Daily Archives: Apr 20, 2020

    Washington – El presidente del Comité de Finanzas del Senado de Estados Unidos, el republicano Charles Grassley, ha pedido cuentas a la gobernadora Wanda Vázquez Garced sobre el escándalo de los contratos para la compra de pruebas rápidas de detección del coronavirus y las razones para la renuncia reciente de altas funcionarias del Departamento de Salud.

    En una carta enviada hoy con reclamos abarcadores de información, Grassley también ha solicitado un listado de investigaciones iniciadas este cuatrienio por el gobierno de Puerto Rico sobre posibles actos de malversación.

    El senador Grassley hizo referencia no solo a las pruebas rápidas de detección del virus, sino a los escándalos sobre el almacén con suministros en Ponce, en torno al contrato con la empresa Whitefish Energy, el vehículo blindado de $245,000 adquirido por el gobierno de Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, la politización del Instituto de Estadísticas y la demanda a que se enfrentó el gobierno de la Isla por la falta de información pública en torno a las fatalidades ocurridas a causa del huracán María.

    La mayor parte de sus peticiones se centran en las denuncias sobre los contratos por más de $40 millones para comprar pruebas rápidas para detectar el coronavirus a empresas sin ninguna experiencia en el manejo de productos médicos, a costos al parecer muy por encima de su valor en el mercado internacional y sin garantía de que el gobierno de Estados Unidos autorizaría su uso en Puerto Rico.

    La más grande de esas transacciones – la compra de un millón de pruebas rápidas de coronavirus por $38 millones a la empresa de construcción Apex General Contractors, con conexiones políticas con el Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP)-, fue cancelada cuando la compañía no pudo cumplir con la fecha de entrega, prevista para el 31 de marzo.

    “Parece que las adquisiciones y contrataciones en Puerto Rico a menudo pasan por un filtro de conexiones políticas antes de que los recursos destinados al pueblo de Puerto Rico realmente los alcancen y logren el uso previsto, privando al pueblo de Puerto Rico de la primacía que se merecen”, indicó Grassley en la carta a la gobernadora.

    En su misiva, Grassley también pidió explicaciones sobre el escándalo del almacén de suministros de Ponce, ocurrido durante la emergencia de los recientes terremotos, y el descubrimiento reciente de medicamentos expirados que estaban bajo el control del Departamento de Salud de Puerto Rico.

    Grassley, como presidente del Comité de Finanzas, tiene bajo su supervisión programas como Medicaid y temas tributarios de importancia para la Isla. Quiere las respuestas en una semana, para el lunes 27 de abril.

    El senador republicano hizo referencia a que los escándalos en el gobierno de Puerto Rico se desatan en momentos en que el pueblo de Puerto Rico “ha sufrido graves dificultades debido a una secuencia de desastres naturales y la emergencia de salud pública asociada con el novel coronavirus, COVID-19”.

    Grassley recordó que el Congreso “ha aumentado significativamente los fondos para el sistema de salud de Puerto Rico, incluidos los fondos de Medicare y Medicaid, así como fondos para medidas para enfrentar COVID-19”.

    Grassley destacó que El Nuevo Día reportó que las transacciones para la compra de pruebas rápidas del COVID-19 están ya bajo investigación del FBI.

    Entre las preguntas que le hace el senador republicano a la gobernadora se encuentran las razones para las renuncias de la ex secretaria interina de Salud Concepción Quiñones de Longo, la anterior jefa de Epidemióloga Carmen Deseda y Adil Rosa.

    Requirió que se le precise quien en el gobierno de Puerto Rico tomó la decisión de comprar las pruebas rápidas o entrar en los contratos con las empresas Apex y 313 LLC, la cadena de decisiones que tuvo ese proceso y si hubo consideraciones político-partidistas.

     

     

    19 de enero de 2017 - Fotos genéricas en Washington D.C. En la Foto: Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos de América; Supreme Court of the United States; SCOTUS.

