Posts tagged with "Coronavirus pandemic"

Is there a ‘dogtor’ in the house?

January 11, 2021

A therapy dog in Baltimore is bringing joy to healthcare workers and patients, alike, by making digital visits, Good Morning America reports.

Loki, a two-year-old Rottweiler therapy dog is known for comforting patients each week at the University of Maryland Medical Center. But when the coronavirus pandemic prevented therapy dogs from visiting the hospital, Loki and her owner, Caroline Benzel, had to figure out a creative way to reach and develop rapport with patients.

So, Benzel came up with the idea of remote therapy dog visits. “I’ll Facetime [while Loki and are sitting] outside … in my mom’s front yard,” Benzel told GMA.

She said that she tells patients to close their eyes and imagine a different scene outside the confines of the hospital, telling them, “Imagine sitting at a park and we’re having a conversation so they can ‘hear’ the birds, they can see people walking by. So that’s kind of how we’ve been doing it now.”

Benzel, who is a second-year medical student at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, started training Loki when she was just 18 weeks old. Then, she got Loki acclimated to the hospital’s environment and patients.

Benzel has describes her pup as a natural at her job. “I’ve never met a dog that’s so empathetic. It’s kind of strange. There have been many circumstances at the hospital where she can just read a situation where a patient is in a very bad way or a family member is going through a loss,” Benzel told GMA.

Before COVID-19 hit, Benzel would also dress Loki in a signature white “dogtor’s” coat that was custom-made for every hospital visit with patients.

Since transitioning to remote visits, Benzel and Loki also have had a chance to connect with hospital staff—and Benzel has noticed the painful physical effects caused by the masks that healthcare workers now wear.

“I was seeing the masks doing the damage to the nursing staff, the doctors, the social workers, because everyone, custodians to doctors are all required to wear it,” Benzel said.

She thought of ways that she could help those experiencing the issue and came up with care packages called Hero Healing Kits. The kits, which have Loki’s face on them, include products like hypoallergenic lotion for irritated skin, packs of gum to help with dry mouth, medicated powder to help with skin irritation, Vaseline, and tea and coffee packets. Each kit also has a thank you note with messages of appreciation for hospital staff during this time.

With the help of her neighbor, Benzel has put together about 1,400 kits so far and medical students have raised $300 to $400. The kits have become so popular, a medical student in Philadelphia also started the Hero Healing Initiative there. Benzel has also expanded and has created kits for neighboring hospitals.

The kits were also a way for Benzel to give back to the medical community, after members stood by her when Loki recently had to undergo ACL surgery for a broken foot, which required cash up front.

“I didn’t know how I was going to come up with that kind of money as a medical student,” Benzel said. “The hospital staff [at UMMC] suggested I do a GoFundMe, and the whole surgery and physical therapy ended up being covered by donations within two weeks.”

“They did that for me when I was down and I know the people there are going through a hard time now. themselves. I wanted to do what I could to return the favor,” she added.

Research contact: @GMA

Strut your stuff: A digital dance-off spreads from Argentina to the world

September 7, 2020

Care to dance? With theaters closed around the world, three South American hoofers have created a digital dance-off for aspiring twirlers, with Instagram the new stage where competitors from Argentina and Brazil to Israel and Italy post clips of their moves, Reuters reports.

The competition, open to all, has attracted hundreds of applicants— some professionals, others amateurs—dancing from lockdown in their own homes. A panel described as “renowned expert judges” assesses each dance, and viewers also can vote with “likes.”

“We were struck by the desire of participants to be seen, to express themselves and their dance, what is happening to them at the moment,” Argentine Facundo Luqui, who organized the ‘@stayhomedancecompetition’ event with two other dancers, told Reuters.

“What we thought when we started this project was that anyone can participate,” added Luqui, 23, who is a member of the ballet company at Buenos Aires’ iconic Teatro Colón.

The competition, which wraps up on Sunday, September 6, challenged dancers to raise awareness about the pandemic, reference the coronavirus, and honor an artist. In one video, a mother wearing a doctor’s coat and a mask guards her daughter while she dances.

Giovana Soria, 18, a Paraguayan who has studied Latin rhythms for two years, told the news outlet that her dance was to encourage people to take steps to prevent infections spreading.

“I started to watch the news and saw that many people respected the quarantine, but when going out they did not take measures like putting on a mask, they touched everything and didn’t wash their hands,” said Soria.

Paz Schattenhofer, an 11-year-old who studies classical dance and who took part from Buenos Aires, said her performance was a homage to Russian photographer Yulia Artemyeva, who made a series of works comparing ballerinas to flowers.

“I would love to win it, but in reality it’s to have fun. It is great when people ‘like’ you and that people see me, it is like a stage,” she said.

Performance art globally has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, closing theaters and leaving dance troupes unable to perform or rehearse at close quarters.

 “I think dance at the moment is undergoing a great crisis,” said Manuela Lavalle, 24, another of the organizers, who dances in a company in the United States but is passing the quarantine in her native Buenos Aires.

“It’s complicated because many companies do not have the money they need to get by. I believe the world of dance is going to change a lot and we still do not know how, but it is a matter of waiting and continuing to create in the meantime.”

Research contact: @Reuters

Trump reneges on reopening federal health insurance exchanges during the COVID-19 crisis

April 2, 2020

Defying appeals from insurers and Democrats, the Trump Administration said on March 31 that it would not reopen Obamacare enrollment to allow uninsured Americans to buy health coverage during the coronavirus pandemic, Slate reports.

The decision comes after the White House told lawmakers and insurers it was considering a special enrollment period in addition to the usual November 1 through December 15 window for the federally run exchange that covers roughly two-thirds of U.S. states.

Eleven largely Democratic-leaning states, as well as Washington, D.C., have temporarily reopened their health insurance exchanges, CNN reports, in order to provide frontline workers with the chance to buy in during the coronavirus outbreak.

Democratic legislators had called on the White House to open the federally run exchanges for some 30 million Americans who remain uninsured and— after initial hesitation from the health insurance industry over the prospect of being hit with a deluge of coronavirus-related claims—“the main insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, endorsed the special enrollment period roughly two weeks ago while also urging lawmakers to expand premium subsidies to make coverage more affordable for middle-income people,” Politico reports.

“Given the risk posed by COVID-19, it is more important than ever for people to have health coverage,” the CEOs of America’s Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association wrote in a letter to Congress in mid-March.

The insurers told Politico they had expected the Trump White House to announce a special enrollment period last week after receiving private assurances from the administration that the exchanges would be reopened. The coronavirus has already put intense pressure on the job market, and with the economic toll of the pandemic expected to worsen over the coming weeks, millions of newly unemployed workers who previously had insurance through their employer will likely be in need of health insurance options.

Workers who lose their health insurance through their employer are eligible to buy a plan on a federal or state exchange for up to 60 days after becoming unemployed.

The Trump administration did not give any reason for refusing to reopen the health insurance marketplace during the pandemic, but President Donald Trump has publicly supported the GOP legal effort, this one led by Republican governors, to destroy the Affordable Care Act once and for all. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, which could put the ten-year-old law, and the 20 million Americans who get health coverage from it, in jeopardy.

Research contact: @Slate