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.

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.

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.

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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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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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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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

‘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.

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

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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.

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.

Biden puts health care front and center with a call to expand Obamacare

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday laid out his case for expanding the Affordable Care Act, saying the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the urgent need to give more Americans access to health insurance.

“Beginning on Jan. 20, Vice President-elect [Kamala] Harris and I will do everything we can to ease the burden of health care on you and your family,” Biden said in a speech in Wilmington, Delaware.

Introducing Biden on stage, Harris said Biden’s election victory over President Donald Trump amounted to a mandate for expanding access to health care and health insurance.

“Each and every vote for Joe Biden was a statement that health care in America should be a right and not a privilege,” she said. “Each and every vote for Joe Biden was a vote to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act, not to tear it away in the midst of a global pandemic.”

Biden’s remarks were timed to pivot off oral arguments Tuesday before the Supreme Court in a major case over the constitutionality of the landmark 2010 health-care law. 

But they also reflect the preeminent position that health and health-care issues occupy within the incoming Biden administration’s broader policy agenda.

Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election on Saturday, after he secured the 270 Electoral College votes needed to defeat President Donald Trump. 

“My transition team will soon be starting its work to flesh out the details so that we can hit the ground running, tackling costs, increasing access, lowering the price of prescription drugs. Families are reeling right now. … They need a lifeline, and they need it now,” said Biden.

On Monday, his first full workday as president-elect, Biden met with his newly assembled coronavirus task force and spoke afterward about the need for a nationwide campaign to encourage mask-wearing. Biden’s decision to use his second workday as president-elect to speak again about health and health care was noteworthy. 

“This doesn’t need to be a partisan issue. It’s a human issue,” he said of expanding health insurance.

Expanding the ACA to include a government-administered health insurance option was a core promise of Biden’s presidential campaign.

But Biden aides and advisors also knew that it was one of the pledges that relied most heavily on Democrats winning majorities in the House and Senate. 

With Republicans currently expected to hold on to their majority in the Senate, any “public option” expansion of the ACA is likely to exist more as a negotiating platform than a legislative reality.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly called Obamacare “the single worst piece of legislation to pass in the last 50 years.”

This content was originally published here.

“Bring Hearts and Souls Back”: Ohio’s Former Top Public-Health Official on How America Can Avoid Dual Cataclysms | The New Yorker

On January 13, 1919, as the third wave of the so-called Spanish-flu pandemic began, the governor of Ohio, James Cox, delivered his inaugural address. Propagandist bulletins from the U.S. Public Health Service had called the virus “a very contagious kind of ‘cold,’ ” but Cox used his speech to note the “appalling” number of fatalities—the United States ultimately lost some six hundred and seventy-five thousand people. The federal government was of little help. Only five of Ohio’s cities employed full-time health officers. “And then when the outbreak was acute outside the municipalities, conditions were even worse,” Cox said, referring to an earlier wave. “In fact, they were well-nigh unspeakable.” Cox urged the “radical reorganization” of Ohio’s more than two thousand separate health jurisdictions and said that the need for “scientific resistance” to public-health emergencies was “second in importance” only to fighting in the First World War.

Exactly a century later, a new governor, Mike DeWine, took office. DeWine, a Republican, was Ohio’s former attorney general, and, in the early two-thousands, he had been a U.S. senator. The state’s public-health system now consisted of a hundred and thirteen independent programs in eighty-eight counties. The population was largely older, and there were many smokers; opioid addiction alone had recently killed tens of thousands of Ohioans. “Public health had been ignored for decades,” DeWine told me. “It was something we took for granted.”

Ohio does not require the state’s top health official to be a physician: when DeWine took office, in 2019, the most recent directors had been a lawyer and the former head of the Ohio Turnpike Commission. DeWine wanted a medical doctor for the cabinet position, one who could both lead a large staff and, he told me, “communicate to the people of the state of Ohio about health issues in general.” His top adviser, Ann O’Donnell, recommended Dr. Amy Acton, whom she knew through the Columbus Foundation, one of the country’s largest community charitable organizations.

Acton is fifty-four. In 1990, during the crack-cocaine epidemic, she interned at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in the Bronx, where she saw “rooms full of babies in incubators” who had contracted diseases in utero and would soon die. “It was devastating,” she told me the other day. “I saw how things can spiral.” Acton left clinical medicine to pursue teaching and philanthropy; by the time DeWine took office, she worked as a community research and grants officer at the Columbus Foundation.

O’Donnell thought that Acton would make a good health director partly because she had heard her mention a “tough childhood.” Acton is from the north side of Youngstown, in northeastern Ohio. Her father, who had worked in a steel mill, and her mother, an artist, divorced when she was three. Acton and her younger brother Philip lived with their mother, who remarried when Acton was about nine, after having moved around a lot. This deeply unstable period ended with the family spending part of one winter living in a tent, and with Acton, at age twelve, accusing her stepfather of sexual abuse. O’Donnell told me, “My mother used to talk about suffering: the people who have suffered have something special about them.”

Acton had a steely warmth that made her approachable; a former Ohio State University professor, she was skilled at explaining complex subjects. She and her husband, Eric, a schoolteacher and cross-country coach in the Columbus suburb of Bexley, had, between them, six grown children. “Her way of seeing, and of operating in the world, is not bureaucratic,” O’Donnell told me, adding that DeWine considers her “as much an artist as she is a scientist.” Acton lacked experience in the public spotlight, but O’Donnell strongly urged the governor to choose her anyway.

Acton began work on February 26, 2019, immediately thinking of Ohio’s nearly twelve million residents as her patients. Shortly after her swearing-in ceremony, she defended her department’s budget before a legislative committee, explaining that part of her duties involved emergency preparedness. Breaking from her written comments, she told the lawmakers, “I will be on call, most nights, for as long as you know me, with the worry of these issues.”

Ohio’s legislature contains a far-right element, and there is anti-vaccine sentiment in the state. Acton wanted to create a path for all Ohioans to understand how they could flourish, and told me, “How do you build that, as a community?” She and I were talking, last week, in Columbus, at the offices of the foundation, which is headquartered at the historic former governor’s mansion. The first time we met, we sat spaced out, on benches, in a leaf-strewn courtyard. Acton, who is dark-haired and lean, wore a black dress, tights, flats, a trench, and, snug around her ears, a taupe toboggan twinkling with subtle sparkles. Wellness, she explained, involves more than the mere absence of disease. Public health calls upon societal protections, many of which are beyond individuals’ control: food safety, immunization, the eradication of poisonous lead. As health director, she had been working on modernizing the state system for nearly a year when she began hearing about a “weird pneumonia” afflicting Wuhan, China.

Wuhan is the capital of Hubei Province—Ohio’s sister state. Scores of people routinely travel between the two locations, for business and school. Thousands of Chinese students attended Miami University, near Cincinnati. Ohioans had been taking sea cruises, and touring places like the Nile River, Acton told me. By the time the C.D.C. and the White House started having regular press conferences about COVID-19, in February, she suspected that the virus was already seeded in Ohio.

The Arnold Sports Festival and Arnold Classic were scheduled for the first weekend in March. The annual sporting event—founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor and former California governor—draws more than twenty-two thousand athletes and tens of thousands of spectators, and involves a trade show. Acton said, “We had this whole discussion. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s on the phone—so you’ve got that voice.” She and DeWine decided to largely close the event to most spectators. DeWine told me, “Everybody thought we were crazy.” But bringing in thousands of people from eighty countries, for four days, portended “disaster.”

Observing chaos in the federal response—“The C.D.C. was saying one thing, Health and Human Services another”—Acton had been making other defensive moves. She had moved up a long-planned tabletop exercise in pandemic control, and deployed health tips online. Her self-assembled network of advisers included infectious-disease specialists and other experts she had met through her service on the board of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, which represents more than a hundred thousand public-health officials. Her communications director’s brother Rajeev Venkayya was a pulmonologist who had focussed on vaccines at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and who had worked in the George W. Bush Administration, developing the nation’s influenza-pandemic plan. (The Trump Administration later dissolved the federal pandemic office; Joe Biden has said that, if elected, he will restore it.) Acton also had begun making short public-service videos. Wearing a white medical coat, she told Ohioans, “I want you to be prepared.”

DeWine declared a state of emergency on March 9th—when there were only three confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ohio. He and Acton started holding daily press briefings. Ohio’s network affiliates carried the pressers live, at two o’clock. On March 12th, DeWine became the first governor to announce the closing of K-12 schools; he and Acton shut down polling stations, effectively rescheduling the Democratic Presidential primary. Acton told the public, “The steps we’re taking now will absolutely save lives.” On March 22nd, after imposing one of the nation’s earliest stay-at-home orders, she said, “This is our one shot, in this country.” As if speaking directly to those who were accusing her of overreacting, she said, “I am not afraid. I am determined.”

The press conferences became appointment viewing in Ohio. A Times documentary producer watched seven weeks’ worth of these pressers and turned the material into a six-minute op-doc, “The Leader We Wish We All Had,” which declared that “other leaders should pay attention” to Acton’s effective use of vulnerability, empowerment, and “brutal honesty.” One clip showed Acton tearing up when she said, “People at home: you are moving mountains.” Acton told me, “I would look at the camera and I could feel the people on the other side.”

A singer performed an Amy Acton tribute song on YouTube (“I trust you completely”; “You look so fine in your long white coat.”) The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled an Amy Acton figure. Little girls dressed up like Acton and staged living-room press conferences. On Facebook, a fan page accrued more than a hundred and thirty thousand members. An Ohio nurse told an NBC affiliate, “I actually cry pretty much every time I watch her, because she’s very inspiring.” At a presser, Acton, after reading one child’s thank-you letter aloud, said that as a public servant it was her “job to do this for you.” In a poll, in March, seventy-five per cent of Ohioans said that they approved of DeWine’s management of the coronavirus crisis while forty-three per cent approved of the way President Donald Trump had handled it. The poll also included Acton. She, too, had a much higher favorability rating than Trump—sixty-four per cent.

Nationally, DeWine was being praised, along with the governors Charlie Baker, of Massachusetts, and Larry Hogan, of Maryland, as “the rare Republican official who does not automatically fall in step” with Trump. In Ohio, DeWine’s over-all favorability rating was also high. But, by the end of April, with the economy in trouble, some of Ohio’s Republican lawmakers were insisting that he reopen businesses. On April 27th, DeWine announced a phased reopening, for May. The next day, after being assailed by other Republicans, he backed off a plan to require masks at reopened businesses, calling the restriction “offensive to some of our fellow-Ohioans.”

Trump and his allies had set a publicly disparaging tone against health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert. On April 18th—a particularly dire moment in the pandemic—the President’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, had bragged to Bob Woodward, “Trump’s now back in charge. It’s not the doctors.” In Colorado, nearly seventy per cent of local public-health officials reported receiving threats, and some resigned. In Washington State, one county official had to install a security system after making a simple phone call to remind a quarantining family to stay home: “Accusations started flying that we were spying, that we had put them under house arrest,” the official told NPR. In Nebraska, a former TV meteorologist and mayoral spokesman anonymously sent Adi Pour, head of the Douglas County health department, at least fifteen threatening e-mails, including one that read, “There was a lynching outside the Douglas County Courthouse a century and one year ago. You’re next, bitch”; in another, he wrote, “Maybe I will just slit your throat instead. That will get you to shut the fuck up.” (The meteorologist, Ronald Penzkowski, pleaded no contest to third-degree assault and stalking.) Fauci, after receiving death threats, was assigned a federal security detail.

In June, several physicians, writing in JAMA, called the harassment of health officials “extraordinary in its scope and nature,” and a “danger to the ongoing pandemic response.” They wrote that the attacks on public-health officials represented a “misunderstanding of the pandemic” and “a general decline in public civility.” The incivility started with the President: “The environment deteriorates further when elected leaders attack their own public-health officials.”

An “Anti Amy Acton” page appeared on Facebook, containing such posts as “We will always hate you Abortion Amy!!” (The Ohio health department oversees clinics that perform abortions.) She was called a “witch,” a “disgrace.” In one photo, the marquee at Phil’s Lounge & Beer Garden, in Sharonville, said, “Fuck you DeSwine and Hackton.” Protesters disrupted Acton’s press conferences by chanting outside the statehouse and pressing their faces against the windows. After Acton, who is Jewish, mentioned hosting a virtual seder, for Passover, protesters showed up at her home, with guns, wearing MAGA caps and carrying “TRUMP” flags. Their signs read “Dr. Amy Over-re-ACTON” and “Let Freedom Work.” They brought their children. DeWine told demonstrators, “I’m the elected official” and “Come after me.” Acton was assigned executive protection—a rare measure, for a public-health official—along with a retinue of state troopers.

As pressure mounted for DeWine to fully reopen Ohio, six county-level G.O.P. chairs jointly wrote to the governor, in early June, saying, “We are telling you that the damage you are doing economically is translating politically.” Republicans were “angry, disappointed, and dismayed” at DeWine’s “big-government approach.” In an editorial, the Columbus Dispatch noted certain lawmakers’ contributions to a “toxic hybrid of ignorance, fear, and hatred.”

