Tagged Multimedia

KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: A Little Good News and Some Bad on COVID-19

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For the first time in a long time, there is some good news about the coronavirus pandemic: Although cases continue to climb, fewer people seem to be dying. And there are fewer cases than expected among younger pupils in schools with in-person learning. But the bad news continues as well — including a push for “herd immunity” that could result in the deaths of millions of Americans.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is doubling down on efforts to allow states to require certain people with low incomes to prove they work, go to school or perform community service in order to keep their Medicaid health benefits. The administration is appealing a federal appeals court ruling to the Supreme Court and just granted Georgia the right to impose a work requirement.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times, Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post and Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Opinions seem to be slowly shifting on opening schools around the country. As fall approached, many people were hesitant to send their children back to school because they feared a resurgence of coronavirus infections, but early experiences seem to show that there has been little transmission among young kids in classrooms.
  • Even with good results in those school districts that have reopened, however, the debate about whether schools should be conducting in-person learning is quite polarized. President Donald Trump repeatedly calls for all schools to resume, while groups, such as unions representing teachers and other employees, are more likely to be calling for continued online learning.
  • California, which had a strong resurgence of the virus during the summer, is seeing signs of success in fighting back. The state has been among the most aggressive in shutting down normal activities to reduce case levels. It devised a county-specific method to determine closures, restrictions and reopenings — and it appears to be working.
  • A proposal by some researchers to move the country toward a “herd immunity” plan, in which officials would expect the virus to spread among the general population while also trying to protect the most vulnerable — such as people living in nursing homes — is gaining support among some of Trump’s advisers. Public health advocates are raising alarms because it would likely lead to hundreds of thousands more deaths. They also fear the administration’s focus on restoring normalcy would by default move in this direction.
  • Federal researchers this week announced that nearly 300,000 excess deaths have been recorded this year and much of it is attributed to COVID-19 or the lack of other health care by people who could not or did not seek treatments because they were frightened by the pandemic.
  • With the Senate poised to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, who opposes abortion, to the Supreme Court within days, the fate of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision is in question. If the court overruled that decision, abortion policies would likely fall back to individual states. A recent report on the effects of such a scenario finds that a huge swath of the South and the Midwest would be left without a local facility offering abortion services.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read too:

Julie Rovner: Cook’s Illustrated’s “The Best Reusable Face Masks,” by Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm, and The Washington Post’s “Consumer Masks Could Soon Come With Labels Saying How Well They Work,” by Yeganeh Torbati and Jessica Contrera

Margot Sanger-Katz: The Hill’s “Republicans: Supreme Court Won’t Toss ObamaCare,” by Peter Sullivan

Paige Winfield Cunningham: The Wall Street Journal’s “Some California Hospitals Refused Covid-19 Transfers for Financial Reasons, State Emails Show,” by Melanie Evans, Alexandra Berzon and Daniela Hernandez

Alice Miranda Ollstein: ProPublica’s “Inside the Fall of the CDC,” by James Bandler, Patricia Callahan, Sebastian Rotella and Kirsten Berg

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‘No Mercy’ Chapter 4: So, 2 Nuns Step Off a Train in Kansas … A Hospital’s Origin Story

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Ever since Mercy Hospital went “corporate,” things just haven’t been the same — that’s what lots of locals in Fort Scott, Kansas, said when the Mercy health system shuttered the only hospital in town.

It’s been years since Catholic nuns led Mercy Hospital Fort Scott, but town historian Fred Campbell is wistful for his boyhood in the 1940s when sisters in habits walked the hallways.

“Well, I had never, ever been in a hospital. And here came these ladies in flowing robes and white bands around their faces. And I was scared to death. But it wasn’t long ’til I found that, first thing I know, they had some iced Coca-Cola. I still remember them putting their hand on my head to see if I had a fever.”

For more than 100 years, Mercy Hospital — and the nuns who started it all — cared for local people. But in recent years, Fort Scott’s economy and the hospital’s finances faltered. Campbell hoped both could survive.

“Mercy Corporation, can you stay with us longer?” he wondered.

In Chapter 4 of Season One: No Mercy, podcast host Sarah Jane Tribble carries that question to Sister Mary Roch Rocklage, the powerhouse who consolidated all the Mercy hospitals in the Midwest.

