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MTA Launches Coronavirus Testing For Frontline Workers

NEW YORK CITY — A new coronavirus screening programs aims to protect frontline MTA workers who literally keep the New York City region moving.

Roughly 2,000 MTA employees a week can receive receive free COVID-19 tests under a voluntary program announced Tuesday by MTA officials and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The program’s rapid tests will provide results in five minutes, officials said.

“Our brave frontline transit workers risked their lives to provide New Yorkers an essential service every single day during this pandemic, and we must support them just as they have supported us,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This new voluntary screening program leverages New York’s nation-leading COVID testing program to help keep our frontline workers safe during this unprecedented pandemic.”

The announcement came amid fears of a coronavirus “second wave” and MTA’s continued financial crisis tied to loss of ridership in the pandemic. Officials, in an effort to get straphangers back to buses and subways, have touted coronavirus safety measures and a recent study showing no link between public transit and COVID-19 outbreaks.

And a recent survey found one in four MTA workers said they have suffered a coronavirus infection.

Cuomo and other officials touted the testing program as a way to protect MTA workers. The effort’s first phase will have on-site testing in “field sites” — bus depots, subway and railroad train yards — that sit in coronavirus hot spot areas, a release states.

Additional testing will be offered at medical assessment centers, occupational health services facilities and Northwell Health-GoHealth urgent cares, officials said.

This article originally appeared on the New York City Patch

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As Purdue Pharma Agrees to Settle with the DOJ, Revisit Its Role in the Opioid Crisis | Opioids, Inc. | FRONTLINE | PBS

In the latest chapter of a complex legal battle over who is responsible for the nation’s opioid crisis, Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the notorious painkiller OxyContin, has arrived at an $8.3 billion settlement with the federal government, pending court approval.

Announced in an Oct. 21 Department of Justice press conference, the settlement, if approved, resolves the federal government’s civil and criminal probes into Purdue Pharma, which is currently in bankruptcy; an additional settlement resolves a federal civil case against Purdue Pharma’s owners, the Sackler family.

“It’s also important to note that this resolution does not prohibit future criminal or civil penalties against Purdue Pharma’s executives or employees,” Jeffrey A. Rosen, the U.S. deputy attorney general, said at the press conference.

Under the settlement, Purdue Pharma admits guilt on three felony charges involving conspiring to defraud the U.S. and break anti-kickback regulations in how it marketed opioids. The settlement involves a $3.5 billion criminal fine and a $2 billion criminal forfeiture, as well as a civil payment of $2.8 billion, though actual monetary payments could be substantially less, once the company’s value is factored in. Separately, the Sacklers themselves will make a $225 million payment to the U.S.

The settlement “will require that the company be dissolved and no longer exist in its present form,” Rosen said, with the Sacklers barred from any controlling or owning role moving forward. Instead, if the settlement is approved by bankruptcy court, the company’s assets would become “owned by a trust for the benefit of the American public,” Rosen said. The new company would still be able to manufacture opioid drugs but would also be required to produce large quantities of medicines to treat and respond to addiction and overdoses, and would need to offer the latter as donations or “at cost.”

“Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts,” Steve Miller, chairman of Purdue Pharma’s board, said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Sackler family members who served on the Purdue Pharma board said they had “acted ethically and lawfully” and that they “reached today’s agreement in order to facilitate a global resolution that directs substantial funding to communities in need, rather than to years of legal proceedings.”

The statement also said, “Regarding the plea agreement between the government and Purdue, no member of the Sackler family was involved in that conduct or served in a management role at Purdue during that time period.”

A number of states’ attorneys general spoke out against the terms of the proposed settlement as inadequate and vowed to continue to pursue cases against the company and the Sacklers, which the federal settlements do not resolve.

Purdue Pharma has long been accused of being a driver of America’s opioid crisis. FRONTLINE’s 2016 documentary Chasing Heroin investigated how that crisis came to be, examining allegations about Purdue Pharma’s role in the early years of what has been called the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history.

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