Walmart Correctly Stops Selling Cigarettes In Several States

One does not often find Caffeinated Politics saying anything positive about Walmart. But even here, it needs to be noted when that company promotes a positive policy.

I was delighted to learn that Walmart is no longer selling cigarettes, or soon to be no longer selling these cancer sticks, at select stores in Arkansas, California, Florida and New Mexico. As I write it could not be confirmed the number of stores to be impacted by this healthy move or the time frame in which it will occur. But this is a sign of where they are heading nationally.

I firmly believe retailers need to stop selling tobacco products, so this news from Walmart is a good sign of progress being made due to public pressure.

When I first read about this story it was noted in the newspaper that Walmart had decided to use the space more efficiently at stores no longer selling cigarettes. (I await the perfect line to place here as a suggestion.)

I come from the perspective that the nation’s largest (regrettably) retailer simply needs to set higher standards as it interacts with those who shop their stores. It is not credible to sell known cancer-causing items while on the other end the giant stores also offer pharmacy services. I get it that some of their customers would never pick up on the hypocrisy of such sales, but it is not lost on those across the nation who weighs in with a judgment call.

And those social voices are making an impact.

Just as they did when pushing Walmart–repeatedly–to stop selling tobacco products to customers under the age of 21.  Walmart correctly made the call to end those sales several years ago. The drift of young males in certain socio-economic groups to chewing tobacco has also been a growing concern. But here, too, Walmart did the right thing by no longer carrying smokeless tobacco.

Such positive news for better health and lower medical costs for those who would be likely impacted by a wide array of ailments from tobacco can not be overstated. The steps Walmart is taking–though slow and stodgy–still is a positive move in the only direction we can head.

And so it goes.

Woman Driving Virus Fight: Dr. Rochelle Walensky

One of the new and refreshing voices to lead the nation over the past weeks has been Dr. Rochelle Walensky. If for no other reason she is to be applauded for echoing the majority reflection of sentiments expressed across the nation about science.

She cries as she gets the vaccine. “It’s amazing, it’s amazing,” Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., murmurs as a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital pierces her deltoid with a needle. “Usually it takes 10 to 15 years. The fact that we have it in one.…” Walensky shakes her head in wonder.

Yay for science,” the nurse says.

“Yay for science,” Walensky agrees.

Walensky had been chief of infectious diseases at Mass General but now is the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the nation continues to find the resolve to continue the medically prescribed protocols for safety during the pandemic, and also look for the light at the end of the tunnel with mass vaccinations, we are guided by someone who is not only steeped in medical data and expertise but says the things so long neglected in the past four years from Washington.

“Yay for science”.

There were many reasons to applaud the intellects and serious-minded professionals from all points of the compass who have come together to form the administration of President Biden. With Walensky the nation is watching daily as a gifted infectious diseases physician and a proven leader in helping shape the needs of public health provides information and does so in an evidence-based manner.

During the “the other guy’s” term at the White House the tossing aside of science and facts was done so often and in such bizarre ways that it was best to just look away. Now there is no need to hide facts, or spin them so as not to upset a man-child in the Oval Office. Leaders and experts can again do their job in Washington.

The March edition of Vogue features an article about Walensky. The reason she struck me at the time of her appointment was due to what I had read about her ability to help shape opinions concerning health issues as evidenced by her work with HIV/AIDS. Now those same assets will be required in allowing certain people to understand the value of getting the vaccine.

One of the challenges she will face at the CDC is persuading vaccine-reluctant people to get the shot. Does this hesitancy frustrate you? I ask. “I don’t think it matters if it frustrates me,” she answers. “We need to understand the ‘why’ behind the hesitancy. In medical school we were taught to stay quiet after giving someone a new HIV diagnosis. It’s a painful, awful pause, but you need it so you can learn what they’re thinking. That diagnosis means different things to different people. Maybe they’re wondering, ‘Am I going to die?’ or ‘Is my kid infected?’ ‘Will I lose my job?’ Until you know what the diagnosis means for that person, you can’t address the next question. I think it’s similar with vaccine hesitancy. Are you worried about the side effects? Is it because you have no place to leave your kid while you get vaccinated? Are you worried about the science? We can’t address the noes until we understand them.”

During the past four years we were embarrassed by Donald Trump’s picks of people (such as Scott Atlas) who denigrated science, went out of their way to promote anti-scientific ideas, and inserted themselves into the policy apparatus for the sole purpose of undermining and interfering with science. Now that has been reversed with many bright and energized professionals who are worthy of our attention. Leading the COVID team is this woman who I am confident will not only fight COVID successfully, but also help restore faith in governing. That offshoot of Walensky’s fight to reverse COVID is also one needing to be fought.

