A few out-of-the-box consumer tips for staying safe from coronavirus

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

At the National Consumers League, we’re all about protecting consumers during this terrible coronavirus pandemic. Most of us understand that we need to social distance, work from home if possible, wear masks when going out—especially on trips to the grocery or drug store—and not gather in groups larger than 10.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with my doctor to hear what she is telling patients about testing kit availability for both the virus and antibodies test, and to hear what other advice she is giving. She told me some things I’d like to pass along:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) relaxed requirements for developing COVID-19 tests and as a result, there are many kits to test for antibodies available for sale but very few—4 to date—have been approved by the FDA as high-quality and accurate. Consumers, don’t waste your money on phony or inaccurate tests.
  • Neither she nor any doctor she knows has access to the high-quality antibody tests. The good news is that there is plenty of capacity for testing people with COVID-19 symptoms. That was not always the case, so it’s a hopeful sign that there will be high-quality antibody tests available when the industry really ramps up.
  • For those who’ve had COVID-19 and recovered, the presence of antibodies alone is not sufficient. The best tests will show the level of antibody protection and whether those levels meet the threshold to protect us from contracting the disease.
  • Contact tracing is critical to curb this illness. My doc has traveled throughout the world and lived abroad for periods of time. She says without contact tracing we cannot hope to contain the disease. Former Peace Corp workers and health care providers who have worked around the world have this down to a science. Anyone who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 has to go into quarantine for 14 days. My doc says that USAID has been doing this for many years when there’s an outbreak and it’s critical to containing the disease.

Until the appropriate infrastructure to test and contact trace for COVID-19 is established, my doctor suggested the following:

  • She recommends taking extra Vitamin C, extra Vitamin D, and Zinc. As a result, I’m taking two multivitamins each day based on the level of those three she is recommending.
  • She recommends getting some sun for at least 30 minutes a day to boost your immune system. Hopefully, most consumers are in climates that provide access to sunshine and can get outside. We know that is hard for people in apartment buildings or who have disabilities or live alone and don’t have support.
  • Finally, don’t assume you’ve been exposed and have antibodies just because you haven’t gotten sick. Until we have a vaccine, along with robust testing and contact tracing in place, we must continue to social distance.

 

Nation’s pioneering consumer-worker organization demands massive COVID-19 testing production, universal testing

April 23, 2020

Contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC –The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer and worker advocacy organization, is demanding that the federal government put its support behind massive COVID-19 test production and, as quickly as is feasible, put in place a testing protocol for every citizen so that America can get back to work.

“There are calls across the country to reopen businesses; we understand and share that frustration,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “However, as we are currently not allowing tests for people who are asymptomatic—and because 25 percent of people who carry the virus don’t show symptoms—doing so would be reckless. It’s a Catch-22. Until everyone is tested, we can’t send symptom-free people back into the world. So the government’s first order of business must include giving America’s labs and drug companies the goal and the means to produce rapid-response testing for every American within the next month.”

NCL has laid out the following recommendations:

Meet the need for testing in clinics and doctors’ offices

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must oversee the process of improving techniques and reliable, accurate test production. Many labs are working on this, addressing the immediate need for care providers to have enough, high-quality tests.

“The Senate has voted to include $25 billion for the clinical labs that make the tests in the next COVID legislative package” said Greenberg. “That is welcome news because states cannot do this alone; they end up competing against each other for tests and other supplies.”

As Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD) said this week, “Every governor in America has been pushing and fighting and clawing to get more tests, not only from the federal government, but from every private lab in America and from across the world. It’s nowhere where it needs to be.” Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA) noted that the President’s claims that the country has enough tests for the virus are “delusional.”

Clearly, quality is paramount. The serious stumbles at such premier institutions as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cannot continue. “The federal government must continue to support and expand the production of quality tests, and at capacity to meet the current needs of care providers,” said Greenberg.

Universal testing

As stated above, though, in order to get people back out to restart the economy, we cannot only test those who show serious symptoms and go to care providers to get tested. We must develop tests that can be self-administered, and in adequate numbers so that each person can test for COVID before leaving the home on any given day.

