9/3: Vacation from Hell

September 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Featured, Mary Griffith

Disaster?  Disaster doesn’t even come close.

Dateline: Summer 1999.  Destination: Hilton Head, South Carolina.  Twelve family members embark on a mini-family reunion.  How could a long weekend of fun in the sun go so awry?  A cacophony of events so unforeseen it rivals a Hollywood screenplay.

Lowlight Number 1:  Scorching heat & oppressive humidity.

The upside: The backdrop for our trip was beautiful sunny skies.  The downside: Those sunny skies were coupled with mercury-rising heat and choking humidity.  As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with sweltering temperatures.  When the hotel’s bathtub sized pool with bath warm water was taken into consideration, there was little relief.  In fact, my uncle tried to get in a round of golf at 7 A.M. and returned dripping in sweat.

Lowlight Number 2: Not being evacuated from a restaurant with a gas leak.

family-dinner

Waiting to eat in a restaurant that will eventually be evacuated -- without us.

Yes, you read that correctly.  My mom’s cousin, Loretta, is a seafood lover and was looking forward to a good, lobster dinner.  So, on either the second or third night of the vacation, we received a restaurant recommendation, and off we went.  The night started off great!  The décor was wonderful, and we were in a semi-private room upstairs.  We ordered a ton of appetizers and drinks, but when it came time for the entrees to arrive, we waited close to an hour and a half for them to reach our table.  My family’s patience wore thin, and we couldn’t even find a member of the wait staff to ask what was going on.  Then, Loretta decided to go outside and have a cigarette.  As she stepped into the humid air, she noticed a number of fire engines.  Not thinking anything was wrong with the restaurant we were in, she went to light up.  Then, a firefighter came rushing towards her!  The restaurant had a gas leak, he informed her, and had been evacuated!  That is, everyone inside the restaurant except for the twelve members of my family seated in a now-private, upstairs room.  When Loretta returned, our meals had arrived – ice cold.  We hypothesized that the restaurant chose not to sacrifice the hefty tab my family ran at the risk of our lives.  Infuriated, Loretta’s husband went to the manager who still insisted that we pay our bill.  A minor argument ensued, and the only compensation we received was having the drinks knocked off of our check.

Lowlight Number 3: Physical injury while on a wave runner.

After our culinary fiasco, we didn’t think the trip could get much worse.  Were we ever wrong! The more adventurous members of the family (the men) hit the ocean by renting a few wave runners.  Unfortunately, for one, the term “hit the ocean” was all too literal.  You see, my godfather’s nephew (who was visiting from Lebanon) was thrust into the air while doing quick turns on the wave runner.  On his way back down, he fell on top of the watercraft injuring his lower back.  The problem:  Poor William didn’t have medical coverage in the states.  He suffered great pain, in silence, for the remaining couple of days of our trip.  It was only upon our return to New York did he discover the true extent of his injury – a broken tailbone — after a family friend who is a nurse examined him.

The mysteriously reappearing room number.

The mysteriously reappearing room number.

Lowlight Number 4: Shower collapse, leaky air conditioner, and, yes, a roach.

I’m not a snob when it comes to hotel accommodations.  I can rough it with the best of them.  However, three strikes, and you’re out.  When I first got to our room (a well-known chain which shall remain nameless), the air conditioner was leaking and left a puddle all over the floor.  No big deal, it happens.  We went to the front desk and got a new room.  However, the conditions in the inn quickly deteriorated.  Forget that the room number placard of our old room was adhered outside our new room.  (A quirk, we thought.)  But, about midway through the vacation, my mom and I swung by our cousins’ room.  When we got there, we were informed that their shower fixtures had caved in.  And, to top it all off, on the last night of our stay, we found a palmetto bug (a.k.a. roach) in one of the rooms.

The dark spot on the ceiling is an uninvited guest -- a roach.

The dark spot on the ceiling is an uninvited guest -- a roach.

