NC Nurses Overcome Bullying, Intimidation to Win Unionization

1,800 nurses at Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina voted for unionization this week after months of deliberation and intimidation from their employers. National Nurses United, the largest organization of registered nurses in the U.S. with over 185,000 members across the country, will now represent the group. This marks one of the largest victories for organized labor in the history of the South.

The facility is owned by HCA Healthcare, based in Tennessee, the largest hospital corporation in the country. The company used a range of intimidation tactics to encourage nurses to vote no, but these providers stood up for their right to organize and fight for better working conditions.

The Long Road to Unionization

The nurses at Mission Hospital filed to hold an election to unionize back in March. About 70% of RNs signed union authorization cards to join National Nurses United, which already represents nurses at 19 HCA Healthcare facilities.

Normally, the vote would come just a few weeks after the request had been filed, but recent changes to the state’s election laws pushed the date back months. HCA Healthcare quickly appealed to the National Labor Relations Board, which is responsible for enforcing labor laws across the country, to postpone the unionization election due to the coronavirus. However, critics have accused the organization of undermining organized labor under the Trump Administration.

The nurses at Mission Hospital say working conditions have worsened under HCA Healthcare and that the company is hindering their response to the pandemic. The for-profit corporation acquired the nonprofit facility in February 2019 for $1.5 billion. 

Postponing the vote to September gave HCA Healthcare months to intimidate staff members into voting against unionization, even as the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the state rose.

The corporation demanded that nurses leave their shifts to meet one-on-one with consultants from the Crossroads Group. Nurse Jill Rabideau told a local news outlet that she was pulled away from her patients to join a group of her colleagues for a “Labor Relations” session led by an anti-union consultant on March 15th.

“It was an hour and 15 minutes of listening to an angry little man in a room that probably had 15 other nurses that were pulled off their units,” Rabideau said. “That was very frustrating to me, but particularly when everybody had all these Covid questions.”

Sarah Kuhl, a registered nurse at the facility’s oncology research department, says these “sessions” were misleading. “A lot of things we heard is that you won’t be able to talk to your manager anymore. We heard you won’t get wage increases until the contract is signed, which is not true.”

Reports from the Department of Labor show that these union-busting consultants were paid $400 an hour. The group has issued similar messages to employees across the country. In 2003, the firm’s founder, Michael Penn, violated federal labor law when he threatened that employees would lose their benefits at Jensen Enterprises if they voted for a union. He violated these laws again in 2010 when he threatened to sue a pro-union employee at DHL for “defamation.”

Nurses say the company reduced nurse-patient staffing ratios and limited their access to PPE at the height of the coronavirus.

“They were just demanding that we cover nurses on their assignment, even though it’s inappropriate because we just couldn’t afford to let staff go at that time,” emergency room nurse Trish Stevenson said at the time. “We’re already in a state of red and then we’re being faced with a pandemic that is just further going to compromise us. My worry is we just won’t be able to respond at all to the pandemic.”

A History of Abuse

Over the course of the pandemic, HCA Healthcare has collected $4.7 billion in benefits from the CARES Act, including those from direct payments to hospitals, accelerated Medicare payments, payroll tax deferrals, and other benefits.

CEO Sam Hazen earns $27 million annually, 478 times the median HCA employee, and the company paid out over $600 million in dividends to shareholders last year, according to reporting from The Intercept. In 2000, the corporation pleaded guilty in the case of the largest Medicare fraud in U.S. history and paid $1.7 billion in fines. Current U.S. Senator Rick Scott, R-Fla., was CEO at the time.

A Win for Organized Labor

Finally, Mission’s nurses got to cast their vote for unionization. In a landslide victory, 965 to 411, they voted to join National Nurses United. The group will now begin negotiations over a contract with HCA Healthcare.

NNU and NNOC Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN was thrilled with the news. As she said in a statement:

“We could not be more proud of the unity, the perseverance, and the patient advocacy and dedication of the Mission RNs to their patients, their colleagues, and their community. At a time when nurses are in a daily battle with the deadly fight for their patients and their own lives in the era of COVID-19, they have demonstrated incomparable courage and resilience that is an inspiration to all of us.”

This gives the nurses at Mission the power to decide their future as they continue working under HCA Healthcare. Lesley Bruce, a nurse who works in chest pain observation at Mission, said, “This victory means we can use our collective voice to advocate for patient safety and safer staffing. I can’t wait to see what improvement we’ll win together.”

Nurses around the country continue to advocate for their right to organize. The last large victory for nurses was in 2018 when 2,200 nurses at Albany Medical Center in Albany, New York voted to join the New York State Nurses Association. We all need to watch out for one another in the workplace and use our voice to advocate for fair working conditions.

What to Look for at This Year’s NBNA Virtual Conference

The 48th Annual Institute and Conference of the Nation Black Nurses Association, Inc. is right around the corner, and there are only five more days to sign up. It runs from September 24th through the 26th. This year’s event will be virtual due to the coronavirus, and there are guest speakers, live entertainment, exhibitions, seminars, CE opportunities, and more scheduled.

The theme for this year’s conference is nursing resilience, and disrupting the healthcare system will be highlighted. The group also wants to promote nursing across a range of departments and disciplines, including practice, research, education, policy, and entrepreneurship, to make what we do more integral to the patient experience.

Learn about the guest speakers and topics of this year’s NBNA Virtual Conference.

Topics of Focus

There is no shortage of compelling topics slated to be covered at this year’s conference. 2020 has been a year unlike any other and thought leaders in the nursing industry are set to talk about some of the challenges we’ve been facing on the ground. One important topic will be “Palliative Care in the Midst of the Pandemic,” including how we can reduce stress for providers and integrate services into the continuum of care.