The state’s three largest amusement parks joined a number of other businesses in lawsuits against Acton, demanding that she allow them to reopen. Republican lawmakers introduced legislation intended to strip her of her emergency powers. DeWine vowed to veto any such bill, but Acton began to worry that she might be forced to sign health orders that violated her Hippocratic oath to do no harm. On June 11th, she resigned.

Trump won Ohio in 2016, with more than fifty-two per cent of the vote. He is expected to win the state again, though narrowly. Despite surging hospitalizations and record infection rates, the President has gone on holding campaign rallies. Thousands of supporters mingle for hours, most not wearing masks, despite evidence of community spread in the wake of Trump gatherings. On October 23rd, the day before a Trump rally in Circleville, Ohio, I met an old man in a Navy cap who complained that the annual pumpkin festival had been cancelled and that the public was being forced to stay outdoors. When I explained that this was meant to protect people, he said, “From what?” Along the highway into Circleville, someone had installed a large stencilled sign that read, “JOE BIDEN IS STUPID” and “TRUMP IS A GREAT MAN.”

The next afternoon, at the rally, at the Pickaway County fairgrounds, Trump lied that “tens of thousands” of people were outside the gates and congratulated attendees for getting in. He ranted about “Sleepy Joe,” “Crazy Bernie,” “Shifty Schiff,” “treasonous things,” the “plague,” “favored nations,” and “quadruple” taxes. Biden, he said, will offshore your jobs, confiscate your guns, open your borders, eliminate your private health care, terminate your religious liberty, defund your police, destroy your suburbs. Fracking, dead birds, widespread blackouts, more fracking: “You frack till your heart’s content!” A trio of masked nuns in habits and purple vestments stood in the crowd behind him; one held a Bible aloft, as if administering a blessing or warding off a curse.

Progressives have complained that DeWine, who co-chairs Trump’s Ohio campaign, has failed to disavow the President at a crucial national moment. When I spoke with the governor, on Friday, he told me, “I know there’s people who want me to spend my time blasting Donald Trump; I’m sure there’s Trump supporters who think I have not talked enough about the President. But I’ve got to stay focussed.” Maintaining “a good relationship with the President of the United States—whoever the President is” allowed him to govern, he said. In 2022, DeWine is expected to seek a second term. His supporters suspect that he will “be primaried” next year by a far-right challenger.

The COVID-19 death toll stands at well over five thousand in Ohio and more than two hundred and thirty-one thousand in the United States. By the end of February, the national toll could reach half a million, according to a recent study by the University of Washington School of Medicine. DeWine has methodically been placing preparatory phone calls to every public-health team in Ohio. He still has not found a permanent replacement for Acton. In September, he named a new state health director. She quit within hours of DeWine’s hiring announcement, having reportedly decided that the job would pose a risk for her family.

After Acton left her cabinet position, she briefly remained an adviser to DeWine. In early August, she vacated that official role, too, and soon returned to the Columbus Foundation. (She still informally counsels the governor.) When I saw Acton last week, homes in some parts of town still displayed “Dr. Amy Acton Fan Club” yard signs.

Acton had given no media interviews since leaving government. She agreed to talk to me because she believes that, as we enter a dire pandemic phase, paired with a potentially tumultuous post-election period, the country needs, in its wellness “playbook,” a long-term emotional-survival strategy. She told me that leaders need to “lay down the science of how we could lose another two hundred thousand people, just like that.” As a public-health figure, Acton, a registered Democrat, strove to be apolitical. She and DeWine worked well together despite their party affiliations. Acton strongly believes that, should Biden win, he must not leave “a quiet space” between now and the Inauguration. “We cannot wait two and a half months to start leading and messaging” about unity, she said.

This content was originally published here.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stepping down amid health concerns: Report

Russian President Vladimir Putin is purportedly planning to step down in 2021 amid reports of health concerns, according to a new report from the Sun.

What are the details?

Putin is reportedly planning to step down next year amid health concerns that the 68-year-old — who has been the Russian president off and on for the last two decades — is suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Moscow political scientist Valery Solovei told the outlet that Putin’s girlfriend, Alina Kabaeva, and his two adult daughters are pushing him to leave office come January.

“There is a family, it has a great influence on him,” Solovei told the outlet. “He intends to make public his handover plans in January.”

Solovei also appeared to suggest that the Russian president is suffering from Parkinson’s disease or a similar musculoskeletal condition.

The Sun reported, “Kremlin watchers said recent tell-tale footage showed the 68-year-old strongman had possible symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.”

“Observers who studied recent footage of Putin noted his legs appeared to be in constant motion and he looked to be in pain while clutching the armrest of a chair,” the outlet continued. “His fingers are also seen to be twitching as he held a pen and gripped a cup believed to contain a cocktail of painkillers.”

The New York Post reported that speculation over Putin’s plans and alleged medical condition comes as Russian lawmakers consider Putin-proposed legislation that would grant former Russian presidents a lifetime of immunity from any and all criminal prosecution.

If approved, the legislation would entitle a former president to a lifetime seat as a senator in the country’s federation council.

At the time of this reporting, Russian presidents are only protected from convictions while maintaining presidential office.

A spokesperson for the Kremlin told the Sun that speculation on Putin’s alleged medical condition is “nonsense” and that the Russian president is in “excellent health” and that “everything is fine.”

“Putin” quickly became a top-trending term on Twitter Thursday night as news of the allegations broke.

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.

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.

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.

Promoting equity and community health in the COVID-19 pandemic

Editor’s note: Second 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.

In early March 2020, as COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency in Boston, Mass General Brigham began to care for a growing number of patients with COVID-19. Even at this early stage in the pandemic, a few things were clear: our data showed that Black, Hispanic, and non-English speaking patients were testing positive and being hospitalized at the highest rates. There were large differences in COVID-19 infection rates among communities. Across the river from Boston, the city of Chelsea began reporting the highest infection rate in Massachusetts. Within Boston, several neighborhoods, including Hyde Park, Roxbury, and Dorchester, exhibited infection rates double or triple the rest of the city. COVID-19 was disproportionately harming minority and vulnerable communities.

Working toward an equitable response to COVID-19

From the start, our work was driven by examining COVID data by race, ethnicity, language, disability, gender, age, and community. As the COVID crisis intensified in Massachusetts, we sought ways to improve health equity and extend support within the communities we serve. We designed and deployed initiatives aimed at our patients, community members, and employees. Below are examples of tools to enhance equity that we found useful.

Communicating with patients

As new COVID care models were established, we worked on access to clinical communication for all patients and their families. There was a particular focus on language, since COVID greatly impacted non-English speaking communities, and on communication for people with disabilities.

  • We linked COVID operations, such as our nurse hotline and telemedicine platforms, to interpreter services or bilingual staff, supported by patient tip sheets in multiple languages. Interpreters, working virtually through enhanced technology and remote communication, supported patients and families with limited English proficiency.
  • We collected information on clinical and administrative staff language proficiency, so that multilingual staff could help guide patient care. For example, at two hospitals we established a care model of Spanish-speaking physicians to provide cultural and linguistic support in inpatient and intensive care units that complemented interpreter services.
  • As all staff and patients began wearing masks, we ensured that deaf or hard-of-hearing patients would be able to communicate with care teams through the use of masks with a clear window, to allow for lip reading.

Providing up-to-date information for patients and employees

Guidance on how to protect yourself from COVID-19 evolved rapidly. Limited English proficiency, limited access to the Internet or to smartphones and computers, and limited tech savvy are barriers to receiving information for many of our patients and employees. We needed to identify ways to ensure that rapidly changing health information was available to everyone.

  • For our patients, we created COVID education in multiple languages, which was distributed through various modes, including brief videos. We also sent text messages with COVID alerts to more than 100,000 of our patients who live in hot-spot communities, or who were not enrolled in our patient portal.
  • For our employees, we initially hosted socially-distanced, in-person educational sessions in multiple languages. These sessions provided COVID education and updates on infection control protocol and human resources policies. Our employee educational effort later shifted to a remote model by enrolling 5,500 employees who do not use computers as part of their normal job function (such as environmental services and nutrition and food services staff) into a multilingual texting campaign designed to provide key information.

Expanding equity within communities

Through the COVID pandemic, we were building on our existing presence in, and partnerships with, the communities we serve in eastern Massachusetts in several ways.

  • Community members lacked necessary supplies to protect themselves from COVID, such as masks. In April, we launched the production of care kits — packages which included masks, hand sanitizer, soap, and patient education materials — and distributed them within our communities at locations such as COVID testing centers, food distribution sites, and housing authorities. To date, more than 175,000 care kits have been distributed, including more than 1.3 million masks.
  • We also partnered with community leaders to provide COVID education. We identified trusted community leaders to record and release brief educational videos over social media to reinforce wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands.

Looking forward

We made it through the peak of the pandemic in Massachusetts, launching a suite of initiatives to address inequity within Mass General Brigham’s COVID response. However, the battle is by no means over. Now is the time for action. Even in states like Massachusetts, where infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have substantially declined in recent months, we need to ready ourselves for a resurgence — one that is already occurring in parts of the US and Europe. Surveillance and early preparation are key. Increased prevention and mitigation efforts, widespread testing, and identification of emerging hot spots can help curb the impact of a fall and winter resurgence of the virus. Unless we act now, and unless we ramp up efforts aimed at improving health equity, this will once again hit minority communities hardest.

The post Promoting equity and community health in the COVID-19 pandemic appeared first on Harvard Health Blog.

This content was originally published here.

Fauci: ‘You cannot abandon public health measures’ even with COVID-19 vaccine

Sen. Rand Paul questions Dr. Anthony Fauci at the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus restrictions will need to remain in place in some form even after a vaccine becomes available, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci told the “Fox News Rundown” podcast Thursday. 

Fauci, the most prominent member of the White House coronavirus task force, raised eyebrows Wednesday when he said, “I think it will be easily by the end of 2021 and perhaps into the next year before we start having some semblance of normality” during a webinar with the University of Melbourne in Australia.

On Thursday, Fauci told host Jessica Rosenthal that he was referring to “what we think of as normal, namely prior to December of 2019.” 

Fauci explained that health officials “likely will get knowledge of whether or not we have safe and effective vaccines by the end of this calendar year, likely some time in December.

“If we begin distributing doses of vaccine at the very beginning of 2021 … I think when you start seeing people getting vaccinated in January, February, March, April, May, and it’s clear that it’s safe and that it is impacting the course of the pandemic in the United States, more and more people will want to get vaccinated. That’s going to take several months. And if it takes several months, you’re going to get into the third and maybe the fourth quarter of 2021.”

However, Fauci warned, that timeline depends on “how effective the vaccine is, compounded by what percentage of the population actually wants to get vaccinated.”

For that reason, he said, “as that process evolves, you cannot abandon public health measures because the vaccine is not going to be perfect and not everybody is going to take it.”

As more people take the vaccine, Fauci said, Americans will “gradually be able to do things that we’re not doing now widely. For example, allowing occupancy of theaters, maybe not full capacity, but close to full capacity; having spectators be in the stadium or in the field during athletic events; having restaurants be close to full capacity.

“That doesn’t mean people should not be wearing masks and [that] people should not be avoiding congregate settings where there are big crowds,” he added. “But there will be a gradual lifting of the public health restrictions. And I think that’s going to take a full year.”

The exception, Fauci told Rosenthal, is schools.

“We should, right now, to the best of our capability … [be] trying to get children back to school,” he said. “I think children getting back to school will be much, much sooner than getting people into theaters at full capacity. No doubt about that.”

To hear the full interview, subscribe and download The FOX News Rundown on your favorite podcast player.

The FOX NEWS RUNDOWN is a news-based daily morning podcast delivering a deep dive into the major and controversial stories of the day.

This content was originally published here.

Mississippi Health Official: Maskless White People Are Responsible For Spike In COVID-19 Cases

Mississippi Health Official: Maskless White People Are Responsible For Spike In COVID-19 Cases By Kirsten West Savali ·October 24, 2020October 24, 2020

Maskless white people in Mississippi are responsible for the spike in COVID-19 cases, according to Dr. Thomas Dobbs, a State Health Officer.

“We’ve seen a pretty remarkable shift because early on, African Americans accounted for basically two-thirds, or 60 percent or more, of cases and deaths,” Dobbs said on CNN. “Then over the summer, and especially going into the fall, we’ve seen that shift basically upside down. Sixty-percent of new cases are caucasians and the deaths are nearing that also.”

Dobbs said that the state has been been working hard on safety measures, which have found “more fertile ground in the Black community.”

“As far as the case trends, we have had really pretty good uptake by a lot of folks in the Black community with masking and social distancing,” Dobbs said. “We’ve worked very aggressively to make sure that the Black community understands where the risks are and what can be done to prevent that. “And I just will say … I think big parts of the white community, especially in areas that maybe weren’t as hard-affected (previously), have not been as compliant or engaged actively with social distancing and masking. And I think that does make a difference.”

According to Dobbs, there are white parents sponsoring youth events, dances, and parties. Additionally, get togethers and gathering in bars have helped to undermine the state’s efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.

