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Despair at CDC after Trump influence: ‘I have never seen morale this low’ | TheHill – The Hill

September 23rd, 2020

The Trump administration’s bungled response to the coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent efforts to meddle with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are taking a substantial toll on the nation’s foremost public health institution.

In interviews with half a dozen current and former CDC officials, they described a workforce that has seen its expertise questioned, its findings overturned for political purposes and its effectiveness in combating the pandemic undermined by partisan actors in Washington.

“I have never seen morale this low. It’s just, people are beaten down. People are beaten down partially by a public who not only distrusts us but who actually think we want to infringe on their civil liberties,” said one current CDC employee. “The other factor is the active undermining by senior members of our own administration.”

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Those who still work at the agency requested anonymity to describe conversations among their colleagues, for fear of retribution from an administration that has punished officials who speak out.

They expressed frustration that the CDC, long an independent voice of dispassionate science, has bent to the whims of an administration that does not acknowledge the severity of a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 people in the U.S. They have seen guidance revised or removed — most recently this week, when the CDC took down language that acknowledged the virus mainly spreads through aerosol droplets, something the World Health Organization said months ago.

In the early months of the pandemic, senior CDC officials including Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat and Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, were sidelined after sounding the alarms over the dangers posed by the novel coronavirus.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: ‘This is my country’ Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE publicly downplayed — and continues to downplay — the pandemic, questioning both his own top medical and health experts and the science that shows mask mandates and social distancing work. In private, Trump acknowledged that the virus was far more deadly, according to interviews published by veteran journalist Bob Woodward.

“As I talk to former colleagues at CDC, the feeling I get is just an overwhelming sense of despair. People are working incredibly hard to reduce the impact of the pandemic and the sense that they’re being blocked by people at the political level, and that the work that they’re doing is not being appreciated by the American public,” said Rich Besser, a former CDC director who now runs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“The feeling right now is that public health is not being allowed to lead and to demonstrate the path forward to reduce transmission and increase economic activity,” he said.

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CDC spokespeople did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have publicly questioned the CDC’s conclusions, published in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Those reports are sacrosanct documents meant to highlight the agency’s best work and research.

House Democrats have launched an inquiry into potential political interference in the CDC’s publications.

The HHS officials who sought changes to those reports included Michael Caputo, who worked on Trump’s campaign and who arrived at the health agency in April, and his top science adviser, Paul Alexander. Alexander has left HHS, and Caputo has taken medical leave after a bizarre rant on Facebook in which he accused CDC officials of trying to harm Trump’s political standing.

Some current CDC employees pointed to a directive from HHS in August, when guidance recommending that those who came into contact with someone infected by the virus be tested even if they were asymptomatic was quietly removed from the agency’s website. That recommendation was reinstated, after public outcry.

“It’s horrifying. I don’t know of any other situation like this, when things have been dictated to be put on the CDC website that aren’t defensible science. The idea that you shouldn’t test contacts is just indefensible,” said Tom Frieden, who led the CDC during the Obama administration.

The political interference in guidance, and Trump’s pledges that a vaccine will be ready soon — a promise that stands in contrast with CDC Director Robert Redfield’s testimony to Congress last week that a vaccine would not be widely available until next year — is raising concerns over whether the public will accept a vaccine once it becomes available.

“It’s incredibly sad to all of us that the recent guidance is causing a loss of trust for CDC in general. I’m very nervous about what is going to happen when a vaccine is available, especially if the phase three trials are cut short for political reasons,” said a current CDC employee. “Public health messaging is so important and it’s been disregarded since the early days of the pandemic.”

Others at the CDC said political interference has been taking place from the first days of the pandemic. On one incident management call, an official who listened in said Redfield talked about how he had been instructed by Vice President Pence to change CDC guidelines on the size of public gatherings to come in line with the White House coronavirus task force recommendations.

A spokesperson for Pence’s office denied that he instructed Redfield to change any guidance. But in March, the CDC changed its guidance from a limit on public gatherings from 50 people to 10 people — three days after the White House’s task force set the limit at 10.

The current CDC employees said their faith in Redfield’s leadership had been shaken, both by his inability to prevent changes to recommendations handed down from Washington and for his unwillingness to defend the agency more vociferously. Those employees called Redfield, a prominent AIDS researcher at the University of Maryland before he was tapped to head CDC, both humble and approachable.

“It’s become quite obvious that Dr. Redfield is a meek and gentle guy in a context where a fighter was needed,” the first CDC employee said. “He is not seen by anybody at CDC as somebody who will stand up and fight for us, as an agency.”

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Even Redfield’s predecessors have been critical of his defense of their agency.

“What does concern me is that we’re not seeing strong support for the agency from the top, and that can be demoralizing. One role of the CDC director is to have the backs of the scientists and all of the people working hard across the agency, and we’re not seeing that,” Besser said. “I don’t know what Dr. Redfield is doing behind closed doors, but we haven’t been hearing from him out front condemning interference in CDC publications.”

CDC sources said there had been no talk of mass resignations to protest the administration’s handling of the pandemic, or its meddling in public health science. Some have joked of moving to New Zealand or Australia, but most say they will continue their work to promote public health.

“People in public health by and large are people who just see suffering and want there to be less of it. That’s what drives you into public health. I mean, God knows you don’t do it for the money,” the first CDC employee said. But, the employee added: “The overall tenor of things, the drumbeat is just too disheartening.”

