Minn. health officials urge caution after news of ICU beds filling up – StarTribune.com

Metro hospitals are running short on intensive care unit beds due to an increase in patients with COVID-19 and other medical issues, prompting health officials to call for more public adherence to social distancing to slow the spread of the infectious disease.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday reported a record 233 patients with COVID-19 in ICU beds, but doctors and nurses said patients with other illnesses resulted in more than 95% of those beds in the Twin Cities to be filled.

Patients with unrelated medical problems needed intensive care, along with patients recovering from surgeries — including elective procedures that resumed May 11 after they had been suspended due to the pandemic.

“We are tight,” said Dr. John Hick, an emergency physician directing Minnesota’s Statewide Healthcare Coordination Center. “Resuming elective surgeries plus an uptick in ICU cases has constricted things pretty quickly.”

At different times, Hennepin County Medical Center and North Memorial Health Hospital were diverting patients to other hospitals. Almost all heart-lung bypass machines were in use for severe COVID-19 patients and others at the University of Minnesota Medical Center and Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.

As planned, Children’s Minnesota took on some young adult patients to take pressure off the general hospitals.

People might think the pandemic is over because public restrictions are being scaled back, but “in the hospitals, it is not over and it is not getting back to normal,” said nurse Emily Sippola, adding that her United Hospital was opening a third COVID-specific unit ahead of schedule. “The pace is picking up.”

The pressure on hospitals comes at a crossroads in Minnesota’s response to the pandemic, which is caused by a novel coronavirus for which there is yet no vaccine. Infections and deaths are rising even as Gov. Tim Walz lifted his statewide stay-at-home order on Monday and faced pressure this week to pull back even more restrictions on businesses and churches.

Despite talks with Walz on Friday, leaders of the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis issued no change in guidance for their churches to defy the governor’s order and hold indoor masses at one-third seating capacity starting Tuesday. President Donald Trump might have altered those talks when he threatened to supersede any state government that tried to keep churches closed any longer, although the White House didn’t cite any law giving him the right to do so.

A single-day record of 33 COVID-19 deaths was reported Friday in Minnesota — with 25 in long-term care and one in a behavioral health group home — raising the death toll to 842. Infections confirmed by diagnostic testing increased by 813 on Friday to 19,005 overall, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, called out Minneapolis for having one of the nation’s highest rates of diagnostic tests being positive for COVID-19.

People can slow the spread of COVID-19 if they continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, wash hands and cover coughs, said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist.

“There are those among us who will not do well with this virus and will develop severe disease, and I think we need to be very mindful of that,” she said. “It’s not high-tech. We know what to do to prevent transmission of this virus.”

While as many as 80% of people suffer mild to moderate symptoms from infection, the virus spreads so easily that it will still lead to a high number of people needing hospital care. Health officials are particularly concerned about people with underlying health problems — including asthma, diabetes, smoking, and diseases of the heart, lungs, kidneys or immune system.

Individuals with such conditions and long-term care facility residents have made up around 98% of all deaths. The state’s total number of long-term care deaths related to COVID-19 is now 688.

The University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy estimates that only 5% of Minnesotans have been infected so far and that this rate will increase substantially.

Hospitals working together

Part of the state response strategy is aggressive testing of symptomatic patients to identify the course of the virus and hot spots of infection before they spread further. Widespread testing is being scheduled in long-term care facilities that have confirmed cases, and testing has taken place in eight food processing plants with cases as well.

The state averaged nearly 7,000 diagnostic tests per day this week, and the state should get a boost from a new campaign of testing clinics at six National Guard Armory locations across Minnesota from Saturday through Monday, said Jan Malcolm, state health commissioner.

The state’s pandemic preparedness website as of Friday indicated that 1,045 of 1,257 available ICU beds were occupied by patients with COVID-19 or other unrelated medical conditions — and that another 1,093 beds could be readied within 72 hours.

Several hospitals are already activating those extra beds, though in some cases they are finding it difficult to find the critical care nurses to staff existing ICU beds — much less new ones, said Dr. Rahul Koranne, president of the Minnesota Hospital Association. Staffing difficulties, rather than a lack of physical bed space, caused some of the hospitals to divert patients.

Nurses in the Twin Cities reported being called in for overtime shifts for the Memorial Day weekend, which in typical years also launches a summerlong increase of car accidents and traumatic injuries. North Memorial, HCMC and Regions Hospital in St. Paul are trauma centers.

“This increased trauma volume typically persists throughout the summer season and into fall,” North Memorial said in a statement provided by spokeswoman Katy Sullivan. “To be able to provide the needed level of care for the community and honor our commitments to our healthcare partners throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin, we need to preserve some capacity for emergency trauma care.”

