Health official says U.S. missed some chances to slow virus | PBS NewsHour

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. government was slow to understand how much coronavirus was spreading from Europe, which helped drive the acceleration of outbreaks across the nation, a top health official said Friday.

Limited testing and delayed travel alerts for areas outside China contributed to the jump in U.S. cases starting in late February, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the No. 2 official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We clearly didn’t recognize the full importations that were happening,” Schuchat told The Associated Press.

The coronavirus was first reported late last year in China, the initial epicenter of the global pandemic. But the U.S. has since become the hardest-hit nation, with about a third of the world’s reported cases and more than a quarter of the deaths.

The CDC on Friday published an article, authored by Schuchat, that looked back on the U.S. response, recapping some of the major decisions and events of the last few months. It suggests the nation’s top public health agency missed opportunities to slow the spread. Some public health experts saw it as important assessment by one of the nation’s most respected public health doctors.

The CDC is responsible for the recognition, tracking and prevention of just such a disease. But the agency has had a low profile during this pandemic, with White House officials controlling communications and leading most press briefings.

“The degree to which CDC’s public presence has been so diminished … is one of the most striking and frankly puzzling aspects of the federal government’s response,” said Jason Schwartz, assistant professor of health policy at the Yale School of Public Health.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly celebrated a federal decision, announced on Jan. 31, to stop entry into the U.S. of any foreign nationals who had traveled to China in the previous 14 days. That took effect Feb. 2. China had imposed its own travel restrictions earlier, and travel out of its outbreak areas did indeed drop dramatically.

But in her article, Schuchat noted that nearly 2 million travelers arrived in the U.S. from Italy and other European countries during February. The U.S. government didn’t block travel from there until March 11.

“The extensive travel from Europe, once Europe was having outbreaks, really accelerated our importations and the rapid spread,” she told the AP. “I think the timing of our travel alerts should have been earlier.”

She also noted in the article that more than 100 people who had been on nine separate Nile River cruises during February and early March had come to the U.S. and tested positive for the virus, nearly doubling the number of known U.S. cases at that time.

The article is carefully worded, but Schwartz saw it as a notable departure from the White House narrative.

“This report seems to challenge the idea that the China travel ban in late January was instrumental in changing the trajectory of this pandemic in the United States,” he said.

In the article, Schuchat also noted the explosive effect of some late February mass gatherings, including a scientific meeting in Boston, the Mardis Gras celebration in New Orleans and a funeral in Albany, Georgia. The gatherings spawned many cases, and led to decisions in mid-March to restrict crowds.

Asked about that during the interview, Schuchat said: “I think in retrospect, taking action earlier could have delayed further amplification (of the U.S. outbreak), or delayed the speed of it.”

But she also noted there was an evolving public understanding of just how bad things were, as well as a change in what kind of measures — including stay-at-home orders — people were willing to accept.

“I think that people’s willingness to accept the mitigation is unfortunately greater once they see the harm the virus can do,” she said. “There will be debates about should we have started much sooner, or did we go too far too fast.”

Schuchat’s article still leaves a lot of questions unanswered, said Dr. Howard Markel, a public health historian at the University of Michigan.

It doesn’t reveal what kind of proposals were made, and perhaps ignored, during the critical period before U.S. cases began to take off in late February, he said.

“I want to know … the conversations, the memos the presidential edicts,” said Markel, who’s written history books on past pandemics. “Because I still believe this did not need to be as bad as it turned out.”

This content was originally published here.

Cranston orthodontist fears a burglary, but finds a turkey

John Hill Journal Staff Writer jghilliii

CRANSTON, R.I. — It was Columbus Day and Joseph E. Pezza and his wife had gotten back from a weekend in Nashville. The Pontiac Avenue orthodontist decided to stop by the office to check the mail and make sure everything was set for Tuesday morning.

But someone was already waiting in the office. He’d come through the office window, a fully grown wild turkey.

