For schools, a new challenge: How to feed students during spring break?

Arlington Public Schools in Virginia ran out of food when it tried to give families extra supplies ahead of break.
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Biden expected to condemn Trump for tear gassing of protesters in Philadelphia speech
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Terrence Floyd (center) attends a vigil where his brother George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis on June 1. | Stephen Maturen/Getty Images Minnesota barely stayed blue in 2016. If there’s a backlash to protests, could it turn red? The same day that Minneapolis police killed George Floyd on May 25, a poll was released showing a tight race between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump in Minnesota. While thought to be a reliably blue state in presidential elections, Minnesota is emerging as a sleeper battleground in 2020. It is far too early to tell if, or how, Floyd’s death or the explosive Minneapolis protests that followed it could impact the November elections. But some political experts are wondering if peaceful protests mixed with violence and destruction could scare the state’s swing voters — particularly white suburban women — that Democrats need to win in the state. “I think in the suburbs, people are saying you can’t have police officers asphyxiating somebody,” said David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University in St. Paul. On the other hand, he added, “I can see a lot of these suburban voters who voted Democrat in 2018 saying, ‘well gosh, maybe Trump can bring law and order here or bring some peace.’” The Star Tribune/MPR/KARE 11 poll published on May 25 found the former vice president leading Trump by just 5 points, 49-44 percent, with 7 percent undecided. The poll had a margin of error of 3.5 points. Minnesota has a Democratic governor and two Democratic US senators, but also a split state legislature, with the state Senate controlled by Republicans and state House controlled by Democrats. The 2016 election results showed the state pretty evenly split. That year, Hillary Clinton carried Minnesota by just 1.5 percentage points, winning just nine of its 87 counties. Trump’s showing in the state was surprising. “Minnesota is one of those states where Donald Trump was quite successful in mobilizing racial resentment and building support on that,” said Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota. The question of whether the Minneapolis protests mean Trump will have more success with that message in 2020, is still unknowable. “Going back to 1968 and looking at what Trump is trying to do but not well, there is this law-and-order card. It was terrifying to watch Minneapolis burn,” Jacobs added. “That has unnerved the suburbs and if that poll had run today, it would be a tossup.” While much of the media attention has been on unrest and violence in clashes between police and protesters, Floyd’s graphic killing caught on video inspired many peaceful protests around the country — including some in predominantly white areas of the state like Duluth, or just across the border in Fargo, North Dakota. “The violent protests, Trump will certainly try to use them for backlash purposes. So the question is will that be drowned out by the peaceful protests,” said August Nimtz, a professor of political science and African American studies at the University of Minnesota. He added, “The fact that Fargo and Duluth have seen actions suggest this may be something different. The breadth of the outrage is a reflection of the changing attitudes about race, and blacks being seen in a much more human way than was historically the case in the US.” Whatever the outcome, how Minnesota votes in 2020 could have profound political implications for the rest of the country. The state has traditionally taken a backseat to its neighbors Wisconsin and Michigan during presidential races. But if Democrats were to lose Minnesota for the first time in nearly 50 years, it could be a tremendous blow to their hopes of retaking the White House. “Minnesota could determine who becomes president if it’s close as 2016,” Jacobs said. If national Democrats get complacent, he added, “it’s a false complacency, Minnesota is quite winnable.” Minnesota is a swing state Every four years, Minnesota is typically written off as a solidly blue state, compared to the rest of the upper Midwest. There’s a reason for that; the last time Minnesota voted for a Republican presidential candidate, it was Richard Nixon in 1972. But there’s plenty of evidence to suggest the state is turning purple. Minnesota doesn’t have political party registration, meaning there aren’t precise statistics of how many Republicans and how many Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor members (the state’s Democratic Party) there are. But the results of the last presidential election suggests Trump has considerable appeal in the state. Control of the state legislature is also divided, with Republicans narrowly controlling the state Senate and the DFL controlling the state House. In 2016, Trump was just 44,593 votes shy of beating Clinton. Whereas Obama had won 42 of Minnesota’s 87 counties in 2008 and 28 of them in 2012, Clinton won just 9 in 2016. Clinton eked out a win relying on the most populous, blue areas of the state around Minneapolis and St. Paul, but staring at the 2016 Minnesota electoral map was like staring at a sea of red. There are a few factors to help explain this shift. Minnesota is historically a very white, protestant Christian state that has diversified rapidly in the last few years as immigrants from Somalia, Cambodia, and Latin American countries have settled there. Politically, the state can be divided into the blue areas around the Twin Cities, and a more purple area around the northern Iron Range that was historically Democratic and union-heavy but has trended red in recent years. There’s also the southern part of the state that is reliably Republican, but is also diversifying in some cities where immigrants work at meatpacking plants like Hormel in Austin, Minnesota. The swing