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Member since: Tue May 13, 2014, 06:50 PM
Number of posts: 6,373

Journal Archives

The U.S. Tried to Build a New Fleet of Ventilators. The Mission Failed.

March 29, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ET

Thirteen years ago, a group of U.S. public health officials came up with a plan to address what they regarded as one of the medical system’s crucial vulnerabilities: a shortage of ventilators.

Money was budgeted. A federal contract was signed. Work got underway.

And then things suddenly veered off course. A multibillion-dollar maker of medical devices bought the small California company that had been hired to design the new machines. The project ultimately produced zero ventilators.

The goal was for the machines to be approved by regulators for mass development by 2010 or 2011, according to budget documents that the Department of Health and Human Services submitted to Congress in 2008. After that, the government would buy as many as 40,000 new ventilators and add them to the national stockpile.

The contract was officially awarded a few months after the H1N1 outbreak, which the C.D.C. estimated infected 60 million and killed 12,000 in the United States, began to taper off in 2010. The contract called for Newport to receive $6.1 million upfront, with the expectation that the government would pay millions more as it bought thousands of machines to fortify the stockpile.

The medical device industry was undergoing rapid consolidation, with one company after another merging with or acquiring other makers. Manufacturers wanted to pitch themselves as one-stop shops for hospitals, which were getting bigger, and that meant offering a broader suite of products. In May 2012, Covidien, a large medical device manufacturer, agreed to buy Newport for just over $100 million.

Covidien — a publicly traded company with sales of $12 billion that year — already sold traditional ventilators, but that was only a small part of its multifaceted businesses. In 2012 alone, Covidien bought five other medical device companies, in addition to Newport.

In 2014, with no ventilators having been delivered to the government, Covidien executives told officials at the biomedical research agency that they wanted to get out of the contract, according to three former federal officials. The executives complained that it was not sufficiently profitable for the company.

The government agreed to cancel the contract. The world was focused at the time on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The research agency started over, awarding a new contract for $13.8 million to the giant Dutch company Philips. In 2015, Covidien was sold for $50 billion to another huge medical device company, Medtronic. Charles J. Dockendorff, Covidien’s former chief financial officer, said he did not know why the contract had fell apart. “I am not aware of that issue,” he said in a text message.

Robert J. White, president of the minimally invasive therapies group at Medtronic who worked at Covidien during the Newport acquisition, initially said he had no recollection of the Project Aura contract. A Medtronic spokeswoman later said that Mr. White was under the impression that the contract had been winding down before Covidien bought Newport.

Last week, the Health and Human Services Department contacted ventilator makers to see how soon they could produce thousands of machines. And it began pressing Philips to speed up its planned shipments.

The stockpile is “still awaiting delivery of the Trilogy Evo,” a Health and Human Services spokeswoman said. “We do not currently have any in inventory, though we are expecting them soon.”

Americas lost month: How the U.S. fell behind on coronavirus testing.

As the coronavirus spread across the United States between late January and early March, large-scale testing of people who might have been infected did not happen because of technical flaws, regulatory hurdles, business-as-usual bureaucracies and lack of leadership at multiple levels.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, trusted the agency’s veteran scientists to develop a test for the coronavirus. But when the test turned out to have a flaw, it took the C.D.C. much of February to settle on a solution. In the meantime, the virus was spreading undetected.

Dr. Stephen Hahn​, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, was supposed to help build national testing capacity by approving diagnostic tests developed by the private sector. Yet he enforced regulations that paradoxically made it tougher for hospitals and laboratories to deploy ​such tests in an emergency.

Alex ​M. ​Azar​ II​, ​the health and human services secretary, oversaw the ​two other agencies and coordinated the government’s public health response to the pandemic. ​Yet he ​did not manage to push the C​.​D​.​C​.​ or F​.​D​.​A​.​ to speed up or change course.

Bnei Brak rabbis join call to ban all public prayer

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Bnei Brak join a call by Haredi spiritual leader Chaim Kanievsky to ban all public prayer and heed by Health Ministry rules to stem the outbreak.

In a ruling, the Haredi rabbis prohibit all prayer gatherings. Under current Health Ministry guidelines, prayer is permitted outdoors if it is in a group of 10 or fewer, and participants stand 2 meters apart.

