Tag Archives: Public Health

Public health experts urge police to stop using tear gas during coronavirus pandemic

Doctors say the gas can damage the respiratory system and aggravate COVID-19 symptoms or aid spread of the disease

OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 1: Protesters run away as police shoot tear gas and flash grenades to disperse the crowd on Broadway near the Oakland Police Department during the fourth day of protests over George Floyd’s death by the Minneapolis police in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
Vallejo Times-Herald, By Emily DeRuy, June 2, 2020

Public health experts are calling on police to stop using tear gas on people protesting the death of George Floyd.

An online petition started at the University of Washington and created with Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF, opposes the use of tear gas, suggesting it could “increase risk for COVID-19 by making the respiratory tract more susceptible to infection, exacerbating existing inflammation, and inducing coughing.”

Thousands of people have poured onto streets from Walnut Creek to San Jose in demonstrations sparked by Floyd’s death and video of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Those demonstrations have been met by tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and other measures from police.

While some health officials have worried the crowded demonstrations could spread COVID-19, the petition endorses the protests “as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States.”

The document encourages protestors to wear face coverings and stay six feet apart if possible. It also calls on police to avoid arresting and holding protestors in confined spaces like jails and police vans, “which are some of the highest-risk areas for COVID-19 transmission.”

Santa Clara County is urging people who attend protests to get tested for the virus within a few days. The county has opened free testing sites available to anyone regardless of whether they have symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prolonged exposure to a large dose of riot control agent like tear gas can have serious consequences, including respiratory failure possibly resulting in death.

Echoing the petition, a UCLA professor of medicine and public health told LAist he was especially worried about the potential harm caused when law enforcement officers rely on the gas.

“During this time when we’re protesting police brutality, the use of tear gas is causing more harm in the way of spreading COVID,” the professor, David Eisenman, told the news outlet. “There is some culpability on the police for using this method, which increases the sneezing and increases the coughing and therefore increases the spread.”

Solano County on re-opening: guide and links to 8 new documents on County website

By Roger Straw, May 8, 2020

Late on Thursday evening, Solano County Public Health added 8 new links to COVID-19 information on the County website.

The detail is welcome, although late to be posted.  The detail is also somewhat confusing and open to interpretation.

I will detail here the new material.  I will leave the analysis and critique to others, or maybe to a later posting here.

Inventory of changes on County website as of 8am Friday May 8 (changes most likely posted sometime between 6 and 9pm on 5/7)

  1. The County’s main Coronavirus page at top, “NEW Solano County Public Health amends the shelter at home order, enabling low-risk businesses to reopen starting Friday, May 8, 2020 with specific social distancing practices. Click here for more information about the roadmap.”
    1. The link “amends the shelter at home order” goes to a 14-page PDF, “ORDER OF THE COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICER No. 2020-07”.  The ORDER includes sections on Effective Date, Intent and Purpose, Guiding Principles for Resuming Activities, Prohibited Activities, Level of Risk (Low, Medium and High), Social Distancing, High-Risk Populations, General COVID-19 Business Precautions, and Enforcement.  It also includes Exhibit A – Previously Designated Essential Activities, Exhibit B – Low Risk Activity, Appendix A – Low Risk Activity – Golf Courses, Appendix B – Solano County Social Distancing Protocol (Updated May 5, 2020). Two additional pages are empty: Exhibit C – Medium Risk Activities and Exhibit D – High Risk Activities, both of which state, “Currently not permitted to be opened until the County Public Health Officer promulgates the necessary guidelines. Once issued, such guidelines will be inserted here.”
    2. The link “roadmap” goes to a web page, “Solano County COVID-19 Roadmap to Recovery”.   This page summarizes the May 8 re-opening of low-risk activities, stating that “low risk businesses can open starting May 8th, subject to specific social distancing practices.”  The summary at top begins with the following links:
      1. Another link to the Public Health Order (see above).
      2. A link to a similarly named but more detailed Roadmap to Recovery.  This is a 9-page PDF, revised May 7, 2020, that details Low Risk, Medium Risk and High Risk activities with color-coded guides to re-opening.  This document “outlines the criteria for reopening and the phases for lifting the stay at home order to guide critical decisions in support of the public’s health and well-being in the weeks and months ahead.”
      3. A link to a “press release about the amendment and roadmap.” The May 7, 2020 press release begins, “County Public Health Officer amends shelter-at-home order — low-risk businesses to reopen starting Friday subject to specific social distancing practices”.
        1. The press release announces “Starting May 8, 2020, low-risk businesses in Solano County may reopen providing they have implemented and maintain social distancing best practices for reducing the spread of COVID-19.” Acknowledging that enforcement will be near impossible, the document quotes Dr. Matyas, “Changes to lifting this order place a lot of responsibility on business owners, their staff and residents to make good decisions.”
        2. The press release states that “The FOX 40 News report and comments by Fairfield Councilwomen Moy are incorrect.”  That report (posted here on the Benicia Independent and subsequently removed), asserted that all Solano restaurants would be reopened by Friday, May 15.
        3. The press release announces the Supervisor meeting on May 12 when strategies for reopening medium-risk businesses will be considered, and links to “Details, including how to view and participate…included on the County’s website.” That link goes to a general page about Board of Supervisor meetings but with two new links:
          1. A bright red header box: “Solano County public meeting protocol in response to Coronavirus (COVID-19): CLICK HERE”. That page outlines how to access the live-streamed meeting, and how to submit public comments by email or phone.
          2. A link to Board Rules and Procedures, which goes to a 7 page PDF, the 2009 standing rules for Solano BOS meetings.

