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New Study: Physician 'Burnout' Contributing To Increase In Suicide RatesPINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on a troubling trend, a rise in suicides among physicians and now their families are asking for more protection and treatment options for doctors during the pandemic. Newly released data shows cases of burnout in healthcare are skyrocketing. Local Signs of a Growing Issue Eight months into the U.S.'s his fight against the spread of COVID-19. Government officials across the nation continue to call on top health officials for their guidance. "So I did reach out to the medical officer for all the HCA system to ask him to poll his board certified physicians and so he did," said Pinellas County Commissioner, Janet Long.  In July of 2020, Pinellas County administrative officials spoke one-on-one with county health officials who pointed to the strain on our healthcare system. Dr. Angus Jameson, Medical Director at Pinellas County EMS revealed, "If I were to give you an honest assessment, I was in the hospital until fairly late last evening in the ER and I can tell you that the ERs are, an interesting place right now. They're stressed at this point, from a physical standpoint but also, frankly, from a human standpoint. Your healthcare workers are exhausted. They've been at this for months. It's not easy." Families of physicians and the medical professionals themselves are standing up to speak out about the fast growing risks our doctors and nurses are facing. Dr. Gary Price, President of the Physicians Foundation noted, "Prior to the pandemic, we actually had an epidemic of physician burnout. Prior to 2020, our surveys revealed that at least 40% of physicians were suffering symptoms of burnout. Unfortunately, the tragic endpoint for that for some is suicide. So there's no question that we've seen the COVID pandemic make what was already a bad situation - much much worse." Physicians have the highest suicide rate of any profession. On Thursday, the Physicians Foundation released new numbers showing that the number of physicians suffering from burnout symptoms has increased to 58 percent.  A Step Toward A Solution Cory Feist has been impacted directly. His sister-in-law, Dr. Lorna Breen was an emergency room physician in Manhattan, working as the city was being pounded with the onslaught of coronavirus cases. Dr. Breen died by suicide in April at age 49. CW44 News At 10 "There's a stigma in this country around getting mental health treatment. There's also a cultural challenge in the healthcare profession in and of itself. It is not viewed as a courageous act to sit down or to tap a colleague on the shoulder and say you need to take a break." Feist is pushing for more action from the Senate and Congress to pass the Dr. Lorna Breen Healthcare Provider Protection Act. The bill would create behavioral health and well being training programs and encourage physicians to seek treatment when needed. Feist continues, "It currently has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Don't wait. This can happen in the blink of an eye. These folks are putting themselves in harm's way every single day." The Physicians Foundation identifies five warning signs to be aware of. The first is health and the increased usage of medications, alcohol or illicit drugs. Second is emotional changes that can include extreme mood swings or despair. The third is a noticeably negative attitude which can include inappropriate outbursts of anger or sadness. The fourth is relationships and the withdrawal from friends, family and coworkers. Last is temperament, such as anxious, agitated or recklessness. If you need further guidance or you are in a crisis, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255) for free 24/7 support. CW44 News at 10 will continue closely monitoring this issue, be sure to check back for further coverage.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Rising Drug Costs In Florida Threaten Independent PharmaciesBRANDON, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - In Tampa Bay, there are close to 100 independent pharmacists that are at risk of shutting down because of lack of drug pricing regulations. Independent pharmacies are worried that this will cause pharmacy deserts and hundreds of millions of dollars in losses in Florida's economy. The Local Dilemma Third generation pharmacist, Basil Noriega is keeping his family’s legacy alive everyday as he heads into work. He operates Bill’s Prescription Center, one of the longest running pharmacies in Tampa Bay, established in 1956. “We were one of the first pharmacies in Brandon. Brandon was just kind of a hole-in-the-wall place at the time,” said Noriega. “One of the things he noticed was that the pharmacy that was in Brandon at the time was a little tiny shack. [My father] kind of found his niche. My great-great-grandfather was also a pharmacist,” said Noriega.  But with the threat of pharmacy benefit manager reimbursements, that legacy could soon be lost.  “It started about 10-15 years ago, we started seeing these pharmacy benefit managers coming in and really affecting the reimbursement rates and increasing the cost of medications per patient. The past five years, it’s gotten so bad where you’re seeing independent pharmacies across the nation closing...everyday,” said Noriega.  Think of PBMs as the middle men. They were created to help negotiate drug prices between “big pharma” and pharmacies. They pool money from contracted pharmacies to amass purchasing power, then negotiate rates and rebates with the pharmaceutical companies. Opponents of PBMs contend a greater incentive exists to favor high-priced drugs over cost-effective counterparts due to drug rebate calculations. The issue here: there are no regulations in place stopping PBM’s from increasing prescription costs. “It all boils down to: people are paying more, the government is paying more - for what? It’s for companies behind the scenes to make money,” said Noriega. “I’m getting one right now." Noriega pauses as he's interrupted by a notification of reimbursement. "So yeah this [prescription] costs us $152 and they’re paying us $60… So.”  Of 123 independent pharmacies surveyed, 98% are full MEDICAID providers. 61% of those pharmacies plan to discontinue MEDICAID if below-cost reimbursements continue. Noriega says, without change, we run the risk of losing these small businesses.  Resolving The Issue With Policy “You’re going to create a monopoly where CVS and Walgreens are going to be the only ones that will be able to give you prescription drugs and then they’ll start to dictate the prices,” said Jackie Toledo, (R) member of Florida House of Representatives.  Representative for District 60, Jackie Toledo proposed House Bill 961 in December 2019 that would crack down on PBMs and subsequently lower healthcare costs. “Nothing happened. Another year goes by where we’re not dealing with this issue. So next year, maybe I’ll start with the smaller piece of it,” said Toledo. But the fight is not over. In fact, representative Toledo is working with advocacy groups like PUTT (Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency) and SPAR (Small business Pharmacies Aligned for Reform).  “It’s costing all of us money and minimizing our access to these prescription drugs,” said Toledo. “You know, when I got into it I started really getting upset with what’s happening. I’ve read books, I’ve seen data. If we don’t stop this from happening it’s going to continue to have an adverse effect on our healthcare system.”  Both PUTT and SPAR Non-Profits have now developed a statewide coalition of advocates with a goal of preserving patient access and keeping drug costs affordable. CW44 News At 10 will continue to follow this story as it develops.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Clearwater Business Helps Struggling Small Businesses Affected By COVIDCLEARWATER, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Small businesses are becoming a big focus as the pandemic is causing a tremendous strain on local small businesses. Some new statistics show that many won’t survive. A movement is happening right here in Tampa Bay aimed at helping revive those struggling businesses. The movement is called, Save Our Town. Michael Plummer, Jr., owner of Our Town America, a local marketing company headquartered in Clearwater, Florida aims to continue connecting small local businesses with new Florida residents that might not otherwise have a chance to explore their new neighborhood due to the pandemic. “It’s not like they’re walking around, exploring their community as they used to. I mean, they’re [leaving] their house with a destination in mind, ‘I’m going here, going to do that,” said Plummer. “We have people who have been with us for years, decades, and they’re having to close their doors. It’s a struggle out there for every type of business. Every type of business, someone’s taking a hit,” said Plummer. According to Yelp’s Local Economic Impact Report, as of mid-June, nearly 140,000 businesses closed nationwide since March 1, 2020. Of all business closures, 41% of them were permanent. “PoFolks restaurant, right off 34th. It’s just a great restaurant ran by good people and they’ve taken a heck of a hit. Why? People just aren’t dining out the same way,” Plummer related. And Carriage Cleaners, a dry cleaning service in Seminole that Plummer says lost 80% of their business in the first few weeks. “Great, family-owned people. Super nice and, think about it, people aren’t dressing up, going out as they used to. That’s just one of those industries you wouldn’t naturally think of.” Moved by the toll the pandemic has taken on his peers, Plummer sought to utilize his strengths to help guide new strategy for his clients. Among other finer points, Covid-centric thinking seems to be a key to success, “Let them know you’re clean. Those are other issues that are coming up. People are looking for, ‘are they clean, standing up to regulations, are they doing curb-side now, delivery, pick-up?’