The waiting area was strewn with broken glass, Pezza said, and at first he thought he been the victim of a burglary. He went into his office to leave a message for the building manager and while he was wondering if he should call the police, the reason for the carnage became apparent.

“I went back into the room and all of a sudden this bird flies over my head,” Pezza said.

Pezza said he immediately headed back to his office, closed the door and waited for the building crew.

Pezza and his son Gregory are Pezza Orthodontics, located in a four-story office building off Pontiac Avenue near the interchange with Pontiac Avenue and Route 37. Birds sometimes bump into the back windows of the building, some of the office staff said, but the turkey was a first.

“It was double-pane glass, “ Pezza said, in wonder that the bird could fly high enough and fast enough to smash through the window. And survive

The maintenance crew worked to get the bird into a large bucket to get the bird out of the building, Pezza said, but it collapsed and died, possibly of shock or injuries suffered in the crash.

For now, the window is covered with a square of wood, with a felt turkey hanging from the center.

He declined to say if the incident was going to affect his plans for Thanksgiving.

This content was originally published here.

George Clooney: ‘Rampant Dumbf**kery Now Threatens Our Health, Our Security and Our Planet’

(Screen Capture)

Actor George Clooney taped a spoof public-service advertisement for a group that he referred to as “UDUMASS”—”United to Defeat Untruthful Misinformation and Support Science”—that was featured on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on May 7, 2019 and has since been posted on YouTube by that program.

In his introduction to the Clooney video, Kimmel criticized the Trump administration, as Clooney himself does in the video.

“And the Trump administration has done everything they can to do nothing about climate change,” said Kimmel in introducing the tape. “They just don’t listen to the scientists.”

“Science enables us to cure diseases, communicate across great distances, even to fly,” Clooney says in the video. “Tragically though, the volumes of invaluable knowledge gathered over centuries are now threatened by an epidemic of dumb f****** idiots, saying dumb f******.”

After showing a clip of President Trump making fun of windmills, Clooney solicits support for UDUMASS.

“As a result rampant dumbf**kery now threatens our health, our security and our planet,” Clooney says. “Fortunately, there is hope–at United to Defeat Untruthful Misinformation and Support Science—UDUMASS.”

Here is a transcript of Kimmel’s introduction of Clooney’s satirical video and a transcript of the video itself:

Jimmy Kimmel: “According to a new report from the United Nations, our planet is in worse shape than at any other time in human history. They say a million animal and plant species are on the verge of extinction thanks to things like pollution and climate change.

“And yet our federal government, not only did they not do anything about it, they seem to like it. The Secretary of State today said, Mike Pompeo, said: Melting sea ice presents new opportunities for trade. Great! It will be very good for the kayak industry, but everyone else is screwed.

“And the Trump administration has done everything they can to do nothing about climate change. They just don’t listen to the scientists. A lot of people don’t, not just when it comes to climate change. Scientific fact is suddenly seen as some kind of partisan scare tactic, and it endangers all of us. So, one major celebrity is spearheading a new initiative to raise awareness of this foray into ignorance. And what he has to say is important. So, please listen.”

George Clooney: “Hi, I’m actor, director and two-time sexiest man alive, George Clooney. Science has given us unprecedented knowledge of the natural world, from sub-atomic particles to the majesty of space.

“Science enables us to cure diseases, communicate across great distances, even to fly. Tragically though, the volumes of invaluable knowledge gathered over centuries are now threatened by an epidemic of dumb f****** idiots, saying dumb f******.

[Cut to videotape of Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma holding up a snowball on the Senate floor.]

Inhofe: “You know what this is? It’s a snowball. So, it’s very, very cold out.”

Clooney: “Dumb f****** is highly contagious, infecting the minds of even the most stable geniuses.”

[Cut to videotape of President Donald Trump.}

Trump: “If you have any windmill anywhere near your house, they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one, okay. Whirr, whirr.”

