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The US is Botching COVID-19 Testing as Outbreak Spreads to 22 States

Nearly 2,000 Americans have been tested for the virus so far and roughly 10% tested positive.

Emma Fiala

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COVID-19 Testing

(TMU) — News of the novel coronavirus and the resulting potentially deadly disease spreading throughout the United States and across the world continues to develop rapidly. According to the map managed by Johns Hopkins, there are now over 101,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 3,500 deaths worldwide.

Because it can be difficult and overwhelming to keep up, we’ve sifted through hundreds of articles and pulled out what we feel are the most important developments of the last 24 hours so you don’t have to.

Here are five huge developments that you need to know about the global outbreak of COVID-19.

The U.S. is Botching COVID-19 Testing

The CDC is reportedly refusing to test a nurse with symptoms that volunteered to assist with COVID-19 patients at a California hospital.

According to the letter posted on Twitter by Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, the CDC claims that she cannot be tested because she was properly protected during her time volunteering.

Meanwhile, Dr. Feigl-Ding said that 22 million Californians are now eligible for free medically necessary COVID-19 testing. However, the example above indicates there still may be a discrepancy when it comes to deciding which situations warrant testing and which ones don’t.

A thread posted to Twitter on Thursday by a man claiming his uncle has tested positive for COVID-19 in California, says that his case is being mismanaged.

Scott Bell tweeted that his aunt, who is caring for his uncle, had been moving throughout the community before she was eventually quarantined.

On Thursday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged that there are not enough COVID-19 tests currently available to meet the demand for them as the outbreak spreads. Pence, who is in charge of national coronavirus response, previously said that “every American can be tested.”

Pence said: “We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.”

According to the Atlantic, only 1,895 Americans have been tested for the virus and so far roughly 10% tested positive.

Amid the shortage of tests, six U.S. states are not currently testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

These states include Alabama, Maine, Ohio, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Wyoming, according to the CDC. The CDC recently relaxed the requirements needed for people to qualify for testing. 

Best Case Scenario? 15 Million Deaths

Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) have looked at seven outbreak scenarios and how those various scenarios may affect the world’s wealth.

The researcher’s best case scenario predicts a global GDP loss of $2.4 trillion and a death toll of 15 million, according to Business Insider 

In the worst case scenario, the global death toll could reach a staggering 68 million people.

World’s Busiest Places Empty Amid Outbreak

The Guardian has published before and after photos of typically busy locations throughout the world emptied of people due to the viruses’ spread. 

Bethlehem’s streets appeared empty on Friday with the exception of masked Palestinian police patrolling the area. On Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a 30-day state of emergency after cases were reported in Bethlehem.

While some cities and countries have put a moratorium on large public gatherings with or without a declared state of emergency, others are operating as normal. Unfortunately in those areas, some people are providing perfect examples as to why some feel moratoriums are the safest route.

It was revealed on Friday that a New Zealand man who has been confirmed to be infected with the virus attended a crowded Tool concert in Auckland on February 28. The man, who is in his 30s, attended the concert only days after returning from northern Italy with his partner who also has COVID-19.

At a news conference, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, ministry of health director-general of health, said:

He was in the general admission standing area in the front left-hand quadrant. We encourage people who were in the general admission standing area to be aware of symptoms of COVID-19.”

On Thursday, in what had been the country’s high single-day increase, Italy reported 41 new deaths bringing the country’s total to 148. The total dead has since increased to 197. Italy has the second highest death rate behind that of China.

The first COVID-19 death has been reported in the UK as the number of cases doubled over a 48-hour period as Europe experiences a shortage in medicines and face masks due to disruptions in the supply caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak. Yahoo reports that many countries throughout the world rely on China for both drugs and drug ingredients.

World health officials are warning countries to take the risk of COVID-19 more seriously. In addition to the health risk, CNA reports, “The epidemic has wreaked havoc on international business, tourism, sports events, and schools, with almost 300 million students sent home worldwide.”

Singapore minister and co-head of the country’s virus taskforce, Lawrence Wong, says that the coronavirus is “starting to look like a global pandemic.”

What’s Really Happening in China?

According to the Guardian, a Chinese official visiting Wuhan was heckled by local residents who yelled “fake, fake, everything is fake” as she inspected work related to quarantined residents.

Chinese state media surprisingly reported, rather than censored, videos of this nature. According to a government-affiliated WeChat account, the fakes surrounding the incident were “basically true.

Also in China, the Chinese outlet that had previously reported the story of a recovered COVID-19 patient who later died after testing negative for the virus and being discharged, removed the report. 

