China Sends Doctors to North Korea as TV Report Fuels Speculation About Kim Jong Un’s Health

China has sent a team of doctors to North Korea to help determine supreme leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un’s health status, Reuters reported on Friday. Hong Kong Satellite Television reported that Kim was dead, though there has been no confirmation from U.S. sources at this point.

“While the U.S. continues to monitor reports surrounding the health of the North Korean Supreme Leader, at this time, there is no confirmation from official channels that Kim Jong Un is deceased,” a senior Pentagon official not authorized to speak on the record told Newsweek. “North Korean military readiness remains within historical norms and there is no further evidence to suggest a significant change in defensive posturing or national level leadership changes.”

Kim’s last confirmed public appearance was on April 11, at a politburo meeting, though state media also shared footage of him attending aerial assault drills the following day. It was his absence from April 15 Day of the Sun celebrations dedicated to his grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, that first sparked speculation regarding his well-being.

On Monday, rumors spread that the North Korean head of state was in ill health after undergoing heart surgery on April 12, sparked by an anonymous source featured in the South Korea-based Daily NK outlet, a publication linked to a U.S. Congress-funded think tank among other institutions, along with a CNN article citing an unnamed U.S. official that said Kim was in grave danger following the operation.

These rumors were subsequently discounted by U.S. intelligence, with two U.S. officials telling Newsweek on Tuesday they had no reason to think that Kim had suffered any kind of serious illness. Similarly, at the time, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency cited a government official who said there was nothing unusual coming from North Korea that could suggest Kim was ill.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry did not respond to Newsweek‘s request for comment the following day, but referred to a Blue House statement in which the office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in also said no unusual activity related to North Korea or the health of its dynast had been reported. Chinese and Russian officials have questioned the sourcing of the U.S. and South Korean media reports, as has President Donald Trump, the first sitting U.S. leader to meet a North Korean supreme leader.

The president said Thursday he believed CNN’s report was “incorrect,” but had no further information to provide about Kim’s condition.

“We have a good relationship with North Korea, as good as you can have,” Trump told reporters. “I mean we have a good relationship with North Korea. I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un and I hope he’s okay.”

Kim Jong Un
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un before a meeting with US President Donald Trump on the south side of the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea, in the Joint Security Area (JSA) of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) on June 30, 2019.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty

Kim and his familial predecessors have long been the subject of international press conjecture as information within North Korea is strictly controlled, leaving little room for leaks. Since Kim took over following his father’s death in 2011, he has been known to at times disappear, his longest absence being over a month in 2014.

But unlike those who ruled before him, the youngest, current supreme leader lacks any clear line of succession known to the outside world. With only foreign sources claiming Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, may have had any children, the young ruler has no official heir. Some have speculated that his younger sister Kim Yo Jong, reported to be 31 and one of Kim’s key lieutenants, could succeed her brother, who has steadily promoted her position in recent years.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed Kim Yo Jong in an interview Thursday with Fox News.

“Well, I did have a chance to meet her a couple of times, but the challenge remains the same. The goal remains unchanged,” Pompeo said. “Whoever is leading North Korea, we want them to give up their nuclear program, we want them to join the league of nations, and we want a brighter future for the North Korean people. But they’ve got to denuclearize, and we’ve got to do so in a way that we can verify. That’s true no matter who is leading North Korea.”

After a tense 2017 filled with exchanges of nuclear-fueled threats, the Trump administration set out in 2018 to strike an unprecedented denuclearization-for-peace deal with Pyongyang. The effort yielded some early good-faith measures on both sides, as well as three historic meetings between Trump and Kim but ultimately failed to produce an agreement, leading to a gradual renewal in frictions between the longtime foe still technically at war since their 1950s conflict that still dominates the divided Korean Peninsula.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

This content was originally published here.

Maine restaurant loses health and liquor licenses after defying state virus orders — Business — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

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NEWRY, Maine — The co-owner of Sunday River Brewing Co. in Newry who defied state orders by opening his doors to diners on Friday afternoon has lost his state health and liquor licenses, he said.

Restaurants must obtain state heath licenses to legally serve food.

More than 150 people came to Sunday River Brewing Co. in Newry on Friday afternoon after co-owner Rick Savage announced Thursday night that he would reopen in defiance of state orders meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

After learning that he’d lost the licenses around 4:30 p.m., Savage initially said he planned to keep operating the restaurant and just pay the daily fines that he would face. However, later in the evening, Sunday River Brewing Co. published a Facebook post stating that the restaurant would be closed until further notice.

Watch: Rick Savage on losing his health and liquor licenses

Frustration with the state’s coronavirus-related business restrictions has been growing in some circles, but the restaurant’s deliberate act of disobedience appeared to be the clearest example yet of those tensions boiling over in Maine.

Although the restaurant initially said it would open at 4 p.m., it started serving food after people showed up around noon in defiance of a March order from Gov. Janet Mills that barred dine-in restaurant service.

By 4:30 p.m., the crowd of diners lined up around the building on Route 2 had grown to a peak of around 150. By 6 p.m., the restaurant had served roughly 250 people, according to an employee.

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
A crowd waits to get into Sunday River Brewing Company, Friday, May 1, 2020, in Newry, Maine. Rick Savage, owner of the brew pub, defied an executive order that prohibited the gathering of 10 or more people and opened his establishment during the coronavirus pandemic.

Savage, who announced the restaurant’s opening on Fox News on Thursday night while criticizing the Democratic governor and reading her cellphone number on the air, said that he was not worried some of the diners coming from areas with more documented coronavirus cases would spread it in his restaurant.

That was partly because he was enforcing distancing guidelines that other businesses have adopted during the pandemic. If Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart “can do 6-foot spacing and be open,” then his restaurant could as well, he said.

“I really don’t believe it. I don’t believe it at this point,” he said, when asked if it might be dangerous to let those diners into the restaurant. “I’m not a medical expert. I serve food, you know.”

As for the many diners standing less than 6 feet from each other while waiting for a seat, he said, “I can’t tell them where to stand and what to do. We’re America. If they want to isolate, they can isolate.”

Violating orders made under the governor’s emergency powers are punishable as a misdemeanor crime and the deputy director of the state’s liquor regulator said Savage could face a penalty if he opened to dine-in customers.

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Rick Savage, center, owner of Sunday River Brewing Company, talks with customers Jon and Tiffany Moody after Savage defied an executive order prohibited the gathering of 10 or more people by opening his establishment during the coronavirus pandemic Friday, May 1, 2020, in Newry, Maine.

However, Savage earlier said that he did not think he would lose his liquor license because he decided against serving booze on Friday. He violated the state’s orders with the hope that other businesses would decide to join him and so that he could support his 65 employees, he said.

In general, there appears to be support for the restrictions Mills has put in place. She has received high polling marks for the state’s response to the pandemic, with 72 percent of Mainers saying they somewhat or strongly approve of her handling of the outbreak in a national survey released this week by researchers from Northeastern, Harvard and Rutgers universities.

But the hospitality industry has hammered a plan released by Mills this week that would limit restaurants and hotels into the summer. The crowd that turned out to Newry on Friday afternoon was also vehemently opposed.

Watch: Why one woman came to Sunday River Brewing Co.

At one point, diners waiting outside Sunday River Brewing Co. gave Savage a round of applause when he emerged from the restaurant. In interviews, some said they had come to support his operation because they disagreed with Mills’ orders and felt they would be too onerous for the tourism industry.

The fact that some of them were more elderly and at-risk from the harmful effects of the coronavirus did not deter them.

“This is Vacationland,” said Dick Hill, 78, who had driven two hours from his home in Bath after seeing Savage on Fox News. “If she doesn’t let hotels and restaurants open, we’re going to be crushed.”

Most of the cars in the parking lot Friday afternoon were from Maine, but a handful had plates from other states such as Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Florida.

Just after they had reached the front of the line, Tom Bayley, 60, and his 34-year-old son Gaelan expressed similar frustrations about Mills’ orders and said they had come to the restaurant to show solidarity.

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Rick Savage, owner of Sunday River Brewing Company, walks out of his restaurant after he defied an executive order that prohibited gathering 10 or more people and opened his establishment during the coronavirus pandemic, Friday, May 1, 2020, in Newry, Maine.

The Bayleys run a family campground with 750 sites in Scarborough, they said, and they worry that most out-of-state families won’t be able to justify taking a vacation when those orders call for two weeks of quarantine in Maine. They also said it will be possible for businesses such as theirs to responsibly open without contributing to the health crisis.

“It’s directly hitting our business,” Gaelen Bayley said.

Some of the diners wore red hats supporting President Donald Trump featuring his “Make America Great Again” slogan. But others in the ski town on Friday afternoon were less pleased with the diners’ choices.

“Make America stupid again!” one woman yelled out the window of a passing car.

Watch: The line at Sunday River Brewing Co. on Friday

This content was originally published here.

Police, health officials rebut Whitmer’s claims about hospital protest problems

Police, health officials rebut Whitmer’s claims about ambulance protest problems

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Published 10:52 AM EDT Apr 21, 2020

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a Monday press conference that protesters last week blocked ambulances from reaching Sparrow Hospital, but local law enforcement and hospital officials have countered the claims. 

Whitmer’s assertions stem from a Wednesday protest called Operation Gridlock during which more than 4,000 people — most staying in their cars —  surrounded the Capitol for hours to protest the governor’s extended and tightened stay-home order. 

Police have said the gridlock caused no issues for ambulances, but Whitmer has since maintained otherwise in at least two public press conferences. The Democratic governor has been under pressure from Republican legislative leaders, certain business groups and some residents to carve out exceptions to her tightened stay home order that still follow federal guidance and create a plan for gradually reopening parts of Michigan’s economy.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives a COVID-19 update.

“The blocking of cars and ambulances trying to get into Sparrow Hospital immediately endangered lives,” Whitmer said Monday. “…While I respect people’s right to dissent, I am worried about the health of the people of our state.”

Sparrow Hospital is located on Michigan Avenue about a mile east of the Capitol. 

When questioned last Thursday about the assertion, Whitmer’s spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said the governor was referring to a tweet by Gongwer News Service Executive Editor and Publisher Zach Gorchow, showing an ambulance in traffic near the Capitol, as well as “multiple posts” from medical workers inside the hospital. 

The ambulance took five to seven minutes to make it through the vehicles — starting from the time it turned on its lights and sirens, Gorchow said.  

“What was not clear to me was whether the ambulance was called to a run and trying to get to a call or if the drivers had no run but were alarmed that traffic had not moved for close to an hour and used their lights and siren to clear a path,” he said.

Brown sent The News screen grabs showing Facebook posts from two Sparrow Hospital health care workers who said ambulances were blocked from entering the hospital. 

“I work at sparrow and I will tell you THEY ARE BLOCKED and ppl are HONKING their horns where people are trying to rest and recover!! SELFISH. Our employees can’t even get to work!! Our cancer patients can’t to their appointments!” Lindsay Bowman wrote last week on the WILX News 10 Facebook page. 

Capital Area Transportation Authority on Wednesday said service was temporarily disrupted downtown and surrounding areas because of the protests. 

“CATA is unable to accommodate life-sustaining and medically necessary trips to or from these areas,” the agency posted on Twitter. 

But hospital, ambulance and police officials said they had no reports of any patients being endangered by the protest.

Sparrow Hospital spokesman John Foren said last week that some hospital personnel were delayed in making their shifts on the day of the protest, causing some personnel to work past the ends of their normal shifts. 

But the ambulance entrance to and from the hospital remained clear, Foren said. The Sparrow spokesman said Thursday he had received no reports that ambulances were stuck in traffic farther out from the hospital, either.

Despite some “confusion,” Lansing police had no complaints about any ambulance being locked in traffic during an emergency, said Robert Merritt, a spokesman for the Lansing Police Department. When ambulances on non-emergency runs were in traffic, “rally participants slowly cleared a path,” he said.

“There were NO complaints from any emergency services vehicle being held up while on an emergency run (lights and siren),” Merritt said in an email. 

“There are many photos/videos floating around that show an ambulance moving slow within the vehicles in the rally. This ambulance and some other emergency services vehicles (not on emergency runs) were seen driving through parts of the rally.”

Mercy Ambulance, which is located just east of Sparrow on Michigan Avenue, also had no delays but some units did take alternate routes because of the traffic, said Dennis Palmer, president and CEO of Mercy Ambulance. 

The accommodations were no different from what the company would have to make if there were a Michigan State University game, a traffic crash or construction, Palmer said. 

“In fact, we were more prepared because we were given advance notice,” the Mercy Ambulance CEO said.

There was a potential for a delay and his employees remarked as much on social media, Palmer said. But there were no actual delays to service, he said.

While Lansing police were responsible for enforcement in the city at large, Michigan State Police had jurisdiction over the Capitol grounds. Michigan State Police said early on that, despite a lack of social distancing by some demonstrators, they would only intervene in the protest if there was a threat to human life or vandalism. 

Michigan State Police made one arrest during the hours-long protest when one protester allegedly assaulted another, but otherwise the crowds largely were “polite” and “respectful,” said First Lt. Darren Green. 

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, likewise, has never maintained ambulances were trapped during the protest. But the mayor issued Friday a press release warning protesters that next time he would ask for mutual aid from local police departments to help manage the crowds and enforce social distancing.

“Lansing Police will monitor Lansing ordinance violations and cite offenders when we have available offices and as possible to ensure officer safety,” Schor said. “Violations such as excessive noise, purposely blocking roads, and public urination or defecation, and others.”

The rally organizer, the Michigan Conservative Coalition, sent a letter Sunday to Schor noting “an unrelated group” was responsible for the individuals who left their cars and protested on the Capitol lawn. 

Coalition President Rosanne Ponkowski said the group is not planning on organizing future events, but other groups were “co-opting” the name and idea of Operation Gridlock. Ponkowski said the group is encouraging residents to avoid any upcoming rallies. 

“Our goal was to bring attention to the irrational rules in place that were putting over 1,000,000 workers on the unemployment line,” Ponkowski wrote. “We feel the governor has heard the people’s message at Operation Gridlock and she needs time to act to restart the economy.  Now.”

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

This content was originally published here.

Filipinos to now pay 3% of salary for health insurance

Under the universal healthcare law, overseas Filipinos are classified as ‘direct contributors’.

Starting this year, Filipinos in the UAE and across the world are required to pay three per cent of their income to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), the authority reiterated in its latest circular.

The increase in PhilHealth premiums was rolled out late last year and, on April 22, the corporation published a detailed circular elaborating on the contribution and collection of payment from overseas Filipino members.

Also read: FAQs on Philippine health insurance contribution

PhilHealth said expats’ three per cent premium rate will be computed based on their monthly pay, with the range set at P10,000 (Dh730) to P60,000 (Dh4,385).

If one’s monthly salary is higher than Dh4,385, the individual will still pay P1,800 (Dh132)  every month, or the three per cent of the income ceiling.

For an entire year, an expat earning Dh4,385 or more will have to shell out P21,600 (Dh1,579).

“While the premium is computed based on the monthly income, payment shall be made every three-month, six-month or full 12-month period,” the circular said.

It added that 2020 will serve as the transition year, so an initial payment of P2,400 (Dh175) can be made to meet the new policy requirements. The remaining balance, however, shall be settled within the year.

“A member who fails to pay the premium after the due date set by the corporation shall be required to pay all missed contributions with monthly compounded interest,” it said.

“By January 1, 2021, the minimum acceptable initial payment is a three-month premium based on the prescribed rate at the time of payment,” it added. “Still, the member has the option to pay the balance in full or in quarterly payments.”
 
Membership must be updated

Under the Philippines’ universal healthcare law, overseas Filipinos are classified as ‘direct contributors’, therefore, “payment and remittance of premium contributions is mandatory”, as stated in the circular.
 
Expats should update their PhilHealth membership and submit a proof of income, which shall serve as the basis for the mandatory contribution.

The new policy covers even those who are not employed. “This circular covers all overseas Filipinos living and working abroad, including those on vacation and those waiting for documentation, whether registered or unregistered to the National Health Insurance Program,” the circular said.
 
Coverage includes hospitalisation abroad

A PhilHealth representative – whom Khaleej Times spoke to through the agency’s hotline – confirmed that members and their dependents can avail of the insurance’s benefits even if they are outside the country.

“Should a member be hospitalised abroad, he or she will just have to submit the bills, medical abstract and filled-out Claim Form 1 and Claim Form 2,” he said in Filipino. Claim forms can be downloaded from the PhilHealth’s website. 

“Documents should be submitted within 180 days after the patient has been discharged,” he added.

Premium  to increase yearly till 2024-25

Filipino expats’ PhilHealth contributions shall also increase every year until 2024-25, according to the circular.

From three per cent this year, the premium will be at 3.5 per cent in 2021; 4 per cent in 2022; 4.5 per cent in 2023; and 5 per cent in 2024 and 2025.

The income ceiling will also increase to P70,000 (Dh5116) in 2021, 80,000 (Dh5,847) in 2022, 90,000 (Dh6,578) in 2023, and 100,000 (Dh7,309) from 2024 to 2025.

kirstin@khaleejtimes.com

This content was originally published here.

We Didn’t ‘Flatten The Curve,’ We Flattened The U.S. Health Care System

When the lockdowns began last month, we were told that if we didn’t stay home our hospitals would be overwhelmed with coronavirus patients, intensive care wards would be overrun, there wouldn’t be enough ventilators, and some people would probably die in their homes for lack of care. To maintain capacity in the health-care system, we all had to go on lockdown—not just the big cities, but everywhere.

So we stayed home, businesses closed, and tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs. But with the exception of New York City, the overwhelming surge of coronavirus patients never really appeared—at least not in the predicted numbers, which have been off by hundreds of thousands.

During a press conference Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis noted that health experts initially projected 465,000 Floridians would be hospitalized because of coronavirus by April 24. But as of April 22, the number is slightly more than 2,000.

Even in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last month he would need 30,000 ventilators, hospitals never came close to needing that many. The projected peak need was about 5,000, and actual usage may have been even lower.

Other overflow measures have also proven unnecessary. On Tuesday, President Trump said the USNS Comfort, the Navy hospital ship that had been deployed to New York to provide emergency care for coronavirus patients, will be leaving New York. The ship had been prepared to treat 500 patients. As of Friday, only 71 beds were occupied. An Army field hospital set up in Seattle’s pro football stadium shut down earlier this month without ever having seen a single patient.

It’s the same story in much of the country. In Texas, where this week Gov. Greg Abbott began gradually loosening lockdown measures, including a prohibition on most medical procedures, hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. In Dallas and Houston, where coronavirus cases are concentrated in the state, makeshift overflow centers that had been under construction might not be used at all.

In Illinois, where hospitals across the state scrambled to stock up on ventilators last month, fewer than half of them have been put to use—and as of Sunday, only 757 of 1,345 ventilators were being used by COVID-19 patients. In Virginia, only about 22 percent of the ventilator supply is being used.

Meanwhile, hospitals and health care systems nationwide have had to furlough or lay off thousands of employees. Why? Because the vast major of most hospitals’ revenue comes from elective or “non-essential” procedures. We’re not talking about LASIK eye surgery but things like coronary angioplasty and stents, procedures that are necessary but maybe not emergencies—yet. If hospitals can’t perform these procedures because governors have banned them, then they can’t pay their bills, or their employees.

To take just one example, a friend who works in a cardiac intensive care unit (ICU) in rural Virginia called recently and told me about how they had reorganized their entire system around caring for coronavirus patients. They had cancelled most “non-essential” procedures, imposed furloughs and pay cuts, and created a special ICU ward for patients with COVID-19. So far, they have had only one patient. One. The nurses assigned to the COVID-19 ward have very little to do. In the entire area covered by this hospital system, only about 30 people have tested positive for COVID-19.

If Hospitals Can Handle The Load, End The Lockdowns

I’m sure the governors and health officials who ordered these lockdowns meant well. They based their decisions on deeply flawed and woefully inaccurate models, and they should have been less panicky and more skeptical, but they were facing a completely new disease about which, thanks to China, they had almost no reliable information.

However, in hindsight it seems clear that treating the entire country as if it were New York City was a huge mistake that has cost millions of American jobs and destroyed untold amounts of wealth. Now that we know our hospitals aren’t going to be overrun by COVID-19 cases, governors and mayors should immediately reverse course and begin opening their states and communities for business.

Of course, some already are—and in a phased, cautious manner, as they should. But the overarching narrative that we all bought into, that unless we stayed home and “flattened the curve” our hospitals would be inundated, and if your kids got sick there would be no beds available to treat them, has turned out to be false. It hasn’t happened, and it most likely won’t happen, especially now that new evidence is emerging that suggests many more people have already contracted COVID-19 than previously thought, which means the disease might be far less lethal than we feared.

Public officials responsible for the lockdowns will no doubt claim that without these draconian measures, our hospitals surely would have been overwhelmed. And who knows? Maybe they would have. It’s an unfalsifiable assertion.

But at this point we should all be able to agree that the predictions were way off, and not just because they didn’t take into account stay-at-home orders or business closures, because they did. The experts, in this case, were wrong. The best thing governors and mayors can do now is admit as much, and start lifting their lockdown orders so people—including doctors and nurses—can get back to work.

This content was originally published here.

More Local Hospitals Report Children With Possible COVID-19 Health Consequences – NBC New York

Amid new concerns about the possible impact of COVID-19 on children, one Long Island hospital tells NBC New York they have seen about a dozen critically ill pediatric patients in the past two weeks with similar inflammatory symptoms. 

“We now have at least about 12 patients in our hospital that are presenting in a similar fashion, that we think have some relation to a COVID infection,” said Dr. James Schneider, Director of Pediatric Critical Care at Cohen Children’s Hospital in Nassau. “It’s something we’re starting to see around the country.”  

Cohen is one of several local hospitals where pediatricians say they are concerned about recent hospitalizations of previously healthy children who have become critically ill with the same features, resembling Toxic Shock Syndrome and Kawasaki disease. Kawasaki is an autoimmune sickness that can be triggered by a viral infection and if not treated quickly, can cause life-threatening damage to the arteries and the heart.  

Top news stories in the tri-state area, in America and around the world

“They are scattered. Each center has one or two cases,” said Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Nadine Choueiter of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

While Dr. Choueiter noted the cases are still rare, she added, “Yes, we are seeing them and it’s important to talk about it to raise awareness so as pediatricians we look for these symptoms and treat them.”

Symptoms can include fever for more than five days, rash, gastrointestinal symptoms, red eyes and swollen hands and feet. In addition to a dozen cases at Cohen Children’s Hospital, a source at Mount Sinai Hospital says the number of cases in their pediatric ICU grew by several this week, up from two cases on April 28. 

A Mount Sinai spokesman declined to comment. 

