Woman had life-saving surgery pushed back because Tennessee’s hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients

louisiana covid hospital
Clinicians work on intubating a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana on August 10, 2021.

  • A Tennessee woman’s life-saving surgery was pushed back because the hospital is so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
  • “It’s terrifying to experience a medical emergency during a pandemic,” she wrote in a Washington Post guest essay.
  • Tennessee is facing a surge in new cases, and has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, CDC data shows.

A Tennessee woman’s life-saving surgery was pushed back because hospitals are so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients right now.

Nashville-based writer Betsy Phillips chronicled her journey, which she called an eight-month medical mystery, in a guest essay in the Washington Post.

“It’s terrifying to experience a medical emergency during a pandemic,” she said.

In January, Phillips’ doctors discovered a lump on the front of her throat hindered her breathing. She was finally scheduled to have that lump removed in September to restore her normal breathing.

Instead, a week before her scheduled surgery, her doctors called to cancel because the hospital was so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, even after being told due to the seriousness of her condition, she would be among the last surgeries bumped off the schedule for this reason.

“I’m scared. I’m vaccinated, but a breakthrough case would be dangerous for me,” she said. “I’m bone-deep disappointed. But mostly, I am angry. I did everything I was asked to do to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19. I wanted to do my part to end this crisis. Now, I wonder: Are there any circumstances under which my neighbors would do the same to keep me safe?”

Phillips said she was frustrated that her neighbors weren’t getting vaccinated, leading to a new surge in hospitalizations as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads – and that those people were getting priority for treatment.

“I’m still so very angry that people who put their feelings before others’ well-being get to be first in the hospitals,” she wrote.

Tennessee – which has one of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates with just 43% fully vaccinated – is currently facing a new wave of new cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19, according to CDC data.

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California recall GOP frontrunner Larry Elder declined to commit to accepting election results

In this July 13, 2021 file photo radio talk show host Larry Elder speaks to supporters during a campaign stop in Norwalk, Calif.
In this July 13, 2021 file photo radio talk show host Larry Elder speaks to supporters during a campaign stop in Norwalk, Calif.

California recall election GOP frontrunner Larry Elder declined to commit to accepting the eventual results of the recall election on September 14, in an interview with NBC News.

Elder is asked if he will accept the election results – regardless of who wins – twice and did not directly answer either time.

“I think we all need to be looking at election integrity, whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent,” Elder said.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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Taco Bell is testing a new taco subscription with unlimited tacos for $5, and it shows how the fight over customer loyalty is heating up

Taco Bell taco lover's pass
Taco Bell just introduced a taco subscription.

  • Taco Bell is testing a taco subscription in Arizona for $5 per month.
  • Subscriptions have been growing in the restaurant industry, pioneered by Panera and Pret.
  • The subscription also requires Taco Bell’s app, which can be a way to keep customers coming back.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Taco Bell is testing a new 30-day taco subscription, the chain announced on Monday.

Any customer who can get their hands on one of the Taco Lover’s Passes, which run for anywhere from $5 to $10 depending on location, is eligible for a free taco daily for 30 days.

To cash in on your taco, head to Taco Bell’s app where you can order a Crunchy Taco, Spicy Potato Soft Taco, Crunchy Supreme Taco, Soft Supreme Taco, Doritos Locos Tacos or Doritos Locos Tacos Supreme, according to the press release.

The trial went live on September 9 at 17 participating locations in Tuscon, AZ. It will continue through November 24, Taco Bell said.

Other chains have tested out subscriptions as a way to keep regular customers coming in and spending money in what some experts have dubbed the “subscription economy.” Restaurants are following the success of subscription models from Netflix and Amazon in the subscription sales industry, which is projected to hit $263 billion by 2025 according to Juniper Research.

Panera launched a daily coffee subscription for $9 per month in 2020, followed by Pret A Manger’s similar program in the UK, which offered up to five drinks per day for $26.60 a month. Both companies call the programs a success for bringing in new customers and keeping them coming back.

“We see businesses that are playing in subscriptions are out-competing businesses that are not,” Sean Keith, director of new business development at Eagle Eye, which powers Pret’s subscription, previously told Insider.

For restaurants, subscriptions go hand-in-hand with investment in apps and customer loyalty programs. The Taco Lover’s Pass is available exclusively through Taco Bell’s app, which also has special discounts and promotions on limited-time menu items.

