Whitmer signs order calling racism a public health crisis

Whitmer signs order calling racism a public health crisis

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Published 3:15 PM EDT Aug 5, 2020

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Wednesday an order declaring racism a public health crisis and creating the Black Leadership Advisory Council to “elevate Black voices.”

The executive directive asks the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to have all state employees undergo implicit bias training for employees and “make health equity a major goal.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.
Michigan Office of the Governor via AP

People applying to the leadership council must do so by Aug. 19. 

“We must confront systemic racism head on so we can create a more equitable and just Michigan,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This is not about one party or person. I hope we can continue to work towards building a more inclusive and unbiased state that works for everyone.” 

Early in the virus’ path through Michigan, the virus has hurt the Black community more than other communities, and the trend has held true through the summer. 

African-American individuals have made up about 27% of the confirmed cases in Michigan and 39% of the deaths, despite making up 14% of the state’s population, according to state data. 

In April, Whitmer appointed the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities chaired by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist to study the issue of racial disparity. 

While the virus has been challenging for all state residents, “they have been especially tough for Black and Brown people who for generations have battled the harms caused by a system steeped in persistent inequalities,” Gilchrist said.

“These are the same inequities that have motivated so many Americans of every background to confront the legacy of systemic racism that has been a stain on our state and nation from the beginning,” he said.

Whitmer’s Wednesday executive order would task the council with reviewing state laws that perpetuate inequities, promoting legislation seeking “to remedy structural inequities,” providing advice to community groups seeking to benefit the Black community and promoting cultural arts in the African-American community. 

The task force will consist of 16 members and will fall under the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. 

“We are blessed to have a governor who is willing to hear us, march with us and use her office to build a better, more equal world.” Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said. 

Whitmer’s separate directive to the state health department requires it to review data and find ways to advocate for communities of color. Data on health disparities among Black people should be analyzed and made available.

The directive requires all existing state employees to complete implicit bias training and new hires to do so within 60 days. 

The department will use an Equity Impact Assessment tool to guide state officials through the potential implications their decisions may have on minorities, according to Whitmer’s office. 

The governor’s remarks come a day after the state of Michigan upped its tally of confirmed cases to 84,050 and its count of deaths related to the virus to 6,220. Hospitalizations linked to the virus have remained relatively low despite upward trends in cases since June. 

“Overall we are seeing a plateau in cases after a slight uptick in June and July,” Khaldun said. 

The Detroit, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo regions have a little more than 40 cases per million people per day, the Jackson and Upper Peninsula regions about 35 cases per million people per day and the Saginaw and Lansing regions have just under 30 cases per million people per day, the chief medical executive said.  

All of those regions, with the exception of Lansing, have seen decreasing daily case averages over the last weeks, Khaldun said. 

The Traverse City region, which recently came under stricter rules by Whitmer, is averaging about 10 cases per million people per day, she said. 

The state considers daily case incidences that rise above 20 cases per million people per day to be cause for concern, while a safer level is one that stays below 10 cases per million people per day. 

“These are all good signs and we will continue to monitor these metrics,” Khaldun said. But “these plateauing trends are not reason to let our guard down.”

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

This content was originally published here.

Association Between Universal Masking and SARS-CoV-2 Positivity Among Health Care Workers

The institutional review board of MGB approved the study and waived informed consent. Using electronic medical records, we identified HCWs providing direct and indirect patient care who were tested for SARS-CoV-2 with reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction between March 1 and April 30, 2020. The primary criterion for testing HCWs in our health care system was having symptoms consistent with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Information on the job description of each HCW was obtained by linking their record to the MGB Occupational Health Services and Human Resources databases.

We identified 3 phases during the study period: a preintervention period before implementation of universal masking of HCWs (March 1-24, 2020); a transition period until implementation of universal masking of patients (March 25–April 5, 2020) plus an additional lag period to allow for manifestations of symptoms (April 6-10, 2020), as previously defined5; and an intervention period (April 11-30, 2020). Positivity rates included the first positive test result for all HCWs in the numerator and HCWs who never tested positive plus those who tested positive that day in the denominator. For each HCW, any tests subsequent to their first positive test result were excluded. Using weighted nonlinear regression, we fit the best curve for the preintervention and intervention periods (based on R2 value). The number of daily tests was used as the weight such that days with more tests had more weight in determining the curve. The overall slope of each period was calculated using linear regression to estimate the mean trend, regardless of curve shape. The change in overall slope between the preintervention and intervention periods was compared to determine any statistically significant change in mean trend, using a 2-sided α = .05. The analysis was conducted using R version 4.0 (R Foundation).

Discussion

Universal masking at MGB was associated with a significantly lower rate of SARS-CoV-2 positivity among HCWs. This association may be related to a decrease in transmission between patients and HCWs and among HCWs. The decrease in HCW infections could be confounded by other interventions inside and outside of the health care system (Figure), such as restrictions on elective procedures, social distancing measures, and increased masking in public spaces, which are limitations of this study. Despite these local and statewide measures, the case number continued to increase in Massachusetts throughout the study period,6 suggesting that the decrease in the SARS-CoV-2 positivity rate in MGB HCWs took place before the decrease in the general public. Randomized trials of universal masking of HCWs during a pandemic are likely not feasible. Nonetheless, these results support universal masking as part of a multipronged infection reduction strategy in health care settings.

