andbehome-300x191Audiences laugh when Sancho Panza, a sage but servile character in the musical “Man of La Mancha,” observes that “whether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it’s bad for the pitcher.” A paraphrase of that aphorism — regarding community spread of the coronavirus and the elderly, particularly those in nursing homes — might be sadly apt these days.

From Norton, Kansas, to La Crosse, Wis., public health officials and owners and operators of long-term care facilities are watching with dread the predicted Covid-19 surge occurring in communities across the country and surrounding the aged, sick, and injured in institutions.

And while some extreme theorists — including in the White House — argue for a pandemic response that claims the vulnerable can be protected (say, in nursing homes) while the healthy should, doggone it, just get sick with the coronavirus and get it over with, common sense and evidence are laying waste to the risky “let’s let Covid-19 blaze so herd immunity takes effect” theory.

buildingpurdue-300x200Christmas arrived before Halloween for a notorious Big Pharma firm. Federal prosecutors effectively gave its family founders and its executives gilded skates, so they can slide away for now from major criminal charges and severe financial penalties for their part in fostering the opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and cost the nation more than $1 trillion.

The devil is in the details in the announced settlement by the U.S. Justice Department with Purdue Pharmaceutical, the maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin.

Federal prosecutors painted a picture of their planned deal with Purdue as an historic, $8.3 billion knock-out for a company that critics say played a major role in the opioid crisis, with the firm creating a template for hyping falsehoods about the safety and effectiveness of prescription painkillers. As the Washington Post reported, the first glance at the multibillion-dollar Purdue settlement seems tough:

casesurgecovidoct-300x175Numbers can tell a persuasive story, but will even overpowering figures shock Americans into taking the steps needed to deal with the coronavirus cases surging across the country?

By many metrics, it is counter-factual to contend, as President Trump insists, that the nation is “rounding the corner” on the Covid-19 pandemic and “the country is learning to live with it” — as opposed to getting sick and dying from it. Let’s take a look at a bunch of the metrics:

The United States’ new coronavirus case count exceeded 70,000 in a day for the first time since July.

AARP-logo-300x94For residents of nursing homes and their loved ones, new and disturbing information has come out on  long-term care facilities’ persistent failure to safeguard the vulnerable from the coronavirus that has killed tens of thousands of the institutionalized and infected hundreds of thousands of them and their caregivers.

Six months after the pandemic exploded across the country, more than a quarter of nursing homes nationwide are “reporting shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and staff, and almost half have staff infected with Covid-19,” according to the AARP, the country’s largest advocacy group for older Americans.

The organization based its finding on its scrutiny of federal data, reporting:

covidmapoct-300x201As the weather has turned crisper, and autumn leaves have begun to fall, in sadly predictable fashion, coronavirus cases are rising once again coast-to-coast.

More than 8 million Americans have been infected — roughly equivalent to the population of New York and far exceeding the number of people who live in metropolitan Washington, D.C.

The nation is racing toward 220,00 Covid-19 deaths, with that number rising inexorably and likely an understatement of the disease’s terrible toll. The coronavirus now has claimed as many lives as the population of cities such as Des Moines, Iowa, Salt Lake City, Utah, or Modesto, Calif.

javaid-300x169A Virginia criminal case, while focusing on claims of fraud against the federal government, also has exposed a long-running and nightmarish pattern of what prosecutors assert has been a Chesapeake gynecologist’s rampant mistreatment of his patients, many of them women of color and poor.

Dr. Javaid Perwaiz is on trial because authorities say he “manipulated records to cover crimes that enriched him but endangered pregnancies, sterilized women unnecessarily, and pressured them into needless procedures to finance his lavish lifestyle,” the Washington Post reported.

The newspaper’s articles, as well as the efforts by the FBI and federal prosecutors to develop the charges against the jailed specialist, raise disturbing questions about not only Virginia medical regulators but also the hospitals where the gynecologist practiced and colleagues who have described a “frenzied environment in which hospital staff struggled to keep pace with Perwaiz as he rushed from procedure to procedure.”

medjournals-300x196They are a unique combination — august publications in science and medicine that  harken back for centuries yet now inform 21st century practitioners about the latest advances in their fields. And now these leading scientific journals say the present moment  forces them to abandon their prized political neutrality to oppose the science denialism of the incumbent leader of the free world.

This is an unprecedented and uncomfortable development for the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Scientific American, and Lancet Oncology (a journal for cancer specialists). They have never taken a political stand of this kind in their histories, dating to 1812 for NEJM, 1845 for Scientific American, and 1869 for Nature.

Their editors say they would much prefer to stay out of presidential endorsements  and to keep their focus on publishing important, rigorous research and peer-reviewed information about advancements in the fields of science and medicine.

costsrisinghealthinsurancekff20-300x225The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many Americans to reconsider their transportation options, what with fears of infection and the slashing of public transit systems’ routes and schedules. That has made used cars, motorcycles, and bicycles hot commodities.

Those who are working and considering how their finances might stretch may take little comfort in another reality of the U.S. health care system — the relentlessly increasing cost of employer-provided coverage. Who can afford a second car while also footing the rising bill for health coverage?

As the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation said in its annual report on this issue:

oxylabel-300x180So, who doesn’t daydream a little about money? Maybe even big money. Just imagine a scenario where, if you could put up $3,000, you could keep $13,000, or if you forked over $30,000, and walked away with $130,000? So how great would it be if you paid $3 billion but could stuff $13 billion into your pockets?

What a deal! Of course, it depends on whose perspective you look at it from.

Federal prosecutors and a bankruptcy court may give a plutocratic family that deal, along with a hard-to-imagine get-out-of-jail free card, news organizations report.

covidtestswab-282x300The federal agency that regulates nursing homes and other long-term care facilities not only has cracked down on them with tough new requirements for coronavirus testing of their staff. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services also has flogged its plan to provide facilities with testing equipment and sample tests.

While owners and operators have grumbled about the whole process, the state of Nevada has gone a step further: Enough, its health officials have decided. They briefly halted as unacceptable the CMS tests for the virus because they say they are flawed and may put nursing home residents at risk.

Besides casting yet more doubt on CMS’s poor pandemic response with long-term care facilities,  Nevada’s balk — rescinded abruptly after federal threat — may offer an important take-away to members of the public, already flooded with findings about the novel coronavirus:

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