A New York Woman Was Arrested for Failing to Socially Distance. She Spent the Next 36 Hours in a Cell With 20 Others
Flatten the curve!
Alice Speri 1 day ago 1367 0
New York City police officers arrested three people in Brooklyn over the weekend after they allegedly “failed to maintain social distancing,” court documents reviewed by The Intercept show. The three inpiduals appear to be among the first in the city to be arrested over the Covid-19 mitigation measures — despite city officials promising that those disregarding the lockdown would face fines at most. Violating social distancing is not a crime per se, but each of the inpiduals arrested was charged with obstructing governmental administration, unlawful assembly, and disorderly conduct.
In a criminal complaint, police claim an informant observed a group of about 25 people “hanging out” in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood last Friday night and that the defendants “refused to leave the location and disperse” despite the informant repeatedly asking them to do so. But one of those arrested, a 37-year-old woman, disputed the facts described in the complaint, telling The Intercept that she had been in a parking lot with her boyfriend, who was also arrested, when she saw a group of people nearby dispersing into the street apparently after police ordered them to do so.
The woman, who asked not to be named because the charges against her remain pending, told The Intercept that a large group of officers, wearing no masks, approached her and her boyfriend and told them it was “time to leave,” then proceeded to grab her boyfriend before they could do so. The interaction quickly escalated and officers pepper-sprayed two people as a crowd gathered to watch what was happening. “They actually brought the crowd inside that parking lot once they started bothering me,” she said.
The woman was taken to the local precinct and then to central booking, where she shared a cell with two dozen other women for the next 36 hours. Only women who already had masks when they were arrested were allowed to keep them. There was no soap and the cell was dirty, but at one point an officer went around distributing drops of hand sanitizer to the women held there.
“They got us all bunched up in one cell,” the woman said. “Nobody gave us no tissues. Regular jail stuff. Once you go in there they are going to treat you like the scum of the earth.”
The woman was ultimately released on Sunday morning — but her employer has not allowed her back to work because of fears she was exposed to the virus while in detention.
Two weeks into the city’s lockdown, as the death toll continues to climb and New Yorkers come to terms with their newly restricted lives, it remains largely unclear whether and how people can be forced to comply with the social distancing measures so essential to slowing the spread of the virus.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week that those gathering in groups of any size or failing to keep 6 feet away from each other could receive police warnings. If they failed to disperse, or returned after police told them to leave, they could be fined $250 to $500. But as joggers continue to pack sidewalks and crowds gathered to watch a U.S. Navy hospital ship dock in the city, it has become clear that far too many New Yorkers are continuing to get too close to one another. This week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to make social distancing guidelines “a law” while calling on the NYPD to step up enforcement. “The NYPD has to get more aggressive. Period,” Cuomo said, taking a shot at the city’s administration, which oversees the police department.
The NYPD and the Mayor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
But as officials threaten harsher enforcement, critics warn that police are not the answer. They caution against a heavy-handed response that they fear will be doled out unequally across the city. And with hundreds of officers testing positive for the virus, and thousands more out sick, community advocates worry that a more aggressive response would unnecessarily expose scores of people to the disease. While a criminal charge for failure to socially distance does not yet exist, officers have a lot of discretion in their encounters with the public and can arrest people under vague charges like disorderly conduct, obstructing government administration, or resisting arrest. That means that police interventions meant to keep people at a distance could quickly escalate into physical, and possibly violent, interactions.
“It’s basically just setting up police encounters, and any police encounter does have some potential to escalate,” said Jennvine Wong, a staff attorney at Legal Aid’s Cop Accountability Project. “One of the failings right now is the NYPD has not been communicating very clearly to the public what their role actually is in policing during this time. A lot of people are not very clear.”
Police Need To Practice Social Distancing
While advocates fear social distancing enforcement might lead to police escalation, they also warn of the serious health risks, to all involved, of close interactions between the public and police. More than 1,400 NYPD employees, including more than 1,000 officers, have tested positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday. That puts the police department’s infection rate at at least 3.8 percent — far higher than the city’s overall 0.5 percent, and almost as high as Rikers Island, where the estimated infection rate stands at a staggering 5.1 percent, according to an analysis by Legal Aid.