areas, Schultz and Jacob agreed, are suburban areas around the Twin Cities and places like Rochester, Minnesota (home to the Mayo Clinic). “The battleground now is mobilizing the bases and capturing suburban swing voters,” said Schultz. “We’re really looking at the battleground being suburban women. It’s not so much the suburban males.” The rapid diversification of such a white state helps explain Trump’s sudden 2016 rise in a traditionally Democratic state, Jacobs said. “Trump was very effective in using his ethnic nationalism to trigger that racial resentment and to portray himself as someone who was going to stand up for white voters,” Jacobs continued. “Minnesota is vulnerable to that, particularly in areas that are experiencing economic anxiety and where you started to see diverse populations move in. I think there’s a risk the protests could be used that way, particularly the arson, the apparent lawlessness in the streets.” The question is whether the fallout from the Minneapolis riots could help boost him again. The swing voters to watch are suburban women While Trump and the GOP’s effort to stoke fears about immigrants may have worked politically in 2016, it did not appear to work during the 2018 midterms. The GOP ran a playbook of fear about Latin American immigrants arriving in caravans and Democrats letting violent criminals run amok in the streets. As Vox’s Dylan Scott wrote: If you were to distill the prevailing Republican campaign message for the 2018 midterm elections to one image, it would be this: a hooded figure in the shadows, machete (or knife or bladed fingers) in hand, waiting to pounce if the wrong candidate wins. Life is a horror movie and it’s Democrats behind the hockey mask. Vote Republican. Meanwhile Democrats ran on a message focused on health care, infrastructure, and eradicating DC corruption — and they won across the country. That 2018 midterms win was powered by suburban women, and happened in no small part because of active distaste and disgust with Trump himself. In Minnesota, Democrats flipped two Republican congressional districts in the suburbs, but Republicans also managed to flip two Democratic districts, including a previously reliable one on the northern Iron Range. “Nobody should forget we won two seats in Minnesota, but we also lost two seats,” said Matt Fuehrmeyer, the former research director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2016 and 2018. “The parties broke even in the congressional map.” The question in this year is whether Republicans try the same playbook with the Minneapolis protests as a backdrop, and if they are more successful. Trump’s presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee are already playing aggressively in the state, hoping to complete the first Republican flip of the state in nearly 50 years. “I still don’t think Democrats should sleep on Minnesota,” Fuehrmeyer said. Support Vox’s explanatory journalism Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.
Facebook’s new feature will help you erase your weird teenage years
We all have awkward moments from our younger days that we’d rather forget. | Corbis/Getty Images Manage activity will make hiding your past shame easier than ever. If you were a tech-savvy teen and an early Facebook adopter, you’re now in your early 30s with half your life documented on the social media giant. If you’re like most teens (or, let’s be honest, most adults), you probably said a few things on Facebook that don’t represent who you are now — or at least, who you want people to think you are now. Well, you’re in luck: Facebook just introduced an easy new way to get rid of those bad old posts. Facebook’s new “manage activity” feature, which is rolling out over the next few weeks, will allow you to “curate” your Facebook presence “to more accurately reflect who you are today,” the company said in an announcement. Users will be able to find and manage posts in bulk, with filters that let them find posts from certain date ranges or that mention certain people. Here’s what it looks like: Facebook A spokesperson for Facebook told Recode that, according to both users and privacy advocates, better control over past posts was a much-needed feature for the platform, given how much of users’ lives have now been spent on it. While users have been able to use a “limit past posts” feature to change large numbers of public posts to be visible only to friends, the new feature lets you pick and choose what you want to hide from the masses. You can either archive your embarrassing old posts for your eyes only or delete them entirely. Even if you don’t regret anything you did in your younger days, it might not be a bad idea to give your years-ago Facebook days a trim. You can get fired from your job if problematic past social media posts surface, even the ones viewable by friends only, and things that may not have seemed bad to you back then may reflect poorly on you now. Potential employers may use automated background check services that misinterpret perfectly innocuous remarks, costing you a job without giving you the chance to explain them away. Or maybe you wrote something five years ago that looks bad now when its context has been removed by the sands of time. All it might take is one 10-year-old Facebook post about how you hate Company X for Company X to decide not to hire you when you apply for a job there. Or perhaps you don’t want the conservative company you work for to know about your liberal political leanings. Before and after you get the job, your employment is often at the mercy of whatever the company thinks best represents its brand. What the manage activity tool doesn’t do — at least, not yet — is let you mass-delete the stupid old comments you made in groups or mass-unlike dumb things you once gave a thumbs up. Facebook told Recode it’s exploring that as a future option. For now, manage activity is launching first on Facebook’s mobile version, with availability on its web version “in the future,” the company said. Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists. Support Vox’s explanatory journalism Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.
