Tag: Crisis

 

El Paso imposes curfew as COVID-19 cases overwhelm hospitals: “We are in a crisis stage”

Residents in the Texas border city of El Paso have been urged to stay home for two weeks as a spike in coronavirus cases overwhelms hospitals. The crisis prompted the state to dedicate part of the city’s civic center as a makeshift care center for the ill.

Virus Outbreak Texas
A woman holds up a mask she bought at a store on Friday, May 1, 2020, in El Paso, Texas. 

Cedar Attanasio / AP


El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego on Sunday night issued a stay home order with a daily curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Violators could be fined $500 under the order.

“We are in a crisis stage,” said Samaniego, the county’s top elected official.

Earlier Sunday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said 50 hospital beds will be set up in the convention center and another 50 beds could be added if needed.

Abbott ordered the alternate care site to expand hospital capacity in the El Paso area in response to the coronavirus surge, he said. The site, scheduled to open this week, will provide additional medical equipment and medical personnel.

The surge in El Paso cases comes as President Donald Trump downplayed the virus’ effect on Texas, saying during last week’s presidential debate: “There was a very big spike in Texas, it’s now gone.”

The state has already provided over 900 medical personnel to El Paso, some of whom will be staffing the convention center site.

“The alternate care site and auxiliary medical units will reduce the strain on hospitals in El Paso as we contain the spread of COVID-19 in the region,” Abbott said.

El Paso County health officials reported 772 new coronavirus cases Sunday, a day after a record 1,216 new cases were reported, making up more than 20% of the 3,793 new cases reported statewide. That brought the total cases since the pandemic first hit Texas to 862,375. An estimated 91,885 active cases was the most since Aug. 30, and the 5,206 COVID-19 hospitalizations reported statewide Sunday was the most since Aug. 22.

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‘We Are in a Crisis Stage’

PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty

El Paso, Texas is in “crisis” after an overwhelming rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have crippled the city.

The city’s hospitals have run out of intensive care unit beds after COVID-19 hospitalizations rose by 200 percent in less than a month, officials said Sunday, to more than 800.

Residents will now be under a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in the hopes of reducing new cases of the virus, and those found violating the curfew could be fined $500, CBS News reported. People can also be fined for not wearing masks or social distancing in public.

“We are in crisis stage,” said El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego as he issued the stay-at-home order.

RELATED: U.S. Breaks Record for Most COVID Cases in a Single Day with More Than 75,000 New Infections

The city, which borders New Mexico and Mexico, is also urging residents to stay home for the next two weeks to slow the spread.

El Paso’s Department of Public Health reported that the city hit a record-breaking 1,443 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and hospitalizations increased to 853, another record. The city, which has a population of slightly over 680,000, currently has 12,179 known active cases of COVID-19, another record.

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“If we continue on this trend, we risk detrimental effects to our entire health care system,” Angela Mora, the city’s director of public health, said, according to NBC News. “For the sake of those hospitalized and the front line health care workers working tirelessly each day to care for them, we ask you to please stay home for two weeks and eliminate your interactions with those outside your household until we can flatten the curve.”

RELATED: Illinois Health Official Breaks Down Crying While Giving Update on State’s Rising COVID-19 Deaths

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the city will set up 50 hospital beds at their convention center and can add 50 more if needed. The state also sent 900 medical personnel to El Paso.

New cases of COVID-19 are once again on the rise in Texas, with the state seeing an average of 5,864 new infections each day on average as of Monday. The soaring numbers run counter to President Donald Trump’s claim at Thursday’s presidential debate that “there was a very big spike in Texas, it’s now gone.”

The U.S. as a whole is now well into a third wave of COVID-19 cases, with a record-breaking 85,085 new infections on Saturday, well above the country’s previous high of 75,687 from July 16. Around 20 states are seeing their highest case totals of the entire pandemic, particularly midwestern states like Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

As of Monday, more than 8,702,600 Americans have tested

Local Teens Help Solve Flint’s Water Crisis with New Lab and Water Testing: ‘It Gives Me Hope’

Flint Community Lab

During the summer of 2014, thousands of people in the close-knit, industrial city of Flint, Michigan — “Flintstoners,” as they proudly call themselves — saw their lives change in an instant.