Rewards programs have become nearly essential for fast food chains to attract and keep customers, so these deals are the incentive to get customers using them. Popeyes just launched a program that offers some freebies just for signing up. Starbucks has a popular app with customers so loyal that they sparked a backlash when the chain changed how rewards were calculated. Chipotle’s in-app rewards program has been a huge success, reaching 20 million members within two years of launching.

Rewards programs seem to be more important than ever as they incentivize return visits and give companies valuable customer data, and the Taco Lover’s Pass is just one more way companies can convince customers to download the app.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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At least 20 civilians are believed to have been killed by Taliban in rebel stronghold of Panjshir, report says

Taliban members patrol after they took over Panjshir Valley, the only province the group had not seized during its sweep last month in Afghanistan on September 6, 2021.
Taliban members patrol in Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan on September 6.

  • At least 20 civilians are believed to have been killed by the Taliban in Panjshir, the BBC said.
  • One slain man was arrested on accusations of selling SIM cards to rebel fighters, the report said.
  • The region has long been a focal point of resistance in Afghanistan.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

At least 20 civilians are believed to have been killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, the BBC reported on Monday.

A shopkeeper and father of two was among the victims, the report said. Local sources told the BBC that he would not leave when the Taliban advanced.

“I’m just a poor shop owner and have nothing to do with war,” the man said to the Taliban, the report said, before being arrested on accusations of selling SIM cards to resistance fighters.

The region is the final holdout of anti-Taliban resistance since the militant group swept back into power last month. Heavy fighting has been taking place in the mountainous region in north-central Afghanistan between resistance fighters and the Taliban.

Despite Taliban promises that there wouldn’t be any revenge killings after international forces were evacuated last month, reports have documented targeted killings.

Meanwhile, Taliban sources earlier in September said they seized the Panjshir, while resistance forces denied the assertions, Reuters reported.

Panjshir has long been a focal point of resistance in Afghanistan. The valley defied Taliban rule in the 1990s and held out during the Soviet Union’s occupation, as its rocky terrain and natural mountainous defenses made it historically difficult to conquer.

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A woman said she was raped by a UN worker. UN investigators asked her how much she drank, report says.

Flagpoles line in rows in front of a building of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland Monday, June 14, 2021.
United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

  • An NGO worker who said she was raped by a UN staffer was asked by investigators how much she drank.
  • The incident took place after a Baghdad hotel party in 2016, The Cut reported.
  • Forty-three UN staffers said they reported sexual harassment during their time at the organization.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An NGO worker who said she was raped by a UN Development Programme communications specialist after a 2016 hotel party in Baghdad was asked by investigators how much she drank, The Cut reported on Monday.

The woman, who was not identified in the report, said she was drugged and raped. A UN internal investigation said that after the woman reported the incident, she was asked by UNDP investigators when she started drinking at the party, how regularly she drank and if she ever had anal sex in the past.

She is one of 43 UN staffers who said to The Cut that they experienced sexual harassment during their time at the organization. And despite a few policy changes in recent years to combat the issue, staffers claim a mostly unchanged working environment inside the organization, the report said.

Many of the individuals who spoke to The Cut said they didn’t report to the UN any sexual misconduct situations they experienced because they had such little faith in the system.

“We cannot comment on this case as the proceedings are now before the US courts and we are obliged and committed to protect both the confidentiality of the victim as well as the ongoing judicial process,” a UNDP spokesperson wrote in an email to Insider. “However, all our investigators are highly trained to ensure that interviews, especially ones related to incidents of sexual misconduct, are conducted with the utmost sensitivity and with the greatest respect for the victim/survivor. Questions are only asked if they are directly related to the incident being investigated and to ascertain the facts relating to that specific incident.”

On its website, UNDP says all forms of sexual harassment and exploitation are “unacceptable and prohibited,” and “are a betrayal of the core values of the United Nations.”

“It is our collective priority to prevent such behaviours and to support those affected. We are also committed to ensure that all allegations of sexual harassment and [sexual exploitation and abuse] are responded to swiftly, appropriately and effectively,” it says.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in 2017 that sexual exploitation and abuse is a “global menace” that “must end.”

“Sexual exploitation and abuse has no place in our world,” he said.

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Police will put fencing back up around the Capitol building ahead of a far-right rally supporting Jan. 6 rioters

capitol siege fence
Razor wire and fences still surround the United States Capitol building at sunrise a few days after the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

  • US Capitol Police will reinstall fencing around the Capitol building ahead of a far-right rally.
  • The rally, dubbed “Justice for J6,” is scheduled for September 18.
  • The event is being held to support rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, according to its organizers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

US Capitol Police will reinstall fencing around the perimeter of the Capitol ahead of the upcoming “Justice for J6” rally planned for September 18.

