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No evidence of human remains found at ‘Tiger King’ zoo, Garvin County Sheriff says – KOCO Oklahoma City

July 11th, 2020

Garvin County Sheriff Jim Mullett told KOCO 5 that no evidence of human remains was found Friday at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park following an investigation. Agents with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, along with Garvin County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the park Friday evening to search for possible human remains.Jeff Lowe, who currently operates the zoo that was at the center of popular Netflix docu-series “Tiger King,” told KOCO 5 that “Ghost Adventures” is filming at the zoo and host Zak Bagans brought cadaver dogs. During the film crew’s investigation, Lowe said two cadaver dogs alerted to the same location, and that the trainers of the dogs were convinced there were human remains.Photos provided to KOCO 5 show authorities digging in an area at the zoo. OSBI officials confirmed that they were requested by the Garvin County Sheriff’s Office, but did not provide details on an investigation.Lowe told KOCO 5 that the sheriff, undersheriff and OSBI agents were on the scene. Mullett said they have concluded the investigation after determining that no evidence of human remains was found. The zoo was previously owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic.” He is now behind bars in federal prison after being convicted in April 2019 of conspiring to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin in Florida, and killing five tigers and selling and offering to sell tiger cubs.In a ruling on June 1, U.S. District Judge Scott Palk granted control of the zoo to Big Cat Rescue Corp., the Florida group founded by Baskin, who was also featured in the popular Netflix show. The decision said the zoo animals must be removed from the property within 120 days.

Garvin County Sheriff Jim Mullett told KOCO 5 that no evidence of human remains was found Friday at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park following an investigation.

Agents with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, along with Garvin County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the park Friday evening to search for possible human remains.

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Jeff Lowe, who currently operates the zoo that was at the center of popular Netflix docu-series “Tiger King,” told KOCO 5 that “Ghost Adventures” is filming at the zoo and host Zak Bagans brought cadaver dogs.

During the film crew’s investigation, Lowe said two cadaver dogs alerted to the same location, and that the trainers of the dogs were convinced there were human remains.

Photos provided to KOCO 5 show authorities digging in an area at the zoo. OSBI officials confirmed that they were requested by the Garvin County Sheriff’s Office, but did not provide details on an investigation.

Lowe told KOCO 5 that the sheriff, undersheriff and OSBI agents were on the scene.

Mullett said they have concluded the investigation after determining that no evidence of human remains was found.

The zoo was previously owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic.” He is now behind bars in federal prison after being convicted in April 2019 of conspiring to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin in Florida, and killing five tigers and selling and offering to sell tiger cubs.

In a ruling on June 1, U.S. District Judge Scott Palk granted control of the zoo to Big Cat Rescue Corp., the Florida group founded by Baskin, who was also featured in the popular Netflix show. The decision said the zoo animals must be removed from the property within 120 days.

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‘I thought this was a hoax’ | 30-year-old patient dies in local hospital after attending ‘COVID Party’ – KENS5.com

July 10th, 2020

“The thought is that people get together to see if the virus is real if anyone gets infected,” a hospital official said.

SAN ANTONIO — A 30-year-old patient died after attending what’s being called a “COVID Party,” said Methodist Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jane Appleby.

“This is a party held by someone diagnosed with the COVID virus, and the thought is that people get together to see if the virus is real if anyone gets infected,” Appleby said. 

Appleby said she heard the heartbreaking story from a member of her staff this week.

“Just before the patient died, they looked at their nurse and said, ‘I think I made a mistake. I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not,'” Appleby said. 

Appleby said several of their critically ill coronavirus patients are in their twenties and thirties. It’s a growing trend seen across San Antonio.

During Friday night’s briefing, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said young adults made up 25% of positive cases in Bexar County. 

“We’re in a period of very high community transmission,” Nirenberg said. “If you’re having a party with people who aren’t part of your social circle in your household, it has the potential to be a COVID party whether you like it or not.”

Appleby said she’s not trying to be an alarmist. She hopes this patient’s case helps people realize the severity of what’s going on around them. 

“This is just one example of a potentially avoidable death in a young member of our community and I can’t imagine the loss of the family,” Appleby said. “We’re here to help you, at the same time, we hope that you don’t need our help. Please wear a mask, stay at home when you can, avoid groups of people and sanitize your hands.”

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Amid record case counts, OHA asks Oregonians to reel in indoor gatherings – KGW.com

July 10th, 2020

“We’re asking everyone in our state to voluntarily limit indoor social gatherings to fewer than ten people,” the agency’s director said Friday.

PORTLAND, Ore — On Friday, state officials delivered something of a wakeup call to Oregonians who are letting their guards down at indoor parties and gatherings. 

A behavior that, officials said, is exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 and contributing to record numbers of confirmed cases.

“We’re asking everyone in our state to voluntarily limit indoor social gatherings to fewer than 10 people for at least the next three weeks,” said Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority.

The voluntary cap, announced during a media briefing via phone, would be a tightening of guidelines laid out in Phase 1 of Oregon’s re-opening plan, which allowed for social gatherings of up to 25.

