Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary

This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation and CDC will provide updated information as it becomes available, in addition to updated guidance.

Updated February 25, 2020

Background

CDC is responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which has now been detected in 37 locations internationally, including cases in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).

On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concernexternal icon” (PHEIC). On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19.

Source and Spread of the Virus

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV.  All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.

Early on, many of the patients in the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread has been reported outside China, including in the United States and other locations. Chinese officials report that sustained person-to-person spread in the community is occurring in China. In addition, other destinations have apparent community spread, meaning some people have been infected who are not sure how or where they became infected. Learn what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses. On This Page

Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Global Map

World map showing countries with COVID-19 cases

View larger image and see a list of locations map icon

COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

Situation in U.S.

Imported cases of COVID-19 in travelers have been detected in the U.S. Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 also has been seen among close contacts of returned travelers from Wuhan, but at this time, this virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States.

Illness Severity

Both MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV have been known to cause severe illness in people. The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully understood. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death. Learn more about the symptoms associated with COVID-19.

There are ongoing investigations to learn more. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

Risk Assessment

Outbreaks of novel virus infections among people are always of public health concern. The risk from these outbreaks depends on characteristics of the virus, including how well it spreads between people, the severity of resulting illness, and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus (for example, vaccine or treatment medications). The fact that this disease has caused illness, including illness resulting in death, and sustained person-to-person spread is concerning. These factors meet two of the criteria of a pandemic. As community spread is detected in more and more countries, the world moves closer toward meeting the third criteria, worldwide spread of the new virus.

The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, both globally and to the United States.

But individual risk is dependent on exposure.

However, it’s important to note that current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic. In that case, the risk assessment would be different.

What May Happen

More cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in the United States. Widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and transportation industry may also be affected. Health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed. At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it. Nonpharmaceutical interventions would be the most important response strategy.

CDC Response

Global efforts at this time are focused concurrently on containing spread of this virus and mitigating the impact of this virus. The federal government is working closely with state, local, tribal, and territorial partners, as well as public health partners, to respond to this public health threat. The public health response is multi-layered, with the goal of detecting and minimizing introductions of this virus in the United States so as to reduce the spread and the impact of this virus. CDC is operationalizing all of its pandemic preparedness and response plans, working on multiple fronts to meet these goals, including specific measures to prepare communities to respond local transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. There is an abundance of pandemic guidance developed in anticipation of an influenza pandemic that is being repurposed and adapted for a COVID-19 pandemic.

Highlights of CDC’s Response

CDC has worked with the Department of State, supporting the safe return of Americans who have been stranded as a result of the ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 and related travel restrictions. CDC has worked to assess the health of passengers as they return to the United States and provided continued daily monitoring of people who are quarantined.

This is a picture of CDC’s laboratory test kit for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). CDC is shipping the test kits to laboratories CDC has designated as qualified, including U.S. state and local public health laboratories, Department of Defense (DOD) laboratories and select international laboratories. The test kits are bolstering global laboratory capacity for detecting SARS-CoV-2.

This is a picture of CDC’s laboratory test kit for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). CDC is shipping the test kits to laboratories CDC has designated as qualified, including U.S. state and local public health laboratories, Department of Defense (DOD) laboratories and select international laboratories. The test kits are bolstering global laboratory capacity for detecting SARS-CoV-2.resize iconView Larger

CDC Recommends

Might Be Your Best Bet to Block Germs

In a world of bushfires, Coronavirus, and next-level air pollution, is this pricey device worth the splurge?

By Ashley Davis

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AO Air

Travel on an airplane lately, or even walk down a busy city street, and chances are you’ve encountered some fellow commuters donning face masks.

In the wake of the coronavirus epidemic in China, personal protective gear use has skyrocketed worldwide, even leading to deficiencies for people who need them most, like healthcare workers and people who are actually sick, according to the World Health Organization.

It’s been a hot topic of debate how effective it is for members of the general population to wear protective equipment like surgical masks, but one company claims they’ve created a personal air filtration system that really works.The only catch is, you might have to shed your dignity and a field a lot of weird looks if you choose to sport it in public (and that’s kinda when you should be wearing it).

