US bans fruit, mint vaping cartridges to curb youth use

Robie de Guzman   •   January 3, 2020   •   422

Washington – The United States Food and Drug Administration on Thursday banned the sale of unauthorized flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes, including fruit and mint, in an attempt to reduce their use among children and youth.

The decision, in which companies have 30 days to cease manufacture, distribution and sales, aims to reduce the “troubling epidemic” among youth, although for some sectors it is seen as a step back from the original plan of the President Donald Trump administration to ban all flavors.

“The United States has never seen an epidemic of substance use arise as quickly as our current epidemic of youth use of e-cigarettes,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in the FDA statement.

On September 11 last year, Azar announced that the Trump administration planned to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes except tobacco after the first deaths linked to their use were made public.

At that time, Trump, in statements from the Oval Office with Azar and other officials, said that vaping is a problem that especially affects “innocent children.”

In October, Juul, the largest manufacturer of e-cigarettes in the US, announced it was suspending sales of most of its flavors in the country ahead of the ban, although it anticipated that it would continue to manufacture tobacco and menthol flavors.

The same month, The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration was considering allowing the sale of some flavors so as not to put at risk the re-election of Trump, whose campaign team has warned of the electoral impact that the plan to ban all flavored e-cigarettes would have amid possible job losses and voter backlash.

The report said Trump’s campaign chief Brad Parscale warned that the plan to reduce vaping among young people could hurt Trump in the 2020 election.

Groups working in the industry also created a pushback campaign called #IvapeIVote and #WeVapeWeVote.

In its statement, the FDA cited federal survey data to show that young people are particularly attracted to flavors such as fruit and mint, more so than to tobacco or menthol.

According to local media, 55 people have died across 27 states due to a lung illness linked to vaping. EFE-EPA

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Misery in America as coronavirus death toll exceeds 100,000

UNTV News   •   May 28, 2020

The United States reached a grim milestone on Wednesday (May 27) as the coronavirus death toll exceeded 100,000 people, amid the ongoing global scramble to contain the virus and find a vaccine.

Currently, the death toll for coronavirus cases across the United States stands at 100,008 people, according to a Reuters tally.

The loss has largely hit urban areas, especially New York, with elderly people and minorities disproportionately affected.

On the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, nurses and doctors are caring for the living. But there is another front line of those caring for the dead.

Funeral homes in New York are chaotic and overwhelmed. It can be weeks before bodies are embalmed or buried.

Most COVID-19 victims die alone, and when they die, their families are told to quarantine. The women try to find ways for them to say goodbye.

“I don’t want to apologize because I am doing the absolute best I can, but if it’s not good enough, I am sorry. Like, deeply sorry,” says 25-year-old resident funeral director of the International Funeral & Cremation Services Funeral Home Lily Sage.

In early May U.S. President Donald Trump offered his condolences from the Rose Garden in the White House. “We mourn for every life the virus has claimed,” he said. “And we share the grief of all of you who have lost a loved one.”

For medical workers that grief can be overwhelming.

The shifts are long and the scenes are heartbreaking inside a Maryland hospital where nurses and doctors have been treating coronavirus patients for weeks, unable to let family inside to visit loved ones on their death beds.

One of the hardest moments of a recent work day for Biocontainment Nurse Tiffany Fare was, “having to see a family member of a COVID patient, say goodbye over an iPad rooms away.”

At an event in Pennsylvania in mid-May Trump hailed the work of medical workers. “They are warriors…they are running into death, just like soldiers run into bullets,” he said. “It is incredible to see, it’s a beautiful thing to see.

Dr. Erick Eiting, Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s emergency department medical director in New York, has been at the center of the storm aiding patients, whose ages range from people in their 20s to their 80s, as they discover new symptoms and evolving treatments. He said the hospital’s visitor policy was recently changed so that novel coronavirus patients nearing the end of their lives don’t have to die alone.

“That’s one of the most tragic pieces of this disease, is because it’s so contagious, that people do end up just dying alone,” he said on one overnight shift.

