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Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

A health care workers union is delaying strike plans at seven nursing homes while it continues to negotiate for more state funding for the long-term care industry and its workforce.

Thousands of members of New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199, SEIU are still threatening to walk off the job Friday if their demands for better wages and benefits are not met -- union leaders say there’s been some progress with state leaders, but not enough to meet their goals. 

Vaccinations continue across Connecticut with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting Wednesday a total of 4,123,395 doses have been distributed to the state and 3,587,180 doses have been administered.

So far, about 57.9% of Connecticut’s population has received at least one vaccine dose and 45.9% are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

FEMA launched a mobile vaccine unit at the Beardsley Zoo in March 2021 to bring more COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable communities. Health care workers administer vaccines.
Tony Spinelli / Connecticut Public

More than 7 in 10 adults over the age of 18 in Connecticut have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. And on Monday, the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for children age 12-15 under its Emergency Use Authorization. This will expand the pool of residents eligible to be vaccinated to an even younger cohort--starting later this week.

But as more workers come back to in-person offices, can employers mandate the vaccine for workers? This hour, we talk to an employment law expert.

First, we hear from Connecticut's Acting Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford about the state's vaccine program and more. What questions do you have?

Carlene Knight would love to do things that most people take for granted, such as read books, drive a car, ride a bike, gaze at animals in a zoo and watch movies. She also longs to see expressions on people's faces.

"To be able to see my granddaughter especially — my granddaughter's face," said Knight, 54, who lives outside Portland, Ore. "It would be huge."

The opioid crisis in the U.S. has never gone away.

Almost every year, more people die of opioid overdoses than in the year before. More than a half-million people have died from prescription painkillers, heroin and illicit fentanyl since 1999. Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 66,000 people died of an opioid overdose in the U.S. in the 12 months to September 2020, a huge jump from the previous 12 months.

Tim Rasmussen / Connecticut Public

A labor union representing Connecticut health care workers notified six group home agencies Friday evening that more than 2,000 employees are prepared to walk off the job later this month.

Union workers are demanding wage increases, better benefits and solutions to staffing shortages in contract negotiations with agency owners and operators. 

Updated May 7, 2021 at 5:52 AM ET

In recent weeks, Dr. Kali Cyrus has struggled with periods of exhaustion.

"I am taking a nap in between patients," says Cyrus, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University. "I'm going to bed earlier. It's hard to even just get out of bed. I don't feel like being active again."

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

Nearly half of Connecticut’s more than 8,000 COVID-19 deaths have come in nursing homes since March 2020, so it’s little wonder that just over 4,900 nursing home workers have tested positive for the coronavirus in that time. Last week, Service Employees International Union District 1199 New England notified 33 state nursing homes that its 3,400 workers would go on strike at 6 a.m. on May 14 if they can’t reach a deal that significantly improves their working conditions and compensation.

OnCall team / Creative Commons

Applications to nursing schools spiked during the pandemic from those who wanted to help. They chose to be nurses at a time when the risk to their own health was never greater. Why are some people willing to run toward the fire when others are running away from it?

Most of us fall somewhere on a spectrum of altruistic behavior. We might adopt a stray pet, donate a liter of blood, or check on an older neighbor. Others pursue a career based on helping others, and, at the extreme end of the spectrum, some choose to donate their kidney to a stranger or rush into traffic to save a stranger's life.

We talk to two nurses, a kidney donor, and a psychologist about nursing and the nature of altruism.

For months, members of the Sackler family that owns Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, have portrayed their bid for immunity from future opioid lawsuits as a kind of fait accompli, a take-it-or-leave-it fix to a legal morass.

Blink!

Apr 30, 2021
Designed by macrovector_official at Freepik.com

When I say BLINK! What do you think? 

Of that American POW who blinked the word “TORTURE” in Morse code live on Vietnamese television? 

Or do you think of someone with locked-in syndrome who can only communicate by blinking? 

Protesters gather at the state capitol earlier this week to speak against a bill that would remove the religious exemption from childhood vaccination requirements.
Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public

Families who oppose Connecticut’s new law eliminating the state’s religious exemption to childhood vaccines will take their fight to court, announcing their plans just hours after the governor signed the bill into law. 

Werner Schutz / Creative Commons

We're so caught up in fetishizing (mostly) female breasts in film, literature, art, and in the anatomy-defying breasts of comic book heroines, that we overlook the breast as a vital source of food and and as a body part vulnerable to cancer, including young women under forty. How often should we get that mammogram? To breastfeed - or not?

Lastly, how come men can go topless in America but women can't?

Senate Votes To Repeal Connecticut's Religious Exemption To Mandatory Vaccinations

Apr 27, 2021
Yehyun Kim / CT Mirror

A measure repealing Connecticut’s religious exemption from mandatory school vaccinations is headed for Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk, after the Senate gave final passage to the bill in an evening vote Tuesday over the objections of several Republicans and thousands of protesters who gathered outside the state Capitol.

Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public

As Connecticut legislators debated a proposal Tuesday to remove the religious exemption to mandatory vaccination for school-aged children, a large crowd of people opposed to the bill gathered outside the state Capitol in Hartford in protest. 

More medical practitioners are being allowed to prescribe buprenorphine under new guidelines from the Biden administration.

The change means that the drug shown to reduce opioid relapses and overdose deaths can be more widely prescribed.

The Biden administration says new federal guidelines released Tuesday will allow far more medical practitioners to prescribe buprenorphine, a drug proven to reduce opioid relapses and overdose deaths.

The change lowers regulatory hurdles that critics believe sharply limit use of the life-saving medication at a time when drug deaths are surging.

"We have made this much easier for physicians but also for other medical practitioners," said Dr. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary of health, speaking with NPR.

The Legacy Of Covid-19

Apr 26, 2021
Alyssa L. Miller / Creative Commons

Yale University's Dr. Nicholas Christakis explores what it means to live in a time of pandemic. He looks at historical epidemics and current medical and social research to help us understand the potential long-term impact COVID-19 will have on people and culture. 

Greek mythology holds that the arrows of plague Apollo shot down upon the Greeks led to great death and suffering. The plague that has brought death and pain over this past year was not brought by an angry god, but an infinitesimal virus that has wreaked global havoc and exposed the best and worst of human behavior. 

We spend an informative and insightful hour with Nicholas Christakis. 

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

Pharrell Bright sat in a plastic folding chair in the middle of a gym auditorium at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford.

The Capital Preparatory Magnet School senior had just received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

"I saw a lot of the commercials that the hospital has been posting on TV and through the news and it’s saying, 'get vaccinated, it could save some lives,'" he said. "And I felt like I just heard it enough times that I was like, you know what, maybe it isn’t such a bad thing to do." 

Connecticut's COVID Restrictions To End May 19

Apr 19, 2021
Cloe Poisson / CT Mirror

Connecticut will end its COVID-19 restrictions in two steps next month, beginning May 1 for outdoor activities and May 19 for everything else. The remaining mandate will be a requirement for wearing masks in public indoor places.

Picasa / Google

The jury will begin deliberations later today on whether George Floyd's death was caused by his inability to breathe under the weight of Derek Chauvin. Breathing is so automatic that we don't think about it until lung disease, dirty air, poor breathing habits and, now, COVID-19 and police brutality make it hard to do.

We take breathing for granted; we don't breathe deep enough, we breathe too much, and we often breathe through our mouths instead of our noses. 

Connecticut's Vaccine Advisory Group Is On Hold As Members Ask What's Next

Apr 18, 2021

In early March, a subcommittee charged with educating the public on aspects of the COVID-19 vaccine met for what would likely be its last time. The single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot had just been granted emergency authorization, and members discussed what kind of outreach health officials might be able to do with the vaccine.

Tony Spinelli / Connecticut Public

Alexander Amado started working with Community Health Center Inc. nearly a year ago. He took a job at the health center’s Hartford COVID-19 testing sites when they were newly constructed last spring.

It was a slow start, he said, but everything quickly escalated.

“People would come like four to six people in a car, and people would wait like three hours to get tested. It was pretty insane,” Amado said. “It was a little rough, but we got the rhythm going. And there were two lanes, because that was the volume of cars, and that would wrap around the building.”

Stephen Zenner / Getty Images

Connecticut health providers are urging patience and caution with regard to a new pause on Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccines after a federal investigation into cases of a possible rare blood clotting condition.

Jeng_Niamwhan/iStock / Thinkstock

Recovering from addiction is difficult in normal times, but managing recovery during a pandemic can be incredibly challenging. This hour, we talk about the challenges of navigating recovery during the pandemic. 

Travelers
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Now that COVID-19 vaccination shots are becoming more widely available across the country, political and business leaders have been openly discussing instituting “vaccine passports,” a digital or hard-copy document that would serve as a way for people to prove they’ve been vaccinated and thus gain entry into places where groups gather, like airplanes, restaurants and sports and entertainment venues.

Courtesy: Joey Marsocci

Pandemic changes to personal lives and schedules have been challenging for most residents over the past year, but they’ve been particularly difficult for people who live with autism.

Ericha Fitzgerald / Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve received your first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, you know that you are handed a small white paper vaccination card that has the date and dose information on it. It’s evidence that you have received your vaccine, and it could enable you to go to events, start spending time with your family and return to work. 

Tim Rasmussen / Connecticut Public

Twice this week, unionized workers have shut down streets around the capitol in protest of Gov. Ned Lamont’s state budget plans.

Most recently, long-term care workers and members of New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199, SEIU staged a picket Thursday afternoon outside the state Office of Policy and Management in Hartford. 

There's widespread agreement that it's important to help older adults and people with disabilities remain independent as long as possible. But are we prepared to do what's necessary, as a nation, to make this possible?

That's the challenge President Biden has put forward with his bold proposal to spend $400 billion over eight years on home and community-based services — a major part of his $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

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