That was the last straw!  My mom and her cousins stormed off to the front desk to complain.  In the midst of the hubbub, my mother turned to a security guard who was less than alert at the front door and asked what his purpose was.  His response was short and ridiculous, “Stealin’.” That was the end.  Loretta flew back to her room and began calling other hotels to see if we could find rooms – even if for the night.  No luck.  We were stuck for the evening and happily escaped the next morning.

Parasailing was one of the highlights of the trip.

Parasailing was one of the highlights of the trip.

With all of the vacation’s insanity, there were some good moments like parasailing and knocking a volleyball around on the beach.  To this day, none of us who were there can believe the events of that trip.  Yet, we just laugh it all off!

Related Stories:

9/3: There’s No Place Like Home…Vacations Dubbed “Disasters”


9/2: Is This the Year?

September 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Featured, Lee Miringoff

If this fall’s re-election campaigns of NYC Mayor Bloomberg and NJ Governor Corzine don’t provide sufficient distraction for the staff at The Marist Poll, you can count on the intense rivalry of baseball’s “Three Hundred Club” to test the statistical savvy of Poughkeepsie’s pollsters.  Dating back to 1949, two Boston brothers each picked 10 major league batters to see whose total average would be higher.  The “Three Hundred Club” was born.

Lee Miringoff

Lee Miringoff

Since then, a collection of baseball buffs have joined the fray, including many of the poll prognosticators at Marist.  Unfortunately, as the ol’ professor Casey Stengel used to say, “It is very difficult making predictions, especially about the future.”  For the most part, The Marist Poll’s record for picking political winners has exceeded its ability to field a winning lineup of baseball’s best batters.

The breakout year was 2004 when Marist Poll Director Barbara L. Carvalho and I ran one-two for most of the summer (Barbara had won the mid-season prize the previous year.)  I faded in the stretch.  Barbara was nipped in the final weekend of the 2004 season by mere tenths of a percentage point… well within the error margin she often pointed out, but not enough to win the Tiffany Bowl.

Fast forward to 2009 where current standings place Barbara in second among the club’s 85 contestants.  I’m laboring in 11th position.  Marist’s Director of Interactive Media Systems Mary Azzoli, Web Senior Editor John Sparks (a distant relative of Casey Stengel), and Program Manager Stephanie Calvano trail.  Stephanie is in third place for pitchers.  We’re all also keeping an eye on the homers and RBI competition.

All of these baseball numbers are findable on The Three Hundred Club’s website.  The Marist Poll election numbers are found right here on Pebbles and Pundits’ politics page.

9/1: Off Guard…Concern About Swine Flu Low Among Americans

September 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, Health Care, Health Care Archive, Politics

If public officials want Americans to take the possible dangers of the H1N1 virus commonly known as “swine flu” seriously, more needs to be done.  Nearly two-thirds of residents nationwide — 64% — are not very concerned or not concerned at all that someone in their household will contract swine flu.  This includes 29% of the overall population who are not concerned at all.  In fact, just 11% are very concerned, and 25% have some degree of worry.

h1n1_290

©istockphoto.com/yesfoto

Concerns divide along racial lines.  More African Americans and Latinos have some degree of worry compared with white residents.  Just 30% of whites are either concerned or very concerned about the second outbreak affecting their families.  This compares with 49% of African Americans and 57% of Latinos.  There is also increased worry among residents 45 and older and women compared with younger Americans and men.

Perhaps, the reason why Americans, on the whole, are not too concerned about a new battle with swine flu is that so few have been affected personally by the virus.  Just 10% of U.S. residents report that they know someone who has had the H1N1 virus.  More younger residents than older ones know someone who has suffered from the H1N1 virus with 14% of Americans younger than 45 years old and 7% of those 45 and older reporting this to be the case.

Table: Concern About Contracting H1N1
Table: Know Someone with H1N1

Split Decision Among Americans About Schools’ Preparedness

Saint Francis Preparatory School in New York City became ground zero for an outbreak of swine flu this past spring.  So, do Americans think schools in their communities are prepared to handle an outbreak this fall?  Residents divide.  40% believe they are either prepared or very prepared while 44% say their local schools are not very prepared or not prepared at all.

