Hospitals struggle with staff shortages as federal Covid funds run out

“Hospitals across the country are grappling with widespread staffing shortages, complicating preparations for a potential Covid-19 surge as the BA.5 subvariant drives up cases, hospital admissions and deaths.

Long-standing problems, worker burnout and staff turnover have grown worse as Covid-19 waves have hit health care workers again and again — and as more employees fall sick with Covid-19 themselves.”

Study: Huanan Market In Wuhan Was the ‘Epicenter’ of COVID-19 Outbreak

“Did the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic originate from live animals for sale in the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China, or as a lab leak from the Wuhan Institute for Virology? In search of answer to this question, a new article in Science parses the early outbreak data along with environmental samples taken in Huanan Market supplied by Chinese researchers. It finds that the market was the “epicenter” for the contagion. A second article concludes that the outbreak began after two genetically distinct coronaviruses infected people beginning in November and December of 2019.

Do these findings rule out the possibility that the COVID-19 coronavirus originated from the institute? No. The first article acknowledges that “events upstream of the market, as well as exact circumstances at the market, remain obscure, highlighting the need for further studies to understand and lower the risk of future pandemics.” Those “events upstream” could include a scenario in which someone associated with the Virology Institute was unknowingly infected with the virus and carried it to the market while shopping.

“Have we disproven the lab leak theory? No, we have not,” one of the study’s authors told The Washington Post. “Will we ever be able to? No. But there are ‘possible’ scenarios and there are ‘plausible’ scenarios….’Possible’ does not mean equally likely.”

Skeptics of the natural origin of the virus will point to its novel furin cleavage site (FCS), which enhances its ability to latch onto and infect human cells. Broad Institute researcher Yujia Alina Chan and her colleagues noted in a January 2022 article for Molecular Biology and Evolution that the Wuhan Institute had earlier proposed to research FCS in coronaviruses found in bats. They further observed that the FCS has not been found so far in plausible evolutionary forebears of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

On the other hand, a May 2022 analysis of the genetics of bat coronaviruses in Communications Biology identifies “several possible ways for natural acquisition of the FCS” in bat coronaviruses. This, they argue, supports “a natural evolutionary origin from bats with or without the involvement of [other animal] intermediary hosts.”

In June, the World Health Organization urged the Chinese government and researchers to allay speculations about lab leaks by being more forthcoming about the work on coronavirus viruses undertaken at the Wuhan Institute for Virology. The world is still waiting to hear from them.”

How the pandemic screwed up our antibiotics

“if we’re not very careful now, humanity may backslide into a world where our antibiotics become useless — and the common infections they used to treat cut our lives short.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made that danger worse. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during the first year of the pandemic, the problem of drug resistance only intensified.

Drug resistance is what happens when we overuse antibiotics in the treatment of humans, animals, or crops. When a new antibiotic is introduced, it can have great, lifesaving results — for a while. But then the bacteria adapt. Gradually, the antibiotic becomes less effective, and we’re left with diseases we’re less able to treat.

Even before Covid-19, experts had been warning that we’re approaching a post-antibiotic era — a time when our antibiotics would become largely useless against health problems ranging from tuberculosis to STIs to urinary tract infections. They noted that routine hospital procedures like C-sections and joint replacements could become more dangerous, too, as the risk associated with infection — especially infections acquired in hospitals — increases.

Some professionals, especially in hospitals, had heeded the experts’ warnings, and we’d seen some progress as a result. Take staph infections, for example. A 2019 CDC report noted that rates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) had dropped. And overall, deaths caused by drug resistance had decreased by 18 percent since 2013.

But the Covid-19 pandemic has reversed years of hard-won progress. Drug-resistant hospital-related deaths and infections from seven pathogens grew 15 percent from 2019 to 2020, including a 13 percent increase for MRSA infections, which can be deadly.