In an effort to save money, the city switched its water supply from the Detroit River to the Flint River. Residents immediately complained about the water’s smell and taste and reported worrying symptoms including hair loss, rashes, and seizures.

Tests ordered in August revealed E. coli was in Flint’s water, and parts of the city were ordered to boil the water before drinking it. Elected officials denied for over a year that the city’s water was also contaminated with lead, but they finally acknowledged that the water wasn’t safe in September 2015.

The crisis is still fresh in the minds of many residents who continue to experience long-term health effects and are wary of their water.

Now, a group of local high school and college students is hoping to restore trust in the water system among their neighbors through the new McKenzie Patrice Croom Flint Community Lab, also known as the Flint Community Water Lab. For the next three years, they will work alongside chemists from the University of Michigan to test the water in more than 20,000 Flint homes and share the results.

RELATED: How Sick Are the Kids in Flint? Inside the Shocking Health Effects of the Devastating Water Crisis

The lab began as a pilot program in 2018 between the Flint Development Center and regional non-profit organization Freshwater Future and officially opened last month with the support of donors, including the University of Michigan, Thermo Fisher Scientific and The Nalgene Water Fund.

Markeysa Peterson, 17, tells PEOPLE she joined the lab to help people struggling in the wake of the crisis. Her nephew Curtis was diagnosed with autism due to lead contamination.

“We have to go through the everyday struggle of teaching him how to develop and function,” she says. “The crisis has made me a bit mentally distraught — everybody in Flint is struggling because we don’t have the attention or support that we deserve.”

In August, Michigan announced that it would pay $600 million to the victims of the Flint Water Crisis, but some residents say money doesn’t solve leftover issues from the crisis.

“Everything from the water plant to our tap needs to be completed replaced in order for us to feel safe,” says Carma Lewis, who has spent most of her life in Flint. “We’re sending our babies into these old school buildings where they still don’t have safe water and they’re using bottled water.”

For more on the Flint Community Water Lab, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE or subscribe here.

Flint Community Lab Flint Community Lab

Lewis points out that having local teens and leaders running the lab is especially important to her, and she plans on getting her water tested regularly.

“It gives me hope,” she says. “I have more faith in kids

Whoever wins in November is going to have to solve the Covid-19 crisis

This week, we ask the question: What comes next for America and Covid-19? Regardless of who is elected in November, we will still be in the midst of a pandemic and facing multiple challenges in addressing it. Culture clashes over mask-wearing, social distancing and vaccines are just a few. We’ll tackle those in our CNN Digital video discussion, but first we start with public policy. Here, two former public officials — Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Frances Fragos Townsend — come together to tell us what should come next.



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Despite the deep divisions ravaging our country ahead of the presidential elections, many Americans are looking for answers to a common threat — the coronavirus. As the daily number of cases and deaths have risen, we remain in the throes of a pandemic that has killed more than 225,000 of our fellow citizens and torpedoed our economy. Indeed, the US is averaging more than 68,000 new cases a day.

Regardless of whether Trump or Joe Biden wins the election, though, the next president will confront a dual challenge: managing the current pandemic and ensuring that the country and the world are better prepared when the next plague strikes — as it inevitably will.

It is past time for the nation to make the investments we need to prevent, detect and respond quickly to emerging infectious diseases, like the coronavirus, before they sicken Americans and force catastrophic economic shutdowns. That is the main finding of a bipartisan task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which we were honored to chair.

Here at home, three of the most glaring failures relate to testing, science-based communication and the protection of vulnerable populations.

Nothing has undercut the US response to Covid-19 more than the failure to develop — to this day — a comprehensive nationwide system of testing and tracing that allows public health authorities to rapidly identify infected individuals and their contacts in order to isolate the sick from healthy populations. Without this timely information, authorities are too often flying blind, uncertain of the trajectory of the disease, slow to identify hot spots and unable to stop the spread of the virus through targeted measures that do not require shutting down entire communities and economies.



