As Americans try to cope with the shutdown of classrooms and college campuses, restaurants in which they can no longer congregate or sporting events and concerts that can only be virtually enjoyed, people young and old continue to look for new ways to enjoy life and occupy their time.

But what’s a person to do until things return to “normal?” And how are you adjusting to ever-breaking news or executive decisions from those in charge which now impinge upon and put in jeopardy a future in which traditions, routines, modes of thought and experiences long anticipated and celebrated were once taken for granted?

We solicit your ideas and strategies and hope to share some of them with our readers in our upcoming editions, e-blasts, videos and online posts. Are you celebrating a graduation or an anniversary soon? Has story time with your grandchildren turned to a Zoom or Skype session after precautions to avoid COVID-19 have made it unwise to sit them on your lap or cuddle up on the sofa together? Want to share cooking tips, sing an original song or offer an originally-penned spoken-word piece of encouragement?

Feel free to share your words, your pictures, your videos, and more with The Washington Informer at

For Bearded Cops in Md., COVID-19 Becomes an Undesirable Set of Clippers

It was one year ago when Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski broke with tradition, allowing his officers to grow beards. But recently he found it necessary to rescind that order after the county’s top health officer determined that beards are incompatible with protective face masks — much to the chagrin of many policemen — especially those who are Black.

“We have to follow the CDC guidelines because it protects the officer, it protects his family and it protects the community,” said Dr. Ernest Carter. “And so that’s why I asked him to change that policy.”

A chart in cartoon form posted by The Centers for Disease Control makes their new position clear: Beards and especially the medically approved N-95 masks aren’t compatible.

Carter went on to say officers cannot have stubble, adding, “It has to fit on your clean-shaven face.”

But 25 officers, mostly African American, are seeking a medical exemption, citing a condition called PFB (Pseudofolliculitis barbae) which prevents them from shaving — one which dermatologists say can be a real problem — and very painful.

However, as Shakespeare would say, “Aye, there’s the rub.”

Many Black men have grown beards, not to keep up with the latest fashion but because shaving paves the way to an inflammatory reaction that for some feels like splinters or causes painful swelling and unsightly sores. Stawinski sent a letter telling those unable or unwilling to comply to park their cars and go on sick leave. The officer’s union threatened to sue — that is, until the chief relented, allowing the 25 bearded “good guys” to go on paid health and safety leave. The union, understandably, has dropped its complaint. Meanwhile, the officers have been sent home until the health emergency ends.

But you have to wonder when that will be.

Don’t Be Surprised if You See Dogs and Cats Wearing Masks

As the owner of a dog — and one who’s more like a member of the family than a pet — the recent announcement by Duke Health saying it has detected the virus that causes COVID-19 in a North Carolina family’s dog, has only added to my fears.

It’s possibly the first time the virus has been confirmed in a dog. The finding occurred in a Chapel Hill household in which a family had previously enrolled in a study at Duke with most of two-legged members having tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The family and their pets were tested as part of the Molecular and Epidemiological Study of Suspected Infection.

“To our knowledge, this is the first instance in which the virus has been detected in a dog,” Dr. Chris Woods, director of the Hubert-Yeargan Center for Global Health, said in a statement released by Duke Health, which went on to say, “Little additional information is known at this time as we work to learn more about the exposure.”

Back at their Carolina crib, the family’s daughter, Sydney, a pug named Otis, and a cat named Mr. Nibs tested negative for the virus. But both parents, their son Ben and their 2-and-a-half-year-old pug, Winston, tested positive. The family said that while his symptoms were mild, they noticed Winston making a gagging sound and not eating breakfast one day — something unusual for him. Still, the pets, including Winston, weren’t tested because of fear that they might be sick but in order to support Duke’s research. McLean and her husband, are both doctors and wanted their experience with the coronavirus to help others.

Tests that confirm the virus are different for humans than in animals.

But the good news is Winston, while positive, is doing just fine — and so is his family.

The CDC says the types of coronaviruses that infect animals rarely spread to people and the risk of getting COVID-19 from an animal is considered to be low. However, the CDC recommends people treat their pets like family members.

“Do not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household,” it states. “If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.”

Coronavirus Makes Waves in Ways Muslims Observe Ramadan

Thursday, April 23, marked the start of the holy month of Ramadan for many Muslims. But with so many places of worship closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the way the holiday will be observed has taken on a very different form. Some traditions, we’re told, will remain in place but others will undergo significant transformations. Over the 30-day period which culminates May 23, Muslims fast during the daylight hours, a practice that is seen as one of the five pillars of Islam. They can eat before sunrise and break their fast after dusk each day. In addition to abstinence from food and water, Muslims are also expected to abstain from sexual intercourse.

During Ramadan, two main meals are served to begin and end the daytime fast: “suhoor,” served and eaten before dawn and “iftar,” served and eaten after sunset. In pre-COVID-19 days, both meals were enjoyed in group gatherings among family and friends. But now many mosques will be empty during Ramadan as leaders worldwide have advised worshipers to pray at home.

And while a big part of the holy month consists of special night prayers called “taraweeh,” which are held daily at the mosque and performed by the imam, the mosque’s prayer leader — with mosques normally packed with worshipers — they’re now being advised to pray home as they self-quarantine to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

Still, you cannot help but wonder what the future holds for Muslims in the U.S. and around the world when this pandemic is behind us.

As one noted imam noted, “There’s something about embrace and praying together and being together and upholding traditional ritualistic forms of worship. And I don’t want to lose that because we’re feeling down about being quarantined this Ramadan. I don’t want us to do something that’s going to harm the trajectory later on.”

And so, sadly for now, the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims who have begun to observe the holy month of Ramadan — traditionally a time of dawn-to-dusk fasting, festivities and communal prayer — must contend with the fact that an unprecedented global pandemic has changed the celebration this year in equally unprecedented ways.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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