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Scientists call on CDC to set air standards for workplaces now

Almost a year after scientists showed that the coronavirus can be inhaled in tiny droplets called aerosols that linger inside in stagnant air, more than a dozen experts are calling on the Biden administration to take immediate measures to limit aerial transmission of the high-risk virus from places such as meat packing plants and prisons.

The 13 experts – including several who advised President Biden during the transition – have urged the administration to impose a combination of masks and environmental measures, such as better ventilation, to mitigate risks in various workplaces.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for reopening schools on Friday, but quickly adopted improved ventilation as a precaution. It wasn’t until July that the World Health Organization admitted the virus could linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, after 239 experts publicly called on the organization to do so.

In a letter to the administration, scientists detailed evidence supporting airborne transmission of the virus. It has become even more urgent for the administration to take action now, experts said, due to the slow rollout of the vaccine, the threat of more contagious variants of the virus already circulating in the United States, and the rate high Covid-19 infections. and deaths, despite a recent decline in cases.

“It’s time to stop snooping on the fact that the virus is transmitted primarily through the air,” said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech.

“If we properly recognize this and put the right recommendations and directions in place, this is our chance to end the pandemic within the next six months,” she added. “If we don’t, it could very well go on forever.”

The letter was delivered Monday to Jeffrey D. Zients, the Biden administration’s Covid-19 response coordinator; Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The letter urged the CDC to recommend the use of high-quality masks, such as N95 respirators, to protect workers at high risk of infection. Currently, health workers mainly rely on surgical masks, which are not as effective against aerosol transmission of the virus.

Many workers vulnerable to infection are people of color, who have borne the brunt of the outbreak in the United States, experts noted.

Mr Biden ordered the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which sets workplace requirements, to issue emergency temporary standards for Covid-19, including those for ventilation and masks , by March 15.

But OSHA will only prescribe standards backed by CDC guidance, said David Michaels, an epidemiologist at George Washington University and one of the signatories.

(Dr. Michaels led OSHA during the Obama administration; the agency has not had a permanent leader since he left.)

“Until the CDC makes certain changes, OSHA will have a hard time modifying the recommendations it is proposing, as it is understood that the government must be consistent,” said Dr. Michaels. “And the CDC has always been viewed as the lead agency for infectious diseases.”

Public health agencies, including the WHO, have been slow to recognize the importance of aerosols in the spread of the coronavirus. It wasn’t until October that the CDC recognized that the virus could sometimes be airborne, after a confusing sequence of events in which a description of how the virus spreads appeared on the site. Agency web then disappeared, then resurfaced two weeks later.

But the agency’s recommendations on workplace accommodations did not reflect this change.

At the start of the pandemic, the CDC said healthcare workers did not need N95 respirators and could even wear bandanas to protect themselves. He also did not recommend covering their faces for the rest of the population.

The agency has since revised these recommendations. He recently recommended that people wear two masks or improve the fit of their surgical masks to protect themselves from the virus.

“But they don’t say why you need a better-fitting mask,” said Dr. Donald Milton, an aerosol expert at the University of Maryland. “They recognize the importance of inspiring it and the channel of transmission, but they don’t clearly state it in their various web pages.”

The agency recommends surgical masks for healthcare workers and says N95 respirators are only needed during aerosol-generating medical procedures, such as certain types of surgery.

But numerous studies have shown that healthcare workers who do not have direct contact with Covid-19 patients are also at high risk of infection and should wear high-quality respirators, said Dr Celine Gounder, infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital in New York and an advisor to Mr. Biden during the transition.

“The CDC has not emphasized enough the risk of aerosol transmission,” said Dr Gounder. “Unfortunately, concerns about the supply continue to cloud the discussion.”

Many hospitals still expect their staff to reuse N95 masks as per the agency’s recommendation to reuse them when stocks are low. But as masks are no longer scarce, the agency is expected to change its recommendations, Dr Gounder said.

“We really need to stop this approach of reusing and decontaminating N95s,” she added. “We’re a year away and it’s really not acceptable.”

Hospitals, at least, tend to have good ventilation, so healthcare workers are protected in other ways, experts said. But in meat-packing plants, prisons, buses or grocery stores, where workers are exposed to the virus for long periods of time, the CDC does not recommend high-quality respirators and does not endorse ventilation improvements. .

“If you go to other workplaces, this idea that aerosol transmission is important is virtually unheard of,” said Dr. Michaels. In food processing plants, for example, a refrigerated environment and lack of fresh air are ideal conditions for the virus to thrive. But the industry has not put security measures in place to minimize the risk, he added.

Instead, employers follow the CDC’s recommendations for physical distance and surface cleaning.

The recent emergence of more contagious variants makes it urgent for the CDC to tackle the airborne transmission of the virus, said Dr Marr of Virginia Tech. Germany, Austria and France are now mandating N95 respirators or other high-quality masks on public transport and shops.

Dr Marr was one of the experts who wrote to the WHO last summer to call for recognition of airborne transmission. She didn’t expect to be in a similar situation again so many months later, she said, “It’s like Groundhog Day.”

