Associated Press South Africa
Ban gives tobacco illegal drug status in South Africa - The Associated Press
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — The message was dropped into a WhatsApp group used by suburban moms in South Africa. Amid the grumblings over homeschooling during lockdown, one mom went off topic:...
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) The message was dropped into a WhatsApp group used by suburban moms in South Africa. Amid the grumblings over homeschooling during lockdown, one mom went off topic: Does anyone know where to get illegal cigarettes? I just need a few. Im desperate. She emphasized her anguish with an emoji, a face with eyes bulging and tongue hanging out. The desperate mama, as she described herself, is one of 9 million smokers in South Africa affected by the governments decision in late March to ban the sale of all tobacco products, ostensibly to help protect citizens health during the coronavirus pandemic. The ban remains even after South Africa eased most of its strict lockdown restrictions, including another contentious outlawing of alcohol sales. Confirmed COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly in Africas most developed economy. But that economy is suffering, and now restaurants, cinemas and even casinos are set to reopen. And allowing people to purchase alcohol again has led to an increase in drunken brawls and traffic accidents, putting added strain on hospitals as they deal with the virus. Yet its still illegal to buy a pack of cigarettes. It makes no sense, said Sinenhlanhla Mnguni, chairman of the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association, which represents smaller manufacturers. The association challenged the ban in court and lost. Another case, with global industry giant British American Tobacco taking the government to court, has begun. South Africa is the only country in the world to have a ban on tobacco sales in place after India and Botswana lifted theirs. The government says its putting the health of its people first as the respiratory disease spreads. But while the World Health Organization recommends that people stop smoking during the pandemic, it says there is no scientific evidence to show smokers are more susceptible to COVID-19. The government has been hotly criticized for not publishing the science it said it relied on. That showed a Just do what we say, we know best attitude from the government, said Joleen Steyn Kotze, an expert on democracy and governance in South Africa. She warned the lack of transparency might foster a general distrust when the government needs citizens more than ever to cooperate. The ban, which outlaws selling tobacco but not the act of smoking, does have some backing. There are good reasons for people to quit, and especially at this time of COVID-19, said Catherine Egbe, a scientist at the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Research Unit at the South African Medical Research Council. She agrees with the ban on the basis that COVID-19 majorly affects the respiratory system. South African smokers have two options, neither pleasant: Go cold turkey at a time of high stress. Or, like the desperate mom, go criminal. With prohibition comes bootlegging, often with links to organized crime. Removed from all mainstream outlets, cigarettes have become the most sought after illicit drug in South Africa, more profitable than cocaine and heroin, some analysts say. Cigarettes hidden in grocery bags are pushed across the counter at corner shops. Young men flash packs on sidewalks. A nod in their direction and even one cigarette to temporarily fend off withdrawal symptoms is available. It comes at a high price. Sometimes $11 for a box of 20 cigarettes that cost $1.70 pre-lockdown. Some brands are smuggled into the country, others are hardly-known, bottom shelf local labels, but theyll do. Theres even a VIP service if you make phone contact with illicit sellers. For $350 youll get 200 cigarettes delivered to your home, one promises, so you can avoid the risk of running into police. They normally cost about $20. Supporters of the ban say there has been some success in getting people to quit smoking, or at least cut down. But a survey of more than 12,000 smokers by the University of Cape Town found that 90% of them bought cigarettes illegally during lockdown. Mnguni said it was nonsense to think smokers would suddenly give up. He fears that smokers now familiar with bootleg sources may stick with them when the ban is lifted and illicit cigarettes are cheaper again. The repercussions for the economy are already felt. The tobacco industry contributes nearly $100 million a month in excise taxes paid to the South African government, never mind jobs and livelihoods. The fate of a legendary tobacco shop, a fixture on Cape Towns historic central square since 1793 and which had survived two centuries of challenges, has reinforced the new reality. Unable to trade for months, it packed up and moved out, its future uncertain. Economist Mike Schussler knew it was always going to be hard for South Africas economy, which was in recession before the pandemic. But we could have made it a little easier by not banning things like cigarettes and liquor, he said. ___ AP journalist Mogomotsi Magome in Johannesburg contributed. ___ Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
Nursing home deaths soar past 3300 in alarming surge - Bluefield Daily Telegraph
NEW YORK (AP) — More than 3,300 deaths nationwide have been linked to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, an alarming rise in just the past two weeks, according...
