COVID-19 pandemic fuels attacks on health workers globally

Two Nigerian nurses were attacked by the family of a deceased COVID-19 patient. One nurse had her hair ripped out and suffered a fracture. The second was beaten into a coma.

Following the assaults, nurses at Federal Medical Centre in the Southwestern city of Owo stopped treating patients, demanding the hospital improve security. Almost two weeks passed before they returned to work with armed guards posted around the clock.

“We don’t give life. It is God that gives life. We only care or we manage,” said Francis Ajibola, a local leader with the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives.

The attack in Nigeria early last month was just one of many on health workers globally during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new report by the Geneva-based Insecurity Insight and the University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center identified more than 1,100 threats or acts of violence against health care workers and facilities last year.

Researchers found that about 400 of those attacks were related to COVID-19, many motivated by fear or frustration, underscoring the dangers surrounding health care workers at a time when they are needed most. Insecurity Insight defines a health care attack as any physical violence against or intimidation of health care workers or settings, and uses online news agencies, humanitarian groups and social media posts to track incidents around the world.

“Our jobs in the emergency department and in hospitals have gotten exponentially more stressful and harder, and that’s at baseline even when people are super supportive,” said Rohini Haar, an emergency physician in Oakland, California, and Human Rights Center research fellow. “To do that work and to do it with commitment while being attacked or with the fear of being attacked is heartbreaking to me.”

Medical professionals from surgeons to paramedics have long confronted injury or intimidation on the job, especially in conflict zones. Experts say many attacks are rooted in fear or mistrust, as family members react to a relative’s death or a community responds to uncertainty around a disease. The coronavirus has amplified those tensions.

Ligia Kantún has worked as a nurse for 40 years in Mexico and never felt threatened until last spring. As she was leaving a hospital in Merida in April, she heard someone shout the word “Infected!” She was drenched in hot coffee before she could turn around.

“When I got home 10 minutes later my daughter was waiting for me and I hugged her crying, all scared, thinking, ‘How is it possible that they have done this to me?’” she told The Associated Press.

Kantún said many people in Mexico at the time thought health workers wore the same uniforms in public that they wore when treating coronavirus patients. “That ignorance was what made them act that way,” she said.

Researchers saw the most attacks last spring and summer as the coronavirus swept across the globe. Yet recent events from Nigeria to the Netherlands, where in January rioters set fire to a coronavirus testing center, prove the threat remains.

Haar said she expected health care workers to be widely celebrated for their lifesaving work during the pandemic, just as Italians sang tributes to doctors during the lockdown.

“But actually that didn’t happen in many, many places,” she said. “There’s actually more fear, more distrust, and attacks grew rather than decreased.”

Many attacks may have gone undetected because they are never reported to police or in the media. Insecurity Insight scrambled to expand its monitoring as a flood of attacks were detected in countries that have traditionally been safe for health workers, said director Christina Wille.

In the United States, for example, researchers counted about a dozen threats to health care workers last year. Several incidents involved the injury or arrest of street medics during Black Lives Matter protests.

“I think in the U.S. the culture has been more of trusting health workers,” Haar, the emergency physician, said. “There hasn’t been a longstanding conflict where there’s been a dissonance between health workers and the community.”

Yet health workers in the U.S. are still subject to great risk. Hospital employees in the U.S. are nearly six times as likely as the average worker to be the victim of an intentional injury, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and last month a Minnesota medical assistant was killed during a shooting at a clinic by a former patient unhappy with his treatment.

Misinformation has spurred violence in some cases. Wille said her team looked closely at social media postings in April after three Ebola treatment centers were ransacked in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We could actually see that there was a build-up over several days of misinformation about what they call the ‘Ebola business,’ that this was all related to people inventing the disease,” she said.

Experts say that even though health workers are in many cases the target of attacks, entire communities suffer when they lose access to medical care after a clinic or medical facility is forced to close due to threats.

“You’re robbing the community of the service they would have provided,” said Nyka Alexander, who leads the World Health Organization’s communications on health emergencies.

With or without a pandemic, the most dangerous places for health workers are often areas of conflict and political upheaval. Last year, hundreds of threats and acts of violence were tracked in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Naser Almhawish, surveillance coordinator for Syria’s Early Warning Alert and Response Network, said he faced threats several times while working as a doctor in the city of Raqqa. He recalled the day in 2012 at Ar-Raqqa National Hospital when armed men confronted him in the middle of an operation, saying they’d kill him if the patient died.

“You just freeze and you know that you are working and you are trying to save this guy,” he said. “This is our duty. I didn’t ask if this guy was a military, civilian or anything. He’s a human being who needed an operation.”

Almhawish said such attacks on health care settings in Syria had waned in the last year. Researchers said declining violence in the country was the reason they didn’t see a greater surge in total health care attacks in 2020.

Kantún, the nurse in Mexico, said she went almost eight months after the attack last April without wearing her nursing scrubs in public. Now, one year into the pandemic, she feels health workers are more respected. But she still worries.

“I’ve had that fear of going out and finding my car scratched, or my car window broken,” she said. “I do have that fear, since I lived it.”

Helen Wieffering is a Roy W. Howard Fellow. Joshua Housing is an investigative fellow on the global investigative team.

Contributing to this report are AP video journalist Federica Narancio and Anne Daugherty and Devon Lum at the University of California, Berkeley Human Rights Center Investigations Lab.

This content was originally published here.

A GOP Senator Just Compared Trans Health Care to ‘Genital Mutilation’

She’s set to be the highest-profile trans government official in U.S. history. So Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul used the Senate confirmation hearing for Dr. Rachel Levine to falsely compare gender-affirming health care to genital mutilation.

“Most genital mutilation is not typically performed by force but, as WHO notes, that by social convention, social norm, the social pressure to conform, to do what others do and have been doing as well as the need to be accepted socially and the fear of being rejected by the community,”  Paul told Levine, a Pennsylvania pediatrician and health official who has been nominated to become President Joe Biden’s assistant health secretary. 

“American culture is now normalizing the idea that minors could be given hormones to prevent their biological development of their secondary sexual characteristics,” he said. “Dr. Levine, do you believe that minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?”

He didn’t ask a single question about the pandemic that’s claimed more than 500,000 Americans’ lives. Instead, he mischaracterized how gender-affirming care works and downplayed the discrimination facing trans and nonbinary people in favor of amplifying an effort, currently popular among state-level conservatives, that would deprive trans kids of health care.

Levine didn’t react to the provocation. If confirmed, she would be the first openly trans person to be confirmed by the Senate. 

“Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed,” she told the Republican senator. She said that she’d be happy to work with Rand and discuss the issue. 

Rand accused her of evading the question. He later thundered, “We should be outraged that someone’s talking to a three-year-old about changing their sex.”

Beyond his apparent assumption that the words “sex” and “gender” are synonymous—they are not—Rand’s suggestion that Americans are now “normalizing” gender-affirming care ignored the reality that trans and nonbinary children face high levels of discrimination. About 78 percent of trans students report being discriminated against at school, according to a 2017 survey of more than 23,000 students by GLSEN; about 70 percent of gender-queer and non-binary students said the same. In that same survey, almost half of all trans kids said that they’d missed or changed schools because of fears for their safety.

This demographic also faces devastatingly high rates of suicide attempts. More than half of trans male and 30 percent of trans female teenagers said that they’d tried to end their lives, according to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2018. More than 40 percent of nonbinary teens also said they’d attempted suicide.

Puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormone therapy may be able to save these kids’ lives: Research indicates that they improve trans and nonbinary kids’ mental health. The average risk of suicide for trans children fell by about 75 percent after spending a year on gender-affirming hormone therapy, according to a Trevor Project research brief.

Medical professionals are, for the record, not performing surgery or giving hormones to three-year-olds. But major medical organizations do support trans kids’ rights to gender-affirming, inclusive health care and have done so for years. In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that trans and gender-diverse kids have “access to comprehensive, gender-affirming, and developmentally appropriate health care that is provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space.” 

Rand’s focus on trans children’s bodies echoed an ongoing, nationwide conservative attempt to restrict trans’ kids lives by blocking them from gender-affirming care and participating in sports that match their gender identity. So far this year, legislators in 16 states have introduced 19 bills that would block trans kids from receiving gender-affirming care, according to a tally by the ACLU.

Biden has promised to make his cabinet the most diverse in U.S. history, but many of his nominees—and particularly the women of color—are now facing pushback in the Senate. 

Rep. Deb Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico who would be the first Native American to lead the Department of the Interior, has been attacked for being too “radical.” Neera Tanden would be the first Indian American to head the Office of Management and Budget, but she’s run into trouble due to her history of attacking prominent officials on Twitter.

This content was originally published here.

Why Are So Many Health-Care Workers Resisting the Coronavirus Vaccine? | The New Yorker

Tiffany Chance has worked as a certified nursing assistant since 2005. As an African-American woman in her mid-thirties, Chance typifies the demographics of her profession: most C.N.A.s are young, over a third are Black, ninety per cent are women. She was born and raised in Ohio, and for years worked at a single nursing facility. When the pandemic started and nursing homes faced dire personnel shortages, as many employees contracted the virus or quit in fear of it, Chance started picking up scattered shifts through IntelyCare, a staffing agency that allows health-care workers to choose jobs the way that Uber drivers accept riders. She often works six shifts a week, eight or twelve hours each, across several nursing homes.

When considering a shift, Chance, who has asthma, tries to choose nursing homes without active coronavirus spread. This information, however, is self-reported, and there’s often a delay. “I’d pick a place that said they don’t have the virus, then I’d show up and they’d say, ‘Actually, some of these people have COVID,’ ” Chance told me. In early October, she scheduled a shift at a new facility, which, she was told, had no coronavirus-positive residents; she was given a surgical mask, not an N95 respirator. A week later, as she started to develop a runny nose, she received a call: a resident had tested positive. Soon, her breathing worsened. “God, it was terrible,” she said. “It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I couldn’t walk an inch without getting out of breath.” Chance couldn’t work for weeks; during that time, she received no sick pay. She tried to sign up for food stamps and unemployment benefits, but “I had to jump through so many hoops. They wanted my medical records, my test result, my pay stub, my last employer. I’m thinking, What does my last employer have to do with this? I need help right now!” She tried to e-mail the paperwork, but was told it would take longer to process than if she dropped it off. “I’m, like, I can’t drop it off, I have COVID.” As the weeks wore on, she turned to family for help with food and money for rent. “I kept thinking, You work this hard, you care for so many people. And when you get sick, this is how you’re treated.”

While navigating these bureaucratic hurdles, Chance’s symptoms worsened; during one especially rough night, she considered going to the hospital. But the following morning her breathing eased, and slowly it returned to normal. Chance is convinced that her illness didn’t get worse only because, a few years ago, she’d received the pneumonia vaccine. “I really think it helped,” she said. “That vaccine saved me.”

Chance doesn’t want a coronavirus vaccine. (Because it’s not known how long naturally acquired immunity lasts, the C.D.C. recommends that people who have already had the virus still get vaccinated.) I asked her how she has come to believe that one vaccine saved her life but another threatens her health. The vaccine “came out too fast,” she said. “I think they removed a lot of barriers to get it done faster.” She continued, “It’s not that I don’t believe they’re trying to do a good job. I think they have awesome scientists working really hard. I applaud them for doing what they’re doing. I just don’t believe there’s been enough research yet. There’s no way they’ve been studying it for long enough.” Beyond the speed of development, Chance has questions—about how long vaccine-generated immunity lasts, about how serious the long-term side effects might be, and about what could happen if the virus mutates further. Until these questions are answered to her satisfaction, she has no plans to get immunized. “I’m not saying never,” Chance told me. “I’m just saying not now.”

Like Chance, Kia Cooper has been a certified nursing assistant for nearly two decades. She works in and around Philadelphia; early in the pandemic, she would split her time between traditional nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. She prefers the latter. “Nursing homes give you too many patients, and they are much more dependent on you for everything—dressing, bathing, feeding, transport,” she said. “It’s backbreaking work.” In Cooper’s experience, it’s not unusual for a single C.N.A. to care for twenty nursing-home residents at a time. One evening in the spring, she arrived for an overnight shift to find that the other C.N.A.s scheduled to work hadn’t shown up. “It was me and two nurses for fifty residents,” she said. “The charge nurse kept calling people to try to get them to come in but no one responded.”

Cooper now prefers to work in home care and assisted-living facilities, where the residents require less support; she’s found four assisted-living facilities on the outskirts of Philadelphia that she likes. Recently, a previous employer offered her a chance to get vaccinated. She passed. “I’m not totally against it,” she said. “But it was so rushed. I want to wait and see how others do.” Her experience with a health-care industry that seems to put profits over the interests of patients and staff—that denies hazard pay, that fails to provide adequate protective equipment—also contributes to her hesitancy. “I do wonder if it’s a money thing,” she told me. “These are big companies trying to force these products on everyone. You have to wonder, Are they doing it for us or are they just trying to make money?”

Destiny Hankins, a licensed practical nurse from Tennessee, currently working in Ohio, shares these concerns. “Sometimes, it feels like no one cares about us,” she said. “I’ve worked in places where pretty much the whole staff walked out because the facility lied to us. They said there was no COVID when there was. They didn’t give us P.P.E. They didn’t have the decency to be straight with us.” During the pandemic, Hankins has been sleeping in her garage to avoid infecting her twelve-year-old daughter, who has epilepsy, and her fiancé, who has an autoimmune condition. She told me that she’s managed to stay safe by adhering to a mantra she’s dubbed the “three ‘P’s”: prayer, precautions, and P.P.E. When the vaccines first became available, she decided that she didn’t want to get immunized. She thought that the vaccines might contain live virus, which would pose a threat to her family; she saw a video of a woman who, after receiving the vaccine, claimed that she was unable to move properly. She heard from some colleagues and acquaintances that the vaccine contained microchips. Eventually, she learned more, and decided that she wanted the shot. But because she works part time at several facilities, and full time at none, she hasn’t been able to get one.

Despite confronting the damage of COVID-19 firsthand—and doing work that puts them and their families at high risk—health-care workers express similar levels of vaccine hesitancy as people in the general population. Recent surveys suggest that, over all, around a third of health-care workers are reluctant to get vaccinated against COVID-19. (Around one in five Americans say they probably or definitely won’t get vaccinated; nationwide, hesitancy is more common among Republicans, rural residents, and people of color.) The rates are higher in certain regions, professions, and racial groups. Black health-care workers, for instance, are more likely to have tested positive for the virus, but less likely to want a vaccine. (Thirty-five per cent turned down a first dose.) Compared with doctors and nurses, other health professionals—E.M.T.s, home health aides, therapists—are generally less likely to say that they’ll get immunized, and a recent survey of C.N.A.s found that nearly three-quarters were hesitant to get the vaccine.

At Yale-New Haven hospital, ninety per cent of medical residents chose to get the vaccine immediately, but only forty-two per cent of workers in environmental services and thirty-three per cent of food-service workers did. The problem may be most pressing in nursing homes. In December, the governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, said that sixty per cent of the state’s nursing-home staff had declined the vaccine; in North Carolina, the number is estimated to be more than fifty per cent. According to the C.E.O. of PruittHealth—an organization that runs about a hundred long-term-care facilities across the South—seventy per cent of employees in those facilities declined the first dose.

This hesitancy is less outright rejection than cautious skepticism. It’s driven by suspicions about the evidence supporting the new vaccines and about the motives of those endorsing them. The astonishing speed of vaccine development has made science a victim of its own success: after being told that it takes years, if not decades, to develop vaccines, many health-care workers are reluctant to accept one that sprinted from conception to injection in less than eleven months. They simply want to wait—to see longer-term safety data, or at least to find out how their colleagues fare after inoculation.

Another major hurdle is mistrust of both the political and the health-care systems. The problem is most acute in historically marginalized communities, which already live with racial disparities in life expectancy, maternal mortality, access to medical care, representation in clinical trials, informed consent, the physician workforce, and COVID-19 outcomes. And it’s exacerbated among health-care workers who are underappreciated and poorly paid. “In many cases, vaccine hesitancy is not a lack-of-information problem, it’s a lack-of-trust problem,” David Grabowski, a professor of health-care policy at Harvard, told me. “Staff doesn’t trust leadership. They have a real skepticism of government. They haven’t gotten hazard pay. They haven’t gotten P.P.E. They haven’t gotten respect. Should we be surprised that they’re skeptical of something that feels like it’s being forced on them?”

Health-care leaders have resorted to various carrots and sticks to get their employees vaccinated. Given the newness of the vaccines and the lack of long-term safety data, most employers have opted to encourage—not mandate—vaccination; some have offered cash bonuses, days off, even Waffle House gift certificates. (“If that doesn’t get you in line, I don’t know what will,” the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, said.) But officials at some organizations have started mandating vaccination. (The law generally allows companies to pursue compulsory vaccination, and recently the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission signalled that employers might begin requiring it for the coronavirus.) “I have very mixed feelings about mandates,” Grabowski said. “I see this a lot on Twitter: just mandate the vaccine and good riddance. Putting the ethical issues aside, the people who say that have no understanding of the labor market here. It’s a very fluid workforce. A number of employees would just say, ‘No thanks,’ and nursing homes would be even more understaffed than they already are. That’s a very dangerous place to be.”

Relative to the staff, nursing-home residents have very high levels of vaccine acceptance—above ninety per cent in many places. This is good news, considering the devastation that COVID-19 has visited upon these facilities. So far, nursing homes and long-term-care facilities have accounted for some hundred and forty thousand COVID-19 deaths—forty per cent of the total U.S. death toll, though these facilities represent only five per cent of the country’s cases. But, even in nursing homes, vaccination efforts have not proceeded with the requisite urgency. In the month after the vaccines were released, less than a quarter of the doses made available for nursing-homes were administered; even today, nearly a quarter of residents of long-term-care facilities have not received their first dose of a vaccine, according to the C.D.C.

In most states, CVS and Walgreens, in partnership with the federal government, are responsible for vaccinating people in long-term-care facilities. The federal government sends vaccines to the states, which allocate doses to nursing homes; teams from the pharmacy giants then visit the facilities on pre-specified days. In mid-December, Alex Azar, the head of Health and Human Services in the Trump Administration, suggested that all nursing-home residents could have their first dose by Christmas. But, even before Azar spoke, many states had informed the C.D.C. that their programs responsible for nursing-home vaccinations wouldn’t be active until at least December 28th. Four weeks later, some facilities are still waiting for their first appointment.

“It’s worth saying that this was never going to be easy,” Grabowski told me. “Given the number of facilities and the population you’re dealing with, it was always going to be an operations and logistics nightmare. You can’t just set up a drive-through or bring people to Dodger Stadium en masse. You have to go to every facility, make sure every resident has a chance to get vaccinated—that requires very high levels of management and coördination.” The speed of vaccinations has been further complicated by what some believe is unnecessary paperwork, including, for example, gaining written consent from residents, many of whom have dementia or other cognitive deficits. Large pharmacies also don’t have established relationships with care facilities and cannot use nursing-home staff to help administer the vaccines. “If you talk to them, I think they’d tell you that things are actually proceeding according to schedule,” Grabowski said. “It’s just a slow schedule.”

Some states have opted out of the program. West Virginia has relied on local pharmacies, in addition to the big chains, to administer vaccines; by the end of December, the state had the highest nursing-home-vaccination rate in the country—all two hundred and fourteen facilities had been offered the vaccine, and more than eighty per cent of residents in two hundred homes had received their first dose. Nationwide, each CVS or Walgreens is responsible for vaccinating around twenty-five nursing homes; in West Virginia, there are more pharmacies than nursing homes participating in the vaccination program. Many nursing-home residents in West Virginia received their second dose before those in other states got their first.

Kimberly Delbo has been the director of nursing services and innovation at an assisted-living facility in central Pennsylvania for three years. Delbo takes great pride in the culture that she’s helped create. “We’re a small, tight-knit family,” Delbo told me. “The most important thing we can do as an organization is make sure people know that we truly care about them.” In an industry where a fifty-per-cent annual staff-turnover rate is not uncommon, Delbo’s facility did not lose a single employee in 2019; last year, it had a ninety-per-cent retention rate. During the pandemic, employees have had access not only to adequate protective gear but also to what she calls the “health-care heroes’ room,” complete with a massage chair, aromatherapy, antioxidant drinks, and fresh fruits and vegetables. “They work hard,” she said. “They deserve a tranquil environment.”

Around Thanksgiving, the facility had a coronavirus outbreak in which nearly one in seven residents and half of the staff were infected. One woman—a C.N.A. for more than forty years—contracted the coronavirus and lost her husband and her father within the same month. “She still came back to work,” Delbo said. “She said, ‘This is what I’m made for.’ When you see that kind of resilience, it’s truly humbling. You think, These are the real heroes.” To manage the staff shortage, Delbo lengthened shifts from eight to twelve hours, and reached out to contacts in the state’s health department to arrange emergency staffing. Her son, also a nurse, took time away from his regular job to help out. “It sounds bad—and it was—but, compared to some other facilities, we were relatively spared,” Delbo said.

In early December, Delbo was told that her facility would be vaccinated by the end of the month. As the New Year approached, however, the projected date was revised to mid-January. She sent some staff members to a local hospital to see if they could get immunized; it wasn’t until January 23rd that the pharmacy team finally delivered the first doses to her facility. “The vaccine-distribution process has been very discouraging,” she told me. “It was presented one way on paper but turned out to be completely different in reality.” The residents at her facility are aged seventy-eight to a hundred and eight. “You would think this is a priority population,” she said. “We were like sitting ducks, just praying we could dodge the bullet of another outbreak. We were watching as the general public started getting vaccines, and we were still waiting.”

Like staff at nursing homes across the country, those at Delbo’s facility are split on whether to get vaccinated. “I have a staff member who’s been with us for twenty years and said, ‘Can I be the first person to get it?’ ” Delbo said. “But others are very unsure about it. They ask me, ‘Kim, what do you think about this vaccine? Is it safe?’ ” Delbo has made educating residents and staff a central priority. “We’ve been very proactive about building confidence in it, about getting them the facts, about debunking conspiracy theories and social-media myths,” she said. “We can engage in this dialogue because they trust us. I think what’s important for people to understand is that you don’t build trust in a day and you don’t build it for a specific purpose. We’ve been investing in trust for years. We were doing this before the pandemic, and we’ll do it after.”

This content was originally published here.

As Health Officials Resign, Cuomo Says He Doesn’t Trust The Experts

“Trust the science.” “Listen to the experts.” These were the media’s mantras in 2020. Oh, and one other one: “Cuomo is so competent.” Today we know, as many long suspected, that the last one is not at all compatible with the first two. The New York Times reports that nine top New York state health officials resigned in recent months, citing Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the reason why.

On Friday, Cuomo had this to say about the experts: “When I say ‘experts’ in air quotes, it sounds like I’m saying I don’t really trust the experts. Because I don’t. Because I don’t.” Can you imagine if Donald Trump had said that at any point during the pandemic? The entire staff of CNN would have had a collective mental breakdown. Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s head would have exploded on live TV.

The statement comes a week after a bombshell New York attorney general report indicated Cuomo has undercounted deaths in nursing homes and engaged in a cover-up regarding his own role in those deaths. In addition, New York’s initial vaccine rollout — which was basically a result of Cuomo rolling up his sleeves and saying, “Step aside, college boy,” to his health officials — was an abject disaster.

And all of this from the man who in the spring was declared the most effective leader in America by much of the media. Take this headline from a Jennifer Rubin article in the Washington Post: “Andrew Cuomo gets it right: Govern by science, not your gut.”

Here is CNN’s Chris Cillizza back in May: “What the future holds for Cuomo is hard to predict. But what’s far clearer is that Cuomo’s competent and, at times, charismatic handling of the coronavirus crisis in his state has made him one of the most popular politicians in America today.”

And here is his headline from Jan. 28, even before today’s New York Times reporting: “Andrew Cuomo’s Covid-19 performance may have been less stellar than it seemed.” Ya think, Chris? Ya think? The list of major mistakes made by our media during the pandemic could stretch around the Earth several times over, but the adoration of the Cuomo is emerging as one of the absolute worst.

This is because the unserious and non-curious coverage of the Empire State’s governor was driven, like so much else, by little more than hatred of Donald Trump. It was never about science or experts. Trump didn’t have nine top officials resign because he refused to listen to them. In fact, Anthony Fauci, who now seems to enjoy throwing Trump under the bus, has said in the past that Trump did whatever he asked him to. In retrospect, that might have been Trump’s biggest mistake.

The fact that the media’s coverage was driven first and foremost by a desire to make Trump look bad affected far more than just their genuflections to Emperor Cuomo. If you think that schools being closed, restaurants at limited capacity at best, a devastated travel industry, and a whole host of other horribles might be related to a year of anti-Trump pandemic coverage, you are exactly right.

Governors such as Florida’s Ron DeSantis and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem have objectively better records both in terms of coronavirus deaths and obviously in terms of state economies that they didn’t choose to grind into a fine dust. Yet month after month, we heard little except what monsters they were, monsters that wouldn’t listen to the science. Now who didn’t listen to the science?

In a strange way, Cuomo himself is a victim of the media here. They don’t care about him; they never actually liked him that much. They just used him to make the other guy look bad. Now, with Cuomo having served his purpose, his sycophants in the press are happily flaming him for clicks or a good headline. I can’t feel sorry for him; his choices were his own, but one can’t help wonder if they might have been a little different had the media been honest with us and with him.

What we are learning as Trump recedes from power and the media resumes some modicum of truth-telling is just how badly they lied to us for over a year now. People have been destroyed because of it. Now as the corporate press happily flicks the halo from atop Saint Andrew’s head with their finger, the truth is coming out. It is far too late. And the people of America, not just New York, have every reason to be very, very angry about it.

This content was originally published here.

Spain’s virus surge hits mental health of front-line workers

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The unrelenting increase in COVID-19 infections in Spain following the holiday season is again straining hospitals, threatening the mental health of doctors and nurses who have been at the forefront of the pandemic for nearly a year.

In Barcelona’s Hospital del Mar, the critical care capacity has more than doubled and is nearly full, with 80% of ICU beds occupied by coronavirus patients.

“There are young people of 20-something-years-old and older people of 80-years-old, all the age groups,” said Dr. Joan Ramon Masclans, who heads the ICU. “This is very difficult, and it is one patient after another.”

Even though authorities allowed gatherings of up to 10 people for Christmas and New Year celebrations, Masclans chose not to join his family and spent the holidays at home with his partner.

“We did it to preserve our health and the health of others. And when you see that this isn’t being done (by others) it causes significant anger, added to the fatigue,” he said.

A study released this month by Hospital del Mar looking at the impact of the spring’s COVID-19 surge on more than 9,000 health workers across Spain found that at least 28% suffered major depression. That is six times higher than the rate in the general population before the pandemic, said Dr. Jordi Alonso, one of the chief researchers.

In addition, the study found that nearly half of participants had a high risk of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks or substance- and alcohol-abuse problems.

Spanish health care workers are far from the only ones to have suffered psychologically from the pandemic. In China, the levels of mental disorders among doctors and nurses were even higher, with 50% reporting depression, 45% reporting anxiety and 34% reporting insomnia, according to the World Health Organization.

In the U.K., a survey released last week by the Royal College of Physicians found that 64% of doctors reported feeling tired or exhausted. One in four sought out mental health support.

“It is pretty awful at the moment in the world of medicine,” Dr. Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said in a statement accompanying the study. “Hospital admissions are at the highest-ever level, staff are exhausted, and although there is light at the end of the tunnel, that light seems a long way away.”