COVID-19 Cases Explode Across the US

The U.S. state of Indiana has declared a public heath emergency as the Indiana State Department of Health announced a patient who tested positive for COVID-19 in Marion County. According to reports, the person had recently traveled to Boston. 

Indian Governor Holcomb said:

With the help of our federal, state and local partners, Indiana is responding to this case as we have planned and prepared for weeks. The Hoosier who has been diagnosed has taken responsible steps to stay isolated.”

Additional U.S. states including Colorado, Maryland, and Nevada have reported their first cases of the novel coronavirus. 

U.S. President Donald Trump cancelled his scheduled visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Atlanta headquarters, according to a senior White House official.

Houston has announced the city’s sixth case. May Sylvester Turner said, “There remains no evidence of community spread, no need to alter our normal activity in Houston and certainly no reason to let fear grip our lives.”

The number of people quarantined in New York City continues to increase. According to the New York Times, the city’s Department of Health is monitoring 2,773 people who are currently self-quarantining at home. Most of those being monitored had recently returned from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, and Japan, according to New York City health commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

The Daily Beast reports that New York City has 22 confirmed cases as of Thursday afternoon, as the city prepares for “mayhem.”

Mayor Bill De Blasio said:

We are going to see more cases like this as community transmission becomes more common. We want New Yorkers to be prepared and vigilant, not alarmed. We are taking the same decisive steps in every case to shut transmission down: isolate and test each suspected case, trace close contacts, and isolate and test them as well.

Local Seattle outlet KOMO has confirmed that the area’s first quarantine village will utilize an EconoLodge hotel in Kent, WA. KOMO reports that Seattle and King country will establish three quarantine villages total and that no public announcement has been made thus far.

KOMO’s Matt Markovich said on Twitter:

“I find this very interesting. Media gathering for a tour arrange by King Co at the Econolodge in Kent the new location for a quarantine village for COVID-19 patients but motel employees they have no clue motel’s new purpose. Receptionist didn’t know anything.” 

Also in Washington, families of residents at the nursing home at the center of the Seattle-area COVID-19 outbreak are speaking out. During a live press conference, families detailed their varied experiences in receiving contradictory information.

Some families have been told that, despite being quarantined with patients diagnosed with COVID-19, their loved ones would not be tested. Still another was told that their deceased relative died of “natural causes” and would not be tested for COVID-19, despite the outbreak.

Pat Herrick, daughter of a decease resident, said that she was told Thursday morning that her mother had died and was later told that her mother was alive and doing well, before ultimately being told that her mother did in fact die of “natural causes” and was showing no signs of the virus before her death.

Over 20,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that Lake Washington School District (LWSD) cancel classes amid the outbreak in Washington state. LWSD said in a statement, “School closures can be disruptive and costly for families.”

Jeffrey Duchin, health officer for both Seattle and King County, allegedly asked, “Do we really want to close schools or do we want to keep schools open so faculty can continue to come in and serve children?”

The Northshore School District cancelled classes on Thursday.

Please check out yesterday’s update and video if you missed them, and look for our next article summarizing recent developments.

Be sure to follow @COVID19report on Telegram for updates.

By Emma Fiala | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Health

California Bill Backed by PTSD War Veterans Groups Would Legalize Psychedelics Statewide

Elias Marat

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California could soon decriminalize psychedelics statewide if one legislator’s new bill is passed, marking another step by the Golden State to do away with laws seen by critics as antiquated vestiges of the failed U.S. war on drugs.

On Thursday, Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco introduced Bill 519, which would comprehensively decriminalize the use of and possession of psychedelics, following the lead of such places as Oakland, Santa Cruz, the District of Columbia, and Oregon, which have all decriminalized the drugs to varying degrees.

Under the proposed law, a range of psychedelic drugs including psilocybin – the hallucinogen in “magic” mushrooms – psilocyn, 3,4-MDMA (also known as molly or ecstasy), LSD, ketamine, DMT, ibogaine, and mescaline would all be decriminalized. Like a previous law passed in 2018 that expunged cannabis-related convictions from the records of Californians, Bill 519 would also wipe clean prior convictions for the use or possession of drugs.

While the comprehensive decriminalization measure would open the door to any sort of use of the drugs, not limited to medical, it would also be tied to measures that endorse the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of psychedelics which have gained increased recognition from health experts and researchers in recent years.

Given the severity of our mental health crisis, we shouldn’t be criminalizing people for using drugs that have shown significant promise in treating mental health conditions,” Wiener said in a statement. “People should be able to seek alternative treatment for diseases like anxiety, depression, and PTSD, and we need to make science-based treatments available to those in need.”