NBC New York has also confirmed at least one case at Montefiore Medical Center and another case of a toddler at NYU Langone, who was released in recent days after being treated for Kawasaki disease.  

At Columbia Presbyterian, a spokesperson did not respond to repeated requests from NBC New York about a published report of three cases in their hospital. 

Pediatricians say besides the serious inflammatory symptoms, what many of these children have in common is that they test positive for COVID-19 or the antibodies. They also say some of the children test negative for COVID-19, but are believed to have been exposed to the virus by immediate family members.

Now doctors are comparing notes, trying to figure out if COVID-19 is triggering an overreaction of the immune system in some previously healthy children, perhaps even weeks after they were exposed. 

“The interesting part is only now are we seeing these patients show up,” Dr. Schneider said, adding that the question remains “Is this a typical surge in Kawasaki disease or is this the typical post-infectious response to a COVID infection?” 

Doctors say it is also possible that these cases are unrelated to COVID-19, but it is hard to know, since health officials do not require such symptoms in children to be tracked. It is still unclear if local public health officials have started counting these cases to determine if there is an uptick.

The New York City Health Department seemed unaware of the local cases when NBC New York first inquired about doctors’ concerns at a news conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio on April 29.

“We have not seen this to date,” said Commissioner Oxiris Barbot of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Two days later on May 1, when NBC New York asked for an update, Commissioner Barbot said she is trying to learn more about any potential health threat to children.

“We are looking closely at this, “ Barbot said. “My team has reached out to the pediatric hospitals to get more information about specific cases that they have concerns are indicating an inflammatory cardiovascular response in children that had not been previously observed.” 

Barbot said she had also personally communicated with the NYC Medical Examiner who is attempting to compile any information on children abroad who may have died after developing these symptoms. British pediatricians and health officials also issued a warning on April 26 about a possible COVID-Kawasaki link in young children. 

“It just goes to show that COVID does not spare any age group and can lead to very serious illness, even in kids,” said Dr. Schneider.

This content was originally published here.

Florida megachurch pastor arrested for holding services despite health order

A Florida pastor was arrested on Monday for holding services at a Tampa megachurch in violation of a public health order prohibiting large gatherings to stem the spread of the coronavirus.  

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was charged with misdemeanor counts of unlawful assembly and violation of the public health rules, according to Fox 13, Tampa Bay’s local affiliate.

Howard-Browne’s apprehension came after he held two Sunday services with up to 500 attendees, even offering bus service to the church.

“His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week in danger,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, who issued an arrest warrant earlier Monday.

Despite social distancing measures to curb person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus, the River at Tampa Bay Church announced earlier this month that it intended to remain open to comfort those in need, even as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose across the country.  

“In a time of national crisis, we expect certain institutions to be open and certain people to be on duty. We expect hospitals to have their doors open 24/7 to receive and treat patients. We expect our police and firefighters to be ready and available to rescue and to help and to keep the peace. The Church is another one of those essential services. It is a place where people turn for help and for comfort in a climate of fear and uncertainty,” the church said in a statement.

The River at Tampa Bay Church was one of several regional churches that drew hundreds of worshipers recently despite bans on public gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier in March, a Louisiana church held a service attended by about 300 people despite a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D). The Rev. Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in East Baton Rouge Parish said at the time that the virus was “not a concern.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCuomo grilled by brother about running for president: ‘No. no’ Maxine Waters unleashes over Trump COVID-19 response: ‘Stop congratulating yourself! You’re a failure’ Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE last week said during a Fox News town hall at the White House that he would “love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” describing his April 12 target date as a “beautiful timeline” and adding that he hoped to see “packed pews.”  

But Trump reversed course on Sunday, announcing the White House would keep its guidelines for social distancing in place through the end of April to try to blunt the spread of the coronavirus.

This content was originally published here.

NYC declares war on ‘rim jobs’ in Health Dept. report

NYC’s Department of Health is bending over backwards to warn the public about a whole new threat — “rim jobs.”

The city’s health agency issued graphic guidelines for safe sex practices during the coronavirus pandemic Saturday, and while many were quick to take jabs at the agency for declaring masturbation as safer than sex with a partner, most missed the backdoor rim shot.

Yes, the city specifically called out rimming — or using the tongue on the anal rim of another person for sexual pleasure — as particularly dangerous in a jaw-dropping section of the public safety alert.

“Rimming (mouth on anus) might spread COVID-19. Virus in feces may enter your mouth,” the city warned in the section titled, “Take care during sex.”

Eagle-eyed Twitter users, naturally, had a field day with the bizarre bullet point, whipping it into the butt of jokes online.

“The NYC Health Department has a document about sex and coronavirus that includes a statement about rimming,” one person wrote. “tl;dr ‘Stay at least six feet from other people, and be sure not to lick anyone’s anus.’”

“Day 13 of quarantine: my parents read the NYC coronavirus sex guidelines and are now discussing rimming at the dinner table. Need evacuation ASAP,” one person wrote.

Day 13 of quarantine: my parents read the NYC coronavirus sex guidelines and are now discussing rimming at the dinner table. Need evacuation ASAP

— WFH Stan Account (@plerer) March 23, 2020

Others were shocked the Department of Health didn’t let this particular sex act fall through the cracks — and in fact added it right after the section on kissing.

“The nyc coronavirus sex advice goes from kissing straight to rimming a-s which just goes to show how badly nyc was begging for a plague,” another joked.

It’s not always better to love the one you’re self-isolating…

Some, however, were impressed the city poo-pooed the sex act, commonly known as a “rim job,” which is popular for many same-sex partners.

“Important, inclusive, informational. I’m here for this,” one person said.

The Department of Health reiterated advice to social distance to prevent the spread of coronavirus on Saturday, days before the Big Apple became the epicenter of the virus with more than 13,000 cases and as many as 125 deaths from COVID-19.

The agency urged city dwellers to remain six feet apart from one another, but the document also offered “some tips for how to enjoy sex and to avoid spreading COVID-19.”

“You are your safest sex partner,” the document read. “Masturbation will not spread COVID-19, especially if you wash your hands (and any sex toys) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after.”

The agency, however, didn’t knock bumping uglies with a virus-free partner or live-in mate.

“The next safest partner is someone you live with,” the document continued. “Having close contact– including sex — with a small circle of people helps prevent spreading COVID-19.

The document also encouraged seeking out sex in virtual form, including advising sex workers to turn to the web.

“If you usually meet your sex partners online or make a living by having sex, consider taking a break from in-person dates,” the document added. “Video dates, sexting or chat rooms may be options for you.”

So for those looking for rim jobs, best to try a Google search.

This content was originally published here.

‘Our health care system has not been overwhelmed’ by COVID-19, says Pence | PBS NewsHour

Vice President Mike Pence:

Judy, I will tell you that we’re — we’re going to get to the bottom of what happened with the World Health Organization and why the world wasn’t informed by China about what was happening on the ground in Wuhan with the coronavirus.

There’ll be time for that in the days ahead. And the president has made it clear that we’re going to hold the World Health Organization and — and China accountable for that.

But I have to tell you, having — having been asked by the president to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force in late February, that the actions that our president took in January, where he suspended all travel from China, the first time any American president had ever done that, bought us an invaluable amount of time to stand up the national response that has us here today, at a time when our health care system has not been overwhelmed.

And while — while you — you cite statistics from Europe, the reality is, when you look at the European Union as a whole, which is roughly the size of the United States, thanks to the commitment of our health care workers, thanks to the response of the American people, while we grieve the loss of more than 33,000 Americans today, the truth is, the mortality rate in the United States today is — is far less than half of that in Europe.

It’s a tribute to our — our system. It’s a tribute to the American response. And, frankly, it’s a tribute to the fact that President Trump suspended all travel from China, initiated efforts to get our CDC into China by mid-February.

And so, by the time we — we learned of the first community spread in late February in the United States, we were able to surge the resources and — and raise up the kind of countermeasures that have us in the place that we are today.

This content was originally published here.

Nevada Orders Closure of Health Food Stores, While Liquor Stores Remain Open


You can’t make this stuff up. Nevada governor says health food stores are not essential, but liquor stores are.

It may sound like something out of the Twilight Zone, but it’s real:

The Governor of Nevada has ordered small health food stores (excluding Amazon-owned Whole Foods) to close, calling them “non-essential businesses,” according to a press release by the Natural Products Association.

Meanwhile, liquor stores are still up and running. No joke.

“Governor Sisolak’s decision is shortsighted and inconsistent with the federal government and other states and amounts to an assault on small businesses,” writes CEO of the NPA Daniel Fabricant.

“Amidst the recent COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve seen firsthand the importance of supporting a healthy immune system. Proper nutrition is a cornerstone of a ‘health-first’ strategy and essential vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin C, are highly efficient ways to support your daily health and wellness…Don’t let Governor Sisolak and his accomplices take away health choices away from your family.”

A health food store called Stay Healthy of Las Vegas shared on its website that the store was forced to close as of April 7.

Due to a Mandate issued by Governor Sisolak we are considered NON-Essential, contrary to Federal Guidelines, and had to temporarily CLOSE our doors. We need your help! Please call Governor Sisolak at (775) 684-5670 or to State of Nevada Homepage to at least allow Curbside Pick Up for us.”

Please click here to sign the Natural Products Association’s petition to the governor to let these essential businesses open back up.

The post Nevada Orders Closure of Health Food Stores, While Liquor Stores Remain Open appeared first on Return to Now.

This content was originally published here.

No, The Health Department Did Not Say To Microwave Face Masks To Sterilize Them

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Y’all…please do not microwave your face masks. I guess somewhere on the internet there was a post telling people to do this. No. Do not do this!

There are people that are showing images of their burnt masks because they followed this advice that someone gave on the internet.

Health Departments are speaking up and asking you to not do this.

Fabric/home made masks are to be marked as to which side you will wear as inside to be consistent. These masks are to be…

Posted by

You wash your face mask. If you microwave it you will burn it. You could even catch your house on fire!

DO NOT TRY TO STERILIZE FABRIC MASK IN THE MICROWAVE as directed on facebook. This is what happened to mine this morning.This was at 2 minutes in an unsealed Ziploc bag.

Posted by

You can wash your face masks in your clothes washing machine. Mine has a sanitizing setting, so that is what I would use. But even if you don’t have that setting you can still do a hot water wash with laundry soap.

People are saying you can sterilize a face mask by placing it in a plastic baggy and microwaving it for 2 to 3 minutes. NO!

Do not put your face mask in the microwave to sanitize it , my house stinks bad ! My favorite mask to . Bummer

Posted by

Thankfully, those that tried it are speaking up so that others do not make the same mistake. Masks are hard to get, even if you are making your own, you don’t want to ruin it.

Do Not put cloth face mask in microwave!! This is mine on 1 1/2 minutes!!!!!

Posted by

I did a very quick search and came across many posts with the same results. Burnt, ruined face masks.

Don’t microwave the mask

Posted by

So do yourself a favor and skip the microwave. Just wash them in the washing machine or you can even hand wash them if needed. Give them a good soak and scrub, rinse and hang them to dry.

This content was originally published here.

Concerts Won’t Return Until “Fall 2021 at the Earliest,” Health Expert Warns | Consequence of Sound

Large-scale gatherings such as conferences, sport events, and live concerts won’t be safe to attend until “fall 2021 at the earliest,” according to Zeke Emmanuel, director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania.

Emmanuel was part of an expert panel assembled by the New York Times on life after the COVID-19 pandemic. The problem, according to Emmanuel, is “You can’t just flip a switch and open the whole of society up. It’s just not going to work. It’s too much. The virus will definitely flare back to the worst levels.”

As he sees it, “restarting the economy has to be done in stages,” and crowded events will be the last part of our old lives to return. He said,

“It does have to start with more physical distancing at a work site that allows people who are at lower risk to come back. Certain kinds of construction, or manufacturing or offices, in which you can maintain six-foot distances are more reasonable to start sooner. Larger gatherings — conferences, concerts, sporting events — when people say they’re going to reschedule this conference or graduation event for October 2020, I have no idea how they think that’s a plausible possibility. I think those things will be the last to return. Realistically we’re talking fall 2021 at the earliest.”

So why do we have to wait until the second half of 2021? That has to do with the development timeline of the coronavirus vaccine. And Emmanuel isn’t alone in thinking a vaccine will take 12-18 months — in fact, that seems to be the expert consensus.

Larry Brilliant, the epidemiologist who led the effort to eradicate smallpox, told The Economist, “I think we will have a vaccine that works in less than a couple of months.” Unfortunately, that’s the easy part. “Then it will be the arduous process of making sure that it is effective enough and that it is not harmful. And then we have to produce it. [America’s Director National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases] Tony Fauci’s estimate of 12 to 18 months before we have a vaccine, in sufficient quantities in place, is one that I agree with.”

But Brilliant, who also consulted on the 2011 Steven Soderbergh film Contagion, sounds even more pessimistic than Emmanuel. He thinks the COVID-19 virus will still be a problem — at least for a while — after the development of a vaccine.

“I just want to mention, once we have that vaccine, and we’ve mass vaccinated as many people as we could, there will still be outbreaks. People are not adding on to the backend of that time period the fact that we will then be chasing outbreaks, ping-pong-ing back and forth between countries. We will need to have the equivalent of the polio-eradication program or the smallpox-eradication program, hopefully at the WHO. And that mop-up—I hate to use that word when we’re talking about human beings—but that follow-on effort will take an additional period of time before we are truly safe.”

In other words, the re-opening of society will be slower and more painful than some are anticipating.

For now musicians have adapted with quarantine videos and isolation livestreams, as when Willie Nelson announced a digital Farm Aid with Neil Young, Dave Matthews, and more over the weekend. For a full list of upcoming concerts and livestreams, click here. But that’s not going to replace the lost revenue stream for middle-class and rising artists. If you want to help musicians impacted by the novel coronavirus, or are yourself a musician looking for help, check out our pandemic resource guide.

This content was originally published here.

About half of France’s coronavirus patients in intensive care are under 65, health official says

A French health official says warnings to stay home in the coronavirus pandemic are in some cases falling on deaf ears while noting that the virus hasn’t just been posing a risk to seniors.

French health ministry official Jérôme Salomon said Monday that the situation is “deteriorating very quickly” while providing this statistic: of the between 300 and 400 coronavirus patients in intensive care in France, about half of them are younger than 65, The New York Times reports.

Salomon is looking to “dispel the notion that the virus seriously threatens only the elderly,” the Times reports, and Mother Jones observes that even though the novel coronavirus is “understood to be particularly lethal among the elderly,” these numbers “underscore the reality that younger generations can still face serious consequences.”

Salomon also said Monday that in France, “a lot of people have not understood that they need to stay at home,” and as a result, “we are not succeeding in curbing the outbreak of the epidemic,” per Reuters. Most nonessential businesses in France were ordered to be closed over the weekend.

France has confirmed more than 5,400 cases of the novel coronavirus, and by Sunday, the number of deaths had risen to 127. Salomon said Monday the number of cases has been doubling “every three days.” Brendan Morrow

NBCUniversal announced Monday it will make Universal Pictures films that are playing in theaters right now, including The Invisible Man and The Hunt, available to rent at home for $19.99 beginning this Friday, per The Hollywood Reporter. The rental period will last 48 hours. This is a game-changer for theatrical moviegoing, as major studio films typically play in theaters exclusively for about three months before being made available for home viewing. The Hunt hit theaters just three days ago.

Universal’s new policy will also apply to at least one upcoming movie: Trolls World Tour, which is set to be made available digitally on the same day it’s released in theaters — at least, the theaters that are still open. The policy isn’t expected to apply to all of Universal’s upcoming movies, the Reporter says.

“We hope and believe that people will still go to the movies in theaters where available, but we understand that for people in different areas of the world that is increasingly becoming less possible,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said.

Is Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) ready to join the Yang Gang?

Romney is out with a proposal that should make entrepreneur and former 2020 Democratic candidate Andrew Yang proud, on Monday saying every American adult should receive a check for $1,000 amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

This step, Romney said, will “help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy.” Romney added that “expansions of paid leave, unemployment insurance, and SNAP benefits” are also “crucial,” but the $1,000 check “will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options.”

The Utah senator offered numerous other proposals for responding to the coronavirus crisis, including providing grants to small businesses impacted by the pandemic and deferring student loan payments “for a period of time to ease the burden for those who are just graduating now, in an economy suffering because of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Yang’s central proposal during his 2020 campaign was to provide Americans with a universal basic income of $1,000 a month, an idea that some Democrats have been re-upping in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. Like Romney, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is also backing the $1,000 payment idea, saying a check in that amount should go to all middle class and low-income adults because “we can’t leave the hardest-hit Americans behind.”

Romney’s proposal is for a one-time check and not a monthly payment as Democrats like Yang have called for. But Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted Monday, “GOP & Democrats are both coming to the same conclusion: Universal Basic Income is going to have to play a role in helping Americans weather this crisis.”

This content was originally published here.

Sen. Joe Manchin erupts into shouting match with McConnell: You’re ‘more concerned about the health of Wall Street’ – Alternet.org

Sen. Joe Manchin erupts into shouting match with McConnell: You’re ‘more concerned about the health of Wall Street’

by David Edwards

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday for being more concerned with propping up the economy than providing supplies to hospitals fighting the novel coronavirus.

“You can throw all the money at Wall Street you want to,” Manchin said after McConnell blamed Democrats for a stalled stimulus bill. “People are afraid to leave their homes. They’re afraid of the health care. I’ve got workers who don’t have masks. I’ve got health care workers who don’t have gowns.”

“And it looks like we’re worried more about the economy than we are the health care and the wellbeing of the people of America,” the West Virginia senator complained.

McConnell interrupted: “The American people are waiting for us to act today! We don’t have time for this! We don’t have time for it!”

“Let me ask you a question,” Manchin implored.

“Answer my question!” McConnell demanded. “In what way would the Democratic Party be disadvantaged?”

“Thirty hours [of debate] or 30 days, as long as you have the votes, 51 votes rule,” Manchin said. “So the final vote is going to be on passage, whether you have to negotiate or not with us.”

“Here’s the way it works!” McConnell exclaimed. “We have been fiddling around as the senator from Maine pointed out for 24 hours…”

At that point, Manchin reclaimed his time, silencing McConnell.

“We just have a little different opinion about this,” Manchin said. “You can’t throw enough money to fix this if you can’t fix the health care.”

“My health care workers need to be protected,” he added. “But it seems like we’re talking about everything else about the economy versus the health care. That doesn’t make any sense to me whatsoever.”

“It seems like we’re more concerned about the health care of Wall Street,” Manchin remarked. “That’s the problem that I’ve had on this.”

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In just 24 hours, 1,000 retired health care workers volunteered to help fight coronavirus in New York City – CBS News

In just 24 hours, 1,000 retired health care workers in New York City volunteered to join the fight against coronavirus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an interview with WCBS 880 on Wednesday. The mayor likened their bold decision to his parents’ generation entering war.

“This is going to be like a war effort. Most New Yorkers haven’t experienced what this city and this country is like in a full-scale war,” de Blasio said. “My parents both served in the war effort in WWII. I heard these stories from the youngest years of my life.”

“When the entire community, the entire city, the entire nation are in common cause, it’s a different reality and everyone is going to have to work together to overcome this crisis, and we’re going to use every tool, every building, every resource to get us through this,” the mayor said.

He added that he asked earlier this week for retired health care workers to return to work, and he had good news: “In the last 24 hours, 1,000 New Yorkers who are retired medical personnel have volunteered to join the effort to fight coronavirus. I think that’s so inspiring. So many people are coming forward to help and that’s how we’re going to beat this back.”

Last week, other elected officials called on “former” health care workers to rejoin the workforce, including Colorado Governor Jared Polis and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

According to Polis, former health care workers include anyone retired or working in another field whose medical license is still active or can be reactivated.

Health care workers have been struggling to balance providing care with the fear of exposing their families to the illness. Some say they do not have the protective equipment they need.

“We are two weeks or three weeks away from running out of the supplies that we need most for our hospitals,” de Blasio said Thursday, according to The Associated Press

Lack of hospital beds has also been a concern — especially in New York City. In his interview with WCBS 880, de Blasio said the city is looking to convert large spaces like hotels into health care facilities or logistics staging. On Wednesday, Cuomo said President Trump agreed to send a Navy ship to New York City that will function as a hospital. 

This content was originally published here.

Simple math offers alarming answers about Covid-19, health care – STAT

Much of the current discourse on — and dismissal of — the Covid-19 outbreak focuses on comparisons of the total case load and total deaths with those caused by seasonal influenza. But these comparisons can be deceiving, especially in the early stages of an exponential curve as a novel virus tears through an immunologically naïve population.

Perhaps more important is the disproportionate number of severe Covid-19 cases, many requiring hospitalization or weekslong ICU stays. What does an avalanche of uncharacteristically severe respiratory viral illness cases mean for our health care system? How much excess capacity currently exists, and how quickly could Covid-19 cases saturate and overwhelm the number of available hospital beds, face masks, and other resources?

This threat to the health care system as a whole poses the greatest challenge.

As of March 8, about 500 cases of Covid-19 had been diagnosed in the U.S. Given the substantial underdiagnosis at present due to limitations in testing for the coronavirus, let’s say there are 2,000 current cases, a conservative starting bet.

We can expect a doubling of cases every six days, according to several epidemiological studies. Confirmed cases may appear to rise faster (or slower) in the short term as diagnostic capabilities are ramped up (or not), but this is how fast we can expect actual new cases to rise in the absence of substantial mitigation measures.

That means we are looking at about 1 million U.S. cases by the end of April; 2 million by May 7; 4 million by May 13; and so on.

As the health care system becomes saturated with cases, it will become increasingly difficult to detect, track, and contain new transmission chains. In the absence of extreme interventions like those implemented in China, this trend likely won’t slow significantly until hitting at least 1% of the population, or about 3.3 million Americans.

What does a case load of this size mean for health care system? That’s a big question, but just two facets — hospital beds and masks — can gauge how Covid-19 will affect resources.

The U.S. has about 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people (South Korea and Japan, two countries that have seemingly thwarted the exponential case growth trajectory, have more than 12 hospital beds per 1,000 people; even China has 4.3 per 1,000). With a population of 330 million, this is about 1 million hospital beds. At any given time, about 68% of them are occupied. That leaves about 300,000 beds available nationwide.

The majority of people with Covid-19 can be managed at home. But among 44,000 cases in China, about 15% required hospitalization and 5% ended up in critical care. In Italy, the statistics so far are even more dismal: More than half of infected individuals require hospitalization and about 10% need treatment in the ICU.

For this exercise, I’m conservatively assuming that only 10% of cases warrant hospitalization, in part because the U.S. population is younger than Italy’s, and has lower rates of smoking — which may compromise lung health and contribute to poorer prognosis — than both Italy and China. Yet the U.S. also has high rates of chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which are also associated with the severity of Covid-19.

