Category Archives: Public Health

Biden Administration to Invest $7 Billion to Hire Public Health Workers, Rebuild Public Health Departments

Funding Will Create Tens of Thousands of Jobs to Respond to COVID-19, Prepare U.S. for Future Outbreaks, and Support Local Public Health Officials
 
As Vaccine for Adolescents Comes Online, Administration Sets Aside Dedicated Funding for School Nurses, Who Can Help Provide Information about Vaccinations

 

The Biden-Harris Administration will invest $7.4 billion from the American Rescue Plan to recruit and hire public health workers to respond to the pandemic and prepare for future public health challenges. The funding will allow the United States to expand its public health workforce, creating tens of thousands of jobs to support vaccinations, testing, contact tracing, and community outreach, and strengthen America’s future public health infrastructure. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Even as the CDC is lifting mask and social-distancing requirements for fully vaccinated people, the Biden Administration is looking to the long-term health of the nation, our ability to get through COVID-19, but also be well positioned for the next pandemic or public health crisis. The Biden-Harris Administration announced it would invest $7.4 billion from the American Rescue Plan to recruit and hire public health workers and also redress the fact that over the past several decades, public health departments have been hollowed out. The White House provided this fact sheet:

As part of its ongoing COVID-19 response efforts, the Biden-Harris Administration will invest $7.4 billion from the American Rescue Plan to recruit and hire public health workers to respond to the pandemic and prepare for future public health challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced that public health workers are essential, providing critical services to keep Americans safe and healthy. The funding announced today will allow the United States to expand its public health workforce, creating tens of thousands of jobs to support vaccinations, testing, contact tracing, and community outreach, and strengthen America’s future public health infrastructure.
 
The Biden-Harris Administration will invest $4.4 billion to allow states and localities to expand their over-stretched public health departments with additional staff to support COVID-19 response efforts. This funding will support a range of public health roles, including funding for Disease Intervention Specialists to do contact tracing, case management, and support outbreak investigations, and dedicated funding to hire school nurses to help schools safely reopen and remain open for in-person instruction. Additionally, funds will support the development of the next generation of public health leaders by creating a Public Health AmeriCorps and expanding CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service – the renowned program that equips workers to identify and contain public health outbreaks.
 
Finally, CDC will use $3 billion from the American Rescue Plan to create a new grant program that will facilitate federal investment in the people and expertise needed at the state and local levels to expand, train, and modernize the public health workforce for the future. In the months ahead, CDC will work with leaders from across the public health community to design this new grant program.
 
All awardees of this American Rescue Plan funding will be asked to prioritize recruiting individuals from the communities they will serve and from backgrounds underrepresented in critical public health professions.
 
Today’s funding builds on the President’s announcement last week of $250 million to help community -based organizations hire and mobilize community outreach workers and social support specialists to increase access to vaccinations in the hardest-hit and highest risk communities. 
 
The Biden-Harris Administration will:
 
Invest $4.4 Billion to Surge Public Health Staffing for COVID-19 Response
 
Help States and Localities Increase their Public Health Staffing and Expertise:  State and local public health heroes have led the fight against COVID-19 for more than a year. Often understaffed and lacking resources, local public health departments have provided critical services during the pandemic, including setting up testing sites, leading local vaccination efforts, and delivering personal protective equipment, therapeutics, and care to those in need. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, CDC will fund $3.4 billion in new hiring for state and local public health departments to quickly add staff to support critical COVID-19 response efforts – including vaccination outreach and administration efforts, testing and contact tracing, epidemiologists, data scientists, and other vital public health functions. This funding includes at least $500 million for the hiring of school nurses, who can offer medical expertise to support parents and teens as vaccination options for younger people expand. This builds on resources in the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund which can also be used to hire school nurses.
 
Launch Public Health AmeriCorps: At a time of unprecedented interest in public health, CDC and AmeriCorps (the Corporation for National and Community Service) will launch the Public Health AmeriCorps – a $400 million investment from the American Rescue Plan to recruit and build a new workforce ready to respond to the public health needs of the nation. The program will focus on building a diverse pipeline for the public health workforce and providing direct service to communities across the country. The partnership will leverage the expertise of both agencies, capitalizing on AmeriCorps’ experience managing some of the most prominent public service and workforce development programs in the nation while benefitting from CDC’s technical expertise as the country’s leading public health agency.
 
Recruit and Train Public Health Leaders: CDC will expand its current workforce programs, including the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS). EIS is a national, deployable, cutting-edge public health workforce that responds to local outbreaks. Over the past seven decades, EIS officers have served as boots-on-the-ground epidemiologists during some of the most severe outbreaks and public health emergencies, including the Ebola outbreak, H1N1, the Flint water crisis, Zika, and the COVID-19 pandemic. With $245 million from the American Rescue Plan, CDC will increase support for programs including EIS, the Undergraduate Public Health Scholars Program, and the Dr. James A. Ferguson Emerging Infectious Diseases RISE Fellowship, which offers students from underrepresented background the opportunity to study infectious diseases and health disparities. Expanding these programs will support workforce diversity in public health to help reduce longstanding health disparities and inequities. In addition, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology will invest $80 million to train public health professionals to help modernize the public health data infrastructure, with a focus on recruiting from minority serving institutions and universities.
 
Building the Laboratory Workforce and Building Capacity for Future Outbreaks: With $337 million from the American Rescue Plan, CDC will strengthen the public health laboratory workforce pipeline. CDC will expand the current public health laboratory fellowship programs for laboratory science graduates and implement a new public health internship program for undergraduate students to gain experiences in public health laboratory settings. Funds will improve the capacity of the nation’s public-private clinical laboratory infrastructure to support rapid, large-scale responses to public health emergencies.
 
Invest $3 Billion to Prepare for Future Pandemics
 
Create a New Program to Modernize the Public Health Workforce: CDC will create a new grant program to provide under-resourced health departments with the support they need to hire staff and build a strong public health workforce. This grant program will offer community health workers and others hired for the COVID-19 response an opportunity to continue their careers beyond the pandemic as public health professionals. CDC will convene federal, state, local, and territorial public health experts to inform the design and focus of this new grant program. Ultimately, the program will allow the United States to continue to support the nation’s public health infrastructure, particularly in lower-income and underserved communities.

Biden, CDC Warn of ‘Impending Doom’ if Americans Let Up on COVID-19 Precautions Before Vaccinations Widespread

President Biden unveiled new actions to get more people vaccinated quickly and announce that by April 19, 90% of adults in the U.S. will be eligible for vaccination and 90% will have a vaccination site within 5 miles of where they live, but warned that this is no time for Americans to lift the precautions of mask-wearing and social distancing © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Impending doom,” is how Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expressed her fear in an emotional appeal to Americans to stay the course in order to finally get the coronavirus pandemic under control, that despite the pace of vaccinations, it is still too early to abandon mask-wearing and social distancing to prevent what she feared would be a fourth wave.

She related “the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.  We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope, but right now I’m scared.  I know what it’s like as a physician to stand in that patient room — gowned, gloved, masked, shielded — and to be the last person to touch someone else’s loved one because their loved one couldn’t be there.
 
“I know what it’s like when you’re the physician, when you’re the healthcare provider and you’re worried that you don’t have the resources to take care of the patients in front of you.  I know that feeling of nausea when you read the crisis standards of care and you wonder whether there are going to be enough ventilators to go around and who’s going to make that choice.  And I know what it’s like to pull up to your hospital every day and see the extra morgue sitting outside.
 
“I didn’t know at the time when it was — when it would stop; we didn’t have the science to tell us.  We were just scared.  We have come such a long way.  Three historic scientific breakthrough vaccines, and we are rolling them out so very fast. 
 
“So I’m speaking today not necessarily as your CDC director — not only as your CDC director but as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter to ask you to just please hold on a little while longer.  I so badly want to be done.  I know you all so badly want to be done.  We are just almost there but not quite yet.  And so I’m asking you to just hold on a little longer, to get vaccinated when you can so that all of those people that we all love will still be here when this pandemic ends.
 
“The trajectory of the pandemic in the United States looks similar to many other countries in Europe, including Germany, Italy, and France looked like just a few weeks ago.  And since that time, those countries have experienced a consistent and worrying spike in cases.  We are not powerless; we can change this trajectory of the pandemic.  But it will take all of us, recommitting to following the public health prevention strategies consistently, while we work to get the American public vaccinated. 
 
“I’m calling on our elected officials, our faith-based communities, our civic leaders, and our other influencers in communities across the nation, and I’m calling on every single one of you to sound the alarm to carry these messages into your community and your spheres of influence.  We do not have the luxury of inaction.  For the health of our country, we must work together now to prevent a fourth surge. 
 
“And after that honest plea, I want to reflect on so many reasons we have to be hopeful and why your actions today can get us out of this soon.  As I shared last week, we continue to get more and more real-world evidence on the protection of COVID-19 vaccines provide.  And CDC scientists have been working since these vaccines were first authorized to expand the evidence supporting their effectiveness,” she said.

Biden: ‘This is Deadly Serious’

President Joe Biden in remarks later on expanding access to COVID-19 vaccinations, said, “Our progress on vaccination is a stunning example that there is nothing — nothing this country cannot do if we put our minds to it and we do it together. 
 
“But as I’ve also said, I will always give you it straight — straight from the shoulder.  Our work is far from over.  The war against COVID-19 is far from won.  This is deadly serious…

“This is not the time to lessen our efforts.  That’s what [CDC Director Rochelle Walensky] said.  We could still see a setback in the vaccination program.  And most importantly, if we let our guard down now, we could see a virus getting worse, not better. 
 
“You know, as many people as we have vaccinated, we still have more Americans left to go.  You know, we will administer more shots in March than any country on Earth.  But even so, we have to give more shots in April than we did in March.  Because we’re in the life and death race for the virus that is spreading quickly with cases rising again.  New variants are spreading.  And sadly, some of the reckless behavior we’ve seen on television over the past few weeks means that more new cases are to come in the weeks ahead.
 
“With vaccines, there’s hope, which is a — which is a very good thing, to state the obvious.  But people are let — are letting up on precautions, which is a very bad thing.  Look, to this point, cases have fallen two thirds since I took office.  Deaths have also fallen two thirds.  But now cases are going back up and, in some states, deaths are as well.  You know, we’re giving up hard-fought, hard-won gains.  And as much as we are doing, America, it is time to do even more.  All of us have to do our part, every one of us….”

 FACT SHEET:

President Biden Announces 90% of the Adult U.S. Population will be Eligible for Vaccination and 90% will have a Vaccination Site Within 5 Miles of Home by April 19

New Actions to Accomplish Goal: Expanding Pharmacy Program and Launching a New Program to Transport the Most Vulnerable Seniors and People with Disabilities to Vaccination Sites

President Biden unveiled new actions to get more people vaccinated quickly and announce that by April 19, 90% of adults in the U.S. will be eligible for vaccination and 90% will have a vaccination site within 5 miles of where they live. The President announced that the Administration is increasing the number of pharmacies in the federal pharmacy vaccination program from 17,000 to nearly 40,000 across the country and will stand up a dozen more mass vaccination sites by April 19.  He also announced a new effort to fund community organizations to provide transportation and assistance for the nation’s most at-risk seniors and people with disabilities to access vaccines. This builds on last week’s historic $10 billion investment to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines in the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities.

President Biden called for all states, Tribes, and territories to make all U.S. adults eligible for vaccination no later than May 1 and is working closely with state and local leaders to make this happen as quickly as possible. To date, 31 states have said they will open up eligibility to all adults by April 19. With today’s actions to expand access, that means in just three weeks, 90% of all U.S. adults will be eligible for vaccination and 90% will have a vaccination site within 5 miles of where they live.

The President reminded Americans about the importance of taking preventative measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, as variants continue to spread and cases are on the rise. He called for continued masking and social distancing as we work to get more people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Actions include:

Expanding Vaccines to 20,000 More Local Pharmacies, Bringing the Total to Nearly 40,000 Pharmacies Across the Country by April 19: The President will announce that the Administration is expanding the Federal Retail Pharmacy program from 17,000 to nearly 40,000 stores within the next three weeks. This means that by April 19, there will be a vaccine site within 5 miles of 90% of all Americans. The participating pharmacies in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program are located in communities across the country – including 45% currently in the highest-need neighborhoods.

Launching New Effort to Get the Nation’s Most Vulnerable and At-Risk Seniors and People with Disabilities Vaccinated: The President will announce nearly $100 million in funding to help vaccinate vulnerable and at-risk older adults and people with disabilities. This new effort will expand the senior and disability services funded by the Department of Health and Human Services to provide the high-intensity assistance needed to get these individuals scheduled for and transported to vaccinations. It will also fund community organizations to transport them to appointments, which can involve extra time, assistance with mobility, and supporting people during wait times. Funding will be available starting within two weeks. The Administration has made tremendous progress on vaccinating seniors, with over 70% of people over 65 years old receiving at least one shot, and this new program will help vaccinate our most vulnerable and at-risk seniors and people with disabilities who have yet to be vaccinated, including those who need assistance leaving their home or are socially isolated. 

Expanding the Number of Mass Vaccination Centers Across the Country: The President will announce that the Administration will stand up a dozen more federally-run mass vaccination sites across the country, including two new sites in Gary, Indiana and St. Louis, Missouri announced earlier today. Equity and access are prioritized in the design of the federal community vaccination centers, with some featuring weekend and extended daytime hours, reserved slots for registration through faith-based and community-based organizations, and deployment of mobile vaccination units to help vaccinate surrounding communities. This is in addition to the over $4 billion federal funding obligated to date and thousands of federal personnel deployed to support state- and locally-run community vaccination centers. In partnership with states, FEMA has launched 21 sites in communities across the country. Together, these sites have the ability to administer a total of 79,000 shots per day at full capacity.

Experts Predict Most Significant Wellness Trends for 2021

Between the coronavirus pandemic and the specter of future pandemics, climate-change borne insects and illness, coupled with the advances in medicine and medical technology and the demand for universal health care and equity, there is new focus and demand for prevention and wellness and more focus on self-care. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The coronavirus pandemic and the specter of future pandemics. Climate-change borne insects and illness. Advances in medicine and medical technology. The demand for universal health care and equity. With all of these developments are producing new focus and demand for prevention, wellness and self-care.

In other words, don’t get sick and place more stresses on an overwhelmed and unaffordable health care system.

Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 69 percent of all deaths globally each year are the result of preventable diseases and that the global cost of largely preventable chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes and more) could reach $47 trillion by 2030 (World Economic Forum, 2017).

In light of this, the Global Wellness Institute has launched a fundraising challenge for The Wellness Moonshot: A World Free of Preventable Disease,  a global fight to eradicate preventable, chronic diseases. GWI is a nonprofit organization with a mission to empower wellness worldwide by educating the public and private sectors about preventative health and wellness.

At its recent Global Wellness Summit (GWS), the organization unveiled the top nine wellness trends for 2021, the new directions that will have the most meaningful impact on the $4.5 trillion global wellness industry:

Global Wellness Summit Trends Report: “The Future of Wellness 2021”

In this report, wellness industry analysts and experts identify the nine wellness trends that will have the most meaningful–not fleeting–impact in 2021 and beyond.

