Annual Beach Report: Is Your Beach Safe for Swimming?
[Editor's note: Be sure to check out Waterkeeper Alliance's new Swim Guide, an app for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android that makes it easy to explore and enjoy the best beaches in the following areas—Alabama, Alberta, British Columbia, California, Charleston SC, Florida, the Great Lakes, the Ottawa River region, and parts of Oregon and Washington State.]
America’s beaches saw the third-highest number of closing and advisory days in more than two decades last year, with 5,945 closing and advisory days in California—25 percent of the national total—confirming California beaches continue to suffer from stormwater runoff and sewage pollution that can make people sick and harm coastal economies, according to the 22nd annual beachwater quality report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
“Our beaches are plagued by a sobering legacy of water pollution,” said NRDC attorney Noah Garrison. “Luckily, much of this filth is preventable and we can turn the tide against water pollution. By establishing better beachwater quality standards and putting untapped 21st century solutions in place—we can make a day at the beach as carefree as it should be, and safeguard California’s vital tourism industry.”
In its 22nd year, NRDC’s annual report—Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches—analyzes government data on beachwater testing results from 2011 at more than 3,000 beach testing locations nationwide. The report examines the pollution realities that loom at America’s beaches and calls for a timely, concerted effort to avert future beachwater pollution.
In California, there were 5,945 closing and advisory days statewide last year, a one percent increase from the previous year (5,756 days). Nationally, California ranked 21st in Beachwater Quality (out of 30 states). Nine percent of samples exceeded national standards for designated beach areas in 2011. Consistent with past years, the most common reported cause of contamination came from elevated bacteria levels (94 percent), preemptive closures (i.e., without waiting for monitoring results) due to known sewage spills/leaks (4 percent), and preemptive closures due to heavy rainfall (2 percent).
The report confirms that last year, our nation’s beachwater continued to suffer from serious contamination and pollutants by human and animal waste. As a result, America’s beaches issued the third-highest number of closings or advisories in the report’s history last year, with the second-highest number occurring just the year before.
The report provides a 5-star rating guide to 200 of the nation’s popular beaches, evaluating them for water quality and best practices for testing and public notification. This year, the report awards a dozen beaches with a 5-star rating, as well as highlights the top 15 “Repeat Offenders,” which repeatedly exhibit chronically high bacteria counts.
Last year, three beaches in California received a 5-star rating:
- Newport Beach in Orange County (2 of 3 monitored sections): Newport Beach - 38th Street and Newport Beach - 52nd/53rd Street
- Bolsa Chica Beach in Orange County
- Huntington State Beach in Orange County
Additionally, the following beaches in the region were included on the nationwide Repeat Offender list, indicating persistent contamination problems over the last five years:
- Avalon Beach in Los Angeles County (3 of 5 monitored sections): Avalon Beach—West of GP Pier (50 feet), Avalon Beach—West of GP Pier (100 feet), and Avalon Beach—East of GP Pier
- Doheny State Beach in Orange County (3 of 6 monitored sections): Doheny State Beach—North of San Juan Creek, Doheny State Beach—Surfzone at Outfall, and Doheny State Beach—1000' South Outfall
For the first time this year, NRDC’s report includes a zip code searchable map of more than 3,000 beaches nationwide, making it easier than ever for users to check the water quality, monitoring, closing and swimming advisory information at their local beaches. Find it by clicking here.
This year, Testing the Waters identifies two critical actions that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can take to better protect people at the beach. First, EPA should reconsider its proposed recommended standards for beachwater quality, which leave beachgoers inadequately protected and unnecessarily exposed to dangerous pathogens in the water. Second, because polluted runoff is the biggest known source of pollution that causes swimming advisories or beach closings, EPA must reform and rigorously enforce the national requirements that govern sources of polluted stormwater to ensure that runoff is controlled using innovative green infrastructure solutions.
California has more than 400 beaches along more than 500 miles of coastline on the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. In 2011 and continuing into 2012, the California Department of Health Services administered the BEACH Act grant. Starting in October 2012, the California State Water Resources Control Board will provide funding for the state contribution to the state’s beach monitoring program and will administer the BEACH Act grant.
In California, the percentage of samples violating health standards statewide increased to 11 percent in 2011 from 10 percent the previous year. California came in 21st out of 30 states for the number of beachwater samples violating national standards in 2011.
