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The ‘Politics’ of Ebola

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Midterm Elections are fanning the flames of fear, panic and pandemonium over the Ebola epidemic.  So here are the medical facts, politics aside.


Ebola has claimed the lives of some 4,500 victims, mostly in Western African nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.  In the U.S., politicians are calling for flight bans and blaming President Barack Obama for the spread of the disease


According to CNN, as of Oct. 17, 2014, “eight confirmed cases of Ebola have been or are being treated in the United States, and one U.S. citizen died abroad, having never returned to the States.”

Patrick Sawyer, a government official in the Liberian Ministry of Finance and a naturalized U.S. citizen from Minnesota, died July 25 in Nigeria after caring for his Ebola-stricken sister in Liberia.


The more famous case is that of Thomas Eric Duncan, an American who visited Liberia and returned with the virus last month.  He was sent home with antibiotics by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, but finally admitted days later when his symptoms worsened.  He was being treated at the hospital when he died on Oct. 8. 


More than 100 individuals identified to have come in contact with Duncan have been quarantined.   At least 45 were cleared on Oct. 20 after 21 days of observation, according to MSNBC.


By the way, according to the World Health Organization, Ebola is “acquired by contact with blood or other body fluids of an infected human or other animal. This may also occur by direct contact with a recently contaminated item. Spread through the air has not been documented in the natural environment.”  Ebolavirus may be eliminated by heat, avoiding direct contact with infected people and regular hand washing with soap and water


Considering that the numbers of people who have tested negative for Ebola in the US far outweigh those who tested positive, evidence suggests the disease is not as easy to contract as believed.  This is not to say that missteps by both the medical community and the government have not raised the risks. 


Duncan should not have been sent home when he first came to the hospital with a fever and explained he had been in Liberia. Not enough precautions were taken to keep health care workers protected.  One of the infected nurses who called CDC for clearance to board an airplane to Ohio was given the green light.  That should have never happened. 


With Midterm Elections less than 2 weeks away, Republicans are blaming President Obama for not doing enough to slow down the spread of Ebola in the U.S.  Democrats are blaming Republicans for cuts to funding necessary to deal with health emergencies like Ebola. 

The president’s appointment of Ron Klain as Ebola Czar became effective Oct. 22.


Politicians running for re-election must appear that they are doing something to stop Ebola (even if they don’t have a clue).  So they are calling for travel bans from West Africa into the U.S.  Democrats who have distanced themselves from the president because of his low approval ratings are now using Ebola to legitimize the distance.


President Obama has said banning travel to the U.S. from Liberia would only make the situation worse.  But even if he were to order a ban on travel from West Africa, how would that order actually be carried out? There are no direct flights from West Africa to the U.S.  Currently, passengers have to go through airports in Western Europe (Paris is the number one destination) and then transfer to America.


“We can't just cut ourselves off from West Africa," Obama said, explaining it would make it harder to move health workers and supplies into the region, and would motivate people trying to get out the region to evade screening, making it harder to track cases.


The Department of Homeland Security announced that all travelers from Ebola outbreak countries in West Africa will be funneled through one of five U.S. airports with enhanced screening, including JFK International in New York, Washington Dulles, Chicago O'Hare, New Jersey's Newark and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta international airports.




At a press conference at the Forum on Oct. 16, Mayor James T. Butts announced that Inglewood has been officially selected to participate in the Special Olympics World Games Host Town program from July 21 – 24, 2015.


Before the Special Olympics World Games begin on July 25, 2015, more than 7,000 athletes from 177 countries will be welcomed to Southern California through the Host Town program. As many as one hundred communities from San Luis Obispo to San Diego will have the honor of participating as an official Host Town.


“The Host Town program is an exciting way for Southern California locals to open our doors and show the athletes and coaches from around the world our hospitality and our culture,” said Patrick McClenahan, President and Chief Executive Officer of LA2015, the Games’ Organizing Committee.


“This is an important part of the World Games experience and a truly meaningful way for different communities to be part of the Games and create lasting memories for our visiting athletes.”


As a Host Town, Inglewood will have an opportunity to come together and support these champions, as they demonstrate what true commitment and determination is all about.  


“With the help of our community, we will rally together to produce events on the order of the 1984 Olympics, when the basketball contests were held at the Forum,” said Mayor Butts.  “The City of Inglewood will extend the ultimate in hospitality – the use of the ‘Fabulous’ Forum as our venue. The Forum has served as host to the Space Shuttle Endeavour and the astronaut crew, the Dalai Lama and most recently, the MTV Music Video Awards.  We look forward to adding the Special Olympics and its competitors to this prestigious list.”


The Host Town program has been an important element of Special Olympics World Games since 1995, and the experience has left a lasting impression on the local communities in Ireland, Japan, China, Greece, South Korea and the United States, all of which have previously organized Host Town programs as part of the Special Olympics World Games.


