Coronavirus Live Updates: Online Retailers Plan Campaign to Rescue Postal Service - The New York Times

Coronavirus Live Updates: Online Retailers Plan Campaign to Rescue Postal Service - The New York Times


Coronavirus Live Updates: Online Retailers Plan Campaign to Rescue Postal Service - The New York Times

Posted: 06 May 2020 06:45 PM PDT

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Credit...Desiree Rios for The New York Times

A coalition of online retailers backed by Amazon plans to start on Wednesday a seven-figure advertising blitz opposing President Trump's demand that the beleaguered United States Postal Service ratchet up its package delivery rates to avoid bankruptcy during the coronavirus crisis, its top lobbyist said.

The ads will begin running nationally Wednesday night on "Hannity," one of Mr. Trump's favorite programs on Fox News, and on Rush Limbaugh's radio show on Thursday. They do not mention the president but label his proposal to raise delivery prices "a massive package tax" on small businesses and Americans who rely on the mail for prescription drugs and other goods.

Amazon, CVS and others involved in the campaign rely on the Postal Service for the delivery of millions of packages a year. Their businesses could be disrupted significantly if the agency increased rates or went bankrupt.

Many of the companies have been quietly lobbying lawmakers on Capitol Hill on the issue, but the advertising push will more visibly establish their position in a high-stakes political fight over the Postal Service's finances and its future. Democrats have been pressing to include $25 billion in the next round of relief legislation to prop up the service, which has said it could run out of cash by September without a lifeline from Congress.

But Mr. Trump has said he will not sign any pandemic relief package that helps the Postal Service unless it quadruples its package delivery rates. His views on the Postal Service appear to be predominantly shaped by his antipathy toward Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

"All of these companies know that in order to keep that market competitive and to keep operations most efficient, an affordable U.S.P.S. involvement is absolutely essential," said John M. McHugh, the former Army secretary and the coalition's chairman. He called Mr. Trump's proposal "dangerous," particularly when Americans sequestered at home are increasingly reliant on delivery services and postal leaders are projecting yawning deficits.

Credit...Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Research released on Wednesday shows a rise in food insecurity without modern precedent. Nearly a fifth of young children are not getting enough to eat, according to surveys of their mothers by the Brookings Institution. The rate is three times higher than in 2008, at the worst of the Great Recession, reports Jason DeParle.

When food runs short, parents often skip meals to keep children fed. But a survey of households with children 12 and under found that 17.4 percent reported the children themselves were not eating enough, compared with 5.7 percent during the Great Recession.

Inadequate nutrition can leave young children with permanent developmental damage.

"This is alarming," said Lauren Bauer, a Brookings fellow in economic studies, who oversaw the survey. "These are households cutting back on portion sizes, having kids skip meals. The numbers are much higher than I expected."

Ms. Bauer said disruptions in school meal programs might be part of the problem, with some families unable to reach distribution sites and older siblings at home competing for limited food.

The findings come as Democrats and Republicans are at odds over proposals to raise food stamp benefits. Democrats want to increase benefits by 15 percent for the duration of the economic downturn, arguing that a similar move in 2009 reduced hunger during the Great Recession. Congress has enacted a short-term increase for about 60 percent of the caseload, but the increase omits the poorest recipients. Citing large expansions of other safety-net programs, Republicans say that is sufficient to meet rising needs.

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'Let's Keep It Going': Trump Changes Course on Coronavirus Task Force

President Trump said the White House coronavirus task force would continue with new members, contradicting his previous remarks that it would wind down.

I thought we could wind it down sooner, but I had no idea how popular the task force is until actually yesterday when I started talking about winding it down. I get calls from very respected people saying, I think it would be better to keep it going. It's done such a good job. The task force will be around until we feel it's not necessary, but I will say that I learned yesterday, even after I spoke Jeff, that the task force is something — you knew — it's very respected. People said we should keep it going. So let's keep it going. And so we'll be doing that. But we'll be adding some people to it. We'll be announcing, I would say by Monday, we'll be announcing two or three new members to the task force.

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President Trump said the White House coronavirus task force would continue with new members, contradicting his previous remarks that it would wind down.CreditCredit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump, contradicting his comments from Tuesday, said the White House coronavirus task force would "continue on indefinitely," though perhaps with different members.

His announcement, made on Twitter, came a day after Vice President Mike Pence, who has led the group for two months, said it would probably wrap up its work around the end of May.

"We will have something in a different form," Mr. Trump told reporters later on Tuesday during a trip to Arizona.

But in a series of Wednesday morning tweets, the president appeared to contradict that statement and emphasized his desire to reopen the economy despite a continued rise in coronavirus cases and public health warnings that more commerce will mean more deaths.

Because of the task force's success, he wrote, it would "continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN."

Mr. Trump spoke with reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon about why he had changed his mind.

"I thought we could wind it down sooner," he said. "But I had no idea how popular the task force is until actually yesterday, when I started talking about winding it down. I get calls from very respected people saying, 'I think it would be better to keep it going. It's done such a good job.'"

Mr. Trump said later Wednesday that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government's top infectious-disease expert, and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the coronavirus task force coordinator, would remain on the task force in their current roles.

Mr. Trump frequently reacts to news coverage of his decisions, and reports on Tuesday that he might wind down the task force drew sharp criticism.

There had been signals in recent days of the task force's impending demise: The panel did not meet on Saturday, as it typically does, and canceled a meeting on Monday. And the president has stopped linking his news briefings to the task force's meetings and no longer routinely arrays task force members around him in his public appearances.

The task force has often served as a public check on Mr. Trump's questionable or false statements, cautioning about promises of a quick vaccine or the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine.

Credit...Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Temperatures in Phoenix are expected to hit 105 this week. Sacramento has already broken heat records recently, as have Galveston, Tex., Salt Lake City and Fort Myers, Fla.

But the usual strategy that cities rely upon to protect the most vulnerable from the heat — encouraging people to gather and cool down in public buildings like libraries or recreation centers — doesn't work in an era of the coronavirus and social distancing. So cities across the country are rushing to test other ideas.

Not only has the Covid-19 crisis made gathering dangerous, public health and emergency management officials point out, but on top of that the very people most vulnerable to heat-related illnesses — the elderly or chronically ill — also tend to be most vulnerable to the virus. Last year was the second hottest on record, and climate change is intensifying heat waves around the world.

Those wishing to join the American military but who have been hospitalized with the novel coronavirus will be temporarily barred from joining the armed forces, according to a directive issued this week by the Pentagon, officials said on Wednesday.

Defense Department officials said the measure was "interim guidance," and that it most likely would be updated as military officials learn more about the disease and its long-term risk to someone joining the military. Like the rest of the country, the Defense Department is struggling to figure out how to better manage and protect the country's 1.2 million active duty troops from both the disease and its effects.

Defense Department officials said on Wednesday night that recruits who have had the coronavirus and are barred, for now, from entering the military probably would be given a return date to come back for consideration.

The armed services already have a system for granting waivers for enlistment to recruits who might otherwise not be allowed to enlist for a variety of medical and other reasons.

As of Wednesday morning, there have been just over 7,000 coronavirus cases among military personnel, contractors and Defense Department civilians.

Credit...Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona has asked a team of university professors producing one of the state's most robust public modeling assessments of the virus to halt its work, drawing criticism about whether the move is politically motivated.

The request by the Arizona Department of Health Services was sent on Monday to the modeling team from Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, shortly after Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, announced plans to relax some social distancing measures.

Previous findings by the modeling team made it clear that the only situation in which virus cases in the state do not sharply increase is by waiting until the end of May to reopen Arizona's economy. The governor has said that if businesses follow safety protocols and social distancing, cosmetologists and barbershops can reopen on Friday, and that restaurants and coffee shops can do so on Monday.

"It's puzzling that they would ask these experts to stop their work when they are producing results inconsistent with decisions made by the executive branch," said Will Humble, a former state health services director who is now the executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association.

Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for Mr. Ducey, said in a statement that Arizona authorities found the modeling group's work less useful for influencing policies during the pandemic than modeling developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is not publicly available.

"We've been able to see which models are accurate — which match the actual facts and are most useful — and which are not," Mr. Ptak said. He added that Dr. Cara Christ, the state's health services director, made the decision to ask the modeling team to suspend its work.

The team, composed of about two dozen professors, was not being paid by the state. Tim Lant, a mathematical epidemiologist at Arizona State and member of the team, said it would continue to do its modeling work on a daily basis using publicly available data.

Credit...Kevin Hagen for The New York Times

Sixty-four children in New York State have been hospitalized with a mysterious illness that doctors do not yet fully understand but that may be linked to Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, officials said on Wednesday.

In an advisory to health care providers, state health officials said that most of the children who were believed to have what has been labeled "pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome" had tested positive for the virus or for antibodies to it.

