Cases skyrocketing among communities of color

https://www.axios.com/newsletters/axios-vitals-e9aa531d-4ef5-46ec-aedb-56f2bc9a77c9.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_axiosvitals&stream=top

Coronavirus cases skyrocketing among communities of color - Axios

Counties populated by larger numbers of people of color tend to have more coronavirus cases than those with higher shares of white people.

What we’re watching: As the outbreak worsens throughout the South and the West, caseloads are growing fastest in counties with large communities of color.

The big picture: The southern and southwestern parts of the U.S. — the new epicenters of the outbreak — have higher Black and Latino or Hispanic populations to begin with.

  • People of color have seen disproportionate rates of infection, hospitalization and death throughout the pandemic.

Between the lines: These inequities stem from pre-existing racial disparities throughout society, and have been exacerbated by the U.S. coronavirus response.

  • Black and Hispanic or Latino communities have had less access to diagnostic testing, and people of color are also more likely to be essential workers. That means the virus is able to enter and spread throughout a community without adequate detection, often with disastrous results.

The bottom line: Until we plug the huge holes in the American coronavirus response — like inadequate testing and contact tracing and a lack of protection for essential workers — people of color will continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic.

Go deeper: People of color have less access to coronavirus testing

 

 

 

Cartoon – Current State of the Union

Plain Talk: Refusing to wear a mask isn't patriotic, it's just ...

Coronavirus Dashboard

https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-latest-news-quick-highlights-57a186a3-7547-45bf-852a-83019849d8d5.html

Coronavirus dashboard: Catch up fast - Axios

 

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 9,635,935 — Total deaths: 489,922 — Total recoveries — 4,861,715 — Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m ET: 2,422,312 — Total deaths: 124,415 — Total recoveries: 663,562 — Total tested: 29,207,820 — Map.
  3. Public health: America’s workers still aren’t protected from the coronavirus — Gilead says coronavirus drug should likely cost no more than $2,800.
  4. White House: Trump administration asks Supreme Court to overturn ACA during pandemic.
  5. Sports: Universities cut sports teams, as they struggle with coronavirus fallout.

 

 

 

 

The U.S. divide on coronavirus masks

https://www.axios.com/political-divide-coronavirus-masks-1053d5bd-deb3-4cf4-9570-0ba492134f3e.html

Politics, not public health, drive Americans' attitudes toward ...

Mask-wearing has become the latest partisan division in an increasingly politically divided pandemic.

Why it matters: It’s becoming increasingly clear that wearing even a basic cloth mask is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But whether or not people are willing to wear one has less to do with the risk of the pandemic than their political affiliation.

By the numbers: Results from months of the Axios-Ipsos coronavirus polls show a clear and growing political divide between Democrats and Republicans on mask-wearing habits.

  • Nationally, the percentage of Democrats who reported wearing a mask all the time when leaving home rose from 49% between April 10 and May 4 to 65% between May 8 and June 22.
  • During the same time period, the percentage of Republicans who reported constant mask-wearing rose from 29% to just 35%.

Context: The political divide Americans are reporting on mask use echoes one seen within nearly all levels of the government.

  • President Trump has not been seen to wear a mask, and he told Axios last week that attendees at his Tulsa campaign event on June 20 should “do what they want” on masks, which were not required at the rally.
  • Governors in many red states like Nebraska have refused to mandate facial masks in public, even as cases have begun to rise in recent weeks. At the same time, leaders in blue states — especially those that grappled with large outbreaks of COVID-19 — have urged residents to wear masks, with California Gov. Gavin Newsom mandating their use last week as cases in the state passed 4,000 a day.
  • The situation is even more divided at the local level, with leaders of red towns in blue states pushing back against mask mandates, and vice versa.

Flashback: Some of the blame for the divide can be traced back to muddled public health messaging on mask use in the early stages of the pandemic, when Americans were urged not to go out and buy masks in bulk because of concerns that there wasn’t enough personal protective equipment for front-line health care workers.

  • Those fears were real, as government virus expert Anthony Fauci pointed out in congressional testimony on Tuesday. And public health officials worried that pushing masks would inadvertently encourage Americans to continue going out in public at a moment when lockdowns demanded they stay inside.
  • Like the divide among experts on whether mass protests would increase coronavirus cases, just the perception that health advice might be based on politics rather than science gives cover to those who would forego masks, especially since the outbreak itself initially seemed like a blue state problem.

