COVID-19: Distancing is no solution to a spiritual problem

By Herbert W. Titus and William J. Olson – March 29, 2020

As the great Titanic continued to sink in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, bringing certain death to the men remaining on board, some safety boat survivors remembered hearing the big ship’s string quartet playing the hymn Nearer My God to Thee. In that last dark hour, there was no one left to turn to.

The title words from that moving hymn were most fitting, as James, the half-brother of Jesus had already reassured the passengers: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  James 4:8 (NAS). This lesson, having been well taught and understood in 1912, remains equally true for all generations everywhere.  “For that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” Romans 1:19-20.

The current risk of infection and the risk of mortality and morbidity is tiny compared to being on a sinking ship, but on March 14, 2020, President Trump boldly called for focus on the spiritual, seeking God’s help in his message to the nation, and calling for a National Day of Prayer on the COVID-19 threat.  It was disappointing that President Trump made no call to national repentance for the sins of the nation, but that was likely a bridge too far for large segments of the people.  Indeed, in response to his call for prayer, the President received mocking from many, and there have been few references to an Almighty God since then.  Instead, the rest of his Administration’s efforts have been earthly — what we the American people, and our state and federal governments, can do in our own power.  Foremost among the concrete steps urged, if not enforced, upon the general public is to practice social distancing, that is, stay home and wash your hands.

But distancing is no solution to a spiritual problem.  And it certainly does not work for everyone.  Distancing does not protect persons who must work for a living in close proximity with others, who cannot risk losing a job, a car, or a house.  It is not on option for those who provide necessary assisted living for the elderly or infirm.  Nor is it available to first-responders, much less for those living and working inside our woefully over-populated prisons.  And, although long-distance learning alleviates the burden of supervision, teachers are not yet robots-in-waiting, eliminating all need of actual classrooms for human interchange.  At best, distancing modulates the behavior of those who enjoy the best of health, and those who would otherwise act presumptuously.  But on the other hand, isolation and loneliness is said to deplete the immune system and increase susceptibility to illness.

While there are no doubt benefits from the nation’s current distancing containment policy and practices, they fall short of attaining one necessary objective: the defeat of paralyzing and mind-clouding fear of falling prey of the influenza. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7.  Fear produces a confused mind, rather than a sound, sober one.  Fear will cause us to pull up the covers and hide in bed.  Fear will result in accepting, even welcoming, sometimes demanding, assertions of government power which exceed constitutional limits.  The virus will pass, but fear of it could destroy the foundations of our constitutional republic.

Defeating fear is possible, but only if the American people draw near to God.  As Moses wrote:

And [God] said, “if you will give ear to the voice of the Lord, and do what is right in his sight, and give ear to his commandments, and keep all of His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I put on the Egyptians for I, the Lord, am your healer.”  Exodus 15:16.

Many would dismiss this Biblical admonition on the ground that it is limited to its specific context, applicable only to Israel and her people.  Ontologically, they are mistaken.  There is not one disease, not one people, not one nation outside the healing power of God.  As The Gospel of Matthew attests:

[J]esus healed all who were ill.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: HE, HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.  Matthew 8:16(b)-17.

Rather than focusing exclusively on running away one from another, distancing ourselves from friends and family in fear of COVID-19, we also ought to be running to Jesus, that “we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by his wounds [we] were healed.”  1 Peter 2:24.

We know from Daniel 2:17 that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men.”  But we must come to the Lord on His terms, not ours.  He has the power to remove temporal judgments from the people, but repeatedly in Scripture we see His precondition of repentance — a change of mind, and a change of behavior.  See 2 Peter 3.  There is no repentance inherent in simply asking God to remove the current “plague.”  Where are the calls from the Ministers of God to both believers and nonbelievers to repent?  If repentance is ignored, why should we expect a righteous God to end the plague?  How should we expect Him to respond to executive orders issued by some Governors to shut down all elective surgeries, except for the one procedure which is murderous?  To the Lord, we sound like the people who “cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.”  Revelation 16:11 (NIV). 

Not long after the nation saw God’s hand move as this nation was given its independence from a British Empire wielding the greatest military power on earth, our first President showed no reluctance to declare America’s utter dependence on our Creator God, as he entreated the Hebrew Congregations of Savanah, Georgia:

May the same wonder-working Deity, who long since delivering the Hebrews from their Egyptian Oppressors planted them in the promised land, whose providential agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing these United States as an independent Nation, still continue to water them with the dews of Heaven and to make the inhabitants of every denomination participate in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people whose God is Jehovah.

May we Americans, individually and collectively, draw near to God in this time of crisis, “for He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  Hebrews 11:6. (Click to Source)

 

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Coronavirus: A Biblical, Historical Perspective

As COVID-19 suspends public life around the world, Austrian Christian Hofreiter reminds us of “the many times in history where the light of Christian charity has shone with dazzling brightness amidst dark times of infectious disease and societal upheaval.”

Reverend Dr. Christian Hofreiter is Director of RZIM Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. He lives with his family in Vienna, Austria.

