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VA Governor Credits Lack Of Spread Among Staff To Mask-Wearing

RICHMOND, VA — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was cleared to hold in-person meetings Monday after spending 18 days in isolation due to a positive test for the coronavirus that caused minor symptoms in the governor. Both Northam and his wife — Pamela Northam — tested positive for the coronavirus on Sept. 25, a day after a worker in the governor’s mansion received a positive test after showing symptoms.

The local health department in Richmond performed contact tracing of 65 people who had come into close contact with Northam over a period of 48 hours prior to his positive test, all of whom were instructed to quarantine. None of the 65 people, many of whom were staff members, showed any symptoms for the coronavirus or tested positive during their quarantine period, and all of them are back to work, the governor said Tuesday at a news conference in Richmond.

Northam said the lack of spread among his staff demonstrates the effectiveness of wearing masks while on the job. “I truly believe that it is a testament to wearing these masks,” he said.

“My press secretary and official photographer and security detail traveled with me for several hours at a time the week that Pam and I were diagnosed,” Northam explained. “And we wear our masks in the car or on the plane, and thankfully none of them got sick. I would remind every Virginian, masks are scientifically proven to reduce the spread of this disease, plain and simple.”

Northam compared the lack of spread of the coronavirus among his staff to what happened at the White House Rose Garden ceremony where President Donald Trump introduced Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court. Many people who attended the event, including Trump, have since tested positive for the coronavirus.

“A gathering where people cavalierly sat together, stood together, hugged each other … no masks, no social distancing, and look at the number of people who tested positive,” the governor said. “We talk about science. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.”

“The guidelines that we are following in Virginia, they work,” Northam emphasized. “And when we don’t follow those guidelines, we have outbreaks like you saw in Washington.”

Northam said that both he and his wife are no longer experiencing any symptoms of the coronavirus. But the governor stressed that he understands their experience with the disease was mild compared to the thousands of Virginians who have been hospitalized and died from COVID-19.

Virginia Coronavirus Data

On Tuesday, 1,235 new coronavirus cases were reported in Virginia, bringing the cumulative total to 160,805 cases. The positive average of PCR tests is at 4.5 percent statewide.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, there have been 3,372 deaths and 11,598 hospitalizations among COVID-19 patients in Virginia. Tuesday’s total reflected 11 new deaths across the state.

On a regional basis, the eastern and northwest regions reported a positive average of PCR tests at 4.0 percent as of Oct. 9. Other regional

Army chief of staff: COVID-19 having effect on troop suicides

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said Tuesday that he sees a direct correlation between COVID-19 and the rise in troop suicides.

“I am very concerned about the behavioral health impacts of COVID and its effect on our soldiers,” McConville told reporters at the Pentagon.

“Some of the scientists have said they’ve not been able to show causation between COVID and suicide, but I would argue, at least my sense is, it is having an effect because it disconnects people.”

Army leadership has voiced concern about the increase in suicides in its ranks since March, when many people were told to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Pentagon began to limit movement of forces.

The Associated Press first reported last month that military suicide deaths since early spring were up as much as 20 percent compared with the same period in 2019. Among Army active-duty troops, that increase was around 30 percent, with 114 suicides as of Aug. 31, compared to 88 last year.

July saw the most suicides at 35 – more than one a day.

Following the report’s release, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and McConville said that the service has moved to improve access to behavioral health care “in the face of additional stress of a pandemic.”

But officials have been hesitant to link COVID-19 to the increase in military members taking their own life. 

Earlier this month, Defense Suicide Prevention Office Director Karin Orvis told reporters that it was too early to make a connection, as suicide counts “do not account for changes in population size or provide enough time for essential investigations to determine cause of death.”

McConville, however, said when looking at the after-action reports of soldiers who have died of suicide, “it tends to be situations where relationships have gone bad, where they start to feel that they don’t belong, that they’re a burden,” a feeling that can be amplified in the time of a pandemic.