Section Editor: Jody W. Zylke, MD, Deputy Editor.

Corresponding Author: Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 75 Francis St, Boston, MA 02115 (dlbhattmd@post.harvard.edu).

Accepted for Publication: July 1, 2020.

Published Online: July 14, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.12897

Author Contributions: Dr Bhatt had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. Drs Wang and Ferro contributed equally to this article.

Concept and design: Wang, Ferro, Hashimoto, Bhatt.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: All authors.

Drafting of the manuscript: Wang, Ferro.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.

Statistical analysis: Wang, Zhou.

Administrative, technical, or material support: Wang, Ferro, Hashimoto.

Supervision: Hashimoto, Bhatt.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Bhatt discloses the following relationships: advisory board: Cardax, CellProthera, Cereno Scientific, Elsevier Practice Update Cardiology, Level Ex, Medscape Cardiology, PhaseBio, PLx Pharma, Regado Biosciences; board of directors: Boston VA Research Institute, Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care, TobeSoft; chair: American Heart Association Quality Oversight Committee, NCDR-ACTION Registry Steering Committee, VA CART Research and Publications Committee; data monitoring committees: Baim Institute for Clinical Research, Cleveland Clinic, Contego Medical, Duke Clinical Research Institute, Mayo Clinic, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Population Health Research Institute; honoraria: American College of Cardiology, Baim Institute for Clinical Research, Belvoir Publications, Duke Clinical Research Institute, HMP Global, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, K2P, Level Ex, Medtelligence/ReachMD, MJH Life Sciences, Population Health Research Institute, Slack Publications, Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care, WebMD; deputy editorship: Clinical Cardiology; research funding: Abbott, Afimmune, Amarin, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cardax, Chiesi, CSL Behring, Eisai, Ethicon, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Forest Laboratories, Fractyl, Idorsia, Ironwood, Ischemix, Lexicon, Lilly, Medtronic, Pfizer, PhaseBio, PLx Pharma, Regeneron, Roche, Sanofi Aventis, Synaptic, The Medicines Company; royalties: Elsevier; site coinvestigator: Biotronik, Boston Scientific, CSI, St Jude Medical, Svelte; trustee: American College of Cardiology; unfunded research: FlowCo, Merck, Novo Nordisk, Takeda. No other disclosures were reported.

Additional Contributions: We thank Stacey A. Duey, MT(ASCP), MCHP, Mass General Brigham, for assistance in extracting data from the Research Patient Data Registry, and Karen Hopcia, ScD, ANP-BC, Mass General Brigham, for assistance in extracting data from Occupational Health Services. No compensation was received for their roles.

This content was originally published here.

Phil Murphy to Slap 2.5% Tax on Health Insurance Premiums in New Jersey – Shore News Network

TRENTON, NJ – A new bill in Trenton has been passed and is headed for Governor Phil Murphy’s desk that includes a 2.5% tax on health insurance for everyone in New Jersey.  That money will be put in a health insurance affordability fund to provide health insurance for illegal aliens and to support the NJ FamilyCareAdvantage program.

The bill requires entities to pay an annual assessment that is 2.5% of the entity’s net written premiums as defined by the bill.

The bill requires the commissioner to calculate and issue to the health provider a certified assessment that is 2.5% of the entity’s net written premiums. The bill requires entities to pay the assessment issued by the commissioner to the State Treasurer no later than May 1 of each year, as prescribed by the commissioner.

The bill reads:

The bill provides that if the commissioner determines that the amount of the assessment will reduce the State’s total revenue, the commissioner may reduce the assessment. The bill establishes in the Department of the Treasury a nonlapsing revolving fund to be known as the “Health Insurance Affordability Fund.” This fund is to be the repository for all monies collected pursuant to the bill. As directed by the commissioner, in consultation with the Commissioners of the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health, the monies in the fund are to be used only for the purposes of increasing affordability in the individual market and providing greater access to health insurance to the uninsured, including minors, with a primary focus on households with an income below 400 percent of the federal poverty level, expanding eligibility, or modifying the definition of affordability in the individual market, through subsidies, reinsurance, tax policies, outreach and enrollment efforts, buy-in programs, such as the NJ FamilyCare Advantage 2 Program, or any other efforts that can increase affordability for individual policyholders or that can reduce racial disparities in coverage for the uninsured. The bill provides that a report currently required to be issued by the Commissioner of Banking and Insurance by June 1, 2022 shall also set forth the impacts of the measures taken pursuant to the bill on affordability and reductions in racial disparities in health insurance coverage, including impacts by income level, race, and immigration status. The report shall make recommendations to increase affordability and reduce the uninsured rate in New Jersey, as appropriate, based on the data available to the department. The bill also requires that the assessments collected pursuant to the bill be used only for the purposes contained in the bill, with certain provisions to ensure the assessments are used for those purposes in future fiscal years.

