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Track Testing Trends – Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center

Positivity Rates: Our calculation, which is applied consistently across the site and predates most states’ test positivity tracking efforts, looks at number of cases divided by number of negative tests plus number of cases. We feel that the ideal way to calculate positivity would be number of people who test positive divided by number of people who are tested. We feel this is currently the best way to track positivity because some states include in their testing totals duplicative tests obtained in succession on the same individual, as well as unrelated antibody tests. However, many states are unable to track number of people tested, so they only track number of tests. Because states do not all publish number of positive and number of negative tests per day, we have no choice but to calculate positivity via our approach. We describe our methodology as well as our data source (COVID Tracking Project) clearly on the site.

7-Day Averages: The CRC calculates the rolling 7-day average separately for daily cases and daily tests, and then for each day calculate the percentage over the rolling averages. Some states may be calculating the positivity percentage for each day, and then doing the rolling 7-day average. The reason why we use our approach is because testing capacity issues and uneven reporting cadences create a lot of misleading peaks and valleys in the data. Since we want to give a 7-day average, it is more fair to average the raw data and then calculate the ratios. Otherwise, days when a large number of negative tests are released all at once—and positivity is going to be very low—will have the same weight as days when data was steadily released, and the overall result is going to be lower. Our approach is applied to all our testing data to correct for these uneven data release patterns.

Positivity rates can tell us whether a state’s testing capacity is sufficient. Ideally, a state should be meeting or exceeding the recommended positivity rate, which the WHO has set at 5%. A positivity rate over 5% indicates a state may only be testing the sickest patients who seek out medical care, and are not casting a wide enough net to identify milder cases and track outbreaks.

Percent positivity can also help us determine if an increase in cases is simply the result of expanded testing or if it signals increased transmission of the virus. If we see the percentage of positive tests begin to rise, it indicates insufficient testing to find infections that may be occurring. Not finding these infections may mean that the virus is transmitting without intervention, which can lead to future case growth.

Specifically:

If a rise in cases is the result of increased testing, the percent positive line could look flat or like it is decreasing over the time period when cases increased.

If a rise in cases is the result of increased transmission, the line could appear to be increasing over that same time period.

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Navigating pregnancy during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic

Is it safe to continue prenatal check-ups?

Many expectant mothers are fearful of going to appointments while they are taking precautions, such as staying home and practicing physical distancing when outside. “You do see a lot of adaptation happening at the moment in the world where midwives are doing clinics or certain appointments by phone, so that the actual looking at the baby and the growth of the baby appointment can be short,” says Cadée. “I expect that pregnant women will find they’re seeing their healthcare professional less, to protect them and the healthcare professional from getting infected and that they will be seen live when it’s necessary.” Modifications may also be tailored for individual patients depending on their respective conditions, for example lower vs. higher-risk pregnancies.

Cadée advises mothers to find out what options are available to them from their healthcare professional and in their communities. “The person who’s taking care of you is perfectly geared to you and your own needs, so your midwife or obstetrician will know best.”

After your child is born, it is also important to continue receiving professional support and guidance, including routine immunizations. Speak to your healthcare provider about the safest way to have these appointments, for you and your baby.

If I have coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will I pass it to my baby?

We still do not know if the virus can be transmitted from a mother to her baby during pregnancy. “The COVID-19 virus has not been found in vaginal fluid, in cord blood or breastmilk,” says Cadée, although information is still emerging. To date, COVID-19 has also not been detected in amniotic fluid or the placenta.

The best thing you can do is to take all necessary precautions to prevent yourself from contracting the COVID-19 virus. However, if you’re pregnant or have just given birth and feel ill, then you should seek medical care promptly and follow instructions from your health care provider.

I was planning on giving birth in a hospital or healthcare clinic. Is this still a good option?

“Women should ask their midwife [or health care professional] what they feel is the safest place for them and how precautions are being taken from situation to situation,” recommends Cadée. “It depends on the woman, on her situation and on the healthcare system.” 