The Atmos from company AO Air is extremely different from the face masks you’ve been seeing since the coronavirus outbreak.

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AO Air Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

For one, it doesn’t seal around the face. AO Air argues that the traditional method of face protection leaves the wearer breathing in their regurgitated CO2 filled breaths, instead of new, fresh oxygen. The Atmos, however, relies on fans to provide a constant one-way air flow. The fans route oxygen through an impressive filtration system that traps larger particles as well as fines ones like dust, pollen, and ash. It connects to an app through Bluetooth to give information on the quality of air you’re breathing, plus the status of your filters and batteries, which need to be replaced fairly regularly. AO Air also claims that the Atmos can even keep up with situations when you’re using a lot of oxygen, like sprinting or any type of workout performed at peak level.

The scientific claims are backed up by an independent study from the Auckland University of Technology, which found the Atmos provides up to 50 times more protection that other leading air filtration masks.

But how does it hold up to the first date test? It’s clear, rather than covered, so people can actually see your face (a bonus). The design of the protective shield itself is sleek and futuristic, almost like a version of X-Men’s Cyclops, though, no, it doesn’t shoot out lasers (a negative). We can imagine the fan background noise being a little disruptive to first-date conversation (that could be a positive or negative depending on how the date’s going).

Ultimately we would recommend pre-ordering the Atmos, which will be available this summer, for a few specific types of people:

A) The total germaphobe who doesn’t mind being noticed.

B) The athlete who struggles with poor air quality where they live and is open to trying something new.

C) The fashion thirst trap who’s looking for the best way to get some street style photographer attention during Fashion Week.

For the rest of us, we’ll stick to regularly washing our hands.

Be Safe and Have Fun

By New Orleans Peoples Assembly

On Sunday, March 8th 2020, the New Orleans Peoples Assembly will host the 2nd Annual International Working Women’s Day demonstration, rallying at Congo Square at 1:00pm, followed by a march to the steps of City Hall. The purpose of the demonstration is to build local and international solidarity of working class women in our movement to end what causes us harm, while building toward the new society that we so urgently need and want.

This year’s theme is anchored in a demand for higher wages. The minimum wage in New Orleans, and the entire state of Louisiana, remains unchanged since 2008 at $7.25, with no current signs of an upcoming increase. This is despite the constant surge in the cost of living: housing, healthcare, childcare, food, water, etc.!!!

New Orleans blames Baton Rouge, and says that it cannot raise all wages without the state’s cooperation, despite having a democrat for Governor. The state of Louisiana, primarily run by white conservative republican men, caters to the greed of this rich ruling class of Louisiana, and refuses to acknowledge the needs of the people. Furthermore, the city administration (currently led by Democrats) is NOT actively fighting for the ability to raise wages. Ever wonder why?

All of this is a problem. However, WE ARE the SOLUTION! Our revolutionary sister, Assata Shakur said, “People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.” Now, in 2020 nobody wants to think of ourselves as enslaved. Yet, if the material conditions demonstrate that forces are placed upon our people that are oppressive, we need to work actively to change those conditions.

Though, we are no longer facing literal chattel enslavement, we face enslavement by new names and in new ways, from mass incarceration to the reformed exploitation of labor called “wage enslavement”.

Just as our ancestors who resisted chattel enslavement fought back, and won to move the needle forward, we must continue to the struggle toward complete liberation.

When WE FIGHT, we win!

Join us in the streets on Sunday, March 8th at 1:00pm.

Sex and The City of New Orleans

Dr. Lisa Moreno-Walton, MD, MS, MSCR

Emergency Medicine Physician at University Medical Center

Director of Research, Diversity, Latino Health Scholars Program

Valentine’s Day makes us think about love, and although there are many kinds of love, certainly sexual love is one of the most important.  We know from experience that great sex can hold a relationship together for just so long if sex is the only thing the couple has in common.  A great relationship needs love, respect and good sex if it is going to endure.

As a physician and a mother, I feel very strongly that discussions of sex with our children need to include the concepts of love and respect.  We should begin early to teach respect for our bodies and the bodies of others.  Children need to understand from a very early age that their body belongs to them and that NO ONE should touch their body unless they want that person to touch them and NO ONE should touch their body in a way that makes them uncomfortable.  They should also understand that they need to show the same respect for others. 