    Hasta hoy, no se requería que el veredicto de culpabilidad fuera unánime, sino que fuera, por lo menos, de 9 a 3

    El Tribunal Supremo de los Estados Unidos emitió una decisión hoy que cambia directamente una disposición sobre juicios criminales que contiene la Constitución del Estado Libre Asociado y los Estados Unidos

    Se trata de la decisión en el caso Ramos v. Loiusiana, en la cual el Supremo federal sostuvo que los derechos de un acusado por delito grave en juicio por jurado incluyen que el veredicto en su contra tiene que ser unánime, tal y como lo es en la esfera federal.

    En Puerto Rico, la Constitución indica en la Sección 11 del Artículo II (Carta de Derechos) que los acusados por delito grave tienen derecho a que el veredicto en su contra sea “por mayoría de votos en el cual deberán concurrir no menos de nueve”.

    Por tanto, en Puerto Rico, hasta hoy, no se requería que el veredicto de culpabilidad fuera unánime, sino que fuera, por lo menos, de 9 a 3.

    En los casos que se dilucidan en el Tribunal de los Estados Unidos para el Distrito de Puerto Rico, el requerimiento sí ha sido que el veredicto sea unánime y eso no cambia con esta decisión.

     

    It’s been well over a month since COVID-19 sent plenty of shoppers panic buying and some stores to price gauge. One local lawmakers says that price gauging is still happening here in Western New York.

    Erie County Legislator Howard Johnson said some corner stores in his district are charging ridiculous prices for essential products. Johnson said at least one store in Buffalo is charging $75 for a box of masks. The same box would cost $10 at a big box hardware store. He said, he understands there are supply issues, but that shouldn’t mean prices are inflate to this amount.

    He’s proposing the Erie County Office of Public Advocacy take a closer look.

    The City of Buffalo and the State of New York have already been looking into price gouging. If you suspect a store is price gouging, the NYS Attorney General’s office has a website to file a complaint.

      Nurses are facing unprecedented challenges right now—supply shortages, shifting protocols, and uncertainty about their own health status in the absence of readily available tests for COVID-19. With these realities in mind, we’ve gathered some stories that showcase nurses’ responses to the pandemic, their needs at this difficult time, and actions taken by their leaders and government, which directly impact those providing care. In this post, we hear from nurses on the frontline. In a separate post, we look at what government and nurse leaders are doing to ensure the nursing workforce is adequate and protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Preparedness varies

      At Buffalo General Hospital, which treated some of the first U.S. patients diagnosed with COVID-19, intensive care unit nurse Stephanie Bandyk, RN, painted a reassuring picture last week. She reported that she and her colleagues had adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to do their jobs safely and that educators were readily available to staff, making sure everyone was using their PPE properly.

      In contrast, Puerto Rico-based travel nurse Carmen Rios, RN, told STAT News, “This is unlike any other outbreak I’ve been involved with.” Rios worked during the H1N1 epidemic and has spoken with other health workers in her region. “There’s absolutely no training and information to the staff that will be involved. And no message to the community that would lower cases, thereby allowing better care in our facilities.”

      STAT also quoted other hospital employees frustrated by their inability to get tested for COVID-19 despite having recently been ill. A certified nurse assistant (CNA) in New York described the situation as confusing, arbitrary, and chaotic. “No one among the CNA staff is talking about this in any meaningful way,” she said. “If the nurses are, I don’t know about it.”

      “Nurses often face what is called moral distress—defined as knowing what should be done for a patient while at the same time being unable to provide the appropriate care, often because of constraints imposed by organizations or practice settings,” wrote University of Pennsylvania nursing and bioethics professor Connie Ulrich, PhD, RN, FAAN, in a March 10 op-ed in The Boston Globe. She cited a national survey, which had 8,200 respondents as of March 16. Most of those nurses reported their employers had inadequate protective equipment on hand and had not sufficiently informed them about how to recognize and respond to cases of COVID-19.

      Many of these concerns center on the risk health workers face of contracting the virus given insufficient stocks of PPE, insufficient training in how to use it properly, and shifting guidance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its interim infection prevention and control recommendations for COVID-19 in light of increased demand for PPE and supply-chain disruptions. “Many of us were taken aback to read the new document,” wrote Betsy Todd, MPH, RN, in the American Journal of Nursing’s Off the Charts blog. She explained the CDC rationale for recommending the use of regular surgical face masks instead of N95s and reminded readers that PPE is not the only line of defense against the virus. “Engineering and administrative controls are considered the most effective infection prevention measures, because they are ‘built into’ physical systems and protocols,” she said.

