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The Surging Coronavirus Finds a Federal Leadership Vacuum

first_imgDr. Shikha Gupta, the executive director of Get Us PPE, a volunteer effort that matches available supplies to health care providers, said 70 percent of those requesting help from the organization last month reported being completely out of one type of critical gear. Masks, gloves and disinfecting wipes topped the list.“Health care workers are exhausted and frustrated, and it’s really hard to believe that on Nov. 10, it feels very much like the middle of March all over again,” she said. “We’re hitting the highest numbers of caseload that we’ve ever seen, and we’re running into the same problems that we’ve been having since Day 1.”Governors are once again competing with one another and big hospital chains for scarce gear. Nursing homes are grappling with staff shortages, which have left hospitals unable to discharge patients to their care. In Wisconsin, the situation is so severe that health officials are mulling a plan to train family members of nursing home residents to fill in at facilities that lack enough workers.- Advertisement – “We’re throwing every idea that we can conceivably think of to the state, but we really need bold action from the federal government,” said John Sauer, the president of LeadingAge Wisconsin, an association that represents nonprofit nursing homes and long-term care facilities. “We can’t muddle through this on our own.” But as the country enters what may be the most intense stage of the pandemic yet, the Trump administration remains largely disengaged. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is trying to assume a leadership mantle, with the appointment of a coronavirus advisory board and a call for all Americans to wear masks, but until his inauguration on Jan. 20, he lacks the authority to mobilize a federal response.“With 1,000 deaths per day, it’s like two jumbo jets dropping from the sky,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University who is close to Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. “If every day, two jumbo jets would drop from the sky and kill everybody, don’t you think that everybody would be in a panic? But somehow, we’re not doing that. Somehow, as a nation we’re not outraged.”“We need a Churchill,” he added. “We need somebody to step into the vacuum and lead the nation.”Instead, Mr. Trump is at war with his own health officials. He was furious after the drug maker Pfizer announced Monday that early clinical trial data suggested its coronavirus vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. In a conversation with Dr. Hahn, a senior administration official said, the president accused the company and the F.D.A. of conspiring to delay news that could have bolstered his chances of re-election.Aides said the president believed that Pfizer could have announced the success of its clinical trial before Nov. 3 but deliberately chose to hold up the news, possibly not to taint the company’s vaccine as a last-minute effort to save Mr. Trump’s re-election bid. White House aides were particularly incensed that Mr. Biden publicly said his public health advisers knew of Pfizer’s results on Sunday, before aides said the news had reached the White House.Beyond Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed, the federal bully pulpit — an essential component of an effective infectious disease response — has largely gone silent. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said in an interview on Tuesday that the vaccine would be “a game changer” over time. The pandemic caught the nation flat-footed in March, but epidemiologists have been warning for months of a fall and winter wave as people are driven indoors, schools resume in-person classes and Americans grow tired of months of precautions. Yet shortages of personal protective equipment are back, especially among rural hospitals, nursing homes and private medical practices that lack access to the supply networks that serve larger hospital chains.- Advertisement – He questioned Dr. Hahn’s timeline for an emergency authorization of Pfizer’s vaccine.The president’s allies suspected that Pfizer could have obtained results from its trial earlier, but chose not to. Pfizer had in fact initially planned to request seeing the results from an independent safety monitoring board once 32 of its clinical trial participants who had received either the vaccine or a placebo had come down with Covid-19. That would have been the company’s first barometer of its effectiveness.But weeks ago, Pfizer officials said, F.D.A. regulators had advised that they would be unlikely to issue an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s vaccine based on just 32 cases in a trial with nearly 44,000 people.Pfizer decided to wait for more cases. By last weekend, 94 subjects had tested positive for Covid-19, a sample seemingly more than sufficient to satisfy the F.D.A. The company said an early analysis showed the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective.Pfizer has said it expects to apply for emergency use authorization by late November, and experts expect the F.D.A. to decide as early as mid-December. But Pfizer has said it has manufactured only a few million doses, and experts are hoping the government can step in to help speed up manufacturing. A second vaccine maker, Moderna, could soon seek F.D.A.’s review of its clinical trial results. The United States is on somewhat better footing now than in the earliest days of the pandemic. States and hospitals have their own stockpiles, and Admiral Polowczyk said the federal government had met its goal of acquiring 153,000 ventilators. Dr. del Rio said federal health officials such as the health secretary, Alex M. Azar II, or Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, must begin convening daily news conferences to provide public health guidance.In the absence of leadership, local officials feel as if they are struggling alone. New weekly cases among nursing home residents jumped fourfold from the end of May to late October, and deaths have more than doubled in 20 states, according to R. Tamara Konetzka and Rebecca J. Gorges, researchers at the University of Chicago who analyzed data from the C.D.C.