KY Nurse Fired After Attending the Riots at the U.S. Capitol

The world watched in horror as a group of insurrectionists forced their way into the United States Capitol building last week. The rioters damaged property while carrying racist, white supremacist symbols. They also interrupted Congress as members were certifying the results of the Electoral College, a sacred tradition in our democracy. The incident led to the death of five Americans, including one Capitol Police officer who was beaten by a mob.

Scenes of the riots lit up social media and news networks all over the world. Authorities say they have received 50,000 tips as they continue to track down individuals who took part in the destruction and vandalism. So far, the FBI has confirmed that over 100 individuals have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the riots.

Fired for Rioting

Lori Vinson, of Morganfield, KY, has confirmed that she was at the Capitol at the time of the insurrection. She took photos and videos of the event and posted them to her personal social media account.

“I hope that is something I remember and say, ‘I’m glad I was a part of that’ 30 years from now,’” Vinson said, looking back on her participation in the riots.

In addition to those who have been arrested for looting and defacing one of our nation’s most important spaces, others have been called out for attending the riots. Social media detectives have been identifying individuals spotted in the videos and photos posted online.

“The doors were open, people were filing through, there were no signs that said, ‘Do not enter,’” Vinson told a local news outlet of her experience. “There were no cops saying ‘Don’t come in.’”

She was fired from her job at Ascension Vincent Hospital in Evansville, Indiana just two days after the insurrection. Official paperwork shows that she was terminated for admitting to engaging in criminal behavior at a high-profile event.

“You know people have asked, ‘Are you sorry you’ve done that?’ Absolutely I am not. I am not sorry for that, I would do it again tomorrow,” Vinson said of her experience.

As for the violence and damaging public property, “I participated in none of that,” Vinson said. “I would never participate in that. Because I was there for a peaceful protest and that’s what I was doing. I felt like I have done nothing wrong and I wouldn’t change it.”

Looking at the photos and videos posted to social media, some rioters can be seen antagonizing Capitol police and threatening violence inside the building, with others walking around looking for a bathroom.

Vinson has also confirmed that the FBI contacted her after the insurrection. “The whole conversation was about 10 minutes long,” she said. “And he said, ‘Thank you, you won’t be hearing from me again.’”

Understanding At-Will Employment

In terms of losing her job, Vinson says she has appealed the decision as is waiting to hear back.

“I’m not mad. I’m hurt that Ascension didn’t see my worth to them. But I’m not upset that I stood up for what I thought was right,” Vinson said. 

Many rioters say they breached the Capitol to protest the results of last year’s presidential election, while others were outright calling for violence. 

Indiana is recognized as an “at-will” state, which means that private employers can fire their employers for any reason.

According to the National Council of State Legislatures:

Employment relationships are presumed to be “at-will” in all U.S. states except Montana. The U.S. is one of a handful of countries where employment is predominantly at-will. Most countries throughout the world allow employers to dismiss employees only for cause. Some reasons given for our retention of the at-will presumption include respect for freedom of contract, employer deference, and the belief that both employers and employees favor an at-will employment relationship over job security.  

However, “at-will” employment doesn’t apply to illegal discrimination.

While the hospital has yet to comment on the matter, Ascension clearly believes Vinson no longer belongs at the facility.

Since the riots took place, Vinson isn’t the only one feeling the heat.

An Illinois real estate firm fired one of its agents after they were caught at the Capitol during the riots. The firm said it “does not condone violence, destruction or illegal activities.” Cogensia, a marketing company, also fired its chief executive, saying their actions were inconsistent with its “core values.”

Legal experts say private companies have to do their homework before firing an employee. They must first check to see if the worker broke any laws. Other companies may fire their workers if they embarrass or tarnish the company’s brand.

Some of the rioters could be seen wearing pins and badges of their employers, which implicates these companies in the chaos.

While employers cannot simply fire someone for supporting President Trump, workers should realize that if they stand up for anti-democratic principles, sexist or racist ideology, they do so at their own risk. 

Cash for Shots? The Arguments Around Paying People to Get Vaccinated

Over a month into the vaccination process, the U.S. still has a lot of work to do. So far, 11.9 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across the country out of the 30 million that have been distributed, and at least 1.46 million people have already received their second shot. However, federal officials say the U.S. is already falling woefully short of its vaccination goals. Hesitant healthcare workers, technology issues, and other infrastructure problems have made it difficult to get the drug in people’s arms.

Some have floated the idea of paying Americans to get vaccinated, encouraging more people to get the shot. Others, however, say this idea could easily backfire.

How Would It Work?

