Among the several decentralized marches that flooded the streets of Washington, D.C. on Saturday afternoon, one stood out due to its very specific angle, makeup and appearance.
Dozena of doctors and health-care workers donned white medical coats and protested on Saturday, chanting, “White coats, black lives.”
WAMU reported that the March was co-organized by “White Coats for Black Lives” and medical students from local medical schools.
The protesters drew a positive reaction everywhere they marched in the vicinity of the White House. Some of the signs they carried included the messages, “Racism is a public health crisis” and “Racism is a pandemic too,” the latter a reference to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duan Samuels, a black D.C. resident who’s worked as a respiratory therapist for five years, was among the participants. He wore light blue hospital scrubs beneath his white coat.
Mr. Samuels said racial justice and health care were interrelated because of unequal access to health insurance.
“It’s not due to the workers themselves,” he said. “It’s more of the insurance companies. And we (the black community) don’t get the same quality of coverage.”
Mr. Samuels said he also marched in a protest after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2015. This week’s protests were sparked largely by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police.
“I feel like I was finally at home,” Mr. Samuels said of the demonstration. “I felt like I could actually be proud to call America my country. It felt good to see other people that don’t look like me (marching).”
He had mixed emotions about the possible dangers of organizing public protests during the coronavirus pandemic, which kept Americans inside and working and studying from home for more than two months before recent Black Lives Matter protests broke out. The vast majority of protesters in the District wore masks, but social distancing was rendered impossible.
“As long as people are wearing their masks, studies show that it at least cuts the percentage (of community spread) down by 75%,” said Mr. Samuels, who has worked mostly with COVID-19 patients since the outbreak. “Most people out here are healthy. I think most folks also have the sense of self to know if they’re sick, stay at home.”
He added that he did not believe nationwide protests will lead to a second wave of the pandemic.
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Doctors in South Korea suspend strike: Coronavirus live news |NationalTribune.com
China’s president Xi Jinping has told a ceremony in Beijing that the country had acted in an “open and transparent” manner over the coronavirus. Trainee doctors and interns have returned to work in South Korea after a weeks-long strike over government reform plans. There have been more than 27.3 million cases of coronavirus confirmed around…
China’s president Xi Jinping has told a ceremony in Beijing that the country had acted in an “open and transparent” manner over the coronavirus.
Trainee doctors and interns have returned to work in South Korea after a weeks-long strike over government reform plans.
There have been more than 27.3 million cases of coronavirus confirmed around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University, and 892,443 people have died. At least 18.3 million people have recovered.
Here are the latest updates:
Tuesday, September 8
04:50 GMT – India reports highest number of deaths in a month
India has reported the most deaths from coronavirus in a month.
The health ministry says 1,133 people died of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, lifting the total death toll to 72,775.
The number of cases was 75,809, the lowest daily figure in a week.
04:00 GMT – Xi says China ‘open and transparent’ on COVID-19
More from the ceremony in Beijing where President Xi Jinping has been speaking.
He told the audience that China acted in an “open and transparent” manner over the virus, which first emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year.
The country has also made “concrete efforts” to help other nations affected by the disease, he said.
President Xi Jinping presents the national medal to respiratory disease expert Zhong Nanshan at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]
03:50 GMT – Victoria to strengthen contact tracing as it doubles down on virus
Victoria is strengthening its contract tracing programme to ensure is maintains a steady decline in cases.
State Premier Daniel Andrews says the state government will set up five contact tracing teams to focus on different geographic areas of the southeastern state of Australia, making it easier to target specific areas when patients are diagnosed.
Andrews says the lower daily case figures show the state’s on the right track with its tough lockdowns.
“I think we’ll be able to take some significant steps soon because the trend is with us, the trend is good,” he said in a televised news conference, referring to more rural areas of the state.
03:30 GMT – Zhong Nanshan honoured in China special COVID-19 event
China is holding a special event to recognise its ‘role models’ in the fight against the coronavirus with Zhong Nanshan, China’s top respiratory disease expert, awarded the Medal of the Republic – China’s top honour.
