Hundreds of Muslims returning to Turkey from the Umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia were being housed in student dormitories on April 5 as part of quarantine measures against the novel coronavirus.
A Turkish virologist said he isolated SARS-COV-2, the novel coronavirus, in a bid to produce a vaccine against the deadly disease it causes which has claimed almost 68,000 lives across the globe.
Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said on April 6 that probes have been launched into 750 people in 66 provinces, for not abiding by the measures the government has taken to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Weston Mayor Daniel J. Stermer has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. He received his test results late Sunday night, according to the city. The … Click to Continue »
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "in good spirits" on Monday, following his hospital admission after failing to shake off symptoms of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. … Click to Continue »
World Health Day 2020: It’s almost the beginning of the second quarter of 2020, and all the headlines have been seized by the novel coronavirus. Due to the unprecedented speed of its spread, it has affected thousands of people and created a worldwide panic.
Gabon on Friday banned the sale and eating of bats and pangolins, which are suspected of sparking the novel coronavirus in China where they are highly prized in traditional medicine.
Many Americans are anxious about contracting the novel coronavirus. Daniel Florio is absolutely terrified.
The 50-year-old lawyer from Maplewood, New Jersey, was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder that makes him unable to walk or use his arms. His disability makes him more vulnerable to the virus than most people, and he’s afraid of what will happen if he ends up in the hospital with a serious case. Intubated people cannot speak, and Florio would not be able to use gestures or otherwise communicate with his doctors. Given infection-prevention rules, his caregivers would likely not be allowed to accompany him.
“I would be in an awake coma for weeks,” he told me in an interview this week. “The fear of that … it’s overwhelming.”
But Florio is afraid of something else too: the possibility that, if he contracts the virus, he could be denied lifesaving treatment because of his disability. And like other Americans with disabilities, he worries that could happen not just because of overt discrimination in hospitals, but also because of implicit bias. “People overwhelmingly believe that being disabled implies a worse quality of life than it does,” Florio said. If doctors act on those beliefs—wittingly or not—“what that means in practical terms is that people like us will die.”
As the coronavirus spreads, states may rely on existing best-practice protocols for rationing treatment if they have more coronavirus patients than they do beds and equipment. Some of those protocols stipulate that in such an emergency, people with intellectual or physical disabilities will be deprioritized. The Department of Health and Human Services, in response to formal legal complaints from disability advocacy groups, recently issued guidance that hospitals cannot ration treatment based on disability status. But that’s not enough to ensure that there won’t be discrimination, activists say.
Rationing guidelines in Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee, and Washington State allow doctors to withhold care from people with disabilities in violation of federal law, the advocacy groups argued in complaints filed with HHS last week. Alabama’s Emergency Operations Plan, for example, says that “persons with severe mental retardation” are among those who “may be poor candidates” for lifesaving care if there is a shortage of supplies like ventilators. The Kansas and Tennessee emergency guidelines suggest that people with “advanced neuromuscular disease” might be excluded from receiving critical care. Washington’s guidelines include considerations about a patient’s “baseline functional status,” which involves factors such as physical ability and cognition. Some groups also fear that in certain states, a patient who is seriously ill with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and who regularly uses a personal ventilator could see that ventilator reallocated to another patient.
[Read: How the pandemic will end]
The Washington health department told me it’s updating its guidelines to make sure “its original intent of nondiscrimination” is “unequivocally clear,” and a representative for the Kansas health department said it is “reviewing/updating the material to ensure we best meet the needs of all Kansans.” The Alabama health department has replaced its emergency plan, according to a spokesperson, but the new guidelines do not address ventilator-shortage protocols. (Officials at the Tennessee health department did not respond to questions as of press time.)
It’s possible that hospitals in some areas of the country will be forced to ration care soon. New York City expects a ventilator shortage after the wave of new patients arriving at hospitals this week, and the New Orleans area is set to run out of machines by tomorrow. The American health-care system has never faced a situation quite like this.
In catastrophic circumstances, doctors should try to save as many lives as possible, says Matt Wynia, the director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado at Anschutz. But equally important is protecting the country’s social fabric and preserving confidence in institutions. That can erode when people feel as if the lives of certain citizens are valued more than others. “We need to be able to look back and say we made those decisions in a way that maintains the trust of the community, that maintains social cohesion, and allows us to heal,” Wynia says.