Clooney: “Wow. As a result rampant dumbf**kery now threatens our health, our security and our planet. Fortunately, there is hope–at United to Defeat Untruthful Misinformation and Support Science—UDUMASS. Your generous generation contribution to UDUMASS will provide desperately needed knowledge to dumb f***** idiots on Facebook and Twitter all around the world.  Just $20 will convince one f***** idiot that climate change is real. $50 will teach five brainless dumbf*** to vaccinate their kids. And $200 will teach ten dip**** knuckle draggers that dinosaurs existed but not at the same time as people. Together we can win the fight against dumbf**kiness. But we can’t do it alone. Call this number today. Operators are a standing by. Don’t be a f***** idiot. The world needs your support. UDUMASS.” 

This content was originally published here.

The Oral-Systemic Connection & Our Broken Healthcare System – International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine

Say Ahh, the world’s first documentary on oral health, takes a sobering look at the state of our national healthcare system. Despite being one of the wealthiest nations in the world, home to some of the most advanced medicine and technology, America is suffering from a drastic decline in the overall health of its citizens. …

This content was originally published here.

‘A medical necessity:’ With dentistry services limited during pandemic, at-home preventive care is key

MILWAUKEE — While dentists may be closed for preventive care, don’t put your toothbrushes down. Doctors say keeping your oral health is more important than ever for adults and children alike.

The spread of the coronavirus put an abrupt stop to our normal routine. Preventive visits to dentist offices were delayed, but unfortunately, that’s also when a lot of problems are detected.

Dr. Kevin Donly

“We’ve only been able to provide emergency care,” Dr. Kevin Donly, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, said. “Oral health is actually a medical necessity.”

Because oral health is critical to overall health, Donly maintaining your child’s oral care routine is essential to preventing dental emergencies during the pandemic. Those emergencies are categorized in three ways.

“Trauma, where a kid bumps their tooth, falls down and cracks their tooth,” Donly said. “Second, infection. We’ve seen kids with facial cellulitis, this can be detrimental to their overall health, we really need to see those kids right away.

“The other one is pain. Sometimes they have really deep cavities that cause a lot of pain and they need to see the pediatric dentist right away and get care.”

Donly says with some offices reopening soon, new protocols will be taken to ensure everyone’s safety.

“First of all you, will be contacted a day before your appointment for a prescreening call,” said Donly. “They will ask about a child’s health, are they feeling well? Are they running a fever?”

There will be spaces in waiting rooms due to social distancing, and dental assistants, hygienists and dentists will all be wearing gowns, masks and face shields, Donly said.

Prevention is key with regular cleanings delayed. When it comes to prevention, Donly recommends brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste a couple of times a day, try to keep sugary drinks and snacks away, and check your kids’ teeth on a daily basis.

This content was originally published here.

72% of Americans Want Coronavirus Stay-at-Home Orders to Remain in Place Until Health Officials Say It’s Safe: Poll

An overwhelming majority of Americans have indicated that they want stay-at-home orders to remain in place until health officials and experts say it’s safe to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study.

In the latest Reuters-Ipsos poll, released Tuesday, 72 percent of U.S. adults said quarantine measures should remain in place “until the doctors and public health officials say it is safe.” The figure includes 88 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of independents.

Forty-five percent of Republicans surveyed said they wanted the stay-at-home measures to end, a significant increase from the 24 percent seen in a similar poll released late March. The national poll, conducted online between April 15 to 21, surveyed 1,004 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Covid image
People wearing a face masks due to COVID-19 walk near the red cube sculpture on April 20, 2020 in New York City.
Eduardo MunozAlvarez/Getty

The results come after small protests broke out in several states—among them Ohio, Minnesota and Michigan—with demonstrators taking to public spaces to demand an end to the stay-at-home orders that have drastically slowed the spread of Covid-19, as well as the country’s economy.

Democratic state governors—including Virginia’s Ralph Northam, Kentucky’s Andy Beshear and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer—have condemned the protesters for opposing the orders that were put in place to keep them safe. Many of the protesters across the country ignored the White House’s social distancing guidelines that advised against gatherings of 10 or more people to battle the novel virus’ spread.

