicious food. Family gatherings are a time to remember the old times, to have a laugh about a funny family member, and to reconnect. However, due to Covid-19 numbers rapidly growing, many families might have to consider cancelling large gatherings for the sake of everyone’s health and this can not only make everyone upset, but also means that many are going to have to spend Thanksgiving alone, or even with just their housemates.

Here is a list of ways that people can still enjoy the feast, but on a smaller scale and with more healthy options. 

Serve cornish hen instead of turkey

Turkeys usually sell from anywhere between $10 to $15 in some stores. They can also be heavy and big, taking most of the day to cook. Cornish hens not only look like turkeys, but they’re small enough for 1 to 2 people and take little time to cook. You can also stuff them! 

Dish out smaller portions

Delicious pies, perfect casseroles that pair with the turkey, and big portions make for great leftovers, but with a small gathering of 1-3 people, it can be difficult to cook them for so few people. Downsizing your portions of potatoes, green bean casserole, mac and cheese can still be just as good, but instead of having a ton of leftovers, everyone can enjoy the meal and not have to waste time trying to find those pesky containers to fit everything in. 

Three thanksgiving pies in a small table.
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Include healthier side dishes

While some people may be in quarantine, exercising and staying healthy can be a bit more difficult. Making healthy side dishes instead can still be just as delicious, but without all the guilt. Making quinoa salad instead of mashed potatoes, yogurt with fresh fruit instead of pies, and steamed broccoli instead of green bean casserole are all healthier options. 

Use cupcake tins for smaller pies

Pies are a wonderful dessert option for any Thanksgiving dinner, but they typically serve 5 or more people. Cupcake tins are a better option if you wish to make pies but in mini portions. To make them, get all the ingredients that you would as if you were making a regular pie, however, roll out the dough and make circles using a glass or other round objects slightly bigger than that of the cupcake tins. Smaller pies are not only cuter, but they’re perfect for 1 to 3 people. 

Thanksgiving can still be fun with fewer people. It can be healthy, and safe for all. These three tips are great for anyone who wishes to have a safe, Covid free holiday for all. 

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The Future of American Health Care

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Under the Biden administration, the  Future of the American Health Care system still not clear
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With President-elect Joe Biden taking office in January, what will the future of American health care look like?

On November 6, AP called the election for Joe Biden, after passing the 270 electoral votes needed, with a win in Pennsylvania. What will the future of American health care look like under the Biden administration? 

Even under Biden’s administration, the Senate is so divided that it is unlikely that anything significant will change in the American health care system for at least two years. The debates over Medicare for All, public insurance, and federal control of drug prices, will likely lead to a standstill in the near future. Biden endorsed lowering the Medicare eligibility age and expanding Affordable Care Act grants, which is projected as unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate. 

Nonetheless, the Biden administration is planning ambitious actions to improve the future of American health care. Beyond expanding the ACA, Biden plans to help public health agencies as they deal with the continuous spread of COVID-19 and pass a stimulus bill to help support hospitals, doctors, and nursing homes. 

The most significant facet of Biden’s policy is the public option he intends to implement. This will be sold on Obamacare’s marketplaces—where nearly 12 million Americans buy their insurance—adding more competition in places where only a limited number of health care plans are available. The public option will also cover low-income Americans that cannot get insurance because their states are opposed to Obamacare. Biden’s plan will immediately enroll nearly 4 million citizens that have not been able to get health insurance because their states will not expand Medicaid. However, this plan may be too controversial to pass through Congress without a Democrat majority. 

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For the majority of the 150 million people with employer-sponsored coverage, it may not make sense to join the program. They will not be able to use the money their employer pays for insurance premiums, nor can their employers choose to put their employees on the government plan. This will most likely make most people—from both large group coverage and the public option—still reliant on their job for health insurance benefits. Health insurance today is very unaffordable for middle-income citizens. However, under Biden’s plan, a family making $150,000 would pay no more than $12,750 in annual premiums

Biden will likely implement regulations to combat COVID-19. He rolled out his COVID-19 task force on November 19. The task force members include David Kessler, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner; Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general; and Yale physician-researcher Marcella Nunez-Smith. Biden has said he wishes to implement a national mask mandate, but this will need to go through the local government. Aside from mask mandates Biden plans to work with Congress to implement several more components in his coronavirus action plan. Such as, providing free testing for all Americans, getting rid of out-of-pocket expenses for coronavirus treatment, and getting personal protective equipment (PPE) for essential workers. 

It is likely that Biden’s administration will review the regulations put forward by Trump to prevent birth control. Biden can reverse the Trump administration’s changes to the Title X program that institutes access to birth control and other reproductive health care. 

Politically, there are going to be many hoops the Biden administration will need to jump through to secure his plan for the future of American health care. The ACA—that narrowly passed eight years ago—will be brought back to court with Republicans looking to dismember it. This could mean that millions may lose their health insurance, including millions more with preexisting conditions. If the Supreme Court strikes down the ACA, Biden will put his “Bidencare” plan forward. This policy is estimated to provide health insurance to every person that resides in the U.S. legally. It will also, however, leave nearly 6.5 million undocumented immigrants without health insurance.

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Yet, if Biden’s plan is put forward it would mean that much of the current health care system will remain in place. Workers will be able to get their health insurance through their employers, but also Medicare and Medicaid will remain. In order to do this, Democrats will need to win two Georgia Senate seats in a January runoff to reach a 50-50 tie in the Senate. Also Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris, will give the chamber to the Democrats as the president of the Senate. 

On January 20, the Biden administration is set to take office at the White House. Thus, marking a new presidency and beginning the new future of American health care.

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