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In the farewell video, Melania Trump, who like her husband bristled by White House standards, defends her legacy.

Melania Trump defended her legacy as first lady in a video released Monday, called on Americans to “lead by example” in taking care of others, and verified the name of her platform Be Best, which over time. years has never become an understandable political effort.

“Take every opportunity to show respect for another person,” Ms. Trump said in the video, which called the farewell. “In all circumstances, I ask every American to be an ambassador for Be Best. Focus on what unites us, rise above what divides us, always choosing love over hate, peace over violence and others above yourself.

Ms Trump’s last message as first lady was like many who came before her: it was completely at odds with the behavior of her husband, President Trump, who was impeached last week for the second time for his role in inciting a violent riot at the Capitol on January 6.

“As I bid farewell to my role as First Lady, I sincerely hope that every American will do their part to teach our children what it means to be the best,” Ms. Trump said.

Over the past few days, Ms. Trump has posted several farewell messages detailing her work in the White House and asking Americans to be kind to each other. Last week, as the nation turned away from the aftermath of the Capitol Riot, Ms Trump used her platform to lament that gossip was being spread about her – most likely a nod to a former assistant , Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who recently posted an Unflattering Saying. -all about their relationship.

Ultimately, Ms. Trump’s most lasting contributions could possibly be the cosmetic changes she oversaw, updates meant to make life in the White House more functional for the First Family and its visitors compared to. to the public.

In a message posted to the White House website on Monday, Ms. Trump said that during her time in the White House, she ordered an elevator restoration, wallpaper repair in the family dining room and – amid the pandemic – the renovation of the White House rose garden.

The goal, Ms. Trump said, was “to balance the needs of the present with the continuity of the overall architectural tradition of the White House.”

Although she has shown a respect for the historic nature of her home over the past four years, Ms. Trump has paid little attention to traditions that did not interest her.

She currently has no chief of staff, no social secretary or press officer. Junior White House assistants wrote his farewell messages. And she has not contacted incoming first lady Jill Biden on transition issues. This is not expected to change until the opening day.

It is customary for incoming and outgoing first ladies to meet for a tour of the White House, but on Monday, a person familiar with the thinking of Dr Biden said that since Mr Trump still had not conceded President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr It wouldn’t make sense for the two to meet.

This person added that Dr Biden knew his way anyway.

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Texas Board Revises Sex Education Standards To Include More Birth Control

“Texas is a very diverse state, obviously, and the more than 200 rural school districts that I represent, I wanted to give them the freedom and flexibility to include some of these elements in their curriculum, in their teaching, if they wish. do it, ”he said at Friday’s meeting.

More than 20 hours of public commentary, from all political backgrounds, were heard in June and September on revisions to the state’s health education standards. Ricardo Martinez, chief executive of Equality Texas, an LGBTQ advocacy group, testified several times ahead of Friday’s vote and said the exclusion of language on gender identity, sexual orientation and consent hampered the ability of students to navigate the world.

“You change hearts and minds by educating people about the experiences of those around them,” he said in an interview. “Stealing from people, especially at this age, to receive their vital information on how you can make others feel included, you are violating them as well as their preparation to step out into the world.”

Mary Elizabeth Castle, policy advisor for conservative organization Texas Values, said the council’s decisions against LGBTQ consent and identity language were a clear signal to promote “the avoidance of sexual risks to children.”

“Leftist, political and personal ideologies have no place in common sense, science-based health education, which is why efforts to add topics of sexual orientation and gender identity have failed, ”she said.

Dan Quinn, a spokesperson and research director for the Texas Freedom Network, said most Texans favor comprehensive sex education, despite what he called “fear tactics” on the part of women. opponents.

A public opinion poll conducted by another non-partisan group, The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, found that about 75% of respondents, including 68% Republicans, supported education that covers abstinence and contraceptives.

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CHLA publishes health standards for hotel meetings and events in California

The California Hotel and Lodging Association (CHLA) today unveiled its new set of recommended health and safety protocols ‘Clean + Safe Guidance for Meetings and Events’ for hotels operating amid COVID-19 .

CHLA’s new guidance incorporates recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DCD), California Department of Public Health, and Cal / OSHA and should be considered in addition to the CHLA resource ‘Clean + Safe Guide to hotel industry ‘which is geared towards hoteliers serving individual travelers.


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COVID-19 reopening

“With our meeting protocols, California hotels will be ready to host safe one-on-one meetings when state and county health officials allow, hopefully soon,” said Lynn S. Mohrfeld, CHLA president and CEO. “California hotels did an outstanding job protecting guests and employees when they reopened for tourism in June and we are confident that our meeting guide will similarly ensure the well-being of attendees.”

The 11-page guidance document outlines the steps to properly plan ahead, implement improved communications, and embrace adaptability, as hotels begin to personalize offerings for “group” clients such as corporations, businesses, associations, charities, meetings. religious and others.

The new standards encompass operational adjustments that aim to prevent any potential viral transmission, including electronic registration, attendee arrival procedures, increased reliance on contactless presentation technology, breaks to disinfect spaces, use of multiple rooms for a event only, assigned seats, and contactless and cashless transactions.

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