The condition known as cardiac amyloidosis will be highlighted on day one of the conference. Sponsored by the Association of Black Cardiologists, the faculty will discuss various risk factors and treatments for this disease and how it disproportionately affects the African American community.

One of the main highlights of the event will be the program “Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, Institutional Racism and the Resilience of the African American Nurse.” This panel will focus on reducing bias, whether conscious or unconscious, among providers in the workplace. The specific needs of black nurses and how the industry can help them accomplish their goals will also be a focus, including reducing health inequalities among black patients.

The event will tackle the coronavirus pandemic head on. Another panel to watch out for is “Trauma Informed Care: Techniques to Transform your Practice.” This segment will explore the psychological effects of the pandemic and trauma in general, from natural disasters and wildfires to the collective trauma of isolating oneself from friends and family. Providers can learn how to incorporate these themes into their practice, so they can be more attentive to the emotional needs of their patients.

All-Star Speakers

When you register for the 48th Annual NBNA Conference, you will hear from a range of inspiring and talented professionals in the nursing industry.

Bethsheba Johnson, DNP, MSN, CNS, BNP-BC from Gilead Sciences will be on hand to talk about her work combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic. She is the former Executive Director of Luck Care Center, an HIV clinic, and has volunteered with the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative. She’s also worked as a sub-investigator in clinical trials and will likely discuss issues related to the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine.

Several panels will focus on epilepsy. LaQueisa Haynes-Smith, MS, MCHES from the Epilepsy Institute, will discuss the complexities of treating and managing this condition. She will talk about how providers and caregivers can better recognize seizures in children and train themselves to provide first aid in emergency situations. Patricia Osbourne Shafer, BSN, MN, RN, Senior Director, Health Information and Resources at the Epilepsy Institute, will also be on hand to discuss these issues. As a provider living with this condition, she is expected to approach this issue from a personal perspective.

Another stand out will be Dr. Natalie Cineas, DNP, Rn, NEA-BC, Senior Vice President and System Chief Nurse Executive Co-Chair, Equity and Access Council. Directing more than 9,600 nurses and more than 970 social workers, Dr. Cineas will discuss best practices in nursing and how these trends can improve patient outcomes and reduce health disparities.

Bridging nursing and politics, Tammy Boyd, JD, MPH, Chief Policy Officer & Counsel and the Black Women’s Health Imperative, has helped craft healthcare legislation while reaching out to members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to enact meaningful change in the industry. She wants to see more nurses take on leadership roles in the world of politics.

As you can see, there are so many reasons to tune into this year’s NBNA Virtual Conference. You can further your education and connect with inspiring professionals in the nursing industry. Don’t miss this opportunity to expand your skills and knowledge as a healthcare provider. Take a look at the list of upcoming topics and speakers and register for the event today!

48th Annual Institute and Conference of the National Black Nurses Association to Go Virtual This Year

The National Black Nurses Association, Inc. (NBNA) has proudly announced that its 48th annual conference will be virtual this year, spanning three days packed with everything from live entertainment to Q&A forums to certification training sessions. 

Slated for September 24-26, the NBNA Conference will offer up to 23 CEs, a career fair, exhibitors showcasing health systems and schools of nursing, virtual networking opportunities, scholarship awards, and more. In addition, 48 expert speakers from the health care field are scheduled during the event. 

You can view the three-day agenda Conference-at-a-Glance here.

Celebrating the Resilience of Nurses

The Virtual 2020 NBNA Annual Conference will celebrate nursing resilience as it theme, focusing on disruptions in practice, research, education, policy, and entrepreneurship:

“The frontline nurse champions show resilience through novel approaches to the nursing practice. ‘Disruptions’ or innovations demonstrate new concepts to deliver safe, high quality, patient-centered care while at the same time promoting nursing in a variety of areas, practice, research, education, policy, and entrepreneurship. The “disruptions” may offer better patient outcomes, lower costs to the health care system and offer the agility that nurses need to practice at their scope of practice and the top of their game.”

Some highlights of the upcoming event include discussing disruptive trends in financing and health care delivery, examining opportunities to impact the future of nursing, and identifying new models of care to reduce inequities in health care and health outcomes for minority and underserved communities.

Registration and Participation

Registration for the highly anticipated NBNA Annual Conference is required; register for the three-day interactive virtual event here! Students can obtain tickets for $35 instead of the regular $50 price.

From September 24-26, participants can join the virtual conference by downloading the Whova app, available on both Android and iOS.

View more information about the speakers, agenda, and sponsor information at conference.nbna.org/ and be sure to make note of the official conference hashtag for the event: #NBNAGoesVirtual2020

About the National Black Nurses Association, Inc.

Organized in 1971 under the leadership of Dr. Lauranne Sams, former Dean and professor of Nursing, School of Nursing, Tuskegee University in Alabama, The National Black Nurses Association is fortunate to have great nursing leaders among its leadership in a variety of areas. The organization represents approximately 200,000 African American nurses from the United States, Canada, the Eastern Caribbean, and Africa, and has 115 chartered chapters nationwide. 

With a commitment to excellence in education, the organization also conducts CE programs for nurses and allied health professionals, and provides annual scholarships for students. The NBNA provides a forum for collective action by African American nurses to advocate for and implement strategies to ensure access to the highest quality of health care for persons of color. 

Learn more about the NBNA here

From Influencer to Cancer Patient: Nurse Ebi Shares His Story

If you’ve never heard of Nurse Ebi, now’s the time. He’s considered an all-star influencer in the healthcare industry thanks to his podcast Nurse Speak and Instagram account NurseLifeRN, where he talks about the ups and downs of working on the floor.

