Bumpy’s owner arrested over health code violation in Schenectady

SCHENECTADY — The owner of a city soft ice cream stand has been arrested for allegedly keeping the business open despite a Schenectady County Department of Health order.

David Elmendorf, 35, the owner of Bumpy’s Polar Freeze on State Street, was arrested by city police on Wednesday on a charge of obstructing government administration, County Attorney Christopher Gardner said. He was released without bail pending a future City Court appearance.

Gardner said that Elmendorf also faces two citations under Public Health Law for operating without Health Department authorization since May 9, and for not properly securing a kitchen sink spray nozzle that was first brought to his attention as a code violation last fall. For each of those two charges, Gardner said Elmendorf could be fined up to $1,000 per day.

The Bumpy’s property has been posted with a Department of Health violation notice, Gardner said, and Elmendorf has removed it and continued to operate the business.

“[County Public Health] has been on his property several times and he has been uncooperative,” Gardner said on Thursday. “He just does not seem to want to obey the law.”

Gardner said the spray nozzle violation could have been settled with a small repair and a $100 fine, but the situation escalated this spring when an inspector returned and the spray nozzle issue had not been addressed and the fine hadn’t been paid. That led to the orders to close the business — the orders Elmendorf is accused of ignoring.

“His behavior is one of obstruction, non-cooperation and not obeying rule of law,” Gardner said.

Bumpy’s is located at 2013 State St., next door to the county Department of Motor Vehicles office, and has been in business for decades. Elmendorf, a former Schenectady County corrections officer, has operated it since 2012.

David Byrne and his wife ran Bumpy’s from 1996 until 2012, when they leased it to Elmendorf, and have since moved to Florida. Byrne said on Thursday that Elmendorf has never made good on a plan to buy the business and he continues to operate there even though the lease has expired.

“We have not been paid since February,” Byrne said. “We want to evict him and have sent him an eviction notice to come into eviction court, but we haven’t got into court [because of the pandemic.] We can’t physically remove him because we don’t have a court order. He doesn’t communicate with us. It’s very difficult.”

The arrest isn’t Elmendorf’s first brush with municipal code violations. In 2017, after a parking lot that customers had used was fenced off as part of the county DMV construction next door, Elmendorf was cited for not getting a permit before tearing down the car wash on the other side of Bumpy’s, which he owned, to create new parking.

Elmendorf would not respond to a request for comment Thursday. “We are not taking any questions at all,” said a man who answered the phone at Bumpy’s and identified himself as an employee.

Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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Health Officials Had to Face a Pandemic. Then Came the Death Threats. – The New York Times

“There’s a big red target on their backs,” Ms. Freeman said. “They’re becoming villainized for their guidance. In normal times, they’re very trusted members of their community.”

Some critics of the public health directors have said that they believe that allowing businesses to operate is worth the risk of spreading the coronavirus, and that health directors are too cautious about reopenings. Others have cited conspiracy theories that claim that the coronavirus is a hoax; that the development of a vaccine is part of a massive effort to track citizens and monitor their movements; and that wearing a mask or cloth face covering is a practice that impedes personal freedom.

In Washington State, where rural counties are struggling with new outbreaks and trying to warn residents to take basic precautions to stem the spread of the virus, pleas from local health officials have often been answered with hostility and threats.

In Yakima County, which has more than six times as many cases per capita as the county that includes Seattle, hospitals have reached capacity and patients were being taken elsewhere for medical care. Gov. Jay Inslee warned over the weekend that “we are frankly at the breaking point,” and has said he would require Yakima residents to wear face coverings in an effort to slow the virus’s spread.

“I’ve been called a Nazi numerous times,” said Andre Fresco, the executive director of the Yakima Health District. “I’ve been told not to show up at certain businesses. I’ve been called a Communist and Gestapo. I’ve been cursed at and generally treated in a very unprofessional way. It’s very difficult.”

Updated June 22, 2020

Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

What is pandemic paid leave?

The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

How does blood type influence coronavirus?

A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

How can I protect myself while flying?

If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

What should I do if I feel sick?

If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

How do I get tested?

If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.

In California, angry protesters have tracked down addresses of public health officers and gathered outside their homes, chanting and holding signs. Last week, a group called the Freedom Angels did just that in Contra Costa County, Calif., filming themselves and posting the videos on Facebook.

“We came today to protest in front of our county public health officer’s house, and some people might have issues with that, that we took it to their house,” one woman said in a video. “But I have to tell you guys, they’re coming to our houses. Their agenda is contact tracing, testing, mandatory masks and ultimately an injection that has not been tested,” she said, apparently referring to a vaccine even though none have been approved.

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Some in Melbourne’s COVID-19 hotspots dismiss the health risks as testing blitz gets underway – ABC News

On the streets of Broadmeadows in Melbourne’s north, there is both deep concern and general indifference to the Victorian Government’s coronavirus testing blitz, with some locals saying that not even a deadly virus would cause them to change their behaviour.

A team of 800 health workers will try to test 10,000 people a day in Melbourne’s 10 problem suburbs, with the aim to carry out about 100,000 tests in 10 days.

Broadmeadows is one of the hotspots with a worrying spike in the number of cases of COVID-19.

A child getting a test for COVID-19 with a man putting a swab in her mouth.

But while some Broadmeadows locals expressed fear and urged their fellow residents to heed health warnings, others described the virus as “rubbish”.

