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Plexiglass shields are everywhere, but it’s not clear how much they help

Plexiglass shields have become ubiquitous at offices, grocery stores and restaurants across the country in the coronavirus age. They were even installed on the vice presidential debate stage last week.



a group of people standing in a kitchen: Businesses and workplaces say plexiglass dividers are one way they are keeping people safe against the spread of the coronavirus.


© Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Businesses and workplaces say plexiglass dividers are one way they are keeping people safe against the spread of the coronavirus.

Given that they’re just about everywhere, you may wonder how effective they actually are.

Businesses and workplaces have pointed to plexiglass dividers as one tool they are using to keep people safe against the spread of the virus. But it’s important to know there’s little data to support their effectiveness, and even if there were, the barriers have their limits, according to epidemiologists and aerosol scientists, who study airborne transmission of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has offered guidance to workplaces to “install physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards, where feasible” as a way to “reduce exposure to hazards,” and the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued similar guidance.

That’s because the plexiglass shields can in theory protect workers against large respiratory droplets that spread if someone sneezes or coughs next to them, say epidemiologists, environmental engineers and aerosol scientists. Coronavirus is thought to spread from person to person “mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks,” according to the CDC.

But those benefits haven’t been proven, according to Wafaa El-Sadr, professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University. She says there have not been any studies that examined how effective plexiglass barriers are at blocking large droplets.

Moreover, the bigger problem is that even if they do, that’s not the only way that the coronavirus spreads. Last week, the CDC released new guidelines saying that the coronavirus can spread through aerosols — tiny particles containing the virus that float in the air and can travel beyond six feet — that are released when people breathe, talk or sneeze.

Most droplets people release when they talk or breathe are in a “size range that will flow past the barrier,” said Pratim Biswas, an aerosol scientist at Washington University in St. Louis.

The dividers “do not address all possible modes of transmission, such as aerosol transmission, or fully protect anyone from Covid-19,” the University of Washington’s Environmental Health and Safety Department said in a July review of the benefits and limitations of plexiglass barriers at campus facilities.

There’s also another problem in some cases: the size of the barriers. Marissa Baker, an assistant professor at the University of Washington, has been conducting a separate study of coronavirus safety measures at nine grocery stores in Seattle and seven in Portland, Oregon, each month since May.

She has observed that plexiglass shields at cash registers and self-checkout stations are often too small to even prevent droplet transmission between customers and workers.

“Some are smaller and don’t even cover the nose of a tall individual,” she said. “The airborne particles are going to

New Analysis Shows Contract Pharmacies Financially Gain From 340B Program With No Clear Benefit to Patients

New Analysis Shows Contract Pharmacies Financially Gain From 340B Program With No Clear Benefit to Patients

PR Newswire

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2020

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Today, the Berkeley Research Group (BRG) published an analysis of historical trends in 340B contract pharmacy arrangements. The findings conclude that the growth in the number of these arrangements is fueling explosive growth in the program at large and driving the 340B program farther and farther away from its original intended goal of providing discounted medicines to safety-net entities treating uninsured and vulnerable patients. 

New Analysis Shows Contract Pharmacies Financially Gain From 340B Program With No Clear Benefit to Patients
New Analysis Shows Contract Pharmacies Financially Gain From 340B Program With No Clear Benefit to Patients

Congress created the 340B program to help safety-net providers, including certain qualifying hospitals and federally-funded clinics, access discounts on prescription medicines for low-income or uninsured patients. In 2010, a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) policy opened the door to allow all 340B entities to contract with an unlimited number of for-profit retail pharmacies (e.g., CVS, Walgreens) to dispense 340B medicines. While this policy may have been intended to improve patient access to needed medications, it had the misguided effect of creating an opening that allowed for-profit vendors, pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers to exploit the program and make a profit on 340B sales – sales intended to benefit low-income and vulnerable patients.

“It is clear that contract pharmacies have leveraged market power to drive unprecedented program growth and siphon money out of the program and away from vulnerable patients,” said Stephen J. Ubl, president and chief executive officer of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). “I urge lawmakers to consider the results of this analysis and pursue policies that ensure the 340B program benefits vulnerable patients rather than just line the pockets of for-profit corporations.”

Key findings from the analysis show that many retail pharmacies and other third parties have taken advantage of and financially benefited from the 340B program’s contract pharmacy arrangements:

  • 340B covered entities and their contract pharmacies generated an estimated $13 billion in gross profits on 340B purchased medicines in 2018, which represents more than 25% of pharmacies’ and providers’ total profits from dispensing or administering brand medicines.

  • Following HRSA’s expansion of the contract pharmacy program in March 2010, contract pharmacy participation grew a staggering 4,228% between April 2010 and April 2020.

  • While over 27,000 distinct pharmacies participate in the 340B program today, over half of the 340B profits retained by contract pharmacies are concentrated in just four pharmacy chains – Walgreens, Walmart, CVS Health and Cigna’s Accredo specialty pharmacy.

Analysis after analysis shows there is explosive growth in the program, but there is little to no clear evidence that this growth has benefited low-income and vulnerable patients. Even the New England Journal of Medicine found no evidence that expansion of the 340B program has resulted in improved care or lower mortality among low-income patients.

These new findings build upon a mounting body of evidence from the Government Accountability Office

Trump says he feels better, but his chief of staff says he is ‘still not on a clear path to a full recovery.’

Mr. Meadows called into Fox News on Saturday night, knowing the president was most likely watching, and praised his “unbelievable courage” and “unbelievable improvement.” But he also confirmed that Mr. Trump’s condition on Friday was worse than originally described. “Yesterday morning we were real concerned with that,” Mr. Meadows said. “He had a fever and his blood oxygen level had dropped rapidly.”

The mixed messages only exacerbated the confusion and uncertainties surrounding the president’s situation. During their briefing on Saturday, the doctors refused to provide important details and gave timelines that conflicted with earlier White House accounts and left the impression that the president was sick and began treatment earlier than officially reported.

Two people close to the White House said in separate interviews with The New York Times that the president had trouble breathing on Friday and that his oxygen level dropped, prompting his doctors to give him supplemental oxygen while at the White House and transfer him to Walter Reed where he could be monitored with better equipment and treated more rapidly in case of trouble.

During the televised briefing, Dr. Conley said the president was not currently receiving supplemental oxygen on Saturday but repeatedly declined to say definitively whether he had ever been on oxygen. “None at this moment and yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen,” he said, seeming to suggest that there was a period on Friday at the White House when he was.

Dr. Conley likewise appeared to indicate that the president was first diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday rather than Thursday night, before Mr. Trump disclosed the test on Twitter early Friday morning. While describing what he said was the president’s progress, he said Mr. Trump was “just 72 hours into the diagnosis now,” which would mean midday on Wednesday.

Just two hours later, the White House issued a statement it said was written by Dr. Conley trying to clarify. “This morning while summarizing the president’s health, I incorrectly used the term ‘72 hours’ instead of ‘Day 3,’” it said.

Dr. Conley also said that on Thursday afternoon “we repeated testing and, given clinical indications, had a little bit more concern.” Late that night, he said, “we got the P.C.R. confirmation that he was” positive. Mr. Trump attended campaign events on both Wednesday night and Thursday without wearing a mask and gathering hundreds of supporters who likewise were not taking precautions against the virus.

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So long as there may be profit to be created from it, the people who profit from the profit are going to be in opposition to it. When it comes right down to profit, people benefiting from it is not going to care if individuals die from not having enough health care.…