On social media, he’s known for sharing all kinds of hilarious memes and stories about the reality of nursing, such as what it’s like to train recent grads during the pandemic, working with limited PPE, and dealing with unruly family members and visitors. 

His podcast explores a slew of interesting topics as well, such as navigating workplace relationships, coming back after making mistakes on the floor, and even spooky ghost stories of discharged patients.

Now, Ebi is turning his attention to his own health after being diagnosed with leukemia this week. 

Diagnosed with Leukemia

In a recent post on Instagram, he talked from a hospital bed about what it’s like to start chemotherapy. Luckily, he says the process hasn’t been that bad and the side effects have been mild thus far, but the diagnosis was a stark wake-up call, nonetheless.

Ebi is using his platform to talk openly about his struggles while encouraging other nurses and providers to pay attention to their health. He wants his colleagues and fans to get tested regularly for chronic diseases and conditions, even if they feel healthy. 

He never thought of himself as sick, which is why his recent diagnosis came as such a shock. Suddenly, his life had been turned upside down. He went from racing around the hospital floor to sitting in a patient bed worried about his own health.

That’s why it’s so important to visit your doctor regularly. Many patients with slow-growing types of leukemias don’t have symptoms. More aggressive types of leukemia can lead to fatigue, weight loss, frequent infections, and easy bleeding or bruising.

Working as a nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic can be exhausting, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your own health. Some of us may get used to constant fatigue, sleeplessness, and chronic pain as the pandemic rages on, but these issues could be a sign of more serious health issues.

Raising Money for Treatment

As a healthy man in the prime of his career, Ebi never thought he needed a robust health insurance plan. Due to high costs, many of us are forced to get by on limited coverage with high deductibles. Now he’s not sure how much his treatment will cost.

That’s why he’s launched a new GoFundMe campaign. In just 24 hours, he surpassed his goal of $50,000, even though chemotherapy and related treatment could end up costing him more out of pocket. He admits the number is a rough estimate.

Ebi also needs to take some time off work to rest and recover from treatment. All money raised will go toward medical expenses and keeping things running with his NurseLifeRN media company, so his fans can still access the content they love.

We can all learn a valuable lesson from his experience: Pay attention to your health as you continue to care for others.

Physician Suicide Awareness Day: Are You or Your Colleagues at Risk?

It’s been a brutal year for healthcare workers; over 900 of them on the front lines have died of COVID-19 so far, according to an interactive database from The Guardian and Kaiser Health News, and the number keeps rising.

Going to work every day in the middle of a global pandemic can take a significant toll on your mental and emotional health. Whether you are worried about your own health, wrestling with feelings of hopelessness and depression, or are mourning the loss of your colleagues, patients, or loved ones, the pandemic has touched us all in one way or another.

We like to think of nurses and doctors as heroes, but they are not immune to the psychological effects of the pandemic. That’s why the industry created Physician Suicide Awareness Day. Healthcare workers and first responders can be just as susceptible to thoughts of suicide as the rest of us. Learn more about this important day, so you can take control of your mental health.

The Stress of COVID-19

According to the CDC, there has been a 35% increase in U.S. suicide rate from 1999 to 2018. Many industry experts believe the pandemic could lead to a wave of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to studies of previous pandemics as well as those related to COVID-19, healthcare workers responding to the crisis face a greater risk of developing PTSD and related symptoms than the rest of the public.

According to the National Institute of Health:

“Healthcare Workers (HCWs) in emergency care settings are particularly at risk for PTSD because of the highly stressful work-related situations they are exposed to, that include: management of critical medical situations, caring for severely traumatized people, frequent witnessing of death and trauma, operating in crowded settings, interrupted circadian rhythms due to shift work.”

PTSD rates range from 10-20% among first responders and healthcare workers, with even higher rates among ICU nurses and doctors. Sadly, 21.7% of essential workers have seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days.

The relative risk of suicide for physicians vs. the general population is 2.27 times higher for women and 1.41 times higher for men. The same is true of residents and those still in training; 30% of them experience depression or depressive symptoms and suicide.

Saving Lives with Suicide Prevention

The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder provides a range of tips for “Managing Healthcare Workers’ Stress Associated with the COVID-19 Virus Outbreak.”

Self-Care vs. Institutional Support

Mental health professionals and industry experts believe healthcare workers need to look after their own mental health while receiving additional support from their employers. Facilities and managers need to recognize that responding to the pandemic can lead to a range of conflicting personal and professional demands, such as:

  • Daily workload demands going against the latest COVID-19 preparation and treatment measures
  • The need to maintain high standards in the face of staff and PPE shortages while official recommendations and policies continue to change
  • Experiencing the possible separation from and concern about family members
  • Subsequent fears about infecting oneself, their patients, friends, and family members
  • Inner conflicts regarding competing needs and demands

In addition to advocating for self-care, managers should work with their employees to address these concerns while urging individuals to come forward with issues regarding their own mental health.

If someone is having trouble coping on the floor, they should have access to “safe spaces” where they can discuss these issues. This includes increasing access to onsite staff counselors and mental health providers.

Regular Mental Health Screenings

If you think you or one of your colleagues is immune to PTSD or thoughts of suicide, think again.

40.9% of U.S. adults report at least one adverse mental/behavioral health condition related to COVID-19 that could increase their chances of taking their own life. Around 8 out of 10 people considering suicide give some sign of their intentions. People who talk about suicide, threaten suicide, or call suicide crisis centers are 30 times more likely than average to kill themselves. 

That’s why it’s important to screen regularly for depression, trauma, and other mental health issues. Instead of assuming your colleagues are fine, watch out for signs that they may be suffering in silence. Facility managers should get in the habit of screening their employees at the start of every shift, so distressed workers don’t feel obligated to continue working.