Health officials have warned that the U.S. may experience a second wave of the disease if social distancing measures and mitigation efforts are lifted prematurely. Some have also stressed the need for widespread testing and an effective contact-tracing program before the country can begin to reopen safely.

President Donald Trump sympathized with the protesters and declined to condemn their actions during Sunday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing. Instead, Trump criticized the governors—who’ve had to balance public safety and calls from the president to shorten their lockdown orders—for allegedly taking restrictions too far.

“Some have gone too far, some governors have gone too far. Some of the things that happened are maybe not so appropriate,” Trump said. “And I think in the end it’s not going to matter because we’re starting to open up our states, and I think they’re going to open up very well.”

Some protesters were seen wearing Make America Great Again apparel, holding pro-Trump signs and confederate flags as they called for coronavirus mitigation measures to be relaxed and wider freedoms amid the pandemic. Whitmer called the protest in her state of Michigan “essentially a political rally.”

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.

As of April 21, more than 819,100 individuals had tested positive for the coronavirus in the U.S., with over 45,300 deaths caused by the new disease and 82,900 recoveries.

This content was originally published here.

China Sends Doctors to North Korea as TV Report Fuels Speculation About Kim Jong Un’s Health

China has sent a team of doctors to North Korea to help determine supreme leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un’s health status, Reuters reported on Friday. Hong Kong Satellite Television reported that Kim was dead, though there has been no confirmation from U.S. sources at this point.

“While the U.S. continues to monitor reports surrounding the health of the North Korean Supreme Leader, at this time, there is no confirmation from official channels that Kim Jong Un is deceased,” a senior Pentagon official not authorized to speak on the record told Newsweek. “North Korean military readiness remains within historical norms and there is no further evidence to suggest a significant change in defensive posturing or national level leadership changes.”

Kim’s last confirmed public appearance was on April 11, at a politburo meeting, though state media also shared footage of him attending aerial assault drills the following day. It was his absence from April 15 Day of the Sun celebrations dedicated to his grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, that first sparked speculation regarding his well-being.

On Monday, rumors spread that the North Korean head of state was in ill health after undergoing heart surgery on April 12, sparked by an anonymous source featured in the South Korea-based Daily NK outlet, a publication linked to a U.S. Congress-funded think tank among other institutions, along with a CNN article citing an unnamed U.S. official that said Kim was in grave danger following the operation.

These rumors were subsequently discounted by U.S. intelligence, with two U.S. officials telling Newsweek on Tuesday they had no reason to think that Kim had suffered any kind of serious illness. Similarly, at the time, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency cited a government official who said there was nothing unusual coming from North Korea that could suggest Kim was ill.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry did not respond to Newsweek‘s request for comment the following day, but referred to a Blue House statement in which the office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in also said no unusual activity related to North Korea or the health of its dynast had been reported. Chinese and Russian officials have questioned the sourcing of the U.S. and South Korean media reports, as has President Donald Trump, the first sitting U.S. leader to meet a North Korean supreme leader.

The president said Thursday he believed CNN’s report was “incorrect,” but had no further information to provide about Kim’s condition.

“We have a good relationship with North Korea, as good as you can have,” Trump told reporters. “I mean we have a good relationship with North Korea. I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un and I hope he’s okay.”

Kim Jong Un
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un before a meeting with US President Donald Trump on the south side of the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea, in the Joint Security Area (JSA) of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) on June 30, 2019.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty

Kim and his familial predecessors have long been the subject of international press conjecture as information within North Korea is strictly controlled, leaving little room for leaks. Since Kim took over following his father’s death in 2011, he has been known to at times disappear, his longest absence being over a month in 2014.

But unlike those who ruled before him, the youngest, current supreme leader lacks any clear line of succession known to the outside world. With only foreign sources claiming Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, may have had any children, the young ruler has no official heir. Some have speculated that his younger sister Kim Yo Jong, reported to be 31 and one of Kim’s key lieutenants, could succeed her brother, who has steadily promoted her position in recent years.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed Kim Yo Jong in an interview Thursday with Fox News.