One reason for that is that hospitals overprescribed antibiotics, according to the CDC. From March through October 2020, almost 80 percent of Covid-19 patients who were hospitalized were given antibiotics. As a viral illness, Covid-19 isn’t affected by antibiotics, but doctors may have been keen to prescribe them to cure or protect against secondary infections, especially given that hospital stays for Covid-19 can be long and intensive.

“This setback can and must be temporary,” Michael Craig, the director of the CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit, said in a statement. “The best way to avert a pandemic caused by an antimicrobial-resistant pathogen is to identify gaps and invest in prevention to keep our nation safe.”

Obviously, the last thing we want is for the Covid-19 pandemic to pave the way for a new pandemic caused by some drug-resistant pathogen.”

“The good news is that we can absolutely address the problem of drug resistance. In its new report, the CDC calls for doubling down on strategies we know work, like preventing hospital-acquired infections in the first place and training medical professionals on when it is and isn’t appropriate to dole out antibiotics.”

Title 42 Expulsions Made the Border Less Secure

“Customs and Border Protection (CBP) invoked Title 42 in nearly 1.8 million migrant encounters between April 2020 and March 2022, amounting to 61 percent of total encounters. Title 42 allowed immediate expulsion and barred affected migrants from applying for asylum.

Although immigration opponents pointed to those numbers as proof of the policy’s necessity, the figures were inflated. Because Title 42 is a health measure, immigration officials could not impose reentry penalties on expelled migrants. With no disincentive for reentry, the share of encounters that involved repeat crossers jumped to 27 percent in 2021, nearly four times higher than in 2019.

Excluding repeat crossings, the number of border apprehensions resembled pre-pandemic levels. Border hard-liners ignored that point, pointing to headlines announcing record CBP apprehensions. Meanwhile, most would-be migrants were unable to request asylum at a port of entry, opting instead to congregate at the border. That was the natural result of shutting down more orderly immigration channels.”

” The Title 42 order has led to more frequent and less predictable migrant inflows. With proper planning, its phaseout could result in more efficient processing at the border. Restoring the asylum-seeking process, coupled with expanding opportunities for temporary work visas and economic migration, could help prevent both harm to migrants and chaotic scenes at the border.”

California’s Competitors

“The median home value in San Francisco in 2022 is above $1.5 million, according to the Zillow Home Value Index, which shows home values rising by more than 10 percent in the past year alone. In nearby San Jose, Redfin reports a median home price of $1.45 million—but home values have risen by a staggering 24 percent in the last year. Today’s Bay Area is simply unaffordable for most people, in part because California regulations hinder new construction and in part because natural geographical constraints reduce the total amount of buildable space; San Francisco has a huge housing supply shortage that shows no signs of being remedied soon.

Pair this with complaints that the city has failed to handle its homelessness problem, leading to open-air drug scenes and massive tent encampments in neighborhoods like the Tenderloin. One in every 100 San Franciscans is homeless, and California is a national outlier in terms of what proportion of the homeless population is actively “unsheltered,” as in, sleeping on the streets or under highway overpasses. In San Francisco, 73 percent of the city’s homeless population is considered unsheltered. That’s not normal, even for a big city: In New York City, the figure is about 3 percent.

And then there was the pandemic, which made many big tech offices obsolete: Twitter, Yelp, and Airbnb attempted to sublease their expensive Bay Area office spaces. Pinterest paid almost $90 million in the third quarter of 2020 to break the lease of their almost 500,000-square-foot office space. For many workers, the value of living in San Francisco dropped. Why pay a premium to live near an office you aren’t going to?

Finally, there was the broader sense, especially among high-value tech workers, that San Francisco and its neighbors were uninterested and unresponsive, focused only on extracting from their most productive citizens in the form of high taxes, which fund poor city services. In the last few years, many have simply grown tired of paying exorbitant taxes for the privilege of living in California—one that now bestows little in return.