“Millions of workers have to take drug tests every day to keep their jobs; those tests are rapid-response. Consumers can buy rapid response tests for strep throat and pregnancy,” said Greenberg. “Those are approved FDA products that are tested for accuracy and safety. We must get to a rapid response COVID-19 home test as soon as possible.”

In order to determine who has COVID-19 and should be quarantined, every American must be able to test for the virus on a regular basis. Those who test positive, with or without symptoms, go into quarantine for 14 days, as do the people in that individual’s household. Those who test negative are cleared to go out in the world to get the trains running again. This would call for hundreds of millions of tests to enable on-going testing, as it is the only path forward at this time.

And the technology is not “pie-in-the-sky.” The FDA has already approved one home-test kit, though it requires lab analysis. And BARDA/HHS has funded another company to develop “a rapid antigen and antibody diagnostic to identify current or past SARS-CoV-2 infections in 60 seconds.” We are on the road.

Antibody testing

While it’s not clear how long antibodies create immunity, there is a belief that they at least do so for the short-term. So the next step would be to provide serology testing for people who test negative for COVID-19, using only tests approved by the FDA to ensure quality and accuracy. To date, the FDA has approved only four tests of the many available, but this is an important start.

Those who are determined to have a sufficient level of antibodies should be cleared to go back to work, while still wearing masks and gloves until science has confirmed decisively that antibodies create immunity. If the individuals don’t have antibodies, they would be advised to stay home, but could be cleared to go back to work so long as they test every day before heading out.

Contact tracing

Everyone who tests positive reaches out to everyone they’ve had contact with and those people test for COVID-19. Anyone then testing positive goes into quarantine, and the process repeats.

Use technology to self-surveil

Finally, we need a system for uploading test results each day to our phones – like the bar codes we use to board an airplane – or to carry evidence that we have taken the test, have antibodies to COVID-19, and can work or otherwise go out.  Enforcement would be a new challenge, given our commitment to civil liberties, but one that we can certainly work out.

Longer term: Vaccinate

In a year or more, when a vaccine arrives, 95 percent of Americans will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity and widespread protection.

“Our nation has the know-how and manufacturing infrastructure to produce the millions of tests needed to determine whether someone has the virus,” said Greenberg. “But due to lack of leadership at the top, our testing capacity is still, several months after the outbreak, extremely limited. To date only 3.3 million people have been tested, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That’s about 1 percent of the population. That is simply not enough.”

NCL is demanding that the Federal government respond to the current national Coronavirus emergency as President Roosevelt responded to World War II, and challenge Americans to “harness the efficient machinery of America’s manufacturers” to fight the pandemic.

“We need that call to action now, to challenge America’s labs and drug companies with the goal of producing testing for every American within the next month. Federal health care agencies including CDC, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and FDA should be their partners, and this should be a shared cost,” said Greenberg. “In the midst of the worst unemployment numbers ever seen in American history, and with millions of businesses having their existence threatened, we need federal leadership, expertise, and financial support to make this happen, and we need it now.”

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

Universal testing: What is the hold-up?

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

During this Covid pandemic, Americans have been incredibly patient and observant of guidelines for social distancing and staying home. But it can’t last forever. Where the heck is the universal testing for Covid-19? We’ve been talking about it for more than two months and yet you can’t get access to Covid-19 testing unless you’re showing symptoms of the virus. If, as experts believe, 25-50 percent of us might be carrying the virus without symptoms, what does that say?

It says we could be spreading the virus without knowing it! And yet we can’t get tested? We need greater accessibility to testing to know where we stand. If everyone could be tested each day to know if we do or don’t have the disease, or be tested for antibodies to Covid-19 to learn that we can fight the disease, we’d be better equipped to know what we’re dealing with and make smart decisions. Such universal testing can get the country back to work, especially at a time when the economy is in even worst shape since the Great Depression with the retail, restaurant, airline, entertainment, film and hotel industries ground to a halt and millions of workers across the economy out of jobs.

And take note: this kind of testing is possible because testing does not need to require a site visit. A study funded by UnitedHealth Group shows people can self-administer a diagnostic test with a much smaller swab, a process that should save potentially thousands of clinicians from being exposed to the virus while at the same time making the testing simpler. The study, which used data from 500 OptumCare patients, comes amid a parade of diagnostic test approvals for Coronavirus following weeks of criticism of the Trump administration and federal agencies for the lack of testing.