Health experts now know that cloth masks are most effective not so much at protecting individuals from infection as protecting the community from infected individuals. But that makes masks as much about social signaling as they are about public health.

  • Conservatives who prize individual autonomy over social responsibility experience “a massive pushback of psychological resistance” when presented with mask mandates, says Steven Taylor, the author of “The Psychology of Pandemics.”
  • That reaction is reinforced “if leaders like Trump downplay the significance of COVID-19 or if they won’t wear masks,” says Taylor. As a result, wearing a mask in conservative communities means visibly going against public opinion, while the opposite is true in communities where mask use is common.
  • The Axios-Ipsos data reflects this reality, showing that while Republicans in blue states use masks less than Democrats, they wear them at higher rates than Republicans in red states, just as Democrats in red states use masks at lower rates than Democrats in blue states.

What to watch: The one factor that seems capable of breaking the political deadlock is the outbreak itself. As cases have skyrocketed in red states like Arizona recently, there’s been a significant increase in Google searches for masks.

 

 

 

 

America’s workers still aren’t protected from the coronavirus

https://www.axios.com/americas-workers-vulnerable-coronavirus-944e3451-4458-4f1d-83d2-c86a1beb1117.html

America's workers still aren't protected from the coronavirus - Axios

Essential workers have borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic for months, but the U.S. is still doing relatively little to protect them.

Why it matters: With no end to the pandemic in sight, America’s frontline workers still must choose between risking their health and losing their source of income.

Driving the news: The Trump administration said this week that health insurers aren’t required to cover coronavirus diagnostic tests performed as part of workplace safety or public health surveillance efforts.

  • It didn’t say who is supposed to pay for these tests. If employers are stuck footing the bill, that makes the testing less likely to happen.

The big picture: There’s been no national effort or initiative to protect essential workers, and America is still failing to implement basic public health measures as new cases skyrocket.

  • Masks have become a political flashpoint and aren’t required in many of the states that are emerging coronavirus hotspots.
  • That means essential workers go to work each day without any guarantee that the people they’re interacting with will take one of the most basic and effective steps to prevent transmission of the virus.
  • No one is even talking about mass distribution of personal protective equipment beyond health care workers. And even some health care workers — particularly those who work in nursing homes — don’t have the protective gear that they need.

More broadly, the financial incentives for frontline workers, particularly those who are low-income, to keep working make it nearly impossible for them to avoid health risks.

  • At least 69 million American workers are potentially ineligible for the emergency paid sick leave benefits that Congress passed earlier this year, per the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • An estimated 25-30 million people — particularly lower-wage workers in service industries — are unable to work from home but also face a high risk of severe infection, KFF’s Drew Altman wrote earlier this week.

What we’re watching: The line between essential workers and those who are required to return to the office by their employer has become blurry, and millions more Americans are facing dilemmas similar to those faced by grocers and bus drivers.

  • The sickest — and thus most vulnerable — Americans may feel the most pressure to return to work, as that’s often where they get their health insurance, the NYT points out.
  • Nearly a quarter of adult workers are vulnerable to severe coronavirus infections, per KFF.

The bottom line: Essential workers and their families will continue to feel the impact of America’s coronavirus failures most acutely.

Go deeper: “Disposable workers” doing essential jobs

 

 

 

 

Health Equity Principles for State and Local Leaders in Responding to, Reopening and Recovering from COVID-19

https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2020/05/health-equity-principles-for-state-and-local-leaders-in-responding-to-reopening-and-recovering-from-covid-19.html

Centering Health Equity in COVID-19 Response and Recovery Plans ...

Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care.”

COVID-19 has unleashed a dual threat to health equity in the United States: a pandemic that has sickened millions and killed tens of thousands and counting, and an economic downturn that has resulted in tens of millions of people losing jobs—the highest numbers since the Great Depression. The COVID pandemic underscores that:

  • Our health is inextricably linked to that of our neighbors, family members, child- and adult-care providers, co-workers, school teachers, delivery service people, grocery store clerks, factory workers, and first responders, among others;
  • Our current health care, public health, and economic systems do not adequately or equitably protect our well-being as a nation; and
  • Every community is experiencing harm, though certain groups are suffering disproportionately, including people of color, workers with low incomes, and people living in places that were already struggling financially before the economic downturn.

