Coronavirus:

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State & Regional

  • Wearing a mask is now part of daily life, but this has led to an extra hurdle for people who are hard of hearing. Taylor Nighbert, 7, says it’s sometimes very important to 'see' what other people are saying. 'It's a little harder for me because I can't see their mouth moving—so I can't read their lips,” Taylor said. Taylor was born with a hearing loss. Special implants have helped, but now that masks are part of daily life, she faces a new challenge. Her mother Sherri Nighbert worries about what will happen if masks are required in school. 'I'm really nervous for Taylor, and I hope the world sees the importance of it,” Sherri Nighbert said. TRENDING STORIES: 15-year-old arrested after man shot, killed during robbery attempt outside Buckhead apartment complex Gov. Kemp says Georgia would be “honored” to host Republican National Convention Georgia’s most popular delivery order during the pandemic may not surprise you Taylor’s audiologist Melissa Wikoff says so many people are impacted. “I knew right away, as soon as we tried it on. My face dropped. I looked at my husband and said, 'How is this going to work for my patients?'” Wikoff said. Wikoff searched for a solution, and she found a California company called The Hearing Spot. They’re making masks with clear plastic panels that allow people with a hearing loss to 'see' people speak—and also tell if they’re happy or sad. 'I think it's a thing of compassion to consider people who may not be able to hear you,” Wikoff said. Taylor’s family wears the special masks when they go out, and they hope that doctors, teachers, grocery store cashiers and more will be able to get them. 'I can read their lips now,' Taylor told Channel 2's Berndt Petersen. 'Because you can see their mouth more?' Petersen asked. 'Yes,” Taylor said. Taylor’s mom is also thinking about her daughter’s school teachers. “I might buy them with my own funds. Buy and purchase them for her teachers in case they’re not provided by the county or the school. I think it’s that important,” Sherri Nighbert said.
  • Georgia Tech graduate student Kentez Craig knew the perfect source for advice when working on a device to protect paramedics and health care workers from contracting the novel coronavirus from a patient. His parents. His father, Kenneth, has been a paramedic for 30 years. His mother, Jackie, is a retired paramedic who met her husband when they worked for the DeKalb County Fire Rescue Department. The team — Craig, his classmates, faculty and Emory University doctors — created what’s been called a barrier protection device, an intubation box or an “Emo-Tech box” that is being used at Emory hospitals. Other metro Atlanta hospitals are considering using the equipment as well. The box, a clear, polycarbonate material device, allows medical workers to intubate a patient but still be shielded from any respiratory droplets that may infect the worker. “I’m so impressed and so proud that (Kentez) would work on something that’s so needed,” said Kenneth Craig, 61, who works part time at Eastside Medical Center in Snellville. Most critically ill COVID-19 patients need breathing support. Intubation is the process of inserting a tube through the mouth and then into the airway. The tube is then connected to a ventilator, which pushes air into the lungs to deliver a breath to the patient. Intubating a COVID-19 patient is dangerous for health care workers because it brings them close to a patient’s mouth, which is constantly shedding the virus. Patients sometimes exhale or cough as the tube is inserted. Early data suggests front-line health care workers may have a higher incidence rate of COVID-19 than the general public. The World Health Organization said last month about 22,000 health care workers worldwide are believed to have been infected with COVID-19, but some organizations believe the actual numbers are much higher. Dr. Grant Lynde, chair of the American Society of Anesthesiologists’s Committee on Quality Management and Departmental Administration, said additional research is necessary to determine the box’s effectiveness in comparison to other protective gear, such as N95 masks or face shields. Still, Lynde, who works in Emory’s medical school, and was not involved in the collaboration, said the box is an important innovation in the ongoing effort to protect health care providers. The teams made about 200 boxes. Dr. Cinnamon Sullivan, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Emory University School of Medicine, said she first heard about an open box known as the “Aerosol Box,” developed by a doctor in Taiwan to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure, in March. While she was intrigued by the concept, and thought the Taiwanese doctor was onto something, she and colleagues identified flaws in the design. It was bulky, heavy and not easy to carry. And a lack of coverings in the hand openings could put doctors and nurses at an even higher risk of getting sick by a spray of respiratory droplets potentially reaching their faces and infecting them with the coronavirus than with no box at all. So in late March, Sullivan and her colleague Dr. Jeremy Collins, associate professor of anesthesiology and executive vice chair of anesthesia at Emory, started making changes to the design. They decided to add sleeves (protected hand openings), already used in the operating room over surgical gowns to keep conditions sterile, to create a barrier and help protect the health care workers. The first prototype was heavy and large. But they kept tweaking the design. “We had a lot of nervous energy,” said Sullivan, who is also the director of Global Health Anesthesiology at Emory University Hospital, about working during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. “And I felt like I needed to do something more. I was having difficulty sleeping and I would call Jeremy and say meet at the hospital on Saturday and let’s work on this.” Working with Georgia Tech, they made other changes, and designed the box to easily fold up and transport. Some circles cut from the boxes remain on a dusty, wooden table inside the Flowers Invention Studio on the Tech campus. Emory University Hospital now has as many as 120 of the boxes, and Sullivan and Collins said they now use them routinely when intubating COVID-19 and suspected COVID-19 patients. And Emory doctors believe the boxes have broad possibilities and could also be used for intubating patients with other infectious diseases. “The feedback I have gotten when I first started taking this into the ICUs is the staff was very happy to get an added barrier,” Collins said. He acknowledged intubating a patient while using the box has taken some getting used to, and there are instances when it may not be ideal, such as intubating a patient with an unusually shaped jaw, because it may slightly restrict movement. Sullivan and Collins posted about the box on a private “Anesthesiologist COVID-19” group on Facebook, and several doctors across the country have expressed interest. Back at Georgia Tech, Kentez Craig, 23, said he’s happy to be part of a team that created something that can help front-line health care workers. Craig, an Atlanta native and mechanical engineering student, aspires to become a research and development shop designer. “I think we were able to get a product that is reliable and that will hopefully save lives,” he said.
  • Just days before a judicial emergency order halted court proceedings in the state, Georgia consumer attorney David Addleton had to act fast to try to help a woman who saw her paycheck suddenly disappear from her bank account. The woman’s employer had been instructed by the Macon-Bibb Magistrate Court to garnish her wages to make up for some unpaid student loan debt. Meanwhile, the coronavirus was spreading throughout Georgia and her husband was about to lose his job. “I was very concerned about what would happen to her if this money was gone,’’ Addleton said. » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia The coronavirus pandemic has raised the level of anxiety to new heights for consumers haunted by their debts. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Security (CARES) Act, signed into law March 27, was designed to provide a safety net for workers during the pandemic. However, while the law says stimulus payments cannot be seized to offset most debts to federal or state governments, with few exceptions it is silent on the issue of garnishments for debts such as unpaid credit cards, health care bills, defaulted student loans and other money owed to creditors. That leaves tens of thousands of consumers vulnerable to actions that could threaten their livelihoods, consumer advocates say. “The economic stimulus was intended to help protect people from catastrophic consequences during a time when our country is suffering from a pandemic,” said Mara Block, an attorney at Legal Aid in Atlanta. “Yet, I know that folks who are in most need of that stimulus are, in some cases, the folks whose stimulus money is being taken for back debt.” >>More on this story from The Atlanta Journal Constitution.