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Pandemic

Delta Variant Brings Calamity to Countries Stuck Waiting for Covid-19 Vaccines

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SINGAPORE – The fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus is driving infections around the world, both in countries that have achieved large-scale vaccination and countries that have not. There is one key difference, however: vaccines help wealthy nations avoid steep spikes in serious cases and deaths, while developing countries lacking shots battle deadly spikes.

Indonesia, where Covid-19 cases have hit new highs, has reported around 500 deaths a day over the past week – almost three times the daily levels recorded in early June – data from its health ministry shows. Authorities are making efforts to add hospital beds as medical workers face shortages of ventilators and isolation rooms in parts of the country. Patients travel for hours to get adequate medical care, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which operates a hospital in West Java province and recently set up emergency tents on site to take in the river.

“Every day we see how this Delta variant brings Indonesia closer to the brink of a Covid-19 catastrophe,” said Jan Gelfand, who heads the group’s delegation in the country, recently. “We need lightning-fast action around the world so that countries like Indonesia have access to the vaccines needed to avert tens of thousands of deaths.”

A person who received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in London last month; Britain has fully vaccinated about half of its population.


Photo:

Dinendra Haria / Zuma Press

In contrast, the variant is dominant in the UK, increasing reported daily cases by 67% in the past week compared to the previous week, but deaths are down 1.6%, government data shows. Israel, another wealthy country with high vaccination rates, has reported small new outbreaks but only one death in the last two weeks of June, according to the World Health Organization. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the United States, where the variant is very common, says vaccines are effective against it. “When you look at the percentage of the fully vaccinated population in the United States and around the world, they differ dramatically, as does the dynamics of infection,” he said.

The divergence is the result of months of unjust vaccine supplies that have put developing countries at risk. The US and UK have about half of their populations fully vaccinated, but across the continent of Africa just over 1% of people have been fully vaccinated. The morgues in Zambia are full and patients are dying in the hallways of hospitals in South Africa awaiting care.

The normally busy streets of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka have been silenced by a roadblock. WHO data shows that the number of deaths in the last week of June was 716, almost three times what it was in the first week. In India, where the Delta variant was first discovered and contributed to a massive surge in April and May, around 4% of people were fully vaccinated. Indonesia has double-dosed about 5% of its population, according to the country’s Ministry of Health.

A poster held up during a protest against the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine in Pretoria, South Africa last month.


Photo:

given / Reuters

Like many developing countries, Indonesia is struggling to compete with wealthier nations to provide adequate vaccinations for its 270 million people, with most of its current offering from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. originates. It has ordered vaccines made by western company Pfizer Inc.

and BioNTech SE and Novavax Inc.

but does not expect to receive them before August and September. Japan recently donated approximately one million cans to AstraZeneca PLC‘s

Vaccine for Indonesia and the US has four million doses of Moderna Inc. promised.

‘s Shot – small amounts for the fourth most populous country in the world.

There is evidence of growing demand for shots as cases increase. In Tangerang, a suburb of the capital Jakarta, long lines formed outside a vaccination center in late June and police were dispatched to enforce social distancing. Local authorities later decreed that vaccines would only be available to residents of the area to deter people from surrounding neighborhoods from overcrowding the facility.

Indonesia’s government, which had long resisted stricter Covid-19 restrictions, announced new restrictions on hard-hit areas on the islands of Java and Bali on Thursday, including restricting export-oriented factories to 50% of the workforce for 2½ weeks. In these areas, which include major cities like Jakarta and Bandung, schools have been relocated online and places of worship and shopping malls have been closed.

A woman cremating a relative who died of COVID-19 last week in Gauhati, India.


Photo:

Anupam Nath / Associated Press

“In the last few days, the Covid-19 pandemic has progressed extremely quickly due to the new variant,” said President Joko Widodo in a speech. “The situation demands that we take more determined steps.”

Delta is estimated to be at least twice as contagious as the original version of the virus and is now present in 85 countries. Indonesian authorities have discovered it on each of the archipelago’s four most populous islands – Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi and Kalimantan – and the country’s weak health system is dealing with it. According to the WHO, Indonesia has half as many doctors per capita as India and Thailand.

As head of the emergency department at Muhammadiyah Lamongan Hospital in East Java Province, Dr. Corona Rintawan, he recently had to decide which of his four patients with shortness of breath would get the last remaining intensive care bed. He selected a 60-year-old with no major underlying complaints over the other three, one of whom had kidney disease and two of whom were elderly. Two of the three died of respiratory failure in the hospital, he said.

“I have chosen whoever is most likely to be saved,” he said.