Reducing Stigma

Unfortunately, many in the healthcare industry still see these issues as a social and professional stigma. Some providers may worry that coming forward with these issues will hurt their careers. They may feel as if their boss or manager will retaliate against them for showing signs of weakness. No one wants to be labeled “sensitive,” but ignoring these issues only makes the problem worse.

Studies have found that about 35% of physicians do not seek regular health care for themselves. In one study, almost 50% of female physicians did not seek treatment despite feeling that they met criteria for a mental disorder.

Mangers need to make it clear to their staff that talking openly about their anxiety, depression, or thoughts of suicide will not hurt their careers. We all need to work together to address these stigmas head on, so providers feel more comfortable coming forward with these concerns.

2020 is bound to have an outsized effect on the health and wellbeing of providers all over the globe. Visit the Council of Residency Directors in Emergency Medicine to change the narrative around mental health and suicide by talking openly about your struggles duringthe pandemic.  

Why Gyms Should Be Considered Essential Businesses

The coronavirus pandemic has put a new emphasis on essential businesses, or those that should be allowed to remain open for the good of the public, such as grocery stores, banks, utility companies, hospitals, doctors’ offices, and even daycare centers. But not everyone agrees on what constitutes an essential business.

Local, state, and federal officials have shuttered many stores and facilities while leaving others open, and these guidelines can vary widely across the country. For example, some states deemed liquor stores an essential business, but is drinking during the pandemic really considered “essential?” That same has been true of marijuana dispensaries, gun and ammo stores, video game vendors, craft and office supply stores like Staples and OfficeMax.

The term “essential” can be surprisingly subjective. If you like to have a glass of wine at the end of the day, you may see your neighborhood liquor store as vital. The same can be true for those who like to hunt and fish or play video games to pass the time. So, how do you weigh the risks of keeping these stores open with the potential good of letting them resume their operations?

The answer isn’t always clear. However, one thing everyone needs is exercise. That’s why we believe gyms and fitness centers should be considered essential businesses. Here’s why:

Clear Safety Regulations

Every essential business should follow the latest safety regulations, including social distancing, having everyone wear a face mask, and limiting occupancy for indoor spaces. However, these guidelines aren’t set in stone. Some companies and states have been more adamant about enforcing these policies than others, which only adds to confusion.

Let’s take Target, one of the nation’s largest retailers, as an example. It has nearly 1,900 stores nationwide with over 350,000 employees. The retail outlet sells everything from food and medicine to electronics, housewares, and back-to-school supplies. There’s no denying that many people see Target as an essential business, but the company doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to public safety.

Back in April, the company released a press release outlining its efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus. It reads, “Target will provide all team members in stores and distribution centers with high-quality, disposable face masks and gloves to wear at the beginning of every shift and strongly encourage that they be worn while working.” Let’s focus on the last part, “strongly encourage.” This means employees aren’t required to wear face masks while on the job.

The press release also says, “Target is continuing to provide guidance to encourage its team members to practice healthy hygiene habits, as recommended by the CDC.” Again, the company is letting employees and shoppers make these decisions for themselves, even though their actions could affect the public at large.

Once inside a Target, you will see signs and stickers on the floor reminding customers to practice social distancing, but there is no one there to enforce the policies.

Both Target and Walmart came under fire after saying they would not release information regarding infections and outbreaks to the public. Walmart, the largest private employer in the nation, confirms that it has seen cases in “some” stores across the country, but leaves confirmations up to local health officials. Target released a similar statement. The company said it would report any new infections to staff members and then deep clean the store, but it won’t share this information with state and local officials.

While Target and Walmart are and should be considered essential, they need to do a better job of keeping the public safe. Gyms and fitness centers are generally much smaller than these superstores, which helps them maintain social distancing instead of leaving customers to their own devices. Unlike Target and Walmart, gyms have rigorous cleaning and safety standards to prevent transmission of the virus. Staff members and customers wipe down individual pieces of equipment before and after each use. In fact, many people were doing this before the pandemic.

The equipment can easily be spaced apart to prevent large gatherings. Exercise is often an individual activity, so you won’t likely see large lines and crowds at your local gym, just those exercising quietly by themselves.

Keeping the Public Healthy

Everyone needs food and medicine, but the same can also be said of exercise. Physical activity is vital to our health, especially when it comes to keeping the virus at other serious conditions at bay.

The U.S. is still in the middle of an obesity epidemic. Poor diet and excessive weight gain can increase the chances of diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, all of which are considered risk factors for complications with COVID-19.

The Department of Health and Human Services makes it clear that “Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day.” They say adults should get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, or 75 minutes to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. HHS also recommends muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week.

For many Americans, exercising outside isn’t enough. Some individuals, including seniors and those with disabilities, need access to a gym to complete their workouts. Many people do not have the money to invest in a home gym. At the end of the day, there’s no substitute for cardio machines and weight training equipment at a gym.

Health officials are urging the public to assess their local gym’s safety measures before heading inside, as every facility is different. High-risk individuals, including those with underlying conditions, may be better off working out at home. But for the rest of us, going to the gym may be just as safe, if not safer, than visiting the local grocery store.

If you believe gyms should be allowed to stay open during the pandemic, sign the “Make Fitness Facilities an Essential Business” petition. We need 100,000 signatures by October 16, 2020 to get a response from the White House.

Trump Mocks Science, Dismisses Climate Change as Major Cause of Deadly Wildfires

Trump Mocks Science, Dismisses Climate Change as Major Cause of Deadly Wildfires

“I don’t think science knows, actually.”

These words rolled out of President Trump’s mouth during a briefing on the West Coast wildfires Monday after California’s natural resources secretary, Wade Crowfoot, pleaded with him to “really recognize the changing climate and what it means to our forests.”

