A “guest” in a city hotel program for those with COVID-19 went AWOL this week, leaving one nurse to question how he could take off without being stopped, The Post has learned.
The man had been staying at the LaGuardia Plaza Hotel in Queens, which the city’s Health + Hospitals Corp. has rented as a place where those who test positive for the coronavirus can isolate.
The man was both positive for COVID-19 and HIV and had mental health issues, according to an insider.
But he “left the hotel without finishing the recommended quarantine/isolation and did not communicate with hotel staff upon departure,” according to official minutes from a Sept. 9 staff meeting seen by The Post.
During the meeting, a head nurse in the program said “she is unclear how a guest can leave the 3rd floor and no one notices.” Wellness checks were done, but a nurse thought the man’s room was empty because “there was no signage on the door” and it had been cleaned.
The head nurse also said there was a two-hour gap in video footage from the hotel so no one knew exactly when he left.
The nurse said someone needed to contact the man, but the insider said he had not been located as of Friday morning.
There are some 40 city-funded staffers who work at the hotel in two 12-hour shifts including a total of six nurses, 12 licensed practical nurses, 12 hall monitors and four security guards, according to the insider.
A total of 86 people were staying at the 358-room hotel as of Thursday, the insider said, adding that the highest guest count since the pandemic started in March was 106 two weeks ago.
Health + Hospitals told The Post “Guests who enter our program can voluntarily leave at any time.”
But the agency also maintained that those with confirmed coronavirus get round-the-clock monitoring by a nurse.
“We are committed to ensuring New Yorkers can safely separate from loved ones through our accommodations while recovering from the virus, and receiving high-quality care through our Hotel Program,” an agency spokeswoman said.
The city secured hotel rooms to give people who live in crowded homes a place to recover from the virus or to isolate from family members if they believed they had been exposed to the virus or tested positive for it. But the hotels have been underused with more workers than patients at times.
Of four hotels rented by the city for the program, only the LaGuardia Plaza is still in use, the insider said.
Three men died at a quarantine hotel near Times Square in April prompting a city investigation.
Health + Hospitals said it had reserved 1,174 rooms at the height of the pandemic and that 1,555 people used the program since March. The agency said the costs were reimbursable through the federal CARES Act fund.
New rule may strip pollution protections from popular lakes
WILMINGTON, N.C. — Nearly 50 years ago, a power company received permission from North Carolina to build a reservoir by damming a creek near the coastal city of Wilmington. It would provide a source of steam to generate electricity and a place to cool hot water from an adjacent coal-fired plant.
Sutton Lake became popular with boaters and anglers, yielding bass, crappie, bluegill and other panfish. But coal ash from the plant fouled the public reservoir with selenium, arsenic and other toxic substances, endangering the fish and people who ate them.
Environmentalists sued Duke Energy, which settled the case by spending $1.25 million protecting nearby wetlands. But now the company — and other U.S. power producers — may have gotten the last laugh.
The Trump administration this year completed a long-debated rewrite of the Clean Water Act that drastically reduces the number of waterways regulated by the federal government. A little-noticed provision for the first time classifies “cooling ponds” as parts of “waste treatment systems” — which are not covered under the law.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the power industry describe it as a clarification with little real-world effect. But environmental groups challenging the Trump rule in court say it opens up reservoirs like Sutton Lake to similar abuse.
“These lakes are sources of food, drinking water, recreation and property values for surrounding communities,” said Frank Holleman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “They’ve been protected under the Clean Water Act ever since it’s been adopted, all the way back to Nixon. No responsible adult would have stripped away these protections.”
The provision on reservoirs is an example of “hidden bombs” that could lurk in the new regulation’s fine print, said Mark Ryan, a former EPA attorney who helped craft the Obama administration’s clean-water rule that was replaced by the substantially weaker Trump version.
“Congress needs to fix this, or it will be tied up in litigation forever,” Ryan said.
The 1972 law requires developers, factories and others who use navigable waters to get permits specifying how much pollution can be discharged or wetland acreage filled. State regulators and the EPA monitor compliance and punish violators.
Disagreement over which waters are under federal jurisdiction has produced Supreme Court rulings and regulatory tinkering. But cooling reservoirs for power plants were covered until the Trump rewrite, Holleman said.
No complete list of such reservoirs is available, but at least a dozen manmade lakes appear to be vulnerable now, said Blan Holman, also an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. Some cover thousands of acres, are prized boating and fishing spots, and have shorelines dotted with houses.
Among them: 4,900-acre (1,983-hectare) Clinton Lake in central Illinois, which was built in the 1970s to serve a nuclear power plant and is part of a state recreation area. Others are in the Carolinas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
Lake Keowee, which provides cooling waters for a Duke Energy nuclear plant near Seneca, South Carolina, is 26 miles (42 kilometers) long and up to 54 feet (16.4 meters) deep. It’s a water sports haven and a drinking water source for several cities.
Alice Guzick, who lives beside the scenic reservoir in the Appalachian mountains, said she fears the regulatory change will make builders less careful to prevent runoff as homes spring up along the shoreline.