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FDA to Henry Ford Health: You can’t use hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19

FDA denies Henry Ford Health request to use hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients

Kristen Jordan Shamus
Detroit Free Press
Published 5:43 PM EDT Aug 13, 2020

Weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revoked emergency use authorization of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, saying the drug doesn’t help coronavirus patients and has potentially dangerous side effects, Henry Ford Health System filed for permission to continue using it. 

The Detroit-based health system told the Free Press this week that it sought emergency use authorization July 6 to resume treating some COVID-19 patients with the drug, which is commonly used as an anti-malarial medication and for people with autoimmune diseases like lupus. 

The request came four days after Henry Ford published a controversial study in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases that suggested hydroxychloroquine slashed the COVID-19 death rate in half. The peer-reviewed observational study contradicted other published reports that showed the drug doesn’t help coronavirus patients and could cause heart rhythm problems in some people.

The FDA denied Henry Ford’s request this week.

More: After Fauci criticism, Henry Ford Health clams up on hydroxychloroquine study

More: Hydroxychloroquine saved coronavirus patients’ lives, Michigan study shows

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration informed us that it would not grant our request for an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine for a segment of COVID-19 patients meeting very specific criteria,” said Dr. Adnan Munkarah, Henry Ford’s executive vice president and chief clinical officer, in a statement. 

The patients who would have received the drug would have had to meet the same criteria as those who were enrolled in Henry Ford’s initial study:

Henry Ford’s study was widely criticized because it was observational, retrospective and not randomized or controlled. Additionally, the health system used hydroxychloroquine in combination with dexamethasone, a steroid, which has been known to improve outcomes for people with COVID-19.

Hope, and conflicting research

Early in the pandemic, hydroxychloroquine looked like it could be a promising treatment for COVID-19, but use of the drug quickly became political.

A French study published March 20 suggested the drug helped people with coronavirus, reporting it “is significantly associated with viral load reduction/disappearance in patients with COVID-19.” Positive outcomes, it noted, were improved when used in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin. 

The next day, President Donald Trump tweeted that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin “have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”

Encouraged by those preliminary findings, researchers around the world began to launch their own investigations of the drug, and the FDA issued an emergency use authorization March 28 to allow doctors to begin treating patients with it in hospitalized settings outside clinical trials. 

Henry Ford Health System was among many nationally and across the state to begin using hydroxychloroquine in that way. Michigan Medicine, the Detroit Medical Center and McLaren Health Care also used it.

In early April, both Michigan Medicine and Henry Ford announced they would enroll patients in studies testing the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of coronavirus. Henry Ford’s study was a retrospective analysis of 2,541 patients hospitalized between March 10 and May 2, 2020 across its six hospitals.

In the weeks that followed, more research suggested that the drug might not help coronavirus patients and could cause some harm. 

An April 23 preliminary review of 368 novel coronavirus patients at U.S. Veterans Health Administration hospitals suggested that the use of hydroxychloroquine — with or without azithromycin — did not reduce the likelihood of needing a mechanical ventilator and it may actually have made patients more likely to die.  

And a review of the initial French study found it was flawed and overstated the benefits of hydroxychloroquine treatment. The review also showed that patients who had bad outcomes after using the drug were dropped from the study, skewing the results. 

Still, Trump continued to publicly praise the drug’s effectiveness, and spoke at White House Coronavirus Task Force news conferences about how he was taking it himself with hopes it would prevent him from contracting the virus.  

With evidence mounting, the FDA issued a warning in late April, urging caution about using hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 patients. 

“Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19,” it said. “They are being studied in clinical trials.”

The drugs, it warned, “can cause abnormal heart rhythms such as QT interval prolongation and a dangerously rapid heart rate called ventricular tachycardia. … Patients who also have other health issues such as heart and kidney disease are likely to be at increased risk of these heart problems when receiving these medicines.”

But the federal agency didn’t revoke emergency use authorization of hydroxychloroquine until June 15, writing: “In light of ongoing serious cardiac adverse events and other potential serious side effects, the known and potential benefits of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine no longer outweigh the known and potential risks for the authorized use.”

The World Health Organization announced June 17 that it would stop testing hydroxychloroquine in coronavirus patients through its Solidarity Trial. The National Institutes of Health halted its hydroxychloroquine study a few days later.

The FDA’s Adverse Events Reporting System logged 9,363 reports of bad reactions to hydroxychloroquine and related medications just in the first eight months of this year. Of them, 8,936 were classified as serious reactions in which 402 people died.

Comparatively, in all of 2019, there were 8,059 reports of adverse reactions to the drug, and 6,982 were considered serious; 146 people died. 

The politics of hydroxychloroquine

When Henry Ford Health System published its hydroxychloroquine study in early July showing success in the treatment of COVID-19 — cutting the mortality rate from 26% among those who did not receive the medicine to 13% among those who did — it was met with skepticism by many in the medical community.