As for parents whose children will be sitting in those classrooms, they are nearly split.  45% of households with children report the schools are well equipped while 46% say they are not.

Table: Schools’ Preparedness to Deal with H1N1 Virus

Marist Poll Methodology

Related Stories:

9/1: Swine Flu from “Ground Zero”

9/1: Preventing Swine Flu…An Interview with the CDC

9/1: Swine Flu from “Ground Zero”

September 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, Health Care, Politics

The swine flu outbreak began last spring when the first cases were reported at St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens, New York.  In an interview with the Marist Poll’s John Sparks, Assistant Principal Patrick McLaughlin recalls last April’s outbreak and addresses steps the school is taking this Fall to meet the threat of the swine flu epidemic.  Read the full interview below.

Patrick McLaughlin

Pat McLaughlin

John Sparks
One of the first incidents of Swine Flu, or what is now known as H1N1, began at St. Francis.  Were you surprised of the outbreak taking place at St. Francis?

Listen to the Interview, Part 1:

soundboard.com

Pat McLaughlin
We were very surprised.  In fact when we started having some cases come in, we didn’t know what it was, and that was about April 23rd or so of this year.  And, it took us a day to find out from the Department of Health that it may have been the Swine Flu going through the building.  So, yeah, we weren’t ready for something like that.

John Sparks
Have you ever been able to determine why it took place at St. Francis?

Pat McLaughlin
We had some senior students who went on a trip to Cancun, Mexico, and it was not school sponsored.  They went on their own.  We know that a couple of those students were ill when they came back from the trip and then came to school while they were ill.  So, as we look back, when they entered the school, I guess it was the 19th or 20th of April, quickly the organism, the pathogen started spreading from one student to another.  And, as you know, being in a classroom with bodies in close contact, it’s very easy for a pathogen to spread very quickly.  So, we think that’s how it started here.

John Sparks
As we approach the flu season, we’re also approaching the beginning of school for the Fall semester.  What preparations are you taking to meet the threat of the Swine Flu epidemic?

Pat McLaughlin
Just to say that we’ve been through this once, and that was a great education for us.  We did close for a week.  We removed people from the building – staff, faculty, and students.  We scrubbed the building down. Now, we think coming into September to a new school year, it’s a lot about education, and first and foremost, we’re going to meet with faculty and staff and students, and one of the first things we’re going to say is if you feel sick, don’t come to school.  If you have symptoms of a flu, don’t come into the building.  We’re going to say that at the assemblies.  We’re going to put it on the website.  We are going to have it scrolling on monitors that we have set up in the public areas of the building, the lobbies.  We’ll have it in much of our paperwork that goes home to parents as well.  So, we have to make a stand in terms of educating everyone within the community as to what the symptoms are of any type of flu and what precautions to take. So, that’s going to be one of the jobs we have at hand for the beginning of school.

St. Francis Preparatory School

St. Francis Preparatory School

Our nurse has been traveling throughout the summer to a variety of workshops to give her expertise to other educational administrators as to what she went through, and she also has come up with a plan for the medical office in terms of dealing with those students coming down with any type of illness.  And, if they show signs of fever and flu-like symptoms, they’ll be immediately quarantined into a part of our auditorium, and it’s been advised that they wear protective masks as well so they don’t transmit the disease to someone else.  So, I think coming into this school year, we’re ready in terms of getting the information out, in terms of educating the people within the community, and ready to just get into action with anything that we’re confronted with.

John Sparks
We conducted a national poll, and we asked the American public how concerned they were about Swine Flu, and about 36% of the American public said that they were very concerned or somewhat concerned, but 64% said that they were not very concerned or not concerned at all.  I’m just curious to your reaction to that and whether you anticipate another outbreak of Swine Flu?