For communities and their residents to recover fully and fairly, state and local leaders should consider the following health equity principles in designing and implementing their responses. These principles are not a detailed public health guide for responding to the pandemic or reopening the economy, but rather a compass that continually points leaders toward an equitable and lasting recovery.

 

Collect, analyze, and report data disaggregated by age, race, ethnicity, gender, disability, neighborhood, and other sociodemographic characteristics.

Pandemics and economic recessions exacerbate disparities that ultimately hurt us all. Therefore, state and local leaders cannot design equitable response and recovery strategies without monitoring COVID’s impacts among socially and economically marginalized groups.¹ Data disaggregation should follow best practices and extend not only to public health data on COVID cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities, but also to: measures of access to testing, treatment, personal protective equipment (PPE), and safe places to isolate when sick; receipt of social and economic supports; and the downstream consequences of COVID on well-being, ranging from housing instability to food insecurity.

Geographic identifiers would allow leaders and the public to understand the interplay between place and social factors, as counties with large black populations account for more than half of all COVID deaths, and rural communities and post-industrial cities generally fare worse in economic downturns. Legal mandates for data disaggregation are proliferating, but 11 states are still not reporting COVID deaths by race; 16 are not reporting by gender; and 26 are not reporting based on congregate living status (e.g., nursing homes, jails). Only three are reporting testing data by race and ethnicity.

While states and cities can do more, the federal government should also support data disaggregation through funding and national standards.

Include in decision-making the people most affected by health and economic challenges, and benchmark progress based on their outcomes.

Our communities are stronger, more stable, and more prosperous when every person, including the most disadvantaged residents, is healthy and financially secure. Throughout the response and recovery, state and local leaders should ask: Are we making sure that people facing the greatest risks have access to PPE, testing and treatment, stable housing, and a way to support their families? And, are we creating ways for residents—particularly those hardest hit—to meaningfully participate in and shape the government’s recovery strategy?

Accordingly, policymakers should create space for leaders from these communities to be at decision-making tables and should regularly consult with community-based organizations that can identify barriers to accessing health and social services, lift up grassroots solutions, and disseminate public health guidance in culturally and linguistically appropriate ways. For example, they could recommend trusted, accessible locations for new testing sites and advise on how to diversify the pool of contact tracers, who will be crucial to tamping down the spread of infection in reopened communities. They could also collaborate with government leaders to ensure that all people who are infected with coronavirus (or exposed to someone infected) have a safe, secure, and acceptable place to isolate or quarantine for 14 days. Key partners could include community health centers, small business associations, community organizing groups, and workers’ rights organizations, among others. Ultimately, state and local leaders should measure the success of their response based not only on total death counts and aggregate economic impacts but also on the health and social outcomes of the most marginalized.

Establish and empower teams dedicated to promoting racial equity in response and recovery efforts.

Race or ethnicity should not determine anyone’s opportunity for good health or social well-being, but, as COVID has shown, we are far from this goal. People of color are more likely to be front-line workers, to live in dense or overcrowded housing, to lack health insurance, and to experience chronic diseases linked to unhealthy environments and structural racism. Therefore, state and local leaders should empower dedicated teams to address COVID-related racial disparities, as several leaders, Republican and Democrat, have already done.

To be effective, these entities should: include leaders of color from community, corporate, academic, and philanthropic sectors; be integrated as key members of the broader public health and economic recovery efforts; and be accountable to the public. These teams should foster collaboration between state, local, and tribal governments to assist Native communities; anticipate and mitigate negative consequences of current response strategies, such as bias in enforcement of public health guidelines; address racial discrimination within the health care system; and ensure access to tailored mental health services for people of color and immigrants who are experiencing added trauma, stigma, and fear. Ultimately, resources matter. State and local leaders must ensure that critical health and social supports are distributed fairly, proportionate to need, and free of undue restrictions to meet the needs of all groups, including black, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous communities.

 

Proactively identify and address existing policy gaps while advocating for further federal support.

The Congressional response to COVID has been historic in its scope and speed, but significant gaps remain. Additional federal resources are needed for a broad range of health and social services, along with fiscal relief for states and communities facing historically large budget deficits due to COVID. Despite these challenges, state and local leaders must still find ways to take targeted policy actions. The following questions can help guide their response.