I am strongly suspecting she wins on both points in the months to come.

ACA Faces Conservative’s Wrath On Supreme Court

If the 2020 presidential election is the titanic storm politically, there can be no doubt the upcoming legal fight at the Supreme Court over the Affordable Care Act can be rightful termed the same for the health care needs of the nation. With no health care plan to replace the broad-based ACA, which assists millions with pre-existing conditions, the potential catastrophe caused by conservative’s antipathy towards health care for all is soon coming to a home near you.

The case which the court will hear (Texas v. California, No. 19-1019) comes from the far-right wing of the nation. Republican attorneys general, led by Texas, continue to make their claim that the legislation’s individual mandate provision was made unconstitutional when its penalty was set to $0 under Donald Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul. Their argument stems from the court’s 2012 ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act, and which found that the law was an appropriate use of Congress’s power to tax.  But it the conservatives can swing their partisan ax from the high bench and have the individual mandate provision declared unconstitutional then the wet-dream of the right-wing is closer at hand. Namely, the entire ACA being flushed by the court.

If the knuckle-draggers on the right have their way every home in the nation will feel the negative impact. The most dire consequence of a court that seeks a partisan ruling would harm nearly 100 million people with pre-existing conditions.

2018 analysis by Avalere, a health care consulting firm, estimated that 102 million Americans have preexisting conditions. A 2019 analysis by the Center for American Progress suggested 135 million people.

But there would be other harmful outcomes if conservatives should prevail. Gone would be subsidies to make individual health insurance more affordable, expanded eligibility for Medicaid, coverage of young adults up to age 26 under their parents’ insurance policies, coverage of preventive care with no patient cost-sharing, closing of the doughnut hole under Medicare’s drug benefit, and a series of tax increases to fund these initiatives.

Republicans have long cared more about tax rates for corporations, and some mythical notion of ‘limited government’ than the quality of life for the citizens of the nation. Being anti-egalitarian is their calling and denying accessible health care for all has been one of their fervent undertakings for decades. They are lined up now to have a real chance of succeeding.

Just one more very stark example of what separates the nation, the political parties, and those with a social conscience and those without.

And so it goes.

Donald Trump Gives Huge Election Present To Democrats!

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So….in the midst of a growing pandemic—at a time when new daily national highs for infections occur–and at a time of high unemployment with jobs lost and health care too–comes this following absurdity.

Trump gave the Democrats a huge gift!

The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health care law that enabled millions of Americans to get insurance coverage and that remains in effect despite the pending legal challenge.

In the filing, Solicitor General Noel Francisco said that once the law’s individual coverage mandate and two key provisions are invalidated, “the remainder of the ACA should not be allowed to remain in effect.”

The justices will hear arguments in the case sometime next term, although it is unclear if they will occur before the November election.

There is no way a decent society rations out who gets health care by whether one is employed, or insured, or financially able.  In the end the right to health care comes from the bonds of shared humanity. We either are all in this together, or we are reduced to the level of the animal kingdom where the strongest survive, and the herd leaves the weak to die alone in the tall grass to be devoured by scavengers.

As some rant and rave about the cost and politics of health care might it not be best to get back to the basics of what our guiding moral principles should be regarding the health treatment of our fellow citizens?   Trump and his fellow Republicans are going to take a dreadful beating at the polls over this issue.

And so it goes.

Why We Need To Be Wary ‘Out And About’ During Pandemic

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Not for the first time do I write about the necessity of being cautious during this pandemic, and mindful regarding the requirements that allow for the slowing of its spread. I have been championing the wearing of masks and social distancing. Having pulled back from much of the social world over the past months there still are times when  I need to engage with others.  Such as medical appointments.  But one would think that of all the places we might go with optimism it would be a medical facility.

Right?

Well, no.

At an appointment today (but not with my personal doctor or nursing staff) I encountered a situation that left me feeling that the data-driven and medically-advised behavior has not yet taken hold in this nation, even with some in the medical profession.

It is my nature to strike up conversations and talk about issues of the day with people so to better understand how others are thinking,  So I asked open-ended questions about how this medical technician’s friends were dealing with COVID-19. For instance, did they take the virus seriously?   The response was not what I expected.

I was told the friends did not wear masks and that she herself only wore masks at the clinic. She did not believe that self-distancing was really necessary as she did not think the virus spread as dramatically as some claimed. She felt that the shuttering of storefronts was not required and since I didn’t have the desire to give my feedback while she held the needle I just remained silent.  Anyone who knows me understands why a homemade chocolate shake after the procedure was required.