Listen to Part 2:

soundboard.com

Pat McLaughlin
Well, you can me put in the category that says very concerned at this point, because we’re dealing with a population that is a target population for the disease.  We’re dealing with a population that is always in close contact, and from our experience in the Spring, we saw how quickly the incubation period for the Swine Flu is.  So, it concerns us greatly that we have everyone onboard in terms of the information that we’ll give them, everyone onboard understanding what to do if they feel ill or if they see other people who are ill.  So, that’s a great concern for us.  And, I would dare there say that any school should be very concerned about the precautions that they need to take.  They should be very concerned about knowledge within the building of illness.  So, I think that’s something any school has to take seriously coming into the new school year.

John Sparks
Now, I spoke with some people in the health services community who told me that even if they put all efforts and resources toward manufacturing vaccine for H1N1, that there would not be nearly enough and that would also impact the reserves for what we call traditional flu vaccines.  I’m just curious, have any of your students been getting vaccinated?

Pat McLaughlin
I can’t speak to that right now, because they have not been in the school yet.  Our new incoming freshman class will be in the building starting on Monday and Tuesday.  So, that’s the first that we’ll see of them. But we don’t have a measurement on how many students or faculty have gotten the flu shot yet.

John Sparks
You mentioned about your school nurse and some of the things that have been going on.  I’m just curious what role the city or state health departments may have been playing in all this since the outbreak last Spring.

Pat McLaughlin
They were a tremendous help to us.  We immediately contacted the Board of Health. Again, when it first hit us that, I guess it was the Thursday the 23rd, and we had a number of students come down to the medical office ill, we didn’t know what it was.  We didn’t know whether it was a flu, whether there was something in the air or what it was.  So, we immediately contacted the Department of Health when we saw the numbers that we were facing.  They sent a person in the next day who did some swabs and identified that it was indeed the Swine Flu.  So, we followed their direction from that very beginning of the episode, and they’ve been extremely helpful.  They were in contact with us through the entire spring semester, the rest of the entire spring semester, guiding us, helping us, giving us feedback, and we have been awaiting their recommendations on what school should do for the upcoming school year.  So, we’re going to implement those as well.  But, I have to say that the Department of Health in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and the mayor’s office were a great help to us in getting through this whole episode.

John Sparks
Since that episode last spring, has it had an impact on your enrollment for the fall?

Listen to Part 3:

soundboard.com

Pat McLaughlin
I don’t get that impression.  In freshmen that we talk to and parents of freshmen who are incoming, that didn’t seem to play a role. I think people looked at it as we just got a little bit unlucky here in the spring, and it doesn’t seem to have played a role in the school itself, because I think people know the quality of the education here. They know that the — when they come here, they’re going to get a caring, nurturing environment.  So, I don’t think that episode really played a role in enrollment.

John Sparks
I’m just curious, Pat, how you might characterize the feelings of the parents, the students, and the faculty – fearful, cautious, anxious, unconcerned?

Pat McLaughlin
Learned. I think we went through a situation together, and I have to say that when the Department of Health followed up with a survey about what we did here and who got sick and what they did with medical care, we had a tremendous outpouring of parental support, and I think the people within the school also stepped up to keep everything going in terms of the academic work for the students.  So, it was… that was, I guess, the most positive thing that could’ve come out of a negative situation was that the community came together and realized that we just got a little bit unlucky, and we have to do the best with it as we could at that point.

John Sparks
I’m just curious in looking back, and hindsight is 20/20, what you might’ve learned from the incident last spring?  Was there anything that you would do differently?  And, as a result of what happened, I would think that, perhaps, Saint Francis certainly is doing everything possible to deal with this in the future.

Pat McLaughlin
I think if we knew then what we know now, we would’ve implemented the things that we’re going to implement this September. If we knew the Swine Flu was coming our way, there would’ve been a great effort on our part to educate people about the aspects of influenza, of the Swine Flu, and how to prevent it, also what to do if you feel ill.  If you have a fever and you feel sick, stay home. And, we had some students who felt sick, had a fever and still came to school and still tried to push it, and that’s commendable that they want to be in school, and they want to learn; but at the same time, it perpetuated the illness within the community and made it worse.  So, we learned that about the influenza at that time.  We also learned that if we do have a number of students come down with these symptoms, to quarantine them.  Our nurse’s office wasn’t big enough to take care of a quarantine at that time.  So, now we’ve… in our emergency plan, we have sectioned off a part of our auditorium where we can put those students and isolate them until we can make contact with their parents and have them come up and pick up their child to get medical care.  So, I think we learned a lot from that experience, and what we learned, we are now implementing at this point.

