Hospital Fatality Reporting: FACT CHECK

A false and dangerous rumor has recently been making the rounds that could put more people’s lives at risk, with some rumor mongers accusing hospitals of inflating the numbers, claiming that the hospitals have some kind of profit motive for treating COVID patients.  Let’s talk about why this rumor is false and dangerous.

Can hospitals classify deaths as whatever they want?

NO. There are strict policies and procedures in place, not to mention incurring huge liability and the possibility of audits if done incorrectly. Determining the cause of death is much more complicated than just filling in whatever looks most likely. Medical examiners investigate, test, and when necessary, do autopsies. They report cause of death based on CDC guidelines. Death certificates are also accountable to federal jurisdiction, with each state’s public health division reporting back to the CDC. In addition, knowingly falsifying medical records is a felony crime with a potential fine of $250,000 or 5 years in jail.

Does it cost more to treat COVID-19 patients?

Yes, and most hospitals are losing money due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  COVID-19 patients stay in the ICU, and the PPE, medications, and the equipment they use–including ventilators–is extremely expensive. In addition to the exorbitant cost of treating a COVID-19 patient, most hospitals have had to restrict routine care and elective procedures, so they are losing revenue. Read more about how Medicare pays hospitals here.

What’s the truth?

Deaths are most likely being under-reported, not inflated. Due to a lack of adequate testing and the people who die at home and aren’t counted, it is most likely that the official numbers have underestimated the amount of COVID-19 related deaths, in addition to the scope of the virus.  Some states also give physicians the option of counting the cause of death for a COVID-19 positive patient as due to an underlying condition, rather than the virus if their symptoms weren’t respiratory.  But as we are finding out, COVID-19 can present in many ways unrelated to breathing that have only recently started to be investigated. Read more about how and why the numbers are being updated here.

For additional reading about the true scope of COVID-19 deaths, click here.

Yours in Strength,

The Take Back Control Team

The Road Ahead

The more we find out about COVID-19, the more contagious it reveals itself to be, with its effects ranging from respiratory failure to strokes and its symptoms from headaches to loss of smell or taste and the possibility of mutations. There is increasing evidence that staying six feet apart is relevant only when outside in fresh air.  Indoors, with limited air circulation, 6 feet back is probably not enough.

At the same time, the more we live with the effects of COVID-19, the more people are scared, frustrated and stir crazy.  Some protesters call COVID-19 a “hoax” and say that it’s time to go back to “normal” living even though ordinary routines can put all people at risk – you, your loved ones and family, your neighbors.  In one case, it is thought that one person who behaved “normally” was responsible for a 2,000% increase in cases in their community.

Widespread testing and robust “contact tracing” initiatives are our best hope for containing this virus while being able to go about our daily lives.  Unfortunately, our country is still nowhere near able to implement these life-saving programs at the necessary scale.

Ready or not, however, state governments are beginning to answer protesters’ demands by reopening communities.

What are the facts and what is best for YOU?

The places and events most prone to outbreaks?

  • Meat packing warehouses
  • Birthday parties/funerals/weddings
  • Work places and business networking
  • Restaurants
  • Indoor sports events

Enclosed spaces with a lot of people spending a long time together have the highest risk for spreading COVID-19.  Read more about the risk of certain settings here.

So how do we balance the need to reopen and go back to work, versus the risk of many more people getting sick and some of those sick people dying?

The best option is a phased reopening plan, bolstered by testing, contact tracing, social distancing, and state and federal programs supplying financial and practical incentives to businesses and individuals. These programs and initiatives are still in their earliest stages. And while some states have good plans, they are relying on individuals and businesses to comply with regulations that are currently unenforceable.

How can you protect yourself and your loved ones in the meantime?

  • Check both state and local safety guidelines for reopening and do your best to follow the recommendations, whether as a small business owner or employee.
  • Continue to limit grocery and other essential shopping as much as possible, and keep social interactions outdoors as much as possible while keeping a 6 ft distance.
  • If you feel unsafe going back to work, check out our previous blog post about what reopening means for workers here.

We have numerous other resources on our website to help you in this difficult time. Whether you need housing and bill assistance, to find your nearest food pantry or want to learn to get involved with mutual aid or volunteering, we’re here to help.


