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Prisons shut down in U. S. States as guards contract Covid- 19

Local jails and state prison systems around the U.S. on Saturday commenced shutting down completely and transferring their inmates elsewhere, due to the ravaging wave of coronavirus infections and deaths in prisons.

The New York Times reported that officials resorted to this decision as a drastic strategy to keep the virus at bay as so many guards have fallen ill with the virus and cannot work.

“From California to Missouri to Pennsylvania, state and local officials say that so many guards have fallen ill with the virus and are unable to work.

”Thus, abruptly closing some correctional facilities is the only way to maintain community security and prisoner safety,” said the Times report.

The paper quoted experts as saying that the fallout is easy to predict because jails and prisons that stay open will probably become even more crowded.

They will also be unsanitary and disease-ridden, and the transfers are likely to help the virus proliferate both inside and outside the walls.

There have been more than 480,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 2,100 deaths among inmates and guards in prisons, jails and detention centres across the nation.

According to an NYT database, among those statistics are the nearly 100,000 correctional officers who have tested positive and 170 who have died.

“Early in the pandemic, some states tried to ward off virus outbreaks by releasing some offenders early and detaining fewer people awaiting trial in order to reduce their populations.

”However, those efforts often met with resistance from politicians and the public,” said the report.

More recently, as arrests in many areas have increased, jail populations have returned to pre-pandemic levels.

This is according to data collected by the Vera Institute of Justice, a New York-based non-profit research and policy group.

“That fact, combined with widespread infections among correctional officers, staffing shortages stretching back many years and strains on prison medical facilities, have pushed states.

This is as the pandemic progresses toward more concentration and crowding, rather than less, in part through closure of strained facilities,” said the Times report.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States topped 20 million as of Friday as the discovery of a highly contagious new virus strain in the country has increased pressure to speed up the vaccination process.

The U.S. reported over 20.1 million cases and more than 347,000 related deaths as of Friday afternoon, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

The country, which makes up about 4 per cent of the world’s population, now accounts for nearly one-quarter of over 83.8 million cases.

The U.S. also accounts for about 19 per cent of the 1.8 million deaths reported worldwide, according to the university’s data.

New strain of Covid- 19 tripled infections despite UK lockdown, report says

The new, more contagious strain of Covid-19 that first emerged in the southeast of England was already spreading rapidly even during the nation’s second lockdown in November, according to a report published Thursday by scientists at Imperial College London.

A report by scientists at Imperial College London released on December 31 estimated that the new coronavirus strain tripled its number of infections in England during the November lockdown while the number of new cases caused by the previous variant decreased by a third.

The new strain registered a higher reproduction (R) rate – which determines how contagious a disease is based on the number of people infected by each infected person – of 0.7 versus 0.4 for the previous strain, even with the “high levels of social distancing” during the pre-Christmas lockdown.

An rate must be less than 1 for the number of new cases to start falling. The British government’s latest estimate of the R rate for the UK as a whole, published on December 23, was between 1.1 and 1.3.

The emergence of the new Covid-19 strain prompted more than 50 countries to impose travel restrictions on the UK in late December, many of which were subsequently lifted. France reported its first case of the new variant on its soil on December 25.

“There is a huge difference in how easily the variant virus spreads,” Axel Gandy, a statistician at Imperial College London and a co-author of the report, told the BBC. “This is the most serious change in the virus since the epidemic began,” he said.

The Imperial College research also found the new strain was initially spreading most rapidly among people under 20 years of age but it then started spreading to other age groups.

“The early data was collected during the time of the November lockdown where schools were open and the activities of the adult population were more restricted,” Gandy said. “We are seeing now that the new virus has increased infectiousness across all age groups,” he continued.

The government reimposed lockdown measures on areas covering 78 percent of the English population on Wednesday while regional authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also brought back confinement measures.

Intensive care units in London and the surrounding southeast region exceeded their capacity on December 29, with occupancy reaching 114 and 113 percent respectively, according to NHS data leaked to specialist publication the Health Services Journal. In response, the government activated one of its Nightingale Hospitals – designed to deal exclusively with Covid-19 patients, thereby taking the pressure off overburdened hospitals – in London on December 31.

The Imperial College report suggested that keeping schools closed after the Christmas holidays will help contain the virus’s spread: “A particular concern is whether it will be possible to maintain control over transmission while allowing schools to reopen in January.” The government has extended the Christmas holidays until January 11, when secondary schools in England are scheduled to resume classroom attendance. Pupils will return to English primary schools on January 4, except in the most severe virus hotspots including London.

