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April 09, 2020

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Alaska: COVID-19 Update: Statewide Count 235 With 7 Deaths Statewide; No New Cases in Ketchikan Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN - The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) reported today there were nine new cases of COVID-19 yesterday in four Alaska communities – Anchorage (5), Kenai (1), and Fairbanks (2) and Wasilla (1). These new cases were reported from 12:00 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. on April 8 and reflect data posted at noon April 9, 2020.

Today's report brings the total case count in Alaska to 235. Of these 235 positive cases, 49 have recovered statewide.

Of the new cases reported today - three are male and six are female. One case is aged 20-29; four are aged 30-39; one is aged 40-49; two are aged 50-59; and one is aged 70-79. There have been 27 total hospitalizations with no new hospitalizations yesterday. 

And on Wednesday, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) reported one new death and 13 new cases of COVID-19 in three Alaska communities – Anchorage (6), Palmer (1) and Fairbanks (6). This brings the total case count in Alaska to 226 as of April 7th. 

The person who died is a female aged 40-49 from Anchorage who was admitted to a local hospital on April 5. Her positive test result came back April 7th. This brings the total deaths from COVID-19 to seven Alaskans, two of whom were out of state when they died. 

“The loss of these Alaskans is sad and difficult, for the families, loved ones, the communities where these individuals lived, and for all of Alaska,” said Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink. “This daily press release relays the data associated with COVID-19 to the public but behind each number is an Alaskan. My thoughts are with this individual’s loved ones today.”

Of the new cases reported Tuesday, seven are male and six are female. Two cases are aged 20-29; one is aged 30-39; three are aged 40-49; three are aged 50-59; three are aged 60-69; and one is an aged 80+. There have been 27 total hospitalizations with four new hospitalizations yesterday.  A total of 32 recovered cases have been reported. 

In other response news, DHSS on April 8th began shipping 44 rapid testing machines to 27 communities across the state. DHSS coordinated with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to help determine which communities needed the tests, prioritizing areas that were off the road system or on the road system but 100 miles from the nearest testing facility. DHSS also took into consideration communities impacted by an increase in seasonal workers coming from other areas.   

For Monday, April 6, 2020, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) announced 22 new cases of COVID-19 in four Alaska communities – Anchorage (10), Fairbanks (9), North Pole (2) and Bethel (1). This brought the total case count in Alaska to 213 on the count.

The Bethel case on Monday is the first for the Bethel census area (Southwest Region) and is associated with out-of-state travel. Alaska Division of Public Health staff are working with Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) staff to complete a thorough contact investigation. 

“We are working closely with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation and local public health nursing staff to identify people who may have been exposed to this person and offer appropriate testing, isolation, and quarantine guidance,” said Alaska State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin. “We are making every effort to respond earnestly to this situation to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in the region.”

Testing is now available in the region, through efforts from YKHC and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC). ANTHC yesterday announced the distribution of 40 rapid testing machines and 2,400 test kits for diagnosing COVID-19 throughout communities in rural Alaska. 

“Testing is confidential. Getting tested as soon as possible, when indicated by your provider, is one of the most effective, important ways to help one’s community in preventing the spread of this infection,” said Dr. Jacob Gray, Infectious Disease Physician at the Alaska Native Medical Center. “Practicing physical distancing and excellent hand hygiene will help prevent us from getting COVID-19, and being tested for COVID-19 can be very useful to the individual patient and the community.” 

Of the new cases reported for Monday, 12 are male and 10 are female. One case is an individual aged 20-29; five are aged 30-39; three are aged 40-49; seven are aged 50-59; four are aged 60-69; one is an aged 70-79; and one is an aged 80+. There have been 23 total hospitalizations and no new hospitalizations yesterday. A total of six Alaskans have died as of Monday and there were no new deaths on Monday reported.

There have been no new cases of COVID-19 in Ketchikan since April 1, 2020. The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Ketchikan remain at fourteen (14). Of these cases, two (2) individuals had a recent history of travel, and eleven (11) individuals were identified as having been in close contact with an individual diagnosed with COVID-19. However, the Alaska Dept. of Health reports three (3) travel-related cases for Ketchikan not two (2).

