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Mentally disabled man anxious about Presto after transit card problems nearly left him stranded

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The family of a Toronto man with a developmental disability says he’s now anxious about using his Presto card after an incident where he says he was kicked off a bus because his card didn’t work even though there was money on it.

“I was upset about it,” Grant Koturbash told CBC Toronto.

His sister, Shelley Koturbash, says he’s now constantly nervous about using his card, and calls her repeatedly.

“He has anxiety. Now he’s worried about every time he gets on the bus. Even today before we sat down [for this interview], the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘Can you put 10 more dollars on my Presto card because I may be out,”‘ she said.

The TTC said there are instances where Presto passes — with money on them — are tapped and declined. It says it’s working with Presto and the gate manufacturers to address the issue.

For most transit passengers the glitches in transitioning to Presto are frustrating but for people with developmental disabilities, they represent a challenge to their independence, according to some advocates

“[With Metropasses] it’s sort of a one and done: you go and you pay your monthly fee … you know if it’s December and you’ve paid your fee you’re on the bus,” said Brad Saunders, CEO of Community Living Toronto, an organization that offers support for those living with an intellectual disability and works to help them live meaningful lives.

“Presto is more complicated and that sense of not knowing for sure creates anxiety which is never a good thing.”

In the new year, Metropasses will be phased out entirely and replaced with Presto cards that have a monthly pass on them. Community Living Toronto is now working with the TTC and other groups on a training program specifically for those with developmental disabilities on how to use the new cards and the system in general.

Card issue

In November, Grant Koturbash said he was heading home from a coffee shop near Eglinton West and Islington.

Grant Koturbash (right) with his sister Shelley who helps him load his Presto card. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

“I tapped my Presto card and [the driver] said I have no money on my Presto card,” said Koturbash.

He said the driver told him to get off the bus and to put money on his Presto card. He said he told the driver he was special needs but he said there was no response.

With no cash on him and no ability to load his card, Koturbash said he approached a woman.

“I said, ‘Can you please help me, I have no money, I tapped my Presto card, no money in my wallet and stuff,”‘ said Koturbash.

Shelley Koturbash says her brother now calls her multiple times a day worried about whether he has enough money on his Presto card. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

The woman agreed to pay his fare and when he arrived home he called his sister.

“I was shocked,” said Shelley Koturbash, who said she had just loaded up his card two days prior.

She describes her brother as a mild-mannered and non-aggressive person. She said he’s high functioning in some ways — he is able to wash his dishes, pick up bottles for recycling and other tasks — but loading a Presto card is too complicated; he relies on a social worker or his family to help him.

She said the incident has left her brother shaken.

(John Lesavage)

“Grant gets very anxious. He keeps asking me, ‘How much money is on my Presto card,’ and, ‘Am I going to be okay? What’s going to happen?”‘

Presto and technology

Community Living Toronto said it often hears of stories about people with developmental disabilities encountering problems with Presto.

“Presto has just added another layer of complication that they need to understand and figure out, and there hasn’t been a lot of communication that’s accessible to people we support,” said Saunders who said he’s heard of  TTC enforcement officers ticketing people with mental disabilities in the confusion.

“The challenge with the situations I’ve heard of is it’s just so definitive, you tap your Presto and if that “x” comes out on the gate, you’re not getting in. If there’s no one to talk to, to ask about it, you’re stuck.”

Discover my route

The TTC maintains it’s not its policy to kick anyone — let alone someone with a developmental disability — off a bus because their card doesn’t tap properly.

“We would never want our operators to ask someone to leave the vehicle,” said Heather Brown, acting manager, customer communications.

Brown  said there are glitches with some gates that don’t let a passenger go through, even if there’s money on their card.

“There is continuous improvement in the availability of our fare gates. But there are circumstances where sometimes this is happening. We are working with Presto  and our fare gate manufacturers to make sure this issue is being rectified.”

One of the challenges for people with an intellectual disability, advocates say, is not knowing what the balance is on your card when you tap it, but the TTC said that might change in the future.

“We are exploring the option of possibly including the balance on the screen,” said Brown.

In the meantime, the TTC has also partnered with Community Living and other groups to offer a training program called “Discover my Route” for those with developmental disabilities transitioning to Presto.

Angela Bradley with Community Living is part of a team that’s launched Discover My Route, a program that helps to train people living with an intellectual disability how to get around on the TTC. (John Lesavage)

“It really works with the individuals to make sure they do understand the change, they understand the differences and more importantly they know how to problem solve and how to ask for help,” said Angela Bradley,  director of resource development and marketing with Community Living.

The pilot program — launched around the time the transition to Presto began — includes in-class instruction to teach people how to use transit and what to do in case of an emergency or when their card doesn’t work.

“It’s like anything, it’s new, it’s changed and it needs training.”

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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