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A huge group of people came out to support Miles Sorensen and his family Saturday during the MILES for Miles free fun run or walk. Sorensen, a first-grader at St. John Paul II Academy, was diagnosed with pre-B leukemia on Oct. 8. People can donate to the family's Go Fund Me page at https://gofund.me/4fea897e.


Miles Sorensen (left), sitting by his parents Lindsey and Jason (off camera) Sorensen, waves at the people walking or running during the MILES for Miles free fun run or walk Saturday. The walk/run route went past the Sorensen home. Miles, a first-grader at St. John Paul II Academy, was diagnosed with pre-B leukemia Oct. 8. People can donate to the family’s Go Fund Me page at https://gofund.me/4fea897e.


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Concerted effort to combat COVID includes employers

EagleHerald Staff Writer

MENOMINEE—Health care professionals continue to see new cases of COVID partly because the tests, vaccines and treatments aren’t foolproof. But they’re still recommended.

“We still have room for improvement,” said Dr. Ulysses Boco of Urgent Care at the Aurora Health Center in Peshtigo. He’d like to see higher vaccination rates.

This time of year, it’s especially important for people to watch for symptoms of COVID-19 and get tested, Boco said.

Last Thanksgiving, COVID-19 numbers spiked, he said. That was before most people were vaccinated. Boco is among the health care experts who recommend people get the COVID vaccine, which is now available for those age 5 and older.

An emergency temporary standard announced Nov. 4 from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration tells employers with 100 or more employees companywide to develop and enforce a policy requiring employees to receive COVID-19 vaccines or one requiring employees who choose not to be vaccinated to wear face coverings at work and be tested for COVID weekly.

L.E. Jones, which is encouraging but not requiring COVID vaccines for employees, is among the local companies choosing the second option requiring employee masks and tests, both of which can come at the employees’ expense.

The company is gearing up for weekly testing starting in January, said Dan Ward, vice president of sales and marketing. “We’re getting prepared for that legislation if it does get passed. We’re anticipating that it may,” he said. The federal OSHA standard’s mask requirement for unvaccinated workers takes effect Dec. 5.

Ward said LE Jones also is waiting to hear what the state agency Michigan OSHA (MI OSHA) will recommend or require. “MI OSHA will also be putting out a ruling after it’s passed through all the court tests and lawsuits,” Ward said. “We will comply with whatever is passed by MI OSHA, which we follow,” he said.

The temporary federal OSHA standard requires employers to remove from the workplace employees who’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who’ve tested positive for it. Employees must tell their employers when this occurs.

LE Jones aims to keep its workers healthy by following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and asking employees to stay home if they test positive for COVID or aren’t feeling well. “We do have a shortage of people from time to time based on COVID,” Ward said.

Diagnosing COVID isn’t always clear-cut. People can have more than one illness at once. “People can be infected with both flu and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time and have symptoms of both influenza and COVID-19,” said Kate Grusich in CDC Public Affairs.

The illnesses are similar because they’re viruses transmitted from one person to another. COVID is caused by the coronavirus identified in 2019, while the flu is caused by a strain of the influenza virus. Both viruses can lead to pneumonia or other complications. People who’ve been vaccinated with the pneumococcal vaccine, designed to prevent pneumonia, will likely have some protection from severe COVID. The new COVID vaccines also are designed to protect against the disease.

“Get the vaccine if you can,” Boco said. “When the disease started last year, we didn’t offer any viable treatment.” About 755,200 people have died of COVID in the United States and its territories since data was collected in January 2020. In Menominee County, 52 people with confirmed or probably COVID cases have died since March 2020, according to Public Health of Delta & Menominee Counties in Michigan. Marinette County reported 72 deaths among confirmed COVID cases and nine COVID-associated deaths among probable cases, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Health.

Pharmaceutical companies continue to work on other innovative treatments and preventive measures, too. Besides vaccinations now approved for children, Pfizer is developing two antiviral protease inhibitors, including a pill and an intravenous treatment. The pill, referred to a Paxlovid, is the first orally administered investigational protease inhibitor specifically for coronavirus to be evaluated in clinical studies, the company said.

“We’re evaluating it to be prescribed at the first sign of infection or prophylactically if you’re aware of exposure,” said Pam Eisele, a Pfizer spokeswoman. “It could take years, but because of the need, obviously we are doing everything we can to move it forward as quickly as possible.”

Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics also are working on a COVID pill called Molnupiravir, designed to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID, according to an October news release.

At Moderna, a combination COVID and flu vaccine is in development, the company said.