Trump has ignored climate change many times before, calling it all a “hoax.” In addition, last weekend at a campaign rally in Nevada, he blamed the fires exclusively on poor “forest management” – an insulting slap in the face to overwhelmed first responders, governors, and others. Before Monday’s briefing, he dodged a question about climate science, insisting that Democratic governors in the western U.S. were at fault for the wildfires.

Crowfoot had told the president that the science behind climate change will be the key in the fight against wildfires, warning that “if we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together protecting Californians.”

Trump scoffed, responding with, “It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch.” Crowfoot replied, “I wish science agreed with you.” The tense exchange ended abruptly with Trump stating the now-newsworthy retort about science not really knowing.

He Who Laughs Last…

Accompanying Trump’s condescending denial of climate change was laughter, serving as a reminder that the president is rarely corrected by those who are around him, regardless of how outrageously wrong he may be. It isn’t clear which participant the laughter came from, however. Seated at the table were Ray Haupt, a supervisor from Siskiyou County, and Margaret Mims, Fresno County Sheriff.

Neither were wearing masks, and both are conservatives. Haupt has talked to Trump’s White House (by invitation, no less) about increasing timber production in California…from forests owned by the federal government. Mims refused to enforce California’s shelter-in-place orders earlier in the year and has loudly supported Trump’s policies on undocumented immigrants.

California Chief Thom Porter was also at the table. Although he was wearing a mask, making it impossible to tell if he laughed after Trump’s comment, it’s highly unlikely that he did so. He has been an avid supporter of climate science for quite some time.

Biden Replies

It didn’t take long for Former Vice President Joe Biden to get wind of the exchange, leading him to tweet “Science knows” on Twitter as a response. Earlier in the day, Biden spoke in Delaware and called the impact of climate change on the wildfires an “undeniable, accelerating, punishing reality” that “requires action, not denial.”

Everybody has an Opinion…or Not

Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, more delicately confronted Trump about the climate issue:

“When we’re having heat domes, the likes of which we’ve never seen in our history, the hottest August ever in the history of the state, the ferocity of these fires, the drought – five-plus years, losing 163 million trees to that drought – something has happened to the plumbing of the world. We come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science is in and observed evidence is self-evident that climate change is real, and that is exacerbating this.”

While Newsom avoided asking Trump to accept the science, he did request that the president respect “the difference of opinion out here, as it relates to this fundamental issue, on the issue of climate change.” Twitter users were quick to point out that climate change is “not a difference of opinion” and it’s “a matter of science vs those who reject science.”

Fight Fire Like Finland?

In 2018, Trump claimed that Sauli Niinisto, President of Finland, had told him that his forest nation had no issues with wildfires thanks to the regular raking of leaves in forests. “They spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning, they don’t have any problems,” Trump tweeted.

However, Niinisto denies ever having said that.

Finland does remove dead trees as part of its forest management; however, it has nothing to do with raking leaves. Finland’s climate is not even close to that of Washington, Oregon, or California. Temperatures in that country are far lower than in the western U.S., and rain is more frequent. Finnish forests also do not contain the naturally flammable chaparral wildlands that are found across western America.

The “Hoax” Explodes

It seems Trump is continually searching for anything that will explain the wildfires, as long as it has nothing to do with local, regional, or global climate science – which he still claims is nothing but a hoax.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines climate science as:

“Climate science investigates the structure and dynamics of earth’s climate system. It seeks to understand how global, regional and local climates are maintained as well as the processes by which they change over time.”

On the morning before the wildfire briefing that took place on September 14, 2020, Trump claimed that “explosive trees” are causing the fires to start, spread, and rage on. He explained that 18 months or so after trees fall down and dry out, they become like “matchsticks” and “explode” when no more water is “pouring through” them.

But that, Mr. President, sounds a bit like climate science.

Making Gyms Safer: Why the Virus Is Less Likely to Spread There Than in a Bar

After shutting down in the spring, America’s empty gyms are beckoning a cautious public back for a workout. To reassure wary customers, owners have put in place — and now advertise — a variety of coronavirus control measures. At the same time, the fitness industry is trying to rehabilitate itself by pushing back against what it sees as a misleading narrative that gyms have no place during a pandemic.

In the first months of the coronavirus outbreak, most public health leaders advised closing gyms, erring on the side of caution. As infections exploded across the country, states ordered gyms and fitness centers closed, along with restaurants, movie theaters and bars. State and local officials consistently branded gyms as high-risk venues for infection, akin to bars and nightclubs.

In early August, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called gym-going a “dangerous activity,” saying he would keep them shut — only to announce later in the month that most gyms could reopen in September at a third of the capacity and under tight regulations.

New York, New Jersey and North Carolina were among the last state holdouts — only recently allowing fitness facilities to reopen. Many states continue to limit capacity and have instituted new requirements.

The benefits of gyms are clear. Regular exercise staves off depression and improves sleep, and staying fit may be a way to avoid a serious case of COVID-19. But there are clear risks, too: Lots of people moving around indoors, sharing equipment and air, and breathing heavily could be a recipe for easy viral spread. There are scattered reports of coronavirus cases traced back to specific gyms. But gym owners say those are outliers and argue the dominant portrayal overemphasizes potential dangers and ignores their brief but successful track record of safety during the pandemic.

A Seattle gym struggles to comply with new rules and survive

At NW Fitness in Seattle, everything from a set of squats to a run on the treadmill requires a mask. Every other cardio machine is off-limits. The owners have marked up the floor with blue tape to show where each person can work out.

Esmery Corniel, a member, has resumed his workout routine with the punching bag.

