San Francisco: Microsoft is in talks to acquire TikTok, the Chinese-owned video app, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions, as President Donald Trump said he was considering taking steps that would effectively ban the app from the United States.
It’s unclear how advanced the talks between Microsoft and TikTok are, but any deal could help alter TikTok’s ownership, said the person with knowledge of the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese internet company that is valued at $US100 billion ($140 billion). That has raised scrutiny of the app, with Trump administration officials saying they have been concerned that TikTok poses a threat to national security.
The Trump administration has been weighing whether to order ByteDance to divest from US assets it acquired in 2017, which were later merged into TikTok. Bloomberg reported on Friday that the President was poised to announce an order that would force ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US operations.
The Trump administration has also been weighing other potential actions against the company, including adding ByteDance to a so-called “entity list,” which prevents foreign companies from purchasing US products and services without a special licence, according to people familiar with the matter.
“We may be banning TikTok,” Trump told reporters Friday, US time. “We may be doing some other things. There’s a couple of options.”
Representatives from TikTok did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for Microsoft declined to comment.
Lawmakers and the Trump administration have increasingly questioned whether TikTok is susceptible to influence from the Chinese government, including potential requests to censor material shared on the platform or to share American user data with Chinese officials.
The app has been under review since late last year by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a federal panel that examines foreign acquisitions of US firms for national security threats.
TikTok has aimed to ease government concerns by tapping an American to head its US business. In May, TikTok hired a top Disney executive, Kevin Mayer, to be its chief executive.
Executives at TikTok have discussed other scenarios to alleviate regulator concerns, including one in which US investors like Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic could purchase TikTok back from ByteDance, with the Chinese company retaining a minority stake in the social app.
Jeff Logan, owner of Logan Luxury Theatres, has been struggling to make ends meet for most of 2020. After being closed for months due to coronavirus, he recently reopened the three movie theaters he runs in South Dakota, screening classics like Indiana Jones and Star Wars. But ticket sales are slow and Logan’s cinemas are not making enough to cover their rent.
Now, he’s concerned a new deal struck between Universal Pictures and AMC Theaters could deliver a gut punch. Under their new pact, the two companies have agreed to shorten the amount of time that new movies from Universal play exclusively in AMC’s cinemas before customers can rent them at home. Logan, like many mom-and-pop theater owners across the country, is anxious that the new distribution model the powerful Hollywood studio and the world’s biggest exhibition chain have forged could upend their businesses and eat into their bottom lines.
“This is a real kick in the shorts to independent theaters,” Logan says.
Exhibitors point out that much remains to be seen in how the deal shakes out between Universal, AMC and the rest of the movie business. Though numerous movie theater owners opted not to talk to Variety for fear of being blacklisted by major studios, others were remarkably candid in their views that Universal is making a mistake and that AMC and its leader Adam Aron have betrayed the exhibition industry.
“We’re all resilient and will try to survive, but it’s difficult,” Logan says. “If your local theater in a small town or in New York City closes, blame Adam Aron. The responsibility is going to fall squarely on his shoulders.”
Even though they have a lower footprint across America, independently owned cinemas are vital to the lifeblood of moviegoing, especially in small towns. And while AMC does operate a bulk of the theaters in the country — with 661 locations in the United States — only 8,200 of the 40,000 screens in the U.S. belong to AMC. That alone wouldn’t rack up enough ticket sales to justify a $200 million-budgeted movie, in the event that other cinema chains opt not to play Universal titles in protest.
Independent Cinema Alliance, an organization that advocates on behalf of locally owned theaters, expressed concerns that the decision was made hastily during the pandemic. Movie theaters and studios have been hugely affected by prolonged cinema closures, prompting both sides to make bold moves to keep revenues flowing in the meantime.
“As with any crisis, industry-changing negotiations during the coronavirus pandemic should be about long-term goals that truly preserve and enhance the theatrical experience and not be driven by panicked decisions in search of immediate, short-term security,” the organization said in a statement to Variety.