Dr. Aleix Carmona, a third-year anesthesiology resident in Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia, didn’t have much ICU experience before the pandemic hit. But as surgeries were cancelled, Carmona was summoned to the ICU at the Moisès Broggi hospital outside Barcelona to fight a virus the world knew very little about.

“In the beginning, we had a lot of adrenaline. We were very frightened but we had a lot of energy,” Carmona recalled. He plowed through the first weeks of the pandemic without having much time to process the unprecedented battle that was unfolding.

It wasn’t until after the second month that he began feeling the toll of seeing first-hand how people were slowly dying as they ran out of breath. He pondered what to tell patients before intubating them. His initial reaction had always been to reassure them, tell them it would be alright. But in some cases he knew that wasn’t true.

“I started having difficulty sleeping and a feeling of anxiety before each shift,” Carmona said, adding that he would return home after 12 hours feeling like he had been beaten up.

For a while he could only sleep with the help of medication. Some colleagues started taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs. What really helped Carmona, though, was a support group at his hospital, where his co-workers unloaded the experiences they had bottled up inside.

But not everyone joined the group. For many, asking for help would make them seem unfit for the job.

“In our profession, we can handle a lot,” said David Oliver, a spokesman for the Catalonia chapter of the SATSE union of nurses. “We don’t want to take time off because we know we will add to the workload of our colleagues.”

The most affected group of health care workers, according to the study, were nurse’s aides and nurses, who are overwhelmingly women and often immigrants. They spent more time with dying COVID-19 patients, faced poor working conditions and salaries and feared infecting family members.

Desirée Ruiz is the nurse supervisor at Hospital del Mar’s critical care unit. Some nurses on her team have asked to take time off work, unable to cope with the constant stress and all the deaths.

To prevent infections, patients are rarely allowed family visits, adding to their dependency on nurses. Delivering a patient’s last wishes or words to relatives on the phone is especially challenging, Ruiz said.

“This is very hard for … people who are holding the hand of these patients, even though they know they will end up dying,” she said.

Ruiz, who organizes the nurses’ shifts and makes sure the ICU is always staffed adequately, is finding it harder and harder to do so.

Unlike in the summer, when the number of cases fell and health workers were encouraged to take holidays, doctors and nurses have been working incessantly since the fall, when virus cases picked up again.

The latest resurgence has nearly doubled the number of daily cases seen in November, and Spain now has the third-highest COVID-19 infection rate in Europe and the fourth-highest death toll, with more than 55,400 confirmed fatalities.

But unlike many European countries, including neighboring Portugal, the Spanish health minister has for now ruled out the possibility of a new lockdown, relying instead on less drastic restrictions that aren’t as damaging to the economy but take longer to decrease the rate of infections.

Alonso fears the latest surge of virus patients could be as detrimental to the mental health of medical staff as the shock of the pandemic’s first months.

“If we want to be cared for adequately, we also need to take care of the health care workers, who have suffered and are still suffering,” he said.

Follow AP coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at:

This content was originally published here.

The NFL Honored Health Care Workers by Throwing a Superspreader Super Bowl

If you took a look at the pictures coming out of the Super Bowl last night, you’d never know that the U.S. was in the middle of a global pandemic. 

After nearly a year of public health experts stressing the need for social distancing, the National Football League held an in-person Super Bowl game for around 22,000 people, and the host city was poppin’.   

Fans pass by a protest against Covid-19 vaccine outside the Raymond James Stadium ahead of the Super Bowl LV game between Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs in Tampa, Florida, United States on February 07, 2021.

Fans pass by a protest against Covid-19 vaccine outside the Raymond James Stadium ahead of the Super Bowl LV game between Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs in Tampa, Florida, United States on February 07, 2021. (Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui Trinkl/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Outside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, thousands more swarmed the streets to cheer on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, often standing shoulder to shoulder without masks, in videos posted on social media. 

Fans packed the stadium to watch the Bucs and the Chiefs fight it out in Super Bowl LV, in a state that’s continuously been in the news for opposing coronavirus restrictions.

The NFL gave special tribute to health care workers during the game by, among other things, naming one as an honorary captain. The league gave free tickets to about 7,500 Florida health care workers to attend. Another 14,500 sometimes-maskless fans were also in the stadium.

In an attempt to create social distancing within the venue, officials placed cardboard cutouts of celebrities and common folk in between seats, including the rapper YG, the iconic Bernie Sanders mittens photo, and Guy Fieri. Still, about one-third of the stadium was occupied by living, breathing humans—some of whom took to the streets before and after the big game to celebrate. 

Fans sit among cardboard cutouts before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla.

Fans sit among cardboard cutouts before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Videos shared on social media captured thousands of football fans parading around the streets of Tampa, cheering on their teams. 

Hours after the game on Sunday, the #SuperSpreaderBowl hashtag started trending on Twitter, with many slamming Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been exceptionally heedless of COVID restrictions throughout the pandemic.  

The big game took place only days after experts warned that more contagious variants of COVID-19 have been detected and were spreading in the U.S. A strain that medical officials say originated in the U.K. was found just last week in Kansas, which sent a team, and lots of fans, to the Super Bowl in Tampa, the AP reported. 

Health officials are also worried about at-home Super Bowl parties, saying they very well may contribute to a country-wide spike of COVID-19 as well. 

“If you have 10 or 20 people you are meeting with, there is a very good likelihood that one or two of those people will have COVID-19,” Dr. Dana Hawkinson, director of infection control for the University of Kansas Health System, told the AP. “If you are in a small enclosed space, then three or four of those people will get it.”

Health officials are also worried about at-home Super Bowl parties, saying they very well may contribute to a country-wide spike of COVID-19 as well. 

“If you have 10 or 20 people you are meeting with, there is a very good likelihood that one or two of those people will have COVID-19,” Dr. Dana Hawkinson, director of infection control for the University of Kansas Health System, told the AP. “If you are in a small enclosed space, then three or four of those people will get it.”

This content was originally published here.

Insurers add food to coverage menu as way to improve health

When COVID-19 first swarmed the United States, one health insurer called some customers with a question: Do you have enough to eat?

Oscar Health wanted to know if people had adequate food for the next couple weeks and how they planned to stay stocked up while hunkering down at home.

“We’ve seen time and again, the lack of good and nutritional food causes members to get readmitted” to hospitals, Oscar executive Ananth Lalithakumar said.

Food has become a bigger focus for health insurers as they look to expand their coverage beyond just the care that happens in a doctor’s office. More plans are paying for temporary meal deliveries and some are teaching people how to cook and eat healthier foods.

Benefits experts say insurers and policymakers are growing used to treating food as a form of medicine that can help patients reduce blood sugar or blood pressure levels and stay out of expensive hospitals.

“People are finally getting comfortable with the idea that everybody saves money when you prevent certain things from happening or somebody’s condition from worsening,” said Andrew Shea, a senior vice president with the online insurance broker eHealth.

This push is still relatively small and happening mostly with government-funded programs like Medicaid or Medicare Advantage, the privately run versions of the government’s health program for people who are 65 or older or have disabilities. But some employers that offer coverage to their workers also are growing interested.

Medicaid programs in several states are testing or developing food coverage. Next year, Medicare will start testing meal program vouchers for patients with malnutrition as part of a broader look at improving care and reducing costs.

Nearly 7 million people were enrolled last year in a Medicare Advantage plan that offered some sort of meal benefit, according to research from the consulting firm Avalere Health. That’s more than double the total from 2018.

Insurers commonly cover temporary meal deliveries so patients have something to eat when they return from the hospital. And for several years now, many also have paid for meals tailored to patients with conditions such as diabetes.

But now insurers and other bill payers are taking a more nuanced approach. This comes as the coronavirus pandemic sends millions of Americans to seek help from food banks or neighborhood food pantries.

Oscar Health, for instance, found that nearly 3 out of 10 of its Medicare Advantage customers had food supply problems at the start of the pandemic, so it arranged temporary grocery deliveries from a local store at no cost to the recipient.

The Medicare Advantage specialist Humana started giving some customers with low incomes debit cards with either a $25 or $50 on them to help buy healthy food. The insurer also is testing meal deliveries in the second half of the month.

That’s when money from government food programs can run low. Research shows that diabetes patients wind up making more emergency room visits then, said Humana executive Dr. Andrew Renda.

“It may be because they’re still taking their medications but they don’t have enough food. And so their blood sugar goes crazy and then they end up in the hospital,” he said.

The Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer Anthem connected Medicare Advantage customer Kim Bischoff with a nutritionist after she asked for help losing weight.

The 43-year-old Napoleon, Ohio, resident had lost more than 100 pounds about 11 years ago, but she was gaining weight again and growing frustrated.

The nutritionist helped wean Bischoff from a so-called keto diet largely centered on meats and cheeses. The insurer also arranged for temporary food deliveries from a nearby Kroger so she could try healthy foods like rice noodles, almonds and dried fruits.

Bischoff said she only lost a few pounds. But she was able to stop taking blood pressure and thyroid medications because her health improved after she balanced her diet.

“I learned that a little bit of weight gain isn’t a huge deal, but the quality of my health is,” she said.

David Berwick of Somerville, Massachusetts, credits a meal delivery program with improving his blood sugar, and he wishes he could stay on it. The 64-year-old has diabetes and started the program last year at the suggestion of his doctor. The Medicaid program MassHealth covered it.

Berwick said the nonprofit Community Servings gave him weekly deliveries of dry cereal and premade meals for him to reheat. Those included soups and turkey meatloaf Berwick described as “absolutely delicious.”

“They’re not things I would make on my own for sure,” he said. “It was a gift, it was a real privilege.”

These programs typically last a few weeks or months and often focus on customers with a medical condition or low incomes who have a hard time getting nutritious food. But they aren’t limited to those groups.

Indianapolis-based Preventia Group is starting food deliveries for some employers that want to improve the eating habits of people covered under their health plans. People who sign up start working with a health coach to learn about nutrition.

Then they can either begin short-term deliveries of meals or bulk boxes of food and recipes to try. The employer picks up the cost.

It’s not just about hunger or a lack of good food, said Chief Operating Officer Susan Rider. They’re also educating people about what healthy, nutritious food is and how to prepare it.

Researchers expect coverage of food as a form of medicine to grow as insurers and employers learn more about which programs work best. Patients with low incomes may need help first with getting access to nutritional food. People with employer-sponsored coverage might need to focus more on how to use their diet to manage diabetes or improve their overall health.

A 2019 study of Massachusetts residents with similar medical conditions found that those who received meals tailored to their condition had fewer hospital admissions and generated less health care spending than those who did not.

Study author Dr. Seth Berkowitz of the University of North Carolina noted that those meals are only one method for addressing food or nutrition problems. He said a lot more can be learned “about what interventions work, in what situations and for whom.”

A lack of healthy food “is very clearly associated with poor health, so we know we need to do something about it,” Berkowitz said.

Follow Tom Murphy on Twitter: @thpmurphy

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

This content was originally published here.

Biden picks transgender Jewish woman as assistant US health secretary | The Times of Israel

WASHINGTON (AP) — US President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, leaving her poised to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the US Senate.

A pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general, Levine was appointed to her current post by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017, making her one of the few transgender people serving in elected or appointed positions nationwide. She won past confirmation by the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate and has emerged as the public face of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a statement. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

A graduate of Harvard and of Tulane Medical School, Levine is president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. She’s written in the past on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders and LGBTQ medicine.

Biden and his transition team have already begun negotiating with members of Congress, promoting speedy passage of the president-elect’s $1.9 trillion plan to bring the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 400,000 people in the United States, under control. It seeks to enlist federal emergency personnel to run mass vaccination centers and provide 100 immunization shots in his administration’s first 100 days while using government spending to stimulate the pandemic-hammered economy,

Biden also says that, in one of his first acts as president, he’ll ask Americans to wear masks for 100 days to slow the virus’ spread.

Levine, who is Jewish, joins Biden’s Health and Human Services secretary nominee Xavier Becerra, a Latino politician who rose from humble beginnings to serve in Congress and as California’s attorney general.

Businessman Jeff Zients is Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, while Biden picked infectious-disease specialist Rochelle Walensky to run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vivek Murthy as surgeon general and Yale epidemiologist Marcella Nunez-Smith to head a working group to ensure fair and equitable distribution of vaccines and treatments.

The government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, will also work closely with the Biden administration.

This content was originally published here.

In the first six months of health care professionals replacing police officers, no one they encountered was arrested

A young program that puts troubled nonviolent people in the hands of health care workers instead of police officers has proven successful in its first six months, according to a progress report.

Since June 1, 2020, a mental health clinician and a paramedic have traveled around the city in a white van handling low-level incidents, like trespassing and mental health episodes, that would have otherwise fallen to patrol officers with badges and guns. In its first six months, the Support Team Assisted Response program, or STAR, has responded to 748 incidents. None required police and or led to arrests or jail time.

The civilian team handled close to six incidents a day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, in high-demand neighborhoods. STAR does not yet have enough people or vans to respond to every nonviolent incident, but about 3 percent of calls for DPD service, or over 2,500 incidents, were worthy of the alternative approach, according to the report.

STAR represents a more empathetic approach to policing that keeps people out of an often-cyclical criminal justice system by connecting people with services like shelter, food aid, counseling, and medication. The program also deliberately cuts down on encounters between uniformed officers and civilians.

Print

Source: Denver’s STAR Program

“This is good stuff, it’s a great program, and basically, the report tells us what we believed,” said Chief of Police Paul Pazen. Pazen added that he doesn’t want to sound flippant, but the approach was somewhat of a known quantity because he’s been talking about it with advocates for mental health and criminal justice reform for years. Denver just so happened to launch the program in the middle of a movement against police violence.

Pazen’s goal is to fill out the alternative program so that every neighborhood can use its services at all hours, instead of just weekdays during normal business hours. Nearly $3 million for more social workers and more vans should help Denver move toward that “North Star” this year, Pazen said. The is expected to come from the city budget and a grant from Denver’s sales-tax-funded mental health fund.

Carleigh Sailon, one of two civilian social workers on the team, said more vans — and more food and blankets to go with them — as well as weekend and after-hour shifts will do big things for the program.

The Support Team Assisted Response van. June 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Support Team Assisted Response van. June 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

“We run an unbelievable amount of calls for such a limited pilot program and have had some really good outcomes on those calls,” Sailon said.

The policing alternative empowers behavioral health experts to call the shots, even when police officers are around.

Sailon said she remembers a call last year in which a woman was experiencing mental health symptoms at a 7-Eleven. The clerk had called the police — the woman was technically trespassing — but when the police arrived, they called Sailon.

“We got there and told police they could leave,” Sailon said. “We didn’t need them there.”

The woman, who was unhoused, was upset about some issues she was having on her prepaid Social Security card. Sailon helped her into the van where the two “game-planned” a solution before the STAR crew drove her to a day shelter for some food, she said.

“So we were sort of able to solve those problems in the moment for her and got the police back in service, dealing with a law enforcement call,” Sailon said.

The fact that the police officers even called the STAR team tells Matthew Lunn, a doctor in charge of DPD’s strategic initiatives, that the program is working. About 35 percent of calls to STAR personnel come from police officers, according to the report.

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Source: Denver’s STAR Program

“I think it shows how much officers are buying into this, realizing that these individuals need a focused level of care,” said Lunn, who authored the report.

No one really needs any more evidence that this alternative to traditional policing works, but Sailon and Lunn said more data will make STAR stronger. For example, while STAR might steer people away from jails and courts initially, the long-term effects of the program must be studied, the report states.

Chief Pazen is thrilled with the success of STAR, but the time and money it saves will go toward fighting crime, he said.

A spectrum of solutions has sprouted from protests against systemic racism and police brutality that started last summer, including the idea of taking money from traditional policing and giving it to social programs not unlike STAR.

For Pazen, transferring low-level calls to civilian teams is not about reallocating money. It’s about solving two problems at once: getting harmless residents the help they need while letting police focus on other things.

“I want the police department to focus on police issues,” Pazen said. “We have more than enough work with regards to violent crime, property crime and traffic safety, and if something like STAR or any other support system can lighten the load on mental health calls for service, substance abuse calls for service, and low-level issues, that frees up law enforcement to address crime issues.”

Pazen added: “I see this as an ‘and.’ Not an ‘or.’”

This content was originally published here.

Liberal outlet Vox recommends mental health treatment to recover from psychological trauma of Trump’s presidency

“His presidency is over, but the trauma isn’t,” Vox’s Anna North wrote in solemn reference to the mental health impact of former President Donald Trump’s four years in the Oval Office, suggesting that many Americans are still grappling with the effects of “Trump anxiety disorder” even now after he has left office.

What did she say?

In a lengthy column published by the liberal news outlet on Thursday, North argued that Trump’s presidency was so detrimental to the American psyche that lasting mental health effects can still be felt today and will likely continue to plague society for some time to come.

“Now, Trump has finally left office, despite his constant threats that he wouldn’t. But the impact on the American psyche of four years of racist rhetoric, incitements of violence, and out-and-out chaos remains,” she said, adding later: “Like the impact of Trump’s policies, that stress doesn’t go away overnight, especially when the conditions that led to his election — systemic racism, anti-immigrant paranoia, and the rampant spread of misinformation — are still very much a reality.”

To prove her point, North cited a nationwide survey published by the American Psychological Association showing that stress levels tied to the nation’s political climate were steadily on the rise during Trump’s presidency.

The survey reportedly found that in 2016, following Trump’s surprise election-night victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, 63% of Americans felt the future of the country was a “significant source of stress,” while 56% said they were “stressed by the current political climate.” Then in 2018, those numbers went up to 69% and 62%, respectively.

Another survey published by the APA found that the 2020 presidential election, specifically, was a more significant source for stress for Americans than the 2016 election by a whopping 16 percentage points, jumping from 52% to 68%.

North argued that while Trump’s time in office may have been a source of excitement and enthusiasm for some, “For many others, his presidency was, quite simply, scary,” even going on to compare the lasting effects of his presidency to those that accompany a physically abusive relationship.

What’s the solution?

But people don’t have to live like this forever, North argued; “rest, treatment, and action can help people recover from trauma.”

Relaying advice from clinical psychologist Jennifer Panning and gender justice advocate Farrah Khan, North wrote, “For some, the first step toward rebuilding that feeling will be simply acknowledging that the past four years — and especially the last year — have been traumatic.”

She then noted that one way people can heal is through self-care practices such as “online storytelling, journaling, and crafting workshops.” Though others struggling with symptoms of depression or anxiety may need to seek outside help in the form of therapy and medical treatment.

Still others can look to “activism” as a way to heal, Khan asserted in the article, though Khan cautioned that even activists need to make time for rest.

This content was originally published here.

Gov. Cuomo’s Top Health Officials Jump Ship | Dan Bongino

A new report from New York’s Attorney General found that as bad as the state’s nursing home scandal was, it was worse than we initially believed.

While there were roughly 8,711 deaths recorded in New York’s nursing homes the day before the AG’s report, those stats didn’t provide an complete picture. If a nursing home resident caught coronavirus in the home and then was transported to a hospital where they later died, that wasn’t counted as a nursing home death. When counting deaths accurately, the AG report found that there an estimated 12,743 nursing home deaths.

Since the reports publication, Cuomo has finally gotten the delayed criticism over his nursing home policy that he’s long deserved. Even more shocking than the extent of the undercounting is the fact that this isn’t actually some grand revelation. We’ve known as much since at least August thanks to a report from the Associated Press on undercounting in the nursing home death toll – with their estimates in line with what the AG report. At the time there were an estimated 6,000 nursing home deaths, while the AP estimated the true number around twice that.

Meanwhile, Cuomo’s top health advisers are jumping ship. According to the New York Post:

At least nine top Cuomo administration health officials have resigned, retired or been reassigned amid the coronavirus crisis that’s devastated New York.
The flood of departures was reported Monday by the New York Times, which tied them to dissatisfaction with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and cited sources who complained that pandemic policy is set entirely by Cuomo and a close circle of aides rather than health experts.

Meanwhile, Cuomo has stood by his top health expert, Zucker, despite ongoing controversy over the Health Department’s March 25 directive for nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients — which critics have blamed for spreading the virus among highly vulnerable residents, with disastrous results.

Last week, Zucker also came under fire following Attorney General Letitia James’ revelation that the DOH downplayed the total number of nursing home deaths by withholding the number of residents who died in hospitals.

Cuomo himself said of the nursing home deaths following the AG report, “who cares.”

“It’s not about pointing finger. It’s a blame. It’s that this became a political football, but who cares?… died in a hospital, died in a nursing home. They died! Why COVID? Why did God do this? I don’t know” he said. It’s reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s post-Benghazi comment; “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

The comment was widely condemned as insensitive – and at the very minimum it was terribly worded. Cuomo seemed to be trying to argue that people dying of coronavirus were going to die of it regardless of their geographic location, so why focus on nursing homes? The obvious answer is that those deaths could’ve been avoided by not sending coronavirus patients to nursing homes.

This content was originally published here.

New Report From Rep. Katie Porter Reveals How Big Pharma Pursues ‘Killer Profits’ at the Expense of Americans’ Health

Rep. Katie Porter on Friday published a damning report revealing the devastating effects of Big Pharma mergers and acquisitions on U.S. healthcare, and recommending steps Congress should take to enact “comprehensive, urgent reform” of an integral part of a broken healthcare system. 

“In 2018, the year that Donald Trump’s tax giveaway to the wealthy went into effect, 12 of the biggest pharmaceutical companies spent more money on stock buybacks than on research and development.”
—Report

The report, entitled Killer Profits: How Big Pharma Takeovers Destroy Innovation and Harm Patients, begins by noting that “in just 10 years, the number of large, international pharmaceutical companies decreased six-fold, from 60 to only 10.”

While pharmaceutical executives often attempt to portray such consolidation as a means to increase operational efficiency, the report states that “digging a level deeper ‘exposes a troubling industry-wide trend of billions of dollars of corporate resources going toward acquiring other pharmaceutical corporations with patent-protected blockbuster drugs instead of putting those resources toward’ discovery of new drugs.”

Merger and acquisition (M&A) deals are often executed to “boost stock prices,” to “stop competitors,” and to “acquire an innovative blockbuster drug with an enormous prospective revenue stream.” 

“Instead of spending on innovation, Big Pharma is hoarding its money for salaries and dividends,” the report says, “all while swallowing smaller companies, thus making the marketplace far less competitive.” 

Today, our office released a bombshell report exposing the devastating effects of Big Pharma’s mergers and acquisitions. Featuring exclusive interviews with former Immunex, and later Amgen employees, our report shows how consolidation curbs innovation at the expense of patients.

— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) January 29, 2021

Our report is clear: Consolidation destroys scientific cultures that once celebrated creativity and transforms them into places that cater to the whims of shortsighted shareholders.

But our investigation also shows how we can chart a new path forward https://t.co/1jxtK9J6rh

— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) January 29, 2021

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The report calls M&As “just the tip of the iceberg of pharmaceutical companies’ anti-competitive, profit-driven behaviors”:

Pharmaceutical companies often claim that lowering the prices of prescription drugs in the United States would devastate innovation. Yet, as prices have skyrocketed over the last few decades, these same companies’ investment in research and development have failed to match this same pace. Instead, they’ve dedicated more and more of their funds to enrich shareholders or to purchase other companies to eliminate competition.

“In 2018, the year that [former President] Donald Trump’s tax giveaway to the wealthy went into effect, 12 of the biggest pharmaceutical companies spent more money on stock buybacks than on research and development,” the report notes.

Some key findings from the report:

“Competition is central to capitalism,” Porter said in a press release introducing the report. “As our report shows, Big Pharma has little incentive to invest in new, critically needed drugs. Instead, pharmaceutical giants are free to devote their resources to acquiring smaller companies that might otherwise force them to compete.”

“Lives are on the line; it’s clear the federal government needs to reform how it evaluates healthcare mergers and patent abuses,” Porter added. 

To that end, Porter’s report recommends the following actions:

“It’s time we reevaluate the standards for approving these mergers,” the report concludes. “It’s time we pass legislation to lower drug prices. And it’s time we rethink the structure of leadership at big pharmaceutical companies. Together, these strategies can help us bring more innovative, and critically needed, cures and treatments to market.”

This content was originally published here.

Lawyer for ‘QAnon shaman’ claims client’s health deteriorating in jail without organic food – POLITICO

Last week, Chansley filed a request for organic food, which he said is all he has eaten for the past eight years, according to court documents. He said the last time he ate was the morning of Jan. 25 and asked for some canned vegetables, canned wild-caught tuna or organic canned soup.

“I will continue to pray thru the pain and do my best not to complain,” Chansley wrote in the request. “I have strayed from my spiritual diet only a few times over the last 8 years with detrimental physical effects. As a spiritual man I am willing to suffer for my beliefs, hold to my convictions, and the weight of their consequences.”

Eric Glover, general counsel for Washington, D.C.,’s Department of Corrections, disputed that Chansley hasn’t eaten in a Tuesday email to Watkins filed in court documents.

At a hearing Friday, a judge urged Chansley’s lawyer to try to work out the issues related to his diet with Glover. Chansley’s request for organic food was denied on Monday, according to the documents, which said his claims had no “religious merit.”

In the filing Wednesday, Watkins called for Chansley to be released before his trial, saying he doesn’t have a criminal history, wasn’t “part of a grand scheme to … overthrow the Government” and that it would remove any issues with Chansley’s “worsening health situation.” Watkins wrote Wednesday that Chansley has also been compliant with the FBI. The judge in the case has said he’d be open to considering bail for him in early March.

The Phoenix man was among the first people indicted by federal prosecutors in wake of the Capitol insurrection that left five people dead. Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, was charged with violating the Federal Anti-Riot Act and obstructing Congress, among other charges. Former President Donald Trump was subsequently impeached for inciting an insurrection. Chansley would also be willing to testify at Trump’s Senate trial next week, Watkins has previously said.

Prosecutors have argued Chansley was “an active participant in” the “violent insurrection,” suggesting charges of sedition or insurrection could be in the works for people involved.

The horns and fur Chansley wore Jan. 6 that made him one of the most recognizable faces of the riots were all part of his “Shaman beliefs,” Watkins wrote in the filing Wednesday.

Watkins also argued in his Wednesday filing that Trump incited the riot by saying “‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore” at a rally before the riot. In an interview on CNN in wake of the riots, Watkins said Chansley “felt like he was answering” Trump’s call and called on Trump to give him a pardon.

“He felt like his voice was, for the first time, being heard,” Watkins said of Chansley. “And what ended up happening, over the course of the lead-up to the election, over the course of the period from the election to Jan. 6 — it was a driving force by a man he hung his hat on, he hitched his wagon to. He loved Trump. Every word, he listens to him.”

This content was originally published here.

Legislator who questioned Black hygiene to lead health panel

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A Republican lawmaker and doctor who questioned whether members of “the colored population” were disproportionately contracting the coronavirus because of their hygiene is drawing new criticism from Black lawmakers after his appointment to lead the state Senate Health Committee.

“Could it just be that African Americans – or the colored population — do not wash their hands as well as other groups? Or wear masks? Or do not socially distance themselves?” state Sen. Stephen Huffman asked a Black health expert in June 11 testimony. “Could that just be the explanation of why there’s a higher incidence?”

The comments resulted in calls from Democrats and the ACLU of Ohio for him to resign from the GOP-controlled Senate.

Huffman, of Tipp City, was appointed last week by Senate President Matt Huffman, his cousin, to chair the committee even after he was fired from his job as a Dayton-area emergency room physician for his comments.

In a letter Wednesday, the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus demanded a health committee leader who understands and can respond to the inequities of healthcare in Ohio “without political influence.”

“If the Senate leadership will not replace Sen. Huffman as Chair, then we will expect Sen. Huffman to use his position to improve the health of Ohio’s African-American population by working with OLBC to pass legislation that effectively addresses health disparities in the state of Ohio,” director Tony Bishop said in a news release.