Robert Litan, a senior fellow in the Economic Studies program at the Brookings Institution, has been making the rounds advocating the idea of paying patients per shot. He’s worried that all the public endorsements, from celebrities to politicians, won’t be enough to convince a sizable portion of the population to get vaccinated. He believes that if we want to get the country back on track, direct payments are necessary.

As he told NPR, “Because if we don’t get to that, we’re not going to get our lives back.”

He would like the federal government to pay everyone around a thousand dollars to get vaccinated, including $200 for getting both shots and $800 when the country reaches herd immunity.

Litan argues that this would ultimately benefit the economy. It would help individual consumers rebuild their lives after the pandemic, while making sure most people have immunity from the coronavirus.

“We just have a lot of people in this country who either don’t trust the government or they don’t trust vaccines or whatever. I view the payment for a vaccine as the price we pay for having a divided country,” he added.

According to the Pew Research Center, public support for the vaccines is rising as people learn more about the safety and efficacy of the drugs. As of December, 60% said they intend to get the vaccine.

Health experts say between 70% and 95% of the population would need to get vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity, so how are we going to convince more people to get their shots?

As an economist, Litan believes that Americans respond to incentives, especially money, which can also be used to benefit society as a whole. He equates this idea to paying people to stop smoking or reducing insurance premiums for safe drivers.

Overall, his idea would cost somewhere between $250 and $350 billion.

Is It a Good Idea?

Paying everyone to get vaccinated may sound great in theory, but as we’ve learned throughout the course of the pandemic, things don’t always play out the way we want them to.

According to Cynthia Cryder, who teaches marketing at Washington University’s Olin Business School, the idea may actually cause more harm than good. “Payment may indeed encourage some people to get the vaccine. But it may also deter some people from getting the vaccine because payment signals that the vaccine is risky,” she said.

Cryder also worries that this would set a bad precedent in the medical community. Patients may start to expect a cash payment every time they need to get vaccinated.

In lieu of direct payments, others have floated the idea of requiring everyone to get vaccinated, but considering all the pushback states received when residents were told to stay home, forcing everyone to get a shot could also backfire.

In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states have the authority to mandate that everyone get vaccinated for smallpox to protect public health and safety. This practice is also used when enrolling students in school. Children must show proof of vaccination before joining the class to protect the other students.

Still, Litan worries this would have the opposite effect. “I think the level of anger in the country will go up extraordinarily high if we had mandates.”

It’s still not clear how the U.S. will reach herd immunity. We all have to work together to convince as many people to get vaccinated as possible. 

Nursing School Creates Scholarship in Honor of Nurse Killed on Her Way to Work

The city of Nashville, Tennessee is still in mourning over the death of ICU nurse Caitlyn Kaufman on December 3rd, 2020. Just 26 years old when she was shot dead on Interstate 440, she was reportedly on her way to work the night shift at St. Thomas West Hospital.

Two suspects have since been arrested in connection to her murder, but authorities say they are still searching for a possible motive.

To honor her life, locals are donating money to set up a new nursing scholarship. It’s one of the many ways the community is working to make sure her memory isn’t forgotten.

A Shooting on the Highway

Nurse Kaufman’s SUV was struck by at least six bullets on that fateful night. A local Metro Parks Officer first thought her car had crashed when he discovered the vehicle on the side of the highway. Upon investigating the scene, he discovered Kaufman dead in the front seat. A medical examiner found that a bullet had struck in the shoulder and that she died within seconds of being hit.

As for a motive, Detective Chris Dickerson, who’s in charge of the investigation, recently addressed reporters, saying, “We have some leads. Right now, there’s a lot of things that we’re working on and I can’t say for sure what it is, but we do have some ideas.”

The first suspect arrested was James Edward Cowan, 28, who was staying with his girlfriend. She admitted to harboring Cowan even though she knew he was wanted by the police. Authorities charged her with harboring a fugitive. At the time of the arrest, authorities found five grams of cocaine, half a pound of marijuana, 238 Xanax bars, and 56 Adderall pills. They also discovered two semi-automatic guns and 126 rounds of ammunition inside Cowan’s rental car.

The second arrested was Devaunte Lewis Hill, 21. An arrest affidavid shows that a concerned citizen told police that they had information about Kaufman’s murder. They later identified Hill as the person who shot Kaufman and that Cowan was on the scene at the time of the homicide. Cell phone data shows that both men were in the area when Kaufman was shot. They also believe the two men were together at the time. Authorities have also confirmed that neither of the men knew Kaufman.

Both are due in court later this month for hearings related to the charges.

Kaufman’s murder shocked the entire Nashville community. With no motive, locals have been left to speculate why she was killed while minding her own business. It’s possible that the killers mistook her car for someone else’s.