Still, the group isn’t resigned to the idea that their business is doomed. They are optimistic that other Hollywood studios see the value in keeping movies on the big screen and won’t follow suit. And the agreement between Universal and AMC doesn’t mandate that every new release from the studio will move to premium video-on-demand in under a month; it means they have the option should a title perform below expectations. Blockbusters such as “Jurassic World” and sleeper hits like “Get Out” aren’t expected to fall under the expedited timeframe. (“Cats,” however, might be a different story).
“The ICA will continue to collaborate with its members and studio partners to help the industry navigate the challenges caused by the world’s pandemic crisis,” ICA wrote. “We believe these efforts will help set the stage for a recovery that will create a brighter future for all stakeholders.”
Privately, some theater owners have conceded that dramatic change is sometimes necessary to push an aging industry forward. Even before the pandemic forced cinemas to shutter, skeptics claimed that the movie business was running on fumes. They saw a future dominated by Netflix, Disney Plus and other streaming services. That’s not entirely true (the domestic box office generated over $11 billion in 2019), but the recent gap between hits and misses at the box office demonstrates that audiences think some movies don’t justify the cost of seeing them in a theater. And its often independent exhibitors who feel these downward trends most acutely.
The debate around theatrical windows has been brewing for some time now. Cinema owners acknowledged they would be naive to think it would never waiver, but many were surprised by how drastically the theatrical window shrunk. Traditionally, movies stay in theaters for up to 90 days before studios are allowed to put any given title on premium video-on-demand platforms. Under Universal’s new arrangement with AMC, they can drop titles on demand 17 days after they premiere on the big screen.
That can create complications for local chains because they don’t always have room to offer as many fresh offerings as larger venues. Take summer, often the busiest time of year for moviegoing when numerous blockbusters are released every weekend. At AMC’s locations, there are plenty of auditoriums to showcase as many movies as they want. But locally owned operations have fewer screens and can’t swap out movies as freely. That could become problematic for them if a movie is put on-demand before they can play it for the first time.
“One of my two theaters is a second-run, and I have no clue how this is going to affect me,” said Mark O’Meara, who operates two movie theaters in Fairfax, Va. “We always have to wait weeks anyway to get a movie. I might have to go to first-run.”
Does the new deal mean every theater other than AMC will be less willing to play Universal movies, even when they have space? It’s possible. But more likely than not, many will recognize it’ll be hard to pass up new installments from big franchises like “Fast & Furious” and “Despicable Me” — the kinds of tentpoles that draw major crowds and generate huge popcorn sales.
“I may have to play some Universal movies, I’ve got to pay the bills too,” Logan said. “But I’m going to try to avoid them if I can. The business decision isn’t a matter of principle of me taking a stand. It’s not as profitable to go with that picture if it’s off the break.”
Christopher Escobar, owner of Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, predicts AMC and Universal’s pact will spark “a big reckoning” and could have the potential to actually improve the moviegoing experience.
“We need a revolution,” he said.
Escobar isn’t worried that some movies might be available on-demand sooner. In fact, he already frequently plays titles after they’re put on digital rental services. He also routinely brings classics back to the big screen, and has even hosted TV events in his theaters. Escobar and other exhibitors, including AMC and major rivals, are banking on the likelihood that the new deal will give studios the freedom to put more movies on the big screen with less of a risk, in turn decreasing the number of films that are sent straight to streaming services.
“I’m already operating differently,” Escobar says. “I do everything I can as an owner to make going to the movies feel like an occasion. [Major theater chains] have become Applebee’s and Olive Garden. Those things are fine, but if that’s the only thing you have as an option, no wonder people are going to the movies less.”
Part of the reason that independent theaters reacted so strongly to the AMC and Universal deal is that it comes as they are worried about keeping the lights on. The pandemic has been an existential threat to their business, and many are just hoping to be able to stay open through the end of the year.
