5 People in U.S. Test Positive for Deadly Coronavirus and Trump Admin Could Be Unprepared to Fight It
The virus, which emerged in Wuhan, China at the end of last year, has killed 132 people as of Wednesday morning's reporting by The New York Times. China has confirmed 5,974 cases and the disease has spread to 16 other countries and Hong Kong. There have been five confirmed cases in the U.S., and people who had not traveled to China have fallen sick in Taiwan, Germany, Japan and Vietnam.
Yet the outbreak comes after a decade of funding cuts has left the U.S. with 50,000 fewer public health employees than it had in 2008, The Nation pointed out. And some have argued that President Donald Trump is uniquely unqualified to handle the emerging disease.
"Trump's demonstrated failures of judgment and his repeated rejection of science make him the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health challenge," former Vice President and current presidential candidate Joe Biden wrote in an opinion piece for USA Today.
Biden pointed to Trump's proposal to cut funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for International Development. While CNN pointed out that the final budget Trump signed in December actually increased NIH funding by billions of dollars, the administration has overseen several cuts to public health funding during its tenure.
It slashed the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF), which funds state and local health agencies, two times, Common Dreams reported. Its 2017 tax cuts deducted $750 million from the fund and the final 2018 budget set in motion plans to reduce the fund by $1 billion over ten years. The administration also diverted millions from the CDC and NIH in 2018.
However, the attacks on the PPHF began before Trump: President Barack Obama signed a bill in 2012 that siphoned more than $6 billion from its budget to pay Medicare physicians.
Biden also pointed to the departure of Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, the top White House official in charge of responding to pandemics, and the dismantling of his team. The 2018 decision left the National Security Council without any one person in charge of global health security, The Washington Post reported at the time. His replacement, David Wade, has less authority, and the security council's role in the administration has shifted from leading teams in response to crises to coordinating the response of various agencies, CNN reported.
That means it is unclear exactly who is coordinating the administration's response to the coronavirus. The White House has not named any one official in charge.
However, the administration maintained it had the outbreak under control.
"The full weight of the U.S. Government is working on this," a senior administration official said on Tuesday. "As with any interagency effort of this scale, the National Security Council works closely with the whole of government to ensure a coordinated and unified effort."
The outbreak also comes as funding shortfalls have forced the U.S. to step back from leading the fight against global pandemics. In 2014, Congress passed a funding package to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which included $600 million for the CDC to prevent the spread of infectious diseases worldwide, according to The Washington Post. That money was slated to run out by September 2019, and the administration made no moves to extend it. Because of this, the CDC announced in 2018 that it would roll back its disease prevention efforts by 80 percent and scale back its work in 39 of 49 countries, including China.
At the time, a group of more than 200 global health organizations sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar asking the administration to reconsider.
"Not only will CDC be forced to narrow its countries of operations, but the U.S. also stands to lose vital information about epidemic threats garnered on the ground through trusted relationships, real-time surveillance, and research," the groups wrote at the time, as The Washington Post reported.
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In Major Win for Indigenous Rights, Supreme Court Rules Much of Eastern Oklahoma Is Still a Reservation
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
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By Tiffany Means
Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.
The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.
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By Angela Nicoletti
The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.
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A new analysis by scientists at the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that lemurs and the North Atlantic right whale are on the brink of extinction.
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By Julia Vergin
It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure changes in ocean life. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.
EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.
Climate models are predicting faster warming of the North Atlantic Ocean, which will shift the Gulf Stream. NASA
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