The high rate of infection within the NYPD is in part explained by officers’ status as first responders, but it also raises questions about whether police officers should be interacting with the public, and each other, as closely as they have. In a sign that the virus is taking a heavy toll on the department, more than 15 percent of the force called out sick this week. Dermot Shea, the police commissioner, called that “a good thing,” saying “We don’t want anyone sick in the workplace working sick.”
But some have argued the city has done too little to protect officers — and thus anyone with whom officers interact. In mid-March, the Police Benevolent Association, the largest police union in the city, filed a complaint accusing the department of failing to provide officers with enough protective equipment. But as the virus continues to course through the department, many officers remain on patrol without masks or gloves, often standing closely to one another and approaching people without taking precautions. With nearly half the force living outside the city limits, those officers also risk becoming vectors of the disease into their own families and communities.
“The police are themselves both at risk of getting sick and at risk of spreading the disease to others,” said Alex Vitale, who runs the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College. “Police need to practice social distancing.”
Vitale stressed the importance of New Yorkers avoiding close contact with each other, but called for community-based alternatives to pressure people to stay home.
That is particularly important in parts of the city that are already overpoliced — usually poorer neighborhoods of color where many aren’t able to work from home or are forced to share tight quarters with several others. “Not everybody can stay home during the pandemic,” said Josmar Trujillo, a community organizer in East Harlem. “Not everybody has a place to go home to and not everybody has a way to unwind or deal with the mental stress that comes with a lockdown.”
Trujillo feared that officials’ criticism of New Yorkers disregarding social distancing guidelines would translate into disproportionate enforcement against poor communities of color in particular, and noted for instance how officials have railed against “parties” and “DJs” and removed basketball hoops from the city’s courts. As he resisted closing public schools for weeks, de Blasio cited, among other reasons, the fear that teenagers would roam unsupervised in the city. Trujillo said that while police officers in wealthy neighborhoods might courteously educate New Yorkers to the need for distancing, he expects their approach to residents of poorer neighborhoods to be much more aggressive. “So on top of the unprecedent problem that we’re dealing with, the police can come and escalate and make things worse,” he said.
That compounds the perception by many in those communities that they have been left to fend for themselves in this crisis, he added.
“The problem is not that we shouldn’t be trying to distance people, but it’s the fact that there has been almost a complete absence of government,” Trujillo said. “If I just looked out my window, the only semblance of government that I would see would be the NYPD. You don’t see Health Department officials out here. You don’t see people sanitizing public spaces like they did in China. It’s a ghost town except for the police.”
Broken Windows Policing in a Pandemic
With much of the city emptied of people, crime levels have sunk in New York as across much of the country.
But as advocates have raised the alarm about city jails that have become petri dishes for the disease, and as the city has moved to release hundreds of people detained at Rikers, police have continued to make arrests over low-level crimes that critics say pose an unnecessary risk of contagion.
A comparison of arrest and arraignment data from cases Legal Aid represented during the last two weeks of March last year and this year shows that while arrests are significantly down, nearly 34 percent of arraignments this year continued to be over nonviolent offenses, petty misdemeanors, and violations, many for drug possession. That’s less than last year’s 58 percent, but “still a significant amount of cases that, quite frankly, didn’t need to come through central booking and didn’t need to come through arraignment to begin with,” said Wong, of Legal Aid.
On Sunday, the city released about 650 people from Rikers, bringing the total number of people there to under 5,000 for the first time in more than half a century. But attorneys said they continued to see police make arrests they said were particularly questionable in the current circumstances. In one instance, police recently stopped a man for playing loud music and then arrested him over a 10-year-old warrant for spitting. In another case this week, a homeless man was arrested for allegedly possessing synthetic marijuana and held for 30 hours before being arraigned and released.
“It’s pretty counterproductive to arrest somebody for that, because now you’re putting someone who is already vulnerable into a holding cell for hours and hours, and we have already heard stories about how unsanitary they are and how crowded it is, and how there is no way for people to actually wash their hands, socially distance, and follow CDC guidelines,” said Wong.
Each arrest also puts any emergency personnel involved, police and corrections officers, court staff, and other arrestees at risk, she added. “It’s very dangerous.”
In the midst of a mass public health emergency, police should be focused on meeting that emergency — not making matters worse, critics argue. That should include putting in place measures to limit exposure during necessary interactions, but also curtailing police interventions to strictly essential ones. Several police departments have taken steps to do so, for instance by instructing officers to respond to certain calls by phone. Meanwhile, district attorneys in cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco are declining to prosecute some low-level offenses. But so far, New York has done neither — and police and prosecutors have pushed back against calls to release people from jail, prompting a rare public rebuke from Rikers’ own chief medical officer. “They really think that if they let anyone out of jail, if they let up for ten seconds on broken windows policing, that there’s going to be rioting in the streets,” said Vitale.