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Despair at CDC after Trump influence: ‘I have never seen morale this low’ | TheHill – The Hill

September 23rd, 2020

The Trump administration’s bungled response to the coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent efforts to meddle with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are taking a substantial toll on the nation’s foremost public health institution.

In interviews with half a dozen current and former CDC officials, they described a workforce that has seen its expertise questioned, its findings overturned for political purposes and its effectiveness in combating the pandemic undermined by partisan actors in Washington.

“I have never seen morale this low. It’s just, people are beaten down. People are beaten down partially by a public who not only distrusts us but who actually think we want to infringe on their civil liberties,” said one current CDC employee. “The other factor is the active undermining by senior members of our own administration.”

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Those who still work at the agency requested anonymity to describe conversations among their colleagues, for fear of retribution from an administration that has punished officials who speak out.

They expressed frustration that the CDC, long an independent voice of dispassionate science, has bent to the whims of an administration that does not acknowledge the severity of a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 people in the U.S. They have seen guidance revised or removed — most recently this week, when the CDC took down language that acknowledged the virus mainly spreads through aerosol droplets, something the World Health Organization said months ago.

In the early months of the pandemic, senior CDC officials including Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat and Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, were sidelined after sounding the alarms over the dangers posed by the novel coronavirus.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: ‘This is my country’ Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE publicly downplayed — and continues to downplay — the pandemic, questioning both his own top medical and health experts and the science that shows mask mandates and social distancing work. In private, Trump acknowledged that the virus was far more deadly, according to interviews published by veteran journalist Bob Woodward.

“As I talk to former colleagues at CDC, the feeling I get is just an overwhelming sense of despair. People are working incredibly hard to reduce the impact of the pandemic and the sense that they’re being blocked by people at the political level, and that the work that they’re doing is not being appreciated by the American public,” said Rich Besser, a former CDC director who now runs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“The feeling right now is that public health is not being allowed to lead and to demonstrate the path forward to reduce transmission and increase economic activity,” he said.

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CDC spokespeople did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have publicly questioned the CDC’s conclusions, published in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Those reports are sacrosanct documents meant to highlight the agency’s best work and research.

House Democrats have launched an inquiry into potential political interference in the CDC’s publications.

The HHS officials who sought changes to those reports included Michael Caputo, who worked on Trump’s campaign and who arrived at the health agency in April, and his top science adviser, Paul Alexander. Alexander has left HHS, and Caputo has taken medical leave after a bizarre rant on Facebook in which he accused CDC officials of trying to harm Trump’s political standing.

Some current CDC employees pointed to a directive from HHS in August, when guidance recommending that those who came into contact with someone infected by the virus be tested even if they were asymptomatic was quietly removed from the agency’s website. That recommendation was reinstated, after public outcry.

“It’s horrifying. I don’t know of any other situation like this, when things have been dictated to be put on the CDC website that aren’t defensible science. The idea that you shouldn’t test contacts is just indefensible,” said Tom Frieden, who led the CDC during the Obama administration.

The political interference in guidance, and Trump’s pledges that a vaccine will be ready soon — a promise that stands in contrast with CDC Director Robert Redfield’s testimony to Congress last week that a vaccine would not be widely available until next year — is raising concerns over whether the public will accept a vaccine once it becomes available.

“It’s incredibly sad to all of us that the recent guidance is causing a loss of trust for CDC in general. I’m very nervous about what is going to happen when a vaccine is available, especially if the phase three trials are cut short for political reasons,” said a current CDC employee. “Public health messaging is so important and it’s been disregarded since the early days of the pandemic.”

Others at the CDC said political interference has been taking place from the first days of the pandemic. On one incident management call, an official who listened in said Redfield talked about how he had been instructed by Vice President Pence to change CDC guidelines on the size of public gatherings to come in line with the White House coronavirus task force recommendations.

A spokesperson for Pence’s office denied that he instructed Redfield to change any guidance. But in March, the CDC changed its guidance from a limit on public gatherings from 50 people to 10 people — three days after the White House’s task force set the limit at 10.

The current CDC employees said their faith in Redfield’s leadership had been shaken, both by his inability to prevent changes to recommendations handed down from Washington and for his unwillingness to defend the agency more vociferously. Those employees called Redfield, a prominent AIDS researcher at the University of Maryland before he was tapped to head CDC, both humble and approachable.

“It’s become quite obvious that Dr. Redfield is a meek and gentle guy in a context where a fighter was needed,” the first CDC employee said. “He is not seen by anybody at CDC as somebody who will stand up and fight for us, as an agency.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Even Redfield’s predecessors have been critical of his defense of their agency.

“What does concern me is that we’re not seeing strong support for the agency from the top, and that can be demoralizing. One role of the CDC director is to have the backs of the scientists and all of the people working hard across the agency, and we’re not seeing that,” Besser said. “I don’t know what Dr. Redfield is doing behind closed doors, but we haven’t been hearing from him out front condemning interference in CDC publications.”

CDC sources said there had been no talk of mass resignations to protest the administration’s handling of the pandemic, or its meddling in public health science. Some have joked of moving to New Zealand or Australia, but most say they will continue their work to promote public health.