Capitol Police chief Tom Manger, who confirmed the news to Insider, told reporters on Monday that authorities will put up the fencing “a day or two” ahead of the event.

The rally is being held to support people who have been accused, arrested, and charged for their involvement in the Capitol insurrection on January 6, according to organizers of the event. Since the riot, 639 people have been arrested and charged with crimes in connection to it.

The fencing is expected to come down “soon” after the September 18 rally if “everything goes well,” Manger told reporters.

Law enforcement officials are preparing for potential clashes and violence at the event, as counterprotests are being scheduled on the same day and inflammatory rhetoric surrounding the event has increased online, according to an internal Capitol Police memo obtained by CNN.

“We are closely monitoring September 18 and we are planning accordingly,” Manger said in an emailed statement to Insider. “After January 6, we made Department-wide changes to the way we gather and share intelligence internally and externally. I am confident the work we are doing now will make sure our officers have what they need to keep everyone safe.”

Fencing was initially erected around the federal government building following the January 6 riot, which saw supporters of former President Donald Trump overpower police and break into the Capitol complex. The fencing remained up until July.

The upcoming event is being organized by Look Ahead America and led by Matt Braynard, the former director of data and strategy for the Trump campaign, Insider previously reported. It is scheduled to take place at 12 p.m. local time on Saturday at Union Square, a public plaza located just west of the Capitol building.

Protestors should refrain from wearing or bringing political paraphernalia and should stick to donning red, white, and blue “to show your support of the J6 prisoners,” according to details of the event on Look Ahead America’s website.

Top Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, were briefed on Monday by Capitol police on the forthcoming security measures.

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White House official doesn’t rule out requiring COVID-19 vaccines or tests for domestic flights

Jeff Zients
  • A White House official hinted vaccination or testing rules could be needed for domestic air travel.
  • “We’re not taking any measures off the table,” the COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said.
  • Zients was answering a question on whether some measures have been ruled out for domestic flights.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

COVID-19 vaccination or testing mandates could one day be needed for domestic air travel in the United States, a White House official hinted Friday.

“Overall, I think we have a very strong track record that shows we’re pulling available levers to acquire vaccinations and we’re not taking any measures off the table,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said during a virtual press briefing.

Zients made the remarks in response to a reporter’s question about whether COVID-19 vaccination or test requirements have been ruled out by the White House for domestic flights.

A day earlier President Joe Biden unveiled sweeping actions and measures to get millions more Americans vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The president’s new policies include mandates to require all federal employees to get vaccinated and a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly for the virus.

Additionally, under Biden’s plan, fines will double for travelers who violate the TSA mask mandates covering air travel and some modes of public transportation.

“As to travel we’re taking further action, as you know, to double the fines for non-compliance of masking on airlines,” said Zients.

The new vaccination requirements, Zients said, will “help make employees, workplaces, and communities safer and help accelerate our path out of pandemic.”

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Unvaccinated, COVID-19-stricken TikToker urges followers to get the vaccines in final video post before her death

johnson & johnson vaccine
A vial of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen’s) Covid-19 vaccine.

  • An unvaccinated TikTok user urged followers to get inoculated against the coronavirus before she died.
  • Megan Alexandra Blankenbiller said in her final TikTok video it “was a mistake” she didn’t get a vaccine.
  • “If you are even 70% sure that you want the vaccine, go get it. Don’t wait,” Blankenbiller said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An unvaccinated, COVID-19-stricken Florida TikTok user urged her followers to get inoculated against the coronavirus, saying it was a “mistake” that she did not, in her last video post before her death.

“I don’t have a lot of energy for talking, so I want to try to make this quick,” Megan Alexandra Blankenbiller, 31, said as she appeared to struggle to breathe from a hospital bed in an August 15 TikTok video.

@atasteofalex

**Also, Tonic Water. Nasty stuff but good for you!! Stay safe out there guys!

♬ original sound – It’s Alex, Betch. 💋

“So, just to follow up again, like I said in my other videos, I did not get vaccinated,” Blankenbiller said. “I’m not anti-vax. I was just trying to do my research. I was scared, and I wanted me and my family to all do it at the same time. And as I’m sure you guys know, it’s hard to get everyone to agree on something if people feel differently.”

In the video post, which has now been viewed more than 900,000 times, Blankenbiller said “it was a mistake” that she did not get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I shouldn’t have waited,” Blankenbiller told her 18,000 followers. “If you are even 70% sure that you want the vaccine, go get it. Don’t wait. Go get it. Because hopefully if you get it then you won’t end up in the hospital like me.”

