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This aerial view taken Sunday, shows part of an Amtrak train that derailed in north-central Montana Saturday that killed multiple people and left others hospitalized, officials said. The westbound Empire Builder was en route to Seattle from Chicago, with two locomotives and 10 cars, when it left the tracks about 4 p.m. Saturday.
JOPLIN, Mont. — A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board was at the site of an Amtrak derailment in north-central Montana that killed three people and left seven hospitalized Sunday, officials said. The westbound Empire Builder was en route from Chicago to Seattle when it left the tracks about 4 p.m. Saturday near Joplin, a town of about 200. Trevor Fossen was first on the scene. The Joplin resident was on a dirt road nearing the tracks Saturday when he saw "a wall of dust" about 300 feet high. "I started looking at that, wondering what it was and then I saw the train had tipped over and derailed," said Fossen, who called 911 and started trying to get people out. He called his brother to bring ladders for people who couldn't get down after exiting through the windows of cars resting on their sides. The train was carrying about 141 passengers and 16 crew members and had two locomotives and 10 cars, eight of which derailed, Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said. A 14-member team including investigators and specialists in railroad signals would look into the cause of the derailment on a BNSF Railway main track that involved no other trains or equipment, said NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss.
Law enforcement said the officials from the NTSB, Amtrak and BNSF had arrived at the accident scene just west of Joplin, where the tracks cut through vast, golden brown wheat fields that were recently harvested. Several large cranes were brought to the tracks that run roughly parallel to U.S. Highway 2, along with a truckload of gravel and new railroad ties. Several rail cars could still be seen on their sides. The accident scene is about 150 miles northeast of Helena and about 30 miles from the Canadian border. Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn expressed condolences to those who lost loved ones and said the company is working with the NTSB, Federal Railroad Administration and local law enforcement, sharing their "sense of urgency" to determine what happened. "The NTSB will identify the cause or causes of this accident, and Amtrak commits to taking appropriate actions to prevent a similar accident in the future," Flynn said in the statement. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said BNSF was readying replacement track for when the NTSB gives the go-head. "BNSF has assured me they can get the line up and running in short order," he said. Railroad safety expert David Clarke, director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee, said accident scene photos show the derailment occurred at or near a switch, which is where the railway goes from a single track to a double track. Clarke said the two locomotives and two cars at the front of the train reached the split and continued on the main track, but the remaining eight cars derailed. He said it was unclear if some of the last cars moved onto the second track. "Did the switch play some role? It might have been that the front of the train hit the switch and it started fish-tailing and that flipped the back part of the train," Clarke said. Another possibility was a defect in the rail, Clarke said, noting that regular testing doesn't always catch such problems. He said speed was not a likely factor because trains on that line have systems that prevent excessive speeds and collisions. Matt Jones, a BNSF Railway spokesman said at a news conference that the track where the accident occurred was last inspected Thursday. Because of the derailment, Sunday's westbound Empire Builder from Chicago will terminate in St. Paul, Minn., and the eastbound train will originate in Minnesota. Most of those on the train were treated and released for their injuries, but five who were more seriously hurt remained at the Benefis Health System hospital in Great Falls, Mont., said Sarah Robbin, Liberty County emergency [...]
Mon, Sep 27, 2021 Source: Headlines -NPRCategory: TOP NEWS
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A view of the entrance to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City on May 14, 2020. Hospital and nursing home workers across New York are required to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday, prompting concerns over noncompliance and potential staffing shortages.
Cindy Ord/Getty Images
Cindy Ord/Getty Images
New York state officials are bracing for staffing shortages when the state's health care worker vaccination mandate takes effect on Monday, and could be looking to the National Guard — as well as medical professionals from other states and countries — to help address them. Gov. Kathy Hochul released a plan on Saturday, outlining the steps she could take to increase the workforce in the event that large numbers of hospital and nursing home employees do not meet the state's deadline. "We are still in a battle against COVID to protect our loved ones, and we need to fight with every tool at our disposal," she said.
That could mean declaring a state of emergency to allow health care professionals licensed outside of New York, as well as recent graduates and retirees, to practice there. Other options include deploying medically trained National Guard members, partnering with the federal government to send Disaster Medical Assistance Teams to local health and medical systems and "exploring ways to expedite visa requests for medical professionals." The state's labor department has also issued guidance clarifying that workers who are terminated because they refuse to be vaccinated will not be eligible for unemployment insurance, "absent a valid doctor-approved request for medical accommodation."
All health care workers at New York's hospitals and nursing homes are required to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday, according to state regulations and a mandate issued by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month. Staff at other institutions including home care, hospice and adult care facilities must be vaccinated by Oct. 7.