The rulings come after a rabbi’s funeral in Bnei Brak drew hundreds on Saturday night, causing widespread fury and warnings by doctors that the densely populated Haredi city in central Israel, where many were flouting the lockdown rules, would soon become “like Italy.”

Kanievsky, in his ruling, had said those who violate the virus rules fall under the Jewish legal category of a rodef, or one who endangers the public, and against whom sanctions may be taken. He said residents may inform the authorities if they witness violations and suggested that a person who is meant to be in quarantine and infects others, causing deaths, is akin to a murderer.

This should help in the US. Lakewood NJ in particular.

US Death Toll From COVID-19 Tops 2k After Doubling In 2 Days: Live Updates

Sat, 03/28/2020 - 18:51

Meanwhile, in New York, the state worst hit by the outbreak, Gov. Cuomo has said that the outbreak will peak in “14 to 21 days." While the situation in New York worsens, the surgeon general warned that Detroit, New Orleans and Chicago are quickly developing into "hot spots," New Orleans in particular has been trending in a worrying direction for days.

Of the 17,412 tests run by New York State on Friday, 44% of them (7,681) were positive.

BBC 3/27/20

Friday 3-27-20 DOW 21636

Previous close 22552. 52 wk high 29568. *** 52 wk low 18213. Today's low 21469. *** High 22327.

NASDAQ : 7502 ▼

S&P : 2541 ▼

Oil WTI : 21.60 ▼

Soybeans : 8.84 ▲

TGIF. Stay safe. Enjoy the weekend everybody.

Real Estate Investors Poised To Get Boon in Stimulus Bill

Senate Republicans inserted an easy-to-overlook provision on page 203 of the 880-page bill that would permit wealthy investors to use losses generated by real estate to minimize their taxes on profits from things like investments in the stock market. The estimated cost of the change over 10 years is $170 billion.

Under the existing tax code, when real estate investors generate losses from gradually writing down the value of their properties, a process known as depreciation, they can use some of those losses to offset other taxes. The result is that people can enjoy big tax breaks stemming from only-on-paper losses, even if they enjoy big cash profits in the real world.

But the use of those losses was limited by the 2017 tax-cut package. The losses could be used only to shelter the first $500,000 of a married couple’s nonbusiness income, such as capital gains from investments. Any leftover losses got rolled over to future years.

The new stimulus bill lifts that restriction for three years — this year, and two retroactive years — a boon for couples with more than $500,000 in annual capital gains or income from sources other than their business. That group comprises the top 1 percent of taxpayers, according to Internal Revenue Service data.


Nurses Union Locates 39 Million N95 Masks For Governments, Health Care Systems

March 26, 2020 at 11:32 am

OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West announced Thursday that it located 39 million N95 masks and will make them available to state and local governments and health care systems that are fighting the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The union found a distributor with the masks, which are cleared for surgical use, after pleas from health care workers as new coronavirus cases surge across the state and the country as a whole.

Union officials said they also found a supplier that can produce some 20 million protective masks per week and another that can supply millions of protective face shields.

“While we are pleased with these initial results, we recognize they are stopgap measures in light of the estimated 3.5 billion masks that could be needed during this pandemic,” Regan said. “We urgently need the federal government to step in and drive a coordinated national response to the PPE (personal protective equipment) shortage.”

3-26-20 DOW 22552

Previous close 21200. 52 wk high 29568. *** 52 wk low 18213. Today's low 21427. *** High 22595.

NASDAQ : 7797

S&P : 2630▲

Oil WTI : 23.27 ▼

Soybeans : 8.79 ▼

Mnuchin: Americans to get aid within three weeks amid coronavirus

March 26, 2020

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans should receive direct deposits for financial aid within three weeks as soon as the coronavirus economic relief bill is signed into law, the U.S. Treasury Secretary said, adding that the record jobless claims announced on Thursday "are not relevant."

Steven Mnuchin, in an interview on CNBC, said he hoped companies would ultimately rehire workers and pointed to other industries such as grocers that were hiring. He added that he hoped the bill, which has passed the U.S. Senate, is taken up quickly by the House of Representatives.

+++ Translation. Mnuchin: If they want cake, they can have cake.
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