“I’ve been out and about, and everyone has, and I haven’t met a person that’s got it,” one man said.

He said he was still hugging and kissing people in greeting and said COVID-19 was not dangerous.

“It’s not deadly, it’s like any other virus,” he said.

“A person who’s 99 years old is dying, 100 years old is dying … they’re going to die the next day regardless, so why does it matter?

“I’m not going to stop my whole life for coronavirus, I’ve got to work, I’ve got a business to run … just like everyone else in Broadmeadows.”

A man in a black top with a beard.

Others said they were not surprised to learn that Broadmeadows was a hotspot.

“No-one listens to the rules … not staying home, hugging, kissing,” one man said.

Some urged the Government to introduce heftier fines for failing to practice social distancing.

“People think they don’t get sick, but this is not a game anymore,” one woman said, describing the behaviour of some as “stupid”.

“[They] are hugging, they’re kissing, they’re too close to each other,” she said.

But other locals said they were not worried about hugging and were not practising social distancing.

“In our community everybody does that,” one man said.

Why are some suburbs hotspots? We may never know

Deputy Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen called the comments that everyone was going to get coronavirus “concerning”.

She urged people to continue to keep their distance in order “to keep this at bay in our community”.

“People need to avoid hugging each other and they need to avoid shaking hands. They need to stay 1.5 metres apart,” she told ABC News Breakfast.

“I would thoroughly disagree that everybody has it and that everybody is going to get it.”

Four health workers wearing PPE speak to a woman in a dressing gown at a coronavirus testing station on a residential street.

Dr van Diemen said the testing blitz was underway and had been going well.

“We’ve had good engagement from the community, lots of tests done yesterday,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“We’re expecting that to increase over coming days.”

But we may never know why some suburbs were hotspots and others were not.

“It’s clear there was still some virus lurking around, that there [were] some transmission chains,” she said.

“With significantly increased movement, increased mixing, increased gathering sizes and frequency, those last few infections have just had the chance to take off.”

She said there was a complex set of factors at play, like, for example the fact some workforces in these hotspots had to continue to physically attend work during the lockdown.

Two men greet and embrace each other in a street.

Elsewhere, as the testing blitz got underway, people said they were unfazed to be living or working in one of Melbourne’s coronavirus hotspots.

One woman from Keilor Downs in Melbourne’s north-west said she was getting on with life and had been dismissing the concerns expressed by her relatives for her safety as “rubbish”.

“I ignore the hotspot, Keilor’s a wonderful place to live, hotspot or not,” she said.

She was unimpressed by the testing blitz.

“I reckon we’re crushing a peanut with a sledgehammer.”

In Pakenham, some said they were living life as normal, despite the virus.

“I haven’t seen anybody with COVID,” one woman said.

But Kay from Cafe Transylvania in Hallam said she was praying for people to listen.

“It’s better for everyone to do the right thing,” she said.

A woman holds a swab to her mouth as an ambulance officer watches.

Premier urges everyone to be cooperative

The first three days of Victoria’s testing blitz will focus on Keilor Downs and Broadmeadows, where health workers will aim to test half the population.

The focus will then move to other hotspot suburbs over the course of the 10-day program.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

A map highlighting eight suburbs in Melbourne's north and west.

The other suburbs central to the ramped-up testing program are Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir as well as Hallam and Pakenham in the outer south-eastern suburbs.

A map showing Hallam and Pakenham highlighted in orange.

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews said ambulances and other testing vans would be at the end of many streets to make it easy for residents to be tested.

“They will be invited to come and get a test, and they’ll only have to travel 50 metres or 100 metres in order to complete that test,” Mr Andrews said.

The blitz was announced on a day when Victoria recorded 33 more coronavirus infections and another childcare centre, Connie Benn Early Learning Centre in Fitzroy, was forced to close after a parent of a child who attended the centre tested positive to COVID-19.

Mr Andrews said he was “confident” the strategy would help contain community transmission in Victoria.

He urged everyone to be cooperative and get tested.

What you need to know about coronavirus:

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G.O.P. Faces Risk From Push to Repeal Health Law During Pandemic – The New York Times

“People now see a clear and present threat when others don’t have health care,” he said. “Republicans have no response to that because their entire worldview on health care is built on an assumption that’s now out of date.”

And with Mr. Trump making dubious claims about health care — like suggesting people inject or drink bleach, and promoting an unproven malaria drug — Democrats are seeking to paint him and his party as ignorant on an important issue.

In a recent survey, Mr. Ayres asked swing-state voters how government should help workers who have recently lost insurance coverage. The poll found that 47 percent supported a major government expansion of health care, 31 percent believed the best option for laid-off workers was to go on Medicaid, and only 16 percent preferred federal subsidies for Affordable Care Act premiums.

Based on that research, and given the Republican inclination to favor a private-sector approach, Mr. White, who is president of a business-oriented coalition called the Council for Affordable Health Coverage, has called for the government to help pay for premiums under COBRA, the program that allows unemployed workers to buy into their former employers’ plan.

“Republicans must offer private market coverage solutions that are preferable to Medicaid (which is now more popular than Obamacare),” Mr. White wrote in a policy memo.