“Well, I did have a chance to meet her a couple of times, but the challenge remains the same. The goal remains unchanged,” Pompeo said. “Whoever is leading North Korea, we want them to give up their nuclear program, we want them to join the league of nations, and we want a brighter future for the North Korean people. But they’ve got to denuclearize, and we’ve got to do so in a way that we can verify. That’s true no matter who is leading North Korea.”

After a tense 2017 filled with exchanges of nuclear-fueled threats, the Trump administration set out in 2018 to strike an unprecedented denuclearization-for-peace deal with Pyongyang. The effort yielded some early good-faith measures on both sides, as well as three historic meetings between Trump and Kim but ultimately failed to produce an agreement, leading to a gradual renewal in frictions between the longtime foe still technically at war since their 1950s conflict that still dominates the divided Korean Peninsula.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

This content was originally published here.

Maine restaurant loses health and liquor licenses after defying state virus orders — Business — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support our critical reporting on the coronavirus by purchasing a digital subscription or donating directly to the newsroom.

NEWRY, Maine — The co-owner of Sunday River Brewing Co. in Newry who defied state orders by opening his doors to diners on Friday afternoon has lost his state health and liquor licenses, he said.

Restaurants must obtain state heath licenses to legally serve food.

More than 150 people came to Sunday River Brewing Co. in Newry on Friday afternoon after co-owner Rick Savage announced Thursday night that he would reopen in defiance of state orders meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

After learning that he’d lost the licenses around 4:30 p.m., Savage initially said he planned to keep operating the restaurant and just pay the daily fines that he would face. However, later in the evening, Sunday River Brewing Co. published a Facebook post stating that the restaurant would be closed until further notice.

Watch: Rick Savage on losing his health and liquor licenses

Frustration with the state’s coronavirus-related business restrictions has been growing in some circles, but the restaurant’s deliberate act of disobedience appeared to be the clearest example yet of those tensions boiling over in Maine.

Although the restaurant initially said it would open at 4 p.m., it started serving food after people showed up around noon in defiance of a March order from Gov. Janet Mills that barred dine-in restaurant service.

By 4:30 p.m., the crowd of diners lined up around the building on Route 2 had grown to a peak of around 150. By 6 p.m., the restaurant had served roughly 250 people, according to an employee.

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
A crowd waits to get into Sunday River Brewing Company, Friday, May 1, 2020, in Newry, Maine. Rick Savage, owner of the brew pub, defied an executive order that prohibited the gathering of 10 or more people and opened his establishment during the coronavirus pandemic.

Savage, who announced the restaurant’s opening on Fox News on Thursday night while criticizing the Democratic governor and reading her cellphone number on the air, said that he was not worried some of the diners coming from areas with more documented coronavirus cases would spread it in his restaurant.

That was partly because he was enforcing distancing guidelines that other businesses have adopted during the pandemic. If Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart “can do 6-foot spacing and be open,” then his restaurant could as well, he said.

“I really don’t believe it. I don’t believe it at this point,” he said, when asked if it might be dangerous to let those diners into the restaurant. “I’m not a medical expert. I serve food, you know.”

As for the many diners standing less than 6 feet from each other while waiting for a seat, he said, “I can’t tell them where to stand and what to do. We’re America. If they want to isolate, they can isolate.”

Violating orders made under the governor’s emergency powers are punishable as a misdemeanor crime and the deputy director of the state’s liquor regulator said Savage could face a penalty if he opened to dine-in customers.

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Rick Savage, center, owner of Sunday River Brewing Company, talks with customers Jon and Tiffany Moody after Savage defied an executive order prohibited the gathering of 10 or more people by opening his establishment during the coronavirus pandemic Friday, May 1, 2020, in Newry, Maine.