NEW YORK (AP) More than 3,300 deaths nationwide have been linked to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, an alarming rise in just the past two weeks, according to the latest count by The Associated Press. Because the federal government has not been releasing a count of its own, the AP has kept its own running tally based on media reports and state health departments. The latest count of at least 3,321 deaths is up from about 450 deaths just 10 days ago. But the true toll among the 1 million mostly frail and elderly people who live in such facilities is likely much higher, experts say, because most state counts dont include those who died without ever being tested for COVID-19. Outbreaks in just the past few weeks have included one at a nursing home in suburban Richmond that has killed 40 and infected more than 100, another at nursing home in central Indiana that has killed 24 and infected 16, and one at a veterans home in Holyoke, Mass., that has killed 37, infected 76 and prompted a federal investigation. This comes weeks after an outbreak at a nursing home in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland that has so far claimed 43 lives. And those are just the outbreaks we know about. Most states provide only total numbers of nursing home deaths and dont give details of specific outbreaks. Notable among them is the nations leader, New York, which accounts for 1,880 nursing home deaths out of about 96,000 total residents but has so far declined to detail specific outbreaks, citing privacy concerns. Experts say nursing home deaths may keep climbing because of chronic staffing shortages that have been made worse by the coronavirus crisis, a shortage of protective supplies and a continued lack of available testing. And the deaths have skyrocketed despite steps taken by the federal government in mid-March to bar visitors, cease all group activities, and require that every worker be screened for fever or respiratory symptoms at every shift. But an AP report earlier this month found that infections were continuing to find their way into nursing homes because such screenings didnt catch people who were infected but asymptomatic. Several large outbreaks were blamed on such spreaders, including infected health workers who worked at several different nursing home facilities. This past week, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that regulates nursing homes issued recommendations urging nursing homes to use separate staffing teams for residents, and to designate separate facilities within nursing homes to keep COVID-19 positive residents away from those who have tested negative. Dr. Deborah Birx, who leads the White House coronavirus response, suggested this past week that as more COVID-19 tests become available, nursing homes should be a top priority. We need to really ensure that nursing homes have sentinel surveillance. And what do I mean by that? That were actively testing in nursing homes, both the residents and the workers, at all times, Birx said.
What you need to know today about the virus outbreak - McKinnon Broadcasting - KUSI
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus eclipsed Italy’s to become the highest in the world at more than 20,000, as Chicago and other cities across the Midwest braced for a potential surge in...
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus eclipsed Italys to become the highest in the world at more than 20,000, as Chicago and other cities across the Midwest braced for a potential surge in victims. Meanwhile, the coronavirus crisis is taxing New York Citys 911 system like never before. President Donald Trump and his officials have made critical promises meant to reassure a country in the throes of the pandemic. But Americans are still going without medical supplies and financial help from the government at the very time they need it most and were told they would have it. Europe is trying to persuade its residents to stay home ahead of the Easter holiday and the anticipated sunny weather while grappling with how and when to start loosening the weekslong shutdowns of much of public life. Doctors around the world are frantically trying to figure out how COVID-19 is killing their patients so they can attempt new ways to fight back. Here are some of APs top stories Saturday on the worlds coronavirus pandemic. Follow APNews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates through the day and APNews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak for stories explaining some of its complexities. ___ THE FIGHT FOR NEW YORK: Listen to APs coronavirus podcast, Ground Game: Inside the Outbreak, for an interview with three AP reporters who worked on 24 Hours: The Fight for New York, a multiformat package following 10 New Yorkers as they negotiate life in a city transformed by the virus. ___ WHATS HAPPENING TODAY: Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress prefer to replenish a small-business program rather than negotiate a broader coronavirus package that Democrats are pushing with the White House. Congo, which has been battling an Ebola outbreak that killed thousands of people, now must also face the coronavirus pandemic. Leaders in Iran decide to reopen government offices after a brief nationwide lockdown amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 4,300 people in the country. A recent increase in virus cases in China has been largely attributed to people arriving from overseas. African nations and the U.S. say thats resulting in mistreatment of African Americans and Africans in the city of Guangzhou. Walt Disney World plans to stop paying wages to 43,000 workers while allowing them to keep their benefits for up to a year in the largest wave of furloughs since the theme park resort closed in mid-March. A federal judge ruled that Kentuckys largest city cannot halt a local churchs drive-in service planned for Easter. The threat of strong tornadoes and other damaging weather on Easter posed a safety dilemma for Deep South communities deciding how to protect residents during the coronavirus pandemic. The IRS says the first economic support payments stemming from the coronavirus outbreak have been deposited in taxpayers bank accounts. ___ WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover. Here are the symptoms of the virus compared with the common flu. One of the best ways to prevent spread of the virus is washing your hands with soap and water. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends first washing with warm or cold water and then lathering soap for 20 seconds to get it on the backs of hands, between fingers and under fingernails before rinsing off. You should wash your phone, too. Heres how. TRACKING THE VIRUS: Drill down and zoom in at the individual county level, and you can access numbers that will show you the situation where you are, and where loved ones or people youre worried about live. ___ ONE NUMBER: 42%: The drop in drug arrests in Chicago in the weeks since the city shut down, compared with the same period last year. Part of that decrease is attributed to the economic slump resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. ___ IN OTHER NEWS: SMARTPHONE HELP: Apple and Google announce a joint effort to help public health agencies worldwide leverage smartphones to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. TURIN SHROUD SHOWING: The Turin Shroud, a burial cloth some believe covered Jesus and which has links to a 16th-century plague in northern Italy, was put on special view for faithful worldwide through video streaming on Holy Saturday. HOPE IS BORN: The Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans welcomes a new resident, a baby giraffe named Hope. HOLY WATER FROM ABOVE: The archbishop of New Orleans sprinkled holy water from a World War II-era biplane high above the city in an unusual Good Friday blessing for those affected by the coronavirus. ___ Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
Field hospital built in Houston ahead of COVID-19 surge - Uniontown Herald Standard
Texas continued to brace Saturday for a surge in hospital visits driven by the coronavirus pandemic as the state's death toll rose to more than 250. Officials in Harris County unveiled a...