At a 10% hospitalization rate, all hospital beds in the U.S. will be filled by about May 10. And with many patients requiring weeks of care, turnover will slow to a crawl as beds fill with Covid-19 patients.

If I’m wrong by a factor of two regarding the fraction of severe cases, that only changes the timeline of bed saturation by six days (one doubling time) in either direction. If 20% of cases require hospitalization, we run out of beds by about May 4. If only 5% of cases require it, we can make it until about May 16, and a 2.5% rate gets us to May 22.

But this presumes there is no uptick in demand for beds from non-Covid-19 causes, a dubious presumption. As the health care system becomes increasingly burdened and prescription medication shortages kick in, people with chronic conditions that are normally well-managed may find themselves slipping into states of medical distress requiring hospitalization and even intensive care. For the sake of this exercise, though, let’s assume that all other causes of hospitalization remain constant.

Let me now turn to masks. The U.S. has a national stockpile of 12 million N95 masks and 30 million surgical masks for a health care workforce of about 18 million. As Covid-19 cases saturate nearly every state and county, virtually all health care workers will be expected to wear masks. If only 6 million of them are working on any given day (certainly an underestimate) they would burn through the national N95 stockpile in two days if each worker only got one mask per day, which is neither sanitary nor pragmatic.

It’s unlikely we’d be able to ramp up domestic production or importation of new masks to keep pace with this level of demand, especially since most countries will be simultaneously experiencing the same crises and shortages.

Shortages of these two resources — beds and masks — don’t stand in isolation but compound each other’s severity. Even with full personal protective equipment, health care workers are becoming infected while treating patients with Covid-19. As masks become a scarce resource, doctors and nurses will start dropping from the workforce for weeks at a time, leading to profound staffing shortages that further compound the challenges.

The same analysis applied to thousands of medical devices, supplies, and services — from complex equipment like ventilators or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation devices to hospital staples like saline drip bags — shows how these limitations compound one another while reducing the number of options available to clinicians.

Importantly — and I cannot stress this enough — even if some of the core assumptions I’m making, like the fraction of severe cases or the number of current cases, are off even by several-fold, it changes the overall timeline only by days or weeks.

Unwarranted panic does no one any good, but neither does ill-informed complacency. It’s inappropriate to assuage the public with misleading comparisons to the seasonal flu or by assuring people that there’s “only” a 2% fatality rate. The fraction of cases that are severe really sets Covid-19 apart from more familiar respiratory illnesses, compounded by the fact that it’s whipping through a population without natural immune protection at lightning speed.

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Individuals and governments seem not to be fully grasping the magnitude and near-inevitability of the national and global systemic burden we’re facing. We’re witnessing the abject refusal of many countries to adequately respond or prepare. Even if the risk of death for healthy individuals is very low, it’s insensible to mock decisions like canceling events, closing workplaces, or stocking up on prescription medications as panicked overreaction. These measures are the bare minimum we should be doing to try to shift the peak — to slow the rise in cases so health care systems are less overwhelmed.

The doubling time will naturally start to slow once a sizable fraction of the population has been infected due to the emergence of herd immunity and a dwindling susceptible population. And yes, societal measures like closing schools, implementing work-from-home policies, and canceling events may start to slow the spread before reaching infection saturation.

But considering that the scenarios described earlier — overflowing hospitals, mask shortages, infected health care workers — manifest when infections reach a mere 1% of the U.S. population, these interventions can only marginally slow the rate at which our health care system becomes swamped. They are unlikely to prevent overload altogether, at least in the absence of exceedingly swift and austere measures.

Each passing day is a missed opportunity to mitigate the wave of severe cases that we know is coming, and the lack of widespread surveillance testing is simply unacceptable. The best time to act is already in the past. The second-best time is right now.

Liz Specht is the associate director of science and technology at The Good Food Institute.

This content was originally published here.

Keeping the Coronavirus from Infecting Health-Care Workers | The New Yorker

The message is getting out: #StayHome. In this early phase of the coronavirus pandemic, with undetected cases accelerating transmission even as testing ramps up, that is critical. But there are many people whom the country needs to keep going into work—grocery cashiers, first responders, factory workers for critical businesses. Most obviously, we need health-care workers to care for the sick, even though their jobs carry the greatest risk of exposure. How do we keep them seeing patients rather than becoming patients?

In the index outbreak in Wuhan, thirteen hundred health-care workers became infected; their likelihood of infection was more than three times as high as the general population. When they went back home to their families, they became prime vectors of transmission. The city began to run out of doctors and nurses. Forty-two thousand more had to be brought in from elsewhere to treat the sick. Luckily, methods were found that protected all the new health-care workers: none—zero—were infected.

But those methods were Draconian. As the city was locked down and cut off from outside visitors, health-care workers seeing at-risk patients were housed away from their families. They wore full-body protective gear, including goggles, complete head coverings, N95 particle-filtering masks, and hazmat-style suits. Could we do that here? Not a chance. Health-care facilities don’t remotely have the supplies that would allow staff members to see every patient with all that gear on. In Massachusetts, where I practice surgery, the virus is circulating in at least eleven of our fourteen counties, and cases are climbing rapidly. So what happens if you are exposed to a coronavirus patient and you don’t have the ability to go full Wuhan? My hospital system, Partners HealthCare, has already sent more than a hundred staff members home for fourteen days of self-quarantine because they were exposed to the coronavirus without complete protection. If we had to quarantine every health-care worker who might have come into contact with a COVID-19 patient, we’d soon have no health-care workers left.

Yet there are lessons to be learned from two places that saw the new coronavirus before we did and that have had success in controlling its spread. Hong Kong and Singapore—both the size of my state—detected their first cases in late January, and the number of cases escalated rapidly. Officials banned large gatherings, directed people to work from home, and encouraged social distancing. Testing was ramped up as quickly as possible. But even these measures were never going to be enough if the virus kept propagating among health-care workers and facilities. Primary-care clinics and hospitals in the two countries, like in the U.S., didn’t have enough gowns and N95 masks, and, at first, tests weren’t widely available. After six weeks, though, they had a handle on the outbreak. Hospitals weren’t overrun with patients. By now, businesses and government offices have even begun reopening, and focus has shifted to controlling the cases coming into the country.

Here are their key tactics, drawn from official documents and discussions I’ve had with health-care leaders in each place. All health-care workers are expected to wear regular surgical masks for all patient interactions, to use gloves and proper hand hygiene, and to disinfect all surfaces in between patient consults. Patients with suspicious symptoms (a low-grade fever coupled with a cough, respiratory complaints, fatigue, or muscle aches) or exposures (travel to places with viral spread or contact with someone who tested positive) are separated from the rest of the patient population, and treated—wherever possible—in separate respiratory wards and clinics, in separate locations, with separate teams. Social distancing is practiced within clinics and hospitals: waiting-room chairs are placed six feet apart; direct interactions among staff members are conducted at a distance; doctors and patients stay six feet apart except during examinations.

What’s equally interesting is what they don’t do. The use of N95 masks, face-protectors, goggles, and gowns are reserved for procedures where respiratory secretions can be aerosolized (for example, intubating a patient for anesthesia) and for known or suspected cases of COVID-19. Their quarantine policies are more nuanced, too. What happens when someone unexpectedly tests positive—say, a hospital co-worker or a patient in a primary-care office or an emergency room? In Hong Kong and Singapore, they don’t shut the place down or put everyone under home quarantine. They do their best to trace every contact and then quarantine only those who had close contact with the infected person. In Hong Kong, “close contact” means fifteen minutes at a distance of less than six feet and without the use of a surgical mask; in Singapore, thirty minutes. If the exposure is shorter than the prescribed limit but within six feet for more than two minutes, workers can stay on the job if they wear a surgical mask and have twice-daily temperature checks. People who have had brief, incidental contact are just asked to monitor themselves for symptoms.

The fact that these measures have succeeded in flattening the COVID-19 curve carries some hopeful implications. One is that this coronavirus, even though it appears to be more contagious than the flu, can still be managed by the standard public-health playbook: social distancing, basic hand hygiene and cleaning, targeted isolation and quarantine of the ill and those with high-risk exposure, a surge in health-care capacity (supplies, testing, personnel, wards), and coördinated, unified public communications with clear, transparent, up-to-date guidelines and data. Our government officials have been unforgivably slow to get these in place. We’ve been playing from behind. But we now seem to be moving in the right direction, and the experience in Asia suggests that extraordinary precautions don’t seem to be required to stop it. Those of us who must go out into the world and have contact with people don’t have to panic if we find out that someone with the coronavirus has been in the same room or stood closer than we wanted for a moment. Transmission seems to occur primarily through sustained exposure in the absence of basic protection or through the lack of hand hygiene after contact with secretions.

Consider a couple of data points. Singapore so far appears not to have had a single recorded health-care-related transmission of the coronavirus, despite the hundreds of cases that its medical system has had to deal with. That includes one case reported this week of a critically ill pneumonia patient who exposed forty-one health-care workers in the course of four days before being diagnosed with COVID-19. These were high-risk exposures, including exposures during intubation and hands-on intensive care. Eighty-five per cent of the workers used only surgical masks. Yet, owing to proper hand hygiene, none became infected.

Our early experiences in the U.S. have so far been similar. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the face of limited information, recommended stricter precautions than have been employed in Asia, putting health-care workers on fourteen-day self-quarantine if they are exposed to an infected person for even a few minutes without protection, including a mask and goggles. That policy was implemented at U.C. Davis Medical Center, where the first case of community transmission was diagnosed, in late February. Eighty-nine health-care workers involved in the patient’s care were put under self-quarantine. None, it turned out, had been infected. Sacramento, Seattle, and San Francisco became coronavirus hot spots; as of this writing, however, significant occupational transmission has not been found.

This content was originally published here.

Ohio health official estimates 100,000 people in state have coronavirus

A top health official in Ohio estimated on Thursday that more than 100,000 people in the state currently have coronavirus, a shockingly high number that underscores the limited testing so far.

Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton said at a press conference alongside Gov. Mike DeWine (R) that given that the virus is spreading in the community in Ohio, she estimates at least 1 percent of the population in the state has the virus.

“We know now, just the fact of community spread, says that at least 1 percent, at the very least, 1 percent of our population is carrying this virus in Ohio today,” Acton said. “We have 11.7 million people. So the math is over 100,000. So that just gives you a sense of how this virus spreads and is spreading quickly.”

She added that the slow rollout of testing means the state does not have good verified numbers to know for sure.

“Our delay in being able to test has delayed our understanding of the spread of this,” Acton said. 

The Trump administration has come under intense criticism for the slow rollout of tests. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top National Institutes of Health official, acknowledged earlier Thursday it is “a failing” that people cannot easily get tested for coronavirus in the United States.

Not everyone with the virus has symptoms, and about 80 percent of people with the virus do not end up needing hospitalization, experts say. However, the virus can be deadly especially for older people and those with underlying health conditions.

The possible numbers in Ohio are a stark illustration of how many cases could be in other states as well, but have not been revealed given the lack of widespread testing.

More than 1,300 people in the U.S. have currently tested positive for the illness, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, while about three dozen people in the country have died.

Vice President Pence, who is overseeing the administration’s coronavirus response, said earlier Thursday that the U.S. can expect “thousands of more cases.”

Ohio officials said they are taking major actions to try to slow the spread of the virus. They are closing schools in the state for three weeks and banning large gatherings of 100 or more people. 

The state currently has just 5 confirmed positive cases, and 30 negative tests. Acton said Thursday that it appears that the number of cases of the virus doubles every six days.

As other experts have as well, she urged actions to slow the spread of the virus to avoid overwhelming the capacity of hospitals. Banning large gatherings and stopping school is part of that process.

“We’re all sort of waking up to our new reality,” she said, adding later that the state is “in a crisis situation.”

Noting the concerns about hospital capacity if the number of cases spikes too quickly, Acton said “there are only so many ventilators,” referring to machines that allow people to breathe when they cannot on their own.

Models indicate the number of cases could peak in late April to mid-May, she said.

If people are not seriously ill, she urged them to stay home so that only the sickest people who most need help are showing up at hospitals.

“This will be the thing this generation remembers,” she added. 

This content was originally published here.

Whistle-Blower Reports on U.S. Health Workers Response to Coronavirus Outbreak – The New York Times

The levels of protection varied even while he was at Miramar, he said. Standards were more lax at first, but once people arrived who appeared to be sick, workers began donning personal protective equipment. He is now back at work, and has yet to be tested for coronavirus exposure.

In the complaint, the whistle-blower painted a grim portrait of agency staff members who found themselves on the front lines of a frantic federal effort to confront the coronavirus in the United States without any preparation or training, and whose own health concerns were dismissed by senior administration officials as detrimental to staff “morale.” They were “admonished,” the complaint said, and “accused of not being team players,” and had their “mental health and emotional stability questioned.”

March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif., housed 195 people evacuated from Wuhan, China, for 14 days beginning in late January, while Travis in Northern California has housed a number of quarantined people in recent weeks, including some of the approximately 400 Americans on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that had docked in Japan.

The staff members, who had some experience with emergency management coordination, were woefully underprepared for the mission they were given, according to the whistle-blower.

“They were not properly trained or equipped to operate in a public health emergency situation,” the official wrote. “They were potentially exposed to coronavirus; appropriate measures were not taken to protect the staff from potential infection; and appropriate steps were not taken to quarantine, monitor or test them during their deployment and upon their return home.”

Some of the staff raised concerns with top officials with the agency, but saw no changes. The whistle-blower said they complained to Charles Keckler, an associate deputy secretary at Health and Human Services, in an email on Feb. 10. After the email, the complaint said, top officials, including Lynn Johnson, the assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families, “admitted that they did not understand their mission,” and that her agency “broke protocols” because of the “unprecedented crisis” and an “‘all hands on deck’ call to action” by Dr. Robert Kadlec, the top official for public health emergencies and disasters.

Since learning of the whistle-blower’s concerns last Wednesday, Mr. Gomez’s office and officials with the Ways and Means Committee have repeatedly pressed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for details. The whistle-blower has also notified the C.D.C. and the health agency inspector general about the concerns.

Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said the complaint appeared to be part of a pattern of ineptitude and mistrust of civil servants by the Trump administration.

“The president has spent years assaulting our health care system, draining resources from key health programs, and showing utter disdain for career federal employees who are the backbone of our government,” Mr. Neal said in a statement provided to The Times. “It’s sadly no surprise we’re seeing this degree of ineptitude during a terrible crisis.”

This content was originally published here.

America is about to get a godawful lesson in why health care should never be a for-profit business

For four decades, American corporations have been caught up in a whole series of refinements that are intended to improve efficiency and productivity. Our processes are lean. Our efficiency is six-sigma. Our productivity has mysteriously run far ahead of employee compensation in a way that has made CEOs billionaires while leaving workers on food stamps.

It’s a system that maximizes profit. But it’s also a system that assumes that everything can be stripped to the bare bones; that business can make do with minimal staffing, minimal supplies, minimal alternatives. Nothing is there that makes the system in the least unprofitable. The system stands like a house of glass, waiting for something to challenge its fragility.

And in the United States, health care is just that kind of system.

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Like every other system in America, we now have a super-lean, infinite-sigma healthcare system, absolutely dependent on every cog remaining in place. It’s one in which there are fewer than a million hospital beds for the entire nation; one in which many, many rural counties have no hospital at all. Because that’s the most profitable way of running the system, and that’s what happens when health care is subjected to the winnowing of the marketplace—just barely enough health care, at the highest possible prices people will tolerate without demanding a change.

It’s exactly where a nation does not want to be when encountering a health crisis. And it’s why America is, unfortunately, about to get a lesson in why there is much more to a national health system than whether you pay for it in taxes or with checks to an insurance company.

In the 1960s, astronauts used to joke about flying on a giant rocket built by a collection of contractors who submitted the lowest bids. But NASA had a safety culture then, and now, that demanded each of those components be tested and retested until its function was as near certain as possible. A spacecraft is the opposite of “lean,” with a backup, and a backup, and a backup to the backup’s backup at every possible point—and a massive staff of very smart people standing by to get creative if Murphy scores a perfect strike.

None of this is true for our healthcare system. Failure very much is an option at every clinic and hospital in America. A certain level of failure is even assumed. Building a system with redundancies and experts who were not always pushed to their absolute limits would cost more. Every intern, doctor, and nurse (especially nurse) who you ever met was overworked, because running the system on the ragged edge of failure is exactly the sweet spot. Or at least it is as far as corporations whose goal is to milk every penny from the process are concerned. In the average hospital visit, there are more people involved in billing you than in treating you.

This thinking isn’t just pervasive and accepted—it’s also actively considered a very good thing. During his press event on Wednesday afternoon, before fumbling the hot coronavirus potato into the waiting hands of Mike “Smoking is good for you” Pence, Donald Trump defended the cuts he had made to the CDC and the experts on pandemics he had dropped from the National Security Council and the epidemiologists he had flushed from his planning team. He didn’t want those people sitting around when they weren’t needed, said Trump. Besides, he claimed, you could always go and get them when they were needed. Because somewhere, somehow, there is a system that keeps vital specialists waiting in hermetically sealed containers, fresh, ready, and informed to meet the nation’s needs.

That is, it goes without saying, bullshit. But let me say it again. Bullshit. The value of an expert brought in to repair a system after disaster strikes is so much less than the value of having that person on hand to plan that the old ounce of prevention being greater than pound of cure formula doesn’t begin to cover it. You cannot decide to hire some pilots after the plane has crashed.

The thing about extraordinary events is that they’re extraordinary. Planning for them will never improve profits. It will only save lives.

By treating health care like a business, Americans have already seen one of the first people who dared ask to be tested for COVID-19 get handed a bill for thousands of dollars, the primary result of which will be to dissuade other Americans from asking to be tested. Which is, right there, exactly the result that is best for insurance companies—and worst for the nation.

It’s an absolute certainty that Americans will hide their sniffles, drown their symptoms in over-the-counter drugs, and try to “tough it out” because they can’t afford health care. Besides, they have no paid sick leave, no paid child care, and no guarantee that missing a day’s work won’t mean being cast to the curb. All that “socialist” crap.

And because our whole system runs so excellently lean, American hospitals are already seeing shortages of everything from gowns to masks to painkillers, because the single-source, lowest-price vendor of those items happens to be in an area that’s already been overrun with the coronavirus. Not only have those factories on the far side of the planet been sitting idle for weeks, but what production has been available has been needed close to home. 

Right now in Hubei province, Chinese healthcare workers are staggering around in exhaustion. Or, as American hospital workers call it, Thursday. Our understaffed, undersupplied, overworked facilities spend every day running at their limits. That’s what is considered normal.

The concern about dollars over people is so accepted that on Thursday the White House announced two new members of the Coronavirus Task Force—Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council chief Larry Kudlow. Though to be fair, it’s not as if they completely lack expertise. Kudlow does have long familiarity with taking nasally administered drugs from rolled $100 bills. So there’s that. And if in this version of The Stand the role of the Rat Man is to be played by Mnuchin … no one can say that this is not good casting.

Disaster is far from certain. Local and state officials can still take measures that will slow the impact of COVID. And antiviral medicines may prove effective, or maybe a vaccine will come along more quickly than expected— though, should either happen, you can assume there will be a line of Pharma Bros on hand to buy the companies involved and raise the prices to eye-watering levels. After all, holding people’s lives hostage is exactly what our healthcare system is all about.

COVID-19 is going to swing a big hammer at the glass house of American health care. All anyone can do is hope they don’t get cut in the process.

And then vote to change the damn system.

This content was originally published here.

When you notice your mental health declining

5 Powerful Ways to Help You Deal With Depression

Depression is a very serious medical and psychological disorder that puts your outlook on life in negative and dangerous perspective.

By its definition, depression drains your hope, energy and your motivation, making it extremely difficult to feel better.

It is a quite common disorder and one in third people have experienced depression during their lifetimes, in one way or another.

One person out of ten, experiences moderate to severe symptoms of depression.

To overcome depression, the key is to start with small steps.

Healing and getting better takes time and it is important that you don’t expect overnight results.

Try to make positive choices for each and every day.

When dealing with depression, it is crucial to make an effort and take action, no matter how hard it may seem when you are overwhelmed with negativity.

One of the simple methods is to come up with so-called ‘happy thoughts’.

Those are things that you enjoy and that make you feel good even when thinking about doing them.

Exercising, going out, spending time with family, friends and engaging in a pleasurable hobby are all highly beneficial and recommended steps.

The things that are most difficult to tackle are those that will help you most in the long run.

However, it is important to start small, by doing something that will make you feel good right now.

Every small step that you make is one step closer to becoming a healthier and better version of you.

1. Stay connected and get support

It is crucial that you reach out to other people when dealing with depression.

By knowing that you have help and support will help you keep healthy perspective towards the future you are planning to build.

When you are depressed, it is oftentimes difficult to connect to friends and family, but staying active and involved in social situations with other people can keep a positive effect on your mood and outlook.

You will simply feel less depressed when you are around other people.

Try to talk to a friend or family member who is a good listener.

They don’t need to be able to offer any helpful solutions. Just the mere act of talking and sharing how you feel can help you relieve depression.

One of the ‘tricks’ is partaking in social activities that help others – like volunteering.

Researches have come to the conclusion that providing support to others in need, be it to people or animals will boost your mood.

It doesn’t have to be anything big.

You can start small by simply offering a listening ear to a friend in need.

You will see that these small steps will help you go a long way.

2. Engage in activities that make you feel good

Even if you don’t feel like it at the moment, if you force yourself to engage in activity that you know will make you feel better, you will give yourself opportunity to break the depression cycle you’re in at the moment and open up to positive outcomes.

Typical for this situation is that you will feel glad that you forced yourself to partake in the said activity, as it will make you feel so much better about yourself and life.

Doing fun and pleasurable activities won’t cure your depression, but they will help you feel more energetic and increase production of ‘happy hormones’ in your brain.

These activities are known to help people relieve effects of depression:

  • Spending time in nature and in the sun
  • Making a list of things that you like about yourself
  • Fill a bathtub with warm water and have a long and relaxing bath
  • Read a book that you enjoy
  • Play with your pet
  • Listen to the music that is on your ‘favorites’ playlist
  • Watch funny video compilations
  • Make a list of small and easily achievable tasks and complete them one by one
  • Go out with your friend or a group of friends
  • Find a hobby that you enjoy doing
  • Find the way to express yourself – through art, exercise, dancing, learning or a hobby
  • Make small trips to places you always wanted to visit.

3. Build healthy habits

Having enough sleep is one of the most important things when dealing with depression.