On March 24, the “White House Coronavirus Task Force reported in a briefing that “self-swabbing” options were going to be available that week, so the study supports what the federal government is pursuing.” That’s almost a month ago – so where are they?

What’s worse is that the United States is considered well behind other countries when it comes to the availability of testing generally. Why can’t we figure out this solution?

NCL friend and brilliant inventor of the SawStop, a safe table saw, Steve Gass, came up with a novel approach to employ universal testing that would get most of us back to work. His proposal is below. I’ll end with it, because it says it all:

A cure for the coronavirus pandemic already exists. Contrary to our expectation that cures manifest exclusively as biological agents – medicine for the sick or vaccines for the healthy – the cure for this outbreak is technological. From the Oval Office to Kansas kitchens we’re already talking about it, even while failing to recognize its true potential. Those elusive Covid-19 tests, if utilized daily, by every American, have the power to save our lives and our economy within the month.

To date, the U.S. has only employed testing reactively — to diagnosis a disease after symptoms indicate probable infection — which wins us no real advantage when epidemiological evidence indicates up to 40 percent of transmissions occur covertly, days before symptoms appear, and CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield estimates that 25 percent of carriers (and spreaders) may never manifest symptoms at all. We can continue to hide out at home indefinitely, banking on a vaccine in 12-18 months, but public health expert Dr. David Katz calls that a recipe for “ineffectively fighting the contagion even as we are causing economic collapse.”

Instead, we must deploy tests offensively. They must become our mass-produced instruments of war.

Here’s the plan of attack: one month from today, each of us is tested daily for Covid-19, obtaining immediate results. If positive, you isolate at home and instantaneously eliminate the virus’s prime advantage: its ability to stealthily propagate from “people out there shedding the virus who don’t know that they’re infected,” according to infectious diseases expert Dr. Jeffery Shaman. Meanwhile, the healthy among us freely move back out into our communities, flashing our daily health certificates like boarding passes to gain admittance to workplaces, schools, and stores, certain we won’t harm or be harmed by the people with whom we interact. We’ll have immediately shifted, as economists Dr. Paul Romer and Dr. Alan M. Garber insist we must, to a “targeted approach that limits the spread of the virus but still lets most people go back to work.” The very first day we implement universal daily testing and selective isolation commerce resumes, the viral transmission rate plummets, and the virus exponentially decays. The crisis ends.

The challenge in this crisis of scarcity, when too few can access masks let alone diagnostic devices, is to build enough testing units, now, so that all 330 million Americans can be tested daily. This will require at least 1 million community-based machines adapted for parallel processing of multiple tests simultaneously. If we begin tomorrow and labor 24 hours per day it will take just under 12 days to produce and deploy a million machines at a production rate of one unit every second. That’s not just daunting. It’s mind-boggling.

But it’s not impossible.

In May of 1940 the Greatest Generation listened incredulously as President Roosevelt challenged them to “harness the efficient machinery of America’s manufacturers” to produce 50,000 combat aircraft in 12 months to confront the “approaching storm” of a global war – a goal exceeding the total of all planes built in the U.S. since the Wright brothers’ initial 1903 flight. No one believed an 18-ton plane with 450,000 parts and 360,000 rivets in 550 different sizes could be mass produced, let alone efficiently. But our repurposed auto factories did just that, with Ford Motor Co. churning out one bomber per hour at peak production to secure our safety and win the war.

Our nation still has the know-how, the manufacturing infrastructure, and the industrial resources to save ourselves again by building and deploying a million Covid-19 testing units by the end of the month if we make it our highest national priority starting today. We have men and women yearning to go back to work and we must employ them to optimize established supply chains, man assembly lines, and reinvigorate distribution channels. No single state’s factories can meet the one-unit-per-second output required, but pooled national resources can. The cost and effort will be substantial, certainly, but pale in comparison to the misery wreaked if we let a quarter million Americans die instead.

Make no mistake: World War III is upon us. We must once again wake the sleeping giant, mustering America’s industrial might to save ourselves and the whole world with us by rallying resources to test each of us, over and over again, as if our livelihoods and lives depend on it.

