Honeycomb Hideout: Another Year Older, But Wiser?

Photo by Fotografierende (Pexels)

Dear Honeycomb Hideout,

My birthday is coming up. I won’t reveal my age, but it’s 20 something.  Looking at the last year, I realized that I haven’t done as much as I wanted, and the idea of turning older is weighing on me hard. Do you have any advice on how to relieve some of this stress? 


Not So Happy Birthday

First, let me say happy birthday, regardless of how you feel about the day, because on this day you came into this earth, so happy birthday. I’d like to say that you should enjoy your birthday. It’s the one day of the year where your loved ones come together to show you that they love and appreciate you. For not feeling like you accomplished anything this year, we were in a global pandemic so cut yourself some slack. Even if everyone else around you got married, new jobs, graduated, whatever, good for them, but you know what that means? Nothing.  Your timetable of how things happen in your life is how they happen. We have this idea that we have to finish school in 4 years, get married by 25, have a house and 2 kids by 30. All of these ideas that society has placed on us have led to huge amounts of stress nobody should feel. Some of our favorite celebrities didn’t become successful until later on.  Samuel L Jackson, Morgan Freeman, even the more recently problematic JK Rowling didn’t get her start until she was 32. Needless to say about any of this is that it doesn’t matter when it gets done as long as you get it done.

You should, however, think of your birthday as a mile marker instead of looking at all you have yet to do. Take pride in all of your accomplishments, no matter how small, because in one of history’s most bizarre years ever you survived! Now, take time to start planning out the goals you want to try to achieve before your next birthday. I personally say you do this the day after your actual birthday. For your actual birthday, kick back and relax. It’s your day, so you should enjoy it and save the existential dread for another day. 

Happy Birthday to you from your friend, HCHO.

Cicadas will soon invade the state of Maryland

Michael Raupp is holding a group of newly emerged cicadas known as nymphs. (Photo Credit: Michael Raupp and the University of Maryland)

Capital News Service Annapolis Bureau

Brood X, a new generation of cicadas, will begin to show up in Maryland in the next few weeks,  after a 17-year-long hiatus. 

These periodical cicadas  — cicadas that emerge every 17 years — are only found along the eastern half of the United States, according to experts. 

The red-eyed, “straw-nosed” bug will begin to show up as early as late April, will fully emerge by the beginning of May and last until June, experts said. 

Michael Raupp, professor emeritus of entomology at the University of Maryland, said this will be one of the largest groups of cicadas the states have seen. 

“It’s called the Great Northern Brood,” Raupp told Capital News Service. “There will be literally billions, if not trillions, of these periodical cicadas emerging more or less simultaneously.”

This brood of cicadas are found in 15 states, ranging from Georgia to Northern Virginia, as well as along the state of Mississippi, Raupp said. 

This group is made up of three different species — Magicicada septendecim, Magicicada cassini and Magicicada septendecula — according to The Washington Post. 

During their hibernation period, these cicadas have been feeding off the liquid found on plants and leaves known as sap, experts said. 

“Their immature stages, which we call nymphs, feed on a liquid diet,” Raupp said. “When the adults emerge they will also feed on this same fluid.” 

After the bugs emerge from the ground, typically at night, they will fly to vertical structures and shed their skin, Raupp said. By the next morning their exoskeleton will have hardened, and they will be able to fly, leading them to the treetops, he continued. 

This is where the noise begins, the distinct mating calls of cicadas are some of the reasons most people find these bugs annoying, according to experts. 

According to Raupp, the cicada’s sound levels can get as high as 80 to 100 decibels, which is the volume of a lawnmower or a jet aircraft going by. 

During their time in Maryland, they will become a delicacy to many animals and even some people, cicada experts said. 

“Birds will eat them, raccoons will eat them, turtles will eat them,” Raupp continued, “I will surely be snacking on a few as well.” 

These bugs are highly nutritious and high in protein, according to experts. 

Even though there is a lot of anticipation for the new wave of these unique bugs, there are also some negative connotations that come with them. 

Dawn Biehler, associate professor in the department of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who studies the social impacts and cultural connotations of insects, said she’s gotten different responses from the anticipated invasion. 

According to Biehler, Marylanders are either excited about the opportunity to reconnect with these bugs or they aren’t looking forward to one more thing adding to the tumultuous year. 

“People get really grossed out about the way they emerge from the ground, they seem like zombies in a way,” she said.