Many if not most of our nations are being violently shaken by the coronavirus outbreak. In Austria, for instance, schools and all non-essential shops are closed from Monday. Restaurants must shut after 3 p.m., and pretty much all public life, including church service, has been suspended. Italy, Switzerland, France, and Spain are hit worse in terms of infections, with hospitals in Italy stretched beyond breaking point and doctors having to decide which patient they will save and who they will let die, because they don’t have enough machines to care for all of them. Many other nations, parts of the US included, may well be headed that way. When, if not now, is the church called to rise and shine?

Coronavirus, Loving Our Neighbour, and Quarantine in the Bible

Already in the Old Testament we find very strict quarantine regulations for those suffering of infectious diseases (see Leviticus 13). So, when Christians follow government and medical advice to, say, drastically reduce all social contacts, this is not an expression of unbelief (as though God did not have the power to protect or heal us). Rather, it is a demand of wisdom and, especially, of neighbourly love. The equation is simple and sobering: The flatter the rate of viral infection progresses, the smaller the number of vulnerable people who will die. Wherever we can contribute to that outcome, we should!

Christians, Epidemics, and Revival

While wisdom, solidarity, and love of neighbour lead us to participate in containing the current epidemic as far as possible, I am reminded of the many times in history where the light of Christian charity has shone with dazzling brightness amidst dark times of infectious disease and societal upheaval. In fact, Christians overcame the impulse to flee to safety and isolate themselves from the suffering of others:

“In 165 a plague swept through the mighty Roman Empire, wiping out one in three of the population. It happened again in 251 when 5,000 people per day were dying in the city of Rome alone. Those infected were abandoned by their families to die in the streets. The government was helpless and the Emperor himself succumbed to the plague. Pagan priests fled their temples where people had flocked for comfort and explanation. People were too weak to help themselves. If the smallpox did not kill you, hunger, thirst and loneliness would. The effect on wider society was catastrophic. Yet following the plagues the good reputation of Christianity was confirmed, and its population grew exponentially. Why is this? Christians did not come armed with intellectual answers to the problem of evil. They did not enjoy a supernatural ability to avoid pain and suffering. What they did have was water and food and their presence. In short, if you knew a Christian you were statistically more likely to survive, and if you survived it was the church that offered you the most loving, stable and social environment. It was not clever apologetics, strategic political organisation or the witness of martyrdom which converted an Empire, so much as it was the simple conviction of normal women and men that what they did for the least of their neighbours they did for Christ.”bib

Now, of course, we know that thoughtful apologetics did in fact play a very important role in the conversion of the Roman Empire, so it’s not an either or. Ravi Zacharias has said it beautifully, “Love is the greatest apologetic. It is the essential component in reaching the whole person in a fragmented world. The need is vast, but it is also imperative that we be willing to follow the example of Jesus and meet the need.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if in our time, too, we Christians would primarily become known for the generous, selfless love of our neighbours, rather than the many things we oppose and judge?

On Dealing with Fear

Uncertain times, societal upheaval, the threat of poverty, sickness and death–all this naturally leads to fear. In situations like these, one of the best things we can do is remember just how great, how good, how strong and mighty, how faithful our God truly is. Through Jesus Christ, each one of us can know Him as our heavenly Father. Personally, I find it most helpful in such situations to meditate on verses of Scripture that I know by heart, that I think through, pray through, feel through, chew through, carry in my heart, and digest inwardly. For example, the 23rd Psalm. Do you know it by heart yet? (Click to Source)

 

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India, Day 1: World’s Largest Coronavirus Lockdown Begins

India’s 1.3 billion people have been told to stay at home. For some, it will mean starving. And an already fragile economy may collapse.

 

By Karan Deep SinghVindu GoelHari Kumar and 

NEW DELHI — India’s economy was sputtering even before its leader announced the world’s largest coronavirus lockdown. Now the state-ordered paralysis of virtually all commerce in the country has put millions of people out of work and left many families struggling to eat.

On the first day of the nationwide 21-day shutdown of nearly all services on Wednesday, the streets of Mumbai, India’s largest metropolis — usually so busy it’s known as Maximum City — were silent. Shuttered shops, empty train tracks, closed airports and idle factories all across the country were signs of the economic impact of the social distancing that the Indian government said was necessary to prevent new coronavirus infections.

India has reported 606 coronavirus cases so far, but with the population density so high and the public health system so weak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the country’s 1.3 billion residents to stay inside to keep India from sliding into a disaster that could potentially dwarf what China, Italy, Spain, the United States and other countries have faced.

But Mr. Modi’s effort to prevent the spread of the virus will lead to its own calamitous damage.

Manual laborers have no work, farmers cannot tend fields, online retailers and pharmacists have been harassed by overzealous police officers. Countless people have been running out of cash.

“The kind of devastation that is going to be faced by the bottom 50 percent of the workers in the informal sector is unimaginable,” said Jayati Ghosh, an economist and professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

In some places, police officers have staked out roads and highways, stopping motorists and demanding to know why they were outside. Several states have closed their borders, forcing cargo trucks to simply park by the roadside.

Flipkart, the country’s largest online retailer, found it so difficult to move people and goods that it suspended delivery of everything except food.

Grocery stores were allowed to remain open, and in the cities, crowds swarmed and emptied the shelves. At an upscale market in New Delhi, one man stuffed his Mercedes with groceries on Wednesday afternoon, jumped behind the wheel and zoomed off — wearing blue rubber dishwashing gloves and a snorkeling mask.

