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Nurses at Backus Hospital in Norwich plan to strike Tuesday in protest over contract talks

Nurses at Backus Hospital in Norwich are set to strike Tuesday and Wednesday to protest what they say is the company’s refusal to negotiate a contract.

The hospital and Backus Federation of Nurses, part of AFT Connecticut that represents more than 400 nurses have been in contract talks since June. The two sides differ on compensation, improved distribution of personal protective equipment and recruiting and keeping new nurses, according to the union.

A spokeswoman for parent company Hartford HealthCare did not immediately respond to questions about staffing at Backus Hospital during the walkout. Donna Handley, president of the hospital, said earlier this month Backus will remain open during a strike and will work to reach an agreement.

Union President Sherri Dayton said recent negotiations led to progress on improved protective gear policies, expanded access for breastfeeding by new mothers and accountability for safe patient limits.

But the company has not yielded on calls by the union to improve recruitment and retention of nurses, the union said.

The union has organized a rally Tuesday at the hospital and will be joined by U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and other labor leaders and elected officials.

Nurses at the not-for-profit hospital are seeking higher pay and more staff to relieve nurses who often work hours after the end of their shifts, the union said. They also say they are forced to reuse personal protective equipment kept in paper bags until it’s compromised or soiled and are demanding Hartford Healthcare keep a three-month supply of N95 masks.

Hartford HealthCare insists personal protective equipment is always available to patients and staff.

Stephen Singer can be reached at [email protected]

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©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com

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Regeneron CEO says $450 million contract with U.S. secured 300k doses of antibody drug

Washington — Dr. Leonard Schleifer, the founder and CEO of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which developed the antibody cocktail heralded by President Trump, estimated Sunday that a $450 million contract the company won from the federal government over the summer will secure roughly 300,000 doses of the treatment.

“They bought from us several hundred thousand, maybe around 300,000 doses, which they are going to make it for free,” Schleifer said in an interview with “Face the Nation.” “We can’t do this alone. We need the entire industry.”

The Trump administration announced in July it signed a $450 million contract with Regeneron to supply the treatment. But with the number of new coronavirus cases outpacing the doses of the drug available, Schleifer conceded the federal government, together with ethics experts at the Food and Drug Administration, will have to decide who receives the limited supply.

“Coming up with a distribution system where we take what’s limited, and we try and give it to the people who most need it, who would most benefit from it — the vulnerable people, elderly people, people who are at high risk, household contacts perhaps,” he said. “We have to figure out ways to ration this.”

Mr. Trump was given a single dose of Regeneron’s antibody cocktail while he was being treated for COVID-19 and has gone on to praise the treatment, officially known as REGN-COV2, as a “cure” for the virus.

But the treatment has yet to undergo a peer-reviewed drug trial and has only been given to 10 people outside of clinical trials.

Schleifer called Mr. Trump’s case a “case report” and said while it is evidence of how the drug worked, it’s the “weakest evidence that you can get.”

“The real evidence has to come — about how good a drug is and what it will do on average — has to come from these large clinical trials, these randomized clinical trials, which are the gold standard,” he said.

Regeneron applied for an emergency use authorization from the FDA, and if it’s granted, the government has agreed “to making these doses available to the American people at no cost.”

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4 Levittown High-Schoolers Contract Coronavirus: Records

LEVITTOWN, NY — After escaping September with no coronavirus cases, four on-site students at Gen. Douglas MacArthur High School have since tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to officials and state records.

An alert posted on the website for Levittown Public Schools said the district was notified Tuesday afternoon that two more people at the high school tested positive for the disease. One of them was in the building that day.

“Since the Department of Health needs time to conduct thorough contact tracing with respect to the people involved and out of an abundance of caution, MacArthur HS will be operating on a remote schedule tomorrow, Wednesday, October 7,” the district said at the time.

The state Department of Health’s Covid-19 Report Card for schools showed four students in all tested positive for the disease. Three were documented Tuesday and a fourth was logged Wednesday.

People who contracted the coronavirus cannot return to the building until they provide a negative test.

The cases come after the district said it learned Sept. 29 that a student at East Broadway School tested positive for the disease. In that case, the student was not in school that day and symptoms did not emerge until the previous Sunday, the alert said. Back to School Night at the school was postponed so the building could be cleaned and disinfected.

