Youth move to the forefront of grassroots response throughout the US

CHICAGO — Young people across the United States who have been engaged in Baha’i community-building efforts are swiftly responding to a host of needs arising in their communities from the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“There are deep bonds of friendship between people that have for months or years been working together to contribute to social progress,” says Candace Vance, who follows Baha’i social and economic development activities of the country. “Because of this and the love they have for their communities, many young people are finding that they can’t just watch this crisis go by; they’re using the skills and capacities that they have developed through their participation in Baha’i educational programs to assist those in need.”

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A family in Rockwall, Texas, prepared protective masks for non-medical use and left them for neighbors.

A youth from Chicago describes the nature of her group’s efforts. “We’ve developed tools over time to map volunteers and various materials in our neighborhood, and now we’re able to use these to quickly connect people to various necessities, such as collecting and distributing disinfectant wipes.”

Other youth from the area have been creating informative videos about health measures in languages commonly spoken in the community. They are also assisting families that face language barriers to access government services.

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imagesFamilies in Illinois place quotations from the Baha’i writings in public view to bring joy and reflection to passers-by.

Such barriers exist in many other areas, such as in Prince William County, Virginia, where many parents, without access to translators, had been unable to adequately access school programs for their children.

“At first we thought that children missing classes was related to Internet access, but we were wrong,” says a youth from a group that had been engaged in Baha’i educational programs. “It was actually because the parents had no idea of what the school arrangements were.”

These youth, having identified the families requiring additional assistance, are now holding regular online sessions to disseminate administrative information in various languages and to assist their peers with assignments.

In the Triangle area of North Carolina, another group of young people has organized response teams to assist with food distribution, financial aid, and academic tutoring for their neighborhood, where at least six languages are commonly spoken.

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Youth in Delaware prepared a tutorial to assist older adults in their community with ordering supplies online. Other youth in Chicago have been creating informative videos about health measures in languages commonly spoken in the community.

From children in Los Angeles, California, who prepared care packages for their neighbors, to youth in Delaware who prepared a tutorial to assist older adults in their community with ordering supplies online, Baha’is of all ages and in all parts of the country are considering the unique needs of their communities and are reaching out to build friendships and to be of service to their society.

“Now more than ever,” says Mrs. Vance, “we are seeing incredible expressions of generosity and creativity across the country. People everywhere are striving to help one another, to keep everyone safe. We are moved to action when we reflect on the spiritual reality of a human being, which is to give generously to others and to act in solidarity.”

Australian Prime Minister expresses gratitude to Baha’i community

SYDNEY — It is a hundred years since the arrival of the first two Baha’is in Australia, Clara and Hyde Dunn. As the country’s Baha’i community prepares to celebrate this centenary in a manner appropriate to current circumstances, it has received a warm message of appreciation and encouragement from the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison.

Sent in anticipation of the Baha’i Ridvan festival later this month, the message expresses gratitude for the contributions the Australian Baha’i community has made to society over the last century.

It also calls attention to the role the Baha’i community can continue to play “in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis” that requires the collaboration of all Australians. “During this time of challenge, I know you can draw strength from the Baha’i teachings—and its commitment to the well-being of humanity, especially the most vulnerable.”

Quoting from a statement recently made by the Universal House of Justice about humanity’s “inherent oneness and interdependence”, the Prime Minister echoes its sentiments: “The world is more in need than ever of the hope and strength of spirit that faith imparts.”

In its forthcoming statement on Friday marking the start of the year-long centenary period, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Australia acknowledges the Prime Minister’s message and calls for an intensification of the spirit of service.

“While, at this uncertain time, we may not be able to gather together in person, or travel long distances,” the Assembly writes, “we can pray for the well-being of all, we can look for new and creative ways to serve our neighbors and friends and continue the community building process.”

Webinar: Emerging Evidence for COVID-19 Spread and Treatment

You are invited to hear current information on the COVID-19 virus by virtually attending the third COVID-19 Conversations webinar, Thursday, April 9, 11:30am – 1pm Central.

Please register early here.

The webinar will discuss emerging evidence on SARS-CoV-2 surface and aerosol transmission and stability; emerging and promising treatment modalities for COVID-19, including convalescent plasma and hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine; and the ethical implications and considerations for treating those who are ill with therapeutics approved via an emergency use authorization.

The webinar’s panel of expert speakers:

  • Margaret “Peggy” Hamburg, MD (Moderator) – Foreign Secretary, National Academy of Medicine, and former FDA Commissioner
  • John-Martin Lowe, PhD – Assistant Vice Chancellor for Interprofessional Health Security Training and Education and Associate Professor of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Arturo Casadevall, MD, PhD – Chair, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • R. Alta Charo, JD – Warren P. Knowles Professor of Law and Bioethics, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Speaker presentations will be followed by a Q&A session with the webinar audience.