.” Plummer also suggests to patrons not wanting to watch their favorite local businesses disappear, “Shop now. Shop early for the holidays. Buy gift cards for local restaurants. While you’re at those restaurants, leave a tip. Consider paying your gym membership. They’ve taken a heck of a hit as well.”  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Florida Bars Reopened Monday: Not Soon Enough For Some Struggling OwnersYBOR CITY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Florida bar owners were able to reopen their businesses Monday after an amendment to the state’s Executive Order was lifted. Bars can reopen at 50% capacity as long as they follow social distancing and Covid-prevention rules.  While most bar owners are relieved at the fact they can now reopen their doors for business, Kevin Lilly, Founder and Owner of Rock Brothers Brewing in Ybor says he still has a few things to get off his chest.  “We were the first to close and the last to open. We have specifically been closed very long.. and lost a lot of money. As a brewery, it’s been a double-edged sword because we also brewed more beer in May anticipating the June opening. What do you think happened to my wholesale beer sales when the bars closed? Nothing. Garbage,” said Lilly. He was forced to dispose of the beer.   Lilly did not “reopen” his bar on Monday, however, as he’s been open for three weeks already. After he and his fellow bar owners in the industry began coping with their losses from closing down, they then began asking questions.  “You know, we didn’t really know what to do, obviously. We all kind of accepted this eight-week closure,” said Lilly. “It got kind of… very off putting because we started to see other people open, other people doing things and then we’re going ‘hey.. what’s going on’.” To legally circumvent the shutdown, he began toying with ideas like food and cigar sales. In May, Lilly says he was given some hope. “So what happened in May is that the state told us that we were going to be able to open in June, that’s what they told us,” said Lilly.  He scratched the food and cigar idea to avoid more cost. “So then I went and spent more money to brew beer to be open in June and then two weeks later when they let us reopen on June 5th, they shut us down again,” he said.  This not only set him back the $30,000 he was paying to stay in business but another $10,000 to $20,000 in new beer he had just brewed. On top of this he had no plan and things became hopeless. Nearly three months later though, state officials sat down with Lilly and his fellow bar business owners at a roundtable to discuss a next step.  “The answer from Beshears was, 'all I can say is get your food license'. That was his answer. I said, ‘well number one, why wasn’t this told to us back in June. I would have done this a long time ago,” said Lilly.  So over the last three weeks, Lilly and others have begun incorporating food into their sales. And the lift on the executive order, allowing bars to reopen came soon after. But Lilly wants to be sure the message is clear that bar reopenings are long overdue.  “I had over 100 shows cancelled that were on the books. Looking ahead, I’m having to do everything I can to just get people in the door, give them a safe, enjoyable time and get my room filled with as much private parties and things I can do locally,” said Lilly “Bars are not the enemy. We [need to make] livings too. We have a right to earn money and there are people out there doing a good job.. and we just want to earn a living.”  His recently built food stand won’t go to waste. Kevin Lilly says he plans to revamp it to create a chefs tasting table for whisky, wine and cheese, renaming that section of the bar, Bar 509 after the Florida Statute 509 food license that allowed him to reopen.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
9/11: HCSO Employees Share Their Stories As First Responders That DayHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - There were ceremonies and moments of silence across Tampa Bay Friday as many paid respects, remembering 9/11. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department paid tribute to those who lost their lives on that day and to people in our own community who saved countless others. In a video message, several Hillsborough County employees shared their experiences as first responders who working in New York City and Washington DC on 9/11.  A special thanks to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and those who continue to serve and protect despite everything they've already endured.  ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Local Musicians Team Up To Produce A Music Video To Bolster Voting In 2020TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - With the 2020 election less than two months away, it's sure to nothing short of historic. A group of local musicians and artists lended their talents to a locally produced music video to inspire the battleground state of Florida to vote.  “I loved the idea that it was a community project that everybody was volunteering their time, that everybody was from completely different musical backgrounds,” said Ashley Smith, Singer/Vocal Coach. “It was going to be a collaboration of the arts and for something that would better our community.”  They’re using their voices to get you to vote. More than two dozen Tampa Bay artists, some of which have still never met each other in person, are using music to inspire their community to cast their ballots come November.  “I’ve participated in voter registration drives in past elections, but this was not the year to go door to door. So I came up with the idea, we could create a music video with an original song,” said Michelle Passoff, Executive Producer. “And I’m not a singer or songwriter so I got on Google and I started “googling” and assembled a diverse group of people aged 16 to 77.”  Little did she know, Passoff was recruiting the perfect team back in march for the project.  “It was easier than I thought it would be. People said yes because they shared the purpose and the goal which is to get out the vote,” said Passoff.  It was that first zoom call that would show it. “I see like 20 people and everybody was talking about voting and so I was like I’m the perfect person for this because I don’t vote,” said Music Producer, Nawlage. “It’s that we get tied up in so many things in life. Like you go to the bank to open up a bank account, it takes you three hours. That’s what we’re accustomed to. They’re going to ask too many questions. You start getting scared. It’s just fear, I think it’s just fear.”  After speaking with his new team, Nawlage took a chance.  “I actually went on the website afterwards and I registered,” he said. After knowing her from past studio sessions, he got in touch with the perfect voice for the song. “And I knew through music, it was going to be the most beneficial, the loudest way to get my voice out there,” said Smith. He had already been manifesting a way to get involved with 2020 voting process in her own style. “We had a meeting of the minds and discussed, like ‘what can we do?’. And we came back to voting. And not just voting for your president but voting on a community level for people who can be your voice; to represent your state or your community within the country and I think that it starts there,” she said.  From videographers to singers and a legal team, there were over a couple dozen people involved in the making and all were volunteers for the project. Nawlage tells CW44 News At 10 that he plans to meet Passoff for the first time in person on Thursday. You can view the full music video here. 
California Doctor Takes Interest In Helping Florida Fight With COVIDTAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - A doctor in California has taken a strong interest in COVID-19 testing in Florida, among other states. He and his team are developing an at-home antibody rapid test and believes testing should increase, regardless of what politicians say.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is facing growing criticism for changing its guidance recently on who should get tested for COVID-19. The revised recommendations suggest many individuals who have been exposed to the coronavirus but are not showing symptoms may not need to be tested. Based in California and with more than 25 years practicing medicine, Dr. Michael Harbour has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. The frequent interaction between Silicon Valley corporations and China facilitated Dr. Harbour's first interactions with the virus. He and his team worked diligently with testing and to help contain the virus in that region. Due to his extensive experience, he noticed parallels between his area and some of the harder-hit states such such as Florida. Dr. Harbour relates, “Apple, Facebook and Intel, all headquartered here. They’re going to China for manufacturing and we had a lot of the cases right here, right at my hospital.” He and other medical experts are weighing in on rapid testing, saying there’s a need now more than ever to control the virus. It’s taking anywhere between three to five, up to fourteen days [to receive test results]. You could have infected others [in that time]!”  As Florida became a major hot spot for the pandemic, he and other experts say testing nose-dived in the state, causing concern. “The CDC making a recommendation that we don’t need to be doing this much testing now after somebody comes down with COVID. And what we’ve seen now, this is coming from the highest levels of the administration.”  Dr. Harbour has taken an interest in states like Florida which saw a need for rapid testing, so his team is in the middle of developing one. He states, “You don’t need the full virus to do the test. We’re looking for a particle that’s only found on that virus. You can get a rapid result within 10-15 minutes and you don’t have to send the specimen back to the lab for processing.”  