  1. Hollywood and the Entertainment Industries Jump into Wellness
  2. The Future of Immune Health: Stop Boosting, Start Balancing
  3. Spiritual and Numinous Moments in Architecture
  4. Just Breathe!
  5. The Self-Care Renaissance: Where Wellness and Healthcare Converge
  6. Adding Color to Wellness
  7. Resetting Events with Wellness: You may never sit on a banquet chair again
  8. Money Out Loud: Financial Wellness is Finding Its Voice
  9. 2021: The Year of the Travel Reset (The year when all travel may become wellness travel)

Forecasting trends in the fast-evolving wellness space is daunting every year. In 2020, we experienced a global pandemic, economic meltdown, racial injustice, polarizing politics, and a mental wellness crisis that changed every aspect of human life­­. The pandemic made wellness radically more important to people overnight, while the coronavirus exposed the terrible human cost for not controlling chronic, underlying conditions, radically strengthening the case for preventative wellness. At the same time, there was accelerated fatigue with a wellness industry overly focused on elitist, hyper-trendy, evidence-free wellness solutions—which suddenly feel “so 2019.”

Wellness today is at a watershed moment. The trends report reflects how wellness is poised to take a bigger seat at the healthcare table (see “The Self-Care Revolution” trend). It predicts a future industry that will be more inclusive, accessible and affordable (see the “Adding Color to Wellness,” “The Entertainment Industry Jumps into Wellness,” and “Just Breathe!” trends). How it will basically “get real” and more evidence-based (see “The Future of Immune Health: Stop Boosting, Start Balancing”)—and tackle tougher, more crucial human pain-points (see “Money Out Loud: Financial Wellness Is Finding Its Voice”). And the report also predicts how wellness will continue to rewrite vast industries, from travel, to architecture and design, to the meetings industry.

This wellness forecast is based on the insights of hundreds of top executives of wellness companies, economists, doctors, investors, academics and technologists­ (from dozens of nations) that gathered in person and virtually at the recent Summit to debate where wellness was headed—making for a particularly informed, global set of predictions.

1. Hollywood and the Entertainment Industries Jump into Wellness

By Beth McGroarty, VP, Research & Forecasting, Global Wellness Summit

Wellness will become a bigger, more meaningful programming focus on TV and in the music industry. Big Media is digesting the huge cultural force wellness has become.

For wellness purists, any trend about Goliath TV, music and tech companies moving into wellness programming can cause eye rolls; It must be…inauthentic. But for anyone serious about “wellness for all,” more wellness experiences at Big Media platforms are a story of unprecedented reach, access and affordability.

A New Wellness TV

If wellness programming on TV (whether Oprah or the Goop Lab) has been about wellness as a topic you passively consume, the future is TV content and platforms that involve and impact you.

Smart TVs are baking wellness “channels” onto their home screens. Samsung TVs launched Samsung Health, letting people binge 5,000 hours of free fitness/meditation classes from the buzziest brands. The future: smart TVs (like Apple’s) that connect to your health wearable (like Apple Fitness+) to serve up personalized wellness/fitness experiences right on your TV.Samsung’s 2021 TVs’ “Smart Trainer” does just that: offering real-time coaching as you work out.

Wellness companies are becoming full-blown TV studios. Mega-meditation-apps, Calm and Headspace, recently scored TV shows (HBO Max and Netflix), translating their meditative experiences into immersive television. Meditation apps with TV series? Unthinkable just two years ago.

China is perfecting the marriage of wellness TV programming and e-commerce, and Waterbear Network is a new “Netflix” for climate activism.

Wellness Music Exploding

The ways that music is being created forstress, sleep, focus, a better workout, or just trippy, ambient bliss…has kicked into high gear. It’s a paradigm shift: If music has always been consumed around artist, song and genre, now it’s “serve me music-as-therapy (with a specific emotional vibe), exactly when I need it.”

The big music sites (Spotify, Amazon, Apple) are really ramping up their music-for-wellbeing content, making “wellness” a new listening channel. Think: rock, jazz, hip-hop… “chill”… “sleep.”

Meditation apps are becoming big wellness musicrecord labels.” Calm’s music division keeps partnering with more big artists for adult lullabies or chill-out tracks. Headspace just named its first Chief Music Officer and came out swinging by hiring John Legend to create its original wellness music.

More apps are launching, specifically focused on music-for-wellbeing: the new Myndstream app and label produce music to help people chill out, sleep or focus; Muru Music Health, the first streaming platform aimed at people over 60, uses AI to deliver tailor-made music to prevent brain aging. The Soul Medicine app serves up music all composed around a 432 MHz frequency, which studies have shown works to synch sides of your brain and decrease heart rate.

Generative music technology—where your biometrics meet neuroscientist-designed sound—will take sound-as-precision-medicine to radical places, moving out of start-up labs and onto bigger media platforms. Endel pulls your heart rate, movement and circadian data to create a constantly changing “sound blanket” to help you de-stress, focus and sleep. They have big plans, including creating “smart house” tech that constantly adapts sound, light and temperature based on your physical/mental state.

Celebrities are now all over wellness, not just as spokespeople but as company founders, execs, and major investors. They are a rising, not-to-be-ignored force in the global wellness investment space.

Sure, many dream of creating the next money-minting GOOP empire, but it’s more than that: Wellness is becoming a powerful way for celebrities to positively rebrand during a health, racial inequity and environmental crisis. More celebs will keep investing in wellness brands that tackle serious social issues—from women’s sexual wellness to bringing wellness to Black and brown communities. Selena Gomez’s new brand Rare Beauty underwrites her Rare Impact Fund, pledging $100 million for mental health services in underserved communities.

The future: more collaborations between Big Media (who know a few things about high-quality, immersive content) and the wellness world (who has done a far better job than doctors in getting people obsessed with health).We need binge-able wellness programming—of all kinds. A trend that could impact billions of lives and feels awfully overdue.

2. The Future of Immune Health: Stop Boosting, Start Balancing

By Beth McGroarty, VP, Research & Forecasting, Global Wellness Summit

People were blitzed with “immune-boosting” supplements, foods and therapies in 2020. The future: more evidence-backed approaches to immune health, with metabolic health, the microbiome, and personalized nutrition becoming crucial—along with more experimentation with everything from “positive stress” experiences to intermittent fasting for immune resilience.

We join many forecasters in naming immune health a 2021 trend, not only because we agree that it will remain a consumer obsession post-vaccine but because the main ways the wellness industry has been addressing it are…flat-out wrong.

First, the idea that you can “boost” your immunity is unscientific nonsense, and “more boosting” is precisely the wrong approach: A supercharged immune system leads to the body attacking itself, the pathway to autoimmune diseases, and the cytokine storm that killed COVID-19 patients.

Second, the wellness market has led with pop-it, guzzle-it, IV-drip-it, “immune-boosting” superfoods and supplements, none of which can change the complex immune system much. So many sexy products like elderberry-adaptogen gummies in prescription-like bottles. How did wellness become such a Big-Pharma-simulating world?

The future: approaches that lead to immuno-stabilization, immuno-balance. Most are the untrendy pillars of wellness: exercise, sleep and stress-reduction.

But with new research and lessons from COVID-19, some things become far more important:

Metabolic health: COVID-19 brutally exposed the connection between metabolic ill-health and immune dysfunction, as people with metabolic issues (far more widespread than obesity and diabetes) were more likely to get sick and die. The #1 thing to strengthen our immunity: refocus on diets that drive metabolic health (and stop the profusion of trendy ones that don’t). This means embracing some version of the Mediterranean Diet.

The microbiome: An incredible 70% of our immune system is headquartered in our “gut.” And new research from PREDICT (the world’s largest research project on how individuals respond to food) on the gut-immune health connection is profound, finding diet is the # 1 determinant of our microbiome (trumping genetics). Other new studies have found that the gut microorganisms of COVID-19 patients look radically different than those of uninfected people.

More people will embrace the generic gut-health weapons: fiber-rich, whole, unprocessed foods; prebiotics; fermented probiotics; and now even postbiotics are coming. New research shows that the same foods impact individuals’ microbiomes (and metabolic health) very differently, so labs are working overtime to crack the insanely complex, 100-trillion-cell microbiome to create better testing models for personalized nutrition. Two scientist-founded microbiome testing companies to watch: Israel’s Day Two and Zoe Global, founded by the doctors behind PREDICT.

Personalized nutrition: All of this means far greater urgency for personalized nutrition in general. The gold standard: advanced, integrated genetic, bloodmarker, and microbiome testing (and UCSF is working on). So many companies are putting together the pieces in the meantime, such as MYX Health, using one-prick bloodspot tech to test everything from average blood sugar levels to inflammation markers for tailored nutrition plans.

We’ll see more experimentation with:

Intermittent fasting: Research mounts that intermittent fasting can dramatically “flip the switch” on immune system regeneration. Studies also indicate that daily fasting windows and special “fast-mimicking” diets show significant, positive immune impact, but multi-day, water-only fasts hurt immune response.

“Positive stress” experiences: Human immune systems evolved around constant, short stresses (how we survived), but now we sit at desks with temperatures always tuned to 72 degrees. Voluntary “positive stress” experiences—hot and cold; fasting; types of breathwork; high-intensity, short bursts of exercise—are proven to have a short-term, positive immune effect. All will rise in wellness, from the Wim Hof Method to wild swimming to home infrared saunas. The first human clinical trial testing on whether regular positive stress experiences have a long-term impact on our cellular biology and the immune system is coming soon.

“Immunity travel”: Wellness resorts rushed to immunity programs when the pandemic hit: so many add-on, “immune-boosting” menus and IV drips. Now destinations will go deeper, more medical, and revolve around interventions that matter more: from in-depth metabolic and immune profile testing to gut health and personalized nutrition—such as Germany’s Buchinger Wilhelmi. Biohacking centers, such as BelleCell in London, are deploying futuristic tech, such as IV laser therapy and hyperbaric oxygen chambers, to target “cellular bioresilience” and the immune system.

After a long 2020, people are aware that their immune health is a holistic affair, that food and the microbiome are lynchpins, and that “slow” not “hyper” strategies are the difference-makers. People will keep gobbling trendy quick-fixes in trendy bottles, but they’re ready for more. A wellness industry newly focused on the hard—and fast-evolving—immune science could extend and save many lives. And help its own reputation along the way.

3. Spiritual and Numinous Moments in Architecture
By Veronica Schreibeis Smith, Founding Principal, Vera Iconica Architecture and Developments

In recent years, a storm of studies has demonstrated the powerful connection between the built environment and our physical health, and a new “wellness architecture” has taken off, heavily focused on functional design moves, whether circadian lighting or air purification.

What has been glossed over is design that can tap into and nurture our spirituality. In 2021, we will see new attention paid to creating everyday spaces that can incite sacred and numinous moments, that elevate our consciousness and potential, and ground us in gravitas in the midst of a mindless, consumerist society. Architecture and design will move up Maslow’s Pyramid, from our recent era of look-at-me, visually ostentatious fads (luxury McMansions that reside in the “Esteem” tier) to a new architecture reaching for the “Self-Actualization” tier—a built environment that can move our souls.

Thin places: We will see more experimentation with creating special “thin places” that dissolve the veil between ordinary, everyday places and the sacred realm. Architect Dr. Phillip Tabb has identified 16 shared traits, including transitioning into the space with a threshold, much light and luminosity, and the beneficial manifestations of nature. Thin places move us from the secular, overwhelming pace of our daily lives to a sacred, more empowered state, and neuroscience has shown that this non-ordinary architecture has the same impact on our brains as meditation.

Ancient revivals: Feng shui principles are well-known, but we will see interest in other ancient traditions such as Vastu architecture, which also uses techniques like orientation, proportions, astrology, placement of rooms/furnishings, and blessing ceremonies to improve human energy. There will be more interest in sacred geometry and BioGeometry to create spiritual spaces rooted in the math of nature. And we will see a revival of the temple in both faith-based and everyday architecture.

“Nudge architecture”: Nudge architecture is the concept ofdesigning cues into the environment that influence behavior while still allowing people to make their own choices. For example, placing meditation coves in workplace courtyards (baking spirituality into everyday life) or placing a beautiful stairway in building entries and tucking elevators into back corridors (baking movement into life). 

A Spiritual Home: We will rethink layouts in our homes that we take for granted, such as designing the “bath room” as an elevated space for bathing rituals rather than basic hygiene (i.e., the toilet must move).  Wellness kitchens[1] will be designed so that preparing whole foods becomes a joyful, relaxing ritual—and bedrooms will become sleep sanctuaries, thoughtfully arranged to reflect the sacredness of winding down in preparation for dreamtime.

The new spiritual architecture means we will no longer accept secular environments that disregard a need to uplift us emotionally, maximize our cognitive performance, bring us to the present moment, and allow us space to breathe and be mindful. Spiritual wellbeing is an inextricable part of a well life and rightfully deserves more design consideration and designated spaces in our homes, workplaces, communities and urban landscapes.

Just breathe. Taking a meditative break on a hike in Death Valley National Park (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

4. Just Breathe! 

By Sandra Ballentine, Editor at Large, W Magazine

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to know where your chakras are or what a didgeridoo sounds like to do breathwork. An increasing number of clinical studies from major universities like Harvard, Stanford and Johns Hopkins are putting science and data behind something we’ve actually known for centuries—the way we breathe has profound effects on our mental and physical health and abilities. It might even help us strengthen our immune systems. Many of us have heard of top performers (think leading athletes, elite military personnel and major rock stars) using their breath to aid focus and reduce fear at critical moments, but the beauty of breath is that anyone can access its power, even children.

This trend explores the people, the techniques, the places, and the new technologies pushing the practical magic of breathwork into exciting—and important—new directions.

Practitioners are bringing breathwork to ever-larger audiences and pushing it into fascinating new territories, including rehabilitation, fitness and community building and relief from chronic stress, trauma and PTSD. Breath artist, Sage Rader, brings modern breathwork to the masses with a rock-star delivery, alchemizing science and spirituality into entertainment, while Jasmine Marie’s Black Girls Breathing delivers meditational breathwork as mental healthcare for Black women. This trend looks at techniques, whether nose breathing, the lengthened exhale, or the “sigh,” as specific brain and body medicine.

Cool, clubby breathwork parties and festivals are rising, such as Donovan McGrath’s (creator of Amplified Yoga, one of L.A.’s hottest live music-driven fitness classes) plans to introduce Amplified Ecstatic Breath, a breathwork social hour (complete with mood-shifting lights and a live DJ) as soon as people can meet again. Hospitality is taking a much bigger breath, with more—and more diverse—breathwork programming everywhere from Six Senses’ global resorts to Chablé Yucatan and Chablé Maroma in Mexico.

If breathwork apps have been around, gaining traction now are handheld devices that track air quality and fitness/health wearables that incorporate breathing-related metrics like breathing rate, pulse oximetry, heart-rate variability and habitual breathing patterns. There’s so much action in breath-tech, such as Israel-based start-up Anicca set to launch its Companion device, which regulates the wearer’s emotions by amplifying the sensation of their breathing as a calming vibration on their body.

Certain breathing techniques can help strengthen the lungs post-COVID-19, and there are even studies that point to breathwork as a possible therapeutic for one of the world’s deadliest diseases: hypertension. Perhaps the best part of all—this drug-free medicine costs absolutely nothing. And with so many accessible techniques and styles to choose from, there really is something for everyone and every situation. 

