Despite US military help, Mississippi hospital workers still overwhelmed – National & International News – TUE 7Sep2020


Mississippi hospitals still overwhelmed despite military backup. DOJ vows to protect Texas abortion clinics. El Salvador adopts BitCoin as legal tender.




Mississippi hospitals still struggle despite military backup

Hospital workers in Mississippi are still struggling with COVID overflows despite relief from the U.S. military. The Pentagon has dispatched around 350 EMTs, doctors, nurses and other medical support staff to hospitals in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to help cope with a surge in COVID admissions.

Since late last month, a team of air force medics have been helping out at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. These include 20 medics, 14 nurses, four medical doctors and two respiratory technicians. 

But even with this extra help, the hospital is struggling to cope with the continual influx of COVID patients. The hospital’s ICU and emergency room are beyond capacity and are taken up almost exclusively with severe COVID patients. Dr. Risa Moriarity of the UMMC emergency department describes a “logjam” of patients in beds in hallways and receiving treatment in triage rooms.

According to state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, four pregnant women died of COVID in one Mississippi hospital last week. “This is the reality that we’re looking at and, again, none of these individuals were vaccinated,” Dobbs said.

In Louisiana, the picture is even more harrowing. Hospitals were already stretched to the limit due to COVID before Ida hit. Now, many hospitals are also having to cope with water leaks, debris and broken generators. Meanwhile, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge, one COVID patient is being admitted every hour. 

Shortage of high level life support

Another problem confronting COVID-hit hospitals in the south is the limited availability of ECMO, which stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Patients on ECMO have a tube in their neck through which a machine artificially pumps and oxygenates the blood outside the body. 

The number of patients receiving ECMO is very small compared to the number of patients who could benefit from it. The shortfall is attributable not so much to a shortage of equipment but rather to a lack of qualified staff to administer the therapy. ECMO patients require one-on-one, round-the-clock care from a nurse who knows how to use the equipment. One misstep, a kinked tube perhaps, and a patient could die.

ECMO is not a treatment for COVID. It simply allows the lungs to rest and heal after an infection. The average patient is on ECMO for about two weeks, but some need it for months.


DOJ vows to protect Texas abortion clinics

Yesterday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Department of Justice is “urgently” exploring options to challenge Texas’ new restrictive abortion law. Garland did not provide further details on potential legal challenges. However, the DOJ says they will provide protection from violent attacks against Texas abortion clinics and their patients in the form of federal law enforcement officers. The federal enforcers will guard against violations of the FACE Act, that is, Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances.

Judge partially shields Planned Parenthood

Other legal remedies to counter Texas’ “Heartbeat Act” have been slow to materialize. This is in part because of the law’s unusual enforcement tactic of deputizing any private citizen to sue anyone they suspect of violating the state law. But in one case, District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin has provided Planned Parenthood clinics a temporary and partial shield from lawsuits. Specifically, the ruling shields Planned Parenthood from suits originating from the nonprofit group Texas Right to Life, which has set up a tip line for citizens to phone in possible violations.

Normally vocal corporate leaders silent

There has also been surprisingly little backlash up to this point from corporations in Texas. Major corporations in Texas have been quick to push back against conservative legislation on various social issues, including climate change, voting rights and LGBT rights. But so far, there have been no cancelations of plans already in motion to relocate major corporate offices to the state in response to the new abortion law.

Texas business columnist Chris Tomlinson speculates that corporate pushback may come later, as fewer corporations decide to relocate to Texas or host high-profile industry conferences in the state. 


El Salvador adopts BitCoin as legal tender

El Salvador has officially become the world’s first country to adopt the digital currency BitCoin as legal tender. Starting today, businesses in the country will have to accept the currency as payment wherever possible. To encourage citizens to adopt and use the currency, the country is supplying $30 worth of free BitCoin. Citizens will be able to claim the money when they download the government’s new digital wallet app.

The country first announced plans to adopt BitCoin earlier this year. The announcement spurred both excitement and controversy among BitCoins supporters and detractors. Some contend that the currency is still too volatile to serve as national currency. Over the last year, the price of a single BitCoin went from $10,000 in Sept., 2020, to a high of $63,000 in April 2021 before falling to $30,000 in July. Now, a single coin fetches $51,000, which some attribute to the buzz from El Salvador’s announcement.

Uncertain future 

Back in July, the World Bank refused a request from El Salvador’s government to help them in adopting BitCoin. Participation from the World Bank could potentially have been a stabilizing influence. Both the danger and the appeal of BitCoin derive from the fact that its market is entirely demand-driven and totally unregulated. In theory, since there are only a finite number of BitCoins available, the currency will, over time, only appreciate in value. But that does not mean the currency is not subject to violent fluctuations. 

For the time being, most Salvadorans will likely continue using the country’s other currency, the U.S. dollar. Surveys suggest that many Salvadorans do not understand the BitCoin system or know how to use it. Business owners are also skeptical. Even those who have started accepting BitCoin ahead of today’s official adoption say their patrons have rarely paid them in BitCoin.

Still, many BitCoin enthusiasts worldwide are buying $30 worth of BitCoin today as a show of solidarity with El Salvador.

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