Ms. Pelosi’s bill is aimed at shoring up the Affordable Care Act, which she helped muscle through Congress during her first speakership, and reducing premiums, which are skyrocketing. Ms. Pelosi had intended to unveil the measure in early March, for the health law’s 10th anniversary, at a joint appearance with former President Barack Obama. But the event was canceled amid the mounting coronavirus threat.

The bill would expand subsidies for health care premiums under the Affordable Care Act so families would pay no more than 8.5 percent of their income for health coverage; allow the government to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies; provide a path for uninsured pregnant women to be covered by Medicaid for a year after giving birth; and offer incentives to those states that have not expanded Medicaid under the law to do so.

One thing it will not have, aides to Ms. Pelosi say, is a “public option” to create a government-run health insurer, an idea embraced by former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. The bill being introduced by Ms. Pelosi has no chance of passing the Senate and becoming law, but it will give Democrats another talking point to use against Republicans.

The health law has already survived two court challenges. In the current Supreme Court case, 20 states, led by Texas, argue that when Congress eliminated the so-called individual mandate — the penalty for failing to obtain health insurance — lawmakers rendered the entire law unconstitutional. The Trump administration, though a defendant, supports the challenge.

The justices are expected to hear arguments in the fall, just as the presidential and congressional races are heating up. But Mr. Cole, the Republican congressman, said other issues related to the coronavirus pandemic would also be at play in November.

“If we look like we’re on top of it in September or October and we’re on the way to a vaccine, then it will break to the president’s advantage,” he said. “If we’re in the middle of a second wave, obviously not.”

This content was originally published here.

As Pandemic Toll Rises, Science Deniers in Louisiana Shun Masks, Comparing Health Measures to Nazi Germany

Science denial in America didn’t begin with the Trump administration, but under the leadership of President Trump, it has blossomed. From the climate crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic, this rejection of scientific authority has become a hallmark of and cultural signal among many in conservative circles. This phenomenon has been on recent display in Louisiana, where a clear anti-mask sentiment has emerged in the streets and online even as COVID-19 cases rise.
“Are you a masker or a free breather?” Pastor Tony Spell asked the crowd while speaking from the bed of a pickup truck at a July 4 “Save America” rally in Baton Rouge. At the end of March Spell gained international attention for his refusal to stop his church’s services despite Gov. John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order, which was issued to slow the Louisiana’s rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.
 
“It has never been about a virus — it is about destroying America,” Spell claimed, before equating a government whose public health measures restrict church gatherings and require protective face coverings in public to Germany under Hitler. A crowd of less than 200 roared in agreement at the rally that was held across from the governor’s mansion. 

Pastor Tony Spell
Pastor Tony Spell speaking at the “Save America” rally in Baton Rouge on July 4.

Attendees of a "Save America" rally in Baton Rouge on July 4
Attendees of the “Save America” rally in Baton Rouge on July 4 including one holding a fan.

On July 8, another conservative voice, Louisiana State Representative Danny McCormick, posted a video on Facebook making a similar comparison to Nazi Germany. “This isn’t about whether you want to wear a mask or you don’t want to wear a mask — this is about your right to wear a mask or not,” McCormick said. “This is about liberty. Your body is your private property … People who don’t wear a mask will be soon painted as the enemy — just as they did the Jews in Nazi Germany. Now is the time to push back before it is too late.”

 At a press conference the day after McCormick posted his video, Gov. Edwards announced that the state had lost its previous gains against the coronavirus. 

McCormick’s statements come about six months into a public health crisis that has infected 71,884 Louisiana residents and killed 3,247, as of July 9. Despite the pandemic’s accelerating and deadly spread, the complaints by McCormick, Pastor Spell, and the others joining them at a handful of protests in Baton Rouge  illustrate a pervasive disdain for science held by many associated with the Republican Party. 

Louisiana State Rep. Danny McCormick
State Representative Danny McCormick at an “End the Shutdown” protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on April 25.

State Rep. Danny McCormick's talking points at an "end the shutdown" rally in Louisiana
State Representative Danny McCormick’s talking points on an index card he held while making a speech during an “End the Shutdown” rally in Baton Rouge on April 25.

A DeSmog investigation found that a number of groups behind protests against pandemic stay-home orders are also part of the climate change countermovement, a term coined by sociologist Robert Brulle. U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has called this network of individuals and organizations disputing climate science the “web of denial.”

April and May rallies in Louisiana pushing to open the state followed larger rallies in Idaho, Michigan, and North Dakota. Helping tie together what Trump has called the “liberate” movement is the State Policy Network (SPN). As DeSmog has reported, SPN is “a network of state-level conservative think tanks advancing pro-corporate agendas, [and] has received money from the likes of the Koch family, the Devos family, the Mercer Family Foundation, and others.” 

Woman with a COVID-19 denial sign at an "end the shutdown" rally in Baton Rouge
Woman with a Covid-19 denial sign at an “End the Shutdown” protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on April 25.

Woman with a COVID-19 denial sign targeting Bill Gates, a common target of the right wing
Woman with a Covid-19 denial sign sporting a message for Bill Gates, a common target of the right wing, at an “End the Shutdown” protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on April 25.