But the NYPD’s failure to adapt its policing to the crisis at hand puts the city’s public health in even greater danger, advocates say.
“We want them to modify their protocols to reflect the fact that we are in the middle of a public health emergency, we are at the epicenter of this pandemic,” said Wong. “Other cities with far fewer cases have already decided that it is not only in the community’s best interest, but also in the best interest of the inpidual officers to decrease instances of police encounters with civilians — because we don’t know who has it and who doesn’t.”
Source: The Intercept
BBC Explains We’re Having a Total Shutdown So 80-Year Olds Can Still Die Just Not With Coronavirus
What a great reason to carpet bomb the tax base that sustains the health care system everyone depends on, including the elderly
Stay Classy MSM
Marko Marjanović 1 day ago
Imperial College London modelling, used to inform government, has suggested 500,000 could have died by August in the UK if the virus was left to rip through the population.
It also warned the government’s previous strategy to slow the spread by asking those with symptoms to self-isolate and shield the most vulnerable could have led to 250,000 deaths.
Now, it is hoped the lockdown will limit deaths to 20,000.
But that does not mean 480,000 lives are being saved – many will die whether or not they get the virus.
Every year, about 600,000 people in the UK die. And the frail and elderly are most at risk, just as they are if they have coronavirus.
Nearly 10% of people aged over 80 will die in the next year, Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, at the University of Cambridge, points out, and the risk of them dying if infected with coronavirus is almost exactly the same.
There you go. The total shutdown doesn’t mean we’re saving frail people. Even in their own model it just means the great majority will still die, they just won’t die with covid-19.
So this is worth:
a.) Forcing the elderly to live out the last months of their lives as prisoners.
b.) Depleting our economy and tax base which down the line is going to cost somebody his much-needed chemotherapy.
Trump Admin Said to Brace for 100-240K US Covid Deaths. Scientist They Cited Has No Clue Where They Got the Number
They're pulling figures from thin air
William Wan 1 day ago
“I’ve looked at all the models. I’ve spent a lot of time on the models. They don’t tell you anything. You can’t really rely upon models.” — Anthony s. Fauci in private
Editor’s note: The White House claims their numbers are based on “five or six” different models. The creator of one of them (albeit not of the most influential one), Jeffrey Shaman of Columbia University says there is no way his work can support their prediction. Other experts are asking how they arrived at the figures as well, and privately even half of the Trump admin figures they’re pulling numbers from thin air, including Corona Tsar himself, Antony Fauci.
This seems to have been a “model” prepared specifically to show to Trump and manipulate him into taking action and has zero scientific credibility.
Leading disease forecasters, whose research the White House used to conclude 100,000 to 240,000 people will die nationwide from the coronavirus, were mystified when they saw the administration’s projection this week.
The experts said they don’t challenge the numbers’ validity but that they don’t know how the White House arrived at them.
White House officials have refused to explain how they generated the figure — a death toll bigger than the United States suffered in the Vietnam War or the 9/11 terrorist attacks.They have not provided the underlying data so others can assess its reliability or provided long-term strategies to lower that death count.Some of President Trump’s top advisers have expressed doubts about the estimate, according to three White House officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. There have been fierce debates inside the White House about its accuracy.
At a task force meeting this week, according to two officials with direct knowledge of it, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told others there are too many variables at play in the pandemic to make the models reliable: “I’ve looked at all the models. I’ve spent a lot of time on the models. They don’t tell you anything. You can’t really rely upon models.”
Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the vice president’s office have similarly voiced doubts about the projections’ accuracy, the three officials said.
Jeffrey Shaman, a Columbia University epidemiologist whose models were cited by the White House, said his own work on the pandemic doesn’t go far enough into the future to make predictions akin to the White House fatality forecast.
“We don’t have a sense of what’s going on in the here and now, and we don’t know what people will do in the future,” he said. “We don’t know if the virus is seasonal, as well.”