With COVID-19, “especially during the beginning part, people were disconnected. The connection might only be a text between a leader and that’s why in some ways we thought it was very, very important to get back to training our soldiers, bringing teams back together to that they can take care of each other,” he added.

Asked if he partly blamed the pandemic-imposed lockdown across much of the country this spring for the rise in soldier suicides, McCarthy, who spoke alongside McConville, said he couldn’t “categorically say that.”

“We’re concerned about the isolation and that’s we’re trying to find effective ways to communicate with each other,” McCarthy said.

McConville, who himself just completed a self-imposed quarantine after possibly being exposed to the illness in a senior level meeting, said he tested negative for the virus multiple times in the past two weeks, including Tuesday morning, and was cleared by doctors to return to the Pentagon.

Chief of Naval Operations Michael Gilday, meanwhile, chose to do a press event from home at the same time McConville

Trump Required Walter Reed Staff To Sign Nondisclosure Agreement In 2019

KEY POINTS

  • During a trip to Walter Reed on Nov. 16, 2019, Trump allegedly required both physicians and nonmedical staff to sign an NDA
  • It’s still unknown whether the president required the Walter Reed staff to sign a nondisclosure in his most recent visit
  • Doctors tending to patients are prohibited by federal law from disclosing patients’ personal health information without consent

President Trump has required personnel at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to sign a nondisclosure agreement before treating him. 

During a trip to Walter Reed on Nov. 16, 2019, Trump required both physicians and nonmedical staff to sign an NDA. At least two doctors at Walter Reed refused to sign the NDAs and were not permitted to have any involvement in the president’s care, NBC News reported. 

It’s still unknown whether the president required the Walter Reed staff to sign a nondisclosure in his most recent visit. 

Doctors tending to patients are prohibited by federal law from disclosing patient’s personal health information without consent. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects patients’ confidential health information, which raises the question of why Trump would ask staff members at Walter Reed to sign an NDA.

“Any physician caring for the President is bound by patient-physician confidentiality guaranteed under HIPAA, and I’m not going to comment on internal procedures beyond that,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.

Transparency about Trump’s health has been a major concern since the president tested positive for COVID-19. Trump, his administration, and the physicians attending to him painted a murky picture of how the president is recovering. Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s physician, has refused to answer key questions, such as when Trump last tested negative for the virus and whether the illness has caused him to develop respiratory problems.

Conley continues to cite HIPAA when dodging questions on the president’s health. “We’ve done routine standard imaging. I’m just not at liberty to discuss,” Conley said on Monday. 

Conley’s written updates on Trump’s health have included the note “I release the following information with the permission of President Donald J. Trump.”

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Battered by 1st wave, Madrid hospital staff stretched by 2nd

TORREJÓN DE ARDOZ, Spain (AP) — With speed and determination, nurses, doctors and caretakers move in and out of glassed rooms with beds hooked up to tubes, cables and monitors. The cadence of beeps serves as a soundtrack to their workday, underpinned by a constant chatter of voices at half pitch and the snapping of rubber gloves as they’re removed by staff ending their shifts.

It’s another day at the intensive care ward at the Torrejón de Ardoz University Hospital, on the outskirts of the European capital that has so far seen the worst of the second wave of the pandemic. Still, hospital staff count themselves lucky: Despite having had to add nine intensive care beds to the usual 16, the hospital hasn’t had to postpone treatment for any other patients.

Many others in the region have.

Hospitals and their workers have been stretched to their limits again in Madrid, where the surging number of COVID-19 patients in September forced an expansion of critical care beds into gymnasiums and surgery rooms. But as the number of incoming patients started to ease last week, health professionals are dismayed at what they see as official acceptance of a situation that is far from normal.

“It can’t be that we fall into a dynamic of a virus wave followed by a lockdown, and then the next wave in winter and lockdown again in winter,” said Carlos Velayos, an intensivist who has seen a slight decrease in new patients with coronavirus-related symptoms arriving at his Fuenlabrada hospital, also in suburban Madrid.