Huffman remains a licensed medical doctor in Ohio.

“Senator Huffman is a medical doctor and highly qualified to chair the Health Committee,” spokesperson John Fortney said Friday in a written statement. “He has a long record of providing healthcare to minority neighborhoods and has joined multiple mission trips at his own expense to treat those from disadvantaged countries.

Fortney added that Huffman apologized at the time “for asking a clumsy and awkwardly worded question.”

“Sincere apologies deserve sincere forgiveness, and not the perpetual politically weaponized judgement of the cancel culture,” he said.”

Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

This content was originally published here.

Health care worker taken to ER just a few hours after getting second COVID-19 vaccine shot. Four days later he was dead.

An X-ray technologist from Orange, California, fell ill and was taken to an emergency room just a few hours after receiving his second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month — and four days later he was dead, the Orange County Register reported.

What are the details?

Tim Zook, 60, seemed quite hopeful in a Jan. 5 Facebook post, the Register said.

“Never been so excited to get a shot before,” Zook wrote above a photo of a Band-Aid on his arm and his COVID-19 vaccination card, the paper reported. “I am now fully vaccinated after receiving my 2nd Pfizer dose.”

It would turn out to be his final Facebook post.

Just a few hours later, Zook — an X-ray technologist at South Coast Global Medical Center in Santa Ana — had an upset stomach and trouble breathing, the Register said. By 3:30 p.m. his condition worsened so much that his co-workers walked him to the emergency room, the paper added.

“Should I be worried?” his wife, Rochelle, texted him when after receiving the news, the Register said.

“No, absolutely not,” Zook texted back, the paper noted.

“Do you think this is a direct result of the vaccine?” she texted, the Register noted.

“No, no,” he replied, according to the paper. “I’m not sure what. But don’t worry.”

The Register said Zook “passionately urged folks to embrace COVID precautions such as masking up and staying home as ICUs were inundated in December.”

Rapid decline

But Zook’s condition quickly worsened.

There were suspicions of COVID and a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Zook was put on oxygen, then — just four hours later — a BiPAP machine to help push air into the lungs. Multiple tests came back negative for COVID.

Shortly after midnight on Jan. 7, the hospital called. Zook was in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator to help him breathe. But his blood pressure soon dropped and he was transferred to UC Irvine Medical Center. “On Friday I get a call, ‘His kidneys are failing. He needs to be on dialysis. If not, he could die — but there’s also a chance he might have a heart attack or stroke on dialysis because his blood pressure is so low,’ ” Rochelle Zook said.

By 4 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, Zook had gone “code blue” twice and was snatched back from the brink of death. There was a third code blue in the afternoon. “They said if he went code blue a fourth time, he’d have brain damage and be a vegetable if he survives,” Rochelle Zook said.

Zook died later that day, the paper said.

‘We are not blaming any pharmaceutical company’

“We are not blaming any pharmaceutical company,” Rochelle Zook told the Register. “My husband loved what he did. He worked in hospitals for 36 1/2 years. He believed in vaccines. I’m sure he would take that vaccine again, and he’d want the public to take it. But when someone gets symptoms 2 1/2 hours after a vaccine, that’s a reaction. What else could have happened? We would like the public to know what happened to Tim, so he didn’t die in vain. Severe reactions are rare. In reality, COVID is a much more deadly force than reactions from the potential vaccine itself. The message is, be safe, take the vaccine — but the officials need to do more research. We need to know the cause. The vaccines need to be as safe as possible. Every life matters.”

Zook’s widow also told the paper he had high blood pressure, but that for years it had been controlled with medication. Zook was slightly overweight but healthy, the Register added.

“He had never been hospitalized,” Rochelle Zook told the paper. “He’d get a cold and be over it two days later. The flu, and be over it three days later.”

His death has been reported to the national Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, run by the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control. The Orange County coroner has said the cause of death is inconclusive for now, and further toxicology testing will take months.

“The family just wants closure,” said Zook’s cousin, Ken Polanco of Los Angeles. ” ‘Inconclusive’ is not closure. The family wants the pharmaceutical companies to do more research — if there’s some sort of DNA that doesn’t work with this vaccine, if episodes like this can be prevented, they need to do what they can to pin that down.” […]

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System — which officials caution is a “passive surveillance system” and represents unverified reports of health events that occur after vaccination — has gathered more than 130 reports of death after vaccine administration thus far in 2021. A total of 1,330 adverse reactions have been reported, while more than 23.5 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been administered.

Experts caution that drawing a causal line between vaccination and death is often very difficult to do. When millions of people are being vaccinated — more than 13 million have gotten the Pfizer vaccine as of Jan. 26, and more than 10.5 million have received the Moderna vaccine — some would die for any number of unrelated reasons, as a matter of pure statistics.

What did Pfizer have to say?

A Pfizer-BioNTech spokesman told the paper that pharmaceutical company is aware of Zook’s death and is thoroughly reviewing the matter.

“Our immediate thoughts are with the bereaved family,” the company said in an emailed statement, the Register reported. “We closely monitor all such events and collect relevant information to share with global regulatory authorities. Based on ongoing safety reviews performed by Pfizer, BioNTech and health authorities, [the vaccine] retains a positive benefit-risk profile for the prevention of COVID-19 infections. Serious adverse events, including deaths that are unrelated to the vaccine, are unfortunately likely to occur at a similar rate as they would in the general population.”

The Orange County coroner said it has an open death investigation for Zook and will be conducting more tests as part of its autopsy protocol, spokeswoman Carrie Braun told the paper, adding that the coroner’s office will use its findings to issue a final determination concerning the cause and manner of death.

“If it’s determined there may be a correlation to the vaccine, we will immediately notify the OC Health Care Agency,” Braun added to the Register.

This content was originally published here.

The year global health went local

We are writing this letter after a year unlike any other in our lifetimes.

Two decades ago, we created a foundation focused on global health because we wanted to use the returns from Microsoft to improve as many lives as possible. Health is the bedrock of any thriving society. If your health is compromised—or if you’re worried about catching a deadly disease—it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Staying alive and well becomes your priority to the necessary detriment of everything else.

Over the last year, many of us have experienced that reality ourselves for the first time. Almost every decision now comes with a new calculus: How do you minimize your risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19? There are probably some epidemiologists reading this letter, but for most people, we’re guessing that the past year has forced you to reorient your lives around an entirely new vocabulary—one that includes terms like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” and the “R0” of a virus. (And for the epidemiologists reading this, we bet no one is more surprised than you that we now live in a world where your colleague Anthony Fauci has graced the cover of InStyle magazine.)

Bill:
Fans of the movie Contagion might have already known this.

When we wrote our last Annual Letter, the world was just starting to understand how serious a novel coronavirus pandemic could get. Even though our foundation had been concerned about a pandemic scenario for a long time—especially after the Ebola epidemic in West Africa—we were shocked by how drastically COVID-19 has disrupted economies, jobs, education, and well-being around the world.

Only a few weeks after we first heard the word “COVID-19,” we were closing our foundation’s offices and joining billions of people worldwide in adjusting to radically different ways of living. For us, the days became a blur of video meetings, troubling news alerts, and microwaved meals.

Melinda:
Neither of us are decent cooks.
I miss him every day.

But the adjustments the two of us have made are nothing compared to the impact the pandemic has had on others. COVID-19 has cost lives, sickened millions, and thrust the global economy into a devastating recession. One and a half billion children lost time in the classroom, and some may never return. Essential workers are doing impossible jobs at tremendous risk to themselves and their families. Stress and isolation have triggered far-reaching impacts on mental health. And families in every country have had to miss out on so many of life’s most important moments—graduations, weddings, even funerals. (When Bill Sr. died last September, it was made even more painful by the fact we couldn’t all come together to mourn.)

History will probably remember these last couple of months as the most painful point of the entire pandemic. But hope is on the horizon. Although we have a long recovery in front of us, the world has achieved some significant victories against the virus in the form of new tests, treatments, and vaccines. We believe these new tools will soon begin bending the curve in a big way.

The moment we now find ourselves in calls to mind a quote from Winston Churchill. In the fall of 1942, he gave a famous speech marking a military victory that he believed would be a turning point in the war against Nazi Germany. “This is not the end,” he warned. “It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

When it comes to COVID-19, we are optimistic that the end of the beginning is near. We are also realistic about what it’s taken to get here: the largest public health effort in the history of the world—one involving policymakers, researchers, healthcare workers, business leaders, grassroots organizers, religious communities, and so many others working together in new ways.

Melinda:
Many of the parents who took on added caregiving responsibilities when schools closed last March.

That kind of shared effort is important, because in a global crisis like this one, you don’t want companies making decisions driven by a profit motive or governments acting with the narrow goal of protecting only their own citizens. You need a lot of different people and interests coming together in goodwill to benefit all of humanity.

Philanthropy can help facilitate that cooperation. Because our foundation has been working on infectious diseases for decades, we have strong, long-standing relationships with the World Health Organization, experts, governments, and the private sector. And because our foundation is specifically focused on the challenges facing the world’s poorest people, we also understand the importance of ensuring that the world is considering the unique needs of low-income countries, too.

To date, our foundation has invested $1.75 billion in the fight against COVID-19. Most of that funding has gone toward producing and procuring crucial medical supplies. For example, we backed researchers developing new COVID-19 treatments including monoclonal antibodies, and we worked with partners to ensure that these drugs are formulated in a way that’s easy to transport and use in the poorest parts of the world so they benefit people everywhere.

Bill:
These are manufactured antibodies that grab onto a virus and disable it, just as the naturally occurring antibodies in your immune system do.

We’ve also supported efforts to find and distribute safe and effective vaccines against the virus. Over the last two decades, our resources backed the development of 11 vaccines that have been certified as safe and effective, and our partners have been applying the lessons we learned along the way to the development of vaccines against COVID-19.

Melinda:
These include vaccines for pneumonia, cholera, meningitis, rotavirus, typhoid, and Japanese encephalitis—which together have saved millions of lives.

It’s possible that by the time you read this, you or someone you know may have already received a COVID-19 vaccine. The fact that these vaccines are already becoming available is, we think, pretty remarkable—especially considering that COVID-19 was a virtually unknown pathogen at the beginning of 2020 and how rigorous the process is for proving a vaccine’s safety and efficacy. (It’s important that people understand that even though these vaccines were developed on an expedited timeline, they still had to meet strict guidelines before being approved.)

No one country or company could have achieved this alone. Funders around the world pooled resources, competitors shared research findings, and everyone involved had a head start thanks to many years of global investment in technologies that have helped unlock a new era in vaccine development. If the novel coronavirus had emerged in 2009 instead of 2019, the road to a vaccine would have been much longer.

Of course, creating safe and effective vaccines in a laboratory is only the beginning of the story. Because the world needs billions of doses in order to protect everyone threatened by this disease, we helped partners figure out how to manufacture vaccines at the same time as they were being developed (a process that usually happens sequentially).

Bill:
This is why some people were able to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it received FDA approval.

Now, the world has to get those doses out to everyone who needs them—starting with frontline health workers and other high-risk groups. Our foundation has worked with manufacturers and partners to deliver other vaccines cheaply and on a very large scale in the past (including to 822 million kids in low-income countries through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance), and we’re doing the same with COVID-19.

Melinda:
And that women who don’t want to get pregnant continue to have access to contraceptives.

Our foundation and its partners have pivoted to meet the challenges of COVID-19 in other ways as well. When our friend Warren Buffett donated the bulk of his fortune to double our foundation’s resources in 2006, he urged us to stay focused on the issues that have always been central to our mission. Tackling COVID-19 was an essential part of any global health work in 2020, but it hasn’t been our sole focus over the last year. Our colleagues continue to make progress across all of our program areas.

The malaria team has had to rethink how to distribute bed nets in a time when it’s no longer safe to hold an event to give them to a lot of people at once. We’re helping partners understand COVID-19’s impact on pregnant women and babies and making sure that they continue to receive essential health services. Our education partners are helping teachers adjust to a world where their laptop is their classroom. In other words, we remain trained on the same goal we’ve had since our foundation opened its doors: making sure every single person on the planet has the chance to live a healthy and productive life.

A high school teacher in Seoul, Korea, works with her students remotely. (Chung Sung-Jung/Getty Images)
Health workers deliver mosquito nets in Benin. (Yanick Folly/Getty Images)
A high school teacher in Seoul, Korea, works with her students remotely. (Chung Sung-Jung/Getty Images)
Health workers deliver mosquito nets in Benin. (Yanick Folly/Getty Images)
A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment helps a pregnant woman in labor in Ankara, Turkey. (Ozge Elif Kizil/Getty Images)
A young woman talks about contraception at a community center in Nairobi, Kenya. (Alissa Everett/Getty Images)
A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment helps a pregnant woman in labor in Ankara, Turkey. (Ozge Elif Kizil/Getty Images)
A young woman talks about contraception at a community center in Nairobi, Kenya. (Alissa Everett/Getty Images)

If there’s a reason we’re optimistic about life on the other side of the pandemic, it’s this: While the pandemic has forced many people to learn a new vocabulary, it’s also brought new meaning to old terms like “global health.”

In the past, “global health” was rarely used to mean the health of everyone, everywhere. In practice, people in rich countries used this term to refer to the health of people in non-rich countries. A more accurate term probably would have been “developing country health.”

This past year, though, that changed. In 2020, global health went local. The artificial distinctions between rich countries and poor countries collapsed in the face of a virus that had no regard for borders or geography.

We all saw firsthand how quickly a disease you’ve never heard of in a place you may have never been can become a public health emergency right in your own backyard. Viruses like COVID-19 remind us that, for all our differences, everyone in this world is connected biologically by a microscopic network of germs and particles—and that, like it or not, we’re all in this together.

Melinda:
Growing up, I heard a lot about how WWII had changed my family’s life—especially my maternal grandmother’s. She’s one of the many women who entered the workforce to fill roles left open by men fighting overseas.

We hope the experience we’ve all lived through over the last year will lead to a long-term change in the way people think about global health—and help people in rich countries see that investments in global health benefit not only low-income countries but everyone. We were thrilled to see the United States include $4 billion for Gavi in its latest COVID-19 relief package. Investments like these will put all of us in a better position to defeat the next set of global challenges.

Just as World War II was the defining event for our parents’ generation, the coronavirus pandemic we are living through right now will define ours. And just as World War II led to greater cooperation between countries to protect the peace and prioritize the common good, we think that the world has an important opportunity to turn the hard-won lessons of this pandemic into a healthier, more equal future for all.

In the rest of this letter, we write about two areas we see as essential to building that better future: prioritizing equity and getting ready for the next pandemic.

This content was originally published here.

Health care worker dies after second dose of COVID vaccine, investigations underway

Tim Zook’s last post on Facebook brimmed with optimism. “Never been so excited to get a shot before,” he wrote on Jan. 5, above a photo of the Band-Aid on his arm and his COVID-19 vaccination card. “I am now fully vaccinated after receiving my 2nd Pfizer dose.”

Zook, 60, was an X-ray technologist at South Coast Global Medical Center in Santa Ana. A couple of hours later, he had an upset stomach and trouble breathing. By 3:30 p.m. it was so bad his colleagues at work walked him to the emergency room. “Should I be worried?” his wife, Rochelle, texted when she got the news. “No, absolutely not,” he texted back. “Do you think this is a direct result of the vaccine?” she typed. “No, no,” he said. “I’m not sure what. But don’t worry.”

There were suspicions of COVID and a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Zook was put on oxygen, then — just four hours later — a BiPAP machine to help push air into the lungs. Multiple tests came back negative for COVID.

Tim Zook’s last Facebook post.

Shortly after midnight on Jan. 7, the hospital called. Zook was in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator to help him breathe. But his blood pressure soon dropped and he was transferred to UC Irvine. “On Friday I get a call, ‘His kidneys are failing. He needs to be on dialysis. If not, he could die — but there’s also a chance he might have a heart attack or stroke on dialysis because his blood pressure is so low,’ ” Rochelle Zook said.

By 4 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, Zook had gone “code blue” twice and was snatched back from the brink of death. There was a third code blue in the afternoon. “They said if he went code blue a fourth time, he’d have brain damage and be a vegetable if he survives,” Rochelle Zook said.

Later that day, Tim Zook died.

Reaction? But no blame

“We are not blaming any pharmaceutical company,” said Rochelle Zook, a resident of Orange. “My husband loved what he did. He worked in hospitals for 36 1/2 years. He believed in vaccines. I’m sure he would take that vaccine again, and he’d want the public to take it.

“But when someone gets symptoms 2 1/2 hours after a vaccine, that’s a reaction. What else could have happened? We would like the public to know what happened to Tim, so he didn’t die in vain. Severe reactions are rare. In reality, COVID is a much more deadly force than reactions from the potential vaccine itself.

“The message is, be safe, take the vaccine — but the officials need to do more research. We need to know the cause. The vaccines need to be as safe as possible. Every life matters.”

Zook had high blood pressure, but that had been controlled with medication for years, she said. He was slightly overweight, but quite healthy. “He had never been hospitalized. He’d get a cold and be over it two days later. The flu, and be over it three days later,” she said.

His death has been reported to the national Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, run by the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control. The Orange County coroner has labeled the cause of death “inconclusive” for now, and further toxicology testing will take months.

“The family just wants closure,” said Zook’s cousin, Ken Polanco of Los Angeles. ” ‘Inconclusive’ is not closure. The family wants the pharmaceutical companies to do more research — if there’s some sort of DNA that doesn’t work with this vaccine, if episodes like this can be prevented, they need to do what they can to pin that down.”

Other deaths post-vaccine

Zook’s death comes on the heels of a Florida doctor who died on Jan. 3, weeks after getting his first Pfizer shot. Gregory Michael, a 56-year-old obstetrician and gynecologist in Miami Beach, suffered idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a rare immune disorder in which the blood doesn’t clot normally. His death is under investigation.

In California, Placer County officials said a man died shortly after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 21. They did not identify the vaccine or the person, but said he had tested positive for COVID in late December and that the vaccine was not given by the Placer County Public Health Department. Facebook posts say the man was a 56-year-old aide in a senior living facility. That death is under investigation as well.

Tim Zook had to work with COVID patients, and posted this selfie in full gear, urging people to be safe.

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System — which officials caution is a “passive surveillance system” and represents unverified reports of health events that occur after vaccination — has gathered more than 130 reports of death after vaccine administration thus far in 2021. A total of 1,330 adverse reactions have been reported, while more than 23.5 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been administered.

Experts caution that drawing a causal line between vaccination and death is often very difficult to do. When millions of people are being vaccinated — more than 13 million have gotten the Pfizer vaccine as of Jan. 26, and more than 10.5 million have received the Moderna vaccine — some would die for any number of unrelated reasons, as a matter of pure statistics.

Every year in the United States, more than 2.8 million people die. That averages out to more than 7,800 deaths per day, according to CDC data.

“No prescription drug or biological product, such as a vaccine, is completely free from side effects. Vaccines protect many people from dangerous illnesses, but vaccines, like drugs, can cause side effects, a small percentage of which may be serious,” says the Department of Health and Human Services in its primer on the VAERS data. “About 85-90% of vaccine adverse event reports concern relatively minor events, such as fevers or redness and swelling at the injection site. The remaining reports (less than 15%) describe serious events, such as hospitalizations, life-threatening illnesses, or deaths. The reports of serious events are of greatest concern and receive the most careful scrutiny by VAERS staff.

“It is important to note that for any reported event, no cause and effect relationship has been established. The event may have been related to an underlying disease or condition, to medications being taken concurrently, or may have occurred by chance.”

Pfizer-BioNTech probe

A spokesman for Pfizer-BioNTech said the company is aware of Zook’s death and is thoroughly reviewing the matter.

“Our immediate thoughts are with the bereaved family,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We closely monitor all such events and collect relevant information to share with global regulatory authorities. Based on ongoing safety reviews performed by Pfizer, BioNTech and health authorities, (the vaccine) retains a positive benefit-risk profile for the prevention of COVID-19 infections. Serious adverse events, including deaths that are unrelated to the vaccine, are unfortunately likely to occur at a similar rate as they would in the general population.”

The Orange County Coroner has an open death investigation into Zook’s death and will be conducting additional tests within its autopsy protocol, spokeswoman Carrie Braun said. It will use those findings, along with autopsy findings, to make a final determination into the cause and manner of death. “If it’s determined there may be a correlation to the vaccine, we will immediately notify the OC Health Care Agency,” she said.

The FDA said it takes all reports of adverse events related to vaccines seriously, and, along with CDC, “is actively engaged in safety surveillance” of the COVID-19 vaccines that are being administered under emergency use authorizations.

“Any reports of death following the administration of vaccines are promptly and rigorously investigated jointly by FDA and CDC,” it said in an emailed statement. “Such an investigation includes working with health care providers to obtain medical histories and clinical follow-up information.”

Mark Ghaly, secretary of health and human services in California, said the state is looking into these incidents as well. He sends condolences to those who’ve lost loved ones, but stands by the scientific conclusion that the vaccines are safe.

“The details are complex and worthy of further investigation, and that’s what we’re doing now,” Ghaly said on Monday, Jan. 25, on the heels of the Placer death. “Overwhelmingly, though, we’ve seen so many individuals successfully, and without any significant reactions, receive both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.”

Results of the state’s probes will be shared publicly, Ghaly said, along with “lessons learned.” That’s key to continuing the development of confidence in the vaccines “and getting us on the other side of this pandemic,” he said.

This photo of Rochelle and Tim Zook was Zook’s Facebook profile picture.

Caring, generous man

Zook was a man who passionately urged folks to embrace COVID precautions such as masking up and staying home as ICUs were inundated in December. He loved food, posting photos of home-grown zucchinis, thick steaks, sumptuous Sunday breakfasts, wine tasting in Sonoma.

He shared memes urging calm on Election Day, quoting Lincoln saying “We are not enemies, but friends,” and was moved to share the speech President John F. Kennedy never got to deliver: “Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation’s future is at stake. Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause — united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future — and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.”

Zook was a caring, generous man with deep love for his family, an always-open door and a gift for making others feel comfortable and welcome, friends and family say. Sympathies for his passing have poured in.

“Our deepest condolences are with Tim Zook’s family and loved ones,” said Matt Whaley, CEO of South Coast Global Medical Center, by email. “Tim was a part of our family, too, and we are all grieving his loss.”

Zook and his wife have three grown sons — Aaron, 30, Jared, 26, and Kyle, 24. Zook took a day off work on Monday, Jan. 4 — his last healthy day — to spend with Kyle, who’s fascinated by trains. They went train-spotting.

“They had the most beautiful day together,” Rochelle Zook said.

This content was originally published here.

Concerns grow that the loss of sports is taking a toll on young athletes’ mental health – Portland Press Herald

Portland High senior Danny Tocci is a co-captain on the Deering/Portland ice hockey team, which is unable to gather in-person because Cumberland County has been designated as “yellow.” “I do definitely worry about some of my teammates’ mental health because (playing sports) is all we’ve known,” he says. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Portland High School senior Danny Tocci considers himself a “glass half full person.” So he sees the benefits of virtual meetings with his Portland/Deering ice hockey teammates and coaches as he hopes for some form of a season this winter.

HOW TO GET HELP

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health crisis, call the Maine Crisis Line 24 hours a day at 1-888-568-1112. For more information about mental health services in Maine, visit the website for the state’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

But Tocci said it is getting tougher and tougher to maintain a healthy outlook as the coronavirus pandemic grinds on and he and his teammates are not allowed to gather for any type of in-person athletic activities because they are in one of Maine’s four “yellow” counties.

“It’s saddening in a way and I do definitely worry about some of my teammates’ mental health because (playing sports) is all we’ve known,” said Tocci, a co-captain. “It means so much. It’s a way to release energy, see people and converse. It’s just having something to belong to and a place where you feel comfortable and you can go there and express yourself.”

With high school teams in yellow counties unable to meet for practices or even socially distanced workouts after school, educators and medical professionals are sounding the alarm that, in the effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, the mental well-being of student-athletes is increasingly at risk.

“I think for a good percentage of the kids, yes, it is affecting their mental health,” said John Ryan, the certified athletic trainer at South Portland High and president of the Maine Athletic Trainers’ Association. “And for me, it’s not so much being able to play games, it’s being able to get together with their buddies and do something. … For a lot of these kids, being involved in athletics is a driving force for them to go to school. So now you’ve taken that away and they’re sitting at home thinking, ‘Why bother to go to school?’”

On Dec. 18 Cumberland County became the fourth county to be designated yellow in the Maine Department of Education’s color-coded health advisory for schools. Cumberland, along with Androscoggin, Oxford and York counties, will remain yellow at least until Jan. 29, the DOE announced on Friday. And when a county is deemed “yellow” for academic purposes, it means a full-stop “red” for athletics, according to pandemic guidelines set by the Maine Principals’ Association and key state health and education agencies. More than one-third of the state’s high schools – including 17 of the 20 largest schools – are located in those four counties.

Across the state, people like Ryan and Greely Athletic Director David Shapiro have raised concerns. They point to data collected in Wisconsin, Maine and across the country that show high school athletes have become more depressed and anxious, particularly when they are unable to participate in sports. The research also indicates a significant increase in thoughts of self-harm or suicide and an overall decline in quality of life measures.

“I think it’s my job that people have studies of that nature in their hands whenever they make a decision,” Shapiro said. “I’m trying to send it to whomever I can, the Department of Health and Human Services, the governor’s office, Dr. (Nirav) Shah (at the Maine CDC) to make sure information about the mental health of kids is in the forefront.

“I’m deeply concerned about the lasting effects of their current inactivity,” Shapiro added. “We know in a good year, a regular year, there are significant health benefits of just being active. Now you figure all the other stressors that our kids have right now are further compounded by not being able to be active.”

Dean Plante, the athletic director and girls’ basketball coach at Old Orchard Beach High, says “athletics should not be shut down” at schools in counties designated as yellow by the state. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Shapiro and Ryan are not suggesting that schools ignore the recent spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths and return to a pre-pandemic approach. What they and many others want is for the 51 high school programs affected by yellow status to at least be allowed to have small groups gather for simple and physically distanced conditioning.

“Those schools that are yellow and in-person should be able to do skills and drills in my opinion; athletics should not be shut down,” said Dean Plante, the athletic director and girls’ basketball coach at Old Orchard Beach, where students are attending in-person learning four days a week. “Yellow should not be red in that instance. It makes no sense. It’s contradictory to what we’re doing during the school day.”

In-person physical education classes are being held during the school day. Meanwhile, club and youth sports teams in yellow counties have been given the go-ahead to practice and play games. And even though daily case counts have steadily increased across the state, more than 90 schools in green counties began interscholastic competitions on Jan. 11.

So while athletes at Mt. Ararat in Topsham, in Sagadahoc County are able to run, shoot, skate, ski and ride the bus to away games, just across the Androscoggin River in Cumberland County, coaches and players on Brunswick High’s teams are only able to connect via virtual conferences.

“We’re worried all the time about kids being on screens too much and now we’re pushing them there,” said Sam Farrell, the girls’ basketball coach at Brunswick. Farrell contends the pandemic’s effects are discouraging participation. “I’ve seen it with my own program. We have 18 signed up and last year we had 29.”

DATA SHOW RISE IN ANXIETY, DEPRESSION

Since the onset of the pandemic, mental health professionals have warned about the dangers of isolation and loneliness in the general population. As Maine’s daily case rate of COVID-19 started to spike in November, crisis and wellness call centers experienced an increase in service requests.

For many high school athletes, much of their self-worth is tied to their association with sports, said Rob Smith, a clinical sports psychologist in Waltham, Massachusetts.