If you sleep less than optimal eight hours, oftentimes both your mood and energy for that day will suffer.

If you have troubles with sleep, think about the stressful situations that you are exposed to, and try to grasp what it is that stresses you.

Finding the way to take control over a situation that causes you stress will help you relieve the pressure and feel better.

One of the useful practices that you should adopt are relaxation exercises such as yoga, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, meditation and many others.

4. Pay attention to the food you eat

Learn about what foods are beneficial and what to avoid.

Intake of certain types of food directly affect your brain and mood. Typical examples are caffeine, alcohol and trans-fats.

Avoid those whenever possible and try not to skip meals as it will make you additionally irritable.

Avoid sugary snacks and refined carbs.

Although they can lift your mood for a short time, they are known as energy crashers.

5. Get help from a professional

Making these small steps can significantly help you when dealing with depression, but they are not a substitute for getting a professional help.

Depression is a serious condition that can negatively affect your life in more ways than just one, but it is treatable and easily manageable if you seek professional help.


Rest assured that all these small steps together will bring you speedy and complete recovery.

Start small and start today, with any single thing from this list.

The post When you notice your mental health declining appeared first on The Powerful Mind.

This content was originally published here.

Philippines declares state of public health emergency due to coronavirus | ABS-CBN News

Commuters mostly wearing face masks cross at a busy street in Mandaluyong on February 5, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) – President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the Philippines under a state of public health emergency to arrest the spread of novel coronavirus infections after authorities confirmed local transmissions of the disease.

Over the weekend, health authorities confirmed 7 cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 10. Duterte’s order came nearly 3 weeks after the Department of Health suggested declaring a public health emergency when the first cases emerged.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 constitutes an emergency that threatens national security which requires a whole-of-government response…” Duterte said in Proclamation No. 922 signed on Sunday.

“The declaration of a State of Public Health Emergency would capacitate government agencies and LGUs to immediately act to prevent loss of life, utilize appropriate resources to implement urgent and critical measures to contain or prevent the spread of COVID-19, mitigate its effects and impact to the community, and prevent serious disruption of the functioning of the government and the community,” he said.

READ: President Duterte issues Proclamation No. 922 declaring a state of public health emergency in the Philippines @ABSCBNNews pic.twitter.com/DPD5E5sME9

— Arianne Merez (@arianne_merez)

The declaration shall remain in effect until the President lifts or withdraws it.

With Duterte’s proclamation, all government agencies and local government units are urged to mobilize the necessary resources to “eliminate the COVID-19 threat.”

The health chief is also given authority to call upon the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies for assistance in addressing the threat of the virus.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Monday said the President’s proclamation paves the way for easier procurement of medical supplies needed to contain the virus as well as access to sufficient funding for agencies, including local government units, for proper response to the disease outbreak.

Duque added that the proclamation gives the government powers for mandatory quarantine of patients and requires health authorities to provide updates on issues concerning the disease outbreak.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on Sunday said Duterte’s move came “after considering all critical factors with the aim of safeguarding the health of the Filipino public.” 

Over the weekend, the health department raised the country’s alert system to Code Red, Sub-level 1 because of the virus, which was meant to serve as a “preemptive call” for authorities and health workers to “prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases.” 

COVID-19 has killed 3,792 people while infecting more than 109,000 in 95 countries worldwide.

-with a report from Agence-France Presse

This content was originally published here.

Psychiatrist Prescribes Disney Trips As Mental Health Treatment

Mental Health has become more serious and frequently discussed in recent years. People are taking it more seriously to work out things going on inside their minds and find peace within situations that occur in our lives. While our society is more aware of the benefits of positive mental health, they are seeking help. There is no shame in that! Taking care of your personal health is important. So if you are thinking about seeing a Doctor and getting help, do it. Get the help you need. You may even get a Disney trip prescribed! In fact, one Psychiatric is even prescribing trips to Disney World or Disneyland! That is a treatment plan I fully support.

These new treatment plans have been used by Dr. Sanders at Psychiatry Today, who has been prescribing patients week-long getaways to Disney Resorts as part of his treatment plans. His approach is based on “humans exposed to environments encompassing the patient with positivity and experiences that are enriching have changed the outlook for the patients.” I can see why he believes the positive atmosphere manufactured by Disney would help people gain joy and be uplifting while dealing with a hard time. They are the World’s Happiest and most Magical place for a reason. While this is just part of his treatment plan We will leave the treatment plans and real work to the professionals.

We have discussed why it’s important for Adult Only Disney trips and we even listed the stress-free, positive environment. See, we were on to something! So if you need a trip to unwind, have some pixie dust sprinkled in your life, it looks like Disney is the way to go. Doctors orders. Even if it is just Doctor Who.

Is Disney your happy place? My name is Jamie Porter and Disney World has been my happy place for many years! My family and I have been AP for 8 years, and lucky enough to live here in Central Florida. I helped many friends and family plan their travel I became a Travel Agent with Amazing Magical Adventures. I have been a TA for 6 years and love it. If you have any questions or would like a FREE quote, feel free to follow me on Facebook @JamiePorterSellsTravel or email JamiePorter@AmazingMagicalAdventures.com

The post Psychiatrist Prescribes Disney Trips As Mental Health Treatment appeared first on Disney Addicts.

This content was originally published here.

With only three official cases, Africa’s low coronavirus rate puzzles health experts

To date, only three cases of infection have been officially recorded in Africa, one in Egypt, one in Algeria and one in Nigeria, with no deaths.

This is a remarkably small number for a continent with nearly 1.3 billion inhabitants, and barely a drop in the ocean of more than 86,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths recorded in some 60 countries worldwide.

Shortly after the virus appeared, specialists warned of the risks of its spreading in Africa, because of the continent’s close commercial links with Beijing and the fragility of its medical services.

“Our biggest concern continues to be the potential for Covid-19 to spread in countries with weaker health systems,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, told African Union health ministers gathered in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on February 22.

In a study published in The Lancet medical journal on the preparedness and vulnerability of African countries against the importation of Covid-19, an international team of scientists identified Algeria, Egypt and South Africa as the most likely to import new coronavirus cases into Africa, though they also have the best prepared health systems in the continent and are the least vulnerable.

‘Nobody knows’

As to why the epidemic is not more widespread in the continent, “nobody knows”, said Professor Thumbi Ndung’u, from the African Institute for Health Research in Durban, South Africa. “Perhaps there is simply not that much travel between Africa and China.”

But Ethiopian Airlines, the largest African airline, never suspended its flights to China since the epidemic began, and China Southern on Wednesday resumed its flights to Kenya. And, of course, people carrying coronavirus could enter the country from any of the other 60-odd countries with known cases.

Favourable climate factors have also been raised as a possibility.

“Perhaps the virus doesn’t spread in the African ecosystem, we don’t know,” said Professor Yazdan Yazdanpanah, head of the infectious diseases department at Bichat hospital in Paris.

This hypothesis was rejected by Professor Rodney Adam, who heads the infection control task force at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. “There is no current evidence to indicate that climate affects transmission,” he said. “While it is true that for certain infections there may be genetic differences in susceptibility…there is no current evidence to that effect for Covid-19.”

Nigeria well-equipped

The study in The Lancet found that Nigeria, a country at moderate risk of contamination, is also one of the best-equipped in the continent to handle such an epidemic.

But the scientists had not anticipated that the first case recorded in sub-Saharan Africa would be an Italian working in the country.

Little more than a week ago, “our model was based on an epidemic concentrated in China, but since then the situation has completely changed, and the virus can now come from anywhere,” Mathias Altmann, an epidemiologist at the University of Bordeaux and one of the co-authors of the report, told FRANCE 24 on Friday. The short shelf-life of studies testify to the speed of the epidemic’s spread.

The Italian who tested positive for the coronavirus in Lagos had arrived from Milan on February 24 but had no symptoms when his plane landed. He was quarantined four days later at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba. Several people from the company where he works have been contacted and officials are trying to trace other people with whom he might have had contact.

For Altmann, an expert in infectious diseases in developing countries, the fact that coronavirus appears to have entered sub-Saharan Africa through Nigeria is “actually good news”, because the country appears to be relatively well prepared for confronting the situation.

In a continent that “has had its share of epidemics and whose countries, therefore, have a huge knowledge of the field and real competence to react to this kind of situation”, Nigeria is in a very good position to confront the arrival of Covid-19, Altmann said.

“The CDC [Center for Disease Control] responsible for the entire region of West and Central Africa is located in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, which means that their organisational standard in health matters is very high,” he added.

The country was already renowned for “succeeding to pretty quickly contain the Ebola epidemic in 2014,” Altmann points out. It took the Nigerian authorities only three months to eradicate Ebola in the country. The World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control at the time congratulated Nigeria for its reactivity and “world-class epidemiological detective work”.

But despite Nigeria’s strengths, the coronavirus pathogen represents a particular challenge, in that it is hard to detect. The virus may be present in an individual who has few or no symptoms, allowing it to spread quietly in a country where, like everywhere in Africa, there is “a shortage of equipment compared to Western countries, especially in diagnostic tools”, Altmann said.

Neighbouring countries like Chad or Niger have “less functional capacity to handle an epidemic,” Altmann said. But they also have an advantage: these are agricultural regions where people are outdoors more, “and viruses like this one prefer closed spaces and are less likely to spread in a rural setting,” he added.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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This content was originally published here.

Body camera video: Florida girl forced to go to mental health facility asked officer if she was going to jail – CBS News

A police officer who was transporting the 6-year-old Florida girl who was forced to go to a mental health facility after an incident at school is heard calling her “pleasant” on body camera footage. She also openly questions why the girl is being taken away.

Nadia King was removed from school under the Baker Act, a law allowing authorities to force a psychiatric evaluation on anyone considered to be a danger to themselves or others. According to a sheriff’s report, a social worker who responded to the incident at Love Grove Elementary School in Jacksonville said Nadia was “destroying school property” and “attacking staff.”

But, the police body camera video shows a Duval County sheriff’s deputy leading a seemingly calm Nadia out of school on February 4. Nadia is heard asking the officer, “Am I going to jail?”

“No, you’re not going to jail,” the officer says.

Inside the police car, Nadia asks the officer if she has snacks. “No, I don’t have any snacks. I wish I did. I’m sorry,” the officer says.

The deputy is also heard talking to another officer about Nadia’s behavior while she is in custody.

“She’s been actually very pleasant. Right? Very pleasant,” the officer says.

“I think it’s more of them just not knowing how to deal with it,” the other officer says.

At one point, it appears Nadia, who has ADHD and a mood disorder, did not understand where she was going. 

“It’s a field trip?” she asks.

“Well I call it a field trip, anything away from school is a field trip, right?” an officer replies. 

Nadia was held in a mental health facility, away from her mother, for 48 hours. Her mother, Martina Falk, broke down while watching the body camera video.

“I can’t comment,” she said.

Falk’s attorney, Reganel Reeves, said, “She’s mortified. She’s horrified. Angry.”

They argue Nadia should have never been taken to the mental health center.

“If you can’t deal with a 50-pound child, 6-year-old, then you shouldn’t be in education,” Reeves said.  

Officials with Duval County Public Schools said student privacy laws prevent them from discussing details of the case. They did not respond to the body camera video, but said in an earlier statement that an initial review showed the school’s handing was “compliant both with law and the best interest of this student and all other students at the school.”

The family now plans to file a lawsuit.

“She’s going on a field trip to hell. That’s where she was going, and her life has forever changed,” Reeves said.

This content was originally published here.

Trump’s new budget slashes food stamps, student loans, and health care

The proposal would also fail to eliminate the deficit over 10 years.

Donald Trump is offering a $4.8 trillion election-year budget plan that recycles previously rejected cuts to domestic programs to promise a balanced budget in 15 years — all while boosting the military and leaving Social Security and Medicare benefits untouched.

Trump’s fiscal 2021 plan, to be released Monday, promises the government’s deficit will crest above $1 trillion only for the current budget year before steadily decreasing to more manageable levels.

The plan has virtually no chance, even before Trump’s impeachment scorched Washington. Its cuts to food stamps, farm subsidies, Medicaid, and student loans couldn’t pass when Republicans controlled Congress, much less now with liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi setting the agenda.

Pelosi (D-CA) said Sunday night that “once again the president is showing just how little he values the good health, financial security and well-being of hard-working American families.”

“Year after year, President Trump’s budgets have sought to inflict devastating cuts to critical lifelines that millions of Americans rely on,” she said in a statement. “Americans’ quality, affordable health care will never be safe with President Trump.”

Trump’s budget would also shred last year’s hard-won budget deal between the White House and Pelosi by imposing an immediate 5% cut to non-defense agency budgets passed by Congress. Slashing cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and taking $700 billion out of Medicaid over a decade are also nonstarters on Capitol Hill, but both the White House and Democrats are hopeful of progress this spring on prescription drug prices.

The Trump budget is a blueprint written as if he could enact it without congressional approval. It relies on rosy economic projections of 2.8% economic growth this year and 3% over the long term — in addition to fanciful claims of future cuts to domestic programs — to show that it is possible to bend the deficit curve in the right direction.

That sleight of hand enables Trump to promise to whittle down a $1.08 trillion budget deficit for the ongoing budget year and a $966 billion deficit gap in the 2021 fiscal year starting Oct. 1 to $261 billion in 2030, according to summary tables obtained by The Associated Press. Balance would come in 15 years.

The reality is that no one — Trump, the Democratic-controlled House or the GOP-held Senate — has any interest in tackling a chronic budget gap that forces the government to borrow 22 cents of every dollar it spends. The White House plan proposes $4.4 trillion in spending cuts over the coming decade

Trump’s reelection campaign, meanwhile, is focused on the economy and the historically low jobless rate while ignoring the government’s budget.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats controlling the House have seen their number of deficit-conscious “Blue Dogs” shrink while the roster of lawmakers favoring costly “Medicare for All” and “Green New Deal” proposals has swelled. Tea party Republicans have largely abandoned the cause that defined, at least in part, their successful takeover of the House a decade ago.

Trump has also signed two broader budget deals worked out by Democrats and Republicans to get rid of spending cuts left over from a failed 2011 budget accord. The result has been eye-popping spending levels for defense — to about $750 billion this year — and significant gains for domestic programs favored by Democrats.

The White House hasn’t done much to draw attention to this year’s budget release, though Trump has revealed initiatives of interest to key 2020 battleground states, such as an increase to $250 million to restore Florida’s Everglades and a move to finally abandon a multibillion-dollar, never-used nuclear waste dump that’s political poison in Nevada. The White House also leaked word of a $25 billion proposal for “Revitalizing Rural America” with grants for broadband Internet access and other traditional infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges.

The Trump budget also promises a $3 billion increase — to $25 billion — for NASA in hopes of returning astronauts to the moon and on to Mars. It contains a beefed-up, 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure proposal, a modest parental leave plan, and a 10-year, $130 billion set-aside for tackling the high cost of prescription drugs this year.

Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall would receive a $2 billion appropriation, more than provided by Congress but less than the $8 billion requested last year. Trump has enough wall money on hand to build 1,000 miles of wall, a senior administration official said, most of it obtained by exploiting his budget transfer powers. The official requested anonymity to discuss the budget before it is made public.

Trump has proposed modest adjustments to eligibility for Social Security disability benefits and he’s proposed cuts to Medicare providers such as hospitals, but the real cost driver of Medicare and Social Security is the ongoing retirement surge of the baby boom-generation and health care costs that continue to outpace inflation.

With Medicare and Social Security largely off the table, Trump has instead focused on Medicaid, which provides care to more than 70 million poor people and those with disabilities. President Barack Obama successfully expanded Medicaid when passing the Affordable Care Act a decade ago, but Trump has endorsed GOP plans — they failed spectacularly in the Senate two years ago — to dramatically curb the program.

Trump’s latest Medicaid proposal, the administration official said, would allow states that want more flexibility in Medicaid to accept their federal share as a lump sum; for states staying in traditional Medicaid, a 3% cap on cost growth would apply. Trump would also revive a plan, rejected by lawmakers in the past, to cut food stamp costs by providing much of the benefit as food shipments instead of cash.

The post Trump’s new budget slashes food stamps, student loans, and health care appeared first on The American Independent.

This content was originally published here.

Spanish socialist govt moves to let doctors kill sick patients as health care costs rise

MADRID, February 14, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A majority in the lower chamber of Spain’s Congress has voted to consider a bill that would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in case of “clearly debilitating diseases without a cure, without a solution and which cause significant suffering.”

Spanish daily El País reported that the 350-member Congress of Deputies passed a measure on Tuesday by a vote of 201 to 140, with two abstentions. Following debate in committee, the bill would go to the Senate for a final vote. In its current form, if passed, the law would allow voluntary euthanasia as well as assisted suicide. This is the third time the bill has emerged in Congress, where its proponents hope it will be approved in June.

Assisted suicide means that a doctor prescribes lethal drugs to a patient, who then self-administers the drugs. Voluntary euthanasia can be defined as when a physician or medical professional kills a patient at the patient’s request. Both forms of killing are legal in Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and in the state of Victoria in Australia. Switzerland and some states in the U.S. allow assisted suicide.

Both forms of dealing death would be legalized by the Spanish legislation, which would allow doctors to object on the basis of conscience but require them to refer patients to doctors willing to assist in death. The bill also requires that patients not have to wait more than a month after making a request for either assisted suicide or euthanasia. After two doctors consider an initial request, patients would then make an additional request for approval by a government committee.

The Catholic Church, as well as the Popular Party and Vox Party, has expressed vehement opposition to the bill. From the floor of Congress, Deputy José Ignacio Echániz of the Popular Party accused Spain’s socialist government on Tuesday of seeking to “save money” on care for “people who are expensive at the end of their lives.” He said, “For the Socialist Party, euthanasia is cost-saving measure.”

Euthanasia as cost-saving measure

Echániz said the socialist government is having trouble paying for its welfare policies: “Every time one of these people with these characteristics disappears, there also disappears an economic and financial problem for the government. For each one of these people who is pushed toward death by euthanasia, the government is saving a great deal. Behind this is a leftist philosophy to avoid the social cost of an aging population in our country.”

While offering legislation to improve palliative care, Echániz said it is “curious” that despite Spain’s excellent medical care, socialists are calling for euthanasia rather than “defending life until the last moment.”

Madrid mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida and city chief executive Isabel Díaz Ayuso, both of whom represent the Popular Party, also denounced the bill. In an interview with Antena 3 radio, Díaz Ayuso reproached the socialists for their reasoning, saying, “Death is not dignity; it is death,” and added, “Life is dignity.” The euthanasia bill, she argued, is a “red herring” being offered by her opponents to distract from their failings.

Speaking for the pro-life Vox Party, Rocio Monasterio said in a news conference on Tuesday that Vox will mount strong opposition the bill. “We believe in the dignity of the person,” she said while calling for more resources for palliative care. Vox, she said, defends the dignity of people from conception to natural death, unlike the leftists, who “want to eliminate all those whose lives, according to the Socialist Party, are no longer useful.”

Vox Deputy Lourdes Méndez took to the floor on Tuesday, warning Congress that they had embarked on legislation that resembled Nazi law of the 1930s with which the German Third Reich could legally murder mentally and physically handicapped people who had been judged “unfit.”

Méndez said, “The weakest and most vulnerable would be pressured by the system and would come to feel that they are a burden.” While she also proposed a bill for palliative care, she said, “In the face of suffering, we propose to offer companionship; we propose a culture of care and propose to relieve pain. You propose in the face of suffering to eliminate the sick; you propose death.” Speaking directly to the socialists, she said, “May God forgive you!”

The Spanish bishops’ conference has condemned euthanasia, issuing a document titled “Sowers of Peace” in December, saying that the Tradition and Magisterium of the Church “have been constant in stressing the dignity and sacredness of every human life” and its opposition to legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Church, the document reads, offers various ways of accompanying the sick and suffering, “shaping the many charisms that have inspired many institutions and congregations dedicated to their care.” This is based on the words of Jesus Christ, who said, “I was sick, and you visited me” (Matt. 25:36), and in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25–37).

Critics of the leftist euthanasia bill point out that both euthanasia and assisted suicide are beyond the scope of medicine and also violate the Hippocratic Oath, well enshrined in the medical profession, which states: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.”

In a statement, the Catholic bishops said there is a flawed belief that assisted suicide and euthanasia are acts of autonomy, saying: “[I]t is not possible to understand euthanasia and assisted suicide as something that refers exclusively to the autonomy of the individual, since such actions involve the participation of others, in this case, of health personnel.” Instead of promoting death, Spain should instead embrace palliative care that can ease suffering, they said.

Fr. Pedro Trevijano Etcheverria, a Spanish theologian and columnist, reacted to the vote that came on the day Catholics commemorate the apparition of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes to a simple peasant girl, Bernadette, in 1800s France. The shrine at Lourdes, which is known all over the world for its healing waters, has drawn millions of ailing visitors and their companions for more than a century. Tuesday is also known among Catholics also as the International Day of the Sic, Trevijano Etcheverria mused, pointing out that while the irony of advancing a bill to kill sick people on that day might have been lost on Spain’s leftists, it would be easily recognized by Satan.

This content was originally published here.

Bloomberg: We Can No Longer Provide Health Care to the Elderly

Another video of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has resurfaced. Back in 2011, the billionaire paid his respects to the Segal family for the passing of Rabbi Moshe Segal of Flatbush. During that time, Jewish families undergo Shiva, a 7-day mourning period. Bloomberg stopped by to issue his condolences to the family.

Interestingly enough, the then-mayor used the opportunity to talk about overcrowding in emergency rooms, Obamacare and a range of other issues, The Yeshiva World reported at the time. One of those topics included denying health care to the elderly.

“They’ll fix what they can right away. If you’re bleeding, they’ll stop the bleeding. If you need an x-ray, you’re gonna have to wait,” Bloomberg said. “All of these costs keep going up. Nobody wants to pay any more money and, at the rate we’re going, health care is going to bankrupt us.”

But don’t worry. He believes he has a way of addressing cost concerns.

“Not only do we have a problem but we gotta sit here and say which things we’re gonna do and which things we’re not. No one wants to do that,” he said. “If you show up with prostate cancer, you’re 95-years-olds, we should say, ‘Go and enjoy. Have nice– live a long life.’ There’s no cure and there’s nothing we can do. If you’re a young person, we should do something about it. Society’s not willing to do that, yet. So they’re gonna bankrupt us.”

Who is Michael Bloomberg to decide who should and should not receive health care treatments? He has a ton of money and we know he’d do everything in his power to get the best doctors and treatment available if he or his loved ones became ill. They wouldn’t be told they’re too old or too broke, would they?

And who would be impacted by this decision? At what point is someone too old to treat? 60? 75? 80? What’s the arbitrary number, Mike? Whatever random number you decide on?