Honoring Kaufman’s Memory

To honor Kaufman’s passing, her former classmate is setting up a scholarship in her name at Butler County Community College in Western Pennsylvania. Kaufman graduated from the school’s nursing program in 2018. The school confirms it has already raised $13,000 for the award, with donations coming from four different states.

The scholarship will be known as the Caitlyn Kaufman ’18 Legacy Nursing Scholarship. The award will be endowed as soon as it reached $15,000.

According to Ruth Purcell, who recently retired as executive director of the group that will administer the scholarship, an endowed scholarship “exists forever.” 

“It is Caitlyn’s legacy that can be paid forward to other people who are going to step into the role that she was in and fill those shoes,” said Kiley Cribbs, who helped create the scholarship program.

President of Butler County Community College, Dr. Nicholas Neupauer, took a moment to remember Kaufman:

“I can tell you and the viewers in Nashville that we are heartbroken, Caitlyn represents the very best of our college. I think to get a full picture it would be important to give your audience a full representation of Butler. Although the steel industry declined in the 70s and into the early 80s, there are still remnants of that steel industry and the immigrants who came over to work in steel. These are people who have great pride in their community, give back to their community and are incredibly hard working; that was Caitlyn.”

He asked the community to keep Kaufman and her family in their thoughts and prayers.

If you’re interested in donating to the Kaufman Scholarship Fund, you can learn more about the program on the BC3 Education Foundation website.

The Future of mRNA: Moderna Announces It’s Working Towards a Vaccine for HIV

Moderna and Pfizer made history in 2020 when they developed the world’s first vaccines for COVID-19 using what’s known as messenger mRNA technology. This marks the first time scientists have used this technology in the vaccination process, and it’s changing the way we look at infectious disease and other types of chronic health conditions.

Unlike other vaccines that infect the patient with a sample of the target virus, mRNA vaccines create a set of instructions on how to build specific proteins that trigger the body’s natural defenses. The instructions are temporary and do not affect the person’s actual DNA, which makes them much safer than other types of vaccines. This technology could be used to treat everything from cancer to addiction.

Based on the success of these vaccines, Moderna has just announced that it will use the mRNA method to create three new vaccines for 2021, including one for HIV.

The History of mRNA

Messenger mRNA technology is considered a potential game-changer in the field of medicine. Nucleic acid vaccines, which include plasmid DNA vaccines and mRNA vaccines, use genetic material to encode antigenic proteins in a person’s DNA. When administering the drug, the genetic payload enters the cytosol, or liquid matrix, of human cells. The cellular machinery then creates the antigenic proteins to elicit an immunological response.

There are many benefits to messenger mRNA vaccines. They are typically much faster and easier to produce than other types of vaccines. The encoded proteins do not remain in the human body long, which reduces any health risks associated with the drug. The body also amplifies the genetic material, so it can fight off infection even with small amounts of the expressed antigenic protein.  

This technology was first discovered in the 1990s, but scientists were less than enthusiastic. They preferred plasmid DNA vaccines for their stability and effectiveness. Originally, mRNA vaccines were seen as too unstable. One major problem was that the proteins degraded rapidly in the body, making it harder to develop an immunological response. The other problem was that mRNA was considered an immunologically active molecule, and introducing it to a person’s immune system could lead to excessive immunization and inflammation.

Things changed in the mid-2000s when Hungarian biochemist Katalin Karikó, Ph.D. proved that mRNA vaccines could be just as effective as plasmid DNA vaccines at the University of Pennsylvania, debunking previous misconceptions.

Today, she’s the senior vice president at BioNTech, the German company that partnered with Pfizer to produce the world’s first messenger mRNA vaccine.

Targeting HIV and Other Infectious Disease

Now that mRNA vaccines have shown to be effective, Moderna is moving onto three new projects. The company recently announced it’s launching development programs for three new potential vaccines, including those for HIV, the seasonal flu, and the Nipah virus.

For the seasonal flu, the company says it hopes to make a combinatory vaccine that could be used to prevent seasonal illness as well as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to COVID-19. That would make getting your yearly flu shot much easier. This would also give us the ability to protect ourselves against the coronavirus even as it continues to evolve.

Creating a vaccine for HIV will be more of a challenge. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Infectious Disease was recently asked whether he believes the messenger mRNA formula could be used to one day defeat HIV. He noted the clear differences between fighting COVID-19 and HIV.

For starters, the body creates a natural immunological response to SARS-CoV-2, but that’s not the case with HIV.