The most recent numbers suggest the state still has a ways to go: As of Wednesday, 84% of all hospital employees were fully vaccinated. And 81% of staff at all adult care facilities and 77% of nursing home facility staff were fully vaccinated as of Thursday. Health care systems statewide and nationally are already struggling with staffing shortages. Critics of the requirement have challenged it through protests and lawsuits, as North Country Public Radio reports, opposing mandatory vaccination and challenging the lack of exemptions for religious objections. At this point, health care workers have the option to apply for a religious exemption until at least Oct.12, when a federal judge will consider a legal challenge in favor of such exemptions. As hospitals readied their contingency plans — which for many includes limiting certain procedures — late last week, Hochul held firm to the deadline. She told reporters on Thursday that there are "no excuses" for workers refusing to get vaccinated, and called the impending shortages "completely avoidable." How health care systems are preparing for the deadline Hospital systems and nursing homes across the state are encouraging their employees to get vaccinated, and preparing for disruptions if they do not. Some are cutting back on elective surgeries, limiting admissions and retaining volunteers. Northwell Health, the state's largest health care provider, has been holding meetings with staffers in an effort to persuade "thousands of holdouts," The Associated Press reports. Some 90% of its 74,000 active personnel had been vaccinated as of Thursday, though the hospital said it's not expecting full compliance and has more than 3,000 retirees, students and volunteers on standby. Erie County Medical Center Corporation in Buffalo anticipates that roughly 10% of its workforce (some 400 workers) may not get vaccinated by Monday, according to AP, and is prepared to potentially suspend elective inpatient surgeries, reduce hours at outpatient clinics and temporarily stop accepting ICU transfers. As NPR has reported, Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville, N.Y., said it would pause maternity services starting this weekend because dozens of staff members quit rather than get vaccinated.
Unvaccinated employees of New York City's 11 public hospitals (which cites a roughly 88% compliance rate) will be put on unpaid leave but could return to work [...]
Sun, Sep 26, 2021 Source: Headlines -NPRCategory: TOP NEWS
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A JetBlue aircraft sits on the tarmac. The company is one of many commercial airlines to experience unruly passenger incidents over the past year.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg via Getty Images
The FBI is investigating an incident aboard a JetBlue flight where witnesses say a passenger violently assaulted a flight attendant while attempting to enter the flight galley and cockpit. According to an FBI affidavit obtained from The Daily Beast, the incident occurred Wednesday evening on Flight 261 en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Boston. The passenger reportedly ran to the front of the plane about 45 minutes before touching down in San Juan and yelled for crew members to shoot him. Witnesses told the FBI that after becoming violent, multiple crew members restrained him. Once the plane landed, the man was arrested for interference with flight crew members and attendants, which is considered a federal offense. The altercation comes as commercial airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration continue working to lower the number of unruly passengers on planes — a number that drastically increased compared to last year, with fines totaling over $1 million.
According to the FBI's affidavit, a flight attendant initially stopped the man from entering the galley by confining him to an area in front of the first row of seating on the plane. Witnesses said that as the flight attendant worked to restrain him, the man became aware that a flight crew officer had opened the cockpit door and, in response, he began to kick and punch the flight attendant trying to hold him back. He also began choking the flight attendant by his tie. The FBI report details that the flight attendant let go of the man to avoid asphyxiating but grabbed him again before he got to the galley.
The man was then restrained by six or seven crew members, using "makeshift restraints," including the flight attendant's tie, according to the FBI affidavit. For the rest of the flight, he was moved to a back seat of the plane and handcuffed with flex cuffs and held by seat belt extenders. As of Friday, the man remained in custody in Puerto Rico, FBI Public Affairs Officer Limary Cruz-Rubio told The Washington Post, adding that the FBI continues to investigate the situation and takes the incident "very seriously." Unruly passenger violations have steadily gone down compared to earlier this year, according to FAA data. Each week in February and March, approximately 12 unruly passenger incidents were reported for every 10,000 flights. Since then, numbers have dropped and now rest at about six incidents per 10,000 flights. Opposition to wearing face masks made up nearly 73% of all incidents over the year. As part of the push to avoid further unruly passenger incidents, Delta Airlines released a memo on Thursday advocating for airline companies to release the names of individuals on their "no-fly" lists.
"A list of banned customers doesn't work as well if that customer can fly with another airline, '' the memo stated. The company also said it passed over 600 names of those barred from their flights to the FAA, adding that their list stands at 1,600. On the same day of Delta's announcement, individuals representing airline and flight attendant advocacy organizations testified in front of the U.S. House Transportation Committee's Subcommittee on Aviation, urging lawmakers to assist in curbing incidents. "Every level of threat requires vigilance and scrutiny," Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, wrote in her written testimony. "We cannot be lulled into a place of accepting these distractions as a new normal," she added.
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Sat, Sep 25, 2021 Source: Headlines -NPRCategory: TOP NEWS