Because they do.

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Stephen Gass, PhD, J.D., is a physicist, a patent attorney, and the retired President and founder of SawStop, LLC, the nation’s foremost supplier of premium table saws and the world leader in table saw safety. He is the principal inventor on over 100 patents covering electrical and mechanical innovations in power tools.

Safe takeout options under coronavirus

By Nailah John, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow

The way we get food now has totally changed due to the Covid-19 virus. Most us around the nation no longer go to our favorite bar or restaurant or stop at the local coffee shop for a bite to eat or to socialize and have a drink. The mandatory closure shutdown of restaurants with the exception of takeout or delivery is our only option of enjoying a meal not cooked at home. Beyond that, we may ask the questions: first is it safe? Second: is it ethical to potentially expose a delivery worker to what we are all trying to avoid the risk of Covid-19?

The answer to the first question is yes, with some caveats. Currently food is not associated with the transmission of Covid-19, according to the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration. However, Vox reports that there is growing evidence of fecal/oral transmission, which means you can ingest the virus shed in feces through inadequate handwashing or contaminated food and water. Therefore, handlers of food who carry the virus can spread the virus to food items. In theory, all restaurants have to follow food safety rules, and there are extra measures that have been put in place due to Covid-19. However, we have seen Chipotle and other restaurants spread infections by poor food handling.

The second question is complicated, but here are some thoughts. Currently delivery workers are in the middle of a pandemic but still have to work to support their families and pay bills. Eater suggests that if customers forego take-out food, delivery workers and restaurants struggling to provide during the crisis could be put out of business.

We recommend ordering take-away food from your favorite restaurants and, even better, support them by buying gift cards for post-pandemic future meals when restaurants re-open.

Your first option is to is use the in-house restaurant delivery option, since third-party apps take commission fees, which reduce the profit for restaurants. Here are some apps that are taking the necessary measures in protecting their workers and helping out the restaurant industry.

  • UberEats is working to provide drivers with disinfectant. With limited supplies they are working with suppliers to source as much as possible. Any delivery worker who is diagnosed with Covid-19 or is individually asked to self-isolate by a public health authority will receive financial assistance for up to 14 days. UberEats customers have the option to choose how they would like their orders delivered, including selecting “leave at door” during checkout. UberEats has also waived the delivery fee for more than 100,000 independent restaurants across the USA and Canada.
  • Postmates launched the Postmates Fleet Relief Fund to help fleet workers cover medical expenses related to Covid-19, regardless of diagnosis. Active members of the fleet who receive a positive diagnosis for Covid-19 or who are required to self-quarantine based on infection may be eligible to access additional funds to offset up to two weeks of lost income while they recover. Postmates has also introduced non-contact deliveries, which allows distancing between customers and delivery workers. Postmates will also waive commission fees for businesses in the San Francisco Bay area.
  • DoorDash (also owns Caviar) is providing financial assistance to eligible delivery workers and Caviar couriers who are diagnosed with Covid-19 or quarantined. DoorDash is consulting with public health officials and working with restaurants to enhance their food preparation protocols. The default delivery method has been changed to the non-contact option to minimize contact between the delivery workers and customers. All new and existing DoorDash partner restaurants will receive commission relief and marketing support.
  • Grubhub is offering a one-time pay adjustment to help with medical expenses and loss of income if a driver tests positive with Covid-19. Grubhub will also support drivers who have been ordered by a public health authority or licensed medical personnel to self-isolate due to a risk of spreading Covid-19, and if a driver’s account has been individually restricted as a result of information provided to Grubhub by a public health authority regarding the risk of spreading Covid-19. Grubhub has also introduced contact-free delivery, which allows customers to request having their delivery left at the front door to avoid less contact.
  • On March 9, Instacart introduced a new sick pay policy that all part-time employees including in-store shoppers now have access to sick pay, an accrued benefit that can be used as paid time off for absences from work due to illness or injury. This pay accrual will be backdated from the start of the year for all in-store shoppers. Instacart is also offering 14 days of pay for any part-time employee and full-service shoppers who are diagnosed with Covid-19 or are under mandatory isolation or quarantine directed by local, state, or public health authority. This assist will be available for 30 days. Instacart has also introduced “Leave at my Door Delivery” to all customers across North America.