The symptoms of the mystery ailment, state health officials noted, overlap with those associated with toxic shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease, a rare illness in children that involves inflammation of the blood vessels, including coronary arteries. Fever, abdominal symptoms and rash may also be present, officials wrote.

Since the pandemic began, most infected children have not developed serious respiratory failure of the kind that has afflicted adults. But in recent weeks, the unusual new syndrome has cropped up among children in and around New York City and elsewhere in the United States, a sign that children may face a greater risk from the virus than anticipated.

The number of children in the United States showing signs of the syndrome, which was first detected last month in Europe, remains small. None are known to have died, and many have responded well to treatment.

Credit...Bing Guan/Reuters

A 57-year-old man from El Salvador died of Covid-19 in federal immigration custody on Wednesday, according to his family and legal advocates, making him the first detained immigrant known to have succumbed to an outbreak that is widening in federal immigration detention facilities.

A federal judge ruled this month in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union that the facility must release dozens of detainees who were considered to be at risk of contracting the virus. Two guards have also sued the facility, accusing it of unsafe working conditions during the pandemic and claiming that its operators have not always provided staff members with masks or adequate sanitation supplies.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has confirmed that at least 705 people detained in its custody have contracted the virus, about half of those who have been tested. The agency has released hundreds of medically vulnerable detainees after facing a series of lawsuits related to the pandemic, but about 29,000 remain detained.

Mr. Escobar had been an undocumented immigrant in the United States for about 40 years when he was detained this year during a traffic stop. He had sought unsuccessfully to be released from Otay Mesa as recently as mid-April because of his pre-existing health issues — he was diabetic and had required multiple surgeries on his foot.

He was hospitalized in late April because of complications associated with the virus.

Credit...Emile Ducke for The New York Times

Germany was a leader in the West in taking on the pandemic, and then a leader in the calibrated restarting of public life. On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel had a hopeful message for the nation: The experiment was working.

The infection numbers, Ms. Merkel announced, were not just stable but lower than those reported two weeks ago. "We have reached the goal of slowing the spread of the virus, of protecting our health care system from being overwhelmed," she said at a news conference.

Germany, she said, was now in a position to reopen most aspects of its economy and society. "We can afford a little audacity," Ms. Merkel said.

It was good news not only for Germany, but also for countries eager for a sign that life can continue with the virus. Germany's progress demonstrated that a combination of cautious, science-led political leadership and a regimen of widespread testing, tracing and social distancing could allow countries to manage a controlled reopening.

But it was also a stark reminder of the differences in other Western countries, including the United States, where some states have tried reopening, but cases and deaths are still rising.

Jails and prisons are among the most challenging places to control an outbreak. Similar to cruise ships and nursing homes, detention facilities have crowded living spaces and shared dining areas, as well as communal bathrooms and a lack of space to isolate infected detainees, all of which makes physical distancing practices difficult to achieve.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study of the spread of the virus in prisons and detention centers in the United States, both public and private. Although it did not have complete figures for the approximately 2.1 million people incarcerated nationally, the study found that nearly 5,000 prisoners had contracted the virus along with over 2,000 staff members, resulting in 103 total deaths.

"This analysis provides the first documentation of the number of reported laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19 in correctional and detention facilities in the United States," the report said.

Among the findings, the report found that slightly more than half of the affected facilities had at least one case among employees and not detainees. Staff members move regularly between facilities and outside communities, which could be important factors in introducing the virus into prisons, it said.

The C.D.C. warned that its data was incomplete; it was therefore unable to determine the percentages of infected prisoners and employees across the country. It received data from the health departments of 37 states and U.S. jurisdictions; 32 of them reported at least one laboratory-confirmed case among 420 facilities. There are about 5,000 detention centers and prisons in the country, both public and private.

Government figures due Friday will undoubtedly show that job losses in April were the worst ever. But they could provide key hints about the recovery.

Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expect the Labor Department report to show that U.S. payrolls fell by 22 million jobs last month — a decade's worth of gains wiped out in weeks. The payroll processing company ADP said on Wednesday that the private sector lost more than 20 million jobs in April, with the cuts spread across every sector and size of employer.

It is no surprise that employers have cut millions of jobs; weekly data on filings for unemployment benefits, released every Thursday, have tracked the destruction. But the monthly numbers due on Friday are more comprehensive than the weekly ones, which almost certainly understate the damage.

The report on Friday could also help answer a question that could be crucial to the eventual recovery: How far has the damage spread?

If the losses are concentrated in sectors that have been directly affected by the virus, like retail and services that were hit by stay-at-home orders, that could bode well for the recovery, because it suggests the damage has been contained. But if it has spread to industries like finance and professional services, that could suggest a cascade effect is underway, with laid-off workers pulling back on spending, leading to lost revenues and still more layoffs. It could take much longer to climb out of that kind of hole.

The downturn has rippled through the world. The European Union's economy is set to shrink by 7.4 percent this year, investment is expected to collapse, and unemployment rates, debts and deficits will balloon after the pandemic, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

To put those figures in perspective, the European Union's economy had been predicted to grow by 1.2 percent this year. In its worst recession, during the financial crisis in 2009, the economy shrank by 4.5 percent.

Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

A company created six weeks ago by a pair of Republican operatives collected hundreds of millions of dollars in payments from state and local governments desperate for coronavirus supplies. That company is now facing a federal criminal investigation and a rising chorus of complaints from customers who say their orders never arrived.

The company, Blue Flame Medical, had boasted that it could quickly obtain coveted test kits, N95 masks and other personal protective equipment through a Chinese government-owned company with which it had joined, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

The company was started by two Republican political consultants, Mike Gula and John Thomas, who had little experience in the medical supply field. Mr. Gula's fund-raising firm has been paid more than $36 million since 2008 by a range of top Republican politicians and political committees. Mr. Thomas has served as a general consultant to a number of campaigns.

Mr. Thomas had asserted in an interview in March that the connections he and Mr. Gula made through their political work helped them find suppliers and connect to customers, such as large medical systems and law enforcement agencies around the world.

Orders came in from state governments, local police departments and airports in California, Florida and Maryland. But things have not gone as planned.

California quickly clawed back a $457 million payment for 100 million masks, as first reported by CalMatters. Other state and local agencies that paid Blue Flame said that the supplies never arrived or that orders were only partially filled.

The Justice Department is pursuing a criminal investigation into the company, according to people familiar with the investigation, which was first reported by The Washington Post. Some of the company's clients are requesting refunds or threatening their own investigations.

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'We Don't Have Certainty About Whether It Began in the Lab,' Pompeo Says

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has previously backed President Trump's unproven assertion that the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, said on Wednesday that the U.S. was not certain that this was true.

Well, when I see people say, well America's bullying the Chinese, we were demanding of them only what we demand of every nation: Be transparent, be open, be a reliable partner — the very things they say, the Chinese say they want to cooperate. Great, cooperation is about action. It's about opening up. It's about sharing this information. So the details of where "patient zero," where this began are things that are knowledge that's in the possession of only the Chinese Communist Party. They're the ones that can help unlock that — if they need technical assistance, we're happy to provide that assistance to them. We do need — the world needs — answers to these these questions for not only the current moment, but so that we can make sure that we reduce the risk that something like this could ever happen again with thousands and thousands of lives lost, and enormous economic cost to the entire world. We don't have certainty, and there is significant evidence that this came from the laboratory. Those statements can both be true. I've made them both. Administration officials have made them. They're all true. The most important piece here is that the American people remain at risk. The American people remain at risk because we do not know, to your point. We don't have certainty about whether it began in the lab or whether it began someplace else. There's an easy way to find out the answer to that: Transparency, openness, the kinds of things that nations do when they really want to be part of solving a global pandemic, when they really want to participate in the things that keep human beings safe, and get economies going back again.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has previously backed President Trump's unproven assertion that the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, said on Wednesday that the U.S. was not certain that this was true.CreditCredit...Pool photo by Andrew Harnik

A spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday delivered a scathing criticism of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over his assertion over the weekend that the virus originated in a Chinese laboratory.

The spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, pointed to a recently leaked memo for Republican candidates that urged attacking China and its labs as a campaign issue. She said the memo had discredited the Trump administration's allegations.

"The huge drama of blame-shifting in the United States has already been heavily spoiled, and continuing the drama is meaningless," she said. "I advise those people in the United States absolutely not to become enthralled by their own act."

In Washington, Mr. Pompeo became angry when pressed by reporters on his assertions about "enormous" and "significant" evidence that pointed to a laboratory accident in Wuhan as the source of the outbreak.

He said there were "different levels of certainty" assessed by different people or organizations, but Western officials from the so-called "Five Eyes" intelligence alliance say those agencies are coalescing around the idea that an outbreak that began in a lab was unlikely.