The bill has also been heavily supported by two groups, the Heroic Hearts Project and VETS (Vets Exploring Treatment Solutions), both nonprofit organizations that assist veterans in addressing mental health challenges stemming from trauma, such as PTSD.

The strategy tout the medical benefits of the drugs is one that has been used with success in past efforts by drug policy reform advocates.

“That’s how it worked with cannabis,” Oregonian drug policy reform advocate Anthony Johnson told the Guardian. Johnson helped lead efforts in his state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of basically all illicit drugs through Measure 110, which voters overwhelmingly approved in November.

“It’s definitely a way to help people that need it first and foremost, but also then to educate the public about these substances of how the drug war has been a failed policy and how there is a better approach,” Johnson added.

In the case of Oregon’s Measure 109, which cleared the way for the all-out legalization of psilocybin mushrooms, petitioners highlighted the need to end the prohibition of the substance as a means toward treating mental health challenges through alternative methods.

“Healthcare professionals, veterans, mothers, people struggling with depression, anxiety, addiction and end of life distress, community organizations, and so many others answered to call for a new option to help so many who are suffering,” a coalition of Oregon advocates said in a statement last November following voters’ overwhelming approval of the legal psilocybin therapy bill.

As has been the case in other states, however, the largest obstacle to decriminalization has been law enforcement, who cite concerns over public safety, and the private prison industry which enjoys generous profits from state contracts to incarcerate drug users. However, state Senator Wiener hopes that the testimony of veterans will help convince opponents of the need to shed their preconceptions and biases toward users of psychedelic drugs.

“There’s a stereotype of who’s using psychedelics, but it’s much broader than that and when you have veterans coming into the Capitol talking about how psychedelics help them with PTSD and help them get their lives back, that’s incredibly powerful for legislators,” Wiener explained.

Among those veterans is 38-year-old veteran Juliana Mercer, who spent 16 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, including 10 years of active duty service over the course of one tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

As a four-year member of the wounded warriors unit, Mercer saw unspeakable horrors that left an indelible impression on her psyche – ultimately resulting in long-term trauma that she was largely unable to address.

“I lost quite a few friends and just saw a lot of a lot of damage and destruction along the way,” Mercer said. “I put all of that stuff away and kind of forgot about it for a while, and once I slowed down it was all just sitting there and I didn’t know what to do with it.”

While her first experience with psychedelics was recreational, she eventually gained a sense of connectedness that had been absent for years. She eventually reached out to the Heroic Hearts Project a year and a half ago to undergo ayahuasca therapy, which she said had completely exceeded expectations in allowing her to release “years of grief.”

“I kept hearing that when you do some of these plant medicines, you’ll be able to do 10 years worth of work in one session,” Mercer explained. “Just one of my sessions really brought out all of that pain and the grief that I didn’t even know was in there and allowed me to just completely release it and expel it, things that I had no idea were there.”

For licensed clinical social worker Lauren Taus, therapies involving plants such as ayahuasca and psilocybin are simply strong tools rather than cure-alls for mental health challenges. However, with the ongoing pandemic compounding a mental health crisis that has long been felt across the United States, Taus is adamant that such potent tools must be decriminalized.

“The causes of trauma are multiplying way faster than the solutions,” Taus said. “Current treatment is generally not very effective.”

“Psychedelic medicine has been engaged with globally for eons,” she added. “This stuff works and we deserve to have access to solutions that will be sustainable.”

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Good News

Michael Jordan Gifts $10 Million to Open 2 More Health Clinics For Uninsured In His Hometown

Elias Marat

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NBA superstar and Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan is making big philanthropic moves in his hometown community of Wilmington, North Carolina, by donating $10 million to help open a pair of new health clinics for uninsured, under-insured and generally poor members of the community.

The announcement came Monday morning and was made by nonprofit healthcare group Novant Health Clinics, whom Jordan has been working with to help bring much-needed access to primary and preventive care to low-income residents.

“I am very proud to once again partner with Novant Health to expand the Family Clinic model to bring better access to critical medical services in my hometown,” said Michael Jordan in a press release. “Everyone should have access to quality health care, no matter where they live, or whether or not they have insurance. Wilmington holds a special place in my heart and it’s truly gratifying to be able to give back to the community that supported me throughout my life.”

The latest move brings the number of new clinics Jordan has helped build in the Tar Hell State to four. In 2019, the 57-year-old former shooting guard unveiled the Michael Jordan Family Clinic in Charlotte, bringing much-needed access to primary and preventive care to low-income residents. Jordan himself contributed $7 million to the opening of the clinic at the time, which was also being operated by Novant Health.