The announcement came after case counts in Oregon repeatedly broke records this week.

The current record was set Thursday, with 389 new cases and six deaths in one day.

Officials said Friday, when counties began re-opening, they knew the virus would spread, but, they noted, it’s spreading more than it has to.

Allen said Oregonians are letting their guards down in social settings like “…graduations, birthdays, weddings, holidays like Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, 4th of July,” he said. “We’ve seen outbreaks linked to exercise classes, fraternity parties, bachelor parties.”

Oregon’s state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger noted restaurants, grocery stores and businesses that host the public are not being asked to limit groups inside to 10 people.

In short, he said, they’re not the problem.

“We have strong recommendations, strong guidance for business, and most businesses are following those,” he said

Dr. Sidelinger added, right now, state officials aren’t considering closing counties again.

That said, they want to get the problem under control fast.

While they can’t diagnose them all, the OHA estimates roughly 1,100 Oregonians are contracting COVID-19 each day.

The agency’s modeling shows, even if residents buckle down and slow the spread by 10%, officials expect that number to keep rising. Within the next month, they estimate, it would reach 1,600 new infections per day.

If nothing changes, they expect the number to climb to 3,600 new infections each day.

If things get worse and people mingle more, they estimate we’ll see 7,300 new infections per day.

At that rate, it wouldn’t take long for the infections to overwhelm our hospitals, like they are in Texas, Florida and Arizona.

While the rate of people surviving the virus is increasing, Dr. Sidelinger noted, COVID-19 is still dangerous and unpredictable.

”Yes, our healthcare system has gotten better at treating this disease and treating the complications of this disease and preventing deaths,” he said. “But there’s still a significant number of that and increasing deaths across the United States from this disease. There are still people who are discharged from the hospital who have ongoing complications.”

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CDC: Covid-19 death toll is twice as high among people of color under age 65 as for white Americans – The Washington Post

July 10th, 2020

Most of the people who died were older than 65, and most had underlying medical conditions. But researchers obtained more complete data on race, ethnicity and underlying conditions for a subset of about 10,000 people. Most of those deaths occurred in New York City, New Jersey and Washington state, three areas hardest hit at the dawn of the pandemic.

The study found stark differences in the age at which people from different racial and ethnic groups died of covid-19. Among white people, the median age was 81, while for Hispanics it was 71, and for all nonwhite, non-Hispanic people it was 72.

Researchers found that the virus exacted a vastly steeper toll on people of color who were younger than 65. About 35 percent of Hispanic people who died of covid-19 were under 65, and about 29.5 percent of nonwhite, non-Hispanics who died were under 65. By comparison, 13.2 percent of deaths among white people were in those younger than 65.

The percentage of deaths among Hispanic and nonwhite people exceeded their representation in the U.S. population. That suggests rates of coronavirus transmission are higher among younger members of those groups than among their white counterparts and may reflect their greater presence in front-line jobs that don’t allow them to work from home. It could also suggest they are more likely to live in crowded or multigenerational homes where it is difficult to maintain social distancing.

Authorities on health disparities say racial differences arise from social and structural inequities that leave some racial and ethnic groups around the world acutely vulnerable to the most devastating effects of the coronavirus. Those differences have helped fuel protests for racial justice that have swept the nation.

Among those older than 65 who died of covid-19, nearly 41 percent were white and non-Hispanic, 21 percent were Hispanic and 32 percent were nonwhite and non-Hispanic.

The CDC report found that diabetes was common among those younger than 65 who died. Nearly half of the deaths in people under 65 were in people with diabetes. Overall, 35 percent of patients under age 65 hospitalized with covid-19 had diabetes.

The CDC recently broadened its warning about the groups at risk of developing severe complications from covid-19. Officials said even younger people who are obese or have other health conditions, such as diabetes, can become severely ill if they contract the virus.

A CDC study last month found that people with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease and diabeteswere hospitalized six times as often as otherwise healthy individuals infected with the coronavirus during the first four months of the pandemic and they died 12 times as often.

In the report released Friday, nearly 1 in 12 deaths in people under 65 took place at home or in an emergency department, suggesting they may not have had access to health care, may have delayed seeking care or may have been delayed in getting diagnosed.

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WHO still skeptical SARS-CoV-2 lingers in air—despite what the NYT says – Ars Technica

July 10th, 2020
A serious woman speaks into a microphone.
Enlarge / World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan attends a press conference organized by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

If you happened to read The New York Times this week, you may be under the false impression that the World Health Organization significantly changed its stance on whether the pandemic coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, spreads by lingering in the air.

Around midday Thursday, the paper declared: “W.H.O., in Reversal, Affirms Virus May Be Airborne Indoors.” The paper also called it an “admission” and, in a subsequent article, said the WHO had “conceded.” The articles both noted that a group of more than 200 researchers had also published a commentary piece this week urging the WHO and other public health bodies to acknowledge and address the potential for airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

The problem: the WHO did not change its stance on airborne transmission. And, as such, it did not issue any new recommendations or guidance on how people can stay safe.

