On the rise: Yesterday, the U.S. reported more than 56,000 new coronavirus infections, the largest single-day total in nearly two months, reports CNN. New case numbers are rising in 28 states, staying steady in 20 others and decreasing in only two. According to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker, 10 states, all in the Midwest and West, saw their highest seven-day averages of new infections: Alaska, Colorado, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. “Instead of going into the fall and the winter on a sharp decline down to a low baseline, we’re actually going into the fall and the winter with some parts of the country ticking up, which will ultimately lead to not only more infections, but more hospitalizations” and deaths, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told students at American University this week.
- Also: Worldwide there have been about 36.6 million reported Covid-19 cases, and more than one million deaths. In the U.S., more than 7.6 million people have been infected and more than 213,000 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.
All the president’s men: At least 22 people in President Trump’s circle have tested positive for coronavirus, Oliver Milman reports for The Guardian, most recently immigration policy adviser Stephen Miller. Only a week after announcing that he had tested positive, President Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he is ready for in-person rallies and campaigning. As The Washington Post notes, Trump did not tell Hannity when his last test took place but said he would probably be tested today. The president’s doctor, Dr. Sean P. Conley, released a memo saying that, based on the date he tested positive for coronavirus, President Trump could probably “return to public engagements” on Saturday, Katherine J. Wu reports for The New York Times. But medical experts worry that returning to public life too soon could exacerbate the president’s illness, or risk exposing others if he is still contagious.
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Over-stimulated: On Tuesday President Trump shot down the possibility of passing a comprehensive pandemic relief bill before the election, but his position since has been a moving target, from supporting standalone bills for another round of stimulus checks or aid to the airline industry, to maybe supporting a comprehensive bill after all, CNET reports. Even top Washington officials are having trouble following it: “The discussion from day to day can be confusing for all of us to follow,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. On the line, along with $1,200 stimulus checks and support for the airlines, are increased unemployment benefits; Payroll Protection loans and tax credits for businesses; and extending an eviction ban and possible rental assistance, among other things.
Black lung: A former coal operator who advised President Trump on energy policy and fought against health and safety regulations to prevent black lung disease has applied to the U.S. Department of Labor for black lung benefits, Dave Mistich and Brittany Patterson report for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. In 2016, Robert E. Murray, the former CEO and president of the now-bankrupt Murray Energy, told NPR his lung disease was not related to his work in coal: “It’s idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, IPF. And it is not related to my work in the industry. They’ve checked for that,” Murray told NPR. “And until I was 76, I went underground twice a week.” Murray, now 80, has changed his tune. Reached by phone by Mistich and Patterson, Murray said he has black lung from working in underground mines and is entitled to benefits, and disputed that he fought against regulations to quell the disease or to prevent miners from receiving benefits, but declined an on-the-record interview. He did threaten to sue if a story was published that said he fought regulations and benefits, although the reporters outline how he and his company did both.
Deadly delays: A Los Angeles Times investigation found that thousands of patients in Los Angeles County’s public hospital system wait many, many months to see specialists, and some die before their appointments. The paper analyzed 860,000 requests for specialty care at the L.A. County Department of Health Services and found the average wait time was 89 days. The reporters found a half dozen cases in which patients waited more than three months to be treated, and died of the illness before they ever saw a specialist about treatment. The department serves some 2 million people, primarily the poorest and most vulnerable residents in L.A. County. Prompted by the paper’s findings, state regulators have launched an investigation into whether the waits violate California law. “It is not acceptable … to have to wait months to access care,” said Rachel Arrezola, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Managed Health Care. “This care is an embarrassment and indictment of our healthcare delivery system,” said Dr. Kevin Kavanagh, founder of the patient advocacy group Health Watch USA.
Chicken fix: Six more chicken industry officials have been indicted on federal price-fixing charges, The Wall Street Journal reports, widening the government’s antitrust case targeting executives from leading companies in the $65 billion poultry industry. Five other executives and employees were previously charged. The probe has ensnared executives and employees of Pilgrim’s Pride, Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms, among others.
Powder payouts: Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay more than $100 million to settle over 1,000 lawsuits that claim its baby powder caused cancer, Jef Feeley reports for Bloomberg. This is the first time the company has agreed to settle suits en masse instead of individually. “In certain circumstances, we do choose to settle lawsuits, which is done without an admission of liability and in no way changes our position regarding the safety of our products,” Kim Montagnino, a J&J spokeswoman, told Bloomberg. “Our talc is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer.” Thousands of lawsuits are still pending, most on behalf of women claiming that they contracted ovarian cancer from longtime use of talc powder for feminine hygiene, and others asserting that powder containing traces of asbestos caused mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer typically caused by asbestos exposure. As FairWarning reported in May, Johnson & Johnson decided to halt North American sales of its talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder, while saying the powder was safe and that it would continue to ‘’vigorously defend’’ the lawsuits. The company attributed the decision to falling sales of talc powder and “misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising.’’
FairWarning contributor Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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