The beaches with the most violations in 2011 were Avalon Beach 50 feet west of the Green Pleasure Pier (72 percent) and Avalon Beach 100 feet west of the Green Pleasure Pier (63 percent) in Los Angeles County; Imperial Beach Municipal Beach, Cortez Avenue in San Diego County (59 percent); Poche County Beach (58 percent) and Doheny State Beach surf zone at outfall (57 percent) in Orange County; and Surfrider Beach, Malibu, at the breach or last known breach (55 percent) in Los Angeles County.
The county with the highest health standard violation rate in 2011 was Contra Costa County (19 percent), followed by Los Angeles (18 percent), Santa Barbara (17 percent), Humboldt (15 percent), Monterey (13 percent), San Francisco (11 percent), San Mateo (10 percent), Santa Cruz (10 percent), Orange (8 percent), San Luis Obispo (7 percent), Alameda (6 percent), San Diego (6 percent), Marin (6 percent), Ventura (3 percent), Sonoma (3 percent), and Mendocino (3 percent) counties. No samples were collected at beaches in Del Norte County.
Closing and advisory days in 2011 at America’s beaches reached the third-highest level in the 22 years since NRDC began compiling this report at 23,481 days. This was a 3 percent decrease from 2010; that year marked the second-highest number of closings and advisories.
More than two-thirds of the closings and advisories in 2011 were issued because testing revealed indicator bacteria levels in the water violated public health standards, potentially indicating the presence of human or animal waste. Stormwater runoff was the primary known source of known pollution nationwide, consistent with past years, indicating a lack of needed progress on the problem at the national level. Sewage overflows were also a contributor.
This year’s report found that water quality at America’s beaches remained largely stable, with 8 percent of beachwater samples nationwide violating public health standards in 2011, compared to 8 percent the previous year and 7 percent for the four years prior.
The Great Lakes region had the highest violation rate of beachwater standards—11 percent of samples in 2011. The Delmarva had the lowest rate of samples—4 percent violated standards. In between were Western states (8 percent), New England (7 percent), New York-New Jersey coast (7 percent) and the Gulf Coast (6 percent).
Individual states with the highest violation rates of reported samples in 2011 were Louisiana (29 percent), Ohio (22 percent) and Illinois (12 percent). Those with the lowest rates of contamination last year were Delaware (1 percent), New Hampshire (1 percent), North Carolina (3 percent), New Jersey (3 percent), Florida (3 percent), Virginia (4 percent) and Hawaii (4 percent).
Under the federal Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act, states regularly test their beachwater for bacteria found in human and animal waste. These bacteria often indicate the presence of pathogens. When beach managers determine that water contamination violated health standards—or in some cases when a state suspects levels would violate standards, such as after heavy rain—they notify the public through beach closures or advisories.
Beachwater pollution nationwide causes a range of waterborne illnesses in swimmers including stomach flu, skin rashes, pinkeye, ear, nose and throat problems, dysentery, hepatitis, respiratory ailments, neurological disorders and other serious health problems. For senior citizens, small children and people with weak immune systems, the results can be fatal.
THE NATION’S 12 5-STAR BEACHES
For several years, NRDC has issued star ratings to each of the 200 popular beaches around the country, based on indicators of beachwater quality, monitoring frequency, and public notification of contamination. There were twelve beaches last year that received the 5-star rating:
- California: Newport Beach in Orange County (2 of 3 monitored sections): Newport Beach—38th Street, Newport Beach—52nd/53rd Street
- California: Bolsa Chica Beach in Orange County
- California: Huntington State Beach in Orange County
- Alabama: Gulf Shores Public Beach in Baldwin County
- Alabama: Gulf State Park Pavilion in Baldwin County
- Delaware: Dewey Beach in Sussex County
- Maryland: Ocean City at Beach 6 in Worcester County
- Minnesota: Park Point Franklin Park / 13th Street South Beach Park Point in St. Louis County
- Minnesota: Lafayette Community Club Beach in St. Louis County
- New Hampshire: Hampton Beach State Park in Rockingham County
- New Hampshire: Wallis Sands Beach in Rockingham County
- Texas: South Padre Island in Cameron County
The star system awards up to five stars to each select popular beach for exceptionally low violation rates and strong testing and safety practices. The criteria include: testing more than once a week, notifying the public promptly when tests reveal bacteria levels violating health standards, and posting closings and advisories both online and at the beach.