If we teach this concept very early to toddlers as they learn to play with others without hitting, pushing or biting, we can carry this lesson over when they begin to show curiosity about sex.  Children need to have an open dialog with their parents.  They need to know that they can talk to us about ANYTHING, and that we want them to tell us if someone makes them uncomfortable, and that we will believe them and protect them. 

This is especially true for people of color, whose history includes the indignities of slavery, of being fondled and raped without regard to our personal wishes because we were considered the property of others.  Women of color tend to be more comfortable in our bodies and more comfortable with our sexuality.  This sometimes leads others to think that they can get comfortable with us as well and touch us as they see fit, even when it is not what we desire or they are not who we desire.  We must insure that our children understand that their body is their own property, to give or not give, to share or not share, as they decide. 

Being touched when and by whom we want to be touched feels good, and these feelings start in infancy, when we convey to our babies that they are lovable, and that it is a pleasure to be close to them.  This builds self-esteem and the kind of self-respect that eventually leads to healthy relationships in adolescence and adulthood.  Little ones are curious about the world around them and begin to ask questions as soon as they can talk. 

The key to questions about sex is that CHILDREN ASK EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT TO KNOW AND WE SHOULD ANSWER ONLY WHAT THEY ASK.  So, a question about “Where do babies come from?” should not lead to a 10 minute explanation of sexual intercourse.  The answer is: “From a special place inside the mother’s body that is called the uterus.”  (I am a firm believer in using anatomically correct language, even with children.  Babies do not grow in the stomach.  That explanation has led to many girls thinking they can get pregnant from accidentally swallowing a fruit seed!) 

When the child wants more information, they will ask “How does the baby get in there?” or “How does the baby get out?”  Again, simple answers would be “The father puts a seed into the mother’s body” and “The baby gets out through a special opening between the mother’s legs called the vagina.”  When the child is ready to know more, her curiosity will lead her to ask you more.  She will eventually ask you how the father puts the seed inside, and a simple anatomical explanation, accompanied by love and respect are the way to go.  “When a man and a woman love each other, they want to be as close as they can be, and the man puts his penis into the woman’s vagina, and a seed called sperm comes out and causes a baby to grow in her uterus.”

 Talking to kids about sex makes some parents uncomfortable but giving a simple answer to just what the child asks makes it easier for parent and child.  Children really don’t want to know more than they are asking, and they ask what they are ready to know.  Your children’s pediatrician or a mother’s gynecologist can help parents with these discussions.  If the doctor is uncomfortable with these topics, well, you need to find a doctor who is not!  And I will be talking more to you about discussing sex with your child in upcoming columns. 

Why You Won’t Talk About Sexual Issues With Your Partner

by David Ludden Ph.D.

Finding the courage to push your relationship forward.

Arek_malang/Shutterstock
Source: Arek_malang/Shutterstock

Conflict is inevitable in relationships. You’d like to save more money for the future, but your partner would like the two of you to get more enjoyment out of life now. You think your partner is too strict with the kids, but your partner thinks you’re too lenient. You think you already do more than your fair share of the work around the house, but your partner thinks you don’t do enough. Or else, they’d rather you did different chores from the ones you’re used to doing.

Couples frequently have fights about issues like these, and often they can find solutions to these disagreements. At the very least, when they talk their problems out, they have a better understanding of their partner’s preferences. But there’s one area of conflict that too many couples avoid discussing at all costs, namely differences in sexual desire.

Plenty of research shows that couples who have open conversations about sexual issues are also more satisfied with their relationships. However, too many people would rather put up with an unhappy sex life than have that dreaded conversation. Why are so many people afraid to communicate their sexual needs to their partner? This is the question that Canadian psychologist Uzma Rehman and her colleagues explored in a recent study of conflict communication in couples.

Conflict communication is always difficult, largely because we’re motivated to avoid negative emotions. Tempers get raised, and feelings get hurt. Just as we avoid going to the dentist despite a toothache, we avoid talking with our partner about sensitive issues. So we let problems fester.

With non-sexual problems in the relationship, we tend to reach a tipping point after which we let it all come out. Arguments can be healthy for a relationship, especially when the discussion remains focused on the issue at hand and doesn’t devolve into slinging insults and pushing each other’s buttons.