Who is left out?Inclusion of all populations will strengthen the public health response and lessen the pandemic’s economic fallout for all of society, but federal actions to date have not included all who have been severely harmed by the pandemic. As a result, many states and communities have sought to fill gaps in eviction protections and paid sick and caregiving leave. Others are extending support to undocumented immigrants and mixed-status families through public-private partnerships, faith-based charities, and community-led mutual aid systems. Vital health care providers, including safety net hospitals and Indian Health Service facilities, have also been disadvantaged and need targeted support.

Will protections last long enough?Many programs, such as expanded Medicaid funding, are tied to the federal declaration of a public health emergency, which will likely end before the economic crisis does. Other policies, like enhanced unemployment insurance and mortgage relief, are set to expire on arbitrary dates. And still others, such as stimulus checks, were one-time payments. Instead, policy extensions should be tied to the extent of COVID infection in a state or community (or its anticipated spread) and/or to broader economic measures such as unemployment. This is particularly important as communities will likely experience re-openings and closings over the next six to 12 months as COVID reemerges.

Have programs that meet urgent needs been fully and fairly implemented?Allexisting federal resources should be used in a time of great need. For example, additional states should adopt provisions that would allow families with school-age children to receive added Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and more communities need innovative solutions to provide meals to young children who relied on schools or child care providers for breakfast and lunch. States should also revise eligibility, enrollment, and recertification processes that deter Medicaid use by children, pregnant women, and lawfully residing immigrants.

Invest in strengthening public health, health care, and social infrastructure to foster resilience.

Health, public health, and social infrastructure are critical for recovery and for our survival of the next pandemic, severe weather event, or economic downturn. A comprehensive public health system is the first line of defense for rural, tribal, and urban communities. While a sizable federal reinvestment in public health is needed, states and communities must also reverse steady cuts to the public health workforce and laboratory and data systems.

Everyone in this country should have paid sick and family leave to care for themselves and loved ones; comprehensive health insurance to ensure access to care when sick and to protect against medical debt; and jobs and social supports that enable families to meet their basic needs and invest in the future. As millions are projected to lose employer-sponsored health insurance, Medicaid expansion becomes increasingly vital for its proven ability to boost health, reduce disparities, and provide a strong return on investment. In the longer term, policies such as earned income tax credits and wage increases for low-wage workers can help secure economic opportunity and health for all. Finally, states and communities should invest in affordable, accessible high-speed internet, which is crucial to ensuring that everyone—not just the most privileged among us—is informed, connected to schools and jobs, and engaged civically.

These principles can guide our nation toward an equitable response and recovery and help sow the seeds of long-term, transformative change. States and cities have begun imagining and, in some cases, advancing toward this vision, putting a down payment on a fair and just future in which health equity is a reality. Returning to the ways things were is not an option.

CVS Reaches Goal To Open 1,000 Coronavirus Test Sites

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2020/05/28/cvs-hits-goal-to-open-1000–coronavirus-test-sites/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news&utm_campaign=news&cdlcid=#529f289841b4

CVS Reaches Goal To Open 1,000 Coronavirus Test Sites

CVS Health Thursday said it is delivering as promised to open 1,000 testing locations for the Coronavirus strain Covid-19.

The scale of the openings comes more than two months after CVS, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Rite Aid, Walmart and other retailers pledged in White House meetings to use their thousands of locations, including parking lots to expand U.S. testing for COVID-19. In CVS Health’s case, the sites that will all be open Friday will use “self-swab tests” as part of a newer phase of testing by the giant drugstore chain.

“It’s no small feat to operationalize 1,000 test sites in weeks under trying circumstances, which is a credit to our employees and their unwavering commitment to being part of the solution,” CVS Health president and chief executive Larry Merlo said. “Our testing strategy will continue to evolve and make the most effective use of our resources as we work to help safely re-open the economy.”

CVS is hoping to dramatically ramp up testing by processing up to 1.5 million tests every month. Currently, CVS processes about 30,000 tests for COVID-19 a week in five states as part of a rollout that began several weeks ago with a focus on front-line healthcare workers and first responders.

“Since first offering COVID-19 testing at a pilot site outside a CVS Pharmacy in Shrewsbury, Mass., in mid-March, the company has performed nearly 200,000 tests nationwide,” the company said in a statement released Thursday.

CVS Health’s announcement should be welcome news for the Trump administration, which announced the participation of the retailers in March and has been vowing to provide access to COVID-19 testing to all Americans, but has been dogged by criticism.

Patients can register at CVS’ web site to get tested.