Click here to read the episode transcript.

Fred Campbell(Sarah Jane tribble/KHN)

“Where It Hurts” is a podcast collaboration between KHN and St. Louis Public Radio. Season One extends the storytelling from Sarah Jane Tribble’s award-winning series, “No Mercy.”

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‘An Arm and a Leg’: Vetting TikTok Mom’s Advice for Dealing With Debt Collectors

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TikTok mom Shaunna Burns used to be a debt collector, so she knows a few things about what’s legal and what’s not when a company contacts you to settle a debt. We fact-checked her advice with a legal expert: Jenifer Bosco, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center.

Bosco said most of Burns’ advice totally checks out.

A recent report from ProPublica shows that debt collectors have thrived during the pandemic; they’re out in force to get people to pay up. But we have rights. Scroll down for some consumer protection resources.

You don’t need to have heard our earlier episode about Burns and her story; you can start right here. (Both conversations contain lots of strong language, so maybe listen when the kids aren’t around.)

Meanwhile, here are links to resources:

Burns’ Dealing-With-Debt-Collectors TikTok Videos

Be sure to note Jen Bosco’s legal caveats, but Burns will get you in the fighting spirit.

“An Arm and a Leg” is a co-production of Kaiser Health News and Public Road Productions.

To keep in touch with “An Arm and a Leg,” subscribe to the newsletter. You can also follow the show on Facebook and Twitter. And if you’ve got stories to tell about the health care system, the producers would love to hear from you.

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KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Democrats May Lose on SCOTUS, But Hope to Win on ACA

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Republicans appear to be on track to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court before Election Day, cementing a 6-3 conservative majority on the high court regardless of what happens Nov. 3. Democrats, meanwhile, lacking the votes to block the nomination, used the high-profile hearings to batter Republicans for trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Meanwhile, a number of scientific journals that typically eschew politics, including the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, threw their support to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, citing what they call the Trump administration’s bungling of the coronavirus pandemic.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Mary Ellen McIntire of CQ Roll Call, Shefali Luthra of The 19th and Sarah Karlin-Smith of Pink Sheet.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The lack of progress on a bipartisan coronavirus relief package is making both Democrats and Republicans nervous as they approach Election Day without something to help voters.
  • During hearings on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court, Democrats were consistently on message, seeking to focus public attention before the election on the threat that Republicans pose to the Affordable Care Act as the law goes before the court next month. Four members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will vote on the nomination, are up for reelection. Also on the committee is Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate.
  • The public health optics of the hearing were jarring for some viewers. Although the committee chairman said the room was set up to meet federal health guidelines, Republican senators often did not wear masks, including Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Mike Lee (Utah), who both were diagnosed with COVID-19 after attending a White House celebration for Barrett.
  • The lack of masks could add to confusion about public health messages. And voters sometimes find it insulting that politicians play down risks that the public is called upon to assume.
  • Barrett’s testimony did not change many perceptions of her. Although she was extremely careful not to reveal her personal views on issues that could come before the court, including the ACA and abortion, both Democrats and Republicans highlighted her strong conservative credentials.
  • Scientific American and the New England Journal of Medicine have published stinging critiques of the current administration’s policies on science and medicine. Although it’s not clear what impact the editorials will have, they are a sign of the further politicization of public health.

This week, Rovner also interviews Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Jha talked about the challenges public health professionals have faced in trying to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read too:

Julie Rovner: The Atlantic’s “How to Tell If Socializing Indoors Is Safe,” by Olga Khazan

Shefali Luthra: The New York Times’ “A $52,112 Air Ambulance Ride: Coronavirus Patients Battle Surprise Bills,” by Sarah Kliff

Mary Ellen McIntire: KHN’s “Making Money Off Marks, COVID-Spawned Chain Store Aims to Become Obsolete,” by Markian Hawryluk

Sarah Karlin-Smith: Politico’s “Health Officials Scrambling to Produce Trump’s ‘Last-Minute’ Drug Cards by Election Day,” by Dan Diamond

Also mentioned in this week’s podcast:

Bill of the Month update: KHN’s “Moved by Plight of Young Heart Patient, Stranger Pays His Hospital Bill,” by Laura Ungar

Scientific journal endorsements: The New England Journal of Medicine’s “Dying in a Leadership Vacuum

Scientific American Endorses Joe Biden,” by The Editors

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COVID en LA: prevención en los trabajos ha salvado vidas de latinos, dicen oficiales

Funcionarios del condado de Los Angeles atribuyen la dramática disminución de casos y muertes por COVID-19 entre afroamericanos y latinos, en los últimos dos meses, a la agresiva aplicación de las normas de salud en los lugares de trabajo y a la apertura de líneas para denunciar si no se cumplen.