Also available are free recordings of webinars focused on “The Science of Social Distancing.” Slide presentations are also available for both webinars.- Part 1– Part 2

Flowers Brighten Spirits In Times Of Uncertainty

“Do not be content with showing friendship in words alone, let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path.” – Bahá’u’lláh

In this time of great uncertainty, every act of kindness is essential to lifting the hearts and spirits of those around us. Field and Forage Flower Farm (Facebook page) in their great generosity, partnered with the Bahá’ís of Huntsville to deliver vases of fresh flowers to the residents of Millenium Senior Living in north Huntsville.

Due to the COVID-19 quarantine policy in place for the protection of these residents and others, flowers were delivered in the entranceway and received with smiles and gratitude by the selfless employees serving the needs of the residents. A huge thank you to Field and Forage for this generous donation!

Children in Luxembourg send love and encouragement to healthcare professionals

ESCH-SUR-ALZETTE, Luxembourg — Children in Luxembourg participating in moral education classes offered by the Baha’i community have been learning about being of service to one’s society. In an expression of this theme, they have been moved to do what they can for those who are making sacrifices during the current health crisis. Many have sent messages of love and appreciation to healthcare professionals and others who are carrying out essential services.

The teacher of a children’s class called Les petites pierres précieuses (Little Gemstones) in Esch-sur-Alzette says, “Our class, which has been meeting online, had the idea of making cards and drawings expressing thanks to those working in essential services during this crisis: doctors, hospital and laboratory personnel, staff of pharmacies and grocery stores, sanitary workers, etc.”

The teacher sent digital copies of the drawings and cards to a hospital and to the National Health Laboratory in neighboring Dudelange along with a message of encouragement. The laboratory shared its joyful response on social media: “This weekend, the National Health Laboratory team received a big message of encouragement from the hands of little artists, coming to us from Esch-sur-Alzette.”

A message posted on Twitter by the National Health Laboritory in Dudelange, Luxembourg, in appreciation for cards and drawings sent by children who participate in a Baha’i moral education class.

Another group of children similarly prepared cards conveying their gratitude and recognition of the selfless acts of those performing vital services. Local doctors and staff of pharmacies and grocery stores warmly received the messages, and many of the recipients were moved to tears.

Houthi authorities order the release of all Baha’i prisoners in Yemen

NEW YORK—In a general television address Wednesday in Yemen, Mr. Mahdi al-Mashat, President of the Supreme Political Council in Sana’a, ordered the release of all Baha’i prisoners as well as a pardon for Hamed bin Haydara, whose death sentence was upheld three days ago by an appeals court in Sana’a. 

The Baha’i International Community welcomes this announcement and calls for its immediate implementation. The six Baha’is to be released—who have been wrongfully imprisoned in Sana’a for several years on the basis of their religious beliefs and made to face a series of baseless charges—include Mr. Hamed bin Haydara, Mr. Waleed Ayyash, Mr. Akram Ayyash, Mr. Kayvan Ghaderi, Mr. Badiullah Sanai, and Mr. Wael al-Arieghie. 

Today’s order must lead to the lifting of the 2018 charges against a group of over 20 Baha’is, the returning of all Baha’i-owned assets and properties, and the functioning of Baha’i institutions. Like all other Yemeni citizens, Baha’is should be permitted to practice their faith freely, in keeping with the universal principles of freedom of religion or belief. The Baha’is of Yemen have and will continue to contribute to the life of their country and their fellow citizens.

Naw-Ruz around the world brings hope and spiritual renewal

KUWAIT CITY — During this time of a global health crisis, Baha’is around the world are finding creative means of marking Naw-Ruz—their new year and the first day of spring—while strictly adhering to public health measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This day is a symbol of renewal, an occasion when all can reflect on their spiritual reality and how they can contribute to the well-being of their society.

A group of youth in Kuwait have created a short video exploring how Naw-Ruz has been a unifying event across several religions and cultures.

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A group of youth in Kuwait marked Naw-Ruz by creating a short video exploring how the Holy Day has been a unifying event across several religions and cultures.

Individuals in other countries are recording songs and other media, and bringing joy to those around them in many other ways.

More than 180 people across Belgium and Luxembourg held a celebration together online, all connecting from their homes. This was one of countless such events that took place today across the world. One young man, who was able to connect despite the technical limitations of the refugee facility where he lives, said, “It’s my pleasure to be beside you and other lovely friends. I wish you the best in the new year, I’m so glad for having such friends.”

