On Wednesday, Columbians dealt with the first day of a heat wave that’s expected to persist through at least Saturday evening.
The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued an excessive heat warning that called for high temperatures in the 90s and heat indexes well above 100 degrees. The prediction was painfully accurate.
A little after 4 p.m. Wednesday at Columbia Regional Airport, the temperature was 91 and the heat index was 106. At the Sanborn Field Weather Station on the MU campus, the temperature was near 94 with a heat index of 107.
Despite the thick air, Columbians were on the job throughout the city.
Wednesday afternoon on Forum Boulevard, a crew from Cook Concrete Construction was busy patching a big chunk of the northbound lane between Nifong Boulevard and Club Village Drive. Dressed in bright green T-shirts and jeans, they had been there since 7 a.m. Wednesday.
Todd Cook said the company’s workers stay cool by taking two breaks in the morning, two in the afternoon and another at lunch.
Columbia Ready Mix, which poured the concrete the Cook crew was smoothing out, provided Gatorade for the workers.
“Not every company does that,” Cook said.
Sweat dripped from Jarell Cuno’s brow as he wiped his face with a gray cloth that he keeps hanging from a back pocket. He said he keeps cool by hydrating with water and slowing down when he can. His crewmate, Robert McKenzie, said the heat isn’t so bad when the crew starts in the morning.
Cook said it’s the nature of their job that there’s twice as much work in the summer, when it’s twice as hot. A city inspector on-site said that’s in part because streets can explode in the heat. The failing panels on Forum Boulevard had already been slated for repair before the heat wave began, though.
Across town at the Columbia Mall Car Wash, Colie Bandy stood by a fan blasting air at her face. Her hair blew in the breeze as she tried to cool off. There are several fans in the car wash’s garage.
Bandy said she also uses wet towels and Gatorade to stave off the heat.
Seth Blankenship was busy drying off a customer’s car while the sun beat down on him and the sea of pavement around him. He wore a wet towel around his head to shield himself from the heat.
If you were looking for people who were totally unfazed by the high temperature Wednesday afternoon as the heat wave began in Boone County, you could find a lot of them at the county fair in Sturgeon: farmers who are used to being outside, no matter what the weather is doing.
Terry Montague of Centralia was out at the fair with his 9-year-old son, J.T., checking on their steer. For the Montagues, the heat is nothing extraordinary. But they were taking precautions for their steer, “making sure they’ve got plenty of water and shade. We just put up the tarp over them.”
The tents over the animals were constantly being monitored by people taking shifts in the heat. Most of the steer had water buckets in front of them and fans blowing cool air onto their heads. Most of the animals were lying down.
Danielle Perrigo of Hallsville was giving her son commands to get one of their steers to stand up and drink more water.
“Twist his tail,” Perrigo said. “Slap his butt.”
Still, the steer didn’t want to drink.
When asked about the toll the heat was having on her, Perrigo said, “I don’t even want to think about it.”
Frank Hazelrigg Jr. of Frank Hazelrigg Cattle Co. in Bloomfield, which has been showing cattle at fairs for years, said his team had been ensuring their cows were kept cool.
Schyler Angell, 16, was reclining in a chair next to her goat with the fan blowing on herself. Angell said they had rags, buckets and fans to keep the goat cool. She said the fair is the best place for the livestock to be because it actually keeps them out of the heat.
Boone County Fair Director Jeff Cook said it wasn’t so much the heat affecting the livestock but a combination of the stress of moving them to the fair and the increased activity around them.
“We have people up there that are monitoring the barns, plus the adults with children that are showing. They monitor their animals pretty close and try to keep them cool and calm,” Cook said. “If we see an issue, we will definitely address that issue pretty fast.”
Cook said both the Boone County Fire Protection District and the Boone County Sheriff’s Department were at the fair to make sure everyone stayed hydrated and safe.
“We have the fire district’s bus sitting out here with the AC running,” Cook said. “They’re medics, so they can make sure that they’re alright before they turn them back out in the heat.”
The fairground’s air-conditioned recreation and youth buildings give people places to escape the heat.
