COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
A year into the pandemic, Florida is booming and Republican Gov. DeSantis is taking credit
"Everyone told me I was wrong," DeSantis, a Republican, said in a fundraising appeal on Tuesday, drawing attention to his defiance against the pandemic. "I faced continued pressure from radical Democrats and the liberal media, but I refused to back down. It's clear: Florida got it right."

As many parts of the country embark on an uneasy march toward normalcy, Florida is not only back in business -- it's been in business for the better part of the past year. DeSantis' gamble to take a laissez faire approach appears to be paying off -- at least politically, at least for now, as other governors capturing attention in the opening phase of the pandemic now face steeper challenges.

Despite far fewer rules and restrictions, Florida lands nearly in the middle of all states on a variety of coronavirus metrics. The state has had about 3% more Covid-19 cases per capita than the US overall, but about 8% fewer deaths per capita. More than 32,000 Floridians have died of Covid-19, and the state's per capita death rate ranks 24th in the nation.

... DeSantis has prohibited cities and counties from fining people for refusing to wear masks and is stirring outrage among local officials by pushing to strip their authority to put such rules in place at all.


Throughout the pandemic, it's that defiant and often combative DeSantis who has increasingly become the darling of Republicans. He declines most interview requests, including from CNN, even as he frequently appears on Fox News and other propaganda platforms. He has been locked in one fight after another with the state's media over transparency on Covid statistics and other issues.

Yet his policies have boosted his standing inside his party, all but certainly closing the door to any Republican challenges. Potential Democratic contenders are already circling.

... Rep. Charlie Crist -- who served as Republican governor of the state from 2007 to 2011 and switched parties in 2012 -- is among the Democrats thinking about challenging DeSantis for re-election next year. He said he intended to make up his mind before summer.

Asked how he thought Florida had withstood the pandemic, Crist said: "It's a mixed bag, to be candid."

"We have a light at the end of the tunnel feeling and that really is a godsend," Crist told CNN in an interview in his office here. "On the other hand, there's about 33,000 of my fellow Floridians that are dead now. And that's incredibly sad, tragic and beyond unfortunate. So how are we doing? Well, we're slugging through it like the rest of the country is and just doing the best we can."

Crist and other Florida Democrats are calling for a US Justice Department investigation into whether DeSantis gave preference to donors after invitation-only vaccines clinics were set up in at least two upscale communities. The exclusive Covid-19 clinics allowed about 6,000 people to jump ahead of tens of thousands of seniors on waitlists in Manatee and Charlotte counties, where the drives happened.

"Was there preference given to certain Caucasian wealthy, Republican communities?" Crist said. "Because it certainly looks like it."
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/17/politics/ron-desantis-covid-florida/index.html

Early vaccines given to workers in Trump's Chicago tower, where hospital chief owns a condo
Employees at former president Donald Trump’s Chicago tower got special early access to coronavirus vaccines, arranged by a hospital whose chief operating officer owns a $2.7 million condo in Trump’s building, city officials said Wednesday.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) said she was “disappointed” that 72 employees of Trump’s hotel and condo tower had been vaccinated on March 10 and 11 — despite city guidelines saying that hotel employees would not be eligible until March 29.

“We have a finite amount of vaccine in the city. We’ve been really, really careful to make sure that we’re using it in a way that prioritizes the most vulnerable people who are most at risk and most at risk of spreading it,” Lightfoot said in a news conference Wednesday. She added: “We just can’t have something like this happen again.”


Lightfoot said the city had asked for more details about the Trump tower vaccination event from its organizer, Loretto Hospital. The small hospital is located in a majority-Black neighborhood nine miles from Trump’s downtown tower and says its mission is to provide vaccines to the “minority communities hardest hit” by the pandemic.

The hospital issued a statement saying that hospital executives had been “mistaken” about when hotel employees were eligible to be vaccinated.
Read the full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-chicago-vaccine/2021/03/17/9768694e-875b-11eb-82bc-e58213caa38e_story.html

A U.S. agency pledges to reimburse families for Covid-19 funeral costs.
The U.S. government says it will reimburse families of Covid-19 victims for funeral expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, best known for responding to hurricanes, floods and wildfires, said on Wednesday that it aimed to ease some of the financial stress caused by the coronavirus and that it would start reimbursing people next month.

“We are working with stakeholder groups to get their input on ways we can best provide this assistance, and to enlist their help with outreach to families and communities,” FEMA said in a statement. “In the meantime, people who have Covid-19 funeral expenses are encouraged to keep and gather documentation.”

To be eligible, the death must have occurred in the United States, including U.S. territories, and the death certificate must indicate that the death was attributed to Covid-19.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/03/18/world/covid-19-coronavirus#a-us-agency-pledges-to-reimburse-families-for-covid-19-funeral-costs

The pace of vaccination quickens as more Americans become eligible.