As he told the American Journal of Managed Care, “It is very difficult to get a vaccine [for HIV], because it’s very difficult to induce the body to do something that even natural infection doesn’t successfully allow it to do, [which] is to develop an adequate immune response to clear the virus,” he said. “The challenges are very, very different.”

One of the main problems in targeting HIV is its ability to vary. Studies show the amino acid sequences of the HIV protein can differ up to 20% between viruses within a particular clade and as much as 35% in virus samples from different clades.

Another problem is that HIV establishes latent viral reservoirs early on during infection, limiting the body’s immune system. It’s also not clear what immunization from HIV looks like. The body can’t get rid of the virus completely, and doctors aren’t sure what constitutes an effective immune response.

Charting a Course

Despite these challenges, Moderna is working full force towards an effective HIV vaccine. Researchers have already discovered that mRNA can yield high levels of protective antibodies in mice, which could confer protection against the virus, but they still have a long way to go.

The drug has yet to undergo human trials, but it’s expected to enter into Phase 1 trials this year. The vaccine candidate was developed in collaboration with the AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Messenger mRNA vaccines may be the future of medicine, helping us get rid of diseases that were once thought incurable. 

Two Ohio Nurses Suspended After Failing to Care for Dying Inmate

Nearly four months ago, Aaron Ferguson, 29, died while under the care of Lucas County Corrections Center in Toledo, Ohio. He was booked just after midnight on September 11th on charges of burglary and aggravated theft. 24 hours later, he was found unresponsive in his cell.

New details are emerging regarding Ferguson’s death in prison. Several employees of the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office are facing disciplinary actions, including two nurses who denied care to the inmate when he needed it most, leaving his loved ones to wonder whether this tragedy could have been avoided.

The Night of the Arrest

Officials have been reviewing evidence to find out exactly what happened to Ferguson while he was in the facility. In the body camera footage of his arrest, he tells the arresting officers that he has been losing his bowels. As they transported him to the Lucas County Corrections Center, he can also be heard saying that he couldn’t breathe and that he needed water.

According to the sheriff’s office report, when Ferguson arrived at the corrections center, Nurse Denise Luettke asked him a few questions before clearing him to be booked. During this exchange, Ferguson reportedly told the nurse that he had recently been exposed to someone with COVID-19. He also told her that he had used heroin and fentanyl a day or two previously.

Luettke put the inmate on a COVID-19 precaution, while adding the note to his medical intake form “Pt. (Patient) reluctant to answer any questions related to using a large amt (amount) of heroin/fentanyl “yesterday,” and it made Pt. very tired.)”

She also noted that Ferguson defecated and urinated on himself and that he was having trouble keeping his eyes open.

Once he was in his cell, Corrections Officer Ishmael Shine observed that his breathing sounded abnormal, yet he never reached for the emergency button or called for help.

Shine told Luettke that Ferguson “looked dead” and asked her to check on him in his cell.

According to the report, “Nurse Luettke replies, ‘He (Ferguson) didn’t look good sitting there. I mean, whether it’s Fentanyl or whatever he had is making him sleepy.’”

“Shine then says, ‘He is breathing really fast.’”

“Nurse Luettke then asks, ‘Does he have water?’”

“Shine states, ‘No, should I give him some?’”

“Nurse Luettke answers, ‘Yes, because he may be dehydrated,'” the report read.

Five hours after he was arrested, the medical records show Luettke gave Ferguson some Tylenol and water. He also had to change out of his prison uniform several times because he kept urinating on himself. Around 7 PM the next day, he was transferred to a different cell.

Close to 9 PM, Corrections Officer Kimyatta Owensby called the nurses station saying Ferguson needed help.

This time, Nurse Tammy Willoughby answered the call. According to the report, she outright denied Owensby’s request for help, adding that “medical staff had seen Ferguson earlier and he wasn’t complaining about anything.”

About 45 minutes later, Owensby called for medical back-up. Nurse Jenifer Upperco responded and performed CPR on Ferguson, who appeared unresponsive. Toledo Fire and Rescue Department crews quickly responded, as well. They performed another round of CPR and medical aid before transferring the inmate to a local hospital, where he later died.

What Went Wrong?

An internal affairs investigation is putting the blame on both nurses on staff that day.

  • Nurse Denise Luettke

For Nurse Luettke, officials agree that she should’ve gone and checked on Ferguson when Corrections Officer Shine first reported that he was having trouble breathing.

In her defense, Luettke says she initially associated his condition with COVID-19, but then went on to say she thought it was related to his gastrointestinal discomfort.

When asked, “Is it important that anytime an inmate or anyone in this corrections center complains about not being able to breathe to check on them?” Luettke answered, “Absolutely.”