“That sediment could cause a lot of pollution,” Guzick said. “There are many small businesses that would fail if the water were ever contaminated.”
The Edison Electric Institute, which advocates for power companies, last year asked the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to group cooling ponds with unregulated waste treatment systems, saying confusion over their status had led to costly lawsuits.
But the industry wasn’t seeking a loophole to leave large reservoirs unprotected, said Alex Bond, the group’s associate general counsel for energy. He said critics are exaggerating what the wording change will mean.
“Generally speaking, the entire lake is not considered the waste treatment system,” Bond said, but rather the area near a plant where hot water is discharged. “Anything beyond that would be subject to regulation.”
EPA said in a statement that federal agencies “do not anticipate changes in longstanding implementation practices associated with these systems.”
Duke Power spokesman Philip Sgro said the company pushed for the wording change to be sure its coal ash retention basins at Sutton Lake and other reservoirs were excluded from the clean-water regulation. They are being closed and their contents moved to landfills.
“The lakes and reservoirs used for public access and recreation will remain classified as waters of the United States, and permits will still be required to discharge wastewater into them,” Srgo said.
But that’s not what the new regulation says, Holleman countered. The law has always excluded waste treatment systems from coverage, he said, and now those systems have been defined to include cooling waters, leaving no basis for issuing federal permits to protect the reservoirs.
The power industry says state laws also will protect large reservoirs. But they are often weaker than the federal Clean Water Act and many don’t allow citizen groups to sue over violations, Holleman said.
Wilmington-area environmental activist Kemp Burdette said he fears for Sutton Lake, a 1,100-acre (445-hectare) reservoir that a Duke University study last year found was still heavily contaminated with metals from decades of ash spills even though the coal plant has been replaced with a natural gas system.
“Removing any protection from this lake is going to mean the amount of pollution that’s allowed to be dumped in here goes up,” Burdette, of Cape Fear River Watch, said during a recent boat tour. Great blue herons skimmed the dark, wind-rippled surface in search of fish, while ospreys took wing from sycamore and cypress trees lining the shore.
Now that coal ash has been moved from shoreline lagoons to a nearby landfill, “you could have this lake start to heal itself,” he said. “But to consider this wastewater is a terrible thing that’s probably going to kill this lake.”
Dallas cops, bystanders pull man from burning car after crash: video
Dallas police are crediting citizens for helping officers save the life of a man who was unconscious and trapped inside a burning car.
Police received 911 calls about a fiery six-vehicle crash about 6:40 p.m. on Sept. 19, police said.
Officers Jonathan Calder, Jonathan Martinez and Israel Banales arrived at the scene to find a car nearly engulfed in flames.
“Once we got past the intersection, we drove up and we heard other citizens saying, ‘There’s someone in the car, there’s someone in the car,’” Martinez said Saturday.
The officers jumped out of their patrol cars and raced toward the burning vehicle. The man inside appeared unconscious.
The officers’ body cameras captured the harrowing rescue.
Calder said the “car was melting and dripping onto me” when he entered the vehicle to try to rescue the driver. But the seatbelt was stuck, and the intense heat and smoke forced Calder to step back.
Officers aided by some bystanders smashed the car’s windows, while others poured water on the flames, police said.
One bystander cut the seatbelt with a knife, allowing rescuers to pull the man to safety, Banales said.
The man suffered major burns and was rushed to a local hospital. An update on his condition was not immediately available.
The officers said the rescue was possible thanks to the bravery of community members who stepped in to help.
“Three officers alone pulling on this guy wouldn’t have made it,” Martinez said. “It was the combination of the citizens putting their lives on the line, getting closer to that car, helping pull the gentleman out of the car, using water, using resources that they had.”
Calder added: “Without the citizens of Dallas, we wouldn’t have been able to successfully save him. So I thank them for that.”
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Dexta Daps’ ‘secret’ concert draws packed crowd of mask-less fans
Reggae singer Dexta Daps drew a packed crowd for a blow-out Brooklyn concert in defiance of COVID-19 recommendations, according to shocking videos posted to social media.
Footage shared to Instagram on Saturday night shows the Jamaican entertainer on stage hyping up what appeared to be hundreds of fans packed tightly at an undisclosed outdoor venue.
In another clip, fellow Jamaican vocalist Ikaya joined him on stage to serenade the concertgoers, many of whom were not wearing masks.
“No mask what happen [sic] to social distance have mercy on y’all soul,” wrote one user on a video of the tightly-packed crowd on promoter Steelie Bashment’s Instagram page.
Another added, “I will never attend any of these events because these promoters [are about] them and their money. We have to protect ourselves.”
Under the state’s COVID-19 guidelines, outdoor entertainment-related activities are only allowed to resume at 33% capacity and with six feet of distance between people.
It’s unclear where exactly the Brooklyn venue was located, but the events page advertised it as a “special, exclusive day party at a secret location” in the borough.
Daps also promoted the gig — which sold tickets starting at $50 — on his own Instagram page.
“NYC its been a long time,” he wrote. “Sept 26 + 27 I’ll be back on stage.”
A rep for Daps didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.
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