As bodies pour out of hospitals, 28-year-old Alix Monteleone, has a seat at the front line from the window of her third-floor Brooklyn apartment. “We see it and we’re like, this is very serious,” she told Reuters.

Refrigerated trucks have fanned out across the city to process the pile up of corpses. Their stops include the parking lot right below her window to serve the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center.

“This is very real. And we’re seeing so much chaos manifest outside of our home that we can’t imagine how bad it is inside. You know, we stopped counting how many bodies came out,” Monteleone said.

It was at this time in April that Trump once again offered his assurances. “We’re going to have a rough week. We’re going to have maybe a rough a little more than a week. But there’s tremendous light at the end of that tunnel.”

Early data from U.S. states show African Americans are more likely to die from COVID-19, highlighting long-standing disparities in health and inequalities in access to medical care, experts said.

Not all states have released demographic data showing the virus’ toll on different racial groups.

In Louisiana more than half of the deaths have been African American, a far larger percentage than the state’s population of African Americans.

Gary Harrell knew 10 of them. “It’s just hard, You wake up one in the morning and – like yesterday – and you kind of worry about what news you’re going to get. The first thing was a message from a friend who is asking that I assist her with her father’s obituary. He had passed on Sunday,” he recalled. “And then within a few hours, I got another text message as I’m driving. And that text informs me that my aunt had passed away. And, you know, it’s just it just all becomes very surreal.”

In New York, city officials hired contract laborers to bury the dead in its potter’s field on Hart Island as the city’s daily death rate from the coronavirus epidemic reached grim new records.

The city has used Hart Island to bury New Yorkers with no known next of kin or whose family are unable to arrange a funeral since the 19th century.

Typically, some 25 bodies are interred each week by low-paid jail inmates working on the island, which sits off the east shore of the city’s Bronx borough and is accessible only by boat.

Now, about 24 bodies are being buried daily, five days a week, according to Jason Kersten, a spokesman for the Department of Correction, which oversees the burials.

Many of those who have died have been elderly, with nursing homes accounting for a large portion of the deaths in the United States.

Even before the coronavirus had swept through her Seattle-area nursing home, Susan Hailey was already eager to leave.

The 74-year-old had come to the facility for rehabilitative care following knee-replacement surgery, and was due to leave in March before a bad fall left her with a broken ankle and an extended move-out date.

Then a wave of severe respiratory illness swept through the nursing home at the end of February. The facility went into lockdown and residents were forced in quarantine. A week later, Hailey tested positive for the coronavirus. She survived. Others did not.

“I remember one morning getting up because they were going to make my bed. And they called a code blue. And my aid ran across the hall and came back and said ‘he died.’ Just very nonchalant. And I couldn’t get over the callous way that it was put,” Hailey told Reuters.

It was a very different ending for retired firefighter Gary Holmberg who was only supposed to be at the Pleasant View nursing home in Maryland for a few weeks, recovering from a fall at his assisted living center.

Pleasant View has become the site of one of Maryland’s worst outbreaks, 40 miles outside the U.S. capital of Washington, D.C. At least 98 of the facility’s residents and staff tested positive and 17 people associated with the home have died, according to the Carroll County Department of Health.

The 77-year old became one of more than a dozen of the nursing home’s residents who died from the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“I think about it every night. I think about, you know, me telling him I’m going to get him out of there, I’m going to get him out of there and not being able to do it in time,” his son Rob Holmberg, 47, told Reuters.

It’s a grief shared by people who rush to the scenes to help, such as Anthony Almojera, a 17-year veteran paramedic and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). In his eyes, this has been one of the most devastating times in the department’s history.

The coronavirus outbreak in New York City has pushed ambulance service to its limits, said Almojera in an interview with Reuters. The department went from an average of 4,000 calls to almost 7,000, putting a strain on EMTs and paramedics.

“I don’t know if any of us will ever be the same after this and that’s something we’re going to have to manage,” he told Reuters.

