Category Archives: Public safety & health

Follow the Voodoo

by Kerry Dougherty

Can we all agree that the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl was a real stinker?

Unless dancing men in sequined jackets with underwear on their heads is your thing, that is. (Yes, I know those were supposed to be bandages, but they looked like tighty whities headgear.) As my radio partner, Mike Imprevento, quipped Monday, The Weekend should change his name to Tuesday Night.

Can we also agree that Tom Brady was magnificent? And that after the first series, the Buc’s offense found a rhythm and just clicked all night? And that the Buccaneer’s defense was on fire and left the super-talented Patrick Mahomes looking hapless as he picked grass out of his face mask?

Can we also agree that the Super Bowl commercials were underwhelming? And that the most cloying was the public service announcement by Jill Biden, AKA Joe’s Ventriloquist, reminding us to wear a mask?

“Please keep wearing your mask,” she says, patting Champ and Major. “EVEN WHEN YOU’RE WALKING YOUR DOG.”

Sorry, Dr. Jill, but that’s a hard NO. Continue reading

How Fair Is Virginia’s System for Distributing Vaccines?

by James A. Bacon

Virginia has done a much better job in recent days in administering the COVID-19 vaccine. Out the nearly 1.4 million vaccine doses received from the federal government, according to the Becker Hospital Review, 68.7% have been given as shots. But the criteria for distributing the vaccine within the state has not been clear.

According to data published yesterday on the Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard, vaccines have been distributed unevenly across the state. At one extreme, the Norfolk Health District has received 81,300 doses. Using the VDH’s population estimates for its health districts, that translates into 33.2 vaccines delivered for every 100 population.

At the opposite end of the scale, the Hampton Health District has received only 7,075 doses, or 5.2 doses per 100 population.

“Vaccine distribution within the Commonwealth is opaque,” wrote Virginia Beach City Manager Patrick Duhaney in an email that a third party shared with Bacon’s Rebellion. “[I] cannot find anything that talks in any manner as to the decision process of who gets what percentage of vaccine received from the Federal Supply Chain and who/how those decisions are made.” Continue reading

Northam’s Vaccination Comeback

by James A. Bacon

After an abysmal start in vaccinating its population, Virginia has risen to 10th best in the nation ranked by the percentage of COVID-19 vaccines that have been administered. According to the Beckers Hospital Review database, Virginia has given 68.7% of the vaccine doses supplied by the federal government.

I don’t know what kind of whip Northam applied to his health care bureaucrats since Virginia ranked 50th in the nation a couple of weeks ago, but something is working. The system for giving shots in the Old Dominion has relied primarily on hospitals and secondarily upon local health departments. Doctors’ offices, community health providers and pharmacies have been tertiary players in the effort.

The Northam strategy faces a new test, however, as the state prioritizes local health departments. In the past week, health departments have been supplied with 81,550 new “first” doses compared to only 16,650 for hospitals, according to the Virginia Department of Health vaccine dashboard. (The distribution of “second” doses has been more even.) Continue reading

Send Kids Back to School, Northam Urges

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

Better late than never. Citing the increased risk of depression and “irreparable learning loss” from current policies, Governor Ralph Northam said in his Friday press conference that every public school in Virginia should make in-person instruction available as an option by next month. He also urged school districts to offer summer classes to kids who want to take them.

“My fellow pediatricians say they’re seeing an increase in behavioral problems, mental health issues and even increases in substance abuse among their young patients,” said Northam. “They’re writing more prescriptions, such as anti-depressants and stimulants. And that’s just not a good direction for us to keep going. And we’re also seeing a decline in academic performance.”

It’s good to see Northam acknowledging these realities, which Bacon’s Rebellion columnists have been highlighting for months now. As the COVID-19 epidemic left Virginia’s public schools in tatters, Northam’s Department of Education and many school districts busied themselves with implementing Critical Race Theory to combat racial “inequities.” Ironically, the hardships and educational regression caused by schools’ shift to distance learning are most pronounced in minority communities. Continue reading

Blacks, Republicans Most Distrustful of Vaccine

Question: Which comes closest to your view regarding the COVID-19 vaccinations recently approved by the FDA?

by James A. Bacon

One out of five Virginians (19%) say they will never get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a poll of 1,039 people conducted by the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University. The demographic groups most resistant to the vaccine are Republicans, 24% of whom responded that they would “never” get the vaccine, and African Americans, 26% of whom said the same.

In contrast to the Wason Center poll I criticized yesterday, this one seems to be well constructed and yields significant insight into Virginians’ attitudes toward the COVID epidemic.