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More than 180 people across Belgium and Luxembourg held a celebration together online, all connecting from their homes.

These efforts are a response to the message from the Universal House of Justice marking this special occasion, which states:

“However difficult matters are at present, and however close to the limits of their endurance some sections of societies are brought, humanity will ultimately pass through this ordeal, and it will emerge on the other side with greater insight and with a deeper appreciation of its inherent oneness and interdependence.”

The News Service will continue to cover stories on how communities around the world are responding constructively to the current difficult circumstances.

Alabama Public Health: If You Suspect You Have COVID-19

(NOTE: see Alabama Public Health: http://alabamapublichealth.gov/infectiousdiseases/cov-testing.html)

If a person has questions about being tested for COVID-19, they should call their healthcare provider to make arrangements for testing. It is important to call your healthcare provider’s office before going in to let them know you may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep others from getting infected or exposed to COVID-19.

If you do not have a healthcare provider, please call 1-888-264-2256, starting March 14 at 8:00 a.m. In the event the line is busy, please try to call again.

ADPH is no longer requiring patients meet a certain criteria in order to be tested for COVID-19. However, healthcare providers are the only persons who can perform specimen collections and request testing be completed by our State Lab. Healthcare providers evaluating patients should visit COVID-19 Resources for Healthcare Providers.

Testing Process

Healthcare providers in the state of Alabama who want to test someone for COVID-19 have the option of contacting ADPH for testing through the State Lab, or contacting a commercial laboratory to conduct the testing.

Any person that a physician determines should be tested qualifies for testing. We are recommending that those at the highest risk seek testing for COVID-19.

If testing will be conducted through ADPH, the healthcare provider takes a swab from the nose, using the same kind of swab used for flu tests. The specimen is then put in a viral transport media – again, the same thing used to transport specimens being tested for flu and other viruses. The specimen is shipped overnight to the State Lab, where a COVID-19 test kit provided by the CDC is used to check for the virus. Confirmatory testing is done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. Results are sent to your healthcare provider.

Information on what type of collection materials healthcare providers should use, and how to package and ship specimens, is available on COVID-19 Resources for Healthcare Providers (see Specimen Collection Guidance for Novel Coronavirus).

The State Lab has the ability to conduct testing on 150 COVID-19 specimens each day. The average time frame to conduct testing at the State Lab is between 24 to 72 hours.

Tests are being “batched” which means more than one specimen is tested whenever possible to reserve the limited supplies we have in order to be able to test more people.

What To Do If You Think You Have COVID-19

(NOTE: The following information was culled from national news and Center’s For Disease Control web sites.)

Now that the coronavirus outbreak has affected people in our area as well as in more than 100 countries, awareness of COVID-19 is at an all-time high, making people across the globe wonder if their latest sniffle could be a symptom.

Here’s what you should know about the virus’s symptoms and what you should do if you experience them. Remember that it’s important to take precautions to protect not only your health and safety, but also the health and safety of others.

COVID-19 symptoms are often “mild.” Here’s what to look out for.

Dr. Linda Anegawa, an internist with virtual health platform PlushCare, says the main symptoms often appear similar to the flu, “such as fever over 100.5, cough, malaise, and occasionally nausea, diarrhea. In more severe cases, shortness of breath, chest pain and pneumonia will be apparent.”

Most people who contract the disease will experience “mild symptoms,” which may be “similar symptoms that you may experience with a cold or mild flu-like illness,” said Kristin Dean, a board-certified physician and medical director at the telemedicine service Doctor on Demand. “Most people experience a mild form of coronavirus with these symptoms being the most common: cough, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nasal congestion or diarrhea. In some cases, people who are infected will not exhibit any symptoms.”

Coronavirus can present as a common cold in mild cases, with a low-grade fever, chills, headache, fatigue and malaise. It’s important not to ignore these mild symptoms, and it could take anywhere from 2 to 14 days for an infected person to actually exhibit mild symptoms, with the average being about five days.

“An individual may think nothing of these symptoms because they do not significantly change or impact their daily lives,” Eudene Harry, a board-certified physician in emergency medicine and medical director for the Oasis Wellness & Rejuvenation Center in Orlando, Florida, previously told HuffPost.

What to do if you’re displaying symptoms.

The biggest red flag is shortness of breath, followed by a high fever and worsening cough, in which case you should seek immediate medical attention. If you have a history of medical conditions that can decrease your immune system’s response, you’ll want to be extra cautious as well.

“Decreased immunity may be caused by some of the following conditions: being older than age 65, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease, cancer, HIV or taking immunosuppressive medications,” Dean explained.