Biehler recommends that Marylanders prepare themselves by learning a little bit more about the bugs in advance, or prepare for another couple of months of isolation. 

Raupp also recommended that Marylanders cover their small trees and shrubs from the cicadas with netting gear. 

“They are going to damage the branches,” Raupp said. “The trick here is the netting should have a mesh size of one centimeter or less, that’s about three-eighths of an inch.” 

Raupp stressed that these bugs are a natural phenomenon, so there should be more of an embrace for these bugs than hatred. 

“It only happens a few times in your lifetime, so get out and enjoy these things,” Raupp said.

Disparities in COVID-19 vaccine allocation prompt state equity initiatives

The Maryland National Guard distributes COVID-19 vaccines at a mobile vaccination site in Howard County on April 7, 2021. (Sara Chernikoff/ Capital News Service)

Capital News Service

Statewide disparities in COVID-19 vaccinations expose barriers that underserved populations face in avoiding life-threatening infection. Maryland’s early vaccination rollout shows a pattern of racial disparity mostly among Black and Latino residents. 

Healthcare disparities hold a firm grip on communities of color in Maryland, a reality that has only worsened with the pandemic. According to state data, an average of 62% of vaccine doses have gone to white residents, with only 21% of doses going to Black Marylanders. 

In Prince George’s County, Latino residents make up 20% of the population but only 5.7% have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the county’s vaccine dashboard.

As of April 6, Black people in Baltimore City have received 28.5% of the total vaccinations administered, despite accounting for 62% of Baltimore’s population. 

“We need to see decisions and structures put in place, for those with the greatest need for the vaccine, because they are the ones that are getting sicker, and that we provide the support so that those populations are able to access the vaccines,” Baltimore City’s first Chief Equity Officer, Dana Moore said. 

Health officials say they are working towards prioritizing vaccines for minority residents, but so far the data has not shown significant changes. 

Gov. Hogan created a Vaccine Equity Task Force with the goal of increasing vaccine distribution in minority communities, using the state’s first Tactical Operations Plan.

The ongoing plan, announced on March 4th, involves partnerships with community and private organizers including several churches to launch vaccination sites for hard-to-reach populations and improve vaccine allocation. The task force is working with the National Guard to send out mobile vaccine clinics to underserved communities. The buses are currently set up in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore.

The task force is also working with the Maryland Department of Health to send out mobile education units in Prince George’s County where there are lower vaccination rates. The truck is decorated with informational banners about COVID-19 and broadcasts messages about how to get vaccinated in both Spanish and English.

Lack of access to technology, transportation or language barriers may further contribute to disparities with Black and Latino populations. 

While 31% of Maryland’s population is Black, Black residents accounted for about a third of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 infections and 34.8% of COVID-19 deaths, when race was reported.

Latino residents account for 11% of Maryland’s population, but make up 17.7% of COVID-19 cases and 9% of deaths. 

White residents make up about 59% of the overall population, representing 40% of COVID-19 infections and 51.5% of deaths, according to U.S. Census data.

In early March in Montgomery County, 66% of the county’s white residents were preregistered for the COVID vaccine despite making up 43% of the population.  Meanwhile, only 8% of Black residents were preregistered while making up 18% of the population and only 9% of Latino residents were preregistered despite accounting for 20% of Montgomery County’s population, according to a letter from the Montgomery County Council sent to Gov. Hogan.

Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, a Pulmonologist and Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University, said that health isn’t achieved by one strategy. The biggest thing to emphasize is equitable strategies for vaccine access and enrollment, Dr. Galiatsatos said. 

Addressing health inequities through vaccine rollout

Six Flags America in Prince George’s County is one of 12 mass vaccination sites in Maryland. State data shows that a majority of people vaccinated at the site in Bowie are living outside Prince George’s county.

Vaccination rates for Prince George’s County and Baltimore City are among the lowest in the state, according to data from the Maryland Department of Health. Both localities currently are within the top four areas with the most positive cases. 

Many Black Marylanders were among those that plan to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, showing little hesitancy towards the emergency treatment, according to a recent poll conducted by Goucher College.  

In a press release about the poll results, Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, said “Vaccine hesitancy has declined among Maryland residents over the past few months. Notably, our poll results also show that Black Marylanders are not significantly more hesitant to get the vaccine than their white counterparts. There are, however, differences across party lines: Republicans are more resistant to taking the vaccine than Democrats. The big picture is that most Marylanders will get the vaccine as soon as it’s available to them.”