Texas continued to brace Saturday for a surge in hospital visits driven by the coronavirus pandemic as the states death toll rose to more than 250. Officials in Harris County unveiled a temporary overflow hospital that will be able to help take on patients during a heightened onslaught of COVID-19. Medical workers and journalists were taken on a tour of the as-yet-unopened facility on the day the U.S. eclipsed Italy for the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world, surpassing 20,000. Harris County is the states most populous with more than 4.2 million residents. We still havent reached the peak, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the countys highest elected official, told reporters Saturday. Hidalgo added the field hospital wont be used until a sharp increase in coronavirus patients starts taxing existing hospital systems, which she expects to become an issue in the Houston area in two or three weeks. The overflow shelter at Houstons NRG Park, where the Houston Texans play, will initially have 250 beds with a capacity of 2,000. Officials are setting up a similar overflow unit in Dallas. Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday that Texas is beginning to slow the growth of the coronavirus. He said he would issue an executive order next week laying out how Texas will eventually reopen for business. It is unclear when a loosening of restrictions might happen. Abbott put Texas under what amounts to a stay-at-home order until April 30. As of Saturday, Texas officials confirmed about 12,500 people had tested positive for COVID-19, and 254 had died. Around 1,600 people have recovered from the disease. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
'We're all in with our patients': An ER doctor's virus fight - Tullahoma News and Guardian
NEW YORK (AP) — The call comes over the emergency-room loudspeakers: Sick patient. Everyone needed. The patient is struggling to breathe, his blood-oxygen level a life-threatening 50%....
NEW YORK (AP) The call comes over the emergency-room loudspeakers: Sick patient. Everyone needed. The patient is struggling to breathe, his blood-oxygen level a life-threatening 50%. Another presumed coronavirus case. Another human being whom Dr. Joseph Habboushe and his colleagues will try to save and get to a hospital bed for more care. A seventh-generation physician who co-founded an online medical reference called MDCalc, the 44-year-old Habboushe has dug into the challenge of treating a new disease. It feels very appropriate that I get to be on the front lines and try to fight this war, he says. Were all in this together, and were all in with our patients. But hes not immune to the dread. The fear that he or his colleagues may fall ill. The fact that we dont know our enemy, really. ___ The Associated Press followed 10 New York City residents on Monday, April 6, as they tried to survive another day in the city assailed by the new coronavirus. For more, read 24 Hours: The Fight for New York. ___ Heading a coronavirus cases-only team at a Manhattan hospital that declined to be identified, Habboushe sees about 25 patients this Monday fewer than in some recent days, but some are very sick. One was already on a ventilator when he arrived at 7:45 a.m., and her blood pressure was falling dangerously low. Striking the right balance between boosting her blood pressure and keeping her sedated for the breathing machine proves to be the mornings most demanding problem. But the team finds a solution, and the womans condition stabilizes. Then the man with the extremely low oxygen level arrives. A ventilator is available, but some doctors are now looking to other techniques, when possible. Some hospitals have reported unusually high death rates for coronavirus patients on breathing machines, though information is still emerging and limited. Habboushe and his team try other means of giving the patient oxygen, but his levels remain low. The team turns him onto his stomach, a move that can sometimes help. A half-hour later, the mans oxygen level is at a normal 95%. Its too soon to say how he will ultimately fare, but the picture is much brighter. Habboushe and his team dont end up putting anyone on a ventilator today. And all the patients survive, at least for now. Still, the reflections of a doctor in the thick of the coronavirus crisis are a bit of a roller-coaster, and it keeps running into the night. Its important that we focus on the positive and we focus on the increasing discoveries and ... finding ways to help these patients, he says. If I dont do that, I just totally lose sight of what drives me every day.