“You would hope that most healthcare facilities have different facilities where those with the COVID-19 virus go in one entrance and the others in another. But in some situations that’s totally not possible,” says Cadée. “In certain high-income countries like in the Netherlands where I come from, we have a system whereby home birth is integrated within the system. So home birth within the system is safe and you are seeing more women give birth at home [but this is certainly not the case in most countries]. And even certain hotels are being used in the Netherlands by midwives for women to be able to give birth in the hotel which is made safe for a woman to give birth, so she doesn’t have to go to the hospital. But that is very much within that local context.” 

For the safest option for you, it important to speak to the healthcare professional who is supporting you throughout your pregnancy and birth.

Can my partner or family member be nearby when I give birth?

While policies vary by country, Cadée believes women should have someone nearby to support them, as long as the proper precautions are taken, such as wearing a mask while in the delivery room and washing their hands. “We are finding that in certain countries people are not being allowed to be with women, and that is worrying me. I can understand that you want to reduce the number of people with a woman while she is giving birth because you’re trying to reduce contact, and that is very very logical, but let’s make sure that a woman has someone, one person, with her while she’s giving birth – her partner, her sister, her mother, [or the closest person of her choice]. And please keep the babies with the mothers.”

“We have to be compassionate and understand each situation as it is and that the healthcare professionals together with the family members are doing their best, using their common sense and listening to each other. I think that’s very important: that we try to work as a community.”

I’m feeling incredibly anxious about giving birth. What should I do to cope?

Having a plan in place for your birth can help ease feelings of anxiety by giving you more of a sense of control, but recognizing that the current situation means there may be less predictability depending where you live. “This should include who to phone when the labour begins, who will provide support during labour and where. Establish what restrictions will be in place for hospital birth regarding support people and family members,” advises Cadée.

She also recommends doing simple things at home to relax, “like [stretching] exercises, breathing exercises and giving your midwife a call if you need to.” Focus on taking care of yourself as much as you possibly can. “Eat well, drink well, put your hands on your belly and enjoy being pregnant.”

What questions should I be asking my healthcare professional?

Cadée underlines the importance of establishing a trusting relationship with your healthcare provider. “All of those questions that have to do with you and your health, I would ask them freely. If you have an open relationship with your healthcare provider – with your midwife, with your obstetrician – they will discuss these things with you and answer you openly. It is your absolute right to know these things because it’s your body and your baby.”

“Midwives are responding to increased demands on their services as are doctors and nurses, and so may take a little longer to respond,” Cadée notes. She suggests establishing a system of how and when to communicate with your healthcare professional. For example, organize routine around appointments, and how to get in touch for urgent care. It may also be helpful to talk to care providers in advance about obtaining a copy of your health records including record of prenatal care, in case of any disruption or change in services.

When it comes to your plan for giving birth, it is important to ask as many questions as you need to. Cadée suggests the following:

What should women pack to go into hospital given the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak?

“I don’t think women need to take anything extra, but they should take precautions well into account,” advises Cadée.

She expects some hospitals may ask women to go home more quickly than normal if they’re healthy. “Again, that will be different from area to area, from woman to woman, from hospital to hospital,” she says, recommending expecting mothers to “ask their midwife or their obstetrician for advice that’s really tailor made for them.”

Once I have given birth, what can I do to protect my newborn from the COVID-19 virus?

The best thing you can do is to keep it simple: stick to just your family and don’t ask for visitors right now. “Also make sure that your children (if you have other children) that they’re not with other children. Get your family to wash their hands and take good care of themselves,” says Cadée.

Although it’s a difficult time, Cadée recommends trying to see the positive side of having this time to bond as a family. “Sometimes it can be very busy for young mothers and fathers to have so many visitors. Enjoy the quietness of your [immediate] family together for this time. It’s quite special to be able to bond with your baby alone, discover that new human being and enjoy that.”

This content was originally published here.

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Trump administration cuts funding for coronavirus researcher, jeopardizing possible COVID-19 cure – 60 MInutes – CBS News

Peter Daszak is a scientist whose work is helping in the search for a COVID-19 cure. So why did the president just cancel Daszak’s funding? It’s the kind of politics which might seem ill-advised in a health crisis. President Trump is blaming China’s government for the pandemic. The outbreak was first detected in the city of Wuhan. The administration has said, at times, the virus is man-made or that, if it’s natural, it must have leaked out of a Chinese government lab. Both the White House and the Chinese Communist Party have been less than honest. And so, in China, and the U.S., the work of scientists like Peter Daszak is being undercut by pandemic politics.

