Articles Posted in Testing

coverwithkareem-300x211A growing body of research is better explaining why the novel coronavirus has taken such a terrible toll on communities of color and especially black Americans. The evidence underscores the urgency for the nation to address racial injustice and inequities, particularly in health care.

As the New York Times reported, experts analyzing mountains of data are seeing that “there is no innate vulnerability to the virus among black and Hispanic Americans … Instead, these groups are more often exposed because of social and environmental factors.” The newspaper found this in talking to experts about their multiple, often sizable studies:

“The[ir] new findings do not contradict an enormous body of research showing that black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to be affected by the pandemic, compared with white people. The coronavirus is more prevalent in minority communities, and infections, illnesses and deaths have occurred in these groups in disproportionate numbers … [But among] many other vulnerabilities, black and Hispanic communities and households tend to be more crowded; many people work jobs requiring frequent contact with others and rely on public transportation. Access to health care is poorer than among white Americans, and rates of underlying conditions are much higher. ‘To me, these results make it clear that the disparities in mortality that we see are even more appalling,’ said Jon Zelner, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan who led one of the new studies.”

covidnrsnghomenovdeaths-300x149While untold Americans tried to do right by older and more vulnerable friends and family members by taking extra precautions and even canceling Thanksgiving gatherings, the nation crossed a ghastly threshold for the aged, sick, and injured in late November: The coronavirus has killed at least 100,000 residents and staff in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

The number of deaths is likely under-reported in federal and other data sources, as several states lag in providing information about problems in the facilities. The deaths of those institutionalized also is spiking as Covid-19 cases have, too, from coast-to-coast. “Community spread” poses grave risks to those in institutions.

If these figures are not already bleak, the Wall Street Journal reported that its research finds that there also are “more than 670,000 probable and confirmed Covid-19 cases in long-term care, affecting both residents and staff members.”

covidhospitalsnov-259x300As the winter of 2020-21 descends, the coronavirus pandemic is raging, unchecked, from coast-to-coast while the folks in control of the federal government sulk and seem to have checked out from their governing roles.

The numbers likely are understated.  But roughly 265,000 Americans have been killed by the Covid-19 virus and more than 13 million of us have been infected with it. Records are falling left and right, as reported cases skyrocket daily — from thousands, to tens of thousands, and now to more than 200,000 per day. The number of new cases in November alone jumped past 4 million, compared with the October record of 1.9 million.

A significant goal of public health battles with the coronavirus — to prevent the U.S. health system from getting overwhelmed with cases, slashing at all medical services and not just Covid-19 treatment — is under major threat. That’s because the nation is busting records on coronavirus hospitalizations, sitting at 90,000 patients and heading toward the fearsome number of 100,000.

With the pandemic  tearing through the United States and overwhelming U.S. health care system,  we pause from the grim news to tally  some of the nation’s blessings in this time.

We can be thankful for the courage, fortitude, dedication, and skill of an army of health workers of all kinds. They have put themselves and their loved ones at formidable risk and strain to treat patients under unprecedented duress. They have dealt with fear and uncertainty, giving little quarter, and approaching their own breaking points. Some health workers have themselves fallen ill, with some dying. Their sacrifices cannot be forgotten, and we need to give sustained and extra support to health workers as the pandemic enters its next perilous phase.

apnursinghomesurgechart-270x300Coronavirus cases are spiking among residents and staff at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. They increased four-fold between May’s end and late October — even as deaths among the vulnerable also doubled, disturbing new data show.

Those are the findings of Rebecca Gorges and Tamara Konetzka, University of Chicago researchers who analyzed federal data at the request of the Associated Press. They focused on 20 states hard hit by the latest pandemic surge.

Konetzka said the data raise major questions about the Trump Administration’s efforts to safeguard the aged, ailing, and injured in institutional care by sheltering them from infections in their surround areas and increasing testing for residents and health workers. But Koentzka, an expert on long-term care, told the AP this about such a plan:

coronacasednov13cnbc-300x135Although company-reported data on the potency of a prospective coronavirus vaccine provided rare glimmers of hope, the rampaging coronavirus pandemic triggered clangorous coast-to-coast health alarms: Infections are skyrocketing. So, too, are hospitalizations. And, yes, deaths are spiking, as well. Records are falling each day.

Covid-19 is raging unchecked among the American people, with a season of travel and festivities with friends and families bearing down on the country.

Will travelers heading across the country or around the block to Thanksgiving feasts or December religious celebrations also ensure that public health forecasters’ glum models turn into lethal reality?  Will the 1,000 daily deaths occurring now double to 2,000 by mid-January and will the U.S. coronavirus death toll hit 440,000 by March?

elderaide-300x200Nursing homes put their residents at heightened health risks by scrimping on personnel costs and failing to deal with significant staffing shortfalls, especially as the coronavirus inflicted some of its highest death and infection tolls on the elderly, sick, and injured in long-term care, media investigations have found.

The profit-focus by health providers is not unique, and it has put huge burdens on poorly paid, lightly trained, and over worked home health aides. They have toiled to keep the vulnerable out of institutional care, even as the agencies that employ them give them little support.

Here is what the Wall Street Journal reported about long-term care facilities, based on its “analysis of payroll-based daily staffing data released … by the Medicare agency …  [for hundreds of] nursing homes that reported to the federal government virus-related deaths in the first half of 2020″:

covimask-300x159While Americans have been riveted for days about incremental shifts in election results, other confounding numbers raced ever higher and into worrisome places. Just consider these numbers: 128,000, 9.6 million plus, and 235,000 and more.

“Covid, covid, covid. By the way, on Nov. 4 you won’t hear about it anymore,” President Trump asserted during his closing re-election campaign rallies.

If only. The nation’s coronavirus pandemic is unchecked and showing signs of worsening, bigly, with records shattering on consecutive days for infections diagnosed: 100,000 on Nov. 4, 120,000 on Nov. 5, and 128,000 on Nov. 6.

colorscreen-300x168An important federal advisory group has joined with medical specialists in recommending a change in the age at which patients should start screening for colorectal cancer, to age 45 and not the current 50 years old.

Earlier detection of bowel issues could save lives, the U.S. Protective Services Task Force (USPSTF) has decided, with the influential medical group issuing a draft screening guidance and posting it online for public and expert comment.

Clinicians have reported for a while now that they are seeing more cases of colorectal cancers in younger patients, and their treatment might have better outcomes if it could be started earlier, too. As the New York Times reported:

chairinhomeDisturbing new data shows that a much-promoted plan by federal watchdogs to protect vulnerable residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities from Covid-19 resulted in dismal outcomes, with inspectors dispatched by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services largely dismissing infection-control concerns as the deadly pandemic raged.

“During the first six months of the crisis [inspectors] cleared nearly 8 in 10 nursing homes of any infection-control violations,” even as tens of thousands of facility residents were infected and died from the coronavirus, the Washington Post reported.

The newspaper’s investigation found this:

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