At the peak of the first wave, ICU wards were given over to haste, desperation and even cluelessness about what to do. Now, a well-oiled machinery saves some lives and loses others to COVID-19, but without the doomsday atmosphere of March and April.


“It’s no longer like being in a war zone field hospital,” said Velayos. “But the reality is that we are working way over our normal capacity. This is a situation that is absolutely exceptional and that we shouldn’t have reached under any scenario.”

As many professionals are still coming to terms with the emotional impact of the first wave, they are now struggling to understand why Spain has not prepared better for new outbreaks of a virus that has left more than 825,000 infected in the country and at least 32,000 deaths.

Treatment has improved, although the time that COVID-19 patients spend under intensive care can still stretch for weeks or even months, taking up desperately-needed hospital resources, said Dr. María José García Navarro, medical director of the Torrejón de Ardoz University Hospital, where 49 patients are now being treated, 35 in normal beds and 14 in ICUs.

“We have learned to quickly identify the symptoms and what treatment to apply, which are the drugs that are useful and which aren’t, even if that narrowed down our options,” García Navarro said. Corticosteroids that were experimented with at the onset of the pandemic have now discarded on behalf of Remdesivir, the

Inside a Florida hospital, coronavirus cases wane as strained staff brace for a fall surge

This is what a lull looks like.

Florida was a hot spot of the coronavirus pandemic this summer. More than 722,000 Floridians have so far been infected with the virus — with a daily high of more than 15,000 cases reported July 12. The state’s intensive care units, including those at Tampa General, were pushed to the brink as the virus spread out of control. The spike came weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) quickly reopened much of the state, casting it as a return to normalcy.

By late August, when The Washington Post visited Tampa General, cases statewide had sharply declined, and treating 22 critically ill patients was a reprieve of sorts for the hospital’s staff. The downstairs garage that was transformed into a spillover triage unit during the surge was empty, and a few beds were open in the ICU. Take your vacations now, hospital executives urged doctors and nurses. The break was not expected to last.

Tampa General could serve as a case study for hospitals across the country that have been tested by the coronavirus. Like others, the hospital is bracing for another likely surge now that students and staff are back in school. Flu season is on the horizon. No one knows what hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30, will bring. And state rules to help curb the virus have ended.

DeSantis lifted statewide virus restrictions Sept. 25, a day when more than 2,800 Floridians were diagnosed with the coronavirus and 122 deaths were recorded. In an executive order, the governor, a close ally of President Trump, allowed bars and restaurants to operate at full capacity and suspended the collection of virus-related fines and penalties, such as those against people who are not wearing masks. DeSantis mused that week about establishing a “bill of rights” of sort to protect college students from facing punishment for violating campus social distancing orders. Hundreds have tested positive on Florida campuses, many after attending massive parties.

“That’s what college kids do,” DeSantis said of partying students.

Some local governments — including Tampa — said mask mandates are still in place.

In the meantime, doctors here and elsewhere are still mystified by so much about the disease: How many of the coronavirus patients who survive intensive care will suffer long-term health effects? Why do some patients deteriorate so quickly, while others with seemingly identical health profiles fare well? These questions still vastly outnumber those that can be answered with certainty.

Morale ebbs as staffers face the relentless task of confronting a disease that has dramatically upended their lives inside and outside the hospital. In both places, staff battle pervasive misinformation about the virus and distrust of the medical system, even from some of the sickest patients. Large numbers of health-care workers are falling ill — at least 420 Tampa General staffers have tested positive for the virus since March, though it is unclear where they contracted it.

“It’s an absolute grind. It’s a grind on people physically. It’s a grind

First lady’s office details safety protocols for White House residence staff

The White House on Tuesday detailed measures taken to protect residence staff from the spread of the coronavirus, including the addition of health consultants, as workers face increased risk from a COVID-19 outbreak in the building.

The first lady’s office said residence staff in direct contact with the first family are tested for COVID-19 daily, and support staff are tested every other day. The White House residence has hired independent health consultants to facilitate additional testing as needed and check on staff and their families.