Peter Daszak is a British-born American Ph.D. who’s spent a career discovering dangerous viruses in wildlife, especially bats.

In 2003, in Malaysia, he warned 60 Minutes a pandemic was coming. 

Peter Daszak in 2003 interview: What worries me the most is that we are going to miss the next emerging disease, that we’re suddenly going to find a SARS virus that moves from one part of the planet to another, wiping out people as it moves along.

In the 17 years since that prophecy, Peter Daszak became president of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance.

Peter Daszak: We’re a nonprofit research organization that focuses on understanding where the pandemics come from, what’s the risk of future pandemics and can we get in between this pandemic and the next one and disrupt it and stop it.

In China, EcoHealth has worked for 15 years with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Together they’ve catalogued hundreds of bat viruses, research that is critical right now. 

Peter Daszak: The breakthrough drug, Remdesivir, that seems to have some impact on COVID-19 was actually tested against the viruses we discovered under our NIH research funding.

Scott Pelley: And so that testing would not have been possible–

Peter Daszak: No, it would not.

Scott Pelley: –if it hadn’t been for the work that you did with the NIH grant?

Peter Daszak: Correct. 

But his funding from the NIH, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was killed, two weeks ago, by a political disinformation campaign targeting China’s Wuhan Institute.

On April 14, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz claimed China’s Wuhan Institute had, quote, “birthed a monster.” Gaetz is a vigorous defender of the president. He’s been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegedly threatening a witness against Mr. Trump and he led a protest to delay impeachment testimony. 

Matt Gaetz on “Tucker Carlson Tonight”: The NIH gives this $3.7 million grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, they then advertise that they need coronavirus researchers. Following that, coronavirus erupts in Wuhan.

There never was a $3.7 million U.S. grant to the Wuhan lab. But, the falsehood spread like a virus, in the White House, and without verification, in the briefing room. 

Reporter in White House press briefing: There’s also another report that the NIH, under the Obama administration, in 2015 gave that lab $3.7 million in a grant. Why would the U.S. give a grant like that to China?

President Trump: The Obama administration gave them a grant of $3.7 million? I’ve been hearing about that. And we’ve instructed that if any grants are going to that area – we’re looking at it, literally, about an hour ago, and also early in the morning. We will end that grant very quickly. 

That grant was to Peter Daszak’s U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance for disease prevention it does throughout the world. His work was considered so important that, last year, the grant was reauthorized and increased by the Trump administration.

Daszak had been spending about $100,000 a year collaborating with the Wuhan lab. 

Peter Daszak: I can’t just show up in China and say, “Hi, I wanna work on your viruses.” I have to do this through the correct channels. So, what we do is we talk to NIH, and they approve the people we can work with in China. And that happened. And our collaboration with Wuhan was preapproved by NIH. 

Scott Pelley: What is the theory of the work that you’ve done with the Wuhan lab?

Peter Daszak: Well, the idea is that we know that viruses that affect people and pandemics tend to come from wildlife. So, our strategy is to go to the wildlife source, find out where the viruses are, and try and shift behaviors like hunting and killing wildlife that would lead to the next outbreak. We also get the information into vaccine and drug developers so they can design better drugs.

The Wuhan Institute is internationally respected. Two years ago, a team from the U.S. Embassy visited. That team sent a cable to Washington, concerned that one lab in the complex had a serious shortage of trained investigators. But the cable, first reported by the Washington Post, emphasized the Wuhan Institute is “critical to future… outbreak prediction and prevention.” EcoHealth’s work with Wuhan ended one week after Mr. Trump’s briefing room pledge, when the NIH revoked the grant.

Scott Pelley: They gave you no reason?

Peter Daszak: They said it was canceled for convenience and it doesn’t fit within the scope of NIH’s priorities right now.

Scott Pelley: And yet it was a high priority when the grant was reissued in 2019?

Peter Daszak: Yeah it’s definitely puzzling. I mean, this grant received an incredibly high-priority score. It was in the top 3% of grants they reviewed. And that’s unusual.

