DHHS Chief Deputy Secretary Kody Kinsley: "We have the tools now." His response to the end of the Emergency Order and the future of monkeypox

NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley

RALEIGH -- "We have the tools now to manage COVID so it doesn't manage us."  That is the latest from DHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley on where North Carolina stands as the COVID-19 Emergency Order ends.

After two years of mask requirements, closed restaurants and shops, at-home schooling, Zoom, Facetime, quarantine, and stay-at-home orders North Carolina is entering a new phase with the infectious disease.  "What is clear is that COVID is here to stay" Kinsley says, "and we're seeing that even with a large number of cases, it is the lack of vaccination that continues to put people at risk."

That leads Kinsley to offer some guidance and advice to the medical community.  "First and foremost," Kinsley says, "vaccines and boosters and staying up to date with your vaccine is the most important way to prevent severe illness."  You are five times more likely to die from COVID if you are not vaccinated.  "If there is one thing you can do to reduce your risk by five it is to get your vaccine."

Kinsley also says that testing is paramount to moving quickly to fight COVID. "Keep testing kits on hand and use them as soon as you have any symptom.  Be quick to test.  There are still testing pick-up locations across the state and we're providing additional tests."

Have a treatment plan before you test positive.  "Whether you're going to go to an E-clinic or reach out to your primary care physician," Kinsley says, "have that plan in place now. You make your plans in advance of the storm."

Lastly, Kinsley reminds everyone that masking is still a good idea.  "Right now, when case levels are high, you may want to put on a mask if you're going to be in a room full of people."  Kinsley says that he continues to evaluate where he is and uses his mask often.  "When I am in rooms with large numbers of people I evaluate and decide the risk level."

"We are seeing that with even with a large number of cases, people still end up in the hospital.  I am looking forward to the fall when I expect to see more tailored vaccinations that have been updated," Kinsley says.  "That will give people another tool in their arsenal to help protect themselves against more recent variants."

Kinsley says in the future, annual treatments may be necessary, but another option is nasal vaccination, but that may be several years away.  "If we can provide more protection in the nasal cavity than that may be a path."  Variant neutral vaccines may also be a future option.

He always goes back to where it all began.  Your complications from COVID are greatly decreased by getting a vaccine.  He encourages everyone to lean into testing and keep test kits on hand.

"I also want to remind people that when it comes to treatment, two thirds of the people in North Carolina are likely eligible for treatments like Paxlovid."  Kinsley reminds doctors and patients to seek out these treatments early.  "We want to make sure people are taking advantage of the options we have."

Currently there are 1.3 million people in the state who are uninsured, so reaching out to those people and the underserved communities is important.  Kinsley reminds physicians that now is a good time to invest in outreach to those who need it most.

As for monkeypox, Kinsley says it is "not new at all.  It has been around for quite some time and it is not COVID and we don't have the same questions and concerns."  Providers should "test, test, test, test, test.  There is no limit on laboratory capacity for testing. While we are seeing this virus in certain groups, we know that, like all viruses, it won't stay there. It will spread everywhere."  He advises providers to test as much as possible and stop monkeypox as quickly as possible.

Data shows most cases are in men who have sex with men and 70% of those are African-American. Kinsley says that right now "is when we (the state) has limited resources so have to prioritize those individuals.  That is why we are offering vaccines to those who need it most right now."

He also reminds that monkeypox comes from prolonged skin-to-skin contact with someone who has an infection.  It is not from casually passing someone or breathing near someone casually.  It is not the same protocol seen in COVID-19.

He also says that providers need to reach out to patients who meet the criteria.  "I think reaching out to them and building awareness is really powerful. It is the kind of care we want to see."

"If there is one thing we should take away from the State of Emergency it should be this," Kinsley says, "its when North Carolinians come together and step up there is nothing we can't accomplish.  More than any legal authority or legislative process, it has been the work of people from all across the state that has been, frankly, inspiring.  It has been the helpers and particularly the members of the Medical Society and across the entire healthcare system who have stepped forward and stepped up time and again.  I realize now is the time we have to all step up for them and support them.  The end of the state of emergency is not nearly as monumental as the amazing work done during this period of time."