As of Friday, October 23, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reported 1,212 new COVID-19 cases and 17 additional deaths, bringing the state’s totals to 115,088 cases and 3,255 deaths, WDAM reports.

White, maskless people are causing an uptick in Mississippi’s Covid-19 cases, Dr. Thomas Dobbs says.“It may well be that we found a pretty receptive audience in the African American community… We’re not having the same success… with other segments of the population” pic.twitter.com/EfrDZOTh74

— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) October 22, 2020

As white people continue to disproportionately endanger themselves and their neighbors, Black people continue to be most at risk from serious COVID-19 complications.

Mississippi is among the southern states that have opted not to expand Medicaid, but whose governors rushed to reopen businesses even though no vaccine or herd immunity had been established, ESSENCE previously reported.

“We—who were already neglected by states who chose profit and partisan politics over the health and well-being of our communities, who are disproportionately impacted by poverty, white supremacist violence, health disparities and more—are seeing less access to emergency care, while the few facilities that remain are becoming the primary source of care for our people,” Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, Executive Director of the Highlander Research & Education Center, wrote in March. “We’re seeing health care providers leave communities because of the closure of rural hospitals, gaps in specialty care expanding, job loss, and so much more, as the need for services increases beyond our ability to provide them.”

Those facts have not changed.

COVID-19-MississippiCNN

Less than one month after Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves irresponsibly ended the state’s mask mandate on September 30, he has reinstated the mandate for nine counties, WJTV reports.

Still, the Republican governor continues to politicize his COVID-19 response and sharing misleading information about the health of the state he claims to lead, tweeting Friday, “17% decrease in Mississippi COVID cases this week compared to last week. Even as cases surge in most states. Keep up the good work! We can do this without going crazy on government interventions—people get it! Virtue signaling is useless, but limited action in key areas works!”

17% decrease in Mississippi COVID cases this week compared to last week. Even as cases surge in most states.Keep up the good work! We can do this without going crazy on government interventions—people get it! Virtue signaling is useless, but limited action in key areas works!

— Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) October 23, 2020

According to CNN, President Donald Trump, who is known to be anti-science, including in his COVID-19 response, won Mississippi in 2016’s election by 17.8 percentage points.

Perhaps, the maskless white people endangering their own lives and others are following their president’s lead. Trump, who held a super-spreader event at the White House while not wearing a mask, called his own COVID-19 diagnosis a “blessing from God.”

To date, the United States has had 8.58 million COVID-19 cases and 224,ooo deaths.

The post Mississippi Health Official: Maskless White People Are Responsible For Spike In COVID-19 Cases appeared first on Essence.

This content was originally published here.

Why Hugging Is Actually Good for Your Health

During the pandemic, it may feel like hugs are a thing of the past. In fact, of all the things you may crave during this difficult time, a hug may top the list. The isolation and lack of human connection are part of what makes quarantining so difficult. The longing for human touch and connection is as basic as any human need, and there’s strong evidence that hugs don’t just make you feel good. Researchers have found that giving your loved ones an affectionate squeeze can actually be good for your health.

“The health benefits of giving and receiving hugs are quite impressive. Hugs have a therapeutic effect on people,” says psychologist Joe Rock, PsyD. He says hugs are a good way to show someone you care about them. What’s more, they’re good for your health. 

“Research shows that hugs can be healthy,” says Dr. Rock. “Hugs cause a decrease in the release of cortisol, a stress hormone, and other research indicates that hugs decrease your blood pressure and heart rate in stressful situations,” he adds. 

Additional research found that giving and receiving hugs can actually strengthen your immune system. 

Dr. Rock says hugging seems to have a therapeutic effect. That’s because your brain has specific pathways created to detect human touch. 

“We can detach ourselves from people and get locked up in our own world,” he says. “Just the physical act of hugging someone really does connect us with them and lets down some of our defenses.”

Hugging communicates that you are safe, loved and that you are not alone — a much-needed message right about now.

Ways you can safely give (and receive) affection during the coronavirus pandemic

Things have certainly changed since we’ve all become aware of coronavirus. Adhering to social distancing guidelines and masking up may make you fearful of physical touch or hugging. But is there a way to walk a balance between carefully distanced and also connected?  

Given that hugging can actually raise the level of oxytocin or “feel good” chemical in your brain, connecting — in whatever way we can — may be just the ticket right now. The safest thing to do is to avoid hugs. But there are some safe ways to give and receive affection right now. 

  • Hug a loved one in your household: You’re already sharing germs with those in your household. Now may be a perfect time to hug members of your household more often. 
  • Connect with loved ones online: Technology has definitely helped many weather the coronavirus storm. FaceTime, Zoom and other video conferencing apps can help you feel connected while remaining safely socially distant. 
  • Self-care during quarantine: Use the extra time to pamper yourself or start a new self-care routine. Facials, bubble baths, and online exercise programs offer many options for taking care of yourself while staying safe.  
  • Mask up and head out: If you crave the close proximity of friends, do so safely. Wash your hands well, don your favorite mask, and meet a friend for a socially distant coffee date at an outdoor coffee shop, for example. Or, call ahead for take out, and have a picnic in an outdoor location (still masked and six feet apart, of course).

The coronavirus has definitely changed the way we give and receive affection. But it’s important for our mental health to remain connected to those we love. With some creativity, and a little planning, we can do so safely and share affection with those who are important to us. 

This content was originally published here.

‘Darkest part of the pandemic’ is approaching, says public health expert | PBS NewsHour

Well, we actually have a convergence of factors that are making for what is, I think, going to be the darkest part of the pandemic over the course of the next 12 weeks.

Michael Osterholm:

Well, first of all, we’re going to see these large numbers.

And we already saw this past summer what it looks like to have 70,000 cases a day. And it’s horrible, even when it was only in a few states where they were really in trouble. Now we’re going to see many more states are going to be in trouble. And the numbers are going to go much higher.

On top of that, when you listen to the very excellent reports you just had, they talked about opening up new beds. You know, the big problem in this country isn’t going to be about new beds. We can get those. What we’re running out of are people who have expertise in intensive care medicine, doctors, nurses, the support teams.

And when you don’t have that kind of expertise at hand, even though you may have a bed, you’re not getting the care that may necessarily save your life. And so expect to see not only severe illnesses increasing, and the number of people in ICUs, but expect to see the deaths increase.

And that’s what’s going to be a challenge for us. And then, as you said, we’re getting closer to the holidays. And I have said for months this is our COVID year. Expect it to be different. Don’t try to make it like last year or, hopefully, it’ll be like next year.

And I think that, based on the number of experiences that I have personally been involved with where young adults take home the virus to mom and dad, grandpa and grandma, uncle Bill and aunt Jane for some kind of celebration, only to have them become infected and be dead three weeks later, we don’t want that to happen at the holidays.

So that means you’re going to have to really all reconsider, how do we do the holidays? Is it time to go home? We all want to see our loved ones. But we have to ask ourselves, if we really love them, what are we going to do to help protect particularly those who are older who have underlying health problems? This is going to be a huge challenge.

This content was originally published here.

Rush Limbaugh Gives Harrowing Health Update

Conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh on Monday told his listeners “the days where I do not think I’m under a death sentence are over” and his fight with cancer is “terminal.”

In February, the legendary broadcaster revealed he had advanced lung cancer but vowed to stay on the radio as he battled the disease. Limbaugh said in May that his treatment was physically grueling but that he would not stop fighting. As recently as July, he said he was hoping the treatment would give him “extra innings.”

But on Monday, Limbaugh told his audience that the latest results show the cancer that had been stymied is growing once again, according to a transcript of his remarks posted on his website.

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“From the moment you get the diagnosis, there’s a part of you every day, OK, that’s it. Life’s over,” he said. “You just don’t know when. But when you get that diagnosis, I mean, that’s … So, during the period of time after the diagnosis, you do what you can to prolong life, do what you can to prolong a happy life. You measure a happy life against whatever medication it takes.

“And at some point you can decide, you know, this medication may be working, but I hate the way I feel every day. I’m not there yet. But it is part and parcel of this.

“It’s tough to realize that the days where I do not think I’m under a death sentence are over. Now, we all are, is the point. We all know that we’re going to die at some point, but when you have a terminal disease diagnosis that has a time frame to it, then that puts a different psychological and even physical awareness to it.”

He said that when he went to the doctor last week, “The scans did show some progression of cancer. Now, prior to that, the scans had shown that we had rendered the cancer dormant. That’s my phrase for it. We had stopped the growth. It had been reduced, and it had become manageable.”

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Limbaugh said the results were in some ways inevitable “because it is cancer. It eventually outsmarts pretty much everything you throw at it. And this, of course, this is stage four lung cancer.”

Later he noted that “stage four is, as they say, terminal. So we have some recent progression. It’s not dramatic, but it is the wrong direction.”

The results mean that Limbaugh’s treatment is being adjusted “in hopes of keeping additional progression at bay for as long as possible.”

Many on Twitter saluted Limbaugh.

I can only say that every day God grants us this man’s presence amongst us is a blessing. #RushLimbaugh https://t.co/7EqKmjOxnk

— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) October 20, 2020

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#RushLimbaugh updates audience: some disease progression on his lung cancer scan, so treatment will be tweaked. Upbeat nonetheless: “It’s a great thing to wake up each morning. Stop and thank God when you do.” He says he is humbled by all the prayers; so let us multiply them.

— Mark Davis (@MarkDavis) October 19, 2020

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Despite the grim update, Limbaugh spent much of his discussion about his health talking about blessings.

“You know, all in all, I feel very blessed to be here speaking with you today. Some days are harder than others. I do get fatigued now. I do get very, very tired now. I’m not gonna mislead you about that. But I am extremely grateful to be able to come here to the studio and to maintain as much normalcy as possible — and it’s still true,” he said.

“You know, I wake up every day and thank God that I did. I go to bed every night praying I’m gonna wake up. I don’t know how many of you do that, those of you who are not sick, those of you who are not facing something like I and countless other millions are. But it’s a blessing when you wake up. It’s a stop-everything-and-thank-God moment,” he said.

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Limbaugh spoke of faith and fears.

“I try to remain committed to the idea what’s supposed to happen, will happen when it’s meant to. I mentioned at the outset of this — the first day I told you — that I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said. “It is of immense value, strength, confidence, and that’s why I’m able to remain fully committed to the idea that what is supposed to happen will happen when it’s meant to.

“There’s some comfort in knowing that some things are not in our hands. There’s a lot of fear associated with that, too, but there is some comfort. It’s helpful … God, is it helpful. It’s helpful to be able to trust and to believe in a higher plan.”

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The eternal fighter that is Limbaugh noted that at the time of his diagnosis he was told his case was “hopeless.”

“I’m just gonna tell you, there is no way back in January and February that I had anything but hope that I would still be alive on this day, October 19th, and that I would be fully productive working. There was no way. I didn’t share that with anybody. So given that as a starting point, given that as a baseline, I’m kicking butt — and the future remains pretty good-looking, given all of that,” he said.

Limbaugh said that no matter what, it is never too late.

“You know, I’ve loved to point out we all only get one life,” he said. “We don’t get a do-over in the … well, we do. Actually, we get a do-over every day if we choose to look at it that way.

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“Once we’re old enough and mature enough to understand what life is and that there is only one, then you do get do-overs, an opportunity to fix what you think you might not have done so well the day before, which is an operative philosophy of mine.”

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

This content was originally published here.

Doctors Smash Rumors About Trump’s Health, Experts Say POTUS’ Symptoms ‘Resolving and Improving’

President Donald Trump’s medical team cleared the air with regard to establishment media speculation and rumors about his condition after he was diagnosed with the coronavirus and hospitalized this week.

A CNN report Friday evening on “Anderson Cooper 360,” for example, inferred the president was dealing with significant respiratory issues, as well as other symptoms.

But a news briefing held by Trump’s doctors outside of Walter Reed Medical Center on Saturday dispelled rumors regarding the president’s health.

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“This morning the president is doing very well,” said physician to the president Dr. Sean Conley, a commander in the U.S. Navy. “At this time, the team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made.”

“Thursday, [Trump] had a mild cough and some nasal congestion and fatigue — all of which are resolving and improving,” Conley added.

The president has also been fever-free since Friday, Conley said.

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Conley added that the decision to hospitalize the president was made as a “precautionary measure.”

Dr. Sean Dooley, another member of Trump’s medical team, said the president is “in exceptionally good spirits,” and added that Trump told him, “I feel like I could walk out of here today.”

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When fielding questions from reporters, Conley dispelled rumors, such as the one reported by CNN, about Trump’s condition.

CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta had claimed on the network Friday that a Trump campaign source informed him the president was having difficulty breathing and was also dealing with extreme fatigue.

“I talked to a Trump campaign adviser just a short while ago who said that this is serious, that the president has been having some trouble breathing, that he’s been very fatigued today, very tired,” Acosta told Cooper.

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Acosta went on to claim another source told him there were “serious concerns” in Trump’s inner circle about the president’s condition. Acosta did not name his sources.

