Los Angeles healthcare operators charged with 14 COVID deaths
On Tuesday, operators at a high-profile dementia care facility in Los Angeles were charged with elder abuse and other felony charges related to the death of an employee and thirteen residents in the early days of the pandemic.
Silverado Beverly Place, near the Fairfax area, specializes in caring for the elderly with Alzheimer’s and dementia and was the site of a COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020.
An employee and residents died during the outbreak, when 45 employees and 60 residents were infected, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. The operators of the facility were sued in civil court by the family of several residents and the deceased employee. The object was the subject of a 2020 Times investigation.
The facility was supposed to be closed to visitors, prosecutors said, when a patient from a New York psychiatric ward was admitted there. Silverado Beverly Place’s own protocols required it to keep anyone out of a high-risk area like New York City, which at the time was considered the epicenter of COVID-19.
Prosecutors say the patient was not tested for coronavirus when he was admitted to the hospital and developed symptoms the next morning. But after they tested positive, they were not placed in quarantine, according to the criminal charge.
The prosecutor’s office claims that the institution’s management did not block visitors who traveled within the country or abroad for 14 days to areas where cases of COVID-19 were confirmed.
“These careless decisions created conditions that unnecessarily exposed Silverado personnel and residents to serious injury and, unfortunately, death,” Dist. Atti This is stated in the statement of George Gascon.
The three managers were charged with 13 counts of felony endangering the elderly and five counts of misdemeanor resulting in death. The latest charges were brought in connection with the management of the company’s health and safety of employees. Lauren Bernard Shook, Jason Michael Russo, and Kimberly Cheryl Batrum were charged, along with Irvine-based Silverado Senior Living Management Inc.
Prosecutors say the New York City patient was admitted to Silverado Beverly Place for financial reasons.
Investigators from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health conducted a 2.5-year investigation into Silverado Beverly Place, whose parent company operates several health care facilities across the country.
An email to Silverado Senior Living Management asking for comment on the allegations received no immediate response.
Gascon also read out the names of the 14 dead during a press conference in downtown Los Angeles.
These nurses are Brittany Bruner-Ringo, Elizabeth Cohen, Joseph Manduke, Catherine Apotaker, Jake Khorsandi, Albert Sarnoff, Dolores Sarnoff, Myrna Frank, Frank Piumetti, Jay Tedeman, Luba Paz, Kay Kiddu, Richard Herman and Michael Horn.
Bruner-Ringo told her mother that the newly admitted patient was showing signs of illness – profuse sweating, a “productive” cough and a temperature close to 103 degrees, her mother told The Times.
“I said, ‘It’s definitely problematic,’” recalls Kim Bruner-Ringo, an experienced nurse in Oklahoma City.
The patient was so ill that Brittany Bruner-Ringo called 911 for an ambulance, but it was too late. In the days and weeks that followed, the virus spread throughout the facility.
According to her family, Bruner-Ringo stopped breathing on April 20, 2020 in the intensive care unit at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. she was 32
“I just prayed every day that Brittany could tell her own story,” her sister Breanna Hurd said.
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Alan Eisner, who is not involved in the case, said the allegations are unique because they concern decisions made by senior care facility leaders in the early days of the pandemic.
“This is a once-in-a-generation pandemic,” Eisner said. “I don’t want to ignore all the people who died. But this is a high bar that prosecutors must prove and show that the institution is responsible for the death of all other patients and even a nurse.”
Jody Moore, an attorney representing seven clients who either became ill with COVID-19 or died in Silverado, said that by early 2020, the federal government had provided guidance to long-term care facilities on how to protect older residents, including screening and testing policies.
“It doesn’t make sense to say loved ones can’t get in, private caregivers can’t get in because their paperwork says we’re putting residents at significant risk by exposing them to what can enter through the front door.” Moore said. “What they let in through the front door was someone with dollars attached. And that’s what’s really egregious misconduct here.”
Helena Apotaker received an email from the institution in the early days of the pandemic informing her that she would not be able to visit her mother Katherine. The announcement said the facility is being closed for the safety of elderly residents.