What about those who have chronic illnesses, like diabetes or multiple sclerosis? Do they suddenly stop receiving treatment once they hit a certain age, because they’re no longer deemed worthy?

And here I thought Democrats were supposed to want to take care of anybody and everybody. Guess not.

Bloomberg explaining how healthcare will “bankrupt us,” unless we deny care to the elderly.

“If you show up with cancer & you’re 95 years old, we should say…there’s no cure, we can’t do anything.

A young person, we should do something. Society’s not willing to do that, yet.” pic.twitter.com/7E5UFHXLue

— Samuel D. Finkelstein II (@CANCEL_SAM)

This content was originally published here.

American health care system costs four times more than Canada’s single-payer system | Salon.com

The cost of administering health care in the United States costs four times as much as it does in Canada, which has had a single-payer system for nearly 60 years, according to a new study.

The average American pays a whopping $2,497 per year in administrative costs — which fund insurer overhead and salaries of administrative workers as well as executive pay packages and growing profits — compared to $551 per person per year in Canada, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine last month. The study estimated that cutting administrative costs to Canadian levels could save more than $600 billion per year.

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The data contradicts claims by opponents of single-payer health care systems, who have argued that private programs are more efficient than government-run health care. The debate over the feasibility of a single-payer health care has dominated the Democratic presidential race, where candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., advocate for a system similar to Canada’s while moderates like former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg have warned against scrapping private health care plans entirely.

Canada had administrative costs similar to those in the United States before it switched to a single-payer system in 1962, according to the study’s authors, who are researchers at Harvard Medical School, the City University of New York at Hunter College, and the University of Ottawa. But by 1999, administrative costs accounted for 31% of American health care expenses, compared to less than 17% in Canada.

The costs have continued to increase since 1999. The study found that American insurers and care providers spent a total of $812 billion on administrative costs in 2017, more than 34% of all health care costs that year. The largest contributor to the massive price tag was insurance overhead costs, which totaled more than $275 billion in 2017.

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“The U.S.-Canada disparity in administration is clearly large and growing,” the study’s authors wrote. “Discussions of health reform in the United States should consider whether $812 billion devoted annually to health administration is money well spent.”

The increase in costs was driven in large part due to private insurers’ growing role in administering publicly-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs. More than 50% of private insurers’ revenue comes from Medicare and Medicaid recipients, according to the study. Roughly 12% of premiums for private Medicare Advantage plans are spent on overhead, compared to just 2% in traditional Medicare programs. Medicaid programs also showed a wide disparity in costs in states that shifted many of their Medicaid recipients into private managed care, where administrative costs are twice as high. There was little increase in states that have full control over their Medicaid programs.

As a result, Americans pay far more for the same care.

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The average American spent $933 in hospital administration costs, compared to $196 in Canada, according to the research. Americans paid an average of $844 on insurance companies’ overhead, compared to $146 in Canada. Americans spent an average of $465 for physicians’ insurance-related costs, compared to $87 in Canada.

“The gap in health administrative spending between the United States and Canada is large and widening, and it apparently reflects the inefficiencies of the U.S. private insurance-based, multipayer system,” the authors wrote. “The prices that U.S. medical providers charge incorporate a hidden surcharge to cover their costly administrative burden.”

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Despite the massive difference in administrative costs, a 2007 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Canada’s health authority found that the overall health of residents in both countries is very similar, though the US actually trails in life expectancy, infant mortality, and fitness.

Many of the additional administrative costs in the US go toward compensation packages for insurance executives, some of whom pocket more than $20 million per year, and billions in profits collected by insurers.

“Americans spend twice as much per person as Canadians on health care. But instead of buying better care, that extra spending buys us sky-high profits and useless paperwork,” said Dr. David Himmelstein, the study’s lead author and a distinguished professor at Hunter College. “Before their single-payer reform, Canadians died younger than Americans, and their infant mortality rate was higher than ours. Now Canadians live three years longer and their infant mortality rate is 22% lower than ours. Under Medicare for All, Americans could cut out the red tape and afford a Rolls Royce version of Canada’s system.”

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Himmelstein later told Time that the difference in administrative costs between the two countries would “not only cover all the uninsured but also eliminate all the copayments and deductibles.”

“And, frankly, have money left over,” he added.

Democrats like Biden and Buttigieg have argued that it would be a mistake to switch to a single-payer system because many people have private insurance plans they like. Both have proposed a public option, which would allow people to buy into a government-run health care program but would not do away with private plans.

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But study senior author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, at Hunter College and lecturer at Harvard Medical School, argued that a public option would make things worse, not better, because they would leave profit-seeking private insurance in place.

“Medicare for All could save more than $600 billion each year on bureaucracy, and repurpose that money to cover America’s 30 million uninsured and eliminate copayments and deductibles for everyone,” she said. “Reforms like a public option that leave private insurers in place can’t deliver big administrative savings. As a result, public option reform would cost much more and cover much less than Medicare for All.”

This content was originally published here.

Researchers at Texas A&M Say Brisket Has Health Benefits

Is BBQ Healthy

Texas BBQ lovers, we have some incredible news for you. Studies have shown that brisket can actually be considered healthy eating. So if you thought you’d have health risks if you eat anything other than grilled chicken at your favorite BBQ joint, you now have scientific evidence to back up enjoying your brisket.

According to researchers at Texas A&M, beef brisket contains high levels of oleic acid, which produces high levels of HDLs, the “good” kind of cholesterol.

Oleic acid has two major benefits: it produces HDLs, which lower your risk of heart disease, and it lowers LDLs the “bad” type of cholesterol.

Researchers say this also applies to most red meats like ground beef.

“Brisket has higher oleic acid than the flank or plate, which are the trims typically used to produce ground beef,” said Dr. Stephen Smith, Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist. “The fat in brisket also has a low melting point, that’s why the brisket is so juicy.”

According to Health.com, “Grilling meats at high heat can cause the carcinogens heterocyclic amine (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to form.”

One way to avoid having any issues cooking your meat at high temperatures is to use a marinade. Certain spices will aid in eliminating HCAs during the grilling process so consider adding spices like thyme, sage, and garlic when you marinate your meat. 

On your next cookout, you can also find other ways to be healthy outside of just marinating your meat and enjoying your brisket without guilt. Consider some healthy grilling staples like adding veggies to your kebab skewers for a healthy side dish. Maybe eliminate the potato salad and coleslaw since those BBQ foods tend to be higher in unhealthy fats.

This post was originally published in 2016.

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The post Researchers at Texas A&M Say Brisket Has Health Benefits appeared first on Wide Open Country.

This content was originally published here.

Flight From China Diverted Away From Ontario Airport, Top County Health Official Preaches Calm on Coronavirus – NBC Los Angeles

Los Angeles County’s top public health official said Tuesday residents should not be alarmed about the coronavirus, despite the spread of the disease in China and the growing number of deaths attributed to it.

“At this moment, (there is) absolutely nothing to be afraid of,” Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger asked for the update to counter misinformation as many Chinese communities prepare for Lunar New Year celebrations.

“There is no need to panic and there is no need for people to cancel their activities” Ferrer said. “There’s nothing that indicates that there’s human-to-human transmission in L.A. County.”

The first case of coronavirus in Los Angeles County was confirmed Sunday. The patient was a traveler returning through Los Angeles International Airport home to Wuhan City, China, which is the epicenter of the deadly disease. The person felt sick, told officials and is now being treated at a local hospital well-equipped for the task, Ferrer said.

The individual came into “close contact with a very small number of other people,” she said.

The only people who should be concerned are those who have been in close contact with someone with a confirmed case of the disease for at least 10 minutes, according to Ferrer.

The CDC’s guidance indicates people who have casual contact with a case — “in the same grocery store or movie theater” — are at “minimal risk of developing infection.”

Ferrer provided reassurances about the trajectory of the disease in the United States to date, given that it has been circulating in China since early December and despite extensive travel between the two countries, only five U.S. cases have been confirmed.

The coronavirus outbreak was first noted in December in the industrial city of Wuhan in the Hubei province of central China. Since then, more than 5,975 cases have been reported in China, with at least 132 deaths.

“In China, the situation is dire,” Ferrer told the board. “What happened in China is not what’s happening in the United States right now.”

On Saturday, the Orange County Health Care Agency confirmed a case of coronavirus after a traveler from Wuhan tested positive. The two Southland cases are the only confirmed cases in California so far, and two of five in the United States. The other U.S. cases were reported in Arizona, Illinois and Washington state, according to the latest available data on the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials in San Diego County are awaiting results of tests on a potential case there involving a person who recently traveled to impacted areas in China.

The CDC has expanded screening to 20 airports and will now be screening all travelers from China, not just Wuhan, as of Tuesday night, Ferrer said.

Hong Kong closed borders with mainland China Tuesday, CNN reported, and concern over the virus rattled global financial markets Monday, with the Dow Jones Average dropping more than 450 points.

The United States and several other countries are making plans to evacuate citizens from Wuhan. San Bernardino County officials were working with the U.S. State Department on a plan to potentially use Ontario International Airport as the repatriation point for up to 240 American citizens, including nine children, but that plane was diverted to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County.

Those passengers were expected to first land in Alaska, where they would be screened by CDC workers before being cleared to proceed into the continental U.S., according to San Bernardino County officials.

Supervisor Hilda Solis said she was worried about discrimination related to the virus.

“I’m really concerned about how people are going to be mistreated,” Solis said.

Ferrer asked all Angelenos to help in that regard.

“People should not be excluded from activities based on their race, country of origin, or recent travel if they do not have symptoms of respiratory illness,” she said.

There is no vaccine for the virus, only treatment for the symptoms, but residents can take steps to reduce the risk of getting sick from this and other viruses. Health officials recommend staying home when sick, washing hands frequently and getting a flu shot.

“Thirty thousand people will probably die this year from influenza alone,” Ferrer noted.

Even if the virus is not spreading in the United States, rumors are.

USC students were shaken by an erroneous late night claim on social media that a student on campus contracted the coronavirus. The school issued a statement Tuesday morning denying anyone on campus was diagnosed with the virus.

For general information about the coronavirus, go to www.cdc.gov.

This content was originally published here.

Federal Government Misled Public on E-Cigarette Health Risk: CEI Report

A new report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute calls into question government handling of e-cigarette risk to public health, especially last week after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tacitly conceded that the spate of lung injuries widely reported in mid-2019 were not caused by commercially produced e-cigarettes like Juul or Njoy.

Rather, the injuries appear to be exclusively linked to marijuana vapes, mostly black market purchases – a fact that the Competitive Enterprise Institute pointed out nearly six months ago. The CDC knew that, too, but for months warned Americans to avoid all e-cigarettes.

“The Centers for Disease Control failed to warn the public which products were causing lung injuries and deaths in 2019,” said Michelle Minton, co-author of the CEI report.

“By stoking unwarranted fears about e-cigarettes, government agencies responsible for protecting the health and well-being of Americans have been scaring adult smokers away from products that could help them quit smoking,” Minton explained.

Now that the CDC has finally began to inform the public accurately, it’s too little too late, the report warns. The admission has done little to slow the onslaught of prohibitionist e-cigarette policies sweeping the nation, and the damage to public perception is already done.

Nearly 90 percent of adult smokers in the U.S. now incorrectly believe that e-cigarettes are no less harmful than combustible cigarettes, according to survey data from April 2019. Yet the best studies to-date estimate e-cigarettes carry only a fraction of the risk of combustible smoking, on par with the risks associated with nicotine replacement therapies like gum and lozenges. Meanwhile, traditional cigarettes contribute to nearly half a million deaths in the U.S. every year.

The CEI report traces the arc of CDC and FDA messaging and actions, starting in late June 2019, about young people hospitalized after vaping. Concurrent news reporting ultimately revealed, though virtually never in the headline, that the victims were vaping cartridges containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the key ingredient in cannabis, with many admitting to purchasing these products from unlicensed street dealers. Yet for months the CDC consistently refused to acknowledge the role of the black market THC in the outbreak, which had a ripple effect on news reporting and on state government handling of the problem.

By September 2019, over half of public opinion poll respondents (58 percent) said they believed the lung illness deaths were caused by e-cigarettes such as Juul, while only a third (34 percent) said the cases involved THC/marijuana.

The CEI report warns that federal agencies should not be allowed to continue misleading the public about lower-risk alternatives to smoking.

View the report: Federal Health Agencies’ Misleading Messaging on E-Cigarettes Threatens Public Health by Michelle Minton and Will Tanner.

This content was originally published here.

‘It’s okay not to be okay’: Café offers mental health help, supports suicide prevention

CHICAGO — While the coffee is good, “Sip of Hope” serves up much more than a cup of joe on the Northwest Side.

Through a partnership with Dark Matter Coffee, the café donates 100% of its proceeds to mental health education and suicide prevention.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from… five out of five people have good days and bad days,” owner Johnny Boucher said. “It’s okay not to be okay.”

Nationwide, suicide rates are the highest recorded in 28 years. Boucher opened Sip of Hope in honor of those who will never get the chance to pull up a chair.

“I personally have lost 16 people to suicide and the overarching issue they all faced was silence,” Boucher said.

His antidote is a place to talk through dark moments without judgement, a cafe serving up a cup of joe and compassion.

“The goal is always to meet people where they’re at and not where we expect them to be,” Boucher said. “You can talk to our baristas because they’re trained in mental health first aid.”

And on top of that, the coffee is great.

Ryan Shannon is now a regular. The Navy veteran says to him depression equaled weakness.

“I came home and I wasn’t the same,” Shannon said. “My leg and traumatic brain injury really took a toll.”

The former collegiate athlete found himself not only unable to stand, but also unwilling to find his way back. He says he wrote a suicide note and had a plan, but it was his wife who saved him that day.

He said she saved his life simply by listening and showing him he’s not alone.

Since then, Shannon has gone on to clean up in adaptive sports, winning a gold medal in Warrior Games, silver in track and finish his MBA.

“I still have bad days but… I now understand you can climb back out of it. You’re not in a dark room alone. There’s a lot of people out there that care,” Shannon said.

And at Sip of Hope, there’s a seat for anyone in need of more than a strong cup of coffee to make it through their day.

“In a country where we talk about building more walls, we need to build more tables and seats,” Boucher said.

If you or someone you know needs help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers crisis counseling free of charge every day of the year- at 1-800-273-8255, or text the word “home” to 741741.

This content was originally published here.

Waitlist for child mental health services doubles under Ford government: report | CP24.com

TORONTO — Wait times for children and youth mental health services have more than doubled in two years, according to a report from care providers who are urging Premier Doug Ford’s government to increase spending to address the delays.

The report from Children’s Mental Health Ontario, released Monday by the association representing Ontario’s publicly funded child and youth mental health centres, says 28,000 children and youth are currently on wait lists for treatment across the province. The number is up from approximately 12,000 in 2017.

Chief Executive Officer Kimberly Moran said rising rates of depression and anxiety among children and youth and years of under-funding have contributed to the rise in wait times.

“It’s frustrating from a service provider’s perspective,” Moran said. “They understand that when we wait, kids can get more ill and they watch that happen … and I think families are just outraged that they have to wait this long.”

The report shows wait times for service can vary dramatically depending where in the province a child seeks treatment and on the care required. Waits can range from just days for mild issues to nearly two and a half years for more complex behavioural interventions, the report said.

The group calls on the government to live up to its spending commitments on mental health services, asking it to direct $150 million towards hiring front-line clinicians in the spring budget.

If the province spent that money, it could quickly ramp up hiring for over 14,000 workers and that would cut the average wait for care to around 30 days, the report said.

“The government hasn’t kept their promise about reducing wait times,” Moran said. “We want to hold them to account for that.”

Ford has promised to spend $1.9 billion on mental health care over the next decade, a commitment that would include bolstering addictions and housing supports across the province. He has also said the money will help cut wait times for youth who need treatment.

The $1.9 billion pledge will be matched by the federal government, bringing the total commitment to $3.8 billion.

Health Minister Christine Elliott’s office did not immediately provide comment on the latest report.

Meanwhile on Friday, Sarah Cannon told a legislative finance committee holding pre-budget consultations in Niagara Falls, Ont., that spending on the mental health services should be needs-based. The mother of two girls who have made multiple suicide attempts after struggling with anxiety and depression said treatment is still not given priority in the health-care system.

“If I took my daughter to the hospital tomorrow and she was diagnosed with cancer, treatment would be immediate,” she said. “When I took my daughter to the hospital after she almost died (by suicide) … they needed us to wait.”

Cannon said increased funding would bolster treatment capacity in the system and could have a profound impact on the lives of children and their families.

“We are fighting for our children’s lives,” she said. “That’s what it comes down to.”

The executive director of mental health programs at SickKids and the SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health told pre-budget consultations at the legislature last week about increases in demand for that hospital’s services.

Christina Bartha said because of the strain on front-line service providers, families from well outside Toronto are seeking care in hospital because they don’t know where else to turn.

“Many families drive to SickKids seeking help, and when we try to refer them back to their home community, we see the long wait times that they are facing.”

Bhutila Karpoche, NDP critic for Mental Health and Addictions, said Friday that the report offers a snapshot of a youth “mental health crisis” and underscores the urgent need for investment.

Karpoche has tabled a private members’ bill that, if passed, would cap wait times for children and youth mental health services at 30 days.

“When I tabled the bill the wait list was up to 12,000 children waiting on average 18 months,” she said. “In the year since the government has let the bill languish … we’re now seeing how much worse it’s gotten.”

This content was originally published here.

Killing a Baby Isn’t Health Care, It’s a Slap in the Face of God

On Friday, Donald John Trump became the only sitting president to personally address the 47-year old March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Not George W. Bush, nor Ronald Reagan.

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Donald John Trump!

On the day of the march, Bernie Sanders tweeted, “abortion is health care.”

Abortion is health care.

No, Bernie, it’s not. It is killing babies — the exact opposite of healthcare.

Getting pregnant takes an overt act. It’s not accidental. Babies are a gift from God. Killing a baby — especially for your convenience — is slapping God in the face.

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Now I don’t know about you, but whatever my flaws, I can read odds and count. French mathematician Blaise Pascal posited from a philosophical point of view that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not.

Or, put into the terms of a Vegas sportsbook, if you believe in God in this life, and find in the next that there is no God, no harm no foul. But if you don’t believe in God and find out there is a God, you’re screwed. And, by the way, Pascal thought of this in the 17th century, well before the Westgate Superbook was built — and well before Elvis played the theater there.

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Now, I live in the front range of the Sierra Nevada mountains. I can see them out my back door.

I used to live on Mount Charleston over Las Vegas.

Even if you can convince me that these works of natural art were indeed caused by a “big bang” which had no actual cause, I’d still make even money bets on God. So would most people.

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So, Bernie: Do you really think that God would want you to destroy one of his creations? If you do, you are even more warped than I originally thought.

Doctors take an oath to “first, do no harm.”

How can killing a baby in (or out) of the womb possibly be “no harm”?

When I hear someone from NARAL bleating about choices, what I’m hearing is pure selfishness. OK, I’d be willing to listen to those who bring up rape, incest or — if it were not a fig leaf — the health of the mother. Perhaps an ethics committee of real doctors.

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But destroying one of God’s gifts for the mere convenience of a woman who just doesn’t want a baby? Nonstarter. They call it pro-choice. Right. The choice between murder and not killing a baby.

You don’t like it?

Then get sterilized or be careful.

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As far as the murdering Democrats go, remember Pascal’s wager.

What position would you like to be in when you meet God? Would you like to be in the position to say you have never been a party to a murder?

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.

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

This content was originally published here.

The World Health Organization just declared the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency

Doctors and public-health experts at the World Health Organization in Geneva have declared the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak a “public-health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC).

The virus has so far sickened at least 8,100 people and killed 170 in China, where it originated. Cases have been reported in 19 other countries.

“Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen, which has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday when he announced the emergency declaration. “We don’t know what sort of damage this virus could do if it were spread in a country with a weaker health system. We must act now to help countries prepare for that possibility.”

The PHEIC designation is reserved by the WHO for the most serious, sudden, unexpected outbreaks that cross international borders. These diseases pose a public-health risk without bounds and may “require a coordinated international response,” the WHO said on its website.

The global health-emergency declaration has been around since 2005, and it’s been used only five times before.

A global emergency was declared for two Ebola outbreaks, one that started in 2013 in West Africa and another that’s been ongoing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2018. Other emergency alerts were used for the 2016 Zika epidemic, polio emerging in war zones in 2014, and for the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009.

The emergency designation puts the 196 member countries of the WHO on alert that they should step up precautions, such as screening travelers and monitoring international trade in hopes of preventing the outbreak from spreading out of control.

Last week, the WHO committee was split about whether to declare the new coronavirus outbreak — which experts suspect originated at an animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan — an international emergency. Members delayed their final decision by a day, saying they needed more time to gather information about the virus’s severity and transmissibility.

“This declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China,” Ghebreyesus said on Thursday.

Symptoms of the coronavirus — which is in the same family as the common cold, pneumonia, MERS, and SARS — can range from mild to deadly. Most of the fatalities so far have been among the elderly and patients with preexisting conditions. Only a laboratory test can confirm that a virus is the novel coronavirus.

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Health officials warn Denver airport travelers of potential measles exposure after 3 children hospitalized

Three children visiting Colorado have been hospitalized with measles, leading health officials to warn people who traveled through Denver International Airport earlier this week that they are at risk for the highly contagious disease.

The children tested positive after traveling to a country with an ongoing measles outbreak. They did not have the MMR — or measles, mumps and rubella — vaccine, according to a news release from Tri-County Health Department, which covers Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers three or more cases of measles “linked in time and place” to be an outbreak. However, Tri-County Health spokesman Gary Sky said the department doesn’t consider this to be an outbreak because the patients are related.

Health officials said individuals who visited these locations may have been exposed to measles:

  • Denver International Airport between 1:15 and 5:45 p.m. Dec. 11
  • Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Anschutz Campus Emergency Department between 1 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12

Local health officials have not said where the family was traveling from. But the news of the measles cases in Colorado comes the same day that health officials in California warned about exposure from patients who traveled through Los Angeles International Airport.

It’s unclear how many people are at risk of exposure.

Officials at Denver International Airport said they do not know how many people potentially came in contact with the children. Roughly 179,000 people passed through the airport via departing, arriving or connecting flights on Dec. 11, said airport spokeswoman Emily Williams.

Health officials are contacting people who are believed to be at risk for measles, including those who visited Children’s Hospital on Dec. 12. The Tri-County Health Department will likely contact “well over 100” people in its investigation, said Dr. Bernadette Albanese, a medical epidemiologist.

“We’re doing this investigation for a reason, and that reason is precisely to prevent secondary spread — and having a non-ideal vaccination rate in Colorado isn’t helping matters,” she said.