“I was honestly just losing my mind,” said Corniel, 27. He said he feels comfortable in the gym with its new safety protocols.

“Everybody wears their mask, everybody socially distances, so it’s no problem here at all,” Corniel said.

There’s no longer the usual morning “rush” of people working out before heading to their jobs.

Under Washington state’s coronavirus rules, only about 10 to 12 people at a time are permitted in this 4,000-square-foot gym.

“It’s drastically reduced our ability to serve our community,” said John Carrico. He and his wife, Jessica, purchased NW Fitness at the end of last year.

Meanwhile, the cost of running the businesses has gone up dramatically. The gym now needs to be staffed round-the-clock to keep up with the frequent cleaning requirements, and to ensure people are wearing masks and following the rules.

Keeping the gym open 24/7 — previously a big selling point for members — is no longer feasible. In the past three months, they’ve lost more than a third of their membership.

“If the trend continues, we won’t be able to stay open,” said Jessica Carrico, who also works as a nurse at a homeless shelter run by Harborview Medical Center.

Given her medical background, Jessica Carrico was initially inclined to trust the public health authorities who ordered all gyms to shut down, but gradually her feelings changed.

“Driving around the city, I’d still see lines outside of pot shops and Baskin-Robbins,” she said. “The arbitrary decision that had been made was very clear, and it became really frustrating.”

Even after gyms in the Seattle area were allowed to reopen, their frustrations continued — especially with the strict cap on operating capacity. The Carricos believe that falls hardest on smaller gyms that don’t have much square footage.

“People want this space to be safe, and will self-regulate,” said John Carrico. He believes he could responsibly operate with twice as many people inside as currently allowed. Public health officials have mischaracterized gyms, he added, and underestimated their potential to operate safely.

“There’s this fear-based propaganda that gyms are a cesspool of coronavirus, which is just super not true,” Carrico said.

Gyms seem less risky than bars. But there’s very little research either way

The fitness industry has begun to push back at the pandemic-driven perceptions and prohibitions. “We should not be lumped with bars and restaurants,” said Helen Durkin, an executive vice president for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).

John Carrico called the comparison with bars particularly unfair. “It’s almost laughable. I mean, it’s almost the exact opposite. … People here are investing in their health. They’re coming in, they’re focusing on what they’re trying to do as far as their workout. They’re not socializing, they’re not sitting at a table and laughing and drinking.”

Since the pandemic began, many gyms have overhauled operations and now look very different: Locker rooms are often closed and group classes halted. Many gyms check everyone for symptoms upon arrival. They’ve spaced out equipment and begun intensive cleaning regimes.

Gyms have a big advantage over other retail and entertainment venues, Durkin said, because the membership model means those who may have been exposed in an outbreak can be easily contacted.

A company that sells member databases and software to gyms has been compiling data during the pandemic. (The data, drawn from 2,877 gyms, is by no means comprehensive because it relies on gym owners to self-report incidents in which a positive coronavirus case was detected at the gym, or was somehow connected to the gym.) The resultant report said that the overall “visits to virus” ratio of 0.002% is “statistically irrelevant” because only 1,155 cases of coronavirus were reported among more than 49 million gym visits. Similarly, data collected from gyms in the United Kingdom found only 17 cases out of more than 8 million visits in the weeks after gyms reopened there.

Only a few U.S. states have publicly available information on outbreaks linked to the fitness sector, and those states report very few cases. In Louisiana, for example, the state has identified five clusters originating in “gym/fitness settings,” with a total of 31 cases. None of the people died. By contrast, 15 clusters were traced to “religious services/events,” sickening 78, and killing five of them.

“The whole idea that it’s a risky place to be … around the world, we just aren’t seeing those numbers anywhere,” said IHRSA’s Durkin.

study from South Korea published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is often cited as evidence of the inherent hazards of group fitness activities.

The study traced 112 coronavirus infections to a Feb. 15 training workshop for fitness dance instructors. Those instructors went on to teach classes at 12 sports facilities in February and March, transmitting the virus to students in the dance classes, but also to co-workers and family members.

But defenders of the fitness industry point out that the outbreak began before South Korea instituted social distancing measures.

The study authors note that the classes were crowded and the pace of the dance workouts was fast, and conclude that “intense physical exercise in densely populated sports facilities could increase the risk for infection” and “should be minimized during outbreaks.” They also found that no transmission occurred in classes with fewer than five people, or when an infected instructor taught “lower-intensity” classes such as yoga and Pilates.

Public health experts continue to urge gym members to be cautious

It’s clear that there are many things gym owners — and gym members — can do to lower the risk of infection at a gym, but that doesn’t mean the risk is gone. Infectious disease doctors and public health experts caution that gyms should not downplay their potential for spreading disease, especially if the coronavirus is widespread in the surrounding community.

“There are very few [gyms] that can actually implement all the infection control measures,” said Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist in Phoenix. “That’s really the challenge with gyms: There is so much variety that it makes it hard to put them into a single box.”

Popescu and two colleagues developed a COVID-19 risk chart for various activities. Gyms were classified as “medium high,” on par with eating indoors at a restaurant or getting a haircut, but less risky than going to a bar or riding public transit.

Popescu acknowledges there’s not much recent evidence that gyms are major sources of infection, but that should not give people a false sense of assurance.

“The mistake would be to assume that there is no risk,” she said. “It’s just that a lot of the prevention strategies have been working, and when we start to loosen those, though, is where you’re more likely to see clusters occur.”

Any location that brings people together indoors increases the risk of contracting the coronavirus, and breathing heavily adds another element of risk. Interventions such as increasing the distance between cardio machines might help, but tiny infectious airborne particles can travel farther than 6 feet, Popescu said.