Maureen Miller: I was shocked. I was really, really surprised. 

Maureen Miller is a Ph.D. epidemiologist at Columbia University who has collaborated with EcoHealth and Wuhan. 

Maureen Miller: It stops the research that’s essential to understanding where pandemics like the one we’re going through, where they start. 

Scott Pelley: How often are NIH grants terminated in this way?

Maureen Miller: This is the first one I’ve ever heard of. When they terminate an NIH grant, and it’s not something that’s usually taken lightly, it is for cause. There’s fraud involved at some level. There is either manipulation of the data, you’re putting your participants in harm’s way, or your data are fraudulent. 

Scott Pelley: And none of those things have been alleged with EcoHealth?

Maureen Miller: Absolutely not. None.

The National Institutes of Health, in its mission statement, says it exemplifies “the highest level of scientific integrity and public accountability.” But it wouldn’t tell us why the grant was cancelled or whether anything like it had happened before. The NIH told us to direct questions about the origin of the virus to the director of national intelligence.

The Chinese Communist Party has also blocked the truth. In the earliest days, the doctor in Wuhan who discovered the outbreak was silenced by local officials. He later died of COVID-19. In February, the Chinese did allow a visit by an international team of experts including American scientists.

President Trump at State of the Union on 2/4/20: We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the coronavirus outbreak in China.

Initially, President Trump praised China. But in the following weeks, testing in the U.S. failed to catch up to the need, vital equipment was short, bodies filled refrigerated trailers, and science was continuously challenged.

President Trump at 4/23/20 briefing: Then I see disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that by injection?

As the U.S. led the world in illness and death, the White House moved the focus to the Chinese government.

Last Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pomepo attempted to resurrect a debunked theory that the virus was man-made in China. 

Mike Pompeo on ABC’s “This Week”: Look, the best experts so far seem to think it was man-made. I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point.

He did have reason. Days before, the director of national intelligence said there was “wide scientific consensus” the virus was not man-made. 

Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week”: Your Office of the DNI says the consensus, the scientific consensus was not man-made or genetically modified.

Mike Pompeo on ABC’s “This Week”: That’s right. I agree with that. 

The same day pompeo tried to have it both ways, President Trump repeated the theory of a Chinese lab accident. 

President Trump at Fox News town hall: I think they made a horrible mistake and they didn’t want to admit it.

The administration has offered no evidence of an accident or genetic engineering. Dr. Elodie Ghedin is studying the genome of the virus in her lab at New York University.

Elodie Ghedin: People have been saying that’s an engineered virus. And it’s not. And we know that by looking at the genetic information, looking at the code. And the code tells you a lot. 

Human-engineered viruses have common and obvious genetic components, including the virus’s overall molecular structure called its backbone.

Elodie Ghedin: If a virus had been engineered, it would’ve used the backbones that we know. And there’s none of that in that virus. And let’s say it was a brand-new backbone. Well, it wouldn’t look like what it’s looking like, because we can find every piece of that virus. We can find these pieces in other very similar viruses that circulate in the wild. From the genetic information, it’s clearly not an engineered virus.

Elodie Ghedin and most experts believe the virus, officially called SARS-CoV-2, passed from a wild animal into humans, perhaps in the wild animal market in Wuhan. Many early cases were traced to this market and a market like it was where the SARS virus jumped into a human in 2003. 

Elodie Ghedin: A lot of these coronaviruses are found in bats. But we haven’t found the exact match. We did find a close match in pangolins. It’s an anteater. It’s a wildlife that’s been traded. People, you know, will consume its meat. But they also use in Chinese medicine, its scales.

Scott Pelley: Is there a way to know that this virus, SARS-CoV-2 emerged from the wild into the human population? Or has that not been proven yet?

Peter Daszak: Well, I’m a scientist. And what I do is I look at the evidence around a hypothesis. There is a huge amount of evidence that these viruses repeatedly emerge into people from wild animals in rural areas through things like hunting and eating wildlife. There is zero evidence that this virus came out of a lab in China. 

Scott Pelley: Does the Wuhan Institute of Virology, to your knowledge, have this virus in its inventory?

Peter Daszak: No.