Among the critics was Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, who called the study “flawed” in his testimony in late July at a congressional hearing on the federal government’s efforts to control the pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies before a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on a national plan to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, July 31, 2020.
KEVIN DIETSCH, Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Patients in the Henry Ford study, Fauci said, were given corticosteroids, which are known to be of a benefit to people with COVID-19. And it wasn’t randomized or placebo-controlled, the gold standard for medical studies. 

Yet, Henry Ford’s hydroxychloroquine research was hailed by the president as proof that the drug he touted from the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis works. 

Trump took to Twitter on July 6 — the same day Henry Ford asked the FDA for authorization to resume using hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 patients — alleging Democrats disparaged the drug for political reasons.

The next day, Dr. Steven Kalkanis, Henry Ford Health System’s chief academic officer and senior vice president, told the Free Press that medicine shouldn’t be political. 

Dr. Steven Kalkanis, CEO of the Henry Ford Medical Group and chief of clinical academics for the Henry Ford Health System.
Henry Ford Health System

“We’re scientists, not politicians,” Kalkanis said. “We’ve never had a preconceived agenda with this study or any study regarding hydroxychloroquine. We simply wanted to use the resources and the opportunity of COVID, given that Detroit was such a hard-hit region, to find out which treatments worked and which treatment didn’t.

“So early on, we embarked on several different studies, and we wanted to let the data lead us to what is appropriate for patients. We stand behind the results of our study. We found that, you know, among 2,500 patients, the use of hydroxychloroquine cut the death rate in half.”

Last week, Henry Ford issued an open letter about its study, saying, “the political climate that has persisted has made any objective discussion about this drug impossible.”

The health system said in the letter that it will no longer comment outside the medical community on the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat novel coronavirus. 

“We are deeply saddened by this turn of events,” said the letter, signed by both Munkarah and Kalkanis.

Dr. Adnan Munkarah, Henry Ford Health System’s executive vice president and chief clinical officer.
Ray Manning/Henry Ford Health System

“Like all observational research, these studies are very difficult to analyze and can never completely account for the biases inherent in how doctors make different decisions to treat different patients. Furthermore, it is not unusual that results from such studies vary in different populations and at different times, and no one study can ever be considered all by itself.”

Trump has continued to support the use of hydroxychloroquine, saying in a July 28 White House news briefing that he believes in its benefit and that “many doctors think it is extremely successful.”

“I took it for a 14-day period, and I’m here. Right?” he said. “I’m here. I happen to think it’s — it works in the early stages. I think front-line medical people believe that, too — some, many. And so we’ll take a look at it. … It’s safe. It doesn’t cause problems. I had no problem. I had absolutely no problem, felt no different. Didn’t feel good, bad, or indifferent.”

Henry Ford is continuing with another research study of hydroxychloroquine that was announced in April in conjunction with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Called the WHIP COVID-19 study, it’s the first large-scale U.S. study to investigate whether using the drug can prevent coronavirus among 3,000 health care workers and first responders.

“The decision does not impact the ongoing WHIP COVID-19 study, a randomized, double-blind investigation of hydroxychloroquine as a preventive treatment,” Munkarah said. 

The outcome of that research has yet to be published.

Contact Kristen Jordan Shamus: 313-222-5997 or kshamus@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus. 

This content was originally published here.

Artist Draws Wholesome Watercolor Comics Where A Cat Is Giving Out Mental Health Advice (20 Pics)

Artist Hector Janse van Rensburg aka ‘S**tty Watercolour’ aka ‘Swatercolour’ is making us happier and our lives more wholesome with his comics that feel like miniature hugs and feature a meowtivational cat. The UK-based painter has become a global phenomenon and is now known as the world’s favorite self-deprecating artist.

“The comics that came before this series were less optimistic, and this series is a bit like a response to that. They sometimes approach difficult issues like mental health, but the aim of the comics is not to solve the issues but to show a different perspective on them. That new perspective often comes from the cat, who is based on my cat Ona who passed away a few years ago,” Hector told Bored Panda about his newest work.

We’ve collected some of Hector’s best work featuring the lovely cat, so scroll down, upvote your fave comics, and read on for our full interview with the painter about his art, as well as for his advice when drawing “happy little wobbly blobs of color.”

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“Before I started painting online about 8 years ago, I had never had any interest in art and now it looks like that’s where my life is going,” Hector said. “Ostensibly, that just means I’m sitting at my desk with a brush more often than a keyboard, but it is a whole different type of challenge to think of things about human nature that I want to communicate in my paintings.”

He added: “One part of that is that it’s like I’m living through my art, which can be difficult.”

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We wanted to find out how the painter manages to stay passionate about art. However, Hector told us that passion might be the wrong thing to focus on. Instead, the key is discipline.

“I think if you rely on some feeling of passion to motivate you then you will have a hard time. I’ve been doing a comic every day recently and I tend to wake up, think of an idea, and then have it painted by lunchtime,” he revealed a bit about his disciplined schedule.