But even couples who are reasonably good at resolving other types of conflict get stuck when it comes to discussing sexual problems in the relationship. Instead of communicating our preferences and inquiring about our partner’s, we rely on cultural scripts that tell us how the sex act is supposed to play out. Despite our urge for a break from the routine, we keep our fantasies to ourselves. No wonder our sex lives get stale after years of marriage.

Past research has shown that couples avoid conflict communication, because they perceive it as threatening in three different ways:

In their study, Rehman and colleagues asked people in committed relationships to imagine themselves in a conflict situation with their partner. The scenario involved either a non-sexual issue about sharing housework or a sexual issue about the frequency of intimacy. Afterward, the partners responded to a questionnaire that measured sense of threat to relationship, partner, and self. On the one hand, the results showed that sexual conflicts are similar to non-sexual conflicts, in that all three types of perceived threat were high. On the other hand, sexual arguments resulted in even higher levels of perceived threat to self than did non-sexual confrontations. article continues after advertisement

In short, this study showed that the main reason why people avoid talking with their partners about sexual issues is because they view such a discussion as threatening to themselves. Based on responses in this study and others, we can point to some reasons why couples stay away from discussions about intimacy issues.

First, in North American culture, sex is viewed as an embarrassing topic of conversation, so we avoid talking about it altogether. Or else we relieve the uneasiness by turning sexual discussions into jokes. Even within committed relationships, we tend to view sex as naughty and not to be talked about.

Second, sexual education is woefully inadequate in the United States. Many Americans are simply ignorant about sexual anatomy — both their own and their partner’s. Although we have cultural scripts about how the sexual act is supposed to work, few of us understand the full breadth of sexual activities that humans engage in. So we have neither the concepts to understand our sexual urges nor the vocabulary to communicate them to our partner.

Because of our embarrassment and ignorance when it comes to sexual matters, we feel especially vulnerable revealing our secret fantasies to our partners. Since we think our desires are weird, we assume our partner will feel the same about them. Furthermore, our urges seem to arise from our innermost core, and we feel we have no control over them. When we dare to reveal secret fantasies only to have them rebuked, we feel that our partner has rejected us as we truly are. So we’d rather keep up the pretense instead. article continues after advertisement

People who have the courage to discuss intimacy issues with their partners are generally happier in their relationships. But learning to overcome a lifetime of embarrassment about sex and developing a proper sexual vocabulary takes effort. There’s plenty of self-help here on the pages ofPsychology Today and elsewhere on the internet or in your local bookstore. Couples therapy can also be effective at resolving intimacy issues.

Conflict is inevitable in relationships, and issues of intimacy are among the hardest of all to confront. And yet, conflict itself isn’t a sign that the relationship is in trouble. On the contrary, if both partners approach the discussion with a desire to resolve the issue, the relationship will be strengthened as a result.

Democrats search while Trump Triumphs

By Kenneth Cooper

On Biden without Barack:

So, you’re in Gotham, and word on the street is that The Joker is on the loose, tearing up the town. You run to the roof and throw up the bat signal. But Alfred calls. “I’m sorry,” he says, “Batman is out of town, but I can send over Robin instead.” You look up at the signal, shining bright in the sky, calling for what was once illustrious. “Nah, that’s okay,” you say, and hang up the phone. “I’ll just lock my doors instead.”

In a presidential election, to beat a star, you have to be a star or become one of equal or greater magnitude. Trump is a star, and the Democrats have done a great job of fielding a group of would-be VPs and cabinet members, but they have yet to field or develop a star.

On the one-dimensionality of Warren and Sanders:

In particular, it’s the corners of the mouths and cheekbones. They seem incapable of an upward turn, slouching always towards the chin and ground- subjected to a gravitational tug of perpetual proportions. Here Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders speak, and the effect is a guttural monotone. In other words, put them in front of a camera or a microphone, and they can project an endless number of frowns, but not one smile. “Hey, Bernie, why you screaming at me?” – Michael J. Fox last week at a campaign rally.

