May 17, 2022

New York and Maryland Launch Lotteries for Vaccinated Residents; Lady Gaga Opens Up About Being Raped and Pregnant at 19; Drinking Any Amount of Alcohol Harms the Brain, Study Says; Chicago Launches New Rental Assistance Program; The Majority of Chicago’s Daily COVID-19 Cases are Children

New York and Maryland Launch Lotteries for Vaccinated Residents

New York and Maryland both announced on Thursday the launching of lotteries for their vaccinated residents. The two states are joining Ohio, which announced last week that vaccinated residents may enter the lottery with millions in prizes, and the incentive program was proven to boost the vaccination rates.

“The Vax-a-Million campaign has helped drive an increase in vaccination rates among Ohioans 16 and older by more than 28%” since it was announced on May 13, the Ohio Health Department said in a release.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news briefing Thursday that residents who will get vaccinated next week from Monday to Friday will be given a lottery ticket, giving them a chance to win as much as $5 million in prizes.

“So today, we announced a plan where you could win up to $5 million if you get vaccinated next week. Vax and Scratch. How do you like that?” the Governor said.

“The number of vaccinations is slowing, and they are slowing dramatically. After everyone who was eager to be vaccinated has been immunized, now we’re getting to a percentage of the population that not only is not eager, but a percentage of the population that is probably going to require an incentive for them to go forward and take the vaccine,” Cuomo said.

According to the Governor, the lottery ticket is for the $5 million mega multiplier New York State Lottery, and there will be other prizes that go down to $20. The odds of winning something is one in nine.

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Thursday that the Maryland Lottery will select a vaccinated Marylander randomly for a prize every day, for the next 40 days.

“So it’s a total of $2 million in prize money for a vaccinated Marylander,” Hogan said. “Entry is very simple — all you have to do is get vaccinated for Covid-19 here in Maryland, be a Maryland resident and be 18 or older. Anyone 18 and older who has already been vaccinated for Covid-19 in the state of Maryland, at any time, is also eligible for these prizes and will automatically be entered to win.”

Lady Gaga Opens Up About Being Raped and Pregnant at 19

Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, says a producer, 20 years her senior, raped her and dropped her off ‘pregnant on a corner’ after locking her in a studio for months. The traumatic experience inspired her 2013 track “Swine.”

The singer, now 35, detailed her horrific experience in Prince Harry and Oprah Winfrey’s Apple TV+’s docuseries “The Me You Can’t See,” released on Thursday. 

In an interview during the premiere episode of Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry’s docuseries on mental health released on Apple TV+, Lady Gaga emotionally reflects on the lasting effects of being sexually assaulted as a teenager, being pregnant, and coping with the abuse, by a producer she declined to identify. Her abuser demanded she take off her clothes or he would burn her music. 

“I just froze, and I- I don’t even remember,” the singer says of the assault. “And I will not say his name. I understand this Me Too movement, and I understand people feel real comfortable with this, and I do not. I do not ever want to face that person again.”

Gaga has been seeking medical treatment for physical pain years after being raped. She said the sensation of intense pain turning into numbness is recurring. 

“I realized that it was the same pain that I felt when the person who raped me dropped me off pregnant on a corner by my parents’ house because I was vomiting and sick ’cause I’d been being abused,” she said, adding, “I was locked away in a studio for months.”

“The way that I feel when I feel pain is how I felt after I was raped. I’ve had so many MRIs and scans. They don’t find anything, but your body remembers. I couldn’t feel anything. I disassociated. It’s like your brain goes offline. You don’t know why no one else is panicking, but you are in an ultra state of paranoia,” she said in the interview.

Drinking Any Amount of Alcohol Harms the Brain, Study Says

According to a new study, there is no such thing as a “safe” level of drinking—increased alcohol consumption results in poorer brain health.

Researchers from the University of Oxford recorded and studied the relationship between the alcohol intake of 25,000 people in the UK, and the results of their brain scans, in an observational study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Anya Topiwala, lead author and senior clinical researcher at Oxford, stated that the researchers noted that drinking affects the brain’s gray matter, the regions in the brain that make up essential bits where information is processed.