 

 


CDC Announces Sweeping Changes to Restore Public Trust

CNN -- The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been the nation's foremost public health agency for three quarters of a century, but now it says it is time for a change.

Director Rochelle Walensky has laid out plans to overhaul how the agency works. She plans to remake the culture of the agency so it can move faster when responding to a public health crisis.  She also wants to make it easier for the CDC to work with other parts of the government and to simplify the CDC website.

The changes aim to restore public trust after acknowledged missteps during the COVID-19 pandemic including little capacity for testing in the early months.  The CDC was widely criticized throughout the pandemic for what some saw as confusing and contradictory guidance.  Many also felt the agency moved to slowly.

Walensky plans to bring HHS Deputy Secretary Mary Wakefield to the CDC to oversee the reorganization.

Among the changes is a move of the Division of Laboratory Science and the Office of Sciences to report directly to the CDC director, a new office of intergovernmental affairs, and a new equity office to increase diversity.

Walensky is also calling for additional funding and greater authority over getting crucial data from states.  That would require Congressional approval.

 


Move over Thin Mints! The new Girl Scout cookie Raspberry Rally is here!

 

The 2023 Girl Scout Cookie Season is January through April

 

The Girl Scouts are ready to make 2023 the year of the raspberry.  A new cookie will be available next year called Raspberry Rally.

Girl Scouts of the USA announced Tuesday that a sister cookie to Thin Mints will be available next year.  Raspberry Rally is "infused with the raspberry flavor instead of mint and dipped in the same delicious chocolaty coating," the group said.

It is the first cooking available only for online purchases and delivery.  Girl Scouts are hoping it will enhance e-commerce sales and entrepreneurial skills.

Girls Scout Cookie Season in nationally between January and April.

A countdown to the Raspberry Rally and how to order online is available by clicking here.


Animal Tranquilizers Making Street Drugs More Dangerous

Are animal tranquilizers changing how you should treat overdoses?

ER doctors and internal medicine physicians already know the challenges that the steadily rising fentanyl and Opioid crisis is causing. Making matters worse are the ever-changing ways people are mixing deadly drugs to get high.

Animal tranquilizers are now showing up in samples across the country.  Is that part of the increasing number of drug overdoses?  Some groups are taking a close look at Xylazine, which is also known as “tranq” or “tranq dope,” which surged first in some areas of Puerto Rico.

The statistics are alarming and could change the way overdoses are treated.

This article from KHN explains what is happening and what you need to know.  Read it here.


FDA OKs Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids. Sales Could Begin in October

More affordable hearing aids could be in stores in October

NPR -- Adults with hearing problems will be allowed to buy hearing aids directly from stores, pharmacies, and online retailers with no prescription nor a doctor's appointment in October.

The US Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule Tuesday creating a new category for over-the-counter hearing aids.  The Biden administration says it will make the devices more accessible and affordable for millions of Americans.  It follows years of work by lawmakers.

The rule does have some restrictions and applies only to certain air-conduction hearing aids for people over 18 with mild to moderate hearing impairment.  Those with severe hearing loss and pediatric devices will remain prescription devices.

The FDA ruling is available to read by clicking here.


Dealing with Burnout? Not Sure What To Do? Listen To This

RALEIGH -- Are you feeling burned out?  Stressed?  Out of sorts?

Those are common emotions for physicians and PAs, but there are ways you can start feeling better.

Dr. Gail Gazelle, MD

Dr. Gail Gazelle, MD, Harvard Medical School offers very practical yet useful recommendations on how physicians and PAs can start addressing mental health issue and burnout.  She says there are numerous services, including Physician Hotline, that can help doctors prevent and cope with burnout.

Here advice may help you!

Click here to listen to her advice.

 


Join, Renew, or Donate to NCMS on National Nonprofit Day!