“It’s an identity. That’s what’s on the line for kids and why it’s so stressful, is that (being an athlete) is how they define themselves,” Smith said, noting that “if you think about what the pandemic has done, it’s created this giant series of losses.”

Isolation and time away from friends and sports were key contributing factors to the Dec. 4 suicide death of Brunswick High sophomore Spencer Smith, 16, his family said.

“The worst thing for kids is to be sitting in their room ruminating about what they lost,” said Dan Gould, the director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University.

High school athletes reported increased feelings of depression and anxiety as early as May, when spring sports were shut down across the country. In a solicited survey of over 3,200 Wisconsin high school athletes, conducted by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, researchers found 62 percent of both females and males reported mild or moderate/severe depression symptoms.

In previous studies of Wisconsin high school athletes, 35 percent of females and only 21 percent of males reported any depression symptoms. The increase in the moderate/severe category was more than three times greater for girls and more than four times greater for boys.

The survey was then expanded to high school athletes across the country, drawing over 13,000 responses, including 102 from Maine (62 girls, 40 boys). While 102 represents a far smaller sample size, the Maine students reported greater levels of depression, including moderate to severe depression, than their peers in Wisconsin. In a separate measure for anxiety, 50 percent of the female respondents from Maine reported moderate to severe anxiety, compared to 43.7 percent in the overall national survey.

“The research is very consistent with what is being seen across the country,” said Ryan, the athletic trainer at South Portland High. “The problem is getting state policy leaders to fully understand that decisions they are making are adversely affecting the kids.”

The researchers repeated the survey in September to compare Wisconsin students playing a fall sport to those who had their fall sport canceled because of the pandemic.

“We found they were twice as likely to be mildly or moderately depressed if they were not playing their fall sport,” said Tim McGuine, a co-author of the original study.

VIRTUAL MEETINGS ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PRACTICES

Virtual team meetings serve one primary purpose, said Eric Curtis, the athletic director at Bonny Eagle High in Standish.

“What I’m trying to get across to my coaches is, honestly, just to make connections with the kids and keep their spirits up,” Curtis said.

Rachel Wall, a senior co-captain of the Freeport High girls’ basketball team, said she and her teammates are working hard to make sure they maintain a positive connection. Freeport girls’ basketball coach Seth Farrington asked Wall and her fellow captains Hannah Groves and Mason Baker-Schlendering to become active leaders in the virtual team meetings. Each captain has a cohort of teammates whom they direct in daily individual workouts.

Rachel Wall, one of the captains of the Freeport High girls’ basketball team, says she and her teammates are working hard to make sure they maintain a positive connection while they are unable to practice. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

“With my group I’ve been trying to make sure they stay active and doing their workouts,” Wall said. “If we do get to have a season and can practice again, it’s super important that we can just start right back. And, I’m also trying to encourage them because just being a student now is really hard.

“We are separated so much of the time. You want them to stay connected and encourage them throughout the week so they don’t feel alone. And a lot do feel that way right now,” Wall added.

Kennebunk girls’ basketball coach Rob Sullivan said virtual meetings shouldn’t be considered a substitute for practices. Rather, they can be effective for team bonding. He tries to meet with his team three or four times a week for 30- to 45-minute sessions broken into several segments. There is some coaching and drill demonstration but there are also trivia contests or word games to lighten the mood.

Like many other coaches, Sullivan wonders why, when it comes to high school sports, “yellow means red.” He’s not advocating a full start-up of cross-town games. Rather, Sullivan says there is great value with relatively little risk for teams in yellow counties to get in the gym.

“I can put 10, 12 kids in a gym with six hoops and they can stay pretty far apart,” Sullivan said. “Part of me would like to do that but there’s another part that would like to wait longer knowing that, when we do start (practicing), we’ll be able to finish a season.”

Others are more adamant that practices need to be allowed – and soon. Plante says he’s already sensed waning interest in virtual meetings, particularly among students drawn to a sport primarily for its social engagement.

“You always have those fringe kids that (play sports) to be part of something and that’s the beauty of education-based sports. It gives kids that sense of belonging,” Plante said. “Now, those on-the-cusp kids are looking around, and if they have the opportunity to bag groceries and make $12 an hour or stare at me on the computer, it’s a tough sell for a lot of kids. And a lot of families.”

“I’m hoping there’s some movement on the yellow designation,” said Farrington, the Freeport girls’ basketball coach. “The only thing it affects is co-curricular” activities because almost all schools are already operating in a hybrid model.

“If our county goes yellow, we should be yellow in sports. Not red. Yellow. Which means we socially distance, wear a mask,” Farrington said. “And I’m not worried about games. I just want to be in the gym, practicing with those kids that wear Freeport jerseys. I think they need each other, they need the coaches. And the coaches need them, too.”

“There’s some things that don’t make sense to us,” Shapiro said. “We can have in-person learning and we’re an education-based activity, why can’t we extend that learning to the gym, or the rink? For that matter, why can’t we do alpine skiing? Or be in a pool, where chlorine kills (the virus)?

“Everything still centers on their mental health and the long-term effects that this may have and we know the antidote: let them play. At the very least practice.”

For that to happen, the Maine Principals’ Association’s guidance, developed in conjunction with officials across the state, would need to be modified. Executive Director Mike Burnham said he has shared a presentation made by McGuine about the Wisconsin research to some of the key agencies in the state.

“All the state agencies are meeting (this) week to talk about winter sports and what’s transpiring now,” Burnham said.

Until changes are made, though, online practice workouts and attempts at team bonding through virtual meetings are likely to continue.

“As for our team, a lot of girls are trying to make the most of the situation we can,” said Freeport’s Wall.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 case numbers remain high in Maine. With the winter high school sports schedule slated to end in late February, time is running out for some teams to have a meaningful season.

“I try to keep positive,” said Tocci, the hockey player at Portland High, “but some kids in our grade, some of the basketball players especially, are saying, ‘We’re never going to get out of it. We’re never going to have a season.’ I try to tell them to stay positive, but there’s no real evidence that everything is going to get better.”

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Fauci assures World Health Org. Biden regime is committed to funding abortions

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WASHINGTON, D.C., January 21, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – In comments made to the World Health Organization (WHO) today, Dr. Anthony Fauci announced the Biden regime’s commitment to the promotion of abortion, as well as a new relationship between the United States and the WHO.

Fauci has been named as Chief Medical Adviser to Joe Biden, who was sworn in as president yesterday, and became Biden’s de facto spokesman to the WHO at the 148th session of the Executive Board of the organization which is currently taking place. Fauci is the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who became famous for his constant media appearances during the coronavirus outbreak.

He made clear that the Biden regime would be very closely aligned with the WHO, noting that Biden had already “signed letters retracting the previous Administration’s announcement to withdraw from the organization.”

“I am honored to announce that the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization,” Fauci declared.

Under Biden’s authority, the U.S will be “fully engaged in advancing global health,” he added, and would “work constructively with partners to strengthen and importantly reform the WHO.”

However, the newly appointed Chief Medical Adviser also highlighted Biden’s commitment to the promotion of “sexual and reproductive health,” and “reproductive rights,” both of which are common euphemisms for abortion and contraception.

“And it will be our policy to support women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in the United States, as well as globally. To that end, President Biden will be revoking the Mexico City Policy in the coming days, as part of his broader commitment to protect women’s health and advance gender equality at home and around the world.”

The Mexico City Policy prohibits federal funding of abortion abroad. Under former President Donald Trump, it was expanded into a policy called Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance.

Biden is very public about his claims of being Catholic, even attending Mass shortly before his inauguration, yet has been very open about his strong support for abortion as well as LGBT ideology. He has called abortion an “essential health service” and wishes to enshrine abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy into federal law.

Pope Francis extended his congratulations to Biden yesterday, yet did not call mention the issue of abortion in his message.

In the flurry of executive orders which Biden signed by yesterday evening, he gave permission for gender-confused soldiers to serve openly in the military.

Aside from committing the U.S. to assist the WHO in funding, and promoting abortion, Fauci repeatedly mentioned the close relationship which would exist between the two going forward. He thanked the WHO for its “role in leading the global public health response to this pandemic,” and assured the organization that that U.S. “intends to fulfill its financial obligations.”

Trump had defunded the WHO for its botching of the coronavirus response and its close ties to Communist China.

In a “directive” to be signed by Biden today, Fauci related that the U.S. would “join COVAX and support the ACT-Accelerator to advance multilateral efforts for COVID-19 vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic distribution, equitable access, and research and development.”

“We will commit to building global health security capacity, expanding pandemic preparedness, and supporting efforts to strengthen health systems around the world and to advance the Sustainable Development Goals,” he added, referring to the U.N.’s 2030 pro-abortion goals.

Despite advocating for a renewed focus on promoting abortion and contraception, Fauci closed his speech by claiming that the U.S. would work to “improve the health and wellbeing of all people throughout the world.”

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Joe Biden picks transgender woman for assistant health secretary / LGBTQ Nation

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a statement. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

If both are confirmed, Levine will serve under California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra, who has been nominated to the position of secretary of HHS.

Nominating Levine signals the importance of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for the Biden administration. As surgeon general of the state of Pennsylvania, she has led the state’s response to the pandemic, at times facing heavy criticism – and straight-up transphobia – from conservatives in her state.

“Dr. Rachel Levine is a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience to help us contain this pandemic, and protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people,” said Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in a statement. “President-elect Biden and I look forward to working with her to meet the unprecedented challenges facing Americans and rebuild our country in a way that lifts everyone up.”

Her appointment also signals the incoming Biden administration’s commitment to end attacks on LGBTQ health. HHS was at the center of numerous attacks on LGBTQ people during the Trump administration.

HHS spent the last four years attempting to roll back LGBTQ protections based on Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act so that health care providers could more easily discriminate; rolling back anti-LGBTQ discrimination protections for the recipients of HHS grant money, funds that often go to adoption and fostering agencies as well as health care and homelessness programs; redefining “gender” to mean “sex assigned at birth” in order to legally erase transgender identity; scrubbed LGBTQ health care information from its website; and stopped funding HIV/AIDS research that involves fetal tissue, which is necessary for many aspects of HIV/AIDS research.

While she has been confirmed three times by the GOP-controlled state senate during her tenure at Pennsylvania’s Department of Health, she faced an unprecedented deluge of transphobic attacks this past year as she tried to get Pennsylvanians to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Last year, an evangelical minister exhorted his followers to “rise up” and “chase” the doctor out of the state. He repeatedly referred to her as “it,” “a man,” and a “freak transvestite.”

“You are absolutely insane if you let that transvestite freak rule your life,” pastor Rick Wiles screamed. “You’re going to that transvestite freak? Seriously?”

In July, a Pennsylvania tavern apologized for a transphobic menu item designed to taunt Dr. Levine. And around the same time, a popular Pennsylvania fair, the Bloomsburg Fair, used a Dr. Levine “impersonator” (which was a man in a wig and a dress) in their dunk tank and published a mocking Facebook post about it.

Leaders of both the fair and tavern apologized, but Dr. Levine still felt it was important to address the transphobia directly at one of her daily briefings.

“I want to emphasize that while these individuals may think that they are only expressing their displeasure with me, they are in fact hurting the thousands of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians who suffered directly from these current demonstrations of harassment,” she said during her July 28 briefing. “Your actions perpetuate the spirit of intolerance and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and specifically transgender individuals.”

This content was originally published here.

Mental Health Tips for the Holidays | Intuit®: Official Blog

The holidays are just around the corner and while often considered a joyous season, we know that this year may be especially difficult. When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. 

We want to help! That’s why we’ve partnered with our Intuit Abilities Network to share some actionable tips to help minimize holiday stress: 

Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few favorites to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. Find new ways to celebrate together, such as setting up a date for a video call, or exchanging favorite photos from throughout the year.

Maintain healthy habits. Find ways to incorporate healthy habits into your daily routine. Try out some new recipes, keep a glass of water nearby to help you stay hydrated and don’t forget to move your body daily. Whether its enjoying a light walk around your neighborhood or exploring a new park, getting some exercise while enjoying some fresh air can help lift your spirits while mixing up your day.

Take a breather. With all the hustle and bustle of the season, be sure to take some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may help refresh you enough to handle everything on your to do list. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. This could include listening to your favorite music, reading a book, meditating, writing down the things you’re most grateful for or even exploring a new hobby.

Acknowledge your feelings. If you can’t be with loved ones, acknowledge that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. Don’t feel like you have to force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. 

Seek help from a professional. You still may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, feeling physically exhausted, unable to sleep, irritable, and/or unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, remember that it’s ok to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. If you or a loved one is experiencing emotional distress, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 support. Call 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential help. 

At Intuit, we celebrate diversity and value inclusion. We strive to ensure employees and their families have access to the support they need through comprehensive global benefits programs and initiatives like our Employee Resource Groups. 

It’s ok to not feel perfect during the holidays. Remember that this time is fleeting and make sure you take the time you need to take care of yourself.

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Unarmed Black Pastor Having Mental Health Episode Is Killed By ‘Aggressive’ Texas Police Officer After Family Called for Wellness Check

A wellness check for Patrick Warren Sr., a Black pastor, turned fatal Sunday, Jan. 10, when an officer in Killeen, Texas, shot Warren after his family had called 911 to request assistance from a mental health professional. The family was concerned that 52-year-old Warren, who lives with mental health issues, was having an episode, according to civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing the family.

“They noticed their loved one deteriorating, undergoing some sort of psychosis it appeared,” Merritt said in an exclusive interview with ABC25. “They spoke with medical professionals. They wanted to get him some help.”

According to Merritt, the family was told a mental health deputy was not available so the police department dispatched an officer who has been identified as Reynaldo Contreras instead.

Merritt said the family described Contreras as “an aggressive officer who’s speaking in an abrasive tone who clearly had an attitude.” Merritt also said Contreras slammed the door on the way out of the family’s home before killing Warren, which is corroborated by video footage from the family’s ring camera.

The video footage shows Warren, who also was a veteran, coming out of the door with his hands up. Then his behavior seems to become increasingly more erratic. At that point Warren goes offscreen and the family can be seen in distress asking Warren to sit down and begging the officer not to shoot. However, a taser can be heard being deployed off-camera followed by three shots. “No, no I told you don’t use a gun,” a family member screams over and over on the video.

“When Patrick’s family protested, ‘Don’t shoot,’ an officer fired his first shot into Patrick and redirected his weapon toward Patrick’s wife, Barbara, telling her to get back from Patrick. The officer again trains his weapon on Patrick’s body and continues to fire his weapon, killing him,” a press release from Merritt’s firm states.

Warren was taken to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center where he later died. Merritt said the family is calling for “the immediate firing and arrest of the officer.” Warren’s son, Patrick Warren Jr., said Warren was “tragically killed by Killeen Police … in front of his family in a nonviolent encounter.”

Warren Jr. created a GoFundMe campaign to assist with funeral expenses. On it, he noted his father was the “sole provider” for their family and had lost his job due to the coronavirus pandemic. He added his father’s life insurance policy had expired three months prior and that the family would be grateful for any contribution. The campaign had raised over $34,000 at time of publication.

Warren Jr. also created an Instagram account, Justice For Patrick Warren. It had over 3,000 followers at time of publication.

Patrick Warren,sr Husband Father and Pastor Was shot and killed by local police in his front yard he was unarmed #BLM #BlackTwitter pic.twitter.com/HhOjzOXuNV

— Ananda Robinson (@AnandaRobinson3)

The Killeen Police Department released a statement that said Contreras was dispatched “in reference to a psychiatric call” and when he arrived “he encountered an emotionally distressed man.” They added Contreras initially used his taser but it didn’t work so he “then discharged his duty weapon during the encounter, striking the subject.”

Dr. Jeremy Berry, professor of Counseling and Psychology and a mental health crisis advocate, said there was a way to deescalate the situation without killing Warren.

“I’ve been on calls that looked exactly like that, hundreds of them, and I know that there’s a way that that plays out better. I know there is. I’ve seen it. I’ve been involved in it,” Berry told ABC25. “There are other methods to address that situation that might not require someone to lose their life.”

Activist Shaun King, who said he has gotten involved with helping the Warren family, shared video footage of the encounter on Instagram. He described Warren as “a pastor … beloved father” and “cherished husband.”

On Twitter, Merritt said Warren Sr. was “killed in his front lawn during a wellness check. Shot 3 times in his chest for being ill.” He also listed eight other Black men who were killed by police for similar reasons.

Everyone must say #PatrickWarrensr’s name. He was killed in his front lawn during a wellness check. Shot 3 times in his chest for being ill. Just like #DariusTarver#StephenTaylor #DamianDaniels🇺🇸 #EverettPalmerJr🇺🇸#BrandonRoberts #DewayneBowman#AdrianRoberts🇺🇸#toomany pic.twitter.com/Z2pAautKWS

— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw)

Many on social media said Warren’s death was another painful reminder that Black and white Americans face two justice systems.

“Wow all that restraint the police had with thousands of aggressors in my city but this officer couldn’t handle one man coming towards him,” Instagram user @mealnin_monroe wrote.

“We saw last week it’s possible for police to not kill aggressive people. Even actually attacking people. But a family calls for HELP for a mental episode and this unarmed man is shot in the chest and dies. Like…..I OBVIOUSLY get it, but I don’t f—ing get it,” user @Nikkilooovesit wrote on Twitter.

The Killeen Police Department said there is an ongoing investigation being conducted by their Criminal Investigation Division and the Texas Rangers.

For Merritt, the evidence is clear. “A mental health call should not be a death sentence,” he said.

This content was originally published here.

Megachurches fined for violating public health orders » Albuquerque Journal

A social media post on Reddit discussing a Christmas Day service at Legacy Church in Albuquerque. (Source: Reddit)

They sat close together — hundreds of them — holding candles in the cavernous sanctuary of Legacy Church on Christmas Day, few of them appearing to wear masks.

Photos and video of that gathering and a Christmas Eve service at Calvary Church have drawn public outrage on social media and on Monday the state Department of Health notified the two churches that they were each being fined $5,000 for violating New Mexico’s public health orders. Those orders, aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, limit occupancy of churches and other public spaces, mandate the wearing of masks and urge social distancing.

The DOH notice said that in addition to the $5,000 fines, “other remedies against the same conduct” will be taken as allowed by state statute, although these were not detailed.

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A spokesman for the governor blasted the churches for the “illegal and selfish gatherings,” saying they “will directly contribute to more suffering and illness in our state.”

But the churches are pushing back.

Legacy Church, in a statement, accused state officials of trampling on their rights.

“We have taken the pandemic seriously from the start, and have prudent measures in place. But when governments exceed their constitutional authority and contradict what we are called on by God to do, we answer first to His authority.”

Calvary’s chief Pastoral Officer, Neil Oritz, explained that the church “experienced a significant attendance on one of the most celebrated and sacred days of our Christian faith.” In response to the large turnout, the church “chose not to break fellowship with any worshiper by requiring them to leave the gathering of their church family.”

Ortiz maintained that Calvary continued “to urge and provide opportunity for our congregants to maintain safe social distance, wear face coverings, and properly sanitize.”

Church seating at Calvary, he said, was staggered with every other row cordoned off, indoor overflow rooms and an outdoor screen were provided, and masks were handed out to those who did not have one as they entered.

Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said the parishioners and leaders of the two churches violated both the state’s public health order “and common sense.”

“They endangered the lives livelihoods and health of not only their parishioners but their entire communities — and given how quickly this virus can spread, potentially our state as a whole.”

Stelnicki went on to say that while all New Mexicans wish that the pandemic was over, it clearly is not and no pastor “may deem it so.”

“These church leaders should reflect on the danger they’ve unleashed in their communities,” he said.

As of Monday, the virus had already infected more than 138,000 state residents and killed 2,380.

Many people in the community blasted the churches on social media.

“Albuquerque, here’s our next super-spreader event,” said one person.

“You should all be ashamed of yourselves,” wrote another. “So many of us are giving up so much to care for each other, only to have people like you throw our efforts away by callously disregarding all public health guidelines (and the law).”

A few defended the churches, with one person posting, “You understand Jesus is bigger than Covid, right?”

Ortiz acknowledged that some will disagree with the decisions made by Calvary’s spiritual leaders.

“We do care about people’s physical health, and we take great precautions,” he said. “… At the same time, we believe that people can be responsible adults and make their own choices about their life and health and that of their families.”

The large turnout for their Christmas service indicates “the deep conviction many people have that corporate worship is essential and that as long as health considerations are maintained, it is safe and necessary to worship their God.”

New Mexico has adopted a three-tiered color system to show the infection rate in different counties, with green being the lowest percentage of infections, increasing to yellow and then red, with the highest — which is the current status statewide.

Under the state’s pandemic public health mandates, as long as New Mexico hovers in the red zone, churches may not have in-person services that exceed 25% of the fire marshal’s rated occupancy for that space.

In April, Legacy Church filed a lawsuit against then-New Mexico Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel and the state of New Mexico, maintaining that the public health orders violated the church’s religious freedoms.

U.S. District Judge James O. Browning in July handed down a ruling in that lawsuit, saying the state has the right to ban large gatherings in houses of worship during a public health crisis, and that the public health orders neither violated the church’s free exercise rights nor its assembly clause rights.

Further, Browning ruled, that the public health orders “are unrelated to the suppression of speech or religion, serve a compelling state interest, and significantly less restrictive alternatives are not available.”

This content was originally published here.

Andrew Pollack: Our Public Health Officials Have Literally Lied to Us in Order To Kill Us

Anthony Fauci is a liar.

We know this because he has told us so.

Fauci told us that masks don’t work. His exact words were “there’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.” Then he told us that everyone should wear masks. He then explained that he was lying when he said we shouldn’t, apparently in order to preserve masks for medical professionals.

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Fauci told us that to get to herd immunity, maybe 60 percent of Americans would need to be vaccinated. Then he told us that nearly 90 percent would need to take the vaccine. He then explained that he really thought 90 percent the whole time, but was lying to the American people earlier based on what he thought they could handle.

Despite these lies, Fauci remains a sort of cultic hero figure to millions of American liberals.

Some people, I guess, don’t mind being lied to as long as it’s being done for their own good.

The thinking goes: “Fauci might not be necessarily telling us the truth at any given moment, but he’s surely not just lying in order to maintain a dopamine high from steady CNN hits. No, he has a wide view of the situation, and if he misleads the public with lies it’s really in order to manipulate Americans to think or act in ways that will save the most lives.”

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And maybe that’s true. I’ve never met the man, and can’t tell you what’s really in his heart. But, unfortunately, I can tell you that our public health officials don’t always lie to us in order to save lives. Sometimes, they lie to us in an effort to kill us.

That might sound a little crazy. But it’s an entirely fair description of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s original recommendations regarding who to prioritize for vaccination.

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The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Protocols recognized that vaccinating the elderly first would save more lives, but recommended that we should vaccinate essential workers first because – and this is really true – the elderly are disproportionately white so allowing more of them to die would decrease racial disparities.

Liberal journalist Matt Yglesias pointed out that because the elderly are at such dramatically higher risk, the CDC’s original plan would have led to more deaths of black and brown people.

The CDC knew that, and recommended it anyway, because it would lead to even more dead white people. As one Ivy League professor put it: “Older populations are whiter. … Instead of giving additional health benefits to those who already had more of them, we can start to level the playing field a bit.”

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To be clear: By “level the playing field” he means killing people — or at least allowing them to be more likely to die — based on their race.

As Washington Free Beacon editor Aaron Sibarium pointed out in his in-depth analysis of this controversy, the CDC lied along the way to issuing this recommendation.

Officials in the Department of Health and Human Services and the president of the American Geriatric society both registered strong objections against plans that would not prioritize the elderly, who were at the most risk.

The CDC took their statements entirely out of context, and slapped them onto a table in such a way as to make it look like they were both actually against vaccinating the elderly first.

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As Sibarium wrote, “The CDC committee thus took two statements that championed the interests of the elderly and used them to justify a plan that would disproportionately kill senior citizens.”

The fact that our public health officials have proven themselves willing to lie in order to promote a plan that would kill more of us ought to shock and appall every American. But it won’t.

Because, you see, they are “experts.” And the co-chair of Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board commended the CDC for its plan, saying that the experts took “political interference out of the process,” and showed a “grounding in inequity.”

I can understand people who don’t mind being lied to as long as they believe it’s being done to save more lives. But it has become apparent that millions of American liberals don’t mind being lied to even when it’s being done in an effort to kill their friends and family.

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It’s a mental illness that I can’t really explain to you and that I certainly don’t know how to treat. But anybody who still holds up people like Anthony Fauci and our public health establishment as heroes really ought to have their head examined.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

This content was originally published here.

New York State Democrat Lawmaker Proposes Bill to Detain “Disease Carriers” the Governor Deems “Dangerous to the Public Health”

The New York State Assembly proposed a bill to detain “disease carriers” the Governor deems “dangerous to the public health.”

The bill was authored by N. Nick Perry, a Democrat member of the New York State Assembly.

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Bill A416 relates to “the removal of cases, contacts and carriers of communicable diseases that are potentially dangerous to the public health.”

The Governor would have sweeping powers to indefinitely detain American citizens and put them in internment camps.

According to the proposed bill, the Governor will also be able to detain people who have come in contact with the “carrier.”

The only way an individual would be released from detainment is if the “department” determines the person is no longer contagious.

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Read the text from the proposed bill:

Section 1. The public health law is amended by adding a new section 2120-a to read as follows:

§ 2120-A. REMOVAL AND DETENTION OF CASES, CONTACTS AND CARRIERS WHO ARE OR MAY BE A DANGER TO PUBLIC HEALTH; OTHER ORDERS.

1. THE PROVISIONS OF THIS SECTION SHALL BE UTILIZED IN THE EVENT THAT THE GOVERNOR DECLARES A STATE OF HEALTH EMERGENCY DUE TO AN EPIDEMIC OF ANY COMMUNICABLE DISEASE.

2. UPON DETERMINING BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE THAT THE HEALTH OF OTHERS IS OR MAY BE ENDANGERED BY A CASE, CONTACT OR CARRIER, OR SUSPECTED CASE, CONTACT OR CARRIER OF CONTAGIOUS DISEASE THAT, IN THE OPINION OF THE GOVERNOR, AFTER CONSULTATION WITH THE COMMISSIONER, MAY POSE AN IMMINENT AND SIGNIFICANT THREAT TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH RESULTING IN SEVERE MORBIDITY OR HIGH MORTALITY, THE GOVERNOR OR HIS OR HER DELEGEE, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE COMMISSIONER OR THE HEADS OF LOCAL HEALTH DEPARTMENTS, MAY ORDER THE REMOVAL AND/OR
DETENTION OF SUCH A PERSON OR OF A GROUP OF SUCH PERSONS BY ISSUING A SINGLE ORDER, IDENTIFYING SUCH PERSONS EITHER BY NAME OR BY A REASONABLY SPECIFIC DESCRIPTION OF THE INDIVIDUALS OR GROUP BEING DETAINED. SUCH PERSON OR GROUP OF PERSONS SHALL BE DETAINED IN A MEDICAL FACILITY OR OTHER APPROPRIATE FACILITY OR PREMISES DESIGNATED BY THE GOVERNOR OR HIS OR HER DELEGEE AND COMPLYING WITH SUBDIVISION FIVE OF THIS SECTION.

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3. A PERSON OR GROUP REMOVED OR DETAINED BY ORDER OF THE GOVERNOR OR HIS OR HER DELEGEE PURSUANT TO SUBDIVISION TWO OF THIS SECTION SHALL BE DETAINED FOR SUCH PERIOD AND IN SUCH MANNER AS THE DEPARTMENT MAY DIRECT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THIS SECTION.

