Health Highlights: March 9, 2021

Many U.S. Colleges Cancel, Shorten Spring Break

Spring break has been canceled or scaled back by many U.S. colleges in an attempt to reduce partying that could spread COVID-19.

Texas A&M University decided on a three-day weekend instead of an entire week off for students, while the University of Alabama and the University of Wisconsin-Madison nixed spring break but will give students a day off later in the semester, the Associated Press reported.

The University of Mississippi also canceled spring break, but will end the semester a week early.

And while many college students will still travel to sunny party spots or take other trips such as skiing in the mountains, others say they reluctantly decided not to travel this year, the AP reported.

Michigan Tech’s weeklong break began Friday, but 21-year-old Justin Martin decided to visit family in Michigan instead of making that epic senior year trip to Florida he once envisioned.

“I don’t want to travel all that way, first of all, especially with everything being shut down. It just doesn’t seem worth it, especially with COVID too,” he told the AP.

“Definitely, no planned trips. Definitely wearing masks this year,” said Brady Stone, a 21-year-old journalism major at Texas A&M. “We are kind of hunkering down and staying safe. I think most of us, if we are going anywhere, it is back to their hometowns.”

White House Provides $250 Million to Reduce COVID-19 Inequities

The Biden administration will provide $250 million in federal grants to community organizations that encourage underserved and minority populations to get COVID-19 vaccinations and follow safety measures to prevent infection.

The initiative is meant to help local governments boost COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and other pandemic mitigation measures, while teaming with groups that best know how to support their communities, according to a U.S. Health and Human Services Department official, CBS News reported.

The program was announced Monday by Vice President Kamala Harris in remarks to the National League of Cities, which includes thousands of cities, towns and village leaders.

Harris, who has been trying to reduce racial, cultural and socioeconomic disparities in COVID-19 vaccinations, urged league members to embrace the plan, CBS News reported.

The White House and other federal agencies have held listening sessions with various groups with a focus on increasing vaccine confidence and addressing other barriers. When she was still a California senator, Harris introduced the COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act of 2020, CBS News reported.

“Our communities are dying at disproportionately high rates,” Harris said in February during a virtual roundtable with participants from local black chambers of commerce from across the country. “We’ve got to remind people that the vaccines are safe, that they will save lives.”

According to the latest data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the vaccination rate among white Americans was over 2.5 times higher than the rate for Hispanic people and nearly twice as high as the rate for Black people.

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