An increase in surgeries might have contributed to the ICU burden, but Koranne said many didn’t fit the definition of elective. Some patients delayed the removal of tumors due to the pandemic but can no longer afford to do so.

“They are patients who have been waiting for critical time-sensitive procedures that their physician is worried might be getting worse,” Koranne said. “To call those type of procedures elective could not be further from the truth.”

Competing hospitals have long cooperated when others needed to divert patients, but that has increased with the help of the state COVID-19 coordinating center and is showing in how they are managing ICU bed shortages, hospital leaders said.

“We all have surge plans in place,” said Megan Remark, Regions president, “but more than ever before, everyone is working together and with the state to ensure that we can provide care for all patients.”

This content was originally published here.

‘This is not about politics’: GOP governor says wearing masks is public health issue

WASHINGTON — Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine on Sunday dismissed the politicization of wearing masks in public to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, imploring Americans during the Memorial Day Weekend to understand “we are truly all in this together.”

With many states like Ohio beginning to relax stay-at-home restrictions, DeWine underscored the importance of following studies that show masks are beneficial to limiting the spread of the virus in an exclusive interview with “Meet the Press.”

“This is not about politics. This is not about whether you are liberal or conservative, left or right, Republican or Democrat,” DeWine said.

“It’s been very clear what the studies have shown, you wear the mask not to protect yourself so much as to protect others. This is one time where we are truly all in this together. What we do directly impacts others.”

DeWine made the comments in response to an emotional plea from North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who last week denounced the idea that mask-wearing should be a partisan issue.

Public health experts continue to say mask usage can help stunt the spread of the virus and recommend that people wear masks where social distancing is not feasible. But the White House has sent mixed signals on the practice.

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President Trump has repeatedly bucked the practice of wearing a mask in public, reportedly telling advisers he thought doing so would send the wrong message and distract from the push to reopen the economy.

He did not wear one during a visit to an Arizona mask production facility earlier this month. And while he did wear one for part of his trip to a Ford manufacturing plant in Michigan last week, he took it off before speaking to reporters and said “I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.”

Vice President Pence did not wear a mask while touring the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota last month, but donned one during another tour days later in Indiana after criticism.

O’Brien: The president wears masks ‘when necessary’

Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser, told “Meet the Press” Sunday that he and many other members of White House staff wear masks during work and hope that will set an “example” for Americans looking to return to the office. And he defended the president’s conduct by arguing that if proper social-distancing measures are taken, Trump doesn’t always need to wear a mask.

“I think Gov. DeWine was spot on when he talked about office-workers wearing the masks, and mask usage is going to help us get this economy reopened,” he said.

“And we do need to get the country reopened because we can’t get left behind by China or others with respect to our economy.”

The question of how to safely reopen the American economy is weighing heavy this Memorial Day weekend, as every state across the country is beginning to move toward relaxing coronavirus-related restrictions.

There have been more than 1.6 million coronavirus cases in America including more than 97,700 deaths as of Sunday morning, according to NBC News’ count. And 38 million Americans have filed unemployment claims since March 14.

As governors like DeWine are trying to balance the public health risks of removing restrictions with the economic risks of keeping most of America shut in their homes, the Ohio governor said that he’s confident “we can do two things at once.”

“We want to continue to up that throughout the state because it is really what we need as we open up the economy. This is a risk, but it’s also a risk if we don’t open up the economy, all the downsides of not opening up the economy,” he said.

This content was originally published here.

Wealthiest Hospitals Got Billions in Bailout for Struggling Health Providers – The New York Times

But it is not just another deep-pocketed investor hunting for high returns. It is the Providence Health System, one of the country’s largest and richest hospital chains. It is sitting on nearly $12 billion in cash, which it invests, Wall Street-style, in a good year generating more than $1 billion in profits.

With states restricting hospitals from performing elective surgery and other nonessential services, their revenue has shriveled. The Department of Health and Human Services has disbursed $72 billion in grants since April to hospitals and other health care providers through the bailout program, which was part of the CARES Act economic stimulus package. The department plans to eventually distribute more than $100 billion more.

Those cash piles come from a mix of sources: no-strings-attached private donations, income from investments with hedge funds and private equity firms, and any profits from treating patients. Some chains, like Providence, also run their own venture-capital firms to invest their cash in cutting-edge start-ups. The investment portfolios often generate billions of dollars in annual profits, dwarfing what the hospitals earn from serving patients.

Representatives of the American Hospital Association, a lobbying group for the country’s largest hospitals, communicated with Alex M. Azar II, the department secretary, and Eric Hargan, the deputy secretary overseeing the funds, said Tom Nickels, a lobbyist for the group. Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, which lobbies on behalf of for-profit hospitals, said he, too, had frequent discussions with the agency.