Upon reviewing the evidence, Director of Medical Services Anissa Floure says the fact that Ferguson came in complaining of shortness of breath and that he had recently used drugs should have been a red flag that he needed additional medical attention.

The official report concludes, “In summary, Nurse Denise Luettke’s failure to act when asked to do so by C/O Shine, is clearly supported by the evidence presented. The evidence presented exceeds the standard of preponderance of the evidence.”

  • Nurse Tammy Willoughby

As for Nurse Willoughby, the report also found that she should have checked on Ferguson when Corrections Officer Owensby asked her to do so.

All the nurses interviewed were asked the same question: “Is it important, even though you have checked on an inmate’s breathing complaint, that if the same inmate complains later about a difficulty with breathing, is it imperative to check on them again?” To which they all answered, yes.

“Eighty-four minutes after C/O Owensby called the Nurse station and spoke with Nurse Tammy Willoughby, Mr. Ferguson was found unresponsive in his cell,” the report reads.

Overall, several calls were made to the nurses’ station regarding Ferguson’s condition, and nearly all of them went unanswered.

Both nurses have been placed on unpaid leave for 45 days. 

L.A. Police Break Up COVID-19 Super-Spreader Swingers Party

Many people in Los Angeles County are learning that if you don’t want to get caught with your pants down, you need to follow the rules.

Southern California remains one of the worst coronavirus hotspots in the country. Even though most of the state is on lockdown, locals are finding ways to get together in large groups. The police recently broke up a massive swingers party at an abandoned warehouse just outside of the city. Dozens of adults can be seen walking out of the building in handcuffs and facemasks, with blankets around their shoulders. It seems some people are determined to party, even if it means putting lives at stake.

Swingers Let Loose

The city of Los Angeles is known for its vibrant nightlife, making the virus that much more difficult to control. Gov. Gavin Newsom has been adamant about preventing the spread of the virus, but some people are refusing to comply with the rules.

This led to a shocking scene in the city’s South Central region, where police officers swarmed a vacant warehouse. They found and arrested over 200 partygoers attending a swingers’ party. The guests were forced to march out of the facility wearing little more than blankets and facemasks.

During the raid that broke up the party, police used a loudspeaker to blast the message, “The party is over. If you do not come down, you will be subject to arrest.”

The L.A. County Sheriff’s office tweeted on Monday night, “On Saturday January 9, 2021 #LASD Super-Spreader Task Force continued enforcement of the Los Angeles County health orders to address underground party events. The results of the operation included 2 commercial building locations, and a total of 182 adult arrests (cited out).”

One thing remains clear in L.A.: the police aren’t messing around.

Shortly after the arrests were made, the department sent out a follow-up tweet, reminding locals to comply with the rules. The tweet repeated what Alex Villanueva, the sheriff of L.A. County, has been telling residents for months:

“Villanueva has made it clear he will seek out & take law enforcement action against ALL underground party events occurring anywhere within Los Angeles County, who fall under the Health Orders of the County’s Department of Public Health.”

Underground super-spreader events have been a cause for concern throughout the city. From private mansion parties to secret clubs, a variety of locations have been visited by the police as they try to make sure everyone is abiding by the latest rules.

On December 8, 2020, the Board of Supervisors for L.A. County motioned for a COVID-19 enforcement action to be implemented. This led to the creation of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s “Super-Spreader Taskforce”.

A NYE to Remember

This isn’t the first time local officials have had to break up a massive underground party. The task force broke up a massive New Year’s Eve celebration in the city just a few days before the swingers’ party.

According to the official report, officials shut down five events at vacant warehouses, rental homes, closed businesses, and hotels where large numbers of people gathered.

In all, 90 people were arrested for violating the county’s safer-at-home order. More than 900 others were advised about the order and received warnings on New Year’s Eve.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva defended his actions to the public, “I have made it clear that we will seek out and take law enforcement action against all ‘super spreader’ events occurring anywhere within Los Angeles County. The goal of these enforcement actions is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the risk to our vulnerable populations.”

Former Patient Sues Ex-Nurse Accused of Secretly Recording Over 200 Patients

A former nurse, Michael Bragg, 40, is currently behind bars awaiting trial after being accused of secretly recording and molesting patients during his time at UPMC Carlisle, a 165-bed hospital in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. The scandal rocked the entire community as investigators and prosecutors began contacting patients who were filmed without their knowledge while they were under the facility’s care.

Now, one of the alleged victims is taking her case to court. A woman from North Carolina, who’s only being identified via her initials, is suing Bragg for damages related to emotional distress.