The National Restaurant Association of India estimated that perhaps 20 percent of the 7.3 million restaurant workers will permanently lose their jobs as employers go out of business. “Many companies may not survive this onslaught,” said Anurag Katriar, the association’s chief executive and the owner of a chain of upscale eateries.

Harcharan Singh, a vendor in rural Punjab state who usually goes door to door peddling everything from oranges to cauliflower, has had nothing to sell for days. The big wholesale food markets he normally relies on have all been closed.

“Our business is completely shut,” he said. “We need this money to survive, get food for our families.”

Hundreds of millions of Indians are like Mr. Singh, with little or no savings. Rickshaw drivers, for example, buy food for their families with the money they make that day. Banned from the roads, many drivers don’t know how they will survive.

Credit…Adnan Abidi/Reuters

 

Economists at Barclays predicted Wednesday that the lockdown would last a month and shave two percentage points off India’s anemic economic growth rate. Although India is likely to escape a recession, Barclays said, such a significant slowdown would mean rising joblessness in a country where millions of young people enter the work force every year.

Mr. Modi acknowledged the trade-offs in a televised address on Tuesday night, when he first announced the nationwide lockdown.

“No doubt this lockdown will entail an economic cost for the country, but saving the life of each and every Indian is the first priority for me,” he said. “If we are not able to manage the next 21 days, then many families will be destroyed forever.”

Economists are urging the government to create a huge stimulus package to blunt the effects of the lockdown.

India’s government stores an enormous grain supply, which could quickly be distributed to the poor, said Dharmakirti Joshi, chief economist at CRISIL, a Mumbai-based credit ratings agency.

Mr. Joshi also urged direct cash payments to individuals, and loans to small and medium-size businesses. “Give a clear signal that you will help,” he said.

The Modi administration is deliberating what kind of stimulus to offer, and a plan is expected to be unveiled within days.

For now, people can only hunker down at home.

Credit…Rebecca Conway for The New York Times

 

One chief minister, in Telangana state, in the center of the country, threatened to issue “shoot on sight” orders if people did not take the lockdown seriously.

In the Andamans, Jagadishan, a taxi driver who uses only one name, has been cooped up in his house in Port Blair, longing to “walk past the sea and smell fresh sea air.”

“All shops are shut, not even groceries or chemists are open,” he said, which should not be the case, according to the government’s rules. “The uncertainty is killing me.”

The lockdown includes schools, offices, factories, parks, temples, railways, even the airspace. To impose social distancing where people are ordinarily squeezed together, exempted businesses and the authorities are looking to devise solutions.

In the city of Meerut, the police began shaming people caught evading the lockdown, forcing them to hold signs — later posted on social media — stating they did not care about protecting society.

Outside Mother Dairy, a national milk cooperative, shopkeepers drew circles and squares on the pavement using chalk to indicate where people should stand and wait.

In Veergaon, a farming village in central Maharashtra state, a few farmers were still tilling the fields. But many stayed indoors, in small cramped houses with sheet metal roofs.

“They fear the disease,” said Kapil Wagarhande, a villager.

During his address on Tuesday night, Mr. Modi spoke forcefully about the dangers of social interaction and how Indians must make big, immediate sacrifices. Mr. Modi remains widely popular in India. In many quarters, what he says goes.

Credit…Jaipal Singh/EPA, via Shutterstock

 

“Everybody appreciates the steps taken by Modi ji,” said Kailash Dhoot, a textile trader in Mr. Modi’s home state of Gujarat, using a term of respect. “Of course people are facing problems like how to spend the whole day. What do you do?”

Still, rumors and misinformation have led to the closure of essential businesses and the harassment of citizens, outcomes that the government likely did not intend.

Gaurav Gupta, chief operating officer of Zomato, one of the country’s largest restaurant delivery services, said his couriers had been turned back and in some cases detained by the police, despite clear orders from the government permitting such deliveries.

In a video message, Sandeep Nangia, president of a pharmacists’ association in New Delhi, said the police were “raining sticks” on pharmacists for trying to do their jobs.

Doctors and airline employees have reported landlords forcibly evicting them as “dirty” tenants.

Amrita Saha, an employee at IndiGo, India’s largest airline, said her neighbors in Kolkata were spreading rumors that she had the coronavirus and harassing her mother, who lives with her.

“She cannot go to the market to buy groceries, because people are refusing her, saying, ‘Your daughter has the corona and you might also have it,’” Ms. Saha said in a recent video, nearly in tears.

An association of doctors in New Delhi wrote to India’s home minister, Amit Shah, on Tuesday, urging the government to protect medical personnel from home eviction.

“Many doctors are now stranded on the roads with all their luggage,” the letter read. (Click to Source)

 

 

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Montana reaches 71 COVID-19 cases

  • Updated 

Montana reached 71 known cases of COVID-19 by Thursday morning, according to test results announced by the state.

That’s a rise of three cases from the night before. Numbers released by the state Thursday morning capture test results that come in after the state’s 4:30 p.m. press release Wednesday. About 2,200 people have been tested at the state public health lab in Montana.

Two smaller, more rural counties in northwestern Montana, Glacier and Lincoln, picked up their first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, over the last two days.