“The depressing message is that nothing much has changed since the spring,” Professor Konetzka said.Even many large hospital chains, which say they have adequate supplies of medical gear, continue to operate in crisis mode. That often means requiring employees to repeatedly reuse respirator masks that are meant to be discarded after each use.Deborah Burger, a president of National Nurses United, the largest organization of registered nurses, said the lack of clear guidance from the C.D.C. had allowed hospitals to create their own standards for reusing disposable protective gear, which she said put hospital workers and patients at increased risk of infection.“We’re 11 months into the pandemic, and the administration is still not adequately addressing the safety of health care workers and the safety of our communities,” she said. “I’ve been a nurse for over 45 years, and I have never seen anything like this. It’s like we’re in ‘The Twilight Zone.’”The White House has fixated on Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s crash vaccine and therapy development program, while its coronavirus task force has whittled down to rote weekly gatherings in the Situation Room. But far from celebrating the Pfizer news on Monday, the administration initiated a round of recriminations. But a vaccine is not an immediate panacea, and until doses become widely available — likely in mid-2021 — the nation is in a “difficult situation,” he said, that calls for Americans to wear masks and social distance, and to avoid crowded settings, particularly indoors.“My message to the American public is: Hang on, help is coming, a vaccine is on its way, we need to all pull together,” Dr. Fauci said.Washington’s leadership void is raising anxiety in the states.“We’re facing a dire situation as we head into the fall and winter,” said Casey Katims, the federal liaison for Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State.In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, canceled his customary Tuesday afternoon virus news conference and instead planned to deliver a statewide address early Wednesday evening as local officials reported a daily caseload of more than 6,500 — nearly 1,000 more than the record set on Saturday.In North Dakota, Gov. Doug Burgum said this week that the state’s hospitals were full and that even health workers who test positive for the virus but do not display symptoms would be allowed to work in wards dedicated to coronavirus patients.center_img WASHINGTON — When senior Food and Drug Administration officials held their morning call on Tuesday, they received a sobering warning from the agency’s chief, Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, who had just gotten off the phone with the White House: Block out “all the craziness” afoot and stay focused on fighting the pandemic, he said.There is plenty of craziness. President Trump is pushing to overturn the results of the election and his only public statements about the coronavirus in the last few days were to make clear his pique that good news about a vaccine had not come until after Election Day — even as the average number of new daily infections topped 116,000, average daily deaths neared 1,000, and Covid-19 hospitalizations hit a record high of 61,964 on Tuesday.- Advertisement – In a Twitter message on Monday, Mr. Trump said that Pfizer deliberately postponed announcing its good news, and that the F.D.A. had supported that delay.In a meeting of the coronavirus task force on Monday afternoon, Mr. Azar confronted Dr. Hahn about the Pfizer announcement and said the F.D.A.’s coordination with Pfizer and its exhaustive vaccine guidelines had delayed the news of the breakthrough, according to senior administration officials who witnessed the exchange. On Monday, the F.D.A. granted emergency authorization to Eli Lilly for an antibody treatment similar to a therapy given to Mr. Trump shortly after he contracted the coronavirus. The company has a limited number of doses and the treatment is only authorized for newly infected patients who have not been hospitalized.Some in the agency took Dr. Hahn’s Tuesday warning to his senior staff members about “craziness” afoot as a sign that the president might fire him. Others said the commissioner was merely acknowledging the obvious: The postelection period will be rocky.Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland reported from Washington, and Andrew Jacobs from New York. Reporting was contributed by Maggie Haberman and Jo Becker from New York, Katie Thomas from Chicago, and Sheila Kaplan from San Francisco. “Leadership does matter,” said Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan who helped shape federal social distancing policy during the George W. Bush administration. “What your leaders do, like flaunting the mask or having parties without masks, almost encourages people to do the same.” Vice President Mike Pence canceled a vacation at the last minute this week as the virus numbers grew worse, but the White House coronavirus task force that he leads has been all but publicly silent. Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff who is infected with the virus, declared last month, “We are not going to control the pandemic,” and said the focus should instead be on the longer-term goals of developing vaccines and treatments.Meantime, the Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s emergency reserve, has only 115 million N95 masks, far short of the 300 million the administration had hoped to amass by winter, Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, who retired on Monday as the national supply chain commander, said in a recent interview, though he added that the government is continuing to expand its supplies of protective gear. – Advertisement –last_img read more