“The biggest plus we have here in Sturgeon is all the shade trees that we have. People can sit down and rest a little bit,” Cook said. “When we were in Columbia, we were all out in the sun.”
Even slight relief from the heat isn’t expected until Monday, when what meteorologists call a “cold front” is predicted to bring the high temperature down to 87. By Tuesday, the high should be just 84, the weather service said.
Between now and then, though, highs are predicted to be 96 on Thursday, 98 on Friday, 97 on Saturday and 94 on Sunday. The heat index for Thursday is expected to reach 106.
Supervising editors are Katherine Reed and Scott Swafford.
Ryker Nielson, 5, rides on a motorcycle carousel at the Boone County Fair on Tuesday in Sturgeon. Ryker was named the 2019 Little Mister of the Boone County Fair. The Boone County Fair Baby Contest and royalty pageants declared winners Tuesday. For the whole story, see Page 4A.
WASHINGTON — The maker of OxyContin has been cast as the chief villain in the nation’s opioid crisis. But newly released government figures suggest Purdue Pharma had plenty of help in flooding the U.S. with billions of pills even as overdose deaths were accelerating.
Records kept by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration show that 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills — the vast majority of them generics, not brand names — were shipped to U.S. pharmacies from 2006 to 2012.
The annual number swelled by more than 50 percent during that period of time even as the body count climbed. The powerful painkillers flowed faster even after Purdue Pharma was fined $635 million for falsely marketing OxyContin as less addictive than other opioids.
“I think the scale of this is stunning,” Keith Humphreys, a Stanford University professor who researches opioids, said in an interview.
He also noted that the data shows that the places that received the most drugs per capita are the ones with the most overdoses per capita: “It really looks like wherever you spread the most gas, you get the most fires.”
At the same time, the data illustrates how complicated it could be for the courts to figure out who should be held accountable for the public health disaster. More than 2,000 state, local and tribal governments have sued members of the drug industry in the biggest and possibly most complicated litigation of its kind ever in the U.S.
A federal judge who is overseeing most of the cases and pushing for a settlement ruled this week that detailed drug-shipment data compiled by the DEA should be made public over the industry’s objections.
The judge has not allowed the release of information from 2013 and 2014. But the material unsealed constitutes the most comprehensive picture yet of how the crisis unfolded.
The Washington Post, which along with HD Media, the owner of newspapers in West Virginia, went to court to seek the information, was first to publish the data.
Prescription and illegal opioids such as heroin and fentanyl have been factors in more than 430,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000, according to the CDC. From 2006 to 2012, annual opioid deaths rose from under 18,000 a year to more than 23,000. During that time, prescription drugs were cited as factors in just under half the deaths.
Since then, overall opioid deaths in the U.S. have doubled, though on Wednesday the CDC reported that drug overdose deaths of all kinds probably fell last year for the first time in nearly three decades.
The newly released information shows in detail the flow of drugs from manufacturers to communities.
West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Nevada all received more than 50 pills for every man, woman and child each year. Several areas in the Appalachian region were shipped an average of well over 100 pills per person per year.
“It’s like being on the front lines of a war every day,” said Joe Engle, sheriff of Perry County, Kentucky, which received 175 pills per person per year. “Our people here in eastern Kentucky have been taken advantage of by these pharmaceutical companies. It’s one of the worst things you can do to a society, to a people. And we’re suffering.”
Nearly every state has filed a lawsuit, and most of them have focused on Purdue and members of the Sackler family, who own the Stamford, Connecticut-based company and are major philanthropists whose donations to museums and universities have now come under scrutiny. Many local governments have also sued other drugmakers, distribution companies and pharmacies.
The lawsuits say that with the introduction of OxyContin, a time-released opioid, in 1995, Purdue created a new playbook to push the use of opioids for more patients and in higher doses.
But Purdue points out, accurately, that the company produced only a small fraction of the nation’s opioids — about 3% between 2006 and 2012, according to the data. Three companies — SpecGX, Par Pharmaceutical and Activis Pharma — that sold lower-priced generic drugs, including versions of OxyContin, combined to make 90% of the pills.
