Posts tagged with "Novel coronavirus"

Fauci: Real COVID-19 death toll ‘almost certainly’ is higher than official 80,000 count

May 13, 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disesases (NIAID) testified before a Senate Health Committee on Tuesday, warning that the real number of U.S. deaths from the novel coronavirus is “almost certainly” even higher than the official death toll of 80,000 because of the likelihood that some deaths went unrecorded.

According to a report by The Hill, speaking from home where he is partially quarantined, Dr. Fauci said during the virtual hearing that, with health systems overwhelmed, it’s very likely a number of deaths were not recorded—meaning total deaths from the coronavirus across the country are likely higher than the already staggering toll of more than 80,000 now counted by Johns Hopkins University.

“Most of us feel that the number of deaths are likely higher than that number because given the situation particularly in New York City, when they were really strapped with a very serious challenge to their health care system, that there may have been people who died at home who were not counted as COVID because they never really got to the hospital,” Fauci said on a group video feed.

Dr. Fauci on Monday said he would tell the panel that there could be “needless suffering and death” if the country opens prematurely, but steered clear of that language during the early part of the hearing; instead saying, “the consequences could be really serious.”

Asked by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) if the real number of deaths could be even 50% higher than the official number of 80,000, Fauci said: “I think you are correct that the number is likely higher, I don’t know exactly what percent higher, but almost certainly it’s higher.”

The comments drive home how devastating the death toll from the virus has been in the United States.

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Robert Redfield, also told senators that “we’re not out of the woods yet.” He noted, “This nation needs modern, highly capable data analytics. This is one of the many shortcomings that has been identified as we went through this outbreak.”

President Donald Trump has pushed for states to reopen and at times has encouraged people to defy governors’ orders.

Even going by the recorded number of 80,000, the U.S.A. by far leads the world in total deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data, although numbers from China have been cast in doubt. Following the United States, the United Kingdom has about 32,000 deaths, and Italy has about 30,000 deaths.

Research contact: @thehill

Facebook contractors must work in offices during coronavirus pandemic—while staff stay home

March 16, 2020

Silicon Valley has come up with its own high-tech version of Cinderella, the fairy tale maiden who was forced to toil endlessly for her otherwise privileged family.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook is encouraging staff worldwide to work from home—part of a so-called social distancing strategy to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. But some in the social network’s army of contract workers—already often treated like second-class employees—have complained that they have no such luxury and are being asked to choose between their jobs and their health, The Intercept reports.

Discussions on Facebook’s internal employee forum reviewed by The Intercept reveal a state of confusion, fear, and resentment, with many precariously employed hourly contract workers stating that, contrary to statements to them from Facebook, they are barred by their actual employers from working from home, despite the technical feasibility and clear public health benefits of doing so.

The discussions focus on Facebook contractors employed by Accenture and WiPro at facilities in Austin, Texas, and Mountain View, California, including at least two Facebook offices. (In Mountain View, a local state of emergency already has been declared over the coronavirus.)

The Intercept has seen posts from at least six contractors complaining about not being able to work from home, and has communicated with two more contractors directly about the matter. One Accenture employee told The Intercept that their entire team of over 20 contractors had been told that they were not permitted to work from home to avoid infection.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Intercept that “for both our full-time employees and contingent workforce there is some work that cannot be done from home … for content reviewers, some of this work must be done from the office for safety, privacy and legal reasons,” adding that “we’re exploring work from home options on a temporary basis, and have already enabled it in some locations.”

The spokesperson added that Facebook is “taking additional steps to limit contact for those in the office, like physically spreading people out, limiting in-person meetings, eliminating social visitors, making changes to food service, increasing office cleaning, and encouraging people who don’t need to be in the office to stay home.”

In some cases, workers said they’ve been told that the only way they can stay home is by using the finite paid time off days they’re allotted each year.

 “Despite guidance from Facebook,” reads one contractor post, “contractors are being asked to come into the Mountain View office to work, unless they have been diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2.” This employee added that “We are being told that if we choose not to come in, whether it be for health concerns or out of an abundance of caution, that we will have to use PTO, [paid time off] and it’s unclear if our absence is going to be counted against us.”

According to a post from an Austin Facebook contractor, Accenture “is only sending home people who ‘exhibit flu like symptoms in the work place.’” This contractor added that he “just saw 3 people get sent home and we’re all still in the office trying to focus on our work like cross contamination doesn’t exist for 14 days prior to symptoms showing up…At this point, I’m at a loss.”

“Most people here are sick, coughing, and sneezing,” wrote a Facebook contractor in Mountain View. “The office ran out of Clorox wipes and hand sanitizers, there are no masks or thermometer.” At this office, the disparity between Facebook’s full-time employees and their hourly support staff is particularly galling: “Some employees who work in the same building got paid 2 weeks of staying home! So how is that fair? Why their lives matter more than others? Why some of us have to choose between risking their work or their health?”

Neither Accenture nor WiPro could immediately comment to the Intercept about the situation.

After The Intercept contacted Facebook, sources said the company deleted at least once lengthy thread on the PTO grievances, with one Facebook employee saying in the online workplace forum that the deleted post “contained false and misleading information about COVID-19 that was causing unnecessary panic for some people working in the [Mountain View] office.” This employee added that “going forward,” the company “will remove any posts or comment about COVID-19 flagged to us that contains misinformation.”

Research contact: @theintercept

Trump tries to tie Obama to CDC’s ‘inadequate’ testing system

March 16 2020

President Donald Trump is “throwing shade” at his predecessor in an attempt to shift the blame for the current administration’s lack of speedy response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, March 13, Trump again claimed that his reaction to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States had been hindered by the Obama administration—a claim that has failed to gain traction because the 44th president left office more than three years before the health emergency erupted.

As The New York Times reported, Trump attacked Obama, who served with likely Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, in two posts on Twitter .

“For decades the @CDCgov looked at, and studied, its testing system, but did nothing about it,” @realDonald Trump tweeted. “It would always be inadequate and slow for a large scale pandemic, but a pandemic would never happen, they hoped. President Obama made changes that only complicated things further.

“Their response to H1N1 Swine Flu was a full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem, until now,” Trump added, promising again that “The changes have been made and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis. All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!” he wrote.

The president was not specific, the Times said, about what changes President Barack Obama made to “complicate things further,” but at least one regulatory change previously discussed by Trump and his CDC director was never put into effect.

 Dr. Anthony Fauci, the widely-respected director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the current system of testing for coronavirus “a failing” on Capitol Hill Thursday, even as Trump told reporters it’s been “going very smooth.”

Research contact: @nytimes