“The timing was disappointing from my standpoint,” O’Meara said. “We’re worried about so many other things, like day-to-day survival. We weren’t thinking about programming until this happened. It was back to reality.”
London: Filmmaker Alan Parker, one of Britain’s most successful directors whose movies included Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express and Evita, has died at the age of 76, his family said.
Parker’s diverse body of work includes Fame, Mississippi Burning, The Commitments and Angela’s Ashes. Together his movies won 10 Academy Awards and 19 British Academy Film Awards.
In a statement, the family said Parker died on Friday in London after a long illness.
Parker was born in London in in 1944 and, like many other aspiring British directors including Ridley Scott, began his career in advertising.
He moved into television with critically acclaimed 1974 drama The Evacuees, which won an international Emmy Award.
The next year he wrote and directed his first feature, Bugsy Malone, an unusual and exuberant musical pastiche of gangster films with a cast of children, including a young Jodie Foster.
He followed that with Midnight Express, the story based on an American’s harrowing incarceration in a Turkish prison. It won two Oscars and gained Parker a best-director nomination.
Parker ranged widely across subjects and genres. Shoot the Moon was a family drama, Angel Heart an occult thriller and Mississippi Burning a powerful civil rights drama that was nominated for seven Academy Awards.
Parker was a notable director of musicals, a genre he both embraced and expanded. Fame was a gritty but celebratory story of life at a performing arts high school; Pink Floyd — the Wall was a surreal rock opera; The Commitments charted a ramshackle Dublin soul band; and Evita cast Madonna as Argentine first lady Eva Peron in a big-screen version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical.
Parker also championed Britain’s film industry, serving as the chairman of the British Film Institute and the UK Film Council. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002.
Fellow director David Puttnam said Parker “was my oldest and closest friend – I was always in awe of his talent. My life, and those of many others who loved and respected him will never be the same again.”
He is survived by his wife Lisa Moran-Parker, his children Lucy, Alexander, Jake, Nathan and Henry, and seven grandchildren.
بازی سرزنش در کنگره تشدید روز جمعه به عنوان رهبر حزب Manish Tewari ساخته شده و پر شور که شارژ داخلی خرابکاری از داخل ایالات مترقی داد (UPA) مسئول شکست کنگره در سال 2014 که آورده دموکراتیک ملی داد به قدرت است.
MP از Anandpur صاحب, حوزه گفت: 2019 شکست نیز باید مورد تجزیه و تحلیل به خصوص که هیچ اتهام فساد ثابت شده در دادگاه قانون شش سال در. او با اشاره به 2G طیف کلاهبرداری و اشاره در یک توطئه بزرگتر به بی ثباتی UPA. “چه جالب خواهد بود برای پیدا کردن روزی نیست که این گزارش جعلی بود اما چه کسی او را به آن” او توییتی با اشاره به حسابرسی و حسابرس کل Vinod Rai که گزارش حسابرسی نشان می دهد که دولت تا به حال از دست Rs 1.76 تریلیون معیوب تخصیص طیف 2G یکی از دلایل عمده برای BJP به چرخش یک روایت از فساد در برابر کنگره که ناشی از بی جی پی را به پیروزی در سال 2014.
همچنین بخوانید: Ashok Gehlot شیفت MLAs به رفت و آمد مکرر لوکس در Jaisalmer برای گول زدن خلبان کمپ
Tewari نظرات آمده در برابر پس زمینه از یک جلسه Rajya سبها نمایندگان مجلس از کنگره نام موقت کنگره رئیس جمهور سونیا گاندی در روز چهارشنبه. در این دیدار وزیر دارایی سابق P چیدمبرم و سابق مخابرات وزیر Kapil Sibal گفت: رهبری بود که مبهم و فازی و نیاز به تمرکز بیشتر و به دست آوردن مجدد سیاسی زمین. چه به دنبال یک بحث شدید میان گارد قدیمی و همراهی دستیارش از راهول گاندی که متهم است که سالمندان به سادگی انجام نمی دهد به اندازه کافی برای حمله به دولت است.