Among other findings: Continue reading

State Senate Votes to Reopen Schools

by Kerry Dougherty

Ready for some good news out of Richmond?

Thought so.

On Tuesday, SB 1303, which will require all Virginia public schools to open for in-person as well as virtual classes, passed the Democrat-controlled Senate overwhelmingly on a BI-PARTISAN VOTE of 26-13.

Let’s hear it for politicians putting kids ahead of party!

The bill was introduced by State Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant of Henrico. She’s a Republican OB-GYN, by the way.

After what’s been described as “impassioned” debate, seven Democrats joined all of the Senate’s Republicans in voting for the measure.

No one sat this one out.

Dysfunction Exposed in COVID Demands Overhaul of Virginia’s Government

by James C. Sherlock

Great Seal of Virginia

We all like to discuss the politics of things. That in many instances is appropriate. But political leadership is neither the problem nor the solution I will discuss here today.  

We will spend every day between now and November’s election debating how the politicians responded to COVID. And we should. But our state government has failed both us and our elected leaders.  

I submit that the failures of the bureaucracies would have crippled elected officials from either party. We need desperately to fix the laws, regulations and bureaucratic structures that harbor such failures as permanently as we are able.

I will suggest a path.

What needs to be done?

I wrote in late March in praise of Virginia’s pandemic influenza emergency plan and published key details the next day. Two days later I discovered the coverup. The plan had been removed from public view on state websites, never to be heard of again. Continue reading

Lockdown Lobby Crushed the Poorest Children

by Kerry Dougherty

The Federalist, one of my daily must-read news sources, had a great piece yesterday. It supported my point of view, naturally.

And it’s timely as Michael Osterholm, one of Biden’s advisors, predicted Sunday that lockdowns will return with a vengeance once the U.K. variant of Covid-19 becomes dominant in the United States.

In “Covid Lockdowns Were An Overreaction to Protect The Rich ,” Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor of medicine at Stanford University and one of America’s outspoken opponents of many measures taken during the pandemic,  joined Megyn Kelly in a podcast to discuss the results of shutdowns around the U.S. They affirmed what has been glaringly obvious to anyone paying attention: Lockdowns protected the rich while putting the poor in harm’s way.

I noticed this early on in the pandemic when friends of mine on Facebook were hash-tagging the hell out of slogans like #JustStayHome.

Easy for them, when they weren’t missing a paycheck and had work-from-home jobs. Continue reading

A Horse Built by a Committee

by James C. Sherlock

Updated Jan 31 at 8:46 AM

Virginia’s Attorney General has offered a bill to create a new state bureaucracy to handle the opioid settlement money about to flow into the Commonwealth to support prevention, treatment, and recovery. It is going to be a lot of money. The state opioid settlements will not be the end of it.  Federal money is coming for the same purpose. 

The Attorney General wants a new state Opioid Abatement Fund (OAF) for the money and a new state Opioid Abatement Authority (OAA) to spend it.  The AG admits he has no idea how much money will be available, yet his bill places constraints on how it may be spent and earmarks the distribution of the funds.

I disagree.

The Problem

According to the CDC, opioids—mainly synthetic opioids (other than methadone)—are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths.

East of the Mississippi river, the legal product that kills is commercially produced opioids illegally prescribed and filled.  They include:

  • Natural opioids: Pain medications like morphine and codeine
  • Semi-synthetic opioids: Pain medications like oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone
  • Methadone: A synthetic opioid used to treat pain, but it can also be provided through opioid treatment programs to treat opioid use disorders.

Look below at the CDC map showing Opioid prescription dispensing rate  and see the dark scar through the Appalachians showing more than 112 prescriptions per 100 persons.

2015 Opioid Dispensing Rate per 100 Persons – Credit – CDC

Continue reading

Virginia Vaxx Program Gaining Momentum

First doses administered

The Northam administration appears to have made a solid recovery from its disappointing performance in giving Virginians the COVID-19 vaccination. After falling to dead last a week ago among the 50 states in the Becker’s Hospital Review ranking of percentage of COVID-19 vaccines administered, the Old Dominion stands today at 21st. Some of this whipsaw change in rankings  likely is due to data reporting delays and catch-ups, but it seems safe to conclude that the situation in the real world is less dire than appeared to be a week ago.