LA2015 is actively identifying potential Host Town candidates to be considered for the program. Communities are evaluated on the availability of lodging accommodations, sports practice facilities and recreation/entertainment offerings for the athletes, among other criteria. Host Towns are also responsible for planning activities for the athletes to introduce them to the community and help spread the word about the Games.


Inglewood joins the growing list of officially proclaimed Host Towns, which includes Long Beach, Thousand Oaks, Calabasas, Studio City, Manhattan Beach, West Covina, Arcadia, Burbank, Santa Clarita, Palmdale, La Mirada, Glendale, Palm Springs, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Irvine, Downey, Whittier, Simi Valley, Fountain Valley, Pasadena, Huntington Beach, Fullerton, Solvang and Oxnard. More Host Town selections will be announced in the coming weeks.


To learn more about the Special Olympics visit their web page at  

Remarks about safety in Inglewood made to a radio station has created embarrassment and prompted an apology from state-appointed trustee of the Inglewood Unified School District, Dr. Don Brann.  Remarks form his radio interview with KPCC painted Inglewood as unsafe, and justification behind a 6-figure annual security detail. 


He told the station last month, “I don’t want to get hurt here. I don’t know enough about present-day Inglewood to know how good the chances are for that so I’m just erring on the side of safety.”


Voted as the “Superintendent of the Year” by Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology last January, Brann came out of retirement to run the financially devastated district, taken over by the state in 2012.


In a letter to the City, dated Oct. 9, Brann said: “My recent comments were insensitive to the Inglewood community which I’m privileged to serve, and I offer my deepest apologies to Mayor Butts, council members and to the entire Inglewood community.”


Brann added that he was “extremely grateful for the warm welcome the entire Inglewood community has given me, and I hope they will forgive my unfortunate choice of words.”


Brann authorized $135,000 in approved district funds to pay for an armed California Highway Patrol officer as his driver and security guard.  The CHP contract, which was put in place in April 2013 when predecessor LaTanya Kirk-Cater was interim state trustee, was extended to April 2015, according to sources.


Christopher Graeber, a field representative with the California Professional Employees, Local Union No. 2345, who has been critical of Brann in the past, noted that while the district has approved an increase in funds for Brann’s security to $335,000 a year, “the district had no campus supervisors for the first two weeks of school.”


Brann said it has been a sacrifice for his family to have him come out of retirement to help turn around Inglewood schools, but progress is being made.  An El Segundo resident, Brann is credited with turning around the Wiseburn School District in Hawthorne before he retired in 2008.


The trustee recently signed a three-year contract with the district.  He is only one of four state school trustees with a CHP detail.  He said there have been no threats since he came to Inglewood in July 2013.


(CNN) -- A Texas hospital health worker who may have handled Thomas Eric Duncan's fluid samples has been quarantined on a cruise ship in Belize -- another reminder of the widespread fears of the deadly virus.


Though the employee did not have direct contact with Duncan, he or she "may have had contact with his specimen," the U.S. State Department said Friday.


A doctor at the cruise ship has declared the worker symptom-free and in good health, but the worker will remain under isolation as a precaution, it said.


It's been 19 days since the worker handled Duncan's fluid samples -- two days shy of the 21-day incubation period for Ebola.

Nurse The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital worker boarded the commercial cruise ship Sunday from Galveston, Texas.


At the time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not updated its monitoring requirements, and required only self-monitoring, said Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the State Department.


"The hospital employee and traveling partner have voluntarily remained isolated in a cabin," Psaki said. "We are working with the cruise line to safely bring them back to the United States out of an abundance of caution."


The Belize government turned down a request by the United States to evacuate the worker through the international airport in Belize City.


"We remain in close contact with U.S. officials ... we have maintained the position that when even the smallest doubt remains, we will ensure the health and safety of the Belizean people," the government said in a statement.


Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died last week.


Hundreds of passengers notified


In the United States, a nurse infected with Ebola at the same hospital may have had symptoms sooner than originally believed, authorities say, and an airline is notifying up to 800 passengers linked to flights she took between Dallas and Cleveland.


In addition to Amber Vinson's round trip, Frontier Airlines is also reaching out to others who were on five subsequent flights that used the same plane.


Vinson was hospitalized Tuesday, a day after she returned from Cleveland to Dallas aboard a Frontier Airlines flight.


The nurse was also part of a team that treated Duncan.


Frontier says passengers linked to flights she took include those aboard her Dallas-to-Cleveland flight on October 10, a return flight three days later and five later flights that used the same plane.


The expanded efforts came after officials said she may have shown symptoms of the virus four days before authorities first indicated. Ebola is contagious when someone is symptomatic.


At first, authorities indicated Vinson had a slightly elevated temperature of 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit (37.5 Celsius), which was below the fever threshold for Ebola, but didn't show any symptoms of the disease while on her Monday flight.