Courteney Cox will reprise her role as news reporter Gale Weathers in the upcoming “Scream” reboot.
Spyglass Media Group and Paramount made the announcement Friday and said filming is expected to begin later this year in Wilmington, N.C. “Ready or Not” directors Matthew Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett are helming the reboot from a script by James Vanderbilt (“Murder Mystery,” “Zodiac,” “The Amazing Spider-Man”) and Guy Busick (“Ready or Not”).
David Arquette announced in May that he would reprise his role as Sheriff Dewey Riley in the upcoming reboot. Plot details for the reboot are under wraps.
The original “Scream” debuted in 1996 with Neve Campbell starring as Sidney Prescott, the target of the Ghostface killer, who had a look inspired by the Edvard Munch painting “The Scream.” Cox and Arquette co-starred in the four-film franchise, directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson. Bob Weinstein’s Dimension Films released all four films, which combined for $608 million in worldwide box office with sequels released in 1997, 2000 and 2011.
Williamson and Chad Villella are executive producing with Project X Entertainment’s Vanderbilt, Paul Neinstein and William Sherak serving as producers.
Bettinelli-Olpin, Gillett and Villella operate as the production company Radio Silence. They said in a statement, “We can’t imagine ‘Scream’ without the iconic Gale Weathers and are so incredibly thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to work with Courteney. We’re absolute mega fans of her work and we’re so excited to join her in the next chapter of the ‘Scream’ saga!”
Cox is represented by WME and Brillstein Entertainment Partners. The news was first reported by Deadline.
Actor Bryan Cranston has revealed that he contracted COVID-19. Now recovered, he is donating plasma to aid scientific research and is encouraging others to do so.
In an Instagram post, the Breaking Bad star sought to boost the morale of those suffering from the illness.
“About now you’re probably feeling a little tied down, restricting your mobility and like me, you’re tired of this,” he wrote. “Well, I just want to encourage you to have a little more patience. I was pretty strict in adhering to the protocols and still… I contracted the virus.”
In the post, Cranston said he “was one of the lucky ones” because he only had mild symptoms.
“I count my blessings and urge you to keep wearing the damn mask, keep washing your hands, and stay socially distant. We can prevail – but ONLY if we follow the rules together. Be well – Stay well.”
In the two-minute video accompanying his post, Cranston can be seen at the UCLA Blood and Platelet Centre donating plasma.
“I was sick with the coronavirus quite early on,” he added. “My symptoms were a slight headache, tightness of chest and I lost all taste and smell. The symptoms show up different for everyone it seems.”
The UCLA nurse helping Cranston explained the plasma donation process, which takes about an hour.
Cranston also said he plans to return soon to make another donation, and encouraged others who have had the virus to do so too.
آمازون با سنجش سود $345 میلیون نفر در آن کسب و کار بین المللی کمک تعداد بیشتری از مردم به خرید آنلاین. E-commerce غول پیکر است که شاهد چنین سود در کسب و کار جهانی برای اولین بار به عنوان گذشته چند محله به حال گزارش زیان.
آمازون فروش خالص افزایش 40 درصد به $88.9 میلیارد دلار در سه ماهه دوم در مقایسه با $63.4 میلیارد دلار در سه ماهه دوم سال 2019. با وجود این همه گیر آمازون درآمد خالص دو برابر شد و به $5.2 میلیارد دلار در سه ماهه دوم در مقایسه با درآمد خالص از $2.6 میلیارد دلار در مدت مشابه در سال 2019.