Dr. Kim Dobson Sydnor, Dean of the School of Community Health and Policy at Morgan State University, said the conversation of vaccine hesitancy should be reframed to ask if the medical system is worthy of people’s trust in receiving a vaccine. 

Sydnor points to a historical distrust towards medical systems by pockets of people in minority communities. Sydnor said a desire to better understand the vaccine is a logical response. “I think that gets interpreted as hesitancy but in reality it’s a logical response to a history and set of current conditions that would make someone pause.”

Efforts to reach more Black and brown communities during the COVID-19 vaccination process allows for healthcare professionals and community organizers to address key barriers. 

“One is that every hospital invests in their community engagement officers…energize them, where they have to approach the communities in a grassroots manner, work with them to achieve community-identified health interests, and then the resources to do just that…build that trust over the next decade or so,” Galiatsatos said. 

Offering support toward outreach and encouraging community-specific health initiatives leads to more hard-to-reach populations receiving public resources and protection from the virus, according to Galiatsatos. 

Challenges in vaccine rollout

Amber Allen is a special assistant in Prince George’s County’s Health, Human Services and Education department. Allen believes the greatest issue the county faces is an inequitable vaccine supply. “Prince Georgians really want this vaccine right now. Vaccine demand has been outpacing the supply,” Allen said.

More than 232,000 Prince Georgians are pre-registered and about 62% of those people have already been vaccinated as of April 6, according to Allen. 

Prince George’s County is the second-most populated county in Maryland but has the lowest vaccination rate in the state, according to the Maryland Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard.

Prince George’s County is still falling behind in registering and vaccinating a majority of its Latino population and residents from low-income neighborhoods who were hit the hardest by the pandemic. 

Allen said home-bound senior citizens are having trouble accessing vaccination sites. Other residents don’t have access to wifi or tablets to register online. The county is working on transportation issues and said residents without wifi should call 311 to preregister via phone, according to Allen.

Outside of county government outreach, Adventist Healthcare, the Latino Health Initiative and CASA, an advocacy group for Latino and immigrant people, are working to vaccinate at least 600 Latinos a week in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

The Maryland Vaccine Equity Task Force uses the Governor’s Wellmobiles as mobile vaccination sites for communities unable to access other vaccine sites. A truck sits outside Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church in Howard County on April 7, 2021. (Sara Chernikoff/ Capital News Service)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently opened a mass vaccination clinic at the Greenbelt Metro Station. The site is able to provide up to 3,000 shots per day. Prince George’s County Executive Alsobrooks said that 65% of vaccines at the site will be reserved for Prince Georgians.

Brigadier General Janeen Birckhead is the head of the Maryland Vaccine Equity Task Force. She said the new site located at Greenbelt Metro station gives greater access for Prince George’s county residents to vaccines, especially those without transportation. Birckhead said the community vaccination site will drive vaccine data to be more equitable. “This is where the whole of government meets equity,” Birckhead said. 

As of April 8, only 13.4% of Prince George’s County residents are fully vaccinated. In Baltimore City, 16.9% of residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Maryland Department of Health. 

Dr. Sydnor, Dean of the School of Community Health and Policy at Morgan State University, said that health inequities already exist for underserved communities in Baltimore and that nobody made adjustments to address these issues when distributing the vaccine.

“If you start distributing things based on what you think is already an equitable and fair system, you would think you’re getting the outcome you’re looking for, but in reality, because the system and structure is already inequitable, that allocation also becomes inequitable,” Sydnor said.

Sydnor points to transportation as an example of inequity. “Baltimore City in particular does not have a mass transit system. If you don’t have a car and you have to get a vaccine — and some of these vaccines are being made available on a relatively short notice — that inequity that is already built in the system just gets amplified on top of what’s happening with the vaccine and the short supply in the first place.”

Outside of transportation and technical issues, a lack of consistent messaging about signing up for vaccinations has caused confusion and distrust for some residents.

Michael Scott is the Chief equity officer at Baltimore nonprofit Equity Matters. He said registering his mom for the vaccine in Baltimore was a complicated experience. Scott said the lack of a consistent and trusted source sending messages about the vaccine early on made it difficult to discern what the right course of action was when registering and making an appointment.

“Having a foundation of trust matters and trusting the wisdom of those relationships and those people will reduce the inequity and disparities,” Scott said.