 

 

100,000 Lives Lost to COVID-19. What Did They Teach Us?

https://www.propublica.org/article/100000-lives-lost-to-covid-19-what-did-they-teach-us?utm_source=pardot&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailynewsletter&utm_content=feature

May 27 data: Four new Utah COVID-19 deaths as US count tops ...

Each person who has died of COVID-19 was somebody’s everything. Even as we mourn for those we knew, cry for those we loved and consider those who have died uncounted, the full tragedy of the pandemic hinges on one question: How do we stop the next 100,000?

The United States has now recorded 100,000 deaths due to the coronavirus.

It’s a moment to collectively grieve and reflect.

Even as we mourn for those we knew, cry for those we loved and consider also those who have died uncounted, I hope that we can also resolve to learn more, test better, hold our leaders accountable and better protect our citizens so we do not have to reach another grim milestone.

Through public records requests and other reporting, ProPublica has found example after example of delays, mistakes and missed opportunities. The CDC took weeks to fix its faulty test. In Seattle, 33,000 fans attended a soccer match, even after the top local health official said he wanted to end mass gatherings. Houston went ahead with a livestock show and rodeo that typically draws 2.5 million people, until evidence of community spread shut it down after eight days. Nebraska kept a meatpacking plant open that health officials wanted to shut down, and cases from the plant subsequently skyrocketed. And in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic, political infighting between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio hampered communication and slowed decision making at a time when speed was critical to stop the virus’ exponential spread.

COVID-19 has also laid bare many long-standing inequities and failings in America’s health care system. It is devastating, but not surprising, to learn that many of those who have been most harmed by the virus are also Americans who have long suffered from historical social injustices that left them particularly susceptible to the disease.

This massive loss of life wasn’t inevitable. It wasn’t simply unfortunate and regrettable. Even without a vaccine or cure, better mitigation measures could have prevented infections from happening in the first place; more testing capacity could have allowed patients to be identified and treated earlier.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, far from it.

At this moment, the questions we need to ask are: How do we prevent the next 100,000 deaths from happening? How do we better protect our most vulnerable in the coming months? Even while we mourn, how can we take action, so we do not repeat this horror all over again?

Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

Though we’ve long known about infection control problems in nursing homes, COVID-19 got in and ran roughshod.

From the first weeks of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, when the virus tore through the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, nursing homes and long-term care facilities have emerged as one of the deadliest settings. As of May 21, there have been around 35,000 deaths of staff and residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Yet the facilities have continued to struggle with basic infection control. Federal inspectors have found homes with insufficient staff and a lack of personal protective equipment. Others have failed to maintain social distancing among residents, according to inspection reports ProPublica reviewed. Desperate family members have had to become detectives and activists, one even going as far as staging a midnight rescue of her loved one as the virus spread through a Queens, New York, assisted living facility.

What now? The risk to the elderly will not decrease as time goes by — more than any other population, they will need the highest levels of protection until the pandemic is over. The CEO of the industry’s trade group told my colleague Charles Ornstein: “Just like hospitals, we have called for help. In our case, nobody has listened.” More can be done to protect our nursing home and long term care population. This means regular testing of both staff and residents, adequate protective gear and a realistic way to isolate residents who test positive.

Racial disparities in health care are pervasive in medicine, as they have been in COVID-19 deaths.

African Americans have contracted and died of the coronavirus at higher rates across the country. This is due to myriad factors, including more limited access to medical care as well as environmental, economic and political factors that put them at higher risk of chronic conditions. When ProPublica examined the first 100 recorded victims of the coronavirus in Chicago, we found that 70 were black. African Americans make up 30% of the city’s population.

What now? States should make sure that safety-net hospitals, which serve a large portion of low-income and uninsured patients regardless of their ability to pay, and hospitals in neighborhoods that serve predominantly black communities, are well-supplied and sufficiently staffed during the crisis. More can also be done to encourage African American patients to not delay seeking care, even when they have “innocent symptoms” like a cough or low-grade fever, especially when they suffer other health conditions like diabetes.

Racial disparities go beyond medicine, to other aspects of the pandemic. Data shows that black people are already being disproportionately arrested for social distancing violations, a measure that can undercut public health efforts and further raise the risk of infection, especially when enforcement includes time in a crowded jail.

Essential workers had little choice but to work during COVID-19, but adequate safeguards weren’t put in place to protect them.

