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Nova Scotia long-term care homes need more staff, panel concludes





Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

Published Tuesday, January 15, 2019 2:48PM EST

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s Liberal government is facing a call from an expert panel to move swiftly to improve staffing at long-term care facilities to address “overstressed” homes that aren’t capable of meeting residents’ needs.

“Staff are in need of immediate support,” says the panel’s first recommendation, as its report called on the province to hire long-term care assistants to help full-time staff.

“We recommend these temporary workers be hired as soon as possible.”

Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey appointed the panel in September in the wake of media reports that raised questions about the quality of care in the facilities, including severe bedsores.

His move came after the death of a 40-year-old woman with an infected bedsore, followed by confirmations in June there were more than 150 nursing-home residents suffering from serious bedsores.

Panel chairwoman Janice Keefe said during a news conference on Tuesday she was comfortable using the word “crisis” to describe the state of the province’s beleaguered system for caring for some of the most vulnerable citizens.

The report calls on the province to finish putting in place a set of reforms designed to reduce the number of bedsores, including having experts available for each home.

But Keefe and co-panellists Cheryl Smith, a long-term care nurse, and Dr. Greg Archibald, head of the Department of Family Medicine at Dalhousie University, pointed to deeper, underlying shortcomings in the system.

After speaking to over 375 people in the system, the authors of the report concluded: “We heard over and over from residents and their families that staff do not have the time to provide appropriate care because they are ‘working short.”‘

“Shortages increase staff responsibilities, with more residents to provide care for, resulting in overstressed staff, high rates of injury and sickness, and many unfilled vacancies across the system,” says the report.

The panel’s recommendations call for at least one licensed practical nurse per residential care facility and expanded access to specialists like physiotherapists or recreation directors that would be shared among facilities.

The report also recommends a return of the bursary program supporting the training of continued care workers in community colleges, a program that wasn’t renewed after the Liberals took power in 2013.

However, Keefe said one of the gravest issues is that the committee found it couldn’t even access basic figures, such as the precise nature of various complicated and chronic illnesses of residents.

Without this information, Keefe said setting precise goals for the hours of care per resident or number of fresh workers and beds is premature.

It’s also unclear how many job vacancies there are in the system.

The province says it’s only two-thirds of the way through a “vacancy survey” to determine how many jobs are open, though Keefe said during a news conference it is in “the hundreds.”

The lack of precise figures and goals in the report drew criticisms from Gary MacLeod, the chairman of Advocates for the Care of the Elderly, and the province’s nurses union.

“The Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union is extremely disappointed … the report does not recommend a minimum staffing level for long-term care homes, something that was requested in the panel’s terms of reference,” the union said in a news release.

MacLeod described the panel’s work as a repetition of known ills, and he added that it has failed to set clear goals for improved numbers of hours of care per resident for the province’s 6,900 nursing home beds and 900 residential care beds.

MacLeod said he’s had four relatives, including his mother, pass through the system over the past 12 years and has witnessed it repeatedly fail to give sufficient care to his loved ones.

“My own mother experienced bedsores and it wasn’t because she was bedridden … it was because she wasn’t being bathed properly,” he said.

Keefe responded that the work of the panel is a “first step,” and called on the province to create an arms-length committee to monitor progress on its wide-ranging recommendations.

Delorey said in a news release his government accepts the “intent” of the recommendations and will “work toward” their implementation.

The release notes the Liberals are looking at ways to increase the number of staff, access to occupational therapists and physiotherapists, and methods of increasing access to nurses.

However, the opposition says the study may simply be giving the province cover to take its time on improving funding.

Gary Burrill, the leader of the NDP, said while the report makes clear more people and care are needed, it should have called for legislated numbers of hour per care.

Barbara Adams, the Tory critic for long-term care, said years of cuts have created the problems and the expert panel’s mandate was too limited to reverse the issues.

“The government can provide a few more workers and say, ‘We’re done,”‘ said Adams, a physiotherapist who has visited many of the province’s nursing homes.

Unions say a key underlying problem is a wage freeze, which has made it increasingly difficult to attract and retain people in continuing care work.

Nan McFadgen, the president of CUPE Nova Scotia, said many workers at the 47 nursing homes her union represents are barely making a living wage. Starting wages of continuing care workers are just over $16.38 per hour, rising to $17.68 after four years.