According to the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center (EOC), all of the 14 cases in Ketchikan have recovered and are no longer being monitored by Public Health. The criteria for release from monitoring and isolation are:

  • At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducting medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (such as cough, shortness of breath) and,
  • At least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared

163 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in Ketchikan with the following results: 14 positive; 132 negative, with 15 tests still pending.

Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Zink, and the country's top medical expert on the Coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Fauci, encourage people to wear tightly woven homemade masks when they go out in public, but they both emphasize that this will not necessarily protect the wearer from being infected. Masks can provide a false sense of security for the following reasons: - More...
Thursday PM - April 09, 2020


Ketchikan: PeaceHealth Ketchikan announces new Chief Administrative Officer - Dori Stevens MBA, BSN, will be the next Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center. She starts in her new role April 13, following a two- week isolation period since arriving on the island.

PeaceHealth Ketchikan announces new Chief Administrative Officer

Dori Stevens
Photo Courtesy PHKMC

Stevens has more than 30 years’ experience in healthcare leadership, most recently as the chief executive officer at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, California. She was with Sutter Delta for fifteen years, also serving as director of nursing and certified nursing educator.

Stevens began her career in healthcare as a registered nurse, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from California State University. She later went on to earn her Master of Business Administration from University of Phoenix. In addition, Stevens furthered her professional development with courses in Bioethics from the University of Washington and the completion of Lean Training. - More...
Thursday PM - April 09, 2020

Ketchikan: AMHS Cancels Service to Prince Rupert Until Further Notice; Required international terminal modifications delayed by travel restrictions  - The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) has cancelled service to Prince Rupert, British Columbia until further notice.  COVID-19 related travel restrictions have delayed work to bring the AMHS Prince Rupert Terminal into compliance with federal regulations. All passengers are being notified and rebooked or refunded as necessary.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was scheduled to meet with AMHS this month at Prince Rupert to review and approve ferry terminal facility modifications that are required to conduct international operations. AMHS must fully comply with the security operations stipulated within the Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance Agreement (LRMA) signed by the U.S. and Canada. Due to current travel restrictions, the April meeting cannot take place as planned. AMHS and CBP will meet as soon as possible after travel restrictions are lifted. - More...
Thursday PM - April 09, 2020

Alaska: Attorney General Files Price Gouging Lawsuit Against Online Seller - Alaska Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson filed a complaint last week against Juan Lyle Aune. The Complaint alleges that Aune profited from the spread of COVID-19 by purchasing thousands of N95 respirators from Alaska stores, and then reselling the respirators on Amazon and eBay for unconscionably high prices. The complaint asks the court to impose a separate $25,000 fine for every such sale Aune made.

“Price gouging is simply unacceptable,” said Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson. “The Department of Law is fully committed to taking action against those who would engage in unscrupulous behavior to profit off of COVID-19.”

According to the complaint, Aune purchased respirators from several Alaska stores, including Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Spenard Builder’s Supply. On one trip to Lowe’s, Aune purchased the store’s entire supply of 3M N95 Respirators – a total of 293 20-packs. Aune told a Lowe’s employee that he was “flipping” the masks for a profit of about $50 per box. The complaint further alleges that Aune generally purchased 20-packs of N95 respirators for $17 to $23 in local stores, before reselling the 20-packs on Amazon for an average price of $89.25. Aune also sold 20-packs of N95 respirators on eBay for as much as $89.99. - More...
Thursday PM - April 09, 2020


Alaska: Helpful Alaska Business Resources and Information During Pandemic - In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (DCCED) has compiled helpful information and resources on a variety of websites to help Alaska businesses.

“My team at DCCED continues to search for additional resources to help Alaskan businesses through these tough times,” said Commissioner Julie Anderson. “I encourage everyone to review these pages periodically to stay apprised of the tools available during this pandemic.” - More...
Thursday PM - April 09, 2020

Alaska: Updates for safe physical activity: Wear a face covering outside when you are exerting yourself and passing by others - Communities across Alaska continue to follow hunker-down and shelter-in-place guidelines that have changed how we should be physically active to prevent the spread of coronavirus, also called COVID-19.

 “Alaska is beautiful, and being outside can be a good way to be able to take care of your physical and mental health — but it’s important that you do it safely,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer.