Scott Pelley: Why do you say so?

Peter Daszak: The closest known relative is one that’s different enough that it is not SARS-CoV-2. So, there’s just no evidence that anybody had it in the lab anywhere in the world prior to the outbreak. 

Matt Gaetz on “Tucker Carlson Tonight”: I have called on Secretary Azar to immediately halt this grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They have not been honest and at worst, negligent to the point of many, many deaths throughout the world. 

Dishonest and negligent allegations have now ended EcoHealth’s carefully reviewed research designed to stop pandemics. Representative Matt Gaetz wore a gas mask on the floor of the House to lampoon the crisis. This was back in the beginning of March, weeks before masks were common. Peter Daszak, whose researchers wear masks to shield them from viruses in the wild, says his team is now facing layoffs. 

Peter Daszak: This politicization of science is really damaging. You know, the conspiracy theories out there have essentially closed down communication between scientists in China and scientists in the U.S. We need that communication in an outbreak to learn from them how they control it so we can control it better. It’s sad to say, but it will probably cost lives. By sort of narrow-mindedly focusing in on ourselves, or on labs, or on certain cultural politics, we miss the real enemy. 

Produced by Ashley Velie. Associate producer, Dina Zingaro. Broadcast associate, Ian Flickinger. Edited by April Wilson.

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Senator Dumped Up to $1.6 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness — ProPublica

Is the United States Prepared for COVID-19?

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Soon after he offered public assurances that the government was ready to battle the coronavirus, the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, sold off a significant percentage of his stocks, unloading between $582,029 and $1.56 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 29 separate transactions.

As the head of the intelligence committee, Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has access to the government’s most highly classified information about threats to America’s security. His committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings around this time, according to a Reuters story.

A week after Burr’s sales, the stock market began a sharp decline and has lost about 30% since.

On Thursday, Burr came under fire after NPR obtained a secret recording from Feb. 27, in which the lawmaker gave a VIP group at an exclusive social club a much more dire preview of the economic impact of the coronavirus than what he had told the public.

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“Senator Burr filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the U.S. and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak,” his spokesperson said. “As the situation continues to evolve daily, he has been deeply concerned by the steep and sudden toll this pandemic is taking on our economy.”

Burr is not a particularly wealthy member of the Senate: Roll Call estimated his net worth at $1.7 million in 2018, indicating that the February sales significantly shaped his financial fortunes and spared him from some of the pain that many Americans are now facing.

He was one of the authors of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, which shapes the nation’s response to public health threats like the coronavirus. Burr’s office did not respond to requests for comment about what sort of briefing materials, if any, on the coronavirus threat Burr may have seen as chair of the intelligence committee before his selling spree.

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According to the NPR report, Burr told attendees of the luncheon held at the Capitol Hill Club: “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history … It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”

He warned that companies might have to curtail their employees’ travel, that schools could close and that the military might be mobilized to compensate for overwhelmed hospitals.

The luncheon was organized by the Tar Heel Circle, a club for businesses and organizations in North Carolina that are charged up to $10,000 for membership and are promised “interaction with top leaders and staff from Congress, the administration, and the private sector.”

Burr’s public comments had been considerably less dire. In a Feb. 7 op-ed that he co-authored with another senator, he assured the public that “the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus.” He wrote, “No matter the outbreak or threat, Congress and the federal government have been vigilant in identifying gaps in its readiness efforts and improving its response capabilities.”

How soon regions run out of hospital beds depends on how fast the novel coronavirus spreads and how many open beds they had to begin with. Here’s a look at the whole country. You can also search for your region.

Members of Congress are required by law to disclose their securities transactions.

Burr was one of just three senators who in 2012 opposed the bill that explicitly barred lawmakers and their staff from using nonpublic information for trades and required regular disclosure of those trades. In opposing the bill, Burr argued at the time that insider trading laws already applied to members of Congress. President Barack Obama signed the bill, known as the STOCK Act, that year.

Stock transactions of lawmakers are reported in ranges. Burr’s Feb. 13 selling spree was his largest stock selling day of at least the past 14 months, according to a ProPublica review of Senate records. Unlike his typical disclosure reports, which are a mix of sales and purchases, all of the transactions were sales.

