What’s worth denying even a single child with cancer available and potentially life-saving treatment? Nothing—in my book.
By shuttering the federal government, the Tea Party wing of the House of Representatives has done exactly this. The government shutdown means an estimated 30 children a week—10 of whom have cancer—cannot take part in clinical trials, meaning experimental treatments, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
"This is the place where people have wanted to come when all else has failed," NIH director Francis Collins told the Associated Press. "It's heartbreaking."
Scientists with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which is on the front lines in protecting the public from communicable diseases) have been sent home. I suppose we can all pray that no life-threatening viruses reach epidemic proportions while Congress fiddles.
Before changing their voicemail messages and shutting off the lights in the lab, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) scientists were anxiously chasing outbreaks of, among other things, naegerlia fowleri, a “brain-eating amoeba” that has already killed a four-year old in Louisiana, and the parasite cyclospora that attacks the stomach and has sickened at least 645 people in 25 states. The CDC has also closed its flu program—just before flu season.
"I usually don't lose sleep despite the threats that we face, but I am losing sleep because we don't know if we'll be able to find and stop things that might kill people," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden told CBS News.
Most employees at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are not working on important programs meant to protect and clean up drinking water, air, streams, rivers, lakes and land.
The U.S. EPA’s work investigating toxic chemicals in consumer goods and possible misuses of pesticides will also be interrupted.
Huffington Post’s Kate Sheppard reported that the EPA suspended cleanup at 505 of 800 Superfund sites in 47 states. Again, courtesy of the wingnuts in Congress.
The Food and Drug Administration has stopped most regular food inspections, including those conducted on imported foods. Joe Satran of the Huffington Post reported that “for every day the government doesn't work, approximately 80 food facilities will go uninspected. If the shutdown lasts until Oct. 17, 960 facilities may go without U.S. inspections.”
Oct. 17 is when the U.S. hits its debt limit and will default if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling. If it doesn’t and the government stays closed, the economic recovery will be drastically set back with many economists predicting another recession.
There’s more. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has terminated funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. This program serves 9 million mothers and children, some 53 percent of infants born in the U.S.
While “closed” signs in front of monuments and parks are the most visible evidence of an intractable Congress, harming the health of young children is far more dire. Those lawmakers who are backing the shutdown also object to expanding healthcare coverage to millions under the Affordable Care Act, including kids.
So if you’re not a federal employee or a person seeking a last-ditch cancer treatment, if you don’t care about the safety of food or drinking water, don’t live near a toxic dump site or worry about those who do, don’t think about clean air, hungry babies or contracting a communicable disease, I suppose you can ignore the impacts of the shutdown.
Maybe you can join some of those who put us in this fix and knock back a few drinks instead.
Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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