I read a poll this weekend where it was reported a large majority of the nation is not ready to go back into public crowds, restaurants, or places where people congregate. Conservatives will argue there’s no reason not to head back to stores, that there’s no reason not to juice up our economic engine. But when I can go to a medical facility and have a one-to-one conversation with one who admits to not adhering to medically advised criteria for being safe from this pandemic, and then work with patients it gives me great pause.

After today why, exactly, would I trust somebody who throws a pizza together in the back room of a restaurant?  Until I can determine that a larger percentage of the people who want my service is being as mindful about the virus as I am there’s no way I am going to open my wallet and engage in commerce.

And I would encourage others to refrain from putting the needs of the cash registers ahead of their own well-being. Are the ones serving your food or interacting with you as serious about health safety as you are?

And so it goes.

Thriller Writer Could Not Plot What Is To Befall The United States If Trump Does Not Show Leadership

If you enjoy from time to time a great thriller to read late at night you know that some plots are far more plausible than others.  Over the past weeks, we have learned that we no longer can ask if something is plausible.

Such is the case tonight.

Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted director of a key federal office charged with developing medical countermeasures, will testify before Congress on Thursday that the Trump administration was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic and warn that the the US will face “unprecedented illness and fatalities” without additional preparations.

“Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities,” Bright is expected to say Thursday, according to his prepared testimony obtained by CNN. “Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history.”

ACA Remains In Limbo

An outcome that is not hard to have predicted, but yet is troubling for the national health care law in the United States.

A coalition of blue states and the House of Representatives, which are defending the Affordable Care Act in the lawsuit, had pressed the high court to intervene after a federal appeals court last month refused to rule on the law’s constitutionality and sent the case back to a federal judge in Texas who had earlier issued a ruling knocking out the entire law.

The court’s one-sentence order only said the justices would not take up the case in an unusually rapid order, and it did not rule out full review of the case at a later date.

In deciding to immediately stay out of the fray, the justices sided with the Trump administration and group of red states leading the challenge to Obamacare. hey opposed an immediate Supreme Court review of the case, arguing that there was no “emergency,” even as Democrats argued that prolonging uncertainty around Obamacare harms the millions of people who rely on the law for insurance. It could take years for lower courts to resolve the lawsuit.

The continual effort by Republicans to undermine and make more difficult the proper functioning of the ACA is nothing more than the thought that this large governmental program is actually working for millions of Americans.   Conservatives, who have a visceral reaction to the government itself creating programs making the lives of citizens better–and in this case healthier–can not abide by the success of the ACA.  Ripping and tearing at the law, again and again, and using the courts to further their aims is yet another sign of what they are made of, and how far removed they are from the rest of the nation.

While it is not hard to reason as to why the Supreme Court did not enter the issue during the election season it is troubling that they allow for themselves to be often used by those who have Darwinian views about society.   Conservatives have defined themselves on many issues.  But perhaps no better than their contempt over a law to ensure millions of our fellow citizens having access to health care coverage.

What Mom Would Say: Just Vaccinate Your Kids!

When preparing to write this post I thought of a funny memory of mom.  She had grown up in the depression years and knew how hard life could be.  The dresses were mended over and over and patches placed on boys’ jeans repeatedly.  So when decades later it was fashionable to wear ripped clothing, and beaten up jeans, she said how hard so many worked to get away from that type of clothing only to find it was desired.

In a way that is what might be said about immunizations.

I heard another news report on the radio about the spread of measles, a highly infectious and potentially deadly disease.  We are all aware of the means to prevent this disease, and it is nothing more than a cheap and easily administered vaccine.   We also know that if over 90-95% of a community is vaccinated, something kicks in which is termed “herd immunity” which then makes sure that outbreaks are unlikely to occur.

I was born in 1962 and a year later the measles vaccine was introduced,  Millions were dying every year from measles.

The reason I post today is due to the historical punch to this entire story.  (You know me and what makes my keyboard snap to attention.)  The point to be made is something too many of the younger generations take for granted.

Vaccines are widely agreed to be one of the great achievements of the scientific age. A survey of eminent historians by The Atlantic put vaccines as number eight in a list of the “greatest breakthroughs since the wheel.” And an article by the US librarian of Congress published in National Geographic placed vaccines fifth out of “ten inventions that changed the world.

Mom would not have needed to read publications to know the difference vaccines made to the world.  My dad, either.  His brother contracted polio which impacted his ability to walk for a lifetime.

In 2000 our nation was listed as measles free.  Today we are slipping down a most horrible hill of ignorance and willful nonsense as lies are spread about immunizations while under-educated parents fall for the ploy of the non-vaxers.   Mom would most likely say if only those opposed to vaccinations were able to experience what it was like growing up in her day.  At the rate we are moving they just might.

And so it goes.

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