In Hunt for Virus Source, W.H.O. Let China Take Charge

As it praised Beijing, the World Health Organization concealed concessions to China and may have sacrificed the best chance to unravel the virus’s origins. Now it’s a favorite Trump attack line.


GENEVA — On a cold weekend in mid-February, when the world still harbored false hope that the new coronavirus could be contained, a World Health Organization team arrived in Beijing to study the outbreak and investigate a critical question: How did the virus jump from animals to humans?

At that point, there were only three confirmed deaths from Covid-19 outside China and scientists hoped that finding an animal source for the coronavirus would unlock clues about how to stop it, treat it and prevent similar outbreaks.

“If we don’t know the source then we’re equally vulnerable in the future to a similar outbreak,” Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergency director, had said that week in Geneva. “Understanding that source is a very important next step.”

What the team members did not know was that they would not be allowed to investigate the source at all. Despite Dr. Ryan’s pronouncements, and over the advice of its emergency committee, the organization’s leadership had quietly negotiated terms that sidelined its own experts. They would not question China’s initial response or even visit the live-animal market in the city of Wuhan where the outbreak seemed to have originated.

Nine months and more than 1.1 million deaths later, there is still no transparent, independent investigation into the source of the virus. Notoriously allergic to outside scrutiny, China has impeded the effort, while leaders of the World Health Organization, if privately frustrated, have largely ceded control, even as the Trump administration has fumed.

From the earliest days of the outbreak, the World Health Organization — the only public health body with a global remit — has been both indispensable and impotent. The Geneva-based agency has delivered key information about testing, treatment and vaccine science. When the Trump administration decided to develop its own test kits, rather than rely on the W.H.O. blueprint, the botched result led to delays.

At the same time, the health organization pushed misleading and contradictory information about the risk of spread from symptomless carriers. Its experts were slow to accept that the virus could be airborne. Top health officials encouraged travel as usual, advice that was based on politics and economics, not science.

The W.H.O.’s staunchest defenders note that, by the nature of its constitution, it is beholden to the countries that finance it. And it is hardly the only international body bending to China’s might. But even many of its supporters have been frustrated by the organization’s secrecy, its public praise for China and its quiet concessions. Those decisions have indirectly helped Beijing to whitewash its early failures in handling the outbreak.

Now, as a new Covid-19 wave engulfs Europe and the United States, the organization is in the middle of a geopolitical standoff.

China’s authoritarian

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New data shed more light on source of coronavirus clusters around Mass.

Of the 28 COVID-19 clusters linked to child care from Sept. 27 through Oct. 24, just 70 confirmed infections were identified, along with 253 close contacts that required additional tracing and testing.

Similarly, just 70 confirmed cases were identified from 19 clusters in restaurants and food courts, the data show.

In posting the new data, Massachusetts joins a handful of other states that are sharing such information.

Health departments in some states, including Louisiana, post reports from their contact-tracing programs that specify the businesses, schools, or other facilities where outbreaks are occurring. Others, such as Vermont and Colorado, post the occupations, industries, or settings — such as bars, casinos, or food processing plants — with the highest number or percentages of infections in their states.

Massachusetts’ new data show 2,707 clusters involving 6,830 new cases linked to households. That accounts for about a third of all the new infections in the past month.

“A large amount of transmission is occurring in households, a place where people let their guard down and feel safe,” said Tory Mazzola, a spokesman for the state’s coronavirus command center. ”It’s critical that residents are aware of this and — especially those living in multi-generational homes or with family members who have underlying conditions — take precautions even in their home, such as wearing a mask, washing hands and not sharing utensils, as a few examples.”

Carlene Pavlos, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, said the household data leaves too many unanswered questions.

“What we really want to understand is how is the spread getting into the community,” she said. “Residents living in the same household, we know they are likely to spread it to each other.”

Earlier this week, Governor Charlie Baker said workplace infections are not driving the state’s surge in cases, but the new data suggests that’s an open question.

The data do not identify whether the cases and clusters identified in nursing homes, hospitals, and other health care settings are among workers or patients. But it does show that about 16 percent of the confirmed cases linked to clusters in the past month are from various sites, including health care, restaurants, retail stores, and other settings.

As the holidays approach, Baker has urged residents to be cautious about social gatherings, but the new data suggest those gatherings are not necessarily fueling the latest surge in coronavirus infections.

The new numbers show 11 new clusters traced to social gatherings in the last month. Yet those clusters accounted for just 67 new confirmed cases, along with 50 other people considered close contacts who may have been infected.

“Clearly that is not what is driving this latest spike of over 1,000 new cases a day,” Pavlos said.


Kay Lazar can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.

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Pacific Source: Medicare Advantage plans: Locations, plans, and costs

PacificSource Medicare was founded in Oregon in 1933 as a not-for-profit company, offers Medicare Advantage plans, and has more than 300,000 members throughout the Northwest.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), Medicare-approved insurance companies, such as PacificSource, provided Advantage plans to more than 24 million US citizens in 2020.

This article looks at the PacificSource Advantage plans and availability. It also looks at the coverage, benefits, and costs.

We may use a few terms in this piece that can be helpful to understand when selecting the best insurance plan:

  • Deductible: This is an annual amount that a person must spend out of pocket within a certain time period before an insurer starts to fund their treatments.
  • Coinsurance: This is a percentage of a treatment cost that a person will need to self-fund. For Medicare Part B, this comes to 20%.
  • Copayment: This is a fixed dollar amount that an insured person pays when receiving certain treatments. For Medicare, this usually applies to prescription drugs.

PacificSource offers several Medicare Advantage plans, including Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), Health Maintenance Organization Point of Service (HMO-POS), and Preferred Provider Organization (PPO).

HMO plans

PacificSource HMO plans include Medicare Essentials 2 without Part D prescription drug coverage and MyCare Rx 40 including Part D.

When a person enrolls in an HMO plan, they agree to use the plan’s network of healthcare providers. They also choose a primary care doctor from within the network, who then coordinates health services and referrals to specialists.

If a person wants to use a healthcare provider from outside the network, they may have more costs, except in a medical emergency.

Medicare Essentials 2 (HMO) plan

This plan is available in certain counties in Oregon. In 2021, the monthly premium and the annual deductible are both zero, while the out-of-pocket maximum expense is $5,500. A person must use in-network providers.

My Care Rx 40 (HMO) plan

This plan is available in certain counties in Oregon.
The monthly premium in 2021 is zero. Out-of-pocket expenses in 2021 have an annual maximum of $4,950, and a person must use in-network providers.

HMO-POS plans

PacificSource HMO-POS plans include Medicare Essentials Choice Rx 14, and MyCare Choice Rx 24, both of which include prescription drugs (Part D) coverage.

With HMO-POS plans, people have the freedom to use healthcare services outside of their plan’s network. However, they must pay a higher copay or coinsurance to do so.

Medicare Essentials Choice Rx 14 plan (HMO-POS) plan

This plan is available in certain counties in Oregon.
In 2021, the monthly premium is $99.00 and the in-network out-of-pocket maximum is $5,500.

2021 MyCare Choice Rx 24 (HMO-POS) plan

This plan is available in certain counties in Idaho.
The monthly premium in 2021 is $35. Out-of-pocket expenses have an annual maximum of $5,500 in 2021 for in-network providers and no maximum for out-of-network services.

PPO plans

PacificSource PPO plans include Explorer 12 without the prescription drug (Part D) cover and Explorer Rx4, including Part D prescription drug coverage.

These

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