Click here to read to entire bill proposed by Democrats in New York.

This content was originally published here.

Vaccine rollout hits snag as health workers balk at shots

The desperately awaited vaccination drive against the coronavirus in the U.S. is running into resistance from an unlikely quarter: Surprising numbers of health care workers who have seen firsthand the death and misery inflicted by COVID-19 are refusing shots.

It is happening in nursing homes and, to a lesser degree, in hospitals, with employees expressing what experts say are unfounded fears of side effects from vaccines that were developed at record speed. More than three weeks into the campaign, some places are seeing as much as 80% of the staff holding back.

“I don’t think anyone wants to be a guinea pig,” said Dr. Stephen Noble, a 42-year-old cardiothoracic surgeon in Portland, Oregon, who is postponing getting vaccinated. “At the end of the day, as a man of science, I just want to see what the data show. And give me the full data.”

“It’s far too low. It’s alarmingly low,” said Neil Pruitt, CEO of PruittHealth, which runs about 100 long-term care homes in the South, where fewer than 3 in 10 workers offered the vaccine so far have accepted it.

Many medical facilities from Florida to Washington state have boasted of near-universal acceptance of the shots, and workers have proudly plastered pictures of themselves on social media receiving the vaccine. Elsewhere, though, the drive has stumbled.

While the federal government has released no data on how many people offered the vaccines have taken them, glimpses of resistance have emerged around the country.

In Illinois, a big divide has opened at state-run veterans homes between residents and staff. The discrepancy was worst at the veterans home in Manteno, where 90% of residents were vaccinated but only 18% of the staff members.

In rural Ashland, Alabama, about 90 of some 200 workers at Clay County Hospital have yet to agree to get vaccinated, even with the place so overrun with COVID-19 patients that oxygen is running low and beds have been added to the intensive care unit, divided by plastic sheeting.

The pushback comes amid the most lethal phase in the outbreak yet, with the death toll at more than 350,000, and it could hinder the government’s effort to vaccinate somewhere between 70% and 85% of the U.S. population to achieve “herd immunity.”

Administrators and public health officials have expressed hope that more health workers will opt to be vaccinated as they see their colleagues take the shots without problems.

Oregon doctor Noble said he will wait until April or May to get the shots. He said it is vital for public health authorities not to overstate what they know about the vaccines. That is particularly important, he said, for Black people like him who are distrustful of government medical guidance because of past failures and abuses, such as the infamous Tuskegee experiment.

Medical journals have published extensive data on the vaccines, and the Food and Drug Administration has made its analysis public. But misinformation about the shots has spread wildly online, including falsehoods that they cause fertility problems.

Stormy Tatom, 30, a hospital ICU nurse in Beaumont, Texas, said she decided against getting vaccinated for now “because of the unknown long-term side effects.”

“I would say at least half of my coworkers feel the same way,” Tatom said.

There have been no signs of widespread severe side effects from the vaccines, and scientists say the drugs have been rigorously tested on tens of thousands and vetted by independent experts.

States have begun turning up the pressure. South Carolina’s governor gave health care workers until Jan. 15 to get a shot or “move to the back of the line.” Georgia’s top health official has allowed some vaccines to be diverted to other front-line workers, including firefighters and police, out of frustration with the slow uptake.

“There’s vaccine available but it’s literally sitting in freezers,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey. “That’s unacceptable. We have lives to save.”

Nursing homes were among the institutions given priority for the shots because the virus has cut a terrible swath through them. Long-term care residents and staff account for about 38% of the nation’s COVID-19 fatalities.

In West Virginia, only about 55% of nursing home workers agreed to the shots when they were first offered last month, according to Martin Wright, who leads the West Virginia Health Care Association.

“It’s a race against social media,” Wright said of battling falsehoods about the vaccines.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said only 40% of the state’s nursing home workers have gotten shots. North Carolina’s top public health official estimated more than half were refusing the vaccine there.

SavaSeniorCare has offered cash to the 169 long-term care homes in its 20-state network to pay for gift cards, socially distanced parties or other incentives. But so far, data from about a third of its homes shows that 55% of workers have refused the vaccine.

CVS and Walgreens, which have been contracted by a majority of U.S. nursing homes to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, have not released specifics on the acceptance rate. CVS said that residents have agreed to be immunized at an “encouragingly high” rate but that “initial uptake among staff is low,” partly because of efforts to stagger when employees receive their shots.

Some facilities have vaccinated workers in stages so that the staff is not sidelined all at once if they suffer minor side effects, which can include fever and aches.

The hesitation isn’t surprising, given the mixed message from political leaders and misinformation online, said Dr. Wilbur Chen, a professor at the University of Maryland who specializes in the science of vaccines.

He noted that health care workers represent a broad range of jobs and backgrounds and said they are not necessarily more informed than the general public.

“They don’t know what to believe either,” Chen said. But he said he expects the hesitancy to subside as more people are vaccinated and public health officials get their message across.

Some places have already seen turnarounds, such as Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“The biggest thing that helped us to gain confidence in our staff was watching other staff members get vaccinated, be OK, walk out of the room, you know, not grow a third ear, and so that really is like an avalanche,” said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer. “The first few hundred that we had created another 300 that wanted the vaccine.”

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg in Dallas; Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans; Candice Choi in New York; Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland; Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Bryan Anderson in Raleigh, North Carolina.

This content was originally published here.

With COVID-19 at record levels, reopening schools is unwise, say health experts | The Star

Epidemiologists are warning that reopening elementary schools on Monday as planned, at a time when COVID-19 transmissions are at record-high levels in Ontario, would be unwise.

“One of the real challenges that this virus presents is that you have transmission that can occur before people are symptomatic, and the additional challenge is that many kids show very few symptoms if any,” said epidemiologist Amy Greer, a Canada research chair in population disease modelling at the University of Guelph.

In a long Twitter thread posted on Sunday, she characterized the decision to let children back into school as “reckless and dangerous.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce reassured parents on the weekend that elementary school classrooms will reopen on Jan. 11 and high school students will return to classrooms Jan. 25, two days after the current provincial lockdown is scheduled to end.

In the face of soaring COVID-19 cases, Quebec is considering keeping schools closed for at least another week. Schools in the U.K. are closed until Jan.18, and possibly longer in areas hardest hit by the pandemic.

It made sense to let students back into classrooms in September when community transmission rates were low, said Greer. But with the positivity rate approaching 10 per cent, the number of daily cases in Toronto often approaching 1,000 and Ontario surpassing 3,000 new cases a day, the level of community transmission is so high it will mean more children infected with the virus showing up for class and infecting their classmates, who will bring the virus home to their families.

Screening tools don’t work on children who are asymptomatic, Greer pointed out. If they don’t have a fever; if they’re not coughing or sneezing or fatigued, checklists and thermometers won’t catch the illness and won’t prevent infected students from taking a seat beside a classmate.

If other measures are in place to prevent transmission, the impact of the asymptomatic cases can be attenuated — for example if classes are smaller and children are seated far apart, if ventilation has been optimized — students without symptoms are less likely to pass along the virus. But Greer said classrooms have not been sufficiently modified to prevent that kind of transmission.

“I feel frustrated that we don’t appear to have a plan for how we’re going to compensate to keep schools open in the context of high community transmission,” said Greer, in an interview with the Star.

Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and the medical director of the Sinai Health System-University Health Network Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, said the role schools play in transmission of COVID-19 remains unclear — although they are a contributing factor.

He said the COVID-19 numbers are so bad now it’s hard to imagine keeping anything open beyond what is absolutely essential.

“I think that opening schools up now as we have an up going trajectory and when we really have a fair amount of uncertainty about the role of schools in transmission, is not wise,” Morris said.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, has said in the past that schools are critically important and provide an important conduit for social services and even food, through school nutrition programs, for children who need support.

She echoed those concerns at the first COVID-19 update from city hall on Monday, adding on Tuesday that the subject is under active consideration and discussion.

“What we are trying to do is balance control of COVID-19 along with ensuring that we’re meeting the health needs of children and their families, and we know that there is a specific benefit, a clear benefit to having children attend school in person … but it is a very delicate balancing act, and one that may seem like a relatively straightforward decision, but actually has much more complexity underneath it,” she told CBC’s “Metro Morning.”

The decision to open or close schools is a provincial one. Students are currently receiving virtual instruction.

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The Ministry of Education did not respond to questions from the Star in time for this story’s deadline.

Lecce told parents in a letter sent out over the weekend that “schools are not a source of rising community transmission.”

Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering city hall and municipal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF

Do you think it’s too soon to send kids back to school in Ontario?

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Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

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Large numbers of health care and frontline workers are refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine

Despite having been prioritized as the first recipients of the coronavirus vaccine, a large number of health care and frontline workers are passing on the vaccine. Early reports from across the country show that health care and frontline workers are refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

In Ohio, 60% of nursing home employees decided not to take the coronavirus vaccine. Last week, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) reacted to the low participation numbers by
saying, “We aren’t going to make them but we wish they had a higher compliance.” He added that he was “troubled” by how many nursing home workers rejected the vaccine.

DeWine warned frontline workers that they soon would no longer be in front of the line, “Our message today is: The train may not be coming back for awhile. We’re going to make it available to everyone eventually, but this is the opportunity for you, and you should really think about getting it.”

Dr. Joseph Varon, chief of staff at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, is frustrated that over half of the nurses in his unit will refuse to get the vaccine.

“Yesterday I had a — not a fight, but I had a friendly argument with more than 50% of my nurses in my unit telling me that they would not get the vaccine,” he told
NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

“Some of those nurses have had family members admitted to the hospital, gravely ill with COVID-19,” NPR reported. “But he said some nurses and hospital staff members — many of whom are Latinx or Black — are skeptical it will work and are worried about unfounded side effects.”

In California, an estimated 50% of frontline workers in Riverside County turned down the COVID-19 vaccine, Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told
the Los Angeles Times.

“At St. Elizabeth Community Hospital in Tehama County, fewer than half of the 700 hospital workers eligible for the vaccine were willing to take the shot when it was first offered. At Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, one in five frontline nurses and doctors have declined the shot,” the LA Times reported. “Roughly 20% to 40% of L.A. County’s frontline workers who were offered the vaccine did the same, according to county public health officials.”

Dr. Nikhila Juvvadi, the chief clinical officer at Chicago’s Loretto Hospital, surveyed the hospital staff right before the coronavirus vaccine came out, and 40% of the employees said they would not get vaccinated, according to
NPR.

In an early December survey of New York Fire Department members, approximately 55% of uniformed firefighters said they would opt to not get the shot, according to
WNBC-TV.

A survey by the
Kaiser Family Foundation published on Dec. 15 found that 29% of those who work in a health care delivery setting probably would not or definitely would not get the shot. The poll also found that 33% of essential workers would pass. Overall, 27% of Americans are “vaccine-hesitant.”

There is a stark divide among Americans who are willing to get vaccinated depending on their political affiliation. According to the survey, 86% of Democrats say that they will definitely or probably get the coronavirus vaccine, compared to 56% of Republicans who said the same.

According to the
KFF, the top concerns about being reluctant to get the coronavirus vaccine are:

Sheena Bumpas, a certified nursing assistant at a home in Oklahoma, told
the New York Times that she was reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine because “I don’t want to be a guinea pig.”

April Lu, a 31-year-old nurse at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in California, refused to take the vaccine because she is concerned that it is might not be safe for pregnant women, and she is six months pregnant.

“I’m choosing the risk — the risk of having COVID, or the risk of the unknown of the vaccine,” Lu told
the Los Angeles Times. “I think I’m choosing the risk of COVID. I can control that and prevent it a little by wearing masks, although not 100% for sure.”

Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci noted that coronavirus vaccines could become mandatory in order to attend school or travel internationally.

This content was originally published here.

California business owner blocks in health inspector’s car after he threatens lockdown citations: ‘If we can’t work, he can’t work’

A California restaurant owner has gone viral for his actions after blocking in a health inspector’s vehicle after the inspector threatened citations for being open amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the details?

In video obtained by the Daily Caller, Carlos Roman — owner of Bread and Barley in Covina, California — can be seen arguing with a police officer who is called to his restaurant after he moved his vehicle to block in a health inspector’s car.

The unnamed health inspector reportedly arrived at the restaurant, took photos of patrons dining outside the restaurant, and allegedly told Roman that he would be issuing a citation related to COVID-19 restriction orders.

According to KCBS-TV, the incident took place last Sunday outside the Covina restaurant when a health inspector came to enforce coronavirus guidelines at the restaurant.

“A citation from the health department said the inspector found two customers dining outside, which goes against current protocols,” KCBS reported. “Roman says they were on a public bench, and not his property.”

“We weren’t going out. We weren’t serving them,” Roman told the station.

Roman, who adamantly refused to move his vehicle after the confrontation with the inspector, said that if he and his employees could not work, the health inspectors would not be able to work, either.

“This isn’t about me,” he said of the closures. “They can’t pay their bills. The cook just had a baby. He’s with his family right now.”

The officer on the scene told Roman that a tow truck was on its way and would remove his truck from the premises if he refused to let the health inspector leave.

According to the Daily Caller, “The officer told Roman ‘it wasn’t [the health inspector’s] fault’ and that he was following orders from his supervisor.”

The officer also told Roman that his blocking the inspector’s vehicle “is not the way to settle things.” Roman ultimately moved his vehicle, but not before advising the officer and the inspector that he is desperate to feed his children.

“We’re all in this together, we’ll just all starve to death and die,” he said.

What else do we know about Roman’s situation?

KCBS reported that Roman invested thousands of dollars in his restaurant by opening an outdoor patio when outdoor dining was still permitted in Los Angeles County and even began digging into his own personal savings account to pay staff and serve customers.

“I think we have entered into the realm of a lose-lose situation,” he admitted.

A GoFundMe page to benefit Roman’s restaurant and employees has received more than $32,000 in donations at the time of this reporting.

In a statement, the Covina Police Department said, “The peace was kept and Mr. Roman’s vehicle was moved from the roadway, allowing the health inspector to leave. We have no information on citations or fines issued by L.A. County Health Inspectors as they are a different entity.”

The L.A. County Public Health Department has not responded to the Daily Caller’s request for comment at the time of this reporting, but KCBS reports that Roman is facing two $500 fines for failure to comply and interfering with the health officer.


Restaurant Owner Blockades Health Inspectors Car After Receiving Citation For Outdoor Dining

www.youtube.com

This content was originally published here.

COVID-19 ‘super-spreader’ event feared in L.A. as Christian singer defies health order

A conservative evangelical Christian singer with a history of defying COVID-19 health mandates plans three days of New Year’s gatherings in the Los Angeles area, including stops on skid row and at a tent city in Echo Park, raising fears that the events will be viral “super-spreaders.”

Skid row activists plan a car blockade to stop Sean Feucht — a Redding, Calif., volunteer pastor and failed Republican congressional candidate — and his followers from staging what is billed as a “massive outreach” Wednesday evening on skid row, at the height of Los Angeles County’s pandemic crisis. Feucht’s plans come as California, facing record case counts and a severe shortage of intensive care hospital beds, has extended its stay-at-home order.

Feucht began hosting “Let Us Worship” open-air concerts nationwide to push back against government restrictions on religious gatherings, then broadened his focus to cities that erupted in protest after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry caused a super-spreader event in Redding.

Feucht’s events have featured hundreds of maskless worshipers tightly packed together and singing and dancing. He has another homeless outreach planned Thursday at Echo Park Lake, site of nearly 100 homeless tents, followed by a New Year’s Eve party and concert at a church parking lot in Valencia.

In a YouTube video —part of an extensive social media campaign to promote the L.A. dates — Feucht said a couple of thousand glow sticks had been ordered for a bash he predicted could rival his worship service this year on the National Mall, which drew hundreds of people.

Charles Karuku, a Feucht associate who travels with the singer, said they tell followers to heed government health guidelines, “but we are not law enforcement. It’s up to the people how they choose to come.”

But Stephen “Cue” Jn-Marie, pastor of Church Without Walls, a skid row congregation, said, “We know based on his track record whatever he’s going to do is going to be maskless.” Jn-Marie is organizing the car blockade with Los Angeles Community Action Network, a skid row anti-poverty activist group.

“The problem we’re facing is even prior to the stay-at-home order, people come into the community and say they’re bringing resources but what they’re bringing is the disease,” said Jn-Marie, adding that the outreach event could undo the self-help measures the skid row community took, including distributing masks and street wash stations and sponsoring testing events. “It doesn’t take thousands to start an outbreak.”

The homeless population in Los Angeles has generally avoided serious COVID outbreaks throughout most of the pandemic, although it has seen a significant uptick in recent weeks, in keeping with the wider surge in infections nationwide.

One reason L.A.’s homeless people have avoided a COVID disaster could be that they live outside

The California Poor People’s Campaign wrote a letter calling for city and county officials to quash Feucht’s events. The campaign offered a legal justification for enforcement of county health orders, but Los Angeles has not generally used police powers on individuals to back up pandemic restrictions, and homeless outreach events do not require permits.

“Police know how to show up and issue orders to disperse an illegal gathering,” said Nell Myhand, co-chair of the California Poor People’s Campaign.

Asked for a response to the enforcement question, mayoral spokesman Alex Comisar said Mayor Eric Garcetti implored everyone to wear masks and practice social distancing.

L.A. Councilman Kevin de León, who represents skid row, said his office and the mayor’s staff will be on skid row Wednesday morning distributing personal protective equipment and sanitation kits to homeless people, but did not comment on possible enforcement of county COVID-19 health orders.

Our expectation is that those attending the scheduled outreach event take steps to care for our community and protect vulnerable Angelenos on skid row by wearing masks and honoring social distancing guidelines,” de Leon said in a statement.

Feucht has upcoming events scheduled in Orange County and San Diego, according to his website. Tom Grode, a skid row resident and activist who began petitioning the city a month ago to stop the skid row event , called Feucht’s plan to come to Los Angeles “incredibly foolish … divisive and dangerous.”

“The problem is any of these events could get weird in different ways,” Grode said.

Cathy Callahan, who has been following Feucht’s career online with dismay, spent two hours Tuesday calling the Los Angeles Police Department, the mayor’s office, county health officials and the state attorney general, asking if they were going to shut the New Year’s events down. She said she was bounced from office to office without receiving an answer.

”If not, why is California issuing lockdowns or stay-at-home orders?” Callahan asked.

This content was originally published here.

CDC issues new guidance about vaccinations for people with underlying health conditions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Saturday issued a new guidance stating that people with underlying health conditions can receive a coronavirus vaccine. 

The guidance explains that “adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19.”  

Thus, the CDC added that those vaccines that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “may be administered to people with underlying medical conditions provided they have not had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.” 

The CDC explained that people with weakened immune systems due to other illnesses or medication may also receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but they should be aware that limited safety data is available on the effects of the vaccines on these individuals. 

Additionally, while people living with HIV were included in clinical trials, safety data for this group is also not yet available. 

The CDC also stated in its Saturday guidance that individuals with autoimmune conditions may take the vaccine, although there is no data currently available for the safety of the vaccine in this demographic.  

Those who have experienced Guillain-Barre syndrome — a condition in which the body begins to attack parts of its own nervous system — may also receive the vaccine doses. The guidance adds that following vaccination during clinical trials, there have been no instances of the syndrome. 

People who have previously experienced Bell’s palsy — a condition that causes muscle weakness in one side of the face — may also receive a vaccine. Some participants during clinical trials did develop Bell’s palsy following vaccination, but it did not occur at a rate above that expected in the general population. 

Despite the start of distributions of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the CDC recommends that people who get vaccinated should continue to follow current coronavirus health and safety protocols, such as wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding crowds. 

According to the CDC, nearly 2 million people have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Saturday. Both the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and the one from Moderna require two doses to be administered several weeks apart. 

Final trial data on both vaccines showed them to have a roughly 95 percent efficacy rate at preventing COVID-19, although Moderna’s vaccine has an 86 percent efficacy rate for those over the age of 65.

Health care workers have been prioritized in the initial distribution of the vaccine, and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted last week to advise the CDC to include those 75 and older and specific front-line essential workers, including emergency responders and teachers, in the next phase of coronavirus vaccinations.

This content was originally published here.

California health system buckling under COVID-19 pandemic

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California’s health care system is buckling under the strain of the nation’s largest coronavirus outbreak and may fracture in weeks if people ignore holiday social distancing, health officials warned as the number of people needing beds and specialized care soared to previously unimagined levels.

Top executives from the state’s largest hospital systems —Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health and Sutter Health, which together cover 15 million Californians — said Tuesday that increasingly exhausted staff, many pressed into service outside their normal duties, are now attending to COVID-19 patients stacked up in hallways and conference rooms.

The CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles, Dr. Elaine Batchlor, separately said patients there have spilled over into the gift shop and five tents outside the emergency department.

“We don’t have space for anybody. We’ve been holding patients for days because we can’t get them transferred, can’t get beds for them,” said Dr. Alexis Lenz, an emergency room physician at El Centro Regional Medical Center in Imperial County, in the southeast corner of the state. The facility has erected a 50-bed tent in its parking lot and was converting three operating rooms to virus care.

California is closing in on 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. The state on Tuesday reported nearly 32,700 newly confirmed cases. Another 653 patients were admitted to hospitals — one of the biggest one-day hospitalization jumps — for a total approaching 18,000.

State data models have predicted the hospitalizations could top 100,000 in a month if current rates continue.

Even more worrying than lack of beds is a lack of personnel. The pool of available travel nurses is drying up as demand for them jumped 44% over the last month, with California, Texas, Florida, New York and Minnesota requesting the most extra staff, according to San Diego-based health care staffing firm Aya Healthcare.

“We’re now in a situation where we have surges all across the country, so nobody has many nurses to spare,” said Dr. Janet Coffman, a professor of public policy at the University of California in San Francisco.

California is reaching out to places like Australia and Taiwan to fill the need for 3,000 temporary medical workers, particularly nurses trained in critical care.

Around the country, outbreaks are being blamed on lack of social distancing and mask-wearing during Thanksgiving and officials fear an even worse surge if people gather for Christmas and New Year’s.

Fresno County in California’s agricultural Central Valley is in desperate condition. Dr. Thomas Utecht, chief medical officer for Community Medical Centers Fresno, related how medical staff daily see sobbing families, desperate patients and people dying in isolation wards with their loved ones watching remotely.

Doctors and health officials there are begging people to avoid gathering outside of their immediate families.

“If people don’t stay home … we’re going to see something that’s, it’s hard for me to even imagine,” said Dr. Patrick Macmillan, palliative specialist in Fresno County. “I think it will break the health care system.”

Similar warnings echoed around the country, from Tennessee, which is seeing the nation’s worst new COVID-19 infection surge per capita, to Mississippi and West Virginia, which surpassed their previous highs for virus deaths reported in a single day on Tuesday.

COVID-19′s impact isn’t just on the infected. Lack of beds or nurses means that there are long lines to emergency rooms for other patients as well, such as those with heart attacks or trauma, and paramedics who must wait for an ER nurse to take charge of a patient may not be able to immediately answer another 911 call, said Dr. Anneli von Reinhart, an emergency physician at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno.

In the midst of the surge, the distribution of thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccine to health care workers does mark light at the end of the tunnel but “it also feels like the tunnel is narrowing,” said Dr. Rais Vohra, interim health officer for Fresno County.

“It’s just a race against time to try to get people through this tunnel as safely as possible,” he said. “That’s exactly what it feels like to be working on the front lines right now.”

Thompson reported from Sacramento, California. Associated Press reporters from around the U.S. contributed to this report.

This content was originally published here.

Biden selects Becerra to lead Health and Human Services – POLITICO

POLITICO Dispatch: December 7

Last semester didn’t go too well. But colleges and universities across the country are looking for a do-over in the Spring. POLITICO’s Juan Perez reports on how schools are trying to beat coronavirus next semester — and what lessons they’ve learned from the past year. Plus, the U.K. plans to start vaccinations Tuesday. And Trump says Giuliani has tested positive for Covid.

A veteran of Washington, he spent nearly 25 years in the House of Representatives culminating in a stint as chair of the Democratic caucus. Becerra also sat on the powerful House Ways and Means subcommittee overseeing health issues. Yet unlike earlier contenders to be Biden’s HHS secretary, he has not held a top health policy position before. Then-California Gov. Jerry Brown tapped Becerra to be attorney general in 2017, replacing Kamala Harris after she was elected to the Senate.

If confirmed, Becerra would be the first Latino to run the health department — a role that will thrust him into the middle of a high-stakes pandemic response set to determine the trajectory of the next four years. The New York Times first reported Becerra’s selection.

Biden’s decision to choose Becerra for the top health post marks the conclusion of a turbulent process, in which the Biden camp had to scramble to fill one of the administration’s leading health positions as they prepare to take on the country’s worst health crisis in more than a century.

The president-elect team’s focus on setting up a pandemic response team within the White House has raised questions about the role the health secretary will play in the Biden administration, according to four people familiar with the process, creating additional uncertainty around the Cabinet post.

Becerra emerged as a top contender late in the process after Biden’s team considered a number of other candidates including former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy — who will be reprising that role in the Biden administration — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo. The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment.

The Biden team has been planning to announce a slate of top health positions this week, which will include Jeff Zients as the coronavirus coordinator and Murthy as surgeon general. Murthy will take on an expanded portfolio, working closely with Zients on the coronavirus response. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a professor at Yale who is an expert on health care inequality, will have a senior role focused on health disparities. That announcement may be pushed back because of the delay in selecting Becerra.

At one point last week, plans were in place for Biden to announce Raimondo as his HHS nominee. The president-elect never directly offered the position to Raimondo, but people close to him indicated the job was hers if she wanted it, and preparations were underway with the assumption she would fill the role, according to three people familiar with the process.

But then Raimondo made a public announcement Thursday, saying she would not be Biden’s health secretary. Josh Block, a spokesman for Raimondo, pushed back against the notion that Raimondo turned down the Biden staff, saying her focus remained on Rhode Island.

“Certainly on this one, they are struggling,” one of the people familiar with the transition’s efforts said before they settled on Becerra. “They had the person they wanted, and that person isn’t doing it. Are there plenty of qualified people? Yes. Do they have the setup they wanted? No.”

Still, a source close to Biden stressed that this kind of last-minute scramble is not unprecedented, pointing to President Obama tapping Tom Daschle as HHS Secretary only to have him withdraw amid revelations over delinquent taxes and Kathleen Sebelius assume the post instead.

“We’d rather feel good and get it right instead of rushing to get something out the door,” the source said. “Poor personnel choices can create much more sustainable problems than an extra day or two or three of vetting.”

Raimondo was always ambivalent about leaving Rhode Island in the middle of her term to move to Washington, D.C., a place she has never wanted to live, according to two people familiar with her thinking. Raimondo has two school-aged children and had major trepidations about relocating them to a new school — she made it clear to advisers that the position had to be the right one. Raimondo wanted to be Treasury secretary (Biden selected former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen for that position), but she would also likely accept Commerce secretary if it was offered, the people said.

Advisers to Raimondo were particularly concerned about how the health secretary position was being set up in the Biden administration. They worried that when anything went wrong in the coronavirus response, she would be pinned with the blame, but any success in fighting the virus would be credited to the Covid-19 response operation being run out of the White House, according to people familiar with their thinking.

Zients, who will be in charge of the White House’s coronavirus office, and Raimondo have a personal relationship that dates back years, according to one person familiar with their friendship, but Raimondo’s advisers were worried she would play second fiddle to Zients in the administration.

The source close to Biden told POLITICO that the transition team is aware of these concerns, but that those who worry the HHS won’t have any real power in the administration are guilty of “an insulting misunderstanding.”

