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A multilingual team is assisting Berlin immigrants in their battle against the coronavirus.

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A multilingual team is assisting Berlin immigrants in their battle against the coronavirus.
A multilingual team is assisting Berlin immigrants in their battle against the coronavirus.

A multilingual team is assisting Berlin immigrants in their battle against the coronavirus.

 

Aliye Tuerkyilmaz visits Neukoelln’s markets and busy shopping streets three times a week to distribute coronavirus informative flyers to residents of the German capital’s crowded immigrant neighborhood, which is peppered with minarets, kebab shops, and hookah lounges.

The 48-year-old Turkish immigrant, who speaks four languages, is one of five street workers enlisted to illustrate the risks of COVID-19 to people who are often not reached via conventional networks in an environment where infection rates are consistently among the city’s highest.

“Especially the older immigrants don’t speak German, some are illiterate, and some are still unaware of the pandemic’s health risks and regulations,” Tuerkyilmaz says as she walks through a Turkish market along the Landwehr canal, where many people had come to buy fresh vegetables, chicken, and bread.

A number of factors have combined to make Neukoelln a virus hotspot in Berlin, including low wages, which means living quarters are often small, public transportation is often the only choice, and employment in high-risk areas such as the food service industry.

The Berlin NGO Chance BJS, in partnership with district officials, formed Tuerkyilmaz’s “intercultural educational team,” or IKAT, in September in response to a lack of knowledge reaching residents.

According to Kazim Erdogan, a group leader with Turkish roots, the hope is that they will be able to break through the barriers to contact, which include not only language barriers but also a deep mistrust of German authorities fueled by a sense of nonacceptance.

“If we can’t create a sense of belonging together in normal times, when people live next to or even against each other, then we won’t be able to create it now,” Erdogan says.

Around 35% of Berlin’s 3.6 million inhabitants are descendants of immigrants, many from Poland, Turkey, Arabic countries, and the former Soviet Union. Almost half of the people in Neukoelln are from another nation.

The number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the district is currently 4,828, compared to 3,575 in the county.

According to a report released in February by the Berlin state health authority, the hardest-hit districts were those with higher unemployment, a higher percentage of welfare recipients, and lower household income. COVID-19 cases grew in parallel with the percentage of people with a family history of migration and increased population density, all of which are factors linked to poverty.

“Migration is not the key explanation for a higher risk of contracting the virus, but it is one of them,” said Nico Dragano, a professor of medical sociology at Duesseldorf’s Heinrich-Heine University, who has been investigating the pandemic’s disproportionately strong effect on the poor.

Owing to a lack of knowledge early in the pandemic, many immigrant populations continued to follow beloved rituals such as large weddings and extended family meals in their tiny homes, leading to outbreak clusters, according to Erdogan, the Neukoelln group chief.

Erdogan added, “Among my peers, there were also 20 people who got infected from one family.” “They were having a good time and didn’t take the obstacles seriously, which came back to bite them.”

More than 135,000 people have been confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus in Berlin, though the number of unreported cases is likely to be higher, and around 3,000 people have died as a result.

Though Neukoelln was one of the city’s major virus hot spots last summer, its most recent number of cases — 75.5 new infections per 100,000 people — is on par with the city’s current average of 75.1.

It’s too early to say how much programs like the multilingual street workers’ team have helped reduce virus numbers, but district mayor Martin Hikel said that unorthodox ways of engaging with Neukoelln’s diverse immigrant communities have been important anecdotally.

Many people in Hikel’s district don’t read German newspapers or watch German television, where virus regulations, such as lockdowns, school and store closures and reopenings, are published on a regular basis.

Neukoelln has attempted to correct this by other programs in addition to the IKAT team.

Basic pandemic laws, such as mask legislation, have been painted directly on sidewalks in bold letters and multiple languages by city staff. They’ve also produced short multilingual videos highlighting the dangers of COVID-19, which feature numerous community leaders, including Erdogan, and can be easily shared on Facebook or through mobile messaging services.