In the last week, we’ve seen increases in the number of cases in several states — scientists have made clear that things may get worse as new variants of this virus spread. Getting vaccinated is the best thing we can do to fight back against these variants. While millions of people are vaccinated, we need millions more to be vaccinated. And I’m proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have met my goal of administering 100 million shots to our fellow Americans. That’s weeks ahead of schedule. Eight weeks ago, only 8 percent of seniors, those most vulnerable to Covid-19, had received a vaccination. Today, 65 percent of people age 65 or older have received at least one shot. And 36 percent are fully vaccinated. This is a time for optimism, but it’s not a time for relaxation. I need all Americans, I need all of you to do your part. Keep the faith, keep wearing the mask, keep washing your hands and keep socially distanced. We’re going to beat this. We’re way ahead of schedule, but we’ve got a long way to go.
President Biden said Thursday that the United States was a day away from reaching his goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses in 100 days — with six weeks to spare before his self-imposed deadline.

“We’re way ahead of schedule,” Mr. Biden said in brief remarks from the White House, “but we have a long way to go.”

... Since Mr. Biden took office, 99.2 million shots have been administered across the country, the C.D.C. reported.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/03/18/world/covid-19-coronavirus#us-vaccine-pace-eligible

Family of man who died from Covid while incarcerated sues California prison system
The family of a man who died of Covid-19 in a California prison has filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s prison system and high-ranking prison administrators over their handling of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, attorneys representing the family of Daniel Ruiz filed a wrongful death lawsuit against California department of corrections and rehabilitation (CDCR) officials and several medical administrators at the California Institute for Men (CIM), an all men’s prison in southern California.

The suit alleges that prison officials and administrators acted with deliberate indifference when failing to take enough precautions to curb the spread of Covid during a May prison transfer that saw 122 men bussed from CIM to Corcoran and San Quentin State prisons. Before the transfer, San Quentin had reported no positive cases of Covid-19 and Corcoran had just one. But within a month of the transfer, Corcoran reported almost 130 infections and San Quentin reached nearly 1,200 cases.

Ruiz, 61, had been housed at San Quentin since January 2020. He contracted Covid shortly after the transfer, and died on 11 July.


The father of six children had asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which put him at high risk of succumbing to Covid-19. His family learned of his diagnosis and his two-week stay in a San Francisco hospital just days before his death, according to the lawsuit.
Read the full article: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/mar/18/california-coronavirus-prison-system-lawsuit

Lessons From The COVID-19 Crisis: Overcrowding Hospitals Cost Lives
Health care systems endured a stress test like no other over the past year as COVID-19 patients filled up hospital beds and intensive care units. Health care workers pleaded with the public to "flatten the curve," yet each surge in 2020 was worse than the next. Now two recent studies quantify the consequences of flooding hospitals with COVID-19 patients and add urgency to continued efforts to keep cases and hospitalizations down.

The research, from both the United States and the United Kingdom, shows that when ICUs fill up, COVID-19 patients' chances of dying from the disease rise dramatically — despite improvements in treatment and care developed since last spring.

In the first study, published in JAMA, researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs found a patient's chance of dying of COVID-19 nearly doubled if hospitalized when ICUs were busiest compared to times with fewer patients.

... Critical care is labor intensive and hospitals took extraordinary steps during waves of COVID-19. Many created makeshift ICUs or relied on nurses caring for more patients in a shift than normal.

... "The bottom line is that having really crowded hospitals is bad for your health."
Read the full article: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/03/18/974861952/lessons-from-the-covid-19-crisis-overcrowding-hospitals-cost-lives

House Addresses Anti-Asian Discrimination at Hearing

House Democrats on Thursday held the first congressional hearing on anti-Asian discrimination in three decades, in an effort to confront the spike in violence targeting the Asian community since the start of the pandemic.

“His targets were no accident. And what we know is that this day was coming. And because of crimes like this, I, as chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, or CAPAC, urged the committee to undertake this hearing because the Asian-American community has reached a crisis point that cannot be ignored. Well, what started out last January’s dirty looks and verbal assaults has escalated to physical attacks and violence against innocent Asian-Americans, and these attacks have increasingly become more deadly.” “Comments like these only build upon the legacy of racism, anti-Asian sentiment and insensitivity that seeks to divide our nation. So, yes, I was deeply shaken by the angry currents in our nation. A heated discourse at the highest levels of our government cannot be viewed in isolation from the ensuing violence in our communities.” “We shouldn’t be worried about having a committee of members of Congress policing our rhetoric because some evildoers go engage in some evil activity as occurred in Atlanta, Ga. Because when we start policing free speech, we’re doing the very thing that we’re condemning when we condemn what the Chinese Communist Party does to their country.” “We cannot turn a blind eye to people living in fear. I want to go back to something that Mr. Roy said earlier. Your president and your party and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want, but you don’t have to do it by putting a bull’s eye on the back of Asian-Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids. This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community, and to find solutions. And we will not let you take our voice away from us.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000007661702/anti-asian-discrimination-hearing.html

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable, but often include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste. Symptoms begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. Most people (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging) and 5% of patients suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction). At least a third of the people who are infected with the virus remain asymptomatic and do not develop noticeable symptoms at any point in time, but can spread the disease. Some patients continue to experience a range of effects—known as long COVID—for months after recovery and damage to organs has been observed. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate the long term effects of the disease.

Source: Coronavirus disease 2019 - Wikipedia