“The schedule around my painting process is quite robotic by now, and I think doing it that way opens up a clear space where you can be more creatively free. If I didn’t have a schedule and instead waited around for inspiration that was good enough to motivate me to paint, then I probably wouldn’t be as productive.”

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Hector said that the ideas for his comics come from negative thoughts that he can turn into more positive ones.

“So I think about the ways in which people can feel bad and how you might approach them as a friend would. I don’t think I find it too difficult to think of ideas which is probably a testament to how nice my cat was,” he complimented his cat Ona for being a fantastic feline.

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Bored Panda also wanted to hear what advice Hector would give other potential artists who are dabbling with watercolor paintings. He said that a lot depends on each individual artist’s end-goal: there are two paths that they can take.

“For me, it’s that the niceness and technical ability of a painting are different things and you can aim at either,” he said.

“It’s perfectly possible to make happy little wobbly blobs of color and people will enjoy them if the message is good and sincere. There’s probably a boundary of neatness that you should stay within but messiness is cool too. Also, most of my pictures look very bad at first, and then it’s only after a while that they come together. I think that’s because a few wobbly blobs on their own look like an accident, but a finished painting of wobbly blobs looks purposeful.”

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Hector, who has a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics degree from the University of York, has been experimenting with watercolors since December 2011. He revisited an old watercolor set when he felt bored and depressed. Originally, he started uploading his illustrations on Reddit in 2012, then he spread his gaze wider and moved on to Tumblr and Twitter.

The cartoonist admits that he’s inspired by Sir Quentin Blake who illustrated the children’s books written by beloved author Roald Dahl. So if you felt that you found his art style oddly familiar and felt nostalgia for your childhood when looking at Hector’s drawings, this is why!

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This content was originally published here.

Esper eyes $2.2 billion cut to military health care – POLITICO

Roughly 9.5 million active-duty personnel, military retirees and their dependents rely on the military health system, which is the military’s sprawling government-run health care framework that operates hundreds of facilities around the world. The military health system also provides care through TRICARE, which enables military personnel and their families to obtain civilian healthcare outside of military networks.

The latest news in defense policy and politics.

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Under the proposal in the latest version of Esper’s defense-wide review, the armed services, the defense health system and officials at the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness would be tasked to find savings in their budgets to the tune of $2.2 billion for military health. Officials arrived at that number recently after months of discussions with the impacted offices during the review, said a third defense official. A fourth added that the cuts will be “conditions-based and will only be implemented to the extent that the [military health system] can continue to maintain our beneficiaries access to quality care, be it through our military health care facilities or with our civilian health care provider partners.”

However, the first two senior defense officials said the cuts are not supported by program analysis nor by warfighter requirements.

DoD Unified Medical Budget vs Veteran Medical Care Costs (in Billions) | President’s Budget Historical Data

The department’s effort to overhaul the military health system have recently come under scrutiny, as lawmakers pressed the Pentagon on whether the pandemic would affect those plans.

“A lot of the decisions were made in dark, smoky rooms, and it was driven by arbitrary numbers of cuts,” said one senior defense official with knowledge of the process. “They wanted to book the savings to be able to report it.”

“It imperils the ability to support our combat forces overseas,” added a second senior official, who argued that Esper’s moves are weakening the ability to protect the health of active-duty troops in military theaters abroad. “They’re actively pushing very skilled medical people out the door.”

However, a Pentagon spokesperson said the system will “continually assesses how it can most effectively align its assets in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“The MHS will not waver from its mission to provide a ready medical force and a medically ready force,” said Pentagon spokesperson Lisa Lawrence. “Any potential changes to the health system will only be pursued in a manner that ensures its ability to continue to support the Department’s operational requirements and to maintain our beneficiaries access to quality health care.”

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Esper rolled out the results of the first iteration of the defense-wide review in February, revealing $5.7 billion in cost savings that he said would be put toward preparing the Pentagon to better compete with Russia and China, including research into hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, missile defense and more.

But the proposed health cuts, in the second iteration of the defense-wide review, would degrade military hospitals to the point that they will no longer be able to sustain the current training pipeline for the military’s medical force, potentially necessitating something akin to a draft of civilian medical workers into the military, the two defense officials said.

The second official noted the challenge in finding outside doctors given longstanding complaints from some U.S. hospitals and researchers that there aren’t enough physicians to serve civilians.

“How’s a ‘draft’ even going to work?” the official said “The U.S. is dealing with a doctor shortage.”

As a result, the proposed reductions would hurt combat medical capability without actually saving money, the officials argued. The Pentagon is already significantly overspending on private sector care and TRICARE because patients are being pushed out of undermanned military health facilities to the private health care network, they said. The cuts also would follow nearly a decade of the Pentagon holding military health spending flat, even as spending on care for veterans and civilians has ballooned.

The officials blamed the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, or CAPE, under the leadership of John Whitley, who has been acting director since August 2019, for the cuts. CAPE conducts analysis and provides advice to the secretary of defense on potential cuts to the defense budget.

