Articles Posted in Covid- 19

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Annually observed by the Centers for Disease Control, August is National Immunization Awareness Month.  You can find more information about National Immunization Awareness Month here.

To date just over 70% of people in this country are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, including children over five.  Almost 50% of the population has had at least one booster following the two dose  vaccine.  Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a safer way to build immunity from COVID-19 than contracting the disease and counting on ”natural immunity” to protect you from future exposure.  Currently everyone 6 months and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine.  Talk to your doctor if you are allergic to certain types of vaccines or injectable medicines for other diseases.

The COVID-19 is free for all people living in the U.S. regardless of health insurance or immigration status.  Once  you receive a vaccine, you will receive a COVID-19 vaccination card which you should keep with you in your wallet.  ALso, consider taking a photo of it with your smart phone.

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Social Security Administration offices in Georgia and around the country are opening after being closed for more than two years, and the challenges involved are already becoming clear.   Lawmakers are now calling for hearings that will discuss the way forward as offices open and strategies to resolve the many struggles and challenges that lie ahead.

Republican leaders including Ways and Means Committee leader Kevin Brady, (R -Texas), and Tom Reed (R-New York) who heads the Subcommittee on Social Security recently wrote to Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) asking him to hold a hearing on ways to meet these challenges.

In March 2020, Social Security offices around the country closed down in response to the pandemic and remained closed until last month. Most activities of the Social Security Administration moved online or were conducted via phone. That has meant interminable wait times as many Social Security activities including the processing of disability applications were delayed.  These delays have meant financial struggles for many disability applicants who have been waiting for more than a year now to get their applications processed and approved.  The Social Security Administration phone lines have also been clogged, and applicants have reported wait times of several minutes before they can speak to an officer.  In many cases, callers have been unable to reach an office representative at all.

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If pandemic- related conditions do not worsen, all field offices of the Social Security Administration are set to open on March 30, 2022. This is good news for disability beneficiaries and applicants as well as people waiting to apply for Supplemental Security Income benefits.

Social Security offices around the country have been closed for two years. When the pandemic hit, Social Security offices in Georgia and around the country went into shutdown mode. Since March 2020, all work has been done via phone, mail or virtually.

In- person visits at many offices will start soon. However, that depends on negotiations between Social Security workers’ unions and the federal administration. According to the results of these negotiations, field offices are set to open on March 30, provided there are no more changes in the current pandemic-related restrictions.

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As 2021 draws to a close, Georgia ranked 50th this year, ahead of only Oklahoma and Mississippi in health care.  The Medicare Guide on senior health care analyzed prescription drug prices, the number of physicians in relation to the state’s population and life expectancy.  Georgia ranked 51st in access to care. One problem with access to care is that many rural counties lack physicians.  Nine of the 159 counties have no doctors.  Seventy-six counties have no OB/GYNs and sixty counties have no pediatrician.  In health outcomes, Georgia ranks 47th, particularly due to infant and maternal mortality rates.  Inequities in care and access to care impact the low numbers on health outcomes.

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Georgia Demographics

As of 2021 Georgia had a population of 10,830,007 citizens.  This increased 18.3 % from the 2010 census.  Georgia has the 10th fastest growth rate.  Although all of Georgia is not growing.  The counties with the highest growth rates are grouped together along the southeastern border and along the northern border in and around the capital of Atlanta.  However, there are declining populations from the southwestern border through middle Georgia to the mid-eastern border of Georgia.  Georgia has a 15% poverty rate.   As of 2021, Georgia’s population under 18 is 23.6%; the population over sixty-five is 14.3%.  Eight percent of Georgians under age 65 are disabled.

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A new study confirms what we have known for a while now-symptoms of long Covid  affect more survivors than earlier believed.

confirms what we have known for a while now-symptoms of long Covid  affect more survivors than earlier believed.

The study was conducted in Wuhan, China where the pandemic began.  Researchers found that close to half of all COVID-19 patients who recovered from the disease continued to suffer symptoms of long Covid more than a year after their symptoms were first diagnosed. The results of the study were published in The Lancet Journal recently.

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According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the state is seeing a surge in Covid-19 infections, with the numbers close to the highest on record since January. Most infections are linked to the Delta variant, a highly contagious strain of the virus that has been linked to a surge in infections globally.  Georgia health officials say that as many as 9 in 10 infections are linked to the Delta variant. The state has also recorded the highest weekly totals in infections since the start of the pandemic, and many counties have now been designated “red zones”. Some counties like Gwinnett County have seen huge spikes in infections.

