Weekly Letter to the President
Copyright © 2017
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
July 10, 2020
Mr.President: A civilized society enjoys an element of courtesy in its social
interactions, although this courtesy can now mean a measure of self-sacrifice. If such
altruistic behavior is a characteristic of humans (and other social creatures in the
animal kingdom) it holds us in awe, as at present during the covid-19 epidemic when
first responders and hospital staff are taking the chances and sometimes paying the
How many are contracting the coronavirus because of their duty? How many are
dying? How many are having to sacrifice personal contact with their loved ones to
ensure their safety?
As can be expected, many have lost their lives. In Los Angeles County for example,
nearly 4,300 healthcare workers and first responders had tested positive for the virus
and 26 had died by mid-May. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has some
incomplete but more up to date figures. They report 96,882 cases and 515 deaths as
of July 10, 2020 for healthcare personnel -- death status was only available for 66
percent (63,929) of the cases. If the death rate is lower than for the general
population, it is an indicator of their alertness to the illness and of accessing proper
care promptly. Some of their stories are tragic:
Celia Yap-Banago died after caring for a Covid-19 patient at Research Medical
Center in Kansas City, Mo., a week before she was due to retire. She was a nurse for
40 years, and at age 69, a mother figure for the nurses around her, finding it
necessary thus to raise concerns about the lack of protective equipment. There are
of course many, many others who have lost their lives. Moreover, the disaster for
health workers is not confined to the US.
In Swansea, UK, Liz Spooner, who had worked at Singleton Hospital for 41 years also
passed away, a victim of the virus. She was a valued, experienced member of the
coronary care unit. In the UK, over a hundred employees of the NHS (national health
service) have lost their lives.
Back in the US, National Nurses United felt obliged to write (July 1, 2020) to the House
Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus report on a critical shortage of personal
protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals across the country. A 100,000-plus nurses
and healthcare workers have become sick as a result and 950 have died including
144 registered nurses.
Due to a shortage of single-use N95 respirators, the nurses offer a better alternative.
They recommend reusable respirators like Powered Air-Purifying Respirators
(PAPRs) and also elastomeric respirators like the P100 which provide better
protection. They call for an increase in the production and distribution of PAPR and
P100 respirators to protect both nurses and the public.
What is appalling is that a survey of the nurses conducted by them showed that 85
percent of nurses are being asked to reuse single-use PPE putting them at risk of
exposure if the outside of the equipment comes in contact with them or their clothing.
All of this is due to a shortage leaving no other alternative.
The largest and wealthiest hospital system in America is HCA (Hospital Corporation of
America). Its stock is quoted on the New York Stock Exchange. During this crisis
instead of equipping nurses to perform their tasks in safety, HCA is forcing them to
reuse their single-use N95 masks. In non-covid 19 units, nurses are only provided
surgical masks, and as could have been foreseen, covid 19 outbreaks have occurred
among these unprotected care givers. HCA claims, however, that it has an adequate
supply chain catering to the PPE requirements of their staff.
Trump's moribund Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) needs a
wake-up call. Shouldn't congress be holding their feet to the fire?