So yes, complicated.  I only hope this outline of the County’s new postings will help guide you to an understanding of the slow and careful openings that were passed by our Board of Supervisors on Tuesday May 5.  You, like me, might think it is still too soon to be opening these “low-risk” businesses.  And you, like me, might stay away from those businesses that do open.

Let’s all hope the County does NOT open “medium-risk” businesses when it considers the matter next Tuesday, May 12.  Consider attending or sending in your comment.  From the County press release: “The strategy for minimizing risk and the timeline for reopening of medium-risk businesses are still being reviewed and will be discussed further with the Solano County Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, starting at 9 a.m.  Details, including how to view and participate, are included on the County’s website at www.SolanoCounty.com/BOS.”

Solano County Public Health allows some businesses to reopen today (May 8)

“In Solano County, there is a great deal of confusion about what is actually happening.”

Coronavirus Bay Area: Solano County to reopen some retail stores for Phase 2

ABC7 News, By J.R. Stone, Thursday, May 7, 2020 11:00PM

SOLANO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) — Some Solano County businesses will reopen on Friday. The county public health officer gave the go-ahead just after 8 p.m. Thursday night. The order is similar to that of the Governor’s that takes effect Friday across the state.

Solano is one of just four local counties that are loosening restrictions. Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Cruz Counties are also taking action to make changes.

In Solano County, there is a great deal of confusion about what is actually happening.

“I asked what businesses over here gonna open up?” That question came from Bertha Thomas and every single other person we talked with on Thursday in Solano County. The health officer here is allowing low risk businesses that include clothing retail stores, pet grooming, florists, offices and parks.

Currently some businesses like Michaels are doing curbside service but the health officer says he fears curbside, which is part of the state recommendations, could be more dangerous due to the already long lines.

Because of that, businesses can open inside providing they have social distancing policies and post their plan so customers can see it.

“Yeah it’s confusing but you have to just deal with it,” says Timothy Payne of Vallejo.

And some are ready to deal with it. Especially the youngsters.

“We’re tired of being in the house,” says 14-year-old Lavita Johnson. She says this is a very tough time for kids and teens, especially ones who are in bad situations at home, “even if it’s just 20-30 minutes it’s a way to get away from all the problems.”

The number of cases here in Solano County continues to rise and there have been seven COVID-19 related deaths. Many we spoke with are now even more fearful.

“Imagine you go into a store there’s lots of people hardly any air circulating think of the people that you’re going to get infected,” says Manny Espinoza who is usually a wine country tour guide but is currently out of work.

But while the businesses may be opening, it’s uncertain if and when the customers will come back.

“So you’ll definitely start going out a little more? Oh no she’s not gonna let me but if I could I would,” says Johnson referring to her grandmother’s strict policies.