There is no ongoing risk of exposure at these two locations, however, travelers should be on the lookout for measles symptoms, which can develop seven to 21 days after contact, the news release said.

Measles has various symptoms including high fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes and a rash. The illness can lead to pneumonia and swelling of the brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Measles is highly contagious and up to 90% of people close to a person with the illness become infected if they are not immune, according to the CDC.

Representatives of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Children’s Hospital Colorado declined to discuss the measles cases and deferred questions to Tri-County Health Department.

Several measles outbreaks have occurred across the United States this year, but until now there was only one case reported in Colorado. In January, a Denver resident was placed in isolation and treated for the respiratory illness.

But health experts have warned that Colorado’s low vaccination rate makes communities here vulnerable to an outbreak. The immunization rate for the MMR shot was 87.4% during the 2018-19 school year, meaning the state doesn’t meet the threshold needed to protect a community from a measles outbreak.

The state’s low vaccination rate has come under scrutiny this year and a bill to make it harder to opt out of such shots was debated by legislators before it failed. Gov. Jared Polis has said he’s “pro-choice” when it comes to vaccinations. He said believes the solution to raise the low immunization rate is through education and access rather than eliminating nonmedical exemptions.

If a person has symptoms that could be measles they should call their doctor’s office or a hospital first, the news release said.

Due to incorrect information from a health official, this story originally mischaracterized the measles cases at Denver International Airport as an outbreak.

This content was originally published here.

‘I’m slowly dying here’: ‘Sedated’ Assange tells friend during Christmas Eve call from UK prison as health concerns mount

Julian Assange sounded like a shell of the man he once was during a Christmas Eve phone call, British journalist Vaughan Smith told RT, noting the WikiLeaks founder had trouble speaking and appeared to be drugged.

Assange was allowed to make just a single call from the maximum security Belmarsh prison in southeast London for the Christmas holiday, hoping for a reminder of the world beyond his drab confines of steel and concrete.

“I think he simply wanted a few minutes of escape” and to revive “happy memories,” Smith told RT, adding that Assange had spent the holiday at his home in 2010. The brief conversation was far from cheerful, however, with Assange’s deteriorating condition increasingly apparent throughout the call.

He said to me that: ‘I’m slowly dying here.’

“His speech was slurred. He was speaking slowly,” the journalist continued. “Now, Julian is highly articulate, a very clear person when he speaks. And he sounded awful… it was very upsetting to hear him”

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Assange CANNOT be extradited because of treaty between US-UK argues legal team

Though Assange didn’t say it out loud during the call, Smith said he believes the anti-secrecy activist is being sedated, noting that “It seemed pretty obvious that he was,” and said others who visited Assange were of the same opinion.

Smith isn’t the first to raise this issue, but British authorities have so far refused to divulge whether Assange has been given psychotropic drugs in prison, insisting only that they aren’t “mistreating” him. But given that he is “being kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day,” with requests by numerous doctors to examine his physical condition denied, Smith said he has a hard time taking the officials at their word.

“Julian was extremely good company over Christmas in 2010,” the journalist said, but the man he talked to on the phone last week sounded like a different person. “I just don’t understand… why he’s in Belmarsh Prison in the first place. He’s a remand prisoner. He’s not a danger to the public.”

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FILE PHOTO: Supporters of  Julian Assange protest outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London © Reuters / Henry Nicholls
Julian Assange will ‘disappear for the rest of his life’ inside ‘inhumane’ US prison, UN envoy warns… if he makes it that far

Belmarsh is a Category A prison – the highest level in the UK penal system – intended for “highly dangerous” convicts and those likely to attempt escape, typically befitting murderers and terrorists. While Assange meets none of those criteria and was initially locked up for a minor offense of skipping bail, he was nonetheless thrown in Belmarsh and punished as if he were a violent, hardened criminal. He now awaits proceedings for extradition to the US.

The explanation may be as simple as taking revenge against somebody who dared to speak truth to power, Smith believes, and to make an example for anyone who might follow Assange’s lead in fighting state and corporate secrecy.

“What is clear that what is happening to Julian is much more about vengeance and setting an example to dissuade other people from holding American power to account in this way,” he said.

[Assange] delivered a discussion, a debate about what transparency should look like in the digital age… The debate got quashed it never really happened, instead he’s being victimized… That’s’ why he’s in Belmarsh.

Going forward, Smith said it will be important to continue pressuring the British government to answer a litany of questions about Assange, his treatment in prison and his health, as well as to push for an “independent assessment” of the situation. Confined in one form or another since taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 and now denied the ability to defend himself in court, Assange should finally receive a fair hearing.

“This whole thing, really we need to be asking more questions. This needs to be held much more in the open… Julian has had his freedom compromised for nearly a decade now,” Smith said. “It’s completely disgraceful. This is bullying. He deserves better.”

This content was originally published here.

Health care in America is dysfunctional — but its lack of transparency is downright dangerous

Wow, you survived cancer? What’s your secret to health care?

As absurd as that sounds, it’s a question many Americans who get sick are still asking as we ring in the year 2020. Getting health care in this country is still so circuitous it often does feel like a secret — a maze deciphered in private that’s never quite mastered. The reward for solving it? Perhaps your life; perhaps the loss of your life savings. And that’s if you’re lucky.

Even with the Affordable Care Act, almost 30 million are without health insurance in the U.S. And if you’ve perused plans on the ACA marketplace, you’ll know why. They’re pricey, and a new year brings fears that insurance premiums are once again rising. (Who knew the inflation rates on a pap smear were that high?!) Meanwhile, 14 Republican-led states are still refusing to expand Medicaid as stipulated in the ACA, even though the federal government would pay for 90 percent of the cost. Why? Something about “repeal and replace” or “socialism.” It’s hard to keep track.

Even with the Affordable Care Act, almost 30 million are without health insurance in the U.S. And if you’ve perused plans on the ACA marketplace, you’ll know why.

I traveled to three states, each with their own unique health care access challenges, for my new MSNBC special “Red, White, and Who?” Between Texas, New York and Utah there are major differences in how easy it is to see a doctor without going bankrupt. But every single person I spoke with — regardless of job, socioeconomic status or even political affiliation — had one identical anxiety: healthcare in one of the most advanced countries in the world is ridiculously, hopelessly complicated.

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“I’m retired, but I feel like a have a job,” Larry Chiuppi told me sitting outside at an RV park in Houston, blocks from one of the top cancer treatment hospitals in the country. Larry has been caring for his wife Nancy Raimondi, who has blood cancer, for over a year. During that time, he himself was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Even with her Medicare and his private health plan under the ACA, navigating the billing systems for the endless hospital visits, specialists and tests — each with their own separate charges — requires a huge amount of time and vigilance. He tells me they once got a $14,000 bill for a stem cell transplant because someone forgot to link Nancy’s Medicare. Larry imagined many people would’ve just tried to pay it. And most Americans don’t have a retiree’s free time and Larry’s persistence to help them through the bureaucracy, an added burden of getting well.

When the political gets personal

We also don’t all have a mother like Sandra Stein. She and her family live in New York, a state where the uninsured population is less than five percent, and 6.5 million are on Medicaid. I met Sandra on a street corner in upper Manhattan, where activists were flyering for the New York Health Act, a bill that would give every New Yorker state-funded care. Sandra believes in single-payer healthcare because she has experienced the mind-numbing labyrinth that is the private insurance system firsthand.

When her son was nearly three, he developed a rare neurological disease that left him unable to walk or speak. At the time, she and her husband had private insurance, which was “relatively good insurance,” according to Sandra. But that didn’t make things easier. When they first went to the hospital in an ambulance, the doctors there didn’t take their insurance even though the hospital did. Her son ultimately stayed in three different hospitals over the course of 15 months.

“When we got home it was my job to figure out the pile of bills and the collections threats,” she told me. It’s been eight years, but Sandra’s voice cracked like the memory happened yesterday. I couldn’t imagine how hard it must’ve been to be afraid for your child’s life while collections agents breathed down your neck. Sandra says the billing department sought her out even while her son was in the ICU, and that there were so many billing errors that she ultimately asked for an audit.

And yet, Sandra, Larry and Nancy are the lucky ones. They have health insurance, and they have the time and resources to be able to make their way through the bureaucratic hall of mirrors and toward a fighting chance at getting well.

It’s this cruel opacity of the private insurance system, on top of the rising monthly costs of just having a plan, that can be the difference between life and death. And it keeps a surprising number of Americans away from the system altogether. Like a rodeo cowboy I met in Texas, whose story you’ll just have to watch (I’m not spoiling it all!). It’s also led Americans like Sandra to believe that a massive simplification of our health care system is far overdue.

For many, that simplification comes in the form of cutting out the profit motive and moving toward government-funded insurance, like Medicare for All, which Big Pharma’s enemy number one Sen. Bernie Sanders and I hashed out over bagels in a New York City deli.

Medicare for All and private insurance for none

Ultimately what became clear through my travels is that healthcare in America is often overpriced and even dysfunctional, but it’s the lack of transparency that can be the most insidious. You pretty much have to be a health care policy expert, or have a loved one who can quit their job to become one, in order to ensure proper help.

It’s also strange that in a country that loves the free market as much as we do, we the consumer have no idea how much anything costs when we walk into a hospital. Why would we? Our health is priceless, so we are simply at the mercy of an ineffective system. That is, unless we fight for something different.

“Red, White, and Who” premieres on MSNBC on Dec. 29 at 9 p.m. E.T.

This content was originally published here.

Christian health cost sharing ministries offer no guarantees

Eight-year-old Blake Collie was at the swimming pool when he got a frightening headache. His parents rushed him to the emergency room only to learn he had a brain aneurysm. Blake spent nearly two months in the hospital.

His family did not have traditional health insurance. “We could not afford it,” said his father, Mark Collie, a freelance photographer in Washington, North Carolina.

Instead, they pay about $530 a month through a Christian health care sharing organization to pay members’ medical bills. But the group capped payments for members at $250,000, almost certainly far less than the final tally of Blake’s mounting medical bills.

“Just trust God,” the nonprofit group, Samaritan Ministries, in Peoria, Illinois, said in a statement about its coverage, and advises its members that “there is no coverage, no guarantee of payment.”

More than 1 million Americans, struggling to cope with the rising cost of health insurance, have joined such groups, attracted by prices that are far lower than the premiums for policies that must meet strict requirements, like guaranteed coverage for preexisting conditions, established by the Affordable Care Act. The groups say they permit people of a common religious or ethical belief to share medical costs, and many were grandfathered in under the federal health care law mainly through a religious exemption.

These Christian nonprofit groups offer far lower rates because they are not classified as insurance and are under no legal obligation to pay medical claims. They generally decline to cover people with preexisting illnesses. They can set limits on how much their members will pay, and they can legally refuse to cover treatments for specialties like mental health.

“Nothing is guaranteed,” said Dr. Carolyn McClanahan, a physician who is also a financial planner in Jacksonville, Florida. “You have to depend on the largess of the program.”

The main requirement for membership is adherence to a Christian lifestyle. And the alternative sharing plans keep flourishing, especially now that the Trump administration has relaxed rules to permit alternatives to the ACA that don’t provide such generous coverage.

But state regulators in New Hampshire, Colorado and Texas are beginning to question some of the ministries’ aggressive marketing tactics, often using call centers, and said in some cases people who joined them were misled or did not understand how little coverage they would receive if they or a family member had a catastrophic illness.

On Monday, Washington state fined one of the larger health-sharing ministries, Trinity Healthshare, $150,000 and banned it from offering its product to state residents because it was operating as an unauthorized insurer.

In December, Nevada insurance regulators warned consumers to beware of these plans. “They may seem enticing because they may be cheap, look and sound like they are in compliance with the Affordable Care Act (‘ACA’), when in reality these plans are not even insurance products,” the department said.

The Texas attorney general brought a lawsuit last summer against Aliera Healthcare, which marketed Trinity’s ministry program, to stop it from offering “unregulated insurance products to the public.” The Houston Chronicle featured one couple who was left with more than $100,000 in unpaid medical bills. Trinity said most members are satisfied with its services.

Aliera, which says it has stopped offering its plans in Texas, said it is working with regulators to resolve their concerns. The company says it has taken steps to make sure its customers are not confused about what they are buying.

Because the groups are not technically considered insurance, they operate with no government oversight. “Regulators haven’t been willing to assert any control or regulatory authority over these plans,” said Katie Keith, who serves as a consumer representative to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and teaches health law at Georgetown University. “They feel their hands are tied. At the end of the day, it’s not insurance.”

Families who have joined the groups recount winding up with medical bills not covered by the ministries, with no legal way to appeal decisions to reject coverage for care. Some groups ask their members to push hospitals and doctors to write off their bills rather than use members’ money to pay their expenses.

“These plans offer a false sense of security,” said Jenny Chumbley Hogue, who runs an insurance agency in north Dallas. She refuses to offer them to her clients.

Several states have taken action against one ministry they say has deceived people about what they are buying. “The nature of what we’re hearing from consumers around the state is absolutely heart breaking,” said Kate Harris, chief deputy insurance commissioner in Colorado, one of the states that is trying to prevent the ministry from operating there.

But health share ministries have become particularly attractive to people like the Collie family who don’t qualify for a federal subsidy and can’t afford an ACA plan. Even though premiums in the ACA market have stabilized, critics of the law insist people need alternatives. “That’s the real driver behind the growth,” said Dr. Dave Weldon, a former Republican congressman from Florida who is president of the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries, which represents the two largest groups.

When Dan Plato left his job to become self-employed as a consultant, he discovered that an ACA policy for 2018 would cost his family around $1,300 a month. “It was very expensive and beyond our needs,” he said. Membership in Liberty Healthshare, a ministry established by Mennonites in Canton, Ohio, was less than half the price, according to Plato, who blogged about his experience.

But some Liberty members reported trouble getting their medical bills covered. Plato says a small bill for flu shots went unpaid and ended up in collection. At the end of the year, he was left wondering if Liberty would be able to cover the family in the event of a serious medical emergency. “It’s not something we could trust in that situation,” said Plato, who switched to one of the plans offered by United Healthcare also exempt from the ACA rules for 2019.

Robyn Lytle, who works as an event planner in Chicago, joined Liberty for 2018, only to find that her daughter’s medical tests were never paid for. “It’s been a year and half, and I’ve been sent to collection,” said Lytle, who says Liberty had covered some of her family’s other expenses. She switched to an ACA plan for 2019.

Liberty Healthshare declined to comment.

Other people complain that the ministries can be vague about coverage. Greg Snider and his wife joined Medi-Share, the program offered by Christian Care Ministry. Based in West Melbourne, Florida. Medi-Share says it has more than 400,000 members across the country.

Snider said he had just dropped traditional coverage when his wife was diagnosed with a heart condition, but he says he was assured by Medi-Share that her care could still be covered. She underwent surgery last year to address an abnormal heart rhythm. “After the procedure, the bills start rolling in,” Snider said, including $177,000 for the surgery alone.

Snider says Medi-Share urged him to plead with the hospital after determining he would owe more than $100,000. He said he had assumed the $800 a month he paid into a pool would help cover the expenses. After he tweeted his frustrations, the ministry told him that he would owe only $1,500 for the surgery because the hospital had forgiven the rest, he said. He now owes thousands of dollars in related medical bills and is unsure of their status.

If Medi-Share decides not to pay, Snider knows he has little recourse: “It is completely and solely up to them.” He has since gotten a job where he is covered under his employer.

Medi-Share says that more than 80% of the $774 million it collected last year went to members’ medical bills. “We take great care to ensure prospective members understand what is considered a preexisting condition and what is eligible for sharing,” it said.

It does its part to reduce medical spending, it says, through negotiating with doctors and hospitals and claims it saved members more than $500 million last year. “We consider this process to be one way in which we contribute to the overall objective of reducing medical costs,” the ministry said in a statement.

Medi-Share says it has an extensive network of more than 700,000 providers. But even if a member goes to an in-network provider, the ministry may still decide not to pay the bill. “Fundamentally, we have found that there is often a lack of understanding of what is covered,” said Brendan Miller, an executive with MultiPlan, which arranges networks for Medi-Share as well as insurers.

That uncertainty has led some hospitals and doctors in the MultiPlan network to refuse to treat ministry patients rather than absorb unpaid costs.

Colorado is one of several states, including Washington, Texas and New Hampshire, that are trying to stop Trinity Healthshare, and its administrator, Aliera Healthcare, from operating in their states because they say the ministry is misleading its residents.

In a statement, Aliera said “it’s deeply disappointing to see state regulators working to deny their residents access to more affordable alternatives offered by health care sharing ministries.”

Trinity says its website makes clear that the ministry does not offer health insurance.

Regulators also worry about these plans siphoning off healthy individuals from the ACA marketplaces, leading to higher premiums for Obamacare policies.

“The ministries have been very concerned about bad actors invading this space,” said Weldon, the alliance president, who says his members are very clear that they are not insurance companies. “They all operate call centers, and they all bend over backward to inform people inquiring that it is not insurance,” he said.

In the case of Samaritan, which says it covers 271,000 people, the ministry pointed to its Save to Share program, where members can contribute extra to cover more of their bills.

With Blake’s bills likely to far exceed the cap — Collie has not yet tallied them yet — he created a GoFundMe account to help pay for his son’s care.

Collie says the ministry remains a viable alternative, noting it paid for numerous medical bills before his son’s hospitalization. “Every single person has prayed for me and my family,” he said. But he was enormously relieved when he found out recently his son qualified for Medicaid, the state-federal insurance program, and will cover the boy’s full medical care.

In some states, officials are starting to consider requiring the groups to register, to obtain more information for consumers.

Peter V. Lee, a former Obama administration official who now runs the California ACA marketplace, said ministries should be subject to some oversight, including disclosure of how much of the money collected is spent on care.

“There should not be a religious exemption for transparency — where the money goes and if it will be there if consumers need it,” he said.

California is also requiring brokers, who are paid hefty commissions by some of the ministries to enroll members, to make sure their clients understand they are not buying insurance.

Some ministries, like Samaritan, say they do not use brokers or agents. “We also have never, nor will we ever, use insurance agents or brokers to sell Samaritan because we don’t want people to confuse us with insurance,” it said.

This content was originally published here.

U.S. health system costs four times more to run than Canada’s single-payer system

In the United States, a legion of administrative healthcare workers and health insurance employees who play no direct role in providing patient care costs every American man, woman and child an average of $2,497 per year.

Across the border in Canada, where a single-payer system has been in place since 1962, the cost of administering healthcare is just $551 per person — less than a quarter as much.

That spending mismatch, tallied in a study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, could challenge some assumptions about the relative efficiency of public and private healthcare programs. It could also become a hot political talking point on the American campaign trail as presidential candidates debate the pros and cons of government-funded universal health insurance.

Progressive contenders for the Democratic nomination, including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, are calling for a “Medicare for All” system. More centrist candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have questioned the wisdom of turning the government into the nation’s sole health insurer.

It’s been decades since Canada transitioned from a U.S.-style system of private healthcare insurance to a government-run single-payer system. Canadians today do not gnash their teeth about co-payments or deductibles. They do not struggle to make sense of hospital bills. And they do not fear losing their healthcare coverage.

To be sure, wait times for specialist care and some diagnostic imaging are often criticized as too long. But a 2007 study by Canada’s health authority and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the overall health of Americans and Canadians to be roughly similar.

Some Canadians purchase private supplemental insurance, whose cost is regulated. Outpatient medications are not included in the government plan, but aside from that, coverage of “medically necessary services” is assured from cradle to grave.

The cost of administering this system amounts to 17% of Canada’s national expenditures on health.

In the United States, twice as much — 34% — goes to the salaries, marketing budgets and computers of healthcare administrators in hospitals, nursing homes and private practices. It goes to executive pay packages which, for five major healthcare insurers, reach close to $20 million or more a year. And it goes to the rising profits demanded by shareholders.

Administering the U.S. network of public and private healthcare programs costs $812 billion each year. And in 2018, 27.9 million Americans remained uninsured, mostly because they could not afford to enroll in the programs available to them.

“The U.S.-Canada disparity in administration is clearly large and growing,” the study authors wrote. “Discussions of health reform in the United States should consider whether $812 billion devoted annually to health administration is money well spent.”

The new figures are based on an analysis of public documents filed by U.S. insurance companies, hospitals, nursing homes, home-care and hospice agencies, and physicians’ offices. Researchers from Hunter College, Harvard Medical School and the University of Ottawa compared those to administrative costs across the Canadian healthcare sector, as detailed by the Canadian Institute for Health Information and a trade association that represents Canada’s private insurers.

Compared to 1999, when the researchers last compared U.S. and Canadian healthcare spending, the costs of administering healthcare insurance have grown in both countries. But the increase has been much steeper in the United States, where a growing number of public insurance programs have increased their reliance on commercial insurers to manage government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

As a result, overhead charges by private insurers surged more than any other category of expenditure, the researchers found.

In U.S. states that have retained full control over their Medicaid programs, the growth of administrative costs was negligible, they reported. (The same was true for Canada’s health insurance program.) But in states that shifted most of their Medicaid recipients into private managed care, administrative costs were twice as high.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, a group representing private health insurance companies, said administrative practices shouldn’t be blamed for escalating the cost of care in the United States.

“Study after study continues to demonstrate the value of innovative solutions brought by the free market,” AHIP said in a statement. “In head-to-head comparisons, the free market continues to be more efficient than government-run systems.”

AHIP cited a recent report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), an independent body that advises Congress. The report showed that Medicare Advantage plans — which are privately administered — deliver benefits at 88% of the cost of traditional Medicare.

Even so, the study authors concluded that if the U.S. healthcare system could trim its administrative bloat to bring it in line with Canada’s, Americans could save $628 billion a year while getting the same healthcare.

“The United States is currently wasting at least $600 billion on healthcare paperwork — money that could be saved by going to a simple ‘Medicare for All’ system,” said senior author Dr. Stephanie Woolhandler, a health policy researcher at Hunter College and longtime advocate of single-payer systems.

That sum would be more than enough to extend coverage to the nation’s uninsured, she said.

This content was originally published here.

The Game Changers And You: Going Vegan for Our Health and Our Planet’s

Over the past month several friends have told me to watch the The Game Changers on @Netflix  produced by James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger about vegan athletes. Intrigued by the concept of a plant based diet I sat down with my husband to watch the 90 minute documentary which was indeed a personal Game changer. And, I’m so glad I watched it because, not only did I learn about improving my health, I also learned how a change in diet can improve the planet. (For more on this read: The Reducetarian Solution: How the Surprisingly Simple Act of Reducing the Amount of Meat in Your Diet Can Transform Your Health and the Planet)

The show is revelatory, and so much more than an examination of one’s diet. It truly is a movement and I can see why there is a huge following. Anyone interested in their personal health and the health of the planet should watch this and then decide whether to change their eating.

