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Michigan Reaches $600 Million Settlement Over Flint Water Crisis

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  • A $600 million settlement was reached between the lawyers of Flint, Michigan residents and state officials over civil cases pertaining to the Flint water crisis.
  • 80% of this settlement will go to those who were children at the time. Another 18% will go to adults, and the rest will go to property damage, business economic loss, and programmatic relief settlements.
  • It is currently unclear exactly how much money each person will get. Those details are expected to be announced in the near future.
  • Leaders in Michigan believe that this is a start to bringing justice to the residents of Flint, who have been dealing with the water crisis since 2014.

Settlement Reached

A $600 million settlement was reached Thursday between the lawyers of Flint, Michigan residents, the office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and the office of Attorney General Dana Nessel regarding the Flint water crisis. 

According to a summary of the preliminary settlement, roughly 80% of the funds will go to those who were under the age of 18 when the crisis began. This will break down to 64.5% for those who were six and under at first exposure, 10% for those who were between seven and 11, and 5% for those aged between 12 and 17. 

Another 18% will go to adults, and the remaining will go to property damage, business economic loss, and programmatic relief settlements. This settlement is the result of 18 months of negotiations and is meant to resolve all of the civil Flint water cases against the state and its related groups and individuals. The $600 million sum is larger than every lawsuit the state has paid out in the last 10 years combined, per a count from Michigan Live

Details about how many recipients there are and what their exact payouts will be are unclear. There were between 18,000 and 20,000 kids in Flint during the exposure period. The population of the city is roughly 100,000. Those eligible to receive funds include those who lived in a residence or owned a business that received Flint water at the time of the crisis, those who came into contact with Flint water for a certain period of time during the crisis, and those who were exposed to the water and were diagnosed with Legionnaires disease, as certain outbreaks were tied to the city’s water. 

The summary states that the state of Michigan, its agencies, as well as current and former employees will be released from any liability to those who receive payment from this fund with respect to civil claims per this settlement. However, Attorney General Nessel went to Twitter to explain this does not mean battles in this case are over. 

“General Hammoud and Pros. Worthy continue their investigation into criminal actions by state actors and the quest for justice and accountability is not over,” she wrote. 

Background on the Flint Water Crisis

In an effort to save the city money, Flint changed its water source in 2014 from the Detroit-treated Lake Huron water to the Flint River. Once it did so, citizens complained that the water had a poor smell, taste, and color, but city officials told them it was safe. It was later confirmed that officials did not ensure corrosion control treatments were added to the water, leading to contamination. 

In 2015, researchers found that lead was leaching into the water and children had elevated levels of lead in their blood since the water source changed. The percentage of infants and children in the city with above average levels nearly doubled citywide, and even nearly tripled in high risk areas. By the end of 2015, the water source was switched to the Detroit water system.

Still, many in Flint still do not trust the water they receive or the local government that allowed this to happen. While the city has checked pipes and replaced many, Michigan Live says that 2,500 have still not been checked yet. Former Governor Rick Snyder admitted that this was the result of mass government failure and the water crisis is widely considered one of the most devastating cases of environmental injustice. 

Responses from Leaders in Flint

“Flint residents have endured more than most, and to draw out the legal back-and-forth even longer would have achieved nothing but continued hardship. This settlement focuses on the children and the future of Flint,” Nessel wrote in a Thursday morning statement about the settlement. 

“Ultimately, by reaching this agreement, I hope we can begin the process of closing one of the most difficult chapters in our State’s history and writing a new one that starts with a government that works on behalf of all of its people,” she added. 

Governor Whitmer also spoke about the settlement Thursday morning. She said that in addition to this payout, the state will be allocating resources to Flint to provide lead service line replacement, nutrition programs, child health care services, early childhood programs, lead prevention and abatement, school aid and more in the future. 

“What happened in Flint should never have happened and financial compensation with this settlement is just one of many ways we can and will continue to show our support for the city of Flint and its families,” Whitmer said. 

Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech professor and water expert who helped expose the lead contamination spoke to The Detroit News about the settlement. 

“If money is how government expresses sorrow for its crimes — this is a big apology,” he said. 

However, some were slightly more critical about the settlement considering what has happened to the city of Flint. 

“There will never be a number that adequately recognizes the harm done to Flint families,” Rep. Dan Kildee wrote, while still acknowledging his support for the settlement.

See what others are saying: (Michigan Live) (Detroit Free Press) (The Guardian)

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Inmates Sue Jail for Giving Them Ivermectin to Treat COVID-19 Without Consent

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Four detainees who filed the suit allege that the jail’s doctor gave them “incredibly high doses” of the anti-parasite in a “cocktail of drugs” that he said were “‘vitamins’, ‘antibiotics,’ and/or ‘steroids.’”


Washington County Detention Center Lawsuit

Four inmates at an Arkansas jail have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that they were unknowingly given the anti-parasite drug ivermectin without their consent by the detention center’s doctor after contracting COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and countless other medical experts have said that ivermectin — commonly used for livestock — can be dangerous and should not be used to treat the coronavirus.

According to the lawsuit, after testing positive for COVID in August, the four men at the Washington County Detention Center (WCDC) were given a “cocktail of drugs” twice a day by the facility’s doctor, Robert Karas.

The inmates claim that Dr. Karas did not tell them that he was giving them ivermectin, but instead said the drugs consisted of “‘vitamins’, ‘antibiotics,’ and/or ‘steroids.’”

The complaint also alleges that the detainees were given “incredibly high doses” of the drug, causing some to experience “vision issues, diarrhea, bloody stools, and/or stomach cramps.”

Use on Other Inmates

The four plaintiffs were far from the only people to whom Karas gave ivermectin.

According to the lawsuit, the doctor began using the drug to treat COVID starting in November of 2020. In August, the Washington County sheriff confirmed at a local finance and budget committee meeting that the doctor had been prescribing the drug to inmates, prompting the Arkansas Medical Board to launch an investigation.

In response, Karas informed a Medical Board investigator in a letter from his attorney that 254 inmates at the facility had been treated with ivermectin.

In the letter, he confirmed that whether or not detainees were given information about ivermectin was dependent on who administered it, but paramedics were not required to discuss the drug with them.

He also admitted that after the practice got media coverage, he “adopted a more robust informed consent form to assuage any concern that any detainees were being misled or coerced into taking the medications, even though they weren’t.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which filed the suit on behalf of the inmates, also claimed in a statement that after questions were raised about the practice, the jail attempted to make detainees sign forms saying that they retroactively agreed to the treatments. 

The WCDC has not issued a public response to the lawsuits, but Dr. Karas appeared to address the situation in a Facebook post where he defended his actions.

“Guess we made the news again this week; still with best record in the world at the jail with the same protocols,” he wrote. “Inmates aren’t dumb and I suspect in the future other inmates around the country will be suiing their facilities requesting same treatment we’re using at WCDC-including the Ivermectin.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CBS News) (NBC News)

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Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan

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The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”


Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify

A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. 

Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts. 

Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”

“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”

Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation

Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.

“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote. 

“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”

“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”

Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)

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Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.

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In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.


New Cases Flattening

After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.

Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days. 

New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.

Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.

Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.

According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.

In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.

Concerns Remain 

Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit. 

While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country. 

Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)

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