COVID- 19 2nd Wave: Lagos doctors lament attitude of lagosians

Medical doctors under the auspices of the Medical Guild have decried what it described as ”complacency” among Lagosians on the effects of COVID-19 even though the country was neck-deep in the second wave of the pandemic.

The doctors under the employ of the Lagos State government who also called for restraint on the part of the public urged the authorities of the State government to swing into action and put in place all that is necessary to safeguard the citizens.

In its message tagged: ”New Year Message: A time for Restraint and A Time for Action” the Chairman, Medical Guild, Dr Sodipo Oluwajimi said the use of face masks, social distancing, avoiding large crowds, isolating when sick and presenting to the hospital when symptoms like difficulty in breathing occur must remain in place through our the festive season.

“The first wave of COVID-19 brought with it unforeseen problems characterized by the fear of the unknown and led to a large number of infections, death, economic and social deprivation among all facets of the population including health care workers.

“We were able to emerge from the first wave using a combination of human kindness, innovation, hope given by spiritual fortitude and the application of science.

“The use of personal protective equipment, social distancing, hand washing, improved testing and contact tracing for SARS COV-2 with resilient work by our health care workers and cooperation of the public played a great role in achieving success., ” he said

 

Oluwajimi further reminded Lagosians that the virus in the second wave seems more vicious with several deaths among the elderly and vulnerable including health care workers.

He said the surge in new cases maybe most likely linked to the increasing influx of Nigerians and foreigners from abroad, poor use of social distancing and masks and complacency among the public on the effects of the virus.

“Now more than ever; is the need for restraint on the part of the populace, we must use the lessons learnt during the first wave to defeat this second wave. ”

He called for continuous health promotion, strengthening of border controls, testing and isolation of travellers from foreign countries, expanding testing of contacts and ill persons with prompt result notification, and expanding treatment especially for the vulnerable and ill.

Oluwajimi said the Government must also ensure social benefits for the most vulnerable and affected, while health care workers who bear the brunt of infections should also be prioritised for provision of personal protective equipment, health, and life insurance, and appropriate hazard allowances.

He pledged as members of the Medical Guild, Lagos to provide necessary care for patients and the populace while partnering with Government to have home-made solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic as it affects Nigerians and Lagos in particular.

  1. He added that by working together, the state and Nigeria at large would emerge victorious from the second wave as they did in the first wave. (more…)

US passes 20 million coronavirus cases – Johns Hopkins

The United States has recorded more than 20 million cases of Covid-19, Johns Hopkins University said Friday in its real-time tally, as the New Year brought another grim milestone underlining the country’s struggle to quell the virus.

The US has so far registered 20,007,149 cases and 346,408 deaths in the pandemic, the Baltimore-based university said, making it the country with by far the highest official number of cases and the highest death toll.

On Wednesday alone, more than 3,900 people died of Covid-19 in the US, a new daily record, and experts believe the worst is yet to come as health care workers brace for a surge in cases and deaths after holiday gatherings.

More than 125,000 people are currently hospitalized with coronavirus — another record — according to the Covid Tracking Project.

The country has begun a mass campaign of vaccinations and nearly 2.8 million people have already received their first jabs, a figure well behind the 20 million inoculations that the administration of President Donald Trump promised by the end of the year.

More than 12 million doses have been distributed nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but efforts to vaccinate health workers and vulnerable people have been hampered by logistical problems and overstretched hospitals and clinics.

President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on January 20, has criticized the troubled vaccine rollout, and this week confirmed that he would invoke the Korean War-era Defense Production Act to force private industry to step up production for the government.

He has implored Americans to wear masks to slow the spread of Covid-19 and said he would impose a mandate on face coverings in areas where the federal government has jurisdiction, such as airplanes.

– ‘We owe them’ –
Paying tribute to US health care workers on New Year’s Eve, Biden said “they stepped up and they are brave. They have done so much for us, and we owe them.”

Under Trump, US authorities have given often mixed messages on mask-wearing, social distancing and shutdowns, and the outgoing president has repeatedly downplayed the risks while cases have rocketed across the country.

In his New Year’s Eve message, Trump hailed the “medical miracle” of coronavirus inoculations, adding “our most vulnerable citizens are already receiving the vaccine, and millions of doses are quickly being shipped all across our country.”

According to Johns Hopkins, the US took several months to reach 10 million cases on November 9, before accelerating to 20 million cases on Friday.

  • After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 194,949 deaths from 7,675,973 cases, and India with 148,994 deaths from 10,286,709 cases.
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