At an April 25 “End the Shutdown” rally in Baton Rouge, rally-goers, led by Rep. McCormick, marched from the State Capitol building to the nearby lawn across from the governor’s mansion to express their anger with his handling of the crisis. In a speech, McCormick offered talking points to counter Gov. Edwards’ emergency orders meant to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The talking points mirrored a memo sent by GOP political operative Jay Connaughton to Republican State Sen. Sharon Hewitt and shared with GOP state legislators. Hewitt is one of Louisiana’s top conservative leaders. In 2018 she was named “National Legislator of the Year” by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Veronica Lemoa, a stay-at-home mom, at the "end the shutdown" protest on April 25 in Baton Rouge
Veronica Lemoa, a stay-at-home mother, at an “End the Shutdown” protest on April 25, 2020 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

Young girl at an "Open Louisiana" event in Baton Rouge May 2
Young girl at an “Open Louisiana” event in Baton Rouge on May 2 across from the Governor’s Mansion. 

Despite President Trump’s praise for Gov. Edwards, a Democrat, for his handling of the pandemic, anti-mask protesters are equating the governor’s stay-at-home order and mask mandate with the first step to tyranny. Spell, who was arrested for defying the mask mandate, did not stop with his sharp criticism of the governor — and also had some for Trump. While he is glad the Trump administration deemed churches “essential,” in order to reopen them, Spell proclaimed that he doesn’t need the president’s permission, and warned: “If they can give you your right to go to church, then they can take from you your right to go to church.”


Pastor Tony Spell speaking on the July 4 at rally in Baton Rouge. 

At the July 4 rally, many expressed their support for Trump, and saw the upcoming presidential election as the most important in their lifetime. They labeled those who wear protective face coverings “sheep.” Out of the less than 200 rally-goers, I saw only two people with face masks. One was worn by a man that had the words “Dixie Beer” painted on it, which was expressing his disdain over the decision by the owner of the New Orleans beer company to change the beer’s name in response to anti-racism demonstrations. The other mask I noticed at the rally was worn on a woman’s arm. 

The only man wearing a face mask at a "save America" rally on July 4
The only man wearing a mask on his face at a “Save America” rally in Baton Rouge on July 4. He expressed his displeasure that the owner of Dixie Beer is changing the New Orleans beer’s name. 

Woman with a mask on her arm at the "save America" July 4 rally
Woman wearing a face mask on her arm at the “Save America” rally in Baton Rouge on July 4. 

In an April 1 op-ed in Newsweek, Rochester Institute of Technology philosophy professor Lawrence Torcello, and Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael E. Mann wrote: “Unfortunately, President Trump has again emerged as a leading source of disinformation. Having called COVID-19, as he previously did with climate change, a ’hoax,’ he now resorts to calling COVID-19 the ‘Chinese Virus.’ In the case of both COVID-19 and climate change, he has outsourced policy decision-making to science deniers. In both cases he is as wrong as he is xenophobic — and in both cases his predictable disinformation endangers lives.”

In February, before the first COVID-19 cases were identified in Louisiana, Gov. Edwards finally broke away from Trump on espousing climate science denial. 

Louisiana will not just accept or adapt to climate change impacts,” Edwards stated at a news conference in Baton Rouge. “Louisiana will do its part to address climate change.” In a reversal of his previous statements that questioned humans’ well-established role in driving the climate crisis, he said, “Science tells us that rising sea level will become the biggest challenge we face, threatening to overwhelm our best efforts to protect and restore our coast. Science also tells us that sea level rise is being driven by global greenhouse gas emissions.”

But Sharon Lavigne, founder of RISE St. James, a community group fighting petrochemical industry expansion in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, doubts his sincerity. “If the governor is serious about reducing carbon emissions, he needs to pull the plug on Formosa.” Plastics giant Formosa is poised to start building a petrochemical complex in St. James Parish that has received permits to spew the emissions equivalent of 2.6 million cars. 

Petrochemical companies are one of Louisiana’s top producers of carbon dioxide, one of the globe-warming gases linked to human-caused climate change. However, the governor has not walked back his support of Formosa’s project. 

Edwards was the first governor in the country to point out that African Americans are being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. But he has yet to address the impact which ongoing pollution from the petrochemical industry plays in the poor health of predominantly Black communities living near existing plants, or future ones, such as Formosa’s in St. James Parish.

Many U.S. leaders have failed to take to heart scientists’ warnings that half-measures to combat climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic won’t work. Meanwhile, temperatures across America are hitting new record highs, and cases of the coronavirus continue to rise exponentially, leading top U.S. infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci to advise states “having a serious problem” with a surge in coronavirus cases to “seriously look at shutting down.” 

Protester across from the Louisiana Governor's Mansion on May 2
Protester across from the Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge on May 2 with a protest sign against Anthony Fauci, Bill Gates, and the “New World Order.”  

Protesters across from the Louisiana Governor's Mansion on May 2
Protesters across from the Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge on May 2.   

As with climate change, theoretical models have proven essential for anticipating what is likely to happen in the future. In the case of coronavirus, the initial spread of this virus is occurring at an exponential rate as models predicted,” Torcello and Mann pointed out in their Newsweek op-ed. “This means we can anticipate that larger sums of people will become infected in the coming weeks. We know the majority of those infected by COVID-19 will experience mild or no symptoms while remaining highly contagious, and we know that for others, COVID-19 will create the need for ventilators and other emergency medical supports that we do not yet have in sufficient supply. It is worth emphasizing: The fact that most people will experience mild symptoms is irrelevant to a crisis, like COVID-19, which is grounded in the math of large numbers.”