“The only person who can truly undermine the Department of Health and Human Services is the president,” the source said. “Biden has clearly said he will listen to the scientists. He’s raised up Fauci, who works at NIH, who reports to the secretary … At the end of the day, HHS writes the regs, implements them, obtains the data, and presents the data.”

By selecting Becerra, Biden is elevating a longtime politician who became a star in Democratic circles during the Trump era, winning praise for his flurry of lawsuits challenging the president’s most divisive policies.

California has sued the Trump administration more than 100 times over a wide range of issues, from immigration to the environment to health care. That effort has included challenges to Trump regulations rewriting parts of the Affordable Care Act, as well as rules affecting access to federal health benefits like Medicaid.

Becerra is also leading the multistate defense against a Republican-led lawsuit aimed at striking down Obamacare in its entirety — a suit that the Trump administration has backed and that the Supreme Court is expected to rule on within months.

Yet while allies touted his ability to organize dozens of blue states in opposition to the Trump administration, Becerra has little experience managing a bureaucracy as large and diverse as HHS. He also has little background in public health, a drawback that could raise questions about his readiness to direct a pandemic response and vaccine distribution campaign that rank among the most complex federal undertakings in U.S. history.

Others fear his record of vocally supporting Medicare for All and abortion rights could endanger his confirmation if Republicans hold the Senate majority. The influential anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List slammed him Sunday night as an “extremist,” and wrote that “Republican senators must stand firm and stop this unacceptable nomination from going forward.”

A source familiar with the transition decision responded that Becerra has a history of reaching across the aisle, citing his work with California Republicans on anti-vaping initiatives and experimental drugs to treat Covid-19. Asked about Becerra’s calls for a single-payer health system, the source said the team is confident he will support Biden’s pledge to create a public insurance option that will compete with private plans.

Still, the selection is likely to calm the nerves of Democrats puzzled by the drawn out search for a health secretary — and narrow the race for a pair of other high-profile positions. Becerra had been among the contenders to be Biden’s attorney general, as well as to fill the California Senate seat vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

It may also ease tensions between the Biden camp and Latino groups that have pushed hard for Lujan Grisham to run the health department.

Minutes after the news of his appointment broke, Latino lawmakers and advocacy groups said they were excited and relieved that a son of Mexican immigrant would be in charge not only of addressing Covid-19 but health access more broadly.

“To have someone who knows our community is really gratifying,” said Janet Murguia, the president of UnidosUS and a former adviser to President Bill Clinton. “Diverse communities have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and I think the country is going to benefit from the wealth of his experience.”

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which had been lobbying for Lujan Grisham, called Becerra “a champion for working families.”

Lujan Grisham, a co-chair of the transition, had made it clear that she wanted to serve as the health secretary, but people familiar with the process said Biden’s team had favored other candidates. Grisham, who served as New Mexico’s secretary of health, turned down the Biden team’s offer to be secretary of Interior, which hurt her candidacy for other positions in the administration, those familiar with the conversations said.

On Sunday night, Lujan Grisham released a statement saying she already has “the best job in the world as Governor of New Mexico” and that she looks forward to working with the Biden administration from that post.

New Mexico Sen.-elect Ben Ray Lujan criticized Biden’s top advisers in a meeting Thursday with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for how the transition team had treated Lujan Grisham, especially for leaks that the governor had declined to lead the Department of Interior. The group has been frustrated with the lack of Latinos chosen for top positions in the Biden administration. Becerra is now the second Latino selected for the Cabinet after Biden picked Alejandro Mayorkas to serve as secretary of Homeland Security.

Joanne Kenen contributed reporting.

This content was originally published here.

PA Health Department Offers COVID Advice… For Orgies

That old expression, “Ya can’t make this stuff up,” comes to mind.

Under the command of transgender Health Secretary Rachel Levine (aka Richard Levine), The Pennsylvania Department of Health just burned tax cash issuing new COVID19 guidelines forrrr…

…People attending orgies.

Thanks to talk radio host and writer Rose Unplugged Tweeting the pertinent section, we who, like her, still cling to vestiges of sanity, get to see the Kafkaesque display of a state government forbidding people from attending church or choir, but offering tips to those who insist on participating in orgiastic hedonism.

WTH: From PA’s oh so smart Sec of Health:
Where to Start??

– IF you attend a Large Gathering where you might end up having sex
* ORGY??

– If you USUALLY meet sex partners online – consider;
*PORN?? pic.twitter.com/S6TK3p8OYm

— Rose Unplugged (@rose_unplugged)

The actual government document has been around for weeks, but it took Rose to dig in and find the pertinent section, which reads:

Large gatherings are not safe during COVID19, but if you attend a large gathering where you might end up having sex, below are tips to reduce your risk of spreading or getting COVID-19 through sex:

Limit the number of partners.

Try to identify a consistent sex partner.

Wear a face covering, avoid kissing, and do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

Wash your hands with soap and water often, and especially before and after sex.  If soap and water are not available use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

If you usually meet your sex partners online, consider taking a break from in-person dates. Video dates, sexting, subscription-based fan platforms, or chat rooms may be options for you.

Isn’t that awesome…?

It’s all so sanitary and sane.

Heck, why not spend other people’s money writing some “health advice”? Then, to pile on more insults, don’t tell people that sexual intercourse naturally can lead to the creation of new human life, that it creates physical, emotional, and spiritual complications for participants with or without conception, that sexual relations outside marriage make these factors even more complex and difficult, and that they raise health risks… Instead, offer a perfunctory “warning” about the virus, then give folks tips, assuming they’ll engage in unbridled “relations”, anyway.

This is a state where Democrat Governor Tom Wolf has childishly refused to acknowledge the US Bill of Rights and the Contract Clause of the US Constitution, even as he turned a blind eye to a September court ruling smacking down his lockdowns of businesses and churches, and he continued to target and fine restaurateurs for trying to welcome customers.

This is a state where said Governor, Tom Wolf, was caught laughing with leftist State Rep Wendy Ullman (D) as she joked that she would keep on her mask… for the cameras, for, as she put it, “political theatre.”

And this is a state where said Governor issued a November statement ORDERING people to wear masks in their homes (the policing of which would require warrants, according to the Fourth Amendment, which also appears to be something Wolf doesn’t bother to respect).

At what point do these people ever feel shame?

The entire exercise of lockdowns is not only toweringly immoral and unconstitutional, it is based on fraudulent “statistics” for “cases” and “COVID19 deaths”, and, even more generally, on a revised use of the term “pandemic” that has lowered the threshold for its application such that it can be bandied about virtually any time, for anything. As Dr. Joseph Mercola wrote on December 10:

The WHO’s original definition of a pandemic specified simultaneous epidemics worldwide “with enormous numbers of deaths and illnesses”

This definition was changed in the month leading up to the 2009 swine flu pandemic. The WHO removed the severity and high mortality criteria, leaving the definition of a pandemic as “a worldwide epidemic of a disease”

This is how COVID-19 is still promoted as a pandemic even though it has caused no excess mortality in nine months

Does their continued consumption of other people’s money numb these PA tyrants to their own perfidy, or do they enjoy mass suffering as much as their public “health guidelines” seem to assume that people enjoy mass hook-ups?

It might be difficult to get any answers from said government agents. Rather than engage in debate and discussion, they seem to prefer issuing edicts and “advice” — neither of which are helpful.

This content was originally published here.

Psilocybin Treatment for Mental Health Gets Legal Framework – Scientific American

Oregon made history on November 3, becoming not just the first U.S. state to legalize psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in “magic mushrooms,” but also the first jurisdiction in the world to lay out plans for regulating the drug’s therapeutic use.

The next day, on the opposite coast, Johns Hopkins University researchers published results from the first randomized controlled trial of treating major depressive disorder with synthetic psilocybin. Their study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, found 71 percent of patients experienced a “clinically significant response” (an improvement that lasted at least four weeks after treatment). And 54 percent met the criteria for total “remission of depression.”

At the U.S. federal level, psilocybin remains a completely prohibited Schedule 1 Drug, defined by the Drug Enforcement Administration as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” But the state-level ballot measure and positive study results broaden the legal circumstances and settings in which the potent psychedelic can be used for mental health therapy.

“Our goal was to move psilocybin out of the medical framework so we could provide access to anyone who might safely benefit,” meaning to allow its use by counseling therapists and not just by doctors in a hospital, says therapist Tom Eckert, co-author of the Oregon Psilocybin Therapy Ballot Measure, which passed with more than 1.2 million votes (55.7 percent). Although Oregon is not the first place in the U.S. to loosen restrictions on psilocybin—the cities of Oakland, Denver, Ann Arbor and Washington, D.C., voted in the past two years to effectively decriminalize the drug—it is the first to offer a framework for legal therapeutic use. “This is very different from decriminalization, which only seeks to lower the penalties for possession,” Eckert notes. “We want to bring this therapy out from the underground and into [safe therapeutic environments].”

Such use will be tightly regulated, however: only licensed therapists and manufacturers will be allowed to grow the mushrooms or extract psilocybin from them, or to synthetically produce the drug, set up a psilocybin therapy center or provide therapy. There will be no dispensaries selling mushrooms for recreational use, as exist for cannabis in California and 15 other states. People must be over 21 to receive the drug, and may only consume it at a licensed facility with a certified therapist present. And Oregon will not be opening any legal psilocybin therapy centers until 2023 at the earliest, as the measure requires a two-year consultation with lawmakers.

The Oregon vote is the latest step in what many see as magic mushrooms’ march to become “the next marijuana”: a natural therapeutic and mood-altering compound gaining mainstream acceptance in a regulated market. Since 2015 psilocybin retreats have been allowed to operate in the Netherlands, where dozens of them cater to affluent tourists. Even there the drug exists in a legal gray area, however: psilocybin mushrooms are illegal, but “truffles” (clumps of the fungus’s subterranean root-like filaments) are legal.

PSYCHEDELIC MEDICINE

The potential benefits of psilocybin, LSD and other psychedelics were widely explored by psychiatrists in the 1950 and 1960s, before such drugs leaked from the lab and were embraced by the counterculture. A subsequent backlash led to a strict prohibition of legitimate research for the next four decades. But in recent years, a handful of dogged psychiatrists have revived the field. A Johns Hopkins 2006 double-blind study (meaning neither trial participants nor researchers knew if a subject was receiving psilocybin or placebo), published in the journal Psychopharmacology, demonstrated that psilocybin could give healthy volunteers “experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning.”

“What is different about psilocybin, compared to other mood-altering drugs or pharmaceuticals, is the enduring meaning and belief changes that can occur. People feel ‘reorganized’ in a way they don’t with other drugs,” says Johns Hopkins neuropharmacologist Roland Griffiths, lead author of the initial 2006 study as well as the latest one on depression. “It’s almost like reprogramming the operating system of a computer.” Griffiths now leads the new, $17 million-funded Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Dozens of other scientific reports in the past 15 years have built on the 2006 study, demonstrating psilocybin’s helpfulness for a variety of mental health conditions. In a 2016 paper in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, Griffiths and his team found that more than 80 percent of patients with a terminal cancer diagnosis experienced a “significant decrease in depressed mood and anxiety” after psilocybin combined with psychotherapy. In the same year, other researchers published the first study demonstrating psilocybin’s potential to alleviate “treatment-resistant depression” that was not relieved by mainstream antidepressants. British researchers at Imperial College London described in The Lancet Psychiatry the “marked and sustained improvements” in 12 patients suffering from this form of depression. This study, however, had no control (placebo) group. The latest randomized controlled trial from Johns Hopkins tested the drug in a double-blind study on 24 people suffering from major depressive disorder, which affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide. Roughly 20 percent of Americans will experience this form of depression at some point in their lives; by comparison, treatment-resistant depression is estimated to affect fewer than 5 percent.

In 2019 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted “breakthrough” status to a company called Compass Pathways to study the use of psilocybin—in conjunction with psychotherapy—for treatment-resistant depression. This means the FDA recognises that the research “demonstrates the drug may have substantial improvement on at least one clinically significant endpoint over available therapy,” and that research and development will be “expedited.”

“I welcome the broadening of the indications, because I think psilocybin is likely to be effective in a range of disorders,” says David Nutt, author of the initial 2016 study on psilocybin and depression, and director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit in the division of brain sciences at Imperial College London. “However, it is critical that we have proper screening to protect people who might be vulnerable due to psychotic predispositions.”

Rachel Aidan, a professional therapist and CEO of Synthesis Group, a Netherlands psilocybin retreat center now looking to expand operations to Oregon, agrees. “As excited as we all are about the power of these compounds, the reality is that they are NOT for everyone,” she says. “Right now we just need to keep our heads down to learn from the situation in Oregon, and plan carefully for the future so we don’t rush into legalization. We don’t want to recreate the 1960s and the backlash that ensued.”

AN ANTIDEPRESSANT ALTERNATIVE

Because psilocybin is thought to be most effective when given in combination with psychotherapy, the cost (possibly involving a dozen or more hours of therapy sessions) could remain in the thousands of dollars for the near future—and even more if the treatment involves synthetic psilocybin. Nonetheless, many hope the latest study will lead to psilocybin treatment being viewed more as a first line of defense for depression, rather than a quirky option for people who are desperate after conventional treatments fail. Psilocybin appeals to many because of the treatment’s rapid and sustained effects, combined with the lack of unpleasant side effects such as weight gain and loss of libido, which are typically associated with widely prescribed SSRI antidepressants.

“This isn’t about selling people a box of pills. This is about exploring a new way to deal with depression by going into the underlying issues,” says Rosalind Watts, a psychologist who was formerly clinical lead on the psilocybin for depression study at Imperial College London. “It’s not that this is better than antidepressants—it’s just better for some people. Some people will still prefer antidepressants because they are simply more convenient. It just makes sense to have different options, and for us to understand that different things work for different people at different times.”

Watts has now left Imperial to operate as the clinical director at Synthesis, where she works to develop psilocybin therapies outside of medical academia. “Rather than conduct more small trials,” she says, “I wanted to help set up something for people to access psilocybin therapy now.”

Actions like this by clinicians around the world are nudging psilocybin from a fringe treatment toward mainstream medicine. As Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Santa Cruz, Calif.–based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, puts it: “Our long term goal is mass mental health.”

Johns Hopkins and Imperial researchers have already planned more psilocybin studies for a range of difficult-to-treat conditions, hoping to harness the drug’s ability to “unblock” people by shifting perspectives, catalyzing insights and changing problematic and habitual mindsets and behaviors. Studies on anorexia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, smoking cessation, opiate addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder are all in the works.

Griffiths, however, is wary of efforts to rush the drug out from tightly regulated settings. “I’m sympathetic to people who are impatient, but we don’t want to end up in a situation where people underestimate the potential risks of using these compounds. They do have significant risks, such as panic, anxiety and dangerous behavior,” he says. “In Oregon, the devil is in the details in how things will unfold.”

This content was originally published here.

‘Healing is coming’: US health workers start getting vaccine

Health care workers around the country rolled up their sleeves for the first COVID-19 shots Monday as hope that an all-out vaccination effort can defeat the coronavirus smacked up against the heartbreaking reality of 300,000 U.S. deaths.

“Relieved,” proclaimed critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay after becoming one of the first to be inoculated at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York. “I feel like healing is coming.”

With a countdown of “3-2-1,” workers at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center gave initial injections to applause.

And in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis personally opened a delivery door to the FedEx driver and signed for a package holding 975 precious frozen doses of vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech.

The shots kicked off what will become the largest vaccination effort in U.S. history, one that could finally conquer the outbreak.

Dr. Valerie Briones-Pryor, who has worked in a COVID-19 unit at University of Louisville Hospital since March and recently lost her 27th patient to the virus, was among the first recipients.

“I want to get back to seeing my family,” she said. “I want families to be able to get back to seeing their loved ones.”

Some 145 sites around the country, from Rhode Island to Alaska, received shipments, with more deliveries set for the coming days. High-risk health care workers were first in line.

“This is 20,000 doses of hope,” John Couris, president and chief executive of Tampa General Hospital said of the first delivery.

Nursing home residents also get priority, and a Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Massachusetts, announced via Twitter that its first dose went to a 96-year-old World War II veteran, Margaret Klessens. Other nursing homes around the U.S. expect inoculations in the coming days.

The campaign began the same day the U.S death toll from the surging outbreak crossed the 300,000 threshold, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University. The number of dead rivals the population of St. Louis or Pittsburgh. It is more than five times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It is equal to a 9/11 attack every day for more than 100 days.

“To think, now we can just absorb in our country 3,000 deaths a day as though it were just business as usual. It just represents a moral failing,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a public health researcher at Johns Hopkins.

Health experts know a wary public is watching the vaccination campaign, especially communities of color that have been hit hard by the pandemic but, because of the nation’s legacy of racial health disparities and research abuses against Black people, have doubts about the vaccine.

Getting vaccinated is “a privilege,” said Dr. Leonardo Seoane, chief academic officer at Ochsner Health in suburban New Orleans, after getting his dose. Seoane, who is Cuban American, urged “all of my Hispanic brothers and sisters to do it. It’s OK.”

The nearly 3 million doses now being shipped are just a down payment on the amount needed. More of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive each week. And later this week, the FDA will decide whether to greenlight the world’s second rigorously studied COVID-19 vaccine, made by Moderna Inc.

While the U.S. hopes for enough of both vaccines together to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of the month, and 30 million more in January, there won’t be enough for the average person to get a shot until spring.

For now the hurdle is to rapidly get vaccine into the arms of millions, not just doctors and nurses but other at-risk health workers such as janitors and food handlers — and then deliver a second dose three weeks later.

“We’re also in the middle of a surge, and it’s the holidays, and our health care workers have been working at an extraordinary pace,” said Sue Mashni, chief pharmacy officer at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.

Plus, the shots can cause temporary fever, fatigue and aches as they rev up people’s immune systems, forcing hospitals to stagger employee vaccinations.

Just half of Americans say they want to get vaccinated, while about a quarter don’t and the rest are unsure, according to a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Health Research.

“I know it’s going to be a big hurdle to convince people because it’s new, it’s uncertain,” said intensive care nurse Helen Cordova, who received a vaccination card after getting a shot at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. “This can be encouraging for others.”

The FDA, considered the world’s strictest medical regulator, said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was developed at breakneck speed less than a year after the virus was identified, appears safe and strongly protective, and the agency laid out the data in a daylong public meeting last week for scientists and consumers alike to see.

“We know it works well,” said Ochsner infectious-disease expert Dr. Katherine Baumgarten, who got her shot on Day 1. “As soon as you can get it, please do so.”

Still, the vaccine was cleared for emergency use before a final study in nearly 44,000 people was complete. That research is continuing to try to answer additional questions.

For example, while the vaccine is effective at preventing COVID-19 illness, it is not clear if it will stop the symptomless spread that accounts for half of all cases.

The shots still must be studied in children and during pregnancy. But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said Sunday that vaccination should not be withheld from pregnant women who otherwise would qualify.

Also, regulators in Britain are investigating a few severe allergic reactions. The FDA instructed providers not to give the vaccine to those with a known history of severe allergic reactions to any of its ingredients.

Associated Press writers Marion Renault, Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Rebecca Santana, Dylan Lovan, Tamara Lush, Jeff Turner and Kathy Young contributed to this report.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

This content was originally published here.

Health care worker without history of allergies hospitalized in ICU following severe allergic reaction after receiving COVID-19 vaccine

A health care worker in Alaska developed a severe allergic reaction after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, according to
NBC News.

At least one other health care worker at the same facility also experienced a less serious reaction following the injection.

What are the details?

The unnamed health care worker, an employee at the Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau, Alaska, had to be hospitalized overnight for the severe reaction.

The worker, a middle-aged woman, reportedly had no history of allergies and never experienced anaphylaxis, according to the New York Times.

According to the outlet, all 96 workers at Bartlett Regional Hospital received the vaccine on Tuesday. Medical experts observed the workers for 30 minutes following the injection. The woman, however, began feeling flushed about 10 minutes after receiving the shot, and shortly began experiencing other symptoms such as shortness of breath and an elevated heart rate.

Dr. Lindy Jones, an emergency physician who treated the woman, said, “She had a red, flushed rash all over her face and torso. I was concerned about an anaphylactic reaction.”

The woman was initially treated with antihistamines, but later received an emergency injection of epinephrine.

The outlet reported that the worker’s symptoms abated, but returned, forcing physicians to place her on intravenous epinephrine and took her to the ICU for overnight observation.

The woman was taken off all medications as of Wednesday morning and was expected to be discharged. There is no further information available about the woman or her condition at the time of this reporting.

CNN reported on Thursday that a second health care worker also experienced a reaction. The second worker was reportedly treated for less severe symptoms and was ultimately released within an hour.

In a statement, Pfizer said that the biotechnology company is “working with local health authorities to assess” the reactions, and will “closely monitor all reports suggestive of serious allergic reactions following vaccination and update labeling language if needed.”

What else?

Last week, two health care workers in the United Kingdom
experienced allergic reactions following the COVID-19 vaccine, prompting the government to issue an allergy alert in connection with the vaccination.

U.K. regulators say that people with history of allergic reactions to medicine or food should avoid the COVID-19 vaccine following the reaction.

Both workers were expected to recover following the reaction.

This content was originally published here.

Mental Health Improved for Only One Group During COVID: Those Who Attended Church Weekly | The Stream

Poll results show that mental health improved for only one group of people during the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s a group that Democratic lawmakers repeatedly restricted.

Gallup polled a little over a thousand Americans over the age of 18 from Nov. 5–19 and found that only those who attended religious services weekly saw a positive change between 2019 and 2020 in how they rated their mental health.

In 2019, 42% of Americans who attended religious services weekly rated their mental health as excellent, the poll showed. In 2020, 46% of Americans who attended religious services weekly rated their mental health as excellent — a percentage increase of four points.

No other Demographic group in the Gallup poll, which had a margin of error of ±4 percentage points and a confidence level of 95%, saw a percentage increase in rating their mental health as excellent.

34% of Americans say their mental health is excellent, down from 43% in 2019. https://t.co/kjobkuEEVD pic.twitter.com/U6mPW54ZSt

— GallupNews (@GallupNews) December 8, 2020

“Houses of worship and religious services provide so much more than just a weekly meeting place — they are where so many Americans find strength, community, and meaning,” the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s Director of Research Caleb Lyman told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Findings from this year’s Religious Freedom Index — that 62 percent of respondents said that faith had been important during the pandemic — align with Gallup’s findings on the importance of religious services to Americans’ mental health.”

The Gallup poll results are particularly striking in contrast to Democratic lawmakers’ restrictions on houses of worship. Governors and mayors across the United States have issued orders throughout the pandemic that restrict or prohibit religious services, and the Department of Justice has pushed back against such restrictions on multiple occasions.

Governors like Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam banned gatherings of 10 or more people through initial stay-at-home orders, restrictions which effectively banned church services. Authorities have arrested multiple religious leaders for defying coronavirus orders, such as Pastor Tony Spell of the Louisiana Life Tabernacle church and Florida megachurch pastor Rodney Howard-Browne.

Religious organizations in New York most recently took Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the Supreme Court over his restrictions on houses of worship, accusing Cuomo of “targeting Orthodox practices.”

Conservative justices, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, sided with religious organizations in the 5-4 ruling the night before Thanksgiving, while Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices.

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The majority said that Cuomo’s coronavirus restrictions on religious communities are “far more restrictive than any Covid-related regulations that have previously come before the Court, much tighter than those adopted by many other jurisdictions hard hit by the pandemic, and far more severe than has been shown to be required to prevent the spread of the virus.”

“New York’s restrictions on houses of worship not only are severe, but also are discriminatory,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in his concurring opinion.

“In light of the devastating pandemic, I do not doubt the State’s authority to impose tailored restrictions — even very strict restrictions — on attendance at religious services and secular gatherings alike,” Kavanaugh continued. “But the New York restrictions on houses of worship are not tailored to the circumstances given the First Amendment interests at stake.”

Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

Earlier this year, the court sided 5-4 in favor of the liberal justices on COVID-19 religious restrictions in California and Nevada, according to CNN.

The DOJ has fought back against many of these restrictions. Attorney General William Barr set the tone for the DOJ’s attitude towards religious freedom during the pandemic by warning in an early April statement that “even in times of emergency,” federal law prohibits religious discrimination.

“Religion and religious worship continue to be central to the lives of millions of Americans,” Barr said. “This is true more so than ever during this difficult time.”

“Government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity,” the attorney general added. “For example, if a government allows movie theaters, restaurants, concert halls, and other comparable places of assembly to remain open and unrestricted, it may not order houses of worship to close, limit their congregation size, or otherwise impede religious gatherings.”

Barr also promised that the DOJ would be watching for any state or local government that “singles out, targets, or discriminates against any house of worship for special restrictions.”

Since this statement was issued, the DOJ has intervened in multiple cases of government crackdowns on churches and pastors, specifically in Nevada, California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Virginia and Mississippi.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation for this story.

Copyright 2020 The Daily Caller News Foundation

 Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

This content was originally published here.

Gov. DeSantis: ‘Closing Schools Due to Coronavirus is the Biggest Public Health Blunder in Modern American History’

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) (Getty Images)

(CNS News) — Although many liberal governors and teachers’ unions are keeping public schools closed in many states, Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis reasserted last week his policy of keeping the schools open (with option to stay home), and said that closing the schools because of COVID is “probably the biggest public health blunder in Modern American history.”

DeSantis also compared the school-closers who think it mitigates COVID to flat-Earthers

At a Nov. 30 press conference with Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran at Boggy Creek Elementary School, Gov. DeSantis said, “As we see schools, unfortunately, remain closed in key pockets in our country, today’s announcement doubles down on Florida’s commitment to our students and to our parents.”

“And the announcement is this,” he said, “schools will remain open for in-person instruction, and we will continue to offer parents choices for this spring semester, and every parent in Florida can take that to the bank.”

“The reason why we’re doing that is because the data and evidence are overwhelmingly clear, virtual learning is just not the same as being in person,” said the governor.  “I think teachers in Florida have done a great job of trying to improvise — and really particularly in those early days — but the fact of the matter is the medium is just not the same as being in the classroom.”

(Getty Images)

He continued, “I would say that closing schools due to coronavirus is probably the biggest public health blunder in modern American history. … The harm from this is going to reverberate in those communities for years and years to come.”

“The tragedy of all this is that the evidence has been remarkably clear since the spring, that closing schools offers virtually nothing in terms of virus mitigation,” he said, “but imposes a huge cost on our kids, our parents, and on our society.” 

“People who advocate closing schools for virus mitigation are effectively today’s flat-Earthers, they have no scientific or evidence support for their position,” said the governor. 

This content was originally published here.

21 spices for healthy holiday foods – Harvard Health Blog – Harvard Health Publishing

The holiday season is one of the hardest times of the year to resist salty, fatty, sugary foods. Who doesn’t want to enjoy the special dishes and treats that evoke memories and meaning — especially during the pandemic? Physical distancing and canceled gatherings may make you feel that indulging is a way to pull some joy out of the season.

But stay strong. While it’s okay to have an occasional bite or two of marbled roast beef, buttery mashed potatoes, or chocolate pie, gorging on them frequently can lead to weight gain, and increased blood pressure, blood sugar, and “bad” LDL cholesterol.

Instead, skip the butter, cream, sugar, and salt, and flavor your foods with herbs and spices.

The bounty of nature’s flavor-makers go beyond enticing tastes, scents, and colors. Many herbs and spices contain antioxidants, flavonoids, and other beneficial compounds that may help control blood sugar, mood, and inflammation.

Amp up holiday foods with herbs and spices

Try flavoring your foods with some of the herbs and spices in the list below. Play food chemist and experiment with combinations you haven’t tried before. The more herbs and spices you use, the greater the flavor and health rewards. And that’s a gift you can enjoy all year through.