His biggest sales included companies that are among the most vulnerable to an economic slowdown. He dumped up to $150,000 worth of shares of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, a chain based in the United States that has lost two-thirds of its value. And he sold up to $100,000 of shares of Extended Stay America, an economy hospitality chain. Shares of that company are now worth less than half of what they did at the time Burr sold.

The assets come from accounts that are held by Burr, belong to his spouse or are jointly held.

Do you have access to information about the coming corporate and economic bailouts that should be public? Email Robert at robert.faturechi@propublica.org or reach him on Signal/WhatsApp at 213-271-7217. Here’s how to send tips and documents to ProPublica securely.

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Canada reports no new deaths from coronavirus for the first time since March – CBS News

Canada reported no new deaths from COVID-19 on Friday for the first time in six months. The last time the country reported no new deaths from the virus on March 15, at the start of lockdowns in North America due to the pandemic, Reuters reports.

As of Friday evening, over 6 million people had been tested for COVID-19 in Canada, 2.1% of which came back positive. Some 702 new cases were reported on Friday, but no new deaths, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported. 

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, Quebec reported one new death on September 11, but Ontario removed a previously reported death. That meant the number of deaths reported, 9,163, remained unchanged from the previous day.

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As the numbers improve, “I am reminded of the ways Canadians have pulled together to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, said Thursday in a statement. “We have been physically apart from each other in order to plank the curve, but we have found new ways to be together, and connected, while at a distance.” 

The majority of cases, 80.0%, and deaths, 93.7%, have been reported by Ontario and Quebec.

Coronavirus fatalities spiked in April and steadily increased until July, data from the country’s health department shows, before starting to plateau over the summer. 71.3% of deaths in Canada were people over the age of 80. 

Several Canadian provinces have started easing lockdown restrictions, as schools reopen for in-person classes, resulting in a recent spike in cases. 

Compared to the U.S., its southern neighbor, Canada has had fewer coronavirus infections and deaths. The country has 137,676 COVID-19 cases and 9,214 deaths as of Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Comparatively, the U.S. surpassed 6.4 million cases and 193,000 deaths as of Saturday. 

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Seven states doing surprisingly little to curb spread of coronavirus

Rachel Maddow reports that according to the National Governors Association, seven states have not issued any state-wide mandates about the size of gatherings, restaurants and bars, or closing schools to help prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

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Congressional investigation finds over $1 billion in coronavirus aid fraud

Over $1 billion in emergency coronavirus aid relief went to companies that “double dipped” and received multiple Paycheck Protection Program loans in violation of the program’s rules, according to a preliminary analysis released Tuesday by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

Congressional investigators identified multiple areas of potential waste and fraud in the program, often referred to as PPP, which was part of the $2 trillion CARES Act. The program offered qualifying small businesses up to $10 million in emergency and forgivable loans to shore up their payrolls and meet basic expenses due to business impacts from the coronavirus and lockdown periods. The program gave loans to nearly 4.9 million small businesses for a total of $521 billion. As designed, the program still has $133 million in untapped funds.

The latest analysis “suggests a high risk that PPP loans may have been diverted from small businesses truly in need to ineligible businesses or even to criminals,” according to the report, which was released as part of a subcommittee hearing with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday afternoon.

Mnuchin testifies on coronavirus relief: ‘There is more work to be done’

“Secretary Mnuchin has previously testified that, given the need to get relief money out quickly, it was inevitable that Treasury, and I quote, ‘ran into a lot of issues,'” Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., chairman of the subcommittee, wrote in his opening statement. “That is a false dichotomy: Taxpayers should not have to choose between quickly getting aid to those who need it and wasting federal funds, and there are simple steps that could have been taken to improve oversight and reduce fraud.”

The subcommittee found over 10,000 loans in which the borrowers obtained more than one loan. Under the administration’s rules to audit only loans over $2 million, only 65 of the loans would otherwise have been subject to additional review.

Over 600 loans, for nearly $100 million, went to companies that had been barred or suspended from doing business with the federal government. More than 350 loans, worth nearly $200 million, went to government contractors flagged by the federal government for performance or integrity issues. Over 11,000 borrowers had red flags in the government’s System for Award Management, such as mismatched addresses.

