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fballhelmet-237x300Although many fans will be sad that football won’t dominate their lives as it usually does in the months after Labor Day, the pandemic-related constriction, postponement, and cancellation of so many prep and collegiate sports may have an upside: It likely will add to declines in the need for urgent care for dangerous and damaging head injuries.

Public awareness has soared about the risks of such trauma, with preventive measures leading to a sharp dip in the emergency department visits for sports- and recreation-related injuries to children and adolescents, federal researchers have found.

Their study for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was based on data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System–All Injury Program from 2001 to 2018. Early in that time period, young people’s ED trips peaked at “411 per 100,000 youths aged 17 years or younger in 2012 before declining by 32% to 299 per 100,000 by 2018,” journalist Bridget M. Kuehn wrote in an online article for the Journal of the American Medical Association.

CMS-300x105Five months after national media sounded alarms about  a novel coronavirus savaging a Washington state long-term care center, federal regulators have begun to roust themselves with more vigor to safeguard hundreds of thousands of elderly, sick, and injured residents of nursing homes and other similar facilities.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — which is supposed to be the country’s top long-term care watchdog — is barking lots now about its regulatory activity, including promises to send owners and operators billions of dollars more in aid, ordering staffers in areas of great virus risk to undergo weekly Covid-19 tests,  shipping equipment for them to do so, and ramping up inspections.

Owners and operators have offered guarded praise and thanks to the agency. But skeptics say it is yet more of the Trump Administration’s baleful pandemic response — too little and too late.

cellphonevideonathandumlao-200x300In the running battle between authorities and individuals over excessive use of force, the eyes suddenly now have it: The advance of smart phone technology to ubiquity and with quality video recording is giving claimants powerful new evidence. It is not pretty for law enforcement excesses — and even potentially extra-legal escapades.

Not one, not two, but three news organizations — the Washington Post, the New York Times, and ProPublica — report that they have scoured nationwide to find abundant cell phone videos of official responses to protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd and other African Americans in custody. Here is a sampling of their disturbing articles:

The Washington Post

algorithmwoes2-300x200High-tech wizards may be pushing medicine into a brave new world where important medical decisions rely on supposedly data-driven findings that also may be rooted in an old malignancy: discrimination against black patients.

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine warns that race-based tools and formulas, algorithms aimed to assist doctors in speeding up their diagnosis and treatment in such areas as heart disease, cancer, and kidney and maternity care, improperly steer blacks away from therapies commonly given to whites without sound reasons, the New York Times reported:

“The tools are often digital calculators on web sites of medical organizations or — in the case of assessing kidney function — actually built into the tools commercial labs use to calculate normal values of blood tests. They assess risk and potential outcomes based on formulas derived from population studies and modeling that looked for variables associated with different outcomes. ‘These tests are woven into the fabric of medicine,’ said Dr. David Jones, the paper’s senior author, a Harvard historian who also teaches ethics to medical students. ‘Despite mounting evidence that race is not a reliable proxy for genetic difference, the belief that it is has become embedded, sometimes insidiously, within medical practice,’ he wrote.”

chartGAOnursinghomeinfection-300x300Is the coronavirus’s staggering toll on patients in nursing homes something to be written off as a force of nature for which humans bear little fault? Or are there lessons to be learned about shortcomings that could help preserve lives the next time?

News media reports keep unearthing institutional misery and a blindness to the suffering of the aged, chronically ill, and seriously injured. Bad luck, shrug facility owners and operators, seemingly joined in by regulators and some politicians. Couldn’t be helped. Did the best we could.

In fact, investigations — by journalists and watchdogs — have shown the toll taken by nursing homes’ sloppy disregard for infection control, press for profits, and unacceptable paralysis as situations headed south.

howardnewhospital-300x169Even as the Covid-19 pandemic shows the terrible toll inflicted on African Americans in the District of Columbia by health care disparities, city officials have announced they are advancing with a pricey plan to plug a giant hole in area medical services by helping to fund not one but two new hospitals that will serve impoverished communities of color.

The facilities will be in Wards 1 and 8 and will replace the Howard University Hospital and the United Medical Center (UMC) in Southeast D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has proposed.

The City Council in the days ahead will consider her latest $700 million or so plan to try to improve medical services for some of the poorest residents in the city by working with Howard, its medical school — one of the main training institutions for black doctors — George Washington University Hospital and two big health systems, Adventist and Universal Health Systems.

ctracing-300x218As state and local officials struggle with constituents restless with measures designed to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the next key phases in the battle with the novel coronavirus may prove yet more contentious. How ready are we to accept not just testing but also tracing and isolating infections?

The White House is bolting to a cut-and-run approach to fighting Covid-19, deflecting, denying and downplaying its staggering toll — more than 1 million infections and tens of thousands of deaths.

This already has led to a debacle with what needed to be an effective, widespread regimen of testing, testing, testing — not only to see who is infected now but also who may have been exposed to the disease and potentially have some immunity against it.

GovMikePence-300x200The viral outbreak that exploded out of central China suddenly has captured the rapt attention of Wall Street, the White House, and Americans from coast to coast. The rising pitch and politicization of the important conversation about Covid-19 — a respiratory virus that already has posed a growing global health threat — can only be described as worrying.

For ordinary folks, the guidance emerging from all this: It may be time for smart preparation — definitely not panic.

The Trump Administration apparently has gotten the message that viral concerns are high, and the president and his men have conducted two news conferences in almost as many days, including announcing the first coronavirus death of an American in the continental U.S. and travel restrictions affecting Iran, Italy, and South Korea.

ambcenterleapfrograting-300x109They may be more appealing and convenient because they’re located in the neighborhood with better hours and more parking. They also may be less costly because they lack the high overheard of big hospitals. But those booming same-day surgery centers have patient safety issues of their own.

Their doctors and nurses may not be as well-trained as patients might find at big hospitals or academic medical centers, with 1 in 3 centers not having staff who were all board-certified, according to the Leapfrog Group, a consortium of big companies and other major health care users focused on patient concerns.

Leapfrog has issued — to its considerable credit — its first safety and quality study of the facilities, also finding that, “not all ambulatory surgery centers and hospital outpatient departments provide surgery consent materials before the day of surgery. Just 14% of ambulatory surgery centers provided the information one to three days before the surgery, while just 20.7% of hospital outpatient departments do so,” Modern Healthcare, an industry news source, reported.

carteslasummon-300x225Technology advocates may be ignoring due cautions as they put software ahead of safety in the push to make the vehicles of today and tomorrow more self-driving (aka autonomous).

Car and truck owners, safety advocates warn, should proceed with care before relying on automatic emergency braking systems, especially as they purport to safeguard pedestrians. Restraint also may be the watchword for a new feature that allows a luxe electric car to be “summoned” to its driver, shifting out of a parked position and navigating short distances on its own.

The American Automobile Association reported that it sought to get ahead of the curve by subjecting the new automatic emergency braking systems to track tests in mid-sized sedans of their safety applications under “real world” conditions. The outcomes were worrisome, AAA found:

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