Dr. Zink has provided updates to the ongoing list of Questions and Answers for safe ways to get out and play right now. Her answers address wearing face coverings outside of your home and choosing the safest places to be active — the closer to home, the better. Dr. Zink's guidance has been added to that previously shared by Louisa Castrodale, epidemiologist with Alaska’s Division of Public Health. It’s important to stay up to date with your community’s guidelines.

Should you always wear a face covering when you are physically active outdoors? 

That depends on your surroundings, your activity, who you are with, and how closely you might pass by others. When you are being active outside, you are less likely to be exposed to the COVID-19 virus when there’s good air movement around you and when you are not touching surfaces, like playground equipment, Zink said. - More...
Thursday PM - April 09, 2020

Trial Drug Said To Offer Pandemic Hope

Trial Drug Said To Offer Pandemic Hope
In cell cultures analyzed in the current study, hrsACE2 inhibited the coronavirus load by a factor of 1,000-5,000.
Graphic Credit: IMBA/Tibor Kulcsar


Medical: Trial Drug Said To Offer Pandemic Hope - Scientists around the world, including Canada, are working tirelessly on the development and testing of new treatments and vaccines to help contain the current outbreak of COVID-19.

Among them is University of British Columbia’s Dr. Josef Penninger. He is the senior scientist leading an international research team that has found a trial drug which is said to effectively block the cellular door that the novel coronavirus uses to infect its hosts. The team’s findings hold promise for a treatment capable of stopping early infection of COVID-19. On Wednesday, April 8th, Dr. Penninger held a live Q&A to discuss more about this cutting-edge research and the hope it offers in the global fight against COVID-19.

In case you missed Wednesday's webinar, the findings, published this month in Cell, hold promise as a treatment capable of stopping early infection of the novel coronavirus that, as of April 9th, has affected, according to the World Health Organization, more than 1,439,515 people and claimed the lives of 85,711 people worldwide. 427,460 of the wordwide cases are in the United States with 14,696 of the deaths in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control.

Penninger's study provides new insights into key aspects of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and its interactions on a cellular level, as well as how the virus can infect blood vessels and kidneys.

“We are hopeful our results have implications for the development of a novel drug for the treatment of this unprecedented pandemic,” says Penninger, professor in UBC’s faculty of medicine, director of the Life Sciences Institute and the Canada 150 Research Chair in Functional Genetics at UBC.

“This work stems from an amazing collaboration among academic researchers and companies, including Dr. Ryan Conder’s gastrointestinal group at STEMCELL Technologies in Vancouver, Nuria Montserrat in Spain, Drs. Haibo Zhang and Art Slutsky from Toronto and especially Ali Mirazimi’s infectious biology team in Sweden, who have been working tirelessly day and night for weeks to better understand the pathology of this disease and to provide breakthrough therapeutic options.”

ACE2 - a protein on the surface of the cell membrane - is now at centre-stage in this outbreak as the key receptor for the spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2. In earlier work, Penninger and colleagues at the University of Toronto and the Institute of Molecular Biology in Vienna first identified ACE2, and found that in living organisms, ACE2 is the key receptor for SARS, the viral respiratory illness recognized as a global threat in 2003. His laboratory also went on to link the protein to both cardiovascular disease and lung failure.

While the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread around the globe, the absence of a clinically proven antiviral therapy or a treatment specifically targeting the critical SARS-CoV-2 receptor ACE2 on a molecular level has meant an empty arsenal for health care providers struggling to treat severe cases of COVID-19. - More...
Thursday PM - April 09, 2020



Analysis: What does 'recovered from coronavirus' mean? 4 questions answered about how some survive and what happens next By TOM DUSZYNSKI - The coronavirus is certainly scary, but despite the constant reporting on total cases and a climbing death toll, the reality is that the vast majority of people who come down with COVID-19 survive it. Just as the number of cases grows, so does another number: those who have recovered.

In mid-March, the number of patients in the U.S. who had officially recovered from the virus was close to zero. That number is now in the tens of thousands and is climbing every day. But recovering from COVID-19 is more complicated than simply feeling better. Recovery involves biology, epidemiology and a little bit of bureaucracy too.

How does your body fight off COVID-19?