“People in public health by and large are people who just see suffering and want there to be less of it. That’s what drives you into public health. I mean, God knows you don’t do it for the money,” the first CDC employee said. But, the employee added: “The overall tenor of things, the drumbeat is just too disheartening.”

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Meghan Markle labels November vote the most important of our lifetime – Daily Mail

September 23rd, 2020

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle faced a backlash today for speaking out about the upcoming U.S. election despite the British royal family’s strict political neutrality.  

The Duke of Sussex told voters to ‘reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity’ while the Duchess called the presidential race the ‘most important election of our lifetime’ as the couple urged Americans to use their right to vote.  

Speaking in a Time 100 video message, apparently filmed from the couple’s California home, Harry admitted he was not eligible to vote in the November 3 election – adding that he had never voted in the UK either where convention dictates that royals should keep well clear of politics.  

But while Harry and Meghan did not endorse a candidate, their intervention sparked criticism from viewers who said it was none of their business and thought it ‘obvious’ that Harry and Meghan were backing Joe Biden over Donald Trump.  

Royal biographer Robert Jobson told MailOnline that it ‘may be easier’ for Meghan and Harry to give up their royal titles altogether given the ‘business and political agenda they appear to want to pursue’. 

‘Frankly, I think it would be better for Harry to withdraw, along with his son, from the line of succession to avoid further confusion,’ he said.   

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have spoken out about the upcoming U.S. election, in a stark break with British tradition that prohibits royal involvement in politics

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have spoken out about the upcoming U.S. election, in a stark break with British tradition that prohibits royal involvement in politics

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have spoken out about the upcoming U.S. election, in a stark break with British tradition that prohibits royal involvement in politics

For his part, Harry said: 'As we approach this November, it's vital that we reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity'

For his part, Harry said: 'As we approach this November, it's vital that we reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity'

For his part, Harry said: ‘As we approach this November, it’s vital that we reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity’

‘We’re just six weeks out from Election Day and today is National Voter Registration Day,’ said Markle, 39.  

‘Every four years we are told the same thing, that this is the most important election of our lifetime. But this one is,’ she said, in the video clip broadcast as part of the Time 100, the magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Harry and Meghan were included in the 2018 list, but not in this year’s edition.  

Markle continued: ‘When we vote, our values are put into action and our voices are heard. Your voice is a reminder that you matter, because you do and you deserve to be heard.’ 

For his part, Harry said: ‘As we approach this November, it’s vital that we reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity.’ 

Harry urged Americans to be careful about what kind of content they consume online.

‘When the bad outweighs the good, for many, whether we realize it or not, it erodes our ability to have compassion and our ability to put ourself in someone else’s shoes. Because when one person buys into negativity online, the effects are felt exponentially. It’s time to not only reflect, but act,’ he said. 

Harry also referenced the fact that, because he is not a U.S. citizen, he will not be able to vote in November. 

He added that he had never been able to vote in the UK, despite being theoretically eligible in the last five general elections since he turned 18. 

Although British law does not explicitly forbid members of the royal family from voting, the expectation that royals remain apolitical is considered sacrosanct, and in practice they never participate in elections, by voting or otherwise.  

But since announcing plans to step down as senior royals in January and moving to North America, Meghan and Harry have quietly expanded their involvement in politics as they forge their own path.

Their comments led to criticism from viewers who said it was inappropriate for British royals to comment on an American election. 

‘Why’s a UK prince and his wife getting involved in a U.S. election? What business is it of his? Didn’t we fight a war to end interference from the British Monarchy?,’ asked one viewer. 

Another said it was ‘obvious’ that the royal couple were supporting Joe Biden, given Meghan’s criticisms of Donald Trump before she became a royal – saying their intervention was ‘unacceptable for royal family members’. 

‘Why would a prince of the realm of the UK encourage U.S. citizens to vote in a U.S. election? How can this be allowed?,’ asked another. 

Trump

Trump

Biden

Biden

Markle has made her position on the 2020 election clear in a number of appearances in recent weeks, expressing enthusiasm for the Democratic ticket

How British royals are expected to keep out of politics  

Under Britain’s constitutional monarchy, powers which theoretically belong to the Queen – such as appointing ministers and approving legislation – are exercised in her name by political leaders. 

This system means that political decisions are taken by the elected government rather than unelected royals, while keeping the monarchy as a symbol of the British state and its traditions. 

The royals’ political neutrality, which the Queen has scrupulously observed for 68 years, is key to maintaining this balance and to preserving the monarchy’s popularity. 

A YouGov poll earlier this year found majority support among both Conservative and Labour voters as well as Brexiteers and Europhiles for maintaining the British monarchy.  

The Queen’s uncle King Edward VIII had to abdicate in 1936 because the government refused to support his planned marriage to American divorcee Wallis Simpson – fatally compromising his neutrality.   

While there is no law explicitly preventing the Queen or her family from voting in elections, doing so would be an unacceptable breach of protocol.   

The Queen holds weekly conversations with her prime ministers and she is entitled to ‘advise and warn’ them when necessary, but the nature of her advice is never made public.  

Even her guarded comment that voters should ‘think very carefully about the future’ ahead of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum was seen as an unusual intervention.  

Prince Charles is also known for writing a series of letters to ministers on policy subjects, some of which were made public in 2015.