Uncle Joe and Da Billionaire

Apparently, Joe Biden’s campaign strategy is to bomb interviews, tank the early caucus and primary, then wait for black people to bail him out, starting in South Carolina. Possibly, former Mayor Bloomberg will eventually stop frisking around and unveil the reparational ramifications of his would-be presidency: On day one of my presidency, I’ll free all those black people I once helped throw in jail.

In politics, you can’t win on policy alone.

How low Trump will go to defeat Pete Buttigieg?

Fall 2020, campaign rally, Trump at the podium railing, crowd in full swoon: Believe me, he looks them over and says, “Nobody’s a bigger fan of Mayor Pete’s marriage than me. But many people are saying that’s not milk on his chin and mustache.”

A word from Rush Limbaugh

“They’re sitting there and they’re looking at Mayor Pete — a 37-year-old gay guy, mayor of South Bend, loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage. And they’re saying, okay, how’s this going to look, a 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband onstage next to Mr. Man Donald Trump? What’s going to happen there?”Trump allies take aim at Buttigieg’s sexuality, a possible sign of things to come – Washington Post 2/13/2020

Meanwhile Trump takes a vindication lap.

In one month he was acquitted, gave the Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh, drove Nancy Pelosi to rip up the State of The Union speech, got to point his finger at two of his accusers and say, “You’re fired,” got Roger Stone’s sentence recommendation reduced, and declared the Coronavirus dead come April. The Darkside hasn’t rolled that hard since Darth Vader chopped Luke Skywalker’s arm off in The Empire Strikes Back.  Yes, we’re “stuck in Trumpland watching subtlety decayin’” – “Veins” by Earl Sweatshirt

So, to be clear, Michael Bloomberg is a Republican turned Democrat, Bernie Sanders is an Independent turned Democratic Socialist, Elizabeth Warren is a Cherokee turned white woman, and Joe Biden can’t eloquently turn a phrase? No wonder the DNC is still holding debates on Friday nights. Last election, you could say it was to hide Hillary’s less than charming personality. This election though, it’s to hide the whole field apparently, and prove that it’s not a losing strategy unless it fails twice.

After the Iowa caucus counting debacle, it’s the party responsible for the broken app versus the party responsible for the broken presidency.  One can’t guarantee a fair counting of democracy and the other can’t guarantee a president that will be accountable to it. And on that note, that’s all folks, as the great Bugs Bunny would say.

 You have a happy time of celebrating this day we honor the presidency.

You Can Eat Healthy Delicious Meals

by Kara Johnson

It’s one month into 2020. How are you doing with your goal to eat healthier? It’s ok. I’d like to share a few tips to help you stay on track. Can you say meal prepping? Well today, I have full proof advice from two, top personal chefs. A large part of your success is about developing new habits. Habit is the key word when it comes to maintaining the consistency that leads to success. Instead of falling into habits, now it’s time to create good habits on purpose. We have fun and easy ways to make these guidelines part of your new, healthier lifestyle!

Chef Gina Cobette
CEO and Co-Founder of Ginche’ Specialty Catering

There are 3 KEY components to meal prepping:

-PLAN

-PREP

-COOK

Devise a menu conducive to your dietary needs and preferences. This component requires a written menu, menu ingredients and places to purchase food items. Food containers that separate menu items into proportions for your diet are also important. Make sure you have everything you need in advance. If you are anything like most people these days, life is crazy busy. Planning ahead to order online for curb-side grocery pick up at local stores or delivery to your doorstep will make the planning part of the process easier

.Now that all ingredients, seasonings and containers are on deck, the prep can begin. This component includes chopping all vegetables, poultry, marinating meat/seafood and cleaning all cooking tools and pots to prepare for cooking. Prepping one day prior helps to keep the process organized and consistent.

With adequate planning and prepping complete, the final component is to cook and separate portions for daily meals for the week in meal prep containers. To maintain the quality of your meals, store in a refrigerator and consume cooked food within 7 days. After a week, discard food that is left, wash containers and repeat all components for the following week.

Parents teaching their adorable daughter how to cook healthy food in kitchen.