Trump administration officials said Wednesday that meat shortages at grocery stores and fast food chains would be short-lived, despite outbreaks that have shut meatpacking plants around the country and sickened thousands of workers.

In an Oval Office meeting with President Trump and Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, a Republican, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said meat shortages should end within 10 days as plants come online.

"I think we've turned the corner," he said. "I'd say probably a week to 10 days, we'll be back up."

The crowded conditions at America's largest meatpacking plants have turned them into hot spots and led to the deaths of dozens of workers.

Factories across the Midwest have been temporarily shuttered, cutting down on the country's supply of ground meat, pork loins and chicken. Hundreds of Wendy's restaurants have run out of hamburgers, while Costco and Kroger have limited the number of meat items customers can buy.

The Trump administration issued an executive order last week to put more pressure on meatpacking facilities to remain open and help them reduce their liability in worker lawsuits.

When asked about shortages at Wendy's, Mr. Trump said that he would call the company's chairman and that he was confident the problem would go away.

Ms. Reynolds said only one meatpacking plant in Iowa was shut: a Tyson pork processing facility in Waterloo that accounts for nearly 4 percent of the country's pork processing capacity. More than 400 of the plant's 2,800 employees have already tested positive for the coronavirus, and several have died.

Meatpacking plants have installed new safety features including barriers between workers and new requirements for protective gear. But many workers stay they are still nervous to return to facilities that had become hotbeds of infection.

On Wednesday, Ms. Reynolds vowed to get the facilities up and running to help ensure the food supply.

Here are some points to consider before you call your babysitter.

Reporting was contributed by Reed Abelson, Katie Benner, Katrin Bennhold, Alan Blinder, Keith Bradsher, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Ben Casselman, Niraj Chokshi, Helene Cooler, Michael Cooper, Michael Crowley, Elizabeth Dias, Caitlin Dickerson, Melissa Eddy, Nicholas Fandos, Christina Goldbaum, Maggie Haberman, Andrew Jacobs, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Jodi Kantor, Josh Katz, Jillian Kramer, Adam Liptak, Denise Lu, Neil MacFarquhar, Apoorva Mandavilli, Sarah Mervosh, Andy Newman, Michael Powell, Simon Romero, David E. Sanger, Margot Sanger-Katz, Marc Santora, Ed Shanahan, Ana Swanson, Kenneth P. Vogel, David Waldstein, Noah Weiland, Edward Wong and Carl Zimmer.

US citizen family of immigrants are suing over stimulus check denials - Vox.com

Posted: 06 May 2020 06:05 AM PDT

Immigrant advocates are arguing in court that American citizens who are married to unauthorized immigrants should still be eligible for stimulus checks along with their children.

The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, gives most taxpayers up to $1,200 and $500 for each of their children under the age of 17. But even if they pay taxes, unauthorized immigrants are not eligible for the stimulus checks, which the government started sending out in April. Neither is anyone else in their household, including their spouses and children, even if their spouses and children are US citizens.

Advocates from Georgetown Law and Villanova Law filed a class action lawsuit in Maryland federal court on Wednesday challenging the CARES Act on behalf of seven US citizen children of unauthorized immigrant taxpayers. They argued that it unfairly discriminates against these children based on their parents' immigration status and denies them equal protection under the law in violation of the US Constitution's due process clause.

Immigrant advocates at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund also filed a lawsuit last week arguing that the CARES Act is unconstitutional because it "discriminates against mixed-status couples."

"The refusal to distribute this benefit to US citizen children undermines the CARES Act's goals of providing assistance to Americans in need, frustrates the Act's efforts to jumpstart the economy, and punishes citizen children for their parents' status — punishment that is particularly nonsensical given that undocumented immigrants, collectively, pay billions of dollars each year in taxes," Mary McCord, legal director of Georgetown Law's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, said in a statement.

How the CARES Act penalizes unauthorized immigrants and their families

The bill excludes those in households with people of mixed immigration status, where some tax filers or their children may use what's called an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

The IRS issues ITINs to unauthorized immigrants so they can pay taxes, even though they don't have a Social Security number. If anyone in the household uses an ITIN — either a spouse or a dependent child — that means no one in the household will qualify for the stimulus checks unless one spouse served in the military in 2019.

If the law is allowed to stand, it could impact an estimated 16.7 million people who live in mixed-status households nationwide, including 8.2 million US-born or naturalized citizens.

The exclusion for mixed-status households defies current practices: Many other federal programs are designed in such a way that US citizen children of unauthorized immigrants can access necessary benefits, including the child tax credit, food stamps, housing assistance, welfare benefits, and benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

But there is a precedent for this kind of exclusion. Amid the global financial crisis in 2008, Congress handed out tax rebates to most American taxpayers, except for the spouses of immigrants who didn't have Social Security numbers.

What the exclusion means for mixed-status families

Most of the families of the children named in Wednesday's lawsuit have a combined income of no more than $30,000 and, absent financial support from the federal government, are struggling to stay afloat.

One parent, identified only as N.R. in the complaint, lost her job at a restaurant during the pandemic and her partner has also been unable to work because he contracted Covid-19. The family has no income and depends on community support as well as food from her child's school system in order to survive.

Another parent, C.V., lost her job at a catering company and has had to pick up part-time work at a restaurant, but she fears that she won't be able to pay rent and will be evicted along with her child. And H.G.T., who has three children, hasn't been able to afford internet access, which has become necessary as her older children try to attend school online.

Mixed-status couples are also suffering from being denied stimulus checks. Sarah and her husband Juan, who asked to be identified only by their first names to protect their privacy, are one such couple living in Evansville, Indiana. She is a born-and-raised US citizen, but he came to the US 14 years ago from Honduras without authorization, seeking to earn enough money to support his parents and siblings back home.

The couple married three years ago, and shortly thereafter, she started the process of sponsoring him for a green card. He's still waiting for an interview at a consulate in Honduras, which has been postponed on account of the pandemic. But if all goes to plan, he will soon have permanent residency and be issued a Social Security number.

In the meantime, however, Juan is still living in the US as an unauthorized immigrant, filing taxes under an ITIN. Neither he nor Sarah, therefore, are eligible for stimulus checks.

Sarah is continuing to work from home during the pandemic, working in medical billing and making $45,000 a year. And Juan chose to take a month off from his job in painting and construction because they feared he would contract the virus at work, but he is now back on the job. She said that, together, they make a decent living, but they do have a lot of expenses, including his biweekly $120 remittances for his family in Honduras so they can buy food and pay their water and electric bills.

Still, she's angry that both she and her husband are being penalized during the pandemic.

"While not receiving the stimulus hasn't been a burden, it feels like a slap in the face as a US citizen that even I won't get it," she said. "I, personally, am not opposed to my tax dollars paying for undocumented immigrants receiving aid during this pandemic, but I can understand why our government wouldn't do this. But me? A US citizen? I'm insulted and angry. I feel like my country does not care about me in the slightest."


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People of Plano Q&A: How has COVID-19 affected you? - Plano Magazine

Posted: 06 May 2020 02:54 PM PDT

Like the rest of the world, people who live and work in Plano have had almost every facet of their lives affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home order over the past several weeks. We asked for their thoughts, and got some very candid answers. In such a swiftly changing environment, it's helpful to know these answers were received between April 15-27.

How has your work been affected?

Online learning has changed the personal connection we have with our students. It's so important to see their faces, read their emotions, and give them a real pat on the back. That daily personal connection drives learning and motivation.
On a positive note, I have learned several new learning tools that will benefit my teaching when we are back in the classroom.
– Debbie O'Reilly, English teacher

We are able to work remotely so we are able to take care of most client issues without any problems. Occasionally, we encounter a client need that requires an onsite visit. We limit that to one person from our company.
– Bob Kehr, chief technology officer, managed IT services

The negative side has been for the nonprofit I work for. Our kids can't get together to do a lot of the planned community service work, and as an organization funding has become much more difficult to come by when you can't hold outside meetings and events.
– Kathy Meadows, executive director, Mission Possible Kids

As we see the need for food assistance increase across North Texas, my work has taken on a new level of urgency. The days are longer and I am surrounded by more than 250 members of the Texas National Guard. I am also seeing how wonderfully generous this community is as they respond with financial contributions, nourishment for our staff and food from our Amazon wish list.
– Erica Yaeger, chief external affairs officer, North Texas Food Bank

Texas National Guard // photos courtesy North Texas Food Bank

The virus has affected my work life positively in the sense that I have had more time to spend with my family. A negative impact of the coronavirus is the loss of one-on-one personal connections with people each day.
– Harry LaRosiliere, mayor, City of Plano