Sylvia Mathews Burwell wearing a purple shirt


© Jeff Watts/American University
Sylvia Mathews Burwell

The US experience on testing and contact tracing stands in contrast to nations like South Korea, which rapidly ramped up nationwide testing and successfully mobilized an army of contact tracers. The US cannot put itself in this position again.

The success of public health measures like contact tracing, mask-wearing, and social distancing depends on individuals and communities trusting and adhering to advice from medical professionals and scientists, sometimes delivered by elected and other officials. That public trust must be earned and sustained.

Elected US officials, including the President, often have fallen short as communicators in this pandemic. To prevent future pandemics from becoming a political football, public officials at all levels, from the White

How a Small Biotech Survives Amid Looming Antibiotic Crisis

What if the drug that could save you or a loved one from a case of drug-resistant bacterial pneumonia was invented, approved and for sale, but you couldn’t get it?

What if there were several new approved drugs that could fight against a growing threat of aggressive bacterial infections, but the companies making them either have gone bankrupt or they’re struggling to get doctors to prescribe them?

It couldn’t happen, right? Think again.

“Bankruptcy is destroying antibiotics much faster than resistance,” said Kevin Outterson, a Boston University health and disability law professor, in an email to TheStreet.

In the U.S. and around the globe, creating new antibiotics is becoming failing business model — and it’s hurting health care as much as the drugs’ makers. Almost half of the Food and Drug Administration-approved antibiotics in the last decade have suffered an “economic wipe-out” in the past two years, said Outterson, who’s followed the industry for nearly two decades.

The obstacles are many: A broken marketplace for new antibiotics, unrealistic drug pricing expectations and a pervasive belief that new artillery against bacteria should be held onto tightly instead of firing on the front lines.

One outlier is Paratek  (PRTK) – Get Report, a biotech whose main product is Nuzyra, a tetracycline-class antibiotic that’s considered an upgraded weapon in the battle against bacterial pneumonia and acute skin infections. It’s surviving, but struggling to get its drug to patients. Its stock currently trades on Nasdaq for around five bucks — a fraction of its value years ago.

Outterson says the problem is so bad that only two of the new small public companies with FDA-approved antibiotics have avoided bankruptcy or getting bought up at fire-sale prices. One is Paratek and the other is a biotech called Nabriva  (NBRV) – Get Report, whose main product is Lefamulin, a partially synthetic compound that prevents bacteria from growing.

“The companies behind five other antibiotics have gone through either bankruptcy or a sale at a steep discount,” said Outterson. 

The cost of developing new antibiotic drugs can get close to $1.5 billion overall, according to a 2017 paper funded by AstraZeneca. Yearly revenues for the new products, however, are a crumb of that amount.

“With antibiotics, people still believe that you should be getting them for a buck,” Dr. Evan Loh, chief executive of Paratek, told TheStreet during a recent phone interview. But, he said, “with small biotechs like Paratek now accounting for about 95% of the innovation in antibiotics, we just don’t have the ability, nor are we able, to sell our products at a loss.”

The pricing for antibiotics, he and other industry experts say, is far different from, say, drugs used for cancer treatment. 

“On day-one, with a new oncology product that extends someone’s life for six weeks – but that is not life-saving like antibiotics are – you can charge $50,000 or $60,000 and doctors and health systems are willing to pay for that,” said Loh.

This

Life after COVID-19: Crisis may be over, but ailments don’t always disappear

Months after his hospitalization for COVID-19, Gary Degrijze still can’t grasp a coffee cup handle. Ron Panzok suffers from pain in his left foot. Shirelle White needs supplemental oxygen to breathe.

The three are among the many COVID-19 patients who are enduring the effects of the disease months later. The virus is so new in humans that scientists don’t know how long patients will continue experiencing debilitating long-term effects and whether some of them will have complications the rest of their lives.