Zhong was among a group of specialists who first went to Wuhan in January to investigate the mysterious new virus that had emerged at the end of December.
“We must not lower our guard and must finish the battle,” Zhong said in his acceptance speech.
China came down hard on doctors in the city who tried to raise the alarm over the disease, and there was outrage after the death of Li Wenliang, an eye doctor who was reprimanded by the authorities for raising his concerns about the new illness with colleagues. Li was ‘exonerated’ in August.
Commending role models signals #China’s victory in the hard-won battle against the deadly #coronavirus: epidemiologists https://t.co/K8pYHXXGRJ pic.twitter.com/wicpRQ6vPE
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) September 8, 2020
Never has a building been more aptly named: Outstanding individuals, set to be honored for the parts they played in the nation’s COVID-19 fight, travel to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing https://t.co/jPKTJsFodI #ThankyouCOVID19Heroes pic.twitter.com/2itUE75GlV
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) September 8, 2020
03:15 GMT – South Korea daily cases below 200 for sixth straight day
South Korea has reported 136 new cases of coronavirus, the sixth day in a row that the number has been below 200, according to Yonhap.
The country’s been trying to control a spike in cases that begun in August 14 and has been linked to a church service and a political rally in central Seoul.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says stricter distancing measures are beginning to have an impact although the emergence of case clusters remains a concern.
02:50 GMT – Antigen tests in focus as Bali cases surge
Medical experts are linking a surge in coronavirus cases on the Indonesian island of Bali to the inaccurate, low-cost rapid antibody test kits that are being used to screen domestic visitors.
Foreign tourists can’t travel to the popular island, but Indonesians have been able to do so since July 31.
Since then, the island’s tourist authority says it has been welcoming an average of 3,000 domestic tourists every day.
But along with the tourists’ return it has also seen a spike in coronavirus cases, and health experts say the use of cheap, but unreliable, antigen tests could be creating a false sense of security.
You can read more on that story here.
Balinese people, who are Hindu, wear protective suits during a cremation ceremony called ‘Ngaben’ in Klungkung last month. The island has seen a growing number of cases since domestic tourism resumed in August [Made Nagi/EPA]
01:40 GMT – Japan to tap emergency reserve for $6.3b for coronavirus vaccines
Japan has approved the use $6.3 billion from its emergency budget to secure coronavirus vaccines.
The government says it hopes to have enough vaccine for every citizen by the middle of next year, providing any innoculation for free.
01:30 GMT – Japan’s economy shrinks more than thought in Q2
It seems Japan’s economy shrank even more than initially thought in the second quarter to the end of June.
The government initially said the economy contracted by 7.8 percent compared with the first quarter.
Now it’s taken a closer look at the figures and says it shrank 7.9 percent.
It’s the country’s worst economic contraction in its modern history.
Japan shrinks: Coronavirus sends economy into record contraction
00:15 GMT – Victoria in Australia reports 55 new cases, eight deaths
Victoria state has reported 55 new cases of coronavirus and a further eight deaths.
The southeastern state now accounts for about three-quarters of Australia’s 26,377 cases. Melbourne, its capital city, is under a strict lockdown and curfew until September 28.
#COVID19VicData for 8 September, 2020. Yesterday there were 55 new cases reported and 8 lives lost. Our thoughts are with all those affected. More information will be available later today. pic.twitter.com/GEo5Iio7vU
— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) September 7, 2020
00:00 GMT – South Korea doctors say they will return to work
Doctors’ associations in South Korea say their members are returning to work after a weeks-long strike over government plans to reform the medical system.
The Korean Intern Resident Association (KIRA), which represents interns and residents, at general hospitals, says the doctors will resume work from 7am (22:00 GMT), Yonhap News Agency reported.
A separate committee representing physicians and clinicians who also took part in the strike says its members will also report for duty.