However, Savage earlier said that he did not think he would lose his liquor license because he decided against serving booze on Friday. He violated the state’s orders with the hope that other businesses would decide to join him and so that he could support his 65 employees, he said.

In general, there appears to be support for the restrictions Mills has put in place. She has received high polling marks for the state’s response to the pandemic, with 72 percent of Mainers saying they somewhat or strongly approve of her handling of the outbreak in a national survey released this week by researchers from Northeastern, Harvard and Rutgers universities.

But the hospitality industry has hammered a plan released by Mills this week that would limit restaurants and hotels into the summer. The crowd that turned out to Newry on Friday afternoon was also vehemently opposed.

Watch: Why one woman came to Sunday River Brewing Co.

At one point, diners waiting outside Sunday River Brewing Co. gave Savage a round of applause when he emerged from the restaurant. In interviews, some said they had come to support his operation because they disagreed with Mills’ orders and felt they would be too onerous for the tourism industry.

The fact that some of them were more elderly and at-risk from the harmful effects of the coronavirus did not deter them.

“This is Vacationland,” said Dick Hill, 78, who had driven two hours from his home in Bath after seeing Savage on Fox News. “If she doesn’t let hotels and restaurants open, we’re going to be crushed.”

Most of the cars in the parking lot Friday afternoon were from Maine, but a handful had plates from other states such as Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Florida.

Just after they had reached the front of the line, Tom Bayley, 60, and his 34-year-old son Gaelan expressed similar frustrations about Mills’ orders and said they had come to the restaurant to show solidarity.

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Rick Savage, owner of Sunday River Brewing Company, walks out of his restaurant after he defied an executive order that prohibited gathering 10 or more people and opened his establishment during the coronavirus pandemic, Friday, May 1, 2020, in Newry, Maine.

The Bayleys run a family campground with 750 sites in Scarborough, they said, and they worry that most out-of-state families won’t be able to justify taking a vacation when those orders call for two weeks of quarantine in Maine. They also said it will be possible for businesses such as theirs to responsibly open without contributing to the health crisis.

“It’s directly hitting our business,” Gaelen Bayley said.

Some of the diners wore red hats supporting President Donald Trump featuring his “Make America Great Again” slogan. But others in the ski town on Friday afternoon were less pleased with the diners’ choices.

“Make America stupid again!” one woman yelled out the window of a passing car.

Watch: The line at Sunday River Brewing Co. on Friday

This content was originally published here.

Police, health officials rebut Whitmer’s claims about hospital protest problems

Police, health officials rebut Whitmer’s claims about ambulance protest problems

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Published 10:52 AM EDT Apr 21, 2020

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a Monday press conference that protesters last week blocked ambulances from reaching Sparrow Hospital, but local law enforcement and hospital officials have countered the claims. 

Whitmer’s assertions stem from a Wednesday protest called Operation Gridlock during which more than 4,000 people — most staying in their cars —  surrounded the Capitol for hours to protest the governor’s extended and tightened stay-home order. 

Police have said the gridlock caused no issues for ambulances, but Whitmer has since maintained otherwise in at least two public press conferences. The Democratic governor has been under pressure from Republican legislative leaders, certain business groups and some residents to carve out exceptions to her tightened stay home order that still follow federal guidance and create a plan for gradually reopening parts of Michigan’s economy.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives a COVID-19 update.

“The blocking of cars and ambulances trying to get into Sparrow Hospital immediately endangered lives,” Whitmer said Monday. “…While I respect people’s right to dissent, I am worried about the health of the people of our state.”

Sparrow Hospital is located on Michigan Avenue about a mile east of the Capitol. 

When questioned last Thursday about the assertion, Whitmer’s spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said the governor was referring to a tweet by Gongwer News Service Executive Editor and Publisher Zach Gorchow, showing an ambulance in traffic near the Capitol, as well as “multiple posts” from medical workers inside the hospital. 

The ambulance took five to seven minutes to make it through the vehicles — starting from the time it turned on its lights and sirens, Gorchow said.  