It is important that we minimize contact with others since daily things are changing in relation to Covid-19. However, delivery services are really stepping up to keep customers safe and, for that, we should all be grateful. Remember to support your local restaurants by requesting non-contact delivery!

 

Coronavirus and food safety: What you need to know

By Nailah John, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow

Perhaps some of the only good news about the Covid-19 is that food is not the primary way that the virus can be spread. According to Harvard Medical School, “We are still learning about transmission of COVID-19. It’s not clear if this is possible, but if so, it would be more likely to be the exception than the rule. That said, COVID-19 and other coronaviruses have been detected in the stool of certain patients, so we currently cannot rule out the possibility of occasional transmission from infected food handlers. The virus would likely be killed by cooking.”

Great, but not all foods can or are intended to be cooked – think of deli meats, cole slaw, potato salad, cheeses, salads, fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, pastry, butter, cream cheese; so if the mainstay of a deli or restaurant is “fresh” foods, spreading the virus is a real threat if the right precautions are taken.

And COVID-19 has made us all keenly aware of the importance of wiping surfaces and washing hands frequently, especially when handling food. We also know that COVID-19 can’t typically be transmitted from food or from food packaging. But we do have suggestions.

Food safety measures one should take:

  • Wash your hands the right way: Use plain soap and water- skip the antibacterial soap, scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails for about 20 seconds, if you need to time yourself sing the chorus of your favorite song twice. Rinse your hands, and then dry them with a clean towel. Remember to wash your hands often especially since COVID-19 lives on surfaces for an extended period.
  • Wash surfaces and utensils after each use: Wash cutting boards, utensils countertops with hot, soapy water, especially if you had raw meat, seafood, poultry or eggs on these surfaces. Don’t cross contaminate!
  • Remember it is very important to wash your dishcloths in a hot cycle of your washing machine, sometimes we forget this key element to food safety.
  • Learn more from FoodSafety.gov.

Food safety is paramount in our day-to-day lives – it’s so important that we take the necessary steps not to expose ourselves – whether eating in a restaurant or cooking at home, to COVID-19. Remember eat healthy, nutritious foods and take all the steps needed in preparing a safe meal for you and your family.

NCL statement: Thank you, quarantine workers

March 18, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832 

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League joins with our fellow Americans, friends, colleagues, and families in as we adapt our lives to address the health crisis caused by COVID-19. NCL has long been a consumer and patient advocate and we strongly support research, scientific programs, and policy solutions to address diseases across the board.

We want to take this moment to say “thank you” to the thousands of public health servants going into the hospitals, doctors offices and clinics and working on the frontlines to save millions of lives. We rely and depend on their vast knowledge, dedication and commitment to treating sick patients, and we want to specially thank them during this unprecedented national health crisis.

We also thank so many other workers – those in drug stores, grocery stores, Post Offices, the food delivery drivers, taxi, bus and subway drivers, utility workers keeping our electricity, gas, and water systems intact. We owe all of them a debt of gratitude as so many of us are able to work from home; we depend on all of you and thank you for your service to the nation.

We also join with colleagues in the healthcare advocacy community to thank infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci for his extraordinary and selfless leadership in this battle against the spread of the coronavirus.

Join us on social to say #ThankYouDrFauci.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

 

COVID-19 is here and thriving, and ‘flattening the curve’ is the only way forward

Nissa Shaffi

Like most Americans, you probably feel besieged by the rapidly evolving developments surrounding COVID-19. The spread of this novel illness has led to drastic measures to contain the virus and protect public health, and the question on everyone’s mind is how bad is this going to get? The short answer: we don’t know. The long answer: COVID-19 is going to disrupt our lives in the coming weeks, if not days, and its overall impact will be realized for months to come.

A lot has happened since I last wrote on COVID-19, so let’s unpack the most recent events:

On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially designated COVID-19 as a pandemic, which is defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease.

On March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency in order to release $50 billion of funding to fortify efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. With more than 4,100 (and counting) active cases of COVID-19 in the United States, more than 40 states have declared states of emergency.