The estimate appeared to be a rushed affair, said Marc Lipsitch, a leading epidemiologist and director of Harvard University’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. “They contacted us, I think, on a Tuesday a week ago, and asked for answers and feedback by Thursday, basically 24 hours,” he said. “My initial response was we can’t do it that fast. But we ended up providing them some numbers responding to very specific scenarios.”
Other experts noted that the White House didn’t even explain the time period the death estimate supposedly captures — just the coming few months, or the year-plus it will take to deploy a vaccine.
Almost the entirety of what the public knows about the death projection was presented on a single slide at a briefing Tuesday from the White House coronavirus task force. A White House representative said the task force has not publicly released the models it drew from out of respect for the confidentiality of the modelers, many of whom approached the White House unsolicited and simply want to continue their work without publicity.
A representative for Fauci did not respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Vice President Pence declined to comment. On a Thursday call with conservative leaders, Pence said it was “difficult” to view the models but “the president thought it was important to share with the American people.”
Among epidemiologists, the estimate raised more questions than it answered — not just about methodology and accuracy but, perhaps more importantly, about purpose.
The primary goal of such models amid an outbreak is to allow authorities to game out scenarios, foresee challenges and create a coherent, long-term strategy — something some experts worry doesn’t exist within the White House.
“I wish there were more of a concerted national plan. I wish it had started a month and a half ago, maybe two months ago,” Shaman said.
Natalie Dean, a biostatistician who was not involved in the White House effort but is working on coronavirus vaccine evaluation with the World Health Organization, pointed out that “the whole reason you create models is to help you make decisions. But you have to actually act on those projections and answers. Otherwise, the models are useless.”
The president’s models
At Tuesday’s briefing, Trump unveiled the government’s projected death count, saying it was based on data “that has been, I think, brilliantly put together.”
The coordinator of Trump’s coronavirus task force, Deborah Birx, then projected a slide with a high-arcing mountain showing the worst-case scenario: 1.5 million to 2.2 million deaths if Americans and the government did absolutely nothing to stop the virus. And a smaller — but still imposing — hill with 100,000 to 240,000 deaths if measures such as social distancing are taken.
Birx said the projection was based on five or six modelers, including from Imperial College in Britain and Harvard, Columbia and Northeastern universities. “It was their models that created the ability to see what these mitigations could do, how steeply they could depress the curve,” Birx said.
But two models appeared to have been particularly influential: the one by Imperial College and one from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington (IHME).
At a news briefing Sunday, Birx explained the process this way: Her task force initially reviewed the work of 12 models. “Then we went back to the drawing board over the last week or two, and worked from the ground up, utilizing actual reporting of cases,” Birx said. “It’s the way we built the HIV model, the TB model, the malaria model. And when we finished, the other group that was working in parallel — which we didn’t know about,” referring to the IHME group.
The IHME model initially estimated deaths through this summer would total 38,000 to 162,000 — a lower projection than many others and beneath the White House’s own estimate. But because of its lower figure and Birx’s comments, experts believe it to be a main source for the White House’s best-case scenario of 100,000 to 240,000 deaths.
Meanwhile, the White House appeared to rely on Imperial College for its worst-case scenario. That study estimated as many as 2.2 million U.S. deaths if no action was taken, 1.1 million deaths if moderate mitigation strategies were adopted, and an unspecified number if drastic measures were taken.
But as a common mathematician’s refrain goes: A model is only as good as the assumptions it is built on.
An audience of one
For the past decade, the federal government has been nurturing a group of about 50 epidemiologists and math modelers at universities. The U.S. government launched the effort when it became apparent that U.S. expertise in disease modeling was outstripped by England’s world-class experts, said Dylan George, a former Obama administration official at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy who was involved in that effort.
Since January, the CDC has been working with that larger group of modeling teams but it has been unclear, especially in recent weeks, how much the White House was listening to their data and projections.
The handful of projections the task force has plucked from the group and used in White House discussions, administration officials said, are sometimes deployed with an audience of one in mind: Trump.
Officials have said the Imperial College’s eye-popping 2.2 million death projection convinced Trump to stop dismissing the outbreak and take it more seriously. Similarly, officials said, the new projection of 100,000 to 240,000 deaths is what convinced Trump to extend restrictions for 30 days and abandon his push to reopen parts of the country by Easter, which many health experts believe could have worsened the outbreak.
But what remains unclear and alarming to many modelers is whether the White House is using their data to create a coordinated, coherent long-term strategy.
Source: The Washington Post