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COVID-19 Update; Schiff holds tele-town hall for West Hollywood tonight

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The juxtaposition is mind-boggling. The President of the United States is more worried about his re-election and the stock market than a global pandemic that is threatening the lives of millions of Americans. “President Trump recently cast himself as a ‘wartime president’ leading the nation’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic. If one follows that analogy, he is drawing up our surrender,” The San Francisco Chronicle editorialized on Tuesday.

The stakes? In an op-ed entitled “Better 6 feet apart than 6 feet under,” 2009 Nobel Laureate Elizabeth H. Blackburn, an honored researcher and professor of biology and physiology in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco who’s been analyzing the data, posited: 

In the U.S., if nothing changes: By the end of April: The cumulative COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. alone are projected to reach 1 million deaths. And by the second week of May: The cumulative COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. alone are projected to reach a total of 10 million deaths. For comparison, typical seasonal flu (not the pandemic kind) on average kills 37,462 people in the U.S. over a full year (data from 2010 to present), according to the Centers for Disease Control.”

Worried elected officials have stepped up to counter Trump’s vomit of misinformation. New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s morning briefings about the horrible surge and crisis in his state – “a canary in a coal mine,” he says — are appointment television.

A devastating New York Times story about a public hospital in Queens, the borough in New York where Trump was born, reports: “A refrigerated truck has been stationed outside to hold the bodies of the dead. Over the past 24 hours, New York City’s public hospital system said in a statement, 13 people at Elmhurst had died. ‘It’s apocalyptic,’ said Dr. Bray, 27, a general medicine resident at the hospital.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has also held regular briefings with experts in which he has been factual, dire and uplifting. Last week, he urgently pleaded with Trump for federal help, predicting that half of the state’s population – 25.5 million people and potentially more than 5 million – could become ill and require hospitalization over two months.

A week later, on Wednesday, March 26, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Services, said:

“We originally thought that it [the rate of infection] would be doubling every six to seven days; we see cases doubling every three to four days,” Ghaly said. “[We’re] watching that trend very, very closely.”

Right now, California is reporting that coronavirus cases have surged past 3,000, with a death toll now at 67. However,  officials say the growth rate is so big that it could overwhelm hospitals in the coming days and weeks, the LA Times reports.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti agreed during his regular briefing on Wednesday, as he announced more restrictions and closures. “The worst days are still ahead,” he said. “We’ve taken actions earlier and swifter [than other cities], but no one is immune from this virus.”

LA County Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger has also been holding regular coronavirus updates with Barbara Ferrer, Director, of LA County Public Health. However, recently more attention has been paid to the squabble between the Board and LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva who the Board wants removed as head of the emergency operations center during the coronavirus crisis. He calls that a “pure power grab at the worst time possible.”

“I think the sheriff erroneously believes that centering the response to this crisis to the Office of Emergency Management is somehow a dis to him,” Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said in a statement. “And yet I can’t imagine that anyone would say that the sheriff should be coordinating all the health departments and the homelessness outreach and placement in housing — these are all different areas of the county that have grown up since we first had that old ordinance.”

In West Hollywood, City Councilmember John Duran has been posting daily updates, personal observations and encouragement.

Meanwhile, Congress is debating a 2 trillion stimulus and aide package, which numerous state officials say is insufficient for their needs as the unemployment rate skyrockets and the US death toll reaches 1,000.

Rep. Adam Schiff, whose district runs from Burbank to West Hollywood, has been among those members of Congress who have been trying to keep constituents informed.

“It can be difficult to discern good coronavirus information from misinformation. To make matters worse, Trump’s briefings are now like rallies, more self-promotion than insight,” Schiff wrote on his Facebook page promoting a “valuable summary of where we are and what we know” in The Atlantic.

Schiff has an official coronavirus webpage in which he has lots of information from the CDC and Assistance for Small Businesses. He writes:

“As reports continue to emerge about the spread of Coronavirus across the globe, I know many of my constituents are deeply concerned about the health and safety of their families and communities. The most important thing is to be prepared, but not to panic. Listen to the advice of experts.”

He will be holding a tele-town hall meeting Wednesday night at 7:00pm to share the latest information and take questions.

“We can’t get together in person right now, but this is an opportunity to help get your questions answered while we all practice responsible social distancing by calling in from the safety of our homes. Joining me on this call are two local public health experts: Dr. Muntu Davis, MPH, Health Officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and Dr. Rekha Murthy, VP of Medical Affairs and Acting Chief Medical Officer at Cedars-Sinai hospital.