What the organization did do is release an update of its review of the data on transmission, which it said it had been working on for weeks—well before the published commentary.

New data

In its updated scientific brief on transmission, the WHO said, basically, the same thing it has said for months on airborne transmission. That is: the question of whether SARS-CoV-2 lingers in the air is a topic of active discussion and, while it may be possible in some settings, the data in aerosol transmission so far is inconclusive or unconvincing. But, as always, the WHO welcomes more high-quality research on this topic.

In the latest brief, the WHO reviewed recent physics studies looking at aerosol production, but it noted: “the proportion of exhaled droplet nuclei or of respiratory droplets that evaporate to generate aerosols, and the infectious dose of viable SARS-CoV-2  required to cause infection in another person are not known.” It reviewed experiments on droplets and aerosols from normal speech and coughing and concluded, “To date, transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by this type of aerosol route has not been demonstrated; much more research is needed.” Likewise, studies using nebulizers to suspend SARS-CoV-2 in the air “do not reflect normal human cough conditions,” the WHO concluded.

The WHO noted that clinical reports of exposed health workers “suggest that aerosol transmission did not occur in this context.” And, the organization added, air sampling in health care settings has been inconsistent in finding genetic traces of the virus.

Same tune

Perhaps there was some rush to declare victory in the great aerosol war because the WHO did discuss recent reports of possible airborne transmission in specific outbreaks.

The WHO noted in the updated brief:

[S]ome outbreak reports related to indoor crowded spaces have suggested the possibility of aerosol transmission, combined with droplet transmission, for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes. In these events, short-range aerosol transmission, particularly in specific indoor locations, such as crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces over a prolonged period of time with infected persons cannot be ruled out.

It seemed some were happy that the WHO acknowledged the existence of these reports—though the main purpose of these periodically updated scientific briefs is to review new data. And perhaps some interpreted the “cannot be ruled out” piece as the WHO admitting it as a possibility. But, of course, the WHO went on: “However, the detailed investigations of these clusters suggest that droplet and [transmission from contaminated surfaces or objects] could also explain human-to-human transmission within these clusters.”

This is not exactly a warm embrace of the airborne transmission. It’s more like the brief, awkward sideways hug you’d give a friend who doesn’t shower enough.

But most importantly, it’s not substantively different from what the WHO has said before on this. The organization said something very similar in its June 5 guidance on masks. Likewise, in the previous version of the scientific brief on transmission, published March 29, the WHO acknowledged the possibility of airborne transmission, writing: “To date, some scientific publications provide initial evidence on whether the COVID-19 virus can be detected in the air.”

But, it cautioned, “[t]hese initial findings need to be interpreted carefully.” Just as it did in the updated version of the brief, the WHO went on to note the weaknesses of the data, suggesting that it was not yet convinced. And, as always, it called for more research.

When Ars reached out to the WHO to ask if the new scientific brief represented a “reversal” on its stance, a spokesperson responded concisely: “WHO has not changed its guidance.”

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WHO changes guidance on airborne transmission of coronavirus – KARE11.com

July 10th, 2020

Leaders with the Minnesota Department of Health said they will not be changing any safety guidelines until further evidence of airborne transmission warrants it.

ST PAUL, Minn. — The World Health Organization now recognizes the potential for airborne spread of the coronavirus through microscopic particles that remain in poorly ventilated air for hours.

The change comes after 239 scientists from around the world issued an open letter saying recent studies have shown “… beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are released during exhalation,” and that they can pose a risk of exposure at distances beyond two meters.

The letter has convinced the WHO to now consider the possibility of airborne spread of the virus, but the WHO has not gone as far to say the virus travels on droplets solely through breathing, as oppose to just coughing, singing, sneezing or loudly talking.

In the WHO’s update on the potential for aerosol transmission of the virus, outside the healthcare setting, it says, “There have been reported outbreaks of COVID-19 in some closed settings, such as restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship or places of work where people may be shouting, talking, or singing. In these outbreaks, aerosol transmission, particularly in these indoor locations where there are crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces where infected persons spend long periods of time with others, cannot be ruled out. More studies are urgently needed to investigate such instances and assess their significance for transmission of COVID-19.”

“The [scientists’] document lays out exactly that answer and why the WHO has to look at the aerosol transmission as being an important part of the transmission of the SARS-COV-2 virus,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota.

Friday, leaders with the Minnesota Department of Health said they will not be changing any safety guidelines yet until further evidence of airborne transmission warrants changes.

Kris Ehresmann, director the Minnesota Department of Health infectious disease division, said that mask wearing and, in particular, six feet of social distancing are still the best practices even with the little we know about possible airborne transmission.

“The data that has looked at the impact of social distancing does show that when you are social distancing it makes a difference in reducing transmission,” said Ehresmann.

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KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and see what businesses are open as the state slowly lifts restrictions. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

The state of Minnesota has set up a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.

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Jada Pinkett Smith admits she DID have an affair with singer August Alsina – Daily Mail

July 10th, 2020

Jada Pinkett Smith has admitted she did have an affair with singer August Alsina while married to Will Smith

The 48-year-old sat down with her husband for an intimate conversation on her Facebook show, Red Table Talk and revealed she developed a friendship with August around four years ago.