“It leads to a lot of frustration,” said Dr. Ewa Rakowski, a pulmonary critical care doctor at Stony Brook Medicine, which is preparing to open a specialized center for those with long-term COVID-19 complications. “They want an explanation and want to know when they can expect to feel back to normal, and we just don’t really have that yet.”

It’s not just those who were hospitalized with severe symptoms of COVID-19 who are still struggling.

“We are also seeing patients who didn’t require hospitalization or really much medical care, and they’re still coming in with the prolonged symptoms of shortness of breath, fatigue, persistent cough and mental fogginess,” Rakowski said.

Degrijze, of Bellport, doesn’t fit most people’s image of someone who almost died of COVID-19. He’s 49 and had to pass a strenuous physical exam every year for the Army Reserve.

“I’ve been perfectly healthy for the majority of my life,” said Degrijze, who was a United States Postal Service letter carrier for 26 years and hopes to one day return to delivering mail.

He spent 2 1/2 months at Stony Brook University Hospital — most of that time on a ventilator — and another two weeks in rehabilitation.

Degrijze’s breathing has greatly improved, but, “I have good and bad days,” he said. “There are days I might walk halfway around the block and I’m like, ‘I’m starting to feel a little out of breath.’ “

Joint pain means he can’t stand or walk for long, and sitting too much leads to lower back pain.

“I have very limited strength in my right arm” because of nerve damage,” he said. “I barely have any strength in my wrists. It’s like my fingers are jammed at the knuckles. It’s almost as if I had a stroke, and I didn’t.”

Degrijze goes to physical therapy three times a week. Doctors don’t know if his arm and hand will ever fully heal.

“They tell me they don’t know how much strength and mobility in my arm and hand I can get back,” he said. “It may be 90%, it may be 70%. They just don’t know.”

Like ‘walking on rocks’

Other than high blood pressure, Panzok, 66, had no major health problems before COVID-19. He, too, almost died from the virus. He spent about two months in a coma

Is Walmart a villain or victim of America’s deadly opioid crisis?

As the opioid crisis ravaged communities across the United States two years ago, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas at the time, Joe Brown, set about fixing blame on Walmart, alleging its pharmacies were filling prescriptions from “pill mill” doctors facilitating drug misuse and abuse by overprescribing narcotics.

The Department of Justice has also had a long-running civil investigation into Walmart’s pharmacies. The Bentonville, Arkansas, retail behemoth is now preemptively suing the Department of Justice, asking a federal district court to untangle the contradictory laws that have left Walmart open to investigation. The “DOJ is threatening to sue Walmart for not going even further in second-guessing doctors,” Walmart said in a press release, while “state health regulators are threatening Walmart and our pharmacists for going too far and interfering in the doctor-patient relationship.”

Walmart has been tightening its policies on filling opioid prescriptions, according to its “opioid stewardship initiative” – not just questioning particular scripts, but refusing to fill any prescription for controlled substances from doctors about whom the company had doubts. In part to appease federal regulators, Walmart applied various restrictions on controlled substances. But soon state authorities accused the company of violating state regulations – even of committing crimes – by blocking prescriptions or even just filling smaller quantities of drugs than doctors had specified. The company also received pushback from medical groups that accused Walmart of trampling on doctors’ prescribing prerogatives.

Walmart’s damned-if-you-fill-the-script, damned-if-you-don’t bind reflects the problems faced by large chain pharmacies, which also include CVS and Walgreens. They are among the chief targets in opioid-related lawsuits that may be some of the most complicated and expensive litigation in American history – the so-called National Prescription Opiate Litigation. The companies didn’t get there on their own: Contradictory regulations, demands, and threats from Washington and the states have combined to create a tangle trapping the pharmacies, leaving them exposed to plaintiffs’ lawyers in a massive “multi-district litigation” playing out in an Ohio court.