School districts across Long Island have seen coronavirus cases in the opening days and weeks of the new school year, including Mineola, Seaford, Syosset, Oyster Bay, New Hyde Park, Great Neck, Plainview and Hicksville.

This article originally appeared on the Levittown Patch

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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

Senate cancels work as lawmakers contract virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on coronavirus infections hitting President Donald Trump and others in his circle (all times EDT):

12:30 p.m.

Senate Republicans have canceled legislative work until Oct. 19 as the coronavirus sweeps through their ranks and lawmakers increasingly call for comprehensive testing on Capitol Hill.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Saturday that confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett are still on.

One by one, President Donald Trump and a series of GOP lawmakers have fallen ill with the virus that has killed more than 208,000 Americans.


Over the last week, many of the politicians who tested positive attended events at which few people wore masks and mingled in the halls and tunnels of the Capitol complex.

Just since Friday morning, Trump, Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin announced that they have tested positive.

The Senate was to reconvene this week ahead of its confirmation proceedings for Barrett. McConnell has said those hearings, scheduled to begin Oct. 12, are “full steam ahead.”

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12:15 p.m.

A person familiar with President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 illness says some of his vital signs over the past 24 hours were “very concerning” but they’ve improved since he was admitted to a military hospital.

The person has knowledge of the president’s medical condition but was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

It contradicted Trump’s doctors, who said during a press conference Saturday that the president was doing very well and felt as though he could walk out of a military hospital. They said he had not been on oxygen Saturday or when he was with their medical team Friday, and that his symptoms were subsiding.

Trump was admitted to Walter Reed Medical Center on Friday after saying he had contracted COVID-19. First lady Melania Trump also has fallen ill.

The person described the next 48 hours as critical and said there was no clear path yet on a recovery and that it could be days before he was discharged.

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12 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s doctors say the president is doing well, is fever-free and isn’t having difficulty breathing after contracting the coronavirus.

Doctors said Saturday that Trump was not on supplemental oxygen, and while he had fatigue, nasal congestion and coughing, his symptoms are now resolving and improving.

Dr. Sean Conley, Trump’s physician, refused to say whether Trump had been on supplemental oxygen at any point during his illness, saying he was not on it Saturday or Thursday or Friday while he was with the medical team from Walter Reed Medical Center.

Trump was transferred to the military hospital on Friday afternoon in what doctors say was a precaution after he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19. He has not transferred powers.

Conley says the president has “a lot of work to do” and is doing it.

Doctors say the president told them:

Contract Tracing, Key to Reining in the Virus, Falls Flat in the West

LONDON — As the coronavirus stampeded across Europe and the United States this spring, governments made their depleted citizens a tantalizing promise: Soon, legions of disease detectives would hunt down anyone exposed to the virus, confining them to their homes and letting everyone else get on with their lives.

Nearly eight months on, as a web of new infections spreads across Europe and the United States, that promise has nearly evaporated.

Despite repeated vows by Western nations to develop “world-beating” testing and tracing operations, those systems have been undone by a failure of governments to support citizens through onerous quarantines or to draw out intimate details of their whereabouts. That has shattered the hope of pinpoint measures replacing lockdowns and undermined flagging confidence in governments.

Beholden to privacy rules, Western officials largely trusted people to hand over names to contact tracers. But that trust was not repaid, in large part because governments neglected services that were crucial to winning people’s cooperation: a fast and accurate testing system, and guarantees that people would be housed, fed and paid while they isolated.

“Public health leaders fell in love with the idea of contact tracing as an important tactic — and it is — but that’d be like if you’re going into war and were just talking about the tanks,” said Brian Castrucci, president of the de Beaumont Foundation, a public health charity in Maryland.

Just as important, officials overlooked the impact of raging mistrust in government and a thicket of conspiracy theories about the virus’s spread. Fearful of plunging themselves or their friends into a painful period off work, infected patients have handed over a paltry number of contacts and often flouted self-isolation rules. Contact tracers are struggling to reach people who test positive, and being rebuffed once they do.

In theory, countries were to build mass testing programs that would provide quick diagnoses. Then a group of tracers would find others who had crossed paths with the infected person and tell them to stay home.

