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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.”

 

 

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Coronavirus

CDC: 85% of gay & lesbian adults in U.S. are vaccinated against COVID

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBTQ persons limited because of the lack of routine SOGI data collection at the national & state levels

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Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/GSA

ATLANTA – A new study report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), found that found 85.4% of gay and lesbian Americans above age 18 had received at least one vaccine dose as of October 2021.

The study, conducted from August 29 until October 30, 2021, also found that by comparison, only 76.3% of heterosexuals reported receiving at least an initial dose by the same date.

The report noted that Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations have higher prevalence of health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness compared with non-LGBT populations.

The potential for low vaccine confidence and coverage among LGBT populations is of concern because these persons historically experience challenges accessing, trusting, and receiving health care services

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBT persons are limited, in part because of the lack of routine data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity at the national and state levels.

In March of 2021, the Blade reported the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed deep-seated inequities in health care for communities of color and amplifies social and economic factors that have contributed to those communities being hit hardest, and Mega-vaccination centers set up by California health officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been addressing and tracking the issue- the LGBTQ communities are still not being tracked.

This lack of data collection has frustrated and angered California State Senator Scott Wiener who authored a bill last year that passed through the legislature and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last Fall that mandates gathering sexual orientation and gender identity data related to the COVID testing in California.

“We’re one year into the pandemic, and LGBTQ people continue to be erased in our public health response to COVID-19 — similar to our invisibility throughout history. No government is successfully tracking COVID-19 cases in the LGBTQ community, despite a law I wrote mandating that California do so,” Weiner told the Blade. “And, we now know that LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve also just learned that vaccination demographic data doesn’t include LGBTQ data. It simply shocking that in 2021, progressive health agencies continue to forget about our community,” he added.

The CDC also noted that gay and lesbian adults were more likely to be concerned about COVID-19 and to believe in the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

“We know that the prevalence of certain health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness, such as cancer, smoking, and obesity, are higher in LGBT populations, and access to health care continues to be an issue for some people in the LGBT community,” Dr. A.D. McNaghten, a member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Team and corresponding author of the study, told ABC News. “We wanted to see if vaccination coverage among LGBT persons was the same as non-LGBT persons.”

The CDC data recorded that bisexual and transgender adults had similar vaccination rates to heterosexual adults with 72.6% of bisexual adults fully vaccinated by the end of October, as were 71.4% of transgender adults. The numbers however for Black and Hispanic lesbian women had lower rates of vaccination at 57.9% and 72.6%, respectively, compared to Black and Hispanic heterosexual women at 75.6% and 80.5%, respectively.

Higher percentages of gay or lesbian adults and bisexual adults reported that they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (90.8% and 86.8%, respectively) compared with heterosexual adults (80.4%), and higher percentages of adults who identified as transgender or nonbinary reported they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (83.2%) compared with those who did not identify as transgender or nonbinary (80.7%).

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White House orders distribution of 400 million free N95 masks

Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator; “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks”

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President Joe Biden (Blade file photo/screenshot)

WASHINGTON – As the latest surge of the highly contagious and easily transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to cause a rise in hospitalizations, especially among unvaccinated adults and children, the White House announced Wednesday it is making 400 million N95 masks available for free at thousands of locations across the nation.

The plan an admkistartion official said, is to start shipping the nonsurgical masks to pharmacies and community health centers to distribute this week, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile.

In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator, said, “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks.”

The N95 masks will be made available to everybody, and recipients will not be prioritized based on vulnerability to Covid, income or other criteria. Inglesby said the administration was “confident that people who want to access them will be able to access them,” but it was not immediately clear how many masks a person could receive at one time.

On January 13, President Joe Biden had announced a plan to have the government distribute 1 billion rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests free to Americans, along with the N95 masks, as the administration works to fight the spiraling upward spike in coronavirus cases.

The White House website to order free at-home Covid tests went live Tuesday. The website says: “Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.”

A White House official said Wednesday that the distribution of 400 million masks would be the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.

Inglesby told NBC News that the administration was “absolutely preparing for the possibility of additional variants in the future” and that people could expect the government to make N95 masks “more and more available.”

Biden announces free masks, tests to fight omicron:

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COVID-19 Cases increase by nearly 10 times in one month

While hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID

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Graphic courtesy of UCLA/Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

LOS ANGELES – A total of 31,576 new COVID-19 cases were documented on Monday — up ten times the number of cases reported on Dec. 17, 2021, when there were 3,360 new cases recorded the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported Monday.

There are  4,564 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, nearly 6 times the number from one month ago when 772 people were hospitalized. The daily positivity rate is 16.5%, more than 8 times the 2% daily positivity rate on December 17th.

Just one week ago, the county surpassed 2 million total COVID-19 cases, with the figure reaching 2,289,045 cases as of Monday.

“On this national holiday where we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, we remember his deep commitment to health equity.  As Reverend King memorably said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death,’ ” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“Tragically, we have seen this play out in real life and very clearly over the past two years with the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color. From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation,” she added.

“The good news is that while hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID but, are identified with COVID when tested for COVID upon hospital admission,” the health department said in a statement released last week.

As of Friday, more than 80% of all adult ICU beds in the county were occupied.

There are also 27 new deaths due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and 31,576 new positive cases.

The public health department also noted that while the number of children hospitalized with the virus remains low, the number of them admitted to L.A. County hospitals “significantly increased” over the past month, with the largest increase among children younger than 5 years old.

The increase mirrors trends seen nationwide for the age group — the only one not yet eligible for the vaccine.

The county also saw its highest coronavirus death rate in nearly 10 months over this past week, with an average of 40 COVID-19 deaths a day.

“From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation. As we continue to implement strategies – enforcing worker protections through our Health Officer Orders, providing resources needed by many to survive the impact of the pandemic, funding community-based organizations in hard hit areas to serve as trusted public health messengers, and increasing vaccination access in under-sourced neighborhoods – we also need to come together to address the impact that racism, historical disinvestment, and social marginalization have on COVID-19 outcomes,” Ferrer said.

“While these conditions predate the pandemic, without deliberate collective actions to address the root causes of health inequities, we are unlikely to close the gaps we have documented for 2 long years,” she added.

California has recorded more than 7 million coronavirus cases after its fastest accumulation of reported infections in the history of the pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The unprecedented count, recorded in California’s databases late Monday, comes one week after the state tallied its 6 millionth coronavirus case.

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