In letters to Tony Blair in 2004 and 2005 he voiced hope that ‘more could be done to encourage people to buy British’, and bemoaned the ‘weight of bureaucracy’ faced by UK farmers.  

William and Kate have also spoken out on environmental issues, launching a global prize to tackle climate issues last year.  

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Robert Jobson, whose latest book is called The Royal Operations Manual, said the couple’s titles were a cause of ‘confusion’ – while adding that it was reasonable for Meghan to vote in the country where she is a citizen. 

‘Given the business and political agenda Meghan and Harry appear to want to pursue it may be easier for them and for the Royal Family for them not to have royal titles,’ he told MailOnline. 

‘They are not carrying out public duties, live abroad and are really completely detached from our monarchical system now so what difference would it make.

‘Meghan, after all, holds American citizenship and has always voted. The business about royals not getting involved in politics is less clear when it comes to Meghan or what the protocol should be in this case.

‘But as she is now back living in her country I am sure many would think it wrong that she is not allowed to exercise her democratic right to vote.

‘Royals even in this country are entitled to their opinion and, such as the very vocal the Prince of Wales and Prince William voice them, particularly on the environment and the natural world. They see this as leadership.

‘The important part is that they are not partisan, as for the monarch or her direct heir to be partisan could cause a constitutional crisis.’

Mr Jobson said he was ‘increasingly open’ to the idea of stripping the Sussexes of their royal titles for their own benefit and that of the royal family.   

‘Frankly, I think it would be better for Harry to withdraw, along with his son, from the line of succession to avoid further confusion,’ he said. 

‘By saying they are HRHs and the Duke and Duchess, but not allowed to use the titles, just confuses the situation.

‘With that issue out of the way, Meghan encouraging people to vote is something that would be praised not criticised.

‘She speaks well and has passion for political issues. Without a royal title to hold her back it may set her free to pursue a political career.

‘Ditching his title, and that includes ‘Prince’ would free up Harry too, in the land where he says he is happy and wants to make this life and where titles mean nothing.’ 

This week, feminist activist Gloria Steinem revealed that Markle had joined her in cold-calling Americans and urging them to vote.

Steinem told Access Hollywood: ‘She came home to vote. The first thing we did, and why she came to see me, was we sat at the dining room table where I am right now and we cold-called voters.’

‘Said ‘hello I’m Meg’ and ‘hello I’m Gloria’ and ‘are you going to vote?’ That was her initiative.’

Meghan has also told Steinem she was ‘so excited’ to see fellow mixed-race woman Kamala Harris nominated for vice president, in another strong hint that she is backing the Democratic ticket.  

Last month, Markle (left) joined Gloria Steinem for a 'backyard chat' in which she made it incredibly clear who she plans to vote for come November

Last month, Markle (left) joined Gloria Steinem for a 'backyard chat' in which she made it incredibly clear who she plans to vote for come November

Last month, Markle (left) joined Gloria Steinem for a ‘backyard chat’ in which she made it incredibly clear who she plans to vote for come November 

Before marrying Prince Harry in 2018, Markle was no stranger to politics, ridiculing then-presidential candidate Donald Trump during a 2016 appearance on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.

She said Trump was ‘misogynistic and divisive’ and indicated her support for Hillary Clinton. 

Harry is a friend of former president Barack Obama, interviewing him on a guest-edited episode of BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme in 2017.  

‘Part of my role and part of my job is to shine a spotlight on issues that need that spotlight, whether it’s people, whether it’s causes, issues, whatever it is,’ Harry said at the time.

‘So I will continue to play my part in society and do my job to the best of my abilities so that I can wake up in the morning and feel energised.’

Despite the Obama friendship, the couple avoided a constitutional row by inviting neither the Obamas nor the Trumps to their 2018 wedding at Windsor Castle. 

Earlier this year, two Russian pranksters said they had duped the Duke of Sussex into criticising Trump in a phone call where they posed as climate activist Greta Thunberg. 

‘I don’t mind saying this to you guys, I think the mere fact that Donald Trump is pushing the coal industry so big in America, he has blood on his hands,’ Harry allegedly said. 

Buckingham Palace did not confirm or deny the authenticity of the call.  

Over the past few weeks, Meghan has taken part in multiple interviews and summits – having reportedly grown ‘frustrated’ at her inability to get involved in politics while she was working as a senior royal. 

Last month, she joined Gloria for a ‘backyard chat’ in which she made it incredibly clear who she plans to vote for come November, expressing her excitement at seeing a woman of color on the Democratic ticket – Joe Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris – and explaining that the nomination was particularly meaningful to her because she is biracial.

Over the past few months, Markle has  moved to become more politically active and taken part in multiple interviews and summits - having reportedly grown 'frustrated' at her inability to get involved in politics while she was working as a senior royal

Over the past few months, Markle has  moved to become more politically active and taken part in multiple interviews and summits - having reportedly grown 'frustrated' at her inability to get involved in politics while she was working as a senior royal

Over the past few months, Markle has  moved to become more politically active and taken part in multiple interviews and summits – having reportedly grown ‘frustrated’ at her inability to get involved in politics while she was working as a senior royal 

‘I’m so excited to see that kind of representation,’ she said. ‘You know, for me, being biracial, growing up, whether it was a doll or a person in office, you need to see someone who looks like you in some capacity. 

‘As many of us believe, you can only be what you can see. And in the absence of that, how can you aspire to something greater than what you see in your own world? I think maybe now we’re starting to break-through in a different way.’