      Self-care

      As rewarding as it is, nursing is a challenging profession under the best of circumstances. Under current conditions, nurses need all the support they can get to stay healthy and well. For some, free access to the Headspace meditation and mindfulness app may help. For others, the knowledge they acquire from Nurse.com’s free course on COVID-19 may give them a greater sense of control. For those not engaged in direct care, such as the Berkeley, Calif., nurse-midwife student Britt Urban, RN, who is organizing volunteers in her community, finding a purpose and serving others may provide a path through this crisis.

      Last week, one nurse at a major New York hospital shared her fears and the source of her strength—from first hearing about the virus in January until last week, when she volunteered to fill in on a unit that had placed many of her colleagues in quarantine. “I’m staying calm by thinking about how I’ve handled really tough days in the past before—and I got through it,” she said. “I have a really great team of nurses that I’ve worked with and I’m not alone in this. This is going to be something that we will get through.”

        Puerto Rico and Most States highly affected by COVID 19 unable to keep up with unemployment  claims.

        Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has repeatedly promised to fix New York’s archaic unemployment-insurance system, which has been overwhelmed by an unprecedented wave of claims.

        The state has partnered with Google to overhaul the online application, staffed call centers with thousands of additional workers and expanded their call-volume capacity, and vowed to address outstanding unemployment claims within 72 hours.

        Carly Keohane has yet to benefit from any of those improvements.

        Ms. Keohane, who lost her waitressing job in Rochester, N.Y., has been waiting a month to receive $2,124 in unemployment payments as a direct deposit into her bank account.

        But the state instead told her that the money had been deposited on a state-issued debit card, which she never received. She cannot get anyone on the phone to find out where it is.

        “I call the Department of Labor every single day, and I know the options by heart now,” said Ms. Keohane, 31, whose checking account was down to $10.35. “It would be OK if I just knew where the money was.”

        As the coronavirus pandemic and near-nationwide stay-at-home orders exact an astonishing toll on the American economy, states’ unemployment systems have cratered under a never-before-seen deluge of jobless claims. Over the past four weeks, about 22 million workers filed jobless claims, including about 1.2 million New Yorkers.

        Unemployment systems, some of which rely on an antiquated computer programming language that has largely gone the way of dinosaurs, were not built for such a rush of claimants.

        They also were not built for a new class of workers — independent contractors and the self-employed — now eligible for assistance during the pandemic.

        The results have been disastrous and maddening. Many people have had their online applications crash before they could hit submit, requiring them to start again from scratch. They have endured hourslong wait times over several days only to get randomly disconnected, or connected with representatives who say they cannot fix their issues.

        In other states and Territories , including Kansas and Missouri, and Puerto Rico applicants say that they are still waiting for their unemployment payments to arrive, and that they have experienced long wait times on the phone, as well as busy signals, disconnections and error-prone online applications.

        Without unemployment assistance, they have relied on friends, family and savings, if they have one, to survive.

        For applicants in New York lucky enough to get through and submit a claim, some have been jolted awake at 2 a.m. by calls from the state’s Department of Labor seeking to confirm their identity.

        Speaking in Albany on Thursday, the secretary to the governor, Melissa DeRosa, said the state had been staggering under the weight of more than one million claims for unemployment insurance, about four times the number of people who had lost jobs after the 2008 economic meltdown.

        “We are going to continue doing everything we can to bring the system up to deal with this scale,” she said.

        Ms. Keohane was saving for a down payment on house. Instead, she has withdrawn all of her money to pay for groceries, as well as diapers and wipes for her 2-year-old son.

        She has debated getting groceries from a food pantry but cannot bring herself to do it.

        “It’s not right for me to have to go there,” she said. “There are people who are more needy than me.”

        Amy Berryman, a playwright who was let go from a wine bar in Manhattan last month, has not received the debit card that the state said it sent her weeks ago. Every week when she has to certify her unemployment claim, she asks that her payment be deposited into her bank account. It never has.

