U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth wins in 8th congressional district

By Courtney Dillard

Duckworth prepares to speak to her supporters after her win Tuesday night.

Duckworth prepares to speak to her supporters after her win Tuesday night.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-8th) defeated rival Larry Kaifesh (R) Tuesday night shortly before 11 p.m. It was the only race in this election cycle between two Iraq War veterans.

Duckworth captured 57 percent of the vote, slightly higher than two years ago. In 2012 she defeated incumbent Republican Joe Walsh with 55 percent of the vote.

She promised to keep fighting for military families. “I will continue to be the advocate for our veterans in Congress to achieve good jobs and quality health care,” she said. “I view it as my responsibility to stand up for those whose voices aren’t always heard in the halls of Congress.”

Duckworth’s supporters applauded when she stated her promise to work toward raising the minimum wage. “No one who works 40 hours a week should be living below the poverty line,” she said.

Duckworth promised to continue the work she started in 2013. “I’m proud of what I accomplished in my first term in Washington, and the result tonight means I get to return to move our nation forward, she said. “We advocated for small businesses, for veterans, for working families, for manufacturers and for our villages and cities across the 8th.”

“She’s truthful, and she’s honest,” said Bill Collins, campaign supporter. “She cares about things that are important to the little man.” Collins and his son attended Duckworth’s 2012 swearing-in in Washington D.C.

This will be Duckworth’s second term. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. She recently sponsored the Military Opportunities for Mothers Act to increase the length of maternity leave for women in the military from six to 12 weeks.

Duckworth retired from the military in October. She was the first disabled military veteran in Congress. She and her husband Bryan, a Major in the U.S. Army, are expecting a baby girl in December.

Gov. Quinn changes mandatory quarantine order to apply ‘high-risk’ individuals

By Courtney Dillard

All individuals deemed “high-risk” who fly through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport must submit to a 21-day mandatory quarantine. Photo courtesy of Mark Brennan.

All individuals deemed “high-risk” who fly through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport must submit to a 21-day mandatory quarantine. Photo courtesy of Mark Brennan.

Gov. Pat Quinn took last week’s debacle in New Jersey as an opportunity to clarify the state’s new quarantine regulations. Following a backlash from medical professionals toward New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s mandatory quarantine of international medical worker Kaci Hickox, Quinn stated Monday that only individuals deemed “high-risk” would be subject to the a mandatory home quarantine. Originally Quinn said that all individuals who had direct contact with an Ebola patient would be subject to the mandatory quarantine.

Under Quinn’s most recent order, “high-risk” individuals would have to stay at home and receive temperature screenings for 21 days, the duration of the Ebola virus’s incubation period.

In New Jersey last week, Hickox threatened to sue after she was quarantined involuntarily in a tent at University Hospital in Newark upon returning from Sierra Leone Friday. She tested negative for Ebola on Saturday. Christie originally issued a 21-day quarantine for Hickox, but he reversed his stance and allowed her to return to her home in Maine Monday, after she showed no signs of Ebola for 24 hours.

Christie defended his decision to quarantine Hickox in a news conference Sunday. “We need to protect the public safety of the folks in the most densely populated area in the country,” he said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health, in a news release Monday, said in this state “high-risk” individual refers to anyone who had unprotected contact or made direct skin contact with infectious blood or body fluids of an Ebola patient without the appropriate protective equipment. Anyone who lived with an Ebola patient in an outbreak-affected country is also subject to these quarantine procedures.

These guidelines mirror those from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which were also released Monday.

The quarantine policies in New York and New Jersey go further than the policy in Illinois. They require three-week quarantines for anyone who treated Ebola patients in West Africa, not just those who fall into the CDC’s high-risk category.

The question remains whether or not these states should follow CDC protocol directly. Dr. Tom Friedan, CDC director, confirmed that it is a state’s choice to decide how to handle perceived threats to its citizens.

“We find that state health departments generally do follow CDC guidelines,” said Friedan. “If they wish to be more stringent than what CDC recommends, that’s within their authority and the system of government that we have. We believe these are based on science.”

New York, New Jersey and Illinois were the first three states to issue some form of mandatory quarantine. Other states, including Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, have issued their own policies, all of which extend beyond the CDC’s guidelines.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal stated Monday that all travelers with known direct exposure to an Ebola patient would be quarantined at a designated facility.

In Virginia and Maryland, all travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three West African nations where the epidemic is widespread, will be monitored daily for a three-week period.

The stricter quarantine policies are happening in cities with the five major U.S. airports that receive travelers from the three affected nations.

Recently the Department of Homeland Security mandated that the 150 people that come to the U.S. daily from those three countries must fly through one of the five major airports that have instituted temperature screenings: John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Liberty International Airport in Newark, Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and Washington-Dulles International Airport.

Though the main concern is protecting citizens from exposure to Ebola, Illinois health officials said they do not want to deter health care workers from fighting the epidemic at its source.