We’ve known from the beginning there are some measures that help protect us from the virus, such as physical distancing. Yet millions of Americans haven’t been able to heed that advice, and have had no choice but to risk their health daily as they’ve gone to work shoulder-to-shoulder in meat-packing plants, rung up groceries while being forbidden to wear gloves, or delivered the mail. Those who are undocumented live with the additional fear of being caught by immigration authorities if they go to a hospital for testing or treatment.

What now? Research has shown that there’s a much higher risk of transmission in enclosed spaces than outdoors, so providing good ventilation, adequate physical distancing, and protective gear as appropriate for workers in indoor spaces is critical for safety. We also now know that patients are likely most infectious right before or at the time when symptoms start appearing, so if workplaces are generous about their sick leave policies, workers can err on the side of caution if they do feel unwell, and not have to choose between their livelihoods and their health. It’s also important to have adequate testing capacity, so infections can be caught before they turn into a large outbreak.

Frontline health care workers were not given adequate PPE and were sometimes fired for speaking up about it.

While health workers have not, thankfully, been dying at conspicuously higher rates, they continue to be susceptible to the virus due to their work. The national scramble for ventilators and personal protective equipment has exposed the just-in-time nature of hospitals’ inventories: Nurses across the country have had to work with expired N95 masks, or no masks at all. Health workers have been suspended, or put on unpaid leave, because they didn’t see eye to eye with their administrators on the amount of protective gear they needed to keep themselves safe while caring for patients.

First responders — EMTs, firefighters and paramedics — are often forgotten when it comes to funding, even though they are the first point of contact with sick patients. The lack of a coherent system nationwide meant that some first responders felt prepared, while others were begging for masks at local hospitals.

What now? As states reopen, it will be important to closely track hospital capacity, and if cases rise and threaten their medical systems’ ability to care for patients, governments will need to be ready to pause or even dial back reopening measures. It should go without saying that adequate protective gear is a must. I also hope that hospital administrators are thinking about mental health care for their staffs. Doctors and nurses have told us of the immense strain of caring for patients whom they don’t know how to save, while also worrying about getting sick themselves, or carrying the virus home to their loved ones. Even “heroes” need supplies and support.

What we still have to learn:

There continue to be questions on which data is lacking, such as the effects of the coronavirus on pregnant women. Without evidence-based research, pregnant women have been left to make decisions on their own, sometimes trying to limit their exposure against their employer’s wishes.

Similarly, there’s a paucity of data on children’s risk level and their role in transmission. While we can confidently say that it’s rare for children to get very ill if they do get infected, there’s not as much information on whether children are as infectious as adults. Answering that question would not just help parents make decisions (Can I let my kid go to day care when we live with Grandma?) but also help officials make evidence-based decisions on how and when to reopen schools.

There’s some research I don’t want to rush. Experts say the bar for evidence should be extremely high when it comes to a vaccine’s safety and benefit. It makes sense that we might be willing to use a therapeutic with less evidence on critically ill patients, knowing that without any intervention, they would soon die. A vaccine, however, is intended to be given to vast numbers of healthy people. So yes, we have to move urgently, but we must still take the time to gather robust data.

Our nation’s leaders have many choices to make in the coming weeks and months. I hope they will heed the advice of scientists, doctors and public health officials, and prioritize the protection of everyone from essential workers to people in prisons and homeless shelters who does not have the privilege of staying home for the duration of the pandemic.

The coronavirus is a wily adversary. We may ultimately defeat it with a vaccine or effective therapeutics. But what we’ve learned from the first 100,000 deaths is that we can save lives with the oldest mitigation tactics in the public health arsenal — and that being slow to act comes with a terrible cost.

I refuse to succumb to fatalism, to just accepting the ever higher death toll as inevitable. I want us to make it harder for this virus to take each precious life from us. And I believe we can.

 

 

 

Mask shortage for most health-care workers extended into May, Post-Ipsos poll shows

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/mask-shortage-for-most-health-care-workers-extended-into-may-post-ipsos-poll-shows/2020/05/20/1ddbe588-9a21-11ea-ac72-3841fcc9b35f_story.html?fbclid=IwAR3rcjsPTuDjJODTBeJTRCqqJ4RbMTmWTih5jP91Vy9pn_S4NzWcVErobbY&utm_campaign=wp_main&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook

Feds uncover an alleged scheme to fraudulently sell 39 million N95 ...