On March 14, the House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), with sweeping bipartisan support. H.R. 6201 aims to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak by expanding access to free testing, extending the Family Medical Leave Act, allocating $1 billion in food aid, and extending sick leave benefits to vulnerable Americans.

On March 15, the White House Coronavirus Task Force announced that the nation is entering a new phase in testing for COVID-19, which will increase the capacity and throughput of testing across the country.

So, why exactly has the disease spread so quickly? The issue lies with the fact that the government has grossly mismanaged critical response efforts for COVID-19. This is in part due to initial faulty tests distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which contained technical manufacturing issues, yielding incorrect results.

Once the CDC identified the error, it promised prompt redistribution of new tests – a process that unfortunately took six-weeks to rectify, catalyzing the silent and effective spread of the virus. Amid these series of planning failures, the Trump administration has falsely claimed that anyone who wants a test can obtain one. Yet, concerned patients across the country have complained that they have been denied tests, due to either unavailability or shifting guidance from the CDC regarding who should be diagnosed, treated, and tested.

We now face the reality that we are catastrophically behind in terms of testing and identifying individuals carrying COVID-19. To put this in perspective, South Korea conducts more tests in one day (10,000), than the United States has in the past two months (5,000-8,000).

We must now accept the sobering truth that these delays have enabled patients with an unknown COVID-19 status to serve as vectors to the disease in their communities. Johns Hopkins Professor, Marty Makary, estimates that for every person that has tested positive for COVID-19, there are 25-50 potential new cases. Makary speculates that, at present, there are potentially 50,000 to 500,000 active (undetected) cases of COVID-19 in the United States.

The promising news is that we’ve entered a new phase in COVID-19 response efforts. The CDC traditionally reserved the right to develop new diagnostic tests. However, in the time of COVID-19, this has severely limited the potential to capture the full impact of the outbreak. On Sunday, the White House Coronavirus Taskforce announced that newly forged public and private partnerships would expand testing for COVID-19 significantly.

To aid in critical response efforts, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved high throughput testing, which will significantly increase capacity for testing to hundreds of thousands of individuals per day. We can expect 2 million tests to be available across 2,000 labs nationwide, starting this week.

There are currently labs in every state that have been approved to conduct COVID-19 testing. In order to ebb further contamination, drive-through testing centers have been established in seven states, with more expected to pop up in the coming weeks.

The CDC has released very specific guidance regarding how to pursue testing for COVID-19, should you suspect that you have the illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure, and they may include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you have these symptoms and suspect that you may be infected, the most important thing to do is to first call your doctor or local health care facility. This will assist your health care provider in properly triaging you without risk of contaminating others.

Over the past few days, you’ve probably heard the words “social distancing,” “self-quarantine,” and, most importantly, “flattening the curve.” In the coming days, we will witness increased cancellations of sporting events, public gatherings, and closures of entire school systems until the spread of the virus tapers off or declines.

It’s all part of a nationwide effort to curb the spread of the pandemic. These measures are extreme – something we haven’t experienced in our lifetimes – but they serve to prevent huge cohorts of people from getting sick all at once, which will wreak havoc on the healthcare system. Now that we have ramped up testing efforts, the number of active cases will arise. Flattening the curve will help delay the spread of disease, as we identify the true incidence of the illness.

We are in a critical time in our nation’s history, and we must all do our part in protecting our communities from further spread of COVID-19. If you have COVID-19, please click here to learn about how you can ensure its containment.

Lastly, if we had a vaccine against the Coronavirus, none of these dire steps would be needed because we’d all get vaccinated. NCL has long championed the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, often in the face of anti-vaxx zealots – we can’t help but be struck by the irony. Everyone wants a vaccine! We are heartened to know that many companies are working to develop antiviral therapies to help combat the spread of COVID-19. Pfizer, for example, has issued a five-point plan to aid scientists in developing treatments to help address this crisis.

The National Consumers League commends the efforts of the CDC, FDA, and other public health agencies in containing and mitigating the impact of COVID-19. Whether its 4 weeks or weeks, we all must make social sacrifices – whatever we must do to contain the virus. These are short windows in the scheme of things, and they will head us in the right direction. Stay healthy and follow CDC guidance on how to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19.