On Thursday, March 26 at 7:00 PM PT, dial in to 855-962-1154 to get your questions answered. I look forward to talking with you about this critical moment for our nation.”

Schiff also posted a video to answer some questions now:

“How is Coronavirus different from the flu? Should I wear a mask? How long does the virus live on inanimate objects and surfaces? Hundreds of constituents have contacted my office with questions and concerns about Coronavirus, so I sat down with Dr. Rebecca Katz, Director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University Medical Center. Misinformation about Coronavirus is rampant and poses a danger to our public health, and I want to make sure my constituents have the most accurate and reliable information out there.”

 

 

Coronavirus

CDC eases indoor mask guidance for fully vaccinated people

L.A. won’t immediately follow CDC’s relaxed mask rules

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CDC Headquarters in Atlanta, GA (Blade file photo)

WASHINGTON – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) issued new guidance Thursday that eases mask wearing indoors for fully vaccinated people in most instances except for extremely crowded circumstances.

The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters but will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for masks or social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated, the Associated Press reported.

“We have all longed for this moment — when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC.

President Joe Biden reflecting on the new CDC guidance that fully vaccinated people can go without masks said; “I think it’s a great milestone, a great day.” The President credited the full-court press by officials to get as many Americans vaccinated as possible in a short period of time as a contributing factor. Biden noted that as of Thursday, the U.S. has administered 250 million shots in 114 days.

He added, “The American people have never ever ever let their country down.”
Biden also stressed: “If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask.” and then he also said if you see someone wearing a mask, “please treat them with kindness and respect.”

Walensky announced the new guidance on Thursday afternoon at a White House briefing, crediting the change to millions of Americans who are getting vaccinated. She added that the CDC changes reflected on the latest science about how well the vaccines are working preventing further spread of the cornavirus.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities -– large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing,” Walensky said. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

There are some caveats the Associated Press noted pointing out the CDC Director encouraged people who have weak immune systems, such as from organ transplants or cancer treatment, to talk with their doctors before shedding their masks. That’s because of continued uncertainty about whether the vaccines can rev up a weakened immune system as well as they do normal, healthy ones.

Los Angeles County officials said Thursday the latest guidance from federal officials allowing fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks in most places will not be effective in California immediately. The state and county will review the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations in order to “make sensible adjustments to the orders that are currently in place,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s mask-wearing requirements at businesses – including restaurants and supermarkets – remain in effect, and it could be a week or more before substantive changes to mask-wearing orders are implemented locally.

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LA County to offer vaccinations for 12-15 year old kids Thursday

The American Academy of Pediatrics urged that kids 12 and older get the Pfizer vaccine

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LOS ANGELES – Starting on Thursday the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will begin offering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, a two-shot regimen at the vaccine sites run by L.A. County that offer the Pfizer vaccine, for 12 to 15-year-olds.

Pfizer’s vaccine has been used for months in people 16 and older, and earlier this week the Food and Drug Administration cleared its use for those as young as age 12.  The CDC advisory panel on Wednesday noted that it affirmed the recommendation by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this week.

The Associated Press reported that the CDC until now has recommended not getting other vaccinations within two weeks of a COVID-19 shot, mostly as a precaution so that safety monitors could spot if any unexpected side effects cropped up.

But the CDC said Wednesday it is changing that advice because the COVID-19 vaccines have proved very safe — and that health workers can decide to give another needed vaccine at the same time for people of any age.

“The need for catch-up vaccination in coordination with COVID-19 vaccination is urgent as we plan for safe return to school,” CDC’s Dr. Kate Woodworth told the panel, citing millions of missed doses of vaccines against tetanus, whooping cough and other health threats.

The American Academy of Pediatrics on Wednesday also urged that kids 12 and older get the Pfizer vaccine — and agreed that it’s fine to give more than one vaccine at the same time, especially for kids who are behind on their regular vaccinations.

“With the CDC approval today, affirming the FDA recommendation, L.A. County will begin vaccinating youth 12 to 15 with the Pfizer vaccine tomorrow. We are grateful to the scientists, clinicians, and the young people who participated in clinical trials that helped the FDA and the CDC determine that these vaccines are safe and effective for this age group,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is the most powerful tool available to reduce transmission of COVID-19 and prevent hospitalizations and deaths from the virus.  Increasing the number of people vaccinated speeds up our recovery journey and allows us to safely participate in the summer activities we all love and miss,” she added.

Anyone younger than 18 should be accompanied by a parent, guardian or responsible adult, and present photo identification and verification of age, county public health officials said. Parents or teens with questions about the vaccine should contact their healthcare provider or visit the Public Health website for more information on vaccine safety and efficacy.