Jim Acosta just now on CNN: “I talked to a Trump campaign advisor a short while ago that said this is serious. That the president has been having some trouble breathing, that he’s been very fatigued today, very tired.” pic.twitter.com/PciehG4IUg

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 3, 2020

The CNN correspondent made sure to point out prior to his on-air conversation with Cooper that Trump, who has an active case of the coronavirus, did not take questions from reporters while en route to Walter Reed on Friday evening.

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Trump did not stop for questions pic.twitter.com/YQhfHcAeYv

— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) October 2, 2020

Conley’s remarks Saturday challenged the veracity of Acosta’s reporting, although not directly.

According to Conley, Trump has not been having any trouble breathing.

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Currently, Trump has no need for supplemental oxygen, Conley said. The president is currently undergoing a regiment of remdesivir antiviral therapy, he added.

The doctor went on to say that Trump’s vital signs are normal, and that aside from being male, 74 and moderately overweight, the president is not considered to be at high risk for complications from the coronavirus.

Conley would not give a timetable for when Trump can return to the White House, but did confirm he is working from the presidential suite at Walter Reed.

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

This content was originally published here.

D.C. health department can’t reach White House for COVID-19 tracing, Bowser says | PBS NewsHour

WASHINGTON (AP) — Officials with the Washington, D.C., Department of Health have been unsuccessful in trying to connect with the White House to assist with contact tracing and other protocols regarding the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak that has infected President Donald Trump and several senior staff members.

“We have reached out to the White House on a couple of different levels, a political level and a public health level,” Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday. She added that a D.C. health department representative who reached out to the White House “had a very cursory conversation that we don’t consider a substantial contact from the public health side.”

The lack of communication represents an unwelcome obstacle for the D.C. government, which has worked to contain the spread of the virus through mandatory mask requirements and limits on the size of gatherings.

Bowser acknowledged on Monday that White House medical officials “have their hands full” at the moment. But a D.C. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment on the record, said White House doctors have not informed the D.C. Department of Health of any of the positive test results — a necessary step before contact tracing and quarantining can begin.

There have been multiple attempts to contact them, the official said.

Bowser’s government, which has publicly feuded with the Trump administration multiple times, is in a difficult position regarding the current outbreak. The Trump White House has operated for months in open violation of several D.C. virus regulations, hosting multiple gatherings that exceeded the local 50-person limit and in which many participants didn’t wear masks.

A Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony to announce Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court is now regarded as a potential infection nexus, with multiple attendees, including Notre Dame University President Rev. John Jenkins, testing positive afterward. Jenkins flew in to attend the ceremony from Indiana, a state D.C. classifies as a virus hot-spot — meaning he would have been expected to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

Washington’s local virus regulations don’t apply on federal property, but the current outbreak has blurred those distinctions. Trump inner-circle members like former counselor Kellyanne Conway, who has also tested positive, are D.C. residents, as are many of the staffers, employees, Secret Service members and journalists who have had close contact with infected officials. But the Health Department has been unable to conduct contact tracing or any of the other normal protocols. Instead it has been forced to entrust the White House medical staff to conduct its own contact tracing.

“There are established public health protocols at the White House that are federal in nature,” Bowser said. “We assume that those protocols have been engaged.”

The White House says it is doing contact tracing and that “appropriate notifications and recommendations are being made.”

Dr. LaQuandra Nesbit, head of the D.C. Health Department, said the process must begin with an official notification from a medical professional.

“If that information has been provided to us … the D.C. contact trace force will do its work,” Nesbit said.

The situation has been further complicated by the apparent resistance of some senior Trump officials to voluntarily quarantine and the inability of the D.C. government to force the issue. Attorney General William Barr, who was repeatedly seen in close contact with Conway and other infected people, said over the weekend that he would limit his activities or movements. On Monday he reversed course and a spokesman said Barr would self-quarantine “for now.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also been kept out of the White House’s outbreak response so far.

The CDC has said repeatedly that it has a team ready to help the White House investigate how the outbreak unfolded. The White House so far has not asked for such assistance, but such an investigation could sort out who started the outbreak and whether the spread happened at the outdoor gathering or at related indoor events or both, several infectious disease experts said in a conference call with reporters.

“The tools are present to dissect what actually happened,” said Dr. Robert Schooley, an infectious disease specialist at the UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Indoor spread is easier, but the attendees of the Rose Garden ceremony sat very close together for an extended time, said Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech. At this point, “I don’t think we can rule out transmission occurring outdoors,” Marr said.

Bowser and Nesbit took pains Monday to avoid direct commentary or criticism of the White House — perhaps seeking to avoid the appearance of politicizing the crisis. Nesbit refused to specifically comment on the Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony. But she spoke in generalities about everyone’s need to “make better decisions” in their personal and professional lives.

“We have encouraged people to choose the activities they would go to wisely,” she said. “If someone was hosting an event where people were not going to wear facemasks, where people were not going to be socially distant, that you would choose to make better decisions about attending such an event.”

Associated Press writer Mike Stobbe in New York contributed to this report

This content was originally published here.

‘We have to learn to live with’ COVID rather than react to numbers: Top public health expert | Toronto Sun

“We have way more in terms of control measures in place,” Goel says in response to the argument some have made that those most dire indicators are now on the cusp of flaring up. “If we look at how many companies and organizations still have people working from home, so the number of daily interactions are limited, we have physical distancing and other requirements, we don’t have big conferences, sports events, theatres — so we are already starting from a baseline of control measures that didn’t exist back in March.”

On Monday, Ontario reported 700 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number the province had ever recorded. Shortly after the figures were made public, the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) called for the province to return to a Stage 2 lockdown, which included added restrictions for most businesses.

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“We have to really start to think more about all the different data elements and be very clear with Canadians on that strategy and also be clear with Canadians that the strategy is on maximizing overall health,” says Goel.

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That overall health of society includes things like keeping businesses going and the schools open. “We know that unemployment is a major predictor for poor health outcomes and deaths,” Goel notes. “It’s not just about minimizing COVID-19. We also want to ensure our children can develop, we want to keep people working, because if you can’t put food on the table that will effect your health.”

Part of the challenge right now is that the government hasn’t clearly communicated their objective. “Is it containment or eradication? Is it learning to live with it? Is it trying to maximize health across all angles?” Goel asks.

“While eradication is a worthy stretch objective, we need to be realistic and unless we’re going to somehow build a wall and become more like New Zealand and have really drastic control measures, it’s going to be really difficult for Canada to have eradication.

“We have to think about what the world is going to be like until there are effective vaccines fully deployed, and even in that scenario we may still have some cases. So it means we have to learn how to live with this.”

This doesn’t mean Goel thinks there isn’t much more work to be done. He wants to see more testing, contact tracing and supports the use of tracing apps.

This content was originally published here.

Supporting Public Health Experts’ Vaccine Efforts – About Facebook

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of preventive health behaviors. While public health experts agree that we won’t have an approved and widely available COVID-19 vaccine for some time, there are steps that people can take to stay healthy and safe. That includes getting the seasonal flu vaccine. So today we’re announcing new steps as part of our continued work to help support vaccine efforts. These include: 

“Vaccines have always been a global priority for UNICEF, and will be even more so as the world continues to battle COVID-19. Building demand for vaccination in communities worldwide is key to saving lives. Our collaboration with Facebook is part of our efforts to address vaccine misinformation and share resonant and reassuring information on vaccination.” 

– Diane Summers, Senior Advisor, Vaccine Acceptance & Demand, UNICEF

Helping People Get Their Flu Shot 

Public health officials recommend that most people get a flu shot every year. This year, they think it is especially important to minimize the risk of concurrent flu and COVID-19. To help, we’ll be directing people to general information about the flu vaccine and how to get it, including the nearest location to get the vaccine in the US using our Preventive Health Tool. We’ll also be including sharable flu vaccine reminders and resources from health authorities in News Feed and within the COVID-19 Information Center. We’re starting this campaign in the US this week, and we’ll expand it to more countries and add new features in the coming weeks. 

Prohibiting Ads That Discourage Vaccines 

Today, we’re launching a new global policy that prohibits ads discouraging people from getting vaccinated. We don’t want these ads on our platform.

Our goal is to help messages about the safety and efficacy of vaccines reach a broad group of people, while prohibiting ads with misinformation that could harm public health efforts. We already don’t allow ads with vaccine hoaxes that have been publicly identified by leading global health organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Now, if an ad explicitly discourages someone from getting a vaccine, we’ll reject it. Enforcement will begin over the next few days.

Ads that advocate for or against legislation or government policies around vaccines – including a COVID-19 vaccine – are still allowed. We’ll continue to require anyone running these ads to get authorized and include a ‘Paid for by’ label so people can see who is behind them. We regularly refine our approach around ads that are about social issues to capture debates and discussions around sensitive topics happening on Facebook. Vaccines are no different. While we may narrow enforcement in some areas, we may expand it in others.

Amplifying the Voices of Public Health Partners

With vaccination rates still low in many parts of the world, we’re working with global health organizations on vaccine education campaigns. This includes working with organizations including WHO and UNICEF on public health messaging campaigns to increase immunization rates. We’re working with WHO’s Vaccine Safety Network to train and support their network of vaccine partners to utilize Facebook to reach as many people as possible with public health messaging.

Insights for Impact, which is part of the Facebook Data for Good Program, in collaboration with CrowdTangle will expand its partnership with UNICEF and other nonprofits to share aggregated insights from public posts to better understand how people are talking about vaccines. We will analyze this public conversation across genders, age brackets and regions. Early results from our pilot vaccine messaging work with UNICEF across 10 countries show that nonprofits can use this aggregated information from public posts to build public trust in vaccines. Expanding this program will help our partners deliver vaccine related content to many different communities.

We will continue supporting vaccine efforts as part of our work to help the people who use our platform stay healthy and safe. 

This content was originally published here.

Nancy Pelosi says Democrats will be having an event about the 25th Amendment — and President Trump’s health

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday announced that Democrats are set to hold a Friday event concerning the 25th Amendment amid President Donald Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

What are the details?

During questions at a Thursday press briefing, Pelosi told reporters, “Tomorrow, by the way, tomorrow, come here tomorrow. We’re going to be talking about the 25th Amendment.”

Reporters pressed Pelosi to clarify what she meant and asked if she believed it would be prudent to invoke the 25th Amendment in an attempt to remove Trump from office, the speaker did not provide a definitive answer one way or the other.

“I’m not talking about it today except to tell you, if you want to talk about that, we’ll see you tomorrow,” she said. “But you take me back to my point. Mr. President, when was the last time you had a negative test before you tested positive? Why is the White House not telling the country that important fact about how this made a hot spot of the White House?”

Trump announced last Friday that he tested positive for coronavirus, prompting a three-day stay at Walter Reed National Medical Center for treatment. He returned to the White House on Monday.

The 25th Amendment says, “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

What did the president say?

On Thursday, the president spoke with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business, where he said, “I feel perfect. There’s nothing wrong.”

Trump has yet to publicly remark on Pelosi’s Thursday afternoon remarks.

GOP Rapid Response Director Steve Guest pointed TheBlaze to a tweet when asked for comment on the speaker’s remarks.

The tweet simply read, “Nancy Pelosi is UNHINGED.”

This content was originally published here.

Dems say moving forward with Barrett’s confirmation ‘threatens the health and safety’ of members

6m ago / 7:24 PM UTC

Dems say moving forward with Barrett’s confirmation ‘threatens the health and safety’ of members

All 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are calling on the panel’s Republican chairman, Lindsey Graham, to hold off on the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

“To proceed at this juncture with a hearing to consider Judge Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court threatens the health and safety of all those who are called upon to do the work of this body,” the senators wrote in a letter to Graham that was spearheaded by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

They also wrote that holding a remote hearing for a Supreme Court nomination is “not an adequate substitute.” Conducting the hearings virtually “ignores the gravity of our constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on lifetime appointments, particularly those to the nation’s highest court.”

On Saturday, Senate Republicans signaled that they would move forward with the hearings the week of Oct. 12 despite three GOP senators, including two who are members of the committee, testing positive for Covid-19.

Josh Lederman and Kelly O’Donnell

28m ago / 7:02 PM UTC

Tensions building outside Walter Reed

A tense, circus-like situation has developed outside the entrance to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center between Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters.

At one point, NBC News witnessed a minor physical altercation between an anti-Trump protester and a maskless Trump supporter carrying a Trump sign. It was unclear who started it, but they took a few swings at each other and screamed before police eventually showed up. It did not appear that anyone was injured. We have not seen any arrests.

“We can’t hear you, you might want to take your mask off, come on,” one Trump supporter is shouting through a megaphone.

Both local police and military police are now on hand.

In addition to shouting at each other, both the pro-Trump people and the anti-Trump people have been driving back and forth along Rockville Pike, where the media is set up on the sidewalk, honking their horns and occasionally screaming at reporters.

There are about 50 or so people gathered currently, mostly Trump supporters, some with signs wishing the president a speedy recovery. A few have signs saying coronavirus is a hoax.

The anti-Trump protesters have signs with profane references to Trump.

Trump’s physician walks back earlier statements, tries to clear up diagnosis timeline

Dr. Sean Conley, President Donald Trump’s physician, clarified comments from earlier Saturday when doctors stated that the president was “72 hours” into his diagnosis and had begun treatment “48 hours ago.”