When I’m planning meals for health-conscious clients, I keep it fun by making sure the meals are seasonal, farm to table, and locally purchased. Keep the sodium content to a minimum, and use the ingredients that have the least cholesterol. I often overlap light ingredients like seafood which can be used in more than one dish that week. For example, crabs and shrimp are used in salads and seafood boils in the summer and in gumbo and stuffing in the winter. A sexy plate presentation is also important and can make a dish more appealing to a client.

Chef Gason Nelson
Owner and CEO of Full of Flavor, LLC

There you have it. This is everything you need to know to organize your meals for the week. Get into the habit of planning ahead. Not only will your meals be good for you, but with a few extra steps, you can turn any meal into a memorable dining experience.

A romantic dinner

Missed Part One? Read It Here

By Jordan Rock

I know you hear it all the time from the old folks; New Orleans ain’t what it was. The soul is there, but the body is broken. The city doesn’t take care of itself, and a sure ain’t taking care of its people. Sure, the city government maintains of all the main streets. Every thoroughfare that tourists might ride down, the French Quarter, the Garden District, all of that has been spit shined to a mirror sheen. But the second you step off the beaten path, and go to the places where People Actually Live, you can still see the same devastation from some fourteen years ago. A gilded city, with all the water damage beneath the surface appeal, just out of sight of the rest of the world. Pisses me off every time I come back.

If you take a little wiki walk, you’ll find that New Orleans, as of the moment I’m writing this, has a population of something like 391,006. That’s a dramatic drop from the estimated population when Katrina hit, which was in the neighborhood of 484,674 people. And that’s after 14 years of survivors deciding whether or not they wanted to come back at all. But it’s not about the numbers, not really. I can look at the city with my eyes and see what’s happening. The lifeblood of New Orleans lies in the hearts and minds of its natives, and when people decide to leave, it’s tempting to say that they take part of the city’s soul with them.

The older folks call it the Brain Drain of New Orleans. Folks that were blown away not coming back. Folks born in the city leaving for good. And as time goes on, more and more great minds and great hands are trickling out of the city, like rain in a storm drain. And, you know, for a long time, I thought the same way.

But I’ve had years to think about this and through frequent revisits to the city, while wandering the streets I have changed my perspective. Nowadays, I see New Orleans as a tree that got blown down in a storm. When it fell, it scattered its seeds all over the place. I’m one of those seeds. Many seeds like me have had to make this choice since we got scattered across the country by hurricane winds. Do we set down roots where we land, or do we pick ourselves up and head home to salvage what’s left? It’s a hard choice to make; many of us are still trying to decide, even after all this time.
Me?
It’s going to be hard to hear this, but I keep on coming back. And then I have to leave. Because every day I spend at home, I feel myself getting angry. There’s a fight in me, a fight for the city itself, a fire that lights up whenever I step off a plane and step into that familiar southern heat. I never have anywhere to put that fire, so it just burns me out, exhausts me. For the longest time, I didn’t understand it. It went beyond just the desire to bring the New Orleans of my childhood back, or the need to go down to City Hall and scream at the people that get rich by mismanaging the city that is here in the present. That fire in me, it’s hope; the need to push forward. New Orleans: The City seems broken, yes, but the soul of the city is simply fractured. And fractures can be repaired. Every single of one of us New Orleans Natives is a representative of New Orleans itself. An avatar; a little piece of the soul of the city. We can’t remove this part of ourselves; we’re all those seeds from that same tree. We carry the slang, the culture, the sensibilities of the city, wherever we go. None of us struggle the same, but we all struggle. We’ve all got our stories, right? Mine is just another one of those, and I’d like to tell it to you. So, if you’ve drifted far like me, or you’ve put down your roots right in the same spot that you came from, we’re far from different.

Me and you, we ARE New Orleans.

As long as we live, and continue to grow, New Orleans will do the same.
That idea, that’s where I’d like to start this whole thing, whatever it is. My name is Jordan Rock, and at the age of 12, Hurricane Katrina came and blew my life apart. I am a seed on the wind, searching for a place to put down roots. In my heart and in my mind, I carry the soul of New Orleans, no matter where I go.
And, with any luck, you’ll hear from me again.

See you soon.

Empathy’s most ardent promoters have most keenly felt its absence.