One formula based allotments on how much money a hospital collected from Medicare last year. Another was based on a hospital’s revenue. While Health and Human Services also created separate pots of funding for rural hospitals and those hit especially hard by the coronavirus, the department did not take into account each hospital’s existing financial resources.

“This simple formula used the data we had on hand at that time to get relief funds to the largest number of health care facilities and providers as quickly as possible,” said Caitlin B. Oakley, a spokeswoman for the department. “While other approaches were considered, these would have taken much longer to implement.”

That pattern is repeating in the hospital rescue program.

For example, HCA Healthcare and Tenet Healthcare — publicly traded chains with billions of dollars in reserves and large credit lines from banks — together received more than $1.5 billion in federal funds.

Angela Kiska, a Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman, said the federal grants had “helped to partially offset the significant losses in operating revenue due to Covid-19, while we continue to provide care to patients in our communities.” The Cleveland Clinic sent caregivers to hospitals in Detroit and New York as they were flooded with coronavirus patients, she added.

Critics argue that hospitals with vast financial resources should not be getting federal funds. “If you accumulated $18 billion and you are a not-for-profit hospital system, what’s it for if other than a reserve for an emergency?” said Dr. Robert Berenson, a physician and a health policy analyst for the Urban Institute, a Washington research group.

Hospitals that serve poorer patients typically have thinner reserves to draw on.

Even before the coronavirus, roughly 400 hospitals in rural America were at risk of closing, said Alan Morgan, the chief executive of the National Rural Hospital Association. On average, the country’s 2,000 rural hospitals had enough cash to keep their doors open for 30 days.

At St. Claire HealthCare, the largest rural hospital system in eastern Kentucky, the number of surgeries dropped 88 percent during the pandemic — depriving the hospital of a crucial revenue source. Looking to stanch the financial damage, it furloughed employees and canceled some vendor contracts. The $3 million the hospital received from the federal government in April will cover two weeks of payroll, said Donald H. Lloyd II, the health system’s chief executive.

This content was originally published here.

How The ‘Lost Art’ Of Breathing Impacts Sleep And Stress : Shots – Health News : NPR

Breathing slowly and deeply through the nose is associated with a relaxation response, says James Nestor, author of Breath. As the diaphragm lowers, you’re allowing more air into your lungs and your body switches to a more relaxed state.

Sebastian Laulitzki/ Science Photo Library


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Breathing slowly and deeply through the nose is associated with a relaxation response, says James Nestor, author of Breath. As the diaphragm lowers, you’re allowing more air into your lungs and your body switches to a more relaxed state.

Humans typically take about 25,000 breaths per day — often without a second thought. But the COVID-19 pandemic has put a new spotlight on respiratory illnesses and the breaths we so often take for granted.

Journalist James Nestor became interested in the respiratory system years ago after his doctor recommended he take a breathing class to help his recurring pneumonia and bronchitis.

While researching the science and culture of breathing for his new book, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, Nestor participated in a study in which his nose was completely plugged for 10 days, forcing him to breathe solely through his mouth. It was not a pleasant experience.

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Nestor says the researchers he’s talked to recommend taking time to “consciously listen to yourself and [to] feel how breath is affecting you.” He notes taking “slow and low” breaths through the nose can help relieve stress and reduce blood pressure.

“This is the way your body wants to take in air,” Nestor says. “It lowers the burden of the heart if we breathe properly and if we really engage the diaphragm.”

Interview Highlights

On why nose breathing is better than mouth breathing

The nose filters, heats and treats raw air. Most of us know that. But so many of us don’t realize — at least I didn’t realize — how [inhaling through the nose] can trigger different hormones to flood into our bodies, how it can lower our blood pressure … how it monitors heart rate … even helps store memories. So it’s this incredible organ that … orchestrates innumerable functions in our body to keep us balanced.

On how the nose has erectile tissue

The nose is more closely connected to our genitals than any other organ. It is covered in that same tissue. So when one area gets stimulated, the nose will become stimulated as well. Some people have too close of a connection where they get stimulated in the southerly regions, they will start uncontrollably sneezing. And this condition is common enough that it was given a name called honeymoon rhinitis.

James Nestor’s previous book, Deep, focused on the science behind free diving.

Julie Floersch/Riverhead Books


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James Nestor’s previous book, Deep, focused on the science behind free diving.