August 17 is National Nonprofit Day

RALEIGH -- Today is National Nonprofit Day and NCMS is celebrating!

On August 17th, National Nonprofit Day (NND) recognizes the goals and positive impacts nonprofits have on communities and the world.

Sherita J. Herring founded National Nonprofit Day to educate, enlighten and empower others to make a difference while acknowledging those in the trenches, impacting lives every day -- like members of the NCMS!

The Tariff Act of 1894, signed into law on August 17, imposed the first federal income tax on corporations, including exemptions for nonprofit corporations and charitable institutions. With a few modifications, nonprofit exemptions remain a solid part of the law and have served significant benefits for communities and the economy.

The Registrar at National Day Calendar declared National Nonprofit Day to be observed annually in 2017.

Through nonprofits, awareness, research, and aid reach the people who need it most. Nonprofits also generate tremendous benefits to their surrounding communities and the broader world.

For example, following the recent U.S. recession in 2012, the nonprofit sector provided 5.4% of the nation’s entire GDP (gross domestic product), or $887.3 billion. Non-profits continuously employing nurses, web developers, lawyers, computer engineers, and more (sources: John Hopkins and Tactical Philanthropy Advisors reports).

NOW would be a great time to donate, join, or renew your membership in North Carolina Medical Society.

Click here for all you need to know to make a difference.


Monkeypox. A New Threat for Returning College Students?

NPR -- Ahead of the new school year, colleges across the country are repurposing the tools they developed during the pandemic to address the monkeypox outbreak, which the White House recently declared a public health emergency.

The risk of contracting monkeypox is low, but colleges are getting ready.  Monkeypox is an infection that can take weeks to recover from, leaving sick students out of class for weeks and possibly entire semesters.

In addition, because 99% of cases in the U.S. are related to male-to-male sexual contact  there is some concern about stigma and bias against the LGBTQ community.

It is a new road for colleges to travel, but the COVID pandemic may have them better prepared.  Click here to find out more about what students and school administrators have to say.

If you would like to contribute your advice, please reach out to NCMS for an NCMS On Point blog submission.


Millions of Americans Soon to be Living in 'Extreme Heat Belt'

CNN -- Millions of Americans are about to be living in areas where temperatures will be above the threshold of the National Weather Services' "extreme danger" category.  That is when the heat index is more than 125 degrees.  This year alone, about 8 million people in the US will face those brutal temps.

Worsening heat and humidity as a result of climate change will bring extremely dangerous heat indices to much of the United States in the next 30 years, increasing both the intensity and frequency of the hottest days of the year, according to a new study published Monday.

What is being called an "extreme heat belt" will stretch all the way from Texas to the Great Lakes.

It will impact other parts of the country as well. In the southern half of the country, the number of hottest days will grow to around 30 – meaning what was once the hottest week of the year will become the hottest month by the 2050s.

More on the full story and what to expect soon is in an in-depth article you can read by clicking here.


HHS Investing Millions to Strengthen Health Care and Access in Rural Communities, More than $700K coming to NC

Mountain Area Health Education Center, Biltmore Village, NC

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced investments of nearly $60 million to grow the health workforce and increase access to quality health care in rural communities, including nearly $46 million in funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

Nearly $46 million in American Rescue Plan funding will support 31 awardees to expand health care capacity in rural and tribal communities through health care job development, training, and placement. This funding includes support for critical health workforce needs in rural areas such as dental hygienists, medical or dental assistants, community-based doulas, and other frontline health care workers.

Nearly one in five Americans lives in a rural area, and rural communities are becoming even more diverse. However, health disparities between rural and urban areas tripled between 1999 and 2019, with rural residents experiencing higher rates of heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer, stroke, unintentional injury, and suicide; and higher risk of maternal morbidity and mortality. Access to quality health care is at the heart of these issues.

This includes $749,000 for the Rural Residency and Development Program at Mountain Area Health Education Center in Biltmore Forest, NC.