The Korean Medical Association, the country’s largest doctor’s group, reached an agreement with the government to end its strike on Friday, as coronavirus cases surged.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur and will be keeping you updated over the next few hours.
Read all the updates from yesterday (September 7) here.
US doctors go online to reveal ‘bold, loud’ coronavirus truths
Dr Ming Lin says they were reasonable requests. Set up a triage system outside the hospital, check the temperatures of all patients, visitors and staff before they can go inside, and give healthcare workers scrubs so that they do not risk taking the novel coronavirus home with them, were high on his list. But about…
Dr Ming Lin says they were reasonable requests.
Set up a triage system outside the hospital, check the temperatures of all patients, visitors and staff before they can go inside, and give healthcare workers scrubs so that they do not risk taking the novel coronavirus home with them, were high on his list.
But about 10 days after the emergency physician made those recommendations for how to improve his hospital’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic – sharing several posts publicly on Facebook and speaking to a local newspaper – he says he was fired.
“I was surprised. I got a couple of warnings, and then the next thing you know, about 10 days later, I got terminated,” says Lin, who had worked for 17 years at PeaceHealth St Joseph Medical Center, a hospital in Bellingham, Washington state.
He told Al Jazeera that he felt he needed to voice his concerns on social media in order to protect his patients and colleagues from COVID-19, which has ravaged Washington state, among other places in the United States and around the world.
“Healthcare providers and healthcare workers are often silenced,” he said. “We, as healthcare providers, take an oath to do no harm, and that includes pointing out any deficiency that may cause harm to patients. If we speak out, we can be reprimanded and terminated.”
PeaceHealth did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment by the time of publication. TeamHealth, which has a contract with PeaceHealth to provide staff at the hospital, said in a statement that Lin was not terminated by TeamHealth and that the group is “committed to engaging with him to try to find a path forward”.
Lin’s case highlights a growing trend of healthcare workers sharing their experiences and concerns around the response to the coronavirus pandemic on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites, drawing attention to the often grim pictures they are seeing inside the hospitals.
Lack of equipment
Their sometimes harrowing accounts circulate online daily, from freezer trucks set up in hospital parking lots to store dead bodies, to physicians having to tell families their loved ones died over FaceTime and desperate pleas for more personal protective equipment.
As the pandemic grips the US, where the death toll is steadily climbing, social media has become the easiest way for some healthcare professionals to raise awareness and get people to take the contagious virus seriously.
Today. I told a 28 year old that he needs intubation. He was scared. Couldn’t breathe. I told the wife of a 47 year old that he is dying over FaceTime. I bronched a #COVID19 patient who mucous plugged. It saved his life. Risked mine.
— Anna Podolanczuk (@AnnaPodolanczuk) March 29, 2020
In some instances, social media has also become a tool to lobby government and other officials to get them the tools they need, while it can also help build a sense of community and support amid a fraught pandemic response. A lack of masks, gowns, gloves and other equipment is one of the main issues that doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are speaking out about.
A photo of nurses at a New York hospital wearing rubbish bags as protective gear to treat COVID-19 patients went viral last week. “NO MORE GOWNS IN THE WHOLE HOSPITAL,” read a caption on the photo on Facebook. “NO MORE MASKS AND REUSING THE DISPOSABLE ONES.”
Dr Richard Loftus, an internist in Rancho Mirage, California, also spoke out about the lack of equipment for healthcare workers on the front lines, comparing it to sending ill-equipped troops into battle in World War II.
“Your front-line troops right now wear medical scrubs, and they do not have helmets and they do not have weapons,” he said in a video shared on Twitter on Sunday.
‘Bold, loud truths’
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Loftus said he chose to speak out publicly after he realised that the public was not taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously enough, and that local government was not doing much, either. He said he raised serious concerns in February with his hospital leaders about the potential impact of the virus.
“I told them at the time, this is going to be a one-in-500-years event, like an asteroid hitting the earth. And I am sure they thought I was histrionic. Of course, now looking at what’s happening in the world, my analogy was apt,” he said.