In his 1995 book The Demon-Haunted World, astronomer and science writer Carl Sagan presaged, with trepidation, an America wherein “our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…a kind of celebration of ignorance.”

After viewing some of my photos from the recent “Save America” rally, Mann wrote in an email: “These people, sadly, are the purest embodiment of Sagan’s chilling prophecy.”

Protester across from the Governor’s Mansion on May 2 with a protest sign that is a variation of the Gandsen Flag. 
Protester across from the Governor’s Mansion on May 2 with a protest sign that is a variation of the Gandsen Flag. 

Trump supporters at a rally across from the Governor’s Mansion on July 4.
Trump supporters at a rally across from the Governor’s Mansion on July 4.

Protesters at an “End the Shutdown" event in Baton Rouge on April 25 march from the Capital Building to the Governor’s Mansion nearby. 
Protesters at an “End the Shutdown” event in Baton Rouge on April 25 march from the Capital Building to the Governor’s Mansion nearby. 

Main image: Woman holding an anti-mask sign at a July 4 “Save America” rally in Baton Rouge. Credit: All photos and video by Julie Dermansky for DeSmog

This content was originally published here.

Millions Have Lost Health Insurance in Pandemic-Driven Recession – The New York Times

The White House and Congress have done little to help. The Trump administration has imposed sharp cuts on the funding for outreach programs that assist people in signing up for coverage under the health law. And while House Democrats have passed legislation intended to help people to keep their health insurance, the bill is stuck in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Rather than expand access to subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Trump has promised to directly reimburse hospitals for the care of coronavirus patients who have lost their insurance. But there is little evidence that has begun.

“Helping people keep their insurance through a public health crisis surprisingly has not gotten much attention,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “This is the first recession in which the A.C.A. is there as a safety net, but it’s an imperfect safety net.”

The Families USA study is a state-by-state examination of the effects of the pandemic on laid-off adults younger than 65, the age at which Americans become eligible for Medicare. It found that nearly half — 46 percent — of the coverage losses from the pandemic came in five states: California, Texas, Florida, New York and North Carolina.

In Texas alone, the number of uninsured jumped from about 4.3 million to nearly 4.9 million; three out of every 10 Texans are uninsured, the research found. In the 37 states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, 23 percent of laid-off workers became uninsured; the percentage was nearly double that — 43 percent — in the 13 states that did not expand Medicaid, which include Texas, Florida and North Carolina.

Five states have experienced increases in the number of uninsured adults that exceed 40 percent, the analysis found. In Massachusetts, the number nearly doubled, rising by 93 percent — a figure Mr. Dorn attributed to a large number of people losing employer-based coverage there. Across the country as a whole, more than one in seven adults — 16 percent — is now uninsured, the analysis found.

To generate the estimates, Mr. Dorn examined the number of laid-off workers in each state and calculated how many had become uninsured based on coverage patterns since 2014, when the central provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into effect. The underlying data for those patterns comes from work published by the Urban Institute in April.

This content was originally published here.

Virginia Health Dept Urges Citizens to Snitch on Churches and Gun Ranges | Dan Bongino

Virginia’s Department of Health is joining others who have encouraged their state’s citizens to snitch on each other – but only for select reasons.

As the Washington Free Beacon’s Andrew Stiles reports:

The Virginia Department of Health is encouraging citizens to lodge anonymous complaints against small businesses for violating Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D.) coronavirus-related restrictions on public gatherings.

Virginia residents can report alleged violations of Northam’s executive orders regarding the use of face masks and capacity requirements in indoor spaces via a portal on the health department’s website, a practice commonly known as “snitching.” 

The webpage gives snitchers several options regarding the “type of establishment” on which they are intending to snitch. These include “indoor gun range” and “religious service,” among others. Republican state senator Mark Obenshain expressed concern that churches and gun ranges were “specifically” singled out, noting, “there is nothing to prevent businesses from snitching on competitors, or to prevent the outright fabrication of reports.”

Meanwhile, when protesters were out in full force in the tens of thousands earlier in the month, VA’s health department merely encouraged them to wear masks and wash their hands. They also recommended social distancing, which would obviously be impossible in such an environment. “We support the right to protest, and we also want people to be safe” they said.

What do they think is going to do more to spread the virus, a dozen people at a gun range, or tens of thousands in the streets? Even if those at the gun range transmitted the virus at a higher rate, the latter would still infect more people due to sheer volume.

It is indeed the case that coronavirus cases are on the rise nationally (as you’d expect after weeks of mass protest), but not all cases are created equal. The vast majority of cases are mild and asymptomatic, and the median age of those infected is drastically lower than it was months ago (meaning most new cases are among those least likely to die of the virus).

That’s evident in Florida, where cases are exploded – but the death rate has precipitously declined because the average person infected is now only 37 years old. In March it averaged in the mid fifties.

In many states more people above the age of 100 have died of the virus than those under 40. On the day coronavirus deaths peaked, for every person aged 24 or younger that died of the virus, 319 people above the age of 85 died of it.

This content was originally published here.

Henry Ford Health study: Hydroxychloroquine lowers COVID-19 death rate

Hydroxychloroquine lowers COVID-19 death rate, Henry Ford Health study finds

Sarah Rahal and Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Published 6:42 PM EDT Jul 2, 2020

A Henry Ford Health System study shows the controversial anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine helps lower the death rate of COVID-19 patients, the Detroit-based health system said Thursday.