Our board, volunteers, and donors made it possible for us to pivot within a few weeks and deliver school supplies to over 600 families in the district.
– Jamee Jamee, sr. executive director, nonprofit

I should be outside knocking on voter's doors every day in order to win our primary runoff. I should be getting my candidate face time with voters at community events around our district.
– John M. Stafford, campaign manager, Tom Adair for Texas

It has drastically cut our income, not only in the present, but the ripple effects will last at least 18 months.
– Debbie Dusek Holman, small business owner

We were able to adapt quickly to an entirely new business plan in a matter of days. We've had a healthy business for the last 10 years, but each day our sales are down about 90% from before so the longer this lasts, the more uncertain the future looks, not just for us, but all of the restaurants in our area.
– Christi Rudolph, restaurant owner

Our staff has bonded. Those with lighter bills gave up hours for those with heavier bills to pay. We've watched our customers show up for us, asking how they could help, sharing our message, emailing encouraging words. Our sales are down 50%, so our staff's hours were cut drastically. We miss our regulars, and we are not able to get supplies like we used to.
– Kat Smith, owner, Mudleaf Coffee

I'm missing two major trade shows, so I'm not able to display my work directly to buyers. My home haunt, Dark Hour in Plano, canceled our March show. I am unable to travel to my primary work space to help produce items that have already been sold.
– Stacy Hawkins, costumer, haunted attraction industry

I just started a new job, but can't go to training or meet the team.
– Karyn Smith, medical sales

Business is very busy but hectic due to a staff shortage.
– Gary Hirsch, owner, butcher shop

I've learned that being able to work from home is way different than working ONLY at home. I enjoy going to meet people and visit new places. Now my job is almost exclusively phone calls and Zoom meetings.
– Josh Baethge, freelance writer

COVID-19 has adversely affected my business beyond what we could have ever imagined. We closed on March 16 and quickly worked around the clock to pivot and offer digital services, like live streamed classes, for our community.
– Julie Godfrey, owner, fitness studio

We have our emergency shelters open with a skeleton staff. Counseling has moved to phone or remote access. We have an amazing staff who continue to care for those affected, now more than ever, by domestic abuse. Our resources are tight, funding is critical and the unknown future of when we can resume a new normal leads to more questions than answers.
– Beth Robinson, director of development, domestic violence agency

Halt. Pivot. Plan for … maybe later? On a positive note, it has allowed me time to tackle admin tasks that always get pushed off.
– Justine Sweeney, marketing and communications

I'm busy trying to track huge changes in what's going on in the word of college admissions, helping students whose parents have lost income reassess their financial plans and do appeals, starting work with juniors earlier than usual because they have extra free time and want to use the time for college stuff so they can be "free" to break loose later this year.
– Mk Werner, owner, GradPath college consulting

We have had to adapt to working from home, but because we do wills, medical and financial powers of attorney, and probate, we have been quite busy with people motivated to get this vital planning in place. Many don't take the time to work through these decisions, but may have more time on their hands right now.
– Lorie Burch, wills and probate attorney

We are an essential business and have remained open to serve our community. As people are driving less, our business has slowed down. The Auto Shop has kept all of the employees working their normal schedules.
– Jerry Kezhaya, owner, The Auto Shop

All the community events that we had planned April-May were cancelled or rescheduled. I am working from home, planning future events, but we are unsure if they will actually happen or to what degree they will happen. We are also coming up with creative ways to connect with the community virtually.
– Haley Gatlin, event coordinator

A change in work wardrobe. In some ways, deeper connections with people. We always check and ask each other how we're doing now. We've had a chance to be in each other's homes, albeit virtually; that changes things a bit.
– Jeri Chambers, donor relations officer, nonprofit

While many were sheltering in place, we were ramping capacity and changing business models at North Texas Food Bank to meet the unprecedented surge of needs. Our team and our partner agencies in the community have shown their passion and dedication to our mission through the long hours, flexibility and innovative solutions – all while keeping everyone safe.
– Trisha Cunningham, president and CEO, North Texas Food Bank

There has been a sudden uptick of calls by women needing our services, especially counseling and legal.
– Mona Kafeel, CEO, domestic violence shelter

All of my spring art shows have been cancelled, and I'm nervous to sign up for summer shows because of the possibility of cancellation. However, this has forced me to up my online shop game, which has needed some spit polish, for sure.
– Olivia Snyder, artist

I have had to close my office for almost five weeks. I have been able to see my postoperative patients and those that need to be checked, but otherwise everything I do is not consider essential. This is first time in over 50 years I have not worked for an entire month.
– Elizabeth Kerner, plastic surgeon

I'm busier than ever. All of my clients need COVID-related content. I've even written an entire ebook on COVID-19 targeted for one client's customer base. The COVID-19 crisis is a frightening and very sad story and I feel for the people who've suffered in this pandemic. But at some level, as a journalist, it's fascinating to watch the story unfold.
– Mary Jacobs, freelance writer

My team and I are getting things done which get bumped from the to-do list from week to week. We are learning new skills and reaching out to possible synergy partners. While I am missing money coming in the door, I find this time to focus on my business quite refreshing.
– Misty, small business owner

I already work from home. However, because I work with Cloud technologies, my workload has spiked significantly.
– Tommy Falgout, cloud solution architect

It has more or less taken it away; 95% of my job is not doable from home. I feel unnecessary compared to the teachers and higher-up administrators.
– Diane, Plano ISD elementary school secretary

I actually had two side gigs in addition to my musical career: face-painting and housekeeping. All three of my jobs are now on hold, and I am out of work and attempting unemployment.
– Meia Potter, musician

It has been extremely hectic and completely changed our day-to-day operations. We have had to stop or severely restrict non-emergency operations. On the positive side it has once again demonstrated what wonderful coworkers I am blessed to be on the team with. The men and women of Plano Fire-Rescue, civilian and uniformed alike, have risen to the occasion and lived our mission statement out: "Professional service with heart, integrity always."
– Sam Greif, fire chief, Plano Fire-Rescue

I learned to run my business in a completely new way in a matter of days. Hopefully, the strengths I am building now (online and social media presence) will help me in the next few years. Being able to adapt and come up with new ways to help customers is what will set us apart.
– Meagan Wauters, owner, retail boutique

My work life increased dramatically. I've always been busy, but the nature of work changed: a lot of in-the-moment problem solving, information validating and writing, combined with long-term planning and scenario development. I found the days have flown by, but it's hard to pinpoint what exactly I did each day.
– Shannah Hayley, director of communications and community outreach, City of Plano

All our festivals and catering jobs have been cancelled or moved. Catering and festivals is a huge part of our income.
– Joshua Sparks, manager, restaurant/butcher shop

I've been furloughed as a contractor. Even though I'm not being paid, I'm continuing to take care of my customers so I'll still have them as customers when this is over, and to help ensure that the company I work for stays afloat.
– Julie, sales

Teaching from home is more demanding than traditional teaching. It's a constant worry about whether students and parents are receiving correct information, and whether or not that information is clear. Learning a new platform has been a challenge for all of us, and we don't have the chance to work with a kid in person to see if they're truly understanding a concept or even if they're able to log in. However, parents have been extremely patient and supportive, and I've communicated more with families than ever.
– anonymous teacher

Minnie's Food Pantry hosts a mobile food pantry for the community on April 23 // courtesy Minnie's Food Pantry
Minnie's Food Pantry hosts a mobile food pantry for the community on April 23 // courtesy Minnie's Food Pantry

I have had to work 17 days straight trying to feed the hungry in our community. The positive side is watching our community respond to the need and donate to help us feed their neighbors.
– Cheryl Jackson, founder, Minnie's Food Pantry

There has been a huge increase in the adoption of telemedicine as a way to evaluate and treat a variety of ailments. Since mid-March, I have transitioned essentially all of my office visits to telemedicine, which I perform from home. In-person visits and surgeries are reserved for urgent and emergent conditions; and these have fortunately been few and far between.
– Peter Derman, minimally invasive and endoscopic spine surgeon, Texas Back Institute

I have a professional firework display company, and we had about seven firework shows cancel due to the stay-at-home order and about 10 more that postponed, mainly weddings. Without an end date in sight, some of my 4th of July clients are also considering options for postponing their city-wide festivals.
– Paige Mejia, chief marketing officer, Pyrotex

We've had to adapt to virtual offerings. It's been nice to collaborate and figure out how we can best serve the community at this time, but we miss seeing the families we serve in person on a regular basis.
– Catlin Hale, executive director, nonprofit

Events such as parties and weddings have been canceled. Those are a significant part of my income. Many people are afraid of headshot or portrait sessions.
– Janelle Twyford, photographer

I started at a new company and was laid off on day two of training, due to poor sales projections from COVID-19.
– anonymous