“We try to spread the word on social media, through social workers, and through local associations,” Hikel said, noting that local governments are always a step ahead of state and federal officials in terms of outreach methods because they are more conscious of the ground realities.

When Izabella Grajkowski, a 34-year-old IKAT member with Polish roots, approaches people on the street, she says they are usually accessible.

She also credits the success of IKAT’s outreach efforts to the fact that all of its members are immigrants who can rely on the knowledge when speaking with others. They also support those with in-depth medical questions in engaging with a doctor who regularly attends IKAT outings and provides on-the-spot antigen testing for those who believe they have contracted the virus.

“We all come from various cultural backgrounds, and we get along well with the Neukoelln residents,” she explained.

The reopening of schools, supermarkets, and restaurants, as well as whether or not they will be permitted to fly abroad to see friends, and when and how they will be able to get vaccinated, are the things that people are most worried about.

“Vaccination invitations have already been sent to the elderly, with instructions on how to enrol online,” Tuerkyilmaz said. ”However, everything is written in German, and they have no idea what to do. It’s a challenge.”

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Authorities: Student kills 3, wounds 8 at Michigan school

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Authorities: Student kills 3, wounds 8 at Michigan school

By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER and RYAN KRYSKA

OXFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at his Michigan high school on Tuesday, killing three students, including a 16-year-old boy who died in a deputy’s patrol car on the way to a hospital, authorities said. Eight other people were wounded, some critically.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said late Tuesday that investigators were still trying to determine a motive for the shooting at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, a community of about 22,000 people roughly 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Detroit.

“The person that’s got the most insight and the motive is not talking,” Bouchard said at a news conference.

The suspect’s father had bought the 9mm Sig Sauer used in the shooting on Friday, Bouchard said, adding that he did not know why the man bought the gun. Bouchard said the suspect had practiced shooting with the gun and “posted pictures of the target and the weapon.”

The three students who were killed were 16-year-old Tate Myre, 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana, and 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin. Bouchard said Myre died in a patrol car as a deputy tried to get him to a hospital.

Bouchard said a teacher who received a graze wound to the shoulder was discharged from the hospital, but seven students ranging in age from 14 to 17 remained hospitalized with gunshot wounds, including 14-year-old girl who was on a ventilator after surgery.

Undersheriff Mike McCabe said earlier that authorities were aware of allegations circulating on social media that there had been threats of a shooting at the roughly 1,700-student school before Tuesday’s attack, but he cautioned against believing that narrative until investigators can look into it.

He also downplayed the significance of an incident in early November when a deer head was thrown off the school roof, which he said was “absolutely unrelated” to the shooting. The vandalism prompted school administrators to post two letters to parents on the school’s website earlier in November, saying they were responding to rumors of a threat against the school but had found none.

Authorities didn’t immediately release the shooting suspect’s name, but Bouchard said deputies arrested him within minutes of arriving at the school in response to a flood of 911 calls about the attack, which happened shortly before 1 p.m. He said the deputies arrested him after he emerged from a bathroom with the gun, which he said had seven rounds of ammunition still in it.

“I believe they literally saved lives having taken down the suspect with a loaded firearm while still in the building,” Bouchard said.

McCabe said the suspect’s parents visited their son where he’s being held and advised him not to talk to investigators, as is his right. Police must seek permission from a juvenile suspect’s parents or guardian to speak with them, he added.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald issued a statement Tuesday evening saying her office expects to issue charges quickly and that an update would be given Wednesday.

Bouchard said the suspect had no prior run-ins with his department and he wasn’t aware of any disciplinary history at school.

“That’s part of our investigation to determine what happened prior to this event and if some signs were missed how were they missed and why,” he said.

President Joe Biden, before delivering remarks at a community college in Rosemount, Minnesota, said: “As we learn the full details, my heart goes out to the families enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one.”

The school was placed on lockdown after the attack, with some children sheltering in locked classrooms while officers searched the premises. They were later taken to a nearby Meijer grocery store to be picked up by their parents.