Officials with the Michigan health system said the study found the drug “significantly” decreased the death rate of patients involved in the analysis.

The study analyzed 2,541 patients hospitalized among the system’s six hospitals between March 10 and May 2 and found 13% of those treated with hydroxychloroquine died while 26% of those who did not receive the drug died.

Among all patients in the study, there was an overall in-hospital mortality rate of 18%, and many who died had underlying conditions that put them at greater risk, according to Henry Ford Health System. Globally, the mortality rate for hospitalized patients is between 10% and 30%, and it’s 58% among those in the intensive care unit or on a ventilator.

An arrangement of hydroxychloroquine pills.
John Locher, AP

“As doctors and scientists, we look to the data for insight,” said Steven Kalkanis, CEO of the Henry Ford Medical Group. “And the data here is clear that there was a benefit to using the drug as a treatment for sick, hospitalized patients.”

The study, published in the International Society of Infectious Disease, found patients did not suffer heart-related side effects from the drug. 

Patients with a median age of 64 were among those analyzed, with 51% men and 56% African American. Roughly 82% of the patients began receiving hydroxychloroquine within 24 hours and 91% within 48 hours, a factor Dr. Marcus Zervos identified as a potential key to the medication’s success. 

“We attribute our findings that differ from other studies to early treatment, and part of a combination of interventions that were done in supportive care of patients, including careful cardiac monitoring,” said Zervos, division head of infectious disease for the health system who conducted the study with epidemiologist Dr. Samia Arshad. 

Other studies, Zervos noted, included different populations or were not peer-reviewed.

“Our dosing also differed from other studies not showing a benefit of the drug,” he said. “We also found that using steroids early in the infection associated with a reduction in mortality.”

But Zervos cautioned against extrapolating the results for treatment outside hospital settings and without further study. 

Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, respond to the study Thursday by noting “prescribers have a responsibility to apply the best standards of care and use their clinical judgment when prescribing and dispensing hydroxychloroquine or any other drugs to treat patients with legitimate medical conditions.”

Dr. Marcus Zervos identified administering steroids early in the infection as a potential key to the medication’s success.
Zoom screenshot

The study found about 20% of patients treated with a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin died and 22% who were treated with azithromycin alone compared with the 26% of patients who died after not being treated with either medication. 

Henry Ford Health has been working on multiple clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine, including one that is testing whether the drug can prevent COVID-19 infections in first responders who work with coronavirus patients. The first responder clinical trial was trumpeted by Trump administration officials early in the pandemic.

Many health care institutions, including the World Health Organization, suspended clinical trials of the drug touted by President Donald Trump after a faulty study was published in the British medical journal The Lancet on May 22. The WHO restarted the trials in June.

The study is vital, Zervos said, as medical workers prepare for a possible second wave of the virus and there is plenty of research that still needs to be conducted to solidify an effective treatment.

In this May 18, 2020 file photo, President Donald Trump tells reporters that he is taking zinc and hydroxychloroquine. Results published Wednesday, June 3, 2020, by the New England Journal of Medicine show that hydroxychloroquine was no better than placebo pills at preventing illness from the COVID-19 coronavirus. The drug did not seem to cause serious harm, though – about 40% on it had side effects, mostly mild stomach problems.
Evan Vucci, AP, File

Still, use of the malaria drug became highly controversial.

Doctors at Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s health system, remain steadfast in their decision not to use hydroxychloroquine on coronavirus patients, which they stopped using in mid-March after their own early tracking of the treatment found little benefit to patients with some serious side effects.

Michigan’s largest system of hospitals, Southfield-based Beaumont Health, also stopped using the decades-old anti-malarial drug as a coronavirus treatment after deciding it was ineffective. 

St. Joseph Mercy health system has also backed away from the treatment. The system has St. Joseph hospitals in Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Howell, Livonia and Pontiac, as well as the Mercy Health hospitals in Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Shelby. 

Heidi Pillen, director of pharmacy at Beaumont Health, confirmed on Thursday that the health system is not using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients. 

A recent United Kingdom study evaluating hydroxychloroquine in hospitalized patients with coronavirus was stopped after preliminary analysis found it didn’t have any benefit. About 26% of patients in the trial using the drug died, compared with about 24% receiving the usual care, according to the Oxford University study. 

But doctors at Detroit Medical Center’s Sinai-Grace told The Detroit News in April, when the hospital was overloaded with senior COVID patients, that they were giving the drug to anyone they could.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

This content was originally published here.

California is reopening too quickly, posing ‘very serious risk,’ health officer warns

A key architect of the nation’s first coronavirus shelter-in-place order is criticizing California’s increasingly fast pace of lifting stay-at-home restrictions.

In particular, Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County — home to Silicon Valley and Northern California’s most populous county — said she was concerned by the decision to allow gatherings of up to 100 people for religious, political and cultural reasons.

“This announcement to authorize county health officers to allow religious, cultural and political gatherings of 100 people poses a very serious risk of the spread of COVID-19,” Cody told the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Even if just one infected person showed up to such an event, the virus could easily be transmitted to many people and overwhelm local health officials’ ability to investigate all related cases, she warned.

Cody has been credited with helping to spearhead the San Francisco Bay Area’s regional shelter-in-place order. Issued March 16, the mandate that affected 6.6 million people in six counties initially stunned the nation. But it quickly became a model for the rest of California and other states, with Gov. Gavin Newsom enacting a statewide stay-at-home order March 19 and New York state following suit three days later.