The report also calls for specialized teams to deal with residents who are having aggressive outbursts. In August 2017, coroner’s reports requested by The Canadian Press revealed 11 unreported deaths of Nova Scotia nursing home residents injured when they were pushed down by residents with dementia.


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Health Ranger posts new microscopy photos of covid swabs, covid masks and mysterious red and blue fibers





(Natural News) What follows is a series of microscopy photos of covid swabs (a synthetic swab, then a cotton swab), a covid mask and some zoomed-in photos of mysterious red and blue fibers found in the masks.

The magnification range for these photos is 50X to 200X. Most were taken with white light, but several (as indicated) were taken with UV light.

The images shown here are 600 pixels wide. We have higher resolution images available to researchers and indy media journalists; contact us for those hi-res images.

More microscopy investigations are under way, and new images will be posted as they are finalized.

First, this series shows the carbon fiber layer of a covid mask, illuminated with UV light:

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5,800 test positive, 74 die of coronavirus at least 14 days after getting fully vaccinated





(Natural News) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday, April 15, confirmed some 5,800 breakthrough coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the U.S.

A breakthrough COVID-19 case is defined as someone who has detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – at least 14 days after getting fully vaccinated against the disease.

Nearly 400 breakthrough cases required treatment at hospitals and 74 died. A little over 40 percent of the infections were in people 60 years and above and 65 percent were female. About 29 percent of the vaccine breakthrough infections were reportedly asymptomatic. The figures were for cases through April 13.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told a congressional hearing on Thursday that the causes of the breakthrough cases are being probed. “Some of these breakthroughs are, of course, failure of an immune response in the host. And then some of them we worry might be related to a variant that is circulating. So we’re looking at both,” she said.

The CDC is monitoring reported cases “for clustering by patient demographics, geographic location, time since vaccination, vaccine type or lot number, and SARS-CoV-2 lineage.” It has created a national COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough database, where state health departments can enter, store and manage data for cases in their region.

Where available, respiratory specimens that tested positive for COVID-19 will be collected for genomic sequencing “to identify the virus lineage that caused the infection.”

Positive test less than two weeks after getting fully vaccinated is not a breakthrough case

The number of cases the CDC has identified does not include people who contracted COVID-19 less than two weeks after their final dose. The two-week marker is important, said infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

A human body should have enough time to develop antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 after that timeframe. Before then, a person won’t necessarily have the built-up immunity needed to fight off an infection. According to Dr. Adalja, cases that occur before the two-week mark are not considered breakthrough cases.

Dr. Adalja also noted that more research is needed to determine if highly infectious variants of the virus are behind the breakthrough cases. “It is crucial to study breakthrough cases to understand their severity, their contagiousness and what role variants may be playing,” Dr. Adalja said.

More than 78 million people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the U.S. as of April 15.

“To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in case demographics or vaccine characteristics,” the CDC said in a statement. “COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control.”

But the CDC conceded that “thousands of vaccine breakthrough cases will occur even though the vaccine is working as expected.”

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, agreed with the CDC. “These vaccines that we’re using are fabulous but they’re not perfect,” he said. “At best, they’re 95 percent effective in preventing serious illness, but minor illnesses can occur.”

According to U.S. drug regulators, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is 95 percent effective in preventing infection. Moderna’s was shown in a clinical trial to be 94.1 percent effective while Johnson & Johnson’s was 66.9 percent effective. Only Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which received its emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Feb. 27, was tested when variants were circulating.

The percentages are based on results from vaccine recipients two weeks after the final vaccination.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated in a briefing last week that the breakthrough cases are not a cause for concern.

“I think the important thing is to look at what the denominator of vaccinated people is. Because it is very likely that the number of breakthrough cases is not at all incompatible with the 90-plus percent vaccine efficacy,” he said. “So I don’t think that there needs to be concern about any shift or change in the efficacy of the vaccine.”

More info needed before drawing conclusions from breakthrough cases

The percentage of vaccine breakthroughs in a population depends on multiple factors, including vaccine efficacy, the amount of virus circulating and the length of time since vaccination, according to Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida.

“I love to see small numbers as much as anyone, but know that numbers like this cannot be directly interpreted as a measure of vaccine efficacy (although I have a feeling they will be). We can only interpret them against a background rate in unvaccinated people,” Dean wrote on Twitter.

“Similarly, ‘most breakthroughs have been in elderly adults’ should not be read as the vaccine is less effective in elderly adults. The majority of vaccinations (and the longest amount of follow-up time) have been in elderly adults. Again, we need more info to interpret.”