If you fall into one of those categories and are experiencing any symptoms, contact a health care provider via phone or a virtual video visit to talk it through and discuss the next steps. This is especially important if you have traveled to areas with high community transmission or been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. (Even if you aren’t exhibiting symptoms, it is advisable to self-isolate for 14 days after contact.)

Conducting initial consultations through telemedicine networks can help reduce the spread of the virus by allowing health care workers to take protective measures to prepare for a visit from a potentially infectious patient. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, however, call 911 to get immediate medical care.

Whatever you do, try not to panic.

“Most cases of COVID-19 will be mild and resolve on their own similar to the flu,” Anegawa said. “It’s best to stay home and out of public. However, if you have any severe symptoms such as a very high fever, severe cough or shortness of breath, it would be wise to seek in-person care.”

What to do if you’re unable to be diagnosed.

Due to test kit shortages in the U.S., people who show mild symptoms but haven’t been in contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients or visited high-risk areas may not be able to get a diagnosis. But it’s still important to stay home if you aren’t feeling well to help reduce the spread of illness.

“If you suspect you have COVID-19, please do not go to work, school or out in public places until you are directed to do so by a health care provider,” Dean said. “Mild COVID-19, just like other colds you have experienced, will typically resolve on its own by taking care of your health.”

She advised people who are exhibiting mild symptoms to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and remain isolated from others.

“You can take over-the-counter cold remedies to help treat your symptoms, such as acetaminophen for fevers or headaches, and cough medications to alleviate coughing,” she added. “Since this illness is due to a virus, antibiotics are not effective. Stay in touch with your doctor about changes in your symptoms, and when it’s all right to return to your usual activities.”

Doctors still aren’t certain about how long patients infected with coronavirus are contagious, but one study suggests that those with mild cases are probably not infectious by about 10 days after they first experienced symptoms. Pending more conclusive research, however, it’s best to exercise caution and stay in touch with your doctor.

Avoiding high-risk places, washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, keeping a safe distance between people, not touching your face, and coughing or sneezing into elbows instead of hands are all measures everyone can take to help slow the rate of infection ― even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms. Taking care of yourself is one of the most selfless things you can do in the time of a pandemic.

“If everyone with a sore throat goes to the hospital, resources will be used unnecessarily,” said Jake Deutsch, a physician specializing in emergency medicine and co-founder of Specialty Infusion. “Statistically speaking, most people won’t need an intensive-care level of treatment, so make sure those resources are available for people who clearly are more at risk. If you don’t have underlying medical conditions, I’d recommend staying home until you’re not sick. Judge your symptoms and put them in context of your medical problems.”

Ultimately, it’s important to follow guidance from reputable public health leaders like the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The best treatment we can provide is making sure people have correct information and can process everything,” Deutsch said.

Hope and support in Italy during a global health crisis

MANTUA, Italy — In a time when many parts of the world are grappling with the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, Baha’is in some of the most affected areas are finding ways to be of service to their societies. Years of experience with community-building activities have equipped them to respond with creativity and resourcefulness to the current circumstances.

In Italy, where preventive measures have now confined most people to their homes, communities continue activities that bring hope. Many such initiatives have temporarily moved online, with people holding video conference calls to provide support to one another, to pray together, and to advance the educational endeavors of the Baha’i community that build bonds of friendship and capacity for service to society.

A teacher of children’s moral education classes describes how she has been working through these conditions: “I prepare some digital and audiovisual material for the class and distribute it online to families. The children do the work at home, and then discuss with their parents and siblings.”

In other countries where schools are closed, Baha’is are remotely helping children with homework assignments. Children are also coming together in small online groups to help one another with their school work.

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The educational endeavors of the Baha’i community that build bonds of friendship and capacity for service to society continue to advance in the face of movement restrictions in Italy and other countries as families work together in their homes with online support.

Baha’is in Italy are phoning family and friends, colleagues and acquaintances—simply to offer a voice of encouragement. Many of these calls have led to profound conversations and have strengthened bonds of friendship.

“This moment is making us realize that we are not invincible,” says a member of the Italian Baha’i community. “This is an opportunity for us to reflect on questions that, maybe at other times in our lives we do not spend enough time considering.”

In a letter sent to the Baha’is of Italy on Tuesday, the country’s National Spiritual Assembly says: “We have seen countless examples of solidarity and loyalty among health workers, teachers, professionals of every kind, and responsible citizens, who have readily responded to this emergency, demonstrating the innate nobility of human beings. Our true nature is one of giving, serving, and contributing to progress.”