Once a person is exposed the coronavirus, the body starts producing proteins called antibodies to fight the infection. As these antibodies start to successfully contain the virus and keep it from replicating in the body, symptoms usually begin to lessen and you start to feel better. Eventually, if all goes well, your immune system will completely destroy all of the virus in your system. A person who was infected with and survived a virus with no long-term health effects or disabilities has “recovered.”

On average, a person who is infected with SARS-CoV-2 will feel ill for about seven days from the onset of symptoms. Even after symptoms disappear, there still may be small amounts of the virus in a patient’s system, and they should stay isolated for an additional three days to ensure they have truly recovered and are no longer infectious.

What about immunity?

In general, once you have recovered from a viral infection, your body will keep cells called lymphocytes in your system. These cells “remember” viruses they’ve previously seen and can react quickly to fight them off again. If you are exposed to a virus you have already had, your antibodies will likely stop the virus before it starts causing symptoms. You become immune. This is the principle behind many vaccines.

Unfortunately, immunity isn’t perfect. For many viruses, like mumps, immunity can wane over time, leaving you susceptible to the virus in the future. This is why you need to get revaccinated – those “booster shots” – occasionally: to prompt your immune system to make more antibodies and memory cells.

Since this coronavirus is so new, scientists still don’t know whether people who recover from COVID-19 are immune to future infections of the virus. Doctors are finding antibodies in ill and recovered patients, and that indicates the development of immunity. But the question remains how long that immunity will last. Other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS produce an immune response that will protect a person at least for a short time. I would suspect the same is true of SARS-CoV-2, but the research simply hasn’t been done yet to say so definitively. - More...
Thursday PM - April 09, 2020



JASE GRAVES: SURVIVE THE SUPERMARKET WITH SOCIAL DISTANCING - As we adjust our daily schedules to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are suffering from acute boredom.

Students are suspending their homeschool teachers without pay for excessive grouchiness, children are traumatizing their pets by repeatedly dressing them in Superman and ballerina outfits, and adults are resorting to binge-watching Tiger King on Netflix­ – again. One necessary diversion from this “new normal” is a trip to the supermarket, which has transformed from a mundane activity into a full-contact version of Guy’s Grocery Games.

What follows are a few tips for shoppers hoping to survive this ordeal and make it home with enough supplies to avoid another day of gorging on Little Debbie products and then ordering Taco Bell.

First, parents of teenagers should resist sending them to do the grocery shopping. My wife and I made this mistake when we grew tired of all the chronically dramatic sighing and dispatched our two eldest daughters to Target for a few staple items. You can imagine how relieved we were when they arrived back home with a four-pack of canned Starbucks Double Shot Espresso, a family size bag of salt and vinegar potato chips, and three pints of Bluebell cookie dough ice cream. Thank goodness they remembered the essentials.

Before you leave on your shopping trip, it’s important to wear the proper attire. If you’re like me, you’ve been spending your entire shelter-in-place period sporting pants that feature a drawstring. Naturally, you’ll want to dress a bit more formally out in public, unless you’re planning to brave the hordes at Walmart – where pajamas are the norm and pants are optional. Also, be sure to wear something you can strip off immediately and disinfect upon your arrival home. Your spouse’s bathrobe or a full-body Chewbacca costume should do the trick.- More...
Thursday PM - April 09, 2020

jpg Political Cartoon: About that Stimulus

Political Cartoon: About that Stimulus
By Jeff Koterba ©2020, Omaha World Herald, NE
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jpg Opinion

Legislature Gives Your Dividend to Oil Producers By Ray Metcalfe - Alaska's oil producers are running TV ads saying that they are spending $4 billion each year in Alaska. So let me help you with some perspective. If true, then last year they spent $21.92 to produce each barrel of oil. That's the lowest oil production cost in North America. After paying out $21.92 per barrel, they had an additional $26.00 per barrel as profit. That's the highest per-barrel net profit any producer made anywhere in the world last year.

A $26.00 per barrel profit equates a 118% return on their $21.92 investment. BP's stated international average rate of return is 19%, which calculates to a normal return of $4.16 per barrel.

In other words, your Legislature gave what should have been your dividend to BP, Conoco, and Exxon's shareholders. They buy bigger yachts and you get screwed. - More...
Friday AM - April 10, 2020

jpg Opinion

Legislature’s Elites Refuse To Distribute PFD Early - Claim Some Alaskans Would Waste The Money By David Eastman - Whether they claim to be liberal, conservative, or independent, the elites in Juneau have all opposed distributing a full dividend to Alaskans at one time or another.

