- State Democrats in Pennsylvania are claiming that Republicans did not inform them that a Representative tested positive for COVID-19, and that others were isolating as a result.
- Many Democrats are outraged and feel their health was put in danger by the news not being shared with them. Some are calling for the Speaker of the House to resign.
- Democratic Rep. Brian Sims posted a viral rant calling Republicans “callous liars” who called for the government to reopen as they were potentially exposing their colleagues to the virus.
- Republicans have defended themselves, saying they notified those who came in contact with the state representative, and that they followed CDC guidelines.
Rep. Lewis Tests Positive
Democrats in Pennsylvania’s state legislature are claiming that Republicans hid the fact that representatives were self-quarantining after one tested positive for the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, Republican state Rep. Andrew Lewis announced that he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on May 20, after getting tested two days prior. His last day in the state’s Capitol was May 14.
“I immediately began self-isolation protocol and contacted the House of Representatives, and our caucus Human Resources department. My last day in the Capitol was Thursday, May 14.” he said.
Lewis said that anyone who was in contact and potentially exposed to the virus was notified and asked to self-quarantine. He said he waited a week to disclose his diagnosis to the public “out of respect” for his family.
However, it allegedly was not just the public that learned of this news on Wednesday. Pennsylvania Democrats say they were also shocked to learn that one of their colleagues tested positive for the coronavirus and had been isolating for over a week.
“While we are pleased to learn that this House member seems to have recovered, it is simply unacceptable that some House Republicans knew about this for more than a week and sat on that knowledge,” Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said in a statement. “Knowing how House members and staff work closely together at the Capitol, we should have been made aware of this much sooner. We should not have learned of it from a media report.”
Dermody says that in the last two weeks, there were six days of voting at the Capitol and more than 15 meetings of House committees, meaning that people who had come to work in person were at risk of possible exposure.
Right now, Democrats are claiming that four members of the Repubican caucus went into self-quarantine as a result of their contact with Lewis. One of those caucus members was Rep. Russ Diamond, who has very openly criticized masks and other social distancing protocols. He has also led charges calling for the state to reopen.
In a statement, he said he canceled in-person meetings and began isolation as soon as he learned he was in contact with someone who was COVID-positive, though he did not know who that was at the time. But, according to Spotlight PA, earlier that day, he spoke before a House Committee without a mask to call for an end to the state of emergency Pennsylvania declared because of the virus.
Diamond says he has experienced no symptoms since he began isolating on May 21 and plans to go back to the capitol as soon as Thursday. He has not been tested for the virus, but claims his doctor told him a test would be unnecessary if he was not ill.
Democrats Say They Were Out of the Loop
Many Democrats were outraged that they were not notified that their colleagues were isolating and felt their health had been jeopardized. Rep. Kevin J. Boyle claimed that not disclosing this kind of information should be considered criminal.
This news also came on the same day the United State’s coronavirus death toll reached 100,000 people. In Pennsylvania alone there are 70,000 cases and over 5,000 deaths.
“Pennsylvanians are suffering greatly from this medical and financial catastrophe, and many of them are being asked to place the health and safety of others ahead of their own well-being,” wrote Rep. Dan Frankel. “I am horrified to learn that members of the General Assembly failed to do the right thing, at a time when so many Pennsylvanians are doing so in much more difficult situations.”
One of the most vibrant reactions came from Rep. Brian Sims, who went on a 12-minute viral rant on Facebook Live. He claimed that his republican colleagues cam to work so that they could “explain that it was safe to go back to work, it was safe to go back to race car driving or dog grooming or getting your haircut.”
“Meanwhile, what we’re learning is that during that time period, they were testing positive,” Sims continued. “They were notifying one another and they didn’t notify us. I just spent the better part of the past 11 weeks sitting across the room from people who would eventually test and decided not to tell us.”
He specifically referred to Diamond as being part of this mentality. Sims also claimed that this could have serious consequences. He said that Boyle has young children to go home to, and that he himself is vulnerable because he donated a kidney earlier this year, news he was not initially planning on making public right now.
“I didn’t donate my kidney to save somebody’s life so that I could die at the hands of Republicans who are being callous liars,” Sims said.
“How dare you. How dare you put our lives at risk,” Sims continued. “How dare you put our families at risk and pretend it was about looking out for your own. We know you’re looking out for your own.”
Sims, along with other Democrats, has been calling for Republican Speaker of the House Mike Turzai to resign over this, as well as anyone who knew about it.
Republicans Defend Protocol
Still, Republicans have defended themselves. Mike Straub, a spokesman for House Republicans, told the Washington Post that they followed CDC guidelines, as well as protocols from Pennsylvania’s Department of Health. They maintained that everyone needed to be notified because of direct contact was.
Lewis also addressed the concerns on a Facebook live stream Wednesday night. He said that in his final day at the Capitol, he was only in for a few hours and saw very few people. He also said he took measures to protect himself and others.
“One, I wore a mask. Two, I did not shake any hands,” Lewis said. “Three, it’s pretty much a ghost town at the capitol right now, the cafeteria is closed, so I only interacted with a handful of folks.”
Lewis also insisted that everyone he interacted with was notified. He said he was not aware of anyone else testing positive for the virus.
See what others are saying: (NBC 10) (Spotlight PA) (Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities
The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.
Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”
Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.
Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.
The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone.
During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program.
“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”
Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.”
“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference.
“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”
Goals of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act
Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act.
“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.
“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.”
Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.
Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change.
“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”
While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children.
“Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)
Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human
The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.
Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.
The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.
With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.
According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney.
The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.
Concerns and Hurdles Ahead
While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles.
Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this.
Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.
“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.
On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.
“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.
“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”