Bringing the Accused to Justice

The facility fired Bragg back in 2019 after investigating his conduct on the job. He was later arrested in Franklin County, PA on child pornography charges. Authorities say he filmed children going to the bathroom at his home in Chambersburg.

Shortly thereafter, authorities hit Bragg with another round of charges, this time related to his time at UPMC. During his time at the facility, Bragg allegedly filmed over 200 patients in various forms of underdress between January 2016 and April 2019. He is also being accused of molesting several patients while they were unconscious.

He is currently facing one count of aggravated indecent assault of an unconscious person, one count of indecent assault, 19 counts of manufacturing child pornography, 171 counts of invasion of privacy, 201 counts of intercepting communications, and one count of criminal use of a communication facility.

Since the case has come out, Bragg has received death threats from the local community. He appeared in court at the end of 2019 for his arraignment in a bulletproof vest with high security detail.

“I will always be sorry to everyone involved,” Bragg told a local news outlet at the time.

Ben Andreozzi, a Harrisburg-based attorney, is representing some of Bragg’s victims, including some that are as young as 12 years old.

Speaking on behalf of the alleged victims, Andreozzi said: 

“They are devastated. Essentially what happened is they got a knock on their door, telling them that some pervert had been secretly recording them. They had been waiting in the emergency room waiting room, and he was the charge nurse who called them into the rooms. He would then ask them to undress. Oftentimes he would ask them to undress when there was no legitimate reason. And while they were undressing, he was recording them, unknown to them.”

Investigators say they are still in the process of contacting the 206 people that Bragg allegedly filmed during his time on the job.

Commenting on the case, Andreozzi added:

It would not surprise me if the number is not closer to a thousand. We have no doubt that this tragedy was entirely preventable. It is important to understand that institutions like UPMC have a responsibility to keep patients safe, and if there are oversights in protecting patients, they can be responsible.”

Hospital officials aided in the criminal investigation. Bragg was denied bail and is scheduled for trial in Franklin County in March. For the charges filed in Cumberland County related to his time at UPMC, no trial date has been set.

Suing for Emotional Distress

The NC woman suing Bragg says she was first notified of the ordeal in November of 2019. Officials told her she was among the many patients that he allegedly filmed at UPMC Carlisle. The lawsuit also states that Bragg allegedly shared some of these illegally obtained videos online, calling his behavior “extreme and outrageous and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.” 

She is now seeking more than $75,000 in damages on a count of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Other victims are suing UPMC Carlisle as part of a class-action lawsuit as well. They claim the hospital should’ve known that Bragg was filming patients without their knowledge or consent.

To protect their identities, the plaintiffs asked the court to remain anonymous. However, attorneys for the hospital argued that it would go against precedent, considering previous court rulings have allowed children to use their initials in proceedings, but their guardians were identified by name.

However, the plaintiffs said that this would only add insult to injury. “Despite already knowing the names of the victims in the lawsuit, UPMC shockingly now seeks to publicly unmask its own victims and patients of Bragg,” attorneys for the alleged victims stated in court filings.

They went on to say that UPMC is “ignoring years of legal precedent, in Pennsylvania and other legal jurisdictions, allowing for the use of pseudonyms in sexual abuse and sexual exploitations like this one.”

These cases will highlight the atrocities Bragg allegedly committed during his time at the facility as they continue to play out in court. It’s a horrifying experience no one should have to endure.

“A hospital is a place where you go when you are extremely vulnerable, you have a medical condition, and you need help. It is the last place that you go to expect that you are going to be victimized, and that’s why this case is such a tragedy,” Andreozzi added.

The Pandemic in Primetime: Dr. Lamas Writes COVID-19 into Fox’s The Resident

As the coronavirus continues to dominate life in the U.S., Hollywood TV shows and movies are debating whether they should portray the horrors of today on-screen. Do viewers want an inside look into the response to COVID-19, or are they looking for some good old-fashioned escapism, so they can forget everything that’s going on in the news?

The Resident, a fictional network drama on Fox about uncovering medical mysteries and healthcare corruption at Chastain Memorial, a fictional hospital in Atlanta, is taking the former approach. The show recently aired its fourth season, and this year’s special guest star is the coronavirus.

Dr. Daniela Lamas, who works in critical care at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has been writing the pandemic into the show. For her, it’s about more than just entertaining audiences. It’s an opportunity to show Americans and the world what it’s like to fight COVID-19 on the ground.

Deciding Whether to Show the Pandemic

Most movies and shows are filmed and developed months, if not years, in advance. Many networks and creators have struggled with whether they should incorporate the coronavirus into their respective projects. They could spend months detailing what’s been happening on the ground only to discover that most viewers would rather forget the horrors of the day.