During Whitley’s confirmation hearing to be the permanent CAPE director last week, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) pressed him on the health cuts.

“Folks in my state have expressed some concern and opposition to some of the policies, which allow only active-duty service members to visit military treatment facilities,” Jones said. “What do I tell those folks?”

“The department does have work to do on expanding choice and access to beneficiaries,” Whitley responded. “Sometimes that’s in an MTF, sometimes that’s in the civilian health care setting.”

Whitley has specifically tried to eliminate the Murtha Cancer Center as an unnecessary expense, said one senior official.

Last fall, Whitley and CAPE also sought to close the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, which prepares graduates for the medical corps, as part of the defense-wide review, the people said. Although at the time Esper denied the proposal, CAPE is now seeking major cuts to USU as part of the $2.2 billion. The reductions include eliminating all basic research dollars for combat casualty care, infectious disease and military medicine for USU, as well as slicing operational funds.

“What’s been proposed would be devastating, and it’s coming right out of Whitley’s shop,” said the senior official. “Instead of a clean execution, USU would be bled to death.”

The officials pointed out that USU has contributed to the Covid-19 response in recent months by graduating 230 medical officers and Nurse Corps officers early from the class of 2020 School of Medicine, leading and participating in research clinical trials for virus countermeasures and contributing to the Operation Warp Speed effort to develop a vaccine.

This content was originally published here.

Europe’s Top Health Officials Say Masks Aren’t Helpful in Beating COVID-19 – Foundation for Economic Education

That’s less than one-third of the number of Danes who die from pneumonia or influenza in a given year.

Despite this success, Danish leaders recently found themselves on the defensive. The reason is that Danes aren’t wearing face masks, and local authorities for the most part aren’t even recommending them.

This prompted Berlingske, the country’s oldest newspaper, to complain that Danes had positioned themselves “to the right of Trump.”

“The whole world is wearing face masks, even Donald Trump,” Berlingske pointed out.

This apparently did not sit well with Danish health officials. They responded by noting there is little conclusive evidence that face masks are an effective way to limit the spread of respiratory viruses.

“All these countries recommending face masks haven’t made their decisions based on new studies,” said Henning Bundgaard, chief physician at Denmark’s Rigshospitale, according to Bloomberg News. (Denmark has since updated its guidelines to encourage, but not require, the use of masks on public transit where social distancing may not be possible.)  

Denmark is not alone.

Despite a global stampede of mask-wearing, data show that 80-90 percent of people in Finland and Holland say they “never” wear masks when they go out, a sharp contrast to the 80-90 percent of people in Spain and Italy who say they “always” wear masks when they go out.

Dutch public health officials recently explained why they’re not recommending masks.

“From a medical point of view, there is no evidence of a medical effect of wearing face masks, so we decided not to impose a national obligation,” said Medical Care Minister Tamara van Ark.

Others, echoing statements similar to the US Surgeon General from early March, said masks could make individuals sicker and exacerbate the spread of the virus.

“Face masks in public places are not necessary, based on all the current evidence,” said Coen Berends, spokesman for the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. “There is no benefit and there may even be negative impact.”

In Sweden, where COVID-19 deaths have slowed to a crawl, public health officials say they see “no point” in requiring individuals to wear masks.

“With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport,” said Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s top infectious disease expert.

What’s Going on With Masks?

The top immunologists and epidemiologists in the world can’t decide if masks are helpful in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Indeed, we’ve seen organizations like the World Health Organization and the CDC go back and forth in their recommendations.

CDC does not currently recommend the use of facemasks to help prevent novel #coronavirus. Take everyday preventive actions, like staying home when you are sick and washing hands with soap and water, to help slow the spread of respiratory illness. #COVID19 https://t.co/uArGZTJhXj pic.twitter.com/yzWTSgt2IV

— CDC (@CDCgov)

For the average person, it’s confusing and frustrating. It’s also a bit frightening, considering that we’ve seen people denounced in public for not wearing a mask while picking up a bag of groceries.

Opening day at Trader Joe’s in North Hollywood, Ca.

Karen is mad she was mask shamed… pic.twitter.com/pF3Zgj3w2E

— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman)

The truth is masks have become the new wedge issue, the latest phase of the culture war. Mask opponents tend to see mask wearers as “fraidy cats” or virtue-signalling “sheeple” who willfully ignore basic science. Mask supporters, on the other hand, often see people who refuse to wear masks as selfish Trumpkins … who willfully ignore basic science.

There’s not a lot of middle ground to be found and there’s no easy way to sit this one out. We all have to go outside, so at some point we all are required to don the mask or not.

It’s clear from the data that despite the impression of Americans as selfish rebel cowboys who won’t wear a mask to protect others, Americans are wearing masks far more than many people in European countries.

Polls show Americans are wearing masks at record levels, though a political divide remains: 98 percent of Democrats report wearing masks in public compared to 66 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Independents. (These numbers, no doubt, are to some extent the product of mask requirements in cities and states.)

