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Coronavirus

Covid-19 claims 600 frontline healthcare worker lives and counting

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Nearly 600 front-line health care workers appear to have died of COVID-19, according to Lost on the Frontline, a project launched by The Guardian and KHN that aims to count, verify and memorialize every health care worker who dies during the pandemic.

The tally includes doctors, nurses and paramedics, as well as crucial health care support staff such as hospital janitors, administrators and nursing home workers, who have put their own lives at risk during the pandemic to help care for others. Lost on the Frontline has now published the names and obituaries for more than 100 workers.

A majority of those documented were identified as people of color, mostly African American and Asian/Pacific Islander. Profiles of more victims, and an updated count, will be added to our news sites twice weekly going forward.

There is no other comprehensive accounting of U.S. health care workers’ deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has counted 368 COVID deaths among health care workers, but acknowledges its tally is an undercount. The CDC does not identify individuals.

The Guardian and KHN are building an interactive, public-facing database that will also track factors such as race and ethnicity, age, profession, location and whether the workers had adequate access to protective gear. The database — to be released this summer — will offer insight into the workings and failings of the U.S. health care system during the pandemic.

In addition to tracking deaths, Lost on the Frontline reports on the challenges health care workers are facing during the pandemic. Many were forced to reuse masks countless times amid widespread equipment shortages. Others had only trash bags for protection. Some deaths have been met with employers’ silence or denials that they were infected at work.

The number released today reflects the 586 names currently in the Lost on the Frontline internal database, which have been collected from family members, friends and colleagues of the deceased, health workers unions, media reports, unions, among other sources. Reporters at KHN and The Guardian are independently confirming each death by contacting family members, employers, medical examiners and others before publishing names and obituaries on our sites. More than a dozen journalists across two newsrooms — as well as student journalists ― are involved in the project.

Many of the health care workers included here studied physiology and anatomy for years. They steeled themselves against the long hours they’d endure. Emergency medical technicians raced by ambulance to help. Others did the cleanup, maintenance, security or transportation jobs needed to keep operations running smoothly.

They undertook their work with passion and dedication. They were also beloved spouses, parents, friends, military veterans and community activists.

None started 2020 knowing that simply showing up to work would expose them to a virus that would kill them.

This project aims to capture the human stories, compassion and heroism behind the statistics. Among those lost were Dr. Priya Khanna, a nephrologist, who continued to review her patients’ charts until she was put on a ventilator. Her father, a retired surgeon, succumbed to the disease just days after his daughter.

Susana Pabatao, one of thousands of Philippine health providers in the United States, became a nurse in her late 40s. Susana died just days after her husband, Alfredo, who was also infected with COVID-19.

Dr. James Goodrich, a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, acclaimed for separating conjoined twins, was also remembered as a renaissance man who collected antique medical books, loved fine wines and played the didgeridoo.

Some of the first to die faced troubling conditions at work. Rose Harrison, 60, a registered nurse, wore no mask while taking care of a COVID-19 patient at an Alabama nursing home, according to her daughter. She felt pressured to work until the day she was hospitalized. The nursing home did not respond to requests for comment.

Thomas Soto, 59, a Brooklyn radiology clerk faced delays in accessing protective gear, including a mask, even as the hospital where he worked was overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, his son said. The hospital did not respond to requests for comment.

The Lost on the Frontline team is documenting other worrying trends. Health care workers across the U.S. said failures in communication left them unaware they were working alongside people infected with the virus. And occupational safety experts raised alarms about CDC guidance permitting workers treating COVID patients to wear surgical masks ― which are far less protective than N95 masks.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency responsible for protecting workers, has launched dozens of fatality investigations into health workers’ deaths. But recent agency memos raise doubts that many employers will be held responsible for negligence.

As public health guidelines have largely prevented traditional gatherings of mourners, survivors have found new ways to honor the dead: In Manhattan, a medical resident played a violin tribute for a fallen co-worker; a nurses union placed 88 pairs of shoes outside the White House commemorating those who had died among their ranks; fire departments have lined up trucks for funeral processions and held “last call” ceremonies for EMTs.