“بین المللی بخش سود آور بود این سه ماهه و این یک نشانه. آن را به شدت رانده و وانت در تقاضا است که ما را دید گفت:” برایان تی Olsavsky ارشد معاون رئیس جمهور و رئیس امور مالی خود را در طول Q2 درآمد تماس بگیرید. به گفته او آمازون عامل در سالم تاسیس کشورها و شرکت شتاب تصویب آن پرداخت آبونمان برنامه — نخست. این برنامه کاربران می دهد دسترسی به خدمات اضافی. “بنابراین وجود دارد کمی به جلو سرمایه گذاری در نخست منافع در بسیاری از این کشورها. اما آنچه شما همچنین در حال سرمایه گذاری در کشور جدید. بدیهی است که هند یکی از بزرگترین و بلکه به میزان کمتر غرب آسیا و برزیل و ترکیه و استرالیا اخیر شده است. بنابراین همیشه وجود دارد یک عنصر از گسترش رفتن” گفت: Olsavsky.
دیوید Fildes مدیر روابط سرمایه گذار آمازون گفت: این شرکت متمرکز شد digitising هند فروشندگان. این شامل بسیاری از هالتر کوچک و متوسط کسب و کار. “ما راه اندازی شد برخی از ویژگی های جدید وجود دارد برای کمک به حمایت از digitisation تلاش” گفت: Fildes. آمازون قصد دارد برای کمک به دیجیتالی فعال کردن کسب و کارهای کوچک در سراسر کشور به عنوان بخشی از $1 میلیارد دلار سرمایه گذاری تعهد است.
آمازون رئیس جف بزوس گفت: این شرکت صرف بیش از 4 میلیارد دلار در سه ماهه به نگه داشتن کارکنان امن است. “ما ایجاد 175,000 شغل جدید پس از ماه مارس و در حال آوردن 125,000 از این کارکنان به طور منظم تمام وقت موقعیت.”
Variety has promoted Angelique Jackson to film and media reporter. In her new role, Jackson will cover the major Hollywood studios and streaming services, as well as the indie film scene. She will also contribute in-depth interviews and profiles of the industry’s top decision-makers and creative talent for print, online, and video.
Jackson joined the trade publication in 2019 as an events and lifestyle producer. In that capacity, she covered awards shows, premieres, and film festivals. But Jackson’s contributions extended beyond the red carpet. She recently co-wrote a cover story on Black representation in Hollywood with senior TV writer Elaine Low, which examined the entertainment business’s legacy of exclusion in the wake of calls for it to diversify.
“Since my desire to pursue a career in entertainment journalism stemmed from reading Variety magazine at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, it’s a true honor to join this acclaimed film team,” said Jackson. “I look forward to continuing to elevate new voices in the film industry and to bring my unique perspective as a Black woman to our coverage of the movie business.”
Jackson will report directly to Brent Lang, executive editor of film and media.
“I’m thrilled to have Angelique join our team,” said Lang. “She is an ace interviewer with a knack for getting subjects to open up, and a compelling writer with a killer eye for detail. Her recent cover story on representation in Hollywood was a stand-out piece of journalism. I know she’ll be a fantastic addition.”
Prior to joining Variety, Jackson was a reporter and producer for “Entertainment Tonight,” winning three Daytime Emmy Awards for her work. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia, where she discovered her love for journalism and the Bulldogs.
Jackson is a frequent guest on a range of news programs, having appeared on “Good Morning America,” “Access Hollywood” and “Black Hollywood Live,” among other shows.
Cheryl Mcqueen feels like she is living on death row.
The 66-year-old is in the final stages of chronic lung disease: “If I get COVID-19 that’s it, I’m dead.”
But the nursing home she lives in – Arcare in Craigieburn – is riddled with the deadly virus.
As of July 31, there were 44 active cases at the home, including 20 residents, 21 staff, two allied health workers and a caterer. Seven residents have died.
“It’s terrifying,” Mcqueen says. “They are dying here, they are not dying in hospital.”
Mcqueen has been isolated in her room since July 12.
“It feels like solitary confinement. Originally we were told a fortnight but while they are still discovering more cases there is no end in sight – we could be locked in our rooms until Christmas. My window looks onto an empty courtyard, not even onto the street so I could see if there were still human beings out there.”
Mcqueen says the regular staff at Arcare are “beautiful – they would bend over backwards for you”. But agency staff have replaced many of the regulars who have become sick.