Nine days after Blankenbiller posted the video, she died, WebMD reported.

Blankenbiller’s sister confirmed her sibling’s death in a Facebook post, according to NBC News.

“I am saddened and heart broken to share that my older sister has been called to heaven today,” Cristina Blankenbiller posted on Facebook on August 24. “Megan was such a beautiful person who gave her everything to anyone in need. She was a light to all around her and brought joy to everyone she met.”

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Denmark lifts all COVID-19 restrictions as Fauci says cases are 16 times too high to end the pandemic in US

Colorful buildings line the sides of harbors in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Copenhagen, Denmark.

  • Denmark lifted all COVID-19 restrictions, making it one of the first EU countries to do so, the AP reported.
  • The country boasts an 80% vaccination rate, which is the driving force behind this choice.
  • Meanwhile, cases in the US are 16 times too high to end the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci said this week.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After 548 days, Denmark has officially lifted all of its COVID-19 restrictions Friday, The Associated Press reported.

The country boasts an 80% vaccination rate among people over the age of 12 – the driving force behind this decision, according to the AP.

The last remaining restriction required all citizens to show a digital pass to enter nightclubs. That rule was lifted Friday.

This change makes Denmark one of the first countries in the EU to declare itself ahead of the pandemic.

“I wouldn’t say it is too early. We have opened the door but we have also said that we can close it if needed,” Soeren Riis Paludan, a professor of virology with the Aarhus University in Denmark’s second largest city, told the AP.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that the US case rate is currently 16 times too high to end the pandemic, The Hill reported.

“The endgame is to suppress the virus. Right now, we’re still in pandemic mode, because we have 160,000 new infections a day. That’s not even modestly good control … which means it’s a public health threat,” Fauci told Axios.

He added that to feel comfortable ending the pandemic, we have to be seeing fewer than 10,000 cases per day in the US.

Fauci pointed to vaccines, once again, as the country’s way out.

“You’ll still get some people getting infected, but you’re not going to have it as a public health threat,” he said.

That’s why President Joe Biden unveiled his plan on Thursday to get more Americans vaccinated by implementing mandates and increasing testing.

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Federal judge blocks Florida’s ‘anti-riot’ law that Gov. DeSantis championed as a way to combat protests but civil rights groups said targeted people of color

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

  • A federal judge on Thursday blocked Florida’s controversial “anti-riot” law.
  • Championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the law criminalizes protests that turn violent.
  • Civil rights groups sued over it, saying it infringed on First Amendment rights and targeted Black people.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A federal judge on Thursday blocked Florida’s “anti-riot” law, which Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed as a way to curb violent demonstrations in the state.

Northern Florida District Judge Mark Walker said the order binds Florida’s agents, employees, and attorneys, court documents show, and blocked enforcement of the law under the definition of the word “riot.”

The state defines a “riot” in the law as three or more people participating in a violent public disturbance that causes property damage or injury to someone, according to court documents. The Dream Defenders, a coalition that advocates for the abolition of police and jails, sued the state arguing that its new definition of a “riot” was too vague.

The Freedom Defenders said in the lawsuit that the law was too vague because it did not clarify whether people taking part in a peaceful protest that turned violent could face charges, and Walker agreed. Walker said in the ruling that the state’s definition of a riot could lead to innocent people being prosecuted.

“If this court does not enjoin the statute’s enforcement, the lawless actions of a few rogue individuals could effectively criminalize the protected speech of hundreds, if not thousands, of law-abiding Floridians,” Walker wrote.

Walker said the state can’t make a new definition of the word “riot,” but that it could still suppress them.

Signed by DeSantis in April, the law criminalizes protests that turn violent. It said protests can be called “mob intimidation,” a first-degree misdemeanor that can land someone up to one year in prison. Protests could also be called a “riot,” which the law made a second-degree felony that carries up to 15 years in prison, ABC News reported.

The controversial law led to a handful of lawsuits from civil rights groups arguing that it infringed on First Amendment rights and targeted Black people. Walker noted in his ruling that the plaintiffs suggested the law was put into place as a response to racial justice protests that occurred in the summer of 2020, but he feared it would have more far-reaching effects.

“Though plaintiffs claim that they and their members fear that it will be used against them based on the color of their skin or the messages that they express, its vagueness permits those in power to weaponize its enforcement against any group who wishes to express any message that the government disapproves of,” Walker wrote.

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