THE NATION’S 15 “REPEAT OFFENDERS”
Over the last five years of this report, sections of 15 U.S. beaches have stood out as having persistent contamination problems, with water samples violating public health standards more than 25 percent of the time for each year from 2007 to 2011:
- California: Avalon Beach in Los Angeles County (3 of 5 monitored sections): Avalon Beach—West of Green Pleasure Pier (50 feet), Avalon Beach—West of Green Pleasure Pier (100 feet), and Avalon Beach—East of Green Pleasure Pier
- California: Doheny State Beach in Orange County (3 of 6 monitored sections): Doheny State Beach—North of San Juan Creek, Doheny State Beach—Surfzone at Outfall, and Doheny State Beach – 1000' South Outfall
- Illinois: Winnetka Elder Park Beach in Cook County
- Illinois: North Point Marina North Beach in Lake County
- Louisiana: Constance Beach in Cameron County
- Louisiana: Gulf Breeze in Cameron County
- Louisiana: Little Florida in Cameron County
- Louisiana: Long Beach in Cameron County
- Louisiana: Rutherford Beach in Cameron County
- New Jersey: Beachwood Beach West in Ocean County
- New York: Woodlawn Beach - Woodlawn Beach State Park in Erie County
- New York: Ontario Beach in Monroe County
- Ohio: Euclid State Park in Cuyahoga County
- Ohio: Villa Angela State Park in Cuyahoga County
- Wisconsin: South Shore Beach in Milwaukee County
It is important to note that, due to their size, some of these beaches have multiple sections that are tested for water quality, and in some instances only certain sections of a beach qualified for the repeat offender list. Where possible, multi-segment beaches have been indicated on this list, along with the specific sections of those beaches identified as repeat offenders.
EPA RECREATIONAL WATER QUALITY CRITERIA ALLOW 1-IN-28 TO GET SICK:
EPA is responsible for ensuring that recreational waters are safe for swimming. One way of doing so is by establishing and implementing comprehensive federal standards that are protective of public health. These standards, called “recreational water quality criteria,” have not been updated since 1986. And in 2000, the BEACH Act required that EPA modernize standards to better protect beach users from illnesses caused by pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, in polluted waterways.
The draft criteria that EPA responded with (and is proposing to finalize by October 15) miss a critical opportunity to better protect beachgoers from the dangers of swimming in polluted waters. In fact, EPA recommended bacteria levels as “safe” in recreational waters even though the agency estimated they would permit 1 in 28 swimmers to become ill with gastrointestinal sicknesses such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Additionally, EPA does not adequately consider the risks of other health effects, such as rashes and ear, eye, and sinus infections, all of which are commonly experienced by beachgoers.
In order to address these flaws, EPA should revise the level of acceptable risk when it finalizes its new standards this fall, so that they are more protective of public health, including safeguarding against other, non-gastrointestinal illnesses, like rash and ear infections. EPA should also utilize the best available science and improved testing methods when developing the final criteria.
“Clean beaches are vital to our local, regional and national coastal economies,” said Steve Fleischli, Acting Director of the Water Program at NRDC. “This summer provides a crucial turning point and chance to urge EPA to put people first and strengthen water quality standards. If we want to keep our oceans and tourism industries thriving and healthy, we need our local and federal leaders to step up and adopt smart policies that protect our water, our health, and our beach businesses.”
Top governmental leaders, environmental and science agencies, and more than 10,000 Americans have already submitted public comments to EPA, expressing concern that this proposal, if approved without addressing such flaws, will allow an unacceptably high risk of illness.
EPA estimates that more than 10 trillion gallons of untreated stormwater make their way into our surface waters each year, and there are hundreds of billions of gallons of wastewater, which includes sewage and stormwater, released in combined sewer overflows annually.
The best way to keep this pollution out of America’s beachwater is to prevent it from the start by investing in smarter, greener infrastructure on land, like porous pavement, green roofs, parks, roadside plantings and rain barrels. Green infrastructure addresses stormwater pollution by stopping rain where it falls, preventing the rain from carrying runoff from dirty streets to our beaches, and instead storing it or letting it filter back into the ground naturally.