We've lost the ability to meet face-to-face for our interviews. To get the story, guests need to feel welcome, safe and connected with us as people. I miss that. From an audio product standpoint, we've now had to revert to recorded phone. All our nice mics, studio and equipment are gathering dust at this point. It's changed our content calendar, to be sure. On the bright side, our guests during the pandemic have been open and very willing to share their stories.
– Tammy Hooker, podcaster

I would like to recognize those in my industry – the School Nutrition professionals – and their work in feeding students during this time. The 8th annual School Lunch Hero Day, celebrated on May 1, is an opportunity to continue recognizing these amazing women and men.
– Dawnetta Miller, director of sales, student nutrition

There is a massive decrease in volume of total visits (in-person or televisit); decreased reimbursements from televisits as opposed to in-office; a decreased ability to care for our patients if they are too afraid or unable to come in; we are unable to get critical supplies like masks and gowns.
– Rosemary A. Bates, physician and owner, independent practice

Positives: no behavior issues, contact with parents I haven't had previously, more communication with quiet students, no essay grading
Negatives: power, choice, and creativity have been taken away from us; had to say goodbye to the dream of discussing the finale of a book we were reading; saying goodbye to our favorite end-of-year units since our regular curriculum (that PISD teachers created) is no longer being used; pass/fail leaves students unmotivated to complete anything; majority of parents are not responding to our concerns; several students in the last week are severely struggling with mental health issues
– anonymous Plano ISD teacher

The coronavirus required the City to adapt in real time to a changed environment both as a service provider as well as an employer. Social distancing was a term that had to be operationalized while continuing to provide services such as public safety, solid waste, parks, and libraries. We've seen adaptation of programs like our library story times moving online and our recreation center staff being deployed into parks to make sure we are doing all we can to social distance.
– Mark Israelson, city manager, City of Plano

While Plano Fire-Rescue is a very essential service, it is our field firefighters who are really impacted by this pandemic. I am an administrative staff employee and have been allowed to work from home some. My job is 95% interacting with the public so my phone isn't ringing as much and the emails are not coming in to set up outreach at this time. Our social media presence, however, is more vital now.
– Peggy Harrell, captain, Plano Fire-Rescue

We have lost 75% of our business. But it has brought out the best of our community. The amount of support we have seen from our loyal customers have been overwhelming.
– Olivia and J.W. Mulkin, owners, Taziki's Mediterranean Café

We have been closed since March 16th. We are unable to do house calls, which leaves us with zero income. I'm afraid we will be one of the last businesses to open up because there is no way to distance while doing hair. On a positive note, I have been able to work on putting out more social media content and building my online presence.
– Jacki Maher, salon owner and hairstylist


How has your home life been affected?

I did have to make my elderly mother go out for one large shopping trip, since I am fresh off of chemotherapy and couldn't do it. It's a crappy choice to make, but she was the lesser immunocompromised of the two of us, and I wasn't ready to potentially die over some milk and staple foods.
– anonymous

I had to quarantine for 14 days so my wife handled our twin boys in my absence. Very difficult.
– Michael Waterstradt, lieutenant, Plano Fire-Rescue

It's difficult to work from home, because at the end of a stressful day, you're still at work. It's also difficult to keep track of my students, parent emails, and my own child all at once. Giving every kid, including my own children, 100% of myself is a challenge.
– anonymous teacher

A Plano ISD elementary teacher leads an online class // courtesy Plano ISD
A Plano ISD elementary teacher leads an online class // courtesy Plano ISD

It has realigned my universe and reintroduced me to what is truly important.
– Isador Lieberman, president, Texas Back Institute

My wife enjoyed having me around the house more, which was nice, but I think everyone in the house got cabin fever, being quarantined for two weeks. Trying to keep distance wasn't too difficult [David tested positive for COVID-19], but we weren't able to eat as a family like we had before.
– David Tilley, Plano police officer

It's a monumental challenge to keep my three kids focused on virtual schooling each day while my business is on life support. It's almost like fighting a fire and writing a thesis at the same time. At the very least, I take comfort in the fact that most parents are struggling with this unique kind of multi-tasking as well.
– Christi Rudolph, restaurant owner

My husband is a Dallas firefighter so my parents took our three children to protect them, just in case, since both of us have to go out to work during this. We haven't physically seen them in two weeks; so thankful for FaceTime.
– Kat Smith, owner, Mudleaf Coffee

I've shifted to producing masks for civilians and medical staff. I have a son who is a senior at Plano
Senior, and it's looking unlikely that a graduation ceremony will be held. He and our daughters are adapting to online school.
– Stacy Hawkins, costumer, haunted attraction industry

I am exhausted when I get home and I worry that I may be putting my family in harm's way by being around so many people. However, they understand that this is my calling and my passion, so they pray for me and all those who serve with me.
– Cheryl Jackson, founder, Minnie's Food Pantry

Relationship with my wife has been great, as I think she has less stress without her commute or late nights at the office. It's seldom all of us sit down for a meal due to her work schedule, late nights and kids sports. Now we are eating together every night, and that relieves some of her working mom guilt, I think.
– Daniel LaBroad, CEO

Our dog loves it! We are home most days with him from morning to night. We go on walks, watch TV, don't rush to run out the door each morning – all things that were not part of our normal life before COVID-19. It has really caused our once hectic and over-programmed life to slow down. There were days where I felt extremely productive and positive, and then there were days where it was a struggle to fight off the sadness and the feeling of being overwhelmed with it all. As someone who is normally glued to the news, I found that I had to disconnect and block it out.
– Jamee Jamee, sr. executive director, nonprofit

Gaining weight, spending too much time on internet "time sponges,"experimental cooking more, marking things off my very long to-do list.
– Jack Grimm, graphic design and illustration teacher

One issue we have had is keeping the 13 year-old-son and my 77-year-old dad from leaving. Dad seems to think he needs to visit the local coffee or donut shop or they will go out of business.
– Karyn Smith, medical sales

Unfortunately, I am home less, at the same time that my two teens are home more. They sleep when I am awake and at work, and they are awake when I sleep. We are operating in a new, surreal environment where there appears to be no delineation of days or time. To minimize exposure from me, my husband (who is high risk) has been spending most of his time at our property in East Texas.
– Erica Yaeger, chief external affairs officer, North Texas Food Bank

Positives: More time with my wife and dog, more consciously connecting with family and friends, more time cooking and eating healthily, more time walking, a slower pace of life. Negatives: Far less community involvement, anxiety about being around others, anxiety about the future, daily monotony, lack the simple pleasure of enjoying a date night at a restaurant.
– Hayden Padgett, product manager

My husband works in the healthcare industry, so he has been away from home working regular shifts and sometimes extra hours. We take extra steps for him to sanitize before he enters our home following shifts.
– Amy Crawford, marketing and communications

I have never loaded and unloaded the dishwasher this much in my life!
– Jeri Chambers, donor relations officer, nonprofit

My husband is a mailman. I feel anxious when he goes to work because the post office provides no PPE or facility cleaning.
– Olivia Snyder, artist

Positives: A little more time for exercise, no driving, no meetings. Negatives: Mild cabin fever. New nickname for my husband: "Mr. Annoying Man." All in good fun.
– Mary Jacobs, freelance writer

It's affected my home life in a positive way. Riding my bike, playing board games and fishing with my family became cool again. It has forced the world slow down and think about the basic needs of life, LOVE.
– Lawrence Mann, at-risk specialist, Plano ISD

It was the first time we had a virtual Passover Seder. At first, I wasn't excited, but then it turned out great because of my daughter being there and the hilarious automatic captions [Meryl is deaf] from Skype. And I didn't have to dress up!
– Maryl Evans, digital marketing consultant

My ten-year-old daughter really misses her friends and is craving a connection with her friends.
– Tommy Falgout, cloud solution architect

Homeschooling kids is REALLY hard, especially while also working from home. Otherwise, I have kind of enjoyed some quiet time at home. I'm saving a fortune on gas, hair and nail appointments, and probably makeup and hair products as well! My husband has perfected making sourdough, and I'm appreciating that I have a husband who is an excellent chef!
– Julie, sales

Sadly, I lost my father-in-law to COVID-19. As an empty nester, my husband and sole "hunker-down partner" had to leave to be with his mother in NY. Now I am staying at home alone, and it is terrifying as he is visiting an area considered to be a "hotbed."
– Janet Sherlip, nonprofit consultant and event planner

I guess my husband thinks of me as a work associate now. He sends me a calendar invite for dinner, online grocery shopping, drinks in the backyard.
– Misty, small business owner

For someone that's been married for over 50 years, we have acclimated to the "new normal." We typically eat out a lot. I've probably cooked more in the past six weeks than in the past 10 years!
– Jo Via, executive director, Central Market Plano Balloon Festival