Whether one is pro-mask or anti-mask, the fact of the matter is that face coverings have become politicized to an unhealthy degree, which stands to only further pollute the science.

Last month, for example, researchers at Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy responded to demands they remove an article that found mask requirements were “not based on sound data.”

The school, to its credit, did not remove the article, but instead opted to address the objections critics of their research had raised.

First, Do No Harm

The ethics of medicine go back millennia. 

The Hippocratic Oath famously calls on medical practitioners to “first, do no harm.” (Those words didn’t actually appear in the original oath; they developed as a form of shorthand.)

There is a similar principle in the realm of public health: the Principle of Effectiveness.

Public health officials say the idea makes it clear that public health organizations have a responsibility to not harm the people they are assigned to protect.

“If a community is at risk, the government may have a duty to recommend interventions, as long as those interventions will cause no harm, or are the least harmful option,” wrote Claire J. Horwell Professor of Geohealth at Durham University and Fiona McDonald, Co-Director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research at Queensland University of Technology. “If an agency follows the principle of effectiveness, it will only recommend an intervention that they know to be effective.”

The problem with mask mandates is that public health officials are not merely recommending a precaution that may or may not be effective.

They are using force to make people submit to a state order that could ultimately make individuals or entire populations sicker, according to world-leading public health officials.

That is not just a violation of the Effectiveness Principle. It’s a violation of a basic personal freedom.

Mask advocates might mean well, but they overlook a basic reality: humans spontaneously alter behavior during pandemics. Scientific evidence shows that American workplaces and consumers changed the patterns of their travel before lockdown orders were issued.

As I’ve previously noted, this should come as no surprise: Humans are intelligent, instinctive, and self-preserving mammals who generally seek to avoid high-risk behavior. The natural law of spontaneous order shows that people naturally take actions of self-protection by constantly analyzing risk.

Instead of ordering people to “mask-up” under penalty of fines or jail time, scientists and public health officials should get back to playing their most important role: developing sound research on which people can freely make informed decisions.

See the World Health Organization’s Latest Guidelines on Masks and COVID-19

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect Denmark’s recent update on mask guidelines. 

This content was originally published here.

Rush Delivers Massive Good News About Health

Rush Limbaugh is literally in the fight for his life as he continues to battle Stage 4 lung cancer, but it isn’t quite “game over” for the conservative talk radio icon.

“I’m very confident that this is gonna go into extra innings,” Limbaugh said Monday during his syndicated radio program, “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” using America’s pastime as an analogy to update his audience on his health.

“It was in late January that we learned of the diagnosis,” he said. “That means we learned of a really tough opponent. So, it was time to go up to bat, time to walk to the plate, bat in hand, and that is exactly what happened.”

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Limbaugh, who early in his career sold tickets for the Kansas City Royals MLB team, described his first two treatment attempts as “horrible” at-bats, but said in “the third attempt, I managed to get on base.”

“I hit a solid single and then stole second,” he said. “I am currently on second base hoping to slide into third and eventually make it all the way home.”

“We’re in the bottom of the ninth. If I get all the way home we get extra innings. And that’s what we’re shooting for here,” Limbaugh said.

Although he expressed cautious optimism in sharing the hopeful news, Limbaugh was pleased with the promising results of his treatment and how the “debilitating fatigue” he expected to endure for 10 days surprisingly only lasted two.

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“The weekend was good. But, again, anything can change rapidly and on a dime. So it’s a blessing.”

“I believe prayer works,” Limbaugh continued. “I know it does. It is a blessing that in my third at-bat, the last shot that I had at this, I got on base and I stole second, and I’m chugging on to third, and I’m very confident that I’m gonna score.”

While Limbaugh has given only periodic, carefully worded updates on his health, he repeatedly has credited the power of prayer for helping his recovery, telling his audience that he was “confident” their prayers were working and proclaiming that “God is good” in a segment about his health early on.

But Monday’s update was the best news yet on his condition.

“The bottom line is I’m entirely capable of being here today. My energy level is great. I’m doing extremely well. And I don’t think anybody would mind if I told you honestly that I am doing better at this stage than I thought I was gonna be doing,” Limbaugh said.

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“I know these people who’ve gone through this, and they’re so eager to share good news and they do, and then the next day, in some cases, or the next week they have to pull it all back because that’s how rapidly things can change,” he said, tempering his optimism slightly.

“The upshot of it is I’ve rounded second base, I’m pushing for extra innings,” Limbaugh continued. “I gotta score. I gotta get around to home plate to tie the game and to extend the game for as many extra innings as I can.

“And it looks like, sitting here today, that it may happen.”

Despite his devastating diagnosis, this year has been monumental for the 69-year-old radio legend, whom President Donald Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the State of the Union Address on Feb. 4, just one day after Limbaugh went public with his illness.

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Of course, many leftists delighted in Limbaugh’s grave prognosis while raging about Trump conferring the host with the highest civilian honor. Limbaugh’s audience, however, has and will remain steadfastly supportive as he continues the fight for his life.