So did Hill County, with a larger population center of Havre. Cases are identified by county, not town, because of concerns about patient privacy, so it’s not possible to narrow down a patient’s precise location within a county.

Gallatin County still has the most known cases in the state by almost double the next closest county, at 24.

Yellowstone County has 13, Missoula has six, Cascade and Flathead each have five, Butte-Silver Bow and Lewis and Clark each have four, Madison and Broadwater have two, and Jefferson, Ravalli, Roosevelt, Hill, Glacier and Lincoln each have one.

The state also reported its first hospitalization from the coronavirus Wednesday. The hospitalization figure could include hospitalizations when the test was performed after the patient was admitted to the hospital. An official said the state could not provide more information about the hospitalization because of privacy reasons.

Gov. Steve Bullock has issued an order of emergency in Montana and public K-12 schools are closed, as are universities. Businesses like bars and gyms, where people congregate, are closed, though some can offer to-go options.

The governor has also prohibited nonessential social and recreational gatherings of more than 10 people outside a home or place of residence, if a distance of at least 6 feet between people cannot be maintained. He also told stores to follow rules keeping people 6 feet apart, though he exempted essential places like grocery stores, health care facilities and pharmacies.

Also this week, Bullock said counties could choose to conduct the June 2 by mail. (Click to Source)

 

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Up to 10 per cent of recovered coronavirus patients in Wuhan study tested positive later, doctors say

  • Hospital staff in the city say there is no evidence that these patients became infectious after recovery
  • Tests carried out on patients suggest between 3 to 10 per cent gave positive tests after being discharged

 

About 3 to 10 per cent of patients who recovered from Covid-19 tested positive again after being discharged from hospital, doctors in Wuhan have found.

Researchers around the world are trying to determine whether recovered patients can still infect people with the coronavirus that causes the disease and if they have developed antibodies offering them immunity to the disease.

Doctors from Tongji hospital in the city, where the disease was first identified, told state broadcaster CCTV that they have found no evidence that these patients who again tested positive became infectious , based on close observations of their family members and laboratory tests.

In spite of its relatively small sample size, the Tongji hospital research is especially relevant as China now has far more recovered patients than new confirmed cases.

The Chinese mainland, where the disease first emerged last December, has discharged over 90 per cent of its infected patients and around 4,300 confirmed patients are still receiving treatment in hospitals.

The country has reported at least 81,000 cases and more than 3,200 deaths, but most of the new cases have been imported.

Wang Wei, president of Tongji hospital told CCTV’s prime-time programme that of the 147 recovered patients they studied, only five – or just over 3 per cent – have tested positive in nucleic acid tests again after recovery.

Meanwhile, Life Times, a health news outlet affiliated with People’s Daily, reported this week that quarantine facilities in Wuhan have reported that about 5 to 10 per cent of their recovered patients tested positive again.

Previous reports have also highlighted cases where patients tested positive after recovery, including one on Sunday from Life Times about a family of three in Wuhan, who all tested positive again.

These incidents have raised questions about whether nucleic acid tests might not be reliable in detecting traces of the virus in some of the recovered patients.

Some experts have also expressed concerns about the sensitivity and stability of the test kits, and the collection and handling of patients’ samples.

Wang told CCTV that the five patients from his hospital who tested positive again did not have any symptoms, and none of their family members or people in close contact with them has been infected.

He said there was no conclusive evidence to prove that the recovered patients who tested positive again would be infectious to others.

“So far there is no evidence to suggest that they are infectious,” Wang said, adding that surveillance of similar patients showed about 80 to 90 per cent of them had no trace of the coronavirus in their blood one month after being discharged from hospitals.

Another sample group of 15 patients from the hospital also confirmed a similar trend, with none infecting their family members.

“These are just small samples and not enough to assure us of the validity of our initial findings,” Wang said. “We need a large-scale epidemiological study to guide our disease surveillance and prevention works.”

However, he said it was imperative for recovered patients to stay in isolation for two weeks after discharge so they could be tested again for confirmation.

In a separate interview with CCTV also broadcast on Tuesday, Tong Chaohui, a respiratory disease expert from a central government task force in Hubei, where Wuhan is located, agreed that continued monitoring of the recovered patients was important.

“So far, none of the close family members of these recovered patients have been tested positive and we could not find the coronavirus in the laboratory cultured samples [from these patients],” Tong said.

“Although the nucleic acid tests were positive, random checking suggested that the patients have developed antibodies that were effective in protecting them from the nucleic acid of the virus,” he added.

Speaking to official newspaper Hubei Daily early this week, Tu Yuanchao, deputy director of Hubei health commission, said discharged patients who tested positive again and have shown symptoms would be re-hospitalised. Those who do not have symptoms would be sent to quarantine facilities for observation for two weeks. (Click to Source)

 

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Deadly Chloroquine Poisonings in USA and Nigeria

An Arizona man died and his wife was hospitalized after they treated themselves on Sunday with a popular fish tank additive that has the same active ingredient as the anti-malaria drug that was referred to as a “game changer.”

Meanwhile, health officials in Nigeria have issued a warning over chloroquine after they said three people in the country overdosed on the drug, in the wake of President Trump’s comments about using it to treat the pandemic.