Ahora, los funcionarios buscan consolidar esos logros creando comités de empleados capacitados para detectar transgresiones en la prevención de COVID-19, y corregirlas o reportarlas, sin temor al despido o al castigo.

Cal/OSHA, la autoridad estatal de seguridad y salud en el trabajo, está abrumada con quejas y denuncias sobre el incumplimiento de las normas anti-COVID; y los supervisores de salud del condado —había 346 hasta el 9 de octubre— no pueden vigilar los más de 240,000 negocios de Los Angeles, según activistas.

Los comités ayudarían a evitar que Los Angeles retroceda en su esfuerzo por mitigar los casos y las disparidades raciales en el otoño, ya que es probable que más empresas vuelvan a la actividad, señaló Tia Koonse, investigadora del UCLA Labor Center y coautora de la evaluación sobre la propuesta para formar comités de empleados.

Se espera que la Junta de Supervisores del condado de Los Angeles apruebe una ordenanza este mes para que los negocios permitan que los empleados formen los comités, lo cual solucionaría los problemas de incumplimiento e informaría al departamento de salud cuando sea necesario.

Los críticos, incluyendo muchos líderes empresariales, dicen que la medida creará más burocracia en el peor momento posible para la economía. Pero grupos laborales y algunas empresas aseguran que es crucial para combatir la pandemia.

A trabajadores de diferentes partes del país se los despidió o castigó por quejarse de violaciones de seguridad relacionadas con COVID, y las leyes que los protegen no son consistentes.

“Los trabajadores tienen derecho a estar en un espacio seguro y no deben sufrir represalias” por señalar prácticas deficientes, dijo Barbara Ferrer, directora del Departamento de Salud Pública del condado de Los Angeles. Los trabajadores con bajos salarios han estado “en enorme desventaja” al tener que trabajar fuera de casa en contacto con otras personas, a menudo sin  protección suficiente, añadió Ferrer.

Durante el aumento de los casos de COVID que siguieron a las reuniones familiares del fin de semana de Memorial Day y a la apertura de negocios, los latinos (que pueden ser ser cualquier raza) en Los Angeles tenían una tasa de mortalidad cuatro veces mayor que la de los blancos no hispanos, mientras que las personas de raza negra tenían el doble de probabilidades que los blancos no hispanos de morir por la enfermedad.

Dos meses después, las tasas de mortalidad entre personas de raza negra y latinos habían disminuido a casi la mitad y se estaban acercando a la tasa de los blancos no hispanos, según los datos ajustados por edad del departamento de salud del condado.

Mientras que a finales de julio el número de latinos que daban positivo por COVID era cuatro veces mayor que el de blancos no hispanos, a mediados de septiembre los índices de casos de latinos eran sólo un 64% más altos. La tasa de positividad entre las personas de raza negra era un 60% más alta que la de los blancos a finales de julio, pero la disparidad había disminuido a mediados de septiembre.

Los expertos no saben si una política concreta es la responsable de esta disminución de muertes. Además, las tasas estatales y de los condados han disminuido para toda la población en las últimas semanas. Pero Ferrer atribuyó el progreso a que su departamento se centra en el cumplimiento de las directrices de salud en el lugar de trabajo, que incluyen reglas sobre el distanciamiento físico, proveer cubrebocas para los trabajadores y también exigir a los clientes que las usen.

“Para los que no cumplan con las directrices, en este momento podemos emitir citaciones, o hay casos en los que simplemente cerramos el lugar porque la transgresión es mayor”, explicó.

Las agudas disparidades raciales, que caracterizaron a la pandemia desde el principio, están ahora bajo mayor escrutinio ya que California se ha convertido en el primer estado que ha hecho de la “equidad en salud” un factor a la hora de permitir una reapertura ampliada.