The residence also added a “well-being” consultant as a resource for workers looking for mental health assistance. Staffers can speak to the consultant anonymously, the first lady’s office said.

“With the recent positive results of the President and First Lady, staff wear full PPE [personal protective equipment] and continue to take all necessary precautions, which include updated procedures to protect against cross contamination,” the East Wing said in a news release.

The East Wing said Tuesday that the residence has been subject to “hospital-grade disinfection policies” since March and encouraged teleworking to the extent that it is possible.

Residence staff have been required to wear masks since April, despite the president flouting that practice himself.

The accounting of health protocols in place in the residence comes days after President TrumpDonald John TrumpState Department revokes visa of Giuliani-linked Ukrainian ally: report White House Gift Shop selling ‘Trump Defeats COVID’ commemorative coin Biden says he should not have called Trump a clown in first debate MORE and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpWhite House Gift Shop selling ‘Trump Defeats COVID’ commemorative coin Hillicon Valley: CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter to testify before Senate | European Union police agency warns of increase in cybercrime | Twitter to remove posts hoping for Trump’s death White House not contact tracing Rose Garden event considered possible ‘superspreader’: report MORE tested positive for the highly contagious coronavirus. Since then, the number of positive tests among those in their orbit has ballooned to include at least three press shop staffers, a military aide and two workers in the residence.

The president spent three days in the hospital getting treated for his COVID-19 infection and required supplemental oxygen on Friday and Saturday. He returned to the White House on Monday evening.

But President Trump appears unchanged by his first-hand experience with the virus, telling Americans not to be afraid of the disease and ripping off his mask upon returning to the executive mansion despite still being contagious.

The first lady, by contrast, has put out multiple PSAs urging Americans to wear masks and socially distance. She has been recovering from the virus at the residence, and has said she is doing well.

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Battered by 1st wave, Madrid hospital staff blench at 2nd

Hospitals and their workers have been stretched to their limits again in Madrid, where the surging number of COVID-19 patients in September forced an expansion of critical care beds into gymnasiums and surgery rooms

TORREJÓN DE ARDOZ, Spain — With speed and determination, nurses, doctors and caretakers move in and out of glassed rooms with beds hooked up to tubes, cables and monitors. The cadence of beeps serves as a soundtrack to their workday, underpinned by a constant chatter of voices at half pitch and the snapping of rubber gloves as they’re removed by staff ending their shifts.

It’s another day at the intensive care ward at the Torrejón de Ardoz University Hospital, on the outskirts of the European capital that has so far seen the worst of the second wave of the pandemic. Still, hospital staff count themselves lucky: Despite having had to add nine intensive care beds to the usual 16, the hospital hasn’t had to postpone treatment for any other patients.

Many others in the region have.

At the peak of the first wave, ICU wards were given over to haste, desperation and even cluelessness about what to do. Now, a well-oiled machinery saves some lives and loses others to COVID-19, but without the doomsday atmosphere of March and April.

“It’s no longer like being in a war zone field hospital,” said Velayos. “But the reality is that we are working way over our normal capacity. This is a situation that is absolutely exceptional and that we shouldn’t have reached under any scenario.”

Treatment has improved, although the time that COVID-19 patients spend under intensive care can still stretch for weeks or even months, taking up desperately-needed hospital resources, said Dr. María José García Navarro, medical director of the Torrejón de Ardoz University Hospital, where 49 patients are now being treated, 35

White House staff, Secret Service eye virus with fear, anger

WASHINGTON (AP) — The West Wing is a ghost town. Staff members are scared of exposure. And the White House is now a treatment ward for not one — but two — COVID patients, including a president who has long taken the threat of the virus lightly.

President Donald Trump’s decision to return home from a military hospital despite his continued illness is putting new focus on the people around him who could be further exposed if he doesn’t abide by strict isolation protocols.