5. The Self-Care Renaissance: Where Wellness and Healthcare Converge

By Cecelia Girr & Skyler Hubler of Backslash, TBWA Worldwide

From 1400–1700, the Medical Renaissance marked a historic breakthrough in our approach to healthcare. Science began to dominate superstition. Anatomical discoveries paved the way for modern medicine. And yes, vaccines were in development.

Over three hundred years later, we’re undergoing a new kind of medical renaissance. One where two complementary yet often competing entities—healthcare and wellness—will converge. Wellness is learning to lean into science, establish standards, and hold itself accountable. At the same time, healthcare is beginning to borrow from the wellness playbook—transforming a once sterile and strictly curative industry into a more holistic, lifestyle-oriented, and even pleasurable one. In this new era, hospitals will take inspiration from five-star resorts, yoga studios might measure improved telomere length, and prescriptions may be coupled with hyper-personalized guides to optimal health.

Promising signs of governments, doctors and medicine giving wellness wings for widespread adoption are already emerging. Over in Singapore, for example, the government is teaming up with the world’s biggest tech giant to create a healthier society. Through the LumiHealth app and Apple Watch, Singaporeans can participate in country-wide wellness challenges and access personalized health programs until 2022. 

On the other end of the spectrum, we’re seeing healthcare take cues from the more pleasurable parts of wellness. Even the most dreaded semi-annual appointment—the dentist—is being rebranded as a self-care experience. Think seasonal toothpaste flavors, massage chairs in the lobby, and yes—your favorite Netflix show streaming on the ceiling.

As we look to a future where healthcare and wellness converge, there’s no better visual representation than Octave’s Sangha Retreat in Suzhou, China. On the property, there’s a corridor that runs from one side to the other. One end is home to conventional medicine, and the other hosts wellness practices ranging from acupuncture to more “out-there” devices that measure the age of your soul. Visitors are free to flow between the two sides based on their needs. 

The corridor at the Sangha Retreat presents what we believe is next for healthcare and wellness. A kind of yin yang approach where two seemingly opposing forces finally discover that they can—and must—work together. As Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier puts it, “Medicine is realizing that its roots have come from wellness traditions, and the wellness community is recognizing that not all doctors are evil.”

6. Adding Color to Wellness

A personal and professional reflection, as a Black woman living in the US, who researches the wellness industry

By Tonia Callender, Research Fellow, Global Wellness Institute

Graphic videos and the protests of last summer prompted many businesses to voice support for anti-racism. While diversity and inclusion have become a popular topic in the wellness industry, mainstream wellness companies ignore Black wellness consumers and rarely market to them.

Moreover, the industry disregards the value that talented Black wellness professionals can bring to wellness spaces, limiting them to entry-level or maintenance positions. This essay argues that to generate substantive change, the wellness industry must recognize and address the false narrative that wellness is for affluent white people. It discusses how the industry can add color to wellness by valuing Black consumers and wellness professionals and describes the different ways that Black people actually experience wellness offerings and spaces, highlighting racial inequalities.

Unequal wealth and the continued effects of residential segregation, racial bias and discrimination hinder Black wellness. Lack of access to good education, clean air, healthy food, potable water, and good health care hamper this ethnic group’s ability to protect and nurture its wellness. When compared to their fellow white citizens, Black Americans are more stressed and less healthy but have fewer choices. Racial bias and structural barriers continue to force unequal wellness options on Black people. Most importantly, for many people of color, even the least costly wellness practices can be difficult to pursue. This essay discusses some of the obstacles facing Black people who pursue wellness activities while providing a personal perspective on Black wellness experiences. Whether appreciating nature or engaging in physical activity, Black people face a different wellness landscape. For example, when it comes to mental wellbeing, they have more stress and fewer options. 

This piece also provides insights into the future, illustrating how companies are changing the wellness narrative and giving suggestions for how the wellness industry can add color to wellness. The industry can support Black wellness by allowing non-white groups to also shape the wellness narrative, incorporating Black wellness needs into services, spaces and products and valuing black wellness professionals. Companies such as Fenty Beauty in the beauty sector and the Shine app in the mental wellness space have found substantial success by incorporating Black wellness into their products and services, and both companies represent the vision of people of color who reject the current mainstream wellness narrative. They have not focused solely on Black wellness but have incorporated the needs of Black people into their wellness offerings. 

Global consumer markets are becoming more diverse, and Black and brown consumers are witnessing increased purchasing power. Companies that value wellness for all racial groups and income levels will thrive as they expand their consumer markets and increase business innovation and profitability. Wellness enterprises that value diversity, respect Black wellness needs, and work to support more equitable access, represent the future of wellness.   

7. Resetting Events with Wellness: You may never sit on a banquet chair again

By NancyDavis, Chief Creative Officer and Executive Director, GWI & GWS

In mid-March 2020, the pandemic brought in-person events to an abrupt halt. And no matter the power of technology and the gratitude we felt for Zoomed Wi-Fi connectivity, the world hungered for personal interactions.

But there was a silver lining: a new trend that will forever change meetings and events was born, with wellness at the core. The trend reinforces top-of-mind topics like health, safety and immunity and employs new protocols and technologies that mitigate risk in engaging ways. In 2021 and beyond, creativity is driving connection—and how we gather is taking on new—and healthier—meanings.

As the months passed, conflicting issues continued to converge in the world of meetings and events: a pent-up desire to travel, the still-spreading coronavirus, the uptick in virtual technologies, coupled with the unending human desire and need for connection.

The answer? New hybrid events (in-person and virtual gatherings) sprouted like mushrooms after a spring rain. Technology companies raced to be the platform for hosting hybrid meetings. Investors threw money at tech companies, and within months of the pandemic shutting down most in-person gatherings, new companies had taken hold, and a new world was emerging.

Moreover, the pandemic also generated the opportunity to reimagine not only how an event would take place but also how it could be healthier. The spark that ultimately combusted for the Global Wellness Summit (GWS) was an idea to “reset events with wellness” in an authentic and powerful way—ultimately creating a new trend for 2021.

The 14th annual Summit was to take place in November in Tel Aviv. However, when COVID-19 hit, the GWS quickly pivoted to a “Safe Summit.”  The now smaller event moved from Tel Aviv to The Breakers Palm Beach, and a virtual aspect was added, allowing more people to attend. A former US Surgeon General because the conference Medical Advisor, banquet seating became wellness stations, mandatory COVID-19 testing and temperature checks replaced handshakes and hugs, and buffet breaks were transformed to healthy snacks presented for carrying away. Mood lighting was turned into far-UVC and air purification, reducing viral load, and fun was reimaged with a “Mask-erade” with Distanced Disco Dancing.

Over 100 delegates attended the 2020 Global Wellness Summit in person at The Breakers, and over 500 attendees logged in virtually. It set a new standard for meetings and provided a road map for the future of healthy events.

8. Money Out Loud: Financial Wellness is Finding Its Voice

By Cecelia Girr & Skyler Hubler of Backslash, TBWA Worldwide

Money has topped the “do-not-discuss” list for decades—right alongside religion, sex and politics. But it’s 2021, and transparency is trending. A culture craving authenticity is breaking the money taboo—transforming finance from a hush-hush, one-size-fits-all, cut-and-dry industry to one that’s more human, empathetic, and, dare we say, fun. 

This growing openness is being driven by a much larger mental health awakening. We’re moving on from the vanities of look-good, feel-good wellness and lifting the lid off the heavier pressures that are contributing to an unhealthy society. And with research linking financial stress to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, respiratory conditions, and more—it’s about time money is put under the microscope.

This growing financial wellness movement is moving money talk far beyond the bank. Financial therapists are tackling the intersection between money and mental health. Financial literacy courses are simplifying complicated finance bro jargon. And the three billion views of #personalfinance content on TikTok are proving that finance influencers are officially a thing. And the discussion is just getting started.

As the money conversation heats up, it’s being brought to the fore by those who have typically been excluded from dialogue altogether. We all engage with money daily, yet our experience with it vastly differs based on factors like race, socioeconomic status, age, personal values, and even sexual orientation. And though the majority of 2020 headlines felt hopeless, the year did bring promising signs of greater financial inclusivity. Jefa, a digital bank designed specifically for women in Latin America, and Majority, a banking service that sets immigrants up with the tools needed for financial success, are just two of the several hyper-personal neobanks that are emerging.

All positive progress starts with a conversation. In this case, the conversation is about money—how it makes us feel, how and why our experiences with it differ, and what ultimately needs to change. As the conversation becomes increasingly loud, inclusive and honest, the old voices will be shouted out by the new. We’ll begin to see the end of financial systems designed to profit from our failure and the start of financial wellness awakening. Money talks. It’s time we start using a language everyone can understand.

In 2021, all travel may have a measure of wellness travel. Seeking out restorative effects of being in nature, active travel,, travel sustainability with minimal impact like biking, hiking will continue to be popular (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

9. 2021: The Year of the Travel Reset

The year when all travel may become wellness travel
By Elaine Glusac, columnist, New York Times

The coronavirus pandemic acted as a near-complete brake on travel in 2020. The pause gave everyone—consumers and suppliers—the opportunity to think about rebooting travel for the better by correcting overtourism, becoming more conscious of where the money goes, and how to use the enormous power of tourism to sustain cultures and environments and perhaps even leave them better off.

Looking ahead, the year 2021 may be the year that all travel becomes wellness travel. As home and work lives merged during the pandemic, work grew for many, prompting employers to emphasize self-care, beginning with vacations. Additionally, health assessments—including pre-arrival COVID-19 tests—are becoming vital precursors to travel. And vaccine passports are in development.

From the manic travel of 2019—which was the ninth year of record-setting growth in travel, outpacing global economic expansion—2021 will be the year of the travel reset, going slower, nearer and more mindfully. Fitfully too, mirroring the vaccination rollout, which has prompted optimism as well as tentativeness.

Some ways travel will be reset in 2021:

Making travel regenerative: or leaving a place better off than you found it. An example includes the Svart lodge in Norway, which plans to be energy positive, producing more solar power than it needs.

Challenging overtourism: finding ways to ensure that when travel rebounds, it doesn’t threaten to overrun attractions and communities.

Correcting undertourism: being mindful of the positive force travel can be by sustaining communities and ecosystems in encouraging conservation and local investment.

Tentative travel: taking cautious steps in travel to local and regional destinations before national and international ones as confidence in the health and safety of travel grows.

Embracing nature: discovering the healing power of nature, a movement unleashed during the pandemic, will continue as travelers continue to value isolation, slow travel and human-powered travel.

Putting purpose first: making travel more meaningful or purposeful, from planning family reunions to pursuing personal challenges like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. 

Eventually, the widespread distribution of vaccines is expected to unleash a flood of travel, though the date the dam breaks is hard to foresee. For now, 2021 will be a year of resetting travel as a closer, slower, more careful, healthier pursuit as we emerge post-vaccine.

The full 97-page Global Wellness Summit Trends Report can be purchased  here.

The Global Wellness Summit is an invitation-only international gathering that brings together leaders and visionaries to positively shape the future of the $4.5 trillion global wellness economy. Held in a different location each year, Summits have taken place in the US, Switzerland, Turkey, Bali, India, Morocco, Mexico, Austria, Italy and Singapore. The 14th annual Summit took place at The Breakers Palm Beach, FL, from November 8–11, 2020. The 2021 GWS will be held in Tel Aviv, Israel, in November 2021. 

See also:
Pandemic Underscores Urgency for True Universal Healthcare with Added Emphasis on Wellness


Governor Cuomo’s 2021 Agenda for New York State: Reimagine, Rebuild, Renew

Governor Cuomo, in his 2021 agenda, said he would build upon the opening of the $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall,  New York’s most ambitious transportation and infrastructure upgrade in decades, to complete the build out and connectivity of Midtown West with a bold transit-oriented development plan. The $51 billion plan will create 196,000 jobs, new outdoor spaces, affordable housing, improved public transit and pedestrian connections, and bring commercial and affordable housing opportunities to the burgeoning Manhattan neighborhood. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Cuomo’s Agenda is Focused on Defeating COVID-19 and Reopening the State Safely; Jumpstarting the Economy; Creating a Fairer, More Just State; Leading the Development of the Green Energy Economy; and Building and Strengthening the State’s Infrastructure 

Proposals Include the Largest Off-Shore Wind Program in the Nation; Five Dedicated Port Facilities to make New York a Global Wind Energy Manufacturing Powerhouse; Building a Green Energy Transmission Superhighway; Creating a new 1,000 person Public Health Corps; Safely Reopening Businesses and Bringing Back the Arts; Legalizing Adult-Use Cannabis and Online Sports Betting; First-in-the-Nation Affordable Internet for All; Expanding Early Voting; and $306 Billion Infrastructure Plan – Largest in the Nation – to Update Airports and Transportation Infrastructure and Redevelop Manhattan’s Midtown West Neighborhood

2021 State of the State Book Available Here

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2021 agenda – Reimagine | Rebuild | Renew – features nation-leading proposals to not only defeat COVID-19, but also tackle critical issues facing New York and the country, including jumpstarting New York’s economic recovery; creating a fairer, more just state; reopening the state; becoming a leader in the growing green energy economy; and rebuilding and strengthening New York’s infrastructure. Proposals include legalizing adult-use cannabis and online sports betting; first-in-the-nation affordable internet for all; safely bringing back the arts with pop-up performances and events; the largest off-shore wind program in the nation; five dedicated port facilities to make New York a global wind energy manufacturing powerhouse; building a green energy transmission superhighway and; The largest infrastructure plan in the nation to update the state’s airports and transportation infrastructure, including a new Port Authority bus terminal, and redevelop Manhattan’s Midtown West neighborhood.

 “There are moments in life that can change a person fundamentally – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Likewise, there are episodes in history that transform society and COVID is one of those moments. We see the risk and peril, but we also see the promise and potential of this moment.” Governor Cuomo said. “This next year we will see economies realign and reset around the world and New York will lead the way. In a moment when nagging insecurity can either limit your potential or give way to the energy of urgency, necessity, and innovation. We know the direction we are headed – it is our state motto, Excelsior- ever upwards.”

Governor Cuomo continued, “New York is different – our DNA is different, our character is different. What COVID did to us is different and how we responded to COVID is different. We have a confidence born from accomplishment. We know what we must do and we will do it. We will win the COVID war and we will learn and grow from the experience.After the war, reconstruction begins. That is when progress is made. We must start our post COVID war reconstruction now. We can and we will build back a better and stronger New York. We have done it throughout history, we did it last year, and we will do it again. It is our legacy.”

2021 REIMAGINE | REBUILD | RENEW HIGHLIGHTS 

DEFEATING COVID-19, JUMPSTARTING THE ECONOMY, AND CREATING A FAIRER, MORE JUST STATE

New York State Governor Cuomo at Northwell Health on Long Island. The governor’s 2021 agenda is focused on defeating COVID-19 and reopening the state safely. In addition to expanding accessibility to vaccinations, he is pushing to pass the Medical Supplies Act and expand telemedicine. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Passing the Medical Supplies Act: The United States was ill-prepared for a global pandemic when it came to our shores in 2020. At the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, New York State, along with the rest of the country, faced a severe shortage of basic Personal Protective Equipment, leaving our frontline health care professionals vulnerable to contracting the disease that we so desperately needed them to fight. To ensure that hospitals had the supplies needed to protect their patients and workers, New York was forced to compete with other countries — and even states — to secure critical products from overseas.

