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Italy Earthquake Emphasizes The Need For Mobile Hospitals

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KIRKLAND (FNN NEWS) - Italy received 4 BLU-MED 25-bed mobile hospital setup following Wednesday's earthquake. Photo: PRNewsFoto/BLU-MED Response Systems

KIRKLAND, Wash., (FNN NEWS) /via PRNewswire/ – A strong 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck central Italy early Wednesday morning. The extent of the devastation and death toll are still being realized. Most of the deaths are being reported from the town of Amatrice, near the epicenter of the earthquake. There are many surrounding towns also affected by the earthquake in Italy, which was felt 100 miles away in the city of Rome. Officials expect the death toll to continue to rise as search and rescue activities are being conducted by Italy’s Department of Civil Defense and Department of Civil Protection, along with local fire, police, and medical teams in an effort to locate survivors.

The shallow quake caused vulnerable old stone buildings to collapse while most people were sleeping. Subsequent and numerous aftershocks have further weakened already damaged buildings. Patients from the Amatrice hospital were transferred to a nearby hospital in Rieti as the hospital was severely damaged during the earthquake and was rendered unusable.

The director of Italy’s Civil Protection Agency, Fabrizio Curcio, has activated national emergency procedures and noted the Norcia / Amatrice earthquake is on par with the 6.3 magnitude L’Aquila earthquake that occurred in 2009, which resulted in more than 300 deaths, more than a thousand injuries, and left 50,000 people homeless. Responding to the L’Aquila earthquake, CEO and founder Richard Hotes of Alaska Structures and the Hotes Foundation, donated a four-shelter 25-bed BLU-MED mobile hospital to the Italian government. Volunteers with the Hotes Foundation worked alongside members of the BLU-MED team and the Italian government to construct the 3,000 square foot mobile hospital.

The BLU-MED mobile hospital donated to the Italian government was part of BLU-MED Response Systems’ Disaster Response Stockpile. This program maintains an emergency supply of mobile field hospitals, medical shelters, command centers, office and work space, mobile trailer systems, as well as housing accommodations for up to 10,000 people capable of being deployed to any location in the world within 48 hours or less.

The recent earthquake in Italy, followed by the 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Myanmar, emphasize the need for mobile hospitals to care for victims of such disasters.

The BLU-MED® team’s thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by the earthquakes in Italy and Myanmar.

BLU-MED Response Systems® (BLU-MED), a division of Alaska Structures, Inc., is The World’s Leader in Deployable Medical Facilities™. BLU-MED provides turnkey, portable shelter-based solutions for a wide range of applications including full service hospitals with alternate EOC, CBRNE, triage, isolation, immunization, decontamination, emergency rooms (ER), operating rooms (OR), intensive care units (ICU), burn unit, and mortuaries, mobile field hospitals, alternate command centers, temporary housing and base camp requirements for hospital expansion, surge capacity, and emergency disaster preparedness and response. BLU-MED also offers support services including a full range of medical equipment packages, vendor managed inventory, field deployment, and training & exercise support. For more information, visit www.Blu-Med.com.

If you would like more information or to request access to the BLU-MED Disaster Response Stockpile, please call +1-425-739-2795 or visit our website: http://blu-med.com/disaster-response-stockpile

Alaska Structures® designs, engineers and delivers the highest quality fabric building systems for extreme environments. Since it was founded in 1975, more than 55,000 Alaska Structures have been tested and proven in over 65 countries around the world, including more than 30,000 Alaska Military Shelters and 17,000 Alaska Environmental Control Units in Afghanistan and Iraq. For more information, visit www.AKS.com.

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‘Diamond’ of pro-Trump commentary duo dies of heart disease

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Lynette Hardaway, a zealous supporter of former President Donald Trump whose death had prompted widespread speculation over its cause, died earlier this month of a heart condition, according to a death certificate obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

Known by the moniker “Diamond” of the conservative political commentary duo Diamond and Silk, Hardaway, 51, died Jan. 8 of heart disease due to chronic high blood pressure.

Hardaway and her sister, Rochelle “Silk” Richardson, found internet stardom as Black women who ardently backed Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign. After making several campaign appearances with the former president, the two leveraged their notoriety to land regular commentator roles at Fox News. Their promotion of coronavirus falsities eventually got them dropped, but they landed at the far-right cable and digital media platform Newsmax.

The cause of Hardaway’s death, which was not released by the family, had become a topic of widespread speculation. A torrent of social media users suggested COVID-19 was to blame.

Many of the posts were based on an unsourced, and since-deleted, online report from November that claimed Hardaway had been hospitalized with COVID-19. Both Diamond and Silk vehemently denied that the virus had put Hardaway in the hospital.

COVID-19 was not listed as a cause or contributing factor on her death certificate, which was provided to the AP by the Hoke County Register of Deeds and was signed by a local doctor. No autopsy was performed.

A memorial ceremony held in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and streamed online Saturday renewed speculation when Richardson suggested her sister’s death was somehow linked to the COVID-19 vaccine. She insinuated Hardaway may have been “poisoned” by another person who had been vaccinated, amplifying the false notion that recipients can affect those around them.