Lawmakers said fraudsters are well aware of the limited oversight of the loan plan.

The subcommittee called on the Treasury Department to adopt a “risk-based” audit plan to stop further waste. It said that the current plan to audit only loans over $2 million “is plainly insufficient” and that “fraudsters are well aware of this limited audit plan and the limited program oversight.”

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The Small Business Administration, which was responsible for overseeing the program, directed reporters to review a report written by the subcommittee’s Republican staff.

“Many items are addressed,” SBA Administrator Jim Billimoria wrote in an email.

The Republican report called the subcommittee’s work a “partisan investigation” but acknowledged that there had been some “minimal fraud.”

“While there were some challenges implementing the program, as would be expected in implementing a program of this size on an expedited timeline, SBA processed applications quickly and avoided fraud to the extent that is typical of disaster relief and other large government programs,” staff members wrote.

As the program moves into reviewing loan forgiveness applications, “SBA should remain vigilant to ensure loan forgiveness only extends to businesses who complied with the letter of the law,” they wrote.

Mark Walsh, director of FactSquared, a Washington, D.C.-based data analytics firm, who was head of the SBA’s Office of Investment and Innovation during the Obama administration, said, “There will always be bad actors.”

Walsh said it was premature to declare that the level of fraud found so far was acceptable when it was only likely to grow. “Let’s see how deep this goes. Let’s keep pursuing it,” he said.

He recommended three ways the program could move forward and tackle remaining issues: bringing in external staff members to help process applications; prioritizing time-sensitive sectors, such as restaurants, which have suffered an outsize proportion of losses due to the pandemic; and increasing penalties for violations.

Watchdogs said the report underscores the need for more sunlight in the loan process.

“President Donald Trump’s administration failed to design and implement a program that would help actual small businesses and their workers,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US, a government waste watchdog. “Instead, it cut corners and kept the American people in the dark. In the end, the wealthy and well-connected were showered with our tax dollars and fraudsters took advantage of the program’s troubling lack of transparency.”

Experts said the errors highlight the need for rigorous oversight and openness.

Under significant pressure from lawmakers, the Treasury Department in July released a partly anonymized list of applicants, redacting the names of businesses that received loans of $150,000 or less.

“The failure to install adequate safeguards, although perhaps understandable given the rush to get money to struggling businesses, makes the need for full transparency all the more important,” wrote Neil Barofsky, a partner in the litigation department of Jenner & Block LLP. Barofsky was an investigator into the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, which bailed out a variety of industries during the Great Recession.

“Before another penny is authorized, the SBA must release all of the details of all loan recipients,” he wrote.

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covid-19

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Is Now Linked to More Than 250,000 Coronavirus Cases

The inevitable fallout from last month’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, an annual event that packed nearly 500,000 people into a small town in South Dakota, is becoming clear, and the emerging picture is grim. 

According to a new study, which tracked anonymized cellphone data from the rally, over 250,000 coronavirus cases have now been tied to the 10-day event, one of the largest to be held since the start of the pandemic. It drew motorcycle enthusiasts from around the country, many of whom were seen without face coverings inside crowded bars, restaurants, and other indoor establishments. 

The explosion in cases, the study from the Germany-based IZA Institute of Labor Economics finds, is expected to reach $12 billion in public health costs.

“The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally represents a situation where many of the ‘worst-case scenarios’ for super-spreading occurred simultaneously,” the researchers wrote, “the event was prolonged, included individuals packed closely together, involved a large out-of-town population, and had low compliance with recommended infection countermeasures such as the use of masks.” 

The conclusion, while staggering, is unlikely to surprise to public health officials who warned that proceeding with the rally could be disastrous, particularly given the region’s relaxed attitude towards social distancing guidelines and some of the attendees’ mockery of the pandemic. “Screw COVID. I went to Sturgis,” read one t-shirt from the rally, where overwhelming support for President Trump was the norm. 

The study comes on the heels of the first reported death from the event, a Minnesota man in his 60’s who attended the rally who died last week. South Dakota now has one of the country’s highest rates of coronavirus cases. 

This content was originally published here.