“This morning while summarizing the President’s health, I incorrectly use the term ‘seventy two hours’ instead of ‘day three’ and ‘forty eight hours’ instead of ‘day two’ with regards to his diagnosis and the administration of the polyclonal antibody therapy,” Conley wrote in a statement.

While Conley did say during the press conference that Trump was “72 hours” into his diagnosis, he did not make the comment about starting treatment “48 hours ago.” Dr. Brian Garibaldi, another physician at the news conference, made those remarks.

Conley’s statements earlier in the day created a cloud of confusion, raising questions as to whether the president had withheld his diagnosis from the public for more than 24 hours and whether he had continued to hold campaign events knowing he was ill.

This content was originally published here.

What You Need to Know About Immune System Health After 50

More than 24 million Americans have an autoimmune disease, and that number is climbing. When researchers in North Carolina examined 14,000 Americans between 1991 and 2012, they discovered that the prevalence of antinuclear antibodies, an early marker of autoimmunity, had increased by 45 percent. Another study — this one spanning three decades — found that autoimmune diseases of the joints, glands and digestive system are rising at a steady 3.7 to 7.1 percent each year. Smoking and being overweight are two risk factors within your control that are associated with greater risk of RA, one of the most common autoimmune disorders, which affects the lining of your joints.

Food allergies. This is an immune system overreaction that can occur immediately after eating something as seemingly benign as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Food allergies now afflict more than 1 in 10 adults, according to a Northwestern University study of 40,000 people. Rates are particularly high for shellfish, milk and nut allergies, and the number of people who have them has been climbing steadily since the 1980s. “We’re now more susceptible to responses against harmless stuff that shouldn’t be a big problem for our immune system,” Ansel says. “But instead we generate these big and often destructive responses.”

So what’s causing the confusion in the immune system? To a large extent, it’s our changing environment.

“Our bodies deal with thousands of chemicals that were not in the environment 50 years ago — and some not even 20 years ago,” says Aristo Vojdani, a clinical immunologist and adjunct associate professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Loma Linda University. Heavy metals and industrial pollutants are among the top offenders, but pesticides, preservatives and compounds in food can also alter immune function. All told, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) counts more than 300 environmental chemicals that reach measurable levels in our bodies.

“Exposure to different environmental insults can add up and alter how the immune system functions,” says David Shepherd, a professor of environmental immunology at the University of Montana. “In some cases, [the chemicals] are immune-activating,” meaning they cause inflammation, “and in others, they’re immunosuppressive,” which makes you susceptible to attack.

Add to that a general decrease in physical exercise, ever-increasing levels of stress and, yes, our increasing age. All these many factors have laid siege to our immune system like never before.

Andrew Brookes/Getty Images

Get to know your immune system

When bacteria and viruses enter your body, these natural defenders spring into action   

Macrophage
This gargantuan white blood cell lies in wait within healthy tissue. Sometimes years pass without action, but when a pathogen emerges, macrophages release a blast of proteins called cytokines, which calls the immune system into battle. From there, the macrophage joins the cleanup crew by gobbling up dead and crippled pathogens.

Natural Killer Cell
Some infected cells can be rendered “invisible” to the immune system, which allows the pathogen to continue to spread unabated. That’s when natural killer cells provide an extra layer of defense. A natural killer cell has the ability to identify abnormal cellular appearance — as is often the case with cells infected by a virus. The killer cell studies its mark, and if the suspect cell appears to be infected, it releases proteins near the suspected pathogen. The pathogen then eats the protein — a fatal, final meal.

Neutrophil
At the first sign of trouble, neutrophils swarm like killer bees with multiple stingers. Neutrophils can capture their enemy, set traps, inject poison and amplify signals that pull in more immune-system warriors. Neutrophils only live for about a day, but as long as the battle continues, fresh cells keep showing up to fight. Unfortunately, in their frenzy, they can often mistake healthy cells for the enemy. When that happens, and the neutrophils attack healthy tissue, the result is inflammation, and inflammatory diseases, throughout the body.

B Cell
Although B cells don’t kill invaders directly, they help to slow down pathogens by covering them with sticky Y-shaped proteins, robbing them of their strength and making them easy targets for cells like macrophages, which eat them in clumps. The B cell is an adaptive immune cell, meaning it is highly effective against diseases it has battled before but struggles to recognize new pathogens. When a novel coronavirus arrives, it takes time to ramp up production of antibodies.

T Cell
The T cell is one of the special-ops white blood cells called upon to “recognize” a foreign invader and know exactly how to fight it off. With new enemies like COVID-19, however, the process can take weeks. Once the T cell learns the code — essentially mapping the molecular structure on a pathogen’s surface — it quickly trains an army of T cells to begin opening infected cells and pumping them full of toxins. Doctors call this process immunity, although with COVID-19, we still aren’t certain how long it lasts.

This content was originally published here.

L.A. County Health Director Admits Schools Won’t Open Until After the Election – The Rush Limbaugh Show

RUSH: The Los Angeles County health director is a woman by the name of Barbara Ferrer, and she got caught. It was an open mic moment. She has said that it’s not realistic to open the schools now. (paraphrased) “No, no, no. We can’t open the schools now. That would be very, very unrealistic. No, no, no, no. We are gonna open the schools after the election.”

You see, the phony part of science has tied the reopening of schools to an election. Not to a vaccine, not to treatments, not to infection rates, but to the election, in Los Angeles County. Every aspect of the education of our children has been politicized, meaning education is dead in the public schools. It means that indoctrination is now the name of the game.

Pupils, students are nothing more than pawns for Democrat games. So education, journalism, comedy, sports, they have all been cheapened, they have all been diminished, they have all been perverted now. So, here is the tape. Here’s Dr. Barbara Ferrer on a conference call with school administrators and medical professionals.

FERRER: We, uh, don’t realistically anticipate that we would be moving to either tier 2 or reopening, uh, K-through-12 schools at least through, uh, — at least until after the election. It seems to us a more realistic, uh, approach to this would be to think that we’re gonna be where we are now until, uh, we get after — until we — we are done with the election.

RUSH: Now, what’s that got to do anything? (summarized) “We won’t be moving to either tier 2 or reopening K-through-12 schools at least until after the election. It seems to us a more realistic approach to this would be to think that we’re gonna be where we are now until, uh, we get after — until we — we are done with the election.”

Really? Gonna reopen the schools after the election? Oh, yeah. We can’t do it before the election. That would help Trump! We’ll do it after the election, and especially, especially if Biden wins. However, there’s a problem. I want to share with you some headlines that I just took from the Drudge page today, because there are people who think that COVID-19 is once again declining.

Number of infections: Declining. Number of deaths: Declining. Okay. Here’s some headlines. “Pandemic About to Enter its Most Treacherous Phase?” Oh, yeah! You got people out there thinking it hasn’t even gotten anywhere near as bad as it’s gonna get. You wait ’til fall and winter hits, and you wait ’til people have to go back and stay inside most of the day.

Oh, you have no idea how bad it’s gonna be! It’s gonna be worse than it’s been ever. (That’s what that story is.) Next headline: “Centers for Disease Control: People with Virus Twice as Likely to Have Eaten at a Restaurant.” Right when they’re trying to open inside dining in New York, here comes a story from the CDC: “People with Virus Twice as Likely to Have Eaten at a Restaurant.”

I mean, my old buddy Sal Scognamillo is hoping to be able to open up Patsy’s and all of his fellow restaurateurs for 25 to 40% inside dining capacity, and here comes a story (from the CDC no less) that people who have COVID-19 are twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant. That’s like saying, “People involved in automobile accidents yet have eaten carrots in the past 30 days.”

It’s just… (interruption) You want more? Here’s more. “Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Fail to Separate Patients, Putting Others at Risk.” Oh, yeah. Did you know that when you go to the hospital, they’re not even trying to keep you separate from the COVID-19 patients? No. They’re putting you right in the same place, same part of the hospital.

You could easily get infected just because the hospitals are not separating people. There’s more: “France Records 9,800 New Cases, the Highest Daily Total Yet.” “Spiking in Eastern Europe; Hungary Drafts ‘War Plan,’” and the piece de resistance: “Fauci Warns U.S. Needs to ‘Hunker Down’ for Fall, Winter: ‘It’s Not Going to Be Easy.’”

So here we are with the LA health executives thinking we’re gonna open schools after the election — that’d be in November — and that we’re gonna start showing over the hump and the number of cases, number of deaths gonna be on the way down. Not so fast. Not so fast. It’s gonna be worse than ever, are the headlines that you can easily find throughout the Drive-By Media.

You know, I have some contradicting or contradictory stories again.

This content was originally published here.

Coronavirus Nashville Cases: Mayor’s Office, Health Department Concealed Low COVID Numbers | National Review

Officials in Nashville, Tn. concealed from the media how few coronavirus cases had been traced to bars and restaurants in the city, according to emails sent between the mayor’s office and the city’s health department. 

Emails obtained by FOX 17 News appear to show that the two offices seemingly conspired to conceal data showing that while construction and nursing homes led to more than a thousand cases each as of June 30th, only 22 cases had been traced to bars and restaurants. 

In a discussion of the numbers, Leslie Waller from the health department asked, “This isn’t going to be publicly released, right? Just info for Mayor’s Office?”

“Correct, not for public consumption,” replied senior advisor Benjamin Eagles.

The next month, in response to rumors that only 80 cases had been traced to bars and restaurants, a Tennessean reporter asked, “The figure you gave of ‘more than 80’ does lead to a natural question: If there have been over 20,000 positive cases of COVID-19 in Davidson and only 80 or so are traced to restaurants and bars, doesn’t that mean restaurants and bars aren’t a very big problem?”

An unnamed sender responded, “My two cents. We have certainly refused to give counts per bar because those numbers are low per site. We could still release the total though, and then a response to the over 80 could be because that number is increasing all the time and we don’t want to say a specific number.”

Get Jim Geraghty’s tour of the political news of the day.

Get Jim Geraghty’s tour of the political news of the day.

A city staff attorney, at the instruction of council member Steve Glover, was able to verify that the emails are real, the report said. 

Glover accused the city of covering up the data and “fabricating information.”

“They’ve blown their entire credibility,” he said. “It’s gone, I don’t trust a thing they say going forward …nothing.”

The councilman said many bartenders, waitresses, and restaurant owners from downtown Nashville have reached out asking why officials wouldn’t release those numbers. 

This content was originally published here.

U.S. Pulls $62 Million in Funding from World Health Organization

The Trump administration pulled $62 million in funding from the World Health Organization on Wednesday and is taking further steps to withdraw from the body, which the United States accuses of helping China obfuscate information about the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States is on track to cut its funding and personnel from the agency before July 2021, when President Donald Trump’s order earlier this year ending the U.S. relationship with WHO is set to begin, according to senior administration officials working on the matter. The United States will not consider rejoining the organization until it “gets its act together,” according to Nerissa Cook, deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.

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U.S. officials informed the WHO of the administration’s decision Wednesday and reiterated demands that the organization implement a series of widespread reforms to limit China’s interference in the body. American diplomats have been pressuring the organization for months over its efforts to help China hide evidence of the coronavirus’s origins. The Trump administration maintains the WHO was complicit in Beijing’s efforts to promulgate lies about the virus in the early days of its spread. The WHO went along with China’s claim that it was the first country to publicly report the virus. U.S. pressure on the WHO has irritated China and European powers that continue to maintain the organization is an effective oversight body.

“The position of the White House is that the WHO needs to reform, and that is starting with demonstrating its independence from the Chinese Communist Party,” Cook said. “And it needs to make improvements in its ability to prepare for, to prevent, to detect, and to respond to outbreaks of dangerous pathogens.”

The United States paid around 22 percent of the WHO’s regular budget, more than $100 million a year. In 2020, the United States sent more than $120 million to the organization, $58 million of which had been disbursed prior to Trump’s decision to freeze funding to the organization in April. The remaining money “will be reprogrammed to the U.N.” for other programs and organizations the United States still supports, according to Cook.

After it leaves the WHO, American diplomats will continue to pressure for reforms that they say must be implemented before the United States considers rejoining the organization. In addition to splitting from China, the United States is demanding structural reforms that would help the WHO more quickly respond to emerging pandemics and inform the world about possible dangers.

“If they’re interested in seeing the United States stay, they will take [those demands] seriously and negotiate seriously,” said Garrett Grigsby, director of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Global Affairs.

The Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will end its voluntary contributions to the WHO and begin bringing American officials stationed there home before the end of the year, officials from both agencies confirmed. This includes Americans who are working with the WHO on various global health issues.

USAID and HHS, however, will not halt what they called “one-time” donations to the WHO. This includes up to $40 million that HHS has promised the organization to support its work with immunization and influenza, according to Grigsby.

USAID will also move forward with a “one-time disbursement” this year of up to $68 million to support the WHO’s work on health issues in Libya and Syria, according to Alma Golden, USAID’s assistant administrator for global health.

After both agencies make good on these donations, officials will begin to cement partnerships with organizations and countries that are not WHO members, officials said.

