COVID WATCH - Unauthorized pop-up testing sites have been reported in northeast Los Angeles, along the Wilshire corridor and across LA County.
A fast as law enforcement shuts one down… another pops up somewhat else.
Those operating them often lack proper ID, don’t wear PPE, and collect personal info possibly for sale in identity theft scams.
Often they say it will take a couple of weeks to get results… and when one hears nothing, they are long gone. But not your information.
From the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a booming business in counterfeit surgical masks, testing equipment and even the syringes needed to administer the vaccine.
Starting even before Trump started pushing the antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, there has been a plethora of false cures and preventatives rippling across the worldwide web.
And what does not protect or cure can sometimes make you dead.
These include drinking or inhaling bleach and drinking methanol alcohol (Iranian media reported hundreds dead and thousands hospitalized), while methylene chloride, a paint stripper banned by the EPA due to the risk of asphyxiation during use, was marketed on eBay as a coronavirus disinfectant.
QAnon has promoted gargling chlorine dioxide, an industrial bleach known to cause life-threatening responses and death. Hold that thought, some may think this may be a benefit for the country if restricted to the QAnon movement.
Widespread promotion of Ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasitic infections in humans (and roundworm in horses) as an unsupervised treatment with no scientifically documented benefits, has led to emergency room visits and a spike in calls to poison control centers.
An Indian politician claimed drinking cow urine and applying cow dung on the body could cure Covid (but only if they came from Indian cows), while elsewhere camel urine was touted. The last comes with an added bonus – the possibility of getting infected with MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), another type of coronavirus and a variant of SARS.
Less risky but equally dangerous in that people who rely on them have refused vaccines and delayed seeking treatment when sick include prayer, exorcisms and vaccination-by-proxy through touching their television screens during the preaching of a televangelist.
Sale of various “Virus Shut Out Protection" pendants and other talismans have provided profits to many who have taken advantage of people’s fears.
Cocaine or cannabis or drinking ethanol alcohol (as found in beer, wine and liquor) may be enjoyable but too much can also lead to problems.
What does much of the foregoing have in common? Someone is making money, sometimes a lot of money, preying on the fears of the gullible and desperate.
And the availability of effective treatments just encourages hold-outs to continue to avoid vaccination. But they are still at risk for severe symptoms, high hospital bills, and the deleterious effects of long Covid.
Remdesivir is only for the seriously ill and must be administered – up to two hours a day for up to ten days – in a setting capable of providing acute care comparable to inpatient hospital care due to potent side-effects.
Monoclonal antibody drugs such as Trump (over 65 and verging on obese) commanded are designer antibodies that are in such limited supply that even those who qualify for them are unlikely to receive treatment in the foreseeable future.
And they can run $3,000 to $5,000 a dose on top of significant in-hospital costs.
The price for the vaccine is about $20.
With the advent of Omicron, demand for Paxlovid and Molnupiravir is already over-subscribed. Besides, these drugs are not a substitute for protecting yourself and those around you by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, and social distancing.
Other drugs are being fast-tracked as there is – surprise, surprise – a lot of money to be made.
While the symptoms of Omicron are much milder than previous iterations of the virus, we will not know for many months about the long term effects. Before discounting the latter go speak to people suffering from long Covid.
Remember, more than half of those around the world who have recovered, including over a third of those not sick enough to be hospitalized, have post-Covid physical and psychological symptoms which, while not always debilitating, are severe enough to seek medical help.
Québec is now imposing huge fines on those who are unvaccinated without a medical justification, not to punish the breaking of a law but to subsidize the costs of their care under their universal healthcare system.
So who exactly are the victims? Those who are getting sick, or those refusing to take the vaccine?
United Airlines just announced that 3,000 employees have recently tested positive for the virus contributing to the confusion of holiday travel. However, no vaccinated employee has been hospitalized. Before the company imposed its vaccine mandate, an average of more than one employee was dying from Covid each week.
2021 was the deadliest year on record for police in the United States according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, and the leading cause of death was Covid-19. The LAPD have been notorious for refusing to adhere to the City’s vaccine policy.
Should the City consider denying medical and death benefits for officers who fall, not in the line of duty, but from a personal choice?
Almost a quarter of Congress has been infected since the start of the pandemic, at least 13 in the past week alone. Two Republicans have died - Ron Wright of Texas and Luke Letlow of Louisiana.
One wonders if Trump’s newly-found support for vaccines and boosters will be beneficial or not.
While Senator Bernie Sanders reintroduced a bill to send N95 masks to all Americans, Republicans are pushing to block the District of Columbia from requiring vaccinations to enter restaurants and other places where people congregate inside.
Not wearing a mask in defiance of local regulations is a political statement and has aggravated already fraying tempers.
Twenty percent of healthcare workers have left the profession since the start of the pandemic, many citing stress and risk, long hours and lack of fair compensation.
People are taking advantage of others, ranging from not taking precautions not to infect others to purveyors of pseudo-remedies to whipping up the anger of those who are exhausted by the pandemic to blame immigrants, Muslims and visible minorities as well as promoting hate crimes.
We are all victims.
As a country, as a world, we need to move beyond the current situation. If our government is part of the problem, then each of us must become part of the solution. Raise our voices but reach for compassion and understanding in all that we do.
Click here for info on Covid scams from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
In LA County, if you believe you have visited a fake COVID-19 pop-up site or purchased a fake COVID-19 at-home test, please report it here or call (800) 593-8222.
If you think your personal or financial information may have been compromised, check out what to do at the County’s Consumer & Business Affairs website.
(Liz Amsden is an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)