The mechanics of exercising also make it hard to ensure people comply with crucial preventive measures like wearing a mask.

“How effective are masks in that setting? Can they really be effectively worn?” asked Dr. Deverick Anderson, director of the Duke Center for Antimicrobial Stewardship and Infection Prevention. “The combination of sweat and exertion is one unique thing about the gym setting.”

“I do think that, in the big picture, gyms would be riskier than restaurants because of the type of activity and potential for interaction there,” Anderson said.

The primary way people could catch the virus at a gym would be coming close to someone who is releasing respiratory droplets and smaller airborne particles, called “aerosols,” when they breathe, talk or cough, said Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Health.

He’s less worried about people catching the virus from touching a barbell or riding a stationary bike that someone else used. That’s because scientists now think “surface” transmission isn’t driving infection as much as airborne droplets and particles.

“I’m not really worried about transmission that way,” Blumberg said. “There’s too much attention being paid to disinfecting surfaces and ‘deep cleaning,’ spraying things in the air. I think a lot of that’s just for show.”

Blumberg said he believes gyms can manage the risks better than many social settings like bars or informal gatherings.

“A gym where you can adequately social distance and you can limit the number of people there and force mask-wearing, that’s one of the safer activities,” he said.

Adapting to the pandemic’s prohibitions doesn’t come cheap

In Bellevue, Washington, PRO Club is an enormous, upscale gym with spacious workout rooms — and an array of medical services such as physical therapy, hormone treatments, skin care and counseling. PRO Club has managed to keep the gym experience relatively normal for members since reopening, according to employee Linda Rackner. “There is plenty of space for everyone. We are seeing about 1,000 people a day and have capacity for almost 3,000,” Rackner said. “We’d love to have more people in the club.”

The gym uses the same air-cleaning units as hospital ICUs, deploys ultraviolet robots to sanitize the rooms and requires temperature checks to enter. “I feel like we have good compliance,” said Dean Rogers, one of the personal trainers. “For the most part, people who come to a gym are in it for their own health, fitness and wellness.”

But Rogers knows this isn’t the norm everywhere. In fact, his own mother back in Oklahoma believes she contracted the coronavirus at her gym.

“I was upset to find out that her gym had no guidelines they were following, no safety precautions,” he said. “There are always going to be some bad actors.”

By Will Stone, KHN.

This story is part of a partnership that includes NPR and Kaiser Health News. Carrie Feibel, an editor for the NPR-KHN reporting partnership, contributed to this story.

 

Covid-19 Nurse Surprised with $1 million

Andrea Dalzell is no stranger to Scrubs Magazine. She has been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis as a registered nurse in New York City, and is one of only a few wheelchair-using nurses in the country.  She became a nurse in 2018, even learning to box in order to build up the strength to administer CPR.  Dalzell was recently featured in the Raw Beauty Project, a New York arts project celebrating women with disabilities and educating viewers to redefine perceptions and beauty.  She has been featured in Apple Watch commercials demonstrating some of the device’s accessibility features.  Dalzell received her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience and Biology, as well as her nursing degree, at the CUNY College of Staten Island, where she was awarded CUNY’s Emerging Leader of the Year Award.  She also won the Cindy Loo Disability Rights Advocate Award in 2015 and was crowned Ms. Wheelchair New York in 2015.

For every “no” that Andrea Dalzell has received in life, she’s always been able to turn around and say “watch me” and succeed.

“She never let anything stop her, even when she ended up in a wheelchair,” said her mom, Sharon Dalzell.

At just five years old, Andrea Dalzell was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder affecting her ability to walk.

“I think I went completely numb. I blamed myself for years,” said Sharon Dalzell. “I thought I didn’t do something right. I thought there was something I could have done different that would have allowed her to walk.”

“It was very devastating,” added Andrea Dalzell’s father, Trevor Dalzell.

Andrea Dalzell

But although Andrea Dalzell’s parents were worried for her and the fact that she’d never walk again due to her disorder, she stayed strong for her family and above all, herself.

“She grew from five years old to 50 years old. She was like, Mom, don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” said Sharon Dalzell, who also recalled that her daughter was not afraid to speak her mind.

“She argued with the doctors at five years old,” she added. “The first thing she would ask the doctors when they come in the room, are you a first year, your second year or your third year? If anyone said first and second year, she’d be like please leave. I need a real doctor. In her mind, the first year or a second year didn’t correspond to being a doctor unless you were further ahead.”

Growing up, Andrea Dalzell made a vow that being in a wheelchair would never stand in the way of things that she wanted in life, especially when it came to her goal of becoming a nurse.

“She got so much push back on becoming a nurse that it was amazing that she didn’t drop out of the class,” said Sharon Dalzell. “She’s like, just watch me. Give me a chance to prove myself.”

And she did, becoming a registered nurse in 2018 and finishing her Bachelor’s degree the same year.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, she was hired on the spot to work in one of the hardest hit areas in the United States — New York City.

“She’s super qualified, she’s caring, she understands what it is to be a patient,” said her mom. “A lot of people can become a nurse, but they don’t know what it is to be a patient.”

“We were always proud of her,” added Andrea’s dad. “[She] accomplished what she wanted to get done, but it was good, we’re proud of all of that.”

Other people in her family who are also proud of her are her siblings, who look up to her and are able to lean on her in tough times.

Andrea Dalzell and family.
Sharon Dalzell

Andrea Dalzell and family.

“My sister has been everything to me since I was small,” said her sister Angela Dalzell. “When I think of her, I just think of the ambitious person that she is, the go getter, that drive.”

“She’s always been there for me in my darkest times, my bad times and my happy times,” added Andrea’s brother, Anthony Dalzell. “She’s just extremely hard working.”