The goal for most treatments or preventive measures is to help people avoid getting COVID and treat it promptly before complications develop. Keeping people healthy means reducing the prevalence of the disease and ways it spreads.

“If you end up positive with COVID, you have to stay quarantined for 10 days,” Boco said. If you’re without a fever during the last 24 hours, “then you’re good to go” back to work, he said.

LE Jones has had a campaign to encourage employees to get vaccinated. “If you’re vaccinated, you’re less likely to be hospitalized when you do get COVID,” Ward said.

According to the temporary OSHA standard, employers are required to keep on file their employees’ vaccination status.

While the requirements are expected to become permanent, lawsuits in Texas and Louisiana have been filed to block the mandate from taking effect. In Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit temporarily blocked it, but the Biden Administration is expected to defend the order in court, according to media reports. https://www.texastribune.org/2021/11/06/Biden-coronavirus-vaccine-lawsuit/

Opponents say individuals should have the right to make their own decisions about health care and keep their health records private. A federal law called the Health Care Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) provides people with privacy over their health care information and medical files. The act says patient health information shouldn’t be disclosed without the patient’s consent or permission.

People have different reasons for not wanting to be vaccinated. Some say the vaccines don’t ensure you won’t get COVID. For example, two of four residents at Pinecrest Medical Care Facility in Powers who tested positive for COVID-19 in September were vaccinated.

Others cite religious reasons. Some people may have been told they don’t need the COVID vaccine if they’ve had pneumonia and received the pneumococcal vaccine. Pneumonia can be a severe complication of COVID, Boco said.

Regardless of whether you’re vaccinated, it’s important to get tested for COVID if you have symptoms, Boco said.

People with COVID symptoms also could have the flu, a cold or another virus, Boco said.

This time of year, distinguishing between COVID and flu or another illness can be tricky, Boco said. “We’re seeing a lot of the common cold virus,” and the symptoms can resemble COVID symptoms of fever, congestion, headache and loss of smell, he said. “You can’t determine if they have COVID or no COVID based on their symptoms.”

COVID tests can help confirm a diagnosis, but they must be used as directed, Boco said.

The rapid tests consumers can purchase at a grocery or drug store are antigen tests. They’re highly reliable if you test positive, Boco said. “The problem lies with if you are negative,” he said. Then you need another home test to be sure you don’t have COVID. If you have symptoms, consult a health care provider.


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Town of Peshtigo chairperson participates in Northeastern University PFAS study

EagleHerald Staff Writer

PESHTIGO—Town of Peshtigo Chairperson Cindy Boyle participated in an interview with researchers Wednesday as part of a Northeastern University study that looks into community responses around per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contamination.

The study will examine the role of laypeople, doctors, academics and government agencies in the discovery of PFAS. It is part of a larger project funded by the National Science Foundation that seeks to understand how various stakeholders attempt to implement actions to restrict PFAS use and mitigate PFAS contamination. Dr. Phil Brown of Northeastern University and Dr. Alissa Cordner of Whitman College are co-directing the research study.

According to Brown, the study will include qualitative interviews with about 120 individuals across the nation who live in communities that have experienced PFAS contamination. Thus far, the team has conducted about 50 of these interviews.

The research team selected potential participants based on site information from Northeastern University’s PFAS Project Lab PFAS Contamination Site Tracker which, according to the website, records quantitative and qualitative data from contamination sites to foster public understanding of PFAS issues. Brown also said the team is selecting participants with the goal of covering a wide geographic and demographic spread that includes both industrial and military sources of PFAS.

Brown said in an interview with the EagleHerald that community responses to PFAS contamination have been unlike anything he has ever seen in his professional career.

“I’ve never seen such a quick and widespread national effort to address an issue like this,” he said. “There have been general movements around what we often call toxic waste activism where people are noticing toxic waste of a variety of things, but in terms of organizing around one particular class of chemicals, PFAS is really a very unique situation.”

He added that laypeople’s level of expertise regarding PFAS is also “pretty amazing.”

Action around PFAS contamination has grown to take the stage on a national level. The Biden-Harris Administration’s recently passed infrastructure bill that promises the investment of $55 billion to expand access to clean drinking water, part of which will be allocated for the cleanup of PFAS, according to a Nov. 8 statement from the White House. Last month, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan launched the PFAS Roadmap, a plan that sets timelines for taking PFAS mitigation actions.

Water Committee member and retired hydrogeologist Jeff Lamont said at the Nov. 4 Town of Peshtigo Water Committee meeting that the response to PFAS is “like a snowball getting bigger and bigger.”

Boyle also said she thought the Northeastern University study was a “positive thing.”

“The more of this that happens, the better,” she said.


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