In a normal year, hospitals in rural southern Missouri see a lot of snake bites and rolled ankles.
They’re ailments you acquire canoeing in the early autumn sun or “hold-my-beer-and-watch-this-ing” at night, as an emergency doctor in the area who requested anonymity because he had not been given clearance to speak on behalf of his hospital told The Daily Beast.
“Obviously, this year is really different,” said the doctor, who noted that he contracts out to several hospitals in the area, sometimes driving three hours from his home to serve rural communities coping with COVID-19 outbreaks. Although New York and Washington were dealing with overflowing hospitals and piles of body bags in March, the Missouri doctor told The Daily Beast he didn’t treat a coronavirus-positive patient until May.
Things increased slowly at first, but the past six weeks have been a test of fortitude for the doctor, his nurses, respiratory therapists, and their facilities staff. And regardless of who prevails in a presidential election that saw little campaigning in this erstwhile swing state, the scale of the suffering and loss of life here—coupled with lingering pandemic skepticism—demonstrates the size of the hole out of which the country must still dig itself.
“I get dirty looks going into the gas station wearing a mask,” said the doctor. “It’s just unfathomable the disconnect between being one of the worst areas for COVID, while people who are not necessarily healthy at a baseline are still just acting like there is absolutely nothing going on.”
As of Tuesday, Missouri had reported a total of 190,424 cumulative COVID-19 infections and 3,064 deaths. About 16,111 of those cases had been recorded in the past seven days, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard. Though there have been significant improvements in the state’s ability to test for the virus, its positivity rate measured over the past seven days was a staggering 28.6 percent. A popular threshold for a percent positive being “too high” is 5 percent.
A number of other largely rural states in the Midwest were struggling on Tuesday, with North and South Dakota in particular emerging as nationwide hotspots. North Dakota has seen a 167-percent increase in cases in just one month. Nationwide, on Tuesday alone, at least 540 new deaths and 93,581 new cases were reported. Those numbers are even more concerning when factoring in the 232,529 Americans who’ve already lost their lives from the virus—an amount some experts see doubling by the end of February 2021.
And the pandemic picture is a disastrous one even in rural areas that have failed to capture much of the national spotlight.
Missouri hit a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations for the fourth day in a row on Sunday, when the health department reported a total of 1,649 patients hospitalized with the virus. According to reporting from the St. Louis Public Radio, the rise in rural cases have driven the state’s numbers. When smaller rural hospitals must refer a majority of patients to larger ones in other parts
An Orange County man was sentenced Friday to 26-years-to-life in prison for stabbing to death his wife’s apparent ex-lover, an Irvine dentist, after trying to run the man down with a Mercedes-Benz SUV.
Hongli Sun, 43, was convicted earlier this month of first-degree murder for killing Dr. Xuan Liu, as well as felony assault for injuring a woman who tried to intervene during the attack outside a medical building off Barranca Parkway in Irvine on July 18, 2015.
According to court testimony, Sun divorced his wife, Cynthia Chen, after she had an affair with Liu, her longtime employer. Chen spent several months in China, leaving the couple’s young child with Sun. After her return, the two reversed their divorce, as they tried to reconcile.
But Sun still suspected his wife was having an affair with Liu. On the day of the attack, he drove to Liu’s office to see if she was there.
Sun found a letter on the office door that appeared to be written in his wife’s handwriting, saying they had gone to lunch. Sun waited in his car until his wife, Liu and two officer workers returned.
Sun drove toward Liu, striking him with enough force to knock him away from the SUV before the vehicle collided with a wall. Sun exited the SUV and chased after Liu, stabbing him 17 times and injuring an office worker who was trying to stop him.
That Sun killed Liu wasn’t disputed at the trial. Instead, jurors were left to decide whether Sun planned to kill Liu when he drove to the office that day, or whether he acted in the heat of passion.
During the trial, Senior Deputy District Attorney Mark Birney described Sun as being driven by “anger, jealousy and ultimately the desire for revenge.” The prosecutor told jurors that Sun felt shamed by his wife cheating on him, as well as the knowledge that others at Liu’s office knew of the affair.
Sun’s attorney, John Barnett, told jurors that Sun believed Liu had “drugged,” “debased,” and “seduced” his wife, had photographed her having sex and had given her a sexually transmitted disease. The repeated betrayals had caused Sun to “snap” and kill Liu, the defense attorney said.
Air pollution last year caused the premature death of nearly half a million babies in their first month of life, with most of the infants being in the developing world, data shows.
Exposure to airborne pollutants is harmful also for babies in the womb. It can cause a premature birth or low birth weight. Both of these factors are associated with higher infant mortality.
Nearly two-thirds of the 500,000 deaths of infants documented were associated with indoor air pollution, particularly arising from solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking.
The discovery is reported in the State of Global Air 2020 report, which examined data on deaths around the world alongside a growing body of research that links air pollution with health problems.
Medical experts have warned for years of the impacts of dirty air on older people and on those with health conditions, but are only beginning to understand the deadly toll on babies in the womb.
Katherine Walker, principal scientist at the Health Effects Institute, which published the report, said: “We don’t totally understand what the mechanisms are at this stage, but there is something going on that is causing reductions in baby growth and ultimately birth weight. There is an epidemiological link, shown across multiple countries in multiple studies.”
Babies born with a low birth weight are more susceptible to childhood infections and pneumonia. The lungs of pre-term babies can also not be fully developed.
“They are born into a high pollution environment, and are more susceptible than children who went to term,” said Dan Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute in the US.
Beate Ritz, professor of epidemiology at UCLA, (University of California, Los Angeles), who was not involved with the study, said the indoor air pollution in cities across India, south-east Asia and Africa was comparable to that of Victorian London.
“This is not the air pollution we see in modern cities [in the rich world] but that which we had 150 years ago in London and other places, where there were coal fires indoors. Indoor air pollution has not been at the forefront for policymakers, but it should be,” Ritz said.
She pointed out that the harm to children went beyond the deaths; reducing air pollution would also lessen harm to survivors. “There is also damage to the brain and other organs from this pollution, so just surviving is not enough – we need to reduce air pollution because of the impact on all these organs too,” she said.
Some of these effects are likely to have existed, unnoticed, for centuries, as people have long cooked upon fires in enclosed spaces, an activity that causes particulate matter to be breathed in, particularly by women and children, who spend more time in