        “I’m trying to spend $50 a week or less,” said Ms. Berryman, 31, as she stood in line at a grocery store to buy fresh produce, which she has been using to make lots of soup.

        The $2.2 trillion federal stimulus passed last month sets aside especially generous benefits for the recently unemployed. It provides $600 a week on top of what states offer for unemployment. (The maximum weekly unemployment in New York is $504.)

        But the stimulus has exacerbated the problem for states, which are now responsible for administering an enormous expansion of unemployment benefits for previously ineligible workers. For the first time, independent contractors and self-employed workers qualify for unemployment relief.

        But in New York and other states, those workers are facing an extra set of head-scratching bureaucratic obstacles.

        Self-employed New Yorkers, for instance, must first apply for traditional unemployment benefits even though they are not eligible. Once the state denies their claim, they then can pursue the new pandemic benefits available to them.

        Jennifer Walsh, a self-employed hair stylist in upstate New York who stopped working on March 14, submitted her application more than two weeks ago. She is still waiting to be denied.

        “Why is this even a step?” said Ms. Walsh, who added that many of her friends in the hair business were in the same situation. “I understand this is a new process for everyone, but in the meantime we are broke and we have no answers.”

        While she waits, Ms. Walsh has been using credit cards and her savings to buy food and pay bills. “That will only go so far,” she said.

        Ms. DeRosa said on Thursday that roughly 275,000 New Yorkers still had outstanding unemployment claims, most of which involve people who were self-employed, which requires additional paperwork and confirmation.

        A state official on Friday said that the federal government was requiring New York State to confirm that those workers are not eligible for traditional unemployment before processing their claims for pandemic assistance. The state is working to create a single unemployment application for those workers.

        But challenges with the New York’s unemployment system are just the start of problems for many people out of work. More than a half-dozen New Yorkers who recently lost their jobs told The New York Times that they requested unemployment payments to be deposited into their checking accounts, but instead received debit cards.

        James Colón, who was let go from the Strand bookstore in Manhattan last month, received one of the cards, issued by Key Bank, a regional bank based in Cleveland. Its online banking system worked the first day, but now shows an error message when he tries to log on.

        Without access to Key Bank’s site, he cannot transfer the money into his checking account to pay May rent. No one at Key Bank has been able to resolve the problem, he said.

        A representative for Key Bank did not immediately respond to questions about its unemployment benefits card. Other states, including Washington and Indiana, also disperse unemployment assistance onto the bank’s cards.

        The state official said on Friday that the New York Department of Labor had temporarily suspended direct deposit payments because of back-end problems. During that period, the state issued the debit cards to ensure claimants received payments, the official said.

        “We are contacting Key Bank today to get to the bottom of this,” said the official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak with the media.

        Bobbie de Matos, who lost her server job at a table-tennis themed bar in Manhattan, received a Key Bank card, which she did not request. It also does not work.

        After calling the bank over many days, including a four-hour-hold on one call, Ms. de Matos said she finally reached a representative who told her that the card had not been assigned to her or anyone.

        She needed to ask the state’s Labor Department to fix the issue, the person told her. But the state said it was an error with the bank. A new card is supposed to arrive in the mail soon.

        She is hoping everything will be cleared up by next Friday, when she is scheduled to move from Manhattan to Brooklyn and will need to pay the movers.

        “It’s a complete mess,” said Ms. de Matos, 23.

        Long before the stay-at-home orders, Melvin Taylor II was let go from a production position in New York City. He received a Key Bank card in the mail late last year for his unemployment benefits.

        Right as mass layoffs and furloughs began about a month ago, Key Bank alerted him that it had detected potential fraud on his card and automatically canceled it.

        Mr. Taylor said he had not been able to reach a bank representative to order a replacement card.

        “You’d be on the phone three hours, 59 minutes and 27 seconds, and then the phone would cut off,” Mr. Taylor said.

        He has resorted to searching through coats and pants for loose change — he found about $20 — and has experimented with cheap and filling rice and pasta recipes.

        “There are a lot of different spices that you can put in rice,” he said.

        By: Matthew Haag

         

         

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