This change in Solano County does not include in-house dining at restaurants. We talked with the health officer about this and he tells us that is unlikely to happen even next week.

When you drown the government in the bathtub, people die

Washington Post, by Dana Milbank, April 10, 2020

A doctor wears a protective mask as he walks outside Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan on April 1. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)

I had been expecting this for 21 years.

“It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘when,’” the legendary epidemiologist D.A. Henderson told me in 1999 when we discussed the likelihood of a biological event causing mass destruction.

In 2001, I wrote about experts urging a “medical Manhattan Project” for new vaccines, antibiotics and antivirals.

Reporting on a congressional briefing in 2005, I quoted public health experts predicting a pandemic that would overwhelm hospitals and exhaust respirator supplies. “I want to emphasize the certainty that a pandemic will occur,” the Mayo Clinic’s Gregory Poland said.

In 2009, during the swine flu scare, I relayed warnings about “the nation’s patchwork of a public health system” and the need for better “vaccine and public-health infrastructure before a more severe pandemic comes along.”

I repeat these things not to pretend I was prescient but to show that the nation’s top scientists and public health experts were shouting these warnings from the rooftops — deafeningly, unanimously and consistently. In the years after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Bush and Obama administrations seemed to be listening.

But then came the tea party, the anti-government conservatism that infected the Republican Party in 2010 and triumphed with President Trump’s election. Perhaps the best articulation of its ideology came from the anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who once said: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

They got their wish. What you see today is your government, drowning — a government that couldn’t produce a rudimentary test for coronavirus, that couldn’t contain the pandemic as other countries have done, that couldn’t produce enough ventilators for the sick or even enough face masks and gowns for health-care workers.

Now it is time to drown this disastrous philosophy in the bathtub — and with it the poisonous attitude that the government is a harmful “beast” that must be “starved.” It is not an exaggeration to say that this ideology caused the current debacle with a deliberate strategy to sabotage government.

Overall, entitlement programs continued to grow, and the Pentagon’s many friends protected its budget. And Trump has abandoned responsible budgeting. But in one area, the tea party types, with their sequesters, debt-limit standoffs and other austerity schemes, did all too well. Between 2011 and 2018, nondefense discretionary spending fell by 12 percent — and, with it, the government’s already iffy ability to prevent and ameliorate public health emergencies unraveled.

John Auerbach, president of Trust for America’s Health, described for me the fallout: Over a dozen years, the Public Health Emergency Preparedness grants to state and local public health departments were cut by a third and the Hospital Preparedness Program cut in half, 60,000 jobs were lost at state and local public health departments, and similarly severe cuts were made to laboratories. A $15 billion grant program under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the Prevention and Public Health Fund, was plundered for other purposes.

Now Americans are paying for this with their lives — and their livelihoods.

If the United States had more public health capacity, it “absolutely” would have been on par with Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, which have far fewer cases, Auerbach said. South Korea has had 4 deaths per 1 million people, Singapore 1 death per million, and Taiwan 0.2 deaths per million. The United States: 39 per million — and rising fast.

To have mitigated the virus the way Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan did would have required spending about $4.5 billion a year on public health, Auerbach estimates. Instead, we’re spending trillions to rescue the economy.

Democrats aren’t blameless in pandemic preparedness. And some Republicans tried to be responsible — but the starve-the-beast crowd wouldn’t hear of it.

After Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) voted for the 2009 stimulus bill because he secured $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health, he was essentially forced out of the GOP. Rising in the party were people such as Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), whose far-right Republican Study Committee in 2011 proposed a plan, applauded by GOP leadership, to cut NIH funding by 40 percent.

In 2014, NIH chief Francis Collins said there likely would have been a vaccine for the Ebola outbreak if not for a 10 percent cut in NIH funding between 2010 and 2014 that included halving Ebola vaccine research. Republicans jeered.

In 2016, when President Barack Obama requested $1.9 billion to fight the Zika virus, Republicans in Congress sat on the request for seven months and then cut it nearly in half.

Since then, Trump has proposed cuts to the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so severe even congressional Republicans rejected them. And last month they fed the “beast” a $2.2 trillion feast to fight the pandemic.

Now they know: When you drown the government in the bathtub, people die.