Meanwhile, she has also taken in voter appeals, at which she made a bold plea to women across the US to take part in the 2020 presidential election, speaking out about the need for ‘change’ at an online voter summit, while telling participants: ‘If we aren’t part of the solution, we are part of the problem.’ 

Meghan made her stance on the 2020 presidential race clear when she addressed viewers at the When All Women Vote Couch Party – an online event organized by non-profit organization When We All Vote, which was founded by ‘her friend’ Michelle Obama. 

Appearing as the opening speaker at the summit, Meghan expressed her ‘excitement’ at taking part, before telling those involved with the organization: ‘We need [your work] now more than ever.’

‘I’m really thrilled that you asked me to be a part of this,’ the mother-of-one began, adding: ‘I think this is such an exceptional time [and I am] happy to be here for my friend Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote, and to kick off the When All Women Vote Couch Party.’  

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You’re Twice as Likely to Die of Coronavirus If You Live Here, Study Says – msnNOW

September 22nd, 2020


a woman walking down the street talking on a cell phone: Woman wearing a mask outside
© Provided by Best Life Woman wearing a mask outside


There isn’t a single state in the U.S. that hasn’t experienced hardship and tragic loss at the hands of the COVID pandemic. As outbreaks spread from cities to rural areas across the country, it became clear that no area was safe from potential infection. But do different places affect how a brush with the deadly disease will play out? According to recent data, you’re twice as likely to die of coronavirus if you live in a large city, according to a new report from NPR.To find this, reporters analyzed data of COVID-19 related deaths from Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), comparing the numbers from large cities, medium-sized cities, and small towns or rural areas. They found that out of the first 100,000 fatalities in the U.S., a benchmark that the country hit at the end of May, 77,000 of them occurred in major metropolitan areas. Meanwhile, the second 100,000 recorded deaths saw more than half of all casualties in large cities, with at least 56,000 reported. That means 66.5 percent of total fatalities since the virus first hit the U.S. social were among urban residents, while 33.5 percent were in other areas, making urban dwellers twice as likely to die from COVID.
a skyscraper in a city: new york city skyline
© Provided by Best Life new york city skyline


NPR points out that the largest metropolitan area in the country, New York City, was the site of 30,000 of the first 100,000 COVID deaths in the country. A study conducted in late June also found that the COVID death rate in New York during this period was 1.45 percent—more than double the rate of 0.7 percent seen in countries like France and China at the time.Of course, New York City was an early epicenter in the pandemic in the U.S.—and at that time, there was also less of an understanding of how to treat the virus, which led to more deaths.

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In NPR’s research, medium-sized cities saw the largest increase in the second 100,000 deaths recorded, doubling from 15,000 to 30,000 in the latest set of data—especially in hard-hit states such as Arizona, Florida, California, and Texas.”None of us live in a bubble. We’re going to interact with each other—rural, urban, whatever,” Ali Mokdad, MD, an epidemiologist at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, told NPR. “People live far apart, are less likely to see each other, but we have events that bring us together. And the cases follow that.” And if you think you have COVID, check out These Are the 51 Most Common COVID Symptoms You Could Have.Read the original article on Best Life.

Video: Adult obesity on rise in US, CDC says (FOX News)

Adult obesity on rise in US, CDC says

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CDC Now Says COVID-19 Isn’t Airborne Threat. Scientists Say That’s Wrong. – HuffPost

September 22nd, 2020

Scientists are firing back at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after the federal agency on Monday reversed its identification of the coronavirus as an airborne virus, a conclusion that many experts say scientific evidence has supported for months now.

The CDC’s brief recognition of the virus as being airborne on Friday was celebrated as long overdue by concurring scientists, who expressed relief that the agency was finally catching up. Three days later, however, the agency said that new language in its coronavirus guidance had been published in error.

“The CDC is broken. Seriously broken,” Matthew Fox, an epidemiology and global health professor at Boston University, tweeted in response.

Scientists and public health experts scoffed at the CDC’s flip-flop. Not only was it dangerous to release confusing information during a pandemic, they argued, but the science doesn’t support the stance the agency was apparently reverting to.

“There’s something odd going on at the CDC,” tweeted Joseph Allen of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

A registered nurse makes her way to a patient's room inside the coronavirus unit at Houston's United Memorial Medical Center.



ASSOCIATED PRESS

A registered nurse makes her way to a patient’s room inside the coronavirus unit at Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center. If the coronavirus is airborne, as many scientists say it is, health experts urge the use of masks and air filtration systems to help prevent virus transmission.

“Who knows what the agency position will be by Friday,” tweeted Richard Corsi, an indoor air quality expert and dean of Portland State University’s college of engineering and computer science in Oregon. “To wear blinders to evidence is to bring a country to its knees.”

In a Washington Post op-ed published on Tuesday, Allen and Linsey C. Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech with expertise in airborne virus transmission, broke down the evidence supporting the conclusion that the virus is airborne ― and thus capable of person-to-person transmission through tiny respiratory droplets called aerosols.

“The science here is fairly straightforward. When you talk or sing — or even just breathe — you emit a range of particles of different sizes. Yes, there might be one or two particles that are large enough to see and that fall to the ground within six feet, but there are also thousands of particles that are smaller than five microns (or five millionths of a meter),” Allen and Marr wrote.