The Virginia Department of Health has published a new view of the vaccine data that gives some insight into what is going on. Hospitals have been the primary channel for administering the vaccine, and they likely will continue to be so for a while because they also have the largest unused inventory. Continue reading

Vaxx Stats Update

Credit: Virginia Department of Health

Regional disparities. The Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 portal has added a statewide map showing where the most vaccine doses per capita have been administered. What stands out is that a significantly higher percentage of the population of western Virginia localities have received the vaccine. Click here to view the numbers for individual jurisdictions.

Washington County on the North Carolina border has administered 11,775 shots per 100,00 population. Surry County: only 2,881.

Question: Why the regional disparity? Why is rural/small town western Virginia faring so much better than metropolitan Virginia and Southside? Are western Virginia health districts getting more vaccines? Have they developed more efficient means of delivering the vaccine? It bears looking into.

Rebound or dead cat bounce? A few days ago, Bacon’s Rebellion highlighted the fact that Virginia ranked dead last among the 50 states in the Becker’s Hospital Review ranking of the states by percentage of vaccines vaccinated. I noted that any results should be viewed cautiously due to coding issues and reporting lags. Well, today Virginia has leaped up to a mere 27th worst in the country. Here’s the latest data: Continue reading

Never Fear, the State Will Step In to Fix Chaotic Vaccination Registrations

Governor Northam. Credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

Governor Ralph Northam feels your pain — and your exasperation — about the slow progress of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. “I feel the frustration out there,” he said at a press conference yesterday. “I also, as a medical provider, feel the urgency. We are doing everything that we can to save lives.”

To facilitate the rate at which Virginians get the vaccine, he has directed the Virginia Department of Health to to create a single, statewide vaccination registration system.

As the Associated Press dryly notes, when state officials announced earlier this month that Virginia was expanding the pool of people eligible to get the shot, it “created confusion about where and when to sign up.” Northam acknowledged the problem yesterday. “That confusion is justified because the answer has not been clear.” Continue reading

Why Are Nursing Home Workers Refusing to Get Vaccinated?

An apparent exception to the rule: a nursing home worker in New York gets a vaccination. Credit: Yuki Iwamura/AP and the Washington Post.

by James A. Bacon

A large percentage of nursing home workers in Northern Virginia and the Washington metropolitan area have declined to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Their wariness, reports The Washington Post, arises from “online misinformation about the vaccine” and “historical mistrust of the medical system of which they are a part.”

Forty-eight percent of all COVID-19 related fatalities in Virginia have occurred in long-term care facilities. Despite strict lockdown protocols, the disease enters facilities by piggybacking on employees. Vaccinating nurses and other employees at long-term facilities is critical to stemming the infection of vulnerable elderly residents. 

WaPo cites the example of Trio Healthcare, which operates 11 nursing homes in Virginia. Chief Clinical Officer Melissa Green said employees initially bought into various myths about the vaccine, which included rumors that they had serious side effects and conspiracy theories about government plans to implant microchip in residents.

Then, of course, there’s America’s long history of racism. Writes the Post: Continue reading

Vaccinating Virginia’s Largest City

by Kerry Dougherty

The bad news? At that rate it will take about two years to inoculate every adult in the city against Covid-19.

If you read this space daily you know that hundreds of those folks waited outside the Convention Center in the raw drizzle Monday. Few of them were older than 65, the age group most at risk for complications from Covid-19.

When I spoke yesterday with Ed Brazle, EMS Chief and co-commander of Vaccinate Virginia Beach, he said he hoped to vaccinate another 3,000 folks today by quitting time. Rinse and repeat until all the doses are gone.

This should exhaust the measly 9,000-dose allotment the Beach received this week.

That’s a ridiculously small number of doses for a city of more than 450,000. Why is Richmond being so stingy? Continue reading

Cats Win Round One Over Birds At Assembly

by Steve Haner

Organized efforts to trap and sterilize feral cats, and then return them to roaming free, operate in legal limbo in Virginia. It is against the law to abandon a companion animal that you have taken into care. The latest attempt to change that has divided animal advocates into snarling camps.

Senate Bill 1390 is offered by Eastern Shore Senator Lynwood Lewis, and Tuesday received the approval of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, 11-4. It will be on the full Senate floor this week. Lewis said the purpose is to make it clear that the programs, usually run by volunteers but sometimes by professional shelter operations, are legal.

In subcommittee testimony Monday afternoon, the animal care community split right down the middle once again, basically along the same lines that form when the issue is euthanasia. An unsuccessful anti-euthanasia, or “no-kill,” bill was the fault line in last year’s earthquake, as reported on Bacon’s Rebellion. This year, it is feral cats again. Continue reading