John Sparks
Pat, I sure appreciate your time this afternoon. Anything else that you would like to add or speak to in regard to H1N1?

Pat McLaughlin
Well, I just want to say, John, that we do a cleaning during the summer anyway. The building’s spotless when the students come back, and we did the same thing.  And, when this first hit on the 23rd, that weekend we spent the money, we brought a crew of our maintenance people in, and they scrubbed down the entire building.  So, I’d like to say that we’re ready to go with the school year; we’re prepared, and I’m hoping that the information that we have will help us deal with anything that comes in.

** The views and opinions expressed in this and other interviews found on this site are expressly those of the speakers or authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Marist Poll.

Related Stories:

9/1: Off Guard…Concern About Swine Flu Low Among Americans

9/1: Preventing Swine Flu…An Interview with the CDC

9/1: Preventing Swine Flu…An Interview with the CDC

September 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, Health Care, Politics

Should Americans be concerned about H1N1 influenza, and what precautions should they take to be protected from the swine flu?  The Marist Poll’s John Sparks talks with Joe Quimby of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.  Read the full interview below.

©istockphoto.com/DNY59

©istockphoto.com/DNY59

John Sparks
Joe, The Marist Poll conducted a national survey of the American public, and we found that 64% of the American public told us that they were not very concerned or not concerned at all about H1N1  Should folks be concerned?

Joe Quimby
Short answer to that is yes, the American public should be concerned about 2009 A H1N1 influenza because flu is very unpredictable.  We’ve had over 8,800 hospitalizations to date since April, and 556 people have died in the United States.  Although we don’t know the exact number of people who have been ill, as of late May, we knew that well over a million people had either been sick or were sick and certainly that number’s increased.  So, people do need to be concerned with this and both seasonal flu.

Listen to the Interview, Part 1:

soundboard.com

John Sparks
Well what precautions should people take about H1N1?

Joe Quimby
Well, it’s the same precaution for this flu as for seasonal flu.  They need to … if they’re becoming ill, they need to stay home and stay — self-isolate themselves.  If they have an underlying health condition, they need to seek attention from their medical provider, particularly people like pregnant women, who, unfortunately, of those who have died, we’re seeing about an unproportional number of deaths of pregnant women, 6% on average, whereas only 1% of the population is pregnant at any one time.  People who are asthmatic, other people with underlying health conditions certainly should not wait at all, should contact their health providers. But a generally healthy person who becomes ill should not flood to emergency rooms or whatever and be overly worried.  If you’re in generally good health, you’re going to probably pull through this in a couple of days, probably don’t even need to see a doctor, but that’ll be an individual call.  But we want people to be prudent about seeking medical care, particularly if they do have an underlying health condition.

John Sparks
You know you mentioned seasonal flu, and we are approaching the seasonal flu season, and of course the word always goes out that people should get inoculated.  Should people get H1N1 shots?

Joe Quimby
Well, first of all, a seasonal flu vaccine is in doctor’s offices now as we speak. I know here in Georgia it’s out, and it’s going to be distributed in the coming days across the country if it’s not already in your doctor’s office.  So, people should first get a seasonal influenza shot.  80% of the Americans fall into the groups of people who are recommended for seasonal.  And ,if you are recommended for a 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine, certainly please get in line. There’s 159 people who are recommended, and people like I talked to before of, with underlying health risk and particularly pregnant women… and healthcare workers and children, school aged children, need to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

John Sparks
You mentioned getting in line, is there enough vaccine for H1N1 for everyone in America that needs it?

Listen to Part 2:

soundboard.com

Joe Quimby
We believe that there’ll be enough vaccine starting in about middle of October.  About 45 million doses will be initially available for those who want to have a vaccine.  Like seasonal influenza, this is a voluntary vaccine program.  So, we believe that with the initial 45 million and then follow-on distributions in the days and weeks that follow and months that follow, that everybody who wants a vaccine should be able to get one.