For registered nurse Julia Trainer the pandemic has given her an important life lesson, “Tell everyone that you love them because you never know when you won’t be able to tell them again.”

That’s a lesson not lost on 18-year-old Minnoli Aya.

The last text message she received from her mother, a physicians assistant in New York was “Home soon,” “Love you.”

“I kept texting her wanting to believe it wasn’t true,” Minnoli told Reuters.

Each night in New York City, neighborhoods around hospitals cheer for healthcare workers to express gratitude for the risks they are taking to save lives. Minnoli watches videos of the applause on social media.

“I can’t help but think, what about the ones who have fallen? What about the ones who are already dead?” Minnoli said.

It took the United States 38 days after recording its first fatality on Feb. 29 to reach 10,000 deaths on April 6 but only five more days to reach 20,000 dead, according to a Reuters tally.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has lead the state with the highest death toll in the United States.

“It is a tough time, but a lot of people have shown a lot of courage and a lot of beauty and they’ve had very tough lives — and let’s appreciate them,” he added.

Every night in New York City, people lean out their windows and flood balconies, applauding essential workers.

In mid-April Brian Stokes Mitchell added star power to the evening salute, belting out ‘The Impossible Dream” from his balcony as part of an ongoing tribute to the responders to the coronavirus in the hardest-hit American city. (Reuters)

(Production: Deborah Lutterbeck)

Four Minneapolis policemen fired after death of unarmed black man

UNTV News   •   May 27, 2020

Four Minneapolis police officers were fired on Tuesday (May 26), a day after a bystander’s cell phone video captured one of them kneeling on the neck of an unarmed black man who later died in a hospital, the city’s mayor said.

A video of the Monday evening incident showed an officer pressing his knee into the neck of the man who was later identified as George Floyd, according to Mayor Jacob Frey.

Frey later announced on Twitter that the four responding officers involved in the apprehension of Floyd were terminated.

“This is the right call,” he wrote.

A series of police-involved shootings and killings of black men in recent years have triggered mass protests across the country and led to the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has demanded an end to an unjustified use of lethal force in minority communities.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the death, the Minneapolis Police Department said in a statement on Tuesday.

The department said police officers responded to a call at 8 p.m. local time about a forgery in progress. The officers found the suspect, Floyd, aged in his 40s, in a car, it added.

After he exited the car, a physical altercation between the officers and Floyd ensued. When they handcuffed him, Floyd appeared to be in medical distress.

An ambulance took the suspect to the hospital, where he died a short time later, police said.

No weapons were involved and no police were hurt in the incident, according to police. (Reuters)

Brazilians scramble to board last U.S. flights ahead of travel ban

UNTV News   •   May 26, 2020

Brazilians scrambled Monday (May 25) to make last-minute arrangements to get to the United States ahead of new restrictions on travel from Brazil.

A handful of passengers were seen at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport preparing to board a United Flight to Houston Monday after the U.S. government brought the restrictions forward by two days as the number of deaths from the new coronavirus in the South American nation surpassed the U.S. daily toll.

A White House statement amended the timing of the start of the restrictions to 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, May 26 (0359 GMT on Wednesday, May 27) instead of May 28 as in the original announcement on Sunday (May 24).

Two days earlier, Brazil overtook Russia as the world’s No. 2 coronavirus hotspot after the United States. Washington’s ban applies to foreigners traveling to the United States if they had been in Brazil in the last two weeks.

Brazil’s coronavirus deaths reported in the last 24 hours were higher than fatalities in the United States for the first time on Monday, according to the health ministry. Brazil registered 807 deaths and 620 died in the United States.

Brazil has 374,898 cases, behind the U.S. with 1.637 million. Total deaths in the U.S. has reached 97,988, according to Reuters tally, compared with Brazil at 23,473.

The travel ban was a blow to right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has followed the example of U.S. President Donald Trump in addressing the pandemic, fighting calls for social distancing and touting unproven drugs. (Reuters)

(Production: Leonardo Benassatto)

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