She said around the same time, the married couple were going through a ‘difficult time’ and they had ‘basically broken up’. 

The bombshell tell-all comes after both actors denied August’s claims that Will gave him his blessing to have a relationship with Jada.  

Tell-all: Jada Pinkett Smith admitted to having an affair during her marriage during a confessional with her husband Will Smith on Red Table Talk on Friday

Tell-all: Jada Pinkett Smith admitted to having an affair during her marriage during a confessional with her husband Will Smith on Red Table Talk on Friday

Tell-all: Jada Pinkett Smith admitted to having an affair during her marriage during a confessional with her husband Will Smith on Red Table Talk on Friday

In Friday’s episode of Jada’s web series, the Hollywood couple sat opposite each other as they set the record straight and reaffirmed their commitment to each other.

Jada began explaining that the couple met August through their son Jaden and recalled that the Louisiana-born singer, who would have been 23 at the time, was ‘really sick’.

‘And it all started with him just needing some help, me wanting to help his health, his mental state. 

‘The outpouring for him from our family was initially about his health,’ she said. ‘We found all those different resources to help pull him through and from there you and I were going through a very difficult time.’ 

Will admitted, ‘I was done with you,’ while Jada added that they decided to separate for a ‘period of time’. 

‘And then what did you do, Jada?’ Will asked, urging his wife to keep talking. 

‘As time went on, I got into a different type of entanglement with August,’ Jada explained.

The mother-of-two went on to respond to August’s claim that Will gave her ‘permission’ to have an affair. 

‘The only person that can give permission in that circumstance is myself,’ she insisted.

‘But what August was probably trying to communicate because I could see how he could see it as permission because we were separated amicably, and I think he wanted to make it clear he’s not a homewrecker because he’s not.’

When Will pushed Jada to clarify what she meant by ‘entanglement’ she responded, ‘It was a relationship, absolutely.’  

Jada continued: ‘I was in a lot of pain, and I was very broken. In the process of that relationship I definitely realized that you can’t find happiness outside yourself.’

She explained the couple were going through a process of healing. 

‘I just wanted to feel good, It had been so long since I felt good… and it was really a joy to just help heal somebody.’

Four years ago: Jada recalled that she and Will met singer August Alsina, who was 'really sick', through their son Jaden

Four years ago: Jada recalled that she and Will met singer August Alsina, who was 'really sick', through their son Jaden

Jada explained the couple weren't doing good at the time and decided to separate for a period of time. Will admitted, 'I was done with you.'

Jada explained the couple weren't doing good at the time and decided to separate for a period of time. Will admitted, 'I was done with you.'

Jada said she and Will met singer August Alsina, who was ‘really sick’, through their son Jaden. She said she and Will were on the rocks at the time and decided to separate for a period of time. Will admitted: ‘I was done with you.’

'I devoted myself to it, I gave my full self to it, so much so to the point that I can die right now and be okay with knowing that I truly gave myself to somebody.' August said of his relationship with Jada. They are pictured together at the 2017 BET Awards

'I devoted myself to it, I gave my full self to it, so much so to the point that I can die right now and be okay with knowing that I truly gave myself to somebody.' August said of his relationship with Jada. They are pictured together at the 2017 BET Awards

‘I devoted myself to it, I gave my full self to it, so much so to the point that I can die right now and be okay with knowing that I truly gave myself to somebody.’ August said of his relationship with Jada. They are pictured together at the 2017 BET Awards 

The Set It Off star pondered whether it was to do with her codependency and needing to ‘fix people’ due to her past traumas.  

As Will made light of the fact he’s stood by his wife throughout intense media scrutiny, Jada admitted that she doesn’t see her relationship with August ‘as a transgression at all’. 

‘Through that particular journey, I learned so much about myself and was able to really confront a lot of emotional immaturity, emotional insecurity and I was really able to do some really deep healing,’ Jada said. 

INSIDE WILL SMITH AND JADA PINKETT SMITH’S 22-YEAR MARRIAGE

Jada and Will have been married since 1997 after they met while she was auditioning to be his girlfriend on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

The couple has previously denied they are swingers or in an open relationship 

‘I’m like, “Yo, I wish. I wish!”‘ Jada told Andy Cohen in 2017 of the persistent swinging rumors

Yet they have remained open about their sex lives, often sharing intimate details

At the premier of his movie Focus, Will let slip that Jada loves to watch his sex scenes

‘She’s a little freaky like that,’ he joked

In 2010, Jada told Oprah Winfrey that spontaneity is key to her and Will’s relationship 

‘During the day I might send a sexy picture of some sort …If he’s on set with me, we might take a break,’ she said

Just a year earlier, she’d offered advice in a Redbook interview that it was important to move things outside of the bedroom

‘Does he have access to his office? Have a fantasy date. Be his secretary! Pull over on the side of the road…Just switch it up,’ she said

In 2010,  the couple took their own advice in their limo on the way to the Oscars

‘We started kissing passionately, and the next thing I knew, well, let’s just say we missed the red carpet and I ended up with almost no makeup on,’ Jada revealed

The actress also claimed it was Will who first told her about the ‘Grapefruit Method’ made famous in her movie  Girls Trip 

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‘And as I came through and started to realize certain things about you and I, he decided to break all communication with me which was totally understandable. And I let that be and hadn’t talked to him since so it is a little weird that all this stuff is coming out now since this was several [years ago].’ 