The district said in a statement that all of its schools would be closed for the rest of the week.

Isabel Flores, a 15-year-old ninth grader, told WJBK-TV that she and other students heard gunshots and saw another student bleeding from the face. They then ran from the area through the rear of the school, she said.

Authorities said they were searching the suspect’s cellphone, school video footage and social media posts for any evidence of a possible motive.

School administrators had posted two letters to parents on the school’s website in November, saying they were responding to rumors of a threat against the school following a bizarre vandalism incident.

According to a Nov. 4 letter written by Principal Steve Wolf, someone threw a deer head into a courtyard from the school’s roof, painted several windows on the roof with red acrylic paint and used the same paint on concrete near the school building during the early morning hours. Without specifically referencing that incident, a second post on Nov. 12 assured “there has been no threat to our building nor our students.”

Both the sheriff and undersheriff emphasized that Tuesday’s shooting was unrelated to the deer head or any earlier investigation by their office.

“That was a different incident, different student,” McCabe said.

A concerned parent, Robin Redding, said her son, Treshan Bryant, is a 12th grader at the school but stayed home Tuesday. Redding said her son had heard threats that there could be a shooting.

“This couldn’t be just random,” she said.

Bryant said he texted several younger cousins in the morning and they said they didn’t want to go to school, and he got a bad feeling. He asked his mom if he could do his assignments online.

Bryant said he had heard vague threats “for a long time now” about plans for a shooting.

At a vigil at Lakepoint Community Church on Tuesday night, Leeann Dersa choked back tears as she hugged friends and neighbors. Dersa has lived nearly all of her 73 years in Oxford and her grandchildren attended the high school.

“Scared us all something terrible. It’s awful,” Dersa said of the shooting.

Pastor Jesse Holt said news of the shooting flooded in to him and his wife, including texts from some of the 20 to 25 students who are among the 400-member congregation.

“Some were very scared, hiding under their desks and texting us, ‘We’re safe, we’re OK. We heard gunshots, but we’re OK.’ They were trying to calm us, at least that’s how it felt,” he said.

___

Associated Press writers Corey Williams in West Bloomfield, Michigan, Kathleen Foody in Chicago, Josh Boak in Rosemount, Minnesota, and David Aguilar in Oxford Township contributed to this report.

___

The spelling of one of the victim’s names has been corrected to Hana St. Juliana, instead of Hanna St. Julian.

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US moving to toughen testing requirement for travelers

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US moving to toughen testing requirement for travelers

By ZEKE MILLER

Washington (AP) — The Biden administration is moving to toughen testing requirements for international travelers to the U.S., including both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, amid the spread of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a Tuesday statement that it was working toward requiring that all air travelers to the U.S. be tested for COVID-19 within a day before boarding their flight. Currently those who are fully vaccinated may present a test taken within three days of boarding.

“CDC is working to modify the current Global Testing Order for travel as we learn more about the Omicron variant; a revised order would shorten the timeline for required testing for all international air travelers to one day before departure to the United States,” the agency said.

The precise testing protocols were still being finalized ahead of a speech by President Joe Biden planned for Thursday on the nation’s plans to control the COVID-19 pandemic during the winter season, according to a senior administration official who said some details could still change.

“CDC is evaluating how to make international travel as safe as possible, including pre-departure testing closer to the time of flight and considerations around additional post-arrival testing and self-quarantines,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said earlier Tuesday.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s plans before the announcement, said options under consideration also include post-arrival testing requirements or or even self-quarantines.

CDC currently recommends post-arrival testing 3-5 days after landing in the U.S. from overseas and self-quarantine for unvaccinated travelers, though compliance is voluntary and is believed to be low.

The move comes just weeks after the U.S. largely reopened its borders to fully vaccinated foreign travelers on Nov. 8 and instituted a two-tiered testing system that allowed fully vaccinated travelers more time to seek a pre-arrival test, while requiring a test within a day of boarding for the unvaccinated.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, which has been identified in more than 20 countries but not yet in the U.S., including whether it is more contagious, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said more would be known about the omicron strain in two to four weeks as scientists grow and test lab samples of the virus.