To promote domestic manufacturing of critical medical equipment and to reduce dependency on overseas products, Governor Cuomo is proposing that New York pass the Medical Supplies Act to prioritize buying American-made PPE and medical supplies. As the Buy American Act, made permanent last year, did for American-made structural iron and steel, this new policy will help create and retain local jobs while ensuring the health and dependability of a crucial sector for years to come.

Comprehensive Telehealth Legislation: The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the inequities in our healthcare system and showed that telehealth is a critical tool to expand access and lower costs for low-income communities, especially for behavioral health support. During the crisis, the Governor took executive action to expand access to remote care. These proposals codify and build on those successful reforms.

In partnership with the Reimagine New York Commission, the Governor will enact comprehensive telehealth reform to help New Yorkers take advantage of telehealth tools and address existing roadblocks. These reforms will address key issues like adjusting reimbursement incentives to encourage telehealth, eliminating outdated regulatory prohibitions on the delivery of telehealth, removing outdated location requirements, addressing technical unease among both patients and providers through training programs, and establishing other programs to incentivize innovative uses of telehealth.

Ensuring Social and Racial Justice for the Vaccination Effort: In order to ensure the vaccine is distributed equitably, especially in communities of color, Governor Cuomo created the New York Vaccine Equity Task Force. Chaired by Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, Attorney General Letitia James, National Urban League President & CEO Marc Morial, and Healthfirst President & CEO Pat Wang, the Governor’s Equity Task Force will assist in overcoming existing barriers to vaccination and increase access to vaccines in Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, rural, poor, and public housing communities, as well as other health care deserts.

To support the vaccine rollout, the Task Force was directed by the Governor to build trust and acknowledge the pervasive structural inequities that have contributed to existing health and social disparities, address language access issues, ensure protections of privacy and confidentiality, and develop outreach efforts and community engagements that are regionally placed, culturally responsive, and representative of all communities. As vaccine availability increases from the federal government, the State will establish in partnership with private entities and localities, public clinics to reach vulnerable and underserved communities.  

New York State Public Health Corps: While working to make New York the first COVID-19-safe state in the nation through widespread vaccination, we must also prepare for future public health crises. To support New York’s massive effort to vaccinate nearly 20 million New Yorkers and support other public health emergency responses, Governor Cuomo is proposing the launch of the nation’s first public health corps. As part of the effort, up to 1,000 fellows will be recruited to assist with vaccination operations. These fellows will include students in undergraduate and graduate public health programs, nursing schools and medical schools, recent graduates, retired medical professionals, and laypeople who will receive an intensive public health training curriculum developed by Cornell University. Bloomberg Philanthropies, Northwell, and our Department of Health will manage and coordinate the Corps.

After the vaccination program is completed, New York will build on this Public Health Corps model by continuing to recruit and train public health professionals to staff State and county health agencies and this Corps will be available and prepared to serve the state in any future crisis.

Free Citizen Public Health Training: To empower and educate New Yorkers to be prepared for the next public health crises, the State will develop a free citizen public health training program with Cornell, offered online, to educate and certify thousands of New Yorkers to be prepared to volunteer to help their communities the next time there is a health emergency.

Fight for Overdue Federal Support to States Fighting COVID-19: New York was blindsided by the virus in early spring. Despite vast agencies tasked with monitoring health threats, and months of warning, the federal government failed to respond to — or even notice — the growing global pandemic. When they finally took notice, the federal government was solely focused on China such that they allowed 3 million travelers from Europe — where the virus was rapidly spreading —to enter New York City-area airports and others. This was an act of gross negligence by the federal government. New York State led the nation in its response. Left to fend for itself by the federal government, New Yorkers bent the curve and, with a science-based approach, re-opened much of the economy while maintaining some of the lowest infection rates in the nation.

However, even as portions of the economy have bounced back, many sectors have seen significant job losses and remain severely impacted, all contributing to New York’s significant fiscal challenges. The State is contending with a $15 billion budget gap created entirely by the pandemic. For too long, New York has been asked to unfairly subsidize the federal government. As the federal government’s number one donor, New York already leads the nation in sending more money to Washington than it gets back in return. On top of that, Washington has relentlessly abused this state, providing the lowest Medicaid reimbursement rate in the nation, starving infrastructure funding, and curtailing the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction, which raised New Yorkers’ taxes and starved New York of $30 billion over three years. After all of this, New York cannot also afford to pay the bill for the federal government’s incompetence.

Governor Cuomo will fight to ensure that the federal government takes responsibility and delivers the fair funding New York and other states are owed.

Pass a Comprehensive Adult-Use Cannabis Program: In 2019, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to decriminalize the penalties for unlawful possession of marijuana. The legislation also put forth a process to expunge records for certain marijuana convictions. Later that year, the Governor spearheaded a multi-state summit to discuss paths towards legalization of adult-use cannabis that would ensure public health and safety, and coordinate programs regionally to minimize the cross-border movement of cannabis products.

Building on that important work, the Governor is proposing the creation of a new Office of Cannabis Management to oversee a new adult-use cannabis program, as well as the State’s existing medical and cannabinoid hemp programs. Additionally, an equitable structure for the adult-use market will be created by offering licensing opportunities and assistance to entrepreneurs in communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. Cannabis legalization will create more than 60,000 new jobs, spurring $3.5 billion in economic activity and generating more than $300 million in tax revenue when fully implemented.

Enabling Online Sports Betting: The sports gambling market is evolving rapidly. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court in Murphy v. NCAA overturned a federal law prohibiting most states from authorizing sports wagering. Sports wagering is now legal online in 14 states, including the bordering states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, while it is only legal in New York at four Upstate commercial gaming facilities and Native American gaming facilities. An industry study found that nearly 20 percent of New Jersey’s sports wagering revenue comes from New York residents, costing the State millions of dollars in lost tax revenue.

Under Governor Cuomo’s proposal, the New York State Gaming Commission will issue a request for proposals to select one or more providers to offer mobile sports wagering in New York. The Commission will also require any entity operating mobile wagering apps include safeguards against abuses and addiction. 

Create a Rapid Testing Network as a Tool to Help Businesses Reopen: Over the past several months, Governor Cuomo’s New York Forward reopening plan has paved the way for many businesses to resume operations safely through a phased approach and in accordance with public health protocols. While this has unleashed the ingenuity and creativity of New York businesses — such as new outdoor dining spaces and delivery options — it has also created significant financial struggles for these industries.

New York has been at the forefront of developing testing capacity throughout the COVID-19 crisis and will use that experience to help support the reopening of businesses. The State will continue to scale up the availability of testing to help businesses safely reduce capacity restrictions, as well as work with testing companies to stand up a network of convenient testing sites in city centers, starting with New York City. New York will also work with local governments to cut through any red tape to set up this critical infrastructure quickly. With this new network of rapid testing locations, a customer can stop into a new rapid testing facility, get tested, and 15 minutes later be cleared for dinner or a movie. This will provide an added layer of protection and confidence as New Yorkers resume economic activity.

Calls to divest police at Black Lives Matter protest in suburban Long Island and throughout the state prompted Governor Cuomo to demand localities work with communities to come up with police reform or lose state aid © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Facilitating Policing Reforms: This year, Governor Cuomo took swift and aggressive action to respond to community concerns and rebuild public trust in the law enforcement profession following the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude, and far too many others. The Governor signed the “Say Their Name” reform agenda which repealed 50-a, banned chokeholds, prohibited race-based 911 calls, and codified his 2015 Executive Order that appointed the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor for police involved deaths of unarmed civilians. He also signed legislation creating the Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office within the Attorney General’s Office to investigate complaints of misconduct filed against law enforcement agencies.

However, unrest and distrust continued to roil communities in New York and across the nation. Maintaining public safety is imperative; it is one of the essential roles of government, and communities require mutual trust and respect between police and the communities they serve. In recognition of this, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 203 creating the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. This collaborative process requires all local governments and police forces to develop a plan to modernize their policing strategies and strengthen relationships with the communities they serve. Localities are required to engage their community and ratify a plan by April 1, 2021. Failure to complete this process will result in loss of State funding.

Facilitating the Creation of Statewide Childcare Options: The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how a lack of access to affordable childcare can disrupt low-income families and force caregivers, primarily women, to choose between putting food on the table and caring for their children. While affordability serves as a barrier to families securing child care, there is also a lack of general accessibility of child care programs, as well as insufficient high quality provider capacity across the state which can inhibit families from accessing child care. 

To make child care more affordable and equitable for our most vulnerable children and their parents, Governor Cuomo will invest $40 million to reduce the burden of parent subsidy copays to help approximately 32,000 working families. This will ensure that no New York family pays more than 20 percent of their income above the federal poverty level for a child care subsidy co-pay, with the rest of the cost of care being covered by the subsidy.

To ensure that all families have access to high-quality child care, New York State will invest $6 million for start-up grants to create programs in child care deserts; increase the value of the New York State Employer-Provided Child Care Credit by expanding the amount a business can claim for qualified child care expenditures to up to $500,000 per year; create a new toolkit to provide guidance and assistance to businesses looking to subsidize and facilitate access to child care for their employees; and establish permanent child care sector workgroups within the Regional Economic Development Councils REDCs to guide and inform council decisions. The Governor will also establish a new Excelsior Child Care Investment Tax Credit available to recipients of the Excelsior Tax Credit as a bonus incentive to create and provide child care services for employees and their families.

To ease administrative burdens and make it easier and less costly to provide child care services, Governor Cuomo will adopt the Child Care Availability Task Force recommendations to standardize and modernize the child care subsidy system to eliminate waste, duplication, and confusing rules for families. Specifically, the Governor will direct the Office of Children and Family Services and the Council on Children and Families to examine federal and state statutes and regulations to identify opportunities for reform and streamlining; eliminate redundant background checks that increase administrative burdens and costs for providers; and advance legislation to eliminate the requirement that individuals seeking employment at OCFS or in New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene regulated programs submit a new Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment clearance form when they move to a new program.

Streamlining and Enhancing Work to Address Gender-Based Violence: Ending domestic violence and sexual assault has been at the top of New York’s agenda since Governor Cuomo first took office. Throughout his time as Governor, Governor Cuomo has signed extensive legislation relating to ensuring safety for girls, women, and all survivors of domestic trauma and abuse, including legislation in the FY 2021 budget authorizing law enforcement to remove guns from the scene of a domestic violence incident, and requiring judges to consider the effects of domestic violence while determining distribution of marital property. The Governor also signed the Enough is Enough law in July, 2015 to address sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking on college campuses.

The Governor is now proposing to take this work a step further through a comprehensive package of initiatives to combat domestic violence and gender-based violence. The package includes a proposal allowing courts to require abusers to pay for damages to housing units, moving expenses, and other housing costs related to domestic violence, as well as a proposals to create a domestic violence misdemeanor label to close the domestic violence gun-purchasing loophole to ensure abusers cannot obtain weapons who are convicted of misdemeanor assaults on a domestic partner. 

Additionally, the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence will be transformed into a reimagined agency, the Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence, and will be tasked with addressing the intersection of the many forms of intimate partner violence, including domestic violence and sexual violence, in a survivor-centered and comprehensive manner.

Providing Rent and Mortgage Relief for Tenants and Small Business Owners: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented economic dislocation across the United States, and New York is no exception. The financial hardships arising from business closures and resulting unemployment touch on every aspect of life but are perhaps most acutely felt by New Yorkers in danger of losing their homes or businesses because they can no longer afford to pay their mortgage or rent.  

The Governor has already signed legislation placing a moratorium on residential evictions until May 1, 2021 for tenants who have endured COVID-related hardship. Taking this effort a step further, Governor Cuomo will codify his Executive Order banning fees for late and missed rent payments during the pandemic and allowing tenants to use their security deposit as immediate payment and repay the deposit over time, keeping those protections in place through May 1. The Governor will also codify his Executive Order to establish a statewide moratorium on commercial evictions until May 1 for commercial tenants who have endured COVID-related hardship.

Eliminating Health Care Premiums for Low-Income New Yorkers: The COVID-19 pandemic showcased the persistent, staggering healthcare disparities in this country and in New York State. Blacks, Latinos, Asians and poor communities paid the highest price for COVID-19. Higher rates of underlying conditions were a major driver of these disparities. Increasing access to affordable healthcare will help address these disparities and help ensure that New York emerges from the pandemic stronger and more equitable.

Through New York’s successful health insurance exchange, the New York State of Health, low-income families qualify for the state’s Essential Plan for free or with a maximum premium of $20 a month per person. However, families and individuals still struggle with the expense. To make coverage more affordable for low-income New Yorkers, Governor Cuomo will eliminate these monthly premiums for over 400,000 New Yorkers, saving families nearly $100 million per year in premiums and enrolling 100,000 New Yorkers who are currently uninsured. 

Continuing New York’s Liberty Defense Project: Launched in 2017 under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the first-in-the-nation Liberty Defense Project has provided more than 45,000 vital legal services to immigrants and communities in need — particularly those who have been targeted by federal immigration enforcement tactics, including those in Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals or Temporary Protected Status. The project is administered by the Office for New Americans and runs in partnership with law firms, legal associations, advocacy organizations, colleges, universities, and bar associations across the state. The Liberty Defense Project provides free legal consultations and screenings for immigrants throughout New York, direct representation in deportation proceedings and other cases, assistance in applying for naturalization and employment authorization, and other education and support, including connection to social services and health care.

This year, Governor Cuomo will continue to support the Liberty Defense Project to keep fighting for immigrants seeking a better life for themselves and their families. New York’s strength, character, and pride are found in the diversity and rich culture that makes us the Empire State. We will continue to support and defend all who call New York home.

Strengthening and expanding access to elections is part of Governor Cuomo’s 2021 agenda (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Strengthening and Expanding Access to Elections: Building from New York’s previous landmark election reforms, Governor Cuomo has put forth a transformational proposal that continues to expand access to voting and improves procedures to speed up vote counting and add additional time for early voting. Specifically:

         Expand Access to Early Voting:Governor Cuomo will advance legislation that extends early voting hours from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm on weekends as well as on a minimum of three week days during the ten-day early voting period.

         No-Excuse Absentee Voting for All New Yorkers:In 2019, Governor Cuomo celebrated the Legislature’s passage of a resolution beginning the process of amending the state constitution to make no-excuse absentee voting a reality in our state. In 2021, the Governor will call on the Legislature to act quickly to pass the resolution again so that the proposed amendment can go on the ballot to be ratified by the voters.

         Allow More Time for Voters to Request Absentee Ballots: The state’s election law currently prohibits voters from requesting their absentee ballots more than 30 days prior to Election Day. Particularly in elections with large numbers of absentee voters, this timeline may make it difficult for county boards of elections to process ballot requests in a timely and efficient manner. This, in turn, provides voters with less time to receive their ballots, vote, and mail them back. Governor Cuomo will advance legislation allowing voters to request absentee ballots 45 days prior to the election, ensuring they can be mailed as soon as the ballot is finalized and approved by the Board.