John Sparks
I know that CDC works in cooperation with city, county, and state health departments on something like this.  I’m just curious what some of these other agencies are doing in preparation for the fear of a pandemic?

Joe Quimby
Well it’s not the fear of a pandemic, we already have a pandemic.  It’s getting ready at all levels has been a top priority at all levels of government.  As you know, the president called for a flu summit, if you would, in the early days of July, and three cabinet secretaries got together along with hundreds of people at state and local and federal levels to begin their plans, if they already hadn’t.  And, I think we’re seeing now with the beginning of schools, some people becoming ill in school settings and colleges and universities, we’re seeing the execution of well played — well laid and planned scenarios to take care of sick people and to keep healthy people healthy.

John Sparks
The last time I remember the country getting this excited about Swine Flu, Gerald Ford was president. I recall lining up at a shopping center and getting a free shot for the Swine Flu.  Are we going to see something of that level again?

Joe Quimby
What we will see will be a combination of things.  We’ve been effectively distributing flu vaccines through primary care providers, different scenarios for decades, and so we’re going to see a combination of vaccine distributed initially to all the states on a prorated basis so that if 4% of the population lives in a particular state, that’s how much of the initial vaccine they’ll get.  And, various states and cities, depending on the population, will adapt and employ different scenarios.  So, the first and foremost thing that people can do to find out about vaccines in their area is to contact their primary care provider; and certainly when H1N1 vaccine becomes available, people are going to know about any public offerings in a community setting, in addition to in their physician setting.

John Sparks
Joe, I know it’s hard to look into a crystal ball and into the future and see what we might expect, but do you have any prediction on what we may experience this flu season in regards to H1N1?

Listen to Part 3:

soundboard.com

Joe Quimby
Actually if I had a crystal ball, it’d be real easy to predict what the flu season would look like, but we don’t have a crystal ball.  What we can say is that flu is very unpredictable.  We just don’t know what the extent of illness will be when you combine a new influenza strain as the 2009 H1N1 influenza combined with an act of seasonal influenza season. Our seasonal flu season is October to May.  We’ve seen the flu activity throughout these past couple months in the summer at unprecedented levels, and not since the pandemic of 1968 have we seen such an active flu activity summer — flu activity in the summer months.

John Sparks
How well would you characterize our preparations?  Are we going to be prepared?

Joe Quimby
Well, I think it’s a little too early for us to give ourselves a report card. I think the report card and any kind of grading of such will come afterwards. But, I believe that – - I know in my heart of hearts that there are 14,000 people here at the CDC, and there are thousands more at the federal level and state level and at schools and cities across the country, in health departments that are ready, have been working really hard and you’re going to see a true combined effort. But, you asked me first what can people do, there is a shared responsibility. It’s not just what the government can do for you, it’s what people can do for themselves to protect themselves against becoming exposed.  Simple things:  Keep your hands washed.  Wash your hands with soap and water often. Use alcohol-based hand gels. If they’re coughing, cough into their elbow and avoid the people who are ill, and if you are ill, stay at home, self-isolate and don’t return back to society, be it school or work environment, until you’re free from fever 24 hours without taking anything to suppress that fever.  So, there’s some — a lot of personal responsibility that each individual in America can be accounted for.

John Sparks
Joe, I appreciate your time. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Joe Quimby
No, just that it’s going to be a very unpredictable flu season and that for each American out there to do their part to protect themselves, their children, their parents, and the people that they live, work, and play with and go to school with.  And, if we all work together here, I think we’ll all get through this.  But, it is a combined effort at all levels of government and certainly with the personal efforts of the people.  We don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think you’re going to see a good effort at all levels.

** The views and opinions expressed in this and other interviews found on this site are expressly those of the speakers or authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Marist Poll.

Related Stories:

9/1: Off Guard…Concern About Swine Flu Low Among Americans

9/1: Swine Flu from “Ground Zero”


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