Covid-19 cases have hit new highs in Indonesia, and reported daily deaths have nearly tripled from just a few weeks ago.


Photo:

Dita Alangkara / Associated Press

A hospital in Banten Province is taking calls from families in the nearby metropolis of Jakarta who are urgently looking for beds for their sick relatives, said Dr. Ririek Andri, an emergency doctor there. The isolation rooms are full and Covid-19 patients are being pushed into the room found on the hospital floor. “What else should we do?” he said.

Late last month, volunteers from civil society group LaporCovid-19 called 95 hospitals in the Jakarta area looking for an intensive care bed for a 59-year-old who needed a ventilator. None of the hospitals could help and the patient died shortly afterwards, the group said. The group that collects district-level data on the spread of Covid-19 said Thursday it could no longer help families looking for hospital beds due to widespread shortages.

“It has probably not peaked yet,” said co-founder Ahmad Arif. “But the situation is already extremely worrying.”

Write to Jon Emont at jonathan.emont@wsj.com

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Pandemic

New report shows quality of nursing home care spiked during COVID-19

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – A new report shows the quality of care afforded to residents of long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic spiked significantly.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living says it released a new report on Thursday, March 26, which details data on the quality of care in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

AHCA/NCAL said the data highlights the commitment of dedicated caregivers to raising the standard of care for the benefit of residents during an unprecedented global public health crisis. The report follows data the organization issued which highlights improvements over the last decade.

The Association said the report found long-term residents in nursing homes were hospitalized 15% less during the pandemic than they were before while 8% of short-term patients saw functional improvement during the same time period.

AHCA/NCAL also aid the report found 72% of more than 110,000 infection control focused inspections of nursing homes conducted during the pandemic were deficiency-free.

The organization said the report acknowledges the devastating effects of the pandemic had on nursing home residents, however, the tragic loss of life was due to the nature of the virus, not because of inadequate care from caregivers.

Thanks to life-saving vaccines and treatments, as well as enhanced infection control, AHCA/NCAL said nursing home residents are much safer from the virus. Specifically, it said nearly 60% of nursing home resident deaths due to the virus happened during the first 7 months of the pandemic – before vaccines were available.

The Association also said COVID uniquely targets elderly patients and those with underlying health conditions, with the risk of death for those 85 and older being 340 times higher than for those ages 18 to 29.

The report also found independent research from various academic institutions overwhelmingly found a high spread of the virus in the community is correlated with outbreaks in nursing homes. At the height of the Omicron surge in mid-January, it said nursing home residents were more likely to die of complications from the virus compared to the height of the winter surge in 2020 – before the availability of vaccines.

Lastly, the report found over 730,000 nursing home residents have recovered from COVID-19.

“Our heroic long-term caregivers never wavered from our commitment to our residents during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL. “Nursing homes should be recognized for their efforts during this once-in-a-lifetime global crisis, and as we continue to focus on improving the quality of life for our residents, lawmakers and health policy officials must also work with us to implement lasting change by providing resources necessary to further enhance care.”

AHCA/NCAL said it also released a report which highlights federal data indicating the quality of care in nursing homes has risen over the past decade before the pandemic. It said the two quality reports underscore the significant strides providers have made and the continued commitment to better the lives of residents – no matter the challenges providers face.

To read the full Nursing Home Quality Improvement During COVID report, click HERE.

Copyright 2022 WIBW. All rights reserved.

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Pandemic

Select Kroger pharmacies join national “Test to Treat” COVID-19 Initiative

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CARMEL, Ind. — A spokesperson for Kroger says 12 locations are now ready to participate in the Biden Administration’s “Test to Treat” initiative.

“Any store that has the “Little Clinic” sign with the pharmacy next door, basically,” said Eric Halvorson, a Kroger spokesperson.

White House officials announced the “Test to Treat” program earlier this month during President Biden’s State of the Union address. Back then, officials had said hundreds of COVID-19 treatment pills would be shipped out to pharmacies nationwide by the end of March.

“This is something that was created by the federal government and medical experts who were saying we needed another option to reduce the spread of COVID,” said Halvorson. “We’re making it available as quickly as we can to as many people as we can.”

Friday, Halvorson said select locations had finally received enough supplies to launch the program in their stores.

Gen Con 2022 to keep mask mandates for now

That means Hoosiers can now go to a participating Kroger location, get a rapid COVID test, and then immediately get a COVID-19 treatment pill if they are eligible and their result comes back positive.

“If they have symptoms, they can come in and find out: Are they sick? Do they need something to reduce the severity? Because that’s ultimately another element of this is to make sure that the people who have the greatest risk of a severe condition get the treatment they need,” said Halvorson.