East Central FFA wins national service grant

first_imgSt. Leon, In. — The East Central FFA Chapter in St. Leon has won a $3,000 grant as part of the “Yearlong Living to Serve Grant” program. The nationwide program directs money to FFA chapters that have a community focus on safety, environmental responsibility, hunger, health, nutrition and community engagement.FFA members from East Central will examine ways to address invasive species with EC Re-Leaf campaign, remove Ash trees infected with the emerald ash borer and replace them with other native species and educate the public on the importance of planting and maintaining native plants.The “Yearlong Living to Serve” program has sent almost $338,000 to chapters in 35 states and Puerto Rico. Corporate sponsors of the program are Tractor Supply Company and CSX Railroad.There’s more information online at ffa.org/livingtoserve/grants.last_img read more

NNPC/Shell Cup Announces Scholarship for Most Valuable Player

first_imgAlso speaking, Iyobor charged youths to hold firm to education while pursuing other interests particularly sports, adding, “If I had been out of school, I’m not sure I would have had this early opportunity of training tour in The Netherlands, among other benefits I’ve received from being part of the NNPC/Shell Cup.”The 2017 edition of the leading youth football tournament started in May 2017 with the preliminary matches involving some 54,000 students from 2,750 secondary schools across Nigeria competing for honours.At the finals played at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos, on July 4, 2017, the Henson boys defeated their counterparts from Holy Ghost College, Owerri, Imo State by 2:0 to emerge champions of the 19th edition of the 20-year-old tournament.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram One of the most outstanding players in the 2017 edition of the annual NNPC/Shell Cup, Ernest Ojelum, has won an International Summer School Scholarship to the United Kingdom. The announcement coincided with a reception to welcome Ernest and the other Most Valuable Player in the 2017 finals, Iyobor Arase, after a weeklong training tour in The Netherlands.Ernest of Henson Demonstration School in Benin City will be joining other international scholars at the University of Sussex later in the year in an all-expense paid programme.Announcing the scholarship award on Monday in Lagos, General Manager External Relations of Shell Nigeria, Mr. Igo Weli, described the emergence of Ernest as the outcome of a painstaking process involving the partners, University of Sussex and Henson Demonstration School. “We are delighted that our new partnership with the University of Sussex has brought a whole new excitement and incentive to the NNPC/Shell Cup to validate our belief that education and football can go hand-in-hand.”Reinforcing this defining principle behind the 20-year-old tournament, Group General Manager of National Petroleum Investment Services (NAPIMS), Mr. Roland Ewubare, expressed excitement at the yearly improvement to the tournament which he said had made the NNPC/Shell Cup a standard in youth sports competition.“We are encouraged by the emerging partnerships with Feyenoord and University of Sussex that have changed the whole motivations around the tournament, making it a household name in every part of Nigeria,” said Ewubare who was represented by the Deputy Manager, Community Relations of Public Affairs Department of NAPIMS, Ms. Julie Utang.An elated Ernest described the NNPC/Shell Cup experience as overwhelming. “From the announcement of my name as one of the most valuable players at the finals in 2017, the transformation to my life and world of experience I’ve been exposed to by NNPC and Shell are far beyond my expectations. Sometimes I think perhaps I’m dreaming.”Ernest’s father, Mr. Humphrey Ojelum, echoed similar surprise noting that youths stand a better chance of success in sports with a solid foundation in education as being promoted by NNPC and Shell.last_img read more