Yours in Strength,

The Take Back Control Team

What Reopening Means For Workers

Essential workers have been on the frontlines in the past months, risking exposure to the virus to continue providing essential services, often for low pay and without the option of staying home and receiving unemployment.  Their rights, or lack thereof, have been one of the main parts of a national discussion as COVID-19 has thrown United States’ infrastructure and working conditions into sharp contrast with other developed nations. As many parts of Wisconsin suddenly reopen following the State Supreme Court decision issued on Wednesday, it is not only essential workers who are having to leave the relative safety of their homes, and many workers are uncomfortable with the protection and accountability measures enacted by the government to ensure their safety in the workplace during this pandemic.


Some counties are issuing their own stay-at-home or social distancing orders, but many still have not. You can find more information on individual county mandates here.


But what if businesses don’t follow safe practices or employees still don’t feel safe to return to work?  There are depressingly few options and very little legal guidance available for workers at this time, but we are committed to following this issue and providing updates.  


When refusing to return to work is tantamount to quitting, that’s not an option for most people.  What else can you do? You can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), contact your local law enforcement (don’t call 911 or emergency services), contact the Department of Health or other relevant agencies. 


This leaves workers concerned about their health in a very difficult position. Here are some recommendations on how to handle this situation if you find yourself in the position of having to go back to work before you feel comfortable to do so:


·       Familiarize yourself with suggested reopening business guidelines and report to the recommended agencies, with the option to do so anonymously, if you feel the business is operating unsafely. Read more about recommended reopening guidelines here.

·       If it is still an option to work remotely, do so.

·       If your work is not providing PPE, do your best to wear your own PPE and follow social distancing protocols.  

·       Do not touch your face. 

·       When you get home, disrobe and wash your clothes immediately and then take a shower.  

Because this is such a novel situation we are in, legal precedents have yet to be set. If you cannot find PPE in your area, the resource section on our website has links to how to make your own masks and disinfectant under “Protective Guidance.”


To file a complaint through OSHA, click here.

To file a complaint through the Department of Health, click here.


This article provides some additional information on what the ruling means for businesses, workers, and consumers. 


Yours in Strength,

The Take Back Control Team


Antibody Tests: What You Need to Know

There’s been a lot of talk about antibody testing lately and its respective uses.  It’s been touted as a possible way to determine who can re-enter the workforce and as a way to more accurately trace how widespread exposure to the virus really is.  However, the accuracy of the tests and its use as a determination of immunity has been called into question.  So how does antibody testing actually work and what can it reliably be used for?

Antibodies develop to fight foreign pathogens that enter the body.  The antibody tests, also known as serology tests, read the presence of these antibodies which indicate exposure to the virus. A number of antibody tests are currently flooding the market, although the FDA has only granted emergency approval to twelve.  The accuracy of many of these tests is questionable. As they are currently being administered, they cannot distinguish between COVID-19 antibodies or another coronavirus. Even the FDA approved tests tend to have a high rate of false positives and negatives, which makes them relatively unusable for individual cases. On top of that, despite claims otherwise, the presence of antibodies does not automatically guarantee immunity from COVID-19. (Read more about the variation of antibody testing accuracy here.)

So why get an antibody test?  As testing and trials continue, the accuracy of these tests is expected to increase.  And when broadly administered, they do help officials get a better idea of true infection rates, thought to be much higher than currently reported due to asymptomatic carriers. If you think you may have had COVID-19 and want to get a test, research which brand your health care provider is using and understand that the presence of antibodies does not mean you can go out and about and ignore safety protocols.  Donating your plasma for researchers could be helpful to fight the virus and if you suspect you have been exposed, a test might be a useful corroboration.

Antibody tests do not take the place of diagnostic tests.  If you believe you have COVID-19, or are experiencing symptoms, let your health care provider know and ask about getting a diagnostic test.  Antibody testing is meant to confirm prior exposure and becomes more accurate if administered a couple weeks after symptoms have disappeared. As time goes on, scientists will continue to refine the process, hopefully allowing the tests to be a significant weapon in the fight against COVID-19.

For the FDA’s statement on antibody tests, click here.

For more information from the CDC, click here.

Yours in Strength,

The Take Back Control Team

Contact Tracing

What is contact tracing? Contract tracing is an infrastructure that allows COVID-19 cases to be tracked down and isolated, significantly mitigating the spread of the virus.  Tracers find active coronavirus cases, contact the positive individual and find out where they have been and who they have had contact with in the recent weeks.  The tracers provide necessary information and advice to the infected individual and contact those who may have been exposed.  All positive cases are encouraged to self-isolate for two weeks and to continue to monitor their condition.  For more detail on the principles of contact tracing, read the CDC’s contact tracing guide here.

Contact tracing is a necessity to contain COVID-19.  It is a technique already used and credited with containing SARS and Ebola outbreaks.  When implemented properly, it requires data monitoring and management, ongoing communication with the public, housing options for those who need to self-isolate and a comprehensive testing infrastructure.