         Speed Up the Counting of Absentee Ballots:New York State’s election law does not facilitate the speedy counting of large numbers of absentee ballots – the law only requires that boards of elections meet to process and count ballots within two weeks of a general election and within eight days of a primary election. To ensure that New York State counts absentee votes quickly and efficiently after each election, Governor Cuomo will introduce legislation requiring county boards of elections to process absentee ballots as they are received and to begin counting and reporting those ballots on Election Day.

Creatively Repurposing Underutilized Commercial Space for Additional Housing: As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, New York, like states across the country, has seen an increase in telework and a reduction in travel. New York City must, and will, remain a global commercial hub, by ensuring that its central business district remains the paramount location for the world’s most innovative and successful businesses and their employees. Reduced demand for office and hotel space has created an opportunity to repurpose formerly commercial space that has far greater potential for use as housing, including affordable and supportive housing, to create dynamic, 24/7 walk-to-work neighborhoods.

Governor Cuomo will propose legislation to allow property owners to convert office buildings and hotels in New York to residential use. Stimulating housing conversion will create thousands of good-paying jobs, increase housing affordability, and support long-term economic growth by helping New York’s employers attract and retain talent. 

Ensuring Safe Shelters and Providing Sustained Care for Homeless on the Street: Governor Cuomo has been a leader in protecting and serving homeless New Yorkers throughout his entire career, and he took action during the COVID-19 crisis to ensure they received the support and care they need. In September, Governor Cuomo directed the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to issue guidance to all social services 

REOPENING SAFELY AND SMARTLY FOLLOWING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Safely Bringing Back the Arts with Pop-Up Performances and Events: New York is the cultural capital of the world. Our unique cultural assets — Broadway, museums, film, comedy, dance, and music — are fundamental to both the economy and the spirit of New York. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the $120 billion arts and cultural sector accounted for nearly eight percent of the state’s economy, and nearly 500,000 jobs. In less than a year, over two million jobs in the creative arts were lost nationally, including tens of thousands of jobs in New York.

New York State will launch a public-private partnership that will organize “pop-up” performances and arts events across the state beginning in February. More than 150 world-class artists including Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, Renée Fleming, Wynton Marsalis, and Hugh Jackman will participate, along with arts organizations such as the Ballet Hispanico, Ars Nova, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the National Black Theatre, Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake, and many others supported by New York State Council on the Arts, which works with over 2,000 arts organizations across the state.

Supporting New York Artists Through the Creatives Rebuild Initiative: The State will partner with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to launch a Creatives Rebuild initiative. Developed in partnership with the Reimagine New York Commission, this initiative will put back to work 1,000 artists who have been impacted by the crisis and will invest in dozens of small arts organizations that make our towns and cities so dynamic. Arts have a multiplying effect on the economy. Creatives Rebuild will provide New York artists support so they can help build more vibrant communities across New York.

First-in-the-Nation Affordable Internet for All Low-Income Families: When the COVID-19 virus first came to New York and then quickly began to spread throughout our communities, students and adults alike had to adapt to remote learning and remote work to keep each other safe. Immediately, it became clear that universal broadband was a prerequisite for success in a remote world. Currently, a basic high-speed internet plan costs, on average, more than $50 a month. Governor Cuomo will propose first-in-the-nation legislation requiring internet service providers to offer an affordable $15 per month high speed internet plan to all low-income households. The State will also require providers to advertise this plan to ensure programs reach underserved populations across the State. To further bridge the gap, the State will partner with Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation to launch a new hardship fund to pay for internet subscriptions for our most in need students who cannot afford $15 per month during this crisis. 

After nearly $500 million dollars invested to expand broadband internet to 98 percent of the state, New York will also lead the nation in making broadband affordable. Without affordable broadband, people are not only disconnected, they are disenfranchised. The Reimagine New York Commission reported to the Governor that high-quality, affordable broadband must be available to everyone and in New York we will make sure it is.

Partner with New York Businesses to Invest in Workforce Training, Expand Apprenticeships and Mentorships, and Reform Recruitment and Promotion Policies: The COVID-19 health emergency has pushed many New Yorkers out of work, with the greatest losses impacting lower and middle-income households. Equally important is the demand side of the workforce equation: Businesses must help design programs to meet skill gaps and commit to hiring workers once training is complete. 

In partnership with the Governor’s Reimagine New York Commission, New York is launching a Pathways Pledge among New York’s leading employers, both public and private, to commit to reforming their talent recruitment, investment, and promotion policies and ensure more equitable workforces post-COVID-19. To date, 16 companies have made the pledge, affecting more than 120,000 workers in New York State. In 2021, New York State plans to triple that commitment. 

Participating employers have committed to at least two of the following: Investing in workforce retraining; creating apprenticeship opportunities for underrepresented populations; providing additional supports for low-income trainees in the form of child care or transportation subsidies; removing high school or postsecondary degree requirements for new hires; scaling relationships with existing workforce development partners to provide adequate time off for interviews and professional development opportunities, and develop new relationships with New York State providers serving underserved communities.

Provide Scholarships to Low-Income Workers for Workforce Training Programs: While many in the New York community colleges, nonprofits, or business training providers offer workforce training, workers who do not qualify for current college subsidies must pay the full cost. This can be a barrier to entry into the training opportunities needed to achieve higher wages and break into growing industries.

As New York builds back better, Governor Cuomo is announcing nearly $5 million in scholarships to create more opportunities for low-income, working New Yorkers to enter the middle class. Like the successful Excelsior Scholarship which launched in 2017, this program will make high-quality credential programs free for low-income New Yorkers, empowering them to earn credentials that will lead to middle-class jobs in high-demand industries.  

Expand SUNY’s Online Training Center to Close Skills Gaps and Fill High Demand Jobs: The COVID-19 public health crisis has led to an economic crisis across New York State and the world. The working class was particularly hard hit with leisure and hospitality, trade and logistics, and retail industries facing unprecedented revenue losses. As workers seek new job opportunities, non-degree certification credential programs can be an important way to close skills gaps and fill high demand jobs.

Governor Cuomo will expand SUNY’s free Online Training Center so New Yorkers can enroll in additional employment certification programs for quality jobs in high-demand growing industries, like health care and advanced manufacturing. The Training Center will give more New Yorkers in every region of the state — from rural communities to urban centers — another opportunity to receive free job training certifications and then automatically be admitted to any one of SUNY’s 30 community colleges for future career advancements

Convene a Commission on the Future of New York’s Economy: Governor Cuomo will establish the Commission on the Future of New York’s Economy to put forth a roadmap to address the underlying inequities exposed by the COVID-19 crisis, — including the socio-economic disparities that the crisis exacerbated — get New York back to work in jobs that pay well and continue to attract people from around the world to live and work in New York. The Commission will be composed of leading members of the nation’s academic, business, labor, and civil society leaders. NYU Wagner School of Public Service Dean Sherry Glied will serve as Executive Director of this Commission. 

GROWING THE GREEN ENERGY ECONOMY

Long Islanders protest to win LIPA’s approval of offshore wind farms in 2016. Governor Cuomo announced two of the largest offshore wind projects in the nation that will are being built off Montauk and the south shore of Long Island that will produce 2490 megawatts of carbon-free energy and $8.9 billion in investment © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Largest Offshore Wind Program in the Nation: In 2021, New York will continue to build out its nation-leading green economic recovery and accelerate renewable energy development programs. The state will contract with Equinor Wind US LLC for the development of two new offshore wind farms more than 20 miles off the shore of Long Island, in what is the largest procurement of renewable energy by a state in U.S. history. Upon completion, the two offshore wind farms will yield a combined 2,490 megawatts of carbon-free energy, bring another $8.9 billion in investment, and create more than 5,200 jobs. 

Once the large-scale renewable and offshore wind farms are complete, more than half of New York’s electricity will come from renewable sources, putting the state ahead of schedule toward reaching its goal of 70 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Global Wind Energy Manufacturing Powerhouse: New York has secured commitments from companies to manufacture wind turbine components within the state and build the nation’s largest offshore wind program. Plans to make New York State a global wind energy manufacturing powerhouse include upgrades to create five dedicated port facilities, including:  

         The nation’s first offshore wind tower-manufacturing facility to be built at the Port of Albany. 

         An offshore wind turbine staging facility and operations and maintenance hub to be established at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal. 

         Increasing the use of the Port of Coeymans for cutting-edge turbine foundation manufacturing, and

         Buttressing the ongoing operations and maintenance out of Port Jefferson and Port of Montauk Harbor in Long Island.

The projects will leverage almost $3 of private funding for every $1 of public funding, for a combined $644 million investment in these port facilities, and will ultimately yield 2,600 short- and long-term jobs in the offshore wind industry.

Construct New York’s Green Energy Transmission Superhighway: As New York builds substantial capacity to generate clean energy Upstate, the next challenge is to create a modern transmission system capable of delivering this electricity efficiently to high-demand areas Downstate. Last year, New Yorkers utility bills reflected approximately $1 billion in unnecessary “congestion costs” because of bottlenecks on our antiquated transmission grid. 

 In 2021, New York State will construct a new green energy superhighway of 250 miles. The $2 billion project will create opportunities to maximize the use of renewable energy for the parts of the state that still rely on polluting fossil-fuel plants. Construction has already started on the New York Power Authority’s 86-mile Smart Path project from Massena to Croghan, and construction will soon start on several key projects in Western New York, Mid-Hudson, and the Capital Region. 

New York has issued a Request for Proposals for transmission arteries to bring renewable energy from Upstate and Canada to New York City. Supercharging the new transmission superhighway will be vital to completing New York’s nation-leading green economic recovery and accelerating renewable energy development programs. Current and planned investments will result in more than 1,000 jobs and $5 billion of public and private sector investment.

Solar panel array on a farm in the Finger Lakes, New York. Cuomo is advocating public-private partnerships to build nearly 100 renewable energy projects © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Public-Private Partnership to Build Nearly 100 Renewable Energy Projects: New York’s clean energy transformation has accelerated rapidly over the past five years. During this period, the State has contracted for the construction of 68 new large-scale renewable energy facilities including solar farms, onshore wind farms, and three offshore wind farms that are among the largest in the nation. These investments in renewable energy have brought economic activity to 34 distinct counties, will add 6,100 megawatts of clean energy capacity to the state’s infrastructure, and generate investment of more than $12 billion.

To build on this remarkable progress, New York will contract for another 24 large-scale renewable energy generation projects in 2021, to bring the State’s total clean energy build-out to nearly 100 projects. The 23 solar farms and one hydroelectric facility will be the most cost-efficient clean energy construction to date in New York, producing more than 2,200 megawatts of clean power, generating more than $2.9 billion of investment and creating 3,400 jobs in 16 counties Upstate. 

Energy Storage Projects: New York will continue to develop and deploy state-of-the-art renewable energy storage technology and facilities to generate electricity, build the capacity for storage, and help the state achieve its ambitious climate plans. To that end, the New York Power Authority has already begun construction on a large-scale, 20-megawatt battery storage project in Northern New York, one of the largest storage projects in the State’s growing portfolio of almost 1,000 megawatts of contracted storage projects. These projects will help meet the electricity demands of 1.2 million New York homes using renewable energy. In addition, these projects will help continue propelling this fast-growing job sector.

Train the Green Energy Workforce: New York’s accelerated renewable energy development program is creating thousands of well-paying jobs.  To make sure all New Yorkers benefit directly from growth in this sector, the State is investing $20 million in a new Offshore Wind Training Institute based at SUNY Stony Brook and Farmingdale State College. The Institute will train at least 2,500 New Yorkers for good-paying jobs in wind and renewable. energy. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the State University of New York has issued the first solicitation for advanced technology training partners to leverage our SUNY system and train the first group of workers beginning in the summer of 2021.

New York is also investing $700 million in building electrification solutions for approximately 130,000 buildings in the state, including a variety of heat pump technologies, and the training of 14,000 workers for the new heat pump markets.. Approximately 25 percent of the workers trained will be from disadvantaged communities or priority populations. 

Combined with our efforts in the buildings and transportation sectors, our entire green economy recovery will create 12,400 megawatts of green energy to power 6 million homes, directly create over 50,000 jobs, and spur more than $29 billion in public and private investment, while delivering to environmental justice communities and benefiting all New Yorkers by securing our carbon-free climate future.

BUILDING AND STRENGTHENING NEW YORK’S INFRASTRUCTURE

Governor Cuomo said he would build upon the opening of the $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall,  New York’s most ambitious transportation and infrastructure upgrade in decades, as an example of New York State’s “can-do,” forward-looking attitude fundamental to his “Reimagine, Rebuild, Renew” agenda © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Midtown West Redevelopment in New York City: New York State has long led some of New York City’s most successful and transformational macro-development projects, from Battery Park City to Roosevelt Island, to the transformation of Times Square. This year, the Governor has already announced the opening of the $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall,  New York’s most ambitious transportation and infrastructure upgrade in decades, and plans to extend the High Line to Moynihan Train Hall.  In 2021, New York State will build on that progress to complete the buildout and connectivity of Midtown West with a bold transit-oriented development plan. The $51 billion plan will create 196,000 jobs, new outdoor spaces, affordable housing, improved public transit and pedestrian connections, and bring commercial and affordable housing opportunities to the burgeoning Manhattan neighborhood. The multi-faceted plan includes:

         Replacing the Port Authority Bus Terminal:The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will replace the outdated terminal with a new state-of-the-art facility to better serve the over a quarter million daily passengers. The project will not only reduce congestion on city streets and improve air quality but will transform mass transit to and from the West Side of Manhattan. Renderings of the future bus terminal are available here.

         Developing the Empire Station ComplexWith the completion of the Moynihan Train Hall, which opened to the public on January 1, 2021, the State will turn its attention to the existing Penn Station, just across the street. The State will start on a comprehensive $16 billion project to reconstruct the existing station and add track capacity. By acquiring property south of Penn Station, we can expand the complex to 40 percent more train capacity and at least eight additional underground tracks to cut down on delays and improve operations for the more than 600,000 passengers it serves daily. Renderings for the reconstruction of the existing station can be found here.

The signature transportation project will create nearly 60,000 direct jobs, and New York State stands ready to work with New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, and the federal government to share in this historic investment for the future of the region. The transformation of Penn Station also anticipates the Gateway Project, including two tunnels to bring more trains across the Hudson from the west and the renovation of the two existing tunnels, for a total of four train tunnels from New Jersey and beyond.

         Affordable Housing and Community Restoration: With the new transportation complex as a cornerstone, the Midtown West development will also include new housing and commercial development opportunities in the area. In total, the area spanning from Broadway to the Hudson will include up to 14 buildings that will yield more than 20 million square feet of retail, commercial, and residential development and provide up to 1,400 much-needed units of affordable housing in a transit, job, and amenity-rich community.

         New Waterfront Park at Pier 76: Located west of the Javits Center and 36th Street, the State will transform Pier 76 from an NYPD car tow pound to a 5.6-acre expansion of Hudson River Park. In the short term, it can become a magnificent public space that allows visitor access to the waterfront while the Hudson River Park Trust develops plans for the Pier’s long-term future. Renderings of Pier 76 are available here.