When you pull aside the curtains and the rhetoric, it always boils down to a single question: Who will do a better job spending the dividend; the legislators currently in power or Alaskans?

The answer from Juneau is clear: Alaskans can’t be trusted with a full dividend.

Remember, this is the same leadership who publicly declared last year: “Alaskans are more worried about fishing and what’s for dinner than they are about the PFD.”

The truth is that the rhetoric out of Juneau has grown increasingly paternalistic over the last few years.

This year, 23 House Legislators and 12 Senators voted to slash the 2020 PFD from $2,850 to just $1,000. Instead of a 50/50 split between state government and PFD’s, legislators took more than 78% of Permanent Fund Earnings, leaving less than 22% for dividends. - More...
Friday AM - April 10, 2020

jpg Opinion

Recall: Alaskans Safely Adapt to Pandemic Challenges By Meda DeWitt - Alaskans have always met challenges with resiliency and ingenuity — especially in unprecedented times, whether floods, earthquakes or a spreading coronavirus. We persevere over short-term challenges for the long-term good of our state.

As a people-powered movement already backed by more than 49,000 Alaskans of different political stripes and socio-economic backgrounds, the recall of Governor Mike Dunleavy is no different. It’s about the long-term health of Alaska.

Starting March 20, we launched a protected and convenient way for Alaskans to sign the petition in the safety of their own homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Registered Alaska voters can simply fill out a short request form on the Recall Dunleavy website and we will send them a personal household recall petition booklet by mail with instructions for returning it, postage prepaid.

In today’s virus-inflicted crises, the reasons we started this movement have not changed. But what has changed is how we will collect the next round of 71,252 signatures from Alaskans who want a chance at a better future. No public lines, tables, crowds or people at your door. It’s all in the security of your home.

We cannot pretend that Gov. Dunleavy’s irresponsible approach to governing our state has gone away in light of the pandemic. We remain grateful for Dr. Anne Zinke’s guidance during this crisis; however, Alaskans should know that some of the governor’s actions may lengthen or worsen this crisis. - More...
Friday AM - April 10, 2020

jpg Opinion

Alaskans Need to Practice Fire Prevention More than Ever By Dir. Richard Boothby, Alaska State Fire Marshal - Like many other Alaskans and people around the world, I’ve been watching the events of COVID-19 playout. As time moves on and the virus spreads, it has started major changes to work, school, entertainment, and to our everyday lives. We are now physically isolating at home. We now telework and our children are doing their schoolwork alongside us. With these changes, we are trying to slow down the spread of the virus and to keep our families safe. As the Alaska State Fire Marshal, I am concerned now that we are in our homes much more than usual, there is a risk that is growing.

What many people fail to consider is that nearly all of Alaska’s fire fatalities occur in the home. In 2019, Alaska had 18 fire deaths, 16 of which were in residential type occupancies. In 2020, just this week, Alaska had its first two fire fatalities in separate incidents. Both of the fire fatalities occurred in residential dwellings. As someone who has worked in the firefighting industry for most of my adult life, I can tell you with certainty that fire deaths in the home can usually be prevented. - More...
Friday AM - April 10, 2020

jpg Opinion

THE CRUISE LINES DO NOT DESERVE A BAILOUT By David G Hanger - Let everyone of the existing cruise lines go bankrupt; the sooner the better. The assets will be bought up for pennies on the dollar, and maybe, just maybe, the new owners will have learned how not to be among the number one horse’s asses in the world. Current cruise line management is comprised of brain-dead, incompetent dolts whose callousness and callow conduct deserves no consideration whatsoever but a big middle finger, and a prompt ‘adios.’ It will take years, if ever, for cruising to recover from the total body-bruising this bunch of idiots imposed with no greater justification than obsessed and obsessive greed.