Will chimed in, ‘For me, this was years ago,’ as Jada reflected on how far they’ve come in their relationship, ‘We have really gotten to that new place of unconditional love.’

At one point in the conversation they echoed each other, saying: ‘We ride together. We die together. Bad marriage for life,’ a reference to a catchphrase in Will’s Bad Boys franchise. 

August told The Breakfast Club’s Angela Yee on June 30 that he was in love with Jada and said: ‘I sat down with Will [Smith] and had a conversation due to the transformation from their marriage to life partnership… he gave me his blessing.’ 

August said the two became very close, and holidayed together with the family in Hawaii a year later and they even attended the 2017 BET Awards together.

He said: ‘I totally gave myself to that relationship for years of my life, and I truly and really, really deeply love and have a ton of love for her.

‘I devoted myself to it, I gave my full self to it, so much so to the point that I can die right now and be okay with knowing that I truly gave myself to somebody. 

‘And I really loved a person, I experienced that and I know what that feels like, and some people never get that in this lifetime.

‘I know that I am completely blessed and this conversation is difficult because it is so much, that it would be hard for people to understand but, once it starts to affect me and my livelihood, I have to speak up about my truth.’

Shortly after Will’s representative branded the reports as ‘wrong’, while a spokesperson for Jada denied the claims to Page Six, calling them ‘absolutely not true’.

But a day later on July 2, Jada tweeted: ‘There’s some healing that needs to happen… so I’m bringing myself to The Red Table.’ 

Jada has been married to Will since 1997, they are parents to Jaden and daughter Willow, 19. Will has a son Trey, 27, from his marriage to Sheree Zampino, 53.

In 2019 August had denied an affair with Jada had taken place after his track ‘Nunya’ was released.  

Rumors were sparked by the lyrics: ‘You got me feeling like it was an act, you’re just an actress / Putting on a show ’cause you don’t want the world to know.’

The singer now says he is not speaking out to cause trouble. 

He said: ‘Contrary to what people may believe, I am not a troublemaker. I don’t like drama. Drama actually makes me nauseous. 

‘And I also don’t think that it is ever important for people to know what I do, who I sleep with, who I date … but in this instance it is very different because as I said, there are so many people that are side-eyeing me, looking at me questionable.

Breaking silence: August told Angela Yee during their interview that he usually wouldn't discuss the affair, but he's 'lost money, friendships, relationships' over the rumors

Breaking silence: August told Angela Yee during their interview that he usually wouldn't discuss the affair, but he's 'lost money, friendships, relationships' over the rumors

Breaking silence: August told Angela Yee during their interview that he usually wouldn’t discuss the affair, but he’s ‘lost money, friendships, relationships’ over the rumors

'It was a relationship, absolutely,': Will asked Jada to clarify what she meant by 'entanglement'

'It was a relationship, absolutely,': Will asked Jada to clarify what she meant by 'entanglement'

‘It was a relationship, absolutely,’: Will asked Jada to clarify what she meant by ‘entanglement’

‘I have lost money, friendships, relationships behind it and I think it is because people don’t necessarily know the truth. But I have never done anything wrong.

‘I love those people [the Smiths] literally like my family. I don’t have a bad thing to say about them. They are beautiful people.’

Jada has previously denied rumors that she and Will are in an open relationship and said they will never divorce. 

Will has previously said that the couple no longer use the ‘married’ title but refer to each other as ‘life partners’. 

‘We don’t even say we’re married anymore,’ he told BET in 2018. 

‘We refer to ourselves as life partners, where you get into that space where you realize you are literally with somebody for the rest of your life.

Denial: The couple, pictured here in 2015, initially denied the claims coming from August

Denial: The couple, pictured here in 2015, initially denied the claims coming from August

Denial: The couple, pictured here in 2015, initially denied the claims coming from August

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Houston hospitals are increasingly turning away new patients as coronavirus overwhelms emergency rooms – KPRC Click2Houston

July 10th, 2020

HOUSTONThis article is co-published with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published.

Houston hospitals have been forced to treat hundreds of COVID-19 patients in their emergency rooms — sometimes for several hours or multiple days — as they scramble to open additional intensive care beds for the wave of seriously ill people streaming through their doors, according to internal numbers shared with NBC News and ProPublica.

At the same time, the region’s 12 busiest hospitals are increasingly telling emergency responders that they cannot safely accept new patients, at a rate nearly three times that of a year ago, according to data reviewed by reporters.

