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Coronavirus relief funds for nursing homes dry up, raising fears for elderly, vulnerable

As drafts of a renewed coronavirus relief package continue to be debated in and around the White House, the many millions left languishing in nursing homes and elderly care facilities – along with their loved ones forced to communicate with them from afar – are urging swift action.

According to the American Health Care Association (AHCA), almost all the initial $175 billion U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funds from the CARES Act – which was signed into law by President Trump in late March – has been spent, and yet coronavirus – officially termed COVID-19 – cases in at least 22 states continues to ascend, ahead of the already daunting cold and flu season.

“HHS has announced distribution plans for 80 percent of the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund created by the CARES Act. Health care providers, including nursing homes, will need additional resources to continue its response to the COVID pandemic heading into the cold and flu season, which provides new challenges,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), told Fox News. “COVID-19 disproportionately impacts the elderly – many of whom already have preexisting health conditions and chronic diseases – and the dedicated staff who care for them.”

AMID CORONAVIRUS, 1 IN 4 AMERICANS ARE FAILING TO WASH THEIR HANDS: CDC

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) has thus requested an additional $100 billion from the HHS Provider Relief Fund, which is accessible for all health care providers impacted by the novel pathogen, and asked “that a sizeable portion of the fund be dedicated to helping nursing homes and assisted living communities to acquire resources associated with protecting vulnerable residents and staff from the virus, including constant testing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and staff support.”

Parkinson is urging Congress to provide the additional billions to protect the most susceptible. As of Friday, the notion of further stimulus and relief funding was still the topic of political fodder in Washington.

Parkinson emphasized that the PPE supply shortages and delays in obtaining test results in the first six months of the pandemic “put nursing homes at a serious disadvantage” in keeping COVID out of their facilities.

 “Funding from HHS has helped nursing homes pay for additional staffing, secure vital PPE equipment, and conduct regular testing of residents and staff in response to the COVID pandemic,” he lamented. “We need Congress to prioritize our vulnerable seniors and their caregivers in nursing homes and assisted living communities by passing another COVID-funding package before they leave town for the elections.”

Indeed, a prominent portion of coronavirus deaths have occurred in nursing homes and assisted living facilities nationwide – a chilling consequence of the disease, which is known to be especially lethal to adults over the age of 60, and with underlying health ailments. Furthermore, it can rapidly tear through converging, indoor dwellings and be passed on by workers who move from room and room.

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At Disney World, ‘Worst Fears’ About Virus Have Not Come True

In July, one infectious disease expert said Walt Disney World’s reopening was a “terrible idea” that was “inviting disaster.” Social media users attacked Disney as “irresponsible” and “clueless” for pressing forward, even as coronavirus cases surged in Florida. A few aghast onlookers turned Disney World marketing videos into parody trailers for horror films.

Attendance has been lower than anticipated. Travel agents say families have been postponing Christmastime plans to vacation at the Orlando-area resort, in part because of concerns about the safety of flying. In recent days, Disney World, citing continued uncertainty about the duration of the pandemic, began laying off 15,550 workers, or 20 percent of its work force.

As tumultuous as the three months since the reopening have been, however, public health officials and Disney World’s unions say there have been no coronavirus outbreaks among workers or guests. So far, Disney’s wide-ranging safety measures appear to be working. “We have no issues or concerns with the major theme parks at this point,” said Dr. Raul Pino, director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, which includes Disney World.

Disney declined to say how many Disney World employees had tested positive for the coronavirus since the resort reopened. In phone interviews, union leaders said cases had been minimal. “We’ve had very few, and none, as far as we can tell, have been from work-related exposure,” said Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here Local 362, which represents roughly 8,000 attraction workers and custodians.

Mr. Clinton’s assessment was echoed by Unite Here Local 737, which represents hotel housekeepers and food and beverage workers; IATSE Local 631, where members include stagehands and show technicians; United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1625, which handles merchandise and banquet workers; and Teamsters Local 385, which looks after bus drivers, laundry workers and entertainers who appear in costume as Disney characters.

“So far — so far — it has been a success story,” said Julee Jerkovich, a United Food & Commercial Workers official. “As a union rep, I do not say that lightly.”

Disney’s ability to keep workers and guests safe has been at the center of an increasingly tense standoff in California that has kept the company’s West Coast resort closed since March. Gov. Gavin Newsom, citing coronavirus concerns, has refused to allow California theme parks to reopen; Disney, citing the efficacy of its safety procedures in Florida, has pressured him to reconsider. So have elected officials in Southern California, where the two-park Disneyland Resort supports 78,000 jobs, according to economists at California State University, Fullerton.

Getting the Anaheim, Calif., complex running again is important for Disney because other areas of the company — theatrical films, cruise vacations — have also been severely disrupted by the pandemic and face a more strenuous recovery. Disneyland generated an estimated $3.8 billion in revenue last year, according to Michael Nathanson, a media analyst.

Last week, a frustrated Robert A. Iger, Disney’s executive chairman, resigned from an economic task force set up by Mr. Newsom at the

Problem at Roche warehouse raises fears over UK COVID tests

LONDON (AP) — Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche said Wednesday that problems at a U.K. warehouse are delaying shipments of testing products to clinics and hospitals, triggering concerns that COVID-19 testing may be disrupted as infection rates rise around Britain.

Roche informed doctors about the problem at its U.K. distribution center in Sussex, southern England, in a letter that advised customers to “prioritize essential services only.”

Roche said the problem arose after it moved to a new automatic warehouse in September.

The company said that it was “prioritizing the dispatch of COVID-19 PCR and antibody tests and doing everything we can to ensure there is no impact on the supply of these” to the National Health Service.


The glitch affects materials needed to conduct blood tests and screening for diseases including diabetes and cancer. Roche said it could take two weeks to fix the problem.

British doctors have already raised concerns about the number of procedures, tests and screening programs that were put on hold as the health service focused on battling COVID-19 earlier this year.

While normal service has begun to resume, there is still a backlog, and long waiting lists for non-emergency operations.

Britain, which already has the highest virus death toll in Europe at over 42,500, is now facing a second surge in coronavirus cases. A total of 2,883 coronavirus patients were in U.K. hospitals on Tuesday, up from 2,291 a week earlier. A further 76 deaths of people with COVID-19 were recorded Tuesday, compared to 41 a week earlier.

Both figures are well below the peaks seen at the height of the U.K. outbreak in the spring.

Scotland is set to announce tightened social restrictions Wednesday in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, and the British government is considering whether to follow suit.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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Fruit Sold at Walmart Recalled Due to Listeria Fears


Consumers who purchased products with the affected sell-by dates are urged to throw them away. Meanwhile, Walmart is removing the products from its store shelves.

“Country Fresh takes food safety matters very seriously, stringently follows all mandated regulations and implements preventive measures designed to minimize potential risks,” the supplier said in a news release. “Country Fresh is working in close coordination with FDA in its continuing investigation to resolve the matter promptly and deeply regrets the inconvenience to our consumers and customers.”

What is listeria?

Listeriosis, the infection caused by the germ Listeria monocytogenes, primarily affects older adults, newborns, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. It can cause fever and diarrhea, and severe cases can cause infections of the bloodstream or brain. Infections may also affect other parts of the body including bones, joints, chest and abdomen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No illnesses connected to the current fruit recalls have been reported.

Consumers with any questions are being asked to contact Country Fresh’s customer service line at 877-251-8399, 8 a.m to 5 p.m. CST Monday through Friday.

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