Connect with us
[the_ad id="4069195"]

Health

Coronavirus Unlike Anything in Our Lifetime. Stop Comparing It to the Flu

Published

on

Coronavirus Unlike Anything in Our Lifetime. Stop Comparing It to the Flu
Medical personnel at a coronavirus testing center in New Rochelle, New York

by Charles Ornstein for ProPublica

— As a longtime health care reporter, the unfolding coronavirus pandemic represents everything I’ve read about — from the early days of epidemiology to the staggering toll of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic — but had not covered in my lifetime.

And still, I have been caught off guard by the pushback from top elected officials and even some friends and acquaintances who keep comparing it to the flu.

“So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common flu,” President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter on March 9. “It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of Coronavirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”

Trump has declared coronavirus a national emergency, freeing up resources and removing hurdles for a faster response.

In the meantime, not one public health expert I trust — not one — has said this flu comparison is valid or that we’re overdoing it. Every single one, from former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to Harvard professor Ashish Jha, has said we’re not doing enough, that this is far more serious than it is being taken.

Here’s why that is:

This is far deadlier than the flu.

As Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and others have said, COVID-19 is deadlier than the flu. It’s deadlier for young adults. It’s deadlier for older adults. In China, early data shows that it was 10 times deadlier. This chart from Business Insider compares U.S. flu deaths to deaths in China from COVID-19.

Ruobing Su/Business Insider

The flu kills less than 1% of infected people who are over age 65. By comparison, in China, COVID-19 killed 8% of those infected who were 70-79 and almost 15% of those infected who were age 80 or older. That’s a staggering difference.

Even for younger people, the difference was striking. Flu killed .02% of infected patients age 18-49. It’s 10 times that for COVID-19.

In other countries, such as South Korea, the death rate has been far lower.

But if 1 in 12 people age 70-79 who get the virus and 1 in 7 people age 80 or older who get the virus die, and the virus spreads to 20%, 40% or 70% of the population, we’re talking massive death tolls, the likes of which we have never seen before in our lives.

“I mean, people always say, well, the flu does this, the flu does that,” Fauci said Wednesday during congressional testimony. “The flu has a mortality of 0.1%. This has a mortality rate of 10 times that. That’s the reason I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game in preventing this.”

Our health care system doesn’t have the capacity to deal with this.

Epidemiological experts keep talking about the need to “flatten the curve.” What they mean by that is that we need to slow the speed at which new cases are reported. We may not be able to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but we have to try to manage it. If 1,000 new cases happen over a month instead of a week, the health care system is more able to handle them.

Here’s why this is a worry: Overall, our hospitals have fewer beds than other developed countries, according to recent data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The United States had 2.8 beds per 1,000 residents. By comparison, Germany had 8 beds and China 4.3 per 1,000.

The United States looks better when it comes to intensive care beds, but there’s tremendous variation between regions and states. If we experience what parts of China and Italy saw, we won’t have anywhere for sick patients to go. We will quickly run out of capacity.

Even if we have the capacity, we may not have enough supplies.

In a crisis moment, supplies like ventilators and N95 face masks will be key. But as National Geographic and other media have reported, the United States has only a fraction of the medical supplies it needs.

“Three hundred million respirators and face masks. That’s what the United States needs as soon as possible to protect health workers against the coronavirus threat. But the nation’s emergency stockpile has less than 15 percent of these supplies,” the magazine reported.

Others have reported shortfalls as well, and ProPublica has been hearing from health care professionals across the country who say their own institutions are running short of supplies.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted at the end of February, “Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”

Another challenge: Hospital staff have been exposed too.

And if that weren’t enough, there’s another problem. Health care workers who have been exposed to the virus are now quarantining themselves, further reducing available staff at hospitals. Kaiser Health News reported on the effects of this:

“In Vacaville, California, alone, one case — the first documented instance of community transmission in the U.S. — left more than 200 hospital workers under quarantine and unable to work for weeks.

Emergency Medical Responders Have Lacked Guidance and Are Stretched for Supplies and Personnel to Combat Coronavirus. Key direction from the CDC on how to protect emergency responders came after the first American case and the exposure of at least one firefighter.

“Across California, dozens more health care workers have been ordered home because of possible contagion in response to more than 80 confirmed cases as of Sunday afternoon. In Kirkland, Washington, more than a quarter of the city’s fire department was quarantined after exposure to a handful of infected patients at the Life Care Center nursing home.”