Another thing that is really fascinating is that erectile tissue will pulse on its own. So it will close one nostril and allow breath in through the other nostril, then that other nostril will close and allow breath in. Our bodies do this on their own. …

A lot of people who’ve studied this believe that this is the way that our bodies maintain balance, because when we breathe through our right nostril, circulation speeds up [and] the body gets hotter, cortisol levels increase, blood pressure increases. So breathing through the left will relax us more. So blood pressure will decrease, [it] lowers temperature, cools the body, reduces anxiety as well. So our bodies are naturally doing this. And when we breathe through our mouths, we’re denying our bodies the ability to do this.

On how breath affects anxiety

I talked to a neuropsychologist … and he explained to me that people with anxieties or other fear-based conditions typically will breathe way too much. So what happens when you breathe that much is you’re constantly putting yourself into a state of stress. So you’re stimulating that sympathetic side of the nervous system. And the way to change that is to breathe deeply. Because if you think about it, if you’re stressed out [and thinking] a tiger is going to come get you, [or] you’re going to get hit by a car, [you] breathe, breathe, breathe as much as you can. But by breathing slowly, that is associated with a relaxation response. So the diaphragm lowers, you’re allowing more air into your lungs and your body immediately switches to a relaxed state.

On why exhaling helps you relax

Because the exhale is a parasympathetic response. Right now, you can put your hand over your heart. If you take a very slow inhale in, you’re going to feel your heart speed up. As you exhale, you should be feeling your heart slow down. So exhaling relaxes the body. And something else happens when we take a very deep breath like this. The diaphragm lowers when we take a breath in, and that sucks a bunch of blood — a huge profusion of blood — into the thoracic cavity. As we exhale, that blood shoots back out through the body.

On the problem with taking shallow breaths

You can think about breathing as being in a boat, right? So you can take a bunch of very short, stilted strokes and you’re going to get to where you want to go. It’s going to take a while, but you’ll get there. Or you can take a few very fluid and long strokes and get there so much more efficiently. … You want to make it very easy for your body to get air, especially if this is an act that we’re doing 25,000 times a day. So, by just extending those inhales and exhales, by moving that diaphragm up and down a little more, you can have a profound effect on your blood pressure, on your mental state.

On how free divers expand their lung capacity to hold their breath for several minutes

The world record is 12 1/2 minutes. … Most divers will hold their breath for eight minutes, seven minutes, which is still incredible to me. When I first saw this, this was several years ago, I was sent out on a reporting assignment to write about a free-diving competition. You watch this person at the surface take a single breath there and completely disappear into the ocean, come back five or six minutes later. … We’ve been told that whatever we have, whatever we’re born with, is what we’re going to have for the rest of our lives, especially as far as the organs are concerned. But we can absolutely affect our lung capacity. So some of these divers have a lung capacity of 14 liters, which is about double the size for a [typical] adult male. They weren’t born this way. … They trained themselves to breathe in ways to profoundly affect their physical bodies.

Sam Briger and Joel Wolfram produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Deborah Franklin adapted it for the Web.

This content was originally published here.

Suddenly, Public Health Officials Say Social Justice Matters More Than Social Distance – POLITICO

“The injustice that’s evident to everyone right now needs to be addressed,” Abraar Karan, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital physician who’s exhorted coronavirus experts to use their platforms to encourage the protests, told me.

It’s a message echoed by media outlets and some of the most prominent public health experts in America, like former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden, who loudly warned against efforts to rush reopening but is now supportive of mass protests. Their claim: If we don’t address racial inequality, it’ll be that much harder to fight Covid-19. There’s also evidence that the virus doesn’t spread easily outdoors, especially if people wear masks.

The experts maintain that their messages are consistent—that they were always flexible on Americans going outside, that they want protesters to take precautions and that they’re prioritizing public health by demanding an urgent fix to systemic racism.

But their messages are also confounding to many who spent the spring strictly isolated on the advice of health officials, only to hear that the need might not be so absolute after all. It’s particularly nettlesome to conservative skeptics of the all-or-nothing approach to lockdown, who point out that many of those same public health experts—a group that tends to skew liberal—widely criticized activists who held largely outdoor protests against lockdowns in April and May, accusing demonstrators of posing a public health danger. Conservatives, who felt their own concerns about long-term economic damage or even mental health costs of lockdown were brushed aside just days or weeks ago, are increasingly asking whether these public health experts are letting their politics sway their health care recommendations.

“Their rules appear ideologically driven as people can only gather for purposes deemed important by the elite central planners,” Brian Blase, who worked on health policy for the Trump administration, told me, an echo of complaints raised by prominent conservative commentators like J.D. Vance and Tim Carney.

Conservatives also have seized on a Twitter thread by Drew Holden, a commentary writer and former GOP Hill staffer, comparing how politicians and pundits criticized earlier protests but have been silent on the new ones or even championed them.