Allspice: Use in breads, desserts, and cereals; pairs well with savory dishes, such as soups, sauces, grains, and vegetables.

Basil: Slice into salads, appetizers, and side dishes; enjoy in pesto over pasta and in sandwiches.

Cardamom: Good in breads and baked goods, and in Indian dishes, such as curry.

Cilantro: Use to season Mexican, Southwestern, Thai, and Indian foods.

Cinnamon: Stir into fruit compotes, baked desserts, and breads, as well as Middle Eastern savory dishes.

Clove: Good in baked goods and breads, but also pairs with vegetable and bean dishes.

Cumin: Accents Mexican, Indian, and Middle Eastern dishes, as well as stews and chili.

Dill weed: Include in potato dishes, salads, eggs, appetizers, and dips.

Garlic: Add to soups, pastas, marinades, dressings, grains, and vegetables.

Ginger: Great in Asian and Indian sauces, stews, and stir-fries, as well as beverages and baked goods.

Marjoram: Add to stews, soups, potatoes, beans, grains, salads, and sauces.

Mint: Flavors savory dishes, beverages, salads, marinades, and fruits.

Nutmeg: Stir into fruits, baked goods, and vegetable dishes.

Oregano: Delicious in Italian and Mediterranean dishes; it suits tomato, pasta, grain dishes, and salads.

Parsley: Enjoy in soups, pasta dishes, salads, and sauces.

Pepper (black, white, red): Seasons soups, stews, vegetable dishes, grains, pastas, beans, sauces, and salads.

Rosemary: Try it in vegetables, salads, vinaigrettes, and pasta dishes.

Sage: Enhances grains, breads, dressings, soups, and pastas.

Tarragon: Add to sauces, marinades, salads, and bean dishes.

Thyme: Excellent in soups, tomato dishes, salads, and vegetables.

Turmeric: Essential in Indian foods; pairs well with soups, beans, and vegetables.

This content was originally published here.

Coronavirus Resource Center – Harvard Health

Coping with coronavirus:

The news about coronavirus and its impact on our day-to-day lives has been unrelenting. There’s reason for concern and it makes good sense to take the pandemic seriously. But it’s not good for your mind or your body to be on high alert all the time. Doing so will wear you down emotionally and physically.

Click here to read more about coping with coronavirus.

New questions and answers

When can I discontinue my self-quarantine?

A full, 14-day quarantine remains the best way to ensure that you don’t spread the virus to others after you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19. However, according to CDC guidelines, you may discontinue quarantine after a minimum of 10 days if you do not have any symptoms, or after a minimum of 7 days if you have a negative COVID test within 48 hours of when you plan to end quarantine.

Who will get the first COVID-19 vaccines?

Healthcare workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities will get the first COVID-19 vaccines once the vaccines are granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

There are about 21 million healthcare workers in the US, doing a variety of jobs in hospitals and outpatient clinics, pharmacies, emergency medical services, and public health. Another three million people reside or work in long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and residential care facilities. COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll on residents of long-term care facilities.

Both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have applied to the FDA for EUA of their vaccines. Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to receive EUA in mid-December, and Moderna’s vaccine soon after. Both of these vaccines require two doses spaced a few weeks apart. The companies estimate that they will have enough to vaccinate about 20 million people by the end of December, with vaccine production continuing to ramp up in early 2021. Other vaccines, including one by AstraZeneca, are also on the horizon.

The next priority groups for vaccination are expected to include essential workers, adults with underlying medical conditions that increase risk for severe COVID-19, and adults over age 65.

The CDC’s guidance is based on a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), made up of experts in vaccinology, immunology, virology, public health, and other related fields. Their work is not limited to the COVID-19 vaccine; they broadly advise the CDC on vaccinations and immunization schedules.

What are adenovirus vaccines? What do we know about adenovirus vaccines that are being developed for COVID-19?

Adenoviruses can cause a variety of illnesses, including the common cold. They are being used in two leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates as capsules (the scientific term is vectors) to deliver the coronavirus spike protein into the body. The spike protein prompts the immune system to produce antibodies against it, preparing the body to attack the SARS-CoV-2 virus if it later infects the body.

In a press release, AstraZeneca announced promising preliminary results of an adenovirus-based vaccine that it developed with researchers at the University of Oxford.

The preliminary analysis was based on more than 23,000 adult study participants enrolled in a phase 3 clinical trial. Of these, nearly 9,000 participants received a full dose of the coronavirus vaccine, followed four weeks later by another full dose. Nearly 3,000 participants received a half dose of the coronavirus vaccine, followed four weeks later by a full dose. The control group received a meningitis vaccine, followed by a second meningitis vaccine or a placebo (a saltwater shot). There were 131 documented cases of COVID-19, all of which occurred at least two weeks after the second shot.

The coronavirus vaccine reduced the risk of COVID-19 by an average of 70.4%, compared to the control group. Surprisingly, the half dose/full dose vaccine combination was more effective, reducing risk of COVID-19 by 90%. The full dose combination reduced risk by 62%. None of the participants who received the coronavirus vaccine developed severe COVID-19 or had to be hospitalized. There was also a reduction in asymptomatic cases.

All study participants were healthy or had stable underlying medical conditions. This vaccine is in clinical trials around the world, including the US. But this analysis was based on data from the United Kingdom and Brazil.

The adenovirus used in the AstraZeneca/University of Oxford vaccine is a weakened, harmless form of a chimpanzee common-cold adenovirus. This vaccine can be safely refrigerated for several months.

What are monoclonal antibodies? Can they help treat COVID-19?

The FDA has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to two new treatments for COVID-19. Both are monoclonal antibodies. And both have been approved to treat non-hospitalized adults and children over age 12 with mild to moderate symptoms who have recently tested positive for COVID-19, and who are at risk for developing severe COVID-19 or being hospitalized for it. This includes people over 65, people with obesity, and those with certain chronic medical conditions.

The FDA granted EUA to the first treatment, a monoclonal antibody called bamlanivimab made by Eli Lilly, based on an interim analysis of results from a well-designed but small clinical trial. The study looked at 465 non-hospitalized adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms who were at high risk of severe disease. A placebo was given to 156 of these patients. The remaining patients were given one of three different doses of bamlanivimab. Patients treated with the monoclonal antibody had a reduced risk (3% versus 10%) of being hospitalized or visiting the ER within 28 days after treatment, compared to patients given a placebo. This is a single-dose treatment that must be given intravenously and within 10 days of developing symptoms.

The FDA has also granted EUA to a combination therapy consisting of two monoclonal antibodies, casirivimab and imdevimab, made by Regeneron. The EUA was based on results from a clinical trial that enrolled 799 non-hospitalized adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms. The participants were divided into three groups, two of which received the casirivimab-imdevimab combination but at different doses. The third group received a placebo. For patients at high risk for severe disease, those treated with the monoclonal antibody treatment had a reduced risk (3% versus 9%) of being hospitalized or visiting the ER within 28 days of treatment. This treatment must also be given intravenously in a clinic or hospital.

Monoclonal antibodies are manmade versions of the antibodies that our bodies naturally make to fight invaders, such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Both of these FDA-approved therapies attack the coronavirus’s spike protein, making it more difficult for the virus to attach to and enter human cells.

These treatments are not authorized for hospitalized COVID-19 patients or those receiving oxygen therapy. They have not shown to benefit these patients and could lead to worse outcomes in these patients.

Is there an at-home diagnostic test for COVID-19?

The FDA has approved the first diagnostic test for COVID-19 that can be completed entirely at home, from sample collection to receiving the results. Other FDA-approved COVID-19 tests allow at-home sample collection, but still have to be shipped to a laboratory for processing.

The Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit is approved for people ages 14 and older who are suspected of having COVID-19. It requires a doctor’s prescription. The company does not expect the test to be widely available until the spring of 2021.

To perform the test, you swirl a swab in both nostrils, then stir the swab in a vial of chemicals. The vial is then plugged into a battery-powered test unit, which returns a positive or negative test result within 30 minutes.

The test works by making copies of the virus’s genetic material (if present) until it reaches detectable levels. It does this using a technique called loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP). The method is similar to PCR, the gold standard of COVID-19 diagnostic testing. The LAMP test provides much faster results, but it is less accurate. In a head-to-head comparison, the Lucira test missed 6% of people who tested positive for COVID by PCR.

Because a person can be infected and have a negative LAMP test, you should always self-quarantine if you have symptoms consistent with COVID, or have had recent contact with someone who has the infection, until you can get a PCR test.

What are mRNA vaccines? What do we know about mRNA vaccines that are being developed for COVID-19?

mRNA, or messenger RNA, is genetic material that contains instructions for making proteins. mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 contain synthetic mRNA. Inside the body, the mRNA enters human cells and instructs them to produce the “spike” protein found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The body recognizes the spike protein as an invader, and produces antibodies against it. If the antibodies later encounter the actual virus, they are ready to recognize and destroy it before it causes illness.

In the past couple of weeks, two companies have released promising data about their mRNA vaccines. Results for both vaccines were reported in company press releases, not in peer reviewed scientific journals.

One of the mRNA vaccines was developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. Their phase 3 clinical trial found that their vaccine reduced the risk of infection by 95%. The trial enrolled nearly 44,000 adults. Of these, half received the vaccine and half got a placebo (a shot of saltwater). Of the 170 cases of COVID-19 that developed in the study participants, 162 were in the placebo group and eight were in the vaccine group. Nine of the 10 severe COVID cases occurred in the placebo group. This suggests that the vaccine reduces risk of both mild and severe COVID. The vaccine was consistently effective across age, race, and ethnicity. Of the US study participants, 30% were people of color and 45% were age 56 to 85.

The other mRNA vaccine, developed by Moderna, released an interim analysis of its phase 3 trial, announcing that its vaccine was 94.5% effective. This study enrolled 30,000 adults; half received the vaccine, half received a saltwater placebo shot. There were 95 infections among the study participants. Of these, 90 were in the placebo group and 5 were in the vaccine group. All 11 severe COVID cases occurred in the placebo group. This vaccine also appears to reduce risk of mild and severe illness. And it was effective in older people, people with medical conditions that put them at high risk for severe illness, and in racial and ethnic minorities, which made up 37% of the study participants. The study enrolled more than 7,000 participants older than 65, and more than 5,000 people under 65 who were at high risk for severe illness.

Both vaccines had a good safety record. Side effects included fatigue, headache, and muscle pain.

These results are promising, but there are still questions left to be answered. For example, we do not yet know how long immunity from these vaccines will last. Both of these vaccines require two doses (three weeks between shots for the Pfizer vaccine and four weeks between shots for the Moderna vaccine), and we don’t know how effective the vaccine is in people who only get one dose. There is also the question of storage. mRNA vaccines must be stored at very cold temperatures, and improperly stored vaccines can become inactive.

Do pregnant women face increased risks from COVID-19?

A large study from the CDC has found that pregnant women are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness compared to women who are not pregnant.

The study looked at 409,462 women, ages 15 to 44, who had symptomatic COVID-19. Of these women, 23,434 were pregnant. Even after taking age, race, ethnicity, and underlying health conditions into consideration, pregnant women were significantly more likely to need intensive care, to require a ventilator, and to require a heart-lung bypass machine, compared to women who were not pregnant. They were also 70% more likely to die.

It’s important to note that the overall risk of these complications was low. For example, 1.5 symptomatic pregnant women out of 1,000 died, compared to 1.2 symptomatic women out of 1,000 who were not pregnant.

The CDC also released a smaller study, which found that women who were infected with the COVID-19 virus during pregnancy were more likely to deliver preterm (earlier than 37 weeks).

If you are pregnant, be vigilant about taking precautions. Wear a mask, physically distance from others, and avoid social gatherings. Do your best to follow the CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself if someone in your household becomes infected.

Continue to see your doctor for prenatal visits and get any recommended vaccines. Call your doctor’s office to discuss safety precautions if you have concerns.

Could wearing masks prevent COVID deaths?

According to a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine, widespread use of masks could prevent nearly 130,000 of 500,000 COVID-related deaths estimated to occur by March 2021.

These numbers are based on an epidemiological model. The researchers considered, state by state, the number of people susceptible to coronavirus infection, how many get exposed, how many then become infected (and infectious), and how many recover. They then modeled various scenarios, including mask wearing, assuming that social distancing mandates would go into effect once the number of deaths exceeded 8 per 1 million people.

Modeling studies are based on assumptions, so the exact numbers are less important than the comparisons of different scenarios. In this study, a scenario in which 95% of people always wore masks in public resulted in many fewer deaths compared to a scenario in which only 49% of people (the self-reported national average of mask wearers) always wore masks in public.

This study reinforces the message that we can help prevent COVID deaths by wearing masks.

What does the CDC’s new definition of “close contacts” mean for me?

The CDC has expanded how it defines close contacts of someone with COVID-19. Until this point, the CDC had defined a close contact as someone who spent 15 or more consecutive minutes within six feet of someone with COVID-19. According to the new definition, a close contact is someone who spends 15 minutes or more within six feet of a person with COVID-19 over a period of 24 hours.

Close contacts are at increased risk of infection. When a person tests positive for COVID-19, contact tracers may identify their close contacts and urge them to quarantine to prevent further spread. Based on the new definition, more people will now be considered close contacts.

Many factors can affect the chances that infection will spread from one person to another. These factors include whether or one or both people are wearing masks, whether the infected person is coughing or showing other symptoms, and whether the encounter occurred indoors or outdoors. Though the “15 minutes within six feet rule” is a helpful guideline, it’s always best to minimize close interactions with people who are not members of your household.

The CDC’s new definition was influenced by a case described in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in which a correctional officer in Vermont is believed to have been infected after being within six feet for 17 non-consecutive minutes of six asymptomatic individuals, all of whom later tested positive for COVID-19.

How does obesity increase risk of COVID-19?

According to a recent review and meta-analysis that looked at 75 international studies on the subject, obesity is a significant risk factor for illness and death due to COVID-19.

When looking at people with COVID-19, the analysis found that, compared with people who were normal weight or overweight, people who were obese were

Obesity may impact COVID risk in several ways. For example, obesity increases the risk of impaired immune function and chronic inflammation, both of which could make it harder for the body to fight the COVID-19 infection. Excess fat can also make it harder for a person to take a deep breath, an important consideration for an illness that impairs lung function.

People who are obese are also more likely to have diabetes and high blood pressure, which are themselves risk factors for severe COVID-19. And obesity is more common in Black, Latinx, and Native Americas, who are more likely to get infected and die from COVID-19 than whites for a variety of reasons.

If you have obesity (defined as a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher), stay vigilant about protecting yourself from infection. That means maintaining physical distance, avoiding crowds when possible, wearing masks, and washing your hands often.

This content was originally published here.

The Effects Of Negative Emotions On Our Health – Mind Journal

Humans experience an array of emotions, anything from happiness, to sadness to extreme joy and depression. These negative emotions create a different feeling within the body and affect our health.

After all, our body releases different chemicals when we experience various things that make us happy and each chemical works to create a different environment within the body. For example if your brain releases serotonin, dopamine or oxytocin, you will feel good and happy. Conversely, if your body releases cortisol while you are stressed, you will have an entirely different feeling associated more with the body kicking into survival mode.

What about when we are thinking negative thoughts all the time? Or how about when we are thinking positive thoughts? What about when we are not emotionally charged to neither positive nor negative?

Let’s explore how these emotions affect our health and life.

Positive vs. Negative

Is there duality in our world? Sure, you could say there is to a degree, but mostly we spend a lot of time defining and judging what is to be considered as positive and what we consider to be as negative. The brain is a very powerful tool and as we define what something is or should be, we begin to have that result play out in our world.

Have you ever noticed, for example, that someone driving can get cut off and lose their lid, get angry and suddenly they are feeling negative, down and in bad mood? Whereas someone else can get cut off while driving and simply apply the brake slightly and move on with their day as if nothing happened. In this case, the same experience yet one sees it as negative while the other doesn’t. So are things innately positive and negative? Or do we define things as positive and negative?

Cut The Perceptions As Much As Possible

After thinking about it for a moment you might realize that there are in fact no positive or negative experiences other than what we define as such. Therefore our very perception of an experience or situation has the ultimate power as to how we will feel when it’s happening and how our bodies will be affected.

While we can always work to move beyond our definitions of each experience and move into a state of mind/awareness/consciousness where we simply accept each experience for what it is and use it as a learning grounds for us, we may not be there yet and so it’s important to understand how negative emotions can affect our health.

“If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then is it possible to help him.” ~ Hippocrates

Mind Body Connection

The connection between your mind and body is very powerful and although it cannot be visually seen, the effects your mind can have on your physical body are profound.

We can have an overall positive mental attitude and deal directly with our internal challenges and in turn, create a healthy lifestyle or we can be in negative, have self-destructive thoughts and not deal with our internal issues, possibly even cloak those issues with affirmations and positivity without finding the route and in turn, we can create an unhealthy lifestyle. Why is this?

Our emotions and experiences are essentially energy and they can be stored in the cellular memory of our bodies. Have you ever experienced something in your life that left an emotional mark or pain in a certain area of your body?

Almost as if you can still feel something that may have happened to you? It is likely because in that area of your body you still hold energy released from that experience that is remaining in that area. I came across an interesting chart that explores some possible areas that various negative emotions might affect health.

Emotional Pain Chart
Copyright: Centripetal Force Studio

When you have a pain, tightness or injuries in certain areas, it’s often related to something emotionally you are feeling within yourself. At first glance, it may not seem this way because we are usually very out of touch with ourselves and our emotions in this fast paced world, but it’s often the truth.

Share on

This content was originally published here.

Buffalo Business Owners Revolt Against Health Department

In my favorite video, perhaps ever, a group of Buffalo-area New York business owners stood up to the unelected Erie County Health Department and Sheriff’s officers who came to shut down their meeting to plan how to survive the latest shutdown of “non-essential” businesses at a local gym, Athletes Unleashed.

Local state governments all over the United States have been dictating to small businesses how they can be open or if they can be open at all while allowing Walmart and Target to operate unmolested through the entire coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Walmart and other corporate businesses are making record profits while mom-and-pop shops go belly-up under the heavyweight of unfair regulations from unelected health officials who aren’t accountable to the people.

The people of Orchard Park, New York, have had enough and have finally done what I have been saying should have been done from the beginning. Tell the government to get the hell off your private property and to go get a signed warrant from a judge if they want to shut you down: then you can fight them in court. But simply obeying unconstitutional restrictions on liberty should no longer be an option.

Study after study has shown that lockdowns hurt more people than they help and do not completely stop the spread of the highly contagious virus. If the grocery store can operate, so can a gym or a hair salon. It’s beyond time for a real movement of mass disobedience. Imagine ordering people to stop exercising for their “health!” It’s beyond absurd to close gyms and keep McDonald’s open because of a health crisis and it’s time for this idiocy to stop.

It’s time for the people to take their lives back. These business owners in Orchard Park did it exactly right. Watch this and be inspired. This makes me proud to be an American where we still have the greatest document on earth protecting us from tyranny if we would only use it. Watch how easy it is.

BUFFALO NY: Business Owners Stand Up, Fight back and Kick out Sheriff & Health Dept !🙌

Chant “WE WILL NOT COMPLY”

➖If every biz owner would do this lockdowns would be over. #FIGHTBACK #LockdownChaos @TeamTrump @realDonaldTrump @DonaldJTrumpJr @catturd2 @RealJamesWoods pic.twitter.com/giMmcnv5x4

I particularly like the part where the obese officer tells an athletic man he should be wearing a mask for his health. The people quickly push back against the mask “mandate” and point out that it is not a law and they have no way to enforce it on unwilling free people. So, good luck with that, goons.

Not only did the people kick the officers and the inspector out of the gym, but they walked them all the way off the private property. Well done. Stand up for your rights as a business owner and an American. No officer of the law or government agent has any business on your property without a warrant. Make copies of the Constitution available and post a sign that says, “Unless you want to buy something, law enforcement is not allowed on private property without a warrant. Take a pocket Constitution with you as you leave.”

Had to edit for Twit. Part 2 made me tear. The entire family stood up and got them out. STAND UP FIGHT BACK, (May I suggest buying a megaphone)so your entire neighborhood will come out and help !!

I don’t know what biz this is but if you do please post so we can support them!! pic.twitter.com/Zzhrx7OUyH

— AMErikaNGIRL♥️ (@AMErikaNGIRLLL) November 21, 2020

The sheriff’s department has no business backing up the health department without a warrant and those officers should be ashamed of themselves that they took part in this illegal activity of trying to stomp on the freedom of Americans to lawfully assemble. What’s worse is the sheriff of Erie County told libertarian candidate Duane Whitmer that he had no idea what his officers were up to and he had no intention of enforcing the health department’s edicts. It looks like he has some work to do inside his office to educate his staff.

Libertarian Candidate Duane Whitmer, spoke to Erie County Sheriff Howard immediately after, who stated he had no knowledge his deputies were showing up and had not instructed them to.

Howard recently told media, he had no plans to have his [s]heriffs enforce Cuomo’s ban on gatherings.

The sheriffs who have made the news recently for claiming they will defy the governors clearly need to be watched closely to make sure they are living up to their promises to protect the people. Whitmer told PJ Media, “I find it hypocritical of our elected Sheriff to go on radio shows saying he will not enforce the unconstitutional ego trip of our Governor, yet behind the scenes is telling his deputies to work with the health department,” he said. “If two people rob you, one holds the gun, one takes your money, they both committed a crime. His deputies are accomplices in violating [the business owners’] first amendment rights. I look forward to seeing Sheriff Howard’s clarification on this.”

Whitmer is hosting a press event on Monday outside the Sheriff’s office in Erie County.

This content was originally published here.

Pandemic on course to overwhelm U.S. health system before Biden takes office


The United States’ surging coronavirus outbreak is on pace to hit nearly 1 million new cases a week by the end of the year — a scenario that could overwhelm health systems across much of the country and further complicatePresident-elect Joe Biden’s attempts to coordinate a response.

Biden, who is naming his own coronavirus task force Monday, has pledged to confront new shortages of protective gear for health workers and oversee distribution of masks, test kits and vaccines while beefing up contact tracing and reengaging with the World Health Organization. He will also push Congress to pass a massive Covid-19 relief package and pressure the governors who’ve refused to implement mask mandates for new public health measures as cases rise.

But all of those actions — a sharp departure from the Trump administration’s patchwork response that put the burden on states— will have to wait until Biden takes office. Congress, still feeling reverberations from the election, may opt to simply run out the clock on its legislative year. Meanwhile, the virus is smashing records for new cases and hospitalizations as cold weather drives gatherings indoors and people make travel plans for the approaching holidays.

If you want to have a better 2021, then maybe the rest of 2020 needs to be an investment in driving the virus down,” said Cyrus Shahpar, a former emergency response leader at the CDC who now leads the outbreak tracker Covid Exit Strategy. “Otherwise we’re looking at thousands and thousands of deaths this winter.”

The country’s health care system is already buckling under the load of the resurgent outbreak that’s approaching 10 million cases nationwide. The number of Americans hospitalized with Covid-19 has spiked to 56,000, up from 33,000 one month ago. In many areas of the country, shortages of ICU beds and staff are leaving patients piled up in emergency rooms. And nearly 1,100 people died on Saturday alone, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

“That’s three jetliners full of people crashing and dying,” said David Eisenman, director of the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters. “And we will do that every day and then it will get more and more.”

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts 370,000 Americans will be dead by Inauguration Day, exactly one year after the first U.S. case of Covid-19 was reported. Nearly 238,000 have already died.

The task force Biden announces Monday will be staffed with public health experts and former government officials, many of whom ran agencies duringthe Obama and Clinton administrations — including former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler, New York University’s Dr. Celine Gounder, Yale’s Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, former Obama White House aide Dr. Zeke Emanuel and former Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Julie Morita, who is now an executive vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Shahpar said that even before Biden takes control of government in January, he and his team can make a difference by breaking with Trump’s declarations that the virus is “going away,” communicating the severity of the virus’ spread and encouraging people to take precautions as winter approaches.

“There’s been a misalignment between the reality on the ground and what our leaders are telling us,” he said. “Hopefully now those things will come closer together.”

But Shahpar and other experts warn thateven if Biden and his task force start promoting public health measures now, it will take weeks to see a reduction in hospitalizations and deaths —even if states clamp down. And there is little indication that the country will drastically change its behavior in the near term.

Some governors in the Northeast, which was hit hard early in the pandemic, are imposing new restrictions. In the last week, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island activated nightly stay-at-home orders and ordered businesses to close by 10 p.m. And Maine Democratic Gov. Janet Mills on Thursday ordered everyone to wear a mask in public, even if they can maintain social distance.

But in the Dakotas and other states where the virus is raging, governors are resisting calls from health experts to mandate masks and restrict gatherings. On Sunday morning, South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem incorrectly attributed her state’s huge surge in cases to an increase in testing and praised Trump’s approach of giving her the “flexibility to do the right thing.” The state has no mask mandate.

And unlike earlier waves in the spring and summer that were confined to a handful of states or regions, the case numbers are now surging everywhere.

In New Mexico, the number of people in the hospital has nearly doubled in just the last two weeks and state officials said Thursday that they expect to run out of general hospital beds in a matter of days.

“November is going to be really rough on all of us,” said Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham — a contender to lead the Department of Health and Human Services in Biden’s administration. “There’s nothing we can do, nothing, that will change the trajectory. … It is too late to dramatically reduce the number of deaths. November is done.”

Minnesota officials said last week that ICU beds in the Twin Cities metro area were 98 percent full, and in El Paso, Texas, the county morgue bought another refrigerated trailer to deal with the swelling body count.

“We had patients stacking up in our ER,” Jeffrey Sather, the chief of staff at Trinity Health in North Dakota said during a news conference last week. “The normal process is we call around to the larger hospitals and ask them to accept our patients. We found no other hospitals that could care for our patients.”

An “ensemble” used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — based on the output of several independent models — projects that the country could see as many as 11,000 deaths and 960,000 cases per week by the end of the month. Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory suggest that the U.S. will record another 6 million infections and 45,000 deaths over the next six weeks, while a team at Cal Tech predicts roughly 1,000 people will die of Covid-19 every day this month — with more than 260,000 dead by Thanksgiving. The University of Washington model forecasts 259,000 Americans dead by Thanksgiving and 313,000 dead by Christmas.

Eisenman predicted that by January, the United States could see infection rates as high as those seen during the darkest days of the pandemic in Europe — 200,000 new cases per day.

“Going into Thanksgiving people are going to start to see family and get together indoors,” he said. “Then the cases will spread from that and then five weeks later we have another set of holidays and people will gather then and by January, we will be exploding with cases.”

This content was originally published here.

California nurses score huge win: State requires hospitals to begin weekly Covid testing of all health care staff Dec. 14 and testing of all patients now

Nurses scored a tremendous victory for the type of infection control measures they have been demanding since the start of the pandemic when the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Wednesday directed all general acute-care hospitals in the state to begin Covid-19 weekly testing of all health care workers on Dec. 14 and of all patient admissions starting now, announced the California Nurses Association (CNA).

Importantly, CDPH is requiring that health care personnel with symptoms of Covid-19 be tested immediately.

“This is an amazing and welcome move,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, a Bay Area RN and a president of CNA as well as National Nurses United (NNU), the larger national nursing organization with which CNA is affiliated. “We applaud California for being a leader in requiring this type of testing program because it is desperately needed to fight this virus. There are simply too many asymptomatic people with Covid, and without robust testing, our hospitals will remain centers for spreading the disease instead of centers of healing as they should be.”