Did she have symptoms earlier?


But Dr. Chris Braden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a more cautionary approach Thursday.


"We have started to look at the possibility that she had symptoms going back as far as Saturday," he said. "We can't rule out (that) she might have had the start of her illness on Friday."


Based on the new information, he said, the contacts were expanded to those aboard her flight out of Dallas.


Her uncle, Lawrence Vinson, said Thursday night that his niece didn't feel sick until Tuesday morning, when she went to the hospital with a temperature of 100.3 degrees, which is still below the CDC's Ebola threshold.


'Extremely low' risk


A federal official gave different information to CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, including that Vinson said she felt fatigue, muscle ache and malaise while she was in Ohio. She did not have diarrhea or vomiting while in that state or on the flight home.


Health officials are working from the assumption that Vinson may have been ill longer than originally believed.


The CDC said there's an "extremely low" risk to anyone on Frontier's Cleveland-to-Dallas flight, though his agency was reaching out to all 132 passengers as part of "extra margins of safety." Frontier is also grounding its six crew members for 21 days -- the maximum time between when a person can contract Ebola and show symptoms.


In addition, "12 confirmed contacts of Amber Vinson in Ohio ... are currently under quarantine," said Donna Skoda, Summit County's assistant health commissioner. They include at least two people who worked at a bridal store where the 29-year-old nurse went for her wedding planning.


Anna Younker of Coming Attractions Bridal in Akron said CDC officials visited her and asked questions about Vinson. She said they told her to stay home for a few days and monitor her temperature twice a day. Health officials offered to clean up her shop, and she took them up on the offer so her customers can have peace of mind.


But they assured her that contact with the nurse does not mean she has Ebola.


Other Ebola cases


Vinson was flown to Atlanta's Emory University Hospital, where her uncle said she is "feeling OK."


The hospital treated Americans Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, and is also caring for an unnamed person with Ebola who went there on September 9.


Another Ebola patient, freelance NBC cameraman Ashoka Mukpo, is "getting better every day" at Nebraska Medical Center, hospital spokesman Taylor Wilson said Thursday.


Another person with Ebola in the United States, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital nurse Nina Pham, is undergoing treatment at the National Institutes of Health hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.


An additional 76 workers who cared for Duncan, like Vinson and Pham did, have been asked to regularly take their temperatures to gauge whether they have Ebola.


About 50 people from Texas Health Presbyterian have signed a document legally restricting where they can go and what they can do until they are clear of Ebola, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Thursday night.


Among other things, they'll be placed on a "Do Not Board list" that would prohibit them from flying commercially like Vinson did.

My Friend Harold

Thursday, October 16, 2014

On Friday, folks from L.A to Louisiana will say goodbye to Harold Hambrick, President of the Los Angeles Black Business Expo (LABBX). He is a hard act to follow.


My “brother from another mother,” Harold and I were born on the same day, in the same hospital in New Orleans, but different years.  We often celebrated our joint birthdays, played golf together, did business together and supported each other’s dreams.  He was a real stand-up guy, who always wanted the best for everyone.


A longtime friend and supporter of Inglewood Today, Harold was instrumental in driving new advertisers to our publication, through his vast network of entrepreneurs.  The annual Expo edition was among one of the most well-read. 


Beside the myriad of enterprising businesses and activities, the Expo brought Black Los Angeles together in a way that few events could.  It was exciting capturing those moments and recording history. During the long and successful run of the LABBX, you could find the Inglewood Today staff among the many proud exhibitors on the L.A. Convention Center floor.


At one time, the Expo boasted as many as 100,000 visitors in one weekend!  But as impressive as that is, Harold never forgot where he came from. In fact, one of his many achievements was bringing our New Orleans heritage to Los Angeles.  Reasoning that our culture was too good to be tied to Louisiana only, he was one of the original founders of LALA (Louisiana to Los Angeles Organizing Committee Inc.) in 1988. 


Harold also served as the Master of Ceremony for the annual Mardi Gras Scholarship Ball.  In 2005, he was selected as the LALA King, all decked out in Mardi Gras attire. 


Raised in a family of entrepreneurs, it seems Harold always had his hands in something.  And most everything he did had a positive impact on the community. Beside his phenomenal work as President of the LABBX, Harold had a successful career as a health care executive and advocate.


Harold’s love for the community moved him from a corporate position with IBM to what later became Watts Health Systems (WHS).  He was on a mission to bring quality healthcare to underserved communities…and he did!  He also founded the Watts Coffee House which was a training ground for many young chefs in South Central Los Angeles.


I am going to miss my friend, Harold, especially on my birthday, Feb. 17th. It’s not often that you meet someone born on your own birthday.  And even rarer, that you will ever meet someone like Harold Hambrick.

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