Maryland looks to establish LGBTQ commission

Capital News Service Annapolis Bureau

Del. Lily Qi recounted their stories to the House committee.

There was the patient who was asked to leave her doctor’s office when she told her physician she was a lesbian. 

There was the parent who was told to move to a different city when talking to a school principal about LGBTQ comfort and inclusivity.

Some state lawmakers are looking to make sure those stories become less common — or, at the very least, they are addressed.

So, lawmakers are putting forth a bill, HB130, that would establish a commission that aims to prioritize and address LQBTQ affairs statewide. 

The bill’s sponsor, Qi, D-Montgomery, believes the bill is a necessary measure toward understanding and inclusivity.

“The committee will serve as a home and bridge between the LGBTQ communities and those who love, serve, and care about them,” Qi said at a hearing on Jan. 14.

Qi is proposing a 15-person commission, with all members appointed by the governor, and then confirmed by the Senate. 

The commission is to work on a series of steps toward a more tolerant and educated state. 

It shall assess challenges facing LGBTQ communities, collect data regarding existing policies and discrimination, and then work with local governments to pass laws based on areas of need.

“This is part of the state’s responsibility that civil rights protections are there for the LGBTQ community,” Samantha Jones, president of LGBTQ Democrats of Montgomery County, told Capital News Service. 

The commission is also expected to publish an annual report regarding its progress, as well as denoting ways to approach discriminatory practices in the state.

“We don’t know what the issues are yet. But it will help educate people in the community,” Joe Clapsaddle, a spokesperson on LGBTQ+ issues for the Episcopal Public Policy Network, said. 

According to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2020 State Equality Index, Maryland is the 13th most tolerant state in the nation. 

The bill aims to address that ranking, and foster equality and understanding within the state, too. 

“There are political advocacy organizations, but there’s nothing like what we have for other groups that experience discrimination,” Sen. Mary Washington, D-Baltimore, said. 

Qi pushed a similar piece of legislation through the House last session, but it died when the Legislature shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic

And this time, the bill looks a bit different. 

Qi, in conjunction with Washington, has worked to tweak it in order to foster inclusion within the commission itself. 

Among the modifications is a stipulation that at least two individuals on the commission identify as part of the transgender community. 

They have also adjusted the language to coincide with other Maryland state commissions in an effort to expand its influence.

None of the members of the commission are slated to receive pay, and they are expected to appoint their own chairperson. 

They will serve four-year terms, and cannot serve more than two consecutive terms without a year-long gap in between.

Still, there has been some pushback. In a hearing, legislators raised concerns about some of the technicalities of the language, especially with the scope of protections.

“This is going further. Not only saying you can’t discriminate, but you have to proactively include certain protective classes. Is that what we want to do with other protected classes with amendments?” Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel, said at a voting session.  

Despite those qualms, the bill passed a Senate committee on an 8-3 vote Thursday evening and will now go to the Senate floor — where Qi is optimistic it will pass. 

“This is really the time for us to act,” Qi said.

March Madness’ return was just as crazy as ever

It’s that time of year folks! March Madness, the annual event where the best of women’s and men’s college basketball compete center stage, wrapped up last weekend with the final two championship games. 

Last year, March Madness was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This proved to be such an upset for fans across the country as the tournament is so celebrated year-in and year-out. 

In fact, recently the men’s Final Four on TBS and truTV was watched by more than seven million households

Seeing all the stellar ratings made me wonder, why do we love March Madness so much?

Supporting your School

The number one reason why we love March Madness is that we love to support our schools. 

Whether you are an alumni or a current student, everyone loves to support where they came from. It’s almost like it is in our blood. We love the ability to see our schools on a nation stage where millions of people will be able to see them. 

While the University of Baltimore hasn’t had a college basketball team to root for since the early 80’s, it’s almost better in some ways. We can root for whoever we want with no repercussions!

Cinderella Stories

The second reason why we love March Madness is that we love Cinderella stories. We love it when the underdog schools find a way to get into the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, or even sometimes the Final Four. This happens every year and it is always exciting!

This year the Cinderella story has been UCLA. Ranked number eleven, they made it all the way to the Final Four just to come up short to the number one seed Gonzaga. Their journey is just the latest and I am sure there will be another great Cinderella story next year.

The Player who Takes Over

The third reason why we love March Madness is that every year it feels like there is one player who can take over the tournament and lead his team all on their own. 

