Guarding against an outbreak
Preventing Legionnaires’ disease
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe infection of the respiratory system, which causes fever, cough, shortness of breath and a severe form of pneumonia. The bacteria Legionella pneumophila can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms, altered mental status and neurologic abnormalities. Legionnaires’ disease claims the lives of 10 percent of those who contract it from community sources, like cooling towers that are often part of central air cooling systems for big buildings in Florida, and it is fatal to one in four people who develop the disease from healthcare sources.
Florida Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, has introduced SB 1190, which is intended to protect the public from Legionnaires’ disease contracted from cooling towers by requiring owners to regularly clean, maintain, treat, sample and report results. If a cooling tower harbors Legionella growth, it must be reported to the health department, possibly requiring public notification.
Cooling towers cause almost half of the recorded outbreaks and most outbreak-associated cases of disease. Currently, there is no registry of where they are located or requirements for them to avoid the conditions that encourage Legionella growth. A 2019 report from the National Academies of Sciences estimated the number of cases in the United States ranges from 52,000 to 70,000 a year; Florida accounted for 5 percent of cases in 2018. If trends hold, the number of cases occurring in Florida may be closer to 2,600 to 3,500 annually.
The benefits will outweigh the cost to building owners if the final law ensures that professionals performing the inspections, testing and government oversight are adequately trained by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA). With robust implementation and effective oversight by state agencies, the bill could significantly improve public health for Floridians and tourists.
J. David Krause, Tallahassee
The writer was Florida’s state toxicologist from 2008-2011 and lead author of the 2015 AIHA Guideline for the Recognition, Evaluation and Control of Legionella in Building Water Systems.
Seek a full, fair trial
The impeachment trial
The latest CNN poll, conducted after the articles of impeachment were delivered to the Senate by the House managers, reveals that for the first time a majority (51 percent) of Americans now believe President Donald Trump should be removed from office and 69 percent believe witnesses should be called by the Senate.
The new poll also finds majorities of Americans view each of the charges on which Trump will face trial as true. Perhaps this polling data explains why Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released the rules governing the Senate trial less than 24 hours prior to the start of the proceeding and then suddenly changed them once the trial began. And that also provides insight into why McConnell and a majority of Republican Senators, unlike the Clinton trial, wanted to rush the presentations. This, of course, likely will prevent Americans and the Senate from being able to hear all the relevant facts needed to reach a rational judgment. After all, it is doubtful Republicans will change their mind on this issue once the presentations are over. Hardly a fair trial.
Sadly, what appears clear is that McConnell and a majority of Republican senators fear revelation of the facts and how the airing of those facts might influence public sentiment and potentially the outcome of the trial and/or the 2020 election. Will they get away with this maneuver and does it violate constitutional norms, not to mention the nation’s revered standards of due process?
Richard Cherwitz, Austin
Vulnerable need our help
People with developmental disabilities are vulnerable members of society, and they profit emotionally and physically by the services provided by Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Medicaid waivers. Many live in group homes that address their basic needs, manage their medications, provide social interactions and help them get to their jobs. Many receive services in their own homes, which allow them to remain with family or have a semblance of independence. Reducing funding would force these individuals to move to nursing homes, ALFs or other institutional settings.
SB 82, which is before the Florida Senate on Tuesday, would affect services on the waiver by making limitations to supported living, residential group home rates and make major changes to support coordination services. In 2019, we were already ranked 50th in funding individuals with developmental disabilities in the United States.
Local support coordination services could be severely affected. Lowering funding would reduce availability of support coordinators to a few large state agencies, which will make services impersonal. We can attest to the excellent personalized coordination services we have received through our support coordinator. Senators, please assess the impact that reduced funding and services would make on these vulnerable citizens.
Joe and Mary Helen Chillura, Tampa
Inexperience cuts across lines
While K. Ward Cummings has some very valid points, he seems to be overlooking the fact that former President Barack Obama was relatively inexperienced on the national stage when he announced his candidacy — he was about two years into his first term as a U.S. senator and was still in his first term as U.S. senator when elected to the presidency.
Bruce Thompson, Hudson
Walk-in clinics work, too
Doesn’t Rep. Jackie Toledo know about walk-in clinics? I know a pharmacist who has a hard time keeping up with filling prescriptions and answering customer questions while also having to stop and give flu shots at the height of flu season. Don’t put more responsibility on their shoulders. Walk-in clinics are all over town.
Wendy Abbott, Tampa