Es posible que los condados grandes no avancen hacia la reapertura total hasta que sus vecindarios más desfavorecidos, y no sólo el condado en su conjunto, cumplan o estén por debajo de los niveles de enfermedad previstos. Los criterios obligan a los gobiernos locales a invertir más en pruebas, rastreo de contactos y educación en los barrios pobres con altos niveles de la enfermedad.

El enfoque de Ferrer en el lugar de trabajo se cristalizó durante una intervención en Los Angeles Apparel, una fábrica de ropa que se había puesto a fabricar máscaras faciales durante la pandemia. A pesar del inventario de máscaras, un brote en la fábrica resultó en al menos 300 casos, y cuatro muertes.

El departamento de salud intervino después de una denuncia de los centros de salud comunitarios que se vieron desbordados por los trabajadores enfermos de Los Angeles Apparel. El departamento cerró la fábrica el 27 de junio. Esa acción resaltó la necesidad de unir al gobierno y a los sindicatos para luchar contra la pandemia, indicó Jim Mangia, CEO de St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, una cadena de centros de salud comunitarios en el sur de L.A.

“En el St. John’s, casi todos nuestros pacientes son trabajadores pobres”, explicó Mangia. “Se contagiaban en el trabajo y lo llevaban a sus familias, y creo que intervenir en el lugar de trabajo es lo que realmente marcó la diferencia”.

Al principio de la pandemia, Ferrer también había establecido una línea de denuncia anónima para los empleados que quisieran reportar incuplimientos en el lugar de trabajo. Recibe unas 2,000 llamadas a la semana, según Ferrer. Hasta el 10 de octubre, el sitio web del departamento nombra 132 lugares de trabajo que han tenido tres o más casos confirmados de COVID-19, con un total de 2,191 positivos. Otra tabla, con fecha 7 de octubre, enumera 124 citaciones, la mayoría a gimnasios y lugares de culto, por no cumplir con una directriz de un oficial de salud.

“Afortunadamente, no somos como Cal/OSHA, en el sentido de que no nos lleva meses completar una investigación”, comentó Ferrer. “Somos capaces de movernos más rápidamente siguiendo las órdenes del oficial de salud para asegurarnos de que estamos protegiendo a los trabajadores”.

Los comités de salud pública son la siguiente fase del plan de Ferrer para mantener a los trabajadores seguros. El plan surgió de la respuesta de Overhill Farms, una factoría de alimentos congelados en Vernon, California, después de un brote de más de 20 casos y una muerte. La fábrica y su agencia de trabajo temporal fueron penalizadas con más de $200,000 en multas propuestas por Cal/OSHA en septiembre, pero antes de que llegaran las multas, la dirección de la fábrica reaccionó celebrando reuniones con los trabajadores para mejorar la seguridad.

“Encontraron que los trabajadores les ayudaron a bajar la tasa de infección y ayudaron a resolver los problemas”, dijo Roxana Tynan, directora ejecutiva de la Alianza de Los Angeles para una Nueva Economía, una organización de defensa de los trabajadores.

Si bien no es exactamente un caso que ensalce la generosidad corporativa, el cambio en Overhill Farms agregó credibilidad a los beneficios de los comités de trabajadores, señaló Koonse de UCLA.

Ninguna empresa tendría que gastar más del 0,44% de su nómina en los comités de salud, según Koonse.

Aún así, la idea ha sido recibida con división de opiniones por parte de las empresas. En una declaración del 24 de agosto, la CEO Tracy Hernández de la Federación de Negocios del Condado de Los Angeles escribió que la propuesta agregaría “programas onerosos y enrevesados que dificultarán, aún más, la capacidad de un empleador para cumplir con las demandas, recuperarse y servir adecuadamente a sus empleados y clientes”.

Pero Jim Amen, presidente de la cadena de supermercados Super A Foods, dijo que los negocios deberían dar la bienvenida a los comités, como una forma de mantener abiertas las líneas de comunicación. Tales prácticas han mantenido los índices de infección bajos en las tiendas, incluso sin un mandato, expresó Amen.

“En lo que respecta a Super A, nuestros empleados están muy involucrados en todo lo que hacemos”, añadió Amen.