         Javits Center Expansion: The 1.2 million-square-foot, $1.5 billion expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Center will be completed in 2021, increasing capacity of the nation’s busiest convention center by 50 percent. The expansion will include a rooftop pavilion and outdoor terrace for 1,500 people; a one-acre rooftop farm; a 54,000-square foot special event space with Hudson River views; 90,000 square feet of new exhibition space that will create 500,000 square feet of contiguous exhibition space; and a truck marshaling facility to reduce congestion and pollution.

Modernizing New York Airports:

         Continue to build the new LaGuardia Airport: New York will continue the historic $8 billion transformation of LaGuardia Airport. Upon receipt of a positive record of decision from the federal government, New York State will continue work on the $2 billion AirTrain LaGuardia. In addition, the vast majority of the roadway network will be completed this year and marks significant progress on Delta’s new state-of-the-art terminal and concourses on the east side of the airport. When complete, the new LaGuardia will be the first new major airport built in the United States since 1995. The new LaGuardia will serve more than 30 million passengers per year and will have created 14,000 jobs.

         Continue the transformation of JFK Airport: New York State will continue the $13 billion plan to transform John F. Kennedy International Airport into a modern airport built for the 21st century. When complete, the brand new JFK will safely and efficiently serve more than 75 million passengers per year. The project is also slated to create nearly 30,000 jobs. As part of the JFK Airport transformation, the State is modernizing the Kew Gardens Interchange, which serves more than 200,000 vehicles daily. The final phase of this $700 million project will be complete in 2022.

Albany International Airport. New York State has invested $200 million in revitalizing upstate airports. Cuomo is committing $100 million more (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

         Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization: Building on a $200 million investment through the Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization Competition, the Governor will commit an additional $100 million in round two funding for continued renewal and modernization. Funding will include enhanced securityscreening, expanded and rehabilitated terminals, stateofthe-art boarding concourses and concession areas, and innovations in contactless technology.

Improving Mass Transit for Millions of New Yorkers:

         Phase II of Second Ave Subway Extension: The MTA remains in desperate need of further federal funding so it can continue its essential role in supporting the region. That said, it is committed to implementing its historic $51.5 billion 2020-2024 Capital Plan. Upon resolving funding uncertainty caused by COVID-19, MTA will get this program back on track with repair projects, signal modernization, and ADA accessibility projects progressing in 2021. Other projects supported include upgraded stations, thousands of new buses and train cars, and critical maintenance and upgrades for bridges, tunnels, and other infrastructure. In addition, with necessary multi-year federal support, MTA will further extend the Second Avenue Subway, from 96th Street to 125th Street.

         LIRR Third Track Project:The Long Island Rail Road’s historic and transformative third track project will complete a new third track along a critical 9.8-mile section of LIRR’s Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville to increase track capacity, improve reliability, and significantly enhance service for LIRR customers. The $2.6 billion project also includes the construction of additional parking garages, the renovation of stations, new and renovated bridges, and modern track and signal infrastructure. By the end of 2021, MTA will have completed all eight of the grade crossing eliminations on the mainline, six of which will have new vehicular underpasses.

Updates to Highways, Roads and Bridges:

 

During 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Cuomo cut the ribbon on the new Mario Cuomo Bridge which replaced the Tappan Zee across the Hudson, with a stunning recreational path. The project was one of the largest infrastructure projects in the United States© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Access to Hunts Point: New York State will invest $1.7 billion to create direct access to and from the Bruckner Expressway and Sheridan Boulevard for trucks serving the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center. The highway redesign will take traffic off local roadways, significantly reducing both noise and air pollution in a borough with high asthma rates. The entire project is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2025. 

I-390/490 Interchange Improvements: In 2021, the State will complete a $150 million project to ease access and improve traffic flow along Route 31, Route 390, and the Interstate 390/490 Interchange in Monroe County. This interchange will serve as a vital connection for nearly 200,000 motorists daily.

Re-deck the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge: The State will continue work on the Newburgh Beacon Bridge to complete a full deck replacement on the north span of the bridge over the Hudson River. Re-decking will improve roadway safety, drivability, and durability. This $95 million investment will be complete in 2022, nine months ahead of schedule.

Replace the Syracuse I-81 Viaduct: The State will conduct an environmental and public review of its proposal to replace the Interstate 81 viaduct in Syracuse. This $1.9 billion project will connect communities and create opportunities for new residential and commercial development. The project is expected to break ground in 2022. 

Governor Cuomo also announced progress on a number of major infrastructure updates across New York State that invest in communities to open new public spaces, attract tourism, and create jobs.

Buffalo Skyway: Governor Cuomo initiated a large-scale planning and design effort to maximize waterfront access and free up to 45 acres for development through the removal of the Skyway Bridge in downtown Buffalo and transform it into a spectacular park. New York State will complete the environmental review process this year and, with federal approval, will be ready to break ground this year.

Albany Skyway Conversion: Through an $11.4 million partnership with the City of Albany, the State is converting an underutilized interstate exit ramp into an iconic linear park with a landscaped promenade, event spaces, and an accessible shared-use path connecting downtown Albany with the Arbor Hill and Sheridan Hollow neighborhoods, Albany’s warehouse district, and the Corning Riverfront Park. Construction will be completed this year.

Binghamton University Health Sciences Campus: In 2021, Binghamton University will complete construction of its transformational, $287 million, 13-acre Health Sciences Campus in downtown Johnson City. This includes the 108,000 square-foot Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences, which will welcome hundreds of students this Spring; a new 105,000 square-foot school of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences with more than 350 faculty, staff, and students; a new eldercare teaching clinic in partnership with Lourdes Hospital; and a pharmacological R&D facility. Overall this project will have created more than 225 new jobs and involved more than 200 construction jobs.

New Mohawk Valley Health System Hospital in Utica: This year, work will continue on Mohawk Valley Health System’s $548 million new state-of-the-art hospital in downtown Utica. The 672,000-square-foot, nine-story, 373-bed facility is projected to be completed by 2023.

Complete the Belmont Arena: The Belmont Park Redevelopment is replacing 43 acres of underutilized parking lots with a 19,000-seat arena that will bring the New York Islanders hockey team back home to Long Island. The arena includes a world-class retail village, and a new hotel. New York Arena Partners is leading the 350,000-square-foot development, bringing $1.3 billion in private investment to the 115-year-old horse-racing facility. The project also includes the renovation of two nearby community parks, new community space, and the first new LIRR train station in 40 years. Construction is well underway, with completion of the arena slated for the 2021-2022 NHL season; east-bound LIRR service to open in fall 2021. In total, this project will create more than 12,000 direct and indirect jobs throughout construction and once completed.  

Bay Park Reconstruction: The State has been working with Nassau County on the $439 million Bay Park Conveyance Project to reduce nitrogen pollution by more than 50 percent and to connect the plant to an existing ocean outfall. This $1.2 billion-plus investment will result in dramatic improvements in the water quality while stemming the rapid degradation of the marsh islands that provide a natural barrier for flood protection for southern Nassau County. In 2021, construction will begin on the Bay Park outflow system. Renderings of the Bay Park project are available here.

ROC the Riverway: The Riverway Rochester redevelopment project, supported by a $50 million New York State investment, will achieve several key milestones in 2021 with more than half its projects reaching completion, including the expansion of the Blue Cross Arena Exchange Expansion and the West River floodwall projects, as well as the continued construction of the major overhaul to Charles Carrol Park. 

LEGOLAND: The 150-acre LEGOLAND theme park in Orange County will open this year. The $420 million investment will draw tourists back to New York after the pandemic and create approximately 1,000 jobs.

New Whiteface Mid-Station Lodge: The Whiteface Mountain rebuilt a $14 million mid-station lodge following a devastating fire in 2019. The new lodge is open for the 2020-21 ski season with limited services and will be completed this year.
 

Biden Rips Trump a New One over Cruelty in Seeking to Overturn Obamacare Leaving Millions Without Healthcare in Middle of Pandemic, Recession

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, in a speech in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, decried Trump’s latest move to have the Affordable Care Act declared “unconstitutional” and instead, stated how he would move toward universal more affordable and accessible health care and be a president who cares for all Americans. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, in a speech in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, decried Trump’s latest move to have the Affordable Care Act declared “unconstitutional,” despite having been ruled constitutional several times by the Supreme Court. The latest move, based on the dubious claim that the ACA’s “individual mandate” is unconstitutional, and therefore negates the entire law (duly passed by Congress in 2010, which enabled 30 million to access health care without being cut off because of preexisting conditions and no lifetime caps, and requiring at least 80% of premiums to go to patient care, and for the first time reversed the explosive annual increases in premiums), was inspired when the Republican 2017 tax law made the fine zero, the warped logic a right wing Texas judge used to therefore declare the entire law unconstitutional.

Instead, Biden spoke up for the crucial benefits of the Affordable Care Act and said if he were president, he would expand the public option, ensure premiums are never more than 8.5% of income, end surprise billing for medical care. “My plan lowers health care costs and gets us to universal coverage quickly when Americans desperately need it.”
In Biden’s remarks, he distinguished his approach to the presidency from Trump’s – essentially, Biden intends to serve the people, while Trump, clueless in how to actually solve problems, is solely focused on what benefits himself politically.

“That’s what the presidency is — a duty to care for everyone. Not just those who voted for us…And no trust is more sacred, no responsibility is more solemn, no purpose is more fundamental, than for a President to do absolutely everything he or she can to protect American lives.
“So I want every single American to know: if you’re sick, if you’re struggling, if you’re worried about how you’re going to get through the day — I will not abandon you. I will not leave you to face these challenges alone.  We are going to get through this — together.”

Here are Biden’s remarks: — Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Today, in the middle of the worst global health crisis in living memory, Donald Trump will file a brief in the Supreme Court to attempt to strip health coverage away from tens of millions of families, and to strip the peace of mind away from more than 100 million people with pre-existing conditions.

If he succeeds, more than 23 million Americans could lose their coverage outright— including nearly a million Pennsylvanians.

Insurers could once again discriminate, or deny services, or drop coverage for people living with preexisting conditions like asthma, diabetes, and cancer.

And perhaps most cruelly of all, if Donald Trump has his way, complications from COVID-19 could become a new pre-existing condition. 
 
Some survivors will experience lasting health impacts — like lung scarring and heart damage.
 
And if Donald Trump prevails in court, insurers would be allowed to strip away coverage or jack up premiums — simply because of their battle with the coronavirus.
 
Those survivors, having struggled and won the fight of their lives, would have their peace of mind stolen away at the moment they need it most.
 
They would live their lives caught in a vise between Donald Trump’s twin legacies: his failure to protect the American people from the coronavirus, and his heartless crusade to take health care protections away from American families.

I have called on Donald Trump many times to withdraw his lawsuit. Today, I am renewing that call.

Mr. President, drop the lawsuit. Stop trying to take away people’s health care.

Now more than ever, stop trying to steal their peace of mind. I cannot comprehend the cruelty that is driving him to inflict this pain on the very people he is supposed to serve.

One of the families the Affordable Care Act has delivered peace of mind to is the Ritters—who live not far from here in Manheim, Pennsylvania.

Jan and Madeline Ritter were just four years old when their mom, Stacie, heard some of the most devastating words that a parent can ever hear. Both of her twins had been diagnosed with leukemia.

I promise you — that news — it stops your heart. It wrenches your entire world off of its axis. And the very last thing on your mind — the very last thing that should be on your mind— is whether you can afford treatment.

But when Stacie’s twins got sick, there was no Affordable Care Act.

So, after the draining days and the endless nights, the harrowing stem-cell transplants, the fickle waves of hope and fear, after enduring more than any parent should have to endure, the Ritters still faced a future where their twins could be denied coverage
for the rest of their lives.

The Affordable Care Act was created to put a stop to that inhumanity — to ensure that people like Stacie, thrust into the worst nightmare of their lives, could focus on the fight that matters.

Stacie’s twins won their fight. They beat cancer — and now, they’re 22 years old. Jan is studying early education at Elizabethtown College. Madeline just graduated from Arcadia University with a degree in international studies. And because of the law, insurance companies can no longer deny them coverage because they’re survivors of cancer.

I’m proud of the Affordable Care Act.

In addition to protecting people with pre-existing conditions, this is a law that delivered vital coverage to more than 20 million Americans.

It’s a law that bars insurance companies from capping Americans’ benefits— and from charging women more simply because they are women.

It’s a law that reduced prescription drug costs for nearly 12 million seniors, who would see their those costs spike — because the Medicare ‘donut hole’would have suddenly reopened.

It’s a law that saves lives.

But now, in the middle of the worst public health crisis in modern history, Donald Trump is suing to take the Ritters and millions more Americans — back to the way things were. 

It’s cruel, it’s heartless, and it’s callous. 

And it’s all because he can’t abide the thought of letting stand one of President Obama’s greatest achievements.

We’ve seen that same callousness in his handling of the coronavirus.

Just over three months ago, as most Americans were first coming to grips with the unprecedented scale and danger of the pandemic, President Trump publicly claimed that, “Anybody that wants a test can get a test.”

That wasn’t true. And he knew it.

Then, five days ago, at his campaign gathering in Tulsa, he admitted telling his people to, slow the testing down, please.” At first, his spokespeople tried to say he was joking. But then Trump himself said he wasn’t joking. 

He called testing, “a double-edged sword.” Let’s be crystal clear about what he means by that. 
 
Testing unequivocally saves lives, and widespread testing is the key to opening up our economy again — so that’s one edge of the sword. 
 
The other edge: that he thinks finding out that more Americans are sick will make him look bad.
 
And that’s what he’s worried about. He’s worried about looking bad.

Well, Donald Trump needs to stop caring about how he looks and start caring about
what’s really happening in America.


The number of cases is increasing in 29 states. We are going to be dealing with this for a long time. Trump can’t wish it away. He can’t bend it to meet his political wishes. There are no miracles coming.

We are going to have to step up as Americans — all of us — and do both the simple things — and the hard things — to keep our families and neighbors safe, to re-open our economy, and to eventually put the pandemic behind us.

And sadly — we are going to have to do it without responsible leadership from the White House. So it is up to us. All of us.  

We’re going to have to wear masks. And I know as Americans it’s not something we’re used to. But it matters. All the evidence from all over the world tells us it just might be the most effective thing we can do. 

We’re going to have to socially distance. It’s not easy. It seems so strange to us. Not as Americans, but as human beings. We’re built to talk, to laugh, to hug, to gather with other people. I know I am. I know you are. But for now, we have to socially distance. It matters.

We’re going to have to find a way to keep our economy running as we bring the number of cases down. The president wants you to believe this is a choice between the economy and the public’s health. He still hasn’t grasped the most basic fact of this crisis: to fix our economy, we have to get control of the virus. 

He’s like a child who just can’t believe this has happened to him. It’s all whining and self-pity. This pandemic didn’t happen to him. It happened to all of us. 

And his job isn’t to whine about it. His job is to do something about it. 

If I have the honor of becoming President, I promise you I will lead.

I will do everything I can to take responsibility  and ease that burden on you and your families. I will put your family first. And that will begin with a dramatic expansion of health coverage and bold steps to lower health care costs.

We need a public option now more than ever — especially at a time when more than 20 million people are unemployed.

That public option will allow every American— regardless of their employment status —  the choice to get a Medicare-like plan.