The three companies say that they didn’t market the drugs and were just meeting the demand of prescriptions filled out by doctors — and that they didn’t produce more than the DEA allowed.
Perry Rowthron, a former Connecticut deputy attorney general, said those factors could make it hard to blame those generic manufacturers.
“It’s always been the view that branded manufacturers created the demand that is now being met by generics,” he said.
As for the distributors, they contend they functioned as a delivery service and keep federal authorities apprised of the quantities of drugs being shipped.
Four companies — McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen — each distributed more than 10% of the opioids sent to pharmacies. McKesson distributed more than 18% of the nation’s opioids from 2006 to 2012 — the most of any company — but said it didn’t push sales.
“Any suggestion that McKesson influenced the volume of opioids prescribed or consumed in this country would reflect a misunderstanding of our role as a distributor,” a spokeswoman said via email.
The figures are from the DEA’s Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System, or ARCOS. The DEA agreed to provide the ARCOS data to lawyers in the opioid litigation but pushed judges to keep it from being made public.
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein of Johns Hopkins University said the lack of transparency around the prescribing data probably slowed the federal response to the opioid epidemic.
“To a certain extent, no agency really felt responsible and had access to the data in real-time to see what was happening,” he said.
DEA officials declined to comment on the litigation but said the agency is working to ensure patients have access to the medications they need, while also policing excessive drug shipments.
Elizabeth Burch, a law professor at the University of Georgia, called the release a “game-changer” in the legal cases.
“Making it public shows the vast disparity between say, Mingo County, West Virginia (with 203.5 pills per person per year) and Hooker County, Nebraska (with 0 pills per person per year),” she said in an email.
She said the information could help the hardest-hit places get a bigger piece of any settlement reached.
Yale law professor Abbe Gluck said the drug distribution details are already being used by the parties negotiating settlements, so their impact could be minimal there.
“On the other hand,” she said in an email, “releasing the data feeds the public’s hunger for knowledge and accountability and so may put additional pressure on the defendant companies.”
An American Airlines flight landed safely Wednesday night shortly after pilots declared an emergency because of the smell of smoke in the cabin.
No smoke was seen or detected.
Columbia community relations director Steven Sapp said Flight 3906 from Chicago declared an emergency around 7 p.m., which was about 45 minutes into the flight.
The flight was already scheduled to land at Columbia Regional Airport.
Sapp said passengers exited the plane and mechanics were inspecting it. The plane was scheduled to fly back to Chicago, but Sapp said the flight had been canceled and the plane will be ferried Thursday morning to a maintenance facility in St. Louis.
In their 35th year, the 2019 Show-Me State Games will feature two new sports — motocross and darts.
Competitors in these new competitions will gather Friday at Mizzou Arena with athletes from 32 other events to kick off the annual program.
The opening ceremony is free to the public and will start at 7 p.m. with the national anthem, followed by a parade where athletes have the opportunity to represent their sport. After the torch enters the stadium, the lighting of a cauldron will officially kick-start the 2019 summer games.
The games will take place Friday through Sunday and continue Friday, July 26, through Sunday, July 28.
This year, the program is working more closely with MU Health Care to prepare for a heat wave that is expected this weekend.
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning Tuesday that warns that heat indexes could hit well above 100 degrees.
The organizers are trying to educate athletes by sending out emails and posting tips on social media on how to better take care of their bodies.
Emily Lorenz, media and marketing coordinator for the games, said they are constantly looking at the weather forecast and trying to achieve flexibility in activities when needed.
“We might have more water breaks or shorten game times, but nothing is official yet,” she said.
Lorenz said it is hard to predict the number of athletes and visitors expected this year, as people are still registering for events. Several sports, such as martial arts, cycling and fencing, will provide on-site registration for both weekends.
“It will roughly be in the thousands,” she said.
Team sports such as basketball and baseball tend to be more popular among the participants, Lorenz said. However, individual events like wrestling, track and shooting also attract athletes each year.
The Show-Me State Games are nonprofit and hosted by the University of Missouri to provide Missourians the opportunity to participate in “activities of health, fitness, family and fun.”
Supervising editor is Olivia Garrett.