 

Chloroquine may work to cure the pandemic. But please take it safely and contact your doctor before using… Here a collection of cases that shows how panic behaviors lead to overdoses and deaths.

Arizona man fatally poisons himself with chloroquine while self-medicating

An Arizona man and his wife ingested a fish tank cleaning additive made with the same active ingredient as chloroquine phosphate, which President Trump has referred to as a potential “game changer.”

The man died and his wife was hospitalized after they treated themselves on Sunday with a popular fish tank additive that has the ‘wondrous’ active ingredient as an anti-malaria drug, chloroquine.

Meanwhile, the FDA issued a statement saying it had not approved the drug for use against Covid-19 and is still studying its effectiveness against the disease. [NYT]

Already three chloroquine oversoses in Nigeria

Nigeria health officials have issued a warning over chloroquine after three people in the country overdosed on the drug.

gboyega akosile@gboyegaakosile

Please note: Hospitals Now Receiving Patients Suffering From Chloroquine Poisoning, Says Gov @jidesanwoolu‘s SSA on Health, Dr @Oreoluwa_Finnih
She urged people against massive consumption of Chloroquine as a measure to fight #coronavirus.

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The drug hasn’t been approved for use against the Wuhan virus. The molecule is undergoing deeper clinical tests to prove the effectiveness against the disease. [CNN]

In case of a chloroquine poisoning, the US governement explains: ‘The most important measures after a diagnosis of chloroquine poisoning are immediate intubation so that diazepam (1 mg/kg) can be administered intravenously as specific antidote without danger of severe respiratory failure.

Another paper shows that ‘The mortality rate in patients with acute chloroquine poisoning, including those patients sick enough to be referred to a specialty unit such as ours, can be limited to < or = 10%.

This great video looks at the evidence behind the anti-malarial medications chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for the virus.

In the meantime, don’t be a fool and don’t panic. Don’t buy Chloroquine online… Most of it is FAKE! And the prices or skyrocketing. It’s insane! They are playing with your nerves and your health!

Stay at home and everything will be ok. And as always, ask your doctor before taking any pills or medication… Because you don’t want to die from a lie! (Click to Source)

 

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KAISER PERMANENTE THREATENED TO FIRE NURSES TREATING COVID-19 PATIENTS FOR WEARING THEIR OWN MASKS, UNIONS SAY

Akela Lacy – March 24 2020, 1:05 p.m.

 

NURSES AT KAISER Permanente hospitals and clinics in California could be fired immediately for wearing their own face masks, according to unions representing nurses at the facilities. The news comes after nurses were ordered to reuse disposable protective gear to save supplies in the face of shortages brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The California Nurses Association and National Nurses United sent a flyer to members noting that Kaiser had threatened nurses with firing if they wear their own N95 masks, which offer a high level of protection from airborne contaminants, to work. “Kaiser has told nurses that if they’re seen wearing their personal N95 masks, they could be fired ‘on the spot’ for insubordination,” the flyer read. The unions did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kaiser spokesperson Marc Brown said firing nurses for using their own N95 gear is not the company’s official policy. Asked if nurses would not be disciplined if they wear their own masks, Brown did not provide an answer. “That is not our policy. We provide the appropriate medical-grade protective equipment for the protocols and level of patient care being provided. We cannot assure the integrity of protective equipment not provided by Kaiser Permanente,” Brown wrote in a statement to The Intercept. “We want them to wear equipment we can be sure is effective.”

Kaiser nurses last week received guidelines downgrading protective standards and giving instructions on how to reuse certain types of eyewear and masks. That change came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month downgraded from protocols for airborne contamination to protocols for droplet contamination, noting that the change was based on supply rather than science.

Close to 100 nurses and family members gathered outside Kaiser’s Oakland Medical Center on Monday night to protest the new guidelines, saying that they put both patients and critical staff at risk. Staff at the center have been caring for patients from the Grand Princess cruise ship, which had at least 21 passengers test positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Local police and Kaiser facility security observed the protest, according to one nurse who attended and asked for anonymity to avoid retaliation from their employer. California went into lockdown last week, meaning that large gatherings are strongly discouraged.

“For our workplace to be saying, ‘Hey, you know, we’re taking the bare minimum that we can give you guys and giving it to you,’ was really disheartening,” the nurse said.

As nurses told The Intercept last week, staff at the Oakland facility have also downgraded the level of protection of the gowns they’re using to care for staff. “The gowns that they are giving us have dramatically decreased in their protective ability as those have kind of become, quote-unquote, unavailable,” the nurse said. “The gowns that we’re currently being given, they went from being less permeable to totally permeable gowns that have an open back. So those gowns, how are those supposed to protect us when we’re going in rooms, we’re supposed to maneuver between equipment to try and care for these patients, and our entire backsides is being exposed. And then we’re going out and sitting in chairs. Completely inadequate.”

Kaiser said it has the necessary supplies to protect nurses, but the nurse said that hasn’t always felt like the case. “We were not having, it felt like, adequate supply. You could get what you needed, you had to fight for it. And it’s exhausting,” the nurse said.