But her story also reaches thousands. On her Instagram, @theseatednurse, Andrea shares messages of hope for her followers and stories from her many experiences from being in a wheelchair. Her goal? To change the perception of others about those with a disability or who use wheelchairs.

“There comes a point when you have no choice but to face fear head on,” she wrote in one Instagram post. “Do the thing that scares you and keep going!”

Because of her efforts to help others, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports people with spinal cord injuries, surprised Andrea with its first-ever Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize, an unrestricted award of $1 million.

The foundation, which describes itself as the nation’s “largest private funder of spinal cord injury research, rehabilitation, clinical training, and programmatic support,” told Andrea she was one of three winners of the $1 million prize because of “your influence and distinctiveness of your contributions to the spinal cord injury community.”

PHOTO: Andrea Dalzell is surprised with $1M for her work as a nurse and advocacy for people with disabilities.
ABC News

Andrea Dalzell is surprised with $1M for her work as a nurse and advocacy for people with disabilities.

When Andrea was surprised with the $1 million prize, she immediately thought of how she would use it to help others.

“I want to start a whole program for people with disabilities to get into healthcare,” she said. “They should be given a chance.”

Andrea, the only registered nurse in New York City who uses a wheelchair, said she works every day to prove that, “people with disabilities aren’t living a death sentence. They’re living life.”

VIDEO: Deserving nurse gets million-dollar surprise of a lifetime

“I need to be able to change that narrative for others so they know that if they’re diagnosed with something, if they acquire a disability, it doesn’t stop there,” she said. “Life still happens and it’s up to them to decide if they want to live it.”

This story originally appeared on GMA.

Sleepless Nights and “Coronasomnia”: How Sleep Affects Our Health

Having trouble falling asleep at night? You’re not alone.

Doctors and providers are noticing a troubling trend among their patients. With everything that’s going on in the news, it’s easy to see why so many people aren’t getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

The term “coronasomnia” has started popping up in the medical community as researchers try to make sense of how the crisis is affecting physical and mental health across the globe. Sustained lack of sleep can lead to depression, anxiety, hypertension, shorter tempers, and lapses in productivity. If millions of people can’t get to sleep, it could lead to a range of devastating consequences.

Chronic Insomnia on the Rise

Insomnia was a major public health crisis before the pandemic. Around 10-15% of people worldwide were suffering from chronic insomnia. We’re not talking about the occasional bout of sleeplessness. Chronic insomnia is defined as difficulty falling or staying asleep at least three nights a week for three months or longer.

It’s not exactly clear how many people live with this condition in the U.S. Some conservative estimates show that 10% to 30% of adults live with it. For other studies, this figure is closer to 50% to 60%. Insomnia is also more common among seniors and older adults. Studies have shown it affects 30% to 48% of older people.

Studies also show that around 23.8% of teenagers and more than 50% of pregnant women experience symptoms related to insomnia, including troubling falling or staying asleep.

Alon Avidan, a neurologist who directs the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, says it’s clear the problem is getting worse. “Patients who used to have insomnia, patients who used to have difficulty falling asleep because of anxiety, are having more problems. Patients who were having nightmares have more nightmares. With COVID-19, we recognize that there is now an epidemic of sleep problems.”

Prescriptions for sleep medications rose 15% between mid-February and mid-March in the United States, according to Express Scripts, a major pharmacy benefit manager. At the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, the number of patients complaining of insomnia is up 20-30%, and more of them are children.

Why?

Insomnia is often a symptom of depression. It’s often linked to anxiety and stress as well. Many people experiencing insomnia during the pandemic report feeling as if something were wrong in the world or a lingering sense of dread. From worrying about their personal finances and loved ones to national distress and prolonged existential concerns, there are so many reasons to toss and turn at night.

For many people, it’s the continuous uncertainty that keeps them up at night. As physician Abhinav Singh, director of the Indiana Sleep Center, says, “The unpredictability of when it’s going to end is starting to weigh on people.”

Insomnia is also related to a state of hyperarousal. This can be physical, mental, or both. The person may have trouble falling asleep if they are overwhelmed with physical and mental stressors.

Working from home and sheltering in place can contribute to hyperarousal. Instead of going into a room to relax and unwind, our living spaces have turned into makeshift offices and classrooms. Many Americans can’t go to sleep next to stacks of unfinished work.

This has upended normal routines across the country. From caregiving and personal wellness to sleep patterns, many of us are still trying to get used to this new lifestyle. Some people can also lose track of time when staying inside all day. They no longer have the experience of going to and from work to break up the day.

Poor health can also lead to insomnia. Individuals worried about getting infected with the virus tend to have trouble falling asleep these days. Others may be neglecting their health due to the pandemic, which can contribute to depression and anxiety.

Tips for Preventing Insomnia

  • Experts recommend cutting back on stressful news, social media, and screens all together, especially during the pandemic. Health, political, and economic news can change on a dime, which can lead to hyperarousal and sleeplessness.
  • Sleep physicians say family time and exercise are two of the best remedies for insomnia. They also suggest avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and drugs. Even if they help you go to sleep at night, they will reduce the overall quality of your slumber.
  • For others, focusing on self-care and taking on new hobbies has eased their insomnia. Some are shifting their focus to gardening, buying flowers, camping, hiking, and completing home improvement projects, instead of worrying about issues beyond their control.
  • Keep in touch with your doctor and stay in contact with your patients throughout the pandemic. Focus on improving your health as opposed to fearing the possibility of infection.
  • Create a designated sleeping space and keep your home office or classroom separate. Going into another room can make a world of difference when you’re stuck at home.

Chronic insomnia may be on the rise, but do your best to create some sense of normalcy amid these trying times.