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America’s reopening is dangerous. Canada has a better idea.
A family sits at a beer garden on the first day of the phase one reopening of Washington, DC, on May 29. | Getty Images “Double bubbles,” Canada’s modest experiment in easing social distancing, should be a model for America. The United States is charging ahead with reopening. All 50 states are now moving to reopen their economies, even though only three meet basic criteria to do so safely. Coronavirus cases are rising in some states, yet public officials there are still choosing to open bars, restaurants, and more. Meanwhile, Canada is trying out a much more modest experiment in easing social distancing. Based on early data, it seems to be working out. Our northern neighbor has been doing far better than the US at keeping case numbers down, partly because its political system works. Its per capita Covid-19 death rate is roughly half that of America’s. So, lately, some Canadian provinces have begun allowing people to form “double bubbles.” That means two households can now make a pact to hang out with — and even hug — each other, so long as they agree to stay distanced from everyone else. The hope is that doubling the family bubble will reduce isolation and its toll on mental health, while also helping with things like child care. This is meant to be an intermediate step before opening up further. Canada borrowed the strategy from New Zealand, which used it to great effect before virtually eliminating the coronavirus. A few European countries, such as Germany, have also tried it before progressing to more drastic reopening measures. In Canada, New Brunswick became the first province to permit its population to double-bubble on April 24. Newfoundland and Labrador followed on April 30. And Nova Scotia gave the go-ahead on May 15. These provinces could afford to ease social distancing restrictions because they have very low case numbers. (Throughout all of May, none of them surged above 15 new cases per day.) It’s still deemed too risky to do this right now in Quebec or Ontario, where community transmission is much higher. Now that more than two weeks have passed since some provinces allowed people to double-bubble, we can expect that any resultant rise in daily new cases would be showing up in the data. But the data show no such rise. “In the last few weeks, there has not been a rise in cases — in fact the opposite is true,” Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, told me. “This isa very smart and creative approach to the early phases of lifting the public health restrictions we’re living under.” SomeAmerican experts, meanwhile, sounded a note of frustration that the US is adopting a more aggressive approach in its rush to return to normal. There are many gradations in between total shutdown and wholesale reopening, and although the US is adopting a phased approach to reopening, it seems to be leapfrogging over some of the more modest gradations — like the double bubble. Rather than telling people they can link up with one other household, some states are telling them they can go to bars, where they’ll come into contact with far more people. That raises the question: Would it be wise to try double-bubbling even before opening up a bunch of businesses? “Yes, I think this is something we need to be considering,” said Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard. “To me it seems like there’s a much higher risk when we’re considering something like opening bars, compared with two families carefully agreeing to have playdates between their kids.” She added that what we particularly want to avoid is the occurrence of “super-spreader” events, where one person can infect many others at once. “That’s less likely to happen in the scenario of two families who’ve agreed to be in a bubble together. Even if one of them is exposed and the infection is passed between those two families, the overall risk to the community is lower than in a situation where you have 300 people in a crowded bar,” Marcus said. “Plus,” she added, “if we can give people some choices for human contact with relatively low risk, they may not feel the need to go to a bar.” The when, where, and how of double-bubbling Canada’s embrace of double bubbles seems to have inspired some individuals in the US to adopt the approach, too, even in the absence of official US recommendations to that effect. But just because it makes for reasonable policy in New Brunswick or New Zealand does not mean it’s advisable everywhere else. First, the double-bubble approach shouldn’t be tried in a city where community transmission is high and new cases are rising. For example, the experts I spoke to said this wouldn’t have been appropriate in New York City at the peak of its outbreak, and it’s probably still too risky there. But they said it’s something that should be done in areas that are ready. “Assuming that a region is doing well in terms of new cases and the amount of community spread, this seems to me like a perfect example of how harm reduction can be applied to social distancing,” Marcus said. She