Not only is diet at issue, the planet is as well. What are you doing about climate change? Well, it turns out we can make a dent by giving up meat without giving up protein or health. As a matter of fact, we can improve our health at the same time.

There are so many outstanding examples of how we are devasting our planet through feeding of livestock to fuel our appetites. The case is made that we are a product of marketing and eating meat for strength is a fallacy.

The case is made not only for leaner and stronger bodies from a diet change, reduction of inflammation, even stronger erections for men, and more energy for all. A solid case is also made for a reversal of devastation to our land and water supply by reducing the demand for meat.

WATCH THIS OFFICIAL 2-minute Trailer…

I have never wanted to go vegan. It just seemed to me like another neurotic fad to be skinny unless you have digestive issues. Well, after watching this documentary, my mind has been changed.

My husband was way more skeptical and found the film to be a bit too much of an infomercial. I on the other hand saw it as a call to action.

Although I have been a non-red meat eater since 1976, and am bored by chicken and skeptical of fish these days, I had never really thought of making a “diet” around giving these proteins up as the alternatives seem complicated (i.e. complex recipes of beans, not easily findable on restaurant menus).

But, it was this lesson I learned from the documentary. My daily diet of eggs and cheese and yogurt as my go to proteins and some chicken and tuna, are not giving me the healthy protein boost I need. Apparently, I have been missing the point as the potency of the protein options is in the plants. This for me is a game changer.

But change is hard. I have been eating a poached egg for breakfast most of my life and it’s my comfort food. Giving up eggs seems impossible and my happy hour of wine without cheese equally empty. Because this plant based diet asks us to give up all animal products that means my beloved french butter must go as well.

My guess is, I will try to go vegan for a while or at least a few days a week to see if I can do it and test if I feel better. I am also motivated to do my bit to help the planet. Want to try it with me?

P.S. There are number of disclaimers about the accuracy of this documentary which are worth reading.

Here are a few take-aways from the documentary that Buzz Feed put together….

1. All protein originates in plants. The protein one gets from eating a steak or a burger are actually from the plants the animal ate.

2. The average plant-eater gets 70% more protein than they need.

3. Many meat-eaters get more than half of their protein from plants.

4. When you eat animals regularly, you begin forming plaques in the coronary arteries.

5. The plaque formation doesn’t just limit the function of the arteries, it can block blood flow and make it difficult for your heart to keep up with the demands of your body.

6. When animal protein is cooked, preserved, or digested by our gut bacteria, highly inflammatory compounds are formed and they corrode our cardiovascular system.

Click here to read more from Buzz Feed…

The post The Game Changers And You: Going Vegan for Our Health and Our Planet’s appeared first on Better After 50.

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Opinion | The American Health Care Industry Is Killing People – The New York Times

These costs are significantly higher than in most other wealthy countries. One study on health care data from 1999 showed that each American paid about $1,059 per year just in overhead costs for health care; in Canada, the per capita cost was $307. Those figures are likely much higher today.

Wouldn’t lowering overhead costs be an obviously positive outcome?

Ah, but there’s the rub: All this overspending creates a lot of employment — and moving toward a more efficient and equitable health care system will inevitably mean getting rid of many administrative jobs. One study suggests that about 1.8 million jobs would be rendered unnecessary if America adopted a public health care financing system.

So what if some of these jobs involve debt collection, claims denial, aggressive legal action or are otherwise punitive, cruel or simply morally indefensible in a society that can clearly afford to provide high-quality health care to everyone? Jobs are jobs, folks, as Joe Biden might say.

Indeed, that’s exactly what Biden’s presidential campaign is saying about the Medicare for all plans that Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are proposing: They “will not only cost 160 million Americans their private health coverage and force tax increases on the middle class, but it would also kill almost two million jobs,” a Biden campaign official warned recently.

Note the word “kill” in the statement. That word might better describe not what could happen to jobs under Medicare for all but what the health care industry is doing to many Americans today.

Last week, the medical journal JAMA published a comprehensive study examining the cause of a remarkably grim statistic about our national well-being. From 1959 to 2010, life expectancy in the United States and in other wealthy countries around the world climbed. Then, in 2014, American life expectancy began to fall, while it continued to rise elsewhere.

What caused the American decline? Researchers identified a number of potential factors, including tobacco use, obesity and psychological stress, but two of the leading causes can be pinned directly on the peculiarities and dysfunctions of American health care.

The first is the opioid epidemic, whose rise can be traced to the release, in 1996, of the prescription pain drug OxyContin. In the public narrative, much of the blame for the epidemic has been cast on the Sackler family, whose firm, Purdue Pharma, created OxyContin and pushed for its widespread use. But research has shown that the Sacklers exploited aberrant incentives in American health care.

Purdue courted doctors, patient groups and insurers to convince the medical establishment that OxyContin was a novel type of opioid that was less addictive and less prone to abuse. The company had little scientific evidence to make that claim, but much of the health care industry bought into it, and OxyContin prescriptions soared. The rush to prescribe opioids was fueled by business incentives created by the health care industry — for Purdue, for many doctors and for insurance companies, treating widespread conditions like back pain with pills rather than physical therapy was simply better for the bottom line.

Opioid addiction isn’t the only factor contributing to rising American mortality rates. The problem is more pervasive, having to do with an overall lack of quality health care. The JAMA report points out that death rates have climbed most for middle-age adults, who — unlike retirees and many children — are not usually covered by government-run health care services and thus have less access to affordable health care.

The researchers write that “countries with higher life expectancy outperform the United States in providing universal access to health care” and in “removing costs as a barrier to care.” In America, by contrast, cost is a key barrier. A study published last year in The American Journal of Medicine found that of the nearly 10 million Americans given diagnoses of cancer between 2000 and 2012, 42 percent were forced to drain all of their assets in order to pay for care.

The politics of Medicare for all are perilous. Understandably so: If you’re one of the millions of Americans who loves your doctor and your insurance company, or who works in the health care field, I can see why you would be fearful of wholesale change.

But it’s wise to remember that it’s not just your own health and happiness that counts. The health care industry is failing much of the country. Many of your fellow citizens are literally dying early because of its failures. “I got mine!” is not a good enough argument to maintain the dismal status quo.

Farhad wants to chat with readers on the phone. If you’re interested in talking to a New York Times columnist about anything that’s on your mind, please fill out this form. Farhad will select a few readers to call.

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Travelling to the U.S.? Watch out: Ontario is about to scrap out-of-country emergency health care coverage. Here’s what you need to know. | The Star

When Toronto resident Jill Wykes had a health scare over a racing heartbeat in Florida a few years back, the $3,000 hospital bill for a two-hour visit and three tests added insult to illness.

Fortunately, the seasoned snowbird had a comprehensive travel health insurance policy that paid the full tab.

But the incident, which turned out to be nothing serious, served as a reminder that medical emergencies can happen any time, anywhere.

Buying enough travel insurance to cover all eventualities becomes even more important for Ontario residents when the province scraps its out-of-country coverage of emergency health care expenses on Jan.1.

Until Dec. 31, OHIP will continue to pay up to $400 per day for emergency in-patient services and up to $50 per day for emergency outpatient and doctor services. Starting next year though, that coverage stops.

A new program will provide kidney dialysis patients with $210 toward each treatment — actual prices in the U.S. range from $300 to $750 — but travellers will be on the hook for everything else.

The province says it’s cancelling the existing “inefficient” program because of the $2.8-million cost of administering $9 million in emergency medical coverage abroad each year. OHIP’s reimbursements also tended to offset only a fraction of the actual expenses.

Without private insurance, travellers can face “catastrophically large bills” for medical care, warns Ministry of Health spokesperson David Jensen, who “strongly encourages” people to purchase adequate coverage.

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Health care south of the border, in particular, costs an arm and a leg. On average, fees in the U.S. are double those of other developed countries, according to the International Travel Insurance Group.

The insurance provider cites an array of costs, including: ambulance, $500 and up; ER visit, $150 to $3,000; hospital stay, $5,000 per day; MRI, $1,000 to $5,000; X-ray, $150 to $3,000; hip fracture, $13,000 to $40,000.

The monetary ouch factor can be especially painful for snowbirds, who are flocking to warm spots like Florida, Arizona and Texas in growing numbers as baby boomers reach retirement age.

But a significant number of vacationers of all ages are putting their financial health at risk.

According to a recent survey by InsuranceHotline.com, 34 per cent of Canadian respondents said they were unlikely to buy travel insurance, often in the mistaken belief their province would cover them. And 40 per cent had unrealistic expectations of health care costs, thinking, for example, that emergency medical evacuation would be under $2,000. In reality, the service can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Jill Wykes and her husband Pierre Lepage leave nothing to chance during winters in Sarasota, Fla., an annual trek since 2011 when she retired as a travel industry executive.

The couple, now in their 70s, purchase a multiple-trip plan with a 60-day top-up for their four-month sojourn, which includes driving there and back and flying home for two short visits. Her policy costs about $900 while his is $1,600, because he falls into an older age bracket. They’re each covered for up to $5 million.

Wykes, a blogger and editor of snowbirdadvisor.ca, calls it “foolish” to travel anywhere without health insurance and advises against thinking “you would just drive or fly home if you were sick.” The financial fallout from an accident or sudden illness “can quickly rise into six figures” in the U.S., she adds.

Anne Marie Thomas of InsuranceHotline.com, which provides free quotes for all types of insurance, echoes Wykes’s advice.

“Now, more than ever, you need travel insurance because there will be zero coverage (as of Jan. 1),” she says.

There’s no one-size-fits-all policy and insurance can cover everything from trip cancellation or interruption to lost baggage and medical costs, Thomas explains, so it’s important to match your needs and situation. A sunseeker driving south, for instance, wouldn’t need trip cancellation.

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As an example, Thomas says a 70- or 80-year-old flying to Florida would pay about $2,000 for all-inclusive insurance for 15 weeks with a $10-million limit on medical costs.

The non-profit Canadian Snowbird Association (CSA) calls the government cuts “short-sighted,” predicting they’ll boost the cost of private insurance by an estimated 7.5 per cent.

The CSA has always “strongly recommended” purchasing adequate insurance prior to departure, president Karen Huestis reminded travellers last month.

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Fledgling snowbird Linda Lanteigne, who’s driving to Florida with her husband in mid-January for a two-and-a-half-month stay, is unhappy about OHIP’s cancelled program.

As a taxpaying Canadian, “I don’t think it’s right to take away our coverage,” says the Ottawa-area retiree who’d like to see the government cover the same amount of emergency medical care that people would get in Canada.

Lanteigne, a former operating room buyer in a hospital, shopped around before deciding on a travel policy with the Canadian Automobile Association that will give her $5-million coverage for about $500.

Octogenarian Mae Youngman is living proof that health emergencies can happen anywhere. She’s had three surgeries outside Canada after suffering an aneurysm in Fort Lauderdale, an appendectomy in Sarasota and broken elbow in Mexico.

“It would have been very, very expensive,” to cover the costs without insurance, recalls the retired owner of a travel agency near Windsor, Ont., who’s heading to Cuba for two weeks.

“I’d never leave home without it.”

How to make sure you’re covered

Experienced travellers and representatives from the travel and insurance industries offer these tips:

  • Retirement benefit plans and credit cards may provide health insurance, but read the policy for any limits or exclusions.
  • Compare apples to apples when shopping for a policy. The cost will also depend on your medical history, age and length of vacation.
  • Before purchasing coverage, be aware of your health status, including pre-existing conditions, which must be stable for the required period.
  • Complete the insurer’s medical questionnaire thoroughly and accurately, and let them know if anything changes pre-departure.
  • Always read the policy, including fine print, so you understand what is and isn’t covered.
  • Check travel advisories before you leave; ignoring warnings about an impending hurricane, for example, could cancel your medical coverage.
  • Your purchased insurance has a start and end date so if your holiday is interrupted and you plan on returning, notify your insurer.
Carola Vyhnak is a Cobourg-based writer covering home and real-estate stories. She is a contributor for the Star. Reach her at cvyhnak@gmail.com

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Mental health professionals read Trump’s letter: A study in “the psychotic mind” at work | Salon.com

On Wednesday night, Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives. Trump will now — perhaps after some delay — be put on trial in the Senate, where he will then be acquitted by Republicans who have sworn personal fealty to him.

Trump’s impeachment is one of the few moments in his life when he has ever been held accountable for his behavior. Consequences are the enemy of Donald Trump. As such, in response to the Ukraine scandal, the Mueller report, the 2018 midterm elections and various other moments when Democrats and the public defied Trump’s authoritarian goal of becoming a de facto king or emperor, he has lashed out in the form of (another) temper tantrum.

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On Tuesday, Trump continued with this ugly and deeply troubling behavior in the form of a six-page letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, fueled by exaggerated rage that Democrats had dared to impeach him. Reportedly co-authored by Stephen Miller, Trump’s white supremacist White House adviser, Trump’s letter continued numerous obvious lies about impeachment, the Ukraine scandal and other matters.

In keeping with his strategy of stochastic terrorism, Trump’s letter is an incitement to violence by his followers against the Democrats for the “crime” of impeachment.

Trump is possessed of the delusional belief that he (and by implication his supporters) is a victim of a “witch hunt” akin to the famous event in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. In keeping with his malignant narcissism, Trump’s letter, of course, boasts of his strength and fortitude against the Democrats and other enemies.

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In total, Trump’s “impeachment letter” to Nancy Pelosi is but one data point among many demonstrating that he is mentally unwell and a threat to the safety of the United States and the world.

To gain more context and insight into this ongoing crisis, I asked several of the country’s leading mental health experts for their thoughts on Trump’s impeachment letter and what it indicates about the president’s emotional state and behavior.

Dr. Bandy Lee, assistant clinical professor, Yale University School of Medicine and president of the World Mental Health Organization. Lee is editor of the bestselling book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.”

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This letter is a very obvious demonstration of Donald Trump’s severe mental compromise. His assertions should alarm not only those who believe that a president of the United States and a commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful military should be mentally sound, but also those who are concerned about the potential implications of such a compromised individual bringing out pathological elements in his supporters and in society in general. I have been following and interpreting Donald Trump’s tweets as a public service, since merely reading them “gaslights” you and reforms your thoughts in unhealthy ways. Without arming yourself with the right interpretation, you end up playing into the hands of pathology and helping it — even if you do not fully believe it. This is because of a common phenomenon that happens when you are continually exposed to a severely compromised person without appropriate intervention. You start taking on the person’s symptoms in a phenomenon called “shared psychosis.”

It happens often in households where a sick individual goes untreated, and I have seen some of the most intelligent and otherwise healthy persons succumb to the most bizarre delusions. It can also happen at national scale, as renowned mental health experts such as Erich Fromm have noted. Shared psychosis at large scale is also called “mass hysteria.”

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The president is quite conscious of his ability to generate mass hysteria, which is the purpose of the letter.

The book I edited, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” contained three warnings: that the president was more dangerous than people suspected; that he would grow more dangerous with time; and that ultimately, he would become “uncontainable.” We are entering the “uncontainable” stage because of shared psychosis.

Dan P. McAdams, chair and professor of the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University, author of the forthcoming book “The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump: A Psychological Reckoning.”

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Venomous and vitriolic, obsessively focused on the self and nothing else, this letter is what we have come to know as vintage Trump. Had we been handed this document just three years ago and told it was once written by a president of the United States, we would have been aghast, and we would have considered it to be one of the most remarkable texts ever unearthed — worthy to be remembered as the antithesis of, say, the Gettysburg Address.

In terms of what we have come to expect from President Trump, the only remarkable thing about this letter is that it is so long — and that it contains a few big words, like “solemnity.” But in nearly every other way, the letter is like the vitriolic, grievance-filled tweets he sends out every day, full of falsehoods, hyperbole and hate. As an extended expression of who Trump really is, the letter shows you how his mind works and what his raw experience is like.

For over 50 years, Donald Trump has lived this way. Trump has fought ever day of his adult life as if he were being impeached by his enemies. And there have always been countless enemies, because his antagonism brings them out of the woodwork. To quote what Trump told People Magazine when asked to recite his philosophy of life, “Man is the most vicious of all animals and life is a series of battles ending in victory or defeat.” This is truly how Trump has always experienced the world. The letter merely reinforces his world view.

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Moreover, Trump is right about the Democrats.  Many of them have been wanting to impeach him since Day One. They recoil against him just the way countless others have recoiled against Trump going back to his real estate days in the late 1970s. Trump needs to hate Democrats. If suddenly all his enemies lay down as lambs and promised to cooperate with him, he might kill himself. He would have no reason to go on. He needs enemies as much as he needs air to breathe.

Dr. David Reiss, psychiatrist, expert in mental fitness evaluations and contributor to “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.”

Content-wise it is the typical Trump distortions, outright lies, and exclusive focus on his feelings. For Trump, his feelings define reality.  It would be interesting if someone in the media was able to ask Trump, “What does the word ‘fair’ mean to you?” Because, objectively, Trump complains he is being treated “unfairly” anytime he does not get his way, his feelings are hurt, and/or others are not accepting what he says at face value and without question — even if it is contrary to proven fact or internally inconsistent.

Whoever actually wrote the letter, it accurately reflects Trump’s immaturity that has been obvious in public as long as he has been a public figure: insisting that his needs be met in a child-like manner; having very poor problem-solving ability; having an inability to take responsibility for anything and projecting his own negative attributes onto others; an inability to look at consequences of his statements or actions. Basically, acting as a frustrated or emotionally hurt toddler would react, looking for a parent to protect him and “make the bad people go away.”

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Dr. Lance Dodes, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry (retired), Harvard Medical School, currently training and supervising analyst emeritus at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. He is also a contributor to “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.”

Mr. Trump’s letter shows his incapacity to recognize other people as separate from him or having worth.

As he always does, he accuses others of precisely what he has done, in precisely the same language. When confronted with violating the Constitution he says his accusers are violating the Constitution. When others point out that he undermines democracy, he says they undermine democracy. Through these very simpleminded projections he deletes others’ selfhood and replaces who they are with what is unacceptable in himself.

The letter also has a remarkable list of boasts about what he says are his successes, stated as facts, with no acknowledgment that Speaker Pelosi has a vastly different view (about gun control, appointing judges who conform to his views, withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement, etc). It is as if her independent views are unworthy of noting or existing. She is treated as invisible in his eyes.

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In reflecting his projecting (paranoid) view of the world and his primitive focus on himself with denial of the rights and feelings of others, the letter is consistent with what we already know about Mr. Trump.

Dr. John Gartner, co-founder of the Duty to Warn PAC and co-editor of “Rocket Man: Nuclear Madness and the Mind of Donald Trump.”

When you read excerpts of the Trump letter to Pelosi it doesn’t do justice to how unhinged, paranoid and manic it is in its entirety.

It shows the usual formal properties of a Trump rant: proclaiming himself the victim of an evil conspiracy, while projecting onto his critics everything bad he is actually doing.

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For example:

You are violating your oaths of office, you are breaking your allegiance to the Constitution, and you are declaring open war on American Democracy…

All blended seamlessly with outright lies:

Worse still, I have been deprived of basic Constitutional Due Process from the beginning of this impeachment scam right up until the present. I have been denied the most fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution, including the right to present evidence, to have my own counsel present, to confront accusers, and to call and cross-examine witnesses …

Dr. Justin Frank, former clinical professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center, and author of “Trump on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President.”

When I first read Donald Trump’s six-page letter to Speaker Pelosi, I marveled at the ease with which he shared what goes on in his mind openly, and without reservation. His letter is the quintessential example of how professional victims actually think. They turn the prosecutor into the persecutor.

Trump’s letter is just such an expression of entitled, delusional grievance. He accuses Pelosi of injuring his family, but it is his nepotism that exposes his older children to public scrutiny and his teenager (to whom he refers as “Melania’s son”) to life in a fishbowl. More damning, in making her a public figure, he subjected the First Lady to humiliation. He knew full well he paid a stripper $130,000 not to talk about their affair and was surely aware that this and other unsavory behaviors would surface when he sought the presidency.

Trump is a con artist who succeeds by tricking his marks into not seeing the con. But the biggest mark — bigger than the GOP and his base — is himself. He believes the lies he tells, the delinquent traits he disavows. It’s what psychoanalysts call delusional projection. We see it the simple sentence he wrote to the speaker: “You view democracy as your enemy.” Trump confirms my findings published in “Trump on the Couch.” But now his defenses are writ large, because instead of changing in moments of crisis, people become more the way they are. Trump has reverted to the most familiar means to cope with fears of being caught, punished and humiliated.

Finally, the letter is a treasure trove for psychiatric residents who want to study the psychotic mind. Trump’s paradoxical sleight of hand makes him think he can hide in plain sight. But he can’t anymore. This is why he accuses Pelosi of hating democracy: It is he who hates a system that promotes the idea that no one is above the law.

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Santa’s reindeer receive clean bill of health, cleared to fly on Christmas Eve

HERSHEY, Pa. (WJW) — Santa’s reindeer have been cleared for take-off!

Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture, Russell Redding, and State Veterinarian, Dr. Kevin Brightbill, met with Santa Claus and his nine reindeer at Hersheypark Christmas Candylane on Thursday to announce that they’ve received a clean bill of health and can fly on December 24.

The reindeer, answering to the names of Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen, and Rudolph received clearance to fly from Alaska’s state veterinarian.

“Not everyone knows what takes place behind the scenes to allow Santa and his nine reindeer to take flight on Christmas Eve,” said Agriculture Secretary Redding. “Thanks to Dr. Brightbill, his counterpart in the North Pole, and Santa’s due diligence, we can expect gifts under the tree Christmas morning.”

Pennsylvania State Veterinarian Dr. Kevin Brightbill holds up a clean bill of health for Santa’s nine reindeer, and that they’re cleared for take-off on December 24, at Hersheypark Christmas Candylane on Thursday, December 19, 2019. (Courtesy: Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture)

The reindeer received a certificate of veterinary inspection and permit to ship that allows them to fly from rooftop to rooftop for the purpose of toy delivery.

State officials said that for animals that travel between states, such certificates help ensure that contagious diseases are not spread.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture veterinarians supplied Santa’s reindeer with the certificate this year since they are residing at Hersheypark for the next few days.

“Hersheypark is honored that Santa trusts his nine reindeer to the care of our ZooAmerica team throughout the holiday season,” said Quinn Bryner, Director of PR at Hersheypark. “We’re the only place to see them all together in the Northeast through Jan. 1 so we wish them a magical flight before they come back to Hershey!”

Make sure to track Santa and the reindeer’s flight path on December 24 using NORAD’s Santa Tracker.