“I think what’s lost on people is that there have been real sacrifices made during lockdown,” Holden told me. “People who couldn’t bury loved ones. Small businesses destroyed. How can a health expert look those people in the eye and say it was worth it now?”

Some members of the medical community acknowledged they’re grappling with the U-turn in public health advice, too. “It makes it clear that all along there were trade-offs between details of lockdowns and social distancing and other factors that the experts previously discounted and have now decided to reconsider and rebalance,” said Jeffrey Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School. Flier pointed out that the protesters were also engaging in behaviors, like loud singing in close proximity, which CDC has repeatedly suggested could be linked to spreading the virus.

“At least for me, the sudden change in views of the danger of mass gatherings has been disorienting, and I suspect it has been for many Americans,” he told me.

The shift in experts’ tone is setting up a confrontation amid the backdrop of a still-raging pandemic. Tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases continue to be diagnosed every day—and public health experts acknowledge that more will likely come from the mass gatherings, sparked by the protests over George Floyd’s death while in custody of the Minneapolis police last week.

“It is a challenge,” Howard Koh, who served as assistant secretary for health during the Obama administration, told me. Koh said he supports the protests but acknowledges that Covid-19 can be rapidly, silently spread. “We know that a low-risk area today can become a high-risk area tomorrow,” he said.

Yet many say the protests are worth the risk of a possible Covid-19 surge, including hundreds of public health workers who signed an open letter this week that sought to distinguish the new anti-racist protests “from the response to white protesters resisting stay-home orders.”

Those protests against stay-at-home orders “not only oppose public health interventions, but are also rooted in white nationalism and run contrary to respect for Black lives,” according to the letter’s nearly 1,300 signatories. “Protests against systemic racism, which fosters the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on Black communities and also perpetuates police violence, must be supported.”

“Staying at home, social distancing, and public masking are effective at minimizing the spread of COVID-19,” the letter signers add. “However, as public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission.”

Was it fair to decry conservatives’ protests about the economy while supporting these new protests? And if tens of thousands of people get sick from Covid-19 as a result of these mass gatherings against racism, is that an acceptable trade-off? Those are questions that a half-dozen coronavirus experts who said they support the protests declined to directly answer.

“I don’t know if it’s really for me to comment,” said Karan. He did add: “Addressing racism, it can’t wait. It should’ve happened before Covid. It’s happening now. Perhaps this is our time to change things.”

“Many public health experts have already severely undermined the power and influence of their prior message,” countered Flier. “We were exposed to continuous daily Covid death counts, and infections/deaths were presented as preeminent concerns compared to all other considerations—until nine days ago,” he added.

“Overnight, behaviors seen as dangerous and immoral seemingly became permissible due to a ‘greater need,’” Flier said.

The frustration from some conservatives is an outgrowth of how Covid-19 has affected the United States so far. In Blue America, the pandemic is a dire threat that’s killed tens of thousands in densely packed urban centers like New York City—and warnings from infectious-disease experts like Tony Fauci carry the weight of real-world implications. In many parts of Red America, rural states like Alaska and Wyoming still have fewer than 1,000 confirmed cases, and some residents are asking why they shuttered their economies for a virus that had little visible effect over the past three months.

Pollsters also have consistently found a partisan split on how Americans view the pandemic, with Democrats believing that the media is underplaying the risks of Covid-19 while Republicans say that the threat has been exaggerated. That attitude may change with virus numbers on the march in states like Alabama and Arkansas.

People on both sides are already trying to figure out whom to blame if coronavirus cases jump as widely expected after hundreds of thousands of Americans spilled into the streets this past week, sometimes in close proximity for hours at a time. When we discussed the possible risks of a large public gathering, protest supporters like Karan and Koh seized on police behaviors —like using pepper spray and locking up protesters in jail cells—which they noted created significant risks of their own to spread Covid-19.

“Trump will try to blame protestors for [the] spike in coronavirus cases he caused,” a spokesperson for Protect Our Care, a progressive-aligned health care group, wrote in a memo circulated to media members on Wednesday. While acknowledging the risks of mass protests, “the reality is that the spikes in cases have been happening well before the protests started—in large part because Trump allowed federal social distancing guidelines to expire, failed to adequately increase testing, and pushed governors to reopen against the advice of medical experts,” the spokesperson claimed.

Contra those claims, public health experts like Koh generally acknowledge that it’s going to be difficult to tease apart why Covid-19 cases could jump in the coming weeks, given the sheer number of Americans joining mass gatherings, states relaxing restrictions and other factors that could pose challenges for disease-tracing on a large scale.