“The World Health Organization has failed badly by those measures, not only in its response to COVID-19, but to other health crises in recent decades,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Thursday. “In addition, WHO has declined to adopt urgently needed reforms, starting with demonstrating its independence from the Chinese Communist Party.”

This content was originally published here.

UAE Covid-19 vaccine is safe to use, cleared for health staff

The vaccine will be available to the frontline workers who are at the highest risk of contracting the virus, a minister announced.

The UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) has announced an “emergency approval” for use of a Covid-19 vaccine that’s being trialled here.

The vaccine will be available to the frontline workers who are at the highest risk of contracting the virus, a minister announced. This will protect them from any dangers.

“The vaccine emergency approval for use is fully aligned with regulations and laws which permit (an) accelerated authorisation process,” said Abdul Rahman bin Mohammed Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, during a virtual Press briefing on Monday. “The results of the first and second test phases (of the vaccine) showed that it is safe, effective and triggered the right response.”

He noted that the emergency approval was granted on “meeting a set of criteria for this specific purpose, and working closely with the vaccine’s developers”.

Dr Nawal Al Kaabi, Chair of the National Clinical Committee for Covid-19 and Principal Investigator of the third phase of clinical trials of the inactive vaccine, said the clinical trials are “moving on the right path, with all tests being successful so far”.

“In less than six weeks since the study began, 31,000 volunteers representing 125 nationalities have participated in the clinical trials. The side effects which have been reported so far are mild and expected, like any other vaccine, and no severe side effects have been encountered,” she said.

Officials said the vaccine’s evaluation was done “under a licence for emergency and limited use, considering target groups, product characteristics, clinical studies data, and all relevant available scientific evidence”.

“The health authorities have followed all procedures to control the quality, safety and efficacy of the vaccine, in coordination with the vaccine’s creators,” said Dr Al Kaabi.

Phase III clinical trial of the Covid-19 inactivated vaccine was rolled out in Abu Dhabi on July 16.

Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) had in July collaborated with the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, G42 Healthcare and Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm CNBG – the developer of the vaccine – to facilitate the third phase of its clinical trials.

A team of specialist medical practitioners from SEHA has been managing the trials. All shots have been administered at dedicated centres equipped to accommodate the volunteers – both Emiratis and expats.

Volunteers are intensively monitored for approximately 42 days. They need to visit the testing centres at least 17 times. During this time, the individual is required to not travel outside the country and needs to have easy access to the clinics. After this, periodic follow-ups are conducted via teleconsultation for up to six months.

ismail@khaleejtimes.com 

This content was originally published here.

Mental health professionals replace police on some Denver 911 calls under new program

A concerned passerby dialed 911 to report a sobbing woman sitting alone on a curb in downtown Denver.

Instead of a police officer, dispatchers sent Carleigh Sailon, a seasoned mental health professional with a penchant for wearing Phish t-shirts, to see what was going on.

The woman, who was unhoused, was overwhelmed and scared. She’d ended up in an unfamiliar part of town. It was blazing hot and she didn’t know where to go. Sailon gave the woman a snack and some water and asked how she could help. Could she drive her somewhere? The woman was pleasantly surprised.

“She was like, ‘Who are you guys? And what is this?’” Sailon said, recounting the call.

This, Sailon explained, is Denver’s new Support Team Assistance Response program, which sends a mental health professional and a paramedic to some 911 calls instead of police.

Since its launch June 1, the STAR van has responded to more than 350 calls, replacing police in matters that don’t threaten public safety and are often connected to unmet mental or physical needs. The goal is to connect people who pose no danger with services and resources while freeing up police to respond to other calls. The team, who is not armed, has not called police for backup, Sailon said.

“We’re really trying to create true alternatives to us using police and jails,” said Vinnie Cervantes with Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, one of the organizations that helped start the program.

Though it had been years in the making, the program launched just four days after protests erupted in Denver calling for transformational changes to policing in response to the death of George Floyd.

“It really kind of proves that we’ve been working for the right thing, and that these ideas are getting the recognition they should,” Cervantes said.

No day is alike according to the two professionals from the Mental Health Center of Denver who work out of the van — Sailon and Chris Richardson.

Rachel Ellis, The Denver Post

Chris Richardson, associate director of criminal justice services at Mental Health Services of Denver, helped coordinated the use of the STAR van, pictured behind him.

The team has responded to an indecent exposure call that turned out to be a woman changing clothes in an alley because she was unhoused and had no other private place to go. They’ve been called out to a trespassing call for a man who was setting up a tent near someone’s home. They’ve helped people experiencing suicidal thoughts, people slumped against a fence, people simply acting strange.

“It’s amazing how much stuff comes across 911 as the general, ‘I don’t know what to do, I guess I’ll call 911,’” Richardson said. “Someone sets up a tent? 911. I can’t find someone? 911.”

The city has touted the program, still in its pilot, as an example of progress as it is barraged with criticism during and after the protests.

“It’s the future of law enforcement, taking a public health view on public safety,” Denver police Chief Paul Pazen said. “We want to meet people where they are and address those needs and address those needs outside of the criminal justice system.”

Pazen doesn’t think an expanded program would reduce the number of police officers needed by the city but it would allow them to focus on other priorities, such as violent crime and traffic fatalities. The STAR van handles a small fraction of the department’s annual 600,000 calls, but the department is tracking calls across the city to see how many could be handled by the STAR team if it were to expand.

The department has seen an increase in the number of mental health related calls over the last few years, he said, and data collected by the state shows that about a third of the people in Denver’s jails are unhoused.

“Instead of putting people in handcuffs we’re trying to meet their needs,” Pazen said.

The STAR program builds off the city’s co-responder program, which has paired mental health professionals with police officers since 2016 on calls where a person is suspected needing mental health services. The 17 mental health professionals responded to 2,223 calls in 2019 and the city’s Department of Public Health and Environment pays the Mental Health Center of Denver about $700,000 a year for their services. The co-responser program, which started with three mental health workers, is hiring now to expand to 25 such professionals, Pazen said.

The combination of STAR, the co-responder program and regular police units creates a sort of continuum of response that dispatchers can choose from, Richardson said. So far, the most common calls the van responds to have been trespassing and mental health checks.

“Once upon a time, someone called and police were tagged in to see what was going on,” Pazen said. “And I think we’re at a point where we’re realizing that police don’t have to be the first people all the time.

During STAR’s six-month pilot program, the van is operating between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday in central downtown and along South Broadway. Eventually, the community groups want to move the STAR program from underneath the police department and manage it themselves, an idea Pazen said he supports.

The pilot program was paid for by a grant from Caring for Denver, a pot of money for initiatives to address mental health and substance abuse collected through a sales tax. The foundation managing the money awarded $208,141 to launch the STAR program. Though sales tax revenue is expected to decline in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cervantes said the city should make STAR part of its budget and expand it citywide.

Rachel Ellis, The Denver Post

An unmarked STAR van is parked at West 5th Avenue and Banncock Street in Denver.

“I’m not so much worried about the funding being there, it’s about the will to get funding to the right places,” Cervantes said.

Organizers are working to help other cities adopt the program. Aurora city leaders are considering launching their own program as they face protests about police brutality and pressure to reshape emergency response.

One of the perks is the team often has the luxury of working with a person for two hours if needed, Sailon said. They’re able to build lasting relationships and connect people to longterm support.

“The rapport we’ve been able to build with people is really incredible,” Sailon said. “Something’s on the right track.”

This content was originally published here.

USC Professor Placed on Leave after Black Students Complained His Pronunciation of a Chinese Word Affected Their Mental Health | National Review

The University of Southern California has placed a communications professor on leave after a group of black MBA candidates threatened to drop his class rather than “endure the emotional exhaustion of carrying on with an instructor that disregards cultural diversity and sensitivities” following the instructor’s use, while teaching, of a Chinese word that sounds like a racial slur.

Greg Patton, a professor at the university’s Marshall School of Business, was giving a lecture about the use of “filler words” in speech during a recent online class when he used the word in question, saying, “If you have a lot of ‘ums and errs,’ this is culturally specific, so based on your native language. Like in China, the common word is ‘that, that, that.’ So in China it might be ‘nèi ge, nèi ge, nèi ge.’”

In an August 21 email to university administration obtained by National Review, students accused the professor of pronouncing the word like the N-word “approximately five times” during the lesson in each of his three communication classes and said he “offended all of the Black members of our Class.”

The students, who identified themselves as “Black MBA Candidates c/o 2022” wrote that they had reached out to Chinese classmates as they were “appalled” by what they had heard. 

“It was confirmed that the pronunciation of this word is much different than what Professor Patton described in class,” the students wrote. “The word is most commonly used with a pause in between both syllables. In addition, we have lived abroad in China and have taken Chinese language courses at several colleges and this phrase, clearly and precisely before instruction is always identified as a phonetic homonym and a racial derogatory term, and should be carefully used, especially in the context of speaking Chinese within the social context of the United States.”

The students accused the professor of displaying “negligence and disregard” in using the word and said he “conveniently stop[ped] the zoom recording right before saying the word,” calling his actions calculated. 

“Our mental health has been affected,” the group continued. “It is an uneasy feeling allowing him to have the power over our grades. We would rather not take his course than to endure the emotional exhaustion of carrying on with an instructor that disregards cultural diversity and sensitivities and by extension creates an unwelcome environment for us Black students.”

The students added that the incident “has impacted our ability to focus adequately on our studies.”

“No matter what way you look at this, the word was said multiple times today in three different instances and has deeply affected us. In light of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the recent and continued collective protests and social awakening across the nation, we cannot let this stand,” the group concluded, before calling for an immediate remedy to the situation. 

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Get Jim Geraghty’s tour of the political news of the day.

In response, Dean Geoff Garrett apologized for the professor’s use of a “Chinese word that sounds very similar to a vile racial slur in English,” in an email on August 24 obtained by National Review, saying “understandably, this caused great pain and upset among students.”

“I am deeply saddened by this disturbing episode that has caused such anguish and trauma,” he said.

The dean announced that a new instructor would immediately take over instruction for the remainder of the class.

Two days later, in an email to members of the USC Marshall Graduate Student Association Executive Board, Patton apologized, explaining that he has taught the course for 10 years and had been given the example by several international students years ago.

“The inclusion is part of a deep and sustained effort at inclusion as I have reached out to find and include many international, global, diverse, female, broad and inclusive leadership examples and illustrations to enhance communication and interpersonal skill in our global workplace,” he said. 

“I have since learned there are regional differences, yet I have always heard and pronounced the word as ‘naaga’ rhyming with ‘dega,’” the professor wrote.

He added that the transcript of the session records his pronunciation as “naga” and that his pronunciation of the word comes from time spent in Shanghai. 

“Given the difference in sounds, accent, context and language, I did not connect this in the moment to any English words and certainly not any racial slur,” he wrote.

“Unfortunately messages have circulated that suggest ill intent, extensive previous knowledge, inaccurate events and these are factually inaccurate. Fortunate [sic] we have transcripts, audio, video, tracking of messages and a 25 year record,” he wrote. “I have strived to best prepare students with Global, real-world and applied examples and illustrations to make the class content come alive and bring diverse voices, situations and experiences into the classroom.”

He said he had received positive feedback on the lesson in years past but accepted blame for failing “to realize all the many different additional ways that a particular example may be heard across audiences members based on their own lived experiences.”

In a statement to Campus Reform, USC said Patton “agreed to take a short term pause while we are reviewing to better understand the situation and to take any appropriate next steps.”

According to a brief bio on the school’s website, Patton is “an expert in communication, interpersonal and leadership effectiveness” who has received “numerous teaching awards, been ranked as one of the top teaching faculty at USC and helped USC Marshall achieve numerous #1 worldwide rankings for Communication and Leadership skill development.”

“Professor Patton has extensive international experience, has trained, coached and mentored thousands of leaders worldwide, and created scores of successful leadership programs,” the bio adds.

This content was originally published here.

Association Between Universal Masking and SARS-CoV-2 Positivity Among Health Care Workers

The institutional review board of MGB approved the study and waived informed consent. Using electronic medical records, we identified HCWs providing direct and indirect patient care who were tested for SARS-CoV-2 with reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction between March 1 and April 30, 2020. The primary criterion for testing HCWs in our health care system was having symptoms consistent with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Information on the job description of each HCW was obtained by linking their record to the MGB Occupational Health Services and Human Resources databases.

We identified 3 phases during the study period: a preintervention period before implementation of universal masking of HCWs (March 1-24, 2020); a transition period until implementation of universal masking of patients (March 25–April 5, 2020) plus an additional lag period to allow for manifestations of symptoms (April 6-10, 2020), as previously defined5; and an intervention period (April 11-30, 2020). Positivity rates included the first positive test result for all HCWs in the numerator and HCWs who never tested positive plus those who tested positive that day in the denominator. For each HCW, any tests subsequent to their first positive test result were excluded. Using weighted nonlinear regression, we fit the best curve for the preintervention and intervention periods (based on R2 value). The number of daily tests was used as the weight such that days with more tests had more weight in determining the curve. The overall slope of each period was calculated using linear regression to estimate the mean trend, regardless of curve shape. The change in overall slope between the preintervention and intervention periods was compared to determine any statistically significant change in mean trend, using a 2-sided α = .05. The analysis was conducted using R version 4.0 (R Foundation).