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More people died from fentanyl overdose than coronavirus in San Francisco last year





(Natural News) More people died from fentanyl overdose than coronavirus (COVID-19) in San Francisco last year, a microcosm of a larger nationwide problem coinciding with the pandemic.

Data from San Francisco’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner shows that 708 people were killed by fentanyl in 2020, an astonishing 118 times more since the introduction of the drug in the city just five years earlier.

That figure nearly tripled the 254 COVID-19 deaths recorded in the city for the whole of last year. More than 8 in 10 deaths were male, and just under half were white. People aged 55 to 64 made up nearly a quarter of the fatalities. Nearly 40 percent of the deaths occurred in open-air drug markets such as the Tenderloin and South of Market.

The number of overdose deaths in the city could have been far worse as more than 3,000 addicts suffering from an overdose were administered with naloxone, the lifesaving medication that reverses overdoses.

San Francisco’s death rate from fentanyl overdose continues to rise this year as 135 died by overdose in January and February, putting the city on pace for more than 800 deaths by the end of the year.

The city has become a significant part of a larger trend. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data on Wednesday, April 14, showing that more than 87,000 Americans died from drug overdose over the 12-month period that ended in September last year – the highest since the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s.

Lockdowns lead to more cases of drug overdose

The surge represents an increasingly urgent public health crisis that may be correlated to the government’s monotonous battle plan against the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 19 last year, California became the first state in the U.S. to implement a stay-at-home order. It subsequently endured the longest lockdown of any state in the country.

The pandemic and accompanying lockdowns are believed to be partly responsible for the soaring number of drug deaths for obvious reasons. Lockdowns have badly disrupted the social services in the city, including drug addiction treatment. Drug experts say the isolation of the past 12 months is causing vulnerable residents to turn to opioids.

“We see the death and devastation getting worse right in front of us,” said Matt Haney, San Francisco Board of Supervisors member. “It’s an unprecedented spiraling, directly connected to the introduction of fentanyl in our city.”

Fentanyl first appeared on the streets of San Francisco in 2015. There were just six deaths from the synthetic opioid that year, 12 deaths in 2016 and 37 deaths in 2017. The figure skyrocketed when the drugs became widely available in the city in 2018.

Kristen Marshall, manager of the national drug harm reduction DOPE Project, noted the grim irony that while social isolation could save lives from COVID-19, it had undoubtedly contributed to the number of overdose deaths.

“Isolation is also the thing that puts people at the absolute highest risk of overdose death,” she said.

Pandemic exacerbates rise in deaths from drug overdose

The number of deaths from drug overdose started rising in the months leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, making it hard to gauge how closely the two phenomena are linked. But the pandemic unquestionably exacerbated the trend. The biggest jump in overdose deaths took place in April and May when fear and stress were rampant, job losses were multiplying and the strictest lockdown measures were in effect.

Many treatment programs closed during that time while drop-in centers, which provide support, clean syringes and naloxone, cut back services.

The data released by the CDC shows a 29 percent rise in overdose deaths from October 2019 through September 2020 compared with the previous 12-month period. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were the primary drivers, although many fatal overdoses have also involved stimulant drugs like methamphetamine.

Unlike in the early years of the opioid epidemic, when deaths were largely among white Americans in rural and suburban areas, the current crisis is affecting Black Americans disproportionately.

“The highest increase in mortality from opioids, predominantly driven by fentanyl, is now among Black Americans,” Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said at a national addiction conference last week.

“And when you look at mortality from methamphetamine, it’s chilling to realize that the risk of dying from methamphetamine overdose is 12-fold higher among American Indians and Alaskan Natives than other groups.”

Dr. Volkow added that more deaths than ever involved drug combinations, typically of fentanyl or heroin with stimulants.

“Dealers are lacing these non-opioid drugs with cheaper, yet potent, opioids to make a larger profit,” she said. “Someone who’s addicted to a stimulant drug like cocaine or methamphetamine is not tolerant to opioids, which means they are going to be at high risk of overdose if they get a stimulant drug that’s laced with an opioid like fentanyl.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) supported Dr. Volkow’s claim, saying that transnational criminal organizations cause a spike in overdoses by mixing fentanyl into illicit narcotics.

According to the DEA, Mexican cartels often purchase the drug components in China and use human mules to smuggle the narcotics to lucrative drug markets north of the border.

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