“The only way to reduce the risk of Ebola infections in the U.S. to zero is to extinguish the outbreak in West Africa,” said Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health in a news release Monday. “We gratefully acknowledge that U.S. health care workers are critical to that effort.”

To check out the quarantine policies in other major U.S. cities, click here.

U of C students join South Side community activists in fight for trauma center

By Courtney Dillard

Students for Health Equity hold a mock debate to discuss the trauma center campaign.

Students for Health Equity hold a mock debate to discuss the trauma center campaign.

Community activists have been fighting for the University of Chicago Medical Center to re-open its Level 1 trauma care center for years, but the pressure from U of C students has forced the administration to listen.

Students for Health Equity hosted a teach-in Tuesday on U of C’s campus to answer questions and debunk myths about the trauma center campaign. Group members say their different perspective gives them the ability to effect change.

“The administration listens to us with a different ear,” said Duff Morton, a graduate student and Students for Health Equity member. “When we take risks, the administration overreacts, and it benefits the campaign.”

In January 2013, Toussaint Losier, a University of Chicago Ph.D. student, was arrested during a protest at the university’s Center for Care and Discovery. After Losier’s arrest, Thomas F. Rosenbaum, university provost, sent an email to students promising an open forum for discussion about the trauma center. During that discussion, in May 2013, the medical center’s administration admitted for the first time that the South Side needed a trauma center.

“They had been saying for years that there was no correlation between death and travel time to the trauma center,” said Morton. The closest adult trauma to the South Side is Northwestern Memorial Hospital in River North, almost 10 miles away.

In June 2013, Dr. Marie Crandall, associate professor in trauma surgery, critical care and preventative medicine at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, published a study in the American Journal of Public Health linking longer travel times to higher mortality rates for gunshot victims.

Morton said last year was the beginning of “a slow move forward” for the trauma center campaign.

“The administration has acknowledged that there should be a collective solution,” said Morton. “No one else has the resources. As long as we have a private health system, private hospitals need to take responsibility.”

The U of C medical center says that opening a trauma center would take away from their burn unit and neonatal intensive care unit, as well as other emergency services for South Side residents.

The U of C Medical Center closed its Level 1 trauma center in 1988 due to lack of funding. Comer Children’s Hospital, on U of C’s campus, has a Level 1 pediatric trauma center, but victims over the age of 16 cannot be treated there.

Lorna Wong, director of the medical center’s media relations office said, “We continually have discussions with other area health care providers about ways to improve the health of the South Side. The topics that have come up this year include the trauma care issue. As we typically do around our efforts to address community health needs, we will share any developments as they unfold.”

Though Students for Health Equity is a U of C student group, it functions under an umbrella of organizations, including Fearless Leading by Youth, a group of youth leaders and community activists.

“It’s imperative to follow people who aren’t students. We were started by FLY. We are led by FLY,” said Morton. “Our ultimate conclusion was that we could build more power by having separate meetings.”

In 2010, Damian Turner, a co-founder of Fearless Leading by Youth, was shot outside his house on the South Side. Turner was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he later died. His death reignited the trauma center debate.

“If you look at a map of the city’s trauma centers, you are looking at people who are left alone. Alone happens in an ambulance ride,” said Morton. “The trauma center campaign is about refusing to be alone.”

Ebola screenings begin at O’Hare International Airport

By Courtney Dillard

Hazmat suits are necessary for anyone who comes in contact with an Ebola patient. Courtesy of the California National Guard.

Hazmat suits are necessary for anyone who comes in contact with an Ebola patient. Courtesy of the California National Guard.

Chicago is hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst as the threat of Ebola looms. Starting Thursday, all travelers from the three “hotspots” in Africa –Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone—will receive screenings at O’Hare International Airport.

Preventing the spread of Ebola starts at O’Hare, officials said. Up to 25 people from those three countries come through O’Hare daily, according to Dr. Bechara Choucair, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

In a meeting Wednesday, the Chicago Board of Health laid out a two-part contingency plan to prevent the spread of Ebola in the Chicago area. The plan involves the screenings at O’Hare and preparing area hospitals to receive patients.

“Disease knows no citizenship and no borders,” said Victor M. Gonzalez, a member of the Chicago Board of Health. “Any infectious disease is less than 24 hours away.”

All O’Hare passengers from the three West African countries will fill out a questionnaire when they pass through Customs and Border Protection and have their temperatures checked during a secondary evaluation. Travelers who answer yes to high-risk questions on the survey or have high temperatures will receive a medical evaluation in O’Hare’s quarantine unit.

If travelers test positive for symptoms, they will immediately be dispatched to Presence Resurrection Medical Center for evaluation, which is about five miles from the airport. The Ebola test takes 24 to 36 hours. If Ebola is ruled out, travelers can continue to their final destination.

Midway International Airport, which only receives international flights from Canada and Mexico, is not part of the screening program at this time.

The Chicago Board of Health hopes that the city will be able to appoint one hospital to handle all potential Ebola cases. As part of the current contingency plan, it will likely be Resurrection.