Discussion

Universal masking at MGB was associated with a significantly lower rate of SARS-CoV-2 positivity among HCWs. This association may be related to a decrease in transmission between patients and HCWs and among HCWs. The decrease in HCW infections could be confounded by other interventions inside and outside of the health care system (Figure), such as restrictions on elective procedures, social distancing measures, and increased masking in public spaces, which are limitations of this study. Despite these local and statewide measures, the case number continued to increase in Massachusetts throughout the study period,6 suggesting that the decrease in the SARS-CoV-2 positivity rate in MGB HCWs took place before the decrease in the general public. Randomized trials of universal masking of HCWs during a pandemic are likely not feasible. Nonetheless, these results support universal masking as part of a multipronged infection reduction strategy in health care settings.

Section Editor: Jody W. Zylke, MD, Deputy Editor.

Corresponding Author: Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 75 Francis St, Boston, MA 02115 (dlbhattmd@post.harvard.edu).

Accepted for Publication: July 1, 2020.

Published Online: July 14, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.12897

Author Contributions: Dr Bhatt had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. Drs Wang and Ferro contributed equally to this article.

Concept and design: Wang, Ferro, Hashimoto, Bhatt.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: All authors.

Drafting of the manuscript: Wang, Ferro.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.

Statistical analysis: Wang, Zhou.

Administrative, technical, or material support: Wang, Ferro, Hashimoto.

Supervision: Hashimoto, Bhatt.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Bhatt discloses the following relationships: advisory board: Cardax, CellProthera, Cereno Scientific, Elsevier Practice Update Cardiology, Level Ex, Medscape Cardiology, PhaseBio, PLx Pharma, Regado Biosciences; board of directors: Boston VA Research Institute, Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care, TobeSoft; chair: American Heart Association Quality Oversight Committee, NCDR-ACTION Registry Steering Committee, VA CART Research and Publications Committee; data monitoring committees: Baim Institute for Clinical Research, Cleveland Clinic, Contego Medical, Duke Clinical Research Institute, Mayo Clinic, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Population Health Research Institute; honoraria: American College of Cardiology, Baim Institute for Clinical Research, Belvoir Publications, Duke Clinical Research Institute, HMP Global, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, K2P, Level Ex, Medtelligence/ReachMD, MJH Life Sciences, Population Health Research Institute, Slack Publications, Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care, WebMD; deputy editorship: Clinical Cardiology; research funding: Abbott, Afimmune, Amarin, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cardax, Chiesi, CSL Behring, Eisai, Ethicon, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Forest Laboratories, Fractyl, Idorsia, Ironwood, Ischemix, Lexicon, Lilly, Medtronic, Pfizer, PhaseBio, PLx Pharma, Regeneron, Roche, Sanofi Aventis, Synaptic, The Medicines Company; royalties: Elsevier; site coinvestigator: Biotronik, Boston Scientific, CSI, St Jude Medical, Svelte; trustee: American College of Cardiology; unfunded research: FlowCo, Merck, Novo Nordisk, Takeda. No other disclosures were reported.

Additional Contributions: We thank Stacey A. Duey, MT(ASCP), MCHP, Mass General Brigham, for assistance in extracting data from the Research Patient Data Registry, and Karen Hopcia, ScD, ANP-BC, Mass General Brigham, for assistance in extracting data from Occupational Health Services. No compensation was received for their roles.

This content was originally published here.

Japan’s Abe to meet media as hospital visits fuel health concerns | News | Al Jazeera

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to hold a news conference on Friday afternoon in which he is expected to address growing concerns about his health after two recent hospital examinations within a week.

Ruling party officials have said Abe’s health is fine, but the hospital visits, one lasting more than seven and a half hours, have fuelled speculation about whether he will be able to continue in the job until the end of his term in September 2021. On Monday, he became Japan’s longest-serving leader, beating a record set by his great-uncle Eisaku Sato half a century ago.

Under fire for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and scandals among party members, Abe – who vowed to revive the economy with his “Abenomics” policy of spending and monetary easing – has recently seen his support decline to one of the lowest levels of his nearly eight years in office.

While he has beefed up Japan’s military spending and expanded the role of its armed forces, his dream of revising the country’s pacifist constitution has failed because it lacks broad public support. 

Shinzo Abe becomes Japan’s longest continuously serving PM

Sources have told Reuters that Abe would consult his doctors before meeting the media, either by phone or another hospital visit.

COVID-19 measures

The prime minister is expected to provide an explanation about his health and lay out new measures to fight the coronavirus at the news conference which is due to start at 5pm (08:00 GMT). Among them will be a pledge to secure enough vaccines for everyone in the nation by early 2021, paying for this with reserve funds, Japanese media said.

Abe, who has been struggling with the chronic condition ulcerative colitis since his teens, has not provided any detail about the hospital visits. Returning from the last visit on Monday, he said he wanted to take care of his health and do his utmost at his job.

Speculation that he would step down has been dismissed by allies in his ruling Liberal Democratic Party including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who told Reuters on Wednesday that he meets Abe twice a day and has not seen any change in his health.

He added that Abe’s comments on Monday that he would continue to do his best in the job “explains it all”.

Abe has been prime minister since 2012; his second stint in the role. He resigned abruptly from his previous term in 2007 because of his illness, which he has been able to keep in check with medicine that was not previously available.

This content was originally published here.

Pedophilia Is a Mental Health Issue. It’s Still Not Treated as One

On the nights when the mental sexual images of children were most overwhelming, Joseph Parker took cold showers and baths, hoping the shock of freezing water would push his intrusive thoughts away. Other times, he would fixate on a picture of the Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Henepola Gunaratana, so that the monk’s “wrinkly face” might replace the disturbing imagery in his head.

Parker, who is using a pseudonym to protect his identity, had known he was attracted to children since he was 17, but he didn’t start having overpowering sexual urges until he was 24. (He’s now 26.) These urges were the worst when he was falling asleep. “As soon as I tried to release myself from wakefulness, my mind would sink into the pool of sexual energy, and I would feel this horrible sense of joy and happiness towards children,” he said.

He read online about medications that could lower testosterone levels and, as a result, sex drive—a process sometimes referred to as “chemical castration.” When he asked a psychiatrist for these drugs, he was given Risperidone, an antipsychotic, instead. He took that for about a year, then added on Sertraline, an antidepressant, but only found these drugs mildly helpful. He turned to the internet to get what he had wanted in the first place.

From a Turkish division of the pharmaceutical company Bayers, he ordered cyproterone acetate, which lowers testosterone, along with the female hormone estradiol, and now takes the two medications together. The website that processes the sales is frequently shut down because of its illicit nature: “To my knowledge this is their third or fourth website change, at least, since I came upon them 14 months ago,” he said.

Parker wishes it wasn’t this hard for pedophiles to get sex-drive reducing medications. But for many pedophiles—and especially pedophiles who have not committed crimes—access to even talk therapy, let alone medication, can be difficult to come by, and the process is riddled with fears about being reported to legal authorities.

In the past several decades, researchers have arrived at new understandings about pedophilia, the sexual attraction to children. Pedophilia appears to be an in-born sexual preference, something a person does not choose and cannot change. A pedophile’s attraction to children is consistent—not a phase—and they develop their attraction to children around the same time that other people develop sexual attractions.

While researchers’ knowledge has been evolving, access to widespread, up-to-date healthcare hasn’t kept up pace. Outside of the handful of researchers who provide therapy and medication to pedophiles, the barriers to finding an informed therapist or psychiatrist remain high. This has led to a hodgepodge of therapeutic approaches in the community, or people self-medicating, like Parker did. Many pedophiles are only directed towards treatment in the context of the criminal justice system, where in some states, chemical castration is used on sex offenders.

Yet importantly, researchers have established there’s a distinction between pedophilia and child molestation, a difference between the attraction itself and the crime. “Most people hear these words and think that they’re synonyms. They’re not,” said James Cantor, a Canadian clinical psychologist and neuroscientist who studies pedophilia.

Only about half of child sex offenders are genuine pedophiles. The other half prefer adults sexually, and are abusing children because they’re available or easily manipulated. (Child porn offenders, on the other hand, are nearly always pedophiles because of the ready availability of adult porn alternatives.)

The goal of any modern, preventative treatment for pedophila should be to help people manage their sexual interests rather than try to change them, Cantor said. This can involve the voluntary use of hormone-reducing medication to control urges or therapy. Since pedophilia and sexual abuse are not synonymous, treatment for pedophilia is also not solely about preventing child sexual abuse—it’s about helping people with their overall mental health and well-being too. That’s a concept that may be hard to accept. It involves recognizing that people who are sexually attracted to children deserve to live healthy and meaningful lives.

Online support groups for non-offending pedophiles have only recently entered the public eye. The most well-known group, the Virtuous Pedophiles, was formed in 2012 as a safe place for pedophiles to discuss their struggles and commitment to not offend. Parker belongs to the Virtuous Pedophiles and is known to the community as Double22. Another organization, the Association for Sexual Abuse Prevention (ASAP) was formed by some members of the Virtuous Pedophiles, and they are currently ramping up their goal to create a platform to connect pedophiles to mental health professionals.

“In my opinion, they should not be seen as second class patients.”

In April of this year, the first randomized placebo-controlled study of a hormone-reducing drug for pedophilia took place in Sweden. Published in JAMA Psychiatry, it found that the drug reduced both high sexual desire and sexual attraction to children, and that the effects were noticeable within two weeks.

The study is the first to include people who self-identified as pedophiles and were seeking help of their own accord, not just people funneled from the criminal justice system. What’s even more remarkable about the study is that it included a placebo group—the first pedophilia study to do so. In an editorial about the study, Peer Briken, a professor of sex research at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, wrote that it “marks a milestone in clinical sexual science and the field of forensic psychiatry.”

“I think one of the biggest problems is that people just don’t understand this as a mental health issue,” said Fred Berlin, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Rightfully, people are concerned about protecting children. And so we just quickly stigmatize people who are attracted to children and often don’t even see them as human beings with a problem who might be deserving of help.

“In my opinion, they should not be seen as second class patients.”

In 2014, journalist Luke Malone wrote an article about young people, some of them minors, who were discovering that they were attracted to children, and how they were coping with it. It was adapted as an episode of This American Life, one of several high-profile media pieces about pedophiles that explored the complicated existence of being born attracted to children—and how hard it is to get help.

When Adam, one of the young pedophiles in Malone’s story, admitted to a therapist what was wrong, “she just became extremely cold and harsh,” he told Malone. “She even, a few times, almost got to the level of shouting.” She ended up telling Adam’s mother.

“There is a huge reason [pedophiles] would avoid therapists and doctors—those people have an obligation to report them to police if they think children might be in danger in the future,” said Ethan Edwards, one of the co-founders of the Virtuous Pedophiles, who uses a pseudonym.“Especially if they are not specifically trained in the issue, and with the common belief that all pedophiles molest children sooner or later, it is very perilous for a pedophile to seek out a therapist.”


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Christoffer Rahm, a psychiatrist, researcher at the Karolinska Institute, and the senior author on the JAMA study from April, once worked at a clinic linked to a Swedish national helpline focused on sexuality, PrevenTell. Rahm ended up meeting some pedophiles who called in; one was a bus driver who brought children to school. The bus driver was struggling with his impulses and fantasies, but had not sexually offended in any way. Rahm looked for research to help determine the best treatment for his patient and found a gap in the literature: There were no rigorous comparisons of different medications, or recommendations about who might do best with therapy. (As far as we know, female pedophiles are rarer, and the research on treatment for them even more sparse.)

Cantor feels it’s more than just a gap when it comes to pedophilia. “It is a black hole,” he said. “This is a topic that scientists in the fields of mental health are not just uninterested in—it is actively repugnant.”

That’s what motivated Rahm to conduct his study. “If there are people seeking help for this, the best thing would be to manage it in a preventative phase before the damage is done,” he said. “Of course, society needs to say that any kind of abuse against a child is not okay. But it is counterproductive if these people can’t even seek help with a professional.”

The medication Rahm studied is Degarelix, approved by the FDA in 2006 for treatment of advanced prostate cancer. This is the first time that it’s been used off-label for pedophilia. It’s an injection that starts working right away and lasts for about three months. It works by shutting down signals from the brain to the body to produce testosterone.

In qualitative interviews Rahm’s team did during the study, they found that some of their participants experienced positive effects. “They described feeling an inner calm,” Rahm said. “They felt less pressure, that they had a better intimate life with their partners. Some described that the annoying thoughts around children disappeared so they can focus on other things. And many described that they had lost that enervating impulse to masturbate, and were able to see children as just human beings and not sexual symbols.” A majority of the participants in the group that got the active drug said that they would want to continue taking it.

Many of the therapies that have been used for pedophiles have not been validated this way, but deployed through forensic psychology and the criminal justice system. Though Berlin has prescribed hormone-reducing medications to countless patients, he feels that the legal system usually doesn’t collaborate with doctors and scientists who are studying the use of these drugs. “As a physician, I think that’s completely inappropriate,” he said.