Nurses in Los Angeles participate in a national protest for personal protective equipment (PPE) and safer working practices i



Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Nurses in Los Angeles participate in a national protest for personal protective equipment (PPE) and safer working practices in August as the global outbreak of COVID-19 continues.

The tiny droplets can remain suspended in the air for longer periods of time, as well as travel farther, than larger droplets. In some cases, they’re able to travel well over 6 feet, which is the current physical distance recommended by the CDC.

“Our whole field has been shouting from the rooftops that airborne transmission was happening and that ventilation and filtration were crucial to limiting the spread of the disease,” Allen and Marr wrote.

The two professors cited one recent study, published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, that found viable samples of the coronavirus in air samples collected up to 16 feet away from patients hospitalized with COVID-19. No health procedures that would generate aerosols had taken place in the room, leading to the determination that the patients were generating the aerosols themselves by coughing, sneezing and even talking.

“For aerosol-based transmission, measures such as physical distancing by 6 feet would not be helpful in an indoor setting, provide a false sense of security and lead to exposures and outbreaks,” the study states.

Evidence has shown that the coronavirus, pictured here under a microscope, can spread in the air through tiny respiratory dro



ASSOCIATED PRESS

Evidence has shown that the coronavirus, pictured here under a microscope, can spread in the air through tiny respiratory droplets called aerosols, scientists say. These can be released when someone coughs, sneezes, sings or talks.

Though the CDC and the World Health Organization have stated that airborne transmission of the virus has not been proven, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., last month said that the coronavirus “is much more aerosols than we thought,” citing evidence presented to him by aerosol and particle physicists. What remains unknown, he said at a panel Tuesday on Citizen by CNN, is the extent to which the aerosol component is contributing to the virus’s transmission.

“Rather than bending ourselves out of shape trying to figure out what percentage it is or is not or how well it’s proven, make an assumption that some component of it is aerosol and act accordingly, which means do what we’ve been telling you to do all along. It doesn’t change what we’re doing,” Fauci said.

Measures of protection recommended by Fauci include mask-wearing, social distancing and ensuring that indoor public spaces have open windows and are well-ventilated.

Many scientists reacting to Fauci’s comments on Twitter agreed.

“While it would be helpful to have CDC’s guidance on aerosols,” Marr tweeted, “it doesn’t change the fact that transmission by aerosols is happening and that we know how to address it.”

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After Aerosols Misstep, Former CDC Official Criticizes Agency Over Unclear Messaging – NPR

September 22nd, 2020

A former CDC official criticizes the agency over its latest reversal, this time in guidance on how the coronavirus is transmitted. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images hide caption

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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A former CDC official criticizes the agency over its latest reversal, this time in guidance on how the coronavirus is transmitted.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As of now, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization say the primary way the coronavirus spreads is by hitching a ride on respiratory droplets when people are in close contact.

Respiratory droplets form when someone sneezes, coughs, talks or sings, for example. They don’t travel far and fall to the ground quickly.

But on Friday, the CDC website was modified to include smaller, aerosolized particles as a way the coronavirus is commonly spread. These are the tiniest particles expelled in breath that can linger in the air and travel distances farther than 6 feet.

On Monday, the agency took that update down, saying it was a draft that had been posted in error.

Dr. Ali Khan, who used to direct the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response at the CDC, says there was “nothing new” in the now-deleted update, which he characterized as saying “there’s a minor role for airborne transmission.”

The disease is “predominantly” spread by large particles from people near each other, he says. There’s consensus in the scientific community that this seems to be the main mode of transmission.

Beyond that, Khan notes, there are a few other ways that people could, conceivably, contract the virus, researchers and health officials agree.

“Occasionally we get this disease from contaminated surfaces,” Khan tells Steve Inskeep on NPR’s Morning Edition. “And then there’s a minor role, again, for these small particle aerosols. … These are transmitted farther than 6 feet away, potentially around a corner, especially in poorly ventilated indoor spaces. And then, finally, there’s a yet even more minor role, probably, for transmission via feces. So nothing new here.”

Still, a number of environmental engineers and other infectious disease researchers have been critical in the past of both the CDC and WHO for, they say, being too slow to acknowledge the role this sort of fine aerosol might play in spreading the virus, especially indoors.

Khan is now the dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Here are excerpts from the interview:

What do you make of this unremarkable guidance being published and then withdrawn?

Confusing. So CDC’s not perfect and certainly has made some mistakes this past year. But with due respect to the agency, it’s hard to imagine that this is one of them, given the scrutiny that they’ve had in all of their messaging.

And for example, so just last week, we saw a flip-flop from CDC on testing of asymptomatic persons. We saw documented proof of manipulation of CDC’s official publication. So, you know, it’s not hard to understand people questioning that these changes may be deliberate interference by the [Trump administration]. …

We’ve seen the deliberate undermining of public health over the course of this outbreak for political purpose. And we have seen numerous examples now of deliberate change of guidance that’s not evidence-based.

Can we still trust what the CDC tells us then?

Unfortunately, it’s becoming harder to trust what CDC tells us.

And this is extremely unfortunate because trust is the most important thing we need during a pandemic. As we tell people that, regardless of this minor role of aerosol transmission, we have the tools available to us today to stop this outbreak in its tracks with “test, trace, isolate.” And please do our part [by] wearing a mask, washing our hands and socially distancing. And this trust is going to be even more important as we tell people to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated — hopefully sometime at the end of this year and into next year.