“What we are seeking in the City of Chicago is a designated hospital that can have the capacity to care for these patients for days or weeks,” said Dr. Julie Morita, chief medical officer of the Chicago Department of Public Health. “The goal would be for this hospital to have communication with Nebraska Medical Center and Emory University Hospital.” Both Emory and Nebraska have successfully treated Ebola patients.

While Ressurection is closer to O’Hare, Rush University Medical Center also is being considered as a designated hospital. In 2012, Rush opened the McCormick Foundation Center for Advanced Emergency Response. The new emergency center has the ability to isolate airflows to seal off pathogens.

The second part of the contingency plan involves all Chicago-area hospitals and health care providers in the city, including paramedics.

“We have provided updated training for our Emergency Medical Services staff. We want to make sure that our first responders are aware of proper safety procedures,” said Choucair. “We’ve also modified our 911 scripts so when people pick up the phone and dial 911, there are questions specifically asking for travel history.

Two of the nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S., have tested positive for the virus, so the safety of Chicago healthcare workers is top of mind.

“This is an issue that has definitely been on our radar,” said Choucair. “We are working with every hospital in Chicago, connecting with them on a regular basis, making sure that they have the right guidelines and training opportunities developed through the Centers for Disease Control.”

All Chicago-area hospitals should be prepared for someone to come in with Ebola, say Board of Health officials. Dr. Carolyn Lopez, president of the Chicago Board of Health, expressed concerns about whether smaller hospitals will be ready to accommodate Ebola patients.

“Sick people end up where they end up. They don’t think, ‘Oh it’s the regional hospital.’ They end up where they live,” said Lopez.

Despite the increasing anxiety over Ebola, Choucair urges Chicagoans to stay calm. “I want to reassure everybody that the risk is very low, but we are as prepared as we can be,” said Choucair. “We feel good about where we are when it comes to preparedness.”

To view a timeline of Ebola in the U.S., click here

Financial abuse—when domestic violence is more than just physical

By Courtney Dillard

Advocates from the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network passed out information at a recent Domestic Violence Awareness Month kick-off rally in downtown Chicago. This October, advocates are highlighting the issue of financial abuse.

Advocates from the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network passed out information at a recent Domestic Violence Awareness Month kick-off rally in downtown Chicago. This October, advocates are highlighting the issue of financial abuse.

When most people think of domestic violence, they think of physical abuse—black eyes and broken bones. But there is another form of abuse that is more difficult to spot, advocates for battered women say: financial abuse.

“The whole dynamic of an abusive relationship is about power and control, so often it’s economic reasons that keep women with their abusers,” said Hillary Douin, counselor at the Howard Area Community Center in Rogers Park. “They have no housing, employment or resources, so if they leave they would be homeless.”

Some examples of financial abuse include prohibiting the victim from getting a job, taking the victim’s wages, or withholding bank records and account information. It is a subtler tactic that domestic abusers use to exert control over their victims, advocates say.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and advocates are highlighting the issue of financial abuse. Some warn that financial abuse is even more prevalent than physical abuse.

“If a person wants to maintain power and control, they will use a variety of tactics. Most times, that’s not physical violence,” said Vickie Smith, CEO of the Illinois Coalition against Domestic Violence. “The credit issue is probably pretty huge because we don’t notice it until much later.”

At a recent domestic violence awareness rally in downtown Chicago, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D- 9th) warned attendees of a new type of financial abuse.

“An increasingly common form of abuse is efforts to ruin the victim’s credit rating and force the victim to apply to payday lenders with absolutely no hope of being able to repay the loan,” said Schakowsky.

In some instances, victims escape an abusive relationship only to realize that once they are on their own they cannot pass a credit check and must take out cash advances and secure loans. They try to buy a car or rent an apartment with low credit ratings and find themselves in situations where they cannot become self-sufficient.

In some cultures, it is common for a man to act as the head of the household, so the victim might mistake financial abuse for normal behavior. However, advocates say that domestic violence affects all races, genders and socioeconomic classes.

“We find that financial abuse isn’t necessarily culture-related,” said CarolAnn Peterson, adjunct professor at the University of Southern California School of Social Work. “Most abusers control finances because no funds means no way of leaving.”

Peterson advises those struggling with abusive situations to stay a few steps ahead of the abuser. “We tell victims to find a way, if possible, to stash money with trusted family, friends or coworkers.”

The Allstate Foundation in suburban Chicago is one of the few corporate foundations that focus on financial abuse. Allstate launched the Purple Purse campaign four years ago as a fundraising program with a focus on financial empowerment for women.

In collaboration with the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Allstate has created a two-part curriculum with resources for community outreach advocates and financial planning modules for survivors of abuse.

“Domestic violence, in general, is being talked about more than ever,” said Kyle Donash, spokesman at Allstate. “When we talk about ‘Why did she stay?’ the No. 1 reason is financial abuse.”