At the memorial, Richardson mentioned people “dying suddenly,” a reference that has become shorthand among some anti-vaccine activists for deaths they say were caused by COVID-19 shots, despite studies showing the vaccines are safe and effective.

Joined on stage at the memorial by Trump, Richardson said her sister died after returning to her North Carolina home from a relative’s birthday celebration. Richardson noticed her sister looking strange and Hardaway suddenly said: “I can’t breathe,” Richardson recalled. She and her husband performed CPR on the kitchen floor as they waited for emergency services.

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Hannah Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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US proposes once-a-year COVID shots for most Americans

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WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health officials want to make COVID-19 vaccinations more like the annual flu shot.

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday proposed a simplified approach for future vaccination efforts, allowing most adults and children to get a once-a-year shot to protect against the mutating virus.

This means Americans would no longer have to keep track of how many shots they’ve received or how many months it’s been since their last booster.

The proposal comes as boosters have become a hard sell. While more than 80% of the U.S. population has had at least one vaccine dose, only 16% of those eligible have received the latest boosters authorized in August.

The FDA will ask its panel of outside vaccine experts to weigh in at a meeting Thursday. The agency is expected to take their advice into consideration while deciding future vaccine requirements for manufacturers.

In documents posted online, FDA scientists say many Americans now have “sufficient preexisting immunity” against the coronavirus because of vaccination, infection or a combination of the two. That baseline of protection should be enough to move to an annual booster against the latest strains in circulation and make COVID-19 vaccinations more like the yearly flu shot, according to the agency.

For adults with weakened immune systems and very small children, a two-dose combination may be needed for protection. FDA scientists and vaccine companies would study vaccination, infection rates and other data to decide who should receive a single shot versus a two-dose series.

FDA will also ask its panel to vote on whether all vaccines should target the same strains. That step would be needed to make the shots interchangeable, doing away with the current complicated system of primary vaccinations and boosters.

The initial shots from Pfizer and Moderna — called the primary series — target the strain of the virus that first emerged in 2020 and quickly swept across the world. The updated boosters launched last fall were also tweaked to target omicron relatives that had been dominant.

Under FDA’s proposal, the agency, independent experts and manufacturers would decide annually on which strains to target by the early summer, allowing several months to produce and launch updated shots before the fall. That’s roughly the same approach long used to select the strains for the annual flu shot.

Ultimately, FDA officials say moving to an annual schedule would make it easier to promote future vaccination campaigns, which could ultimately boost vaccination rates nationwide.

The original two-dose COVID shots have offered strong protection against severe disease and death no matter the variant, but protection against mild infection wanes. Experts continue to debate whether the latest round of boosters significantly enhanced protection, particularly for younger, healthy Americans.

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White House reveals winter COVID-19 plans, more free tests

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White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is once more making some free COVID-19 tests available to all U.S. households as it releases its contingency plans with coronavirus cases ticking upward this winter.

After a three-month hiatus, the administration is making four rapid virus tests available per household through covidtests.gov starting Thursday. COVID-19 cases have shown a marked increase after the Thanksgiving holiday, and further increases are projected from indoor gathering and travel around Christmas and New Year’s.

Cases are up across 90% of the country, White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said Thursday during a briefing. Deaths and hospitalizations are also on the rise, with nearly 3,000 deaths reported last week. Most of those have been concentrated in people age 65 and older, Jha said.

“We don’t want this winter to look like last winter or the winter before,” Jha said.

As cases begin to rise again, much of the United States is also dealing with other respiratory viruses heading into this winter with an influx of flu and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus. Jha told reporters he is confident that the worst of RSV — which hit young children particularly hard — is over, but that flu cases are only just spiking.

The administration is putting personnel and equipment on standby should they be needed to help overwhelmed hospitals and nursing homes, as was necessary in earlier waves of the coronavirus. So far, there have been no requests for assistance, but surge teams, ventilators and personal protective equipment are ready, the White House said.

The administration is also urging states and local governments to do more to encourage people to get the updated bivalent COVID-19 vaccines, which scientists say are more effective at protecting against serious illness and death from the currently circulating variants. The administration is reiterating best practices to nursing homes and long-term care facilities for virus prevention and treatment and is urging administrators as well as governments to encourage vulnerable populations to get the new shots. Less than half of all nursing home residents have received the latest booster shot, Jha said.

The planning comes as the administration has struggled to persuade most Americans to get the updated boosters as cases and deaths have declined from pandemic highs and most people have embraced a return to most of their pre-pandemic activities. Less than 14% of people in the U.S. older than have gotten the most recent booster.

The White House said the new tests would come from the national stockpile, which still has reserves even after the administration shut off the at-home testing program in September, citing a lack of money from Congress. The administration is still asking Congress for billions more dollars for the virus response.

The pause on free at-home testing program this summer allowed the administration to save some free at-home tests for the surge in cases this winter, Jha said.

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