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Messenger: Parson orders investigation into COVID-19 outbreak in veterans homes. What about prisons? | Tony Messenger

The state prison in Farmington is undergoing at least its second major COVID-19 spike, with 300 detainees and 53 staff members infected. Since the pandemic began, there have been 481 detainees and 108 staffers infected at Farmington. Down the road, also in St. Francois County, the prison at Bonne Terre has 46 active detainee cases and nine staff members affected, bringing its total to 370 detainees infected since the pandemic began, and 103 staff members.

St. Francois County, just south of St. Louis, has one of the highest positivity rates in the state of Missouri, at 37 people per 1,000. It’s a chicken-and-egg question: Is the prison spike feeding the positivity rate, or is it because there is little mask wearing and social distancing in another rural county eschewing mandates and restrictions, continuing to believe that the more than 210,000 deaths nationwide are a hoax?

Missourians should not be surprised by COVID-19 spikes in institutions in rural areas, says Dave Dillon, the spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association, which has been urging the governor to implement mask mandates and other pandemic restrictions.

“With the high infection rates statewide, smaller communities’ hospital and health care resources are reaching their capacity levels,” Dillon says. “When you look at where the patients are from, many are from outside of the community or even county where the hospital is located. While we can’t prove causation, it certainly correlates that these patients are from communities that have not put strict precautions in place for transmission like mask mandates or social distancing requirements.”

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Kim Jong Un orders remodeling of major hotels in Pyongyang

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently ordered sections of several hotels in Pyongyang to be remodeled by the end of 2021, Daily NK has learned. 

Specifically, Kim ordered that hotels for foreign visitors be rebuilt in a modern way to conform with world standards. The order seems to suggest that the country is preparing to opening its borders in the “post-coronavirus era” as part of efforts to earn foreign currency. 

A military source told the Daily NK on Sunday that Kim handed down the order to the command of the Seventh General Department, a military engineering unit, on Oct. 5.

Specifically, North Korean authorities ordered the unit to rebuild the basement restaurant and revolving observatory restaurant of the Koryo Hotel Pyongyang; the hall and 80 guest rooms of the Pothonggang Hotel; the revolving observatory restaurant, basement bowling alley and arcade of the Yanggakdo International Hotel; 30 bedrooms of the Sosan Hotel; and shops in the Pyongyang Hotel.

The order called for all the reconstruction projects to be completed by the “end of 2021.” This seems to suggest that the country’s leadership believes the COVID-19 pandemic will end next year. 

The source explained that the Workers’ Party has an “unchanging” policy to keep promoting the tourism industry and attracting tourists to the country as a way to secure funds for the party along with foreign currency. 

pyongyang
The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang. / Image: BRJ Inc., Creative Commons, Flickr

In short, the authorities wish to highlight North Korea’s image as a “normal country” by bringing several hotels in Pyongyang up to world standards. Meanwhile, they aim to create an opportunity for the country to “break through” its economic troubles by using its image as a  “COVID-19-free” nation to attract tourists. 

Kim’s latest order hints that the authorities may also be trying

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Trump Administration Orders Nevada to Allow Rapid Covid-19 Tests in Nursing Homes

The Trump administration ordered the state of Nevada to withdraw a directive blocking nursing homes from using federally provided rapid coronavirus testing equipment, highlighting a debate over the proper use of the tests after reports of some false-positive results.

In a letter to Nevada officials, Adm. Brett Giroir, the Department of Health and Human Services official who has overseen U.S. testing efforts, said the state’s action is “inconsistent with and pre-empted by federal law and, as such, must cease immediately or appropriate action will be taken against those involved.” The letter was dated Oct. 8 and made public Friday.

Adm. Giroir defended the performance of the federally supplied equipment on a call Friday with reporters, saying the false-positive rate was low and the issue could be managed by using proper procedures to confirm results. The state’s action wasn’t justified, he said. Adm. Giroir declined to say what enforcement action the federal government could take against Nevada, but said he expected the state to comply with the federal order.

Nearly 100 people died during the height of the coronavirus outbreak at the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home in April, more than 10 times the number in a typical month. Among those who died were 84-year-old Isabella Kovacs and 86-year-old Joan Williams. Their stories provide a window into what went wrong at the New Jersey facility. Photo: Shari Davis/Julie Diaz

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Nevada told nursing homes on Oct. 2 to stop using the rapid-testing equipment, citing concerns about false-positive results.

The federal government has been supplying equipment from

Quidel Corp.

and

Becton Dickinson

& Co. to about 14,000 nursing homes around the country, which can use the machines to fulfill a federal mandate to test staffers. They perform

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Scottish Government Orders Edinburgh International Festival to Make Improvements to Diversity in its Programming

This comes after claims were made that women, disabled acts, and artists of color were overlooked in this year’s online programme.

The Edinburgh International Festival has been ordered to improve diversity in its programming by the Scottish Government, Edinburgh News reports.

This comes after claims were made that women, disabled acts, and artists of color were overlooked in this year’s online programme. The event will be monitored in the future to ensure it makes improvements.

Formal complaints made to culture secretary Fiona Hyslop and Iain Munro, chief executive of the government’s arts quango, Creative Scotland urged them to take steps to “ensure positive change happens and that this organisation is held accountable for their unethical working and programming.”

The festival responded, saying: “We make no excuses for our shortcomings and recognize that we are not yet where we want to be.”

EIF director Fergus Linehan and executive director Francesca Hegyi said: “Whilst we have made significant progress in some matters relating to diversity and inclusion over recent years, we know it isn’t enough.”

Read more on Edinburgh News.

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    Gov. Parson orders external review of Missouri Veterans Homes

    Gov. Parson instructed Missouri Veterans Commission Chairman Timothy Noonan to conduct a rapid, independent, external review of all seven Missouri Veterans Homes

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Governor Mike Parson has ordered an external review of all seven of the state’s veteran homes and their COVID-19 operations.

    The order comes after four veterans have died in Missouri Veterans Homes.

    According to a release from the governor’s office, data that was presented on Thursday in a briefing with Gov. Parson raised concerns about how well Missouri Veterans Homes are uniformly and systematically operating to prevent and, if necessary, contain COVID-19 outbreaks among their staff and residents.

    “We are deeply saddened by the news of the deaths in four of our Missouri Veterans Homes,” Governor Parson said. “As a veteran myself, I care a great deal about the quality of care our veterans receive at the Veterans Homes in our state and have raised an alarm bell more than once when I felt we as a state weren’t meeting the standard of care I believe they are owed.”

    “We have been fighting COVID-19 for over seven months now, and we have learned a lot about how to fight the virus since March,” Governor Parson continued. “The recent sudden positive case growth among staff and residents in our Veterans Homes, and most importantly, the tragic loss of lives of veterans in our care are, in my opinion, unacceptable.”

    Gov. Parson instructed Missouri Veterans Commission Chairman Timothy Noonan to conduct a rapid, independent, external review of all seven Missouri Veterans Homes.

    The external review will assess their performance and identify what steps, if any, should be taken to improve their management of COVID-19.

    Gov. Parson’s office said he also directed the deployment of the new Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests to Missouri Veterans Homes

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