My second child was born on March 13, 2020. Nothing like being born on Friday the 13th, on the first day of a national state of emergency, in a global pandemic. The silver lining of this coronavirus situation is that it has allowed me additional time to spend with my newly expanded family. Once this is all over, I think we will look back fondly at the time we were able to spend with one another.
– Peter Derman, minimally invasive and endoscopic spine surgeon, Texas Back Institute

Both my house and my office are much cleaner and more organized than usual! My dog is happy that I'm around the house more. My husband is a Battalion Chief with Plano Fire-Rescue and is working his normal 24-on/48-off shift at the station. I'm trying not to watch a lot of TV, and we have started playing Scrabble a lot. I'm also writing a lot of letters to friends and family. Thank goodness for Plano Public Library and their electronic lending of ebooks!
– Peggy Harrell, lieutenant, Plano Fire-Rescue

Getting to see my girls grow and spending quality time with them is great, but I have no down time or personal time to myself. When they were in daycare, I could get that five-minute break. Thankfully, my husband and I help each other out.
– Meagan Wauters, owner, retail boutique

The "honey-do" list is getting shorter every weekend!
– Joshua Sparks, manager, restaurant/butcher shop

My musical duet, The Potters, is me and my husband, Dillan, so we've been live streaming on Facebook and other platforms from home.
– Meia Potter, musician

My husband lost his job due to economic impact of the quarantine, and with most companies either closed or heavily impacted, it is hard for him to find work right now.
– Paige Mejia, chief marketing officer, Pyrotex

I have to care for grandchildren so their single mom can work. I have not seen my 99-year-old aunt in six weeks because she is in a nursing home. She fell and had to go to the hospital, but I could not be with her. On a positive note, my neighbors have introduced themselves.
– Janelle Twyford, photographer

We've spent long amounts of time on the front porch enjoying the weather, gardening and taking pictures of our pets. We've been able to volunteer at our church by filming the services which has given us something positive to do during the week. We've had time to prepare all of our paperwork to become adoptive parents!
– Xavier and Hilary Cinque, owners, The Lumen Room

Since we are home, we are able to join Meals on Wheels Collin County's staff and other volunteers on specific days in delivering food to Plano/Collin County's seniors. Seeing their smiling faces and hearing their voices when they open their door makes us realize that when serving others, you really do receive more than you give.
– Dawnetta Miller, director of sales, student nutrition

I believe my husband always thought grocery planning, shopping, bringing in, prepping and putting away or organizing food was easy.
– Susan Bernard, chief creative officer, Susan Bernard Voiceovers

My wife and I both tested positive and we had a two-month-old at home. Quarantined for over two weeks and we are still not clear for anyone to be around our son. Getting groceries, baby items has been difficult. We have had to rely on neighbors.
– Nathan Fisk, engineer, Plano Fire-Rescue

I love spending quality time with my senior daughter before she goes to college and my son who has returned from Texas Tech. We enjoy long, leisurely dinners, watch more movies, and spend more time just enjoying each other's company.
– Debbie O'Reilly, English teacher


How has your relationship with friends and family changed?

We lost a family friend and had to pay our respects via Facebook Live. That's right, a Facebook Live funeral. Weird times, but people seem to always find a way, which I find to be oddly comforting.
– anonymous

We had a great-niece born during this time and we can't hold her! We could not be at the hospital with my family. The day will come that we can embrace each other again, and it won't be too soon.
– Michael Hamilton, small business owner

I'm having a weekly "happy hour" with first cousins. We haven't been together as a group in years, so it's very nice to reconnect.
– Jeri Chambers, donor relations officer, nonprofit

I miss personal interaction and enjoying other people's wines.
– Gary Hirsch, owner, butcher shop

I get my life's juice from other people, so it has been a little lonely. However I've had lengthier phone conversations, more text messages and Facebook chats with long lost friends.
– Misty, small business owner

I have a weekly online meeting with friends. We play Jackbox games or chat about what we're up to. I also go on "walk and talks" with friends, and get some exercise in while connecting with friends.
– Tommy Falgout, cloud solutions architect

All my family is in Louisiana. This is the longest we haven't seen them. My parents want to see their grandbabies.
– Meagan Wauters, owner, retail boutique

It's been uncomfortable with my parents, who are oddly not seeming to get how serious this is. I had to send them real news reports, statistics, outbreak numbers – and the local news article showing them there was a case in their town. For the first time, I've felt like the parent of my parents.
– Tammy Hooker, podcaster

My close friends and I still walk together in the neighborhood. We use our earbuds to talk and walk on opposite sides of the street. It has been especially difficult caring for my 80-year-old mom who lives alone. We want to be with her but have to settle for phone calls and the occasional drive-by.
– Janet Vermillion Moos, CEO, Texas Pool Foundation

I have not held my grandbabies in a month, have not had visitors to my home. We have enjoyed some quality time in the yard visiting with neighbors and trying to stay connected.
– Sam Greif, fire chief, Plano Fire-Rescue

A LOT more phone calls, FaceTime and Zoom. We're in touch more often, but still missing the face-to-face interactions with family and friends.
– Kathy Meadows, executive director, Mission Possible Kids

We will welcome our first grandchild in July so we had a baby shower via Facebook Live. I miss hugging my friends and family.
– Jamee Jolly, sr. executive director, nonprofit

I find myself smiling and waving more to strangers (from 6 ft. away), excited to see others and knowing we are all going through the same thing. We call, text and FaceTime family and friends, when before we "didn't have time."
– Kat Smith, owner, Mudleaf Coffee

Conversations are hard. There isn't much to talk about other than COVID-19.
– Karyn Smith, medical sales

I text with friends and family way more than before. My kids love using FaceTime and Skype to chat with their grandparents and aunts. I've also had a few virtual happy hours with friends, an idea that never crossed my mind before this.
– Josh Baethge, freelance writer

We've enjoyed ample phone calls, continuous texts, Zoom happy hours and from-the-curb visits from friends. We've worshipped with our church family via live stream and learned via Zoom Bible study.
– Amy Crawford, marketing and communications

We do a lot of FaceTime and Zoom. We even had a Zoom Seder with my wife's family for Passover. I do miss seeing my family in person and being able to give them a hug and share a meal. They are also missing some of our 12-month-old's milestones. We had to do a Facebook Live smash cake birthday party for her!
– Lorie Burch, wills and probate attorney


What do you miss from pre-coronavirus life?

America working and people not dying from this disease would be first and foremost. On a more personal level, attending church in person, social engagements, Rotary meetings, family get togethers, having all my workforce together, visiting my firefighters at the stations. And I admit it…I am hugger so this has been hard!
– Sam Greif, fire chief, Plano Fire-Rescue

Visiting our schools and hugging on the kids.
– Harry LaRosiliere, mayor, City of Plano

Having beers with my friends. Eating at restaurants. Talking to voters face to face.
– John M. Stafford, campaign manager, Tom Adair for Texas

Hugs and handshakes.
– Debbie Dusek Holman

Being able to get what I need at the grocery store when I need it. Also, having the funds available at that time. Big LOVE to Minnie's Food Pantry and the work they're doing! They've helped us so much!
– Meia Potter, musician

We miss movies, having an evening out with a group of friends, being able to travel for vacation, watching sports and being able to hug and shake hands with friends.
– Mark Israelson, city manager, City of Plano

I miss real-life human connection and interaction. I miss attending meetings, group luncheons, Plano Chamber events, community events. I definitely miss Saturday Game Nights, Saturday Brunch, random outings, happy hours, sporting events or weekend trips. I miss my Plano community!
– Dylan M. Rafaty, director of business development and partnerships

Empty parking lot atCarpenter Park Recreation Center // photo Jennifer Shertzer
Empty parking lot atCarpenter Park Recreation Center // photo Jennifer Shertzer

Mostly we miss seeing people. We miss our gym at Carpenter Rec Center. I miss meeting my clients in person. We miss supporting local charities through onsite volunteering, galas, etc.
– Bob Kehr, chief technology officer, managed IT services

Driving my car and listening to podcasts between destinations. Hugs. Sitting in a church pew.
– Jeri Chambers, donor relations officer, nonprofit

Connecting with my staff in person.
– Mona Kafeel, CEO, domestic violence shelter

Time off. With lower sales, I am back to working seven days a week.
– Lance, owner, food and beverage industry

People, money, Marshalls and my DQ Diet Vanilla Colas.
– Misty, small business owner

Fellowship, community and seeing my students on a daily basis.
– Lawrence Mann, at-risk specialist, Plano ISD

The ability to eat out at restaurants or go into businesses without all the restrictions. The ability to visit my dad anytime I wanted to. My son was hospitalized with a broken ankle that required surgery and I wasn't able to be there for him in the hospital. That was pretty rough.
– David Tilley, Plano police officer