Throughout the pandemic, White House custodians, ushers, kitchen staff and members of the U.S. Secret Service have continued to show up for work in what is now a coronavirus hot spot, with more than a dozen known cases this week alone.


Trump, still contagious, has made clear that he has little intention of abiding by best containment practices.

As he arrived back at the White House on Monday evening, the president defiantly removed his face mask and stopped to pose on a balcony within feet of a White House photographer. He was seen inside moments later, surrounded by numerous people as he taped a video message urging Americans not to fear a virus that has killed more than 210,000 in the U.S. and 1 million worldwide.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said the White House was “taking every precaution necessary” to protect not just the first family but “every staff member working on the complex” consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and best practices. He added that physical access to the president would be significantly limited and appropriate protective gear worn by those near him.

Nonetheless, the mood within the White House remains somber, with staff fearful they may have been exposed to the virus. As they confront a new reality — a worksite that once seemed like a bubble of safety is anything but — they also have been engaged in finger-pointing over conflicting reports released about the president’s health as well as a lack of information provided internally.

Many have learned about positive tests from media reports and several were exposed, without their knowledge, to people the White House already knew could be contagious.

Indeed, it took until late Sunday night, nearly three full days after Trump’s diagnosis, for the White House to send a staff-wide note in response. Even then, it did not acknowledge the outbreak.

“As a reminder,” read the letter from the White House Management Office, “if you are experiencing any symptoms … please stay home and do not come to work.” Staff who develop symptoms were advised to “go home immediately” and contact their doctors rather than the White House Medical Unit.

Even when Trump was at the hospital, his staff was not immune to risk.

Trump had aides there recording videos and taking photographs of him. On Sunday evening, he took a surprise drive around the hospital to wave to supporters from the window of an SUV. The Secret Service agents in the car with him

White House chief of staff blocking new coronavirus vaccine guidelines

The White House is blocking strict new coronavirus vaccine guidelines proposed by the Food and Drug Administration due to a provision that would likely prevent any vaccine from being authorized before the November election, several people familiar with the matter told The New York Times.

The guidelines are intended to reassure the public that coronavirus vaccines are being held to a common standard, the Times reports. They were submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for approval on Sept. 21, but White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has intervened, questioning the need for researchers to follow vaccine trial volunteers for two months after they receive their final dose. Per the guidelines, this would have to happen before authorization is granted for a vaccine, with FDA officials saying it’s necessary to determine if there are side effects and to make sure the vaccine protects people for longer than a few weeks.

Trump has been promising a vaccine and pushing for one to be released before the Nov. 3 presidential election, and under the guidelines it is highly unlikely a vaccine would be authorized before then. The FDA is now going around the White House, the Times reports, and will share the guidelines with an outside advisory committee with the hope that they will enforce the standards. Read more at The New York Times.

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Melania Trump didn’t visit husband to avoid exposing Secret Service and medical staff to COVID-19

Doctors and infectious disease experts were highly critical of President Trump’s decision to get driven in a hermetically sealed SUV around Walter Reed Medical Center to wave to supporters while he is contagious with COVID-19, endangering his Secret Service detail, photographed wearing the wrong type of personal protective equipment. The Secret Service has noticed.

Somebody at the White House had considered the safety of Secret Service agents. On Saturday, a White House official told NBC News’ Peter Alexander that first lady Melania Trump would not leave her isolation in the White House residence to visit her husband because “she has COVID” and “that would expose the agents who would drive her there and the medical staff who would walk her up to him.”

The White House defended what spokesman Judd Deere called Trump’s “short, last-minute motorcade ride to wave to his supporters outside.” Deere told Axios‘ Alayna Treene, the White House pool reporter on duty, that “appropriate precautions were taken in the execution of this movement to protect the president and all those supporting it, including PPE. The movement was cleared by the medical team as safe to do.” Deere did not, Treene note, “answer additional questions, such as whether the drive-by happened at the president’s request.”

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Doctor slams Trump for leaving hospital to drive by supporters: ‘The irresponsibility is astounding’

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