That means that when the time to triage comes, medical professionals should not consider a patient’s disability status, Wynia says. Ideally, patients would be given preference based on whether and to what extent treatment would help them. “If you have Down syndrome, I don’t see why that should matter, unless your Down syndrome comes with a lung condition that makes you less likely to benefit from treatment,” he says.
This is what most advocates are arguing, too. People’s fitness for treatment should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Disability-rights laws, such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, are “all about individual determination,” says Shira Wakschlag, the legal director at The Arc, an advocacy organization for people with intellectual disabilities. “A diagnosis is not the whole picture.”
When 33-year-old Conrad Reynoldson heard about some of the state protocols, he told me he had “a moment of sinking dread.” The Seattle attorney has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and he’s worried that if he becomes seriously ill, his diagnosis could prevent him from getting treatment. “I’m healthy, stable, and I’m contributing to the community,” he told me. “I don’t want someone looking at my diagnoses and rationing care based on inaccurate assumptions.”
Assumptions is an important word here. People with disabilities worry that doctors, nurses, and health-care administrators may not even realize they have biases against disabled people. Research indicates that people without disabilities tend to rate the quality of life of disabled people lower than those people would, says Nancy Berlinger, a research scholar at the Hastings Center, a nonpartisan bioethics-research institute. “We do make snap judgments about whose life seems better than another person’s life,” Berlinger told me. “Allocation protocols must guard against that.”
[Read: Don’t believe the COVID-19 models]
The HHS Office for Civil Rights’ Saturday guidance assures Americans that the federal government will not tolerate this kind of discrimination, and the office has promised to open investigations into advocacy groups’ complaints. “We’re concerned that stereotypes about what life is like living with a disability can be improperly used to exclude people from needed care,” Roger Severino, the director of the Office for Civil Rights, wrote in the guidance.
But people with disabilities and advocacy groups want states to make clear to the public that they understand that guidance by proactively issuing statements and rewriting their emergency procedures immediately. States should indicate that they will not include diagnostic categories at all—not for intellectual and physical disabilities, and also not for diseases, such as COPD, that may make someone more vulnerable to the virus, but are also very treatable. Each diagnosis varies too greatly, they argue, for doctors to make sweeping judgments about any of them. “We want to make sure this message gets to the people who need to hear it in a very timely way,” Wakschlag says—so that both doctors and Americans with disabilities are aware of these obligations.
Ultimately, states’ protocols show that institutions need to do a much better job of including people with disabilities in emergency-preparedness and other public-health conversations, advocates say. They hope that this moment encourages more conscientious policy making so that in the event of another pandemic, Americans with disabilities won’t have to feel quite so uncertain about what the future holds.
It’s exhausting to balance the fear of contracting a deadly virus with the fear that the people who are supposed to care for you may not do so, said Florio, who lives in a part of New Jersey that has been hit especially hard by the virus. “The stress that we’re under really is a more extreme version of what we already experience,” he told me, “in terms of being undervalued by society.”
New York City is sputtering. Bars, restaurants, hotels, and theaters have closed; tens of thousands of people have already lost their jobs; hundreds have died. The city has become the epicenter of the novel coronavirus. It needed an “economic nap” to fight it, Scott Stringer, the city’s comptroller, told me. But COVID-19 is bludgeoning the city’s coffers.
According to an analysis by Stringer, New York City stands to lose $4.8 billion to $6 billion in tax revenue. The money helps the city fund schools, repair roads, and pay off debts. Back in late February, Stringer told reporters at a press conference in Manhattan that the city had not “done enough to prepare to weather a storm we cannot imagine.”
Versions of this story are playing out across the country. Cities and counties are looking for ways to cut their budgets as tax revenue and economic activity decline and medical costs soar. The $3.8 trillion municipal-bond market—loans used for things like building schools, hospitals, and golf courses—has essentially frozen. Typically, municipal bonds are considered pretty safe, but as Daniel Bergstresser, an associate professor at Brandeis University who studies municipal bonds, told me, the situation had become such that “finding buyers for municipal bonds would require cutting prices in ways that appear unprecedented.”