“No one was allowed in,” Apotaker told The Times. “They were going to protect our loved ones. This was their top priority. Well, not 30 days later, I think they lost their top priority.”
According to Apotaker, her mother had early stages of Alzheimer’s but was generally in good health. After her mother tested positive for COVID-19, Apotaker placed her mother in hospice and was finally allowed to visit in person.
“I was in the building with my mother for a week when she died,” Apotaker said. “I can’t imagine what it was like for everyone who had to watch their parents die through a window or watch their loved ones die on FaceTime.”
Upon hearing the news that Silverado Beverly Place was under criminal investigation, Apohacker was filled with a sense of justice because it seems that people have forgotten about the pandemic and the people who have died.
“But I remember that my mother died,” she said. “The only thing I had to hold on to was the thought that maybe one day I would get justice.”
Times Staff Writer Harriet Ryan contributed to this report.
Candidates who support psychedelics as a drug get political action committee
Inspired by a growing body of research on the use of psychedelics to treat depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental illnesses, a new political action committee is seeking to elect leaders who support the therapeutic use of substances such as psilocybin (mushrooms in magic), ketamine and MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy.
The founders of the newly formed Psychedelic Medicine PAC are also seeking to secure federal funding for further education and research during a period of heightened focus on the dangerous side effects of opioids, especially fentanyl, and other traditional pharmaceuticals.
Proponents have long argued that the therapeutic use of psychedelics may be safer and more effective than prescription drugs, some of which carry the risk of addiction. This movement has grown in recent years as more clinical research supports these claims and society grapples with deepening mental health issues exacerbated by the pandemic.
But even true believers say more research is needed to fully understand how the same substances popularized by hippies and ravers can be used to treat potentially life-threatening disorders.
“We have to convince the historically stubborn audience around psychedelics that this is not the 1960s,” said Ryan Rogers, co-founder and CEO of Psychedelic Medicine PAC.
“People will not look at the sun to make their eyes pop out. People are not going to jump off the building,” he said. “It’s about healing trauma. It’s not about rest.”
Melissa Lavasani, co-founder and chief executive of the group, experienced this healing firsthand after using psychedelics to treat postpartum depression and chronic pain. She led decriminalization efforts in Washington, D.C., where she pushed through an initiative that made growing and possessing herbal and mushroom medicines the lowest priority for local police and prosecutors.
The measure was overwhelmingly passed, with 76% supporting it in 2020, the same year that Oregon approved a ballot initiative to legalize the use of psychedelic mushrooms for therapeutic purposes.
Since then, similar initiatives have sprung up across the country. Bipartisan Congressional Leadership Group launched a caucus dedicated to advancing research and raising awareness of psychedelic therapy earlier this year. Last year, the Biden administration stated that exploring the possibility about setting up a task force to study psychedelics, with the expectation that the Food and Drug Administration would approve such therapy in the coming years.
“An exploratory approach and a science-based approach is really the path of least resistance,” Lavasani said. “It’s going to take a little longer – it’s a very slow approach and a very methodical thing we’re trying to do – but it’s a way of making people feel comfortable buying into this problem.”
The group, which plans to raise $10 million in its first year, is in the early stages of fundraising and is reaching out to donors of all levels, including investors in the commercial biotech space and Silicon Valley, Rogers said.
The action plan also includes securing support from both Democrats and Republicans, a strategy that worked in the early days of cannabis law reform but has yet to generate widespread support for legalization and decriminalization.
“We want to make sure that what we stand for does not create opposition to this issue in the halls of Congress,” Lavasani said. “We have seen some of the strategies used by the cannabis reform movement create controversy and that has really delayed progress. This is a real lesson.”
Among those lessons added by Lavasani is not to push for legalization or decriminalization until elected leaders have a better understanding of psychedelics and how they can be used in therapeutic settings.
“If their goal is to change the schedule or decriminalize, it will be very difficult for them,” said Dustin Robinson, founder of Iter Investments, a psychedelic venture capital firm. “But if their goal is to create more policy on what’s going on with psychedelics in the therapeutic space, the federal government seems to be very open to that.”