With materials in short supply, things have gone missing, and so management is locking them away, they said. “What happens when the person with the key to that office isn’t there at the moment? Delay in patient care. … That’s just extra time spent searching for these things.” (Click to Source)

 

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School and business closures extended until April 10; 52 positive COVID-19 cases in Montana

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Montana Gov. Steve Bullock on Tuesday extended his orders closing public K-12 schools and some businesses where people congregate until at least April 10, in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Montana.

Bullock issued his school closure order March 15, initially set to expire two weeks later, which would have been this Friday. On March 20 he issued another order shuttering bars, gyms, theaters and other businesses where people gather, and banned restaurants and breweries from dine-in scenarios while allowing delivery and to-go orders. He tied that order to the end date for the school closures, but acknowledged at the time it was likely that both would be extended.

“The obligation to control this spread is on each and every one of us, each and every day,” Bullock said on a call with reporters Tuesday. ” … We do continue to see an increase in cases each day, and that is expected.”

Montana added seven additional known cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday morning, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 52.

Gallatin County, which on Sunday said it had evidence of community spread of the coronavirus, now has 19 cases, more than double anywhere else in the state. Community spread means people who contracted the virus had no known contact with other sick people or close contacts with sick people.

Yellowstone County has eight cases, Missoula has six, Flathead four, Butte-Silver Bow, Cascade and Lewis and Clark each have three, Madison has two, and Jefferson, Ravalli, Broadwater and Roosevelt each have one.

On a call with reporters Tuesday, Bullock said even the April 10 timeline for the closure orders to lift could be shortened or lengthened, depending on how the virus continues to spread in Montana.

Public health officials nationwide have been urging people to take severe and swift action to limit the transmission of COVID-19, using dire language to describe potential outcomes if social distancing guidelines are not followed. While President Donald Trump, in conflict with those warnings, said Tuesday he “would love to have the country opened up, and just raring to go, by Easter,” it’s fallen to governors and local governments to implement closure orders.

By Tuesday, cities, counties and governors in an estimated 17 states have urged residents to stay at home or implemented large-scale shutdowns of nonessential businesses, which affects about 167 million people nationwide, according to a tally by the New York Times.

model built by data scientists, engineers and designers working with epidemiologists, public health officials and political leaders to help understand how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect their region shows that Montana could reach a point of no return to prevent hospital overload sometime between April 14-19.

Bullock also issued a directive Tuesday prohibiting nonessential social and recreational gatherings of individuals outside a home or place of residence of greater than 10 people with a distance of at least 6 feet between individuals.

“This is a bit more restrictive (than his previous direction on gatherings) and we’re asking Montanans to comply,” Bullock said. Violations of that and the closure orders can be enforced by county attorneys.

Day cares are still open, Bullock said, because they serve a critical role in caring for the children of essential workers like health care providers, emergency responders and more.

As some businesses have closed and restaurants have reduced operations, many Montanans are finding themselves out of work. While Bullock eliminated the weeklong wait period for people to receive unemployment benefits, the state system to access them has been overwhelmed. Bullock said that since March 16, more than 15,000 people had filed claims.

While the chief justice of the state Supreme Court asked that nonviolent inmates be released from county jails, Bullock said Tuesday he has not made a determination about any changes at the state prison in Deer Lodge or other facilities like the prison in Shelby run by a contractor.

Montana has a primary election June 2, and several candidates have called for a vote-by-mail election. Bullock said Tuesday he would have a decision on any possible changes to that election soon, made under the power he has in the emergency declaration he issued March 12.

Bullock said the state is aggressively seeking to increase its critical inventory of supplies and that he got an additional 50,000 N-95 masks through a mutual aid agreement with North Dakota. Those will be distributed all across the state soon. He also issued orders Monday that should open up options for hospitals to increase their capacity in the event of a surge of patients.

“We’re doing everything we can in our capacity to prepare to take care of critically ill patients if we end up getting numerous COVID-19 patients in our hospitals and ensure there’s hospital space and supplies to respond,” Bullock said.

The state public health laboratory is also getting an additional 4,000 swabs for testing. Bullock said a week ago the state tried to order from a private supplier and that order was canceled because of overwhelming demand.

The reality of the situation, Bullock said, is that supply capacity depends on access to private supplies and if those hit a bottleneck the state must rely on the federal government honoring its requests for additional supplies.

Montana’s federal delegation and attorney general also reported Trump announced the state will get an extension for when people will need REAL ID-compliant drivers licenses to be able to board airplanes or access federal facilities such as federal agency office buildings, federal courthouses, military bases and nuclear power plants. The deadline had been Oct. 1, and the new deadline will be announced in the future.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also announced Monday that the state’s 14 community health centers will receive $810,430 to address screening and testing needs, get medical supplies and increase tele-medicine capacity. Last week both the state and federal government, as well as private insurance companies, took actions to increase access to tele-medicine options to ease access to care for people while keeping people who may spread the virus out of health care facilities. A list of funding by facility is attached to this story online. (Click to Source)

 

 

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Confronting the coronavirus: 10 practical ways Christians can shine the light in this dark time

By Ginger McPherson , Op-Ed Contributor – TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 2020

The coronavirus.

It’s here.

And our first instinct is to do what everyone else is doing. To be afraid. To watch too much news. To hibernate or hustle to the store. To hoard toilet paper.