As he sought to quell public concern about the new variant, Biden said that in his Thursday remarks, “I’ll be putting forward a detailed strategy outlining how we’re going to fight COVID this winter — not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more.”

Asked by reporters if he would consult with allies about any changes in travel rules, given that former President Donald Trump had caught world leaders by surprise, Biden said, “Unlike Trump I don’t shock our allies.”

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What trap game? Wild dominate Coyotes en route to easy win

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What trap game? Wild dominate Coyotes en route to easy win

In years past, the Wild would’ve played down to a lowly opponent like the Arizona Coyotes. Even more so if they entered the matchup having earned a galvanizing win over the defending Stanley Cup champions a couple of nights earlier.

As the Wild have proven time and time again this season, though, this is not the same team that many around the Twin Cities grew up watching. Gone is the tired style of mucking up the neutral zone in an attempt to lull opposing teams to sleep. Those days are over.

Frankly, this version of the Wild would skate circles around those former teams, just like it did to the Coyotes in an easy 5-2 win on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center.

After coach Dean Evason heeded warning in the lead up to an obvious trap game on the schedule, the Wild woke up from a sleepy start and ran the Coyotes off the ice.

That’s exactly what a legitimate contender does to a team that will be in contention for the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. And yes, the Wild are absolutely a legitimate contender.

In fact, with the recent win, the Wild (15-6-1, 31 points) moved into a tie with the Calgary Flames (13-4-5, 31 points) atop the Western Conference. That matters.

“I think that fits right where we should be and where we expect to be,” said Jordan Greenway, who broke out with a goal and a pair of assists in the win. “We have been playing well enough to be at the top of the leaderboard so, yeah, I think that’s where we should be, and that’s where we should stay for a while.”

Still, the blowout appeared to be in jeopardy early in the first period as winger Clayton Keller put the Coyotes in front 1-0 with a spinning shot from the slot. That came after the Wild allowed a myriad of scoring chances in front of Kaapo Kahkonen.

“We didn’t have a good start. No question,” Evason said. “Why? I don’t know. Maybe because of what they did. Maybe some of it was us. But we liked that the group adjusted.”

It was almost instantaneous. The deficit awakened something in the Wild, like smelling salts on the bench, and Joel Eriksson Ek responded a mere 68 seconds later to tie the game at 1-1.

“They score a goal, and we go right back and score so they don’t get that momentum,” said Kahkonen, who finished with 29 saves in the win. “It’s huge.”

That proved to be the spark the Wild needed, and they completely took over in the second period. It started with a goal from Kirill Kaprizov to make it 2-1 and continued with Greenway scoring his first goal of the season to stretch the lead to 3-1.

As soon as Greenway scored, Marcus Foligno mobbed him in an exaggerated celebration, perhaps ribbing his linemate for waiting so long to find the back of the net.

“It hit me that it was his first goal, so we celebrated like it was an overtime goal,” Foligno said with a laugh. “Just get the monkey off his back. He has been playing really well the past couple of games and deserved a couple tonight.”

With the game already well in hand late in the second period, Jonas Brodin netted a buzzer beater to make it 4-1.

That made the third period nothing more than a formality, and while defenseman Anton Stralman helped the Coyotes cut the deficit to 4-2, Foligno responded right away to finalize the score at 5-2.

Fittingly, Greenway returned the favor from earlier in the night, giving Foligno a bear hug on his way to the bench.

This team is fun in every way imaginable. Something that couldn’t always be said about the Wild.

“It’s the hockey that we want to play,” Foligno said. “It’s exciting. It’s fast. It’s physical. It’s just something that we’re trying to change into. And we’re doing a really good job of it right now.”

BRIEFLY

Freddy Gaudreau missed Tuesday’s game after being placed on the COVID list. In his absence, defenseman Calen Addison played right wing.

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