Monday, September 14, 2020 | Kaiser Health News

North And South Dakota Are Nation’s Newest COVID Hot Spots

Mask requirements have been fiercely debated in both states. Meanwhile, California lawmakers are criticized for improperly wearing masks. News is also from Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan, Georgia and Texas.

Dakotas Lead US In Virus Growth As Both Reject Mask Rules

Coronavirus infections in the Dakotas are growing faster than anywhere else in the nation, fueling impassioned debates over masks and personal freedom after months in which the two states avoided the worst of the pandemic. The argument over masks raged this week in Brookings, South Dakota, as the city council considered requiring face coverings in businesses. The city was forced to move its meeting to a local arena to accommodate intense interest, with many citizens speaking against it, before the mask requirement ultimately passed. (Groves and Kolpack, 9/13)

USA Today:
Cases Surge In Dakotas; Schools Back Off Classroom Learning

A month after the controversial Sturgis Motorcycle Rally drew hundreds of thousands of bikers to South Dakota, COVID-19 infections are growing faster in North Dakota and South Dakota than anywhere in the nation. The rally is not the only likely culprit: Many schools in the states recently began in-class learning, and mandates or requests to wear masks have sparked pushback from people who believe that infringes on their freedom. (Shannon and Bacon, 9/13)

In news from California —

Los Angeles Times:
L.A. County Coronavirus Numbers Fall Back To Pre-Surge Levels 

The L.A. County Department of Public Health reported 11 new coronavirus deaths Sunday, as daily hospitalizations continued to decline over the weekend. About 800 people were hospitalized with the virus countywide, 35% of them in an ICU, marking a significant decline from just a few weeks earlier. The new numbers are similar to April, before the summer surge. Hospitalization is an important metric for charting the course of the pandemic, because it captures how many people are seriously ill with the virus, health officials wrote in a statement. (Sharp, 9/13)

Kaiser Health News:
‘Terrible Role-Modeling’: California Lawmakers Flout Pandemic Etiquette

In California, the cradle of renowned tech startups and the Silicon Valley, elementary school students have had to figure out how to work remotely, but lawmakers have not. Since March, Californians have scrambled to comply with public health orders that required most office and school work to occur at home. But in one of the most iconic office spaces in the state — the Capitol building in Sacramento — most lawmakers and their staffers have gathered in large numbers for months (except when COVID-19 infections forced them to take unplanned recesses). (Young and Bluth, 9/14)

The Hill:
LA Mayor Condemns Protesters Shouting ‘Death To Police’ Outside Hospital Treating Ambushed Officers 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) on Sunday condemned protesters who reportedly yelled “death to police” outside the hospital where two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies are being treated and in critical condition after being shot. Fox News reports that video showed protesters blocking a hospital entrance and shouting “death to police,” “I hope they f—ing die,” and “kill the police.” (Seipel, 9/13)

In news from Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland —

State House News Service:
Baker Nursing Home Package Includes $140M Investment 

Up to $140 million in investments and restructured Medicaid rates are at the center of a new package of nursing home reforms and supports announced Thursday by the Baker administration. Health and human services officials said the package will supplement changes announced in April to hold facilities to higher standards of care and infection control. Nursing homes this year were at the center of the state’s deadly COVID-19 surge. (Norton, 9/11)

4 Communities Labeled As High Risk For West Nile Virus

Four communities in Middlesex County are now considered high risk for the West Nile virus, health officials said. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced four more human cases of the West Nile virus, bringing the total number in the state this year to seven. All four people were exposed in Middlesex County, officials said. (9/13)

Modern Healthcare:
Unionized New York Nursing Homes Had Fewer COVID-19 Deaths

A new study finds that having a unionized workforce at a nursing home greatly reduces the likelihood that someone will die from COVID-19. There was a 30% relative decrease in the COVID-19 mortality rate for residents in nursing homes with unionized workers than in other nursing homes, according to the study, which examined data from more than 300 nursing homes in New York from March 1 through May 31. (Christ, 9/11)

A Pennsylvania Lawmaker Wants To Tie Prescription Drug Prices To What Canada Pays 

In the latest gambit by a state lawmaker to lower prescription drug costs, a Pennsylvania legislator has introduced a bill that would tie prices paid by residents to what Canadians are charged for medicines. Specifically, the legislation would require the state to create a list of the 250 costliest drugs every year. From there, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department would set a maximum rate paid by health insurers for each medicine on the list based on pricing in Canada’s four largest provinces. And health insurers would have to pass along lower premiums resulting from any reduced medication costs, or pay a fine. (Silverman, 9/11)

Maryland Crabmeat Pickers Hit Hard By COVID-19 This Summer

Health officials say 50 crabmeat pickers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore contracted COVID-19 this summer. The Daily Times of Salisbury reports that the outbreaks recorded by the Dorchester Department of Health sent one worker to the hospital, but did not result in any fatalities. (9/13)

In news from Michigan, Georgia and Texas —

The Hill:
Michigan Lieutenant Governor Blasts Trump Coronavirus Response: He ‘is A Liar Who Has Killed People’ 

Michigan’s lieutenant governor blasted President Trump on Sunday over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, blaming him for tens of thousands of lives lost across the country due to the pandemic. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II (D) made the comments during a virtual event for progressive voters called “Fighting for Justice in Michigan,” according to local news affiliate WDIV 4. (Bowden, 9/13)

Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
COVID-19 Takes Toll On Transit Workers As MARTA Approaches 200th Case

MARTA is approaching a grim milestone this week, when its 200th employee likely will test positive for COVID-19 — a mark that underscores the risks endured by transit employees and other essential workers during the pandemic. Workers at other metro Atlanta transit agencies also have tested positive for the disease. Three local transit workers have died from COVID-19, as have scores of others across the country. (Wickert, 9/11)

The New York Times:
Conflicting Virus Data In Texas Raises Distrust Of The Government 

Inconsistencies and problems with Covid-19 data collection in Texas have clouded the picture of the pandemic’s trajectory in the state, to the point that some residents and officials say they cannot rely on the numbers to tell them what is really going on. The state has overlooked thousands of cases, only to report them weeks after infection. It has made major adjustments to its case and death counts, defining them one way and then another, suddenly reporting figures for some counties that were vastly different from those posted by the local health department. (Schoenfeld Walker and Waananen Jones, 9/13)

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