The increase in ambulance diversions, coupled with the spike in patients being held indefinitely in emergency rooms, are the latest indicators that Houston hospitals are straining to keep up with a surge of new coronavirus patients. ProPublica and NBC News have previously reported that a public hospital in Houston ran out of a medication to treat COVID-19 patients and that a spike in at-home deaths from cardiac arrest suggests that the death toll from the coronavirus may be higher than official statistics show.

On Thursday, 3,812 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the region, including more than 1,000 in intensive care units, a record since the pandemic began. At the same time, since Texas officials have not issued another stay-at-home order to slow the virus’ spread, hospitals are also still seeing a steady flow of patients in need of care as a result of car accidents, violent crime and heat-related medical emergencies.

Houston's packed emergency room (Graphic: Jiachuan Wu/ NBC News)
Houston’s packed emergency room (Graphic: Jiachuan Wu/ NBC News) (NBC News)

Officials in Houston are warning that the situation could become a replay of what happened in New York City in March and April, when thousands of people died as hospitals struggled to keep up with the surge of patients, but without the same level of government intervention to stem the tide.

Typically when people arrive at a hospital emergency department, they’re evaluated and treated by the medical staff. Those sick or injured enough to require hospitalization are then moved to other areas of the hospital for specialized care. But increasingly in Houston, particularly for patients suffering from COVID-19, there’s nowhere for them to go.

“Normally that patient would just go to an ICU bed, but because there are no beds available, they continue to board in the emergency room,” said Harris Health System president and CEO Esmaeil Porsa, who oversees the city’s two public safety-net hospitals. “It is not an optimal level of care. This is not something we would choose to do. The only reason this is happening is because we are being forced to do it.”

Although hospital leaders say they are working to provide high-quality care for patients being held in emergency rooms — in part by bringing specialized medical staff and equipment to patients being treated there — studies done before the coronavirus pandemic show that the longer patients stay in ERs, the worse their outcomes.

ICUs and other hospital units are staffed with doctors, nurses and other support personnel who have specialized training and experience caring for critically ill patients in need of specific medical interventions, whereas the mission of emergency department medical workers is to quickly assess patients, stabilize them and get them to where they need to be.

“The problem is you can’t get them to where they need to be, and now it puts the ER doc in the position of having to function like the hospitalist or the intensive care doctor, and that’s not a role that we’re really supposed to be in,” said Dr. Cedric Dark, an emergency physician at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “The bad thing about having any patient boarded in the emergency department, regardless of the situation, is that it slows down the beginning of care for somebody who needs hospitalization, and the beginning of care for any medical condition is the most crucial period of time.”

The same scenario is playing out at hospitals across the Houston region.

A daily status report prepared Wednesday by the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council, which coordinates the Houston region’s emergency medical response, showed multiple hospitals running out of immediately available nonsurgical ICU beds, including both of the city’s top-tier trauma centers, Ben Taub Hospital and Memorial Hermann’s flagship hospital in the Texas Medical Center.

As of Wednesday afternoon, about 145 patients were being held in emergency departments throughout the Memorial Hermann Health System, according to internal numbers provided separately by a Memorial Hermann physician and confirmed by a hospital executive. Several other Houston area hospitals have reported holding multiple patients in their ERs, including four with more than a dozen.

Dr. Jamie McCarthy, an executive vice president at Memorial Hermann Health System and an emergency room physician, acknowledged that the coronavirus crisis has forced his teams to hold more patients in ERs.

“All the hospitals are full,” McCarthy said. “All the hospitals in the city are boarding patients. We are expanding capacity, but we can’t turn those on immediately. It requires staffing. It requires nurses and doctors to come in. And so, as we’ve continued to expand our inpatient capacity, we’re just keeping up with the volume that’s coming in.”

It’s not unusual for a small number of patients to be held in ERs on busy days, especially during flu season, but three Houston ER physicians said they have never seen so many patients receiving prolonged care in emergency departments, or for such long periods of time.

Although treating patients in the ER for more than a few hours is “not ideal,” McCarthy said, Memorial Hermann has worked to mitigate the impact on patients by sending intensive care doctors and other specialists to emergency departments, to ensure patients are receiving quality care regardless of where they’re located.

But he warned that there’s a limit to what Houston hospitals can do to respond to the crisis.

“We are adding more capacity, but we are absolutely stretched now, and if it keeps going this way, we’re going to run out of room. We’re going to look like New York,” McCarthy said, emphasizing the need for Houston residents to stay home and avoid crowds to slow the virus’s spread.

Houston’s largest hospital system, HCA Healthcare, also has been caring for dozens of COVID-19 patients in its emergency departments. In a statement, HCA spokeswoman Debra Burbridge said hospital officials have taken steps to reduce the impact on patients, including sending staff members who would normally be performing or assisting with elective surgeries — which have been suspended under an order by the governor — to treat patients with COVID-19.

Dr. Kusum Mathews, an assistant professor of critical care and emergency medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, said hospitals can take steps to reduce the risks of overcrowded ERs, including some of those described by Memorial Hermann and HCA officials.

Treating patients sickened by the virus “has outstripped every stretch of our imagination,” Mathews said. “We have had to put beds in hallways, double up patient rooms … just to allow for offloading the emergency department to get more patients in.”