The nationwide tobacco litigation of the 1990s was complex enough, involving the states and a handful of cigarette manufacturers. By contrast, plaintiffs in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation – counties, boroughs, parishes, cities, townships, municipalities, and villages – number in the thousands. They are looking for just about everyone in the opioid business – manufacturers, distributors, and retailers – to pay for the opioid misuse that has been so costly to society. Plaintiffs’ lawyers are seeking damages well into the billions.

The court case consolidated in 2017 was supposed to get rolling in November, but has recently been postponed to the spring out of concerns COVID-19 would spread through a crowded courthouse.

The “multi-district litigation” follows efforts by federal prosecutors who have tried to build both criminal and civil cases against pharmacies, including Walmart, for not acting soon enough in blocking all prescriptions written by doctors pharmacists had questions about.

Pharmacies, though, are a curious place to assign blame for the opioid epidemic. They don’t make the drugs: Controlled substances are

Walmart sues US government in dispute linked to opioid crisis

Retail giant Walmart filed suit Thursday against the US Justice Department over what it said was an unfair attempt to hold it legally responsible for certain sales of opioid drugs.

The lawsuit is the latest legal battle linked to the opioid crisis in the United States, where widespread abuse has led to government efforts to address the problem and hold drugmakers accountable.

In its lawsuit brought before a federal court in Texas, the US retailer says its pharmacists and pharmacies were being put “in an untenable position” by the government.

The suit, which also names the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), says Walmart was acting preemptively to head off a separate civil suit that the Justice Department has been preparing to file against it.

Walmart said the government’s rules were unclear and that pharmacists could not be expected to know when a prescription written by a licensed doctor should not be filled.

“Walmart and its pharmacists should not be held responsible for the government’s failures to address the opioid crisis,” the suit says.

With the help of aggressive marketing from pharmaceutical companies, particularly through doctors, prescriptions for highly addictive opiate painkillers that had previously been reserved for serious cases skyrocketed in the late 1990s.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500,000 Americans have died of opioid overdoses — both prescription and non-prescription — since 1999.

Walmart accuses the DEA of seeking to pass blame for its failures.

It alleges the agency “authorized manufacturers to produce ever-increasing quantities of the drugs, and largely abandoned its most potent enforcement tools against bad actors.”

It also said that “nearly 70 percent of the doctors whose prescriptions” the government intends to challenge “maintain their DEA prescription privileges to this day.”

Walmart alleges the government has spent years and considerable amounts of money on a criminal investigation that has not produced an indictment and was now turning to a civil lawsuit instead.

It is calling on the court to state that the company and its pharmacists are not subject to the legal responsibility with which the government is seeking to brand it.

Other large companies, including drug distributors Cardinal Health and McKesson, have been targeted in lawsuits by local and state authorities that accuse them of turning a blind eye to millions of opioid prescriptions despite knowing their addictiveness.

A settlement was reached between three distributors and two Ohio counties in October 2019, raising the possibility of a larger settlement.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced that Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of the drug OxyContin, had agreed to plead guilty as part of a deal worth some $8.3 billion.

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As Purdue Pharma Agrees to Settle with the DOJ, Revisit Its Role in the Opioid Crisis | Opioids, Inc. | FRONTLINE | PBS

In the latest chapter of a complex legal battle over who is responsible for the nation’s opioid crisis, Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the notorious painkiller OxyContin, has arrived at an $8.3 billion settlement with the federal government, pending court approval.

Announced in an Oct. 21 Department of Justice press conference, the settlement, if approved, resolves the federal government’s civil and criminal probes into Purdue Pharma, which is currently in bankruptcy; an additional settlement resolves a federal civil case against Purdue Pharma’s owners, the Sackler family.

“It’s also important to note that this resolution does not prohibit future criminal or civil penalties against Purdue Pharma’s executives or employees,” Jeffrey A. Rosen, the U.S. deputy attorney general, said at the press conference.