Unlike cannabis, which is deeply stigmatized by the so-called war on drugs, psychedelics seem to be more appealing to a wider audience. They are non-smoking, can be taken in low doses, and when combined with therapy, have been found to be effective in treating severe mental disorders.
“The time has come,” said Stuart Titus, chairman of the board of Hempacco, a California-based hemp products manufacturer. “With today’s economic climate, we are seeing a very difficult environment for companies to raise money for research and development. It would be very popular to make the federal government pay for it.”
But the sudden interest in psychedelics as a drug is very reminiscent of the early boom of the cannabis industry, which has since fizzled out as cumbersome regulations slow down government programs and congressional leaders stall efforts to decriminalize the plant at the federal level, which remains a Schedule 1 drug, which is currently time is not accepted. medical use and high potential for abuse, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The MDMA, LSD, and psilocybin found in hallucinogenic mushrooms are classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as controlled substances with no medicinal value.
“We are now in the hype phase,” warned Ryan Munevar, director of the Decriminalize California campaign, which aims to decriminalize and eventually legalize psychedelic mushrooms in the state. “Everything in politics should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s not a system designed for quick action.”
Giant algae blob targets Florida and Mexico beaches
Giant swarms of kelp could soon settle along beaches in Florida and across the Gulf of Mexico, scientists warn, polluting popular tourist destinations for months.
Seaweed is a type of leafy floating algae called sargassum — typically spends most of the year swinging in a 5,000-mile-wide mass across the Atlantic Ocean. Sargassum is generally helpful while at sea, providing food and breeding grounds for a variety of species, including fish, sea turtles, and seabirds.
The real danger of the Sargassum comes when it is washed ashore. Seaweed begins to rot after a few days on land, releasing hydrogen sulfide gas that smells like rotten eggs and leaving behind a brown sludge that can contaminate beaches for weeks. Hydrogen sulfide can threaten human health, and the sheer amount of seaweed could be too much for local crews.
Parts of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico were enveloped by approximately 200 tons sargassum earlier in March, prompting warnings of “surplusAlgae levels near the popular Playa del Carmen. Officials have warned that some beaches are at risk of up to 3 feet of seaweed a week, with no signs of sargassum decreasing as summer approaches.
The media in Key West also reported much earlier than usual. sargasso floods last week.
Past flowers prompted state of emergency in the Virgin Islands and polluted islands in the caribbeanAnd every year there are only more of them.
For the first time scientists noted supercharged seaweed rafts in 2011. Some researchers suggest that they may increase as the runoff of fertilizers and agricultural waste flows into the ocean in large quantities.
“These flowers are getting bigger and bigger, and this year looks set to be the biggest on record.” – Brian Lapointe, research professor at Florida Atlantic University said New York Times. “It’s pretty early to see so much, so soon.”
Large areas of sargassum are currently floating in the northern Caribbean and near the east of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
University of South Florida, which monitors annual seaweed bloom, predicts that 2023 will be “mainSargassum year, upcoming tourist plans and the threat to coastal ecosystems.
scientists they said they were expecting Sargassum scourge has become the new normal.
CDC finds significant rise in maternal deaths
With federal data showing a surge in deaths among pregnant women during the pandemic, California supporters say it strengthens their resolve to continue trying to prevent as many of these deaths as possible.
The National Center for Health Statistics said on Thursday that 1,205 pregnant women died in the United States in 2021, up 40% from 861 deaths in 2020. In 2019, there were 754.
Pregnant black women continued to be at the highest risk of death, according to the report. In 2021, the maternal mortality rate for black women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.6 times that of white women (26.6 deaths). Among Hispanic women, there were 28 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the report.
The report did not list causes of death or provide data by state, but a federal government accountability office report released in October showed that a quarter of maternal deaths in 2020 and 2021 were attributable to COVID-19.
“We were afraid to see the real numbers,” the doctor said. Elliott Maine, medical director of the California Maternal Health Quality Assurance Alliance, which brings together government agencies, hospitals and health care provider associations to find ways to prevent pregnancy complications and death.
“It kind of overwhelms all the other work that we did to deal with hypertension deaths, bleeding deaths and blood clotting deaths,” Maine said. “All of them are now overwhelmed or minimized by the pandemic.”