Before the current outbreak, the US employed about 2,200 tracers but experts say that the US will need closer to 100,000 in order to combat the spread of COVID-19. While this may help offset currently staggering unemployment numbers, it is not clear whether the US stimulus bills so far passed will have enough funding designated to hire the necessary amount of tracers to make a dent.  

To manage COVID-19 epidemics going forward, communities in the United States need: (1) ready access to rapid diagnostic tests for all symptomatic cases or those with a reasonable suspicion of COVID-19 exposure; (2) widespread serological testing to understand underlying rates of infection and identify those who have developed immunity and could potentially return to work or school without fear of becoming infected; and (3) the ability to trace all contacts of reported cases. In order to trace all contacts, safely isolate the sick, and quarantine those exposed, we estimate that our public health workforce needs to add approximately 100,000 (paid or volunteer) contact tracers to assist with this large-scale effort. This workforce could be strategically deployed to areas of greatest need and managed through state and local public health agencies that are on the front lines of COVID-19 response. To do this, we also estimate that Congress will need to appropriate approximately $3.6 billion in emergency funding to state and territorial health departments.

–Excerpt from A National Plan to Enable Comprehensive COVID-19 Case Finding and Contact Tracing in the US, by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Google, Apple and other technology companies are working on tracing initiatives using apps, location data and Bluetooth technology, but this has also raised concern over privacy and data sharing. While information necessary for tracking the virus is highly personal, developers assure users you must opt-in and that no information will be used to identify individuals. For more information on tracking technological development, check out this CNN article. You can read more about the relative merits of contacting tracing technology versus privacy protection in this publication from Cornell. 

Contact tracing is vital to fighting COVID-19.  It’s funding and implementation will be what allows for reopening at any level.  For contact tracing training, click here.  To apply for contact tracing jobs, contact your state’s Department of Health.

Yours in Strength,
The Take Back Control Team

Covid-19 Scams and How to Avoid Them

Crises usually see a rise in scammers–people looking to take advantage of others’ fear and vulnerability. Keep reading to find out which scams are currently circulating and how to avoid them:

  1. GoFundMes and other charities have popped up asking for donations to a good cause.  Some of these are authentic but many are not.  Be sure to do your research and know where your money is going.
  2. Don’t fall for any group promising you the moon.  If someone claims they have an investment opportunity, promising tons of easy money on, stay away. Get-rich-quick schemes are rarely a reality.
  3. The government will not call you and ask you to verify information.  If you get a call from someone claiming they work for the government and need your personal information to process your stimulus assistance, do not give them your information.  If you get a call that asks for payment in order to receive aid or assistance–hang up!  You do not need to pay any fees to receive your government assistance.
  4. Lots of products have appeared to meet the desperate demand for a cure for COVID-19. At best, they have no official way to substantiate that claim and at worst, they could be very harmful.  There are no proven cures on the market.
  5. There have also been websites claiming to sell hand sanitizer and other protective equipment that disappear after they get your money.  Check the domain names and information, and be careful.

The most important thing to protect yourself from a scammer is hang up and stay away from them.  Vet any claims, be careful and don’t let anyone get the best of you.  When in doubt, hang up and put away your wallet.


Yours in Strength,
The Take Back Control Team

Want to Deliver Something to a Friend? How to Minimize the Risk for Both of You

Many states, or parts of states, are reopening.  Although certain governments seem to be loosening their stay at home mandates, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should go out.  There are many people who may prefer to stay at home, or who need to such as those of us who are at higher risk and need to continue to quarantine. If you do go out, do not throw social distancing and disinfecting protocols aside along with caution. In this post, we’ll be talking about how to deliver something to acquaintances staying at home while continuing to follow safe practices.

  1. Make sure it is actually necessary.  If it’s not essential, think twice about going out to deliver it.
  2. Try to take a route or transportation method that minimizes your interactions with others. Wear a mask (and gloves if possible!) when going out and stay 6 feet away from anyone along your route.
  3. When you deliver your package, make sure it’s a contactless delivery.  Leave it by the front door.  If you have to go inside to drop it off, for example at the lobby of an apartment building, leave it at the front desk.
  4. Once your friend gets the package, they should throw out the packaging and wash their hands immediately for at least 20 seconds.

Make sure you keep track of the current mandates in your specific state and follow government and CDC guidelines.  Social distancing protocol still applies, even if you live in an area that has lifted stay-at-home mandates.


Yours in Strength,
The Take Back Control Team