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College Students Left in Limbo as Classes Move Online and Campuses Shut Down

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  • Colleges across the U.S are shifting to online classes and shutting down campuses amid the coronavirus outbreak, leaving some students in tricky situations. 
  • Some don’t have the means to get home on such short notice and rely on their schools for housing, food, and work.
  • Others have homes that don’t have Wifi or the resources needed to complete a college class. 
  • International students are also scrambling, as some come from countries where the coronavirus outbreak is much worse. Others rely on their homes and schools in America for their visas, immigration status, and ability to obtain future jobs and Internships. 

Colleges Suspend In-Person Classes

As people all over the United States are frantically buying hand sanitizer and scrubbing their hands to the tune of Happy Birthday, the coronavirus pandemic is posing news challenges for college students.

Colleges across the country have switched classes from in-person to online for the coming weeks, and in some cases, for the rest of the academic year in light of the outbreak. Some schools have also closed campuses and asked students to pack their bags and head home. For many attending these colleges, the changes leave them with far more questions than answers. 

From an education standpoint, the quality of learning is about to be severely lessened for students who study subjects that require hands-on learning. For many though, the end of face-to-face classes is the least of their problems.

With dorms and dining halls closing, students who have no other reliable options are left worried. In some cases, campus job closures mean students will go without their main sources of income.

International, Low Income, and First-Generation Students Impacted

Harvard University is among the many schools that have opted to switch to virtual learning. In a letter sent Tuesday, students were told not to come back to school after spring break. 

“Students are asked not to return to campus after Spring Recess and to meet academic requirements remotely until further notice,” the letter read. “Students who need to remain on campus will also receive instruction remotely and must prepare for severely limited on-campus activities and interactions.”

This leaves students with just a few days to prepare to leave campus and professors with just around a week to figure out how to transition their curriculum from in-person to online. There is an application process for students to remain on campus, which the school is expected to look at “as soon as possible.”

According to Harvard’s student paper, The Crimson, the decision to have students work remotely could disproportionately impact International students.

Satoshi Yanaizu, a student in Harvard’s class of 2023 told the paper that he’s from Japan, where the coronavirus is at a higher risk. 

“The town I’m from, we have like 70 cases already, the same as the entire state of Massachusetts. If I go back, I have no guarantee I will be in a safer environment,” he said to The Crimson. “It might be even worse.”

Aside from the fact that some hail from countries facing travel restrictions or worse cases of the virus, these students face added stress since they rely on schools for their visas, immigration status, and ability to get work and internships down the road.

The new precautions are also having an impact on those with great financial need. According to The Crimson, 15% of the student body is first-generation and 20% are on full financial aid. These students are already being hit particularly hard, facing the sudden costs of having to find transportation to get back home, alternative housing options, finding places to store their belongings, and losing the income of jobs they have to leave. 

Some students are also worried that without the school’s resources, like the internet and computer labs, they won’t be able to keep up with the curriculum remotely. 

“The only equalizer at Harvard is the fact that we all live together and have the same accommodation,” Nicholas T. Wyville, who is set to graduate in 2020 told The Crimson. “We live together, we eat the same food, we have the same faculty resources. But if you take away campus living and residential life then you take away that equalizer.”

The Crimson reported that students are trying to find ways to help one another find housing. Students have set up a Google spreadsheet that connects students who have housing to share with those who are looking. At least 80 students have reportedly signed up for it. 

Students Take to Twitter

Harvard is just one of many schools taking these drastic measures amid the outbreaks, but the problems students face there are universal across other American colleges. Students at the University of California, Santa Barbara have taken to Twitter to express their frustrations about their classes moving online at least until April. The school briefly became a trending topic in the United States.

Like thousands of students nationwide, many were confused as to how this would impact the school and their education both in the short and long term. 

Others felt the decision may have been made without the full consequences in mind. 

Students at UCSB, as well as students at other schools, also felt that their tuition and housing costs should be adjusted since dorms are closing and their education is being impacted. 

University of Dayton

Another school that gained a lot of media attention for their response to their school’s new changes is the University of Dayton in Ohio. There, in-person classes will be moved online until at least April 6. The decision was made on Tuesday, and later that night, a group of over 1,000 gathered on a campus street. 

According to a statement given to Flyer News, the school’s paper, students were jumping on cars and throwing objects at police. Officers requested that the disperse, but after the group failed to comply, authorities launched pepper balls at students. 

The chaos began at 11:00 p.m. and continued until 2:15 a.m. Police moved to clear the street, which eventually got students to disperse. One injury was reported. 

There were several reports about this incident, with many calling it a riot. Some coverage seemed to imply that these events may have been to take a stand against the school’s decision to move classes online because of the coronavirus. It turns out, however, that the college kids were just doing what college kids do best: finding an excuse to party. 

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (CNN) (Wall Street Journal)

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FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses

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The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.


New FDA Authorization

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.

The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.

Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.

Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.

Hazy Recommendations, For Now

Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.

The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.

In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.

However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.

An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.

Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities

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The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.


Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”

Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.

Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.

The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone. 

During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program. 

“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”

Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.” 

“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference. 

“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”

Goals of the  Accountability for Congregate Care Act

Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act. 

“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.

“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.” 

Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.

Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change. 

“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”

While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children. 

Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)

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Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human

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The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.


Groundbreaking Procedure

Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.

The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.

With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.

According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney. 

The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.

Concerns and Hurdles Ahead

While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles. 

Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this. 

Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.

“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.

“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”

See what others are saying: (CNN)(BBC) (The New York Times)

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