Las organizaciones laborales ven a los comités como una forma crucial para que los trabajadores planteen sus preocupaciones sin temor a represalias.

“En industrias de bajos salarios, como la de la confección, el hecho de que los trabajadores se unan hace que los despidan”, dijo Marissa Nuncio, directora del Centro de Trabajadores de la Confección, una organización sin fines de lucro que sirve principalmente a inmigrantes de México y América Central.

Aunque las disparidades se están reduciendo en el condado de Los Angeles, algunas empresas siguen siendo inseguras y los posibles denunciantes no confían en que sus informes a la línea de denuncias del condado se lleven a cabo, añadió Nuncio.

“Seguimos recibiendo llamadas de miembros de nuestra organización que están enfermos, tienen COVID y están hospitalizados”, señaló Nuncio. “Y el lugar más obvio para que se hayan infectado es en su lugar de trabajo, porque no se están tomando precauciones”.

La reportera de datos Hannah Recht colaboró con esta historia.

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COVID Crackdowns at Work Have Saved Black and Latino Lives, LA Officials Say

Los Angeles County officials attribute a dramatic decline in COVID-19 death and case rates among Blacks and Latinos over the past two months to aggressive workplace health enforcement and the opening of tip lines to report violations.

Now, officials intend to cement those gains by creating workplace councils among employees trained to look for COVID-19 prevention violations and correct or report them — without fear of being fired or punished.

Cal/OSHA, the state’s workplace safety and health authority, is overwhelmed with complaints and tips about COVID-19 violations, and the county’s health investigators — there were officially 346 of them as of last Friday — can’t possibly keep tabs on all of Los Angeles’ more than 240,000 businesses, labor advocates say.

The councils could help keep Los Angeles from backsliding on its progress in mitigating cases and racial disparities in the fall as more businesses are likely to reopen, said Tia Koonse, a researcher with the UCLA Labor Center and co-author of an assessment of the workplace council proposal. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve an ordinance this month requiring businesses to permit employees to form the councils, which would troubleshoot compliance issues and report to the health department when necessary.

Critics, including many business leaders, say the measure will create more red tape at the worst possible time for the economy. But labor groups and some businesses say it is crucial to fighting the pandemic. Workers around the country have been sacked or reprimanded for complaining about COVID-related safety violations, and laws protecting them are spotty.

“Workers have a right to be in a safe space and shouldn’t face any retaliation” for noting poor practices, said Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Public Health Department. Low-wage workers have been “tremendously disadvantaged” by having to work outside the home in contact with other people, often without sufficient protection, she said.

During the upsurge of COVID cases that followed Memorial Day weekend family gatherings and business openings, Latinos in Los Angeles were dying at a rate more than four times higher than that of whites, while Blacks were twice as likely as whites to die of the disease. Two months later, death rates among Blacks and Latinos had fallen by more than half and were approaching the rate for whites, according to age-adjusted data from the county health department.

While four times as many Latinos as whites were reported COVID-positive in late July, the Latino case rates were only 64% higher by mid-September. The positivity rate among Blacks was 60% higher than that of whites in late July, but the disparity had waned by mid-September.

Experts can’t be certain that any one policy is responsible for the decline in deaths among Blacks and Latinos in Los Angeles — and state and county rates have declined for the entire population in recent weeks. But Ferrer attributed the progress to her department’s focus on workplace enforcement of health orders, which include rules about physical distancing, providing face coverings for workers and requiring face coverings for customers.

“If you’re in violation, at this point we can either issue citations, or there are cases where we just close the place down because the violations are egregious,” she said.

The sharp racial disparities that characterized the pandemic from the beginning are under even more scrutiny now that California has become the first state to make “health equity” a factor in its decisions to allow expanded reopening.

Large counties may not advance toward full reopening until their most disadvantaged neighborhoods, and not just the county as a whole, meet or are lower than the targeted levels of disease. The criteria prod local governments to invest more in testing, contact tracing and education in poor neighborhoods with high levels of the disease.

Ferrer’s focus on workplaces crystallized during a crackdown on Los Angeles Apparel, a clothing factory that had pivoted to face mask manufacturing during the pandemic. Despite the ready inventory of masks, an outbreak at the factory resulted in at least 300 cases — and four deaths.