I want to know if the practical advice after all of this confusion is still basically the same, so far as you see it: See people outdoors, rather than indoors; 6 feet apart; wear a mask. That sort of thing.

Correct. The guidance doesn’t change. So there’s lots of nice, sophisticated aerobiology studies now that look at what happens when you sneeze and cough and how far these particles go and whether there’s virus riding along in them.

But we know that if we wear our masks and we couple that with the public health strategy of testing, isolating and tracing people, that we can get this disease under control.

Taylor Haney produced the audio interview.

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Flu vaccine critical to avoid stretching US healthcare amid Covid, scientists warn – The Guardian

September 22nd, 2020

A national public health campaign promoting the flu vaccine is urgently needed to avoid stretched healthcare services being overwhelmed this winter as the US faces cold season while still struggling to gain control of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists have warned.

Influenza or seasonal flu is a perennial public health burden that, like Covid-19, causes most severe problems among elderly people and those with underlying health conditions.

During the winter of 2018-2019, about 35.5 million people in the US got sick with flu, almost half a million were hospitalized and 34,200 died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But, this year’s flu season could be like no other as the US and the rest of the world tries largely in vain to get ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already killed 200,000 Americans and sickened almost 30 million globally.

Covid testing services may be inundated as the two infections cause very similar clinical symptoms, and scientists are concerned that co-infections at the same time may increase a person’s risk of severe complications.

“We have two pandemics coming at the same time and only one vaccine – for seasonal flu – guaranteed. We need a national campaign with clear and consistent messaging about the community benefits… given this moment in history it would be a good use of resources,” said Daniel Salmon, director of the institute for vaccine safety at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg school of public health in Baltimore.

In the US, there are widespread disparities in acceptance of and access to the flu vaccine depending on age, ethnicity and race, political affiliation and geography. Uptake is generally lowest among people of colour and Native Americans who have also been hardest hit by Covid morbidity and mortality.

Multiple clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines are underway, but no successful vaccine has yet been announced and, should one emerge, experts foresee it is unlikely to be widely available until 2021. Nevertheless, president Trump has repeatedly boasted of a vaccine within weeks, in what some critics see as an attempt to pressure scientists and regulators to bypass safety and efficacy rules.

“Nobody wants to see politics in decisions about vaccines because this leads to bad decisions and public mistrust … We need to rely on science and evidence, not politics,” said Salmon in an online briefing about the risks of seasonal flu and Covid-19 this winter. “Any emergency authorization needs to be based on evidence, independent objective review and transparency.”

Globally, the number of flu cases so far this year is down dramatically – likely due to coronavirus public health measures such as wearing face masks and physical distancing – but the onset of winter in the northern hemisphere presents serous public health risks.

Coronavirus – like the flu – spreads much more efficiently when people are in close contact inside without good ventilation. In addition, emerging scientific data suggests that cold weather and low humidity may also biologically enable the virus to spread more efficiently, according to Andrew Pekosz, virologist and co-director of the Johns Hopkins center of excellence for influenza research and surveillance.

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Buffalo mom shares photo of baby being delivered by 28-year-old doctor from LaFayette who died from COVID-19 – WSYR

September 22nd, 2020
Local News

Posted: Sep 22, 2020 / 06:21 PM EDTUpdated: Sep 22, 2020 / 06:21 PM EDT

LAFAYETTE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Maureen and Natalie Fagan cherish every photo they have of their sister, Dr. Adeline Fagan. Thanks to a pediatric dentist in Buffalo, now they have a new one to add to the collection.

When she learned of the 28-year-old Fagan’s death from coronavirus complications over the weekend, Dr. Carrie Wanamaker posted a photo of Fagan in the delivery room. The baby girl in the picture with Fagan is Wanamaker’s daughter, Aspen.

Wanamaker tells NewsChannel 9, “I see Adeline’s smile in my head because she was right there, literally holding up my dead-weight leg for hours. She did it with a smile and so much passion. I’m definitely going to tell Aspen how wonderful she was and now she’s an angel watching over her.”

Fagan was born and raised in LaFayette, went to Bishop Ludden High School, and then University at Buffalo medical school, where she was on rotation helping deliver babies.

Fagan’s sisters didn’t even know the photo existed until Wanamaker posted it on Facebook. From there, it was shared by Wanamaker’s dental school classmate, Dr. Tansy Scoonmaker, a pediatric dentist in DeWitt.

NewsChannel 9 showed the Fagan sisters the photo on Monday, when they sat down for an interview to talk about Adeline’s death.

On Monday, Fagan told NewsChannel 9, “It’s comforting to know that in the short time she got with us, she made an impact. She touched so many lives here and I think it’s a testament to her heart and soul.”

Dr. Fagan left the Syracuse area to become a medical resident at a Texas hospital in the summer of 2019. She was working toward becoming an OBGYN, but was on rotation in the emergency room when she likely caught coronavirus.

After months in the hospital, she died over the weekend from a brain bleed caused by the machines helping her breath.

The Fagan family is considering creating a scholarship in Adeline’s memory.

More from NewsChannel 9:

For more local news, follow Andrew Donovan on Twitter @AndrewDonovan.