Santa Clara County, with a population of 1.9 million people, is not required to relax its order — among the strictest in California — to the state standard. When local and state orders differ, the stricter standard applies. But Cody expressed concerns that California risks a surge in cases if it reopens too many sectors of society too quickly.

Since early May, “the state has shifted away from the stay-at-home model and has made significant modifications with increasing frequency,” Cody said. “The pace at which the state has made these modifications is concerning to me.”

Gov. Newsom said California barbershops, hair salons, nail salons and other grooming services could reopen under Stage 3 of his reopening plan.

Cody said it’s important to wait at least 14 days — the time it can take for an infected person to show symptoms — after easing restrictions to see what effects the relaxed policy has on increased coronavirus illnesses. It would be even better to wait 21 days, she added.

Reopening so fast, she said, means there isn’t enough time to implement new procedures to make reopened activities safe.

Within hours of Newsom’s announcement Tuesday allowing counties to reopen hair salons and barbershops, some stylists already had customers in their chairs.

“Making changes too frequently leaves us blind. We can’t see the effect of what we just did,” Cody said. “Our social and economic well-being are best served by a more phased approach that allows activities to resume in a manner that allows people to actually be relatively safe while engaging in the newly open activity.”

Experts say the Bay Area’s early action dramatically slowed the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus in the region, which had been one of the nation’s earliest hot spots of the virus.

As of Tuesday night, the six Bay Area counties had reported a coronavirus death rate of six fatalities per 100,000 residents; Los Angeles County has a death rate of 21 fatalities per 100,000 residents. Statewide, California has a death rate of about 10 fatalities per 100,000 residents. Across the nation, New Jersey’s rate is 126 fatalities per 100,000 residents, while New York’s is 149 fatalities per 100,000 residents.

The latest rules issued by the California Department of Public Health this week say churches that choose to reopen and in-person political protests must limit attendance to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower.

New Jersey, by contrast, limits such gatherings to 25 people, and New York, 10, Cody said.

Newsom said Tuesday that he understood he would be criticized in deciding to allow religious gatherings to resume on a restricted basis.

“I know some people think that’s too much too fast too soon. Others think, frankly, that it didn’t go far enough,” the governor said. “But suffice it to say, at a statewide level, we now are affording this opportunity again with a deep realization of the fact that people will start to mix … and that is incumbent upon us to practice that physical distancing within these places of worship.”

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution supporting the resumption of in-person religious assemblies starting this weekend.

Newsom has come under political pressure to allow churches to reopen. On May 18, he said rules to allow church congregations to meet were “a few weeks away … if everything holds.” Later that week, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to the Newsom administration warning that the state’s stay-at-home order may discriminate against religious groups and violate their constitutional rights.

Also last week, more than 1,200 pastors vowed to hold in-person services May 31, Pentecost Sunday, intending to defy Newsom’s stay-at-home order.

President Trump then made an unexpected announcement that he was designating churches “essential” businesses so they could immediately reopen. Hours after Trump’s comments, Newsom vowed Friday to provide plans on Memorial Day that would allow in-person religious services.

In addition to dine-in restaurants and in-person shopping, Riverside and San Bernardino counties are resuming in-person worship services.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that large gatherings played a major role in the early widespread transmission of the virus across the nation. In particular, the CDC said Mardi Gras celebrations in Louisiana, a biotech conference in Boston with about 175 attendees and a funeral with more than 100 attendees in small, rural Dougherty County in Georgia played an outsize role in the illness’ spread.

Churches have also been the site of outbreaks large and small. In Washington state’s Skagit County, one symptomatic person attended a 2½-hour choir practice at a church attended by 60 other people; local officials later documented that 52 people fell ill, including two who died — a virus attack rate of 87%, according to the CDC. Singing can easily spread infected droplets from one person to another.

In another outbreak, pre-symptomatic tourists from Wuhan, China — the global epicenter of the pandemic — visited a church in Singapore on Jan. 19 and started showing symptoms several days later. Three other people who attended the same church on the same day also got sick, including one who sat in the same seat as the tourists, according to the CDC.

Newsom defended his administration’s actions in moving quicker than the pace Cody suggested. The governor said he was guided by what his health officials were telling him was appropriate. He said the state has the time to test the theory behind the relaxed orders and “to make adjustments if, indeed, we need to dial it back, or loosen them more into the future.”

But Santa Clara County and its neighbors in the Bay Area have chosen a different approach. After the Bay Area counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara jointly decided to allow the resumption of all construction and businesses such as gardening and landscaping to resume May 4, the counties waited a full two weeks before allowing the reopening of many retail businesses for pickup service in the week of May 18.

California allows some retailers to open with curbside service, including bookstores, florists and toy stores. Many parks will reopen Saturday.

By contrast, most other California counties have moved more quickly to reopen businesses as soon as Newsom has allowed it. Los Angeles County, for instance, joined most other California counties in reopening retail businesses for pickup service on May 8, the first day it was allowed.

Los Angeles County has also begun allowing the reopening of houses of worship and in-person political protests, shortly after state rules were relaxed. Retail stores and malls got the green light to in-person shopping in L.A. County but must operate at 50% of capacity.