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covid-19

Opinion | Coronavirus Is Killing Silently. Here’s How to Treat It Before It’s Too Late. – The New York Times

To my amazement, most patients I saw said they had been sick for a week or so with fever, cough, upset stomach and fatigue, but they only became short of breath the day they came to the hospital. Their pneumonia had clearly been going on for days, but by the time they felt they had to go to the hospital, they were often already in critical condition.

In emergency departments we insert breathing tubes in critically ill patients for a variety of reasons. In my 30 years of practice, however, most patients requiring emergency intubation are in shock, have altered mental status or are grunting to breathe. Patients requiring intubation because of acute hypoxia are often unconscious or using every muscle they can to take a breath. They are in extreme duress. Covid pneumonia cases are very different.

A major reason this pandemic is straining our health system is the alarming severity of lung injury patients have when they arrive in emergency rooms. Covid-19 overwhelmingly kills through the lungs. And because so many patients are not going to the hospital until their pneumonia is already well advanced, many wind up on ventilators, causing shortages of the machines. And once on ventilators, many die.

Avoiding the use of a ventilator is a huge win for both patient and the health care system. The resources needed for patients on ventilators are staggering. Vented patients require multiple sedatives so that they don’t buck the vent or accidentally remove their breathing tubes; they need intravenous and arterial lines, IV medicines and IV pumps. In addition to a tube in the trachea, they have tubes in their stomach and bladder. Teams of people are required to move each patient, turning them on their stomach and then their back, twice a day to improve lung function.

There is a way we could identify more patients who have Covid pneumonia sooner and treat them more effectively — and it would not require waiting for a coronavirus test at a hospital or doctor’s office. It requires detecting silent hypoxia early through a common medical device that can be purchased without a prescription at most pharmacies: a pulse oximeter.

Pulse oximetry is no more complicated than using a thermometer. These small devices turn on with one button and are placed on a fingertip. In a few seconds, two numbers are displayed: oxygen saturation and pulse rate. Pulse oximeters are extremely reliable in detecting oxygenation problems and elevated heart rates.

Pulse oximeters helped save the lives of two emergency physicians I know, alerting them early on to the need for treatment. When they noticed their oxygen levels declining, both went to the hospital and recovered (though one waited longer and required more treatment). Detection of hypoxia, early treatment and close monitoring apparently also worked for Boris Johnson, the British prime minister.

Widespread pulse oximetry screening for Covid pneumonia — whether people check themselves on home devices or go to clinics or doctors’ offices — could provide an early warning system for the kinds of breathing problems associated with Covid pneumonia.

People using the devices at home would want to consult with their doctors to reduce the number of people who come to the E.R. unnecessarily because they misinterpret their device. There also may be some patients who have unrecognized chronic lung problems and have borderline or slightly low oxygen saturations unrelated to Covid-19.

This content was originally published here.

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covid-19

Stop kissing, wear a mask while having sex to prevent coronavirus, Tam says – National | Globalnews.ca

Skip kissing and consider wearing a mask when having sex to protect yourself from catching the coronavirus, Canada’s chief medical officer said on Wednesday, adding that going solo remains the lowest risk sexual option in a pandemic.

Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement there is little chance of catching COVID-19 from semen or vaginal fluid, but sexual activity with new partners does increase the risk of contracting the virus, particularly if there is close contact like kissing.

“Like other activities during COVID-19 that involve physical closeness, there are some things you can do to minimize the risk of getting infected and spreading the virus,” she said.

Skip kissing, avoid face-to-face closeness, wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose, and monitor yourself and your partner for symptoms ahead of any sexual activity, Tam said.

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“The lowest risk sexual activity during COVID-19 involves yourself alone,” she added.










Canada still determining percentage of COVID-19 vaccinations needed to be effective on wider scale: Tam


Sexual health is an important part of overall health, Tam said, and by taking precautions, “Canadians can find ways to enjoy physical intimacy while safeguarding the progress we have all made containing COVID-19.”

Canada has reported 129,425 cases of COVID-19 and 9,132 deaths, as of Sept 1. New daily cases are far below peak volumes, but there has been a recent uptick, driven by more infections in certain western Canadian provinces.

This content was originally published here.