Dr. Rick Loftus describes the dire lack of #PPE facing American doctors & nurses. “I welcome any support from any citizens who are enterprising enough to figure out creative means to get protective gear to the front line doctors and nurses. Our needs are DIRE.” #MillionMaskMayday pic.twitter.com/XdSzVsSBHx
— MasksForDocs (@MasksForDocs) March 29, 2020
Officials from Eisenhower Health, the hospital where Loftus works, did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.
He said many doctors and nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 response feel like “cannon fodder” because they are being told to work without the masks, gowns and other equipment they need to do their jobs safely.
In that way, the pandemic has exposed fissures between front-line workers and administrators who are trying to control the messaging around COVID-19, Loftus said. “Those of us who are front-line care workers know how much danger we’re in and when we get told stupid things like you’re not allowed to wear a mask it makes us angry because we know better.”
He added that he believes “bold, loud truths is how we save the most lives” – and so that is what he will continue to do. “As a front-line doctor I can say things that my hospital cannot say,” he told Al Jazeera.
A support network
Dr Uche Blackstock works at an urgent care centre in Brooklyn, New York, which has been hardest hit by the pandemic in the US. Like a walk-in clinic, the facility typically treats patients with moderate health problems, such as a cough or runny nose, or a laceration to an arm.
But last week, Blackstock said she noticed people were coming in with more serious respiratory issues – and many of their symptoms were similar, irrespective of age or medical history.
On March 27, she tweeted that “one patient after another came in with fever, cough, shortness of breath and muscle aches” and that she had to call an ambulance for three patients who had difficulty breathing. Blackstock told Al Jazeera that’s when she realised that COVID-19 really had arrived.
“During that shift, it really struck me that COVID-19 is here and it’s rearing its ugly head. And if anyone in the public had any doubt that this was serious – it’s very, very serious,” she said in an interview this week. “It’s been incredibly surreal, and it was also very sobering.”
I just finished an almost 13-hour urgent care shift in central #Brooklyn where one patient after another came in with fever, cough, shortness of breath and muscle aches. #COVID2019 is here. I called EMS for 3 patients in respiratory distress. #NewYorkers, please #StayHome.🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿 pic.twitter.com/RydlAaOvfm
— uché ‘STAY HOME & SAFE’ blackstock (@uche_blackstock) March 28, 2020
Dr Daniel Choi, a spinal surgeon practising on Long Island, New York, said doctors also have been sharing their concerns around COVID-19 in private group chats on WhatsApp and Facebook, which he said have become “a source of solidarity and community” for many.
In a WhatsApp chat seen by Al Jazeera, someone wrote that their emergency room in New York City intubated nine patients in 13 hours, and that seven of them were likely to be COVID-19 positive. All the patients were under age 50, the person wrote.
Report from front lines NYC borough hospital 3/29 “Our whole ED is now #COVID, as is our ICU + Overflow ICU, + CCU, we’re about to open an ED ICU on an empty floor. And we’re on surge call, so other specialty staff attendings are likely gonna start getting called this week”
— Daniel PLEASE STAY HOME Choi, MD (@drdanchoi) March 29, 2020
While Choi is not on the front-lines of the COVID-19 response, he said he feels compelled to amplify the voices of his colleagues that are. He regularly tweets out messages he has received from other physicians related to the crisis.
While doctors typically shy away from sharing their views publicly – often in fear of retribution – the coronavirus pandemic has changed things, Choi told Al Jazeera. “A lot of those fears and worries have kind of gone out the window … because doctors [are] feeling a pressing need to tell the public what’s going on.”
That was echoed by Blackstock, who said social media had become a platform for healthcare workers to have their voices heard and share their expertise on what needs to be done to combat the virus.
“To be able to control the narrative of what we think are the important points to make, what the priorities of the situation are, what our concerns are, is incredibly invaluable and social media definitely does that for us.”
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