While Houston’s top hospital executives have repeatedly said they can add hundreds of new intensive care beds to meet the demand, at least for the next couple of weeks, the number of patients being treated in emergency rooms demonstrates the difficulty of executing those plans in the midst of a rapidly growing crisis, officials say.

“Those things are not like a switch-key type of activity,” said Porsa, the Harris Health System CEO, noting that his hospitals have had to send patients to hospitals outside of Houston to make room. “The bottleneck to do that is really staffing. As you can imagine, ICU nurses are not a dime a dozen. They are very hard to come by, and it takes time to actually be able to do that.”

The logjam of patients being treated in ERs has also led to delayed emergency response times across the city, according to Houston Fire Department officials.

When hospitals get overloaded, they ask regional authorities to divert ambulances elsewhere. For example, Memorial Hermann’s northeast hospital was on diversion status just 2% of the time during an eight-day period in late June and early July last year; it was on diversion status 58% of the time during the same time period this year. At Houston’s busiest public hospital, Ben Taub, the number jumped to 81% from 58%.

The problem, said Houston Fire Department Assistant Chief Matt White, is that when every hospital is maxed out, ambulance crews have no choice but to take patients to emergency departments that are too busy to quickly receive them. And by law, hospitals must screen and stabilize any patient who arrives.

“When everyone is on diversion,” White said, “nobody is on diversion.”

Earlier coronavirus outbreaks inundated emergency rooms in New York City and Detroit, but lockdown orders in those cities led to fewer car accidents and a reduction in violent crime, freeing more space in ERs for COVID patients.

With most Texas businesses still open and no mandatory stay-at-home order, hospitals in Houston and other COVID-19 hot spots face the added challenge of making room for COVID patients while still dealing with a steady flow of patients seeking care for other medical emergencies.

And across the country, people with chronic health problems who delayed seeking care earlier in the pandemic are now showing up for treatment, taking up beds, said Dr. Marc Eckstein, medical director of the Los Angeles Fire Department and a professor of emergency medicine at Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

Despite these challenges, McCarthy, the Memorial Hermann executive, said it’s essential that people continue to come to the hospital for medical emergencies. He pointed to an NBC News and ProPublica report this week that showed a growing number of people are dying suddenly at home, before emergency responders can reach them.

“If a patient believes they have a serious medical issue, they still need to come to the emergency department,” McCarthy said. “We will make the capacity to take care of them. Delaying care for time-sensitive emergencies is time we don’t get back. If they wait to call for help when they are having a heart attack, it will be worse than if they come in early.”

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Pandemic exposes scientific rift over proving when germs are airborne – Reuters

July 10th, 2020

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic has exposed a clash among medical experts over disease transmission that stretches back nearly a century – to the very origins of germ theory.

FILE PHOTO: A French doctor, wearing a protective suit and a face mask, holds a test tube after administering a nasal swab to a patient at a testing site for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cambrai, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France, July 9, 2020. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

The Geneva-based World Health Organization acknowledged this week that the novel coronavirus can spread through tiny droplets floating in the air, a nod to more than 200 experts in aerosol science who publicly complained that the U.N. agency had failed to warn the public about this risk.

Yet the WHO still insists on more definitive proof that the novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, can be transmitted through the air, a trait that would put it on par with measles and tuberculosis and require even more stringent measures to contain its spread.

“WHO’s slow motion on this issue is unfortunately slowing the control of the pandemic,” said Jose Jimenez, a University of Colorado chemist who signed the public letter urging the agency to change its guidance.

Jimenez and other experts in aerosol transmission have said the WHO is holding too dearly to the notion that germs are spread primarily though contact with a contaminated person or object. That idea was a foundation of modern medicine, and explicitly rejected the obsolete miasma theory that originated in the Middle Ages postulating that poisonous, foul-smelling vapors made up of decaying matter caused diseases such as cholera and the Black Death.

“It’s part of the culture of medicine from the early 20th century. To accept something was airborne requires this very high level of proof,” said Dr. Donald Milton, a University of Maryland aerobiologist and a lead author of the open letter.

Such proof could involve studies in which laboratory animals become sickened by exposure to the virus in the air, or studies showing viable virus particles in air samples – a level of proof not required for other modes of transmission such as contact with contaminated surfaces, the letter’s signatories said.

For the WHO, such proof is necessary as it advises countries of every income and resource level to take more drastic measures against a pandemic that has killed more than 550,000 people globally, with more than 12 million confirmed infections.

For example, hospitals would have to provide more healthcare personnel with heavy-duty N95 respiratory masks – personal protective gear already in short supply – and businesses and schools would need to make improvements to ventilation systems and require wearing masks indoors at all times.

“It would affect our entire way of life. And that’s why it’s a very important question,” said Dr. John Conly, a University of Calgary infectious disease expert who is part of the WHO’s group of experts advising on coronavirus guidelines.

Conly said that so far the studies have not shown viable virus particles floating in the air.

“In my mind, I want to see evidence in those fine mists,” Conly said.