Some experts also are cautious of condemning states for rolling back restrictions after inconclusive evidence from states that already moved to do so. For instance, a widely shared Atlantic article in April framed the decision by Georgia’s GOP governor to relax social-distancing restrictions as an “experiment in human sacrifice.” A month later, Georgia’s daily coronavirus cases have stayed relatively level and it’s not clear whether the rollback led to significant new outbreaks.

What is clear is that the only successful tactic to stop Covid-19 remains social distancing and, failing that, thoroughly wearing personal protective equipment. Yet there’s also considerable video and photo evidence of maskless protesters, sometimes closely huddled together with public officials—also sans mask—in efforts to defuse tensions, or recoiling from police attacks that forced them to remove protection.

That means a collision between the protests and coronavirus is coming, which will force decisions big and small. Will local leaders need to reimpose restrictions when cases go up? Will that advice be trusted? Or is it possible that their guidance was too draconian all along?

Some participants in the new protests—whether marching themselves or drawn in from the sidelines—say they recognize the threat they’re facing.

A Washington, D.C., man named Rahul Dubey attracted national attention for sheltering protesters from the police inside his home on Monday night. On Wednesday, he told me that he was on the way to get a coronavirus test and was planning to self-quarantine himself for two weeks—having spent hours in close proximity to dozens of maskless people.

It’s a reminder of a line often heard from medical experts: Public health should be above politics. Now some conservatives are invoking it too.

“The virus doesn’t care about the nature of a protest, no matter how deserving the cause is,” Holden said.

This content was originally published here.

Coronavirus Map And Graphics: Track The Spread In The U.S. : Shots – Health News : NPR

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Since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in the United States on Jan. 21, more than 1 million people in the U.S. have confirmed cases of COVID-19. On April 12, the U.S. became the nation with the most deaths globally, but there are early signs that the U.S. case and death counts may be leveling off, as the growth of new cases and deaths plateaus. The pattern isn’t consistent across the country, as new hot spots emerge and others subside.

To see how quickly your state’s case count is growing, click here.

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Click here to see a global map of confirmed cases and deaths.

In response to mounting cases, state and federal authorities have emphasized a social distancing strategy, widely seen as the best available means to slow the spread of the virus. Most states have put in place measures such as closing schools and nonessential businesses and ordering citizens to stay home as much as possible.

It’s not clear how long such measures need to be in place to see a lasting effect. In Wuhan, the city in China where the virus originated, a strictly enforced lockdown and widespread testing have slowed the outbreak dramatically, enough to bring an end to the 76-day lockdown.

A large portion of U.S. cases are centered on New York City. Since March 20, New York state, Connecticut and New Jersey have accounted for about 50% of all U.S. cases. As of April 9, nearly 60% of all deaths from COVID-19 have been in these three states. While New York state appears to be reaching a plateau, as seen below, it notched between 8,000 and 10,000 new cases each day between March 31 and April 12.

To understand how one state’s outbreak compares with another’s, it’s helpful to look at not just the daily counts but the rate of change day over day. In the following chart, we display cases on a logarithmic scale, meaning that every axis line is 10 times greater than the previous one. This type of scale emphasizes the rate of change.

When case counts grow very quickly, a state’s curve trends sharply upward, as New York’s does over the first 15 days past 100 cases. Generally, this is evidence of unbridled community transmission of the disease. As new cases slow, the curve bends toward horizontal, showing that the state’s outbreak may be leveling off. This doesn’t mean the number of cases has stopped growing, but the rate of growth has slowed, which could signify that social distancing measures are having an effect.

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In some areas, there are signs of hope. The areas with the earliest outbreaks — such as California and Washington — seem to be having success at suppressing the disease. The outlook in Washington has improved to the point that the state has returned unused Army hospital beds it had received in preparation for a peak in cases.

Elsewhere, limited access to testing may make the number of cases look smaller than it really is. As testing becomes more readily available, we are likely to see the number of confirmed cases continue to grow, even if not at the pace previously seen.

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The data used here are compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University from several sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the World Health Organization; national, state and local government health departments; 1point3acres; and local media reports. The JHU team automates its data uploads and regularly checks them for anomalies. State-by-state testing and hospitalization data are still being assessed for reliability. State-by-state recovery data are unavailable at this time. There may be discrepancies between what you see here and what you see on your local health department’s website.

Stephanie Adeline, Alyson Hurt, Connie Hanzhang Jin, Ruth Talbot and Thomas Wilburn contributed to this story.

This content was originally published here.