On March 27, Congress delivered a first solution, passing its mammoth $2 trillion stimulus package. The bill includes $150 billion for state, county, and municipal governments with populations greater than 500,000 to help with expenses that spring from the crisis. It also earmarks $100 billion for local hospitals and allows the U.S. Treasury to authorize $500 billion in loans and municipal-bond purchases.
[Read: What will happen when red states need help?]
The stimulus is historic, but it may not be enough.
“What I would really want to be careful not to do is to paint a picture where there are undifferentiated problems across the market,” Bergstresser said on Friday, not long after the stimulus passed. The crisis could hit cities in the long term like it’s hitting people in the short term. An affluent community with enough cash on hand to withstand a short-term disruption may well be fine, but those that were already struggling may not.
Rural communities could particularly suffer, David Strungis, a senior analyst at Moody’s Investors Service, told me. Many cities and local governments run hospitals and nursing homes, which are being hit particularly hard by the virus—129 COVID-19 cases were linked to a single nursing home in Washington. And a mix of patient surges, revenue declines from canceled elective procedures, and unbudgeted staffing costs from doctors and nurses could further stress rural areas where many residents are more than 35 miles from the next nearest hospital.
In Pickens County, Alabama, for example, residents now have to travel 30 miles—about 45 minutes—for medical care. On March 6, the county closed Pickens County Medical Center, a 56-bed facility in Carrollton, because declining in-patient services made it financially unsustainable. Three weeks later, on March 25, the county reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19. Seventy-five percent of the state’s hospitals operate in the red, according to the Alabama Health Association.
There could be outliers, too, such as cities that thought they were in sound financial shape until they were stretched too thin. Harris County, Texas, expects to spend roughly $11 million more each month the crisis continues—and that’s not including additional overtime pay for police officers or lost tax revenue. “Even our jurisdictions with the most robust reserves were not planning for this,” Matt Chase, the executive director for the National Association of Counties, told me ahead of the stimulus passage. “They were planning for a slowdown in the economy and some dips, but I don’t think they were looking at a global economic shock.”
The stimulus was the best-case scenario, the “shot of adrenaline” that reinvigorated the bond market and provided aid to flailing cities and counties, Emily Brock of the Government Finance Officers Association told me. But for the cities that are struggling to contain the crisis, a shot might not be enough. I asked Brock whether the stabilization package was a Band-Aid or an inoculation.
“Hopefully not the former for the price tag,” she said.
[Read: We need to start tossing money out of helicopters.]
Some areas are worried they won’t feel the relief enough. When the text of the stimulus dropped, Stringer told me in a statement that “New York is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, but you wouldn’t know it from reading the federal relief bill.” The city was scrambling for assistance. “Other states are getting many times the funding per caseload than New York. For example, South Dakota has 40 confirmed cases and will get $1.25 billion from the state relief fund, which is $30 million per case, but New York has 35,000 cases and the most we can get is $5.1 billion, which is $155,000 per case,” he said. “We deserve better."
Cities, counties, and states, unlike the federal government, have to run a balanced budget, and they could turn to budget austerity—spending cuts, tax increases—to ensure that they do. But it would be foolish for them to overcorrect for the crisis, Bergstresser told me. It’s one thing to default on a loan or experience financial stress; it’s quite another to abdicate the fundamental duties a jurisdiction has to its residents by slashing budgets. “Balancing state and local budgets in ways that would amount to a default to the vulnerable people who depend on city and state services would be like us, as a society, eating our seed corn,” he said.
For now, the package has slowed the rate at which cities, the markets, and budgets are spiraling. But Bergstresser’s optimism is lined with caution. “If I’m painting a sunny picture, I also want to be careful,” he said. “It is hard to restore aggregate confidence in a situation where the president of the United States is clearly depraved.”
The peak of the crisis is a moving target, and when I asked Stringer about how cities—New York City, in particular—could handle the economic strain, he called on history. “I lived through the city’s fiscal crisis in the ’70s, and I remember when the city was on the verge of bankruptcy,” he said. “I’ve seen how bad things could get.” The government has acted to help them, but they hope more backup is on the way.
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WUHAN, April 2 -- Fourteen people who died on the frontline of fighting the novel coronavirus in Central China's Hubei province, have been identified as the first batch of martyrs, local authorities said Thursday.
The identification was made in line with the country's relevant regulations on commending martyrs, said the provincial government in a press release.