This week, Banner Health in Colorado informed employees that a co-worker is among those with the coronavirus, The Colorado Sun reported. “People who came into prolonged, close contact with the woman in a Banner Health emergency room are being notified and asked to home-quarantine for 14 days, according to a source close to the investigation who spoke to The Sun on the condition of anonymity.”

And my ProPublica colleagues reported Friday how some EMS workers are also being quarantined because of exposure. (It didn’t help, of course, that the EMS system was slow to get up to speed on the threat.)

More than that, many health care workers have children and as schools begin to close, they have to figure out how to care for their own families.

People in rural areas will have little care nearby should they be affected by COVID-19.

Rural areas in the U.S. are losing their hospitals entirely, and residents are having to travel hours for care. According to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 126 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, including six so far this year. That’s about 6%.

An analysis by the Chartis Center for Rural Health and iVantage Health Analytics this year found that about a quarter of the nation’s 1,844 open rural hospitals are vulnerable.

As The Washington Post described it last year, “Hospitals like Fairfax Community [in Oklahoma] treat patients that are on average six years older and 40 percent poorer than those in urban hospitals, which means rural hospitals have suffered disproportionately from government cuts to Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates. They also treat a higher percentage of uninsured patients, resulting in unpaid bills and rising debts.

“A record 46 percent of rural hospitals lost money last year. More than 400 are classified by health officials as being at ‘high risk of imminent failure.’ Hundreds more have cut services or turned over control to outside ownership groups in an attempt to stave off closure.”

What I’m doing.

This is serious, and I’m making changes to the way I live and work. I’m working from home, trying to get enough sleep and avoiding crowds of any kind. And watching events unfold in what I hope is a once-in-a-lifetime event.


Charles Ornstein is a deputy managing editor at ProPublica, overseeing the Local Reporting Network, which works with local news organizations to produce accountability journalism on issues of importance to their communities.

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Health

County Hospitals Receive 300 iPads for Patients to See Family

Published

on

LOS ANGELES – 300 iPads have been donated to Los Angeles County hospitals to facilitate patient-family communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. The gift is through a partnership with the Annenberg Foundation, Brilliant Corners, and the Los Angeles County Center for Strategic Partnerships.

“The engagement of loved ones during hospitalization has been shown to improve clinical outcomes,” said DHS Director, Dr. Christina Ghaly. “Clinical staff identified a role for virtual visiting through technology in order to facilitate this family involvement. The generous donations by the Annenberg Foundation and MobileDemand will help support this critical element of our patients’ care.” 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, patient visitation by family and loved ones is limited at facilities in order to prevent exposure and the spread of disease. While there are some exceptions, such as the birth of a child or death of a patient, visitation is not permitted for the vast majority of patients and not allowed at all for COVID-19 patients. 

The donation provides 300 iPads to ensure patients and their families are able to connect, despite restrictions in access to the hospital. A second donation, by MobileDemand, provides rugged, protective healthcare iPad cases to protect against damage and loss. The rugged case also has an adjustable easel attached, providing effortless viewing for patients who are too weak to hold a tablet. Additionally, it frees health care staff from having to hold the device for patients.

“This is a wonderful example of how philanthropic organizations, nonprofits, government, and businesses can collaborate and meet an immediate need in our community,” said Wallis Annenberg, Chairman, President and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation. “Being able to offer an opportunity for comfort and connection to those suffering and to alleviate some of the stress from our frontline caregivers is of utmost importance.”

While social distancing has been successful in flattening the curve of the COVID-19 surge in Los Angeles County, it is anticipated that it will continue for several months. With this gift, physicians and nurses will be able to place an iPad in the room of COVID and other critically-ill patients for the duration of the admission and reduce potential exposure and use of personal protective equipment going in and out of the room. Having a stationary iPad helps relieve medical staff who would otherwise have to hold the phone for a patient or search for the person’s personal phone. It also will allow patients who do not have a personal mobile device to communicate and “visit” with their family.

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) is the second largest municipal health system in the nation. Through its integrated system of 26 health centers and four hospitals – LAC+USC Medical Center, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center – and expanded network of community partner clinics, DHS annually provides direct care for 600,000 unique patients, employs over 22,000 staff, and has an annual budget of over $6 billion.