Green infrastructure solutions reduce the need for end-of-line stormwater treatment, prevent overloaded sewage systems and triggered overflows, and thereby turn rainwater from a huge pollution liability into a plentiful, local water supply resource. These sustainable water practices on land not only restore the health of local waterways and beaches, they also beautify neighborhoods, cool and cleanse the air, reduce asthma and heat-related illnesses, save on heating and cooling energy costs, boost economies and support American jobs.
Cities nationwide are already embracing these innovative stormwater management solutions. Now, our federal government has significant opportunities to clean up water at America’s beaches by incentivizing green infrastructure in communities nationwide. EPA has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to expand the robust deployment of green infrastructure by reforming its national requirements designed to tackle urban runoff. A proposed water pollution rule for stormwater sources, such as new and existing development projects, is expected to be announced by EPA in the coming year.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
- Full the report and zip-code searchable map, click here.
- For the 5-star rating guide to 200 popular beaches, click here.
- For broadcast-quality video of solutions for cleaner beachwater, click here.
- For tips for a safe trip to the beach, click here.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
On Monday and Tuesday of the week that President Donald Trump held his first rally since March in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the county reported 76 and 96 new coronavirus cases respectively, according to POLITICO. This week, the county broke its new case record Monday with 261 cases and reported a further 206 cases on Tuesday. Now, Tulsa's top public health official thinks the rally and counterprotest "likely contributed" to the surge.
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By Tim Radford
German scientists now know why so many fish are so vulnerable to ever-warming oceans. Global heating imposes a harsh cost at the most critical time of all: the moment of spawning.
Nearing the Brink<p>Since <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/abundant-fish-need-cool-seas-and-protection/" target="_blank">fish in the temperate zones already experience a wide variation</a> in seasonal water temperatures, it hasn't been obvious why species such as <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/sardines-swim-into-northern-waters-to-keep-cool/" target="_blank">cod have shifted nearer the Arctic, and sardines have migrated to the North Sea</a>.</p><p>But <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/ocean-warming-spurs-marine-life-to-rapid-migration/" target="_blank">marine creatures are on the move</a>, and although there are other factors at work, including overfishing and <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/fish-cant-smell-well-in-more-acidic-seas/" target="_blank">the increasingly alarming changes in ocean chemistry</a>, thanks to ever-higher levels of dissolved carbon dioxide, temperature change is part of the problem.</p><p>The latest answer, Dr Dahlke and his colleagues report in the journal <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.aaz3658" target="_blank">Science</a>, is that many fish may already be living near the limits of their thermal tolerance.</p><p>The temperature safety margins during the moments of spawning and embryo might be very precise, and over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, marine and freshwater species have worked out just what is best for the next generation. Rapid global warming upsets this equilibrium.</p>
By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach
The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.
When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.
We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.
Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.
What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?
Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.
Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.
To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.
Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.
The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.
Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.
Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?
The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.
Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome
While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.
It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.
Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.
Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.
Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.
Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.
Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
One of the initial reasons social distancing guidelines were put in place was to allow the healthcare system to adapt to a surge in patients since there was a critical shortage of beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment. In fact, masks that were designed for single-use were reused for an entire week in some hospitals.
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By Jake Johnson
Unity Task Forces formed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled sweeping party platform recommendations Wednesday that—while falling short of progressive ambitions in a number of areas, from climate to healthcare—were applauded as important steps toward a bold and just policy agenda that matches the severity of the moment.
"We've moved the needle a lot, especially on environmental justice and upping Biden's ambition," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, a member of the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force. "But there's still more work to do to push Democrats to act at the scale of the climate crisis."
The climate panel—co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State John Kerry—recommended that the Democratic Party commit to "eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035," massively expanding investments in clean energy sources, and "achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030."
In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."
"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."
Today the 6 Biden-Sanders Unity Task Forces are unveiling final language. The Climate Task Force accomplished a gr… https://t.co/gz3broq2qe— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1594240617.0
The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.
Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."
"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."
Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."
"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.
On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.
Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.
"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."
We rein in #pharma's greed by: 1) Allowing Medicare to FINALLY negotiate Rx drugs FOR ALL AMERICANS 2) Using Rx d… https://t.co/6k9iUCLMp7— Abdul El-Sayed (@Abdul El-Sayed)1594238411.0
Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."
Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."
"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."
"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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