Hence the Golden State exodus. In 2021, for the first time ever, California lost a congressional seat. The state didn’t technically lose population, but it didn’t have the same growth rate as the rest of the country.”

“the shift also owes something to responsive governance. Leaders of other cities have actively courted the movers. In December 2020, venture capitalist Delian Asparouhov tweeted “ok guys hear me out, what if we move silicon valley to miami.” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez responded promptly, “How can I help?”

Yet as Bay Area tech workers depart, it remains an open question whether those new pastures will truly be greener. The city of Austin has faced rising housing costs, stemming in part from restrictions on development. Miami has struggled with corruption and policing problems. San Francisco’s urban competitors are cheaper, for now, but there are already worrying signs that the cities luring tech’s highly mobile, highly desirable workers are already poised to repeat many of the same mistakes that drove so many Californians away.”

“In 2012, Austin city officials saw the writing on the wall and proactively tried to remedy these problems by moving toward a zoning code rewrite. The 30-year-old code had outlasted its usefulness, and with massive population growth, city planners needed to allow for much more density.

The city’s newly proposed zoning code was dubbed CodeNEXT, as part of a forward-looking urban revitalization plan, Imagine Austin. The new code aimed to reduce the strict separations between Austin’s residential and commercial corridors, allowing for more mixed-use buildings and more housing overall.

It would’ve scrapped single-family zoning restrictions in many areas, allowing for duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and apartment buildings to be built in their stead; it would’ve allowed for urban in-fill instead of forcing newcomers to gravitate toward far-flung suburbs; it would’ve reduced or eliminated minimum parking requirements in some places too. It wasn’t exactly an urbanist’s dream—some criticized it for not going far enough with regard to density—but it was a reasonable step toward that ideal.”

“By 2018, the project was dead in the water, having been met with fierce opposition primarily from neighborhood preservationists and homeowners, who had seen their homes double in price over the last five or 10 years.”

Blame Congress for Pandemic Fraud

“The inconvenient truth behind all this fraud and waste is that these government programs never should have been designed as they were. For example, while the federal government justifiably boosted state unemployment benefits at the beginning of the pandemic, it was irresponsible to enhance the benefits by $600 a week. As a result, 76 percent of the individuals who received such benefits were making more by not working than by working. It was also irresponsible to extend the program long after the economy reopened and resumed growing.

The same is true of the overly generous three rounds of $1,200, $600, and $1,400 individual payments paid to people who either already received the enhanced unemployment benefits or who never lost their jobs. Most recipients of these funds didn’t need them. In fact, only 15 percent of people who received the first round of checks said they had spent it or planned to spend it. And there were other benefits on top of these checks.”

“This non-fraudulent spending is now helping to fuel inflation.

Then, you have the money dispensed to corporations. In one way or another, that spending made up a huge share of the COVID-19 relief. Indeed, whether through the airline bailouts or the Payroll Protection Program, shareholders collected trillions of dollars in government handouts they didn’t need. Most of the PPP funding, for example, went to companies whose workers were never at risk of losing their jobs since they were well-suited to work from home.”

“billions of dollars went to state and local governments, including for schools that stayed closed, even though many of these governments’ revenue growth equaled or exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

Of course there was some fraud, but the malfeasance happened only because the programs were created in the first place and designed to go to everyone regardless of need. This reckless “design” is the true scandal.”

We just got the most comprehensive study of pandemic learning loss

“Thomas Kane, faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, is part of a team that recently released the broadest analysis of pandemic learning loss to date. They crunched data from over 2 million students across 10,000 elementary and middle schools.

One of their biggest findings: the speed at which schools returned to in-person learning was the key factor in how far students fell behind. “In schools that remained in-person throughout 2021, students lost ground, but they lost about seven to 10 weeks of instruction. In school districts that were remote for more than half of 2021, students in high-poverty schools in those districts lost the equivalent of 22 weeks of instruction, so more than half a year””