For the man who has remained fiercely loyal to the conservative cause for over three decades, taking the slings and arrows of the left along the way, his listeners are simply returning the favor.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

This content was originally published here.

EXPLOSIVE – About All These “New” Positive COVID Cases – State Health Departments Manipulating Data, Changing Definitions.. | The Last Refuge

This is very interesting.  The document described in the video below is available HERE.  Research into state health regulations by Fog City Midge shows that new guidance for the definition of COVID-19 positive infections is likely the biggest background cause in a dramatic upswing in positive test results.  WATCH:

This revelation would explain exactly why those who construct the reporting systems are pushing so hard for contact tracing.  According to the new guidance anyone who comes into contact with a person who tests positive is now also considered positive. [pdf link]

Nice convenient way to inflate the infection rate.  The verified source is Here

In order to support the most important political objectives of the DNC writ large in the 2020 election, COVID-19 hype is essential:

♦Without COVID-19 panic Democrats cannot easily achieve ‘mail-in’ voting; which they desperately need in key battleground states in order to control the outcome.

♦Without COVID-19 panic Democrats cannot shut down rallies and political campaigning efforts of President Trump; which they desperate need to do in key battleground states.

♦Without COVID-19 panic Democrats cannot block the campaign contrast between an energetic President Trump and a physically tenuous, mentally compromised, challenger.

♦Without COVID-19 panic Democrats do not have an excuse for cancelling the DNC convention in Milwaukee; thereby blocking Team Bernie Sanders from visible opposition while protecting candidate gibberish from himself.

♦Without COVID-19 panic Democrats do not have a mechanism to keep voters isolated from each-other; limiting communication and national debate adverse to their interests.  COVID-19 panic pushes the national conversation into the digital space where Big Tech controls every element of the conversation.

♦Without COVID-19 panic Democrats cannot keep their Blue state economies easily shut-down and continue to block U.S. economic growth.  All thriving economies are against the political interests of Democrats.

♦Without COVID-19 panic Democrats cannot easily keep club candidate Joe Biden sealed in the basement; where the electorate is not exposed to visible signs of his dementia.

♦Without COVID-19 panic it becomes more difficult for Big Tech to censor voices that would outline the fraud and scheme.  With COVID-19 panic they have a better method and an excuse.

♦Without COVID-19 panic Democrats cannot advance, influence, or organize their preferred presidential debate format, a ‘virtual presidential debate’ series.

[Comrade Gretchen Whitmer knows this plan, hence she cancelled the Michigan venue]

All of these, and more, strategic outcomes are based on the manufactured weaponization of the COVID-19 virus to achieve a larger political objective.  There is ZERO benefit to anyone other than Democrats for the overwhelming hype surrounding COVID-19.

It is not coincidental that all corporate media are all-in to facilitate the demanded fear that Democrats need in order to achieve their objectives.  Thus there is an alignment of all big government institutions and multinationals to support the same.

Nothing is coincidental. Everything is political.

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This content was originally published here.

NM Restaurant Association ‘devastated’ by governor’s latest public health order

Under Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s new public health order, restaurants will have to stop indoor dining on Monday.

“Restaurants didn’t do this to New Mexicans. New Mexicans did this to restaurants,” she said when making the announcement during a virtual news conference on Thursday.

Outdoor and patio dining at 50% capacity, along with carry out are still allowed.

“Right now, it’s over 100 degrees outside so outdoor dining doesn’t really help us much,” said Wight.

Restaurants were closed for more than two months before being allowed to resume indoor dining at 50% capacity on June 1.

“It’s going to be harder to come back from this closure then it was the last closure,” said Wight. “Last time we had PPP money, we had ways to get open, we had some savings left. We have no more savings. Our inventory – we’ve got fresh inventory right now we’ve got to get through and three days is not enough. So what are we going to do, right? We’re all just throwing our hands up saying, ‘What can we do?’”

She doesn’t have the latest number but estimates New Mexico will lose 20% of its restaurants – or 700 restaurants – with the new regulations in place.

Wight says the association is also considering a legal challenge and is planning a protest on Monday.

KOB 4 reached out to the governor’s office for a response. Press Secretary Nora Meyers Sackett said in a statement: 

It’s not accurate to say the group was not consulted before the decision. The governor has been very clear that if New Mexico’s COVID-19 cases continued to trend upwards, the state would need to retract some of the reopening measures we had been able to enact, including indoor dining. As the governor and Dr. Scrase noted yesterday, a high percentage of the state’s workplace rapid responses have been to restaurants. The governor was also very clear yesterday that this is not meant to “punish” restaurants, but it is an unavoidable consequence of New Mexicans continuing to conduct themselves in a way that continues to spread COVID-19 throughout the state. Everyone is suffering the effects of this deadly virus, and we have to do everything we can to slow the spread of it. Restaurant owners are prominent members of their communities and must, like all of us, do everything they can to save lives.
 

This content was originally published here.