By contrast, the six core Bay Area counties are still allowing retail stores to be open for pickup service only.

Cody also noted that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting communities of color and those who are most affected by poverty and overcrowded housing. For example, Latinos make up 26% of Santa Clara County’s population but comprise 40% of its coronavirus cases and 32% of deaths. Disease rates are particularly high in East San Jose, which is lower income and largely Latino.

Black people make up 2% of Santa Clara County’s population and account for 6% of the county’s coronavirus deaths.

“COVID-19 has unmasked some very severe preexisting inequities in our community. If we let the virus just go and don’t stay on top of it, the people that are going to be hurt the most are people who are living in places where they’re working low-wage jobs, they live in crowded households, they may have less access to care,” Cody added in remarks broadcast Wednesday on Facebook.

Reopening too quickly will disproportionately risk the lives of people of color and those with lower incomes, Cody said. “That is the group of people that will be disproportionately in the hospital and that will see disproportionate numbers of deaths. And that’s not acceptable.”

“We are going to suppress the level of transmission to the lowest levels that we can, with every ounce of our energy, and we are going to stay at it. We’re going to go slow, and we’re going to be safe, and we’re going to protect the people that most need to be protected,” Cody said.

She said if the overall rate of disease transmission remains stable in the Bay Area, officials will be able to continue easing restrictions on a regular schedule with at least two weeks between each phase.

“We all want to reopen our economy, get back to our lives, get back to work,” Cody said. “But the truth is: We are in the greatest global crisis since the Second World War…. We want to be able to reopen safely.”

Times staff writers Phil Willon, Eli Stokols, Matthew Ormseth and Alex Wigglesworth contributed to this report.

This content was originally published here.

Quarantine for 14 Days If You Attended Protests or Gatherings, Chicago Health Officials Urge – NBC Chicago

Chicago health officials urged anyone who attended a protest or gathering over the weekend to self-quarantine at home for 14 days if possible, warning residents that the coronavirus pandemic is not over – even if it’s not at the top of mind.

“While we continue to make progress, I am concerned we may see ourselves take a step backward down the line against COVID-19,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said at a news conference Monday with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other city officials to discuss the protests, looting, vandalism and unrest that gripped the city over the weekend.

“That’s because COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and that virus doesn’t care about what’s going on in the city,” Arwady continued, adding that COVID-19 still does not yet have a cure or effective treatmeant and “still takes every opportunity it can to spread.”

May 29, 2020: More than 1,600 new coronavirus cases were reported in Illinois as nearly all of the state eases restrictions, entering a third phase of reopening Friday.

“Still here in Chicago we are seeing hundreds of new cases of COVID-19 every day,” she said. The number of coronavirus cases in Illinois surpassed 120,000 on Sunday, state health officials said, with a death toll of 5,390 statewide.

“If you’ve been in any kind of gathering this weekend – protests, social, if you reached out for contact during this time – you are at increased risk for having contracted COVID-19,” Arwady said, asking that those who gathered in groups, particularly those who did not keep a 6-foot distance from others, self-isolate at home for 14 days.

“I especially want to ask that if you have been in close contact with people outside of your household this weekend, please avoid close contact with those at the highest risk for serious outcome and death from COVID,” she continued.

“If you start to develop any symptoms, you must stay home except to get tested and you must get tested,” Arwady said, asking everyone “now more than ever” to continue practice physical distancing and follow health guidelines.

“Get testing if you have any concern that you might have been exposed to COVID and please continue to stay safe as we look ahead to rebuilding Chicago,” she added.

The weekend’s events – protests, looting, vandalism, violence and unrest that spanned the city and suburbs – brought into question whether Chicago will move into the third phase of its reopening plan on Wednesday as scheduled.

Lightfoot said Monday that she and other officials were “in conversation” on that topic and had not determined whether the city can move into the next phase.

“We will make a determination whether or not we can go forward on June 3 as planned,” Lightfoot said. “We haven’t made that determination yet.”

She announced on Thursday that Chicago would enter phase three of its reopening plan on June 3, days after the rest of Illinois moved forward with loosening restrictions meant to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Chicago’s third phase of reopening is slated to allow several businesses to reopen with new guidelines and limitations, and small non-essential gatherings of up to 10 people. Some of the businesses allowed to reopen include restaurants for outdoor dining with appropriate social distancing and sanitary measures.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady breaks down the city’s latest coronavirus data with less than one week until phase three begins.

Lightfoot mentioned some of those businesses looking to reopen after being closed since March soon were in the downtown areas hit hard by vandalism and looting Saturday night.

“It’s a terrible thing that after being shut down for so long, and these businesses were preparing for opening on June 3, putting out patio furniture and doing other things to get themselves ready, that now instead of a moment of celebration, what they’re doing is experiencing a moment of despair,” Lightfoot said.

“I think it’s going to take some time for us to assess what the impact is going to be on those businesses all across the city that were preparing,” she continued. “Certainly in the downtown area, there has been a negative impact. And we’re in conversations with those businesses to determine what that will mean for them this weekend and into the future.”

In announcing a date for the city to enter the third phase of reopening, Lightfoot warned that she and other officials stood prepared to move backwards if reopening leads to another surge in COVID-19 cases.

“Let’s be clear: under no circumstances should our move to phase three be confused with this crisis being over, because it’s not,” she said.

This content was originally published here.