She says that once she wasn’t showered for four days. Her bed is often left unmade and the curtains not closed. One day her cornflakes were served on a plate instead of in a bowl.
Mcqueen says workers are supposed to change their gloves, gowns and masks every time they leave a resident’s room but “the guy who delivered lunch didn’t change”.
She worries that staff are disposing of personal protective equipment in the bin in her room. “I said I don’t want that in my bin, I don’t know what germs are there. The bins should be out in the hall.”
Arcare CEO Colin Singh said it had employed a full-time infection control specialist in February when it first became aware of the pandemic, who had been working closely with the Craigieburn facility.
“All of our members are required to wear full PPE and have completed training in the donning and doffing of PPE and infection control,” he said. “The requirement as to when to change PPE depends upon the task that is performed.”
Singh said PPE needed to be disposed of in a clinical waste bin inside the residents’ suite as it was viewed as potentially infectious or confirmed infectious whereas the halls were viewed as non-infectious.
Last week Mcqueen cried and cried. “I think I am all cried out now. You just don’t know what to do. It’s very lonely. It’s very scary.”
She is not alone in this ordeal. Elderly people across the state face a petrifying lockdown as the coronavirus rampages out of control in nursing homes.
There are now 928 active cases and at least 61 deaths linked to more than 90 aged care facilities in Victoria. Premier Daniel Andrews has warned more people will die and the “consequences could not be more grave”.
This week he announced Victoria would intervene in the crisis, despite private facilities being funded and regulated by the Commonwealth.
“Some of the stories we’ve seen are unacceptable and I wouldn’t want my mum in some of these places,” Andrews said.
He cancelled all non-urgent elective surgery and said residents would be transferred to hospital from facilities where the government had “no confidence in infection control”.
At St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner – which has now been linked to 124 COVID-19 cases – the entire workforce was placed in quarantine for the first time in Australia’s history at the behest of the Victorian government.
The Commonwealth was forced to hastily assemble a replacement team. It struggled to cope amid a shortage of staff, with horrific stories emerging of faeces in beds and residents dehydrated and hungry. Desperate families were left in the dark about their loved ones as some residents died and others were evacuated to hospital.
What went so wrong? Why were Victorian nursing homes caught flat-footed when COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care had been the canary in the coalmine all over the world?
The global picture
According to an analysis by the Burnet Institute, more than 40 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States have been staff or residents in nursing homes. This figure jumps to 58 per cent in Israel and Norway and 66 per cent in Spain.
Canada has the highest proportion in the world, with 81 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in aged care centres. (The OECD average is 42 per cent.)
University of Toronto researchers blamed overcrowding, staffing shortages and a lack of personal protective equipment and testing at nursing homes.
There have also been warnings closer to home with deadly outbreaks at the Dorothy Henderson Lodge and Newmarch House aged care facilities in Sydney.
“The question I ask everyday of myself and everyone else is why were we not better prepared?” says Professor Michael Toole, an epidemiologist from the Burnet Institute.
Toole points to Hong Kong, which reported no outbreaks in nursing homes until July, when the city experienced its third wave of the virus.
He says Hong Kong, which has a population of 7.5 million, learned a tough lesson from the outbreak of SARS in 2003 which killed 300 people there. Nursing home residents were more likely than the general public to get SARS and 78 per cent of infected residents died.
Immediately after the 2003 outbreak the Hong Kong government announced every nursing home had to have a dedicated government-trained infection control officer and at least a month’s supply of face masks and personal protective equipment.
After an outbreak in two aged care homes in July, Dr Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Medical Association’s advisory committee on communicable diseases, said all care homes should immediately avoid sharing staff or even rotating them across different floors within an institution.
He was quoted in the SouthChina Morning Post saying he was not opposed to on-site quarantine for care home residents, as moving them around might increase cross-infection risks.
However he said it was important that care homes had contained transmission before allowing on-site quarantine.