Dr. Lamas, who uses her medical training and experience to write compelling, realistic narratives for the show, says the producers originally discussed whether they should include the pandemic at all.

“The question was, will people have the stomach for this in January? And the answer to that question was, ‘We don’t know,’” she said.

However, she says they eventually scrapped the idea of pretending as if the pandemic never happened in favor of the more interesting story unfolding right in front of their eyes.

“Whether they do or they don’t, we can’t in good faith, as a medical show that claims to have some degree of medical veracity, we can’t ignore the greatest public health crisis of our time. And we can’t expect people to see our characters and believe in them if these fictional health care providers have not experienced what real health care providers have in this fictional world.”

Educating Viewers on What’s Happening in the News

Many medical TV dramas have been incorporating the coronavirus pandemic into their storylines, including ABC’s The Good Doctor, NBC’s Chicago Med and the megahit Grey’s Anatomy, where main character Meredith Grey is currently battling the virus in the hospital’s critical care unit.

When approaching such a serious, delicate topic, Dr. Lamas said the creators tried to focus on what matters most.

“The goal — and presumably it’s one shared by a lot of television shows — which is, what can we show people that they might not know otherwise?” Lamas told the Associated Press.

The show is currently tackling many important issues of the day, including the virus’ disproportionate toll on communities of color, PPE shortages, and forcing patients and providers to quarantine, some of which do not have the means to do so.

“There are issues that come up in terms of money, in terms of resource, in terms of PPE, that also fit well in the kind of wheelhouse of our show,” said Lamas.

When many hospitals and facilities were running out of face masks and other essential PPE, The Resident team donated supplies to healthcare workers that would have been normally used as props. The cast and crew began using lower-grade masks, so they didn’t divert resources away from real-life heroes.

Dr. Lamas said her team felt an obligation to depict what it’s like to be diagnosed with COVID-19. Instead of filming fictional nurses and doctors running down the hallway at the last minute to perform a critical surgery, the show has started focusing on the quieter moments during the pandemic.

“People were wondering, ‘Can we take somebody for a big surgery?’ And I mean, sure we could. But does that reflect the real story? COVID is so much about waiting. It’s so much about decisions around intubation. It’s so much about isolation. And so, I think really being willing to tell that story, instead of the big surgery, alarms blaring, [the] recovery story was something that we had to get into as well.”

Despite the need to get it right, Dr. Lamas and her team decided they didn’t want to focus on the pandemic indefinitely, as most people could use a break from the news of the day.

Actor Matt Czuchry, who plays Dr. Conrad Hawkins on the show, said:

“COVID is always going to be a presence with us throughout the course of season four, but we hope it’s not something that’s going to overwhelm the audience and we can find something that is a balance between the two and something that’s cathartic and joyful and hopeful.”

Imagining a World without COVID-19

As the show’s COVID-19 storylines wind down, The Resident will start imagining what it will be like to come out of the shadow of the virus. 

Dr. Lamas says these storylines are often about giving real-life providers and patients hope for the future.

“For many people, it is the way they see hospitals, people who have the good fortune not to see hospitals through themselves or their family. And for those of us who work in the hospital, there is something powerful about seeing this sort of escapism type of version of our reality on television.”

The DAISY Foundation Launches New Campaign in Times Square

The DAISY Foundation is one of the most esteemed organizations that honor heroic nurses all over the country. For years, providers and administrators have been nominating nurses for the annual DAISY Award, which is reserved for those who go above and beyond for their patients. Now, patients and family members can nominate their favorite nurses right on the DAISY Foundation website.

The organization is hoping to honor more nurses and brave providers in the months to come as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. Nurses have been in the national spotlight for months, and now some of these extraordinary providers are finally getting the star treatment they deserve.

What is the DAISY Foundation?

The organization was created by Bonnie and Mark Barnes after they lost their son, Patrick, to the auto-immune disease ITP (Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura). When Patrick was in the hospital, Mark and Bonnie were blown away by the compassion and selflessness of the nurses who delivered his care. For the nurses on staff, it wasn’t just about trying to save Patrick’s life; it was about helping the family through this difficult time.

In honor of the nurses who cared for Patrick during his final days, Mark and Bonnie launched the DAISY Foundation as a way of celebrating courageous nurses all over the country. Over 20 years later, there are now over 4,650 healthcare facilities and schools of nursing participating in the program. The foundation honors individual providers, students, and entire teams for their willingness to give back to patients and their families in their times of need.

