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May 2020 Newsletter – Worst President Ever

I wrote this for the May 2020 issue of the Urban News.

I have been trying to think of some tune that would elevate my mood. I thought of “Love Train” by the O’Jays. Of course, there’s Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” Then there’s Katrina’s “Walking on Sunshine.” But none of these tunes really seem to hit the spot. Ricky Martin’s “Living La Vida Loca,” James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” is a perennial pick-me-up, but not this time. Finally, there is “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

Well, I’m sorry, but I’m in a funk. None of these tunes is changing my mood. As of this writing, the United States has more than 1.1 million Americans who been infected with the coronavirus and more than 70,000 deaths. 70,000! That is more than three-quarters of the population of Asheville. (To put this in perspective, there were 39,773 firearm deaths in the US for all of 2017.)

This is why I am dysphoric. I know that Jared Kushner, president’s son-in-law and top aide, recently said that the administration has done an outstanding job with the coronavirus. My first response is “HAH!” That is not reality; that is political posturing. The Trump administration has done a terrible job.

Petri Dishes for the Coronavirus

Last month, in this newspaper, I stressed that I was worried about nursing homes. In nursing homes there is the perfect combination of elderly patients, close quarters, and a population with multiple comorbidities. That is the perfect environment for the coronavirus to grow, thrive, and kill.

Unfortunately, I was right. Many states did not enact any specific legislation to safeguard nursing homes. Facilities across the country became a fertile breeding ground for the coronavirus. Here in West Virginia, in Wayne County, 30 of the 41 residents at one nursing home tested positive for the novel coronavirus, as did 34 of the 68 staff—50%—in a county with a total population of less than 40,000. There were seven deaths from this one nursing home. After nursing homes made the national news, governors across the nation began enacting proclamations to make nursing homes safer, but it seems a little too late.

Unfortunately, when I was writing my newsletter last month, I didn’t even think about prisons. Prisons are overcrowded. So it’s not a surprise that at the Cook County jail, in Chicago, 276 inmates and 172 correctional officers tested positive for the coronavirus. Again, this is the perfect combination of people in close quarters who can easily and rapidly spread the virus between each other. Some prisons are trying to release some prisoners early in order to decrease overcrowding. One federal prison in Washington DC is shipping over 100 prisoners to West Virginia to decrease overcrowding. I am not sure if it is possible to do social distancing in a prison. This is a problem that no one seems all that eager to solve.

Huge coronavirus outbreaks are taking place at large meat processing plants. It appears that the owners of these plants did little to change their practices to try to decrease the possibility of a coronavirus infection. Over 20 of these plants have closed down because of coronavirus outbreaks—and now even Wendy’s is running out of hamburgers at some of its outlets! In his infinite wisdom (please understand, I’m inserting as much sarcasm as I can with eyerolling), President Trump signed an executive order ordering meat processing plants to stay open. Trump did not order these meatpacking plants to furnish all their workers with masks. He didn’t order them to begin testing all of their workers for the virus. He didn’t order frequent hand washing or social distancing. Instead, he issued an executive order which seems to make the problem worse.

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By |2020-06-02T06:35:28-04:00June 2nd, 2020|Coronavirus, Elections|Comments Off on May 2020 Newsletter – Worst President Ever

April 2020 Newsletter – Coronavirus

I published this in the Urban News

Coronavirus, Nursing Homes and Trump’s Complete Failure
Errington C Thompson, MD

It is kind of amazing. It has only been a couple of months, toward the end of December, when China announced that the discovery of a new virus in the city of Wuhan. It was a coronavirus. It was different than SARS, which we saw more than a decade ago. Two weeks later, in the middle of January, China announced the first death secondary to this novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

On January 20, a man in his thirties returned to the US from Wuhan and fell ill with the coronavirus. This man returned to his home in Washington state. By this time, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and other countries were reporting cases of the coronavirus. Ten days later, on January 30, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency.

In early February, in Kirkland, Washington, the Life Care Center nursing home seemed to be battling an unusual number of their residents’ contracting what appeared to be the flu. One resident after another got sick, and even after several days, these residents did not seem to be getting better. They were taken to the hospital: one after another died.

As of two weeks ago, 29 of these nursing home residents had died because of the Covid-19. According to a Washington Post article, 30 of the 43 remaining residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. Forty-six of the nursing home’s 180 employees have also tested positive. Which makes us ask, what special precautions did this nursing home take in early February to try to prevent the spread of this virus?

This is a new virus, yet in a very short period of time, we have learned a lot about it. It is a respiratory virus, meaning that it is passed from one human being to another, by mostly coughing and inhaling the virus. We know that it is highly contagious.

Currently we do not have a cure. Supportive treatment works in a lot of patients, but not all: there are many patients who are dying of the Covid-19 virus. We have heard reports of vaccines being developed, but they are not ready yet. We have heard that old drugs like hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin (touted by President Trump) may be useful in treating this virus, but experts have stated that these claims are highly dubious, at best.

One of the great myths that surround this virus is that it attacks only the elderly; this is 100% wrong. The other myth is that only the elderly will die with this virus. This is also wrong. Perfectly healthy, young, active people have contracted this virus, gotten sick, and even died.

It is now the beginning of April 2020. The coronavirus has been detected in all 50 states. Yes, it’s in North Dakota, New Mexico, and here in West Virginia. States all over the nation have enacted “social distancing” in order to try to stem the spread of the virus. All but nine states—all with Republican governors—have mandated “stay-at-home” orders closing countless restaurants and other businesses.

And as of April 3, there were almost 300,000 diagnosed cases of Covid-19, and more than 7,000 deaths from the virus, just in the United States.

Nursing Homes

With everything that has happened at the Kirkland Life Care Center, what precautions have nursing homes enacted? Are these precautions universal?

Nursing homes contain a population uniquely vulnerable to the coronavirus. It would seem reasonable that nursing homes would test every single patient. Then, if the nursing home does not have any patients with the coronavirus, its managers would make sure that the coronavirus never invades the nursing home. They would lock down the nursing home. No visitors who haven’t been tested. All patients coming in would have to be tested: and every new resident must have a negative test before entering the nursing home. All employees would need to be tested, on an ongoing, regular basis.

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By |2020-04-28T10:20:14-04:00April 28th, 2020|Coronavirus, Domestic Issues, Healthcare|Comments Off on April 2020 Newsletter – Coronavirus