Community involvement, eating at local restaurants, dog parks, conversations with strangers.
– Hayden Padgett, project manager

Queso.
– Josh Sparks, manager, restaurant/butcher shop

Restaurants, tennis, friend get-togethers, kids being in school, kids' sports, random shopping when I wanted to, travel, a schedule.
– Rosemary A. Bates, physician and owner, independent practice

I miss hugging. I miss going into a restaurant and sitting there with friends for hours laughing. I miss going to my mom's house to bake and hang out. I miss Target, and the excessive spending there while sipping a Starbucks. I miss girls' night out and dancing. I also desperately miss working.
– Jacki Maher, salon owner and hairstylist

Scouts, the Masonic Lodge and going camping.
– Joshua Clouse, community paramedicine coordinator, Plano Fire-Rescue

The freedom to travel. We travel usually once or twice a month and I don't see us returning to that schedule anytime soon. I miss dining out. I do not like to cook, and I love the energy of sitting in a busy restaurant or on the patio, watching people interact, enjoying good food. I also miss my girlfriend lunches. They give me energy and help me face the challenges of work or life at home.
– Jamee Jolly, sr. executive director, nonprofit

Seeing people in person, going to dinner at restaurants, hugs from family and friends, alone time, listening to podcasts on my commute, date nights out of the house.
– Catlin Hale, executive director, nonprofit


What might be some lasting changes from this situation?

Virtual meetings are becoming more accepted. I think it will make our service and sales process even better and more efficient. I think this is the new norm, and the future will hold a version of this.
– Daniel LaBroad, CEO

I worry that this online program students are using will not go away once this is all over. How will the art of teaching be affected by this? Will there be "an art" anymore?
– anonymous Plano ISD teacher

Personal life: Slowing down, mindfulness. Career: Adding more intentional and self care for case managers, counselors and shelter staff.
– Mona Kafeel, CEO, domestic violence shelter

I feel coronavirus has shown that my job may not need to be a full time position or needed at all.
– Diane, Plano ISD elementary school secretary

I will hug harder and smile even bigger when we are able to remove our masks and be with our family and friends again. I won't take a meal for granted after seeing thousands of people in their cars needing a meal for their families. I will be grateful for the time when I can take a nap on any given day.
– Cheryl Jackson, founder, Minnie's Food Pantry

From the restaurant perspective, it has been and will continue to be a requirement to take sanitation and social distancing measures seriously.
– Elia Medina, restaurant general manager

We believe that this pandemic has allowed people to see what's truly vital for existence. We feel that without the ability to celebrate birthdays, weddings, babies and other life altering moments, we lose a sense of our humanity in a way. The ability to gather is something so essential to human life.
– Xavier and Hilary Cinque, owners, The Lumen Room

I feel like after this, I can handle just about any challenge I am faced with in my business. I also will not take for granted the time I get to spend with my family outside of my home.
– Julie Godfrey, owner, fitness studio

There has been much heartache and loss associated with this pandemic, but there are wonderful lessons, too. May we never forget to appreciate our loved ones and to enjoy the little things in life.
– Amy Crawford, marketing and communications

Why are we all still using the same credit card keypads without disinfecting? Or using a shared pen? How can we ensure that retail will continue a heightened level of cleanliness? The wiping down of carts now just seems logical.
– Justine Sweeney, marketing and communications

It is definitely eye-opening on how we can work virtually. It is something we may very well integrate into our firm.
– Lorie Burch, wills and probate attorney

I am a Registered Nurse. My two youngest daughters at home are lifeguards, and one is in nursing school. I have another daughter who is a paramedic on the front line. Moving forward, healthcare will be forever changed. I hope we learn from what we are experiencing today, to come back stronger, more prepared for the future. Although medicine can be heroic, no one in healthcare ever expected to be called upon to be a hero.
– Janet Vermillion Moos, CEO, Texas Pool Foundation

My managed IT business may need to change to focus more on remote workers. For us, I think there is a lot of opportunity to address those needs as long as the economy supports our clients' businesses.
– Bob Kehr, chief technology officer, managed IT services

From a family standpoint, I think we are making memories that we will look back at fondly one day.
– Josh Baethge, freelance writer

Honestly, I can see a lot more office personnel getting to work from home to reduce leasing costs for companies.
– Lance, owner, food and beverage industry

It makes me more cognizant of how fragile life is, and that I work with the finest firefighters in the greatest city in the state and probably the nation.
– Sam Greif, fire chief, Plano Fire-Rescue

A parade of Plano first responders honored healthcare workers at Texas Health on the morning of April 13 // courtesy Plano Fire-Rescue

Unknown, which is frustrating. Will people still crowd to art shows and craft fairs? Or will they be afraid to?
– Olivia Snyder, artist

My business will be drastically changed from this: face masks, hand sanitizer, no double booking, spaced out stations, no snack station or coffee station, less hugging and handshaking, and no extra people in the salon. That truly makes me sad.
– Jacki Maher, salon owner and hairstylist

My family has learned that it's not just the time; it's the time we spent and took for granted that you don't get back.
– Michael Hamilton, small business owner

I worry about my kids who work in the hospitality business, who are on furlough. I don't see how that business can rebound until there's a vaccine or a really aggressive program of testing.
– Mary Jacobs, freelance writer

A complete reboot of priorities. The current pandemic has enlightened us on just how little we really need to thrive.
– Isador Lieberman, president, Texas Back Institute

We shall see. I am hoping this is the wake-up call we needed. Our children, especially our teenagers, are under way too much pressure. I am truly hoping we strike a balance after all of this.
– Misty, small business owner

I think this situation has exposed everyone to the public health risks that exist and how this can impact a community. We've learned a lot in how this situation differs from other emergencies, and I think we will be more effective and efficient in our responses in the future.
– Mark Israelson, city manager, City of Plano

All our firefighters are cross-trained as firefighters and either EMTs or Paramedics. The way they approach and treat patients has changed drastically, and I just wonder if there is a way to go back now. The survival rate for people who have cardiac arrests outside of the hospital relies so much on bystander CPR and use of an AED. I worry that strangers won't step up to help someone who has collapsed now, and that we'll see fewer people surviving out of hospital cardiac arrests.
– Peggy Harrell, captain, Plano Fire-Rescue

I think it causes all of us to reset our priorities. It is obvious that some of the things in life that seemed so important really aren't. We will all have take-aways from this time, how we deal with these changes will be the measure of who we now become.
– Jo Via, executive director, Central Market Plano Balloon Festival

I think I can take my business 100% online if I need or want to. It would actually expand my business since I could take on more clients from outside the North Texas area.
– MK Werner, owner, GradPath college consulting

I am hopeful that expanded access to telemedicine will remain after coronavirus. While it has its limitations, telemedicine is more than sufficient in many situations and can be particularly convenient for patients who have to travel long distances for care, people with busy schedules and those with disabilities for whom travel is difficult.
– Peter Derman, minimally invasive and endoscopic spine surgeon, Texas Back Institute

I have learned to enjoy slowing down. I will find ways to maintain calm and peace in daily life, such as through prayer and meditation, focusing on my health through physical activity and diet, and treasuring every moment of my relationships. I have changed profoundly.
– Debbie O'Reilly, English teacher

This spring/summer is the first time my daughter will be looking for a full-fledged job. Considering the massive layoffs and furloughs, it's worrisome.
– Meryl Evans, digital marketing consultant

I think it's emphasized the need to save for a rainy day over immediate creature comforts, to be open to trying new things or doing old things differently, and to be thankful for the day.
– Kathy Meadows, executive director, Mission Possible Kids


What has this situation taught you?