Pennsylvania County Declares Racism a Public Health Crisis

Illustration for article titled Pennsylvania County Declares Racism a Public Health Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has fully illuminated the effect that decades of ingrained, systemic racism has had on the black community. The pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on black people on the economic front, in the severity of the virus’s symptoms, and in the racial disparity of its treatment. In Pittsburgh, an effort is underway to address that disparity.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Allegheny County, Pa. has passed a motion 12-3 to label racism a public health crisis. The motion was drafted in light of a 2019 report that revealed that Pittsburgh has the worst quality of life for black people than in any other comparable city. In Pittsburgh, the rate of infant mortality among black children is 94 percent higher than the other cities in the study. Research also found that black men face higher rates of cancer diagnoses and cardiovascular disease.

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Black women’s poverty in Pittsburgh is higher than in 85% of other comparable cities; more black children grow up in poverty here than in 85% of other cities, according to the report.

Inequality based on race and gender follows kids throughout their school years, the report shows. Using middle school algebra as an indicator, overall Pittsburgh’s students are less likely to be enrolled, but the gap is pronounced for the city’s girls.

And when it comes to discipline in schools, “Pittsburgh refers more black girls to the police than 99% of similar cities,” the report states.

“This is not just a black issue; this is a humanity issue as we heard in the many statements that came before [the meeting],” said Councilwoman Olivia Bennett, (D-Northview Heights). Bennett is the prime sponsor of the measure. The move comes a year after Milwaukee County in Wisconsin became one of the first to declare racism a public health crisis.

As evidenced by the three votes against it, not everyone was on board with this effort.

Time to Prep for International Masturbation Day (May 28th) with 20%…

“I do have a problem with the language. It seems that they’re calling out whites as a collective and claiming that whites are responsible for this … racial classification scheme and things like that. And I’m sorry, that language, I just can’t support it. To the folks on the right, we believe that white privilege is something that’s just something created by the left to try to create division.” Sam DeMarco, the Republican at-large member of the council, said.

The “facts don’t care about your feelings,” crowd really hate when the facts disagree with how they feel. You hate to see it.

This content was originally published here.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Moved Mother Out Of Nursing Home As Coronavirus Death Toll Increased In State

Pennsylvania’s Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine confirmed on Tuesday that she recently moved her 95-year-old mother out of a personal care home.

Outbreaks in Pennsylvania long-term care facilities make up nearly 70 percent of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths and 21 percent of the state’s positive cases of the virus.

In a Wednesday press conference, Levine announced that of the 58,698 confirmed cases statewide, 12,408 cases are among residents of long-term facilities, including nursing homes and personal care homes. Of the total 3,943 deaths in Pennsylvania, 2,705 have occurred in residents in long-term facilities.

“My mother requested and my sister and I, as her children, complied to move her to another location during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Levine said.

She defended her mother’s relocation, describing her mother as “more than competent to make her own decisions.”

Levine said the Department of Health will continue the outreach made in these facilities and begin introducing mass testing to the state. She emphasized plans to test all staff and residents at these facilities so that they can be congregated and treated.

Rachel Levine Press Conference
Dr. Rachel Levine providing a statewide coronavirus update on May 12, 2020.
Pennsylvania Department of Health

Levine’s response to the pandemic was the target of protests in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

State Senator Doug Mastriano, who organized the rally, called for Levine’s resignation. Mastriano said Levine has not been aggressive enough in protecting the state’s older population and her actions have resulted in the large number of cases among the state’s elderly care homes.

However, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf defended Levine. “Dr. Levine has done a phenomenal job in making sure we do what we need to do to keep Pennsylvanians safe,” Wolf said.

Wolf announced on Tuesday the state would be using a three-phase matrix to ease lockdown restrictions. Strict social distancing will be enforced in counties that fall under the red phase.

“I cannot allow residents in a red county to get sick because their local officials can’t see the invisible risk of the virus in their community,” Wolf said in a press release. “So, I must, and I will impose consequences if a county locally lifts restrictions when it has not yet been given the go-ahead by the state.”

Levine also announced on Wednesday that the state of Pennsylvania received its first shipment of remdesivir from the federal government. Although she noted that the antiviral drug is not a cure to COVID-19, it has proven to be an effective treatment in shortening recovery time in patients. The 1,200 doses received were distributed to 51 hospitals across the state.

This content was originally published here.

Hillary Clinton: Coronavirus ‘Would Be a Terrible Crisis to Waste’; Need ‘Universal Health Care’

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic “would be a terrible crisis to waste” by not creating “universal health care.”

Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee in the 2016 presidential election, was speaking to former Vice President Joe Biden in a virtual women’s “town hall” meeting, during which she endorsed him for president.