In recent years, California has become a national leader in reducing maternal mortality. Speed maternal mortality in California in 2006 it was 16.9 per 100,000 live births, according to the California Collaboration for Quality Maternity. By 2016, the indicator had decreased by 65%.
Was 18.6 maternal mortality per 100,000 live births in 2020 in California, up from 12.8 in 2019, according to the state Department of Public Health.
Among pregnant women in California, cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death between 2018 and 2020, followed by hemorrhage, sepsis, thrombotic pulmonary embolism, and amniotic fluid embolism. More than a quarter of deaths occurred on the day of birth.
According to Sonia Young Adam, executive director of the California Black Women’s Health Project, a non-profit organization based in Inglewood, few people know how high maternal mortality is.
She said it’s “amazing and hard” to hear stories all the time from black people who reminisce about failed births that happened to them, or family members with complications, or doctors who didn’t listen to them. Too often, she said, these stories involve the person feeling something is wrong before, during, or after childbirth.
But even in the absence of awareness, Adam said she and other advocates are trying to walk a fine line, educating black communities about maternal deaths and pregnancy complications without causing fear to the point that people refuse to get pregnant.
“It informs our community that they do have a voice and helps build advocacy capacity around it so people don’t walk away from the situation wondering, ‘What did I do?’ “” said Adam. “[It’s so] they come armed and ready to demand joyful childbirth, which they should be able to enjoy in any health care system in the state. We now know that this is not possible.”
The new report comes as families, health advocates and healthcare providers are raising alarm over the number of deaths and pregnant women who have not received the physical, emotional and social support they needed during the pandemic. Pregnant women often had to be isolated in hospitals to prevent potential exposure to COVID-19, limiting possible support in hospital wards.
Parent support groups and communities have moved from in-person calls to Zoom calls for the sake of social distancing. Some pregnant women were unable to maintain social distancing because they were essential workers and exposed to COVID-19. In addition, public health leaders at the federal, state, and county levels throughout the pandemic have struggled with the spread of messages to encourage more pregnant people to get vaccines for COVID-19.
Maine said that women who give birth today are “much more difficult patients than we were giving birth 20, 30, 50 years ago” because many of them are 35 years old and older and come with high blood pressure, diabetes or other problems, which can complicate pregnancy.
According to a federal report, there are 20.4 deaths per 100,000 live births in women under 25, 31.3 in women aged 25 to 39, and 138.5 in women aged 40 and over.
When it comes to narrowing the massive death gap between black and white mothers, Maine said part of it comes down to differences in rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. He also mentioned the “weathering impact” on black health from years of constant exposure to racism. But implementing protocols that all healthcare professionals must follow for every patient can help reduce complications.
“When you start to enter[to] subjective decision-making that is… biased,” Maine said. “The more we can reduce some of the subjective decision making, the better we can reduce inequality.”
Part of the work of the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative included helping develop the bleeding carts now available in every hospital in the state so that health care workers can quickly help if a mother is bleeding rapidly. The collaboration also worked with health care providers to develop protocols for helping mothers experiencing high blood pressure after childbirth, known as preeclampsia.
In recent years, California has also extended Medi-Cal benefits for new parents to 12 months after birth and now allows doulas to become qualified Medi-Cal providers.
Doulas are considered a key part of providing emotional and physical support and advocacy for mothers before, during, and after childbirth, especially for black women. The State has also established a fund for midwifery education programs that prioritize the admission of underrepresented groups.
The California Black Women’s Health Project has launched training for black midwives and created a set of business tools to help them get started and have support circles for midwives across the state. The organization is also developing training to help midwives apply to become a Medi-Cal provider.
The organization has also been a financial sponsor to help women in childbirth receive funding from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Despite the progress made, more “shameless investment” in black-focused community efforts is needed, Adam said.
“There are many, many, many, many of us who may even die from this Earth before this problem is really solved,” Adam said. “It’s going to take time, but no matter how we save someone along the way, that’s what we’re trying to do to reduce these stories – to arm our sisters with someone who will be there for them and a support team around them.”
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