“What was not clear to me was whether the ambulance was called to a run and trying to get to a call or if the drivers had no run but were alarmed that traffic had not moved for close to an hour and used their lights and siren to clear a path,” he said.

Brown sent The News screen grabs showing Facebook posts from two Sparrow Hospital health care workers who said ambulances were blocked from entering the hospital. 

“I work at sparrow and I will tell you THEY ARE BLOCKED and ppl are HONKING their horns where people are trying to rest and recover!! SELFISH. Our employees can’t even get to work!! Our cancer patients can’t to their appointments!” Lindsay Bowman wrote last week on the WILX News 10 Facebook page. 

Capital Area Transportation Authority on Wednesday said service was temporarily disrupted downtown and surrounding areas because of the protests. 

“CATA is unable to accommodate life-sustaining and medically necessary trips to or from these areas,” the agency posted on Twitter. 

But hospital, ambulance and police officials said they had no reports of any patients being endangered by the protest.

Sparrow Hospital spokesman John Foren said last week that some hospital personnel were delayed in making their shifts on the day of the protest, causing some personnel to work past the ends of their normal shifts. 

But the ambulance entrance to and from the hospital remained clear, Foren said. The Sparrow spokesman said Thursday he had received no reports that ambulances were stuck in traffic farther out from the hospital, either.

Despite some “confusion,” Lansing police had no complaints about any ambulance being locked in traffic during an emergency, said Robert Merritt, a spokesman for the Lansing Police Department. When ambulances on non-emergency runs were in traffic, “rally participants slowly cleared a path,” he said.

“There were NO complaints from any emergency services vehicle being held up while on an emergency run (lights and siren),” Merritt said in an email. 

“There are many photos/videos floating around that show an ambulance moving slow within the vehicles in the rally. This ambulance and some other emergency services vehicles (not on emergency runs) were seen driving through parts of the rally.”

Mercy Ambulance, which is located just east of Sparrow on Michigan Avenue, also had no delays but some units did take alternate routes because of the traffic, said Dennis Palmer, president and CEO of Mercy Ambulance. 

The accommodations were no different from what the company would have to make if there were a Michigan State University game, a traffic crash or construction, Palmer said. 

“In fact, we were more prepared because we were given advance notice,” the Mercy Ambulance CEO said.

There was a potential for a delay and his employees remarked as much on social media, Palmer said. But there were no actual delays to service, he said.

While Lansing police were responsible for enforcement in the city at large, Michigan State Police had jurisdiction over the Capitol grounds. Michigan State Police said early on that, despite a lack of social distancing by some demonstrators, they would only intervene in the protest if there was a threat to human life or vandalism. 

Michigan State Police made one arrest during the hours-long protest when one protester allegedly assaulted another, but otherwise the crowds largely were “polite” and “respectful,” said First Lt. Darren Green. 

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, likewise, has never maintained ambulances were trapped during the protest. But the mayor issued Friday a press release warning protesters that next time he would ask for mutual aid from local police departments to help manage the crowds and enforce social distancing.

“Lansing Police will monitor Lansing ordinance violations and cite offenders when we have available offices and as possible to ensure officer safety,” Schor said. “Violations such as excessive noise, purposely blocking roads, and public urination or defecation, and others.”

The rally organizer, the Michigan Conservative Coalition, sent a letter Sunday to Schor noting “an unrelated group” was responsible for the individuals who left their cars and protested on the Capitol lawn. 

Coalition President Rosanne Ponkowski said the group is not planning on organizing future events, but other groups were “co-opting” the name and idea of Operation Gridlock. Ponkowski said the group is encouraging residents to avoid any upcoming rallies. 

“Our goal was to bring attention to the irrational rules in place that were putting over 1,000,000 workers on the unemployment line,” Ponkowski wrote. “We feel the governor has heard the people’s message at Operation Gridlock and she needs time to act to restart the economy.  Now.”

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

This content was originally published here.