Continue Reading

Health

Processions to Cedars Will Salute Healthcare Workers on National Nurses Day

Published

on

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is putting a strain on essential workers such as first responders and healthcare workers who are on the frontlines in the effort to care for coronavirus patients so the City of West Hollywood is setting out to recognize them in a special way on May 6.

National Nurses Day is a day of recognition to celebrate and honor the contributions that nurses have made and continue to make in our communities and throughout the nation. National Nurses Day is celebrated annually on May 6, which marks the beginning of National Nurses Week, a week-long celebration to raise awareness of the value of nursing and educate the public on the role nurses play in meeting the healthcare needs of Americans. National Nurses Week concludes on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, or as she was more commonly known, “The Lady of the Lamp” and founder of modern nursing.

The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is coordinating two motorcades to honor healthcare workers on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, which is nationally recognized as National Nurses Day. The processions will begin at 9:45 a.m. and at 7:15 p.m. on Santa Monica Boulevard at La Cienega Boulevard and the motorcades will head west and then travel southbound on N. San Vicente Boulevard passing multiple medical center locations in West Hollywood en route to a destination outside the emergency room entrance of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Gracie Allen Drive. First responders will briefly stop, exit their vehicles and applaud healthcare workers while wearing face coverings and practicing appropriate social distancing.

“Our nurses and healthcare workers are nothing short of heroes,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tempore Lindsey P. Horvath. “The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us just how critical their work is to our everyday health and safety. This National Nurses Day means so much more to all of us — the City of West Hollywood and our LA County Sheriff’s West Hollywood Station and LA County Fire Stations; the City of Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills Police and Fire; the City of Los Angeles and LAPD and LAFD; the California Highway Patrol, and more — and we will honor these heroes in a special way for the care that they provide, which often goes unseen and unrecognized, in carrying us through this crisis.”

“As the worldwide response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues, the critical importance of nurses in our society has been brought sharply into focus,” said City of West Hollywood Councilmember John Heilman. “More often than not, when a coronavirus patient ends up in a hospital, it is the nurses at the frontlines who are responsible for their care and treatment, putting themselves at risk in the process. We can’t say ‘thank you’ strongly enough.”

The City of West Hollywood encourages residents and community members to participate during this day of celebration while still adhering to LA County Safer At Home Orders and social distancing requirements. Suggested forms of participation include amplifying posts on social media channels, making yard or window signs and banners, participating in a coordinated daily applause or shout out for nurses and healthcare workers, and donating to organizations that are addressing the emerging needs of nurses and healthcare workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) health pandemic.

According to the American Nursing Association, nursing is the nation’s largest healthcare profession, with more than four million registered nurses in the United States. Registered nurses comprise one of the largest segments of the U.S. workforce and are the primary providers of hospital patient care, delivering most of the nation’s long-term care. In nursing, where workers are on the front lines of patient interactions, women make up more than 85 percent of the workforce. This year, with the onset of coronavirus, nurses have stepped up and shown the incredible impact they have on our healthcare system. It is more important than ever that we recognize National Nurses Day and celebrate the significance of nurses every day.

Continue Reading

Health

Texas & California Wet Markets Show Full Extent of Vile Conditions

Published

on

Texas & California Wet Markets Show Full Extent of Vile Conditions

(TMZ) — It’s becoming more clear by the day that wet markets are NOT just a China problem — it’s an American problem too … just take a look at these latest clips from Texas and California.

TMZ has gotten a hold of even more graphic videos of two different live animal shops in TX and CA — where people pick out the animal, have it slaughtered on the spot and then sold to them right then and there — and you see the mixed-in livestock runs the gamut.

There are pigs in pens, goats and sheep hoarded together … and, of course, as we’ve seen in New York and elsewhere — chicken and rabbits cooped up in cages — all in the same area within earshot of each other, and all getting butchered.

Ya got pigs hanging from hooks out in the open, chicken beaks, feathers and guts all over the floor and in an exposed trash can — this while customers (including kids) come in and browse the freezer for whatever cuts of meat they want. It’s downright dirty and gross.

As we’ve been told by the experts, these one-stop-shop slaughterhouses/storefronts can be breeding grounds for disease — including new viruses, like COVID-19, which supposedly got started at a wet market in China.

We already know of lawmakers in Cali and New York working to get these things shut down, but it’s pretty apparent there needs to be federal legislation rolled out to address this. Can’t call the kettle black when we’re swimming in the freakin’ pot.

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)

Continue Reading
Advertisement

This Just In…

Trending