All 12 participating Kroger locations will carry either the Pfizer or the Merck COVID-19 treatment pill.

“That will be up to what’s delivered to the pharmacy. And everything we’re seeing right now indicates we will have plenty of supply. No reason to indicate that we would have to worry about any of that,” said Halvorson.

Officials with Kroger said only those who are considered high-risk would be eligible to get the treatment.

Indy doctor talks chances of Moderna vaccine for kids getting approved

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), conditions and factors that may place someone at high risk for severe COVID include, but are not limited to:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Dementia or other neurological conditions
  • diabetes
  • Down syndrome
  • Heart conditions
  • HIV
  • Immunocompromised state
  • Mental health conditions
  • obesity
  • pregnant
  • Sick cell disease
  • tuxedo
  • Organ or blood stem cell transplant recipient
  • stroke
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • tuberculosis

“Providing the anti-viral agents through our Kroger pharmacy is another way that we can help reduce the spread of COVID and fight it in a different way to make people healthier and safer from the pandemic,” said Halvorson. “We just want to make sure that people have access to another treatment, another option to protect themselves, their families, and their neighbors.”

Halvorson said he strongly recommends Hoosiers call ahead to check the availability of their store before they arrive. He also urged suspected patients to book an appointment online in advance.

Lastly, if you are unable to make it in for an appointment in person, Halvorson said Kroger is also offering virtual appointments.

“If somebody isn’t able to make it into the clinic, they can go to Kroger Health online and do a telehealth visit. There will be an expert on the other end of the screen who can guide them through doing the test at home and then they would be advised about getting a prescription from there,” said Halvorson.

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Covid-19 Cases, Treatments and Omicron News: Live Updates

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Credit…Aly Song/Reuters

The surge of Covid cases across China, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, is straining hospitals and prompting lockdowns of neighborhoods in Shanghai, which until recently had been held up as a crown jewel in the government’s strategy for fighting the pandemic.

Shanghai, China’s largest city, has seen few cases until recently. Now, it is reporting more than 1,500 a day, and many residents are expressing anguish and dismay about China’s zero-tolerance approach to the virus.

On Friday, anger and grief welled up online after a Shanghai hospital confirmed reports that a nurse who worked there, Zhou Shengni, had died from an asthma attack after finding the doors of its emergency department shut because of Covid restrictions.

“Due to pandemic prevention needs, the emergency department of our hospital’s southern campus had been temporarily closed,” Shanghai East Hospital said on its website. Ms. Zhou’s family rushed her to another hospital, but she died late Wednesday after “attempts to save her failed,” Shanghai East said.

“Just think, this happened in Shanghai, and it was a medical worker treated like this,” read one of many comments about Ms. Zhou’s death on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media platform. “What about regular folks? Not just in Shanghai, but other parts too.”

The outbreak has fanned a rising debate in China over whether the government should rethink its stringent “zero Covid” strategy of eliminating all infections with relentless force, rather than finding a way to cope with higher levels of infection, as most countries have.

But officials across China have given no indications that the government is reworking its strategy. Instead, they insist that any easing of restrictions could exacerbate the surge of infections and further strain the medical system.

“We hope that everyone slows down their life at this time, cutting down on outings and moving around,” Wu Jinglei, the director of the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, said at a news conference on Thursday. “Pandemic prevention in our city has entered the most critical stage.”

On Friday, Shanghai’s health commission reported that it had identified 1,609 Covid cases the previous day, 1,580 of which were asymptomatic. China has recorded over 29,000 cases so far in March. That represents a significant spike for the country, which has kept cases low since quashing the world’s first outbreak, which began in the city of Wuhan, in 2020.

The current outbreak has strained Shanghai’s medical system as hospitals and isolation hotels are crowded with patients, residents have said on social media. The city government has started issuing a daily list of hospital clinics that have suspended outpatient and elective treatments and surgeries in order to cope with the Covid cases.

Zhang Wenhong, one of Shanghai’s leading infectious disease experts, told residents on Thursday to be patient while the authorities worked to curb the outbreak.

“All of a sudden medical resources are under strain” in Shanghai, Dr. Zhang wrote in a long post on Weibo. “If we don’t counter its speed with our own, we won’t have a chance to beat the Omicron race,” he wrote, adding that the government would need to ramp up its vaccination campaign.

Beneath his post, many commenters insisted that China rethink its approach to the virus.

“Exhausting social resources, degrading the quality of life and existence, dragging down economic development and urban vitality — where’s the sense in this pandemic prevention,” one commenter wrote. “The zero-infection strategy needs thinking over.”

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