Under the settlement, Purdue Pharma admits guilt on three felony charges involving conspiring to defraud the U.S. and break anti-kickback regulations in how it marketed opioids. The settlement involves a $3.5 billion criminal fine and a $2 billion criminal forfeiture, as well as a civil payment of $2.8 billion, though actual monetary payments could be substantially less, once the company’s value is factored in. Separately, the Sacklers themselves will make a $225 million payment to the U.S.

The settlement “will require that the company be dissolved and no longer exist in its present form,” Rosen said, with the Sacklers barred from any controlling or owning role moving forward. Instead, if the settlement is approved by bankruptcy court, the company’s assets would become “owned by a trust for the benefit of the American public,” Rosen said. The new company would still be able to manufacture opioid drugs but would also be required to produce large quantities of medicines to treat and respond to addiction and overdoses, and would need to offer the latter as donations or “at cost.”

“Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts,” Steve Miller, chairman of Purdue Pharma’s board, said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Sackler family members who served on the Purdue Pharma board said they had “acted ethically and lawfully” and that they “reached today’s agreement in order to facilitate a global resolution that directs substantial funding to communities in need, rather than to years of legal proceedings.”

The statement also said, “Regarding the plea agreement between the government and Purdue, no member of the Sackler family was involved in that conduct or served in a management role at Purdue during that time period.”

A number of states’ attorneys general spoke out against the terms of the proposed settlement as inadequate and vowed to continue to pursue cases against the company and the Sacklers, which the federal settlements do not resolve.

Purdue Pharma has long been accused of being a driver of America’s opioid crisis. FRONTLINE’s 2016 documentary Chasing Heroin investigated how that crisis came to be, examining allegations about Purdue Pharma’s role in the early years of what has been called the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history.

Worsening opioid crisis overshadowed in presidential race

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Like millions of Americans, Diane Urban watched the first presidential debate last month at home with her family. When it was over, she turned off the television and climbed into the bed her 25-year-old son Jordan used to sleep in.

It was where she found Jordan’s lifeless body after he overdosed on the opioid fentanyl one morning in April 2019.

After watching President Donald Trump target the son of former Vice President Joe Biden for his history of substance abuse, Urban was reminded again of the shame her son lived with during his own battle with addiction.

“I just think that Trump doesn’t understand addiction,” said Urban, 53, a Republican from Delphos, Ohio, who voted for the president in 2016.


The exchange over Hunter Biden’s struggle with addiction was brief, and neither candidate was asked a follow-up question about their plan to tackle the nation’s drug addiction and overdose crisis.

Though Biden’s campaign has a policy paper on addiction, the issue has barely registered in this year’s presidential campaign, overshadowed by the human and economic toll of the coronavirus outbreak and the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic. Yet drug addiction continues its grim march across the U.S., having contributed to the deaths of more than 470,000 Americans over the past two decades.

And it’s only getting worse.

After a one-year drop in 2018, U.S. opioid overdose deaths increased again in 2019, topping 50,000 for the first time, according to provisional data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That accounted for the majority of the 71,000 fatal overdoses from all drugs. While national data isn’t available for most of 2020, The Associated Press surveyed individual states that are reporting overdoses and found more drug-related deaths amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ohio, a battleground state in the presidential contest, is on track to have one of its deadliest years of opioid drug overdoses. More residents died of overdoses in May than in any month in at least 14 years, according to preliminary mortality statistics from the state health department.

As Trump nears the end of his first term, some supporters, including Urban, feel left behind by his administration’s drug policies.

During Trump’s first two years in office, 48 of the 59 Ohio counties with reliable data saw their overdose death rates get worse, according to an analysis of CDC data by The Associated Press. The data was compared to overdose death rates in 2015 and 2016, the last two years of the Obama administration.

What that looks like on the ground is mothers donating to GoFundMe accounts and Facebook campaigns so other mothers can bury their children who’ve overdosed. Some parents even reserve a casket while their child is still alive so they are prepared for what they believe is inevitable.

Others become legal guardians of their grandchildren. Among them are Brenda Stewart, 62, and her husband, who adopted their grandchildren a decade ago as their son struggled with addiction. That led Stewart to start