This is a dark time, after all. An uncertain time. Businesses are closing their doors. Churches are cancelling services or moving online. This pandemic is undoubtedly stretching the already-frayed fabric of our nation, and leaders are doing their best to navigate the storm.

Still, we, as Christians, have a great opportunity. We have a prodigious responsibility unlike any other time in recent years to be outwardly focused. To “let your light shine,” as Matthew 5:15-16 tells us to do.

In this crisis, we cannot sit back in complacency expecting the fearful masses to flock to local Christian establishments as they did after the threat of 9/11. That is now considered unsafe. We also cannot lean on our pastors to tend to all the needs of the elderly, to comfort the anxious, to shine “light” into the darkness.

No, we must do it.

We must, one by one, choose to be that light, to reach out and to truly love those around us with the deep, deep love of Jesus.

But how do we do this? How can we practically show Jesus’ love while still keeping ourselves, our families and those around us safe?

Here are ten practical ways we can be a “light” while still practicing common sense and abiding by the social-distancing wisdom of medical experts. These ten things are mere suggestions, and the majority of them can be done within the security of your own home. Lean into the Holy Spirit, however, and let Him guide you. But whatever you do, do something.

The time to act is now.

1.  For the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, give them a call. Listen to them, laugh with them. Laughter can truly be great medicine. If you know them personally (and you are young and healthy), offer to deliver their groceries. No human contact is needed. You can simply pick up the groceries and leave them on their porch for them to take inside.

2.  For your neighbors, write a note introducing yourself and put it in the mailboxes of the homes or apartments around you. In the note, tell your neighbors you’re a Christian and offer to pray for them or to provide whatever support you feel that you can to meet their needs. Also, don’t forget to include your contact info, so they can respond.

3.  For service workers, thank them profusely, every person you encounter — the mail carrier, the plumber, the cashier at the grocery store, the Starbucks drive-thru barista, the security guard. They are people too. Encourage them. Let them know you see them and see how hard they are trying to do their jobs in the midst of what may seem like chaos at times.

4.  For a single mother or low-income family, offer to help with their childcare needs. Have a weeknight pizza meal delivered. Order a box of diapers. Leave a puzzle or board game at their front door. Every little bit helps, and the reality that they aren’t alone can help even more.

5.  For a small business near you, buy a gift card or two that can be redeemed later on a birthday, for your anniversary, or even for Christmas presents to relatives and friends. Buy directly from the business online or by calling (rather than through a secondary source) to really make a difference, and if you can, make sure to encourage the employee, manager, or owner by telling them you care.

6.  For medical professionals, send a text and let them know you support them as they stand on the frontlines of this fight. Remember to encourage their family members too who may be waiting anxiously at home. Offer to mow their lawn or wash their car. To help with other maintenance needs. Most of all, just make sure they don’t feel alone. If you’re concerned, you can be sure they’re even more concerned, especially about what they could be bringing home to their families. So be sensitive and show them love.

7.  For out-of-school children, if your child’s class has a private email chain or some other way of electronically connecting, send out a message to the other students’ parents of that class offering to provide a PB & J sack lunch once a week left on your porch for any child who might want or need it for whatever reason. If that seems too invasive or unsafe, consider leaving some non-perishable, prepackaged snacks that kids can come and take. Just make sure you remember parents and children alike want dignity. No parent will willingly admit they’re struggling to feed their child. They might, however, accept a gesture like this one.

8.  For the homeless and needy, take an extra sack of groceries, soap, blankets, or clothes to your local food bank or homeless shelter. Food banks will likely be overrun with those who need help, and they depend heavily upon donations from others to stay stocked with provision and supplies.

9.  If you can and are healthy, donate blood. Those who are seriously sick often need invasive medical treatments, and those treatments can include extra pints of blood. Even a single pint could help save a life, so consider finding a local donation bank and becoming a volunteer blood donor.

10.  Last of all, pray. This is probably the greatest thing you can do. Pray that God will show you creative ways in which you personally can love and serve those around you while still keeping you and your family safe. Pray for those who are anxious, pray for those who are struggling financially, pray for your pastors, pray for your civic leaders, and pray for those who may be sick. Pray often but also be willing to tell others you are praying for them too.

This is a time not to judge or criticize, to hoard or unreasonably hide (of course, follow social distancing!). Rather, it is a time to reach out to one person at a time. It is a time to serve and show compassion. To be moved with compassion, in fact, as Jesus was when He saw a crowd “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

We have an opportunity to let our faith shine right now, to live the gospel even from within the walls of our own homes, so let’s not waste it.

Instead let’s all choose to give lavishly that life-changing hope Jesus’ light abundantly brings.  (Click to Source)

Ginger McPherson is a college professor turned stay-at-home mom of three.  She has a Ph.D. in English from Baylor University. She is also a pastor’s wife, Bible teacher, and devotional writer at https://www.glmcpherson.com/  She currently resides in Oklahoma where her husband serves as the Minister of Discipleship at First Baptist Church of Tulsa.

 

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Iran warns virus could kill ‘millions’ in Islamic Republic

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran issued its most dire warning yet Tuesday about the new coronavirus ravaging the country, suggesting “millions” could die in the Islamic Republic if people keep traveling and ignore health guidance.

