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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

L.A. County on track to bring back mandatory indoor masking

If LA county stays in CDC designated High Community Level for 2 consecutive weeks officials would implement a universal indoor masking

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health indicated that if the upward trend in coronavirus numbers continues, due to the increased circulation of the more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants coupled with increased community spread, officials may order a return to indoor masks.

On Friday, Public Health said that while the county currently remains at the CDC designated COVID-19 Medium Community Level. There are increasing concerns about the impact of new Omicron sub-variants on transmission and hospitalizations that could result in the County moving into the High Community Level designation sometime later this summer.

Barbara Ferrer, Director of LA County Public Health expressed concern and cautioned Angelenos as the region prepares for the July 4th holiday weekend.

“Since July 4 is right around the corner and many of us are looking forward to celebrating Independence Day with family and friends, it is important to remember that many of our loved ones may be older adults, or have serious underlying health conditions, or not yet been vaccinated and boosted,” Ferrer said.

“Given the rising number of COVID cases and hospitalizations, and the increased circulation of the more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, it is extra important to take steps that reduce the risk of transmission especially over the long holiday weekend; this helps us protect ourselves, our families, and our community,” She continued adding, “With a little planning, you can have a great time celebrating while keeping each other safe. Please be sure to remind friends and family to stay home and skip the celebration if they feel sick or have tested positive.  It is also a great idea for everyone to test themselves before getting together, ideally on the day of the gathering. It is always best to celebrate outdoors, and if people come indoors for part of the gathering, wearing a mask is advisable, particularly if there are individuals at high risk of severe illness should they become infected.”

LA County Public Health pointed out in a statement that six of the seven Early Alert metrics Public Health are tracking continue to convey cause for Medium or High Concern. Moreover, in the past week, four Early Alert Signals moved upward in the level of concern: The case rate in the lowest income areas and the number of new outbreaks at Skilled Nursing Facilities per week, both moved up to High Concern.

The number of new outbreaks in settings for People Experiencing Homelessness is now at Medium Concern. And the number of worksite clusters increased, moving from Medium to High Concern for the first time since Public Health started tracking this metric in early March.

There was also an uptick in the percentage of Emergency Department Visits. The only measure indicating Low Concern is the number of sewer systems with a two-fold increase in viral load.

The first of two hospital metrics in the CDC Community Levels Framework is the seven-day total of new hospital admissions per 100,000, which rose this past week to 8.1 admissions per 100,000 people. This is a 56% increase compared to one month ago. The second hospital metric, the seven-day average for the proportion of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, also increased this past week to 4.2%.

If the county moves into the CDC designated High Community Level and remains there for two consecutive weeks, the county would implement a universal indoor masking requirement for everyone age 2 and older in LA County as a safety measure aligned with the CDC framework. The safety measure would remain in effect until the county returned to the CDC Medium Community Level designation, or lower, for two consecutive weeks. 

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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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Coronavirus

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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