Thumbs up, thumbs down

Thumbs Down to the racial segregation that played a major role in COVID-19 deaths in Connecticut last year. According to a report by the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunity, the agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws, segregation was largely responsible for the higher death rates from COVID among black and Hispanic residents. “The effects of segregation cannot only be measured in municipal demographics or statistics on income inequality, but in lives lost,” the report reads. Black Connecticut residents died twice as many as white residents, and the death rate for Hispanics was almost as high.

Thumbs up to a measure that would make phone calls to state detainees free. Connecticut could move from a state with some of the highest rates of prison phone calls to the nation’s first to provide free calls to inmates after a vote last week in the state Senate. Supporters of the bill argue that facilitating the bond between incarcerated people and their families can ease transitions back into the community, making the plan an effective measure against recidivism. It is also a question of fairness, as the families of detainees are often in financial difficulty and do not have the resources to stay in touch.

Thumbs up a surge in demand for preventive health care in Connecticut as the threat of COVID-19 recedes. One of the many side effects of last year’s health crisis was the reluctance of many people to venture into crowded spaces, including doctors’ offices. It was an understandable concern, but it had the effect of delaying necessary treatments and anticipating preventive care. Now that vaccines are dropping the number of COVID cases, people are once again focusing on daily health needs, with an emphasis on prevention. Prevention will benefit everyone.

Thumbs up upwards of half a billion dollars in state budget revenues. Not only does this allow Connecticut to cut hundreds of millions of dollars off its massive retirement debt, but it makes a reasonable resolution of the next two-year state budget likely to happen sooner rather than later. The pension gap will remain deep for the state, but few observers have predicted Connecticut will gain ground during the pandemic.

Thumbs Down (and keep those fingers too) to the reality that it’s still too early to start shaking hands again when greeting acquaintances. While experts admit they’re not entirely sure it’s safe for fully vaccinated people to shake hands, we’ve developed enough alternative greetings over the past 16 months to continue to play it safe and avoid the punctual social norm. As Jacqueline Vernarelli, assistant professor of public health at Sacred Heart University, advised: “If you don’t hug them, you probably shouldn’t be shaking their hand.”

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