The Lost on the Frontline death toll includes only health care workers who were potentially exposed while caring for or supporting COVID-19 patients. It does not, for example, include retired doctors who died from the virus but were not working during the pandemic.

The number of reported deaths is expected to grow. But as reporters work to confirm each case, individual deaths may not meet our criteria for inclusion — and, therefore, may be removed from our count.

You can read our first 100 profiles here. And if you know of a health care worker who died of COVID-19, please share their story with us.

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Coronavirus

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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Coronavirus

Federal Judge says CDC doesn’t have authority to issue nationwide eviction moratorium

The moratorium was put in place by the CDC to aid millions of renters who are struggling financially amid the coronavirus pandemic

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U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia
(Photo Credit: U.S. Government GSA)

WASHINGTON – A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), doesn’t have the legal authority to issue a nationwide eviction moratorium.

The moratorium was put in place by the CDC to aid millions of renters who are struggling financially amid the coronavirus pandemic and was to be extended under the Biden Administration until June 30.

U. S. District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, a Trump appointee, in a 20 page ruling wrote that the CDC exceeded the authority granted by Congress under the terms of the Public Health Service Act and the legislation passed and signed into law by former President Trump that addressed the coronavirus pandemic. 

Friedrich wrote, “[…] It is the role of the political branches, and not the courts, to assess the merits of policy measures designed to combat the spread of disease, even during a global pandemic.

The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not.

Because the plain language of the Public Health Service Act, 42 U.S.C. § 264(a), unambiguously forecloses the nationwide eviction moratorium, the Court must set aside the CDC Order. […]”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told the Blade that officials were reviewing today’s decision and would make a statement at a later point.

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Coronavirus

LA moves to Yellow Tier Thursday

Los Angeles County has met the threshold for the least restrictive yellow tier

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LA Skyline in March 2020 (Blade file photo)

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County has met the threshold for the least restrictive yellow tier in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Tuesday.

Moving into the yellow tier allows, on Thursday, for increases in capacity in many sectors and allows bars to begin providing indoor service at 25% capacity. Additionally it means that meaning a swath of businesses and venues — including gyms, movie theaters, amusement parks, stadiums and museums — can now operate at higher capacity.

The sectors with increases in capacity limits include amusement parks and fairs, gyms and fitness centers, yoga studios, private events, bars, hotels and short-term lodging rentals, private gatherings, breweries, indoor playgrounds, restaurants, cardrooms and racetracks, indoor and outdoor live events and performances, wineries and tasting rooms, family entertainment centers, and museums, zoos, and aquariums.

California has the lowest infection rate in the country. Los Angeles County, which is home to a quarter of the state’s nearly 40 million people and has endured a disproportionate number of the state’s 60,000 deaths, didn’t record a single COVID-19 death Sunday or Monday, which was likely due to incomplete weekend reporting but still noteworthy.

A total of seven of the state’s 58 counties are now in the so-called yellow tier, which is the final stage of a phased reopening plan before a projected return to business as usual June 15. The five other counties are all remote areas of Northern California.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced a series of initiatives building on the state’s work to vaccinate California’s hard-to-reach communities against COVID-19, address vaccine hesitancy and drive innovative efforts in the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

New efforts focus on direct appointment assistance; community outreach including neighborhood canvassing, phone banking and text banking; at-home vaccinations and transportation services; and an additional $33 million in funding, bringing the total to $85.7 million, to support community-based organizations.

“We’re at a pivotal moment in our COVID-19 vaccine rollout – more than 30 million doses have been administered in California to date, and it’s going to take some new approaches to reach those who haven’t been vaccinated yet,” said Newsom. “These enhanced initiatives build on the community-based approach the state has taken throughout this crisis, in order to ensure vaccines are easily within reach of more people.”


About 60 percent of eligible Californians have received at least one dose and as of April 15, anyone age 16 and up is eligible to receive the vaccine.

In addition, building on the bipartisan work done during the “Wear A Mask” campaign, California Governors Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson have come together to encourage all Californians to get vaccinated.

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