Dr. Janet Woodcock, the FDA’s acting commissioner offered answers to questions regarding the vaccine shots for 12-15 year olds during a call with reporters:

ARE THE SHOTS THE SAME AS THOSE FOR ADULTS?

Yes. The dose and the schedule are the same; the two shots are given three weeks apart.

WHERE CAN KIDS GET THE SHOTS?

Pharmacies, state sites and other places that are already vaccinating people 16 and older with the Pfizer vaccine should be able to give the shots to all authorized ages in most cases.

WILL KIDS NEED A GUARDIAN?

Parental consent will be needed, but exactly how it’s obtained could vary.

HOW WAS THE VACCINE VETTED FOR KIDS?

Pfizer’s late-stage vaccine study tested the safety and efficacy of the shots in about 44,000 people 16 and older. The study then enlisted about 2,200 children ages 12 to 15 to check for any differences in how the shots performed in that age group.

“This is just extending it down from 16 and 17 year olds, and getting further information,” Woodcock said.

WHY ONLY THE PFIZER VACCINE?

Because only Pfizer, which developed the vaccine with its German partner BioNTech, has completed studies in younger teens. Moderna recently said preliminary results from its study in 12- to 17-year-olds show strong protection and no serious side effects, but regulators still need to review the results before it can be offered to younger people.

WHAT SIDE EFFECTS ARE EXPECTED?

Common side effects were similar to those experienced by adults, and included fatigue, headache, muscle pain and fever. Except for pain in the arm where the needle is injected, the effects were likelier after the second shot.

CAN KIDS GET OTHER ROUTINE VACCINATIONS AT THE SAME TIME?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s updating its guidance to say other routine vaccinations can be given at the same time as the COVID-19 shots. It previously advised against other vaccinations within a two-week window so it could monitor people for potential side effects.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said it agrees with the position.

WHEN WILL YOUNGER KIDS BE ELIGIBLE?

It’s unclear how long the ongoing trials or regulatory reviews will take. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, recently suggested it could happen this year.

“We think by the time we get to the end of this year we will have enough information to vaccinate children of any age,” he said.

WHY SHOULD KIDS GET VACCINATED?

Even though children are far less likely to get severely ill if infected, health officials note the risk isn’t zero.

Vaccinating children is also key to ending the pandemic, since children can get infected and spread the virus to others, even if they don’t get sick themselves.

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LA County expected to hit herd immunity by mid summer

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County could reach COVID-19 herd immunity among adults and the older teenagers by mid- to late July, public health officials announced Monday. Over the weekend LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that appointments are no longer needed for Angelenos to get COVID-19 vaccinations at any site run by the city.

Garcetti’s move is intended to give people who don’t have the time or technological resources to navigate online booking platforms a chance to get the shot.

The percentage of the population the County needs to vaccinate to achieve community immunity is unknown, however Public Health officials estimate it’s probably around 80%. Currently, 400,000 shots each week are getting into the arms of L.A. County residents, and there are over 2 million more first doses to go before 80% of all L.A. County residents 16 and older have received at least one shot.

At this rate, Public Health expects the County will reach this level of community immunity in mid- to late July and that assumes the County continues to at least have 400,000 people vaccinated each week. That would include both first doses that people need as well as their second doses.

This news came as Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced that attendance numbers at all grade levels in the District have been considerably lower than expected as extensive safety measures have failed to lure back the vast majority of families in the final weeks of school.

Only 7% of high school students, about 30% of elementary school children and 12% of middle school students have returned to campuses.

As of May 7, more than 8,492,810 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people across Los Angeles County. Of these, 5,146,142 were first doses and 3,346,668 were second doses.

On Monday the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years of age. The Pfizer vaccine is already authorized for people 16 years old and older.

Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. “Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a statement released Monday by the White House, President Joe Biden the FDA’s decision marked another important step in the nation’s march back to regular life.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is growing, and today it got a little brighter,” Biden said.

Los Angeles County will offer the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirms the FDA recommendation, which can happen as early as Wednesday. All adolescents 12-17 will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to get vaccinated.

To find a vaccination site near you, to make an appointment at vaccination sites, and much more, visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) and www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). If you don’t have internet access, can’t use a computer, or you’re over 65, you can call 1-833-540-0473 for help finding an appointment or scheduling a home-visit if you are homebound. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that unvaccinated people — including children — should continue taking precautions such as wearing masks indoors and keeping their distance from other unvaccinated people outside of their households.

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