Anglicare CEO Grant Millard has said if he could have his time again he would have sent all Newmarch House’s COVID-positive residents to hospital after the calamity resulted in 19 deaths.
Toole says Australia should have learned from Hong Kong, especially after the Dorothy Henderson Lodge and Newmarch House catastrophes.
“We had that window of opportunity between April and July. It’s not rocket science – it’s just keeping the virus from getting from infected people to uninfected people. We don’t want to go the way of Canada.”
The question of transfer
The Burnet Institute recommends that if a resident tests positive – and the aged care home cannot effectively isolate them – they should be transferred to a hospital, even if asymptomatic.
This has been a constant source of tension during the crisis.
Only South Australia has adopted a state-wide policy of sending COVID-positive residents immediately to hospital – a measure that is backed by the aged care provider groups.
Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said residents who test positive are moved out of aged care and into hospital, except in circumstances when medical advice is that they remain in place because moving them could cause significant distress, such as residents with acute dementia.
“In these particular cases, COVID-positive residents are placed in separated cohorts within the facility from COVID-negative residents.”
Glendale aged care facility in Werribee – which has now been linked to 58 cases – and St Basil’s both initially had their pleas for COVID-positive residents to be transferred to hospital refused by the Victorian government.
Jayne Erdevicki, whose father Boro Petkovic tested positive to COVID-19 at St Basil’s, says the doctor told her on July 21 that transferral to hospital was not an option.
“He told me if he needed oxygen and fluid it might prove difficult because it wasn’t an option to send him to hospital. I didn’t understand why not – of course I would have wanted him to get the best care. He didn’t say why. Under the circumstances I was a bit shocked.”
Erdevicki would never find out the reason her father could not be transferred to hospital. The following day St Basil’s staff were sent home to isolate and the phone rang out when she tried again and again to get through. “I rang and rang all of Wednesday [July 22], I wanted to know what’s his symptoms, is he getting worse or is he OK?”
On July 23 at midnight she was called by one of the replacement staff, who informed her father had passed.
“I started screaming and crying: ‘Why couldn’t someone call?’ She said: ‘Haven’t you organised everything?’ I just felt like she was pushing me to get the body out of there like he was a piece of rubbish to be disposed of. She also had the audacity to ask me if we were close, when I used to visit my father three times a week. What sort of a question is that? That phone call will torment me for years to come.”
Colbeck said the Commonwealth had to come in overnight and pull together a workforce that didn’t know the residents or St Basil’s. “The situation there was completely dire and some very unacceptable things occurred,” he told Channel 7’s Sunrise.
“I know people are upset, they are worried, they are angry. Nobody could predict an entire workforce of a facility was going to be entirely knocked out. That was a decision made by the DHHS … we have since discussed it with them and something like that won’t happen again.”
Lessons learned – and overlooked
The first major aged care facility outbreak in Australia was at Dorothy Henderson Lodge in Sydney, with the first case diagnosed on March 3. Altogether 17 residents were infected and five died.
Clinical Professor Gwendolyn Gilbert, the director of infection control for the Western Sydney local health district, says the outbreak provided important lessons.
The most important of these was the need for early, ongoing leadership by facility management and guidance from an experienced infection control professional.
“The COVID-19 outbreak, in Australia, has highlighted a widespread lack of infection prevention and control competence and confidence among healthcare and residential aged care facility workers,” she wrote in an article published in The Medical Journal of Australia.
Professor Joseph Ibrahim, the head of the Health Law and Ageing Research Unit at Monash University, says the federal government set up an online course on infection control in response to the pandemic.
“No one should have ever thought that was enough,” Ibrahim says. “Donning and doffing personal protective equipment is at least a 10-step procedure. You don’t learn to drive a car by watching someone driving.”
About 70 per cent of aged care workers are only qualified with a Certificate III, which requires as little as six weeks’ training.
“What happens is people come to Australia to study and the easiest way to get a job is to do a six-week course and work in aged care,” says one worker at a Melbourne nursing home who asked not to be named. “You can teach someone to make a coffee and serve meals but you can’t teach someone how to care for an elderly person in six weeks.”