This situation has reaffirmed my belief in people. I've witnessed how people can move mountains if petty distractions are put aside while working towards a common goal. Everyone can contribute – through work, financial support, government support, storytelling, advocacy, creative ideas and encouragement. I will remember these lessons.
– Trisha Cunningham, president and CEO, North Texas Food Bank

There has to be a better balance than shutting down basically the entire economy. Social distancing will be with us for a long time to come, but we will have to adapt our ways so that the economy can come back and people's lives won't be destroyed because of economic or personal situations.
– Debbie Dusek Holman, small business owner

Bleach is not a Tyler candle scent.
– Justine Sweeney, marketing and communications

In order to effectively rid ourselves of this virus, we as a city have to come together and take care of each other. We need to consistently practice social distancing and safe and clean health habits.
– Harry LaRosiliere, mayor, City of Plano

Once again, those who serve others is at the forefront of everyone's minds. Much like 9/11, this too will pass. But these folks are there every day around the clock. Let's never forget and take care of those who serve. This includes healthcare workers, first responders, teachers, service workers, our supply system workers and politicians. We are stronger together.
– Joshua Clouse, community paramedicine coordinator, Plano Fire-Rescue

Some see tragedy all around them, some are blessed with a more positive environment. No matter where you are on the scale right now, I ensure you there's an artist online somewhere that can provide you some catharsis for your emotional energy. Reach out to your local online musical community!
– Meia Potter, musician

Stay strong and be kind.
– Kat Smith, owner, Mudleaf Coffee

I believe how you respond to living through hard times is a character-defining choice. I look at my grandparents. They survived the Great Depression, WWII and much more. We called them the Greatest Generation. We collectively, worldwide, have the opportunity to be the New Greatest Generation. The question is, are we willing to make the choices required to earn this moniker?
– Shannah Hayley, director of communications and community outreach, City of Plano

Spotted in a Plano neighborhood // photo Jennifer Shertzer

This is a good reminder of our fragility on this planet. We are not in control, although we like to think so.
– Elizabeth Kerner, plastic surgeon

So many milestones have been lost for us all. Funerals unattended. Graduations vacated. Weddings lost. Experiences lost. Family members lost. I grieve for something almost daily. We're all going through some of the phases of the five steps of grief.
– Tammy Hooker, podcaster

All the creative ways our city has come together to support one another, from teddy bears and Christmas lights to take-out, delivery services and Little Free Pantries, really show how strong we are and what community means to each of us.
– Janet Vermillion Moos, CEO, Texas Pool Foundation

Mixed messages in the media is such a drain.
– Jack Grimm, graphic design and illustration teacher

I'm continually amazed at the wonderful community spirit in our community. Whether it's the short note to hang in there, the friendly smile while taking a walk or the neighbors helping out neighbors. Plano is a large city, but in many ways feels like a small town where people look out for and support each other.
– Mark Israelson, city manager, City of Plano

No matter how bad your situation may be, there's always someone out there having a worse time. And if you're doing well, please realize that if everyone around you isn't doing well, we will all suffer. So help if you can, and do your part.
– anonymous

Wear masks, Plano! They're to protect everyone, not just yourself.
– Stacy Hawkins, costumer, haunted attraction industry

I hope we are better for this Great Pause. If there ever were a time to be generous, this is it! Financial donations to a variety of nonprofits are more important than ever. May we continue to utilize technology creatively and may it cause us to have better connections with people. Most importantly, may we never lose sight of how precious a hug can be.
– Jeri Chambers, donor relations officer, nonprofit

It's amazing to see how much everyone has adapted and has come up with creative solutions to the problems the virus and the shutdown caused. I hope at the end of the day these hardships will make everyone stronger.
– Haley Gatlin, event coordinator

I have seen the impact from the front lines of this virus on the community. I've watched the food bank run out of food with two miles worth of cars still in line. It has been hard for me to express empathy at home as my 8th grader struggles with online learning and my high school senior grieves over missed experiences. I don't discount their frustrations, but it also helps keep things in perspective.
– Erica Yaeger, chief external affairs officer, North Texas Food Bank

The divide in our country is stronger than ever. I pray daily that politicians and media stop seeing us as a political party and realize the small businesses need help.
– Meagan Wauters, owner, retail boutique

The citizens, businesses, churches, and organizations in Plano have been overwhelmingly generous with their love, comments, prayers and donations to our firefighters.
– Peggy Harrell, captain, Plano Fire-Rescue

It has taught me to live every day like it's my last day! And to focus on the basic needs in life.
– Lawrence Mann, at-risk specialist, Plano ISD

Interesting how differently people react to the same situation. It brings out the best and worst, showing one's real traits.
– Gary Hirsch, owner, butcher shop

As Coronavirus Spreads, People Who Rely on Food Assistance Struggle to Get Groceries Safely - TIME

Posted: 06 May 2020 12:05 PM PDT

When Teresa Coleman needs groceries, she has to leave her apartment complex in Decatur, Georgia, wait for a bus to arrive, ride roughly 20 minutes with other passengers, enter a store with other shoppers and hope that employees there will help her grab any items she can't reach herself from her motorized wheelchair.

In normal times, this process is cumbersome. But during the coronavirus pandemic, it's dangerous. Coleman, 56, has both asthma and bronchitis and relies on a wheelchair for mobility, which means that if she gets COVID-19, she is at high-risk of becoming seriously ill and facing outsized hurdles at a hospital. "When you're in the store, you have to be around people," she says, "and that's real scary."

It's about to get worse for her. Starting May 1, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp lifted the state's shelter-in-place order, but advised elderly and "medically fragile" residents, like Coleman, to continue sheltering through June 12. But there's only so much Coleman can do: she still needs to get food somehow. While many other Americans have turned to ordering groceries or food delivery online during the pandemic, that's not an option for her. She relies on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as food stamps, to help her buy food, which doesn't allow for grocery delivery in her state.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been working on a pilot program for years that allows SNAP recipients to order groceries online, but so far only six states have joined. Now, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread around the country, advocates for low-income people, those with disabilities and older Americans are pushing more states to sign up in an effort to help allow the 37 million Americans using SNAP benefits to shelter at home.

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In addition to Americans with disabilities and chronic health conditions, like Coleman, the coronavirus has been hitting low-income areas particularly intensely. COVID-19 is killing black Americans at a much higher rate than their white counterparts. "It is well documented at this point that the risks of the pandemic are greater for those very groups that were already struggling," says Kyle Waide, president and CEO of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. "Communities of color, older Americans, lower income families—all of these are facing greater risks than the general population."

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Many of those same groups are disproportionately likely to be SNAP recipients at this time. A record 30 million Americans—mostly those in lower income roles—have lost their jobs since March. At least 12.7 million have lost their employer-provided health care benefits, and millions more are newly relying on charity and donations to access basic necessities, like food and medicine. The food pantries served by Waide's organization have seen 30 to 40% more people relying on food donations since the pandemic began, he says, and his staff has seen a surge in SNAP applications, too.

Only Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Oregon and Washington State so far have implemented the SNAP online purchasing program. The 2014 Farm Bill first authorized the USDA to explore using SNAP benefits online and the department's Food and Nutrition Service chose retailers to participate in 2017, but the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot did not launch until April of 2019. In the past month, an additional 12 states plus Washington, D.C. have received approval and expect to start "in the near future," according to the USDA.

At least 14 other states have applied to join the pilot, according to RespectAbility, a disability group that has been pushing the program to expand. That list includes Georgia, which submitted an application to join the program last month, a spokesperson for the state's Division of Family & Children Services tells TIME. The state has partnered with Kroger and Walmart to allow SNAP recipients to order groceries for in-store or curbside pickup, but the application for the USDA's online program is still being processed, and once it is approved, Georgia expects it will need another seven to nine weeks to coordinate systems and conduct testing before it can go live.

Part of the reason for the long timeline is the specific technology the online pilot requires. Each state's SNAP system has to be updated to handle online purchasing, and retailers must be able to accept SNAP electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards as payment. While the Food and Nutrition Service initially approved eight retailers, the ones currently participating include Amazon, Walmart, ShopRight and Wright's Market. A USDA study last August found that nearly two-thirds of the authorized retailers did not have systems or equipment that could identify SNAP-eligible products, and that meeting the requirements in the Farm Bill could cost between $7,000 and $10,500 per retailer.

As the pandemic has continued, a coalition called the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Pam Miller urging more action on the program. And the issue has gotten some attention from members of Congress, such as Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar.

The topic is one that appeals to advocates from a wide variety of communities, says Janet LaBreck, a board member at RespectAbility who helped bring the issue to the group's attention. LaBreck is blind, so she started shopping online when the pandemic hit to avoid touching unnecessary items or needing assistance at her local grocery store. But she would like SNAP recipients to have the same options she has. The pandemic, she says, offers an opportunity for agencies to re-examine their policies and find ways to help more people.

For now though, as states work to set up their programs and others wait for federal approval, SNAP recipients are left with limited options. Martha Lindsay, 75, lives on less than $1,200 per month and relies on a combination of SNAP and help from her local food pantry. While the pantry has been "wonderful," she says, there's always a long line at the grocery stores, even when she goes at 7 a.m. for their "senior hour," which is meant to limit customers during the pandemic. Ordering online would be a "blessing," Lindsay adds. "We need to stay safe."

Coleman, too, would like to avoid exposing herself and her family to the virus. She can sometimes ask her brother for assistance, but her relatives also have their own families to worry about. "I'm very independent and I hate to ask for help," she explains. If she could use her food stamps to get groceries delivered, "that would help a lot," she adds. "I would feel more secure."

Please send tips, leads, and stories from the frontlines to virus@time.com.

Write to Abigail Abrams at abigail.abrams@time.com.

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