It will force private insurers to keep premiums low and offer better coverage because, for the first time, they’ll have to compete for your business against a public insurer that doesn’t have a profit motive.

We’re going to lower premiums for people buying coverage on their own by guaranteeing that no American ever has to spend more than 8.5 percent of their income on health insurance — and that number will be lower for lower-income families.

We’re also going to further reduce costs by making it less expensive for Americans to choose plans with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses by lowering prescription drug prices and by ending the practice called “surprise billing,” which can leave you with an unexpectedly high bill after you leave a hospital.

Here’s the bottom line: my plan lowers health care costs and gets us to universal coverage quickly when Americans desperately need it.

Families are reeling right now — enduring illnesses, forced into risky choices, losing their employer plans in droves.

They need a lifeline now. That’s what the families here today deserve. That’s what families all across this nation deserve.

They don’t need a president going into court to deny them health care. They need a president going into the White House who will fight for the health care they need.

If Donald Trump refuses to end his senseless crusade against health coverage, I look forward to ending it for him. And working quickly with Congress to dramatically ramp up protections, get America to universal coverage, and lower health care costs as soon as humanly possible.

This is my promise to you. When I am President, I will take care of your health coverage the same way I would for my own family. This is personal to me.

I was sworn into the United States Senate next to a hospital bed. My wife and daughter had been killed in a car crash— and lying in that bed were my two surviving little boys.

I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like if we didn’t have the health care we needed immediately.

Forty years later, one of those little boys, my son Beau, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only months to live.

I couldn’t imagine an insurance company coming in and saying, “for the last six months of your life, you’re on your own” — which is exactly what happened to so many families before the Affordable Care Act.

So Amy, I understand.

And when I say I’ll take care of your health coverage the same way I would for my family — there is nothing I take more seriously.

That’s my promise to Stacie and Victoria and Amy and to every American.

That’s what the presidency is — a duty to care.

A duty to care for everyone.

Not just those who voted for us.

For all of us.

And no trust is more sacred, no responsibility is more solemn, no purpose is more fundamental, than for a President to do absolutely everything he or she can to protect American lives.

So I want every single American to know: if you’re sick, if you’re struggling, if you’re worried about how you’re going to get through the day — I will not abandon you.

I will not leave you to face these challenges alone.

We are going to get through this — together.

And we are going to build our health care system, our economy, and our country back better than it has ever been before.

Thank you. God bless you, and God protect our troops.

New Yorkers March for Science

About 1000 people joined the March for Science in New York City to demonstrate for the importance of fact-based, evidence-based policy, and continued funding for research and development © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

About 1,000 people gathered in Washington Square Park in downtown Manhattan for a rally, teach-in, and March for Science. Speakers, including Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, decried the politicization of science, the censorship, banning and defunding of scientists and research, and warned that the United States will lose its economic and political leadership in the world if it loses its place on the forefront of scientific innovation and development.

All I could think about as I marched the 1.8 miles from Washington Square Park down Broadway to Zuccotti Park (famous for the Occupy Wall Street movement), is how sad, how pathetic, what an embarrassment for the United States of America to have to hold demonstrations to “Save Science.” We have regressed back to the Salem Witch Trials.

Leading the March for Science down Broadway to advocate on behalf of evidence-based policy and maintaining America’s leadership in science and innovation © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The New York City March for Science was one of many organized around the country during this Earth Month (April 22 is Earth Day). Last year, the first year of such demonstrations, brought out 1.3 million in support of  robust science research, evidence-based policies, and science education. “Today, we continue the momentum gained from last year’s inaugural march to show policy makers that the March for Science is more than a single-day event. It’s a movement.”

“The 2018 March for Science New York City recognizes the importance of an informed democracy in order to maintain a free, healthy, happy, and accessible society. That is why we come together as a community of non-partisan scientists and friends to show the importance of protecting and promoting people’s rights, the public’s access to scientific information, the environment in which we exist, and scientific research. We hope to use this march to spark increased community involvement for the promotion of science for the common good through sustained action.”

US Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Science is beacon to a better future, health care, technology, transport,” declared Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). “Devotion to science is at the root of progress in every industry, lifting people from poverty; expanding opportunity, saving lives, feeding the hungry. We will never fund a better investment.

“But Congress wants to cut funds for research, cut fuel efficiency standards. [America] is losing leadership because of cutbacks,” she said. “We have to go forward….Science took us to moon.. America is the tech, innovation leader in the world because of science. Science brought us success.

“We must support science, truth, freedom and democracy,” said Maloney, a sponsor of the Science Integrity Act to shield science from ideology.

Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper, which has helped to clean up the Hudson River and drinking water throughout the state, contrasted the backward movement by the federal government to the progress in New York State. Largely based on the data collection by Riverkeeper and other advocates, New York has allocated $3 billion to improve water infrastructure based on scientific data, and a new law that requires testing and regulation of “emerging contaminants, “because we in New York value science.

“The EPA has been decimated. Hundreds of scientists who were there in January 2017, are gone. Ideology masquerades as policy. There is no quantitative analysis, just press releases.

“You keep doing research, driving innovation and groups like Riverkeeper will fight for policies to get clean water.  And if politicians don’t, we’ll keep suing.

“We need to get politics out of science – get more active. And not just once a year. Make policies about science, not in spite of science. Pound pavement, so they can hear it in DC. Tell your state senators, local politicians to fight for science, save science,” Gallay said.

Bill Ulfeder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Bill Ulfeder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy, declared, “Science is what makes America great. It is essential for health, prosperity, safety, security.

“This is Earth Month (April 22 is Earth Day). Scientists, including Rachel Carson, alerted the country to the dangers of pollution, pesticides. Science informed the Endangered Species Act.

“For 65 years, the Nature Conservancy has been guided by science. We believe in the power of science to solve the problems we face – climate change, food shortage, disease. Only through science can we create a world where nature and humans thrive together.

“Invest in science. Appreciate that science needs and deserves diverse voices – more perspectives – to inform, promote healthy debate to make the best choices.”

Lauren Kurtz of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Lauren Kurtz, Executive Director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF), charged that “Scientific facts are downplayed, rejected. Policies are advocated that run counter to known science, including climate science.” And when that happens, CSLDF, which works to protect the scientific endeavor in general and climate scientists in particular by providing legal support and resources to scientists who are threatened, harassed, or attacked for doing their job, fights back.

“We keep track: 126 incidents when the government silenced scientists. Regulations have not kept pace with science and of the health risk of certain chemicals. We want stronger rules.”

“Science not Silence.” March for Science in New York City © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Removing ‘climate change’ [from EPA, Department of Agriculture and other government agency sites], staffing with ideologues… undermines out competitiveness and position on the  forefront of science, leader in scientific discovery.

“We have the power to fight back – shine spotlight – call attention to misrepresentation, to speak out when censorship. March, speak out, act where can have impact such as on the local level. Vote.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

State Senator Brad Hoylman, who represents the district that New York University is in, noted “People think NY is deep blue state, that everyone smart, watches Rachel Maddow, reads NY times, understands a fact is not opinion. But things are different in Albany when comes to science. We need more evidence-based policy making.

“We know vaccinations save lives,” he said, drawing a cheer. Vaccination is one of greatest turning points in health. But when I introduced a bill to make vaccinations mandatory for elementary school children, you would have thought I called for destruction of society. The Anti-Vacs movement, even though the link between vaccines and autism has been disproved over and over again…

March for Science NYC: “Vaccinations work.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Gay conversion therapy,” he continued, drawing boos.”There are mental health providers licensed by New York State who are trying to convert people from being gay. New York needs to yank their licenses.” People who are exposed to such conversion therapy, he said, “affects who they are as a person, sends a message to others, and  perpetuates myth.”

Another issue is climate change, “one of the most important issues of our time. When Trump was inaugurated, the White House page on climate change was removed. [In reaction], in Albany, we tried to pass a resolution about the danger of climate change but Republicans wouldn’t allow a vote, saying there was ‘disagreement on the validity. Science doesn’t back that up.

“We need to take this energy today and elevate public discourse, based on facts from people who know what talking about – scientists, researchers, academics, experts. Everything else is bluster…We will embrace our intellectual, academic, research to bring to bear the best policies for New York.”

“Where live shouldn’t Increase risk to pollution, toxins, pesticides,” stated

March for Science NYC: Health care is a human right. Pollution, infection, disease should not be tied to ethnicity, gender, zipcode © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Beverly Watkins, a community-based research scientist and health care provider who does “Big Picture Science” research into health disparities. “Health is a human right – growing up poor, your gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background should not have a higher rate of disease – diabetes, asthma, hypertension. Yet a difference in socioeconomic status perpetuates health disparities.”

Laurie Garrett, former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York, currently developing the
Anthropocene Disruption Project, raised the issue of global competitiveness.

“In a race with three centers- China, France and Canada are welcoming scientists, with the appeal, ‘America may not be a home for you.’

March for Science in New York City © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“America needs science. And Science needs globalization.” Take for example what happens when you destroy globalization and internationalism – Brexit. Already, Britain is experiencing an 11.8% decrease in technology investment because of its impending dissociation with the European Union.

But besides a reduction in investment, “Collaborative science is failing. There is diminished freedom to emigrate from the EU to UK.

“Democracy depends on science. Congress can’t protect us from Russian trolls, from surveillance by greedy companies. We need science to advise, create appropriate policies. If we don’t have strong science, Research & Development, our economy can’t survive.

“The good news after all the panic about [the Trump Administration’s determination to slash the science budget, it got its biggest increase, 12.2%. National Institutes of Health budget is up 8.3%; energy up 15%; NASA saw its allocation increased to $1.2 billion; the US Geological Survey’s budget was increased to $1.1 billion; EPA was allocated $8.1 billion. The American people get it.”

March for Science in New York City © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But Science is not just global, international and collaborative, she continued, “We need to get out of our silos to solve the biggest challenges we face – climate change, microbiological resistance, cybersecurity, robotics, water and food scarcity, safety, acidification of the oceans. The world needs globalized, collectivized, interdisciplinary science.”

Why we march. Organizers of the March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Why we march? We march for evidence-based policy; for increased diversity, inclusion in the scientific community, for meaningful engagement between science and society, to build global community of advocates for science,” David Kantor, professor of environmental studies of NYU and the coordinator for New York’s March for Science.

Here are more images from the March for Science NYC:

Trump may think he is the sun king (“L’etat c’est moi”), but this marcher points to the difference between Trump and the Sun: “One’s an orange ball of gas. The other is the sun.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

March for Science NYC down Broadway © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Regress Data, Not Society.” March for Science NYC down Broadway © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Leading a March for Science NYC cheer: Who made those drugs? Science. © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

March for Science NYC passes Freedom Tower © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Symbolic: Carbon pollution blots out freedom (tower). Scientists are needed to come up with solutions to climate change, pollution, toxic waste © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Mount Sinai Hospital contingent at March for Science NYC © 2018 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

New Yorkers Mobilize for Single Payer, Medicare-for-All Health Care

Republicans may have overplayed their hand: when they sweep Obamacare away, Progressives like Ron Widelec of Long Island Activists intend to push for universal health care: single-payer, Medicare-for-All © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

With the chaos and uncertainty at the federal level, New York Progressives see an opportunity to push for single-payer health care in the state – a plan that has been approved by the Democratic-controlled Assembly, but has been defeated by the Republican-controlled Senate (with the help of the so-called Independent Democratic coalition of state senators who were elected as Democrats but caucus with Republicans).

Hundreds crammed the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington (UUFH), Long Island, under the aegis of Long Island Activists, to build the movement for the state to adopt single-payer health care. (See: Long Island Activists Mobilize to Save Obamacare, Push for Single Payer in NYS)

Long Island Activists rally for universal health care, Huntington, Long Island, Feb. 25, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Irrespective of what Republicans do in Congress, Ron Widelec, a member of the steering committee of Long Island Activists (LongIslandActivists.org) said, “There is a lot we can do in New York – people forget we can act locally, not everything happens in Congress. Single payer is a real possibility in New York.”

Widelec exposed the lies that are used to beat back universal health care, despite the fact that every other industrialized nation has such a system:

That universal health care is too expensive, will add trillions of dollars to the national debt – but that is belied by the fact that the US spends twice as much on health care as any other industrialized nation, health care amounts to 1/6 of the entire economy, and the outcomes are poor, with the US ranked 32nd among nations, contradicting the claim that the US offers “the best health care in the world.”

Another lie is that universal health care will result in rationing, ”as if 20 million people with no insurance isn’t rationing, or people who have insurance but can’t afford deductibles or copays isn’t rationing, or insurance companies denying care isn’t rationing,” he said.

Janet Green tells of her experience living under Canada’s universal health care system: “We lived it, loved it – you could choose any doctor you like, be rid of billing, deductibles, copays; to be covered regardless of age, job status, preexisting conditions, personal wealth.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Janet Green, a nurse who lived in Canada for two years and now lives on Long Island, spoke of the difference: “We lived it, loved it – you could choose any doctor you like, be rid of billing, deductibles, copays; to be covered regardless of age, job status, preexisting conditions, personal wealth. No wonder the Canadians love their single payer universal health insurance system with private provision..

“When we moved to Long Island, the unfairness and inefficiency of an increasingly corporatized health care system was increasingly hard to take because I knew another system. I had coverage through husband’s job – but I was angry, not lucky, to be part of such an unfair system.” That included problems with doctors in/out network; merger/replacement of insurance plans, with changing rules, preferred provider lists not once but twice in 4 years. “There is none of that on single payer, no deductibles or copays or networks.

“I saw the misinformation spread by those most affected, the insurance industry –myths about Canadian system.

“North of the border and throughout the rest of the world, it is understood that to be a compassionate, enlightened society, there must be universal health coverage.

Dr. Martha Livingstone, vice chair of Physicians for a National Health Program: “Life is a preexisting condition, resulting from sexual contact and will invariable end in death. We all have a preexisting condition. We all need health care because we are human beings.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Dr. Martha Livingstone,  vice chair of Physicians for a National Health Program, also spoke from experience about Canada’s health program, because she lived in Canada while getting one of her degrees.

“There are only two reasons we don’t have national health insurance Medicare for All – it is 1/6 of the economy and very powerful people are arrayed against us who will do everything in their power to persuade us we can’t have it. And our failure of imagination.

Indeed, it may well be that Republicans have overplayed their hand and the pendulum will swing back much more forcefully. If they succeed in repealing Obamacare and replacing it with Trumpcare, it can cost Republicans to lose Congress in 2018 and the White House in 2020, just as Obamacare cost Democrats control in 2010. Instead of Obamacare, which was Obama’s attempt to appease conservatives who demand a for-profit health care system, there will be universal health care, single-payer Medicare for All, a socialized health care system.

She told of a Victoria BC woman whose son had to go to five specialists before a rare brain tumor was diagnosed, treated, so he could survive. “In the states, he would have been one of 45,000 Americans dead of treatable medical conditions because he didn’t have access to timely medical care.

“Preexisting condition? Life is a preexisting condition, resulting from sexual contact and will invariable end in death. We all have a  preexisting condition. We all need health care because we are human beings. How we will get it?

“We are the 99%. We don’t mind paying taxes when they provide for things we need. Who doesn’t want to pay taxes? it’s the billionaires – they want us to be uneducated, unhoused, unfed and if sick, they like us to die [and not be a burden on society]. It is a life/death fight.