During the October 2019 opening, the six-time NBA champion tearfully explained that “it’s a very emotional thing for me to be able to give back to a community that’s supported me over the years.”

One year later, Jordan opened the second clinic and expressed his family’s “great pride to know that we are making a difference in Charlotte.”

“We’ve been dealt with some very difficult cards in 2020,” he said at the time. “I hope 2021 is going to be much better.”

The Charlotte clinics have already seen over 4,500 patients while also providing crucial support during the ongoing pandemic.

“The regional health care system and Jordan previously partnered to open two Michael Jordan Family Clinics in Charlotte, N.C., bringing comprehensive primary care, including behavioral health and social support services, to the area’s most vulnerable communities,” the company said. “Jordan’s gift will help Novant Health bring this same integrated care model to more rural and rural-adjacent communities in his hometown, offering much-needed services to those who are uninsured or underinsured. The two new clinics are slated to open in early 2022.”

So far, the two Michael Jordan Family Clinics in Charlotte have administered almost 1,000 vaccines for the disease with plans to ramp up services in coming weeks.

“This pandemic has exacerbated health equity gaps across our state, making our efforts to close them even more emergent,” said Novant president and CEO Carl Armato. “We look forward to standing these clinics up as quickly as possible to ensure all members of the community have access to necessary medical care.”

Monday’s announcement came just one day after Sunday’s historic Daytona 500, which saw the Bulls legend and owner of the Charlotte Hornets make history as the first black principal owner in NASCAR in a half century as driver Bubba Wallace – the only Black full-time driver in the circuit – led by a lap before finishing 17th.

The Brooklyn-born Jordan, who grew up in North Carolina and was an avid fan of NASCAR, is worth $1.6 billion according to Forbes. During his time with the NBA, he earned $90 million as a player and $1.8 billion in endorsements, before taxes.

In recent years, the former pro basketball player has become a prominent philanthropist, donating to various causes including pledging $1 million to relief efforts in the Bahamas following September 2019’s Huricane Dorian. In September 2018, Jordan also donated $2 million to relief efforts in the Carolinas after Hurricane Florence devastated the region.

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Activism

Florida Man Uses Stimulus Check to Start Thriving Home Garden to Feed His Community

Elias Marat

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When millions of people across the United States received their federal stimulus checks to help them cope with the devastating economic repercussions of the novel coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown, most people spent their checks on basic necessities like food, rent, mortgage, utilities, and other basic necessities

However, one man from East Tampa, Florida, decided to use his funds to invest in a much more long-term project: building his own garden at home and using it to help provide food for himself. He’s now teaching his community about the massive benefits of food independence.

Michael Chaney, who goes by the nickname “Spirit Mike,” has long been interested in gardening. It wasn’t until the pandemic struck and local supermarkets were struck by the crisis that he was able to muster the self-motivation and time to fully pursue what began as a hobby and now has turned into his passion.

When he received his first stimulus check, he immediately used the funds to purchase some pots and start growing his first tomato plant. He also spoke to seasoned gardeners at the nearby A Land of Delight Natural Farm to pick up some materials and advice that would enable him to begin growing his own food, he told local radio station WMNF.

Now, Chaney is growing not only tomatoes but also collard greens, ghost peppers, mustard greens, strawberry guava, eggplants, onions, papaya, cashew apples, sugar cane, lemon, yucca, and lettuce, among other plants on his .3 acres of land.

“I do biointensive gardening, which means planting as much as you can in a small space,” Chaney told Atlanta Black Star. “I specifically picked these types of fruits [dwarf plants] because they grow fruit fast.”

Chaney derives the most pride from his moringa trees, which he values for its high viamin C content and celebrated medicinal properties as well as its antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antidepressant qualities.

“That is the Michael Jordan and the Kobe Bryant together,” Chaney told WMNF with pride.

“If you were stranded somewhere and all you have his this and water you would not only survive, you would thrive,” Chaney added. “I don’t work out. All I did was add this to my diet and add flax seed fiber and I lost 65 lbs.”

Chaney also has nine chickens that he purchased for only $3 per chick.

“My aim is to make my food cost zero,” he explained. “So, my food scraps go into the soldier fly larvae bin, they eat that and produce more larvae. Those larvae get fed to the chickens. The chicken produces eggs, I sell the eggs and eat the eggs; life is good.”

Chaney made sure to meticulously plan his garden so that actually managing it and ensuring its success would be much easier.

“It’s very important that you plan your garden. Do your research before you put a dollar down because you want your dollar to go as far as it can,” Chaney said.

He is now upholding the garden – which he has named New World Growers – as an example of community self-determination and food independence at a time when food insecurity is sharply on the rise.

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