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New York City Should Have Done More Outreach in Covid-19 Hot Spots Before Surges, Community Leaders Say

This summer New York City’s public-hospital system identified the areas most at risk of a resurgence of Covid-19 and enlisted community-based organizations to help educate residents and test and trace for the virus.

Now, with the new coronavirus resurgent across pockets of the city, some say this summer’s effort was insufficient and focused on the wrong neighborhoods.

Earlier this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered new restrictions on communities around the state where the virus has rebounded. The affected areas have higher positivity rates of Covid-19 than the rest of the state and include communities in nine ZIP Codes in Brooklyn and Queens that the city has been tracking for weeks as hot spots. Large Orthodox Jewish communities reside in most of the hot spots.

Of the nine ZIP Codes targeted by the city, only one was listed as a high priority this summer by the Health + Hospitals system in a request for grant applications from community-based organizations to help test and trace the virus. Five of the nine ZIP Codes were listed as a low priority and three weren’t listed at all.

Health officials said the neighborhoods under scrutiny now weren’t as high a priority in the summer when other areas were experiencing worsening numbers or were improving at a slower rate than the citywide average.

None of the community-based organizations awarded grants under the program were from the Orthodox community. But officials said that many organizations had now been enlisted to help with the response to the surge in Orthodox neighborhoods.

Officials said that one aim of the city’s outreach to community-based organizations was to address structural conditions of racism that exacerbated the effects of the pandemic. City data show that the pandemic disproportionately affected low-income neighborhoods and people of color compared with whites and higher-income neighborhoods.

Christopher Miller, a spokesman for the city’s hospital system, Health + Hospitals, said: “We continue to identify new organizations to partner with as positivity increases in certain neighborhoods.”

A worker from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs handing out masks and printed information about Covid-19 testing in July in New York.



Photo:

Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

The city’s health department, which also does education on the virus, said since February it has done extensive outreach in the communities that are now under lockdowns. The outreach includes advertisements in local newspapers in multiple languages, community round tables and talks with leaders, including rabbis. In late August, officials also began distributing masks at synagogues and conducting testing, according to the health department.

City officials said they have also recently increased testing in these communities.

Carlina Rivera, the Democratic chairwoman of New York City Council’s committee on hospitals, said the hospital system hasn’t been forthcoming about the methods it used to prioritize certain areas or about how many contact tracers speak languages such as Yiddish.

“We think Health and Hospitals is doing their best, but that just might not be enough for an organization that is used to emergency treatment inside a hospital,”

Kentucky governor takes action as state fights becoming next COVID-19 hot spot

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear vowed to halt a recent escalation of COVID-19 cases after reporting 17 more coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, marking one of the state’s highest one-day death tolls since the outbreak began earlier this year.



a man and a woman standing in front of a building: Emergency medical personnel transport a patient into the emergency department of Norton Women's and Children's Hospital, as all wear masks to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Louisville, Ky., March 24, 2020.


© Bryan Woolston/Reuters, FILE
Emergency medical personnel transport a patient into the emergency department of Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital, as all wear masks to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Louisville, Ky., March 24, 2020.

“What that shows is we are — in our total case count — in an escalation, meaning last week was more; this week will be more than that, it appears,” Beshear told reporters at a press conference Thursday.

State health officials reported 910 new coronavirus cases on Thursday after shattering records earlier this week, with rural and urban areas seeing massive spikes in new infections. Of the newly reported cases, 146 were children under the age of 18 with the youngest victim being 3 months old.

MORE: Health officials urge Americans to get flu vaccine as concerns mount over possible ‘twindemic’

Last week the state saw its highest total of new infections reported over a seven-day period, but the governor said the state was on track to top that figure this week.

“When we have a lot of cases, sadly a lot of death follows,” Beshear warned.



a man and a woman standing in front of a building: Emergency medical personnel transport a patient into the emergency department of Norton Women's and Children's Hospital, as all wear masks to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Louisville, Ky., March 24, 2020.