If someone goes to prison being sexually attracted to children, there’s nothing about prison that can get rid of that attraction, or enhance a person’s ability to resist temptation later on, Berlin said. It also leads to a mistrust of treatment, because of a history of involuntary use of chemical castration and aversion therapy—a therapy that associates negative cues with images of young children to dissuade future attraction.

“The idea that we can solve this simply through punishment and incarceration is very naive,” Berlin said.

Talk therapy should focus on managing a person’s sexual interests, with an explicit acknowledgment that those interests will likely never change. In the past, therapy sometimes focused on searching for trauma, because of the belief that a history of abuse led someone to abuse. The truth is a bit more complicated. Having been sexually abused in your own childhood could be a factor in committing sexual abuse as an adult, but is not necessarily a factor in pedophilia.

“This is what I’ve heard over and over,” Cantor said. “They knew. They always knew it. All their past therapists were telling them to focus on trauma, what happened in their childhood. But their genuine experience of it was that they were born this way.”

“We need to move on to the next generation of research and quality development.”

Cantor said that once that basic framework of therapy changes from changing one’s sexuality to managing it, people adapt very quickly. It makes more sense to his patients, and they’re able to better commit. If a person has looked at child porn or committed sexual abuse in the past, a therapist would help them examine how and why their self-control broke down, and how to set up their life so that it doesn’t happen again—not how to stop being attracted to children.

For some people, this process could be paired with sex-drive reducing drugs. “Some people find they would rather live in that state than with those nagging sex drive that they can’t express and can do anything to do anything about,” Cantor said.

Yet even in those states that have issued mandates for sex offenders to receive hormone-reducing drugs as punishment, it can be incredibly difficult for non-offending pedophiles who want it to get medication. “I get letters from people around the country all the time wanting access and they can’t even get access to it,” Berlin said.

Rahm doesn’t advocate for medication to be used for every pedophile for life—his study explores whether this specific drug could help. He said a person may only want and need it for a few months. It could help a person through a difficult time, or be combined with the start of a behavioral therapy practice. “We need to move on to the next generation of research and quality development,” Rahm said. “We need to evaluate our treatments and to get evidence-based treatments out there so we know what we’re doing.”

The word “castration” has a dark history, and dark connotations. It’s often been wielded involuntarily: In Germany the number of involuntary castrations of sex offenders increased as a result of the Nazi German Act, with at least 2,800 sex offenders were castrated between 1934 and 1944. In the United States, Black men accused of raping or sexually assaulting white women could find themselves subject to castration. For reasons like these, Rahm is torn about calling Degarelix “chemical castration.” While he thinks researchers and clinicians should accurately describe what the drug is doing and its side effects, he worries that referring to it as castration could scare people away, or disregard the consent and autonomy of patients who want it.

Rahm said that every person who participated in their study did so voluntarily, and was informed in detail about any possible side effects from taking Degarelix. They had the option to quit the study at any moment. He’s also currently running another placebo-controlled study on a non-pharmacological option: therapy geared specifically towards pedophiles that they can access anonymously, through the dark web.

The mere existence of Rahm’s studies is important, outside of the details of the findings. Doing placebo-controlled studies on pedophilia was previously thought to be impossible, because of the ethical implications of not giving an active treatment to a group of people attracted to children.

In Briken’s editorial, he wrote that because the medication they used was fast-acting, and they allowed anyone with pedophilia into the study—not just those who were high-risk for offending—it helped make the placebo group ethically possible. Briken concluded that Rahm’s study was “the most important contribution to the field of pharmacotherapy of pedophilic disorders since” the original study of hormone reducing drugs in 1998, and offers a starting point for a more comprehensive approach to pedophila treatment.

In Germany, Prevention Project Dunkelfeld, which offers therapy and medication, has 10 locations throughout Germany, and a person can get help while remaining completely anonymous.

The demand for their work is high: After a BBC documentary on the Dunkelfeld Institute aired, the Guardian reported that Dunkelfeld’s hotline was overwhelmed with calls from British pedophiles. “One British man was so desperate, he moved to Germany to be able to access a Dunkelfeld programme,” the Guardian wrote. “In an email exchange with the Guardian, the man, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote: ‘So far, all I have ever received from the NHS is doors slammed in my face.'”

There’s not as well-known a center for pedophiles in the U.S. to go to. Richard Kramer, the educational director at B4U-ACT, an online support group for pedophiles, said he figured out he was attracted to pubescent boys in his 20s. (His attraction is to boys around the age of 12 or 13, which is technically called hebephilia.) “I was very ashamed about it and thought that I was seriously defective as a human being,” Kramer said, who is using a pseudonym. “I really wasn’t able to find any information about it. They didn’t want to go to the library for fear that people would see what I’m looking up.”

When he began reading information online, he said, everything he encountered was very negative. “It said that I would be a monster, I would have hundreds of victims, and that my entire life would be centered around an elaborate plot to deceive parents and to manipulate children into abusing them,” he said. “So I thought, well, this is what they think about me. I have no interest in seeing them and seeing a therapist.”

A big part of being successful in therapy is having the support of family and friends, something that pedophiles can lack. They often are going through difficult treatments alone, and are unable to talk about it to others. You can’t tell co-workers, or ask a boss for time off for your appointments. “You have two choices,” said Michael Seto, a forensic psychologist and sexologist at the University of Toronto. “You don’t do it or you lie about it.”

When Kramer was ready to look for a therapist again, he didn’t really care what kind of approach they used, but was more concerned about whether they understood enough about pedophiles to not treat him like a criminal. His goals didn’t involve a struggle to control his impulses, but to manage the shame and sense of isolation from others because he couldn’t be honest.

“We have to insist that people who have this orientation not act upon it,” Berlin said. “If we think about that, that can be quite a burden. It’s not surprising that some of these folks might be in need of mental health assistance, because of the effect of experiencing these attractions on their sense of self-esteem and self-worth.”

“Happy, mentally healthy people do not molest children.”

Some pedophiles are attracted to adults and children; some, only children. For those who are exclusively attracted to children and dedicated to non-offending, Kramer said, there needs to be a space for helping them grieve over not being able to have romantic and sexual relationships. “How do they deal with loneliness?” he said. There are other concerns, some almost mundane: How, for instance, do they deal with answering questions friends and co-workers ask about their personal lives? He’s had friends who asked him if he was gay, and he said he wasn’t sure how to answer.

“I’m not exactly gay, but I’m definitely not straight and I’m definitely not asexual,” he said. “How do you respond to that?”

Gary Gibson founded the ASAP as one potential solution to this problem. Through an involvement with the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA), Gibson has been curating a list of therapists to whom he can refer pedophiles. The list is now around 400 names long. ASAP primarily focuses on non-offending pedophiles, but they will also help people who have offended and want to stop. “People are just desperate out there,” Gibson said.

He has worked with pedophiles who were so desperate for help that they underwent physical castrations. One man traveled to Mexico to have the operation done; when he returned, he tried to find a doctor to supervise his recovery and medications. “I could not find a doctor who would take him on,” Gibson said. “They didn’t want him in the office. I did find a therapist to work with him, and I kind of lost contact with him. I’m worried about what happened to him.”

Until recently ASAP has been handled almost entirely by Gibson, but ASAP is currently undergoing a significant expansion. It has increased its office and volunteer staff, is making a new, online database of mental healthcare providers, and creating a 24/7 helpline. Gibson said his dream is to get a multimillion dollar grant to create a mentor program for teenagers, aged 13 to 17, who are learning that they’re pedophiles. “I’ve applied three times,” he said. “Maybe the third time’s the charm, because I’ve been denied twice.”

The goal is to help every non-offending person attracted to children find therapy if they want or need it, said Robert Hillman, a “lifelong virtuous (non-offending) pedophile,” and the new president of ASAP.  Hillman said that the mantra is: “All pedophiles are born non-offending,” and the aim is to help keep it that way. “Happy, mentally healthy people do not molest children,” he said.

“People do the most desperate things when they feel the most desperate,” Cantor said. “A lot of what these groups and therapy provide is helping people lead a life that is worth protecting. When they have a life worth protecting, that’s when people get the energy and the willpower to control themselves, because they don’t want to risk the life that they have.”

What Hillman and Gibson want is the opportunity for any person attracted to children to chart their own path, and figure out what works best for them. That may include an experimentation with medication, and it may not. ASAP doesn’t control their therapists—they all operate independently, using different methods of treatment. They’re not always successful. “One guy has committed suicide that I know of,” Gibson said said. “But I think that we have probably saved a few lives and saved many children from being abused.”

These support groups and therapy networks are providing a lifeline, but alone, they don’t guarantee a consistency in treatment, nor fill the gaps in the scientific literature when it comes to which treatments might be best for a certain person. There might be certain hormone-reducing medications that are less risky or work better than others; certain pedophiles that fare better without drugs; certain therapeutic practices that are more helpful than others. Those answers aren’t clear-cut.

As with all medications, some people have good experiences and others do not. Pedophiles can identify as “ego-dystonic” or “ego-syntonic.” Ego-syntonic people consider pedophilia as part of their identity, and can be okay with fantasizing and masturbating about children (though not with porn), while ego-dystonic people are not. It may be that treatment should be different with those who have different attitudes towards their attraction, even if members of both groups have the same commitment to not offend.

After about five weeks, Parker said that he felt better from the medication he had ordered online. “It was night and day,” he said. “I can’t tell you what a weight was lifted off of me, or a pressure from under me that was relieved. Whenever I think about it I just lay back in my chair and breathe a contented sigh, knowing that I won’t suffer like that again. Both physical urges in my body and intrusive imagery in my mind have disappeared.”

He doesn’t think that medication should be thought of only as a stop-gap to a person committing sexual abuse. “Offending was never a danger for me in the first place,” he said. He doesn’t take the medication to stop himself from molesting a child, but as a way to improve his quality of life.

When Max Weber, who helps run a peer-support website for pedophiles in Germany, realized his attraction to young girls in his early 20s, he said, he was terrified. “My picture of pedophilia at the time was the same wrong impression most parts of society have: that pedophiles were bound to offend,” he said.

Weber got treatment at Dunkelfeld, and said he views medication like a pair of eyeglasses. “You can put [them] on to help yourself focus on things that you want to change about your life.”

To Weber, pedophilia was like being surrounded by deep water; he had to struggle to stand on his toes to avoid drowning. “I needed all my strength to cope with it and don’t drown in my own fears and self-hate,” he said. “As a result sexual impulses felt very powerful since, when you are standing on your toes, even the slightest push could throw you over.”

He took medication for about nine months. During that time when his sexual feelings were repressed, he regained a foothold on his life, he said, and found that even without medication he is able to be around children without issue. “I now know that I am in charge, and no one can make me offend other than myself,” he said.

Two years ago, David, a 22 -year-old recent college graduate from New York and a volunteer for a peer-support group including pedophiles, desperately wanted to take hormone-altering medication. “I hated myself for having feelings about children, and I just wanted to be like everyone else,” he said. “I was also going online and finding articles about how to raise libido, and doing the opposite of all of the advice I found. But I couldn’t find a therapist I felt safe coming out to.”

Since then, he said that support groups like Virtuous Pedophiles have helped him realize that being attracted to children is not something he chose, and he’s not tempted towards any illegal behaviors. “In the end, there was no need for me to go through such a treatment with dangerous side effects,” he said.

Though he never ended up trying medication, David thinks his experience with peer support reveals something important about. It can help reduce physical symptoms, but the rest—the support, the isolation, the shame—all needs to be addressed outside of just taking a pill.

“I struggled with serious depression, anxiety, and self-hatred as a teenager starting to understand that I was a pedophile,” David said. “Becoming less isolated, having people to help when I was hurting, and being able to help others in the same way is what brought me back from that.”

Hillman was a patient of Berlin’s about 25 years ago. “I was on the brink of madness from the desires and from the shame and self-hatred and loathing,” he said. “It was crushing me and I was not going to survive it.” He took hormone-reducing medication with Berlin’s help, and said that combined with therapy, it saved his life. “Since I was at that time and have always been non-offending, my anti-androgen therapy was not mandatory in any way and thus I started and stopped it several times, because of the affordability issues,” Hillman said. “But I can attest that the medication did reduce my thoughts and therefore some of my distress.”

Then he found the Virtuous Pedophiles group about one year ago, and the support he’s culled from the others there has given him a new gusto for life, without medication. “Now I am dedicated to living. And I am dedicated to making sure no one else has to waste their life just to be virtuous,” he said.

Hillman said that these narratives reveal how all pedophiles are different. “Some will benefit from meds and some will not,” he said. “Some are against medication, some are not.”

Rahm hopes to continue studying treatment options for pedophilia, in a rigorous way. In his view of a forthcoming modern pedophile treatment, each person would get an individual assessment and be offered an evidence-based treatment. It would work with helping a pedophile address both their personal feelings and concerns, and also their risk of offending.

“In my vision, some people need therapy, some need medication, some need both, and some won’t have any effect on any of these. They need something else,” Rahm said. This is nothing novel or groundbreaking, he added. “I would just like to apply modern psychiatric thinking to this group.”

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This content was originally published here.