Stephen Curry led his school Davidson. Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to a National Championship. 

This year the most dominant player has been Jalen Suggs of Gonzaga who has led them all the way to the championship game with his crazy game winning shot against UCLA. 

This leads me to my next point.

Game Winners

My number four reason why we love March Madness is the crazy game winners. 

Every year for March Madness it feels like we always get at least two crazy game winners, sometimes even more. 

Some of the greatest that will always live in our hearts are Mario Chalmers’ game tying shot for Kansas, or Kris Jenkins’ game winner for the National Championship. The Jalen Suggs game winner I mentioned previously is arguably already one of the greatest ever because of the impact and shot itself. Suggs stopped UCLA from having arguably the greatest tournament ever with a pull up banking three pointer to send them home. This is just another classic shot that will live in our hearts forever.

UCONN’s Dominance is finally Changing

Unfortunately, women’s college basketball is sometimes an afterthought when March Madness comes around because of UCONN’s dominance. They won an astounding four championships in a row from 2013 to 2016, and eleven championships overall. 

This dominance is what made them great, but it left many fans bored of seeing the same school win every year. This is finally starting to change. 

It has been a few years since they have won a National Championship, and this is great because it allows other teams to make a name for themselves. With Paige Bueckers on UCONN’s side, it was surprising to see them knocked out so early by Arizona in the Final Four. 

This year we were able to see UCONN dominate and still see other schools grab the spotlight as well. This culminated with Stanford’s victory over Arizona by just one point!

Unbelievable Season Runs

Gonzaga had an unbelievable run this season, sitting at an astounding 31-0 record going into the championship game. When the tournament started last month, many had Gonzaga winning it all in their bracket, and they came pretty darn close. 

But the one game they needed to win, they couldn’t make it count. 

Baylor, who hadn’t won a championship in 73 years, kept Gonzaga down. The Bulldogs were able to fight back to just a single-digit definit at some points, but overall it was too much to overcome. Baylor routed Gonzaga 86-70.

March Madness is a great time each year for sports fans because it allows them to root for something. This gave us a much needed boost, considering how miserable Covid has made everyone. This tournament has been one of the greatest in recent memory.

Demetrius Jones is a staff writer for The Sting.

Maryland bill would support unusual sports

Capital News Service Annapolis Bureau

A bill in the Maryland House of Delegates aims to expand non-traditional sports and recreational opportunities in Prince George’s County. 

Among them, it names skateboarding, lacrosse, remote control car racing, cricket, pickleball and disc golf — although it allows room for other sports or activities.

“We wanna stay ahead of the curve,” Del. Jay Walker, D-Prince George’s, said at a hearing on March 19.

And in order to do so, the Prince George’s delegation is bringing forth House Bill 444, designed to augment the number of nontraditional sports available in the county.

The area lacks facilities for uncommon sports, Walker said.

For example, there are only four skate parks in the whole of Prince George’s County.

Other equipment is hard to come by, too. Despite lacrosse being one of the biggest sports in Maryland, there’s very little infrastructure within Prince George’s to sustain the sport there.

“I’m taking my son to Howard County and different places. So we’ve got to make it diverse,” Walker said.

But it’s not just more common sports that Walker and the delegation is trying to promote. 

Pickleball, a sport played on a modified tennis court, is among the fastest growing sports in the state; and Walker wants to make courts available for that, too.

“It’s a very popular sport in Howard County,” Del. Jen Terrasa, D-Howard, said at a hearing.

Further options are being explored as well. 

Walker referred to Pump Tracks — a special kind of biking facility — as well as areas to practice cheerleading.

In 2012, Sham Chotoo started a cricket program with the Boys and Girls club in Bowie — and had 50 attendees for a summer camp.

“The larger number of them were American parents who wanted something different for their kids,” Chotoo told Capital News Service.

By the 2013-14 school year, Chotoo was going to local schools and teaching it to upwards of 1,000 kids. 

And with the formation of the Maryland Youth Cricket Association, the sport has continued to expand — despite there being very few proper cricket pitches in the county.

So, cricket is also among the sports named.

The bill doesn’t require extra money to be spent. Rather, it stipulates that the Prince George’s Planning Board establish a fund in Maryland’s Park and Planning Department — and set money aside. 

The bill passed the Maryland House, and awaits a vote in a Senate committee.

“This is an innovative fund that I think will do great things for decades to come,” Walker said.