argues that social contact is a basic human need and people are going to engage in it whether experts like it or not, so giving them a way to do it that’s as low-risk as possible is better than insisting on total abstinence from socializing. But how low do a region’s numbers have to get before it’s safe enough to double-bubble? “There’s no magic number. It’s going to be a value judgment, an opinion,” Bogoch said. “I know it’s not nice to talk about, but we have to make a value judgment on what’s an ‘acceptable’ number of cases and deaths.” It falls to government officials, under the guidance of public health specialists, to make these determinations. Carolyn Cannuscio, a social epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, warned me in April that attempts to form a “closed circle” of people who can safely socialize are not as safe as they might seem. Each household will have some baseline risk of exposure from going to get necessary items like groceries. And even if both households agree to the same stringent set of rules (for example, always wearing masks when outside the home), not everyone will stick to them with the same fidelity. People sometimes cheat on their social contracts or simply forget to communicate small lapses, especially to people who live outside their household. This becomes riskier when you’re in a place with higher rates of community transmission. So, even now, Cannuscio said she’d avoid double-bubbling if she were in such a place. But, she added, “In areas of low transmission, I would be willing to consider this. However, the person I most want to see is my mother, so I personally would prioritize her safety over all other considerations. For people with elderly or infirm family members they want to visit, they should limit other social contacts and not make their vulnerable family members susceptible to popped bubbles!” In other words, it’s not necessarily a bad idea to double-bubble with a senior or an immunocompromised friend, but if you choose to do that, you need to be extra careful about maintaining social distance from everybody else. “We have a reluctance in this country to embrace harm reduction” If it’s prudent to try double-bubbling even before opening up various businesses, why haven’t US authorities promoted it? Why has the country skipped over that phase? One obvious answer is the economy. The fact that some 40 million Americans are unemployed is certainly fueling the push to reopen as many businesses as possible, as fast as possible. People need incomes, and some think that economic collapse must be averted even if that means the death toll rises. But Marcus said there’s another reason why US authorities jumped straight from total lockdown to relatively dramatic reopening measures (like allowing barbershops and bars to operate again) without considering the options in between. “We have a reluctance in this country to embrace harm reduction,” Marcus said. Telling Americans in certain areas that they can see one other household would require trusting that giving them an inch won’t mean they take a mile. “Historically, one of the concerns about harm reduction that always comes up is this fear that if we give people any ideas about risky behavior, it will promote more risk-taking.” In a sense, the US’s phased reopening could be seen as a form of harm reduction; it’s certainly safer than opening everything up immediately, without any phases at all. But the point is that to go from telling everybody to shelter-in-place to reopening certain businesses is still a big leap — and the US has failed to give individuals choices in between. While Canada tends to look relatively favorably on harm reduction, Marcus said she sees a lot of the opposite approach in the US. She cited resistance to sex education and to the HPV vaccine (for fear that they will lead teens to have sex earlier) and opposition to syringe service programs (for fear that they will promote drug use). “I think it comes down to having a more puritanical outlook on human behavior,” Marcus said. “The concerns often come from a place of moral judgment about what constitutes responsible behavior — that’s why we see the concerns come up most often in a context of sex and drugs.” Study after study has shown that these concerns are misguided: Harm reduction tends to improve health outcomes, while more moralizing or black-and-white approaches (like abstinence-only education) tend to backfire. This is as likely to apply to pandemic-era socializing as to anything else. “If we don’t provide harm reduction guidance that acknowledges the risks people are already taking and in some cases need to take, we are missing an opportunity to mitigate risk,” Marcus said. “Instead, people might choose to see lots of different people one after another, with more potential to expose themselves or others.” Unfortunately, in the US, many of us are already seeing examples of the latter behavior among our friends, families, and neighbors who want to socialize. Support Vox’s explanatory journalism Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.
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