To hell with these completely corrupted pigs who trained their sales forces to deny there was any hazard from Covid19, who left thousands of passengers quarantined for weeks while searching for a port, who infected hundreds of passengers with Covid19, then went further and sent it home with them all over the damned world; who wasted millions of dollars of government resources cleaning up their mess. One cruise ship dumped its entire load of thousands of passengers in Freemantle, Australia, with no provision or allowance for how any of them were to get home. - More...
Friday AM - April 10, 2020

jpg Opinion

COVID-19 Response in Ketchikan By Rob Holston - To: Mayors, Assembly & Council members - I traveled to Portland, Seattle and Vancouver B.C. the first week of March. A few people were wearing masks. Now three weeks later the pandemic is no longer something new or on the horizon. It is here. Yet Ketchikan seems to be behind in response.

I have been wearing a mask in ANY retail environment for the past 2 weeks. People were making comments and I felt awkward.... gradually a few more folks were seen wearing masks....... but few. This past week we used Safeway’s “order in-pick up” grocery buying service. It worked great but the deliveries to my car were made by an employee without mask or gloves. - More...
Friday AM - April 10, 2020

jpg Opinion

AMHS & PFD By Norma Lankerd - This I would like to address our situation of our ferry to Senator Ortiz and other senators that represent We the people of Southeast Alaska and other areas of Alaska.

We have our ferry the Lituya which was built for Metlakatla and for some reason the AMHS- SOA shuts down other ferries for the winter or for an indefinite period of time.  We the people of  Annette Island seem to have to carry the rest of the State Ferry system.

The cost is outrageous, for instance I had a friend who made same day reservations had to pay $320.00 for a 45 min. ride. And I myself purchased 4 days before Friday, I had to pay an extra $28.00.

We shouldn’t be punished because of AMHS situation with the ferry system.

We aren’t getting anymore or better seating on our ferry Lituya (it’s the same 45 min. ferry ride) and it only hold 17 cars but they try to cram up to 21 vehicles on our little ferry, and this is not good, in case of an emergency no one is able to get to the person in distress, because the cars are crammed together where you couldn’t open the car door.

Please try and help rectify our situation. Thank you for your help in advance.

PFD: I want to put this to the people of the STATE OF ALASKA,  so I’m very concerned on the Alaska Legislature deciding the fate of the Alaska Perm fund.  What I want is put it on a poll to the Alaskan Residents. - More...
Friday AM - April 10, 2020

jpg Opinion

Trump's Tardy Coronavirus Response By Donald Moskowitz - Chinese farmers brought virus contaminated animals to a marketplace in Wuhan China. Humans contracted the virus at the market, medical personnel reported it to the authorities, but Chinese leaders decided to cover it up. This allowed the virus to spread around the world.  

The Trump administration down played the potential severity of the virus outbreak. This delayed the response and preparations by medical agencies and state and local governments to combat the virus. In January our intelligence agencies warned Trump of the impending coronavirus outbreak, but he ignored them.

Trump said the coronavirus was a "new hoax" by the Democrats. He blamed the media for fake reporting about it. He said it was no big deal and it would quickly disappear. - More...
Friday AM - April 10, 2020

jpg Opinion

Addiction, Stigma, and COVID-19 By Marcel Gemme - Stigma is a mark of shame or disgrace, and people who struggle with addiction are already very familiar with this. It can perpetuate an endless cycle, where the drug user takes more drugs to cope with these feelings, thus furthering their addiction and inevitable stigma. Many social factors influence stigma, but something we haven’t examined before is how a pandemic, such as COVID-19, can affect this vicious phenomenon. People who are in a panicked state can either exhibit their best or worst qualities, and these can be seen especially when dealing with their fellow humankind who are struggling.

One concern with COVID-19 is that those who were getting close to entering treatment may find themselves derailed and wondering if it’s even safe anymore. Coincidentally, stigma also works to keep people from coming forward and asking for help due to fear of ridicule or belittlement. With these two factors working in tandem, people with addiction issues may find this to be an exceptionally challenging time. Getting past the stigma is step one, but then what about the virus? Treatment centers are often comprised of many individuals from different areas sharing close quarters or living in a communal-like setting. This doesn’t mean treatment settings are dangerous necessarily, but in order to remain safe they should be staffed with adequate medical personnel and new clients should undergo a screening and segregation period. Smaller treatment centers, or those which are more remote, and patients stay longer, would theoretically be the least dangerous due to the lower rate of patient exchange between admission and discharge. - More...
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