The health department, acting on a tip from community health centers flooded with sick Los Angeles Apparel workers, shut down the factory on June 27. That action highlighted the need to bring the government and labor unions together to fight the pandemic, said Jim Mangia, CEO of St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, a chain of community health centers in South L.A.

“At St. John’s, almost all of our patients are the working poor,” Mangia said. “They were getting infected at work and bringing it home to their families, and I think intervening at the workplace is what really made all the difference.”

Early in the pandemic, Ferrer had also set up an anonymous complaint line for employees who want to report workplace violations. It gets about 2,000 calls a week, she said. As of Oct. 10, the department’s website lists 132 workplaces that have had three or more confirmed COVID-19 cases, with a total of 2,191 positives. Another table dated Oct. 7 lists 124 citations — mostly to gyms and places of worship — for failing to comply with a health officer order.

“Fortunately, we’re not like Cal/OSHA, in the sense that it doesn’t take us months to complete an investigation,” Ferrer said. “We’re able to move more swiftly under the health officer orders to actually make sure that we’re protecting workers.”

Public health councils are the next phase in Ferrer’s plan to keep workers safe. The plan stemmed from the response of Overhill Farms, a frozen-food factory in Vernon, California, after an outbreak of more than 20 cases and one death. The factory and its temporary job agency were hit with more than $200,000 in proposed penalties from Cal/OSHA in September, but before the fines landed, the factory leadership was already responding by beginning to hold meetings with workers to improve safety there.

“They found that the workers helped them bring down infection rates and helped solve problems,” said Roxana Tynan, executive director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a worker advocacy organization.

While it’s not exactly a feel-good story about corporate beneficence, the turnaround at Overhill Farms added credence to the benefits of workplace councils, said Koonse of UCLA.

No company would have to spend more than 0.44% of its payroll cost on the health councils, she estimated.

Still, the idea has gotten a mixed reception from businesses. In an Aug. 24 statement, CEO Tracy Hernandez of the L.A. County Business Federation wrote that the proposal would add “burdensome and convoluted programs that will further hinder an employer’s ability to meet demands, get back on their feet, and adequately serve their employees and customers.”

But Jim Amen, president of the eight-store Super A Foods grocery chain, said businesses should welcome the councils as a way to keep lines of communication open. Such practices have kept infection rates low at his stores, even without a mandate, Amen said.

“All I know is, for Super A, our employees are heavily involved in everything we do,” Amen said.

Labor groups see the councils as a crucial way for workers to raise concerns without fear of retaliation.

“In low-wage industries like the garment industry, workers coming together gets them fired,” said Marissa Nuncio, director of the Garment Worker Center, a nonprofit that mainly serves immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

While disparities are narrowing in L.A. County, some shops are still unsafe and potential whistleblowers aren’t confident their reports to the county’s tip line are being acted on, she said.

“We continue to get calls from our members who are sick, have COVID and are hospitalized,” Nuncio said. “And the most obvious location for them to have been infected is in their workplace, because so many precautions are not being taken.”

KHN data reporter Hannah Recht contributed to this article.

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‘No Mercy’ Chapter 3: Patchwork of Urgent Care Frays After a Rural Hospital Closes

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Emergency care gets complicated after a hospital closes. On a cold February evening, when Robert Findley fell and hit his head on a patch of ice, his wife, Linda, called 911. The delays that came next exposed the frayed patchwork that sometimes stands in for rural health care.

After Mercy Hospital Fort Scott shut down, many locals had big opinions about what kind of health care the town needed.

“Words of experience is, you don’t know when that tragedy is going to happen,” Linda Findley said.

Fort Scott’s free-standing ER and the new community health center aren’t enough, she said.

“I mean, my gosh, you need to feel like you’re safe and could be taken care of where you’re at,” she said.

Click here to read the episode transcript.

Linda Findley holds a photo of her husband, Robert.(Christopher Smith for KHN)

“Where It Hurts” is a podcast collaboration between KHN and St. Louis Public Radio. Season One extends the storytelling from Sarah Jane Tribble’s award-winning series, “No Mercy.”

Subscribe to Where It Hurts on iTunes, Stitcher, Google, Spotify or Pocket Casts.

And to hear all KHN podcasts, click here.

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