Elected officials presented the system as a critical bridge between lockdown and a vaccine, allowing them to contain small outbreaks without shutting down large parts of society. But construction of that bridge has been rocky, at best.

The West’s public health systems have not matched the success in parts of East Asia where the fear of epidemics became more ingrained after SARS and MERS.

Following those outbreaks, places like Taiwan and South Korea built robust tracing systems and legal frameworks for limiting civil liberties during an epidemic. Some contact tracers have used cellphone and credit card data to identify people who were potentially exposed.

But in Europe and the United States, which have largely relied on the public to provide information and follow quarantine rules voluntarily. The response has been spotty

The West also ran up against the blunt fact that contact tracing, while useful in containing limited cases, has become overwhelmed by a new explosion of infections. In the past week, Europe has averaged about

Children 17 and under contract and spread COVID-19 like adults, large new study finds

A study of 85,000 people with COVID-19 in two southern Indian states and 575,000 people they came in contact with found that children 17 and under contract and transmit the new coronavirus at rates similar to the rest of the population. Children age 5 to 17 passed the virus on to 18 percent of close contacts their same age, a team of U.S. and Indian researchers reported Wednesday in the journal Science.

These findings are particularly important given “previous reports suggesting a minor role of children in the pandemic,” Antonio Salas, a Spanish researcher who was not involved in the Indian study, told the Los Angeles Times. “National policies on how to proceed with children in schools and other social activities could change dramatically if the scientific evidence underpins the idea that children can infect as efficiently as adults, and even more, they could also behave as super-spreaders.”

The two Indian states studied, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, have robust contract tracing and other public health programs. The other major finding from the study involved super-spreaders. While 71 percent of people infected with COVID-19 did not appear to pass the virus on to anybody else, just 8 percent of infected people accounted for 60 percent of the new infections, said lead author Ramanan Laxminarayan of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy in New Delhi.

“Super-spreading events are the rule rather than the exception,” Laxminarayan said. “It has lots of implications for modeling COVID, for how to keep places safe.”

While children 17 and under were found to be more efficient disease transmitters than previously understood, they had the lowest death rate of any age cohort. Overall, deaths increased with age up to 65, then appeared to drop off. New York Times science reporter Apoorva Mandavilli said that might be because people who make it past India’s life expectancy of 69 years told tend to be wealthy, with good heath care.

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SMC Supes Approve $5M Coronavirus Testing Contract With Verily

SAN MATEO COUNTY, CA — San Mateo County moved to ramp up coronavirus testing Tuesday as the Board of Supervisors approved a contract with Verily worth up to $5 million.

The county has partnered with Verily, Alphabet Inc.’s life sciences research organization that launched the Project Baseline program to provide free COVID-19 testing, since March.

The original resolution, adopted March 24, allowed the county to contract with entities providing COVID-19 related services for a maximum of $500,000, paid from the county’s federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.

The amended resolution increases the agreement threshold to $5 million as the county aims to increase testing to over 1,000 tests daily, up from the previous daily average of 600 to 700 tests. Verily provides 17 percent of the county’s testing, according to Louise Rogers, San Mateo County’s chief of health.

COVID-19 testing is available Tuesday through Saturday at the San Mateo County Event Center. San Mateo County also partners with Verily to provide mobile testing sites on rotation in various cities.

In addition to Verily, the county also introduced targeted, neighborhood-level testing for at-risk communities, which would make testing more accessible via walk-in sites.

The neighborhood test sites also allow for testing of people under 18 years old, which Verily currently does not provide.

Targeted testing is available in cities such as East Palo Alto and San Mateo. Another site will open in Redwood City.

The goal of targeted testing is to decrease barriers to testing and to increase health education, according to Deputy County Manager Justin Mates.

A full testing schedule is available at https://www.smcgov.org/testing. County officials encouraged residents to seek COVID-19 testing through private providers, which account for about 80 percent of total testing.

Increased testing could also help the county move toward a less restrictive tier of California’s blueprint for a safer economy, a framework that places counties into colored tiers based on their test positivity and adjusted case rate. The case rate is adjusted based on testing volume.

San Mateo County is in the red (substantial risk) tier, after moving from the most restrictive purple tier on Sept. 22.

— Bay City News and Patch Editor Gideon Rubin contributed to this report

This article originally appeared on the San Mateo Patch

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