Biden nodded in agreement as Clinton spoke about exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to bring about the left’s dream of “universal health care”:

This is a high-stakes time, because of the pandemic. But this is also a really high-stakes election. And every form of health care should continue to be available, including reproductive health care for every woman in this country. And then it needs to be part of a much larger system that eventually — and quickly, I hope — gets us to universal health care. [Biden nods] So I can only say, “Amen,” to everything you’re saying, but also to, again, enlist people that this would be a terrible crisis to waste, as the old saying goes. [Biden nods] We’ve learned a lot about what our absolute frailties are in our country when it comes to health justice and economic justice.

The “old saying” to which Clinton referred may have been the statement of President Barack Obama’s incoming chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel in December 2008, who told the Wall Street Journal: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, holds a Hillary Clinton sign during the final day of the 2016 Democratic National Convention on July 28, 2016, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. / AFP / Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Emanuel specifically noted that health care was one policy area that the Obama administration hoped to use the opportunity of the financial crisis — then in full swing — to address. Just over a year later, President Obama signed Obamacare into law.

Republicans criticized the program for, among other things, serving as a “Trojan horse” for universal, government-run health care. In the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primary, Biden theoretically rejected the more ambitious “Medicare for All” policy adopted by many of his rivals, but embraced a policy allowing all individuals under 65 to buy into Medicare. He has since offered to expand to those 60 years old or older, in a bit to appease supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Democrats have repeatedly suggested using the coronavirus crisis to advance specific ideological ends. House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), a key Biden supporter, reportedly told fellow House Democrats during a conference call on the first coronavirus relief bill in March: ““This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”

Nearly 60,000 Americans have died from coronavirus thus far, and there have been over one million confirmed cases.

Clinton did not explain how “universal health care” would have helped; countries like Italy, with a fully socialized health care system, were among the hardest hit by the pandemic, which began in late December in communist China.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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Pelosi: ‘This President Has Presided Over the Worst Economic Disaster/Health Disaster in Our Country’s History’

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) said on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” on Friday that President Donald Trump has “presided over the worst economic disaster-slash-health disaster in our country’s history.”

Pelosi made the remark when C-SPAN’s Steve Scully asked for her reaction to the April employment report, which was released Friday morning.

“When you saw the unemployment report–the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression–what was your reaction?” Scully asked.   

“Well, it was one of complete sorrow,” said Pelosi.

“We have heartbreak over the loss of lives we’ve experienced in our country and so many people affected by the virus, more than a quarter million people,” she said. “And over 70,000, I guess it is now, that have died.

“But the livelihood issue is something that is, just, so depressing really. Depressing,” she said.  

“And I do believe that this President has presided over the worst economic disaster-slash-health disaster in our country’s history,” she said.

“I think the road back is to turn a page on it all,” Pelosi said. “Let us start fresh.”

Here is a transcript of the part of Pelosi’s interview on C-SPAN where she talked about the April employment report: 

Steve Scully: “Let me turn to some of the news this morning.  When you saw the unemployment report – the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, what was your reaction?”  

Nancy Pelosi: “Well, it was one of complete sorrow.  We have heartbreak over the loss of lives we’ve experienced in our country and so many people affected by the virus, more than a quarter million people. And over 70,000, I guess it is now, that have died. But the livelihood issue is something that is, just, so depressing really. Depressing. And I do believe that this President has presided over the worst economic disaster/health disaster in our country’s history.  

I think the road back is to turn a page on it all. Let us start fresh. Testing, treating, and tracing and get the magnitude of the challenge we have in terms of the number of people infected and have treatment for them. Then make sure we have the ability to produce the therapies and the vaccines and the capability to inject with vials and syringes and the rest so we are not left just standing there when, if we have a cure or a vaccine. ‘Oh, we weren’t ready because we didn’t have the’–Let’s be ready.

“So, what we want to do is what we’ll do with our bill, in the CARES 2 package, which is to honor our heroes: our health care providers, our first responders, our teachers, transit workers, garbage collectors–all those people who are making our lives function, many of them risking their own lives to save lives. And now, because of what is happening, they may lose their job. So, we want to help state and local governments to be able to retain these workers.  They are our heroes. So, honor our heroes. 

“Secondly, testing, testing, testing to open the door to our economy. 

“And third, money in the pockets of the American people. Whether it is Unemployment Insurance, direct payments, PPP, the loan program and other initiatives. Did I say direct payments, too?  Did I say it twice? That is really important. 

“We built on other bills that we have passed, which all had bipartisan support, state and local, testing, direct payments. I would hope we could overcome some of the difficulties we have. The Republicans do not seem interested in doing food stamps, SNAP, what we call the SNAP program. I hope we can overcome that. But otherwise – and we’ve tried to get that in a number of bills unsuccessfully, but I think the American people are well aware of the need for us to do more in that regard, so I am optimistic. But we will move forward in a big way, because we have a big challenge to our country.” 

This content was originally published here.