The rapid antigen test will be done inside the doctor’s office and will have the ability to be done almost anywhere. Dr. Harbour says the rapid test “can be done at a school, it can be done in southern Florida before somebody gets on a cruise ship, before somebody gets on a plane.” He expects tens of thousands of kits to be available near the end of September of 2020 and says it could be a game-changer for the nation's COVID-19 pandemic problem. Considering his extensive experience with the virus, Dr. Harbour says he’s checking off every detail. “It’s important to have good U.S. manufacturers making these tests because that’s where a lot of the problems came on early. The United States was importing really poor quality tests from outside the United States, people were getting false positives. I know, because I’ve had people in my family get a false positive test.”  Having been directly impacted by the virus himself, Harbour says, “In my own family, I’ve had two people die of COVID, and one of my cousin's battling for her life.” He says support from the community and is vital in medical developments necessary to fight the virus. “Really listen to their doctors, listen to the medical community. Don’t listen to politicians about how to take care of yourself. They’re not the ones that you would go to for any other medical issue.”  Dr. Harbour says he’s also working with his team to develop an at-home antibody test. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Hillsborough School Board Discusses Child Trauma/Mental Health IssuesHILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The Hillsborough County School Board met on Tuesday to discuss multiple topics including student trauma and mental health issues and possibly focusing tax dollars toward these issues. In a board workshop Tuesday morning Hillsborough County School Board members discussed the district’s needs regarding new policy proposals and current policies present in their schools. “Anytime that we feel that there’s a necessity, it will be very carefully thought out,” said Addison Davis, Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent. “You know, the importance of volunteers in our school has always been part of the infrastructure. I don’t know what I would do without volunteers to help with reading, with math. The biggest complaint our principals have is all the barriers of getting volunteers to be in the schools,” said Lynn Gray, Hillsborough County School Board The board discussed what they thought would be necessary over the next five years from funding materials needed for classrooms and volunteers needed in schools. “These are items we may need to use whether we're buying a couple of LCD projectors for a particular school, art supplies or a line of investigation science supplies,” said Superintendent Davis. “When we involve the expenditure of funds, which again, public funds are definitely our tax payers, I definitely like the fact that… no greater than fifty thousand. If we don’t start limiting the amount and checking it, we can get lost in a lot of money spent,” said board member Lynn Gray. The board also began the conversation around a policy geared toward students dealing with trauma and mental health issues. “We have to get to a place where we’re not putting children in marked or unmarked cars and taking them away to facilities and that does happen,” said board member, Cindy Stuart. Stuart spearheaded that conversation by introducing her teams ideas on developing a mobile crisis team for those students. “A lot of what happens is kids get pulled into an office, they say something that they may or may not intend to do. Law enforcement then reexamines the child, moves the child to a crisis center type situation. The child is then released to either a parent or guardian. So the whole process is traumatizing for a kid and the child is not getting the resource they need to move forward.” She says she’s seen a disparity in the number of kids that are getting transported to facilities versus the actual number of cases that move forward. “We do have the highest number of Baker Acts in the state and that’s unfortunate. I don’t care how you slice the numbers,” said Stuart. The University of South Florida Baker Act Reporting Center provides numbers to the public from 2015 to 2018 which can be found here. Shifting topics, the board also brought forward the potential for policies regarding the requirement of face coverings across the district. “I thought that, in case we ever had this issue again, God forbid, that we would have something in place,” said board member Karen Perez. They, however  scratched the idea due to it already existing in the emergency order. “In the same spirit, if this is already redundant language, then I’m not sure why we’re bringing it forward. We don’t need to be spending additional dollars to sit here and discuss and advertise and bring it back for a second hearing if this I already covered,” said Stuart. ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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