NCL commends House passage of anti-tobacco bill

March 3, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832 

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) applauds the passage by the House of Representatives of the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 (H.R. 2339), legislation that aims to address youth smoking and e-cigarette crisis. NCL supports the work of the Association of Black Cardiologists, Black Women’s Health Imperative, National Medical Association, National Black Nurses Association, and the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network—among others—all of whom have helped advance this bill.  

According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, 5 million youth reported having used e-cigarettes, 1 million of which reported daily use. There has been a 78 percent increase in consumption of e-cigarettes among high school students and a 48 percent growth in consumption among middle school students. The proliferation of e-cigarettes in the marketplace has jeopardized decades of progress made by smoking cessation advocates.

For generations, tobacco companies have disproportionately targeted the African American community with advertisements for tobacco products that appear on average, 10 times more in African American neighborhoods than anywhere else. The most staggering example of this is highly addictive and harder-to-quit menthol cigarettes, which have long been marketed to the African American community. Even more concerning is that seven out of ten African American youth smokers ages 12 to 17 smoke menthol cigarettes. 

H.R. 2339 aims to revise requirements related to the safety, sale, and advertisement of tobacco products, including electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), such as e-cigarettes and similar devices. The bill will address the deceptive marketing practices deployed by e-cigarette companies that lure and entice young people with their packaging. The legislation views e-cigarettes as on par with traditional tobacco products under the law and makes it clear that selling tobacco products to children, in any modality is illegal.

“The National Consumers League applauds Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) for their leadership on this legislation,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “We urge the Senate to join in this fight to help end efforts by tobacco and e-cigarette companies to target vulnerable communities nationwide with biased marketing tactics.”

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

 

Understanding the rapidly emerging disease, Coronavirus

Nissa Shaffi

On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the Coronavirus as a global health emergency. The virus first emerged from a seafood and poultry market in Wuhan, Hubei Province of China, in December 2019. Since then, it has paralyzed several cities around the world, metastasizing into a global public health and economic crisis.

Coronavirus, officially renamed COVID-19 by WHO, is a member of a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe, life-threatening conditions. Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people (zoonotic). There have been only two prior coronaviruses that have exhibited zoonotic transmission, which include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Secure Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that has not previously presented in humans. With nearly 80,000 confirmed cases across 37 countries—which resulted in over 2,700 deaths—WHO warns that COVID-19 is likely to become a global pandemic. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, cautioned that the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. is inevitable and could cause severe disruptions to everyday life.

Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 

Risk Factors

Based on surveillance of COVID-19 thus far, it appears that the virus is nondiscriminatory, and anyone could be at risk for contracting the virus.

Symptoms

According to the CDC, the incubation period for COVID-19 may range from two to 14 days, and symptoms include high fever, cough, and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, the virus develops into pneumonia, which presents the most danger.

Transmission

The method of transmission is suspected to be from person to person via droplets resulting from breathing, coughing, or sneezing. The virus is also suspected to be transmitted via contaminated surfaces. WHO recommends maintaining a distance of at least one meter (three feet) between yourself and anyone who presents the symptoms mentioned above.

Precautions

WHO recommends regular hand washing with either an alcohol-based gel or soap and water to prevent the spread of infection. Individuals should also cover their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and should avoid close contact with anyone showing similar symptoms of respiratory illness. Additionally, while getting the flu shot cannot protect you from contracting COVID-19, it does protect you from the flu, a condition that has a far higher mortality rate than COVID-19.

Travel

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised that older and at-risk travelers limit travel to Japan, Italy, and Iran, where the disease is rapidly gaining ground. CDC has also explicitly advised against all non-essential travel to South Korea and China. For more information on CDC’s travel advisories, please click here.

Although the rapid spread of the disease is concerning, the promising news is that the number of new cases in China has dropped–indicating that aggressive interventions deployed by health officials in the region are working. While there are international efforts underway to develop treatments for COVID-19, there is currently no vaccine to prevent the disease. According to the CDC, the best way to prevent contracting the virus is to avoid exposure. For more information on prevention against COVID-19, click here and here.