HOW FAR CAN A DROPLET TRAVEL?

The WHO’s latest guidance document, released on Thursday, called for more research on coronavirus aerosol transmission, which it said “has not been demonstrated.”

The agency also repeated a firm cutoff on the size of infectious droplets expelled in coughing and sneezing, noting that most larger droplets are unlikely to travel beyond one meter (3.3 feet) – the basis for their one-meter social distancing guidelines. Milton and others have said larger particles have been shown to spread much farther.

Conly and others maintain that if the virus were truly airborne like measles, there would already be many more cases.

“Would we not be seeing, like, literally billions of cases globally? That’s not the case,” Conly said.

WHO spokeswoman Dr. Margaret Harris rejected the claim by critics that the agency is biased against the idea of aerosol transmission, saying it recognized the possibility of airborne transmission during medical procedures from early on in the pandemic.

Harris said it is “quite possible” that aerosolization is a factor in some so-called super-spreading events in which one infected person infects many others in close quarters. Many of these events have occurred in places such as nightclubs where people are packed together and are not likely to be careful about protecting themselves or others from infection.

“Most super-spreading events have occurred in indoor places with poor ventilation, with crowding, where it’s very difficult for people to socially distance,” Harris said.

That is why, Harris said, the agency has called for urgent studies to figure out “what really happened in these clusters and what were the big factors.”

(This story is refiled to include dropped word “the” in paragraph 17)

Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehey in Geneva and Alistar Smout in London; Editing by Michele Gershberg, Will Dunham and Sonya Hepinstall

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CDC data reveal new racial disparity with COVID-19 deaths – Los Angeles Times

July 10th, 2020

Here’s another way COVID-19 isn’t playing fair when it comes to race: It claims the lives of Black and Latino Americans earlier than whites.

Among a group of more than 10,000 people who died of COVID-19 in the U.S. in the early months of the outbreak, the typical white victim was 10 years older than the typical Latino victim. He was also nine years older than the typical nonwhite, non-Latino victim, a category dominated by Black Americans.

These findings are based on data from the health departments of 15 states and New York City and may not reflect the true extent of racial disparities across the country. Still, they point to troubling patterns that health authorities should work hard to address, according to a new report led by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The information that states, territories and local public health departments had been sending to the CDC didn’t include as many specifics about race, ethnicity, age and underlying medical conditions as the researchers would have liked. So they asked 56 such departments for supplemental information and received more detailed records from 16 of them.

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The resulting data set included 10,647 people with laboratory-confirmed coronavirus infections who died between Feb. 12 and April 24.

Consistent with previous reports, 61% of these COVID-19 victims were men, and 75% were at least 65 years old. In addition, 35% were white, 35% were Black, 24% were Latino and 6% were Asian.

Among Latinos, the median age of death was 71 years. Among those who were neither Latino nor white, it was 72 years.

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For whites, by contrast, the median age of death was 81 years.

Here’s another way of looking at the age gap: In this group, the percentage of Latinos who died who were not yet 65 years old was 35%. For nonwhites, it was 30%. Yet for whites it was only 13% — a “notable” difference, the study authors wrote.

Some of that difference might be explained by the fact that white Americans, on the whole, are older than other Americans. In the U.S., the median age of whites is 44, versus 31 for nonwhites.

But that’s clearly not the whole story, the researchers noted.

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In the study population, 34% of those who were younger than 65 when they died were Latino, even though Latinos account for only 20% of all Americans under 65. Similarly, 40% of those who were under 65 when they died of COVID-19 were nonwhite, even though nonwhites account for only 23% of deaths among Americans under the age of 65, according to the report.

“Further study is needed to understand the reasons for these differences,” the authors wrote.

One possible explanation is that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is spreading more among these groups because they are more likely to be employed as essential workers in jobs that make physical distancing more difficult, the authors wrote.

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Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Assn., echoed the idea that on-the-job exposure could be a factor in testimony he gave Friday to a congressional subcommittee on emergency preparedness and response.

“The health disparities that have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic have four causative factors: increased exposure, increased susceptibility, social determinants that lead to unequal access to goods and services, and racism in all of its forms,” Benjamin said. “These four factors put communities of color at disproportionate risk for getting infected and getting sicker with COVID-19.”

He added that “this disparity in the impact of COVID-19 is not surprising in its presence, only in its scope.”

The authors of the CDC report suggested that healthcare providers counter this gap by being on the lookout for severe cases of disease among younger nonwhite adults: “More prompt diagnoses could facilitate earlier implementation of supportive care to minimize morbidity.”

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The researchers also reported that 76% of those who died of COVID-19 had at least one underlying medical condition. That was especially true among the younger victims — 83% of those younger than 65 had at least one health problem before the coronavirus came along.

By far the most common chronic health condition reported was cardiovascular disease (61%). Diabetes was a distant second (40%), followed by chronic kidney disease (21%) and chronic lung disease (19%).

Among the 3,021 people for whom there was information about the onset of their illness, the median time between first symptoms and death was 10 days.

In addition to New York City, the study included data from Alaska, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

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The findings were published Friday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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