Georgia Department of Public Health officials report that the majority of new infections consist of unvaccinated people. George residents who are not vaccinated form the majority of all hospitalizations and deaths related to Covid -19. As of now, only about 42 percent of Georgians are fully vaccinated, having received both doses of the vaccine. That makes more than half of the population still highly vulnerable to this extremely contagious variant of the virus. Another feature of this new phase of the pandemic is the risk to children.

It is now imperative that residents get vaccinated as quickly as they can.  At this point, our state is one of only 11 states with vaccination rates below the 50 percent mark. Get yourself vaccinated, and make sure that your family members get both the shots at the stipulated times too.

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Long Covid, the baffling condition in which Covid survivors continue to suffer the effects of the virus in their immune system for months after the initial viral infection, is still not well understood.

More than a year after the start of the pandemic, we are still trying to understand the long – term repercussions of the disease on patients.  Some things are becoming clearer, however. You need not have been hospitalized with Covid for you to suffer from the long – term effects of the disease. Even people who recovered from Covid in their own homes report these effects.

Symptoms of long Covid can range from crushing fatigue, shortness of breath at rest and on exertion, heart failure and even organ damage. Many Covid long-haulers have been unable to go back to their normal lives and jobs after their recovery.

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One of the many consequences of a Covid-19 infection, as more data indicates, includes suffering a stroke. A stroke is an emergency medical condition in which there is an interruption in the supply of blood to the brain. This results in damage to the brain cells.  This  damage can be either short-term, or have permanent and life- altering consequences. Some of those consequences can make it impossible for the patient to return to his or her normal life or job.

According to a new study, Covid patients who have suffered a stroke are more likely to die as a result of their stroke, compared to those who did not suffer a stroke. The fatality rate of those who suffered a stroke was 37 percent, compared to 16 percent for non-stroke patients. Covid patients who suffered a stroke also spent 12 days more in the hospital on an average, compared to those who did not suffer a stroke. According to the researchers, as the pandemic progresses, it is becoming apparent that Covid is not a respiratory ailment as much as it is a vascular one that affects many organs of the body, and with several long-term consequences attached.

One of the biggest factors in a complete recovery after a stroke is the efficiency of the care after the stroke.  A stroke patient must have access to emergency medical care within an hour after the beginning of the stroke. The quicker the access to appropriate care, the higher will be the chances of a complete recovery after the event.

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Currently the efforts to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine in Georgia are being hampered by adverse weather conditions.

First doses have been administered across the state. However, persons who are waiting for their second dose could face a longer wait time than expected as the weather hampers the transportation of vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna.  Even without the disruption brought on by the weather, the vaccine roll out in Georgia has been slow. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most states are doing a better job of distributing the vaccines compared to Georgia. In fact, Georgia ranks an abysmal 46th in the list of states based on the speed of getting the vaccine out to residents quickly. Improvements are being made by the administration, so that more people, especially critical groups like health care workers, persons over 65, nursing home residents and their caregivers receive their doses quickly.

The Fulton County region has received the highest number of vaccines to date with more than 252,000 vaccines delivered to date.  Fulton is followed by Cobb County with more than 114,000 vaccines and DeKalb County with more than 104,000 doses distributed to date. The Gwinnett County area has had a little over 72,000 doses distributed. There also seem to be demographic differences in the distribution of the vaccines.  Blacks, who represent a third of the population, make up only 11 percent of the recipients of the vaccine to-date.

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On Monday, Senate Republicans, led by Senator Mitt Romney (R – Utah), unveiled their Time to Rescue United States Trusts Act (TRUST) which purports to restore and strengthen federal trust funds, i.e. Social Security and Medicare.  The TRUST ACT is a sub-provision of the HEALS ACT, the Republican coronavirus proposed relief bill.  Congress is currently debating a second stimulus package in response to the coronavirus pandemic.  These bills could possibly extend unemployment benefits and provide a second round of stimulus checks.

The TRUST Act calls for creation of committees to shore up the programs and control debt over the long term.  Bills advanced by the committees would be fast-tracked.   The non-profit group, Social Security Works attacked the GOP proposal as a closed door attempt to cut Social Security.  Group President, Nancy Altman, says “It is a way to undermine the economic security of Americans without political accountability.”  She also accused Republicans of using the pandemic as cover for slashing Social Security.

Senate Republicans claim the Social Security, Medicare and federal highway trust funds are doomed to run out of money in the next few years.  Democrats claim the recent tax cuts ran up the national debt; thus stoking the fires of trust fund insolvency.   Republicans claim the COVID-19 pandemic has created an insolvency crisis that may occur much sooner.   The solutions involve raising taxes, cutting benefits or some combination of both.

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