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GOP senator claims birth control and HIV testing is not ‘actual health care’

Sen. Martha McSally’s campaign attacked the health care services provided by Planned Parenthood.

GOP Sen. Martha McSally’s campaign is on the attack against Planned Parenthood Arizona, the state’s largest sexual health organization, saying it does not provide residents with “actual health care,” the Hill reported Friday.

McSally’s comments came in response to Planned Parenthood’s announcement that it would run ads in Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina about the Trump administration’s restrictions on health care funding that limit how doctors can interact with patients. All three of the states have closely watched Senate races in 2020.

“Senator McSally is focused on providing access to actual health care for women all across Arizona, while Planned Parenthood is only focused on protecting their business model,” Dylan Lefler, the Arizona Republican’s campaign manager, told the Hill.

Planned Parenthood Arizona serves more than 90,000 Arizona residents, according to its website, offering a wide range of real health care services, including annual well-woman exams, birth control consultation and supplies, HIV testing, emergency contraception, and pregnancy testing. Research from the Guttmacher Institute, a group focused on reproductive health, has shown that providers serving low-income patients, including Planned Parenthood, play a vital role in the public safety net, and may be the only health care available in some areas.

The Trump administration unveiled new rules earlier this year stating that federal funds from the Title X program can no longer go to organizations that either perform abortions or refer patients to facilities to receive abortions. Prior to the new rules, organizations like Planned Parenthood were already barred from using federal funds to perform abortions, but the new rule gagged the ability of health care professionals to even discuss the medical procedure.

After the rules went into effect, Planned Parenthood was forced to withdraw from the Title X program, the only federal program dedicated to providing family planning services, birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing, and annual exams, to low-income Americans. Most of the patients who rely on Title X services are people of color, according to Planned Parenthood.

The ads aim to pressure lawmakers to overrule Trump and allow organizations like Planned Parenthood to once again participate in Title X and offer health care services to low-income people.

However, the McSally campaign identified Planned Parenthood as a “hysterical liberal special interest group” invading Arizona “with false, negative ads.”

McSally has previously voted to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funds whatsoever. She also voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which requires health insurance companies to cover maternity and newborn care.

“Republican senators are attacking access to affordable birth control and other vital reproductive health services by standing with the Trump administration’s dangerous gag rule,” Sam Lau, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s director of federal advocacy media, said in an email. “Congress has the power to take action, and the American people want them to stop putting politics over their health and protect access to affordable health care.”

The post GOP senator claims birth control and HIV testing is not ‘actual health care’ appeared first on The American Independent.

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The President, the US private health giant, and top NHS officials – special relationships? | openDemocracy

In the UK, we have a simple take on the US healthcare system as a for-profit, private system that fleeces its customers and fails the poor.

But here’s the secret: the US has its own ‘mini NHS’. Smaller than the UK’s system, but still a government funded, (mostly) publicly-run system that serves people according to their need. It’s called the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

And Donald Trump wants to privatise it.

What’s more, to set the reforms in motion, the firm that’s been appointed to create and expand new private networks within the Veterans health system is Optum, the profitable ‘healthcare services’ arm of America’s biggest private health insurer, UnitedHealth Group.

Optum and UnitedHealth are familiar names to anyone who has been following the silent takeover of the NHS by private healthcare firms in recent years, though aspects of their involvement are fully exposed here for the first time.

Health privatisation, US-style – sounds familiar?

But first, it’s worth a closer look at what’s been happening to the US’s own ‘mini-NHS’ – because there are some remarkable parallels with what’s happening on this side of the Atlantic.

The Veterans Administration has a budget of $70billion with which it provides healthcare for some nine million US military veterans. It has experienced serious capacity issues in the past, but a study last year found the quality of care it provides is the same, or significantly better than the private sector.

Regardless, Trump passed a law last year that allows extensive latitude for a significant proportion of this care to be outsourced to private healthcare corporations.

The President’s plan is backed by a small cabal of right-wing politicians and lobby groups on a crusade to talk down the care the Veterans Health Administration provides – and then to ‘fix’ it, through pushing veteran patients towards private providers. Trump began by replacing senior Veterans Administration officials that stood in the way and reportedly allowed his close political associates and donors to influence the reforms. All the while running a PR campaign, led by officials and their Koch-backed advisors, denying that funnelling billions of taxpayer dollars to private healthcare providers amounts to privatisation. On being appointed, Trump’s new VA secretary told senators: “I will oppose efforts to privatize the VA.”

Democrat Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says the real beneficiaries of Trump’s reforms are “pharmaceutical companies, insurance corporations and, ultimately… a for-profit health-care industry that does not put people or veterans first.” If he really wanted to “fix the VA so badly,” she added at a packed rally earlier this year, “let’s start hiring, and fill up some of those 49,000 [staff] vacancies.”

All of this will sound eerily familiar to campaigners defending the National Health Service against privatisation: from chronic understaffing to legislative reform in the face of massive opposition, and all the while strenuously denying that the changes amount to privatisation at all.

We’re told one thing about NHS privatisation – health firm investors are told another

“There is no privatisation of the NHS on my watch,” Matt Hancock assured MPs earlier this year. Boris Johnson has since echoed his words: “We are absolutely resolved. There will be no sale of the NHS, no privatisation.”

Look at the message US private healthcare firms are giving their investors, however, and a different story emerges.

“We’ve been planting seeds and I would say that we’re strong with the NHS,” US healthcare executive, Larry Renfro told investors in 2016. Renfro was then chief executive of Optum – the very same US company that’s recently been awarded huge contracts to take over the US’s ‘mini NHS’.

“We’re strong with [the regulator] NHS improvement. We are getting stronger with the Minister of Health, as well as the Secretary of Health,” Renfro said. His colleague and Optum’s Executive Vice President, Jeffrey Berkowitz, spoke of the years Optum had spent building a “very strong foundation of work on the ground with the Department of Health”.

Investors and financial analysts were told this, but not the British public.

Official records show only that Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, held an ‘introductory’ meeting with Optum in March 2017 and that health minister Philip Dunne visited Optum in Boston and again, a couple of weeks later in London.

It is only because Renfro told investors that a health minister is “as we sit here today, with us… on tour”, that we know that Lord Prior, now chair of NHS England, also visited Optum at its headquarters in Minneapolis in October 2016.

Donald Trump, the private healthcare execs, and NHS senior officials

This was one of many visits in recent years made by politicians and senior health officials to Optum’s various US offices. This includes officials from NHS Digital – guardians of NHS patient data – whose head of data was given a tour of Optum’s capabilities at its Washington office in January 2018. As an Optum lobbyist said in 2014, the trips, some of which it paid for, are part of its efforts to “develop and mature” its relationship with the NHS.

It is also only through documents released under Freedom of Information law that we know that Ed Smith, the chair of the NHS’s powerful regulator NHS Improvement, held a series of ‘working dinners’ with UnitedHealth Group CEO, Stephen Hemsley – first in September 2016 and again in January the following year. Another ‘working dinner’ took place with Renfro in March 2017. The documents don’t reveal what these men discussed.

In February of that year, Hemsley visited the White House to meet Donald Trump [photos from the meeting: second right and slightly hidden here; leaning forward hands on table behind Mike Pence here]. The President tweeted: “Great meeting with CEOs of leading U.S. health insurance companies who provide great healthcare to the American people.”

Once declared the highest paid CEO in the US, Stephen Hemsley is now executive chair of UnitedHealth Group. He earned a reported $65m last year. Fortune described him as the “corporate chief who’s arguably created more wealth for shareholders… than any sitting CEO”.

The secrecy of these trans-Atlantic meetings matters. It has allowed the UK government to tell one story to the public, while quietly inviting a giant, for-profit US corporation, bent on overseas expansion, to embed itself in our NHS.

Optum’s parent company, UnitedHealth Group, which reported earnings in 2018 of over $220 billion, is opposed to efforts in the US to introduce a universal, public health system like the NHS. Its current CEO said Medicare for All, as the proposals are known, would “destabilize” the American healthcare system. It goes without saying, they would also eliminate its industry.

Healthcare markets – why are we looking to US firms to help shape our healthcare?

As support rises in the US for an NHS-inspired ‘Medicare for All’ system to replace the current broken model, in contrast, the Conservative Party has spent the past decade rushing to adopt a US model in its reform of the NHS. This has involved taking our national health system and breaking it up into mini healthcare markets (known as Accountable Care Organisations, or ACOs) to be run, increasingly, with technology and expertise supplied by companies like Optum.

Optum specialises in using data and algorithms to predict and make decisions about who gets what care, something it has honed in America’s private health insurance system, where the more insurers cut costs and ration care, the more money they make. Optum’s algorithm was also recently found to show dramatic biases against black patients.

“Nationally, there are various things going on with data and information and digital that we are actually working with them [the UK] very, very closely right now,” Renfro told investors in April 2017. The health secretary and a “subset of the NHS board” were due to visit, he added: “So things seem to be breaking a lose [sic] right now.”

All of which adds up to quite a different picture to the one used by the Conservatives to sell the reforms to the public in 2010. Health secretary Andrew Lansley’s pitch back then was that his changes were about handing GPs control of the NHS budget to spend locally as they saw fit.

Optum had been involved in discussions from the start in 2010, as revealed in Lansley’s diary (which was released only after a court ruling). Four years later and documents released under FOI showed Optum in prime position to pick up some of the first wave of contracts. In April 2017 – by which time the NHS had been divided into 44 regional areas, each with a plan for reforming its region – Renfo updated investors on “what we’re doing in the UK” and Optum’s UK “44 market strategy”.

“So in February, we won our first business…. with one of those [regions]…. that’s where you’re going to manage with an ACO process. And so we’re tying in everything we do in the States into that win that we just received.” According to Renfro, it was “very, very close” to picking up another two regions and the firm had moved people over to the UK to manage the projects.

Since then, it has been hired by NHS England to “accelerate” these reforms across the country. In the West Midlands, for example, Optum has advised the region’s GPs, hospitals and local councils on their plans. With its partner, PwC, it provided a 12 week programme of training for senior health officials across Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry, Warwickshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. It has also gone into partnership with GP “super-practice”, Modality.

Among the other regions receiving Optum coaching and support are: Cumbria; Cambridge and Peterborough; South East London, Staffordshire and Norfolk, Optum was also brought in to help remodel health services in the region spanning Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes.

Yeovil Hospital, which has led the reforms in Somerset, said: “The ACO model born in the US market is new to the UK, and as such we have partnered with globally experienced Optum who are guiding our journey into this new world.”

At the same time, Optum has been on a hiring spree across the country of former NHS staff to undertake the work, led by former NHS England directors who have also passed through the revolving door. Ultimately, though, the man steering these reforms is Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England. He previously, spent a decade at the top of UnitedHealth Group as Executive Vice President and president of its expanding global health businesses.

The health secretary will still deny that privatisation is occurring on his watch. And Boris Johnson will continue to insist that the NHS is not for sale. Meanwhile, the seeds that Optum has been planting for a decade under the Tories are beginning to bear fruit.

openDemocracy approached the Department of Health for comment on the extent to which the public were being kept in the dark about the extent of the NHS’s engagement with private US health firms, specifically Optum, but they declined to comment, citing pre-election ‘purdah’ rules.

This content was originally published here.

U.S. Must Provide Mental Health Services to Families Separated at Border – The New York Times

“The question is,” he said, “what happens from here and can it be enforced? I assume the government will appeal and get the order stayed because it’s brand new. They’ll say the judge got it wrong.”

The family separations were a key part of the Trump administration’s effort to deter migrant families at the southwestern border, where they have been arriving in large numbers, most of them fleeing violence and deep poverty in Central America.

Under the zero-tolerance policy, those who crossed the border illegally were criminally prosecuted and jailed, a process that the government said could not be carried out without removing their children.

The federal government had reported that nearly 3,000 children were forcibly removed from their parents under the policy. An additional 1,556 migrant families were separated between July 2017 and June 2018, the government said last month.

President Trump suspended the policy in June 2018 amid a public outcry, and a federal judge in San Diego ordered the government to reunify the families.

But Judge Kronstadt found that the government had taken “affirmative steps to implement the zero-tolerance policy,” and that its implementation had caused “severe mental trauma to parents and their children.”

Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer with Public Counsel, which brought the case along with the law firm Sidley Austin, said the judge had found that the separation policy violated the families’ constitutional rights.

“You cannot have a policy of deliberately trying to injure a family bond,” he said. “Cruelty cannot be part of an enforcement policy, and here it was the cornerstone of the policy.”

Government lawyers had argued that it could not be held liable for mental health problems that might occur in the future, and that there had been no proof of existing irreparable harm to any of those subjected to the policy.

Further, they said that any harm that might have occurred was quickly abated when families were reunited.

The government declined to comment on the court’s ruling.

The lead plaintiff in the case, a Guatemalan migrant identified as J.P., was separated from her teenage daughter at the border on May 21, 2018. For more than a month, the mother said, she had no idea of her child’s whereabouts. They spoke for the first time after they had been apart for 40 days, and only because a lawyer encountered J.P. during a visit to the detention center in Irvine, Calif., where she was being held.

Until then, no one had explained to her in a language she could understand — she speaks a Mayan language — what had happened to her daughter, according to her lawyer, Judy London, who is with Public Counsel. Her daughter, 16, had been sent to a shelter in Phoenix.

“Despite her obvious terror and inability to comprehend what was happening around her, no one made sure she had understood information about how she could contact her daughter,” Ms. London said in a declaration filed with the court.

“To the contrary, the guards insisted she needed no help and could on her own use phones to reach her daughter,” she said.

This content was originally published here.

The World Health Organization releases a new plan to drastically decrease the price of insulin

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they’ve worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.



via Diabetes Voice

“Four hundred million people are living with diabetes, the amount of insulin available is too low and the price is too high, so we really need to do something,” Emer Cooke, the W.H.O.’s head of regulation of medicines and health technologies, said in a statement.

Through a process called “prequalification” United Nations agencies, such as Doctors without Borders, will be able to buy approved generic versions of insulin.

The W.H.O. used similar tactics to make HIV/AIDS drugs more affordable.

In 2002, 7,000 Africans were dying every year due to AIDS because Western drug companies sold the life-saving drugs for around $15,000 a year. Now the drugs are made in countries with thriving generic drug industries and the medications cost only around $75 a year.

Rosemary Enobakhare the director of the Affordable Insulin Now campaign calls the new program “a good first step toward affordable insulin for all around the world,” but says it won’t do much to help the 30 million Americans with diabetes.

Any attempt to lower insulin prices would require “Congress to grant Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices,” she added.

Companies that made generic drugs have a hard time penetrating the U.S. market because the Food and Drug Administration imposes hefty fees for drug approvals.

Insulin is ten times cheaper in Canada because the government negotiates with manufacturers, a practice that’s illegal in the U.S.

This vial of insulin costs just $6 to manufacture.

At this pharmacy in Windsor, Ontario, it can be purchased for $32. Twenty minutes away, in Detroit, the same exact vial costs $340.

It is time for a government that works for the American people, not drug companies’ profits. pic.twitter.com/Uo2T8GG54T
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 28, 2019

Earlier in the year, the Trump Administration announced preliminary plans to allow Americans to import lower cost prescription drugs from Canada. Through the program, state governments, drug wholesalers, and pharmacies can create proposals to import the drugs that would then have to be approved by the federal government.

The catch? It would not include insulin.

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders took a bus full of Americans to Canada earlier this year to call attention to the out of control cost of insulin.

“Americans are paying $300 for insulin. In Canada they can purchase it for $30,” Sanders said in a tweet. “We are going to end pharma’s greed.”

This family was able to save $10,000 buying insulin for their son in Canada, where the exact same insulin is one-tenth the price.

The profits the drug companies are making ripping off the American people is scandalous, it is outrageous and it has got to end. pic.twitter.com/Rew4ftIo0o
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 29, 2019

This content was originally published here.

Arkansas Department Of Health Reports 9 Cases Of The Mumps At U of A In Fayetteville

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KFSM) — Nine cases of the mumps at the U of A in Fayetteville have been reported by the Arkansas Department of Health. Other possible cases are still being investigated.

Mumps. Photo Courtesy: MGN Galleries

The mumps is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. Coughing and sneezing can easily spread this disease infecting others. It can also be spread through shared drinking cups or vaping devices. There is no treatment for mumps and can cause long-term health problems.

The Arkansas Department of Health is asking that all children and adults get up-to-date with their MMR vaccine as it is the best way to protect against the mumps. While some people who get the mumps may not have symptoms, the symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, swollen glands under the ears or jaw. These symptoms usually last for about 7-10 days, but it can take a person up to 26 days to get sick after they have been infected. The ADH recommends to stay home for 5 days after swelling in the glands appear due to mumps still being present 5 days after the swelling disappears.

Below are the recommended doses of the MMR vaccine according to the Arkansas Department of Health:

• Your children younger than 6 years of age need one dose of MMR vaccine at age 12 through 15 months and a second dose of MMR vaccine at age 4 through 6 years. If your child attends a preschool where there is a mumps case or if you live in a household with many people, your child
should receive their second dose of MMR vaccine right away, even if they are not yet 4 years old.
The second dose should be given a minimum of 28 days after the first dose.

• Your children age 7 through 18 years need two doses of MMR vaccine if they have not received it
already. The second dose should be given a minimum of 28 days after the first dose.

• If you are an adult born in 1957 or later and you have not had the MMR vaccine already, you need
at least one dose. If you live in a household with many people or if you travel internationally, you
need a second dose of MMR vaccine. The second dose should be given a minimum of 28 days after
the first dose.

• Adults born before 1957 are considered to be immune to mumps and do not need to get the MMR
vaccine.

• Students that have never received an MMR vaccine will need to be excluded from class and
university activities for at least 26 days. However, they can return to class immediately once they receive a dose of MMR vaccine. They will need to receive a second dose of MMR vaccine 29 days after the first dose.

If symptoms are noticed, ADH recommends you contact your doctor’s office before going to a clinic since the doctor may not want you to sit in the clinic near others. They do not recommend going to work or public places in general.

Meanwhile, ADH is working closely with the U of A officials to stop the spread of mumps. They will be monitoring the situation closely and if the outbreak continues to spread, officials will keep you informed of any additional necessary steps taken.

ADH issued a health public health directive stating, “Any student not immunized with at least 2 doses of MMR according to University of Arkansas policy will either need to be vaccinated immediately or excluded from class/class activities for 26 days.” This directive is being issued up the authority of Act 96 of 1913, Arkansas State Board of Health Rules and Regulations Pertaining to Reportable Diseases.

For more information contact the Pat Walker Health Center at 479-575-4451

This content was originally published here.

‘Pay to breathe?’ ‘Oxygen bars’ hit New Delhi as India chokes under pollution & declares health emergency

A new fad sweeping India offers customers a breath of fresh air – literally. As pollution in New Delhi hits toxic levels, “Oxygen bars” are popping up in the city to help locals breathe easy, but some found the idea off-putting.

Officials in New Delhi were recently forced to declare a public health emergency over the city’s hazardous air quality after pollution levels soared to around 20 times what the World Health Organization deems safe, halting construction projects and closing schools across the capital. While the smog-choked air is inescapable for many, those with the cash may find a brief reprieve at their local oxygen bar.

Also on rt.com

© ANI via REUTERS
‘Theater of the absurd’: Delhi kids run mini marathon as city drowns in toxic smog (PHOTOS)

One such establishment is tucked in the corner of an upscale shopping mall in New Delhi, dubbed Oxy Pure, with bright lights and gadgets glowing through its clear glass storefront. Here, customers can pay between 299 and 499 rupees (around $4 to $7) for a 15-minute oxygen session, with their choice of several fragrances: orange, lavender, cinnamon, eucalyptus, lemongrass or peppermint.

Delhi: An oxygen bar in Saket, ‘Oxy Pure’ is offering pure oxygen to its customers in seven different aromas (lemongrass, orange, cinnamon, spearmint, peppermint, eucalyptus, & lavender), at a time when Air Quality Index (AQI) in the city is in ‘severe’ category. pic.twitter.com/dZuVnY03jn

— ANI (@ANI) November 14, 2019

“Air pollution is going to dangerous levels so people are coming here to breathe pure oxygen,” Oxy Pure owner Aryavir Kumar told The National.

Each winter, air quality suffers in cities around India as winds die down and farmers burn the remnants of crops to make room for the next harvest. This time around, Kumar says New Delhi’s worsening smog has driven a surge of business at his establishment.

“We would get 15-20 people a day [before]. Now we are getting 30-40 customers every day,” he said. “There is a tremendous increase in the numbers of customers in the last two weeks.”

Conjuring images of a pulmonary ward, the bars deliver O2 through a standard cannula device which customers hook up to their nostrils, cranked out of a “concentrator” machine that pulls clean oxygen out of the polluted air. While Kumar is careful to insist the “oxygen therapy” does not cure any diseases, he says the air can rejuvenate “like a spa.”

Oxygen bars are not all that uncommon.

It offers a ‘natural high.’ We’re not used to breathing air which is > 20% oxygen. So, when you take a hit of oxygen at an oxygen bar, you immediately start to saturate your blood with oxygen, which can heighten concentration.

— TheRudim3nt (@TheRudim3nt) November 18, 2019

Despite the potential for benefits, many online found the concept downright dystopian, suggesting a future in which only the wealthy can afford to breathe non-toxic air.

Delhi is #1 most polluted air of 1,600 global cities AND #2 richest city in India. 15 minutes in “Oxygen bar” costs ₹ 500. Negligible for the rich, out of reach for poor, migrants living on ₹ 1,134/ month. The sweet privilege of clean air, clean water #EnvironmentalJustice

— Trishna | तृष्णा (@TrishnaTweets) November 18, 2019

This is your future India. “Pay to breathe “. Oxygen bar. And if you still don’t realise what petty politics / divisive politics does to you , you have lost the cause already. #DelhiPollution #Emergency #AirPollution pic.twitter.com/W4QsOwDx8Z

— bhupendra chaubey (@bhupendrachaube) November 15, 2019

“Commodify oxygen already,” tweeted another frustrated user. “F–k it, Commodify EVERYTHING. Subscriptions to life. $1.99 a minute.”

Here we are, even breathing is now becoming a commodityhttps://t.co/wyND3xTXoS

— Giulia Guidi (@giuliaguidi) November 18, 2019

Even so, the naysayers are unlikely to put a stop to the trend anytime soon. With India home to 15 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities, the country’s air quality woes are here to say for some time, perhaps pushing a greater number of Indians into oxygen bars like Oxy Pure – at least those who can afford it.

Also on rt.com

© Stewart Goldstein
‘You still owe us $1,400’: Woman dependent on oxygen tank dies after provider cuts off electricity

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