A state TV journalist who also is a medical doctor gave the warning only hours after hard-line Shiite faithful on Monday night pushed their way into the courtyards of two major shrines that were finally closed due to the virus. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious ruling prohibiting “unnecessary” travel.

Roughly 9 out of 10 of the over 18,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the Middle East come from Iran, where authorities denied for days the risk the outbreak posed. Officials have implemented new checks for people trying to leave major cities ahead of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on Friday, but have hesitated to quarantine the areas.

The death toll in Iran saw another 13% increase Tuesday. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the virus had killed 135 more people to raise the total to 988 amid over 16,000 cases.

Jordan announced a state of emergency, banning gatherings of more than 10 people, and Israel issued its own strict guidelines.

Most infected people experience only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and recover within weeks. But the virus is highly contagious and can be spread by people with no visible symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

In announcing the new warning, the Iranian state TV journalist, Dr. Afruz Eslami, cited a study by Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology, which offered three scenarios: If people cooperate fully now, Iran will see 120,000 infections and 12,000 deaths before the outbreak is over; if they offer medium cooperation, there will be 300,000 cases and 110,000 deaths.

But if people fail to follow any guidance, it could collapse Iran’s already-strained medical system, Eslami said. If the “medical facilities are not sufficient, there will be 4 million cases, and 3.5 million people will die,” she said.

Eslami did not elaborate on what metrics the study used, but even reporting it on Iran’s tightly controlled state media represented a major change for a country whose officials had for days denied the severity of the crisis.

Underlining that urgency was the fatwa issued by Khamenei, which prohibited “unnecessary” travel. It comes as the public ignored repeated warnings and pleas from security forces. Such a decree is rare by Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters.

Some Iranian media later said Khamenei hadn’t issued a fatwa, though semiofficial news agencies believed to be close to the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said the order had been made.

Late Monday night, angry crowds stormed the courtyards of the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad and the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Qom. Many people visit the shrine in Qom 24 hours a day, seven days a week, touching and kissing the shrine.That has worried health officials, who for weeks wanted Iran’s Shiite clergy to close them.

State TV had announced the closures earlier in the day, sparking the demonstrations.

“We are here to say that Tehran is damn wrong to do that!” one Shiite cleric shouted at the shrine in Mashhad, according to online video. Others joined him in chanting: “The health minister is damn wrong to do that, the president is damn wrong to do that!”

Police later dispersed the crowds and made arrests. Religious authorities and a prominent Qom seminary called the demonstration an “insult” to the shrine.

Iran’s shrines draw Shiite pilgrims from all over, likely contributing to the virus’ regional spread. Saudi Arabia has closed off Islam’s holiest sites and on Tuesday said it would halt communal Friday prayers in the kingdom.

President Hassan Rouhani said that despite the closures, “our soul is closer to the saints more than at any time.”

State TV reported teams were deployed to screen travelers leaving major cities in 13 provinces, including the capital, Tehran. But Iran has 31 provinces and authorities haven’t tried to lock down the country the way its allies Iraq and Lebanon have done.

The teams check travelers and send those with fevers to quarantine centers. Iran has been urging people to stay home, but many ignore the call.

In apparent efforts to try to curb the spread, Iran has released 85,000 prisoners on temporary leave, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said. That number included half of all “security-related” prisoners, he said without elaborating. Western nations have urged Iran to release dual nationals and others, alleging they are used as bargaining chips in negotiations.

Among those released is Mohammad Hossein Karroubi, the son of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, who was in jail for nearly two months.

Also temporarily freed was Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British dual national long held on internationally criticized charges. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the charitable Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in 2016 on charges of trying to topple the government while traveling with her toddler daughter.

In Jordan, King Abdullah II by royal decree declared a national emergency over the virus outbreak, which allows the suspension of laws and grants greater powers to the state to restrict public gatherings and make arrests.

Troops were deployed outside of Jordan’s major cities to block travel, newspapers were ordered to stop publishing, gatherings of more than 10 people were banned and a quarantine zone was established at Dead Sea hotels. It also halted all private sector work and public transportation as well.

Egypt, which has 196 confirmed cases of the virus and six deaths, announced the immediate shutdown of all movie theaters across the Arab world’s most populous country.

It also locked down the Red Sea province that includes the resort town of Hurghada. Authorities barred workers in all tourist sites, hotels, bazaars and restaurants from leaving the province and imposed a 14-day quarantine, according to a document from the governor’s office obtained by The Associated Press.

In Oman, the sultanate announced anyone coming from abroad would be subject to quarantine.

Israel’s Defense Ministry plans to use near-empty hotels, as recovery centers for patients with COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. Israel also urged citizens to stay home, closing parks, museums, libraries, beaches and other public areas.

In Syria, all sports clubs, movie theaters, concerts, theaters, as well as halls used for weddings or funerals were ordered closed in Damascus, and all restaurants and other shops around the country were ordered shut. Syria says it has no cases of the virus.

Pakistan’s number of coronavirus cases rose to 237, although no deaths have been reported. Government critics blame improper border screenings for thousands of pilgrims returning from Iran this month.

Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that the disease will spread but said the public “should not fret as most of the people easily recover.” (Click to Source)

___

Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Mehdi Fattahi in Tehran, Iran, Aron Heller in Jerusalem, Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan, Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed.

___

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

 

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