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Polk County health officials say get your flu shot soon – KCCI Des Moines

September 22nd, 2020

Polk County health officials say get your flu shot soon

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I HAVE THE POLK COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT IS URGING EVERYONE OLDER THAN SIX MONTHS TO GET THEIR FLU SHOT AND GET IT SOON. THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT SAYS WELL, WE DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FLU SEASON WILL LOOK LIKE DOCTORS DO KNOW THAT PEOPLE CAN GET THE FLU AND COVID-19 AT THE SAME TIME POLK COUNTY IS NOW ORGANIZING A DRIVE-THROUGH FLU SHOT CLINIC NEXT WEEK. IT’LL BE HELD MONDAY FROM 9 A.M. TO 4 P.M. IN THE DEPARTMENT’S PARKING LOT. THAT’

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Polk County health officials say get your flu shot soon


The Polk County Health Department is urging everyone older than 6 months to get their flu shot soon. The Health Department said while we don’t know what the flu season will look like, doctors do know that people can get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Polk County is now organizing a drive-thru flu shot clinic next week. It will be held Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the department’s parking lot.

The Polk County Health Department is urging everyone older than 6 months to get their flu shot soon.

The Health Department said while we don’t know what the flu season will look like, doctors do know that people can get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

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Polk County is now organizing a drive-thru flu shot clinic next week. It will be held Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the department’s parking lot.

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Why are temperature checks still happening despite ‘limited’ effectiveness? – Yahoo Lifestyle

September 22nd, 2020
A woman has her temperature checked before attending the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on its first day open since closing due to the pandemic, Aug. 27. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)
A woman has her temperature checked before attending the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on its first day open since closing due to the pandemic, Aug. 27. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

Go into many businesses and offices these days, from doctor’s appointments to hair salons and restaurants, and there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to have your temperature taken by one of those no-contact infrared thermometers. But how effective are they at preventing the spread of COVID-19?

Temperature checks are used to identify whether a person has a fever — one of the signs of a COVID-19 infection. But it’s possible to be infected with the coronavirus and “have a cough or other symptoms with no fever, or a very low-grade one, especially in the first few days,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

That’s why some experts are questioning relying on temperature scans. “It’s something you can do, and it makes you feel like you’re doing something,” Dr. David Thomas, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told the New York Times. “But it won’t catch most people who are spreading COVID.”

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted the limitations of symptom-based screenings and, in turn, has shifted its strategy when it comes to preventing COVID-19 infections during air travel. In a statement issued on Sept. 9, the CDC said: “We now have a better understanding of COVID-19 transmission that indicates symptom-based screening has limited effectiveness because people with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or fever at the time of screening, or only mild symptoms. Transmission of the virus may occur from passengers who have no symptoms or who have not yet developed symptoms of infection.”

Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer for the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life that while touchless thermometers are “established and reliable devices,” it’s “debatable” whether they should still be used before people enter public businesses.

“The impact of this specific intervention is quite limited,” he says. “Most people with fevers are also symptomatic in other ways and are voluntarily quarantining at home. However, the otherwise asymptomatic person with a fever, while rare, does occur, and these people may present an increased risk of COVID or other viral transmission to those around them.”

But Gonsenhauser adds that temperature scanning does serve a purpose. “We know that there is a segment of the population that is defiant about expert recommendations, and they will still venture to public spaces even with a broad array of symptoms,” he says. “While the number of people detected and redirected as a result of this intervention is low, it isn’t zero, and as such, this precaution does reduce transmission risk. As we deal with cold, flu and allergy seasons, fever can be the indicator that distinguishes someone’s typical allergies from something more concerning.”

Neysa Ernst, nurse manager of the Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit, tells Yahoo Life, that, for the general public, no-contact thermometers are “fine,” while keeping in mind that temperature checks are really “one step in a screening process.”

“Remember, a temperature check outside of a clinical environment is not a clinical assessment,” she says. “Like any nonclinical assessment, it has limitations.”

Ernst notes that temperature checks “may not be effective for all commercial operations — airports, for instance, are stopping temperature checks and employing other screening tools.” However, the practice does show that a business is taking at least some steps to ensure the safety of its customers and employees.

“Businesses want customers to come back to their establishments [and] customers want safety,” says Ernst. “While it is clear that temperature checks have limitations, customers are looking for businesses that take their safety personally. Temperature checks say, ‘I care about your safety as a customer.’”

So what other safety measures should businesses follow to protect their customers and employees?

“Health care experts may sound like broken records, but ensuring adequate personal distance, requiring the use of masks and making hand hygiene supplies readily available are critical,” says Gonsenhauser.

He says that avoiding the use of waiting rooms and “creating opportunities for remote interactions” are “major risk-reduction strategies.” On the employer side, Gonsenhauser says that businesses should be “supporting their staff to stay home if symptomatic or concerned about exposure.”

Ernst recommends training staff to “turn away customers who come in without a mask” and handle certain situations that can arise in the age of COVID-19: “What should the establishment do if a customer has a high temperature? How are staff trained to respond?” Ernst says.

She also suggests training employees to enforce social distancing. “I am so proud of frontline employees who point out when a customer is too close,” she says. In addition, Ernst urges people to “do your part to avoid a twindemic” — namely, COVID-19 and the flu: “Get a flu shot,” she says.

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