The 14 martyrs were Wang Bing, Feng Xiaolin, Jiang Xueqing, Liu Zhiming, Li Wenliang, Zhang Kangmei, Xiao Jun, Wu Yong, Liu Fan, Xia Sisi, Huang Wenjun, Mei Zhongming, Peng Yinhua and Liao Jianjun. They were described as excellent representatives of role models among frontline medics and epidemic prevention workers.
The COVID-19 outbreak is a major public health emergency that has spread rapidly, caused the most extensive infection and is the most difficult to contain in the country since the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Martyrs are the highest honorary title which the Party and state award to citizens who bravely sacrifice their lives for the nation, society and the people.
A brief introduction of the 14 martyrs is as follows:
Wang Bing was a 72-year-old female doctor working in a clinic of western medicine in Hongshan district, Wuhan. She was infected with the novel coronavirus at work and died on Feb 18.
Feng Xiaolin, 65, was a rehired doctor of traditional Chinese medicine with the People's Hospital in Huangpi district, Wuhan. He was infected with the novel coronavirus at work and died on Feb 27.
Jiang Xueqing, who was born in March 1964, chief physician with the Central Hospital of Wuhan, died of COVID-19 on March 1.
Liu Zhiming, 51, president of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, was infected with COVID-19 at work and died on Feb 18.
Li Wenliang, 34, an ophthalmologist with the Central Hospital of Wuhan, stuck to his post on the frontline regardless of the risk of infection and caught COVID-19. He passed away on Feb 7.
Zhang Kangmei, a 67-year-old female doctor rehired at the health service center of the Baofeng Street community in Wuhan, died of COVID-19 on Feb 14.
Xiao Jun, 49, a surgeon at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital, was infected with COVID-19 at work and passed away on Feb 8.
Wu Yong, 51, a police officer in Qiaokou District, Wuhan, worked in the community fighting the epidemic for 61 days on end and died on March 22.
Liu Fan was a 59-year-old senior nurse working at a community health service center of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan. She died of COVID-19 on Feb 14.
Xia Sisi, 29, a gastroenterology resident physician, contracted COVID-19 while working at the Union Jiangbei Hospital of Wuhan. She passed away on Feb 23 despite doctors' efforts.
Huang Wenjun, 42, associate chief physician of respiratory medicine, became infected while working on the frontline of the COVID-19 outbreak at the Central Hospital of Xiaogan City. He died on Feb 23 after medical efforts failed.
Mei Zhongming, 57, an ophthalmologist at the Central Hospital of Wuhan, died on March 3 after contracting COVID-19 while treating patients.
Peng Yinhua, a 29-year-old doctor at the First People's Hospital of Jiangxia District, Wuhan, died on Feb 20. He became infected while doing his uttermost to save the lives of COVID-19 patients.
Liao Jianjun, 49, was deputy director of a neighborhood committee in Qiaokou district, Wuhan. He contracted COVID-19 at work. He died on Feb 4.
Passengers wearing face masks stand on a moving walkway at Beijing Capital International Airport as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, March 9, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]
China has decided to temporarily suspend the entry into China by foreign nationals holding valid visas or residence permits because of the rapid global spread of COVID-19, according to an announcement by the Foreign Ministry and the National Immigration Administration on Thursday.
The suspension -- starting on Saturday Mar 28 -- is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries, the announcement said.
According to the announcement, entry by foreign nationals with APEC business travel cards will be suspended as well.
Policies including port visas, 24/72/144-hour visa-free transit policy, Hainan 30-day visa-free policy, 15-day visa-free policy specified for foreign cruise-group-tour through Shanghai Port, Guangdong 144-hour visa-free policy specified for foreign tour groups from Hong Kong or Macao SAR, and Guangxi 15-day visa-free policy specified for foreign tour groups of ASEAN countries will also be temporarily suspended.
Entry with diplomatic, service, courtesy or C visas will not be affected and foreign nationals coming to China for necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities or out of emergency humanitarian needs may apply for visas at Chinese embassies or consulates, the announcement said.
Entry by foreign nationals with visas issued after this announcement will not be affected.
China will stay in close touch with all sides and properly handle personnel exchanges with the rest of the world under the special circumstances, it said, adding that the above-mentioned measures will be calibrated in light of the evolving situation and announced accordingly.
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