THE BASICS

Chicago Urban League Records, University of Illinois at Chicago Library

Kenneth Bancroft Clark, 1914-2005 Source: Chicago Urban League Records, University of Illinois at Chicago Library

Senator Amy Klobuchar’s pitch for empathy in her closing remarks in the New Hampshire debate may have helped catapult her into third place in that state’s primary. She said that she can supply the empathy absent in the White House: “If you have trouble stretching your paycheck to pay for that rent, I know you, and I will fight for you.”

Klobuchar’s promise of empathy is not surprising coming from the first female senator from Minnesota. In recent years, U.S. Senator Cory Booker and President Barack Obama repeatedly invoked the importance of empathy. Advocating for empathy is indeed not limited to any one demographic, but there is a rich history of black intellectuals and civil rights leaders doing so. Some of empathy’s fiercest promoters are those who have keenly felt its absence.

In 1964, James Baldwin bemoaned the fact that most whites failed to achieve the most basic form of empathy for blacks: to grasp their humanity. Basic empathy entailed the recognition that “in talking to a black man, he is talking to another man like himself.”[1] Martin Luther King Jr., grieved the lack of empathy of white moderates while sitting in a Birmingham jail: “I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race.”[2]

Social psychologist and civil rights activist Kenneth B. Clark championed empathy over the span of decades. Clark was the first African-American psychologist to graduate from Columbia University in 1940, and two years later he began teaching at The City College of New York.[3] He helped write the social science statement documenting the psychological damage of segregation appended to the 1954 Supreme Court decision to desegregate schools. He and his wife, psychologist Mamie Clark, conducted a series of studies that found that black children in segregated schools preferred playing with white rather than black dolls. The Clarks founded the Northside Treatment Center and Harlem Youth Opportunities to provide psychological and educational services for Harlem youth, in addition to the Metropolitan Applied Research Center to study school desegregation and civil rights.[4]

Clark first called for empathy in a 1965 New York Times opinion piece, “Delusions of the White Liberal.” He explained that liberals were often harder to deal with than bigots, due to their guilt, conflicting loyalties, and acquiescence in the flagrant system of racial injustice.[5] What they lacked, Clark declared, was empathy. Empathy was neither sentimentality nor pity, both of which emanated from a superior position. Empathy instead constituted the basis for mutual understanding that crossed racial lines, rooted in the underlying similarity of the human condition.

But how could this type of empathy be achieved? As a psychologist, Clark was attuned to the mechanisms of defense, repression, and inner resistance that made it difficult for a white person to move beyond their racial bias. Whites, he declared, had to dispense with “the fantasy of aristocracy or superiority,” and the white liberal in particular with “the fantasy of purity,” or the idea of being free of prejudice. In short, the white liberal had to “reconcile his affirmation of racial justice with his visceral racism.”[6]   article continues after advertisement

Whites therefore had to work to “transcend the barriers of their own minds” and to listen with their hearts. Only then would it be possible, Clark imagined, to “respond insofar as he is able with a pure kind of empathy that is raceless, that accepts and understands the frailties and anxieties and weaknesses that all men share, the common predicament of mankind.”[7]

Clark’s calls for empathy became more insistent as American politics shifted toward conservatism. In 1979 he scribbled in a lecture draft, “The only thing that will save us is a universal increase in empathy.” [8] He thought that those with political power lacked empathy, evidenced by their support of the brutal inequalities in American society. Clark even suggested that world leaders might be given a psychoactive pill to enhance their empathic qualities and inspire them to just political action. He believed that competitive, anxiety-prone American culture rewarded the rampant pursuit of one’s own interest. It was therefore imperative for educators to strengthen “man’s empathic capacity.”[9]

Clark placed his hope in the unique human capacity to respond to suffering with intelligence, social sensitivity, and the recognition that despite cultural and racial differences, something was shared. He called this psycho-political foundation for equal rights ”empathic reason.” Empathic reason is the anti-racist (and, I would add, anti-sexist) capacity to feel and to recognize the principle of the equality of all.

Today we are witnessing the unbearable cost of empathy’s absence in national politics. Klobuchar’s statement on empathy promises that her knowledge and recognition of the daily struggles of Americans will shape her policies. To restore empathy to our political discourse is our first challenge, but then we must translate empathy’s moral vision into a workable political agenda.