Front-line health-care workers still experienced shortages of critical equipment needed for protection from the coronavirus into early May — including nearly two-thirds who cited insufficient supplies of the face masks that filter out most airborne particles, according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll.

More than 4 in 10 also saw shortages of less protective surgical masks and 36 percent said their supply of hand sanitizer was running low, according to the poll. Roughly 8 in 10 reported wearing one mask for an entire shift, and more than 7 in 10 had to wear the same mask more than once.

The dire shortage of personal protective equipment for health-care workers emerged in March as one of the earliest signals of the country’s lack of preparation for the coronavirus pandemic. Nurses and others have said they were forced to put their own health at risk caring for highly infectious patients because they lacked adequate supplies, in particular N95 masks, which filter out 95 percent of airborne particles.

Image without a caption

State governments and medical facilities went to extraordinary lengths to obtain, preserve, sanitize and reuse masks designed to be disposed after a single use if necessary. Health authorities asked a frightened public not to worsen the shortage by snapping them up.

The Post-Ipsos poll may provide the clearest nationwide measure to date of the shortages during those weeks, when the virus surged through parts of the country, overwhelming some hospitals in New York City and placing others across the nation under tremendous strain. The survey interviewed a national sample of 8,086 U.S. adults, including 278 people who work with patients in health-care settings, such as doctors’ offices, clinics, hospitals and nursing homes. The poll was conducted from April 27 to May 4; results among health workers have a 6.5-point margin of sampling error.

“Covid hit like a tidal wave. We went from nothing to insanity,” said Ronnie Dubrowin, a certified nurse midwife from Connecticut who responded to the poll. “It was like one week no one had heard of this disease and the next week everybody had it.”

Dubrowin, who sees obstetric patients in two hospitals and one office setting, said masks were in such short supply during the early days of the outbreak that she resorted to heating hers in an oven to kill the virus.

“Getting protective gear was difficult for everybody,” Dubrowin said. “It became a mission of so many people in hospital settings to get protective gear for their employees.”

Despite shortages, 75 percent of the health-care workers said their employer was doing enough to ensure their safety. They also gave high marks to state officials, with 71 percent approving of their governor’s handling of the crisis.

They had much less confidence in President Trump. A 59 percent majority disapproved of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, while 41 percent approved.

Nearly a third of health workers said they believe restrictions were being lifted too quickly in late April and early May. A slim majority, 53 percent, said state governments are handling the pandemic about right, and 15 percent felt restrictions are not being lifted quickly enough. Those views are roughly similar to those of the general public, as are the ratings of Trump and governors.

Long Vinh, a pediatrician who works in the neonatal intensive care units at two San Francisco-area hospitals, said at the beginning of the outbreak some steps were taken to preserve masks, out of fear there might be a shortage. Now, he says there are no shortages of masks, gowns or other protective equipment at those hospitals: California Pacific Medical Center and Mills-Peninsula Medical Center.

“I really feel that being in the Bay Area, we were blessed and fortunate to have both a wealth of hospital capacity and resources and political leadership that took the crisis seriously,” he said.

Vinh said that while he had some concerns of an overall shortage early on, “I never felt like I was put into a situation where I might have a covid exposure where I wouldn’t have all the protection I need.”

The survey showed that more than 7 in 10 health-care workers expressed concern about exposing members of their household to the virus after coming in contact with it at work, and roughly half were regularly changing out of clothing before entering their homes. About a third said someone at their workplace has been infected by the coronavirus. A 58 percent majority said it is likely they have been exposed at work.

One woman, who works in a small, residential mental-health treatment center in Minnesota, said she and other workers are not provided masks, though they are seeing adults who come from hospitals and elsewhere and who could be infected.

The woman, a counselor who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss decisions made by her employer, said she is concerned about bringing the virus home to her young child.

“We have some capacity to social-distance . . . but with the size of our facility and the office space availability, I’d say 80 percent of the time that’s not possible,” she said.

More than three-quarters of health workers felt that people appreciated their efforts, and a similar proportion said someone has thanked them for their work since the outbreak began.

Just over 1 in 10, or 12 percent, of health-care workers said they do not have health insurance themselves. More than 6 in 10 have paid sick leave, though over 3 in 10 do not and the rest were not sure.

And the financial outlook for many is shaky. Nearly half of health-care workers, 48 percent, were at least somewhat concerned about paying their bills.

The Post-Ipsos poll was conducted through Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel, a large online survey panel recruited through random sampling of U.S. households.