“We have to protect the Affordable Care Act, but frankly my dears, ACA was written by the Heritage Foundation, a right wing think tank. It is a Republican plan first put into place by then Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.  You have piece a that‘s public, that funds the majority, and the piece that’s private.

“What Romneycare did, then ACA, was to build on the wildly expensive private for-profit sector of the system. We want to build in the wildly successful, inexpensively administered Medicare program…

“There are only two things wrong with Medicare: it doesn’t cover everything, doesn’t cover everybody. So improve it, Medicare for all.”

But regardless of what happens at the federal level, the state can create its own single-payer plan.

“Let New York be the first to have single-payer.  What it will do for us in New York State is save us $50 billion, and save everybody but the very wealthiest New Yorkers money over what paying now for lousy access to care, where we have narrow networks, where some insurance genius can tell us at any moment, ‘Well, if you looked at p 793.’ The bill gets rid of all that – no copays, deductibles for a human right. We have to reinforce that. We know we won’t get it through the New York Senate this year, but 2018 if we hold their feet to the fire.”

Ron Widelec of Long Island Activists is mobilizing push New York State to adopt universal health care: single-payer, Medicare-for-All © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“This event left me hopeful,” Widelec said before sending everyone off to their breakout sessions to come up with local actions. “The election of Trump wasn’t a hopeful time, but I am hopeful. I believe this is not a matter of left versus right, this is a matter of right versus wrong. One good thing about the 1%: we outnumber them 99 to 1.

“Everybody forward, not one step back.”

Widelec said that events will be posted on LongIslandActivists.org.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Long Island Activists Mobilize to Save Obamacare, Push for Single Payer in NYS

Ron Widelec of Long Island Activists and Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-LI 3) at a packed rally to save Obamacare and support universal health care, Huntington, Long Island, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Hundreds rallied at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington (UUFH), under the aegis of Long Island Activists, to strategize how to save Obamacare from Republicans who are moving swiftly to repeal it and replace it with something that is far more costly, would knock tens of millions off health insurance, would raise taxes for middle class and working Americans, and essentially be more costly for less care. But the Long Islanders went an extra step: to demand single-payer – that is, Medicare for All – beginning with New York State.

The rally was one of 150 across the country last weekend with some coordination of Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution group.

The activists jammed a main room, overflowed the overflow room, and were lined up outside, producing a kind of echo-effect to cheers and boos inside the hall.

Long Island Activists rally for universal health care, Huntington, Long Island, Feb. 25, 2017.

“Something feels wrong. Public policy in no way reflects public opinion,” said Ron Widelec, a member of the steering committee of Long Island Activists (LongIslandActivists.org).

“We live in the richest country in history, yet 20 million go without health insurance, tens of millions have insurance but can’t afford to use because the deductibles so high – choosing between feeding children or going to a doctor when not feeling well. These are unacceptable choices in a country this wealthy…

“These are life-or-death situations. That’s why people are out here. It turns out, if you try to take away people’s health care, get angry and show up. Tens of thousands die without access to health care, or can’t afford access so that is the same as not having access. People die if they can’t afford an Epipen.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was not perfect because it was designed to appease conservatives. Indeed, the framework came out of the right-wing think tank, The Heritage Foundation, and was first implemented by Republican Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. Elements such as a public option or a Medicare buy-in were omitted in order to satisfy so-called moderate Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine, who nonetheless voted against the ACA.

“Many members of Congress are dedicated to the idea they can make the situation even worse . Our position is clear: health care is a human right,” he declared to boisterous cheers.

“While no one thinks ACA perfect, it did things we need to fight for,” Widelec said. “ACA didn’t go far enough – a human right doesn’t have co-pays or deductibles.

“On the federal level, there is very little we can do with Congress. We know Republicans want to overthrow ACA… We have to fight to protect Obamacare and put pressure even on those too cowardly to hold town halls [like Long Island Congressmen Peter King and Lee Zeldin].

Long Island Activists rally for universal health care, Huntington, Long Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But while progressives all along wanted universal health care – that is, single-payer or what is termed Medicare for All – the most immediate goal is to preserve the key elements of Obamacare: covering young people on their parents’ plan until age 26; pre-existing conditions; no lifetime caps; a cap of no more than 20% of the premium going for non-patient spending , and minimal standards for what insurance policies cover – which turns out can only be offered if there is a mandate so that healthy people purchase insurance; otherwise, deductibles or copays or premiums are so high, they are unaffordable.

“It’s not true that the Republicans don’t have a plan,” warned Doreen DiLeonardo, who hosts a progressive radio show. Indeed, the plan that was exposed by Politico is essentially the 2015 bill introduced by then Congressman Tom Price, now the Secretary of Health & Human Services.

According to Politico, the Republican plan would rescind the unpopular individual mandate, subsidies based on people’s income, and all of the law’s taxes. It would significantly roll back Medicaid spending and give states money to create high risk pools for some people with pre-existing conditions. Instead of subsidies to help people with low incomes afford health insurance, it would give tax credits based on age rather than income. That means that multi-millionaire Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon-Mobil and now Trump’s Secretary of State would get a bigger tax credit than the 30-year old who works at Starbucks. In any case, tax credits mainly benefit wealthier people. Meanwhile, the other big Republican idea is for Health Savings Accounts, which once again, benefit wealthier people, while those who are barely affording food and rent will be unable to stash away money in untaxed accounts. (See: Exclusive: Leaked GOP Obamacare replacement shrinks subsidies, Medicaid expansion)

What Democrats point to, though, are provisions that would wind up taxing middle class and working class families for the health insurance benefits they get from their employers, while at the same time ending taxes on the wealthiest Americans that funded the Obamacare subsidies.  

“If it were such a good plan, they wouldn’t be hiding it,” DiLeonardo said.

This plan is moving swiftly, she warned.

Assemblyman Charles Lavine is a sponsor of a single-payer health plan in the New York State legislature © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Republicans’ “destructive, nihilistic policy will ruin the ACA,” Assemblyman Charles Lavine, who has sponsored universal health care in the State Assembly, said. “They attempted to ruin it from beginning, based on lies. Each and every one here today, superheroesque, survivors of the ‘massacre at Bowling Green’, we know 20-30 million Americans would lose insurance, we know the tragedy that will flow from that – we will return to days preexisting conditions rob people of access to health care. You’re on your own. Lifetime caps – if someone had serious condition, cut off, no more insurance., – when that happens we all pay one way or another for their treatment. Women will pay more for identical coverage, young adults up to 26 no longer on parents’ coverage, you’re on your own.

“We know the lies being told. Trump said ACA robbed people of their insurance. We know that is just another lie. More than 20 million were able to get insured because of ACA, we now have a record low percentage of uninsured people, 10.9%.

“Trump said some plans were canceled [using this to accuse Obama of lying about ACA]. But that’s because they  were deficient, illusory plans. What Trump and his confederates want to do, is to allow New Yorkers to go into market and buy insurance from other states. NYS is not going to allow that to happen. We will demand (because NY controls insurance product) that any insurance product sold here has to provide minimum requirements, or else people will get ripped off. Those are the kind of policies people lost because of ACA.”

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa lied when he said Obamacare would create death panels that would pull the plug on grandma. But a century ago, the worldwide flu epidemic killed off 50 to 100 million people, and bodies were piled up on street corners in Chicago waiting for the city to pick them up, people were on their own, too.

“That’s not that long ago – a blink in time of human history. We stand together you rebellious Americans to demand the human right of health care, and we stand together (big applause). This is a fight for our families, our communities. We are 36 years since the first days of Reagan Administration into a philosophy that says government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem, your enemy. You and I will fight for our families, communities, and damn well we stand up and fight for our government.”

Recalling that President Theodore Roosevelt, a progressive who busted up trusts and created the first national parks, whose home at Sagamore Hill is just a few miles from where this rally is taking place, Ron Widelec  said, “Once republicans were progressives, put in policies that helped people, now they are wedded to the invisible hand of the American market, not noticing, it is a hand around throats of American people. We will fight back.”

Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) addressing the Long Island Activists health care rally in Huntington: “Mend it don’t end it. Fix the problems.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Newly elected Congressman Tom Suozzi, who has pledged to support universal health care once Democrats take back Congress (and held a packed town hall this past week in which support for ACA was a key issue), said “I believe in health care as a human right. This is a matter of life-and-death for many families now. We have to do a couple of things: protect ACA is the first thing. There is great energy behind that. But we need to improve upon ACA because there are problems – insurance companies, drug companies had too much say in writing ACA and we’re paying the price. Mend it don’t end it. Fix the problems.”

Next:  New Yorkers Mobilize for Single Payer Health Care

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Do-Nothing-But-Harm Congress Needs to Set Aside Anti-Abortion Fanatacism and Fund Zika Prevention

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl), a rabid opponent of abortion rights who has said that birth defects should not warrant an exemption, has told Congress to set aside ideology on Zika funding – because of the harm to Florida’s tourism industry and his reelection campaign © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl), a rabid opponent of abortion rights who has said that birth defects should not warrant an exemption, has told Congress to set aside ideology on Zika funding – because of the harm to Florida’s tourism industry and his reelection campaign © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Zika is a small label from a tiny source that has world-shattering implications for families, for communities, for society and the economy.

It is also shorthand for everything that has been so absolutely wrong with the Republican-controlled Congress. It is no longer sufficient to describe it as “Do Nothing.” It is more appropriate to describe how their dysfunction, inaction, their idolatry to ideology has become destructive. Rather than a government with “limited power,” the right-wing ideology has intruded into our personal lives in such devastating.

Rather than treat Zika – a neurotropic virus that grows in target brain cells, literally destroying the fetal brain as it develops –  as the public health crisis that it is, the Right Wingers who control Congress have wrapped it up with abortion as an excuse to derail a vote.

The party that purports to hold a lock on family values? Pregnancy is stressful enough, but instead of being excited and happy at a pregnancy, a woman would be consumed by anxiety, and even hatred for the fetus and the baby that emerges.

When Zika first came to the world’s attention in Brazil, I was thinking that Americans were luckier than the hapless Brazilian women, who were being told to defer child-bearing for four years, because while abortion is illegal in that Catholic country, it is a Constitutionally protected right here in the US – except that the Right Wingers have found ways to throw up so many obstacles to a woman’s reproductive freedom, even declaring that a mother is a mere “vessel” to incubate the fetus, rather than a person with the same rights of self-determination as men.

Meanwhile, there are now approximately 18,000 confirmed case of the Zika Virus in the United States and territories, including 1,751 pregnant women infected, and that number is rising daily.

Earlier this year, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan Zika funding measure by a vote of 89-8. Even Marco Rubio, now running for reelection to the Senate he demeaned during his run for the Presidency, who has said that birth defects should not be an “exemption” for an abortion, told his colleagues that Zika warranted setting ideology aside, but that was because of the harm it was having to Florida’s tourism industry.

But then Republicans changed course, packing the bill full of partisan political riders — like demanding a ban on funding to Planned Parenthood, undermining key provisions of the Clean Water Act, even allowing Confederate flags in cemeteries— and shut Democrats out of the debate.

Now, the money that had been available to the CDC, $292 million “ is out the door already and there are things we wish we could do but can’t because we don’t have the resources,” Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said on “The Takeaway” on NPR. “The decisions made today, or not made, will have implications for decades to come.”

There is so much that is not known about Zika – funding is needed for research for a vaccine, to diagnose, on better ways to control its spread, to understand the impacts of development for infants that do not manifest microcephaly immediately (Hearing loss? Learning disability?) and whether there are latent impacts that could impact even adults (a connection to Alzheimer’s has been raised).

“We need the dollars and the legal authorities so that when there is an emergency, we can treat it as emergency.

“If get in early, can avoid problems – with an earthquake or flood you are providing assistance and picking up the pieces. But with an epidemic, if we can get there early enough, we can do the equivalent of stopping an earthquake…

“The long delay in providing additional supplemental funding makes it difficult to have robust response, and makes it more important to have an infectious disease rapid response fund so we can spend money quickly and effectively. Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate are on board with creating such a fund,” he said.

“Zika will be around for years to come, so it is important to invest now in better ways to stop it. The sooner we get the funding, we can embark on those projects,” he said.

The failure to act on Zika is part and parcel of the right wingers’ continued assault on abortion rights –– essentially a woman’s right to choose, to control her own body and her own destiny, a family’s right to protect itself and create the best environment for its children. They have gone so far as to block the use of an abortion pill that is safer and easier to use than surgical procedure, and even preventing doctors from using a safer regimen of the medication.

This is not about “life” – as we now see in Texas where their anti-woman, anti-choice ideological crusade has resulted in closure of dozens of Planned Parenthood clinics, with the result that the rate of maternal mortality has exploded.

“From 2000 to the end of 2010, Texas’s estimated maternal mortality rate hovered between 17.7 and 18.6 per 100,000 births. But after 2010, that rate had leaped to 33 deaths per 100,000, and in 2014 it was 35.8. Between 2010 and 2014, more than 600 women died for reasons related to their pregnancies.

“No other state saw a comparable increase,” writes Molly Redden in The Guardian. Those rates put Texas on par with the Third World, where having a baby is the most dangerous thing a woman can do.

This is further proof that the right-wingers who control Congress do not care about “life” they care about control. This is about modern-day enslavement of women. They see a woman as a vessel, a vassal, not as a free person with the rights to make their own life’s choices. While they say they want individuals to be able to care for themselves, producing a generation born with microcephaly means they and their families will have to be dependent upon the state.

This cavalier attitude to life – particularly children – is also manifest in Congress’ failure to act on lead in the drinking water in Flint and other urban areas, likely impairing their normal brain development, contributing to learning and behavioral problems and lowering their IQ’s—and poor and minority children are unfairly at the greatest risk of lead poisoning. Half a million kids in the US already have elevated levels of lead in their blood and millions more are at risk.

The consequences for local school budgets – just as one example – to have to accommodate the special needs of children impacted by lead and now Zika-caused microcephaly – is mindboggling, making the challenge for school districts to keep Mylan’s overpriced Epipens on hand seem like small potatoes.

The Republican controlled Congress’ refusal to come to consensus and treat Zika as the public health emergency it is – no different than a terror attack – but instead, to hamstring it with poison pills that make it unpalatable to pass is not like the Do-Nothing-But-Harm Congress hasn’t been doing mischief since its return from a 7-week vacation. This includes three bills designed to overturn Dodd-Frank protections of the financial system, a bill to neuter Obamacare, a possible impeachment of the IRS Commissioner, and a yet a new investigation, investigating the FBI investigators into Hillary Clinton’s emails (is that the 9th or 10th Congressional investigation?).

But let’s look at what the Do-Nothing-But-Harm Congress has done nothing about: gun violence prevention (No Fly, No Buy), the Flint water crisis, confirming Merritt Garland to the Supreme Court,  and they are even dragging feet about adopting a Continuing Resolution in order to avoid yet another Republican government shutdown.

Congress needs to fund Zika programs and create an infectious disease emergency response fund, which, apparently is actually supported (at least with lip service) by Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.

After his meeting with Congressional leaders on Monday, Obama expressed confidence there would be no government shut down and there would be funding for Zika.

Ah, President Obama, ever the optimist. We’ll see.