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) informed hospitals through an all-facilities letter on Nov. 25 of this new requirement. Hospitals may also start testing of “high-risk personnel” earlier, on Dec. 7, but testing of all health care personnel begins Dec. 14.

Health care personnel are defined as “all paid and unpaid persons serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials, including body substances (e.g., blood, tissue, and specific body fluids); contaminated medical supplies, devices, and equipment; contaminated environmental surfaces; or contaminated air. HCP include, but are not limited to, emergency medical service personnel, nurses, nursing assistants, physicians, technicians, therapists, phlebotomists, pharmacists, students and trainees, contractual staff not employed by the healthcare facility, and persons not directly involved in patient care, but who could be exposed to infectious agents that can be transmitted in the healthcare setting (e.g., clerical, dietary, environmental services, laundry, security, engineering and facilities management, administrative, billing, and volunteer personnel).”

In addition to the testing of staff and patients, hospitals must have a program that includes policies and procedures addressing the use of test results, including:

“This testing requirement has been a long time coming,” said Cathy Kennedy, a Sacramento-area RN and a president of CNA and executive vice president of NNU. “We nurses knew this was needed and fought together to make it happen. Now hospitals in the rest of the country just need to do the same to get this virus under control.”

This content was originally published here.

Practicing Gratitude on Thanksgiving is a Powerful Action for Health & Happiness

Celebrating Thanksgiving is about more than just putting up with annoying relatives, gorging on too much food, and passing out in a football-enhanced stupor. In fact, Thanksgiving is a prime opportunity to put into practice its namesake and one of the most powerful health-promoting actions that exists.

Gratitude.

What is Gratitude?

grateful woman holding hands crossed over heart
iStock.com/AaronAmat

Gratitude, by definition, is a thankful appreciation or recognition of something that’s been done for us, either by a person, by life itself, or perceived from a higher power. As Robert Emmons, UC Davis professor of psychology and gratitude researcher, explained in a 2013 study, “Gratitude has a dual meaning: a worldly one and a transcendent one.” It can be an act when we give thanks. But it’s also a feeling of being grateful for that which you have.

An Ounce of Gratitude Is Worth a Pound of Cure

And, as it turns out, practicing gratitude can make you happier and healthier. An overwhelming body of research indicates you’re going to experience more joy, vitality, and inner peace if you notice whatever blessings are in your life, and give thanks when you experience them.

And gratitude doesn’t just make things feel better – it can also make them get better. Gratitude is good for your physical, emotional, and mental health. “The practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” explains Dr. Emmons.

People who express more gratitude have:

Can Practicing Gratitude Really Change Your Life?

closeup headshot of woman smiling
iStock.com/Wilson Araujo

When I heard all of this, I was skeptical. What if people who are fortunate, or who are particularly healthy, just feel more grateful? Does gratitude really change your life, or is it just a byproduct?

The answer surprised me, and it may surprise you, too.

In a study conducted by Dr. Emmons and his colleague Mike McCullough, of the University of Miami, randomly assigned participants were given one of three tasks. Each week, participants kept a short journal. One group briefly described five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week, another five recorded daily hassles from the previous week that displeased them, and the neutral group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but they were not told whether to focus on the positive or on the negative.

Keep in mind that these groups were randomly assigned and that nothing about their lives was inherently different, other than the journaling they were doing.

The types of things people listed in the grateful group included: “Sunset through the clouds;” “the chance to be alive;” and “the generosity of friends.”

And in the hassles group, people listed familiar things like: “Taxes;” “hard to find parking;” and “burned my dinner.”

After ten weeks, participants in the gratitude group reported feeling better about their lives as a whole and were a full 25% happier than the hassled group. They reported fewer health complaints. And, they were now exercising an average of one and a half hours more per week.

In a later study by Emmons, people were asked to write every day about things for which they were grateful. Not surprisingly, this daily practice led to greater increases in gratitude than did the weekly journaling in the first study. But the results showed another benefit: Participants in the gratitude group also reported offering others more emotional support or help with a personal problem, indicating that the gratitude exercise increased their goodwill towards others, or more technically, their “prosocial” motivation.

What’s The Brain Science Behind All of This?

Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson puts it this way: “The neurons that fire together, wire together… The longer the neurons [brain cells] fire, the more of them that fire, and the more intensely they fire, the more they’re going to wire that inner strength –- that happiness, gratitude, feeling confident, feeling successful, feeling loved and lovable.”

And what’s going on in the brain leads to changes in behavior. Grateful people tend to take better care of themselves and to engage in more protective health behaviors, like regular exercise and a healthy diet. They’re also found to have lower levels of stress. And lowered levels of stress are linked to increased immune function and to decreased rates of cancer and heart disease.

So it seems, you take better care of what you appreciate. And that also extends to your body and the people around you.

Good for Your Relationships

sticky note on laptop screen saying thank you
iStock.com/Cn0ra

Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can also help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion.

The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door, or you send a quick thank-you note to that co-worker who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions, can lead to new opportunities.

Practicing gratitude can even help you deal with feelings of envy. In a 2018 study conducted by researchers at Hunan Normal University and The Chinese University of Hong Kong, gratitude was found to be positively associated with benign envy and negatively associated with malicious envy. In other words, when interacting with someone who has something that you don’t, gratitude helps to lift you up instead of making you want to pull the other person down.

But What About Tough Times?

mother and daughter with banner in window saying we got this
iStock.com/RyanJLane

As I was learning about this research, I was still a bit skeptical. Life can at times be brutal. Sometimes just surviving can feel like an accomplishment. Can you really feel grateful in times of loss?

Yes, you can.

In fact, findings show that adversity can actually boost gratitude. In a Web-based survey tracking the personal strengths of more than 3,000 American respondents, researchers noted an immediate surge in feelings of gratitude after September 11, 2001.

Tough times can actually deepen gratefulness if we allow them to show us not to take things for granted. Dr. Emmons reminds us that the first Thanksgiving took place after nearly half the pilgrims died from a rough winter and year. It became a national holiday in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War and was moved to its current date in the 1930s following the Depression.

Why would a tragic event provoke gratitude? When times are good, we tend to take for granted the very things that deserve our gratitude. In times of uncertainty, though, we often realize that the people and circumstances we’ve come to take for granted are actually of immense value to our lives.

Emmons writes: “In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times.”

In good times, and in tough times, gratitude turns out to be one of the most powerful choices you can make.

Putting Gratitude to Work for You

practicing gratitude in a notebook
iStock.com/natalie_board

If you want to put all this into practice, here are some simple things you can do to build positive momentum:

  1. Say Grace: This Thanksgiving, or anytime you sit down to a meal with loved ones, take a moment to go around and invite everyone to say one thing they are grateful for. Even if you eat a meal alone, you can take a moment to give thanks.
  2. Share The Love: Make it a practice to tell a spouse, partner, or friend something you appreciate about them every day.
  3. Remember Mortality: You never know how long you, or anyone you love, will be alive. How would you treat your loved ones if you kept in mind that this could be the last time you’d ever see them?

Thank You

Thank you for reading this. Thank you for being grateful for the blessings, and even for the challenges, that come your way. Practicing gratitude can make your world, and our whole world, better and brighter. Thank you.

Tell us in the comments:

  • How do you practice gratitude?
  • How can you bring even more gratitude into your life?

Feature image: iStock.com/Delmaine Donson

Read Next:

The post Practicing Gratitude on Thanksgiving is a Powerful Action for Health & Happiness appeared first on Food Revolution Network.

This content was originally published here.

“Get Out! – Go Get a Warrant!” – Business Owners in Buffalo, New York Stand Up to Cuomo’s Covid Orders, Kick Out Sheriff and “Health Inspector” (VIDEO)

Business owners in Buffalo, New York fed up with Cuomo’s authoritarian Covid lockdown orders asserted their Constitutional rights and kicked out sheriffs and “health inspectors” on Friday night.

50 business owners gathered inside of a shuttered gym in Buffalo, New York Friday night when two sheriffs and a so-called ‘health inspector’ showed up to harass the group in response to an “anonymous tip.”

The business owners shouted down and kicked out the health inspector and the told the sheriffs to come back with a warrant.

The Buffalo News reported:

A gathering of about 50 business owners and their supporters inside an Orchard Park gym shut down by Covid-19 restrictions turned into a confrontation with Erie County authorities Friday night.

The owner of the gym, Athletes Unleashed on California Road, described the gathering as a protest of the state’s “orange zone” regulations that have closed gyms, salons and other businesses deemed nonessential.

No one was cited and no arrests were made, according to two people who attended, but video of the incident shows an Erie County health inspector accompanied by three sheriff’s deputies arriving about 20 minutes after the gathering began.

“You’re on private property. You need to leave!” one of the business owners shouted to the health inspector.

“This is private party! It’s private property! Go get a warrant! You’re not wanted here!”

The obese sheriff began lecturing one of the business owners on mask wearing to which the business owner replied, “Don’t worry about my health! My health isn’t your concern!”

The business owners shouted down the trespassers, “Get out! Get out! Get out! – We will not comply! We will not comply!”

The brave business owners followed the sheriffs and health inspectors into the parking lot and told them to get off their property, “They’re Nazis!” one yelled. “Take your Commie sh*t elsewhere!” another one shouted.

The post “Get Out! – Go Get a Warrant!” – Business Owners in Buffalo, New York Stand Up to Cuomo’s Covid Orders, Kick Out Sheriff and “Health Inspector” (VIDEO) appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.

This content was originally published here.

Driving equity in health care: Lessons from COVID-19

Editor’s note: Third in a series on the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, and responses aimed at improving health equity. Click here to read part one and here for part two.

If there is a silver lining of COVID-19, it’s that it has required us to address monumental health care disparities, particularly racial and ethnic disparities. I’ve been working on health care disparities for more than two decades, yet I’ve never seen our health system move so fast. Across the US, those of us in health care have been scrambling to bridge gaps and better understand why COVID-19 disproportionally impacts communities of color and immigrants — and, indeed, anyone who struggles with social determinants of health like lack of housing, food insecurity, and access to a good education.

A key lesson: Lived experience should guide change

I came to this country as an undocumented immigrant when I was 13 years old. English was not my first language. My mother was a single, teen mother and I’ve only seen my father twice in my lifetime. My childhood was filled with all the trauma that we hear about from many of our patients: domestic violence, drug addiction, mental health issues, foster care, and more. You can imagine, then, that all of this feels immensely personal to me, and drives me in the work that I do as director of the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

One key lesson is that there is no substitute for lived experience. We need people with lived experience to help redesign our health care systems so that we can take care of all our patients, and to help reimagine emergency preparedness for future events like the COVID-19 pandemic. Our health care teams should routinely include people from communities that bear the brunt of health inequities. Currently, our health care system is designed by default for the English-speaking person who is health literate and digitally literate, and who has access to computers and/or smartphones — because that is who is designing our systems. As we work toward change based on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and those we’ll continue to learn, we need to keep this in mind.

If you’re a member of the communities hit hardest by the pandemic, you can help by sharing your experiences — what worked, what didn’t — and advocating with health care institutions, community leaders, and through social media for approaches that address COVID-19 health care disparities. The ones I describe below are common themes from hospitals we’ve worked with, as well as what we have seen in our own healthcare system.

Take the steps required to build community trust

Trust is key to having messages about lessening the spread and impact of COVID-19 resonate with the community. But trust is often shaped by historical events. Health care organizations must look deeply at ways in which historical events have led to mistrust within the communities they serve. The messenger to each community needs to be a trusted community member, and outreach needs to happen in the community, not just at your health care facility.

Invest time in addressing language barriers

Integrating interpreters during a medical visit, whether in person or via a virtual platform, is not easy. And in fact, it’s not intuitive in most US health care systems. At MGH, we saw this with the intercom system used to safely communicate with our hospitalized COVID patients, and the virtual visit platform used for outpatient settings. Adding a third-party medical interpreter into these systems proved challenging. Input from an interpreter advisory council and bilingual staff members who took part in redesigning workflow, telehealth platforms, and electronic health records helped.

Making sure educational materials are available in multiple languages goes beyond translating them. We also need to get creative with health literacy-friendly modalities like videos, to help people understand important information. Ideally, our workforce would include bilingual health care providers and staff who could communicate with patients in their own language. Absent this, integrating interpreters into the workflow and telehealth platforms is key.

Understand that social determinants of health still impact 80% of COVID-19 health outcomes

COVID-19 disproportionally impacts people who are essential frontline workers and who can’t work from home, can’t quarantine through isolation, and depend on public transportation. So yes, social determinants of health still matter. If addressing social determinants seem overwhelming (for example, solving the shortage of affordable housing in Boston), then perhaps it is time for us to reframe the challenge. Rather than assuming the burden is on a health care system to solve the housing crisis, the question really needs to be: how will we provide care to patients who don’t have housing and live in a shelter, or are couch surfing with friends and families, or live in cheap hotels or motels?

Use racial, ethnic, and language data to focus mitigation efforts

Invest time in improving the quality of race, ethnicity, and language data in health care systems. Additionally, stratifying quality metrics by these demographics will help identify health disparities. At MGH, already having this foundation was key to quickly developing a COVID-19 dashboard that identified in real time the demographics of patients on the COVID-19 inpatient floors. At some point during our first surge, over 50% of our patients on the COVID units needed an interpreter, because the majority came from the heavily immigrant Boston-area communities of Chelsea, Lynn, and Revere. This information was crucial to our mitigation strategies, and would help inform any health care system.

Address privacy and immigration concerns

Overwhelmingly, our health center providers, interpreters, and immigration advocates tell us that immigrant patients are reluctant to participate in virtual visits, enroll in our patient portal, or come to our health care facility because they are afraid we will share their personal information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We worked with a multidisciplinary group and our legal counsel to develop a low-literacy script in multiple languages that describes to these patients how we keep their information secure, why we are legally required to keep it secure (HIPAA), and in what scenario we would share it this with law enforcement (if there is a valid warrant or court order).

Additional strategies include educating providers to avoid documenting a patient’s immigration status, and educating patients on their rights and protection under the US constitution. In short, this relates back to the first point of creating trust between the health care organization and the community it serves.

Equitable care is a journey, not a single goal. Only by taking crucial steps toward it can we hope to achieve it, course-correcting with new lessons learned from this pandemic as we go.

The post Driving equity in health care: Lessons from COVID-19 appeared first on Harvard Health Blog.

This content was originally published here.

Viral video shows New York business owners take defiant stand when health inspector barges inside: ‘Go get a warrant’

Business owners in Buffalo-area took a defiant stand against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus-related restrictions on Friday, telling a local health inspector and sheriffs deputies, who showed up to enforce Cuomo’s arbitrary restrictions, to immediately leave their property because they did not have a warrant to be there.

What happened?

Robby Dinero, owner of Athletes Unleashed in Orchard Park, gathered dozens of area business owners at his gym on Friday night to discuss Cuomo’s latest business-killing restrictions, according to WGRZ-TV. Their goal was to plan how to survive the newest restrictions.

But, about 20 minutes into the meeting, members from the Erie County Department of Health and deputies from the Erie County Sheriff’s Department barged into the meeting, telling those gathered that they were violating Cuomo’s restrictions that prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people.

What happened next was caught on video and is going viral.

One of the people at the gatherings told the health department official to have compassion on area businesses and went she said that she does, another business owner told the official, “OK, well you need to go have compassion out in the parking lot.”

“This is private property. This is private property. This is private property,” the man told the health department official. The man then told the sheriff deputies to “do your jobs.”

“Your job is to remove people who are not wanted here,” the man said. One of the deputies responded by lecturing the business owners for not wearing face masks.

Another man then said, “You guys need to leave because right now, you’re trespassing without a warrant. You need to leave.” Others repeated, “Go get a warrant.”

After more back-and-forth, the business owners continued to tell the health department official and sheriff deputies that they needed to leave because they were trespassing on private property.

“You don’t get to violate the Constitution,” one of the business owners said. “You don’t circumvent or subvert the Constitution.”

The video ends as the business owners shout in unison, “Get out!” The deputies and health department worker are then driven out of the gym.

Business owners in Buffalo, NY demand “health inspector” leave private property. “Go get a warrant.”

People have… https://t.co/Jfub54t0e7

— Justin Hart (@Justin Hart)1605993989.0

What was the response?

In an interview with the Buffalo News, Tim Walton, who attended Friday night’s event, said the business owners are not doubting the existence of COVID-19, but rather the arbitrary nature of Cuomo’s restrictions.

Meanwhile, Health Department spokeswoman Kara Kane told the Buffalo News, “We are gathering information and will have more to share in our press conference on Monday.”

This content was originally published here.

Mayor de Blasio and wife tout new plan to send mental health workers instead of NYPD on some calls

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and his wife, first lady Chirlane McCray, have announced a new pilot program for parts of the Big Apple that will see mental health teams deployed in lieu of police officers in response to some emergency calls.

What are the details?

A news release sent out by the mayor’s office on Tuesday explained that “Mental Health Teams of Emergency Medical Services health professionals and mental health crisis workers will be dispatched through 911 to respond to mental health emergencies in two high-need communities.”

The news alert did not reveal which “high-need communities” would serve as the testing grounds for the initiative, but did explain that the “new Mental Health Teams will use their physical and mental health expertise, and experience in crisis response to de-escalate emergency situations, will help reduce the number of times police will need to respond to 911 mental health calls in these precincts.”

However, the mayor’s office noted, “In emergency situations involving a weapon or imminent risk of harm, the new Mental Health Teams will respond along with NYPD officers.”

“One in five New Yorkers struggle with a mental health condition. Now, more than ever, we must do everything we can to reach those people before crisis strikes,” de Blasio said in a statement. “For the first time in our city’s history, health responders will be the default responders for a person in crisis, making sure those struggling with mental illness receive the help they need.”

The New York Post reported that during a news conference on the project, de Blasio and McCray “revealed scant details” on the unnamed plan, and that “the pair also failed to reveal how much the project will cost or how many workers it will involve.”

What does the police union say?

Meanwhile, the union representing NYPD police officers slammed the mayor and first lady’s latest idea.

“Police officers know that we cannot single-handedly solve our city’s mental-health disaster, but this plan will not do that, either,” Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said in a statement. “It will undoubtedly put our already overtaxed EMS colleagues in dangerous situations without police support.”

Lynch argued, “We need a complete overhaul of the rest of our mental-health-care system so that we can help people before they are in crisis, rather than just picking up the pieces afterward.”

“On that front, the de Blasio administration has done nothing but waste time and money with ThriveNYC and similar programs,” he continued, referring to the highly criticized $850 million mental health initiative ran by McCray, which will operate the pilot program.

Lynch added, “We have no confidence that this long-delayed plan will produce any better results.”

This content was originally published here.

Hypertension, health inequities, and implications for COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many people to forego follow-up and treatment of chronic health conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure). It is now quite evident that people with hypertension are also more likely to develop severe complications from the coronavirus. In the US, African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities, including Hispanics and Native Americans, are more likely to have hypertension, and consequently have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the link between high blood pressure and heart disease?

Hypertension is the most common modifiable risk factor for major cardiovascular events including death, heart attack, and stroke, and it plays a major role in the development of heart failure, kidney disease, and dementia. Over the past few decades, major efforts have been launched to increase awareness and treatment of hypertension.

Hypertension increases stress on the heart and arteries as well as on other organs including the brain and kidneys. Over time, this stress results in changes that negatively impact the body’s ability to function. To reduce these negative effects on the heart, medications are typically prescribed when blood pressure goes above 140/90 for those without significant cardiovascular risk, or above 130/80 in people with known coronary artery disease or other coexisting diseases like diabetes.

Certain groups are disproportionately affected by hypertension and severe COVID-19

According to a recent study published in JAMA, the proportion of study participants with controlled blood pressure (defined as < 140/90 mm Hg) initially increased and then held steady at 54% from 1999 to 2014. However, the proportion of patients with controlled blood pressures subsequently declined significantly, to 44% by 2018. Further, certain subgroups appeared to have a disproportionately higher rate of uncontrolled hypertension: African Americans, uninsured patients, and patients with Medicaid, as well as younger patients (ages 18 to 44) and older patients (ages 75 and older). An accompanying editorial noted that the prevalence of uncontrolled blood pressure was disproportionately higher in non-Hispanic Black adults from 1999 to 2018.

With a higher prevalence of hypertension, African American, Native American, and Hispanic communities have had higher rates of hospitalization and death during the pandemic, according to the CDC. While vulnerability to severe complications of COVID is highest among older patients regardless of race or ethnicity and socioeconomic circumstance, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, “vulnerability based on pre-existing conditions collides with long-standing disparities in health and mortality by race-ethnicity and socioeconomic status.”

How does hypertension result in severe COVID-19 complications?

The link between hypertension and severe coronavirus disease remains complex. Some experts believe that uncontrolled blood pressure results in chronic inflammation throughout the body, which damages blood vessels and results in dysregulation of the immune system. This results in difficulty fighting the virus, or a dangerous overreaction of the immune system to COVID-19. Certain classes of blood pressure medicines (ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers, or ARBs) were initially thought to worsen infection, but this has since been disproven. Several research groups have shown that with close monitoring, these medications are safe to use during COVID infection.

What do people with hypertension need to know about reducing their risk?

Proper blood pressure control has long-term health benefits and may help prevent severe COVID-19 symptoms. Therefore, we strongly encourage taking your medications as directed and following healthy lifestyle practices like regular exercise, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, following a low-sodium, heart-healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet, and reducing stress and practicing mindfulness.

In addition, following up with your doctor to keep blood pressure under control is more important now than ever. While the idea of heading into the hospital or a doctor’s office in the middle of a pandemic may put people on edge, many hospitals and clinics are quite safe due to appropriate safety measures like universal mask wearing and social distancing. Many have also expanded telemedicine or virtual visits for patients.

What can we do to tackle inequities in healthcare delivery?

COVID-19 has forced us to confront inequities in health care delivery that contribute to worse clinical outcomes in vulnerable patient groups.

With rising numbers of people with uncontrolled blood pressure, and the pandemic disrupting management of chronic health conditions, this may serve as a prime opportunity for us to purposefully change the current trends in hypertension and narrow the gap in health inequity. Potential areas of focus include:

  • promoting research on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected management of chronic diseases like high blood pressure
  • identifying barriers to care, particularly in vulnerable subgroups
  • increasing awareness of the importance of chronic disease management, particularly in communities where health care inequities exist
  • innovating to make virtual health technology more broadly accessible
  • delivering additional resources for chronic disease management to vulnerable subgroups
  • implementing long-term policy solutions to address health inequities.

The post Hypertension, health inequities, and implications for COVID-19 appeared first on Harvard Health Blog.

This content was originally published here.

Obama’s WH Physician Issues Brutal Statement on Biden’s Mental Health

Just in case you were curious, the White House has an enormous basement.

I don’t have the exact square footage — the real estate agent was out when I called and the rental costs are out of my range — but it’s big enough to house a bowling alley, a dentist’s office, a chocolate shop and a flower shop. This isn’t even counting the latticework of tunnels and bunkers that lie beneath that.

There’s no amount of MBNA money that could construct a basement that big under Joe Biden’s house in Wilmington, Delaware. In short, if he becomes the 46th president of the United States, he’ll have a much bigger space to hide in. However, being president isn’t like campaigning and Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party isn’t as pliant as our very objective journalists.

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This sort of thing may have gotten ignored by the establishment media when Biden said it in March:

Does this make any sense to you? pic.twitter.com/Z4kcDpokUQ

Rest assured, however, America’s adversaries noticed.

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But aren’t these just small gaffes? Biden’s people have always pointed toward the president whenever the question was broached: “Oh, you can’t even go there,” Jill Biden, Joe Biden’s wife, said during a September interview. “After Donald Trump, you cannot even say the word gaffe.”

All right, so let’s say Trump goes away. What’s the excuse then? Harmlessness? Ah, so Biden talks about leaving the record player on at night to fight segregation. What’s the big deal?

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A lot, says Dr. Ronny Jackson. Earlier this month, Texas’ 13th Congressional District elected Jackson, a Republican, as their new representative.

A retired rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, he was the White House physician under presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Trump, and was both Obama and Trump’s personal physician. In Washington, D.C., this week for congressional orientation, Jackson indicated to Fox News that “there’s something going on” with Biden’s cognitive abilities.

Jackson famously gave Donald Trump a cognitive test in 2018 after the mainstream media’s constant carping regarding the president’s fitness for office — to the point where certain liberals, including sitting legislators, were calling for him to be declared unfit for office.

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Trump scored 30 out of 30 on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, which tests for the early signs of cognitive issues, according to The New York Times. The same media that wanted him to be tested then roundly mocked him for touting his score.

As for Biden, when asked by CBS News’ Errol Barnett whether or not he’d face the same kind of cognitive test, here was his response: “No, I haven’t taken a test. Why the hell would I take a test? Come on, man.”

Jackson told Fox News there was a “huge double standard” and that he believes Biden’s frequent gaffes could be indicative of a potential issue.

“Nobody from the press is saying … he should be evaluated for his cognitive ability or lack thereof,” Jackson said.

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“And so I just thought it was a huge double standard with regards to President Trump and Biden,” he added. “If they want to be consistent, they should be jumping up and down right and demanding that Vice President Biden get a cognitive test done.”

And Biden’s mistakes have been multifarious.

Here’s Biden’s infamous record player gaffe:

BIDEN’S RACISM
Joe Biden addressed reparations by intimating that Black parents don’t know how to raise children. He said that Black parents should play the record player at night to educate their children. pic.twitter.com/vy2chQoxS7

— DonWinslow20 (@Winslow20Don) November 8, 2020

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Biden saying he’s running for Senate:

Joe “30330” Biden Says He’s Running for the Senate pic.twitter.com/VTY0VdQpDH

— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) October 13, 2020

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Here’s Joe Biden calling Bernie Sanders President. #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/kYfVgmJo6C

— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) September 13, 2019

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Joe Biden forgot what state he was in. Again.

While in New Hampshire he said: “I’ve been here a number of times… what’s not to like about Vermont…”pic.twitter.com/L7QLPb9u3T

— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) April 25, 2020

Biden forgets who the last president was:

Joe Biden forgot that Obama, not Bush, was the last President.pic.twitter.com/ukXrVeCWzm

— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) April 25, 2020

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Biden, positing that “[p]oor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.”

Joe Biden slip-up in Iowa tonight.

“Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.”

Yikes…have fun mitigating that one. pic.twitter.com/m2VxZbnFHF

— Andrew Clark 🦃 (@AndrewHClark) August 9, 2019

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“I think there’s something going on there. I honestly do, and I’m not making a diagnosis. He’s not my patient. I never took care of him in the White House,” Jackson told Fox News, who reported that the doctor called for Biden to take a cognitive test, just like Trump did.

“I’ve never examined him. But I was around him a lot,” Jackson said. “He’s always made a few gaffes here and there. But this is different.”

Jackson has sounded the alarm over Biden’s cognitive health before.

“As a citizen of this country, I watch Joe Biden on the campaign trail and I am … convinced that he does not have the mental capacity, the cognitive ability to serve as our commander in chief and head of state,” he told reporters in October, according to The Daily Beast. “I really think that he needs some type of cognitive testing before he takes over the reins as our commander in chief, if that is in the cards.”

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The establishment media, of course, doesn’t care. And why would they? As Jackson said, Biden isn’t Trump — and he bears some vestige of the Obama regime.

“They loved the guy,” Jackson said of Obama, who “was a rock star to them, whereas with President Trump when he first got there, they all wanted to spit on him.”

That’s all very well, but our media isn’t China. They might give Biden an easy time. President Xi won’t.

If Biden takes the Oval Office, the basement strategy won’t work anymore. There only so many dentist’s visits he can make before he actually has to govern.

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This content was originally published here.