Ibrahim says the aged care system in Australia was in trouble long before the pandemic.
“The government knew it, the Royal Commission knew it, the whole bloody world knew it. Why would you expect a failing system to perform really well under stress from an external disaster? You can’t expect the kid frying chips at KFC to fill in for Heston Blumenthal at a three-star restaurant.”
The Aged Care Royal Commission last year found the system failed to meet the needs of the elderly and was unkind and uncaring towards them. Its interim report, Neglect, said the sector suffered from severe difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff. Pay and conditions were poor and education and training patchy.
Premier Daniel Andrews has said “a bunch” of aged care workers are among those going to work when sick or while waiting for test results, which has seen community transmission burgeon.
“Let’s not judge them,” he said. “Let’s try to work out what is driving it.”
Dr Sarah Russell, the director of Aged Care Matters, says many casuals, who earn as little as $22 an hour, cannot afford not to work. She said they move between aged care homes, increasing the risk of transmission between homes.
“I’m really disgusted we didn’t learn from Newmarch House about the importance of teaching staff about infection control and having clinically trained staff in aged care homes,” Russell says.
She says there are no mandated staff-to-resident ratios in private aged care homes, which means some operate without a registered nurse on site 24 hours a day.
By contrast, she says, the state-owned nursing homes – which make up 180 of the 770 aged care facilities in Victoria – have prescribed ratios of registered nurses.
“We have had years to get this right,” Russell says. “It’s so sad this has happened.”
Royal Freemasons has had a COVID-19 outbreak at its Gregory Lodge aged care home in Flemington, with five staff and 23 residents testing positive.
Chief executive officer Kerri Rivett said staffing shortages had been an industry issue before COVID-19. Now, with infected staff and their close contacts in isolation, it was a real struggle to find aged care workers.
“We have found we are unable to fill all the shifts that are required,” Rivett said. “The surge workforce provided by the Commonwealth is fantastic, however they don’t have enough either.”
She said the Federal Government’s supply of personal protective equipment had been slow to arrive and Royal Freemasons had had to purchase its own, which was extremely expensive.
“Everyone is just overwhelmed because of the number of cases we have had in residential facilities.”
‘You can’t claim this is a shock’
Colbeck said $234.9 million was being allocated for a COVID-19 bonus to assist providers in retaining staff and further funding would be made available to ensure workers were supported to work at a single site.
Victoria has also announced a $300 payment for those isolating while waiting on test results and a $1500 quarantine payment to encourage people – including aged care workers – not to work if sick.
Ibrahim, who was named one of Good Weekend’s 2019 People who Matter for exposing the “astonishing” truth behind some nursing home deaths, said Australia’s initial response to the pandemic appeared to prioritise intensive care beds.
He believes the focus should have been on aged care and a national taskforce of experts should have been set up by March at the latest.
“You can’t claim this is a shock,” he says. “It was pretty obvious when you looked overseas what the problems would be.”
Ibrahim believes the COVID-19 preparedness of every aged care facility in Australia should be evaluated. (Colbeck says they are already required to have infection control measures and a COVID-19 outbreak plan.)
Ibrahim also wants independent officers – such as ADF personnel – to be appointed to liaise with homes in Victoria every week, allowing nursing home managers to raise any concerns they might have “frankly and honestly”.
The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre has now been established to coordinate the crisis, something critics such as Ibrahim argue is long overdue.
Cheryl Mcqueen was tested for the fifth time in a fortnight on Wednesday. She is still waiting for the results. “Every time they do it, it gets harder.”
She worries she is a sitting duck: “Am I going to sit here and test negative until I test positive?”
Mcqueen says the worst decision she ever made in her life was to move out of her Coburg housing commission flat into a nursing home.
“I can’t see my kids, I feel like I have got nothing. It’s no life for anybody, just locked in a room 24/7. There’s no end to it for us.”
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