Winners and honorees have access to exclusive discounts on everything from accreditation to nursing school tuition for furthering their education. If you are selected as an honoree, you can also apply for the Cherokee Nursing Conference Scholarship once a year as you work toward your next degree in nursing.

The award is tailored to each provider and their respective healthcare facility, helping the foundation honor healthcare workers across a range of clinical settings.

Asking Patients and Family Members to Nominate Their Favorite Nurses

For the first time, patients and family members can now nominate their favorite healthcare providers online via the DAISY Foundation website. The organization has just sent up an online nominating system to keep track of the applications. They are hoping to elicit more gratitude and appreciation for nurses all over the country.

It’s been a devastating year for healthcare providers, and despite all the praise, it never feels like enough. As the pandemic rages on, nurses need more than thoughts and prayers. They need to know that all their hard work isn’t going unnoticed.

To help spread the word, the foundation is launching a massive advertising campaign in the middle of Times Square in New York City. As you might imagine, running ads several stories high in the middle of the largest city in the U.S. isn’t exactly cheap. All the media space was donated to the DAISY Foundation to help honor the nurses who are doing so much for our country. The campaign will also appear on billboards in several key markets to make sure the message reaches as many people as possible. The foundation is also launching a social media campaign to get the word out.

The campaign is being organized by Outdoor Solutions, which specializes in bringing massive billboards and ads to life, including those that appear on the sides of buildings.

The DAISY Foundation is here to put a smile on your face as we head into the new year. Encourage your patients, family, friends, and colleagues to take advantage of this opportunity. It’s the least you deserve after a year unlike any other. 

FL Nurse Arrested After Using COVID-19 Relief Aid on Personal Expenses

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) passed by Congress last March was supposed to help struggling business owners keep their workers employed during the pandemic. It was a part of the CARES Act, lending out $349 billion dollars over the past ten months.

However, not everyone is putting this money to good use. A Florida nurse was recently arrested after lying to the government about the nature of his small business, Professional Skills Inc.

He’s now being charged with engaging in transactions in unlawful proceeds and making false statements to a financial institution.

Cashing in During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Giraldo Caraballo, 55, a nurse in Miami, FL, was one of the many people who applied to the PPP when it first went online last year. Under the terms of the program, employers do not have to pay back the money they borrow from the federal government as long as it goes directly to their employees. It was a way of staving off mass unemployment when many businesses were closing their doors.

Federal prosecutors say Caraballo used his company to scam his way into a massive relief package. According to a criminal complaint, he claimed his company had a total of 28 employees with an average monthly payroll of $168,000, which investigators now say is untrue.

Caraballo also applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, which was also part of the CARES Act. These kinds of loans are reserved for businesses that are suffering economic hardship due to the pandemic. Caraballo got approved for a $55,000 loan using this program, bringing in a total of $420,000 in illegally obtained coronavirus relief funds.

Instead of sending the money to employees, prosecutors say Caraballo transferred it to another account and used it for personal expenses. He made his first appearance in federal court in Miami on Friday. There is currently no defense attorney listed for the case.

Preventing Fraud Going Forward

When Congress approved the CARES Act in March of last year, it was designed to get a lot of money out the door to struggling businesses as quickly as possible. Many applicants received money without having to show extensive documentation.

According to the Wall Street Journal, around $525 billion in loans were distributed to 5.2 million companies between April 3rd and Aug. 8th. The money went to big banks and large lenders, most of which had a vested financial interest in loaning the money to large corporations, so they could recoup steep service charges. This put smaller businesses at a disadvantage when it came to securing funds.

In November of 2020, the Inspector General of the Small Business Association, who’s responsible for overseeing the rollout of the PPP, said there were “strong indicators of widespread potential abuse and fraud in the PPP.”

Regulators say tens of thousands of companies received money through the program for which they weren’t eligible, including corporations that were created after the pandemic began, those with over 500 employees, and those listed on the “Do Not Pay” database because they already owe the government money.

Regulators also say thousands of organizations received more money than they should have based on the number of employees and their current salaries. Overall, the U.S. Treasury Department has received 2,495 suspicious activity reports since the launch of the program.

Congress is launching another round of the PPP this week, granting an additional $284 billion to businesses in need. To prevent fraud and make sure the money ends up in the pockets of those who need it most, the initial rollout will focus on small, community-based lenders and financial institutions, such as credit unions.

This is designed to help small businesses get the money they need to survive the pandemic. However, larger lenders will get access to these funds in the coming days. As for companies that have already received money through the PPP, they must show a 25% loss in revenue to qualify for another round of aid.

The next round from the PPP should help more business owners stay afloat until the end of the pandemic, but some companies may deserve the money more than others.