© Bryan Woolston/Reuters, FILE
Emergency medical personnel transport a patient into the emergency department of Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital, as all wear masks to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Louisville, Ky., March 24, 2020.

The 17 coronavirus-related fatalities reported on Thursday followed four COVID-19-related deaths on Wednesday.

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The new deaths meant that as of Thursday, a total of 1,191 people had died from the coronavirus in Kentucky since the start of the pandemic. Seniors above the age of 80 account for more than half of those deaths.

Residents between the ages of 20 and 49 account for the bulk of statewide cases, but health officials are urging residents of all ages to take the virus seriously. People in the 20-29 age group appear to have the highest rates of diagnosis, according to state data.

To help combat the spread of the virus during Halloween, Beshear asked parents keep their children away from crowds and to use another approach to traditional trick-or-treating. He and state health commissioner Dr. Steven Stack asked residents to place individually wrapped candy outside on their porches, driveways or tables in lieu of the usual door-to-door trick-or-treating.

“We have put together the best guidance we can for Halloween to be safe. But we can’t do things exactly like we did them before, and we all ought to know that,” Beshear said. “Having a big party right now during COVID puts everybody at risk. Let’s not ruin Halloween for our kids by it spreading a virus that can harm people they love.”

MORE: Gov. Reeves takes action as Mississippi shapes up to become nation’s next COVID-19

New York Worries Over 20 Coronavirus Hot Spots, Wisconsin Sees Troubling Trends | Top News

By Jonathan Allen and Lisa Shumaker

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York state reported an uptick of positive coronavirus tests in 20 “hot spots” on Thursday, while Midwest states also reported rising caseloads led by Wisconsin, where U.S. President Donald Tramp will hold rallies over the weekend.

New cases of COVID-19 rose in 27 out of 50 U.S. states in September compared with August, with an increase of 111% in Wisconsin, according to a Reuters analysis.

Wisconsin is also dealing with a troubling rise in serious COVID-19 cases that threaten to overwhelm hospitals.

“Our emergency department has had several instances in the past week where it was past capacity and needed to place patients in beds in the hallways,” Bellin Health, which runs a hospital in Green Bay, said in a statement. “Our ICU (intensive care unit) beds have also been full, or nearly full, during the past week.”

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer at the Wisconsin department of Health Services, said the state’s outbreak started in younger people and has now spread throughout the community.

“Public gatherings of any kind are dangerous right now, more so than they have been at any time during this epidemic,” he told CNN on Thursday.

In New York, which grappled with the world’s most rampant outbreak earlier this the year, officials said they were worried about clusters of cases in 20 ZIP code areas across the state, where the average rate of positive tests rose to 6.5% from 5.5% the day before.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy encouraged residents to download onto their smartphones a new voluntary contact-tracing app, COVID Alert, they launched on Thursday. The app uses Bluetooth technology to alert users if they have recently been near someone who later tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Many of New York’s 20 hot spots — half of which are in New York City — include Orthodox Jewish communities. Cuomo said he talked to community leaders about enforcing social distancing measures.

“A cluster today can become community spread tomorrow,” Cuomo said on a briefing call with reporters. “These ZIP codes are not hermetically sealed.”

He implored local authorities to increase enforcement measures. “If they’re not wearing masks, they should be fined,” Cuomo said.

Wisconsin health officials are urging residents to stay home and avoid large gatherings ahead of Trump’s weekend rallies in La Crosse and Green Bay in the run up to the Nov. 3 election.

An indoor Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in July likely contributed to a subsequent rise in cases there, city health officials said.

“This spike we’re seeing in Brown County, Wisconsin should be a wakeup call to anyone who lives here that our community is facing a crisis,” Dr. Paul Casey, medical director of the emergency department at Bellin Hospital, told CNN.

Cases, hospitalizations, positive test rates and deaths are all climbing in Wisconsin, according to a Reuters analysis.

Over the past week, 21% of coronavirus tests on average came back