“The more people drank, the less the volume of their gray matter,” Topiwala said via email to CNN. “Brain volume reduces with age and more severely with dementia. Smaller brain volume also predicts worse performance on memory testing,” she explained.

“While alcohol only made a small contribution to this (0.8%), it was a greater contribution than other ‘modifiable’ risk factors,” she said, explaining that modifiable risk factors are “ones you can do something about, in contrast to aging.”

The team also investigated whether specific drinking patterns, such as types of beverage and other health factors, have different levels of impact on brain health.

The results of the study established that there was no “safe” level of drinking. Consuming alcohol of any amount is bad for the brain. The researchers also found that all types of alcoholic drinks, such as wine, spirits, or beer, can harm the brain.

Tony Rao, of Old Age Psychiatry at King’s College London told CNN that the study’s findings could have not arisen by chance given the large sample size. 

“Previous research has found that subtle changes which demonstrate damage to the brain can present in ways that are not immediately detectable on routine testing of intellectual function and can progress unchecked until they present with more noticeable changes in memory,” he said.

Chicago Launches New Rental Assistance Program

The Relief Package Law, signed by former President Donald Trump in December, will send $80 million of assistance funds to Chicago to address the wave of impending evictions as the pandemic declines. Chicagoans unable to make ends meet due to the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for grants covering up to 15 months of missed rental payments starting Monday, the city officials said.

The Chicago Department of Housing will administer and implement the Rental Assistance Program. According to the announcement, rental assistance amounting to 15 months worth will be provided to cover past-due rent from the previous 12 months, added with three additional months for a total of no more than $25,000.

The Program was introduced after a statement from Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state’s ban on evictions is expiring in August. The Chicago law will result in an automatic extension of the ban on evictions for an additional two months after the state’s ban is lifted in the city, officials said.

In total, the state is planning to provide $1.1 billion to Illinois landlords and renters in an effort to prevent evictions. Another program, which has not yet launched, will provide $400 million in mortgage assistance to qualified homeowners, officials said.

During the first round of rental assistance grants from the city in March, more than 83,000 Chicagoans have applied. Since the city had just $2 million assistance fund available, only 2,000 people won $1,000 grants in a lottery.

The second round of grants offered up to $3,000 to assist the residents in paying their rent or mortgages.

Approximately 21,000 households in Chicago could potentially be evicted from their rental homes after lifting of the ban. This figure is according to a forecast by the Center for Urban Research & Learning at Loyola University, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing released in December.

A recent survey conducted by Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance revealed that Chicago housing providers have $1 billion to collect in rent since the start of the pandemic in March of last year.

The Majority of Chicago’s Daily COVID-19 Cases are Children

According to the city’s data from the last seven days, children made up the majority of Chicago’s daily COVID cases, but they are not becoming hospitalized or dying from the virus. The city’s top doctor said recent data indicate that those in the infant to 17-year-old age group are now making up the most coronavirus cases compared to other ages.

Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said while “there are more cases in kids” currently, it is likely because children under the age of 12 are not eligible for vaccination yet, and those between the ages of 12 and 15 only recently became eligible.

“These numbers go down really very much in line with vaccination rates, but we haven’t had hospitalizations,” Arwady said during a Facebook Live Thursday. “We’ve averaged zero kids getting hospitalized with COVID, certainly not deaths.”

Based on a seven-day rolling average, Chicago is currently averaging 289 cases per day. Children between 0 and 17 are reporting 63 average cases per day. While those aged 18 to 29 are averaging at 59 new cases per day.

COVID-19 infections in children are remaining stubbornly constant, according to the updated figures from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

In the U.S., at least 296 children had died from COVID-19 as of May 10, and more than 15,000 have been hospitalized, according to a tally by the AAP.

Leading vaccine producers, Pfizer and Moderna, have begun studies in the U.S. on children ages 6 months to 11 years. The studies are exploring to see whether babies, preschoolers, and elementary-age kids will require different doses than teens and adults. 

After lifting the mask mandate in Illinois and Chicago for fully vaccinated residents in most settings, children unable to get vaccinated are still required to wear their masks.

Under Illinois’ new order, “any individual who is not fully vaccinated and who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering (a mask or cloth face covering) shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a face covering when in a public place and unable to maintain a six-foot social distance.”